A proposal by King County Elections Director Julie Wise would quadruple the number of ballot drop-boxes across King County, from 10 to 40, and increase voter outreach in communities where English is not the primary audience. The County Council’s Budget Committee approved funding for the expansion Wednesday.
“I commend King County Elections Director Julie Wise and county leaders for moving forward on plans to greatly increase the number of ballot drop-box locations and to broaden outreach efforts. The voters in our state’s largest jurisdiction will be well-served,” said Washington Secretary of State, Kim Wyman.
“The county is to be commended for these important new services to the voters. Drop boxes have proven very popular all across the state, and I enjoyed making Thurston County one of the first in the state to provide them to our voters when I was County Auditor,” Wyman continued. “Drop boxes are a secure and convenient way to return voted ballots. The new translations will also be very helpful voter information. It’s a great step forward.”
“We should make it as easy as possible to exercise the right to vote and this is a good step in that direction,” said Wise. “I want to thank both the Executive and County Council for their support in making this happen so quickly.”
King County Elections currently has 10 24-hour, permanent ballot drop boxes and 12 temporary ballot-drop vans with limited hours and days of operation. The planned expansion would include 30 additional permanent drop-box locations.
“Democracy requires participation,” said King County Executive Dow Constantine. “Director Wise and I share a commitment to increasing voter access across King County. Working with the County Council, we will help ensure that everyone’s voice is heard in our region.”
The new drop-box locations are still to be identified and King County Elections is in the process of assessing the feasibility of a variety of options, including public libraries.
The second proposal expands the County’s program for outreach to limited English-speaking communities. Beginning this year, elections materials will be translated into Spanish and Korean, in addition to the currently provided Chinese and Vietnamese. The Department of Elections will also begin working with community-based organizations to increase awareness and voter registration in those communities.
The two proposals were included in the mid-biennium budget supplemental which passed out of the County Council’s Budget and Fiscal Management Committee Wednesday. The full Council is expected to vote on a final budget sometime in February.
A report assessing the feasibility of drop box locations is due to the County Council by the end of April. The first round of drop boxes would be placed mid-summer in time for the primary election in August with remaining boxes to be placed by the presidential election in November.