“Election errors are highly unusual,” said Pierce County Auditor Julie Anderson. “However, we want to report that 152 ballots collected from the Pierce County Elections drop box at the Gig Harbor Fire Station in Purdy were not included in the final tabulation of votes in the Aug. 1 primary election as certified by the Washington Secretary of State Office.” Anderson’s office had no authority or ability to change those certified results.
The error was discovered on Nov. 3, as election personnel prepared for the Nov. 7 general election. Anderson said the problem was reported to the Washington Secretary of State and the Canvassing Board within minutes of the discovery.
“We analyzed how the error happened and took swift corrective action,” said Anderson. “New procedures were immediately put into place for the Nov. 7 general election, procedures that will be followed from that point forward.”
On the night of Aug. 1, everything proceeded normally. A ballot drop box team retrieved ballots from the Purdy fire station drop box and “did exactly as they were trained to do: They collected the ballots; they locked the box at 8 p.m.; they sealed the box; they sealed the ballots; they collected and transported them back to the election center, nice and secure,” said Anderson. “Unfortunately, when they brought the ballots into the check-in station at the election central, those 152 ballots were put into a storage tub and the check-in table did not receive them.”
Had the 152 uncounted primary ballots from Key Peninsula and Gig Harbor voters been counted, they would have had no impact on the recently certified general election. A total of nine ballots would have included votes for Gig Harbor Council Position #3 and the remaining 143 were votes for Port of Tacoma Commissioner Position #1, according to information from the Auditor’s Office. Those two races were both decided by large margins.
“There was no evidence whatsoever of fraud or tampering,” Anderson said. “The ballots simply did not make it to the ballot counting floor.”
The Auditor’s Office has attributed credit for voting to those who participated in the election but whose votes were not counted and therefore went without credit for participation on their voter registration record.
“We deeply regret the error; we take it very seriously,” Anderson said. “In our office, we all take an oath that every vote counts. It was a serious mistake.”