OLYMPIA — State residents who have recently gone online to register to vote or make changes to voter information should consider contacting their county elections office out of caution ahead of the Aug. 6 primary period, say state and King County elections officials.
The advice came as The Seattle Times on Wednesday reported problems discovered by some counties as they make the switch to a new VoteWA system that will now handle all the state’s voter information.
Tests this month on the $9.5 million system detailed an array of potential problems in the new statewide system, including apartment numbers missing from voter addresses, troubles translating materials into various languages, and issues with bar codes that are put on ballots to help track them.
Despite those concerns, the state Secretary of State’s Office decided to go ahead with the system for the August primary. The office has said the issues found in testing have been resolved and most ballots are set to be mailed to voters in mid-July.
But the situation so alarmed King County Elections that it is using much of its old system to handle the primary by employing dozens of temporary “workarounds.”
For example, King and Thurston counties have had to manually fix some military and overseas ballot addresses to correct for problems. Those primary ballots are already going out. Spokane County is using some workarounds, too.
Officials continue working on the system as the counties prepare to get ballots correctly printed and mailed to voters.
Most ballots are expected to be mailed out around July 19. But any problems must be fixed earlier, since ballot information — such as voter addresses, and specific precincts and races — first goes to outside vendors to be formatted and printed.
State and King County elections officials say citizens shouldn’t hesitate to check with their county elections office on changes made through the new online system.
King County voters with questions or who haven’t received their ballot by July 22, should call 206-296-VOTE (8683), said county Elections Director Julie Wise.
Assistant Secretary of State Mark Neary said, “if you’re concerned, contact your county election administrator.”
VoteWA is built to keep logs of online voter registration or information changes, meaning officials should be able to go back and examine any issues with individual voters, Neary said.
As officials transitioned from the old system to VoteWA, the state online voter-registration system shut down for about a month — about two weeks longer than expected.
That site has been back up for about a week.
Since then, King County Elections says it has gotten a handful of calls from voters who tried to change their voter-registration information online but received an error message.
“So far, all the calls have all been updates for existing King County voters, so our team just goes ahead and makes those updates over the phone,” Kendall Hodson, of King County Elections, wrote in an email Wednesday. “If someone called who was trying to register for the first time, they would try to do it with them to make sure nothing else was going on.”
King County this year for the first time will open regional voting centers where people can drop by if they have questions or concerns. The centers come as a new state law takes effect establishing same-day voter registration, which starts with this Aug. 6 primary period.
The centers will open in mid- or late July and will be open most days up to and including Aug. 6.
They will be located at: Bellevue Regional Library, Federal Way 320th Library, Kenmore City Hall, King County’s Elections headquarters in Renton, and at the King County Administration Building in Seattle.
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