Background on Mailing Address Option
Washington state election law allows voters to receive their ballots at a location other than their residence through the use of a mailing address included on their voter registration.
This is not ideal, but in certain circumstances is understandable. For example, remote areas of the state where the post office doesn’t deliver mail, snowbirds, and military voters are acceptable situations when a mailing address is acceptable.
This is a major flaw in the system. It appears it could allow for ballot harvesting and ballot theft from a safe distance. On the What We Learned page, we explained how easy it is to request a replacement ballot online, which invalidates the original ballot without any notification to the voter.
Washington state law also requires that county auditors, the ones responsible for conducting a free and fair election, allow the post office to forward ballots to a separate address. Previously, the county auditors had the authority to decide whether or not they would permit forwarding of ballots. An amendment was made which forces them to allow for the forwarding of ballots. See the details of that amendment HERE, which became effective July 9th, 2019.
This puts the responsible parties in a vulnerable situation. It’s difficult to ensure the validity, accuracy, and credibility of the election when there is no transparency as to where the ballots are actually being delivered.
If someone requests a forwarding service from the post office, they will deliver their ballot to this requested location, even if it’s not their residential or their optional mailing address. It’s nowhere in our records.
It would make more sense for the voter to elect to use the mailing address option instead of forwarding their ballot. If there is a forwarding service in place, the destination address doesn’t appear on the registration data, at least not the one that is available for public inspection.
We don’t know where the ballots really end up. That’s the point and the problem. Who is keeping track of all the excess ballots issued each election? Less than 64% of the ballots that were issued were counted in the midterm election. Nobody can account for all the unvoted ballots. There are more than 1.7 million ballots floating around and we don’t know who’s hands they ended up in.
Private Businesses Forwarding Ballots
Not only can the post office forward ballots, but so can privately owned mail services, like mailbox rental companies, and other delivery or mailing services. There is a large number of ballots which show a FedEx, UPS, PO Box, or other businesses which offer mailing services as their mailing addresses on the Washington registration data.
Is that the final delivery point for those ballots? Or are they being forwarded to another undisclosed location? Some even use these businesses as their registered physical address, which is not legal, but it exists. Especially in the 2020 registration data.
If they requested a forwarding service due to a change of address, they should be registered and only be permitted to vote in their new precinct or district. They also should only be allowed to vote from their physical registered address, as required by state law.
Forwarding ballots to somewhere other than the registered address or the mailing address is foolish and unnecessary.
We sent a FOIA request to the United States Postal Service, asking for the final delivery point for ballots which used a forwarding service in the 2020 election. We learned that the post office does not disclose this information to protect people’s privacy.
Ballots could be forwarded to a central location for massive ballot harvesting, and we would never know. We can study the residential and mailing addresses all day long, and still be looking in the wrong place.
There is a bill that was just introduced in the legislature which would help alleviate this by prohibiting the forwarding of ballots. The bill is simple and to the point, the way they all should be.
We fully support HB 1816. It is not the answer to all of our issues, but it’s a step in the right direction. Currently, the bill is sponsored by Cheney, McClintock, Robertson, Schmidt, Waters, Klicker, Graham, and Connors, all Republicans.
This bill is a no-brainer. It deserves bi-partisan support. Will any Democrat representatives step up? Or are they confident in their flawed process?
How it Would Help
If this bill becomes law, we will know exactly where the ballots end up. Their final delivery point. This is important information. Obviously, right? The only reason anyone wouldn’t want to know that is because it’s working in their favor for people not to know this.
We would be able to rule out massive ballot harvesting that is easy access, facilitated through the services of the post office. This should already be a requirement. They claim they have an audit trail but it’s incomplete.
Chain of custody doesn’t end once it’s out of your possession. It’s not an “out of sight, out of mind” issue. Every ballot should have chain of custody from the time it is created to the time it’s delivered to the voter. This is virtually impossible thanks to the mail in method we are forced to use. So, this bill isn’t a solution to all our problems, but it’s an important one.
This bill died in committee. This is very unfortunate.
Check HERE to read the original bill text for HB 1816.
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