A little-known part of the elections process — ballot curing — landed in the spotlight this weekend after 3rd Congressional District candidate Joe Kent urged his supporters not to lose hope that he could still beat Democratic candidate Marie Gluesenkamp Perez.
“What the media says is irrelevant, it’s another narrative designed to stop voters from ballot curing and to force me to concede — not gonna happen,” Kent posted to his Facebook page. “We’re on the streets ballot curing. The fight goes on while the talking heads talk.”
Kent’s refusal to concede the race came as a surprise to many after the Associated Press and several major news outlets declared Perez the winner.
Ballot tallies on Monday showed Perez had 157,365 votes, or 50.24 percent, while Kent had 154,097 votes, or 49.2 percent, a margin of 3,268 votes with 3,703 ballots left to be processed in all counties except Thurston county, which includes only a small portion of the 3rd District.
On Saturday, Kent posted to his Twitter feed that the race wasn’t over, falsely claiming there were still 12,000 ballots left to count, plus another 6,000 ballots to be cured. In fact, those 6,000 ballots were part of the larger set of 12,000 ballots.
Ballot curing is the process for correcting ballots that have been rejected. Ballots can be rejected for a number of reasons but mostly because they are missing a signature or the signature does not match the one on file in the voter registration database. Washington’s vote-by-mail system allows voters to correct rejected ballots.
According to Clark County Auditor Greg Kimsey, there are 5,182 ballots to be cured in Clark County. Signature update forms are mailed to all voters with rejected ballots with a letter explaining how to resolve their signature issue so their ballot can be counted. Voters have until 5 p.m. Nov. 28 to return the completed form, to have their ballot counted. Election results will be certified Nov. 29.
Kimsey estimated that out of those 5,182 rejected ballots in Clark County, about 3,300 will be cured by Nov. 28 and added to the vote totals. Kimsey said the assumption is not all rejected ballots will be corrected in time to be counted.
According to elections offices in Clark, Cowlitz, Lewis, Pacific, Skamania and Wahkiakum counties on Monday, there are 6,700 ballots to be cured or corrected by voters in those counties, which are likely to yield about 3,700 ballots to be counted, including a handful of valid ballots in some counties.
Voters are encouraged to return their signature update forms directly to their elections office by mail, in person or via someone they know and trust.
County elections staff are not visiting voters at their residences or texting them. If a voter has provided their phone number on their ballot return envelope and have not returned their signature update form, they will be called within three business days before the Nov. 29 certification date to remind them to return their signature update or missing signature form.
Voters can check the status of their ballot online at VoteWA.gov. After entering first and last name and date of birth, select “ballot status” to see if the ballot has been accepted or rejected.
Voters can also call 564-397-2345 or email firstname.lastname@example.org with questions regarding the status of their ballot or how to resolve signature issues.