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Monday, November 5, 2012

Why Are There ZERO Ballot Drop Boxes in Southeast Seattle (the Most Racially Diverse Part of the City)?

Posted by on Mon, Nov 5, 2012 at 3:04 PM

Slog-tipper Meredith sent us an e-mail pointing out King County Election's uneven distribution of ballot-drop locations, largely leaving racial-minority-rich South Seattle in the cold.

"When you look at the map, do you notice anything... missing?" she asks. (Here's the map of the locations where you can drop off your ballot in person, without a stamp.) "South Seattle—home of a disproportionate number of non-white, non-wealthy residents—has NO ballot drop. Sure, you can drop your ballot in Ballard, the U-District, or Magnuson Park, but there's nothing in the city south of I-90 and east of West Seattle. Does it seem right that the whiter, wealthier parts of our city have several ballot drops, while the poorer, browner parts have nada?"

Also check out the disproportionate number of ballot-drop locations in the northern part of the city and West Seattle—areas with higher median household income—to the lack of ballot-drops boxes in comparatively poorer Southeast Seattle. Keep in mind that population density is similar across Seattle, which makes the lack of ballot-drop locations in Southeast Seattle more fucked up.

I spoke with a King County Elections operator about it and, after a zip code search, he told me that Magnuson park is the closest ballot-drop location for residents of both Columbia City and Rainier Valley. He transferred me to King County Elections spokeswoman Barabara Ramey. "We are only required to have two drop boxes, because we are vote by mail and most folks have a mail box," Ramey said. "Most folks think vote by mail is a convenient way to vote."

When I asked her why there were no ballot-drop locations in Southeast Seattle, she said, "All temporary [ballot-drop] locations were decided by jurisdictions." Basically, the locations were decided by a plan approved by all cities in King County. But regardless of the excuse, the problem remains: White neighborhoods are better served for voting than neighborhoods largely populated by black people, Asians, and Latinos.


Comments (62) RSS

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I have no idea where my nearest drop box is. The ballot comes with a return envelope and goes in our mailbox.
Posted by originalcinner on November 5, 2012 at 3:08 PM · Report this
Magnusson Park isn't even the second closest drop box to Rainier Valley?!??!?
Posted by Foonken2 on November 5, 2012 at 3:11 PM · Report this
-B- 3
Why can't you get your elections procedure together. When the whole Bush fiasco happened people were bitching about how elections are run and it is still happening today. If the US is so great then why don't you have this figured out. Many, many, other countries do it better.
Posted by -B- on November 5, 2012 at 3:12 PM · Report this
There's a drop box outside the King County bldg on 4th Ave downtown (between Jefferson and James). That's not in Rainier Valley, but still a heck of a lot closer than Magnuson Park.
Posted by Xochitl on November 5, 2012 at 3:14 PM · Report this
Sargon Bighorn 5
It's time for Blacks, Asians, and Latinos to do something about that, stop waiting on someone else if it matters to you. It does matter to you right?
Posted by Sargon Bighorn on November 5, 2012 at 3:15 PM · Report this
I'm taking mine to the downtown drop box because I just paid my rent and can't afford stamps.
Posted by erly on November 5, 2012 at 3:17 PM · Report this
Jenny from the Block 7
Man, what a bureaucratic answer.
Posted by Jenny from the Block on November 5, 2012 at 3:19 PM · Report this
TVDinner 8
That is such a chickenshit response. Just admit that you whiffed it, and then fix it. Jesus. There's no excuse for this shit.
Posted by TVDinner http:// on November 5, 2012 at 3:24 PM · Report this
bleedingheartlibertarian 9
Um, how is Mag Park closer to SE Seattle than downtown?
Posted by bleedingheartlibertarian on November 5, 2012 at 3:25 PM · Report this
reverend dr dj riz 10
so because 'stamps' we have drop boxes that we don't need but even people that might need them don't have them because 'stamps' ?
Posted by reverend dr dj riz on November 5, 2012 at 3:28 PM · Report this
Cascadian 11
Many people don't have a stack of stamps around, and picking one up is one more thing to add to an already busy schedule. Also, many local mailboxes are not secure for outgoing mail thanks to asshole thieves. So while this is a minor issue, it amounts to yet another barrier to equal voting access.

