June 11, 1997 in Nation/World

13,000 Voters Still Waiting For Ballots Street Addresses Were Used For Rural Areas Where Mail Is Delivered In Post Offices; Rules Required Mail To Be Returned

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Thousands of Spokane County voters - most of them in rural areas - don’t have their ballots yet for the June 17 referendum on a new football stadium because the envelopes were improperly addressed.

Their ballots have been returned to the county courthouse.

Elmer Tiegs of Latah said he’s never had this problem before, even though he and other voters in that area have voted by mail for more than two years.

“They won’t put it in my post office box because it has my street address on it,” Tiegs said. “We don’t have mail delivery to street addresses out here.”

Elections supervisor Tom Wilbur said Tuesday the problem is being corrected this week and new ballots should be in the mail by Friday.

That should allow voters to say yes or no on the proposed Seahawks stadium before midnight on June 17, he said.

“It is a problem,” Wilbur said. “We are in the process of addressing it right now.”

Some 13,000 ballots out of the 231,000 mailed have been returned to his office by postmasters around the county because the company that was hired to address the envelopes only listed a street address for the voter.

In some rural areas of the county, mail is only delivered to a post office box.

Complicating the problem is the fact that the ballots are in envelopes that state “Do Not Forward. Address Correction Requested.”

Postal regulations require such mail to be returned, even if a postmaster knows the box number for the person named on the envelope, several rural postmasters said.

“People want to vote on this issue. They want to vote on it badly,” said one postmaster, who asked that her name not be used. “We are required to (return them). My hands are tied.”

Other rural postmasters said they know their customers well enough that they took the time to place the ballots in the correct boxes, despite the regulations.

“We’re not supposed to,” said one who also asked to remain anonymous. “But if you know the people, we do it.”

Postmasters say voters are confused because they have received ballots addressed to their post office boxes in the past.

Wilbur said that’s because the elections office addressed previous envelopes. But the sheer number of ballots - more than 200,000 - caused the office to hire a local firm to do the mailing.

When compiling the addresses from the county’s newly computerized voter rolls, the company left out the post office boxes.

“I think we had a communication problem,” Wilbur said. “But they’re going to bail us out of this.”

The company agreed to send out new ballots, complete with post office boxes, to the waiting voters. But before it could do that, Wilbur had to order another 10,000 computerized ballot cards.

The county is out. The ballot-printing company in Texas has promised to have them at the courthouse by this morning.

Spokane is one of 27 counties in the state that is conducting the election completely by mail. On Tuesday, the secretary of state’s office reported that more than 27 percent of the ballots around the state have already been mailed back.

Spokane had received about 60,000 properly signed ballots - about 26 percent of the total sent - as of Tuesday morning. It was adding about 8,000 a day to the stacks, Wilbur said.

But some 1,600 ballots that have been returned have been “challenged” - either they weren’t signed, they were signed in the wrong place on the outer envelope or the signatures don’t seem to match those on file in the county voter rolls.

Standard procedure - spelled out in the Washington Administrative Code, Wilbur said - is for the elections office to call or write those voters and tell them they must come to the courthouse to sign their ballots.

Last week, Secretary of State Ralph Munro, the state’s chief election officer, sent out special instructions for this election. Voters who failed to sign their envelopes properly can be sent a photocopy of the envelope, which can then be signed and mailed back to the courthouse by June 23, he said.

Voters whose unsigned ballots were received after the directive was issued are being sent a photocopy. But those who sent in unsigned ballots before the directive have already been told they must come to the courthouse.

“What’s a guy to do?” Wilbur asked.

If they’d prefer to have a photocopy of their envelope mailed to them instead of making a trip to the courthouse, they can call 456-2320, he said.

, DataTimes MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: Stadium ballots Results of a survey showing how many absentee and mail-in ballots have been submitted so far for Referendum 48:

County Ballots issued Received Adams 6,582 2,311 Asotin NA Benton 10,725 1,604 Chelan 34,885 11,244 Clallam 42,439 14,100 Clark 163,665 45,462 Columbia 535 132 Cowlitz 46,681 14,500 Douglas 15,563 6,043 Ferry 3,869 1,570 Franklin 17,393 5,801 Garfield 1,724 620 Grant 31,729 6,147 Grays Harbor 38,343 11,043 Island 37,494 11,275 Jefferson 17,005 6,740 King 233,045 75,670 Kitsap 126,576 38,696 Kittitas 2,117 1,172 Klickitat 1,637 253 Lewis 11,428 3,812 Lincoln 2,493 972 Mason 27,053 11,280 Okanogan 18,490 2,477 Pacific NA Pend Oreille 6,691 3,175 Pierce 323,928 61,500 San Juan 8,950 2,057 Skagit 54,492 7,797 Skamania 5,349 1,610 Snohomish 304,574 75,239 Spokane 231,029 60,188 Stevens 2,662 523 Thurston 125,778 36,856 Wahkiakum 2,457 875 Walla Walla 5,003 100 Whatcom 95,540 26,560 Whitman NA Yakima 88,559 35,899 Totals: 2,146,483 585,303 Source: Secretary of State’s office.

This sidebar appeared with the story: Stadium ballots Results of a survey showing how many absentee and mail-in ballots have been submitted so far for Referendum 48:

County Ballots issued Received Adams 6,582 2,311 Asotin NA Benton 10,725 1,604 Chelan 34,885 11,244 Clallam 42,439 14,100 Clark 163,665 45,462 Columbia 535 132 Cowlitz 46,681 14,500 Douglas 15,563 6,043 Ferry 3,869 1,570 Franklin 17,393 5,801 Garfield 1,724 620 Grant 31,729 6,147 Grays Harbor 38,343 11,043 Island 37,494 11,275 Jefferson 17,005 6,740 King 233,045 75,670 Kitsap 126,576 38,696 Kittitas 2,117 1,172 Klickitat 1,637 253 Lewis 11,428 3,812 Lincoln 2,493 972 Mason 27,053 11,280 Okanogan 18,490 2,477 Pacific NA Pend Oreille 6,691 3,175 Pierce 323,928 61,500 San Juan 8,950 2,057 Skagit 54,492 7,797 Skamania 5,349 1,610 Snohomish 304,574 75,239 Spokane 231,029 60,188 Stevens 2,662 523 Thurston 125,778 36,856 Wahkiakum 2,457 875 Walla Walla 5,003 100 Whatcom 95,540 26,560 Whitman NA Yakima 88,559 35,899 Totals: 2,146,483 585,303 Source: Secretary of State’s office.


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