Return of the dropbox(es)? King County Council promises more

When King County went to all-mail voting seven years ago, it was hailed as a way to make voting easier, bound to increase participation. That hasn’t turned out to be the case, especially this year – countywide, 75 percent of registered voters sat out the August primary, 60 percent didn’t vote in November.

Is inconvenience the problem? West Seattle, for example, hasn’t had a permanent ballot dropbox – one where you could take your ballot any time, free – since this one:

That’s our photo of the Delridge Neighborhood Service Center ballot drop in 2009, months before it was removed. Now, either you drop your ballot in the postal mail, with a stamp, or you wait for the county’s dropoff van to come by for three of the last four days before the voting deadline.

That might change as soon as next year. Today, the County Council approved “a motion requesting the development of a plan that will expand access while ensuring geographic equity and convenience for voters,” according to a news release from County Councilmember Rob Dembowski, who made the motion. Also quoted is County Elections Director-elect Julie Wise, saying, “Additional ballot drop box locations are a priority for my office and will be a great start in expanding access for the voters of King County.” The announcement notes that 39 dropboxes were authorized around the county at the time by-mail voting began, but budget cuts led to far fewer boxes (though that wasn’t the reason cited when we inquired in 2010), so county councilmembers are seeking a plan for more, and they want it to include:

1. A proposed number of additional drop-off locations to ensure geographic equity;
2. Proposed sites for the drop-off locations;
3. Estimated costs; and
4. An implementation timeline.

B. The plan should include an analysis of the feasibility and desirability of using all public library locations in King County, including Seattle Public Libraries and the King County Library System, as a means to ensure geographic equity and convenience for voters.

C. The plan should include an option for deployment of the expanded drop boxes for the November 2016 general election.

The plan is due to the council by next April. Documents from today’s council meeting note that the county provided 25 dropboxes this year, and only 13 were fixed; the other 12 were the temporary, just-before-election vans, including the ones deployed to West Seattle and White Center (which also used to have a fixed dropbox, at its main county library branch).

16 Replies to "Return of the dropbox(es)? King County Council promises more"

  • Trickycoolj December 14, 2015 (9:22 pm)

    Ideally there would be a drop box or van at every former polling site for equity. Haven’t lived in West Seattle long enough to know where the polling site would have been but everywhere else I have lived in my life it was always walkable and that was in city or in rural Thurston and Pierce. If staffing is an issue, how did they staff those polling places? Volunteers. And we could get stickers.

  • newnative December 14, 2015 (10:09 pm)

    I agree. Every city and small town I ever lived in had local precincts.

  • dhg December 14, 2015 (10:28 pm)

    I’ve always like the sense of community that came from having a polling place. I hate the mail in ballot and even hate more the fact that we have to send it through the mail.

  • Lonnie December 14, 2015 (11:01 pm)

    Part of the problem is the inconvenient locations of the drop boxes and also the fact that if not using the drop boxes, you have to pay almost 50 cents postage to mail in your ballot. I for one do not believe you should have to pay 50 cents to cast your ballot. To some 50 cents is alot of money.

  • Si Se Puede December 15, 2015 (1:03 am)

    Yaaaay!!

  • carrie December 15, 2015 (5:17 am)

    I fondly remember voting “in person”. That said, why doesn’t King County just pay for postage rather than spending a bunch of money on drop boxes, vans, etc.?

  • M December 15, 2015 (5:27 am)

    Why don’t they just make them postage paid envelopes?

  • Anonymous Coward December 15, 2015 (5:42 am)

    Can we please go back to polling places? So far all we’ve done is made fraud easier…

  • bertha December 15, 2015 (6:20 am)

    Polling places were staffed by temporary employees not volunteers.

  • WestSeattleGuy December 15, 2015 (8:11 am)

    Amazed that people want to go back to the huge inconvenience of going to physical polling locations. Mail-in ballots are amazingly convenient and gives more time for thoughtful voting.

    It’s apathy that’s to blame for a drop in participation, not postage.

  • Gina December 15, 2015 (9:19 am)

    Any estimates of what it would cost to have many, many drop boxes versus prepaid postage?

  • Steve V December 15, 2015 (1:01 pm)

    Drive updrop-off boxes would be nice…

    For those in Highland Park, there’s been a temporary drop-off location a block south of Roxbury on 8th Ave SW outside the Greenbridge branch of the King County Library.

    In the past voters could drive by and hand their ballot out the window to the election workers. However, in the past few elections the process has changed: Wait for a place to park, park, cross the congested street, and walk to the ballot box, etc. Seems like there’s room for an increase in efficiency.

  • Tbone December 15, 2015 (1:44 pm)

    I agree with other commenters about missing going to a polling place and voting in person. I hate the mail in ballots!

  • old timer December 15, 2015 (4:49 pm)

    Good grief.
    I am amazed at the number of people who are so financially compromised that they can not spring for a postage stamp.
    Postage paid ballot return envelopes for the poor, please.
    Then they will not have to use their cars to vote.
    What a crock.

  • West Seattle since 1979 December 15, 2015 (8:04 pm)

    anonymous coward, do you have any statistics or articles or anything to back up your assertion?

  • struggling December 19, 2015 (12:44 pm)

    Wow, old timer, what a peach. Springing for a postage stamp is, in fact, beyond the abilities of some people. People who are struggling to get by and every cent counts, so going out to by postage stamps when they usually only bank online to save themselves the cost of buying stamps/get discounts if they use paperless billing; people who don’t have the spoons left to buy stamps or use the complicated mail-in system (this envelope in that envelope sign here don’t forget your stamp); people who don’t have cars or a bus system since Metro is one big piece of crap and can’t hand deliver ballots; people with disabilities or chronic illnesses for whom getting out to by stamps, or even buying them online, is more than they can handle…there are a heck of a lot of people out there who, yes, are financially compromised, or health compromised, or struggling just to get by and voting is the last thing they want to do when they’re sitting there looking at those ridiculous envelopes.

    Some of us struggle every day just to endure. Clearly your life is wonderful and allows you to sit on your high horse and pass judgment on all of us beneath you for not springing for a stamp. Lucky you.

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