Elections offices prepare for high voter turnout

North Olympic Peninsula elections officials are preparing for a high voter turnout in the Nov. 3 general election.

Domestic ballots are being mailed to registered voters today. In Clallam County, more than 56,000 ballots will be mailed. In Jefferson County, the estimate is more than 26,000.

Interest in the presidential race and state races is so high that Clallam County Auditor Shoona Riggs predicts a voter turnout of between 80 percent and 90 percent on Nov. 3.

She said that Secretary of State Kim Wyman is predicting a 70 percent turnout.

“Clallam County is typically higher than the statewide count,” Riggs said Tuesday. “So we are preparing for it” by hiring more help and scheduling more pickup dates for ballot drop boxes.

Neighboring Jefferson County generally has a voter turnout among the highest — if not the highest — in the sate.

“We don’t deal with estimates or predictions. We always plan for 100 percent voter turnout,” said Quinn Grewell, Jefferson County elections coordinator.

That means having extra supplies and more staff members — two this election, Grewell said.

Despite speculation, fueled by the incumbent president’s opinion, that mail-in voting could open the door to voter fraud, auditors in Washington state, which has had mail-in voting since 2011, feel confident ballots will be secure.

They are using the same procedures they have honed over the years of mail-only balloting.

The voter registration system is statewide and so it is expected to catch anyone who tried to vote in two or more different counties.

Systems — machines — are monitored by the Secretary of State’s Office Security Operations Center and the federal Department of Homeland Security’s Cyber Security and Infrastructure Security Agency, said Riggs and Grewell.

Tabulation machines are not on the internet at all, Grewell added, saying they are “air-gapped.”

On the outside of each ballot is only the voter’s name.

“The presidential primary is a unique election that happens once every four years,” Riggs said.

“Otherwise voters are not registered by party in Washington state.”

Signatures are checked. If questions arise, “cure” letters are sent to the voter.

Ballots collected from drop boxes and by mail are placed into secured bags, Grewell said.

They are opened in stages with the envelopes and then security sleeves taken away before the ballots are opened, she and Riggs said.

In Clallam County, bins under the table where ballots are processed are available for envelope stubs. The contents of those bins are examined before they are thrown out, Riggs said.

Grewell said that ballots in Jefferson County differ from those in Clallam County (lacking stubs) and that there are no such bins or trash receptacles in the room where ballots are processed.

Images of the ballots are scanned into the tabulation system, and the paper ballots are locked into metal boxes with security seals and a log and kept for several months.

Clallam County has election observers from both Republican and Democratic parties and welcomes others.

Jefferson County also welcomes observers, but since its space is small, people are urged to observe the process form their own homes. The process is livestreamed on the Jefferson County elections website at co.jefferson.wa.us/1266/Elections.

“I know people watch us online,” Grewell said. “They call and ask us questions about what we are doing.

“People have been really excited about the livestreaming.”

Riggs has been sending out robocalls to registered voters, telling them about the COVID-19 restrictions at the Clallam County Courthouse and encouraging them to call her if they need help with any facet of voting. Her number is 360-417-2222.

Grewell can be reached at 360-385-9117 or qgrewell@co.jefferson.wa.us.

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Executive Editor Leah Leach can be reached at 360-417-3530 or at lleach@peninsuladailynews.com.

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