National Voter Registration Day

national voter registration day

Tuesday, Sept. 27 is National Voter Registration Day!

Don’t know what National Voter Registration Day is? We’ve got you covered. Started in 2012, NVRD is a non-partisan, unofficial national holiday, on which thousands of community groups and volunteers across the political spectrum register people to vote. It’s designed to create an annual moment when the entire nation focuses on helping Americans to exercise their most basic right—the right to vote.

So, what can you do? First, you can make sure your registration information is up-to-date. Next, you can encourage family, friends, neighbors – everyone! – to register to vote.

And if you’re really an over-achiever, you can:

  • Use tools provided by to encourage others to participate.
  • Connect with us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram to help us celebrate #VoterRegistrationDay on social media.

Your vote is your voice and you can only use it if you are registered. So let’s get out there!

UOCAVA Ballots are in the mail

UOCAVA. Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act. It’s a mouthful. It’s also a very important law that makes it easier for our service and overseas citizens to be able to vote. November 8th might seem like a long way away, but we mailed ballots today for King County’s UOCAVA voters.

We mail them this early to ensure that they have enough time to receive, vote and return their ballots and have their voices heard – no matter where they are in the world!

Other interesting tidbits about service and overseas voters:

  • A service voter is any active-duty member of the Armed Forces, Merchant Marine, Public Health Service, NOAA, and their family members (whether stationed domestically or abroad).
  • They can sign up for electronic notification and delivery of their ballot materials for every election.
  • They can return their ballot materials by mail, but also fax and email.  Whichever is easiest for them.
  • They receive periodic email reminders if we have not received their ballot yet.

Our goal is always to make voting as easy as possible and this is just one way we are removing barriers for citizens living outside the county or in the military.

What’s with the stub on my ballot?

General Election Ballot Stub

Ever wondered why there’s that stub at the top of your ballot that you’re supposed to remove? You’re not alone. That’s probably the #1 question we get on tours of King County Elections.

The answer is pretty simple, but important. The ballot stub is used by our printing vendor to make sure that you get all of your correct materials. The bar code on it makes sure that you get a ballot with the correct races, in the correct language, and that it’s mailed with the correct inserts and envelopes. It’s the tool we use for tracking everything before ballots are mailed.

However, when it comes time to tabulate ballots, the ballot stub can’t go through our scanners. So, if voters don’t remove them, our staff have to do it when they are opening ballot envelopes – which is time consuming and costly.

Want to know some other interesting ballot stub facts?

  • We actually changed the look of the stub on the August Primary ballots to reflect our new branding and to hopefully encourage more people to remember to remove them.
  • It worked! We weigh all the stubs we have to remove each election. For the May Presidential Primary we had 25.8 lbs of ballot stubs. For the August 2nd Election we had just 7.4 lbs (from nearly 60,000 more ballots).
  • We’ve heard anecdotally that some people collect their ballot stubs as a memento of all of the elections they’ve voted in. Do you? If so, take a picture and tweet it at us @kcelections and #ballotstubcollection!

So, the moral of the story is – (a) vote, and (b) remove your ballot stub!

We’re Building Your Ballot

While November 8th may seem like a long way away, for us it’s right around the corner. Ballots have to go out to our military and overseas voters next week, which means we’re building your ballot for November right now!

The process is a bit of a technical one, but there are essentially five main steps:

  1. We collect all of the relevant district and precinct information from our database.
  2. Next, all the ballot stuff goes into our Global Election Management System (we call it GEMS), namely 21 local and 9 state measures and 68 races with 130 candidates.
  3. We create headers, organize and format everything.
  4. Some magic happens and out pops all of the unique combinations of races and measures (because you get to vote on different things depending on where you live). For this General Election there are 109 unique combinations of races and measures. And because we do each in five languages, that means 540 different ballots!
  5. Each is proofed and checked to make sure everything is accurate and stays on a single page.

And there you have it – a lot of work goes into creating your personal ballot. So make sure you vote it!

Community Partner Profile: Somali Community Services

Somali Community Services of Seattle hosted the first of three workshops on September 6 to share information about voting in King County with members of the East African communities.
The event began with a celebration of Somali food and dances from the center’s youth group. There was a presentation about the history of voting rights in America, the need for community engagement in the electoral process, and a look forward to some of the candidates and measures on the upcoming ballot.

