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Feb. 27, 2021

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After surprise, Friday count confirms election results

Hundreds of late ballots arrive late but change nothing

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A tray full of ballots received by Clark County elections officials on Friday morning.
A tray full of ballots received by Clark County elections officials on Friday morning. Many hundreds of ballots were received unexpectedly. Photo Gallery

After a few tense hours Friday following the discovery of more than 1,000 unexpected ballots from Tuesday’s primary election, the results held strong: Marc Boldt, no party preference, and Mike Dalesandro, a Democrat, are still on track to advance to the election for county council chair.

Councilor David Madore, a Republican, remained in third place after 1,147 additional ballots were counted.

The news that many ballots unexpectedly turned up at a postal service distribution center in Portland came early Friday from the county elections office.

The latest totals show Boldt took 17,038, or 26.67 percent, of 63,879 votes cast. Dalesandro took 16,982, or 26.58 percent.

Madore, meanwhile, held his third-place spot with 16,288 votes, or 25.5 percent. He is 694 votes behind Dalesandro.

Under Washington law, the top two vote-getters advance to the general election regardless of party.

Clark County Auditor Greg Kimsey said he discussed the late-arriving ballots with post office officials, who explained the postal service no longer guarantees next-day delivery of local first-class mail. Kimsey said he does not believe there is a nefarious reason behind the late-arrival ballots.

“I don’t question at all the integrity or the motivations of the people at the post office,” Kimsey said.

Kimsey, a Republican, is the elected official in charge of elections in Clark County.

Cathie Garber, the county elections supervisor, said the big return of ballots was “quite the surprise.”

“Never have we received this many on a Friday,” Garber said.

Lori Southwick, customer relations for the U.S. Postal Service, Portland district, confirmed the post office did change its policy from a one-day to two-day service in January.

Without looking at each individual ballot, she said, she could not explain the late surge. She also said the additional 1,000 ballots did not seem like that many.

The ballots are kept in a secure facility, Southwick said, until they are delivered to the addressee.

“OK, here’s an example: You went on vacation, you took your ballot with you to read on the plane because it’s a long trip, and you mail it from New York. It’s not going to be a two-day from New York. These people could be gone for school … on vacation. There’s all kinds of scenarios,” she said.

However, officials from the Secretary of State’s office said there have not been any other counties reporting batches of late-arrival ballots.

Even more ballots could arrive by mail next week.

To be valid, the ballots must bear a postmark on or before Aug. 4. The envelope containing the ballot must be signed by a registered voter, and the signatures are compared with signatures on file at the auditor’s office.

To handle the unexpected wave of ballots, the elections office called ballot inspectors and those charged with verifying signatures back to work Friday, Garber said.

“We’ve contacted the candidates in the council race to let them know, too,” Garber said.

Following the Friday ballot count, Dalesandro tweeted “Thanks to all our volunteers and supporters. Feeling humbled and blessed. Onward to November!”

Garber said there are still 738 challenged ballots remaining, meaning they have no signature, a printed signature or a signature that does not match its owner’s voter registration.

On average, only half of all challenged ballots are resolved, she said.

Another ballot count is expected at 2 p.m. Monday, according to the Clark County elections office. The county is predicting 600 ballots left to count.

The election results are due to be certified Aug. 18.

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