The Spokane County Elections Office mailed 300,000 ballots this week that should be in the hands of voters by Monday.
On Thursday morning, Spokane County elections staff loaded a large Penske rental truck with more than 17 carts of ballots – each weighing about 800 pounds – and transported them to the U.S. Postal Service processing and distribution center in Airway Heights.
The carts, stacked full of ballots, were wheeled one by one from the rental truck into the facility for processing and mailing to residents.
“We are getting them at the stations and they are being delivered every day as we receive them,” said Mary Smith, customer relations coordinator for the post office. “Some people could see ballots tomorrow.”
The county elections office transported more than 175,000 ballots on Wednesday to the USPS distribution center for the 3rd and 4th legislative districts. On Thursday, more than 125,000 ballots were transported for the 6th, 7th and 9th districts, as well as Pend Oreille and Adams counties.
More than 5,500 ballots for military members and residents overseas were mailed on Sept. 21, and 4,400 sent to residents out of the area, said Mike McLaughlin, elections manager for Spokane County.
For the county elections office, preparing mail-in ballots is close to a monthlong process.
Election staff begins by pulling files containing specific ballot issues from the voter registration system on Oct. 1. The ballots are assigned an identification number, sent to a printer and are counted by precinct. A group of four to six staffers insert the ballots in envelopes, which are processed through a sorter machine and separated by ZIP code, McLaughlin said.
It takes about one week each for printing, inserting and mailing ballots.
This year, voter registration continues to climb. The cause is likely a combination of growing population in the county and and interest in particular election races and issues on the ballot, McLaughlin said.
“Advertisements are making people aware of what’s going on,” he said. “They are hearing it and the more word out there, the more awareness.”
Spokane County Auditor Vicki Dalton echoed the idea that voter registration is extremely high this year.
“It’s occurring across the entire state and the entire nation,” she said.
Election officials this year reported that more than 8,600 Washingtonians registered to vote on National Voter Registration Day, topping the number of newly registered voters during 2016’s presidential election year, according to reports from the Washington Secretary of State.
“There’s a lot of different reasons for what is driving voter registration. The Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Lisa Brown race is definitely drawing interest,” Dalton said. “I think we’re going to see activity which is right on par with what a presidential election year should be – not only in our voter registrations, but also in our turnout. It’s going to be pretty high.”
The county elections office is fielding constant phone calls from residents seeking more information about the voter registration process, she said.
Dalton said residents can verify their voter registration information on the county’s election website or at MyVote on Washington’s Secretary of State website.
The MyVote website will indicate if and where voters are registered, if their ballot was mailed and if their signature was accepted and sent to tabulation. The website also provides an online voters guide, Dalton said.
Voters will have multiple options to return their ballot: in drop boxes at all public libraries, the STA Plaza, and city or town halls in Millwood, Rockford, Waverly, Latah and Spangle.
Voters may also drop off or get replacement ballots from the Spokane County Elections office at 1033 W. Gardner Ave.
Voters have until 8 p.m. Nov. 6 to return their ballots in drop boxes. The state is providing postage paid ballot return envelopes this year for voters wanting to mail in their ballots.
Eligible voters have until Oct. 29 to register to vote in person for the general election.
Dalton encourages voters to return ballots early.
“The sooner people turn in the ballots, the better,” she said. “If residents turn in ballots by Nov. 2, most of those ballots are going to be counted on Election Day.”
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