Vote-by-Mail and King County's Precinct System

There was a question posted today on a progressive Democratic listserv about how King County's move to a   Vote-by-Mail system might affect our precinct system. The person posing the question cited the January, 2006 Report by Dean Logan to the King County Executive: King County Elections: Moving to Vote by Mail.  In one of its tables, the report lists 'modifying the size of precincts' as a risk factor in the change.

I wrote a couple of people who are on the board of the 47th District Democrats here in south King County to ask them to weigh in on this.  Tyler Page, a current member and a past District Chair, answered first.  I quoted Tyler in a recent article cross-posted on Daily Kos: Why Darcy's Gunna Win: 25 Democrats who Swung a State.  He was one of those 25 or so Democrats.  Here's what he answered:

King County has now formally adopted a plan to move to all-mail voting by the 2007 primary election. This may portend changes to the precinct system which could greatly affect our local party operations.

(More below the fold)

Continuation of Tyler Page on how the change to Vote by Mail in King County might affect the precinct system

Precincts are used to organize poll voting. Each poll voter signs in to a register for his or her precinct and is issued a ballot specific to that precinct. The voting in each precinct is tabulated and published separately.

Washington state law specifies that each precinct must be entirely within one legislative district, one county council district and no more than one municipality. Junior districts (schools, courts, fire, water, hospital, etc.) don't count -- precincts can cross those boundaries. The law also states that precincts should include no more than 900 at-poll voters. Permanent absentee voters are excluded from this calculation, so the total number of registered voters can be much larger.

Counties are allowed to set lower maximums. Current King County ordinance sets the standard size of a precinct of between 200 and 400 registered voters. Note that this INCLUDES absentee voters. As a result, King County has over 2600 precincts; the 47th District has 143.

When there are no at-poll voters, there will be no maximum size under state law, and more to the point, most of the electoral functions of precincts will disappear. There will be no inspectors and judges (except for those required at the dozen or so planned "voting service centers" ).  

The bottom line is, you could divide the 47th District into fewer than TWENTY precincts under state law (one for each combination of city and  county council district).

For comparison, Multnomah County, Oregon, which has voted all by mail since 1998 and has about 376,000 registered voters (about 1/3 of King County), has just 129 precincts Using the same voters per precinct average, the 47th District (66,000 voters) would have 22 precincts.

But precincts are political, too. They are the legal basis for the major parties' organization, through the election of Precinct Committee Officers, and are essential for geographic election result analysis. These roles would change (some would say decline) dramatically if the number of precincts were reduced by 80%.

The King County Council must approve all changes to the precincting recommended by election managers. Any move to drastically reprecinct will likely come only after the all-mail system is fully implemented, perhaps in 2008, but the debate may start sooner.

It will be important for the Democratic Party to address this issue as part of its legislative agenda to make sure that things we think are valuable aren't thrown out with the bathwater.

< Roz Jenkins on Outreach: What Would it Mean to get What We're Asking For? | Candidate Interview - Richard Wright - Wa. 4th Congressional District >
Display: Sort:
  I would find no practical need for precincts in an all VBM statewide scenario. I wouldn't even need special officers for hand delivery, I'd just use City and County Clerks, who are at least nominally under oath to serve the public without fraud or bias.
  If fact, fewer precincts mean less paperwork, when people move within the County or LD, there wouldn't be a need to change their registration when they move across the street into a different precinct.
  From an efficient and maybe even verifiable election standpoint, a central department under the Secretary of State with actual professionals would make more sense than depending on the people qualified for the office of County Auditor (50%+1 vote).

  But as Tyler says, the precincts and PCOs are the bedrock of the Party State Central Committees for the major parties, and really also the National Committees at the next level. The RCW's which establish the PCO's and the Major Parties were originally established to lend some formality and accountability to what was previously determined in "smoke filled rooms". Then again, sometimes I miss the simplicity of that system.

Dave Gibney Pullman

by gibney on Sun May 28, 2006 at 12:18:22 AM PST

* 1 5.00 2 *

  • Efficiency by zappini, 05/28/2006 07:09:58 AM PST (none / 0)
Hi Noemie! Thank you so much for taking this issue and running with it.

As everyone knows by now, I oppose forced mail voting (100% Vote by Mail). Secret vote counts are bad, and all that. I doubt we'll be able to dissuade King County Council from shooting their collective foot off. So we better plan for the new reality.

If the PCOs are the bedrock of the party, what the hell is the plan? (Rhetorical question.) The Democrats are behind the switch to forced mail voting. Wouldn't it be clever to coordinate with the LDs and PCOs?

I'm also concerned that consolidation will make it easier to hide fraud and mistakes. Right now, results by precinct are very granular. If the precincts are bigger, it'll be comparatively easier to fudge the numbers.

And, of course, we'll loose the ability to directly compare election results from year to year (before change and after change).

by zappini on Sun May 28, 2006 at 06:48:00 AM PST

* 2 5.00 1 *

The 2006 proposed ordinance for revising the precincts , Ord. 2006-0234, is on the King County Council agenda for their meeting this coming Tues., May 30th.  However, it looks like the only decision that they will be making at that time is to refer it to the Law, Justice, and Human Services Committee.

