When President Donald Trump advised mail-in voters in North Carolina to try voting twice to test their local elections systems, King County elections reminded voters here of safeguards in place to prevent double voting — even if they receive two ballots with the same name in the mail.
King County Elections sends out tens of thousands of duplicate ballots in every election cycle and election officials say it does not signal tampering, fraud or illegal activity.
Officials added that even if a voter sends two ballots in, the system is engineered to remove one of them, because every voter has one bar code unique to their name and identity, even if multiple ballots are made in one voter’s identity, the bar code remains the same.
In 2019, King County Elections said: “In every election — special, primary, or general — approximately 2% of King County voters receive a second ballot. That second ballot is typically triggered by an update in one’s voter registration record — through King County Elections or the Department of Licensing — such as an address change, name change, or even just updating their phone number. Updates made after the ballots have gone to print are more likely to trigger this duplication and with same-day registration and the deadline for updates made online moved back, it is likely that more voters will be issued second ballots.”
Robert Richardson of Woodinville told KIRO-7′s Gary Horcher last October he received two ballots within days of each other.
“I received my second ballot in the mail, which was strange,” he said. “I’d already received the first one,” Richardson said.
King County Elections Chief of Staff Kendall Hodson said, “We send out tens of thousands of second ballots to voters every single election. We recognize it can be a little alarming.”
In fact, Hodson said, the county sent out 30,000 duplicate ballots in the 2019 election, mostly because voters changed their addresses close to that election time.
“You’re now eligible to vote on different races and ballot measures because you’ve moved, so we want those ballots to go out to those voters,” she said.
Richardson upgraded to an enhanced driver’s license just a few days before ballots were put in the mail. Elections officials believe that’s what triggered his second ballot.
“With our new voter registration system, some of the things that used to be automatic are no longer automatic. Our staff now have to check an extra box to make sure that, if it’s just your license number that got updated, you don’t receive a second ballot. Humans are human and, every once in a while, they forget to check that box,” said Hodson.
Hodson assures the public that even though willfully voting twice is a felony, no one can vote twice, and typically, voters are not targeted for prosecution when “mistakes are made.”
“Anytime a voter sends a ballot to us for that record, when we scan, a barcode is telling our system ‘do not accept any more ballots from this voter.’ So, we will never accept more than one ballot,” she said.
The 30,000 duplicate ballots cost $15,000 in postage. Hodson said there are last-minute address updates made in the week before the ballots go in the mail.
“So, we actually stop many, many second ballots from going out before that even happens,” she said.