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From the director

Julie Wise, Director of ElectionsI am happy to share with you King County Elections' Year in Review for 2016. This was the first full year of my term as Director of Elections, and I’m very proud of our many accomplishments. We’ve selected 10 that we believe embody our values and our mission to improve voter access.

I’m especially proud of the work we did to remove barriers to voting. We teamed up with Seattle Foundation to make voting more accessible to communities who speak a language other than English. The project provided a total of $224,000 to community-based organizations to do voter engagement.

We also opened 33 new drop boxes throughout King County, for a total of 43. About 91 percent of County residents now live within three miles of a drop box. The additional drop boxes provided unprecedented convenience to voters. During the 2016 General Election, more than half of the voters returned their ballots at drop boxes.

King County Elections processed a record number of ballots during the 2016 General Election, more than 1 million. Our dedicated staff worked diligently to make sure every ballot was counted quickly and accurately.

As we settle into 2017, I’m excited about what’s ahead. We’re testing prepaid postage with two jurisdictions in the February Special Election. We’re also replacing our elections tabulation equipment with a state-of-the-art system that will let us be more efficient and adaptive to voters’ needs. I look forward to 2017 being a transformative year!


Signature for Director of Elections Julie Wise

Julie Wise
Director of Elections

Spanish language materials

New languages

Voting materials were made available in two new languages: Korean and Spanish.

Voters can get ballots and voters’ pamphlets in Korean and Spanish, in addition to English, Chinese and Vietnamese. Elections worked with community-based organizations to increase awareness and voter registration in communities where English is not the primary language. The voter registration form is also translated into the following languages: Amharic, Arabic, Bengali, Burmese, Cambodian, Hindi, Japanese, Khmer, Laotian, Punjabi, Russian, Somali, Tagalog and Ukrainian.

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Staff opening ballots

Most ballots processed ever

The 2016 General Election was the first time King County Elections received and processed more than 1 million ballots.

Elections mailed ballots to 1,288,327 registered voters and received 1,054,564 ballots from voters. To process the large volume of ballots, Elections added a second shift during the General Election. Teams working in scanning and adjudication worked a night shift from 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. The additional shift helped Elections report more results in a shorter amount of time. Read more

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Voters returning ballot at drop box

Record number of ballots returned to drop boxes

King County’s action to increase the number of ballot drop boxes provided unprecedented convenience and access to voters.

About 91 percent of King County residents now live within three miles of a drop box. During the 2016 General Election, slightly more than half of our voters (51.4%) chose ballot boxes over the mail, a sharp increase compared to previous elections.

In the General Election, we received 519,400 ballots via drop boxes. The most popular locations were the Ballard Branch Library, the King County Elections Building in Renton and the Crossroads Shopping Center in Bellevue. Read more

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CBO Partnership event at Somali Community Center

Community-based organization partnership program

King County Elections and Seattle Foundation teamed up to make voting more accessible to communities who speak a language other than English.

The joint project provided $224,000 to community-based organizations representing the vast diversity of King County. Collectively, their voter engagement efforts reached 27,000 limited-English speaking voters; they hosted more than 200 activities and events. One of the main priorities of the community partnership was to increase access to the materials translated in Chinese, Korean, Spanish and Vietnamese. Elections received about 2,300 requests from limited-English speaking voters to get their voting materials in their preferred language, a 60 percent increase. Read more

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Civic engagement event

Civic engagement

Elections partnered with Seattle Public Schools to help students engage in the Secretary of State’s mock election program.

Nearly 12,000 King County students and 4,300 Seattle students participated in the mock election. Elections also hosted about 30 teachers for a civic curriculum workshop and more than 500 students visited the facility on field trips during the General Election.

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Viewing web results

Web results

Results were offered in a user-friendly and mobile-responsive format.

Election results are the most viewed item on the Elections web site. Elections wanted to ensure that turnout for different races, the votes cast for each race and other results information was readily available. The Department reported the most results ever on election night: 615,025 ballots cast, an increase of about 59,000 from 2012.

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New ballot drop box opening

New drop boxes installed

With support from King County Executive Dow Constantine and funding provided by the Metropolitan King County Council, Elections quadrupled the number of ballot drop boxes in 2016.

In 2016, Elections increased the number of permanent drop boxes from 10 to 43; now 9-in-10 King County residents live within three miles of a ballot box. Working with King County’s Office of Equity and Social Justice, Elections evaluated more than 100 potential ballot box locations. We focused on geographically isolated or culturally distinct communities as well as areas that have lower than average voter registration rates. As a result, we increased the number of permanent drop boxes from 10 to 43, ensuring that about 91 percent of King County residents live within three miles of a ballot box. Read the Ballot drop box expansion plan .

The new drop boxes were installed in two phases: 19 locations were added for the 2016 Primary, and an additional 14 opened for the General Election. Read more

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Newly branded return envelope

New branding

In 2016, King County Elections debuted a new look that resonates with the County’s diverse population of voters.

The new brand focuses on the word “vote” because it is a simple, enduring concept that can be translated into many languages.

We now use blue and red as our principal color scheme with purple and green as secondary colors. The new brand logo and colors convey enthusiasm, democracy, pride and dedication to the power of each citizen’s voice. The “vote” logo was designed in Chinese, English, Korean, Spanish and Vietnamese. Read more

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Election Connection blog on mobile phone

New blog and social media

King County Elections launched a new blog called the Election Connection to provide the latest election news and updates.

Blog content revolved around voter education and outreach. Topics such as updates on registration deadlines and on when ballots were mailed to voters were covered. Local media also read the blog for news content and data, such as the election results and the number of ballot drop box returns. Elections’ followers on Twitter and Facebook more than doubled, with a majority of the growth occurring during the General Election.

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Staff at training

Employee development

Elections employees gained new certifications and developed new skills.

A total of 32 employees attended the 2016 Washington State Elections Conference in Spokane. Five staff members attended various Certified Elections/Registration Administrator (CERA) courses, pursing or maintaining their national certifications. And 31 employees received Washington State election administrator certifications.

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