Ballots returned in Chelan, Douglas counties already top 50 percent

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Massive get-out-the-vote efforts across the country this year appear to be paying off, and that’s certainly true in North Central Washington. 

Chelan County Auditor Skip Moore said Wednesday morning that 53 percent of voters had already returned their ballots ahead of next Tuesday’s election.

In Douglas County, Auditor Thad Duval said Wednesday morning that his county had received just over 50 percent of the ballots mailed out.

Both elections officials said they expect the total rate of return to be at 90 percent or more this year.

Moore said the early voting rate is unprecedented.

“We have not seen that before, the massive influx of ballots that we got so quickly.” Moore said.

Both Moore and Duvall said they believe the interest in the presidential election is driving the numbers.

In addition, Moore said, there has been a lot of emphasis by both parties on getting ballots in early as concerns have been raised about the ability of the Postal Service to handle the influx of ballots.

There has been a “push by people saying don’t completely trust the post office, which I don’t agree with,” Moore said. “These guys handle a lot of mail all the time and I think in the big scheme of things this is just a little blip on their radar. But, it’s resulted in a lot of people getting their ballots in early.”

Duvall said Douglas County has received 15 to 20 percent more early votes than in past elections.

“The other thing to recognize is, we always have a big push on the weekend before and the Monday and Tuesday and Wednesday of the election (week), with Wednesday being the mail coming in,” Duvall said.

Elections workers are already checking signatures on ballots and by election night there should be a large percentage of votes counted, but the late push will leave many still to be counted, Duvall said.

Duvall and Moore said they’re unlikely to be actually processing votes on election day itself.

“Then there’s one other caveat, and that is, now that we have election-day registration we expect to be inundated with people trying to do that on election day,” Duvall said.

Moore said in conversations with fellow auditors throughout the state, he’s hearing that their early returns are very similar to the rate in Chelan County.