I’m working on a longer piece explaining the whole ballot counting process (and why switching the ballot deadline to received by election day won’t much speed things up), but if you’re wondering why King County could tally 71,915 ballots on Monday, but only 18,236 today of the approximately 80,000 ballots it had on hand, well, that gets to the heart of one of the factors most responsible for slowing down the count: a lot of voters just can’t seem to follow instructions.
According to King County Elections Chief Communications Officer Kim van Ekstrom, over 17 percent of the ballots received this cycle needed to be “duplicated” so that they could be properly read by the optical scanners. Sometimes it’s due to a damaged ballot or stray marks, but often it’s due to voters not properly filling in the circles, or using the wrong color pen. Voters are clearly instructed to use a black or dark blue pen (the scanners are specifically designed not to read red or green), but King County voters apparently own a rainbow of writing utensils.
Over 17 percent! That’s well more than 100,000 duplicated ballots in King County alone.
So the reason why the remaining ballots are taking so long to count is that these are the ballots that took a detour through the process, either due to a missing or mismatched signature, or the need to duplicate the ballot before scanning. And, well, that just takes time.