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You can vote by smartphone in King Conservation District election

Paula Wissel

There’s an election going on in King County that lets you vote with a few clicks on your phone or tablet. It’s the second year the King Conservation District is relying on mobile voting. Last year, it was one of the first jurisdictions in the country to try it, and the number of people casting votes doubled in what is usually a very obscure election.Flyers were sent out to eligible voters in King County with QR codes on them. The code takes you to a site where you put in your name and date of birth to bring up your ballot. In seconds, you can complete your ballot and submit it to King County Elections.


If you didn’t get a flyer, you can go to the conservation district website. Voting continues through March 23.


Cynthia Setel, King Conservation District interim executive director, said the integrity of the vote is ensured because the ballot is actually printed out by King County Elections before it’s counted. 


“So it’s not purely electronic. You use the electronics to get the information, but it’s still a paper ballot that is used to verify,” she said.


Setel said King County Elections still checks the signatures as well. Although you might think signing on an electronic device would result in more signatures being rejected than with paper ballots, officials say the opposite is true. Last year, they had far fewer rejections with mobile voting.


And, as for security, a National Cybersecurity Center audit of last year’s conservation district election shows it was secure. Still, critics, including Washington Secretary of State Kim Wyman, who doesn’t oversee this particular election, remain concerned.


In an email, Wyman said any electronic ballot return method can be vulnerable to attack.


Officials say sending out a ballot to everyone is too expensive, and mobile voting is an attractive alternative. For people who don't feel comfortable voting electronically, you can pick up a paper ballot or print one out and mail it in.   


King County has spent a little more than $100,000 getting word out about the Conservation District Board of Supervisors election through mailers and advertisements, including in underwriting on KNKX.


King Conservation District is what's known as a special purpose district. Its stated purpose is "to promote the sustainable use of natural resources through responsible stewardship" in King County.

Because of state law, the conservation district election can’t be on the ballot during regular elections, something the King Conservation District would like to change.

The Pierce Conservation District is also having a board election right now, with ballots due March 24.

Paula is a former host, reporter and producer who retired from KNKX in 2021. She joined the station in 1989 as All Things Considered host and covered the Law and Justice beat for 15 years. Paula grew up in Idaho and, prior to KNKX, worked in public radio and television in Boise, San Francisco and upstate New York.