Newspapers call for election reform

November 6, 2012

As Americans head to the polls today, Washingtonians who haven't voted yet should drop their ballot off at designated drop sites. Although our ballots only need to be postmarked by today's deadline, election officials advise instead to drop off your ballots versus take the chance on the mail today to ensure they are eligible for counting.

Our neighbors in Oregon also are voting exclusively by mail. Unlike Washington, however, Oregon's ballots need to be received by 8 p.m. tonight versus postmarked.

This difference in election ballot deadline resulted in The Daily Astorian patting Oregonians on the back:

Vote by mail is one of the best new things in a state that has launched more than its share of innovations. It’s hard to believe that Oregon has been casting mail ballots for some 12 years, after voters approved the initiative by a wide margin in the 1998 election.

In an article published last Friday on the Seattle-based Crosscut, Jason Mercier of the Washington Policy Center identified an aspect of the Oregon system that we easily take for granted.

Washington also votes by mail, but unlike Oregon, Washington allows ballots to arrive past 8 p.m. on Election Day. The result is that counting ballots in Washington races goes on for days. In 2008, the race for governor between Christine Gregoire and Dino Rossi was contested for weeks following Election Day. This year’s Washington governor race between Rob McKenna and Jay Inslee promises to be just as close.

Oregonians were farsighted to establish – at the outset – a clear finish line of 8 p.m. on Election Day. And election officials have wisely educated voters and reinforced the availability of ballot drop sites and the firmness of the 8 p.m. deadline.

Based on the success of the Oregon system and growing frustration with the week to month long "Election Night" in Washington as ballots slowly trickle in past "Election Day," several Washington editorial pages are calling for the state to follow Oregon's lead and have ballots actually due on Election Day:

Spokesman Review: Counting of ballots needs to be done faster

The odds Washington voters will wake up Wednesday morning – if they went to bed – knowing the outcomes of every election are about as good as those for a recount in the former Soviet Union.

Our mail-by-midnight balloting delays conclusive outcomes for days, if not weeks, trying the patience of all those seeking closure every bit as much as that weeping Ohio 4-year-old who told her mother, 'I’m tired of Bronco Bamma and Mitt Romney.'

Raising suspicions in Eastern Washington, too, that the folks on the other side of the Cascade Curtain will keep counting ’til the Democrat wins . . .

Maybe Tuesday’s voting will deliver decisive outcomes. More likely is a week of creeping tallies that raise doubts and impede the transitions to new regimes in the offices of the governor, attorney general, secretary of state and auditor, the most closely contested races among the statewide contests. Results of some initiative voting may also be uncertain.

It does not have to be this way. Reed tried to change it. His successor should take up the cause.

Vancouver Columbian: Change Ballot Deadline

As we've pointed out in previous editorials, this issue is not as dramatic as it might at first appear. Both systems are working fairly well. There's no great public outcry in either state -- especially in Oregon -- to change the deadline. And Washington legislators aren't eager to change the status quo.

But our suggestion that Washington should adopt the Oregon deadline is supported by many election experts. Secretary of State Sam Reed and Clark County Auditor Greg Kimsey both have said they would prefer Oregon's requirement that ballots must arrive by the end of election to be counted, although they're content with the current system.

To be sure, changing to the Oregon deadline would do nothing to prevent ultra-close races and required recounts. But as you'll see in the accompanying chart, only about 60 percent of Washington ballots will be reported by the end of Election Day, and it could take until Friday to report 90 percent of the ballots. Oregon, by contrast, has the potential of reporting virtually all ballots soon after voting ends.

Our high-tech state has the technology to do this the modern way. Just not the political fortitude. Maybe some day.

Longview Daily News: Change deadline on vote-by-mail

Reed would like to see Washington follow the lead of many other vote-by-mail states and require that ballots be received, rather than be postmarked, by 8 p.m. on Election Day.

Oregon made this adjustment several years ago and has thus spared itself Washington’s singular election agony — an inability to determine the winner in a close contest on the night of the election and, perhaps, for many days afterward while legally cast but late-arriving ballots are collected and tallied.

We are and remain in favor of voting by mail. It’s a system that costs taxpayers less and tends to result in more votes being cast than does requiring voting in person . . .

It’s now a very rare vote in Oregon when an uncertified but final count of the votes isn’t available on Election Night. We think that’s to be desired and would recommend Washington move toward a similar election procedure.

Walla Walla Union Bulletin: Elections should end on Election Day

Outgoing Secretary of State Sam Reed has suggested requiring all ballots must be received by 8 p.m. on Election Day.

This change would allow elections to be wrapped up faster.

Our neighbors to the south, Oregon, implemented this simple fix. It has worked extremely well.

The only change for voters is a little thinking ahead. Voters either have to mail their ballots several days before Election Day or drop them in drop boxes throughout communities.

A clear winner in Oregon elections can generally be established within a few hours of polls closing. Close races can be settled in a matter of a few days.

The Oregon approach seems to increase voter participation. During the presidential election of 2008, the voter turnout rate in Washington state was 84.6 percent. Oregon’s voter turnout that year was 85.7 percent.

Olympian: Change day of elections

The last-minute political polls suggested Thurston County voters would wake up this morning without knowing their next governor or the winners of any number of statewide and county races for elected office.

When elections come down to close votes, Washington’s system of counting ballots postmarked by 8 p.m. on Election Day cannot produce definitive results. It sometimes takes days or weeks to determine winners in tight races.

