Washington state held its primary a week ago, but the absentee ballots are still trickling in and being counted. Why does it take so long?
Two reasons. First, Washington has many absentee ballots because it has many absentee voters. Washington regularly leads the nation with the highest proportion of absentee voting in its elections; nearly half of the state's residents who voted in last Tuesday's primary did so with an absentee ballot. (In some Washington counties, a majority of the voters have elected to vote by absentee ballot.) This is because the state has an extraordinarily liberal absentee-voting policy: Any registered voter can write the secretary of state's office and ask to be mailed an absentee ballot for every election thereafter. There is no need to be out of the state or in poor health come Election Day.
Second, since Washington law allows absentee voters to submit ballots that are postmarked on the day of the election, officials may receive mailed ballots as much as a week later. The legislature allows this because primaries for statewide offices are often held in September, leaving little time to prepare and distribute ballots before the general election in the fall. Some overseas voters will receive their ballots for the general election just two or three days before Election Day.