15,000+ King County voters told their ballots are ‘challenged’

KING COUNTY, Wash. — Among the record-breaking million-plus ballots sent into King County elections, one of them belongs to Kurt Linden, who was motivated to track his ballot online immediately.

“I voted early,” he said. “I sent in my ballot, because I wanted it to count on Election Day.”

But like tens of thousands of voters around the state, Linden received a letter saying there was a problem with the signature on his ballot, and it required his immediate attention.

“The signature on the back of your envelope does not match the signature we have on file,” the letter said.

So Linden called the King County Elections office, and they explained it.

“They said, 'We can tell you the old one was a little bit more loopy and crossy, and the newer one was more compact,” Linden said. “And I don’t believe in drinking and voting, so my signature is pretty darn close every time.”

Statistically, about 1.5% of ballots in every election are pulled for a variety of reasons, including signature issues. Since 1.5% of one million is 15,000, the current numbers of challenged ballots are keeping trend with previous elections.

On Monday in King County alone, 15,527 ballots were listed in databases as being challenged, mostly because of signature issues. 8,379 ballots had signatures that did not match the ones on file. 2,682 ballots were listed as unsigned.

“If they don’t match or maybe the voter forgot to sign--which happens pretty frequently, we’re going to technically challenge that ballot,” said Kendall Hodson, Chief of Staff of King County Elections, who said when a signature does not match the one made on a drivers license or previous ballots, a new process begins.

“We’re going to send the voter a letter, we’re going to call them, we’re going to email them if we have that information and say we’d like to resolve this issue,” she said.

Technically, voters like Linden have until November 23rd to validate their signatures, since the election will not be certified in Washington State until November 24th. But Linden wanted his vote and his statement to be counted by Election Day.

“We all want to feel like our vote counts,” he said. “Or why are we doing it? Why are we making it a point of voting early?”

Elections officials say they guarantee if you respond to a signature issue, your vote will count.

"We’re just going to keep calling emailing and sending you letters until we get it resolved, Hodson said. "The good news here in Washington is we have until November 24th to certify the results. So we’re going to keep counting ballots until every single one is counted and people have all that time to get any sort of signature issue resolved.''