For months, pundits and politicians have been pointing to Washington State as a model of why mail-in balloting works, while ignoring the major flaws in the system that are well known to Washington voters, and which the rest of the country is now experiencing first hand.
In 2004, Republican Dino Rossi was declared the winner in a close election against Democrat Christine Gregoire. The vote was so close that an automated recount was triggered. It was not until after the third count, a second recount done by hand, that Gregoire, took the lead by a margin of 129 votes.
At the time, Washington was not all vote by mail, but the majority of ballots from the state's most populous county King were absentee at 60 percent of the total. "Missing" ballots were "found." Rejected ballots were re-admitted.
The Washington State Republican Party called into question the discrepancy between the list of voters casting ballots in King County (895,660) and the number of ballots reported in the final hand recount (899,199). They claimed that hundreds of votes, including votes by felons, deceased voters, and double voters were included in the totals. Republicans also claimed that the delays may have prevented military members from voting, skewing the results as they typically vote for GOP candidates.
The court challenges stretched through June 2005, when Judge John E. Bridges, in the face of mounting evidence to the contrary, ruled that the Republican party did not provide enough evidence that the disputed votes were ineligible, or for whom they were cast, to overturn the election. Judge Bridges noted that there was evidence that 1,678 votes had been illegally cast throughout the state, but found that the only evidence submitted to show how those votes had been cast were sworn statements from four felons that they had voted for Rossi.
He declined to nullify the election and also concluded that according to his interpretation of the Washington Administrative Code, "…voters who improperly cast provisional ballots should not be disenfranchised." He also rejected all claims of fraud and the Republican Party's statistical analysis, concluding that the expert testimony of the Republican party was "not helpful" and that the proportional reduction theory was not supported under any law in the state. Gregoire won the election by a margin of 129 votes.
All of Washington state is now vote by mail, but allegations of flaws with the system and ballot harvesting surface in almost every election. In 2019's contentious city council election, Marxist incumbent Kshama Sawant was trailing challenger Egan Orion by a large margin— 53.8 to 45.8 percent— on election night. As ballots were counted over the next few days, Sawant made a dramatic comeback to eventually win the election by a wide margin. In 2013, Sawant erased a 7-point election night deficit to win her council race days later.
In these high profile examples, many point to ballot harvesting as an explanation. Democrats have become experts in the practice of hiring political operatives or having volunteers go door-to-door to collect voters' ballots and return them to election officials. There are also concerns that these operatives were cherry picking ballots to turn in, essentially tossing out Republican voters' ballots.
Project Veritas exposed a ballot-harvesting racket in Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar's Minneapolis district where paid workers illegally gather absentee ballots from elderly Somali immigrants.
Typically, political activists target which areas to harvest ballots based on public data from returned ballots which can show where candidates need to make up ground. Activists also usually wait until the last minute to return as many ballots as possible causing the final tallies to be very different from election night returns and skew accordingly.
According to Fox News "Several states have enacted some restrictions on the practice, while others have expressly allowed it or failed to regulate it at all. According to a 2019 analysis by Ballotpedia, 24 states and the District of Columbia permit someone chosen by the voter to return mail ballots on their own, with nine of those states adding some specific exceptions."
Ballot harvesting is only one flaw in the Washington system. In an interview in August with the Todd Herman Show on 770 KTTH, Republican Secretary of State Kim Wyman was pressed about potential flaws in the Washington vote by mail system. Wyman acknowledged that in Washington state, which gives driver's licenses to non citizens, that if a person checks the box for citizen on a registration federal law prevents the application from being refused if the name ID and birthday all match.
Washington state has never run an audit for non citizens because Wyman was "…not aware of any list we could use that would prove citizenship," because there is no list of US citizens. According to Wyman in 1993, "When President Clinton signed the voter registration act into law, that act was what really disconnected proving citizenship with voter registration." Before then you had to register using multiple forms of ID that proved you were a citizen with a voter registrar. "Since 1993, we have not been able to do anything to require proof of citizenship to register to vote in this country."
Herman pressed Wyman on King County's massive homeless population using addresses to receive ballots as well as out of state activists who come to Seattle to riot and protest. Wyman cited court rulings saying that "you are not required to own a home or live in a home to vote in the United States." Wyman acknowledge that a person's residence "…could even be under a freeway" but that "…they still need an address to receive mail" and cited that the homeless can receive mail at shelters or that activists just need a piece of mail showing they received something at the address they are using to register. Washington also allows same day voter registration under the same guidelines.
Citing the ability to register with a social security number, Herman referenced the recent Nigerian Scammer fraud which used exposed social security numbers to defraud over $650 million from Washington's unemployment fund and asked about how ballots are sent. Wyman acknowledged that the mail was delivered to wherever a person receives their mail and that ballots are mailed to everyone on the voter rolls.
Washington state also required a voter to declare a party in the primary election this year, which caused push back because of examples of partisan counting and ballots being "lost" from certain party affiliates by postal workers. Wyman acknowledged that she personally would not send cash through the mail, especially if the money was visible through an envelope window, but cited security measures to guarantee the safety of the vote such as ballot tracking.
Washington has attempted to perfect their system over the last 10 years but obvious flaws still remain. Now the country awaits the results of state's that have not learned from Washington's mistakes.
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