The Washington State Democrats have announced their intention to possibly sue Pierce County over instructions issued about mailing deadlines for ballots.
Democrats allege in a news release that saying that ballots need to be mailed by Nov. 4, not the Nov. 8 date by which they must be postmarked to count, will confuse voters and suppress turnout.
The party will be holding a news conference in Seattle at 11 a.m. Thursday (Oct. 27) to announce their lawsuit.
“State law is clear that voters in Pierce County and throughout the state have until Election Day to mail in their ballots,” the release stated.
The instruction sheet from the Pierce County Auditor’s Office reads, “Return your ballot early!” with a reminder, “Mail by November 4 (Stamp required).”
Similar instructions appeared in the Pierce County Official Local Voters’ Pamphlet, which was mailed a week before ballots went out.
Elsewhere in the voter pamphlet, elections officials clarified that they are recommending voters mail their ballots by Nov. 4 to ensure those ballots are postmarked by Election Day.
While it is possible to mail a ballot after Nov. 4 and get it postmarked in time, voters will be taking a chance that their ballots will be postmarked too late, said Mike Rooney, Pierce County’s elections manager.
Ballots postmarked after Nov. 8 won’t be included in election results.
More than 1,700 Pierce County ballots were postmarked too late to be counted in the Aug. 2 election, according to the Auditor’s Office.
“We’re trying to enfranchise voters and ensure every vote is counted,” Rooney said Monday.
Instructions to mail ballots four days before the election were included in the Pierce County voter pamphlets for the Aug. 2 primary and the April 26 special election. But this is the first time a ballot insert has included the recommendation to mail ballots four days in advance, since not all elections require such an insert, Rooney said.
Prior to the March recommendations from the Postal Service, ballot inserts in Pierce County suggested voters mail their ballots one day early, not four.
Staff writer Melissa Santos contributed to this report.