Home USA News WA election officials have faced delays in the signature verification process

WA election officials have faced delays in the signature verification process

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A man leaves his ballot in Pierce County.

A man leaves his ballot in Pierce County.

Elections in Pierce County

Amid high turnout in Washington’s midterm elections, local officials are grappling with a technical slowdown in VoteWA, the state’s election system.

The main reason appears to be the length of time it takes to download the images used to verify voter signatures, said Stuart Holmes, director of elections for the Washington Secretary of State’s office.

“It’s just an underperformance of the system, in plain English,” said Julie Anderson, Pierce County Auditor. “And that prevents us from verifying all the signatures that we should in a timely manner because we have to verify the signatures of every voter on every single ballot.”

For each ballot, the election supervisor must verify the signature on the ballot envelope.

As part of the process, the system also pulls a “library” of voter signatures, as well as signatures of other people in that voter’s household, Holmes said.

Getting all these images at once puts a strain on the system.

“I believe this is a major contributor to the slow initial processing of returned ballots,” Holmes said in an email to The Seattle Times.

Anderson said the slowdown does not affect the accuracy of the results.

“Everyone should know that this doesn’t affect the accuracy or integrity of the election, it’s just the speed of production,” said Anderson, who was herself a candidate for secretary of state this year. She conceded to Steve Hobbs late Thursday.

In King County, an issue with VoteWA slowed down ballot counting “slightly, but not significantly,” Haley Watkins, King County communications officer, said in an email to The Seattle Times.

“We’re very fortunate at King’s that we have a large enough team that we can usually move people around to keep things going well,” Watkins said.

Since 2020, the volume of images in the VoteWA system has doubled, Holmes said.

Since that year, more Washington counties have installed mail-sorting equipment that can take a photo of the entire envelope as well as a cropped photo of the signature area, and the system also stores an image of each mail sent to a voter, he said. .

Holmes said “this incident really highlights the need to continually update our systems so we can continue to meet the new and exciting demands that come with more people participating in our democratic processes.”

As of Wednesday evening, more than 2.4 million ballots had been accepted, the US Secretary of State’s office said Thursday.

About 10,000 new voters were registered on election day. Those new registrations may be a minor factor in the processing slowdown, Holmes said.

That’s because higher-resolution images of registration forms and signatures on forms were added to the system at the same time that administrators retrieved signature images that matched previously registered voters.

Holmes said the secretary of state’s office became aware of the issue the morning of Election Day.

“At that time, it was too late to make any significant changes to the system to alleviate the slow data processing associated with image retrieval,” Holmes said. “We were able to implement a temporary solution to mitigate the immediate performance issues while maintaining system stability through certification.”

In a press release Thursday, the Secretary of State’s office called the VoteWA issue “temporary.”

Seattle Times reporter Jim Brunner contributed.

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