Jefferson County gearing up for a big election | 2020 Election

Posted 10/19/20

Ballots will be sent out to Jefferson County voters this week, and workers with the county’s Elections Division will be ready for those thousands of ballots to come back.

In a big …

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Jefferson County gearing up for a big election | 2020 Election

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Ballots will be sent out to Jefferson County voters this week, and workers with the county’s Elections Division will be ready for those thousands of ballots to come back.

In a big way.

Jefferson County has installed two new drop boxes for voters to submit their ballots for counting.

The move comes as some states are reducing the number of ballot drop boxes, and concerns continue over potential slowdowns by the U.S. Postal Service in delivering ballots back to election officials nationwide. (The Postal Service is recommending voters put their ballots in the mail a week before Election Day.)

Jefferson County Election Coordinator Quinn Grewell said that along with the two new drop boxes — a “walk-up” one in front of the county courthouse in Port Townsend, and a “drive-up” box at the Olympic Peninsula Gateway Visitor Center on Beaver Valley Road in Port Ludlow — some of the old drop boxes have been replaced with bigger ones.

“We installed larger quantity drop boxes here in the back parking lot of the courthouse and the Jefferson County Library,” she said.

The drop boxes that were replaced could hold between 500 to 1,000 ballots.

The new ones can hold between 1,000 to 1,500.

“Essentially, the boxes went from being 12 inches wide to 18 inches wide,” Grewell explained.

There was more than one reason to plan for increased capacity in the county’s ballot drop boxes. 

“COVID came about, and also we knew this was going to be a large turnout [election] for this year. And also, with people being concerned about the mail, the alternative is that people can use a ballot drop box,” she said.

Talk of adding capacity started around the August primary, if not sooner.

“I think we had kind of been mulling the idea before the August primary,” she said.

Jefferson County officials reached out to their counterparts in other counties to see if any had extra drop boxes that Jefferson County could take.

Several other counties had already upsized their drop boxes and had smaller ones to surplus, or already had ones that were in storage.

Once ballots are mailed out, the drop boxes are emptied as needed. At the courthouse, that’s every weekday.

County officials monitor the amount of ballots dropped off, and adjust their pickups accordingly, Grewell said.

Jefferson County elections officials estimate that approximately 26,900 ballots will be mailed to eligible voters Oct. 14.

Grewell said Jefferson County has historically had a very high turnout.

State officials have told counties to expect a large number of people casting ballots this year; with a turnout that ranges between 70 to 90 percent in Washington counties.

“We’ve been told it’s going to be in that higher range,” Grewell said.

Turnout in the 2016 Presidential Election was 86.21 percent in Jefferson County.

(Democratic Party candidate Hillary Clinton picked up 62.4 percent of the vote in Jefferson County, while Republican Party candidate Donald J. Trump had 29.7 percent.)

In that 2016 General Election, a total of 21,171 ballots were counted.

Of that number, almost half of the ballots — 10,047 — were left at drop boxes, staffed locations, and voting center sites.

During the 2020 Primary Election in August, out of 17,886 ballots that were accepted, a total of 7,279 ballots were collected at drop boxes, staffed locations, and voting center sites.

County elections staff conducted checks earlier this week to make sure its tabulating system will be ready on Election Night.

An official “logic and accuracy” test was done Tuesday to verify the county’s ballot-tabulating system will correctly count the votes for everything that’s on the ballot.

Grewell said the county has adequate staffing to tally this year’s vote.

“It buzzes around here,” she said of the mood on Election Night. 

“Everyone is excited. It’s like crossing the finish line; this is what we’ve been preparing for, for the past three months.”

“Our job is not done, by any means, by 8 p.m. on Election Night. It isn’t,” she added.

Washington counties will certify their election results as official by Tuesday, Nov. 24.

Washington’s Secretary of State will certify November’s General Election results by Thursday, Dec. 3.

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