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Tuesday, October 28, 2008

An Unhappy Registration Story

posted by on October 28 at 10:40 AM

Received this morning from Stranger reader Anthony Jacob Everett and forwarded on to King County Elections for comment. I’ll update if/when I receive a response:

I am writing to express my concern with voter registration and ballot distribution within the Seattle area as today I discovered that due to a ‘clerical error’ that I am not able to participate in the forthcoming presidential election. Here is the story…
As of about seven months ago I lived in Bothell (Snohomish county) and while there I registered to vote. In late May of this year I moved to lower Shoreline (King county).

Accordingly I updated my information on the voter registration webpage for this state and thought all was happiness and sunshine dances. About two weeks ago I took note that I had not received my ballot. Being concerned I sent off an email of inquiry to the King county auditor’s office only to receive no response. I called about 1.5 weeks ago to find no human would answer and thus had to leave a message within their automated system.

I finally receive a response TODAY (A bit late, eh?) saying that I did not register to vote at all or if I had then it was ‘in another state’. I call the auditor of Snohomish and verified that yes I had registered to vote within their system, yes they had ‘transferred’ it to King county, and that I was showing as being canceled on their end. (All as it should have been.) I then call King county, get a human that claims their system had no knowledge of my existence. It seems awfully convenient that voter information was ‘lost’ and I find this to be possibly indicative of a problem within the system. It also appears that a roommate of mine also did not receive a ballot and is not recognized within the King county voter registration database.

Now I know TWO people do not serve as an apt sample size for a whole bloody state, but I offer my story to the Stranger just in case others have had comparable issues. I also would like to point out that I am 99.87% sure that I made no error in changing my information. (It’s a friggin’ submit button!) This conclusion is affirmed by Snohomish county’s recognition of my registration transfer to King. (Of which would not have appeared had I failed to update my registration information.) The only restitution I received was that I would be included in an ‘inquisition’ as to this failure.

What is an extra bit of iron in my spirit is that this would have been my first chance to participate in a presidential election and now I am robbed due to circumstances beyond my control.

Even if it does no good, I still wanted to let my story be known and I thank you for giving me the time of day.

Shamefully and frustratingly yours,

~Anthony Jacob Everett

RSS icon Comments

1

I thought you can still provide a provisional ballot provided that you bring proof of residency.

Posted by Gordon | October 28, 2008 10:47 AM
2

Hey, that's the same thing that happened to two of my friends from Pierce and Okanogan counties! Fancy that.

Posted by jeez | October 28, 2008 10:47 AM
3

The voter registration website for King County is a joke. For having some of the top techical companies in the country located here you'd never know it by looking at this site. The layout is poor, and the wording on how to update your registration is even worse. I was listed as inactive and my choices were to update my address or register as a new voter, neither of which applied. To be safe I followed both procedures which resulted in my receiving two voter cards. Does that mean I get to vote twice?

Posted by Shenanigans! | October 28, 2008 10:51 AM
4

I had a similar problem this spring, though thankfully worked it out. If you're changing your registration from one county to another county, you have to actually re-register, rather than do a simple address change on the internet. While it is possible to re-register online, I was certainly confused when I followed the "change my address" links and then was told after I'd filled out the form and submitted it that my address change wouldn't go through.

Posted by mary | October 28, 2008 10:54 AM
5

I may be having the same problem. I recently moved - not from one county to the other, though, this is all within King County - and checked to make sure my registration was listed as "active" (it was), then changed my address. All seemed to go well, but then my fiancee' received his absentee ballot, and I did not receive mine. I also contacted King County and received no response.
I am hoping that because I am still listed as active, that I can go and vote anyway.

Posted by Bella | October 28, 2008 10:54 AM
6

My advice: don't just shrug and let it go. Keep calling. Go down to their office. Threaten to sue. THEY fucked it up and THEY will fix it or THEY will get in big trouble because YOU are not going away.

Posted by Greg | October 28, 2008 10:56 AM
7

That sucks, but everyone was told over and over and over again to check their status before Oct. 4th. I double checked mine, made sure my new address was up to date.

I realize not everyone can get to it, and this is definitely not the writers fault, but still.

And I do think they can give him a provisional ballot based off of the circumstances and records from snohomish.

Posted by Original Monique | October 28, 2008 10:56 AM
8

I recently changed my address on the King County Voter Registration site. Because the confirmation page seemed fishy, I called the county auditor to double-check that everything was kosher. I even asked them to send me an absentee ballot. This was about a month ago.

I called them around the 15th, since I hadn't received my absentee ballot yet. They said it was a bit early and to wait until the 20th.

I finally called yesterday to find out they had sent my ballot to my old address. WTF? Anyway, they said they'd re-send it to my current address within 48 hours or so. This is cutting it a bit close, if you ask me! So yes, I definitely think there are problems with this process.

