The Seattle Times wants to change the deadline for mail-in ballots:
WASHINGTON voters are no strangers to suspenseful elections — but our state has a habit of dragging the suspense out for way too long.
Secretary of State Sam Reed wants to bring elections to more decisive ends sooner. His proposal would require ballots be received in election offices by Election Day. Now, the ballots need only be postmarked by Election Day. That means ballots straggle in throughout election week, often putting off the decisive conclusion for days — given Washington’s propensity for razor-thin margins.
This, of course, is a huge problem for newspaper headline writers who require definitive results by midnight, but for the rest of us… eh, not so much. In fact, you’d think especially with our state’s “propensity for razor-thin margins” the emphasis should be on counting the ballot of every single registered voter, rather than finishing the counting on election night.
On Election Night in November, Democratic challenger Darcy Burner was leading in her bid to unseat incumbent Republican Dave Reichert for the 8th Congressional District seat. But Reichert pulled comfortably ahead over several King County and Pierce County ballot counts by Friday to win re-election.
Again, apart from the anxiety it caused the candidates and their most fervent supporters, I don’t really see what the problem is. Speedy results would be nice, but voter participation and tabulation accuracy are what we really should be shooting for when it comes to running an election. So I just don’t see why we have to make voting more difficult, and inevitably disenfranchise pathological procrastinators like me, just to get things over and done with by Tuesday night.
Think about it. Right now the deadline is clear, precise and uniform: postmarked by election day. That means in the recent special election I dropped my ballot off at the Columbia City post office by about 4PM, a good hour or so under the wire. But under the new, stricter law Sam Reed and the Times are proposing, the deadline would have been Saturday, or if you’re lucky, Monday, or maybe Friday or Thursday or even earlier, depending on where you live. Different voters would effectively have different deadlines, and they would change for every election.
That totally sucks.
No doubt Reed’s “reforms” would make things easier for election officials and the news media, but at the inevitable cost of disenfranchising voters. The Times looks at Oregon and argues the change would likely invalidate “only” a few hundred ballots… which I guess doesn’t sound like all that many unless one of those ballots is yours.