It doesn’t have to be that way.

Secretary of State Sam Reed has tried to persuade state lawmakers to follow the Oregon model of requiring ballots to be in hand by the Election Day deadline. Our neighbor to the south is the only other state with all-mail voting, and, unless there was a special circumstance, Oregon voters know the outcome of its elections this morning . . .

It takes only a majority vote in the state Legislature to reset the voting deadline. It would be a nice legacy for the retiring Reed if lawmakers did so in the next session.

Seattle Times: Long wait for results shows need for election reform in Washington

Here in Washington, several candidates still don’t know if they are elected and many voters are growing impatient. Several state races remain too close to call. Election officials will continue to receive and count several hundred thousand more mail-in ballots probably through next week. If any returns are disputed, the wait may be even longer.

Why are we so far behind the nation?

Washington allows voters to mail their ballot with a postmark as late as Election Day. Oregon is also a mail-in state with high voter participation, but it requires ballots be received by Election Day.

Hence, Oregonians got some quick closure this week. Washingtonians are stuck in a waiting game. This delay creates an awkward situation for the campaigns and their supporters . . .

Outgoing Secretary of State Sam Reed has argued for new rules that would require ballots be returned to elections offices by 8 p.m. on election night — that means hand-delivered or mailed enough days ahead to arrive by Election Day. His efforts to follow Oregon’s effective model have gone nowhere in the Washington Legislature.

Considering the race to replace Reed remains too close to call, his successor should understand exactly why the status quo must be changed and take up the cause.

Olympian: When all the votes are in, nation and state face new realities

Individual American voters overcame natural disasters and persevered standing in long lineups for hours this week just to make their voices heard, putting the 2012 presidential election into the history books.

Well, almost.

Not all of the votes have been counted here in the state of Washington, and the outcome of several key races will depend on late-arriving ballots over the next few days. We may not know the name of our next governor until tomorrow, or sometime next week.

In our state, history is still in process.

That’s because Washington only requires ballots to be postmarked by 8 p.m. on Election Day, not actually be in the hands of county election officers. It is something the 2013 Legislature can and should change immediately.

Everett Herald: Promises still to keep

Elections are a counterweight to the kindergarten lesson that we're all winners. No, we just took a vote, and Secretary of State Sam Reed will certify it. One winner, one loser. We played witness and judge, cajoled by a high-volume screech, much of it negative and soul-deadening. And now we wait for the final, final results in the nail-biters. And then we wait some more.

Oregon pioneered a more sensible approach to mail-in balloting, a system that curtails the interminable-election night blues: All ballots must be in (not just postmarked) by 8 p.m. on election night. The Secretary of State is a proponent, and it's been mostly glitch and delay-free in Oregon. The only demand is educating Washington voters to get it together a little earlier. In Crosscut, the Washington Policy Center's Jason Mercier notes that 36 states require absentee ballots be returned (not just postmarked) by Election Day. The system curiously bolsters turnout although, as Snohomish County Auditor Carolyn Weikel predicted earlier this week, voter turnout likely registered in the 85 percent range.

Ken Schram (KOMO News): Change needed in deadline for mail-in ballots

Election day is finally upon us. Now it's time to sit back and wait.

And make no mistake, wait we will.

Washington’s Secretary of State is projecting that more than 80% of our state's almost 4 million registered voters will be casting ballots. But because those ballots only have to be postmarked on November 6th, it means that an untold number may take days - in some cases even weeks - to arrive and then be counted.

Depending on how tight some of the races are, we could spend the next several days wondering which way things shake out.

It's been a puzzle to many as to why our state continues to drag its feet in respect to moving the election day ballot deadline.

In Oregon for example, ballots have to be received by 8pm on election day which generally means that Oregon voters know the results of the election on election night.

Olympian: A to-do list for Wyman

Let’s add to that list – and move it to the top – the requirement to have all ballots in the hands of county auditors by the Election Day deadline. That simple change will speed up definitive election results.

Outgoing Secretary of State Sam Reed has championed this idea, and Wyman should take up the cause with new gusto. She can’t make the decision herself, of course, it takes legislation from our state lawmakers.

Wyman should waste no time putting the pressure on legislators to pass a bill in the 2013 session.

Tacoma News Tribune: There's no reason to drag out election process

Are voters in Oregon smarter than those here in Washington?

Apparently. Somehow they’ve been able to get their ballots in by 8 p.m. on Election Day for the last 12 years.

But in this state, which only requires that ballots be postmarked by Election Day, opponents argue that so many people wouldn’t be able to figure out how to get their ballots in on time that they’d essentially be disenfranchised.

That argument doesn’t hold water, according to numbers from the Washington Policy Center . . .

Sam Reed, the state’s outgoing secretary of state, has pushed for Washington to follow Oregon’s lead and require ballots to be received by Election Day. We hope his successor, Kim Wyman, also lobbies for that change – with exceptions for military and overseas voters, of course.

Sure, some voter education would be needed to smooth the way, particularly in the first election under the new rule. But Washington voters can’t be less capable of following directions than Oregonians, can they?

We agree with Secretary of State Sam Reed that Washington should join Oregon in requiring mail-in ballots to actually be received by Election Day (exceptions could be made for military and overseas ballots as occurs in other states).

In the meantime, no need to stay up late tonight hoping to learn the winner of the state's statistically tied races. There will be plenty of time to watch the vote totals change in the weeks that follow.