Remember those postcards the Secretary of State's office sent to thousands of registered voters warning them that they might not be registered? The goal was to encourage eligible voters to register, but due to a failure to properly cross-reference variants in the DMV database with those in the voter rolls, the outreach effort created a lot of anxiety and confusion.
Well, an email from a reader illustrates yet another unintended consequence:
I was one of those recipients of a postcard from the Secretary of State advising me that I may not be registered. I’ve voted in every election since I moved to Seattle in 1992, so I was puzzled. And the timing right before a presidential general election woke up my slumbering inner conspiracy theorist. Nevertheless, I dutifully went to the website for more information but found that my only option was to register to vote. After sending out thousands of postcards, the Secretary of State did not provide any option to “confirm” existing registered voters. Unable to get anything but recordings on their phone line, I went ahead and registered. Better safe than sorry, right?
As you article points out, this was caused by a software glitch. Well, it hasn’t been fixed yet. I just got my second ballot, as did one of my wife’s co-workers. Apparently, the Secretary of State’s computer can’t tell the difference between Christopher John Fast (me!) and Christopher J. Fast (also me!), even though they both live at the same address and have the same WDL number and birthdate.
Now I’ve heard a rumor that they are disqualifying those with double ballots. Any insights into this situation?
That's right, a registered voter, spooked by the postcard, ended up registering again. And now he has two ballots! Not exactly what the Secretary of State intended.
My advice to Christopher was simple: Vote early and only once. Double-voting is a felony. Christopher can allay his fears by tracking his ballot using King County's handy online ballot tracker. And if for some reason his ballot has not been received and verified by election day, he can always ask for a provisional ballot.
UPDATE: Christopher didn't specify, but if one of his ballot envelopes is marked "replacement ballot," he should vote using that one. King County Elections explains:
More than 200,000 voters registered to vote or updated their voter information in the weeks leading up to the date King County mailed ballots for the November presidential and general election. Since ballot packets are prepared for mailing to voters a few weeks in advance, some of the updates occur too close to the mailing date to be able to interrupt the printing and mailing process. Meanwhile, voter files continue to be updated. As a result, some voters receive two ballots—one that has actually been suspended (but not in time to prevent it being mailed) and a second “replacement” ballot that is current and ready to be voted.
“There are safeguards built into the voter registration system as well as the ballot processing system to ensure that no voter can vote more than one time even if they have received more than one ballot,” said Elections Director Sherril Huff. “Additionally, ballots are only opened after verifying each voter’s signature that follows a declaration that includes a statement, under penalty of perjury, that the voter is only voting once in an election.”
Voters who receive two ballots should vote the ballot in the envelope marked “replacement ballot” which is accompanied by a printed explanation and instructions. If they have any questions, they should contact the Elections Department at 206-296-VOTE (8683) or firstname.lastname@example.org.