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.

What if there’s a tie?

hand flipping coinMany races are decided by thousands, even tens or hundreds of thousands, of votes. But others are much closer. What happens, you may have wondered, if there’s a tie?

First, there’s a recount – just to make sure the vote totals are correct. Second, candidates are notified of the date and time on which the winner will be determined. Finally, the winner is determined by “lot,” which basically means by a random method determined by the election authority. Typically, a coin toss is used, but theoretically any method could be employed, so long as
it’s random. Rock, paper, scissors anyone?

While this is incredibly rare for most offices, when Precinct Committee Officers (PCOs) are on the ballot, it’s actually fairly common because the vote tallies are so low. This year there are 160 PCO races in King County. Happy coin flipping everyone!


What triggers a recount?

Here in King County we’ve had a number of close elections in recent years – a Seattle City Council race decided by just 39 votes, a Des Moines City Council race won by 31. With the tight races in this Primary you might be wondering – what triggers an automatic recount?

First, it’s important to know that there are two different types of recounts:

  1. Machine recounts – in which all ballots for that race are re-scanned and re-tabulated electronically; and,
  2. Manual recounts – in which all ballots for that race are counted by hand.

And there are different thresholds for each, as well as different thresholds for the type of race.

Ok, it’s time for some math.

For all local, regional and statewide races, a machine recount is triggered if the gap is fewer than 2,000 votes AND less than 0.5% of the total votes cast for both candidates. So, for example,

  • If Candidate A gets 11,000 votes and Candidate B gets 10,500 votes, there would not be a recount because the gap of 500 votes is greater than .005 x 21,500 (which equals 108).

For statewide races and measures (think Governor, Attorney General, statewide initiatives), a manual recount is triggered if there is a difference of fewer than 1,000 votes AND less than 0.25% of the total votes cast for both candidates. So, for example,

  • If YES on Initiative X gets 800,000 votes and NO gets 799,100 votes, there would be a recount because 900 votes in both less than 1,000 and less than .0025 x 1,599,200 (which equals 3,998).

Finally, for regional and local races (think state senate, city council and county propositions), a manual recount is triggered if there is a difference of fewer than 150 votes AND less than 0.25% of the total votes cast for both candidates. So, for example,

  • If Candidate X gets 29,000 votes and Candidate Y gets 28,700 votes, there would not be a manual recount because 300 votes is more than 150 and more than 0.25% (.0025 x 57,700 or 145 votes).

Totally simple and straightforward, right? If not, don’t worry – King County Elections has you covered. We’ll keep you updated on all the Primary contest results and you can learn more about recounts on our Elections website, or here at the Secretary of State’s website.

Twenty-two community partners funded to increase limited-English speaking voter participation

Earlier this year, King County Elections and the Seattle Foundation kicked-off an initiative to address the need for voter education and culturally relevant technical assistance with limited-English speaking communities.

We are excited to announce that we’ll be partnering with 22 community-based organizations to help us do that work. They are:

  • Asian Counseling and Referral Services
  • APACEvotes
  • Eritrean Community in Seattle and Vicinity
  • Inter*Im Community Development Association
  • International Community Health Services
  • Iraqi Community Center and South King County Emerging Communities for Equity partners Bhutanese Community Resource Center of WA, Nsanga Corporation and Partner in Employment
  • Korean American Coalition
  • Latino Community Fund and partners South Park Information and Resource Center and Colectiva Legal del Pueblo
  • Open Doors for Multicultural Families
  • Rajana Society
  • SeaMar
  • Somali Community Services
  • Somali Family Safety Task Force
  • Somali Youth and Family Club
  • Tasveer
  • White Center Community Development Association and partner Coalition of Immigrants, Refugees and Communities of Color

Organizations will provide voter education through outreach activities such as gatherings (e.g. workshops or ballot parties) that will help educate LES voters on the voting anpartnersd democratic process. They will also provide LES voters with technical assistance on how to complete a voter registration form, how to update voter information, and where to find a ballot drop box.

Increasing voter access for all voters is a priority for Elections and this is a big step in the right direction! Stay tuned for detailed stories on how these community organizations are connecting with limited English-speaking residents and helping to engage King County’s diverse communities.

Your Vote Matters

AdmitKing County Elections vote logotedly, I may not be entirely impartial on this matter, as it’s both my professional and personal mission to count your vote. However – and call me Pollyanna-ish if you like – I really believe your vote matters. Let me give you a few reasons why.

  • We actually count every single ballot. Those in election administration are going to go, “um, obviously, Julie.” However, I have spoken with many people who believe that once a race has been statistically decided, once we have enough ballots in, whatever that we stop counting. We don’t. Even if you forget to sign your ballot and respond to our request to sign the ballot say, a week and a half after Election Day, we STILL count your ballot.
  • Some races are really, really close. Some races, mind you not many Presidential races, but a number of others, are decided by a very close margin. Just last year we had a Seattle City Council race decided by just 39 votes. Two years prior, in 2013, we had a Des Moines City Council race won by 31 votes. And in 2011 the race for an Enumclaw School District Director was decided by just 11 votes.
  • We’re lucky that we have the right to vote. There are many countries across the world – many that even send delegates to visit and learn from King County Elections – where citizens still don’t have the right to participate in decisions about their communities. We are lucky to live in a society where democracy is institutionalized and we shouldn’t take it for granted.
  • Your vote is your voice. Voting is an important, meaningful way to support things you care about – whether it’s your local schools, a new tax measure, or who represents you in Olympia or Washington DC. If nothing else here compels you – at least if you vote, you have a more justifiable right to complain.

These are just a few reasons. There are many more. Your voice matters but only if you use it.  My job is to make it as convenient and easy as possible for you to vote. Your job is to do it.

~ Julie Wise, Elections Director

We’re Prepped and Ready for Your Ballot!

Did you know that we verify every signature on every bAug. 2 Ballot
allot returned? For this Primary Election, we’ve mailed 1,227,550 ballots and are expecting our first big day of returns to bring in approximately 20,000 ballots!  So, in preparation for this large volume, on Thursday, July 14 approximately 35 additional temporary staff were trained by the Washington State Patrol to handle signature
verification. This is a class Elections staff takes every year.

Official Roll-out of New Drop Boxes

Ballot boxes are now open for the August 2 Primary Election and Elections Director Julie Wise marked the occasion this week with ribbon cuttings at new ballot drop boxes at both Fairwood Library in Renton and Lake City Library. Wise was joined at Lake City Library by Executive Dow Constantine, Councilmember Rod Dembowski, State Rep. Gerry Pollet, State Sen. David Frockt, Amanda Clark, President of League of Women Voters Seattle King County, Laura Flores Cantrell, Co-chair of the Seattle Immigrant Voting Task Force, Mark Mendez, North District Council Co-Chair, along and other local elected officials.

A total of 29 drop boxes will be available for this Primary Election followed by 14 more boxes for the November General Election. A total of 43 ballot drop boxes will increase access and convenience for voters across King County.

For a complete list of boxes visit our website. Boxes are open 24 hours a day until August 2 at 8 p.m.


Lake City Library
Pictured left to right: Julie Wise, Elections Director; Mark Mendez, North District Council Co-Chair; Laura Flores Cantrell, Co-chair of the Seattle Immigrant Voting Task Force; Dow Constantine, King County Executive; Rod Dembowski, County Councilmember; Gerry Pollet, State Rep


Fairwood Library
Pictured left to right: Reagan Dunn, County Councilmember; Julie Wise, Elections Director; and Gary Wasdin, Director of the King County Library System.


Meet the Elections Canvassing Board

Ever wondered what a Canvassing Board is? If you haven’t heard the term before it’s unique to the elections process. A Canvassing Board is a public entity that conducts a formal assessment (“canvass”) of an election. The assessment includes reviewingElection2016
vote totals, determining the validity of challenged ballots, certifying the vote and administering a recount. Every county in Washington State must have a county canvassing board.

All King County Canvassing Board meetings are public and typically take place at the King County Elections headquarters located in Renton. The board meets to
officially certify each election.

By Washington state law, the county auditor serves as the county Canvassing Board chair. Other members include:

  • Auditor/Director of Elections: Julie Wise
  • Prosecuting Attorney’s Office: Kevin Wright
  • King County Council Representative: Anne Noris

Checking every signature

We recently mailed out 4,300 letters to voters asking them to update their sigcheckmark-icon--23nature. We verify every signature before a ballot is counted during an election. Signatures can change over time for a variety of reasons and keeping an up-to-date one on file is important for efficient and timely processing. Some voters have several signatures on file with us.

State law requires that we compare the signature on a ballot envelope with the signature that we have on file (typically from the Department of Licensing) before we can count your ballot during an election. If the signatures match, we can count your ballot. If the signatures do not match or a signature is missing, we will contact you by mail, email, and/or phone letting you know how to take care of the issue.

Our staff is trained by the Washington State Patrol on signature verification to assure we are properly counting each ballot.

We are committed to making every single vote count! If you receive a letter please respond so we can update your signature and keep the voting processing running smoothly.