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From the director

Julie Wise, Director of Elections

Dear friends,

As I reflect on 2019, one phrase keeps coming to mind - there truly is no "off year" when it comes to elections. This past year, we successfully administered four elections -- the February and April specials, August Primary, and November General - on top of implementing significant changes to our state's election laws and moving to the Secretary of State's new voter registration database and election management system, VoteWA. While there were obstacles and challenges thrown our way - not the least of which was the "Snowmageddon" that the region faced in the midst of the February election - our team here at King County Elections continued to demonstrate their commitment to our county, our voters, and our democracy. I am incredibly proud of the tremendous work the Elections team has put in over the past year and I look forward to continuing to build and expand upon that work as we gear up for what is sure to be a busy and exciting year in 2020.

Sincerely,

Signature for Director of Elections Julie Wise

Julie Wise
Director of Elections

voter filling out registration form

Removing Barriers, Increasing Turnout

Removing legal and practical barriers to voting remains a top priority for King County Elections.

In 2019, counties across Washington State implemented sweeping changes to our voter registration laws – namely same day registration, automatic registration for those seeking enhanced drivers licenses from the Department of Licensing, and preregistration for 16 and 17 year olds. Over 5,000 teens pre-registered to vote in King County before the end of 2019 and will receive their ballot automatically once they turn 18 and are eligible to vote. King County also added nearly 35,000 voters to the rolls in 2019 alone and expects to add another 100,000 in 2020. 

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voting forum

Engaging Communities through the Voter Education Fund

This first-of-its-kind program, in partnership with the Seattle Foundation, continues to engage and increase participation in underrepresented communities.

With a focus on first time voters, youth of color, people with disabilities, African Americans, Native Americans, and historically marginalized communities in South King County, the cohort of 39 organizations has been hard at work to reach and register voters across the county. From candidate forums to ballot parties to voter registration drives, the Voter Education Fund partners continue to break the mold and engage in meaningful ways with the communities they serve. 

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elections staff assisting customers

Piloting Vote Centers

This first-of-its-kind program, in partnership with the Seattle Foundation, continues to engage and increase participation in underrepresented communities.

Vote Centers exceeded expectations and saw higher volumes than expected in both the August Primary and November General. In their first year, Vote Centers served over 2,500 voters, including registering nearly 700 new voters in the eight-day period before Election Day. 2019 locations included Renton, downtown Seattle, Bellevue, Kenmore, and Federal Way. The department looks forward to adding a location in Kent for the 2020 elections.

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elections staff processing ballots

Recounting Three Races Around the County

Races in three King County communities required recounts following the General election.

Following an exciting and busy General election, King County Elections held machine recounts for City Council races in Mercer Island and Redmond, as well as a hand recount in a Bothell City Council race. Separated by just five votes, spanning two counties, the Bothell race garnered attention across the region and clearly demonstrated how critical each and every vote is to determining the outcome of an election. All recounts were successful and no vote totals were changed as a result. The recounts were certified by the King County Canvassing Board on December 6. 

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group of people voting

Exceeding Turnout Expectations

Despite a slow start, the 2019 General garnered the highest voter turnout in an odd-year General election since 2011.

Originally projected at 43%, with a strong surge of ballots arriving on Election Day in drop boxes and through the mail in the days following the election, voter turnout ended up at exceeding 49%. A number of factors contributed to the increase in voter turnout, including greater public interest, prepaid postage, same day voter registration, Vote Centers, and an expanded map of ballot drop boxes. These factors, and many more, have reduced barriers and made it easier than ever for voters to cast their ballots in King County.

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ballot drop box

Opening Angle Lake Station Drop Box

Meeting voter demand, King County Elections partnered with Sound Transit to install a new ballot drop box at the Angle Lake Light Rail Station in SeaTac.

Voters have long been looking for ballot drop boxes at the ever-expanding map of light rail stations. Logistically challenging due to regulations on federally funded projects, the addition of the Angle Lake Station box is a significant step toward making it easy and convenient for voters to drop their ballots on their daily commute.

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people at candidate workshop

Empowering Communities to Run for Office

King County Elections hosted candidate workshops to empower potential candidates to make the leap and run for office.

The department hosted a series of free workshops in early 2019 to educate potential candidates on how to file their candidacy, filing fees, and campaign sign regulations. More than 100 people attended, and many participants reported leaving the training feeling better prepared to handle the logistics of running for office. Those unable to attend were able to access these trainings online through tutorial videos on the department’s website.

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registering voters

Leveraging Partnerships

CenturyLink Field turned 18 – voting age – this year, prompting a new partnership between CenturyLink, the Seattle Seahawks, and King County Elections.

CenturyLink and Seattle Seahawks offered the department space at two home games to register voters and collect voted ballots, in addition to airing Elections videos during pre-season games, radio ads on Seahawks radio, digital ads on their websites, and cross-promoted social media to encourage fans to register to vote and return their ballot this year.

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person voting

What’s Ahead

With seven elections on the horizon, including the 2020 Presidential, King County Elections is preparing for our busiest year yet.

From drainage district commissioners to the President, King County voters will be weighing in on a variety of offices over the coming year. Turnout in the November Presidential election is expected to top 85% and the department is preparing to receive, process, count, and secure well over a million ballots in that election alone. Additionally, voters in some areas will have a litany of elections in the first half of the year, including drainage and conservation district commissioners and local ballot measures in February, the Presidential Primary in March, and another round of local measures in April.

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