King County Elections Director Julie Wise
King County Elections Director Julie Wise kicks off a Logic & Accuracy Test at the agency's Renton headquarters (Photo: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

Yes­ter­day, like it does in advance of every elec­tion, King Coun­ty Elec­tions con­duct­ed a Log­ic & Accu­ra­cy Test wit­nessed by the Office of the Sec­re­tary of State, par­ty elec­tion observers, and media representatives.

The test, which was rou­tine and went off with­out a hitch, also afford­ed media out­lets an oppor­tu­ni­ty to see the staff of Elec­tions in action at their Ren­ton head­quar­ters and get Direc­tor Julie Wise’s take on recent events.

Below, you’ll find our inter­view with Direc­tor Wise in its entire­ty. Click “Play” if you’d like to watch it or scroll down below the video play­er to read it.

Complete transcript

NPI: We’re here with Julie Wise, the King Coun­ty Direc­tor of Elec­tions. It’s the 2020 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion; it’s an excit­ing time. Julie, can you describe what just hap­pened today? And what vot­ers can expect as they return their ballots?

JULIE WISE: Here at King Coun­ty Elec­tions head­quar­ters, we just com­plet­ed our offi­cial Log­ic and Accu­ra­cy test, where we’re [doing our] final test and vet­ting of the tab­u­la­tion sys­tem that is going to scan all of our bal­lots here in King Coun­ty. The test was suc­cess­ful, and now we are able to start pro­cess­ing bal­lots all the way through to scan­ning. That means that come Elec­tion Night, we’re going to have our results, of course, and with the num­ber of returns we’re see­ing already, we’re like­ly to see some real­ly mean­ing­ful elec­tion night results.

NPI: Now, how many peo­ple have vot­ed already?

JULIE WISE: We have seen near­ly three hun­dred thou­sand bal­lots [come] back here to King Coun­ty Elec­tions head­quar­ters. We had a lot of activ­i­ty at our drop box­es over the week­end, but a lot of activ­i­ty as well as the Unit­ed States Postal Ser­vice, as vot­ers are return­ing their bal­lots in droves.

NPI: So is that turnout of almost twen­ty percent?

JULIE WISE: Almost 20%? I think was it sev­en­teen per­cent? Okay. Wow.

NPI: It’s amazing.

JULIE WISE: That is amaz­ing. We only have a mil­lion more to go.

NPI: So there’s two more weeks left. If vot­ers are con­cerned about how they return their bal­lot, what options do they have?

JULIE WISE: If vot­ers are con­cerned about how to return their bal­lot, they can either use [drop box­es or] the Unit­ed States Postal Ser­vice with extra track­ing, [more] than they’ve ever seen before. So, we have an intel­li­gent mail bar­code on every sin­gle piece. Not only [do we know if it] has it made its way to the vot­er, we know nine­ty-nine per­cent of our vot­ers received their bal­lot with­in just a few days. But also when it comes back to us. In fact, our bal­lot track­er is going to tell you when the USPS antic­i­pates it being back in our hands here.

So, we have more track­ing than ever for our vot­ers, [so they] feel com­fort­able with it. We also have, of course, web cam­eras where you can watch the team here hard at work; [we’re] not doing as many tours as we’ve done in the past. Vot­ers should also know that the polit­i­cal par­ty observers are on hand when­ev­er we’re pro­cess­ing bal­lots here at our elec­tion head­quar­ters as well as our vote cen­ters and our drop boxes.

NPI: Excel­lent. How high do you think turnout could get in the election?

JULIE WISE: You know, we chal­lenge King Coun­ty vot­ers to a nine­ty per­cent turnout, which is a bit of a sort of auda­cious goal if you will, but vot­ers are up for it. We can feel that ener­gy and excitement.

We’ve already seen a twen­ty per­cent turnout so far. So we need anoth­er mil­lion bal­lots back in the next cou­ple of weeks to get to that nine­ty per­cent vot­er turnout. Pret­ty typ­i­cal of King Coun­ty vot­ers to real­ly want to make sure that their voic­es are heard in elec­tions, espe­cial­ly our pres­i­den­tial elections.

So would­n’t be a sur­prise to see an eighty-five per­cent turnout, but I think King Coun­ty vot­ers are going to show up like they nev­er have before, and break a lot of records. Like they are already off to a great start.

NPI: Would you say that this elec­tion is just water­shed in terms of its scope, and the inter­est, and the inten­si­ty, and oth­er characteristics?

