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.
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.
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.
In 2011, Washington State shifted to vote by mail. For every election in which you are eligible to vote, we mail you a ballot with measures and candidates specific to your address. While vote by mail has improved voter access for many, not all voting-age residents have a traditional address. In the 2016 King County One Night Count, over 10,000 people, the majority of which are of voting age, were counted as being homeless. These people are staying in many places ranging from encampments to emergency shelters and transitional housing. So how do they get access to voting?
Elections and voter registration systems are back in the headlines. And all the talk about alleged voter fraud may have you wondering how King County measures up. But did you know the County has a group of citizens whose job is to help maintain the integrity of our elections system? The Citizens’ Elections Oversight Committee (CEOC) was established in 2006 by King County ordinance with the mission “…to help King County restore and maintain public confidence in elections.”
We’re excited to announce that King County Elections is testing pre-paid postage for the February special elections in Maple Valley and the Shoreline School District. During last year’s General Election, we received some questions from voters about why we didn’t pay for the postage on ballots returned through the U.S. Postal Service. We have considered the idea in recent years, but before we can implement pre-paid postage, we knew we had to test it out first.
You might wonder: what does the Elections department do all year? What does it do when there isn’t a General Election? Our 66 employees work year-round on a variety of things. Here are just some of the projects and tasks we take on: