New voting system going smoothly, says election worker
Voting at King County's 393 polling stations seems to be going smoothly today, with poll workers reporting no apparent glitches for people casting ballots under the state's new, top-two primary system. Secretary of State Sam Reed is expecting a 46 percent turnout rate.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Among the top races: Governor, state attorney general, superintendent of public instruction, lands commissioner, state Supreme Court and numerous state House and Senate seats.
Polls open: 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Take ID: You'll need identification to vote at the polls — for example, a driver's license, voter-registration card, student ID card, paycheck, bank statement or utility bill. If you don't have ID, your ballot will be considered provisional and elections workers will have to match your signature to their files before it is counted.
If you are voting absentee: Ballots must be postmarked by Tuesday, Aug. 19.
For help with ballots or finding polling places:
• In King County: Call 206-296-8683, or go online: www.kingcounty.gov/elections
• In Snohomish County, where the primary is by mail only:
Call 425-388-3444, or go online: www1.co.snohomish.wa.us/Departments/Auditor
Polls have closed in Washington's first "top-two" primary election and results are coming in from across the state.
Voting at King County's 393 polling stations went smoothly today, with poll workers reporting no apparent glitches for people casting ballots under the state's new, top-two primary system.
"We haven't heard about any problems with the voting process," said Lynne Miller, a county emergency-management employee who, like many other county workers, is helping out on Election Day by answering phones and fielding questions at the King County Elections building in Renton.
Secretary of State Sam Reed is expecting a 46 percent turnout rate, and "that's what we anticipate as well," Miller said. That's almost double the nearly 25 percent turnout rate of last year's primary in King County but on par with the 46 percent primary turnout before the last presidential election in 2004.
As of 8 p.m. Monday, 139,651 absentee ballots sent to King County residents had been returned, representing just over 20 percent of the 673,006 ballots that were mailed out, according to the county's elections Web site.
Mail-in ballots, which must be postmarked by today, are expected to represent two-thirds of the primary votes cast, Miller said. Results from both absentee ballots and poll ballots will be posted at www.kingcounty.gov/elections, beginning about 8:15 p.m. Many elections-related questions are answered on the Web site but people can also call 206-296-VOTE (8683) with questions or complaints.
There were 10 election workers manning polls Tuesday at the Rainier Beach Community Center. As of 11:30 a.m. only 25 ballots had been cast.
"It's been very quiet," said polling station inspector Peter Albee. He said 80 percent of voters for the station's precincts are registered absentee.
But Seattle firefighter Ken Mitchell, 51, treasured the time-honored trip to the polls. He never votes absentee, he said.
"My people were killed, lynched and burned," said Mitchell, who is African-American. "I'm going to walk in here proudly to vote."
At the North Bellevue Community Center/Senior Center on 148th Avenue Northeast, 37 voters from among hundreds of eligible voters in 10 precincts had come in during the first five hours of polling.
"It's horrible. It should be a privilege to vote," said poll worker Jane Totis, though she acknowledged many voters were choosing to vote by mail.
Her husband, Roy Totis, noted that nearly a dozen poll workers like him and his wife were largely wasting their time through the daywhile hundreds of voters already had cast their ballots.
"What you have is a duplication of effort," said Totis.
Also perplexing to the poll workers was the fact that, despite the availability of mail voting, many voters did come to the polling place to drop off their absentee ballots, apparently either to save on postage or simply to keep a remnant of old habits. Most of those voters walked in the center doors, went to a voting receptacle, dropped their ballots in a slot, and simply left.
Voter Monica Parent, said she was in exactly that position, coming in to drop off ballots cast by her husband and 23-year-old son, but added that she also was personally casting her own ballot.
"I'm still clinging to voting in person," she said. "It was such a big deal when I was a kid."
Besides that, she added, there's the certainty of casting a ballot in person that's comforting.
"You know it doesn't get lost in the mail," she said.
King County Elections Director Sherril Huff is visiting three Seattle polling stations today "just to get a sense of how things are going in the field" and to ensure that "security protocols" are being followed, Miller said. While poll workers anticipate a busy lunch hour, the real surge of voters isn't expected until this evening, with most folks showing up after work, between 5 and 7 p.m., she said.
Far more young people, including at least one high-school student, are working as poll workers this election than in previous ones, Miller said, crediting a new county program called Partnership in Democracy. The county has targeted businesses, nonprofit organizations and schools that want to promote team building, fund raise or earn community-service hours through nonpartisan involvement in the election process, she said. About 4,000 people are working as volunteer poll workers today.
"You usually see a lot of gray hairs, but a whole new demographic is getting involved in elections," Miller said.
To promote public involvement in the voting process, elections workers are also giving free tours of elections headquarters until 7 p.m. County elections staff, who had previously been scattered among several buildings, moved into the Renton headquarters last fall. People interested in a tour can just show up at 919 S.W. Grady Way (cross street is Powell Avenue) or call the elections information line, Miller said.
Times staff reporters Peyton Whitely and Leslie Ann Jones contributed to this report. Sara Jean Green: 206-515-5654 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company
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