All mail-in voting requires a commitment to fund adequate voting infrastructure. That means ballot drop boxes in every major neighborhood in the city, and in every suburban town center. For SE Seattle, they should have a box in the CD, one on Beacon Hill, and one in Rainier Valley, at the very least.
Posted by Cascadian on November 5, 2012 at 3:30 PM · Report this
danindowntown 12
Jesus, this article is almost as lame as the one Constant put up about Molly Moons ice cream. Will you bother to do any research to determine if a lack of a South Seattle drop box is preventing registered voters in those area from voting? I think already know the answer.

And people are right. The downtown drop box is closer than Magnuson park. God only knows what zip code you gave for South Seattle.
Posted by danindowntown on November 5, 2012 at 3:31 PM · Report this
One of the bigger problems with that map is that it does not show The Seattle Union Station Accessible Voting Station. It's right at the top of the International District bus tunnel station, and it's election day hours should cover many transit riding (including working poor) riders.

That said, an unmanned (security camera watched) drop box in the tunnel would make a lot of sense.

Seattle Union Station
Dates open
Nov 2, 3, 5, 6
Hours of operation
10:00 am - 5:00 pm
Election Day hours
7:00 am - 8:00 pm
401 South Jackson
Seattle, WA 98104
Posted by Tranist Rider on November 5, 2012 at 3:31 PM · Report this
brian 14
There ought to be drop boxes at all city and county libraries. Problem solved.
Posted by brian on November 5, 2012 at 3:42 PM · Report this
Will in Seattle 15
Just think of it as a 2012 Poll Tax.
Posted by Will in Seattle on November 5, 2012 at 3:43 PM · Report this
Will in Seattle 16
And @14 for the Win of the Oh My God Sun peeking out now day.
Posted by Will in Seattle on November 5, 2012 at 3:45 PM · Report this
Fnarf 17
You can buy stamps at any grocery store. It's not like this coming election was a surprise or anything. But yes, there should be at least three South drop boxes (not just Rainier Valley).
Posted by Fnarf on November 5, 2012 at 3:49 PM · Report this
You_Gotta_Be_Kidding_Me 18
You’re right! This is outrageous!!! Mercer Island, Magnolia and Medina have ZERO ballot drop locations!!!!
Posted by You_Gotta_Be_Kidding_Me on November 5, 2012 at 3:56 PM · Report this
Beetlecat 19
I love that West Seattle getting one drop-box is "disproportionate." It certainly is. Why aren't these things all over the GD place?
Posted by Beetlecat on November 5, 2012 at 3:58 PM · Report this
According to the Seattle Times, your ballot will be delivered whether or not you put a stamp on it.

"Some Washington mail-in ballots need 2 stamps"

Originally published Friday, October 19, 2012 at 11:19 AM…
Posted by Jonathan Brown on November 5, 2012 at 4:02 PM · Report this
Oh come on. Mail in ballots have increased turn-out, not depressed it. This borders on being the flip side of the Republican mania for non-existent voter fraud. As if stamps and mail boxes were only available for wealthy whites in exclusive neighborhoods.
Posted by Westside forever on November 5, 2012 at 4:07 PM · Report this
@14 "There ought to be drop boxes at all city and county libraries. Problem solved."

They had drop boxes at all (or at least most) libraries several years ago. They discontinued the practice due to the expense, and further funds being necessary to secure the boxes after some vandalism incidents.

@19 "Why aren't these things all over the GD place?"


Few people bat an eye when when they are told the fractions of pennies they are personally paying for things, but once you give the total cost, many don't want to pay for it. It is "too expensive" to secure and monitor an extensive grid of drop boxes, and many would just as soon drop their ballot in the box by their house anyway.
Posted by Tranist Rider on November 5, 2012 at 4:09 PM · Report this
West Seattle does not have a drop box. Drop boxes are available for use the minute ballots are mailed out. West Seattle got a ballot van, which is available only a few hours a day beginning a few days prior to the election.

Diversity (or lack of it) does not have anything to do with placement. Look to past elections and there were a lot more around Seattle/King County. Based on use, when money dried up, the drop boxes that were used less were not replaced when some money became available.

Posted by TJ on November 5, 2012 at 4:20 PM · Report this
If you want more drop boxes, then convince everyone to vote against every stupid Eyman initiative, especially those requiring a two-thirds majority.
Posted by TJ on November 5, 2012 at 4:21 PM · Report this
Right now, about 1.8% of every ballot returned is being challenged or set aside because the signature does not precisely match the signature on file.

If you are in King County you can make sure that your vote has been received and verified by tracking your ballot online at…. Voters in Snohomish County can track their ballots at:…. Voters in Pierce County can check at…. If you voted early this is a great way to double check to make sure your ballot has been counted. It took three days after mailing my ballot to find out that my ballot had been verified.

