Glitch delays ballots for more than 900 local voters

November 1, 2011

By Warren Kagarise

King County Elections did not mail ballots to 11,000 Eastside voters — including more than 900 people in Issaquah and Sammamish — in mid-October due to a glitch.

Officials, after receiving calls from residents about missing ballots, mailed ballots to the affected voters Oct. 29. The deadline to return ballots via mail, drop box or accessible voting center is Nov. 8.

Overall, the issue impacted 11,000 Eastside voters, including 54 in Issaquah, 141 in Newcastle and 875 in Sammamish. Some North Bend and Snoqualmie voters also face delays in receiving ballots.

King County Elections started mailing 1.1 million ballots to voters Oct. 19. Calls to the elections office about missing ballots started soon after. The reason for the delay remains unknown, officials said Oct. 28.

“Fortunately, we had some voters who were on top of it and that tipped us off to start checking and seeing if there were any anomalies,” King County Elections spokeswoman Kim van Ekstrom said. “There are always voters who don’t get their ballots. Things happen, and that’s why they have several weeks to try to connect with us.”

What to know

King County Elections urges voters waiting on a ballot for the Nov. 8 election to call the office’s voter hotline at 206-296-VOTE.

Liz Lawrence, a rural King County resident on the Sammamish Plateau near Issaquah, is a diligent voter, and the late ballot raised some questions.

“My husband got his ballot and I said, ‘I guess mine is going to come in the next day or two,’ and then I forgot about it” — until the announcement from the elections office, she said.

Just before Election Day, the Lawrences check voters’ pamphlets and fill out ballots before dropping the completed forms into the mailbox or a ballot drop box. Liz Lawrence, a website designer, said she enjoys the convenience of mail-in ballots. The delay did not cause concerns about the system, she added.

Officials study calls to the King County Elections hotline to determine if issues arise during elections. The calls about missing ballots for Eastside voters prompted the elections office to act.

“We were able to clearly figure out who didn’t get them, but we’re still not completely sure on why it happened,” van Ekstrom said. “We’re still trying to figure that out.”

The office hears from a small percentage of voters in every election about not receiving a ballot due to address changes and other issues.

“In every single election, you hear a fair amount from us about, if you haven’t received your ballot, call us, call us, call us,” van Ekstrom said.

Officials monitor ballots throughout the process, from printing and insertion into envelopes to mailing and then to the Renton elections office for tabulation.

“We investigated the matter and discovered a technical problem associated with part of our voter database that resulted in exclusion of these ballots from being mailed on the date originally scheduled,” Elections Director Sherril Huff said in a statement issued Oct. 28. “Quality assurance is an important component of our elections processes and while we regret that this event occurred, I’m pleased that the reviews we have in place helped us in identifying and problem-solving the issue.”

Warren Kagarise: 392-6434, ext. 234, or wkagarise@isspress.com. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.

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