New ballot design catches WA voters off guard


2020 Primary ballots require party affiliation on outside of envelope

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Voters in Washington state are noticing a major change to their ballots for the 2020 Presidential Primary: they’re required to declare a party on the outside of the envelope.

There used to be a privacy flap that hung over the section where voters would declare their party affiliation, but it was removed for the 2016 primaries.

“I’m OK with [the change],” said Clark County’s Treasurer Alishia Topper as a voter in Vancouver. “I’ve heard from others that they’ve had some concern. I figured it’s the primary, you are voting for a candidate in a party system so you should have to indicate. It’s OK with me.”

Anyone who leaves the selection blank will not have their votes counted, according to Clark County Auditor Greg Kimsey. Additionally, a vote for a candidate with a different party affiliation than that of the voter will also be disqualified. However, a voter can vote for whomever they choose in the November general election.

During the signature verification process, an inspection board ensures that the voter’s signature matches.

“These inspection board members receive the ballots in two groupings,” said Kimsey. “One group of republican ballots and the other group where voters marked a democratic party affiliation.”

They then remove the secrecy envelope from inside the ballot envelope and that’s the step where voter confidentiality is established.

“There is a separation of the identity of the voter and the actual how they voted – once those secrecy envelopes are removed then the ballot envelopes, the voter’s identification are removed from the table and the ballots are removed from the secrecy envelopes,” said Kimsey. “Those ballots are inspected to ensure now we are working with republican ballots or Democratic ballots.”

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Despite the change to the ballot, Clark County election officials said they have been seeing a bigger turnout than 2016.

“We got about 12 thousand in this morning,” said Kimsey. “[It’s a] pretty good chunk. We think we will be right at 50 percent.”

By comparison, 36% of voters turned out for the 2016 primaries. However, March of 2020 is a much different picture than May of 2016 for Washingtonians. The state’s Republican primary was virtually meaningless in 2016 as Donald Trump had already secured the nomination by the time it was held. Democrats held their caucuses two months earlier when the contest was down to Bernie Sanders and eventual nominee Hillary Clinton.

Washington voters have until 8 p.m. Tuesday to drop off their ballots. For voters who are mailing in their ballots, those envelopes must be postmarked with the date March 10.

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