In every election – special, primary, or general – approximately 2% of King County voters receive a second ballot. That second ballot is typically triggered by an update in one’s voter registration record – through King County Elections or the Department of Licensing – such as an address change, name change, or even just updating their phone number. Updates made after the ballots have gone to print are more likely to trigger this duplication and with same-day registration and the deadline for updates made online moved back, it is likely that more voters will be issued second ballots.
We always hear concern from voters – what happens if I get two ballots? Am I in trouble? Will both be counted?
The short answer is no – you are not in trouble and your two ballots will not be counted, just the first one returned.
For every registered voter, they have a voter record and only one ballot can be counted for that record. It is extremely rare that a voter tries to return two ballots. Every ballot includes the declaration that the voter is not attempting to vote twice and that an attempt to vote twice could result in prosecution and is punishable with up to 5 years in jail, up to a $10,000 fine, or both. What we see here in King County is that our voters are overwhelmingly honest, well-intentioned people who want to follow the rules and want to make sure their vote gets counted.
While our staff and the voter registration database stop many more second ballots from going out the door, inevitably a few make it through. This is true in every county. As the county with nearly one-third of the entire state’s registered voters and the center of the state’s media market, second ballots certainly draw more attention here in King County.
We have several layers of checks and balances in our ballot processing system to catch any second ballots that come to ensure that one person, one vote is upheld – no matter how many ballots a voter tries to return.