Here's What I Think About That

Key Peninsula voters can vote with confidence

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Does voting really matter?  Key Peninsula voters say yes.

And 2.5 million people in Washington State agree. An impressive 54.44% of registered voters cast ballots in the Aug. 4 primary election certified by Washington Secretary of State Kim Wyman.

“The turnout rate is the highest on record for a primary since 1964, when 840,000 Washingtonian voters, represented a 56.06% turnout,” Wyman said in a statement. 

Voters in Pierce County weren’t far behind with a huge turnout of 51.9%. Pierce County Auditor Julie Anderson said things were humming along as anticipated for a predicted 35% turnout, until the last two days when an enormous number of ballots poured in. She told me it was like “a boa constrictor accustomed to eating bite-sized rats suddenly trying to swallow a wild boar.” (See page 14 of this edition for more.)

Most impressive of all was the whopping 60% turnout of Key Peninsula voters in the primary, demonstrably more engaged in local races than either Pierce County or the state as a whole.

Pause for a moment. Let that sink in and make your chest swell with pride. It should. Key Peninsula is a civically engaged community; we are where democracy lives, breathes or dies.

Hyperbolic rhetoric from the other Washington claims voting by mail will result in massive election fraud. That is flatly untrue.

Beginning in 1993, Washington voters could request to permanently vote by mail. Voters appreciated the ease and comfort of voting from home and the practice grew steadily throughout the state. Ten years later, 76% of ballots were cast by mail.

It was 2004 and the closest gubernatorial race in history between Dino Rossi and Christine Gregoire, who eventually beat Rossi by 133 votes after two recounts and multiple lawsuits, that paved the way for election reforms leading to the adoption of vote-by mail as the law of the land in Washington.

In 2005, legislation left it up to county auditors to decide whether to conduct their elections by mail-in voting, polling stations, or both. By 2009 every county in the state adopted mail-in voting except Pierce County, which continued operating polling stations despite the nearly 90% of its own voters already voting by mail. In 2010, our Legislature determined that having two different systems on the books was inefficient and mandated mail-in-voting across the state, and we haven’t looked back.

Some doubters point to the Aug. 1 primary of 2017, when 152 ballots collected from a drop box in Purdy on election night were discovered months later — after the election was certified — at the Tacoma election center, buried by maintenance supplies in a sealed bag, that never made it to the ballot processing area.

Anderson immediately notified the secretary of state, the county executive and the canvassing board, and could have stopped there as nothing more was required by law. Instead, she went public and alerted the media.

The Auditor’s Office implemented a good number of changes, new procedures and crosschecks to prevent any future mistakes.

While those 152 ballots would not have affected the outcome of the election, that wasn’t the point for Anderson, who said at the time, “We don’t judge the importance of our error based on its impact. The potential impact matters. Voter confidence matters. Accountability matters.”

Mounting criticism lobbed from both sides of the political divide points to concerted politicization of the U.S. Postal Service as a tool to achieve political ends and discourage mail-in voting nationwide, despite a nation still suffering under a pandemic.

Wyman remains confident in the state’s partnership with USPS and its ability to continue delivering the same outstanding service to voters.

“Politicizing these administrative processes is dangerous and undermines public confidence in our elections,” she said. “Washington voters should know that sending ballot material to millions of voters this fall is a routine operation of the U.S. Postal Service. Though it is imperative the agency maintain its functionality and efficiency, this volume of work is by no means unusual … and an operation I am confident the U.S. Postal Service is sufficiently prepared to fulfill.” 

Elections in Washington State are safe, secure and — above all — accountable.

Even the well-known conservative Heritage Foundation, which tracks voter fraud, has shown that of the approximately 1,300 cases of fraud going back the last 30 years, most didn’t include mail-in ballots.

Keeping up with the news outside our KP bubble is dizzying, as it spins, twists and shape-shifts from one unimaginable disaster to the next. Each day is exhausting in its own special way.

Even a solidly centrist point of view draws the ire of extremists left and right. KP News is not immune to outrage and criticism, in an ironic game of both sides against the middle. Yet most of those people who write us to complain about our coverage refuse to see their name published, they say for fears of reprisal or even physical harm.

It does not have to be this way.