As Seattle voters turn in another uninspiring turnout, County plan would quadruple ballot drop boxes

In the most recent election tally from earlier this month, fewer than 30% of Seattle voters could operate a postage stamp. Or something. With turnout in the vote on two important but politically uninteresting school levies hovering just a little above 29%, a string of equally uninspiring displays of democracy in the proudly all-mail ballot state of Washington continues. King County last week announced proposed funding to help make it easier for us all to do the right thing — and maybe even put some of the community experience for voting back into the equation.

A budget plan was approved last week for elections director Julie Wise to quadruple ballot drop boxes in King County. King County Elections currently has ten 24-hour, permanent ballot drop boxes and 12 temporary ballot-drop vans with limited hours and days of operation. The planned expansion will include 30 additional permanent drop-box locations, according to an announcement of the funding.

“We should make it as easy as possible to exercise the right to vote and this is a good step in that direction,” Wise said in the announcement. “I want to thank both the Executive and County Council for their support in making this happen so quickly.”

“The new drop-box locations are still to be identified and King County Elections is in the process of assessing the feasibility of a variety of options, including public libraries,” the announcement reads.

A second proposal included in the budget plan would expand the County’s program for outreach to Limited English Speaking communities. Beginning this year, elections materials will be translated into Spanish and Korean, in addition to the currently provided Chinese and Vietnamese. The Department of Elections will also begin working with community-based organizations to increase awareness and voter registration in those communities.

The proposals were included in funding plans approved by the King County Council’s budget committee and must still be approved by the full council. If approved, the plan should be able to be implemented in time for the fall’s presidential election.

In November following Seattle’s first-ever district City Council election and as groups turned to events like voting parties to try to boost the numbers, CHS looked at the relatively abysmal results and asked readers for ideas on how to improve turnout. Capitol Hill’s state leaders in Olympia say a better turnout by Seattle voters might have helped save Washington from yet another budget battle. The most popular responses? Free postage for ballots and making voter registration automatic. More ballot drop boxes placed third — just ahead of online voting.Screen Shot 2016-02-15 at 10.39.41 AM

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11 thoughts on “As Seattle voters turn in another uninspiring turnout, County plan would quadruple ballot drop boxes

  1. From my perspective, the number one reason for poor turnout is that Seattle has so many darn elections (including county, state and federal elections).

    Why is it necessary to have to have multiple ballots per year for just a handful of bonding proposals? Why couldn’t these proposals be saved for the general election?

    I would love it if Seattle could have a more rational election process where we have no more than two ballots per year (primary and general elections).

    • Totally, absolutely agree Robert. I get so many ballots throughout the year, I have a hard time remembering to vote, …”Did I remember to…?”

  2. Would it be possible to make an arrangement with businesses such as Bartell and QFC to have drop boxes located in their stores.

  3. In all the places I’ve lived, I’ve never seen anything like what we have here in Seattle with the sheer number of referendums and ballots.
    Here’s a novel idea; how about letting our elected and paid officials make these decisions? What do they have left to do anyway, when the public has to initiate and make every policy decision?

    • Completely agree. It’s really hard to make decisions when you’re presented with a binary choice, with no idea of the tradeoffs. I would much prefer we elect the right people, and trust them to study the issue and make the right call.
      Direct democracy has its limitations.

  4. Who cares about dropboxes? Since our taxes pay for elections, why can’t we also pay for postage paid envelopes? Is there some legal reason for the lack of postage?

  5. I do not believe that low voter turnout on this or similar votes is about stamps or ballot boxes. The problem here is that these kinds of initiatives/ereferenda/levies are difficult to understand and come at time of year when people are not paying attention. Ballots arrives after the new year and were due in early feb, I received few mailings about them and hear even less news coverage about the election as most political reporting focused on the early primary voting in the presidential.

    Votes like this should be on the november ballot.

  6. Oh, for god’s sake, how difficult is it to vote at home, stamp the envelope, and mail it? Drop boxes are not needed if people would be half-way responsible, and they are just another useless waste of taxpayer money. What’s next? Will a paid county worker come to your home, help you fill out the ballot, and hand-deliver the ballot to an office?

  7. There’s no point voting for anything with the word school in it in this city. These things pass automatically. Not even a close vote.