Franklin auditor tracks down cause of lost ballots

PASCO — Franklin County Auditor Zona Lenhart finally has a report in hand explaining why some ballots for the Nov. 2 election were late getting to voters.

The state Republican Party expressed concern about what party members described as missing ballots after Lenhart initially reported receiving an unusual number of requests for replacement ballots.

Lenhart said the delay happened when some ballots were mailed later from a different post office than the main initial mailing of 23,925 ballots from the Pasco post office on Oct. 12.

About 1,000 more ballots were mailed Oct. 13 from an Everett post office, according to a report from K & H Printers in Everett, which prints the ballots.

Ballots in envelopes damaged during the printing and stuffing process made up 635 of the delayed ballots, Lenhart said. Those were reprinted and sent out Oct. 13.

And 364 other ballots were for voters who registered after the first list of registered voters was sent to the printer in September, she said.

So while some voters received ballots on Oct. 13, the other ballots didn't arrive for about two more days or later, Lenhart said.

She said her staff is continuing to find that voters who asked for replacements have received both ballots. The original ballot was invalidated when a replacement was sent.

In future elections, the office will require the printer to send a report when the ballots are mailed, she said. And the office also will add an option that the post office offers to track each ballot in the mail using a barcode on the envelope.

The number of calls to Franklin County for replacement ballots has dropped and appears to be in the normal range, Lenhart said.

As a precaution, the office also sent out postcards to all county voters asking them to call if they needed a replacement ballot. It was something the state Republican Party requested.

Lenhart said the post cards have prompted some voters to call and admit they received a ballot but since have misplaced it, while others have called to update their voter registration information.

Of the 25,349 ballots issued, 7,926 already had been returned to the county auditor by Wednesday. The total includes the replacement ballots.

Officials with the state Republican Party could not be reached Wednesday afternoon about the report.

Franklin County voters who have not received a ballot should call the auditor's office at 545-3538.

Benton County voters can call 786-5618 or 736-3085, or go to www.bentonelections.com.