Editorial: How slow can we count?

Washington State residents once again fine themselves embarrassed by the incredibly slow pace of vote counting. While the rest of the nation looks back on the November 2004 election as history, Washingtonians are still waiting for the votes to be counted.

In Island County, we still don’t know if Mac McDowell will retain his seat as Island County commissioner and we watched with interest as 10th District House candidate Tim Knue saw his election night lead disappear in the days since the polls closed. All across the state, there are close local elections waiting for more votes to arrive in the auditor’s mailbox and for another vote counting session to begin.

The Island County Auditor’s Office counted votes last Friday and decided to count again five days later on Wednesday afternoon. They’re just waiting to get all the mail ballots properly organized before counting, but the long delay makes many people restless.

This problem can be traced back to the Washington State Legislature which allowed mailed ballots to be postmarked on election day, rather than submitted to the local auditor’s office by election day. Across the Columbia River in Oregon voters have no problem submitting their ballots by election day, but if you’re a Washington voter you can dither until election day and then take your ballot to the post office, regardless of where you live. If you’re visiting New York City, a 12 p.m. postmark on election day will get your ballot counted back in Coupeville, even it it takes days to get there.

The Legislature should make it a top priority to remedy this situation as soon as it convenes in January. This is the electronic age and we’re counting voters slower than in the old days when vote arrived in Coupeville by Model T and canoe. Time to catch up with the rest of America.

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