Have someone at your door asking about a ballot problem? It’s legal, county says

Edmonds resident Kari Knowles said she was surprised when two people knocked on her door Saturday afternoon, Nov. 13, with information regarding the status of her Nov. 2 election ballot.

“They said they were from Concerned Citizens of Edmonds checking to make sure that everybody’s ballot counted, and said my ballot was not counted,” Knowles recalled, adding that the man and woman had a folder containing what appeared to be a list of names, and they were also carrying flyers with information about Edmonds City Council Position 2 candidate Janelle Cass.

Knowles said the county had already notified her via mail that her ballot signature didn’t appear to match what they had on file, and she had sent in a county-supplied form verifying that it was indeed hers. So her reply when the two people visited her home to enquire about her ballot status was: ‘What business is it of yours?’” After the male visitor replied, ‘It’s not,” she shut the door.

Knowles was one of three residents we spoke with who reported being contacted by volunteers regarding errors in their ballots — and all of them mentioned those volunteers had a connection to the Cass campaign. While questions have been raised on social media regarding the legality of this type of outreach, the process — known as ballot signature curing — is legal under state law, said Snohomish County Auditor Garth Fell.

During each election cycle, county officials challenge a small percentage of ballot envelopes “because the signature on the envelope does not match what we have on file for the voter or the voter forgot to sign the signature envelope,” Fell explained. “Within a day of reviewing and applying this challenge to the voter’s record, Snohomish County mails a letter to the impacted voter notifying them of the challenge and how they can cure the challenge and ensure their ballot is counted.”

The county includes a form for the voter to complete and a postage-paid return envelope. They also reach out to voters with signature challenges through email and by phone prior to certifying the election. (Voters can see the status of their ballot by visiting www.votewa.gov.)

Under state law, campaigns have access to the names of voters whose ballots have been initially challenged, Fell said. This information includes the voter’s name, the voter’s registration address and the type of challenge that has placed on the record (it hasn’t been signed or the signature does not match, for example). The county does not provide phone numbers or email addresses of voters. It also does not provide nor maintain any record on how an individual voter voted in a race.

In an experience similar to what happened to Kari Knowles, an Edmonds man recalled a woman knocking on his door Nov. 8, noting his name was on the list of those voters whose ballots had signature issues. The man, who did not want his name used, said he had forgotten to sign his ballot envelope before mailing. Like Knowles, he had received a letter from the county indicating there was a problem.

The woman who came to his door stated, “it’s a tight race and every vote counts,” he recalled. “She asked that I sign it (my ballot) and get it back to the county, and offered to take it herself. This seemed a little odd, so I told her I would just mail it myself. She said thanks and left.”

In close races, Fell said, “we have historically seen campaigns take the challenge information and use it to reach out to supporters to remind them to cure their challenge. We encourage campaigns to refer voters to the information they have already received from the county. However it is acceptable for campaigns to provide a blank form and assist voters in returning their forms to the county.”

Political campaigns have access to those blank forms through the Washington Secretary of State’s website and can offer those to voters to fill out, Fell added.

Position 2 candidate Janelle Cass confirmed that volunteers from her campaign have been doing the outreach that has been reported by Edmonds voters. (Cass trails opponent Will Chen by 135 votes in the latest tally released by the county elections office Monday. The next count will be released Friday, Nov. 19)

“It is my understanding that a lot of people do not respond to the auditor’s outreach regarding their outstanding signature issues,” Cass said. “Many feel the election is over once the bulk of results are posted. Candidates in close elections want to see those votes added to the tally. Volunteers help voters fix their signature issue so that their ballots can be counted. Offering a printed-out form and pre-addressed, stamped envelope increases the likelihood that that a voter will submit their affidavit to validate their ballot,” she said. “I want to thank Edmonds and these volunteers for their support and dedication to the election process.”

Addressing why those volunteers carried Cass campaign materials, Cass described them as “leftover campaign cards with my contact information should anyone want to reach out with questions or concerns.”

