King County reports minor problems, slow tabulating
In the first major election since elections director Dean Logan quit, King County reported problems setting up new voting machines for disabled...
Seattle Times staff reporter
In the first major election since elections director Dean Logan quit, King County reported problems setting up new voting machines for disabled voters and flaws in about 10,000 absentee ballots.
The department expects that about 3,700 of the flawed ballots were used by voters. The ballots cannot be read by vote-tabulating machines, so election officials will have to copy the votes onto new ballots before they can be counted. The problems with the new voting machines for disabled voters delayed voting but did not affect results, officials said.
"It's been OK," Jim Buck, acting elections director, said of the primary. "It's been slow in many ways. ... We're tabulating slower than expected, and I think it was a little slow getting all the [accessible voting units] set up this morning."
Buck has been filling in since Logan resigned in July to take a job in Los Angeles County. King County Executive Ron Sims offered the post to John Arntz, elections director in San Francisco, but he turned it down last week.
The hire is crucial to Sims' plans to convert elections to all-mail voting by 2008, which the Metropolitan King County Council says he cannot do until he hires a director and fills the vacant position of superintendent of elections.
Buck said Tuesday night that votes were counted slower than usual, in part due to ballots that require voters to pick a party before voting in partisan races. He said workers also emphasized accuracy over speed — a response to the mishandling of ballots in the 2004 gubernatorial race, which was challenged in court.
New voting equipment, featuring touch screens and audio equipment, allowed the blind and people with limited mobility to vote privately for the first time at all 508 polling places. Election workers were embarrassed when one of the new machines required 30 minutes of troubleshooting at a demonstration for the media.
"The only disappointing thing for me was that the training at this point wasn't sufficient," said Gary Pearson, a quadriplegic from Seattle waiting to use it. After voting, he called the machines fast and user-friendly.
The election is expected to be certified Sept. 29. Buck estimated at most a 37 percent turnout of the county's 955,132 registered voters.
Sharon Pian Chan: 206-464-2958 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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