Sunday, November 11, 2018

Did You Cure Your Challenged Ballot? The Close Vote in the 42nd LD!

WA Voters will have cast over 3.1M votes by the end of next week, simply one of the most fabulous mid term elections in WA history. In Whatcom County, we have already counted more votes than any other election in our history save GE 2016!  But there is always a dark side: The larger the vote, the larger the volume of challenged ballots! Most people probably don't check after casting their vote by mail (or dropbox) ballot in WA State and they really should. Because many thousands statewide every election have their ballots challenged and many don't receive any cures! It is hard to get an accurate number for this without looking at every county matchback, so let us examine Whatcom County's matchback for VBMReturnStatus and VBMReturnChallenge for 11/13/2018 in LD 42:

In the current WM matchbacks for LD 42, VBMReturnStatus give us:
fread("WM_11.13.2018.txt")[PrecinctID %in% P42,.N,.(VBMReturnStatus)]
   VBMReturnStatus     N
1:            Good 73400 #Ballots accepted for tabulation
2:                 23488 #Ballot not returned
3:            Void  1919 #Once challenged but now cured.
4:      Challenged   502 #Still challenged ballots to date

In the current WM matchbacks for LD 42, VBMReturnChallenge give us:
fread("WM_11.13.2018.txt")[PrecinctID %in% P42,.N,.(VBMReturnChallenge)][order(-N)]
                 VBMReturnChallenge     N
 1:                                 98807
 2:              No Signature Match   300
 3:                        Too Late   113
 4:                    No Signature    45
 5:          Second Ballot Received    18
 6:       Letter doesn't match env.    11
 7:                       No Ballot    10
 8: Cancelled/Moved out of election     2
 9:                     ID Required     2
10:         Wrong Voter's Signature     1

 Whatcom County election officials work hard at contacting those with challenged ballots to help cure them. Most of these challenges are signature based challenges. In WA Vote By Mail (VBM) system, your signature is your vote authentication. Sometimes that signature can change, so if the recorded handwriting does not match the voter identification signature on file, the ballot is challenged for "No Signature Match". It is up to the voter to respond to the local county election department and/or to check to know your Ballot Status. When you check your Ballot Status at, the magic words you want to see are: "Your ballot has been accepted for tabulation. Anything else and you should call or email your county's election division.

WA State law prohibits me from naming addresses or voter names or ballots online. You should check to make sure your vote was tabulated! And this is particularly important in this election, because after ~72K votes in LD 42, all of the legislative candidates are less than thousand votes from each other; some are as close as a few hundred. As of now, there really aren't any more significant volumes of new votes out there. Curing challenged votes will be the sine qua non that decides the 42nd LD races. Let's look at the time series data from this year's Whatcom County matchbacks for GE2018. The numbers below are for the entire county. You can click to enlarge this table:

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