If for some reason there is a problem with your ballot you can call the Elections Department tomorrow and fix the problem. This will be a very close election and your vote should count!

Please let other people know how they can check to make sure that their votes have been counted before the election is over.
Posted by historyteacher on November 5, 2012 at 4:25 PM · Report this
I dropped my ballot off at Magnuson last evening. There was a steady stream of cars ahead of me and behind me all doing the same thing. I have no idea how frequently they empty those boxes, but if it isn't daily, that sucker may be busting at the seams by now. I love the idea of using libraries in the future.
Posted by I Got Nuthin' on November 5, 2012 at 4:26 PM · Report this
More, I Say! 27
People of Rainier Valley and Beyond, hear me now. I am here for you, and I work downtown, and I will gather your ballots and I will send them off from the comfort and convenience of my office building, where I don't have to buy stamps because I can just have 'em take the 34 cents out of my paycheck.

Meet me on S. Jackson and Rainier, and I'll happily gather your south Seattle ballots, and mail them off on my own dime tomorrow.
Posted by More, I Say! on November 5, 2012 at 4:27 PM · Report this
What are the moochers bitching about now?
Posted by Sugartit on November 5, 2012 at 4:28 PM · Report this
MacCrocodile 29
Ballots are supposed to be delivered even without postage, but that doesn't mean it happens. I've known people whose ballots have been returned for lack of postage. The return envelopes should have pre-paid postage.
Posted by MacCrocodile on November 5, 2012 at 4:32 PM · Report this
@29 - Early education should be free; post secondary education should be affordable; basic medical care (at minimum) for all Americans should be free; public schools shouldn't have to have auctions or booster events to raise money to buy textbooks; teachers shouldn't have to shell out their own money for supplies. But these still all need to be paid for somehow. Governments can't pull money out of thin air.
Posted by TJ on November 5, 2012 at 4:47 PM · Report this
CC-Rob 31
Southeast Seattle always gets the shaft from the city. (For example, compare parking police in Wallingford - vs Columbia City.
Posted by CC-Rob on November 5, 2012 at 4:52 PM · Report this
Maybe there aren't any drop boxes there because the city knows they'd be vandalized.
Posted by Mister G on November 5, 2012 at 5:04 PM · Report this
@29 Using 2012's numbers: King County has 1.1M registered voters, and first-class postage is currently at $.45. At four elections per year that would be a postage bill of $1,980,000, a tenth of King County Elections' entire operating budget ($19,957,220). I'm not disagreeing with you but it seems pretty obvious why the envelopes aren't postage-paid.
Posted by Henry on November 5, 2012 at 5:04 PM · Report this
Will in Seattle 34
@33 except any non-profit can get 4.4 cent postage paid rates on return mail. Might be 5 cents now, I guess.

Why not KCE? Why not prepay the postage and you can stick a 5 cent stamp on it if you want to pay the Stamp Tax?

Tea was dumped in harbors over such things. We fought a war of independence over such things. Are you saying our Forefathers were unpatriotic because they fought against such Stamp Taxes?
Posted by Will in Seattle on November 5, 2012 at 5:14 PM · Report this
@29 I agree!

@33 I'd be happy to pay an additional tax if it meant that it made voting easier.
Or slap a tax on political ads on the TV and radio.
Posted by fairly.unbalanced on November 5, 2012 at 5:39 PM · Report this
If a fucking stamp is too great a hassle to obtain for your most important civic duty, you're too much of a fucked up ignoramus to be allowed near a ballot. All you're going to do is vote yourself a free lunch.
Posted by O'bama Fone! on November 5, 2012 at 5:43 PM · Report this
I agree with @14. People in the Douglass-Truth Library this morning were looking for drop boxes.
Posted by rcres on November 5, 2012 at 5:43 PM · Report this
If you can't afford a stamp, and you're too fucking lazy to find a drop box, maybe this is God's or nature's way of telling you that you weren't intended to vote?
Posted by Mister G on November 5, 2012 at 5:53 PM · Report this
sperifera 39
@24 - Amen, brother.
Posted by sperifera on November 5, 2012 at 5:56 PM · Report this
@34 Please provide a source for a $.05 non-profit postage rate. "Election officials" already quality for discounted USPS rates but the best discount I could find was $.35, which is still $1.5M a year.

