Editorial: Did ballot envelope issue deter voters?

August 12, 2014

By Staff

Remember how simple voting used to be? You would drive or walk to your neighborhood voting place, sign in, get your ballot, go to the private voting area, drop your ballot in the secure box and be on your way. That wasn’t simple enough or possibly cost effective enough for King County, so we now have all mail-in voting.

In the recent primary election “some” (undisclosed number) return envelopes for ballots were found to be already sealed when voters opened the voting packets sent to them by King County Elections. That “some” was significant enough for King County Elections to send out a press release July 25 to the media in hopes of informing voters of the potential issue.

In response to questions from The Issaquah Press, King County Elections communications specialist Barbara Ramey said, “We sent out a press release, and got on Twitter and Facebook to let people know about it.” So whatever the “some” was, it was significant to go to such lengths to inform the voting public.

The July 25 press release speculates possible causes for the sealed envelopes, “Excessive heat or rain may have played a role in this, but we also learned that one of our vendors used a new sealant on the envelopes that likely contributed to the problem.” It would seem that where these voting packets and envelopes were stored may also have played a part in their being exposed to excessive rain or heat. Shouldn’t something a precious as the vehicle for one our most cherished rights as Americans be stored in a cool, dry, secure place protected from the elements?

Did these sealed return envelopes deter anyone from voting? It’s impossible to know. Voter turnout was projected to be 38 percent, according to the July 25 press release. As of Aug. 10, the King County Elections website reported 347,267 of the 1,175,330 ballots mailed to King County voters had been returned. That’s only 29.5 percent turnout. The vote will be certified Aug. 19.

When asked if the sealed envelopes may have had something to do with the lower-than-projected voter turnout, Ramey said, “Turnout is more a factor of what’s on the ballot and whether there are things people are really interested in. The envelope thing was inconvenient, but most people figured it out on their own.”

It certainly was an inconvenience and it shouldn’t happen again.



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