Ballots and voting: SAO's new resource for county election officials

Feb 17, 2022

Are you responsible for your county's election processes? A new resource published by the State Auditor's Office might be able to help you meet and exceed state requirements for ballot processing and voting.

The booklet, Ballots & Voting: Resources for County Election Officials, compiles more than two dozen leading practices our Office identified during a recent performance audit. The audit looked for activities Washington counties could consider using to help voters submit valid ballots, or to increase the likelihood challenged ballots could be quickly and properly cured.

The booklet groups the practices into three sections.

Planning for elections offers ideas that help you as you formulate plans for voter education and encouraging participation. Establishing community partnerships can increase voter awareness—one county collaborated with a local theater to announce voting deadlines on the marquee. There are ideas about improving ballot return envelopes, for example by making it clear where voters must sign. And because each person's signature can vary, the booklet suggests collecting multiple signatures to help election employees better verify each voter's unique signature styles.

During elections turns the focus on the variety of outreach techniques you might use to reach voter groups that sometimes struggle with completing all the steps of a valid ballot. Some innovative ideas include using automated processes to notify voters of their ballot status or to verify signatures during first envelope review.

After an election activities include collecting and updating voter contact details—including email addresses—and sending signature-update forms to all voters who meet certain criteria. Leading practices suggest reaching out to voters with mismatched signatures who did not reply to the cure letter, those whose signatures appear to be changing or those who have recently changed their names.

The audit had a limited scope, which means it's not an exhaustive list of successful practices some counties already use or more innovative practices they might consider. Nonetheless, we hope they are useful to county election officials when they consider improving their own policies and procedures around voter outreach and curing challenged ballots.

You can read more about the audit's key results here.