@35 As would I, if it made it easier for those who have real issues keeping them from having their vote counted. I don't consider "I can't be arsed to buy/find a stamp" one of them.
Posted by Henry on November 5, 2012 at 5:56 PM · Report this
I love how liberals think conservatives are morons yet worry their base is so stupid they can't figure out how to vote. Go down to Rainier and Henderson and let me know what the Dem's base is doing to find a stamp.
Posted by Gots me a free fone! on November 5, 2012 at 5:58 PM · Report this
litlnemo 42
Perhaps "Slog tipper Meredith" actually read about this in the Beacon Hill Blog three days ago:…
Posted by litlnemo on November 5, 2012 at 6:00 PM · Report this
What, are the people down the rainier Valley so stupid they can't find a stamp and stick it on an envelop? Even the self adhesive type that's doesn't even require any motor functions in their mouths? If they can't figure that one out, do you think they understand the issues?
Posted by Where's ma free lunch? on November 5, 2012 at 6:07 PM · Report this
bleedingheartlibertarian 44
@35--a tax on political ads plowed into election infrastructure is a fantastic idea.
Posted by bleedingheartlibertarian on November 5, 2012 at 6:10 PM · Report this
Ipso Facto 45




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Posted by Ipso Facto on November 5, 2012 at 6:13 PM · Report this
@44 except such a tax would be entirely unconstitutional. Nope, just teach your base how to use their mouths and tongues to seal the envelop and stick on a stamp. I know some one year olds who have that skill set.
Posted by Call it a moron tax? on November 5, 2012 at 6:21 PM · Report this
Poor people mail the fucking ballots. They've already got the stamps lying around to pay their bills with! Postage < Bus fare. End of story. C'mon Seattle get over your own white-privilege.
Posted by Concept: Not everyone has the fucking internet on November 5, 2012 at 6:27 PM · Report this
keshmeshi 48

I turned in my ballot to a drop box a week and a half ago, and, two days later (the earliest I checked), King County had it in their system. If they were picking up ballots that frequently that early, I'm sure they're picking them up at least once a day at this point.
Posted by keshmeshi on November 5, 2012 at 6:44 PM · Report this
If there were more drop boxes, SLOG would come up with a conspiracy theory about how Bellevue Republicans would drive around at night hijacking the ballots.

Get a stamp and mail it.
Posted by Supreme Ruler Of The Universe http://_ on November 5, 2012 at 8:41 PM · Report this
50 Comment Pulled (Duplicate) Comment Policy
I'm "Slog-tipper Meredith." Wow, I'm stunned at the racism/classism of a few of the comments here. But anyway, a few things:

1) Sorry, @42, but I didn't see your blog post (didn't know about your blog). I wish I had seen it three days ago!

2) Interesting that no one's saying, "North Seattle must be really fucking stupid if they require THREE drop-boxes -- aren't they capable of putting a stamp on their ballots?"

3) So here's the thing. I'm driving around this morning with my ballot beside me, all ready with a stamp and everything, and I'm planning to swing by the post office shortly, when I hear an elections official on the radio telling people: If you're turning in your ballot today or tomorrow, better to use our drop-boxes and not risk the ballot getting stuck somewhere in the USPS, or having a smudged postmark, etc. "Okay," I think, "I'll use a drop-box, then." So I get home and look up the drop-box locations. Hey, I'm just trying to take the advice of the Elections people. We're perfectly capable of using stamps down here in the Rainier Valley; like the rest of you, we just want our votes to count. Call us names, but it seems like we're entitled to equal access to the polls. And when the region with less access happens to be the region with fewer resources in general, well, that seems like a problem and not a tough one to solve.
Posted by SlogtipperMeredith on November 5, 2012 at 9:01 PM · Report this
litlnemo 52
Meredith, no need to apologize. I think my post above came out snarky when I didn't intend it to.

Your point #2 is a good one.

I used a dropbox for a similar reason -- I wanted to be darn sure they were going to get it, and preferably before the election. I dropped mine off on Friday, and the ballot tracker shows that they have it today. But I dropped it off while I was down in Renton.

