Evan Smith: This should be primary-election week

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

By Evan Smith
ShorelineAreaNews Politics Writer

Tuesday was primary-election day in seven states -- Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island and Wisconsin. Hawaii’s primary is Saturday.

This was primary week in Washington until four years ago. It gave us a short elections season – seven weeks from candidate filing until the primary, seven weeks from the primary to the general election.

We moved the primary to August to have time to get results before preparation of November ballots for mailing to military and other overseas voters.

How do those other states get primary votes counted in time to prepare general-election ballots?

Assistant State Elections Director Katie Blinn says that the relevant date is the date that we certify elections — two weeks after the primary.

She told me Monday that the late certification is because Washington has decided to allow voters, including military and overseas voters, to vote on Election Day.

“Most other states require absentee ballots to be RECEIVED by the close of polls,” she said. “For many military and overseas voters, this means that they must vote weeks before Election Day in order to get the ballot returned before the close of polls.”

A spokesman for the secretary of state noted that counties get two weeks to count and certify the ballots and that the secretary of state gets another week to approve results before November ballots need to be ready for mailing in late September.

Maybe, now that we allow people to send absentee ballots by fax or by e-mail attachment, we could shorten the time it takes to certify primary results.

If we required local voters to have their ballots turned in by election day, we'd need a lot more drop-off sites.


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