Kitsap Auditor swamped by ballots, registrations

Kitsap County Elections Supervisor Dolores Gilmore pulls one of the 38 boxes of ballots that arrived last Monday off the shelf.  - Charlie Bermant/Staff Photo
Kitsap County Elections Supervisor Dolores Gilmore pulls one of the 38 boxes of ballots that arrived last Monday off the shelf.
— image credit: Charlie Bermant/Staff Photo

Nearly a third of expected voters in Kitsap County have already returned their ballots, setting the stage for what is expected to be the largest election in the county’s history.

“This will be our busiest election ever,” said Kitsap County Elections Supervisor Dolores Gilmore. “We are looking at a record number of votes.”

The county mailed out around 143,000 ballots on Oct. 15. Since then, more than 2,000 new registrations have been collected.

Gilmore predicts a voter turnout of 85 percent, or about 123,000 ballots.

As of Friday, 38,378 completed ballots were returned to the Auditor’s Office, which represented 31 percent of the expected turnout.

Ballots are scanned and entered as they are received.

Shortly after the polls close on Nov. 4 the Auditor’s Office will request a report of all votes scanned, and the results posted to the county web site within minutes of the report’s creation.

The initial report will reflect those votes gathered before election day. So voters who want their ballots counted in that report will need to submit them by Nov. 3.

Even with the high vote return, all candidates intend to campaign until the last day.

The last-minute effort is supported by the respective political parties, who receive daily lists of voters who have not yet returned their ballots. The parties then cross-check the phone numbers and addresses, sending out flyers or generating robo-calls.

Gilmore said that voter registration lists (which do not contain phone numbers) are in the public record, and can be requested by political parties. Voters who object to this should contact their legislator in an effort to change the law.

Gilmore said that 10,000 ballots in 38 boxes arrived on Oct. 20, and have trickled in ever since.

She said a large initial spike was expected, and said he number of ballots will level out, with additional spikes the day before and the day after the election.

Even with these patterns, the economy of scale is larger than in previous years.

“This is a really huge election,” Gilmore said. “A lot of people are voting, and we’re really busy.”

The elections staff has seven members, with 24 additional workers hired for the election.

Gilmore said all of these workers are now in place.

Kitsap County adopted all-mail voting in 2005, after several years where a majority of voters chose to vote by mail. This is the first presidential election where it has been in use.

Gilmore attributed the last-minute registration rush and the expected spikes around election day to the fact that “most people wait for the deadline before they do anything.”

While there are few scheduled public events remaining, the respective candidates expect to campaign until the very last minute — even as an escalating percentage of voters mail in their ballots.

Any voter who has not yet received their ballot should contact the elections division (360) 337-7128.

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