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.