In another case reported to My Edmonds News, Edmonds resident Meghan Campbell spoke by phone to a family friend, another Cass campaign volunteer, who said he was following up because her signature did not match official voting records. He also inquired about whom she voted for, Campbell said.

“I remember thinking that any comment regarding my vote was very inappropriate,” Campbell said.

While it’s not illegal for a person or a campaign to ask a voter how they voted, “the voter is under no obligation to share this information,” Fell said.

Fell also stressed that the county “never sends the ballot and envelope back to the voter to cure – we only provide the form to cure an issue. Once the ballot is returned, it remains in our possession. The only action a voter can take is to provide a form to resolve their challenge.

“If a voter who has not previously voted submits a ballot now, the ballot will be designated too late to count,” he added.

Fell said that voters have to resolve signature issues and ensure their ballot can be counted before the county certifies the election results on Nov.23.

— By Teresa Wippel


  1. Please don’t let any doorbeller return your ballot verification form for you. Nobody knows what a third party could do with the form. To ensure the highest security, return it to the county yourself.

  2. This is unbelievable. Do the supporters of Janel Cass actually believe that they will be able to change any votes by harassing people at their homes about the votes they already cast. In previous positions, I have been heavily involved in politics and I’ve never heard of this kind of activity by a losing candidate. And I wholeheartedly agree with Brook Roberts that no one should trust their ballot verification form to a candidate or her supporters.

    1. Had.you.read.the.article.to.the.end, you would have read that whoever shows up at your door does NOT have your ballot, just a form for you to sign, so that your vote, you know the one you took all the trouble to read up on, to discuss with family and friends, to fill in and drop off, is valid. All they can do is give you the form, and IF YOU WISH, take it in for you. If you want to send it in yourself, you may. More importantly, these procedures are laws, not underhanded schemes.

  3. This all seems odd to me. Thru my entire life I was told…The ballots said on them. IF not filled out correctly the ballot won’t be counted. Meaning forget to sign the outside?? All of it. I am wondering if this has always been true or not? I did not have anyone stop by here and had they, they would have been turned away from my door. I do not discuss or give information to complete uninvited and un announced strangers ever and they are no exception. Dangerous to be opening your doors to those you do not know. This is all ridiculous and and I do not get it???

    1. Deborah, you’re making an argument against canvasing. Of course people can come to your door for political reasons. It’s not dangerous.

  4. Having read the entirety of the article, it certainly sounds like everything was above board and not invasive or coercive. It sounds like the voting process is working as it should. Although ballot harvesting is legal in some places, that is not what this was according to this article. However, voting is a special right and should be a protected right of all citizens of the United States. I will always deliver my ballot to an official drop box because that is the most secure and I do not want to incur the “free” postage offered (nothing is free).

  5. Just because something is technically legal doesn’t make it necessarily a smart thing to do. It’s time for Ms. Cass, (my candidate of choice) to concede the election to Mr. Chen and move on. Not respectfully and graciously giving up until the next time around is one of the things currently threatening to destroy our entire democratic system of government. Obstruction tactics and stonewalling by ideological zealots is the other negative force balling up the works.

  6. Thank you, MEN, for explaining this part of the election process which happens every election cycle all over the state where there are close races. It is a continuation of the political process and is common even though many haven’t heard about it. I want to clarify that volunteers were acting on behalf of the campaign, not as representatives of any organization as indicated above. Furthermore, volunteers were not instructed to ask who residents voted for but rather to encourage them to send in their affidavit to fix their signature issues.

    1. We had them come to our neighborhood. Nothing shady about it. Everyone has access to this information online, and can find out who’s ballots were not counted for various reasons. None of that info tells you who anyone voted for. The author of this article portrays this as some seedy, underhanded trick being pulled on behalf of the candidate. With all the other issues with mail in balloting, this is actually one of the better things to happen. These people did not coerce, or campaign on behalf of anyone. They merely pointed out that someone’s ballot did not get counted for signature reasons, and gave us a form to fillout and mail in ourselves.
      I am honestly surprised people are having such an issue with it.
      These people should take a minute to look at campaign contributions for each candidate, and take note of who is getting money from out of state.