All the information was interpreted in Amharic, Oromo, Somali, and Tigrinya. Guest speakers included King County Election’s Director Julie Wise and Cherry Cayabyab, President of the Seattle/King County NAACP Gerald Hankerson, and numerous community members who all encouraged the attendees to spread the word with others about the importance of voting.

Small group discussions were held to give participants an opportunity to reflect on what they had just learned and strategize about how to get more people involved leading up to the November 8 General Election. By the end of the night, more than 20 people at the event had registered to vote!

The group’s next workshop will take place on October 4 from 5:30-7:30 pm at Yesler Community Center and people will have the opportunity to learn specifics about the issues they will see on the November ballot.

Election Systems in the Headlines

computer security

There’s been a lot of buzz lately about the security of our nation’s election systems – from the cyber attacks on Arizona and Illinois – to political rhetoric about election rigging – to the Department of Homeland Security considering a “critical infrastructure” designation for election systems.

So, you might be wondering, how safe are King County’s election systems? And the answer is, pretty darn safe. There are a couple of reasons for this:

  • We maintain our own voter registration system. Yes, it talks to the state’s, but they are completely independent from each other. Every day we are looking at what’s coming in (additions, deletions or changes to voter registration records) and would immediately notice any voter registration activity that is out-of-the-ordinary. We also continuously maintain a back-up so that if we do spot something unusual, we are able to fix the problem without disruption.
  • The voter registration database has absolutely nothing to do with counting ballots. Our tabulation system is on a closed network that is not connected to the outside world. To breach it, one would have to be inside the building and we have all sorts of security protocols – from 24-hour live-streamed surveillance to biometric access – that keep our equipment secure.

So, while we need to stay vigilant, we’ve got great processes and systems in place. So you can vote with confidence!

We’re hiring!

Are you an elections nerd? A civic enthusiast? Just interested in earning some extra cash for the Holidays? King County Elections will be hiring more than 500 temporary staff to help with this year’s Presidential Election. Some of the things our temporary staff help out with include:

  • Providing customer service to voters and answering questions about things like voter registration, ballot tracking and election deadlines;
  • Reviewing ballots, including duplicating damaged or write-in ballots;
  • Opening, separating and inspecting envelopes and ballots;
  • Analyzing and determining whether to accept or challenge a voter’s signature on the return envelope.

Jobs can last anywhere from 4-5 weeks to just a couple of days, so there’s something for everyone. For more information, check out the Temporary Election Worker posting.


30 Elections with no errors!

Fun facts you may not know about King County Elections:

  • Elections has conducted 30 straight elections with no errors (discrepancies). This means we completely accounted for all ballots received and processed by the department for the past 30 elections!
  • In every election, the department hires temporary workers to help open and process ballots. For the November 2016 General Election we will hire hundreds of temporary workers.

Do you or someone you know speak Chinese, Korean, Spanish or Vietnamese?

Making it easier to vote is a priority here at King County Elections. So, we are happy to announce that you can now get your voting materials in Chinese, English, Korean, Spanish or Vietnamese! Just complete the online form if you are already registered to vote. If you still need to register you can do that on our Elections website or mail in the form available on the Washington Secretary of State website to get registered and receive your voting materials in your preferred language.


Voters use drop boxes in record numbers

The numbers are in and drop box usage was off-the-charts for the August 2 Primary! As you may remember, we added a bunch of new drop boxes for this election, with 14 more coming for November.

Some of the more noteworthy statistics include:

  • Nearly 36% of ballots were returned via drop-box. This is more than any election in recent history. Previously the highest percentage of ballots returned via drop-box was the 2015 General Election with 26.3%.

Percent of ballots returned by drop box

  • More than 100,000 ballots were returned to drop boxes just on Election Day. That’s nearly 20,000 more than we’ve ever had returned in a single day.
  • The new Lake City Library box – which was officially unveiled by Councilmember Rod Dembowski, King County Executive Dow Constantine, and GroupRibbonCutting_flipElection’s Director Julie Wise – saw more than 6,500 ballots returned – more than several other permanent locations that have been available for years.

And the even better news is that there are more on the way! For the General Election this November 8, there will be 43 ballot drop-off locations across the county.