Incidentally, I do have postage here. But the only time I ever use it is for elections, really. Everything else is online!
Posted by litlnemo on November 5, 2012 at 9:59 PM · Report this
bleedingheartlibertarian 53
@46--which part of the constitution?
Posted by bleedingheartlibertarian on November 5, 2012 at 10:01 PM · Report this
wilbur@work 54
this is a whole lotta bullshit re: an item which can be dropped into any mailbox for free -- the state has made it clear to the USPS that postage is guaranteed. WTF? If you're too fucking lazy to either get the mail, or check your ballot (but somehow have time to post to SLOG), you suck and you shouldn't vote.
Posted by wilbur@work on November 5, 2012 at 11:02 PM · Report this
Do any of you who find it really difficult to mail a damned ballot remember that you used to have to actually travel to a polling place to vote? You know, get your body down there, in a car or on a bus, before or after work or school? Apparently you don't.
Posted by sarah70 on November 6, 2012 at 12:09 AM · Report this
litlnemo 56
Just keep whacking at that strawman.
Posted by litlnemo on November 6, 2012 at 3:29 AM · Report this
I do find it odd that we dont have any drop boxes. se seattle is huge. Much bigger than ballard. I am surprised. Most people sound here dont drive and many are poor so much so that bills are paid in person. I like to hand deliver mtg ballot so I know it got there. I think there is a legitimate complaint to be made bc just loook at the map. Why can't se get one? We are huge!
Posted by seatownmolly on November 6, 2012 at 5:20 AM · Report this
@51 is right. There's no reasonable excuse for this discrepancy. No conspiracy theory is needed here. Just another example of "those people" getting shorted. Totally unacceptable.
Posted by stating the obvious on November 6, 2012 at 9:57 AM · Report this
If you think it's a problem, I encourage you to contact King County Elections and tell 'em so:…

(If you'd prefer to stick with the strawman attacks, have at it.)
Posted by SlogtipperMeredith on November 6, 2012 at 11:23 AM · Report this
Not only is this a very good point, but even the choices in North Seattle are silly. Lake City is the most diverse & dense neighborhood in North Seattle, spread along the 2nd most busy arterial in Seattle. So King County took that box away & put it beside the off-leash area & surrounded by soccer fields, nestled among some of the least dense & most expensive neighborhoods in all of Seattle (Magnuson, in case you are not familiar with the area).

I'm not sure #23 is accurate. ("Based on use, when money dried up, the drop boxes that were used less were not replaced when some money became available.") In LC, the first all-mail election had the drop at the Little City Hall. I was told by employees there that the tiny office was overwhelmed. Next there was the year that budget cuts eliminated all of them. Magnuson had not even had a box until after that, when they got some more money & started to use them again. How is that based on use? One critera that might explain that is to have good car access, both for drop-offs & the truck that makes the pick-ups.

* Opportunity alert * The state might change to "arrive by Election Day" rather than "postmarked by" mail deadline (like Oregon has). Let's see if we can get - if not more then at least more sensible - dropbox placement folded into that. (It would mean mailers have to put even more trust into the PO. How early do you have to send it to be sure? I've had w/in Western WA mail that took 10 days & I've heard of worse.) I'm not sure, but based on something I heard Sec. of State Smilin' Sam say recently (he's all for the deadline change), I think the state legislature has to OK it. So contact your reps this year, then again early next year if you just got a new one. Keep an ear out for when they start talking about the deadline change & bring it up again then.

Posted by watchit on November 7, 2012 at 1:39 PM · Report this
Back in the old days (4 years ago) I was a poll monitor over on the east side and was surprised at how many people came to the polling place to drop off their absentee ballot. Pierce County expects over 1/2 of all votes will be cast using a ballot drop box and not the mail. There needs to be more voting centers and drop boxes in King County (what about the libraries?) Just because we got rid of polling places does not mean that we should have closed down all election day activities in those places. Many people have need of a replacement ballot (or provisional ballots), having more election day voting centers will make the election process better.

On a related note, did anyone else notice that King County stopped processing votes at 5pm. The webcams showed row after row of empty vote opening tables and the tabulation machines had covers over them when I checked at 5:10 on election day. Obviously the county had more ballots on hand that needed to be processed and there were 3 hours before the "polls" closed, but apparently the County does not think it is necessary to process election results in an expeditious manner. Again I point to Pierce County, they had two election results drops, one just after 8pm an another at 11pm. Can't believe that our little cousin to the south can do a better job of ballot counting.
Posted by -Dafydd A. on November 7, 2012 at 10:20 PM · Report this
litlnemo 62
Probably no one will see your comment because the post is a few days old, but -- good comment, Dafydd. And I agree. Voting centers, and more of them, are still necessary, even with a mail-in system.

And King County giving up counting so early is ridiculous.
Posted by litlnemo on November 7, 2012 at 11:04 PM · Report this

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