Spilled coffee? Kids with crayons? 'State of the art' ballot scanners do their best

RENTON, Wash. -- A hypothetical:

A friend spilled a bit of coffee on their ballot. The friend sent the ballot in, hoping it would be counted for Tuesday's midterm election, regardless of the stain.

Was the stain enough to disqualify the ballot? Would it be counted? Would it have been too late for the friend to order a new one?

It's more than a hypothetical, King County elections chief of staff Kendall Hodson told Q13 News. Questions like these pop up all the time.

And the answer is almost always the same:

The ballot will - barring a few exceptions - be counted.

A bit of coffee, some crayons, notes scribbled all over the envelope? Doesn't matter. Your vote is getting counted, Hodson said.

"Our scanners are state of the art," Hodson said.

If the ballot is so damaged elections monitors fear the ballot reader won't process it, elections staff will actually duplicate the ballot to make sure it's read as the voter intended, Hodson said.

If the ballot is truly beyond repair - say it was accidentally set on fire - voters can go online to their county's election website and print a replacement ballot. No waiting for a new ballot in the mail. Print it immediately at your home.

"If they truly made the ballot illegible, they can go online and print a replacement ballot themselves," Hodson said.

Erich Ebel with the Washington Secretary of State's office said it's not just King County. Voters should be able to go online and print a replacement ballot from any county in the state. Or, voters can go to one of the in-person voting centers in each county.

For more on what to do is you lose your ballot, and other ballot related questions, head to the Washington Secretary of State website.