Monday, February 10, 2020

The Political Desk - Tale of Two Ballots

So this Tuesday (the 11th of February), I am voting in two different elections with different methodologies. One of them has gotten a little more attention.

The first is a financial issue for Kent School Districts, To be exact, it is the Kent School District No. 415, Proposition No. 1 - Replacement of Expiring Educational Programs and Operations Levy. It is a levy, put on your property taxes and based on how much your property is valued at. It is a levy, and by law it required a simple majority to pass. A BOND, on the other hand, would require a supermajority of 60% (just in case that comes up in conversation).

As noted, this is a replacement of existing levy that has run its course, and now the schools have to go back and double check if paying for your kid's education is cool with you. And yes, having seen a lot of the kids (and adults) in Seattle, I am all in favor of making them as smart as possible. So I went with YES on this, and mailed it in a few weeks back.

And yeah, I mailed it in. We have paper ballots as a thing here in Washington State. When we first moved out here, we had polling stations where you would go and ... fill out a paper ballot, that would then be shot through a counting device, the physical ballot put aside in case of a recount, and you go on your way. But it would mean you'd have to get to the polling station in a timely fashion (ours was at a local elementary school, staffed by volunteers) to vote, but it wasn't bad at all (I was usually Voter 9 on the list).

Now, you vote in the comfort of your own home, you get to check out the issues for bigger stuff, and you mail it in. And THEN it gets shot through the counting device and kept aside for later. And because I am old and remember stories of bags of votes suddenly going missing before they are counter, I always go down to one of the handy drop-off locations as opposed to mailing it (even though you no longer have to use a stamp to mail it).

And to be honest, it feels pretty secure. I am sure that someone can mess with the counters, or steal a drop-off box, but in general it feels right.

Then there is the other election, which has gotten a lot more attention because it is voting on-line. This is for the King County Conservation District, a state-authorized nonprofit which provides information and technical assistance to landowners in managing natural resources, including water, wetlands, and land use. It doesn't have any authority as far as I can tell, but does sponsor a lot of volunteer clean-ups, water testing, and awareness. Good works, in other words. But perhaps because it is not part of the government (other than being authorized by it), it is not part of the ballot process, so has had to fend for itself.

It is NOT part of usual election process run under our Secretary of State, so if you hate all this, don't yell at her. Not her idea. It is using the drop-off booths and apparently the format and counters, so there is similarity, but as an election for a nonprofit, it is not her department.

I did vote in this election about ten years ago, and my experiences are here. It was interesting, but, yeah, I can see the problem similar to one back when we had voting stations on election day - only those people who could show up got to vote. But the cost of putting stuff on the regular ballot would stress out the nonprofit, so they could not upgrade to the standard format. So, they are experimenting with on-line

But it is on-line, so I took ten minutes to read my way through it, checked out the candidate statements (which is about all I know of them) and made my choice. Both candidates looked good, but I went with Stephen Carl ("Dutch") Deutschman over Chris Porter, though I really liked what Mr. Porter was saying about bees.

And it felt - weird. I mean, I'm doing the same thing at home as I'm doing with a paper ballot, but it still felt a little disjointed. I am feeding information into a counter, but suddenly I don't quite trust that counter. But as I'm doing so, I'm thinking about how to game the system. The Lovely Bride won't vote in this (probably), so what's to keep me from just using her name, birthdate, and email address to get an extra vote (I mean, besides my scrupulous morals)? And yet, if it were a paper ballot, I could do the same thing, but it doesn't really occur to me (both paper and website used electronic signatures, which means you had to move your mouse around like it was a pen, which it does not do). So suddenly I'm concerned about security.

Maybe I'm just really getting old, but I don't particularly trust it. Mind you, I COULD still go down to the King Conservation District's Office, at 800 SW 39th St, Suite 150 (or as locals would say "Just up the street from the IKEA") if you want the old-school vibe of actually voting as an event. So ion-line voting has the advantage of ease of use (it has taken longer to check my facts and write all this up than it took to vote). But the main result of all this will be to check out how many people actually voted here. It has been around 4000/year for all the time I've been checking, so this is something to look at.

Oh, yes, the link if you want to vote, is here. If you're a registered voter in the district, go check it out.

More later,