Posted by Tanuki | October 28, 2008 11:00 AM
9

@6 - yeah, threaten to sue. That's great way to solve all of life's problems.

Posted by awe mujii na tuuve | October 28, 2008 11:01 AM
10

just show up with an ID that says Mickey Mouse on it.

Vote early and vote often!

Posted by 8block | October 28, 2008 11:04 AM
11

Don't get me started on the Okanogan County auditors office. I haven't been registered to vote there for 12 years and they still send me Jury Duty notices!

Posted by Soupytwist | October 28, 2008 11:06 AM
12

I got worried when I got my absentee ballot in the mail but my boyfriend didn't. And he's the one who's actually out of state right now! So I went HERE: http://wei.secstate.wa.gov/OSOS/VoterVault/Pages/MyVote.aspx to check his status and it listed him as inactive and needing to change his address. Even though this was last week, he was able to call them, get it sorted out and have a ballot mailed to me so that I could forward it on to him.

Posted by marigold | October 28, 2008 11:20 AM
13

King County is fucking up big time. A friend of mine didn't receive his ballot. Previously marked "inactive" due to his primary ballot being mailed to and returned from an old address, he changed his address with KC Elections in September and appeared on the website as an "active" voter at the new, correct address before the October 4 registration deadline. But did he get a ballot in the mail? No. He called KC Elections today and they told him they didn't mail his ballot because his primary ballot had been returned. Does KC recognize corrected addresses? Apparently not. They finally mailed his ballot today (or so they say), but only because he called to complain. Bottom line: if you didn't receive your ballot, call KC Elections at 206.296.VOTE. Also call the Democratic Voter Hotline at (206) 682-1544.

Posted by Brendan | October 28, 2008 11:33 AM
14

King County is fucking up big time. A friend of mine didn't receive his ballot. Previously marked "inactive" due to his primary ballot being mailed to and returned from an old address, he changed his address with KC Elections in September and appeared on the website as an "active" voter at the new, correct address before the October 4 registration deadline. But did he get a ballot in the mail? No. He called KC Elections today and they told him they didn't mail his ballot because his primary ballot had been returned. Does KC recognize corrected addresses? Apparently not. They finally mailed his ballot today (or so they say), but only because he called to complain. Bottom line: if you didn't receive your ballot, call KC Elections at 206.296.VOTE. Also call the Democratic Voter Hotline at (206) 682-1544.

Posted by Brendan | October 28, 2008 11:34 AM
15

Something's hinky about the King County elections department. In the 2004 election I was one of a few hundred registered Democrats who didn't get an absentee ballot (I was overseas at the time and had little recourse) because my address numbers were reversed. I can understand if there's a dyslexic in the office, but why did this only happen to Democratic voters?

Posted by TVDinner | October 28, 2008 11:45 AM
16

I didn't get an absentee ballot either, for some reason. I did move recently, so I figured that I somehow neglected to re-absentee myself when I changed my registration. I noticed in time, requested a ballot, I've now received it, no problem. But. . . huh.

Posted by violet_dagrinder | October 28, 2008 11:49 AM
17

King County screwed up my son's registration; he had voted in the primary but suddenly disappeared from the database (clerical error, apparently).

However, I called the county (someone answered right away) and they fixed it that day.

I work in technology, but when something like this is screwed up I find it preferable to talk to a human than press a submit button and hope for the best.

Posted by rjh | October 28, 2008 11:51 AM
18

I've been an old fashioned voter for years, walking to my polling place and voting live, in person each election.

This year I gave some thought to getting a mail in ballot. But I've been hearing of enough screw-ups that I wasn't willing to risk it. I'm gonna go vote in person next Tuesday.

After that I might sign up for a mail in ballot. Test it out on the NEXT election, where there will presumably be less at stake if it gets fucked up.

Posted by Reverse Polarity | October 28, 2008 12:00 PM
19

Get used to saying "Gov. Rossi" :(

Posted by stinkbug | October 28, 2008 12:01 PM
20

The whole process is fishy. I received my absentee ballot this time, filled it out and sent it in fine (although is there even a way to confirm that it was ever received?)

But two years ago both my brother's ballot and mine was declined because our signatures didn't match their records. It definitely gives the impression that they are looking for any reason to disenfranchise voters.

Posted by Devin | October 28, 2008 12:03 PM
21

The whole process is fishy. I received my absentee ballot this time, filled it out and sent it in fine (although is there even a way to confirm that it was ever received?)

But two years ago both my brother's ballot and mine were declined because our signatures didn't match their records. It definitely gives the impression that they are looking for any reason to disenfranchise voters.

Posted by Devin | October 28, 2008 12:03 PM
22

@15 - NOBODY registers their party with King County Elections, the Secretary of State, etc. There is NOWHERE in a voter's record in this state that identifies them as a member of any particular party.