  7. Thanks Teresa for this very enlightening and well researched article. I have to wonder, who are “Concerned Citizens of Edmonds”? I don’t find them in a Google search.

  8. Thank you Teresa for investigating this on behalf of ALL Edmonds citizens (not just those “Concerned”). I saw many social media posts speculating about the legality (and motive) behind these actions so it’s good that everything is now on the record. Voters can draw their own conclusions regarding the “ballot curing” process but it seems at the very least it was lacking transparency and communication.

  9. I’m so glad that I DID vote for Janelle Cass. Her volunteers are working to make sure that every vote is counted. Thank you to those who put in the time and effort to help ensure that all of our voices are heard. And thank you to My Edmonds News for presenting this information in an objective fashion.

  10. Is there some sort of list of folks who have signature issues? I could not find it on the county web site. If their is such a list then what would be the process to determine the ones that a campaign would contact. Do they check the list that identifies Rs and Ds and other data to determine the probability that someone would vote for A or B?

    I am guessing that some of these rules and lists are as a result of parties and/or legislators putting these processes in place. I for one would like more privacy on my information as it relates to voting.

    1. Darrell, from what I remember, no, you cannot see their party. I used to canvas for GOTV. We would do things like look at the list, go to the house, if there is an American Flag or a work truck? – knock on their door, a political sign about something intangible which no one really disagrees with? – move on. This can be gamed, I gamed it. Reasonable people like to be informed that their vote didn’t count. We want reasonable voters.

  11. Why blame Councilwoman Cass? She has devoted her time, money and the money of those who contributed to her campaign in order to win a seat on council. She is narrowly behind. I applaud her and her voluteers in finding any legal votes out there that might be for her cause. The deadline is November 23rd and she has until then to find those favorable ballots. She understands that she may be uncovering votes for her opponent in the process.
    How responsible should we be to know our laws? When is our ignorance crass and when is it invincible? As Ms Wippel quotes Mr Fell, it is state law that allows votes to be challenged and cured. The issues here are prominently in the news: states accurately counting and certifying votes. We hear Mr Trump complaining about the integrity of the last presidential election. He lost by millions of votes. However, due to our electoral system, he could have won that electoral tally with a change of a few tens of thousands of votes in key states. By law Mr Trump lost in a fair election in 2020. By law he won in 2016. Then he won the electoral college despite losing the popular vote.
    I believe we are obliged as citizens to know these facts. Ignorance of them is of the crass sort. As someone said, “Nothing is free.” If you want the freedoms that a democracy provides, then pay attention to the laws which sujpport those freedoms.

    1. Totally right on, Mr. Molly except Ms. Cass has not yet ever served on the Edmonds City Council, so “Councilwoman” doesn’t work as a title for her yet. I also agree with my friend Darrol H. that our votes and voting should be kept a matter as private as possible unless we choose to divulge who we voted for. I think your point about citizens needing to know the nature of and how our election laws work is crucial if we want any sort of good and true representative government. It’s very hard to get true representative government and even harder to keep it as con men like Trump and, to a lesser extent, some of our local power grabbers, depend on most of the people not being knowledgeable about or involved in the electoral and legislative process’. Our schools need to teach more civics and basic political science way before the college level. All 8th. graders need this knowledge, not just college intellectual “elites” like us. (Mike and I are pals, so I can say that).

  12. Ok, it’s state law, but it’s legal creepiness. Optics are a big political issue now, and holding Cass flyers imparts partisanship. So……..as to Ms. Cass, ( see above @ 11:31 ) Do you have an issue with MEN commenting ???

  13. Thank you, Mr. Wright, for the constructive criticism. Ms Cass is not a councilwoman and now she has conceded that she will not become a councilwoman having lost to Mr. Chen.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Real first and last names — as well as city of residence — are required for all commenters.
This is so we can verify your identity before approving your comment.

By commenting here you agree to abide by our Code of Conduct. Please read our code at the bottom of this page before commenting.