New director is passionate about expanding voting turnout

Julie WiseInnovation is key to developing efficient business practices. Technology giants do it, retail business owners do it – everyone wants to take the next step to become better, stronger and have a deeper impact.

Recently-elected Director of Elections Julie Wise looks forward to making this happen for the King County voting process. A south county local from Enumclaw, she has been with the Elections office for 15 years. First as a phone bank employee, she continued to get further involved after realizing she was a “geek” for the administrative elections process. A self-described non-partisan, she is passionate about providing a transparent, accessible and secure electoral structure for King County voters.

“We need to broaden access and remove barriers for everybody to be involved in the voting process,” she said. “I’m here to see that their vote is counted, how they want it and how they intended it.”

Already she has accomplished her promise of making more permanent ballot drop boxes available to King County voters, quadrupling the number from 10 to 40 throughout the County. While the site for each box is still being determined, she has received the funding necessary from the Metropolitan King County Council to have the boxes ready in time for the Presidential election this November.

“Providing more ballot boxes is a good thing to do,” she said. “Our priority is to continue to find innovative ways to engage voters.”

Another strategy to make the Elections Office more effective and get voters involved has been to provide election materials in additional languages. Currently items are only provided in English, Vietnamese and Chinese, but Julie plans to include Spanish and Korean, as well as expand the reach into these communities.

“We are making materials available in more languages, but we are also going to partner with community organizations,” she said. “By working with them through an ambassador-style program, we will be able to plan outreach events and engage these communities in a credible way.”

Her hope is that in working together to educate and engage voters, these communities will feel committed to the voting and electoral process.

“By partnering with communities for ownership of these new ballot boxes we are creating interest in them and impacting how people use them,” she said.

Brimming with ideas, Julie is also keen to see how other counties around the U.S. implement similar efforts. Improving voter turnout rates is difficult, and she would like to use proven tactics to make it happen. While Julie admits that engaging voters can be challenging, she urges everyone to get involved in the electoral process.

“Your voice shapes your community,” she said. “We talk about One King County and so we have to be supportive and engage in these conversations about our children, family and communities.”

“I know it can be a complex issue, but I come from the place of “it’s just the right thing to do.””