With less than a week until Election Day, the Whatcom County Auditor’s Office is already busy collecting ballots and preparing them to be counted.
Teams of two have been picking up ballots from drop boxes around the county for more than a week – almost 45,000 had been collected before Wednesday morning.
Meanwhile, workers at the Whatcom County Courthouse have been verifying signatures, separating ballots from signed envelopes and making sure ballots will be ready for the tabulating machines to count.
Much of the work involves sorting the materials into traceable groups and copying ballots that have issues onto clean forms.
For example, if someone changes their vote by crossing out the wrong item and filling in the line for the vote they wanted, election workers have to copy that entire ballot’s answers onto a clean sheet so the tabulating equipment can read it without any issues, said Diana Bradrick, chief deputy auditor for the county.
Other times, people may have used the wrong kind of pen (felt pens may bleed through the other side of the paper, glitter pen ink can clog up the machine), or there may be food or debris on the paper, Bradrick said.
So far this year, it seems like roughly 10 percent of ballots have needed that kind of duplication for one reason or another, she said.
Each form is double checked against the original by someone other than the person who copied it, and a random audit is also conducted to triple-check the accuracy, Bradrick said.
Ballots will be counted starting Monday, Bradrick said.
People have until 8 p.m. Tuesday to turn in their ballots at drop boxes. If sending your ballot by mail, it must be postmarked by Nov. 8, and the Whatcom County ballot needs 68 cents of postage because it is heavier than usual.