King Conservation District (KCD) made national news by allowing voters to vote via the internet and mobile phone for its February election. E-voting was implemented because of abysmal turnout for KCD elections. Last year, only 3,448 (out of 1.2 million) votes were cast in the KCD election. In 2018, only 11 people voted. Turnout in 2020 seems similar to 2019 even with e-voting. This is unfortunate, as KCD helps private landowners conserve the environment. KCD had a 2018 budget of $8,036,332, funded by property taxes.
The Seattle Times editorial board cited the low costs of off-cycle elections in its argument against House Bill 2415, which puts special districts onto the November ballot. KCD is only able to maintain those low costs because they spend little advertising their elections [“Resist push for online ballot box,” Jan. 23, Opinion]. Democratic accountability only works when citizens can fairly participate in elections. Off-cycle elections drive down electoral participation by operating on a separate calendar to the rest of the political system, escaping the notice of most taxpayers.
Cost should not be a barrier to improving democratic accountability. By bringing special districts on-cycle, we will help educate the public about these special districts and also ensure that these boards more closely reflect the preferences of the citizens.
Patrick L. Schoettmer, Bellevue