Editorial: Board defends voters’ rights

  • Wednesday, January 17, 2007 8:00pm
  • Opinion

Island County Canvassing Board members stood up for the voters last week when they complained about new state rules that tie their hands at vote-counting time.

Prosecutor Greg Banks, Commissioner Mac McDowell and Auditor Suzanne Sinclair, in their various comments in their final meeting dealing with the November election, all expressed concern that actual votes may not be counted if the state rules are strictly followed.

Banks made a particularly good point in saying that the Canvassing Board consists of elected officials. We know these people, more than half of us voted for them, and we all trust them to make the right call when a vote might be in doubt.

Mail ballots, which the vast majority of voters receive, carry a rectangular box next to each candidate’s name, and the voter is to mark the box of the preferred candidate. The state now requires a uniform approach to box marking, which is nonsensical. Any way the voter marks the box should be considered a vote, whether it’s an X, a check or some other mark. Throwing out votes because they don’t fit a consistent pattern is absurd.

The Canvassing Board made a wise recommendation that the ballot be redesigned to invite a more uniform way of voting. As McDowell said, oval spaces would likely be filled out in the manner the state prefers. Rectangular boxes are open to more creative ways of voting. In this way, voting the “correct” way is encouraged, but not coerced.

Due to the state’s new rules, many votes were tragically thrown out statewide in the November election simply because the voter did not follow the rules. State regulators should remember that literacy tests at the polls were outlawed years ago. You don’t have to know how to read the rules to vote, and you don’t have to understand what you read to vote. So don’t throw out votes just because someone doesn’t know the rules, or chooses to ignore the rules.

Let the Canvassing Board decide which votes are valid. These panels of local elected officials are an essential check against the powers of big government. We can’t leave voter decisions up to some computer or some obscure panel in Olympia.

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