La Conner Weekly News - Your independent hometown award-winning newspaper

Washington votes with 100% mail-in ballots


August 9, 2022

Everyone who has lived in Washington for the past decade knows all about mail-in voting, now a very familiar part of our civic way of life.

The Weekly News hoped to show the vote counting process, complete with volunteer observers representing the Democratic and Republican parties.

Given the high level of accusations of “rigged elections,” “cheating” and “fraud,” the last implying criminal intent, highlighting the actual process taking place at the Skagit County Office of Elections is important so that residents get a report of the integrity of the local election process.

Skagit County elections officials did not respond to requests for comment either over the phone or in-person at the courthouse or allow photos of the process last Friday.

A staff person answering a July 29 call suggested questions via email. But that didn’t work – an email to the auditor’s office was returned as undeliverable, with the message “the recipient is a public folder you don’t have permission to send to.”

In person Friday the answer was “no, too busy” from staff shuffling the response to her supervisor from the request. A follow-up request to shoot a photo similar to the one taken at King County Elections headquarters and appearing on the front page of the Aug. 3 Seattle Times was similarly rejected. Again, too busy.

Here is the vote counting process as summarized on the Washington secretary of state’s website:

Drop boxes are regularly emptied by teams of trained election staff and ballots are tracked from collection through processing. At processing facilities, ballots are sorted into batches and an image of each voter’s signature is captured for verification.

Signatures are closely scrutinized and checked for potential irregularities. Voters are contacted before processing to “cure” a signature if it is missing or doesn’t match the voter registration record.

When a signature is verified, the voter’s ballot is marked as accepted and the voter is credited for participating, ensuring that if more than one ballot is returned, just one is counted.

Numerous safeguards are in place to maintain for the voter the secrecy of his or her vote and protect against fraud. In addition, ballots are reviewed for potential scanning issues such as torn corners.

The state secretary of state’s website is adamant in stating that election scanners are not connected to any form of network or the internet.

Voters can check their ballot status online but should allow three of four days for the system to post updates.

Why all mail-in voting

Washington had edged gradually for decades toward mail-in voting before the state legislature gave its formal blessing in 2011. Prior to that, in 1991, the state adopted a law allowing any voter to sign up for an absentee ballot and automatically receive them in subsequent elections.

From that point, many – if not most – Washington state counties moved toward the mail-in voting option.

Mail-in voting picked up steam in 2004 when a tight gubernatorial race was decided only after two recounts, plenty of acrimony and questions over accuracy of the count.

In the end, Christine Gregoire – who in 1988 had brought her campaign for state Attorney General to La Conner – was declared the winner by a mere 130 votes.

Future Washington Secretary of State Kim Wyman, a Republican,


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