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Originally published October 18, 2009 at 4:00 PM | Page modified October 20, 2009 at 9:40 AM

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Guest columnist

Evolution of King County Elections has earned voter confidence

Since the controversies of a few years ago, King County has worked hard to rebuild and modernize the Elections Department, writes county Elections Director Sherill Huff. The track record is good, and voters can help by ensuring their ballots meet requirements so they can be counted.

Special to The Times

ACORN, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, recently has been back in the news with another round of allegations and concerns surrounding its administrative procedures. King County voters may remember back to a few years ago when ACORN was the focus of voter-registration fraud that was successfully caught and prosecuted in King County.

ACORN's actions significantly contributed to voter mistrust in King County Elections at a time when we were working on reforms to clean up voter rolls and preparing to implement a new statewide voter registration database to improve the accuracy of voter rolls statewide.

We had our hands full. Ultimately, the timely detection, investigation and prosecution of the violators set a no-tolerance standard for voter registration fraud in King County and the state. It was an important part of the rebuilding process for the Elections office, a turning point of sorts. We took the indignation of an external threat to our work of reform and restoring public confidence and used it to fuel a "righteous" redirection of energy that has resulted in dramatic improvements throughout the Elections Department.

Voters can have confidence in King County election operations based upon a four-year track record of accurate, accountable, transparent elections. The men and women who are doing the work today to conduct your elections apply their knowledge, experience and creativity with exceptional purpose to work many consider a calling.

In recent years, King County has worked hard to modernize and enhance operations. We've streamlined our processes and procedures, improved our security, and we now conduct all elections by mail. We've created an online tracking system for voters to check on the status of their ballots. We also ensure an open and accountable process by having party observers stationed on-site throughout the election process and by welcoming the public to visit our office and watch the process in action.

While we're working hard on our end to keep the voter rolls accurate and clean, responsibility also falls on voters to help us do our job well by providing us with up-to-date information. We are constantly updating our voter-registration database, and we depend on voters to let us know about the important changes in their lives, like their name, address or signature. Even if you are moving out of the state, we need this information to update our records.

Now that King County votes entirely by mail, ballots are delivered directly to each voter's mailbox, giving you nearly three weeks with your ballot to study the issues and vote at a time and place convenient for you. It's your responsibility to make sure that your ballot is returned to one of our ballot drop boxes by 8 p.m. election day or mailed back to us, postmarked no later than election day.

In the August primary, about 8,500 ballots were voted and returned to us too late, unsigned, or with an unverifiable signature, meaning by law we couldn't open and count them on Election Day. Our next election is coming up soon. Make sure that your ballot reaches us in time and please carefully follow the instructions that accompany your ballot so it can be counted. The sooner you return your ballot, the sooner you can confirm with our online ballot tracker it has arrived back at election headquarters.

We're ready for Nov. 3. Are you?

Sherril Huff is director of King County Elections. For more information, call 206-296-VOTE or online at www.kingcounty.gov/elections

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