Posted by Not Registered with a Party | October 28, 2008 12:10 PM
23

@20 (& 21): A signature challenge is NOT a declination of your ballot.

Posted by Signature Challenges are NOT Declinations | October 28, 2008 12:14 PM
24

VOTE EARLY.

VOTE OFTEN.

Repeat as needed.

And don't take NO for an answer.

Originally, casting your ballot meant you could be shot, maimed, or wounded on the way to the polls, in this country.

Stand up and insist on being counted - PERIOD.

Posted by Will in Seattle | October 28, 2008 12:18 PM
25

9 - stop being so dismissive. When it comes be voting rights, the law is a pretty good way to go, and there are plenty of lawyers volunteering their services. Making a ruckus is better than having your vote taken away.

Posted by Law student | October 28, 2008 12:21 PM
26

@9: Maybe you don't understand what a lawsuit is for. Being denied a vote because of a 'clerical error' is SLIGHTLY more important than getting burns from hot coffee.

Posted by Greg | October 28, 2008 12:44 PM
27

@3: I've gotten probably a dozen voter cards in the past seven years, so that doesn't mean much. Some insignificant thing changes in the overlapping borders or names of all the districts that you're eligible to vote in, so they have (?) to send you a new card.

Anyway I for one know my address change went through this year because I voted in the primary without a hitch. (Er, both of them.) In person, no need to trust the USPS twice in order to vote.

Posted by K | October 28, 2008 1:25 PM
28

If you have any doubt about your registered status, use the King County lookup tool.

http://your.kingcounty.gov/elections/voterlookup.aspx

Posted by K | October 28, 2008 1:28 PM
29

@22: Maybe true, but there is a record of what primaries you have voted in.

I suppose that's not entirely true anymore, either, except for presidential primaries.

Posted by K | October 28, 2008 1:30 PM
30

We are almost finished loading the moving truck- yes the computer is last to go.
I though about changing my address early, but I wouldn't be sure if I would be purged from the voting system. So, I didn't. Now I will drag my boys back to Burien to vote. I don't absentee ballot, because I think it is important that they watch you make the effort. Sadly, I won't be able to vote on Seattle(moving to the Alaska JXN) issues- such as parks, ect.
I weighed my options, and realized that the presidential and governor vote was too important to risk passing up.

Posted by Kat | October 28, 2008 1:36 PM
31

Agreed with 6. There are a million voter-recourse legal-counsel groups. Keep going to the registration office, calling people higher and higher up, and writing letters to everybody you can think of until you're standing in the voting booth. Seriously.

And don't let the elections board give you a provisional ballot; you may as well write your vote on toilet paper and leave it in the polling location parking lot.

Posted by Christin | October 28, 2008 2:38 PM
32

@29: The parties only know which Presidential primaries and caucuses you participate in.

That said, they do have databases of IDs and modeling to identify likely Democrats.

Posted by whatwhat | October 28, 2008 2:44 PM
33

This story bears a strong resemblance to that of one of my students who today informed me that instead of receiving his ballot, he received a letter from Snohomish County telling him that due to a 'clerical error' he had not been registered to vote and would need to fill out another form.

What a bummer for a freshly 18-year old voter who had been really excited about the political process this year.

Posted by Adam | October 28, 2008 3:31 PM
34

I have worked at the polls a few times now, and I would say that you should never trust online forms or email for changing your registration. Call 206-296-VOTE in King County (or find the elections division in your county) and TALK to a real person. If you don't get through keep calling until you do.

Also, if anything goes wrong, you can and should vote a provisional ballot at any polling place. You'll have to fill in your name and address, and the pollworker will list the reason why you're voting provisionally. You then get a stub with a number that you can use to check the status of your ballot; keep it and check on the status of your ballot. If they won't count your vote ask how to appeal and/or get a lawyer, if you want.

If you are voting at the polls, remember to bring some form of ID: King County ID requirements

Posted by asteria | October 28, 2008 4:14 PM
35

I agree with everyone who said that you should DEMAND to vote. Go in person--if possible, to Renton. If you cannot make it to the Renton office during business hours, cast a provisional ballot at your polling place, then follow up.

The Obama campaign has a hotline for helping untangle registration/voting stuff. 1-877-WA-CHANGE.

This isn't just about the presidential election. LOTS of other stuff is on that ballot, including a very tight race for WA Governor.

Fight this. Fight it hard.

Posted by MJ | October 28, 2008 7:13 PM
36

Take control - I made a list with 66 names on it - friends, co workers and family.

I have made sure each was registered, follow up about plans to vote or mail ballots.... etc.

DO IT - not a peep of bad energy, one person got an address change done properly, another is going to vote after not voting for several elections .... I remember the Gregoire win by 129 votes, close indeed.

ALL OF THESE PEOPLE ARE DEMOCRATS - GO SEATTLE, OR WE GO RED STATE, YUK

Posted by Jack | October 29, 2008 6:43 AM

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