King County to choose election director in first all-mail vote
For the first time in King County, all registered voters will receive ballots by mail in a countywide election Feb. 3 to choose an elections director.
Seattle Times staff reporter
How you canstill vote in person
If you require specialized equipment to vote independently because of a disability or if you simply want to vote in person, King County has three regional voting centers:
• County election headquarters, 919 S.W. Grady Way, Renton, open 20 days including Election Day, Feb. 3.
• Bellevue City Hall, 450 110th Ave. N.E., Bellevue, open four days including Election Day.
• Union Station, 401 S. Jackson St., Seattle, open four days including Election Day.
For more information: www.kingcounty.gov/elections.aspx or 206-296-VOTE (8683)
How to vote by mailBallots will be mailed to all registered King County voters in the coming weeks. Here are suggestions from King County Elections for voting by mail for the first time in the Feb. 3 election.
Inform the elections office if you've moved.
Update your signature on file by downloading a voter-registration form, signing it and returning it.
When returning a mail ballot, place it in the unmarked security envelope, sign the outer envelope and add first-class postage.
Make sure the ballot envelope is postmarked by Feb. 3.
Goodbye, neighborhood polling place.
Hello, kitchen table.
For the first time in King County, all registered voters will receive ballots by mail in a countywide election Feb. 3.
The switch from poll voting to vote-by-mail is intended to boost turnout and eliminate the need to hire hundreds of poll workers.
What voters will decide is new, too. They will choose an elections director, a position that until now has been filled by appointment.
Six candidates, including some of the region's most controversial politicians, are running in the nonpartisan election — which is not preceded by a primary. The candidates are former Metropolitan King County Councilmember David Irons, current Elections Director Sherril Huff, former elections manager Julie Kempf, former bank executive Bill Anderson, high-school teacher and government gadfly Christopher Clifford, and state Sen. Pam Roach.
Enumclaw residents also will vote on a school levy, and Fall City residents on creation of a park district.
Ballots are scheduled to be mailed to voters Jan. 14 to 16. Absentee ballots were to be mailed Friday and Saturday to armed-forces members and other voters currently outside the state.
Huff projects a voter turnout of 31 percent, well below the unusually high 84 percent in the November presidential election.
King County will become the 38th of 39 Washington counties to conduct elections by mail. Pierce County is the last county to continue offering voters a choice of going to the polls or voting by mail.
King County officials don't intend to return to poll voting in the future, but Huff said the county's ability to conduct all-mail voting in the higher-turnout August primary and November general election depends on the federal government's certifying a high-capacity, centralized vote-counting system early in 2009.
The county scuttled plans to introduce all-mail voting last year when the federal Election Assistance Commission (EAC) failed to certify Premier Election Solutions' high-speed tabulator. The EAC still hasn't certified that tabulator or new equipment developed by other manufacturers.
"In a county our size, we absolutely must have it," Huff said of the new ballot-counting machine — adding that she believes "the prospect is good" that it will be certified in time for the August primary. She said King County's older tabulators and computers don't have sufficient capacity to count all ballots in a central location during a large-scale election.
In the record-breaking 2008 presidential election, workers counted 282,131 ballots at the polls and 647,907 mail ballots at election headquarters in Renton. Poll voters went to 392 polling places around the county.
Voters who use the ballots they receive in the mail for the Feb. 3 election can either mail back the completed ballots or take them to one of 10 drop-box locations. Voters who still want to vote in person may use touch-screen voting machines designed for disabled voters, at any of three regional voting centers.
New ballot-tracking equipment will allow voters to find out online when their ballot was mailed to them, when the elections office received it back, and when their signatures were verified, allowing their vote to be counted.
Keith Ervin: 206-464-2105 or email@example.com
Information in this article, originally published January 5, 2009, was corrected January 5, 2009. A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that there would be 39 drop boxes rather than ten.
Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company
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