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Thank you, Kitsap County Voters

This piece was originally placed in the Kitsap Sun the weekend after Election Day 2020. Work for this election continues until certification on Nov. 24, 2020, but you deserve our thanks well before then.

Wow, Kitsap, you are amazing. We have been preparing for this election for four years and your response has us speechless.

When we published our Primary Local Voters' Pamphlet this summer my letter mentioned that we in Washington were in an enviable position to be so well practiced in an election system that could operate well during a public health crisis.

What is also true and proven over the last few weeks was how fortunate we are to live here because of you. You have been kind, and friendly, and grateful, and so are we.

Our elections staff members, including the additional 120 people we hired temporarily to help carry out General Election 2020, have been especially busy helping voters and processing ballots.

This office has for years been encouraging voters to submit their ballots early in the process. Not only does it help get ballot processing done sooner, it increases the number of ballots represented on Election Night.

For the March Presidential Primary and the August Primary ballots came in later than usual. Both elections had unique reasons why.

This time, and we know it wasn't all because of our urging, most of you opted for voting earlier. The longest lines of this election were at our drop boxes during the week after ballots were mailed. Even those of you who waited until the last day didn't push up against the deadline. All three of our vote centers saw lines lasting around 40 minutes on Tuesday afternoon, but by 8 p.m. there was no one in line at two of our centers. Those in line in the third center were indoors and finished their ballots by 9.

Because you voted early, the results we posted Tuesday night represented nearly 72 percent of registered voters, 20 percentage points higher than the first night in 2016.

Voters also took greater advantage of our ballot drop boxes. Again, this is something we have always encouraged, because it reduces a step between you and your ballot. In 2016 voters used drop boxes 54 percent of the time. In 2018 postage became free, and ballot drop box usage dropped to just under half. This election, and again we know the reasons were connected to national events, drop box usage will end up being about 75 percent.

You don't need your auditor to talk about all the forces locally and nationally that contributed to the mood in this election. But you deserve our thanks.

Returning your ballots early and using online information about your ballot status helped in early resolution of challenged ballots. You called and emailed us to resolve issues, to ask if your ballot had been mailed and to follow up after you returned your ballot to make sure your vote was counted. You have consistently shown yourselves to be strong advocates for your right to vote as a Washingtonian and as an American. It makes us busier, but that's why we are here.

In one case a Kitsap resident acted on behalf of others. He called our office to report finding four ballots that had been stolen from mailboxes locally as part of a mail theft and discarded by the side of the road. We were able to quickly send new ballots to those residents, because that good neighbor demonstrated he was also a good citizen.

Over the past few weeks we've enjoyed the presence of observers from both major political parties and a few people who just wanted to watch the process in person on their own. They have all been unfailingly kind, asking good questions with the intent of understanding. And they have offered suggestions we take seriously.

The natural beauty of this county is inarguable. We enjoy mountain views, greenery and miles of shoreline. People would move here for that alone.

But this election proved that we are also fortunate to be surrounded by caring neighbors who take seriously their responsibilities as citizens.

We've been most touched by your kindness and expressions of gratitude toward our elections staff. The full-time and temporary elections workers put themselves at greater risk than usual doing this work this year. Over and over you showed that you understand their role.

As Kitsap County Auditor, and even more importantly as a longtime resident of this county, I do not know that I could be more grateful for what I have witnessed this election. I am proud to represent you.

On behalf of the staff here in the Auditor's office, I offer you our thanks.

Paul Andrews
Kitsap County Auditor