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Originally published Friday, November 6, 2009 at 2:04 PM

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Let's speed up ballot counting in this state

Election Week in the slowest ballot-counting state can be frustrating. The law needs to be changed to require ballots be received, not just postmarked, by Election Day. Election workers should work around the clock to produce speedier results.

AH, the weekend after the election and that weird feeling of knowing it could be several weeks before voters learn results of the Seattle mayoral race, a contest essentially tied.

Wouldn't want to learn results too close to Election Day, would we?

New York managed to count its ballots Election Night, so Mayor Bloomberg knew results as he tucked himself into bed. Virginia? New Jersey? No problem.

Here in the high-tech Northwest, vote counting is slow. Washington lawmakers absurdly refuse to change a law that says ballots must be postmarked — not received — by Election Day.

This sets up a lengthy wait during most of November for ballots from New Zealand, the Arctic and other locations to arrive by burro.

Oregon has had all-mail elections for more than 10 years but its law says ballots have to be received by Election Day. Voters know the mailing deadline and use the many convenient drop boxes if they are tardy. Votes are counted promptly.

Almost every year, Secretary of State Sam Reed introduces legislation to change the rule. But county auditors and lawmakers protest that they will disenfranchise voters. Oregon voters don't feel disenfranchised. In fact, Oregon election officials say it can be quite difficult to read a postmark.

The dirty little secret in Washington is thousands of ballots go uncounted every year because they arrive with outdated postmarks.

Also, King County should be treating Election Week the same way electrical workers treat a power failure: by working around the clock.

Clearly, the county has had its challenges. Voters decided late in the election cycle and held onto ballots much longer than normal. Election operations had to be moved to higher ground because of flood concerns. Officials, understand-ably, try to be as careful as possible after the 2004 gubernatorial election.

Staffing has been enhanced by about 400 but should be boosted more. And election workers should work all day and all night Election Week. Voters deserve a more modern and speedy ballot-processing system.

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