WHATCOM ­— Return of ballots in the county is now well over half of the total sent out.

  Exactly a week before the Nov. 3 general election, the rate of return stood at 52.4% on Tuesday, Oct. 27, with 82,715 ballots in hand with the workers of the Whatcom County Auditor’s Office. A total of 157,715 had been issued.

  The office says the 2020 rate of return, starting immediately after ballots hit homes Oct. 15, has been “unprecedented.”

  The same pattern of eager return of ballots is true across Washington state — and in some respects, the nation — as voters want to dispense with their election choices as speedily as possible.

  Washington’s time-tested vote-by-mail system seemed to be proceeding smoothly, despite the heavy volume, not pressured into new forms this year by COVID concerns as in other places.

  Ballot processing — prepping ballots for actual machine counting after 8 p.m. on election day — continues each day with a crew in the Auditor’s Office on the first floor of the Whatcom County Courthouse.