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Auditor's reminder; free election java; record turnout | Election Notebook

Election Day is Tuesday. Ballots must be postmarked by 3 p.m. that day. You have until 8 p.m. to place your ballot in a drop box or deliver it to the Elections Office in Friday Harbor.   - File photo
Election Day is Tuesday. Ballots must be postmarked by 3 p.m. that day. You have until 8 p.m. to place your ballot in a drop box or deliver it to the Elections Office in Friday Harbor.
— image credit: File photo

Auditor Milene Henley, the top elections official in San Juan County, submitted this reminder to voters:

"Today, Tuesday, November 4, is the final day to vote in the General Election. All ballots must be delivered to your local post office prior to their closing time (3 p.m.), or dropped in an Elections ballot drop box prior to 8 p.m.

"Ballot boxes are located at the courthouse on San Juan Island, at the firehouse on Lopez Island, and at the Senior Center on Orcas Island.

"There have been many rumors about the unavailability of the Lopez ballot box. All are false. The box was checked on Monday, Nov. 3. It is a valid ballot box, and will be emptied at 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 4.

"Don’t forget to vote!"

* * *

If you happen to be on the mainland today, check in at Starbucks.

Starbucks has agreed to give a tall cup of java to anyone who asks on Election Day.

Dave Ammons of the Secretary of State's office relayed this statement from Tara Darrow of Starbucks: "We've been excited by the number of positive responses received about our free coffee offer. To ensure we are in compliance with election law, we are extending our offer to all customers who request a tall brewed coffee.

"We're pleased to honor our commitment to communities on this important election day. We hope there is a record turnout on Tuesday and look forward to celebrating with our customers over a great cup of coffee."

Ammons added, "The secretary of state's office is pleased with this decision, and wishes hypercaffeinated Washington voters a double-tall Happy Election Day."

The Secretary of State was concerned that Starbucks' offer of free coffee on Election Day to patrons who voted violated a federal statute that forbids any freebies or cash payments or remuneration for registering, voting or not voting.

The state Elections Division gently reminded Starbucks of the statute, and Jeff Even of the state Attorney General’s office contacted Starbucks corporate counsel Kevin Hamilton. Even’s helpful suggestion: Give the freebie to everyone. Ben & Jerry’s ice-cream impresarios previously came up with the same solution to get around the federal prohibition.

(No word on whether those plates of free cookies at poll sites or “I Voted” stickers will get anyone in trouble, but we’re thinking not.)

This is a Starbucks vote commercial YouTube link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dXB13hVL2Y8

* * *

Better than half of the expected vote-by-mail ballots arrived back at county auditors’ election offices statewide as of Monday, according to the Secretary of State's office.

Just looking at the 12 counties the Secretary of State tracks via its Web sites -- representing 74 percent of the total ballots sent out -- there was a 49 percent return as of Monday morning, with more weekend arrivals to be added soon.

"We’re hearing reports of ballot return boxes being jammed and counties are working to keep them emptied and the ballots transported to the central election office for pre-processing and safekeeping," Secretary of State spokesman Dave Ammons said.

"Election officials are suggesting that last-minute voters use drop-boxes or take the ballot directly to the auditor’s office. Otherwise, a ballot must carry a Tuesday postmark in order to count."

Here is the tally from Dave Motz of the Elections Division:

-- As of Sunday, King County had posted 353,300 ballots in. That is 47 percent of the number issued.
-- Pierce is at 49 percent.
-- Spokane reports 56 percent.
-- Clark 55 percent.
-- Whatcom 57 percent.
-- Benton 57 percent.

These counties didn’t report Saturday receipts:
-- Snohomish 40 percent.
-- Yakima 49 percent.
-- Kittitas 53 percent.
-- Cowlitz 52 percent.
-- Pacific 62 percent.
-- Franklin 52 percent.

About nine out of 10 voters statewide will be casting ballots by mail.

* * *

As of Monday morning, Washington state has 3,626,773 registered voters. That beats the old record, set in 2004, by nearly 113,000, even after accounting for more than 400,000 registrations that were canceled or made inactive.

The Secretary of State's office projects a turnout of 83 percent -- topping the 3-million mark for the first time. The old record was 84.5 percent back in 1944.

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