every vote counts! (um, provided we actually count ’em)

February 18, 2008 at 9:10 pm (election 2008, they hate you they really hate you)

so here in washington state, our presidential primary is tomorrow, february 19. now, a while back our state decided, for reasons that were never satisfactory to yours truly, to require voters to declare their party on the ballot, and only vote within the lines of that declared party.

now personally, the likelihood of my voting republican is slim; however, i rather liked my right to do so if i wanted, without having that affect who else i am allowed to vote for. in certain cases, one may want to choose a city councilperson of a different political stripe than one wants for governor or president; that should be the voter’s right to choose. however, it ain’t anymore.

the local paper has run a string of articles recently in a run-up to our election tomorrow. in this one, the author surveys a few members of our rather large eastern european immigrant population:

One such person is 27-year-old Lynnwood resident Julia Gendelberg, who moved to the United States with her parents in 1992.
Gendelberg said she thinks her vote could make a difference. “I always vote, it’s nice to be able to participate. Although I was very young when I left Moscow, I was still old enough to understand that common people weren’t really allowed to participate. We watched from the sidelines,” she said.
Gendelberg said she remembers her parents and grandparents going to vote … or rather cast a symbolic ballot with only one name on it.
“My parents developed a distrust for politics. It’s just that I came here so young, I don’t have the same reaction. Our past always weighs on us, but I’ve lived more of my life in America and my past is here,” she said.

it is a pretty poignant picture; the individuals who have moved here through struggles & hardship and are able to vote in a way that is supposed to be more than just symbolic. but…back to our main point. are they getting counted? i mean, come on; we’ve lived through florida, hanging chads, electronic voting fraud, and having the supreme court decide our vote for us. what have we learned?

not so much: in snohomish county alone, five days before the election, over 17,000 ballots have already been discarded that’s right, almost twenty percent of all ballots received by that point (absentee ballots returned early) are not going to be counted:

Nearly one in five ballots cast so far in the presidential primary in Snohomish County won’t be opened or counted because the voter failed to identify whether they’re a Republican or Democrat, election officials said Wednesday.

About 17,000 of the 92,516 ballots received are being set aside because voters forgot or declined to check the box next to a party oath on the ballot envelope.

Election officials expected some voters to skip the oath, in part because it becomes public information that is shared with the parties and anyone who asks the county, Snohomish County elections manager Garth Fell said.

Even so, the numbers are a higher than expected, he said.

“There’s a group of voters out there who are frustrated with this process,” Fell said. “Certainly, some statements are being made in the way people are voting. Some simply missed that part of the instructions.”

It’s a perennial problem in Washington. Voters with independent streaks are loathe to identify their political stripes after decades of being able to vote whichever party they choose in what was called a blanket primary.

those mischief makers! why can’t they follow directions?:

“It’s sad that these people won’t have their votes counted, but they’re not following the process and they didn’t declare a party,” Snohomish County Democratic party chairman Mark Hintz said.

Nobody can know the intention of the voters who didn’t sign the party oath. If they were making mischief with the opposing party, their vote definitely shouldn’t count, he said.

“If people aren’t going to take the party oath, then how do we know who’s voting?” he said. “I find it despicable whenever we throw out a vote, but I also want them to be accurate and true votes.”

If the state had party registration rules, this would never happen, he said.

The county sent out informational mailings to emphasize the special partisan rules for this election, Fell said. Once the county receives the ballot, it’s too late for a voter to come in to check the party box.

there just aren’t words for this. as someone who has been active in elections since before i could vote in them, you can be sure i’ll get my ballot in “correctly.” whether it will be counted, though, is a completely different subject.

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