Thurston County elections officials have changed their minds on the merits of a ballot drop box at The Evergreen State College. Auditor Gary Alexander says his office is putting one inside the college library building as a pilot project for the Nov. 5 election.
“The question is, does this increase voter participation – not only with the student body but with the faculty? We’ll look at it next year and see what to do,’’ Alexander said Tuesday. “We’re hopeful this pilot project will result in a permanent drop box located on campus, but it will depend on the usage of the box.”
Alexander was appointed to fill the auditor’s vacancy after Kim Wyman was sworn in as secretary of state in January. He now faces a challenge from Democrat Mary Hall for the year remaining on Wyman’s unexpired term.
Drop boxes are helpful to voters in Washington’s mail-in election system, and the Thurston County Auditor’s Office had rejected the idea in the past to add a ballot drop on campus.
College spokeswoman Sandra Kiser said the auditor's staff approached Evergreen this time. She said the box went up Tuesday and is located just inside the lobby doors to the campus library building.
“We’re glad to have it. It offers a great service to our students, staff and people in the community,’’ Kiser said.Alexander – and auditors around the state – had been chilly this year to legislation that would have required county elections offices to put boxes on or near college campuses. In testimony to a state House committee this year on House Bill 1290, the Thurston County elections manager, Steve Homan, said drop boxes were expensive.
HB 1290 would have required at least one drop box within a mile of college campuses and allowed more if colleges helped pay the costs. Alexander, a Republican who also serves in the Legislature in the 2nd district, voted against that bill in committee and again on the House floor this year, but he said this week his opposition was only to it being a mandate.
The new box is one of more than two dozen available countywide and will be available for ballots starting Oct. 16 – roughly when ballots start going out to voters.
Alexander said it is being placed inside the college library for security and convenience. As outlined in his news release:
“This is a walk-up ballot drop box which will be secured to the railing of the stairs near the main entrance to the Library and is expected to be installed today, October 8. The ballot drop box will open on Wednesday, October 16 and remain open 24 hours a day until it is promptly closed by the Elections Division staff at 8:00 p.m. on Election Day, November 5."