The documents related to this proposed ordinance http://tinyurl.com/gqd3s show that 30 precincts will be altered and 22 abolished.

There is no mention if any of these changes relate to Vote By Mail.  It appears that these may just be the regular, annual changes due to annexation, population changes, etc.

by Cherisse on Sun May 28, 2006 at 12:30:52 PM PST

* 4 5.00 1 *

I wonder if would matter to a certain subset of the ruling Dem establishment if there were not PCOs?

Unlike the other side, where people willingly do what their betters and their higher ups tell them to do

Dems who are active enough to be PCO's are opinionated, independent, questioning individuals.

What we get from the state Dems is ... a button and a certificate? snail mail?

When I talk to other PCOs about some campaign or some cry for us to do A,B,C, the typical response is "huh? - Oh, I must have missed that piece of mail."  If the request is something people disagree with they state that they won't do it.

Maybe the state Dems would be better off without us!

The Coordinated Campaign had a canvass in Ballard / Crown Hill last weekend, and I got NOTHING about how the decision to canvass was made or when it was made or who made it - I just got a few emails a week or so out asking me to help !!

What is the point of the 36th Dems? Heck, what is the point of me electing all those great people in the 36th if we are just going to be steamrolled?

Maybe PCOs really don't matter?



by rmdSeaBos on Sun May 28, 2006 at 05:41:00 PM PST

* 5 5.00 1 *

Display: Sort:









Seattle Port Commission
Environmental Issues






Challenging the Corporate Media Blockade

Watch Live or Archived Shows:
Seattle SCAN
South End PSA


Photo courtesy of photographer/thankyoult.org




Inspired by Rob McKenna's Fake Attorney General Letterhead
GIF of Letter





Make a new account


Recommended Diaries

Washblog RSS Feeds

Local Media

Coastal/Grays Harbor
Aberdeen Daily World
Chinook Observer
Montesano Vidette
Pacific County Press
Willapa Harbor Herald
KXRO 1320 AM

Olympic Peninsula
Peninsula Daily News
Bremerton Sun
Bremerton Chronicle
Gig Harbor Gateway
Port Orchard Independent
Port Townsend Leader
North Kitsap Herald
Squim Gazette
Central Kitsap Reporter
Business Examiner
KONP 1450 AM

Sound and Islands
Anacortes American
Bainbridge Review
Voice Of Bainbridge
San Juan Journal
The Islands' Sounder
Whidbey NewsTimes
South Whidbey Record
Stanwood/Camano News
Vashon Beachcomber
Voice Of Vashon
KLKI 1340 AM

North Puget Sound
Bellingham Herald
The Northern Light
Everett Herald
Skagit Valley Herald
Lynden Tribune
The Enterprise
Snohomish County Tribune
Snohomish County Business Journal
The Monroe Monitor
The Edmonds Beacon
KELA 1470 AM
KRKO 1380 AM

Central Puget Sound
King County Journal
Issaquah Press
Mukilteo Beacon
Voice of the Valley
Federal Way Mirror
Bothell/Kenmore Reporter
Kirkland courier
Mercer Island Reporter
Woodinville Weekly

Greater Seattle
Seattle PI
Seattle Times
UW Daily
The Stranger
Seattle Weekly
Capitol Hill Times
Madison Park Times
Seattle Journal of Commerce
NW Asian Weekly
West Seattle Herald
North Seattle Herald-Outlook
South Seattle Star
Magnolia News
Beacon Hill News
KOMO AM 1000
KEXP 90.3 FM
KUOW 94.9 FM
KVI 570 AM

South Puget Sound
The Columbian
Longview Daily News
Nisqually Valley News
Lewis County News
The Reflector
Eatonville Dispatch
Tacoma News Tribune
Tacoma Weekly
Puyallup Herald
Enumclaw Courier-Herald
The Olympian
KAOS 89.3 FM
KOWA FM 106.5
UPN 11

Ellensburg Daily Record
Levenworth Echo
Cle Elum Tribune
Snoqualmie Valley Record
Methow Valley News
Lake Chelan Mirror
Omak chronicle
The Newport Miner

The Spokesman-Review
KREM 2 TV Spokane
KXLY News 4 Spokane
KHQ 6 Spokane
KSPS Spokane
Othello Outlook
Cheney Free Press
Camas PostRecord
The South County sun
White Salmon Enterprise
Palouse Boomerang
Columbia Basin Herald
Grand Coulee Star
Walla Walla Union-Bulletin
Yakima Herald-Republic
KIMA 29 Yakima
KAPP TV 35 Yakima
KYVE Yakima
Wenatchee World
Tri-City Herald
TVEW TV 42 Tri-cities
KTNW Richland
KEPR 19 Pasco
Daily Sun News
Prosser Record-Bulletin
KTCR 1340 AM
KWSU Pullman
Moscow-Pullman Daily News

Democracy for Washington tool to email legislators by committee
WA House
WA Senate

Medicine Takeback Program
Return unwanted and expired medications for free and safe disposal.