Sunday, November 29, 2020
Nov. 29, 2020

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Clark County Elections office going mobile to retrieve ballots

Staff will drive to Portland to pick up ballots at postal service distribution center to avoid potential delays

By , Columbian Education Reporter
Published:

The Clark County Elections office has made some changes in its Election Day strategy that should ensure the office does not face a repeat of this year’s primary, when mailed ballots were delayed by newly relaxed postal regulations.

Rather than wait for mail-in ballots to return from the postal service distribution center in Portland, Elections Supervisor Cathie Garber and another member of the elections staff will drive to the center on Election Day and pick ballots up — a more hands-on approach than in the past.

“They won’t even send them to Vancouver,” Garber said. “We should be getting them all quicker that way.”

On Aug. 7, three days after the primary, more than 1,000 valid ballots were discovered sitting at the postal service distribution center in Portland. At the time, Garber said it was highly unusual to receive so many ballots so long after Election Day. However, the postal service no longer guarantees next-day delivery of local first-class mail.

It made for a few tense hours in which the election results appeared to rest on those surprise ballots. In the end, no results changed. But afterward, Garber said officials met with postal service staff to come up with a better Election Day plan.

“We’re going to try this and see if it alleviates some of the problems we had in the primary,” she said.

Ballots were mailed on Oct. 16, and there’s already been one minor hiccup: the Elections Office did not receive any cast ballots from the post office until Friday afternoon. That made it appear on the county’s website that the office had only received about 400 ballots — which were collected from the three 24-hour drop boxes in Clark County, Garber explained — when there were actually several thousand more that had been voted.

“It was early afternoon,” Garber said. “Our board workers were gone.”

Those ballots were received and processed Monday, she said, so that they can be totaled Nov. 3.

With a week before Election Day, returns are hovering around 9.7 percent, with 24,331 of 251,348 ballots returned. The elections office is projecting about 42 percent voter turnout, Garber said.

Clark County is outpacing the statewide total of 8.9 percent, or 351,504 of 3.97 million ballots, according to the secretary of state’s office.

Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 3. Mail-in ballots must be postmarked by that day. Ballots can also be dropped off by 8 p.m. at any of Clark County’s three 24-hour drop boxes or the 33 schools and churches opening their doors that day as ballot collection stations.

For more information on this year’s election, visit www.columbian.com/election and www.clarkvotes.org.

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