OLYMPIA — Washington officials are scrambling to notify roughly 1,000 people to check their voter registration status ahead of Tuesday’s election, after discovering a glitch last week that prevented the proper transfer of some new voter information.
The issue occurred with potential voters registering at Washington’s health plan website, which provides an option to register when people sign up for health or dental coverage. That’s a new program available this year — along with same-day voter registration — courtesy of legislation lawmakers approved in 2018.
The problem, discovered on Wednesday, was publicly announced Friday night once officials said they had determined how many people were affected.
During a regular audit of voter information, the Secretary of State’s Office saw that voter-registration numbers from the health plan looked a little off, according to Assistant Secretary of State Mark Neary.
Officials say they believe the problem started when the Washington Health Benefit Exchange underwent a system upgrade in August. At that time, health officials changed the destination at the Secretary of State’s Office for where they were sending new voter registrations as a precaution for the upgrade.
After the upgrade, that destination wasn’t changed back. So information was getting transmitted to the Secretary of State’s Office – but to the wrong account.
State health officials fixed the problem by Thursday evening, according to Neary.
Michael Marchand, spokesman for the Health Benefit Exchange, which runs the health plan website, said no personal information was compromised.
“None of the data ever left a safe and secure environment,” Marchand said. “It’s kind of like if you put a file in the wrong file cabinet.”
Officials at the Health Benefit Exchange have been calling and emailing people potentially affected through the weekend so they can check their voter status, he added.
Election officials were able to mail out roughly 300 ballots Friday to some of those impacted, according to Neary.
Anyone unsure of their voter status should check it at VoteWA.gov, or contact their county elections office.
The glitch was discovered just days before Tuesday’s election. Ballots were mailed to voters in mid-October.
Voters this year will decide upon a slew of local elections, including high-profile Seattle City Council races, as well as statewide measures on car-tab fees, affirmative action and a state constitutional amendment on government contingency plans in the face of a widespread disaster.
The secretary of state’s website also experienced an outage that brought down its website this weekend, including its online voter pamphlet, according to Secretary of State’s Office spokeswoman Kylee Zabel.
The outage, which was discovered at about 2:20 p.m. Saturday, happened after a construction crew inadvertently dug up and cut a fiber cable, affecting multiple state agencies.
The problem was fixed and the statewide voter pamphlet and the secretary of state’s website were back up by 1 a.m. on Sunday, according to Zabel.
During the outage, citizens should still have been able to access the voter pamphlet through county election websites via VoteWa.gov.
Vote WA, which is an updated and more centralized statewide voter-registration and elections system, is another new feature this year.