Once again the Seattle Times editorial board is arguing for moving the ballot deadline from postmarked by election day to received by election day, and once again they don’t know what the fuck they’re talking about.
Reed’s other proposal is a perennial, because lawmakers are immune to change. Ballots in Washington take forever and a Sunday to tally because the state foolishly allows voters to postmark them by Election Day. A better idea is to have ballots received by Election Day. Then Washington can join the rest of the country reporting useful results that week.
This bottleneck is perhaps best illustrated by comparing the 641,658 ballots King County reported tallied by the close of business Monday, to the 619,485 mail-in ballots it had received by the time the polls closed last Tuesday. As you can see, it took nearly an entire week for King to finally catch up with its election night backlog, and to start counting those ballots that arrived thereafter. And the county still estimates about 120,000 ballots remaining, not much less than the 147,616 ballots that arrived last Wednesday, 11/3, just a day after the election.
With a peak processing capacity of little more than 75,000 ballots a day, the 373,941 ballots King County tallied on Tuesday night barely exceeded the 349,670 ballots it had received as of the Friday before the election. Indeed, by the time the elections center opened its doors Monday morning, its staff had already fallen hopelessly behind.
With 98% of valid ballots arriving by the day after election day, the ballot deadline simply cannot be the cause of our week-plus-long vote-counting vigils. It’s simple math. Indeed, the only way to dramatically speed up ballot counting is to dramatically expand ballot processing capacity. But the Times won’t advocate for that, because that costs money.
So for the Times to attack lawmakers as “foolish” for refusing to make a change that cannot achieve the promised result, is foolish in itself.