Threatened with a lawsuit by the state Democratic Party, the Pierce County auditor is taking steps to clarify that ballots can be returned by mail until Election Day, so long as they are postmarked by Nov. 8. An insert in the nearly 500,000 ballots had said, “Mail by Nov. 4.”
The state Democratic Party on Thursday threatened to sue the Pierce County auditor, unless she corrects what it called misleading information that was included with the ballots sent last week to the county’s nearly 500,000 voters.
Pierce County Auditor Julie Anderson said on Thursday that she had agreed to the party’s demands, in an effort to avoid a lawsuit.
The ballots included an insert that says: “Mail your ballot early! Mail by Nov. 4 (stamp required).” They also say that ballots can be returned to drop boxes by 8 p.m. on Nov. 8, Election Day.
In order to be counted, mailed ballots need only to be postmarked by Nov. 8, not Nov. 4. Ballots can be received after Election Day, so long as they are postmarked by Election Day.
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The Democratic Party demanded that the auditor’s office, by Tuesday, send every registered voter an additional mailer saying ballots can be postmarked until Nov. 8.
The party also demanded a correction on the auditor’s website, on social-media pages and by news release, by Friday.
Anderson said that her office would comply with the demands. She said they had drafted a news release and were waiting on the party to approve it. She said they would send a mailer to every household in the county, at a cost of $50,000.
“We’re addressing this concern, we’re sidestepping a lawsuit and now we can get back to work,” Anderson said.
Anderson previously said the Nov. 4 date was included as a suggestion to return ballots early. She said the suggestion was made after talking with the Post Office, which recommended that ballots be mailed early.
Had Anderson’s office not agreed to the demands, the Democrats said, they would have sought a court order against the auditor.
Kevin Hamilton, a lawyer for the Democratic Party with extensive experience in election law, wrote to Anderson that state law requires voters to be instructed that ballots should be returned “with a postmark no later than the day of the election or primary.”
“We are calling on Pierce County to stop sending false information to Pierce County voters,” Jaxon Ravens, chair of the state Democratic Party, said at a news conference Thursday afternoon. He called the mailers confusing and misleading.
The conflict includes a bit of shadow boxing in one of Washington’s more competitive statewide races.
The issue with the dates was first publicized by Tina Podlodowski, the Democratic challenger for secretary of state. Republican Secretary of State Kim Wyman’s office stood behind Anderson, saying the Pierce County insert was consistent with their efforts to get voters to return ballots early.