Candidate says Snohomish County failed ballot postage test

A Snohomish County councilman, concerned about ballots being returned without the right postage, decided to put his worries to the test.

Hans Dunshee, Snohomish County District 5 Councilman, put his ballot in the mailbox without any postage and said he got it back in his mailbox four days later.

"I put my ballot in the mail without a stamp. About four days later, it came back and I went, 'Oh, crap,'" said Dunshee. "It's national policy ballots (that) get delivered. It's a great policy, problem is the machines haven't read the policy. If it happened to me, it could happen to a bunch of other people."

Ballots without postage are supposed to be accepted, and have been previously.

This election, the ballots in Snohomish County need 68 cents in postage -- more than normal, because the mailing is heavier this year.

A motion was previously passed to have the Snohomish County Auditor notify residents that ballots would be delivered to election officials with or without stamps.

The motion came too late for the auditor to add that language on the ballots, Dunshee said, though it is noted on the auditor's website.

Dunshee couldn't believe it when he got it back.

"Are they just screwing with me?" he asked.

According to the Snohomish County Auditor, Carolyn Weikel, the ballot wasn't returned; it was "re-delivered."

Weikel checked with the post office and was told that the post office machine flipped over the ballot, read Dunshee's address on the back of the envelope and sent it back to him.

"Because there was no postage on it, the machines couldn't read the top side versus the bottom side, and so they put the post mark on the side of the envelope that had his address on it. So, they redelivered his ballot back to him," explained Weikel.

She said about 30 percent of the ballots have been returned in Snohomish County, and they have not received any other calls about returned ballots. She says the best way to make sure your ballot arrives safely is to put 68-cent postage on it.

Weikel has been reassured by the U.S. Postal Service that ballots won't be returned. While the machines don't recognize the ballots, postal carriers do. Postal carriers are told not to put ballots back in mailboxes, to instead deliver them back to Snohomish County Auditor.

USPS spokesperson Ernie Swanson told KIRO-7 that the postal carriers have been schooled to be careful to not place a ballot back into a mailbox.

Before Dunshee's "test," the Snohomish County Auditor tested two ballots without enough postage and two without any postage, and said those ballots arrived at the Snohomish County Auditor's office.

Those ballots were processed through post offices in Edmonds and Everett. Dunshee's ballot went through the Snohomish Post Office.

Dunshee's opponent, Sam Low, who is currently the president of the Lake Stevens City Council, was not impressed by Dunshee's "test".

"I'm concerned if people follow my opponent’s advice. If people do what they've always done and put a stamp on, or put it in a drop box, it will be fine like it always was," said Low.

"Hopefully, the post office has done enough to fix it now," said Dunshee.

Dunshee said he will hand deliver his ballot to the auditor's office to make sure it is counted.

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