RENTON, Wash. - Some registered voters in King County are receiving a letter from the Elections Office with a magenta envelope looking very similar to an envelope containing a ballot, but it’s not a ballot-- it's an attempt to update a voter's signature on file.
However, some voters have been calling the Elections Office asking if the request is legitimate.
Kendal Hodson, the King County Elections Chief of Staff, said yes, it is legit.
The letter inside addresses each registered voter by mail and contains the voters individual identification number. It asks the voter to provide up to three signatures that will be used to make the signature on the back of a mail-in ballot in future elections.
"Before we even open it, we are comparing that signature on the back of the envelope to all the signatures that we have on file," said Hodson. "These are real people comparing the signatures. If it matches the ballot, it will be counted. If it doesn’t, it won’t."
A 2020 audit requested by state lawmakers before the presidential election looked at five counties that had a high rate of contested signatures and five counties that had a lower rate.
"Some counties in Washington state were having a higher rejection rate than others. The premise of the audit was to evaluate that," said Washington State Auditor Pat McCarthy.
The audit found many counties were going beyond the required process to get voters educated about the importance of signatures, but more could be done, the audit said.
"I think what King County did was a preemptive strategy to reduce any possibility of rejection rate," said McCarthy.
The audit did not require any county to take measures to reduce the number of rejected ballots because the signatures didn’t match.
McCarthy said the Secretary of State is doing a deeper investigation into the methods to reduce the number of rejected signatures.
Hodson said the data in King County shows the number of contested ballots depends on what kind of election it is, and if partisan politics plays a big role in the election.
"We also tend to see higher challenge rates among the youngest voters and voters on the older side," said Hodson.
The signature requests are not going out to the county’s 1.4 million register voters all at once.
"We are sending out 10,000 to 15,000 requests a week," Hodson said. "We are starting with zip codes with the highest signature issue rates first, that’s why people living around the University of Washington may be getting them now because there’s a younger population of voters there."
She said voters are not required to return the form. The office uses the signature provided by the Department of Licensing and the signature used when the person registered to vote.
"Signatures change over time," said McCarthy, who was once the Pierce County Auditor and oversaw the county’s election office. "This is a way to update the signatures on file and avoid any challenges in the future."