King County Elections (KCE) certified its results earlier this week (pending one automatic recount in the 47th LD), and despite the annual editorial whining about slow ballot counts, KCE set new records for speed and efficiency, while enhancing voter access and convenience. (I'd mention accuracy too, but there's zero evidence that KCE's ballot tallies have ever been anything but accurate.)
Thanks to streamlined procedures at its new Renton facility, and a voter outreach program that succeeded in encouraging more voters to vote early, KCE counted a record 556,083 ballots on election night—more than twice the election night count from 2010, and significantly more than any election night count even from before the county switched to all vote by mail. Despite its reputation for lagging behind the rest of the state, KCE's election night report equalled 57 percent of its total ballots counted, not far off the 61 percent election night mark for the state as a whole. Not too shabby considering that KCE handles more mail-in ballots than any other jurisdiction in the nation.
Yet another sign of KCE's successful voter education efforts, the county also hit new post-all-vote-by-mail lows for the percentage of ballots rejected due to missing/mismatched signatures and late postmarks. The percentage of voters forgetting to sign their ballots was down 39 percent from 2010, the percentage of ballots that arrived with late postmarks was down 79 percent. Of the county's 22,137 challenged ballots, almost 60 percent were eventually "cured," up from a more typical 50 percent rate. Almost 98.5 percent of the 993,908 ballots received were ultimately verified and counted.
And finally, at 83.58 percent of ballots counted to registered voters, King County had one of the highest turnout rates in the state. Statewide, the average was just 81.25 percent; 80.26 percent outside of King County.
KCE generated tons of unflattering headlines back in 2004 when a statistical tie in the governor's race uncovered numerous procedural errors. Since then we've moved to all vote-by-mail, a new, expanded elections center, and all new elections procedures. And voters have heard little about these improvements, I suppose because "King County Elections Counted Ballots Much as It Should've" doesn't make for much of a sexy headline. But that's pretty much the story from this election.
Elections operations here are faster, more efficient, and more responsive than ever before. And they are getting more so every year.