Elections officials: Don't give ballot to strangers

Warning issued after a candidate offers to collect, deliver votes

By Andrea Damewood, Columbian staff writer

Published:

Updated: November 7, 2011, 7:48 PM

 

Wentzel robocall

Clark County elections officials are advising voters not to give their ballots to unknown third parties for drop-off, following a series of automated calls from Vancouver City Council candidate Josephine Wentzel to voters offering to deliver them.

In a press release Monday, County Auditor Greg Kimsey, a Republican, and Elections Supervisor Tim Likness urged voters to turn their ballots in at the elections office, at 1408 Franklin St., at one of the other staffed ballot deposit locations open on Election Day, or through the U.S. mail.

“Our consistent advice is that under no circumstances should voters give their ballot to any third party whom they do not know to return for them,” the joint press release said.

Kimsey said he received several emails about an automated call from Wentzel’s campaign, in which she gives a phone number for people to call if they’d like someone to collect their ballot and turn it in. It’s not illegal to make such an offer, but Kimsey said he and Likness felt strongly enough about it to publicly recommend against the practice.

“I’m elected by the voters here in Clark County to administer elections in a manner which results in confidence in the integrity of the process,” he said. “My concern is that a voter may give their ballot to someone — and I’m not casting aspersion on any candidates currently — who then does not return it to the elections office or doesn’t deliver it on a timely basis.”

Offers from candidates to drop off voters’ ballots aren’t common, Kimsey said, though he’s heard of it before.

Wentzel said Monday that she was told that picking up ballots was not an uncommon practice, and that she verified it is legal to do so before sending out the recorded phone messages.

“My offer to have sealed ballots picked up was simply to provide a means for voters without a stamp or transportation have their vote counted,” Wentzel wrote in an email. “I offered to help after hearing from some voters that they didn’t have a stamp or the means to submit their ballots.

“Wouldn’t it be better to ensure that everyone who wants their ballot counted, but has no other means, can have it hand-delivered so they are not left out? There comes a time when government needs to realize that adult voters are smart enough to decide how they want to deliver their ballots.”

She said that after the election, she will propose looking into the cost of including a self-addressed stamped envelope with ballots or going back to voting at the polls.

As long as a ballot is postmarked by Tuesday, it will be counted, although Kimsey recommended taking it to a post office to ensure a Nov. 8 postmark. Voters who absolutely cannot get to a post office or a drop location, officials said, should give their ballots to somebody they know and trust completely.

Likness said Monday that voter turnout continues to be on track to hit 43 percent, a typical turnout for a general election in an odd-numbered year. The county mailed 226,302 ballots for Tuesday’s election. By Monday, 65,694 had been returned.