Almost Done…

Posted November 8, 2016 at 5:49 am by

Milene Henley - Contributed photo

Milene Hen­ley — Con­tributed photo

This is the eleventh in a series of arti­cles about elec­tions in Wash­ing­ton State by San Juan Coun­ty Audi­tor F. Milene Hen­ley. The Coun­ty Audi­tor admin­is­ters elec­tions and vot­er reg­is­tra­tion in the County…

Almost Done: the Can­vass­ing Board and the Cer­ti­fi­ca­tion of Elections

It’s been a long elec­tion year, and you prob­a­bly think it’s over. In fact, some of the most impor­tant work is just beginning.

The Elec­tions Office will con­tin­ue to process and count bal­lots for the next 20 days, since Wash­ing­ton is a “post­mark” state: any bal­lot enve­lope post­marked by Elec­tion Day and received before cer­ti­fi­ca­tion will be count­ed. If there’s a close race, we may also be con­duct­ing a hand recount of votes: if there’s dif­fer­ence of less than ¼ of a per­cent and few­er than 1,000 votes between can­di­dates, a hand recount is required.

Once the bal­lots are all count­ed, there’s still one more step: the cer­ti­fi­ca­tion of the elec­tion by the Coun­ty Can­vass­ing Board. The Coun­ty Can­vass­ing Board is com­prised of the Coun­ty Audi­tor, the Pros­e­cut­ing Attor­ney and the cur­rent Chair of the Coun­ty Coun­cil. Its respon­si­bil­i­ty is to pro­vide over­sight of elec­tions in the coun­ty. As with the Coun­ty Coun­cil, all Can­vass­ing Board meet­ings are adver­tised, and open to the public. 

The com­po­si­tion of the Board is delib­er­ate. The Audi­tor serves as the chair of the Board and pro­vides exper­tise in the elec­tions process. The Pros­e­cut­ing Attor­ney pro­vides the legal per­spec­tive. And the Coun­cil Chair views the process from the per­spec­tive of a vot­er. In the event that a board mem­ber is also a can­di­date, with oppo­si­tion, in the elec­tion being can­vassed, that mem­ber must des­ig­nate an alter­nate to serve in his or her place.

The Board del­e­gates rou­tine elec­tions admin­is­tra­tion tasks to the Auditor’s Elec­tions staff. But there are cer­tain respon­si­bil­i­ties that only the Can­vass­ing Board can per­form. Those tasks include, for exam­ple, deter­min­ing the valid­i­ty of chal­lenged bal­lots, reject­ing bal­lots for count­ing, and cer­ti­fy­ing the returns of elections.

Dur­ing an elec­tion cycle, Elec­tions staff set aside any ques­tioned envelopes and bal­lots for the Board to review. Envelopes with no sig­na­ture or a sig­na­ture that does not appear to match the voter’s reg­is­tra­tion record, for exam­ple, will be set aside. Or envelopes with post­marks dat­ed after Elec­tion Day, or envelopes for the wrong elec­tion (odd­ly, we occa­sion­al­ly get bal­lots for the cur­rent elec­tion in envelopes from pri­or elections).

Board mem­bers will also review bal­lots on which the voter’s intent is unclear. For exam­ple: is that mark in the box an attempt to fill in the box, or is it just a stray mark? Did the vot­er intend to use check marks to indi­cate his or her choice, rather than fill­ing in the box­es? Uni­form stan­dards for inter­pret­ing intent have been devel­oped by the Sec­re­tary of State, and guide the Board in such deci­sions. Using these stan­dards, the Board deter­mines whether a chal­lenged bal­lot, or por­tion of a bal­lot, may or may not be counted.

At the final Can­vass­ing Board meet­ing of an elec­tion, the board “cer­ti­fies” the elec­tion. “Cer­ti­fi­ca­tion” requires review­ing the Abstract of Votes and the Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion Report. The Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion Report pro­vides a com­plete account­ing for all bal­lots issued, received, count­ed, and reject­ed. Upon ver­i­fi­ca­tion, the Can­vass­ing Board mem­bers review and sign an Oath of Authen­tic­i­ty and the Cer­ti­fi­ca­tion document.

Coun­ty elec­tion results are cer­ti­fied 10 days after a “spe­cial” (spring) elec­tion, 14 days after a “pri­ma­ry” (August) elec­tion, or 21 days after a “gen­er­al” (Novem­ber) elec­tion. Coun­ty Can­vass­ing Boards trans­mit their can­vass­ing reports to the Sec­re­tary of State imme­di­ate­ly upon cer­ti­fi­ca­tion. The State then cer­ti­fies, with­in 17 days after a pri­ma­ry or 30 days after a gen­er­al elec­tion, the returns for all state bal­lot mea­sures, fed­er­al and state offices, and any leg­isla­tive and judi­cial offices whose juris­dic­tion cov­ers more than on county.

Only then is it real­ly over.

You can support the San Juan Update by doing business with our loyal advertisers, and by making a one-time contribution or a recurring donation.

Categories: Government
One comment:

One comment...

  1. Thanks so much for the infor­ma­tion. It real­ly is an awe­some process.

    Comment by TeriLyn Brown on November 8, 2016 at 9:53 am

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

By submitting a comment you grant the San Juan Update a perpetual license to reproduce your words and name/web site in attribution. Inappropriate, irrelevant and contentious comments may not be published at an admin's discretion. Your email is used for verification purposes only, it will never be shared.

Receive new post updates: Entries (RSS)
Receive followup comments updates: RSS 2.0