Saturday, November 29, 2008

Why Does Pierce County Take So Long to Count Its Ballots?

Elections departments throughout the states of Oregon and Washington take a very long time to count ballots. In these two states, voters predominately vote by mail. In Pierce County, 84% of the voters voted by mail. Counting mail-in ballots takes longer than counting poll votes.

The primary reasons why mail-in ballots take longer to count are the processes of verifying the signature on the envelope is valid and ensuring that the ballot has been marked correctly so that the vote counting machinery can read the ballot. Pierce County works hard to both prevent fraud and to ensure that every valid ballot is counted.

As a result, for ballots where the signature does not match, the Elections Department contacts the voter to understand what happened. All of this takes time. With poll voting, the poll workers ensure that the correct person is voting at the polls on Election Day.

In the state of Washington, voters are only required to put their ballots in the mail by Election Day, so ballots arrive for days after Election Day. In the state of Oregon, ballots must arrive at the Elections Department by Election Day. This is another reason why it takes longer to count the votes in the state of Washington.

These factors slow things down in every election, but have even more impact in Presidential years when turnout is high and there are many new voters. These factors are well known by Elections Departments well in advance of the election.

These factors have nothing to do with Ranked Choice Voting (RCV). They slow down vote counting in areas of Washington without RCV. Elections officials who blame slow vote counting on RCV are not being honest with the media or the voters.



At 9:00 PM, Anonymous AllAboutVoting said...

>These factors have nothing to do with
>Ranked Choice Voting (RCV).

They do to a degree. With better single winner voting methods that are summable by-preceincts you can have running tallies keeping track of who is winning.

With IRV that is much trickier since you can not eliminate candidates until all the votes are in. This means you can only report on first-place winners pending processing of all the ballots.

At 12:23 PM, Anonymous Terry Bouricius said...

All About Voting comment is wrong. Pierce, San Francisco and other jurisdictions do not only announce first choice results while awaiting mailed-in ballots. they can and do easily run the software algorithm on the ballots on hand, showing preliminary winners. As in ANY election, one can't be certain of the final winner in a close election until all the ballots are in, but IRV (RCV) is not substantially different in this regard.


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