The confetti has long been vacuumed up; the balloons deflated or popped. In most parts of the country, citizens have moved on from Tuesday’s general election. Newly elected leaders are basking in the glow of victory. Losers are already scheming their next campaign.
Here in Washington, several candidates still don’t know if they are elected and many voters are growing impatient. Several state races remain too close to call. Election officials will continue to receive and count several hundred thousand more mail-in ballots probably through next week. If any returns are disputed, the wait may be even longer.
Why are we so far behind the nation?
Washington allows voters to mail their ballot with a postmark as late as Election Day. Oregon is also a mail-in state with high voter participation, but it requires ballots be received by Election Day.
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Hence, Oregonians got some quick closure this week. Washingtonians are stuck in a waiting game. This delay creates an awkward situation for the campaigns and their supporters.
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jay Inslee is leading in early returns and already talking about his transition plans. Meanwhile, Republican Rob McKenna insists he could still eke out a win once all the late ballots are tallied.
It took almost two days before it became clear that Referendum 74 was likely to pass. By Thursday, opponents against same-sex marriage conceded the measure to allow same-sex marriage was very likely to pass.
Is keeping the electorate on pins and needles like this really necessary? No. Can something be done about it? Yes.
Outgoing Secretary of State Sam Reed has argued for new rules that would require ballots be returned to elections offices by 8 p.m. on election night — that means hand-delivered or mailed enough days ahead to arrive by Election Day. His efforts to follow Oregon’s effective model have gone nowhere in the Washington Legislature.
Considering the race to replace Reed remains too close to call, his successor should understand exactly why the status quo must be changed and take up the cause.