Tuesday is decision day for candidates and ballot measures. But it’s far from a one-day event for Pierce County Auditor Julie Anderson.
Election day marks the culmination of six months of preparation for Anderson. The work starts with candidate filing and collecting voters’ pamphlet statements in May and ends with certification of the election Nov. 26.
Anderson, a former Tacoma City Council member, is finishing her fourth year as auditor. She’s responsible for managing and overseeing Pierce County’s elections.
She said she and her staff remain excited by the task of getting ballots to voters and making sure each returned vote counts.
The News Tribune talked with Anderson last week about what voters need to know for this year’s general election.
Question: How many registered voters does Pierce County have and what percentage do you expect to vote for Tuesday’s election?
Answer: Pierce County currently has 438,344 registered voters. We’re expecting 46 percent of those voters to submit a ballot.
Q: How does this predicted turnout compare with recent odd-year elections?
Comparably. It’s not just an odd-year election, it’s an odd-year election after a presidential election. Our voter registration rolls become artificially inflated during a presidential election because of excitement and voter mobilization. It makes turnout smaller in the following election. For example, in 2009 following the 2008 presidential election, turnout was 43 percent. (Turnout for the 2008 presidential election was 81 percent; turnout for the 2012 presidential election was 79 percent.)
Q: What are the most common mistakes to avoid when filling out a ballot?
A: One, not signing the exterior envelope. That must be signed and dated. Your ballot will not be counted without it.
Pay attention to the instructions printed on the ballot which show you how to mark your choice.
The third thing is writing in candidates as a protest or a joke. We actually have to track all of that, even if you write down your mama or Daisy the dog. We don’t think it’s funny. It costs a lot of tax dollars.
A fourth thing is some people don’t realize they can skip a race but still have their vote counted. They may not turn in their ballot because of that misconception or they might write down a fictitious character in the write-in space.
Q: What’s been the response so far to the “Pierce County Votes” profile pictures for social media that replaced the “I voted” stickers?
A: It’s been fun. It’s been picking up. People who like to do that kind of stuff are pretty authentic so they’re waiting until they actually vote to upload them. It’s fun to watch the momentum build.
Q: Where can someone download the “Pierce County Votes” images?
A: Piercecountyelections.org and then go to the current elections page and it’s right in front of your face.
Q: How much will this election cost and who pays for it?
A: The cost estimate for the 2013 general election is $1.6 million. This cost will be shared by 75 jurisdictions. This is about average for an odd-year general election. Each jurisdiction’s costs are based on the number of registered voters in their district. The cost per voter is $1.41.
Q: How many extra workers have you hired and what are their jobs?
A: We’re still pulling from the extra hires that we trained from the presidential election in 2012. We have 400 extra hires to choose from. I estimate we’re using a total of 200 part-time in this election. That’s a big number for such a small turnout. That’s because we’re rotating them into shifts to keep their skills refreshed. We want to keep a large number of people skilled and fully trained. They inspect ballots, check signatures, audit ballot batches, and tabulate the ballots.
Q: What races or issues appear to be of greater interest in Tuesday’s election?
A: The contested races: the Senate race in the 26th Legislative District, contested city races, Port of Tacoma, school boards. Anywhere campaigns are churning — contacting voters — you see better turnout in those districts. Right this minute (Wednesday afternoon), we have 20.4 percent of ballots returned in the 26th Legislative District, but in the city of DuPont, it’s only 14.78 percent.
Q: What is your favorite thing about election season?
A: It’s the preparation six months in advance that no one ever thinks about. The tabulation of ballots on election day is nothing compared to the work that happens six months in advance. That includes taking care of our military and overseas voters, preparing a ballot title statement and managing 247 individual high-strung candidates.
Q: How do you stay revved up for an off-year election?
A: It’s the same set of logistics, rules and risks for us. We are going to mail out over 400,000 ballots every general election regardless of what the turnout is. The excitement for us is getting all the right ballots in all the right hands and making sure every returned vote counts.
Q: What else is new with this election?
A: We’re having a normal election in Pierce County with no changes in how we vote, such as redistricting or eliminating polling places.Steve Maynard: 253-597-8647 firstname.lastname@example.org @TNTstevemaynard