Evan Marczynski/ The AS Review
You don’t need a booth to vote in Whatcom County. The AS Review e-mailed Whatcom County Auditor Shirley Forslof, who oversees the election process, to learn more about our mail-in ballot system and what mistakes are wise to avoid.
The AS Review: Can someone still register to vote in the Nov. 2 election if they have not already?
Shirley Forslof: Oct. 25 is the last day to register in person in the auditor’s office (downtown Bellingham, 311 Grand Ave.-Suite 103) and be eligible to vote in the Nov. 2 general election. The auditor’s office regular office hours are 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Review: What are the most common mistakes you see people make when filling out their ballots?
Forslof: The most common mistake is not connecting the head and tail of the arrow that points to your choice with a single line. Instead some voters mark their choice with an X, check mark, a partially completed line or a very thick wide line. The instructions for voting are at the top of the ballot with instructions and examples for the correct procedure and how to correct a mistake. Washington State is a voter-intent state, and the secretary of state has established rules on voter intent. After the ballot is removed from the secrecy envelope, the ballot is inspected to determine if it will be counted by the ballot-counting equipment as the voter intended. If it is determined that the voted ballot will not be counted by the vote-counting equipment as the voter intended, a duplicate is made of the ballot in order for it to be counted as the voter intended. Any voter-intent issues that do not follow the secretary of state rules are decided by the three-member Whatcom County canvassing board comprised of the county auditor, the county council chair or a designated representative and the deputy prosecuting attorney.
Review: Does the entire ballot have to be filled out in order to be counted?
Forslof: No, if you do not want to vote a particular office or ballot measure, you may leave it blank. Only those offices and ballot measures you voted for will be counted.
Review: Has Whatcom County always done elections with mail-in ballots? Do you think mail-in ballots have any advantages over ballots cast in person?
Forslof: The first vote-by-mail countywide election in Whatcom County was the September 2005 primary election. Vote-by-mail has many advantages. A higher turnout of voters in Whatcom County has resulted since elections were conducted by mail-in ballots. This is especially true in odd-year and off-year primary and general elections and in special district elections, such as school district elections. The voter has more time to research the candidates and the issues because the voter receives their ballot approximately 18 days prior to the election and has until Election Day to vote and return their ballot. I believe that the mail-in ballot provides an opportunity for a family to discuss the issues around the kitchen table with their children or other family members. Mail-in voting is more convenient for the voter. Instead of voting only on Election Day, the voter makes the choice of what day to vote and return their ballot provided that their ballot is postmarked by Election Day or deposited at a drop site no later than 8 p.m. on Election Day.
Review: Anything else?
Forslof: Be sure that the ballot is enclosed in the secrecy envelope. (A few voters forget to enclose their ballot.) Be sure to sign and date the affidavit on the purple mailing envelope. The ballot can not be counted if the affidavit is not signed by the voter. Be sure to mail the ballot so that it has a postmark no later than Nov. 2 or deposit in a ballot drop box by 8 p.m. on Nov. 2