JULIE WISE: I think that there is just this ener­gy and buzz. I can feel it here at the elec­tions facil­i­ty. We real­ly feed off of our vot­ers’ excite­ment and ener­gy and pas­sion for the elec­tions. We’ve had a lot of time talk­ing about it lead­ing up into this impor­tant elec­tion cycle. Also, we’ve been busy with a cou­ple oth­er elec­tions this year as well. And we’ve seen record turnout here in King Coun­ty, not just in the pres­i­den­tial, but in our [Top Two] elec­tion, too. We should­n’t for­get we saw a fifty-six per­cent turnout when past records show us it should be in the thirties.

King County Elections Director Julie Wise
King Coun­ty Elec­tions Direc­tor Julie Wise kicks off a Log­ic & Accu­ra­cy Test at the agen­cy’s Ren­ton head­quar­ters (Pho­to: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

NPI: That’s incred­i­ble. Now, have peo­ple from oth­er states tak­en notice of what we’re doing here in Wash­ing­ton? Are you get­ting any calls from elec­tions offi­cials in oth­er states at the local lev­el or at the state lev­el? What are they asking?

JULIE WISE: We had a cou­ple dozen juris­dic­tions start reach­ing out to us back in March as they pre­pared to see more vote by mail bal­lots in their juris­dic­tions for this pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, or as they moved to vote by mail.

We are hap­py to sup­port and pro­vide any sort of doc­u­ment [or] pro­ce­dures to real­ly help these juris­dic­tions as they move to vote by mail. We’ve been at it for a decade. Many of our vot­ers have been vot­ing via vote by mail for many decades. So, we do have that exper­tise, and we are known as a leader in the coun­try for run­ning accu­rate, secure, acces­si­ble, vote-by-mail elec­tions. So we’re hap­py to help, and hap­py to see this be the tip­ping point for vote by mail.

NPI: And I sup­pose that would include our vot­er intent manual.

JULIE WISE: That would include our vot­er intent man­u­al. I love that Wash­ing­ton State takes the time. We say, we know that you’re excit­ed about the bal­lot results, but we want to take the time and make sure that your vote is count­ed how you intend­ed it. It might take us a lit­tle bit longer, but we’re going to make sure to open up that nine­ty page vot­er intent man­u­al that all thir­ty-nine coun­ties here in Wash­ing­ton State use to make sure that we’re all count­ing bal­lots the same way.

NPI: Final­ly, we’ve had a lot of leg­is­la­tion in recent years to reform our elec­tion sys­tem and make it even eas­i­er to vote, remov­ing bar­ri­ers. Past advances have includ­ed pre­paid postage, which your team led the way on a cou­ple of years ago. We’ve also seen auto­mat­ic vot­er reg­is­tra­tion, same day reg­is­tra­tion, pre-reg­is­tra­tion. One thing that peo­ple are now talk­ing about is per­haps improv­ing the bal­lot secu­ri­ty. We asked vot­ers statewide if they would like to move the sig­na­ture block off the return enve­lope and per­haps some­where else, like onto the bal­lot [secu­ri­ty] sleeve. Do you think that’s logis­ti­cal­ly fea­si­ble, or would we have to change our pro­ce­dures in order to accom­plish that?

JULIE WISE: We would def­i­nite­ly have to change our pro­ce­dures and re-look at how we uti­lize equip­ment. It would be a big change for us here at King Coun­ty. We’re always open to the con­ver­sa­tion. We want to make sure that peo­ple feel that they can cast their vote in a secure and a pri­vate manner.

That’s why — one of the rea­sons why — we real­ly want­ed to imple­ment drop box­es… [so that] vot­ers could feel com­fort­able not hav­ing their sig­na­ture going through the Unit­ed States Postal Ser­vice, though it is secure there as well, but they can put it right in the hands of King Coun­ty Elections.

But if we want to have more con­ver­sa­tion about that sig­na­ture, because it cre­ates con­cern, we’re always wel­come to have that. But it would be a sig­nif­i­cant change, and I would imag­ine prob­a­bly a sig­nif­i­cant dol­lar amount asso­ci­at­ed with it.

NPI: Great. Thank you. Julie. Best of luck as you count the ballots.

JULIE WISE: Thank you so much for being here. Real­ly appre­ci­ate it.

NPI: All right. Take care.

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

Adjacent posts

2 replies on “King County Elections Director Julie Wise says that her team is seeing record early turnout”

Comments are closed.