Friday, August 8, 2014

STUDENTS and OTHERS: Special PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT: How To Make Sure You Receive your Ballot when you come back!!

Note: Updated the numbers for the last matchback on August 8, 2014 -RMF

Challenged (left) and Undeliverable (right)  by precinct for the Whatcom County August primary election. Note the nearly 10x difference in the Y axis scale. Click to Enlarge.
The first part of this post is a public service announcement for voters. Below the break is my usual technical piece for party types, politicos, data analysts and other numbers/political power obsessed.

If you have not registered to vote for the general election, do so now at  I talked extensively with the Whatcom County election desk and others about 1,927 'undeliverable' (returned) ballots, some of which came from the 200 series precincts centered around WWU. Here is some information on reactivation of your voting status if you leave Bellingham for the summer.

If you are registered active voter (e.g. student) and you move home for the summer, your registration status becomes inactive if your mail-in ballot is 'undeliverable' for the (August) Primary election. When you return in the fall, simply log in to MyVote WA ( with your name and birthdate, *UPDATE* your registration with your new Whatcom County/Bellingham address, and *presto* you will become an active voter here again. It is probable that many of you changed your voter registration address when you moved home (e.g. out of Whatcom County) so you could vote in your home county WA primary. Most probably, you would have not been mailed a Whatcom County ballot here. If you were a registered voter in Whatcom County, and if 'home' for you was not a county in WA State, you most probably were mailed a Primary ballot to your school year address. Simply change your voter registration to a Whatcom County address when you return to your new residence in Whatcom County in the fall. You will be activated.

Student or not, if you move, you *MUST* change your address every time you change residence. You can do this  either on-line (*preferable method*) at or by calling the elections desk for Whatcom County. Do this as soon as you find your new place here in Whatcom County.  There is no automation or reminder for you to change your voting address. This does not happen 'automagically' when you forward your mail via the USPS.  Unless you set up it, your smart phone or tablet or email will not remind you to change your voter registration address. It's all up to you.

I find it amazing that in an election of ~45K, ~2.7K votes are either 'undeliverable' or 'challenged'. No doubt those numbers will be larger for the general election. No doubt the 1,927 'undeliverable' (returned to sender) ballots represent some of the students who did not change their voting registration address when moving home for the summer. But a quick look at the charts above and below shows us that the 'undeliverable' status is widespread through the county.  It is easy to imagine why. We are a mobile population, renters or otherwise. Certain vocational groups - some oil refinery workers, migrant farm workers, traveling sales  people - are simply mobile by default. And lots of Whatcom County residents rent. Those who own homes sometimes move.

 If you are a precinct PCO, you might want to review your precinct's profile for the categories 'undeliverable' or 'challenged'. There may be some voter education strategies you could employ to prevent such results.  One strategy that has occurred to me is simply to order the match backs from the day one start of the election, monitor the 'undeliverables', look them up and tell voters their ballot has been returned to County elections. I talked to the election desk about this.  If you suspect that this is the case during the middle of an election period (18 days), then you should call the elections desk and find out. Crazy voting activists that some of us are, we might just shell out the $60 in 'match back' costs for the entire voting period so that we can track you down and tell you to call the elections desk and get sorted out.

In the 'challenged' category, most upsetting are the 357 ballots that were returned 'too late'. This is especially upsetting in consideration of:

(1) an 18 day vote-by-mail period in WA state
(2) messages on the ballot that in capitalized, bold print say: "DO NOT DELAY".
(3) flyers from parties and candidates urging you to return your ballot with haste.

Last night's 'match backs' brought the number of 'undeliverable' ('returned') ballots to almost ~2K and the number of challenged ballots to 778. Many of those challenges look preventable by proper voter behavior (e.g. making sure your ballot is turned in on time). At least 42,482 good ballots were counted in this primary. There are currently very few ballots in the queue to count and today a review of the challenged ballots may change both the 'challenged' and total ballot totals. Turnout is currently over 33%.  You can check to see if your ballot was counted at The combined 'match backs' up to August 8th show:

> count(C08_01_08_04_05_06_07_08_status,"AVReturnStatus")
  AVReturnStatus  freq
1     Challenged   778
2           Good 42482
3  Undeliverable  1927
> count(C08_01_08_04_05_06_07_08_status,"AVReturnChallenge")
         AVReturnChallenge  freq
1                          42482
2                No Ballot     2
3             No Signature    90
4       No Signature Match   268
5   Second Ballot Received     1
6                 Too Late   357
7            Undeliverable  1927
8  Wrong Voter's Signature    53
9             Z - Deceased     2
10               Z - Other     5

Below are the challenged votes by precinct. Keep in mind that some of these may have their status changed today upon review. Note that there appears to be clusters of challenged ballots for certain sequential precincts. Precincts 107 - 115,120,145 - 149, 162 - 169,177 - 178, and  301 - 302 stand out.

Below are the 'undeliverable' votes by precinct.  Note that there appears to be clusters of certain sequential precincts in the 200 Series that would be nearby to WWU, WCC or neighborhoods heavy with rentals. These are big numbers (0 - 110 per precinct).  If you are a PCO, getting the final match backs for your district could be informative. These precinct sequences stand out to me: 135 - 137, 201, 206 - 208, 226 - 231, 245 - 249, 252- 253, 301 - 302.

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