11,000 Eastside Voters Without Ballots Due To King County Elections Technical Error

Approximately 11,000 general election ballots did not get mailed to voters in Kirkland, Redmond and Bellevue due to technical problems associated with the voter database, according to King County Elections Communications Manager, Kim van Ekstrom. The error was discovered when voters called the county to complain that they had not received ballots.

"We monitor all the different calls to our phone bank and we are always checking if there are any anomalies," said Kim van Ekstrom via telephone, "We were getting calls about missing ballots on the Eastside  that were from a more concentrated area than what we would normally expect to see during an election."

Investigation found that King County Elections had experienced a "technical problem that was associated with a portion of our voter database and that had prevented ballots from being mailed to a number of our Eastside zip codes. It has affected about 11,000 voters." Kim van Ekstrom further stated that in total, there were about 1.1 million election ballots mailed. "Voters who did not get ballots in the first batch should get them very early in the week -- Monday or Tuesday."

Kirkland citizen, Lynda Haneman, is one of those who has yet to receive her election ballot from the county. In this letter sent to Kirkland Views, Haneman recalls how she and her neighbors did not receive ballots as early as last Sunday.

My checking out who had and had not received their King County Elections Ballot began on Sunday afternoon. At a gathering that afternoon, I learned that nearly everyone else attending had already received their ballot for this November’s Election. None had been received at my house yet, so I sent an email to several of my immediate neighbors. Nope – no ballots for them yet either. Hmmm . . . I sent out an inquiry to folks a few blocks further away. Nope! No ballots received by them either.

I contacted King County Elections today and was told they would send out replacement ballots. But I couldn’t help wondering “How many other people didn’t get ballots?” How many might not get to vote at all if they don’t know or think to contact the Elections Dept in time to receive a replacement ballot. For residents of my neighborhood, this is the first election in which we can participate in voting for Kirkland City Council positions.

I had been in contact with Jane Hague’s staff to help on this issue. They were told the issue was being looked in to. But I asked the staff in Ms. Hague’s office to please relay to the staff at King County Elections that if there was no information relayed to voters on a wide basis on this issue by the end of the day that I would personally contact various local media about this situation.

So – I was very glad to get a call late this afternoon from Jane Hague’s staff letting me know that King County Elections as making a press release available about this issue and letting the electorate know what actions would be taken.

Every election is important. I’m glad to know that there are 11,000 +/- more King County Residents who will be able to have their voice heard.

Lynda Haneman

If alert voters like Haneman had not contacted King County Elections, it is unknown if the error would have been corrected in time for voters to participate in general election. On Friday, the technical error was corrected and ballots began being sent out to the 11,000 Eastside voters. "They still have until November 8 to vote and return their ballot. That timeline is a legal timeline," says Kim van Ekstrom, "If for any reason a voter has problem, if they still haven't received a ballot or if they have any issues with it, we will do anything we can to help them with that."

The following is a news release from King County:(http://www.kingcounty.gov/elections/news/2011/October/28delay.aspx)

Ballot mailing delay for some Eastside voters

The Elections Department has identified about 11,000 Eastside voters whose ballots were not sent out among the 1.1 million General Election ballots mailed on Oct. 19. Ballots are being mailed to these voters tomorrow and they should receive them in the mail early next week. All voters have until Nov. 8 to vote and get ballots postmarked or returned to a ballot drop box.

The Elections Department constantly reviews calls to its phone bank to determine if there are any issues arising in the course of every election. Although call volumes for the current election have been consistent with past elections, in the last couple of days, calls from voters about not receiving ballots in the mail were more concentrated in several Eastside areas than normal.

“We investigated the matter and discovered a technical problem associated with part of our voter database that resulted in exclusion of these ballots from being mailed on the date originally scheduled,” said Sherril Huff, Elections Director. “Quality assurance is an important component of our elections processes and while we regret that this event occurred, I’m pleased that the reviews we have in place helped us in identifying and problem solving the issue.”

A small percentage of voters contact King County in the course of every election about not receiving their ballot. The Elections Department encourages voters to call the voter hotline (206-296-VOTE) if this happens. Voter communications always include reminders to contact the Elections Department if your ballot has not been received in the week after it was mailed out to you.

Voters are encouraged to contact the Elections Department if they have not yet received a ballot in the mail or if they have any questions about voting in the November General Election.