General election ballots on way to voters

Clark County sends out 232,000; they could start showing up today

By Erik Hidle, Columbian staff writer

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Clark County sent 231,896 ballots to registered voters Monday afternoon. That’s 23 shipping pallets of mail weighing in at 18,088 pounds. It’s $20,218 worth of postage, thanks to a discounted rate allowed under federal law.

Tim Likness, county elections supervisor, says ballots are treated “almost like first-class mail,” meaning voters may see a ballot as early as today. An already-persuaded voter could check off their ballot before the second presidential debate kicks off tonight.

“Ballots should start showing up on Tuesday (today), Wednesday and Thursday,” Likness said. Still, some ballots may not arrive until next week. Likness said all ballots should be in the hands of voters by Oct. 26.

“We are telling folks, if they still don’t get a ballot (by) a week from this Friday, to give us a call,” Likness said.

The county doesn’t keep the nine tons of ballots in its office. That job is contracted to Signature Graphics in Portland. The printing company creates and packages the ballots, envelopes and informational inserts, then ships them to a mailing center for delivery. The bill for this year’s service isn’t available yet, but the county paid $10,500 to the printer for the 2011 general election.

The total number of ballots mailed will grow before Election Day. Just over 2,000 ballots will be mailed separately to make sure they reach military personnel and overseas voters on time.

Between 5,000 and 6,000 additional ballots will be mailed Friday to voters who made late changes and to new registrants.

“The people who registered in the past two to three weeks will have to wait a little longer,” Likness said.

Voter’s pamphlets should arrive later this week. Likness said extra pamphlets are available, and voters can call the office to procure one.

Most voter registration deadlines have passed, but people moving to the state still have until 5 p.m. Oct. 29 to register to vote.

“That is for anyone who was not in Washington, who was living out of state,” Likness said. “But you need to come in and (register) in person.”

For those moving within the county who may have missed their ballot, Likness said to contact his office.

“Just pick up the phone, folks,” Likness said. “Contact us. It takes just five minutes and we will take care of it. You don’t want to be in here on Election Day.”

Last-chance voters who are registered but don’t have a ballot can show up to the elections office on Nov. 6 to cast a vote. But be prepared to wait.

“Four years ago, we had people in line for three hours,” Likness said. “We had 1,300 people standing outside the door on Election Day. The line went out the door and down the street. And we can’t guarantee the weather.”

The elections office can be reached at 360-397-2345 or by e-mail at elections@clark.wa.gov. The office is at 1408 Franklin St., Vancouver. Office hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.

Erik Hidle: 360-735-4542; erik.hidle@columbian.com.