Primary Vote: Slow Response, Screwups Likely

So far maybe not so good for the county's third-ever all-mail balloting, with fewer than 14 percent (151,447 of 1,092,543 registered voters) returning their 2009 primary ballots as of 8 p.m. last night. This will be the first real test of the county's new buy-a-stamp-if-you-want-to-vote system (the return envelopes come without pre-paid postage). The first run was a special election in February, when Sherril Huff became the county's first elected elections director. A record-setting 1.1 million mail ballots were sent out, but just 250,000 bothered to exercise their voting right, a 22.4 percent turnout. (The second all-mail balloting, a special school levy vote, was held in March).

After the mail deluge hits county election headquarters in Renton today, tomorrow (election day) and Wednesday, workers will begin tossing out what could be thousands of properly marked and signed ballots because they weren't postmarked by election day. Others are already being eliminated for lack of signatures and other voter mental errors (though many voters are contacted and given a chance to verify their vote). Mail ballot invalidations have been on the rise since 2004, with at times from 10,000 to 15,000 ballots tossed due to voter screwups. Besides signature and postmark issues, voters send in empty envelopes, scribble complaints and epithets on ballots, and fail to properly fill in the voting circle, making the vote unreadable to computers. Keep democracy alive: do not check, X or circle the freakin' circle.

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