High volume of votes brings delays, doubts, accusations


Nov. 6, 2020 — As the votes continued to be counted, an unprecedented turnout combined with an unprecedented volume of mailed ballots meant that the final results of the election may not be available until the end of the week. After President Trump secured a few unexpected victories, he’s now making various attempts to stop or challenge vote counts that may not seem in his favor.

Presidential scuffle for remaining swing states aside, Washington appears to be a resounding blue victory. We’re not a swing state, so it was expected that our electoral votes would be for Biden in the general, but Democrats saw fairly uniform success on state and local levels too. 

In states like Nevada, increased adoption of vote-by-mail due to the CV-19 pandemic contributed significantly to the record-setting turnout levels in this election, and the delay in counting. Washington saw record turnout as well, even though despite our vote-by-mail system being well-established for over a decade, more people chose to drop off their ballots.  

Among the many legal battles President Trump and his campaign are fighting now to stop vote counts, call for recounts and let GOP advisors oversee counts more closely, they’ve also alleged that nonresidents voted in Nevada, skewing results.

Members of the Washington State Republican Party have alleged that our current system permits foreign citizens, or residents of other states, to participate in our elections. While there’s no request for proof of residency to register to vote in Washington, the signature on a ballot has to match the signature on file for that voter’s registration, and that does require some verifying documents, normally a driver’s license or state ID number.

Republican Gubernatorial candidate Loren Culp has alleged that vote counts may have been compromised, tweeting on Nov. 6 for voters to check their votes online, despite being over 500,000 votes behind incumbent Jay Inslee.

“I believe (the current system) permits voter fraud because we don’t have an accurate count of actual citizens,” said Whatcom County Councilmember and chair of the Whatcom GOP Kathy Kershner. “You can register to vote online … If you wanted to defraud the system, you could do it. It should be fixed, and it would be an easy fix.”

The amount of nonresident voters in Washington, based on past experience, is not a significant influencer on results, said Whatcom County Auditor Diana Bradrick. During the 2018 elections, out of the millions of ballots returned in Washington, mostly due to late postmarks and invalid signatures, there were less than 200 instances of ballots having been cast by individuals who had also cast a ballot in another state. Even this was mostly due to confusion rather than intentional voter fraud, according to Bradrick, and modern systems check whether a voter is registered in other states.

According to Dr. Rudy Alamillo, a professor of political science at Western Washington University. there’s really no research to indicate that voter fraud has had a significant effect on turnout to begin with, certainly not enough to have switched a given district from red to blue.

“I can understand why the Whatcom GOP might say that,” Dr. Alamillo said. “It’s the easiest thing to say when the prospects aren’t looking so good for your team, so to speak.”

Kershner, meanwhile, argues that saying there’s no significant impact is another easy line to take, but it doesn’t negate all concerns.

So far, the results of President Trump’s legal actions seem to be indicating that fraud hasn’t had much of an impact. A judge in Georgia threw out a lawsuit from the Trump campaign which produced no evidence of fraud having taken place.

As of Nov. 6, Biden sits 6 points away from the majority of 270 electoral votes, Trump with fewer at 214.