In Our View: Change Ballot Deadline

Oregon has a better way; more races are finalized on Election Night

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There's a new metaphor circulating these days that supposedly justifies Washington state's law allowing any ballot to be counted as long as it is postmarked by Election Day. The comparison comes from the world of basketball and it goes like this: As long as the shot is in the air when the buzzer sounds, it still counts. So it's good that Washington counts a ballot as long as it's in the mail by Election Day.However, our disagreement with that analogy is supported by this hockey metaphor: If you can't get the puck past the pipes before the clock runs out, you can't score. And that's why we prefer Oregon's system: If you can't get your ballot to the elections office by the end of Election Day, you can't vote.

As we've pointed out in previous editorials, this issue is not as dramatic as it might at first appear. Both systems are working fairly well. There's no great public outcry in either state -- especially in Oregon -- to change the deadline. And Washington legislators aren't eager to change the status quo.

But our suggestion that Washington should adopt the Oregon deadline is supported by many election experts. Secretary of State Sam Reed and Clark County Auditor Greg Kimsey both have said they would prefer Oregon's requirement that ballots must arrive by the end of election to be counted, although they're content with the current system.

To be sure, changing to the Oregon deadline would do nothing to prevent ultra-close races and required recounts. But as you'll see in the accompanying chart, only about 60 percent of Washington ballots will be reported by the end of Election Day, and it could take until Friday to report 90 percent of the ballots. Oregon, by contrast, has the potential of reporting virtually all ballots soon after voting ends.

Our high-tech state has the technology to do this the modern way. Just not the political fortitude. Maybe some day.

Washington state election, by the numbers

3.9 million registered voters in the state.

Statewide ballot return rate about 38 percent as of Thursday (41.2 percent in Clark County).

Election night returns will reflect about 60 percent of all ballots eventually counted; about 90 percent of returned ballots will be counted by Friday.

98 state House races; 26 state Senate races.

Four open (no incumbent) statewide executive races, out of nine total.

Three open (no incumbent) congressional races in the state: 1st, 6th and 10th districts.

Counties will certify results on Tuesday, Nov. 27. State will certify results on Wednesday, Dec. 5.

— Source: Washington secretary of state

Final Washington Poll

(as of Thursday, among likely voters)

For governor, Democrat Jay Inslee led Republican Rob McKenna 48.7 percent to 45.6 percent.

For president, Barack Obama led Mitt Romney 57.1 percent to 36.4 percent.

For U.S. senator, Maria Cantwell led Michael Baumgartner 60.8 percent to 33.3 percent.

"Yes" on Initiative 1185 (two-thirds legislative approval of tax increases) led 52 percent to 36.8 percent.

"Yes" on Initiative 1240 (charter schools) led 55.5 percent to 37.5 percent.

"Yes" on Initiative 502 (legalizing marijuana) led 55.4 percent to 37.6 percent.

"Yes" on Referendum 74 (affirm legalization of same-sex marriage) led 57.9 percent to 36.9 percent.

— Source: Washington Poll, KCTS-9 and the University of Washington