Writing in the Washington Post in the wake of the 2004 presidential election, Oregon Secretary of State Bill Bradbury pitched his own state’s vote-by-mail system as an answer to touch screen and polling place staffing controversies experienced elsewhere. But in doing so, he obviously felt the need to spin one of vote-by-mail’s biggest perceived weaknesses: its relative slowness in reporting results.
With a large number of ballots received before Election Day, the first tally released on election night contained nearly 50 percent of the vote and proved to be an accurate predictor of the final numbers.
That’s right, Oregon’s first election night tally in 2004 encompassed less than half the ballots ultimately counted… a little more than King County’s first and only election night report last Tuesday, and a little less than that for Washington state as a whole. As I’ve explained before, it’s not the lack of ballots that slows our returns, but rather the lack of sufficient resources to count the ballots as they come in.
If the goal of Washington Sec. of State Sam Reed, and now Gov. Chris Gregoire, is to provide near complete returns on election night, changing the ballot deadline to Oregon’s received by election day standard simply won’t do it. Rather, the only reliable solution would be to scrap vote-by-mail altogether.