Five questions with Nick Howell, Administrative Specialist II, King County Elections 

Why did you start in your role with King County?

I started as a short-term temp in the Elections phone bank. A few of my family members had worked seasonal King County positions and they recommended I come in and give it a try.

After five months in that role, I saw that the Voter Services section was offering three full-time positions. I applied and was selected, and I’ve been working here six years now.

What do you do in your role?

I work as an Administrative Specialist 2 (AS2) in the Voter Services division. The AS2 position is a combination of customer-facing and administrative responsibilities. I answer any elections inquires made by email, mail, phone, or in-person. Questions range from how to receive ballots while out of town to requesting instructions on how to organize registration drives. I also research and update voter information in our database based on files sent from the Secretary of State, United States Postal Service, Department of Licensing, other county election departments or voter requests made themselves.

A typical day may start at the front counter which I’ll tend for half of the day. While at the counter I greet and assist visitors, reply to emails sent to the election department, and perform quality control on hundreds of voter updates using our county database. The second half of the day is spent mostly at my desk, logged into our telephones, entering data into the system, processing and scanning mail, and preparing for the next Elections department Equity and Social Justice committee meeting.

Why did you choose this field as your career?

Elections is a diverse environment that provides room for experience in a bit of everything. I get to engage the community while developing team skills in a challenging environment. Mainly the work is enjoyable because of the results our efforts yield. At times, the amount of data entry can feel overwhelming, but other times we are rewarded with absolute gratitude from satisfied voters. Ultimately, the goal is to bridge the gap between the voter and their rights, even if that just means informing them of the nearest ballot drop box.

Often tending to the small things clears the path for the greatest effect. We are animated, and restricted, by the law, but I see our department taking initiative, embracing policies and practices for potential systemic change. We are encouraged to deconstruct old methodologies and propose more efficient and customer-service driven ways of doing things. Every day I work with change agents who teach me how to be resolute and customers that remind me there is more to be done. I feel like I’m right where I need to be.

What is the biggest challenge of your job?

One of the biggest challenges I have discovered is the need to quickly transition between tasks and maintain a high quality level of work, which is especially true within an election cycle. During an election we staff upwards of 500 employees comprised of full-time, short-term, and term-limited temporary staff. Most are operating at different levels of experience and many assisting in multiple work groups. Everyone is expected to adjust their priorities to accommodate deadlines and staffing needs.

For example, an AS2 may be asked to give impromptu trainings for temporary staff completely unfamiliar with the process, answer or find an answer to most of their questions, offer advice, monitor their work, and keep on track with daily tasks. With such a mix of staff members it is important to be communicative, inquisitive, understanding, inclusive and productive, which can be a combination of qualities difficult to embody even with the best intentions and under the most favorable conditions.

What do you enjoy most about your work?

I love that I am forced to evaluate, re-evaluate, and evolve my professional principals simply to keep pace with the service provided. We are consistently endeavoring to increase access to, and involvement in, the political process through community partnerships, providing voting materials in five languages, mobile accessible voting centers, and the list goes on. We also offer remote registration, traveling to applicants who are unable to leave their homes and make the eight day in-person registration deadline. In a world seemingly riddled with obstacles it is empowering to work with such solution oriented front-runners.

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