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).