From the Hip: Julie Wise, Director of Elections

Why you shouldn’t only vote this November

julie-wiseI know for many of you it feels like this election has been going on forever, but here at King County Elections we’ve actually been preparing for years. For this election we will –

  • Process about 100,000 additional voter registrations
  • Send out nearly 1.3 million ballots to King County voters
  • Field more than 27,000 phone calls from voters
  • Count more than a million ballots

At our headquarters in Renton we’ll have countless tour groups, party observers and media visitors. On Election Day, we’ll have more than 500 temporary staff helping us make sure that every ballot is efficiently processed and accurately counted. It’s going to be momentous.

But let me tell you something that may sound like sacrilege for an election administrator. I’m much more interested in next year, and the year after that, and the year after that. Those are the city council and school board races, the local initiatives and fire district levies, the propositions to fund parks and school construction. Those are the important choices about our community and, in many cases, only 20 – 30% of people are voting in local elections. That’s crazy.

In February 2016, only 29% of voters participated in the special election. Last year turnout for the Primary and General Elections was 24% and 39% respectively.

What’s more, some of these races are decided by the narrowest of margins. Just last year we had a Seattle City Council race with a margin of 39 votes. In 2013, we had a Des Moines City Council race won by 31 votes. Your vote matters, but only if you use it.

However, it’s 2016. We’re predicting turnout this November 8 at about 80%. It’s that unique time every four years when we are all absorbed by things like election system security and voter registration laws. So let me make this pitch while everyone is paying attention – please vote. Please vote this November, but also next November in your local elections. Please vote in the Primary in August. Please vote in the February and April special elections. Please vote on the races at the top of your ballot and at the bottom. Please let your voice be heard in all of these important decisions about our community, not just in one race every four years.

My job is to make it as convenient and easy as possible for you to vote. Your job is to do it.