More King County voters returned their ballots by drop box than mail in last month’s election. The county added 33 new drop-box sites this year.
In theory, King County votes by mail. In practice, it mostly votes by drop box.
More than half the ballots returned in last month’s election — 51.4 percent, to be exact — were brought to one of 43 drop-box sites across the county.
Voters are using the boxes more and more: 32.2 percent of ballots were brought to a drop box in the August primary election, 26.3 percent in the November 2015 general election and 19.3 percent in the August 2015 primary.
The spike last month likely had a lot to do with King County Elections adding 33 new sites this year. More than 90 percent of the county’s residents live within 3 miles of a drop box, according to elections officials.
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Voting by mail is supposed to make life easier. So why are more choosing to return their ballots by hand? Procrastination may have something to do with it.
Though ballots were mailed out to voters in October, nearly one in two ballots brought to boxes last month were returned on Election Day or the day before. More than 180,000 voters waited as long as possible, stopping by a box on Election Day.
Voters using the mail can also wait, as long as their envelopes are postmarked by Election Day. But some voters use drop boxes because they miss the experience of visiting a polling station.
And some voters use drop boxes rather than to buy or search their homes for stamps. The U.S. Postal Service is supposed to deliver returned ballots even when they don’t have stamps (counties pick up the tab for the missing postage), but not everyone knows that or wants to take advantage of it. King County Elections tells voters to put stamps on their envelopes.
The Ballard library was the busiest drop-box site, with 39,282 ballots returned, while the King County Elections headquarters in Renton was second with 31,896.
Crossroads Shopping Center in Bellevue, Redmond City Hall and the King County Administration Building in downtown Seattle rounded out the top five busiest sites.
Elections officials say they don’t much mind how people vote, so long as they vote. Turnout was 82 percent for last month’s election, down from 85 and 84 percent for the presidential elections of 2012 and 2008, respectively.
But the number of voters who returned ballots in growing King County blew past 1 million for the first time.
“We’re certainly seeing that the additional drop boxes were widely used by voters,” said elections spokeswoman Kendall LeVan Hodson. “However, half of all voters still choose to mail in their ballots. Our ultimate goal is always that voting be as easy and barrier-free as possible — so it’s great to be able to provide voters with options.”