Cindy Wendle and Breean Beggs knocked on thousands of doors during their campaigns for Spokane City Council president.
Election Day has come and gone, but they’re still knocking.
Entering the weekend separated by only 145 votes, the Wendle and Beggs campaigns have had teams canvassing the city to track down voters whose ballots were initially rejected by election officials and to ensure their votes are counted, according to Beggs.
“That’s going on pretty actively, and I know that because when I’ve knocked on doors, (some) people said the Wendle campaign was here already,” Beggs said.
Although Wendle held a lead of more than 700 votes on election night, Beggs has made substantial gains in the following week and took a seven-vote lead Tuesday night as the Spokane County Elections Office continues to verify and count ballots.
Ballots can be flagged because the signature on the outer envelope did not match the signature the elections office has on record or because the signature was not filled out at all, according to Spokane County Auditor Vicky Dalton.
The elections office immediately generates a letter to send to the voter with a form and instructions to resolve the issue. The form has to be returned, by mail or in person, to the elections office by Nov. 25.
But in such a tight race, candidates don’t rely on voters to fill out and return forms on their own. The list of voters with a signature missing or mismatched, as officials refer to them, is public record and both campaigns can obtain it. (Don’t worry, the candidates can’t learn who you voted for – or attempted to vote for.)
In campaign parlance, this is referred to as “sig chasing” or “ballot chasing,” which has resulted in a flood of calls to the elections office from confused and concerned voters.
“This can be legitimate, but one thing we do ask of voters is we do not want anyone inserting themselves between the voter and my office when it comes to returning those signatures,” Dalton said. “We suggest highly to voters that they do not hand over their signature to anyone. Just mail it into us or hand it into us.”
The elections office does not provide the campaigns with email addresses or phone numbers, but candidates sometimes track that information down separately, Dalton added.
There are names on the list that Beggs said his campaign recognizes as a supporter, but for the majority they are entirely uncertain if the person attempted to cast a vote for him.
Beggs said he spoke with Wendle on Monday and both are hoping for a speedy resolution.
“I’m hoping for all of us that it will be a more decisive margin coming up,” Beggs said prior to the posting of Tuesday’s updated results.
Wendle could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.
The stakes in the race are higher for Wendle, a political newcomer and co-owner of the Northtown Square shopping plaza. Beggs, if he is unsuccessful in his bid for council president, will retain his seat as a council member representing the city’s South Hill.
Voters who are uncertain if their ballot was accepted can check quickly on the Washington Secretary of State’s website, at voter.votewa.gov.
Dalton stressed that any voter with concerns or questions can call the elections office at (509) 477-2320.
The election is set to be certified on Nov. 26, but the president’s race could take longer. As it stands, the results are within the requirements set by the state for an automatic recount.
In Washington, a machine recount is triggered if the two candidates are separated by less than half of a percentage point of the total votes between the two candidates, and the gap is less than 2,000 votes.
A hand recount would occur if the gap is less than 1,000 votes and one-quarter of a percentage point. That’s a real possibility, and Dalton estimates that a hand recount would not be certified until Dec. 10.
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