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Kitsap elections officials predicting 80 percent turnout

Kitsap County voters have until today to register for the Nov. 4 general election, in order to make their voices heard in a series of close national, state and local contests.

Kitsap County Elections Supervisor Dolores Gilmore said this week that the vote-count process will run smoothly, with a minimum of delays and mistakes.

She also expects any instances of voter fraud to be immediately detected.

As of this week, Kitsap County reported 140,331 registered voters. Based on past numbers and the importance of this year’s election, Gilmore predicts more than 80 percent of the total will cast ballots.

And they will do so in a variety of ways.

“There are a lot more voting options than there used to be,” she said. “It wasn’t so long ago that the only option was to go to the polling place on Election Day. In order to get an absentee ballot, you needed to give a reason and prove you were going to be out of town.”

Kitsap County approved all-mail balloting in 2005, for its cost-cutting and convenience aspects. At the time, it was noted that 85 percent voted by mail anyway, and keeping ballot locations open was not advisable.

This is the fourth year of all-mail voting, but the first presidential election during which it will be in effect.

Today, there is a variety of ways to cast a vote: Regular ballots will be sent out Oct. 15, and military ballots are already in the mail.

Voting machines will be opened at the County Administration Building in Port Orchard beginning at that time, with a Poulsbo location open on Election Day.

The Votemobile, a converted panel truck with four voting machines, will make county wide visits to Kitsap care facilities. The schedule is published online and in the voter’s guide.

Registered voters can receive a ballot they can print out and send in by making an e-mail request. They can also visit the Auditor’s Office any time prior to Election Day to pick up their ballot.

Gilmore acknowledges the system allows voters to receive more than one ballot, but says the system will only count the first ballot received by any individual.

Gilmore, who has worked in her current position for 14 years — even before computers were used to tally votes — supervises seven members of the elections staff. This is only a skeleton crew, since about 60 people are hired to help with the election process.

Like Gilmore, many of those in the election office have been on the job for years. They did not change when Walter E. Washington took over for Karen Flynn this year, and they would presumably stay in place if Washington is elected to a full term next month. Or not.

These auxiliary workers, most of whom are already hired, go through regular training. Additionally, many of them work every election, or as needed.

During the vote count, the office will run two shifts of 24 people, working from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.

During this time, each major political party has at least one representative observing the process. Anyone not affiliated with a party can also observe at those times, after signing a pledge to not disclose certain specific details prior to the publishing of election results.

Gilmore said she encourages observers — both from within and outside of political parties — because it increases the transparency of the process.

She would also like to see more voter participation from younger people, noting that the 18-to-30 age group has the lowest percentage of voters.

By law, ballots can be opened and sorted when they are received by the Auditor’s Office, and loaded into the machines on Election Day.

Any counting or tallying is forbidden until after 8 p.m., at which time officials issue the command to create a report.

As a result, initial numbers could be posted to the Web site as soon as 8:02.

Ballots counted in this first report must arrive at the Auditor’s Office by Nov. 3.

In the most recent primary, 58 percent of the votes were included at that time.

This site contains an electronic versions of the Voters’ Pamphlet (which has not yet been widely distributed), both in local and state versions.

Those who are not yet registered to vote can do so by mail, as long as it is postmarked on or before Oct. 4.

It is possible to register online before Midnight on Saturday, although this requires supplying a valid Washington State Driver’s license for completion.

Other requirements for voting include some form of identification, declaration of citizenship and the ability to receive mail in a specific location (although voters without permanent addresses can pick up their ballots at the Auditor’s Office).

For more information, go to www.kitsapgov.com/aud/elections/elections.htm. or call (360) 337-7128.

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