Washington county election officials reported the retrieval of over 140 ballots from inactive mailboxes across the state. This incident illuminated critical postal service mishaps just as the nation gears up for the upcoming 2024 elections.
The ballots were found after the November 7 election when vigilant voters who hadn’t seen updates on the status of their ballots raised concerns, King5 reported.
Officials reported finding 87 ballots in King County, 37 in Pierce County, with smaller counts in Clark and Thurston counties.
A concerted effort by election officials confirmed that all but one of these ballots were validly cast for the November 7th elections. Officials emphasized that the count reportedly did not affect the outcome of any races.
The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) is now under scrutiny for this lapse. Washington Secretary of State Steve Hobbs (D) has sent a letter to USPS.
“The delayed discovery of at least 124 voters’ ballots in USPS collection boxes in public spaces in King and Pierce counties undercut a foundational tenet of our vote-by-mail architecture. Every Washington voter needs to be able to trust that a mailed ballot is a voted ballot. It is unacceptable that voted ballots placed in USPS receptacles went undelivered for so long. Leaving disused collection boxes in public spaces during an election creates a potential disenfranchisement,” Hobbs wrote.
“Please advise me, as soon as possible, of all steps USPS is taking to prevent such a situation from arising in future election cycles and ensure every ballot put into a USPS collection box is delivered in a timely fashion. Please also notify me if any resources of the Office of the Secretary of State could help facilitate these improvements. Our agencies must credibly assure the public that no similar circumstances will interfere with future vote-by-mail elections.”
“This point of failure was brought to light by voters who reached out after mailed ballots did not show up in ballot tracking mechanisms, which my office provides to voters statewide via VoteWA.gov as a transparency measure. While we are grateful for their vigilance, we owe them the assurance that the secure delivery of each ballot matters as much to our institutions as it does to the person who filled it out.”
In response to a letter from Democrat Washington Secretary of State Steve Hobbs, USPS has pledged to implement measures to avert similar occurrences in future elections.
“The response letter cited the prevention steps already underway to promptly remove out-of-service collection boxes while maintaining collection up until their removal.”
“I feel confident, but I know that doesn’t give confidence to some voters out there,” Hobbs said. ”They’re going to remove all those boxes that are malfunctioning, or they’re having problems with.”