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Mail-In Election Has Snafus

According to the county auditor, a "significant number" of ballots sent out for Skyline Hospital's special levy have been marked "undeliverable as addressed."

Call it one of the hidden problems with conducting a mail-in election.

According to the Klickitat County Auditor's Office, a "significant number" of ballots sent out for Skyline Hospital's Emergency Medical Services levy election have been returned marked "undeliverable as addressed" by the U.S. Postal Service.

Numbers provided by the Auditor's Office show that as of May 4, 610 ballots have been sent back without reaching the intended voter because the address and the name didn't match up.

Another 74 ballots were not signed, and therefore cannot be counted.

The source of the "undeliverable" problem appears to be relatively simple: a lot of people have moved, and didn't bother to update their address with the Auditor's Office. As a result, their ballots did not reach them.

"We have three bags full of ballots that were returned," said Auditor Diana Housden. "It is significant. There is no fault, but this is what we have to deal with when people move and do not report their new addresses. There are a number of people on our rolls that we don't have the correct address for."

Since the ballots cannot be forwarded, that means the person addressed will not be able to vote unless he or she acts fast to contact the Auditor's Office and complete a change of address form.

Friday, May 11, is the date to get that done for anyone who still wants to vote in the May 15 levy election.

Housden pointed out that everyone should have received a ballot by now.

"Those who have not should call the Auditor's Office," she said.

Mike Madden, administrator of Skyline Hospital, said he is concerned about the number of ballots being returned undeliverable.

"It sounds like they got an awful lot of them," Madden said. "Because of the type of mailing, they can't forward them."

Housden noted that the situation is a relatively common one for voter registration boards.

"I think it's just an oversight," she explained. "A lot of people don't give any thought to changing their address on voter registration forms. We're finding this out because this is our first major mail-in election in the county. This will make people more aware that they have an obligation to make us aware of their address and whereabouts."

Despite the predicament, however, there may be a hidden benefit for the county: The undelivered ballots will provide the Auditor's Office with the chance to update and clean up the county's voter registration books.

"This is the first time they have done this in the county, and didn't realize it was a problem," Madden said. "It gives the county a reason to look at how registration works and how it's kept up."

Despite the snag, election officials are pleased with the outlook for voter turnout.

"I'm expecting a 70 percent return," Housden explained.

The Auditor's Office mailed a total of 6,727 ballots to voters in the district served by Skyline Hospital. As of May 4, 1,741 voters had voted and returned their ballots.

"We're encouraged by the rate of returned (voted) ballots," Madden said. "Of course, we have no idea how the vote is going."

Voters who need to change their address are being advised to call the Auditor's Office at 1-800-583-8050.

White Salmon City Hall also has the forms to get a replacement ballot.

The deadline for returning mail-in ballots for the EMS levy is May 15. Ballots postmarked by that date will be accepted.

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