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February 3rd, 2010 MARTY SMITH | Dr. Know
 

Dr. Know

     
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Whenever I get a ballot, I often wonder this: Why are there two punched holes on my ballot secrecy envelope?

—Clint J.

I was hoping to get this answer directly from Oregon Secretary of State Kate Brown, whose office runs Oregon’s elections and whom I have long admired. Also, if current trends continue, she’ll be governor at about the same time I’ll be on death row, so you can see how she might be a handy person for me to know.

Unfortunately, if I had the kind of planning skills it takes to get an interview with a sitting secretary of state, I probably wouldn’t have shot that lady at the DMV. So I had to settle for Eric Sample, spokesman for the Multnomah County Elections office.

“I’m an elections geek, so I don’t think it’s a dumb question,” said Sample. Yeah, me neither—who could have made such an uncharitable suggestion? In any case, here’s the reason.

As you’re no doubt aware, your completed ballot goes in a secrecy envelope, and that envelope goes inside the return envelope. (I imagine Weyerhaeuser loves this setup.)

While the return envelopes are opened mechanically, the secrecy envelopes each must be opened by hand. Since this is a pretty mind-numbing process, there are holes punched through the secrecy envelopes so elections workers can look through a stack of them and see if they missed any ballots. If they can see daylight through the whole stack, they got ’em all.

The holes in the return envelope also serve that purpose, but there’s another reason they’re there. Remember how the return envelope must be signed for your ballot to count? Those holes are punched on either side of the signature line so that blind people can tell where they’re supposed to sign by feel.

 
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