An NPR member station
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Lessons Learned From The November Election

Doug Nadvornick/SPR

Washington state officials are scheduled to certify the November election on Thursday. Last week, all 39 counties certified their own elections.

Given the magnitude of and interest in this election, Spokane County Auditor Vicky Dalton says she’s pleased with how things turned out.

“I think, overall, our election process was smooth and, for the most part, the voters were very comfortable, very smooth. This was our first really big election, with same day registration," and with a new election system that tied all of the counties to the Secretary of State’s computer in Olympia. The elections officials had had the August primary to work out the bugs.

But that was a mere dress rehearsal for an election in which more than 82% of Spokane County voters cast ballots. Dalton was happy that she had hired and trained extra poll workers to cover the rush of business in the days leading up to the election.

“We had a lot of voters on Monday and Tuesday who wanted to register to vote, right around 1,300-1,400 of them. That was a lot of people to register in a very short period of time. And then we had over 3,300 people who needed replacement ballots in those last two days," she said.

One saving grace is that Dalton’s office sent out ballots several days early. And there was a concerted effort to get voters to quickly return those ballots. She says that gave her employees time to open tens of thousands of ballot envelopes and process the ballots so they could quickly be counted and reported on Election Night.

One other saving grace: Dalton opened two voter service centers outside the courthouse, one in Spokane Valley and one at the Spokane Arena.

“The arena was good on so many levels. First of all, it has a parking lot. We had a lot of space for customers to line up and we had space for our employees to be. The longest anybody had to stand in line was about an hour," she said.

Dalton says one of the biggest challenges was the misconceptions some voters had about the security of casting their ballots from information they’d heard on social media. Right after the canvassing board certified the election, Dalton and the committee talked for an hour with several citizens who came with questions about the process. It was a healthy conversation, she says, that will help the county continue to assess and improve its election system.