Software trouble could slow election results

Ballots are arriving in voters' mailboxes for the August primary election, despite struggles with the state's new $9.5 million voter registration system.

King County’s election director says the system may also slow the count when the ballots are returned.

King County election workers have spent weeks working through the kinks in the new statewide voter registration and ballot management system, called VoteWA.

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Election Director Julie Wise has been very frustrated and had to ask her staff to work extra days on overtime to work out the bugs before 1.3 million ballots were sent out this week.

“For example, it was dropping apartment numbers, and so, of course, that impacts a quarter of our voters,” she said.

And Wise says there will likely be trouble when ballots are returned.

The old system could upload images of 80,000 ballots an hour for counting. Tests of the new system showed it handling just 200 ballots an hour.

“It has implications for us being to post meaningful election results on election night. So, we're not going to be able to have as many ballots in the system if it's taking a really long time for the system to be able to run,” said Wise.

We asked Secretary of State Kim Wyman if results will be slower on election night. “We don't anticipate that. This is all part of bringing up new technology, and you're just fine-tuning it as you go,” she said.

Wyman says VoteWA is more secure and needed to implement the new election day voter registration law.

Wise supports the new system but says it needed much more testing before going live.

“We were not able to really fully test the system, and in my opinion, you don't go live with an elections system that hasn't been full tested and fully vetted,” she said.

But Wyman says there's no perfect time.

“We're going to be able implement it, work through those challenges and bugs in 2019 and then we're going to be ready for the 2020 presidential election cycle.”

Wise says everyone in King County should get their ballots by Monday. If not, she asks voters to contact the elections office for help.

Voters can contact the King County Election’s Office at 206-296-VOTE (8683), services available in 120 languages.