Kitsap County Auditor Walt Washington (D)
With the Nov. 5 General Election right around the corner, it’s timely and fitting that we conclude our series covering the divisions of the Kitsap County Auditor’s Office with an overview of Elections.
Elections and Voter
The most noticeable difference for voters is the 'fill in the box' style ballot replacing the previous 'connect the arrows' ballot that was in use for nearly 20 years. The new ballot was rolled out for the August Primary Election and all indications point to a much more user friendly and intuitive system for voters.
Improved ballots are just one of the many upgrades of the new system. Greater efficiency is achieved by digitizing several processes that were completed manually before, and the use of lighter weight paper has resulted in additional cost savings.
“During the Primary Election we saw a significant reduction in staff hours needed to process ballot, thanks to digitized process that are now in place," says Elections Division Manager Dolores Gilmore.
Change is nothing new to Dolores, who has worked in Elections since 1984 and been the division manager since 1994. During her tenure, Washington state has gone from polling locations, to all vote by mail; changed from a blanket primary system to a ‘party’ based Primary, to the existing Top Two system where voters select the candidate of their choice regardless of party affiliation; and implemented an online voter registration system. She oversees a staff of six state certified elections administrators who provide an array of voter registration and elections services.
Certification as an Elections Administrator requires two years of experience in elections, completion of a two day state orientation class, 40 hours of continuing education approved by the Secretary of State, and passage of a written exam.
The Elections Division administers all federal, state, county, municipal and local district elections held in Kitsap County. In addition to the annual Primary and General Elections, up to two special elections may, at the discretion of jurisdictions, be conducted each spring. We also manage the registration records of more than 166,000 voters - adding new registrations and updating the records of voters who have moved to other locations.
Other improvements of the past year include implementing online candidate filing. Previously, individuals who filed for office were required to appear in person at the Auditor’s Office and could only pay with cash or check. The new system provides candidates the opportunity to file for office from home using the internet and pay filing fees with a credit card. Online candidate filing proved popular in 2013 with 70 percent of candidates filing electronically.
Kitsap County Elections also provides its acclaimed electronic ballot delivery system. Online Ballot Access allows the Elections Division to email ballots to voters living and working overseas, eliminating the need to mail ballots, which is costly and time consuming. The Ballot Tracker feature allows voters to verify if their ballot has been received by the Elections Division.
Online Ballot Access has the added benefit of being fully accessible for use by voters with disabilities. Accessibility features include:
Kitsap Elections is recognized as a leader in accessible voting services. In addition to providing Online Ballot Access, we work closely with our Voter Access Advisory Committee to ensure our services meets the needs of all voters, including voters with disabilities and senior citizens. Dolores serves on a committee led by the National Federation of the Blind that is working to deploy accessible ballot delivery systems like Kitsap’s Online Ballot across the nation.
Kitsap Elections is leading a coalition of Washington counties that was recently awarded a $750,000 federal grant to fund the implementation and maintenance of electronic ballot delivery systems in the 16 participating counties.
On the voter registration side, we have participated in a multi-state agreement to share data between government agencies to ensure that voter registration rolls are accurate. This is critical in counties such as Kitsap with large military populations that tend to move often.
There are some important reminders that Dolores and staff would like to share with voters:
That concludes our series focusing on the individual divisions of the Auditor’s Office. In our final edition of the year, I will provide an update on the Year of the 'Kaizen' in the Auditor’s Office and the numerous process improvements implemented in 2013 as part of our Year In Review publication.
Get to know the Elections Division at facebook.com/KitsapCountyAuditor