The largest county in Washington state, and 13th largest in the country, King County, WA, is home to the innovative thinking that has long been associated with its county seat, Seattle. That reputation for cutting-edge thinking extends to county offices in King County as well.
King County Elections (KCE) conducts elections for 192 jurisdictions and 1.4 million registered voters with a team made up of state- and nationally-certified election administrators with many years of experience not only running vote-by-mail elections but proudly setting standards in those elections. Recent races have placed vote-by-mail elections into the spotlight, focusing on the very issues that KCE aims to maintain in any election.
“We’re very driven by our core values of accuracy, equity, integrity, service, teamwork, and transparency,” said Halei Watkins, KCE Communications Officer. “We strongly believe in radical transparency and strive to be as transparent as we possibly can, to lift the curtain for our voters in every single way possible, to let them know when they stick their ballot in the mailbox or in one of our drop boxes: What happens to that ballot?”
The answer, Watkins said, is an incredibly detailed, comprehensive, and secure process at a processing facility where, ultimately, every eligible ballot is counted and accounted for. Ballots without a valid signature are flagged during this process, and voters are alerted of the error and notified of their ability to correct, or cure, their ballot before the election deadline.
While Watkins said that while ballot alerts don’t necessarily turn the tide in the elections, the environment around voting in all communities makes it important for electors to address the issue.
“Everything that we can do to build that trust with a voter, even something as simple as a text message, really goes a long way,” she said.
That’s where the Emerald City’s history of technological innovation stepped in.
“We noticed that there was really a need to be able to connect voters with real-time information about the status of their ballot,” said Project Manager Jaclyn Adams. “While we had tools available on our website, we realized that there were still voters who were getting their ballots challenged and not realizing it in time to be able to make a difference to cure their ballot. So, this really came from a push to more action for folks.”