On Monday, The News Tribune reprinted a New York Times article headlined, “Mail-in ballots in focus.” The article suggests that “as much as 21 percent” of absentee ballots are not counted in final election results.
The piece focused on Florida election administra-tors and the conjecture of Ivy League professors. The article doesn’t reflect what’s happening here at home. Here, voting by mail has increased voter turnout and only a small number of ballots are rejected.
In Pierce County, less than 1.5 percent of ballots received are rejected. If you remove the voters who simply failed to meet the election deadline, the rejections are less than 1 percent (0.9 percent). The reasons for these rejections are both obvious and reasonable:
• The voter did not sign the oath on the outer envelope.
• The signature was not theirs.
• The voter insisted on voting but was not registered to vote (provisional ballot).
The New York Times story characterizes uncounted absentee ballots in Florida and other Eastern states as the result of voters being “thwarted.” I’m proud to say that isn’t the case here. We go to great lengths to ensure that Pierce County voters have every opportunity to vote and that their vote will be counted.
• Our ballots are mailed 18 days in advance of the election. We verify with the U.S. Postal Service that the ballots we deliver have been put into the postal stream.
• Any voters who believe that their ballot wasn’t mailed can receive a replacement ballot, vote a provisional ballot or vote in person.
• Voting instructions are easily understood, according to standards established by the American Institute of Graphic Arts’ Design for Democracy program.
• Voters who didn’t sign their ballot (or whose signature didn’t match) are sent letters, with follow-up calls. They have up to 20 days after an election to provide their signature.
• Twenty-seven drop boxes are available, postage-free and open around-the-clock.
The New York Times story implies that fewer votes are counted as a result of mail-in ballots. Yet Washington state had the third highest turnout in the nation in 2010, and 98.72 percent of the ballots were absentee.
There is no history or evidence of fraud using vote-by-mail in Washington state. Very few ballots are rejected. And we’ve actually seen our returns steadily increase.
As Pierce County auditor, I am proud of the work we do. My staff and I are dedicated to making sure every voter has the opportunity to vote and that every valid ballot is counted.
Pierce County ballots are being mailed today (Oct. 19). If you don’t receive your ballot by Oct. 23, or if you’ve misplaced your ballot, call 253-798-8683 for a replacement ballot.
Pierce County Auditor Julie Anderson oversees elections in the county.