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.
Are you a new U.S. citizen? First, congratulations! We know the path to citizenship can be a long one, so well done. One of the things you can now do as a U.S. citizen is vote. But first, you’ll need to register. There are a number of ways.
King County Elections tested pre-paid postage again, this time with the April special election in the Vashon Island School District. About 8,800 voters received ballot packets that included a return envelope with the postage already paid. Continue reading
King County Elections is hosting two candidate workshops for anyone interested in running for office in the County. The workshops are free and open to the public. Come to either workshop to learn how to file for office and submit your voters’ pamphlet information. We’ll also discuss campaign sign regulations and provide basic information on campaign finance.