We make choices every day, from what color shirt to wear to what kind of latte to drink. But when it comes to life’s important choices, many of us let others do the choosing for us. I’m talking about the choices we make by voting. My job as an election administrator is to make democracy work – and democracy works best when everyone has an opportunity to make their voices heard. It’s my job to facilitate that. But, I can’t do it without you.
Not enough of us vote in local elections, which have the biggest impact on our quality of life. Turnout during the 2017 primary was just 34%. That means a third of the voting population decided on measures and determined which candidates would go on the General Election ballot. If you didn’t vote, the choices were made for you.
Tuesday, Sept. 26 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.
This year, we added 11 new ballot drop boxes in time for the August 1 Primary Election, for a total of 54 drop boxes. About 94 percent of county residents now live within 3 miles of a drop box.
Despite the increase in drop boxes, slightly more people chose to mail their ballots during the primary. About 52 percent of ballots were sent through the mail, compared to 48 percent that were brought to a drop box.
The race for Seattle mayor is now over, with Jenny Durkan and Cary Moon advancing to the November General Election. On Tuesday, King County Elections certified the August 2017 Primary Election. Now that election results are final, we dived back into the data to see how Seattle neighborhoods voted for mayor. (See our updated map below, which now includes voter turnout.) A lot has changed since Election Night: Nikkita Oliver gained three more neighborhoods, and Moon won her first neighborhood.
King County Elections has opened 11 new ballot drop boxes in time for the August 1 Primary Election! Several of the new ballot drop-off locations received a drop box for the first time, including the Central District in Seattle, Fall City, Kenmore, Mercer Island, Newcastle, and Tukwila. King County now has a total of 54 drop boxes. About 94 percent of county residents live within 3 miles of a drop box. Continue reading →
This is a big local election year for King County, with more than 600 candidates running for office. Not all races will have a primary, though. Except for presidential primaries, Washington State uses a Top Two style primary system. Under this system, a registered voter does not declare a party affiliation and can vote for any candidate in each race, regardless of the candidate’s party preference. The top two candidates in each race advance to the General Election, regardless of their party affiliation.
For the August primary, the Seattle mayoral race has the most candidates. A total of 21 people are vying to be the city’s next mayor. The top two candidates with the most votes in the primary will move onto the General Election.
The Top Two system is popular among voters because it focuses on the candidates rather than the political parties. Washington hasn’t always had a Top Two primary system. From 1935 to 2003, the state held a “blanket primary” system where citizens could vote for a candidate of one party for one office, and then vote for a candidate of another party for the next office. The state briefly switched to a pick-a-party primary system in 2004, in which the voter was required to affiliate with a party and only vote for candidates of that party.
We replaced our tabulation and processing equipment with a new system that better serves the County’s growing voter population (nearly 1.3 million registered voters and counting!) We’ll start using the new software to process the August 1 Primary Election.
So, why are we updating our elections equipment now? It’s mainly because the old system was nearly 10-years-old and approaching the end of its useful life. With King County’s ever-increasing voter population, the system was frequently bumping up against its capacity, which could create slowdowns and delays in results processing.
The new system consists of user-friendly accessible voting units, high-speed scanners and an improved system to correct ballots with irregularities. Ballots will be processed more efficiently, with fewer requiring special handling. The upgraded system will produce faster results and count more votes on Election Night.
The new accessible voting units allow a voter to mark their ballot on an intuitive user-interface. Voters can use the touchscreen option or other assistive technology device. Once the voter has completed the ballot marking process, they will print the machine-marked ballot and place it in a ballot drop box.
When I was running to be your Director of Elections, I attended a candidate forum organized by a Vietnamese-American civic group. I asked the audience of about 100 people to raise their hands if they knew King County Elections translated voting materials into Vietnamese. To my surprise, only one person raised their hand. I knew then that we needed to work harder for a more inclusive voting process.
Allegations of voter fraud have dominated news headlines lately. But are these claims plausible? Last year, King County Elections Director Julie Wise told the Seattle Times that claims of widespread voter fraud were “wrong. Not true. Inaccurate.” Secretary of State Kim Wyman also called them “baseless” and “irresponsible.” And Matthew Masterson, chairman of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, defended the 2016 General Election as being “extremely well administered.”
Data from the Brennan Center for Justice validate that assessment. Researchers interviewed elections administrators in 42 jurisdictions, including King County, and found that… “improper noncitizen votes accounted for 0.0001% of the 2016 votes [23.5 million] in those jurisdictions.”
We’re excited to announce the recipients of the Voter Education Fund. King County Elections and Seattle Foundation are providing $435,000 in grants for voter engagement in communities that are historically underrepresented in the democratic process.
A total of 30 community-based organizations are receiving funding to offer basic education about voting in King County and technical assistance, such as helping voters complete a voter registration form.
The fund offered community-based organizations the opportunity to apply for up to $25,000 to develop a 9-month campaign to engage voters or potential voters and up to $10,000 to provide a series of smaller events.