Peek behind the scenes in the life of a ballot

October 26, 2010

By Warren Kagarise

In the lifecycle of a ballot, voting is the easy part. Before, during and after the election, a behind-the-scenes effort unfolds to assemble, count and store ballots.

King County Elections mailed more than 1 million ballots in mid-October. Ballots must be postmarked or slipped into a drop box by 8 p.m. Election Day, Nov. 2.

The process starts about three weeks before Election Day, as elections staffers assemble ballots at the printer in Everett. The packet includes a precinct-specific ballot, security and signature envelope, plus any election-specific inserts.

Then, the elections office sends the ballots to voters.

Days later, as the initial ballots start to return to the elections office in Tukwila, teams sort ballots and verify voter signatures. The elections office opens ballots after the signature is verified.

Inside elections headquarters, ballots remain secured in locked cages behind cyclone fencing. Only approved staffers can gain access to the ballots, but the process requires biometric access.

Some damaged ballots need to be duplicated in order to run through tabulation equipment.

Finally, the office scans ballots and tabulates results to be released at 8 p.m. Election Day. Tabulation continues until the office counts all eligible votes.

The county Canvassing Board is scheduled to meet Nov. 23 to certify the election results.

For the upcoming election, the county is required to store the ballots for 22 months at the King County Records Center.

Then, the office shreds the old ballots.

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