Election numbers: turnout, rejections

Data shows Peninsula’s general election markers

Now that all the reports are in, the data from the Nov. 8 general election shows that North Olympic Peninsula counties were in the top 10 for voter turnout in Washington state.

Election data was certified on Nov. 29, and according to data from the Office of the Secretary of State, Jefferson County had the third highest voter turnout with 78.24 percent. Clallam County was the ninth highest with 71.76 percent.

Out of Washington’s 39 counties, Garfield County had the highest voter turnout with 79 percent and Yakima County had the least, with 50 percent.

Statewide voter turnout was 64.59 percent with the vast majority of ballots being delivered to designated drop boxes.

State data shows 61 percent of ballots returned to drop boxes and 38.5 percent sent by mail.

Voters 65 and older had the highest return rate at 83 percent, and state data show return rates for each younger age group declining, with voters 18-24 showing the lowest ballot return rate of 39 percent.

The percentage of challenged ballots was higher in Jefferson County than Clallam County, with 225 ballots — 1.04 percent — ultimately being rejected and five more ballots sent to other counties. Clallam County, which has 57,272 voters to Jefferson’s 27,600, had 299 rejected ballots, or 0.73 percent.

Statewide, Jefferson County had the 14th most challenged ballots and Clallam County was 27th.

King County — the state’s most populous county — had the highest percentage of challenged ballots at 1.7 percent. Columbia County, which has just over 2,800 voters, had the fewest challenged ballots with 0.36 percent.

County elections officials say they take a variety of measures to cure challenged ballots, i.e., ballots that are rejected because signatures do not match those on file or are missing altogether, or for some other reason.

Ballots can be rejected for a number of reasons, said Susan Johnson, Clallam County elections manager. County election staff are required to try to make contact with voters whose ballots need some form of correction, she said.

Once a ballot is found to have an issue — a missing signature, for example — county elections officials are required by law to send a letter to the voter informing them of the problem. The voter has until 4:30 p.m. the day before election results are certified to correct the ballot.

“We have to send out the letter, and we are required to reach out again before we certify,” Johnson said.

“We do everything in our power to make sure this is a good challenge,” she said.

Generally, two people look at each signature, then if the checkers decide there’s an issue, they take it to the auditor or election manager, Johnson said.

“People need to understand that we look at these several times.”

The county canvassing board reviews challenged ballots, Johnson said, and is ultimately the body that decides to reject ballots. The board is made up of the county auditor, the prosecuting attorney and the chair of the county legislative body.

Quinn Grewell, elections coordinator in Jefferson County, said election staff try to reach out to voters with more than just the required letter, and will use voter registration data for additional contact methods such as phone or email.

Once a voter is contacted, Grewell said election staff work with the voter to correct the issue with the ballot.

However, email and a phone number are not required for voter registration, and Grewell said sometimes the voters themselves don’t want to go through the process of correcting their ballot.

“Some of them we did get in contact with; some didn’t want to resolve the challenge,” Grewell said. “We’ve had voters say, ‘we know what the results are.’ Sometimes people just decide that they’re OK.”

Initially, there were 750 challenged ballots in Clallam County, Johnson said, but staff were able to get that number down to the 299 that were ultimately rejected. Of the challenged ballots, 200 were unsigned and 508 had a signature that didn’t match the one on file, Johnson said.

Other issues in Clallam County were empty envelopes with no ballot inside, or wrong voters, where voters from the same household have signed for another’s ballot.

In Jefferson County, there were 454 challenged ballots, Grewell said, with 265 that had signatures that did not match and 125 that were not signed.

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Reporter Peter Segall can be reached at peter.segall@peninsuladailynews.com.

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