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Citizens Vote With Their Feet, Support New Ballot Drop Box Locations

Summary

Nearly 36 percent of voters (more than 160,000 voters) cast their primary ballots via drop boxes. This is a substantial increase compared to the 2015 general election, in which 26 percent of ballots were returned via drop boxes.

Story

King County Elections Director Julie Wise briefed the Metropolitan King County Council’s Government Accountability & Oversight Committee today on the performance of ballot drop boxes in the primary election following their recent expansion. This year’s August primary election saw a record percentage of ballots returned using King County Elections drop boxes. The dramatic increase came in the first election following an effort by the King County Council and Director Wise to significantly expand ballot drop box locations.

“Voters used drop boxes in record numbers for the Primary Election,” said Julie Wise, King County Elections’ Director. “This is exactly the convenience we hoped this investment would bring our voters and I think the numbers will only go up from here.”

Nearly 36 percent of voters (more than 160,000 voters) cast their primary ballots via drop boxes. This is a substantial increase compared to the 2015 general election, in which 26 percent of ballots were returned via drop boxes. This year, over 100,000 primary ballots were returned to drop boxes on Election Day, 20,000 more than any previous Election Day total.

“I am thrilled by the popularity of new ballot drop boxes, especially the Lake City Library Drop Box in my district, where more than 6,500 voters cast their ballots -- the most ballots among any of the new drop boxes,” said Council Vice Chair Rod Dembowski, the author of the original motion. “The strong endorsement by voters of this initiative confirms its importance. I'm also very pleased to see the significant number of ballots returned in communities that have historically faced higher barriers to civic participation.”

In December 2015, the King County Council passed a motion asking King County Elections to develop a plan to improve access and convenience of ballot drop-off locations throughout King County. A primary aim of the motion was to lower barriers to voting. The Elections Division's plan, which was approved by the Council on May 2nd, 2016, adds 33 additional ballot drop-off locations in King County for a total of 43 locations.

For the August primary election, a total of 29 ballot drop box locations were ready for voters. The remaining locations will be open in time for this fall’s general election. Once the plan is completed later this year, more than 90 percent of King County residents will live within three miles of a ballot drop box.

Among the most used new locations are the Lake City Library, University of Washington – Schmitz Hall, and High Point Library drop boxes, all located in areas that scored highest in the evaluation for key equity demographic characteristics. Scores were based on an Equity and Social Justice metric that considered a combination of diversity, household income, and English proficiency. Strong return rates at these locations signal progress for King County’s ongoing efforts to lower barriers to voting and strengthen the ability for all citizens to exercise the right to vote.

For the November general election, all 43 drop boxes will be open. Drop box locations and site selection criteria can be found in the Ballot Drop-off Location Plan.
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