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Posts published in “Day: February 20, 2011”

Election on the cheap, or a test pilot?

Donna Nelson
King County Conservation District

The King County Conservation District is one of those obscure limited-purpose districts, this one tasked with "helping the people of King County manage their natural resources. We educate landowners, schools, scientists, consultants and agencies in how to recognize problem situations and how to avoid creating them. We also provide technical assistance in solving their problems. We promote conservation through demonstration projects, educational events, providing technical assistance and, in some cases, providing or pointing the way to funds which may be available for projects. The King CD has no regulatory or enforcement authority. We only work with those who choose to work with us." It has a modest budget of $6 million.

It is, however, run by an elected governing board. Its population base is enormous, close to two million people, with more than a million people eligible to vote. So if it is to run an election on its own election day, as is about to happen, the cost would run into multiple millions of dollars - a possibly ruinous amount for this small agency - if it were run according to the traditional polling-place approach. Since Washington has in essence moved on to the mail-in ballot system, the cost is a good deal less, but still would amount to a million dollars or so.

So, in holding an election to fill one of the board seats (there are four candidates), the district is trying something new, something that might be coming your way (even far from King County) one day: On line voting. A contractor, Election Trust LLC from Bellevue, is being paid $50,000 to run it.

Is it secure? Can the vote be trusted? Such are the questions the KCCD is dealing with.

Here are some of the pieces of how the district describes it: "This election features new, convenient and secure on-line voting. Voters may vote from their home, business or other computer locations. ... You must be registered to vote in King County (excluding residents of cities that are not members of the King Conservation District: Enumclaw, Federal Way, Milton, Pacific and Skykomish). ... On-line voting requires a voter to have access to an email account and internet connectivity. Note that more than one voter can use the same email address. You will be required to complete a two-step process: Step 1 - Confirm Voter Eligibility: Submit a signed affidavit by email (scanned copy), fax or US mail. We suggest voter applications submitted by US mail should be postmarked no later than March 11. Step 2 - Vote On-line:Once your eligibility is confirmed, a personal identification number (PIN) will be issued by email with complete online voting access information. Note: Please allow up to 48 hours after application for voting instructions and credentials to be issued. 4. How do I vote in-person? You may vote in-person at the King CD on March 15 between the hours of 9:00 am - 9:00 pm. In-person voters should bring proper identification."

Let's keep watch on how well this works. You can bet a lot of elections officials will be.

This week in the Digests

Obama at Hillsboro
President Barack Obama visiting Intel at Hillsboro. (vidcap/White House stream)

Lots of legislative activity - new legislation, still - in this week's Public Affairs Digests for Washington, Oregon and Idaho. Also a lot else, including last week's presidential visit to Hillsboro.

Some of the larger stories in the Washington edition:

- NW leaders say they’ll take rail money
- McGinn vetoes Alaskan Way deal
- Senators propose freight act
- Workplace deaths rise in Washington
- Reporting on extreme tides

In the Oregon edition:

- Obama makes Hillsboro visit
- Kitzhaber names department heads
- Roberts named to Metro Council
- Ag amounts to 15% of Oregon economy
- Mollala River measure returns
- $48 million for state health insurance
- New Blue Book out in e-firm first

In the Idaho edition:

- Revisions offered on Luna plan
- Idaho Power signs four wind agreements
- Meridian bans smoking in parks
- Crapo backs monument limit bill
- Geddes on his new job