A look inside the elections center in Pierce County, as workers adapt amid COVID-19 | KNKX

A look inside the elections center in Pierce County, as workers adapt amid COVID-19

Aug 3, 2020

Washingtonians are voting the same way they have for about a decade — by mailing in their ballots or putting them into drop boxes. But the people on the other end of that process have been working very differently.

Processing ballots now requires physical distancing among election workers, and fewer people in some of the secure spaces where ballots are scanned and tabulated.

All 39 Washington counties are dealing with this issue. Pierce County Auditor Julie Anderson showed KNKX around her operation in Tacoma, which is now spread into two buildings. Listen to her describe the adaptations they've made in the audio player above. And see photos of the tour in a gallery below.

ELECTION AT A GLANCE

Can I still register? You can register in-person up until 8 p.m. on Election Day. You can learn how, or check your registration status, through the Secretary of State's website.

What's on the ballot? It's a busy ballot. All statewide offices are up for election, including a 36-way race for governor. There also are seats in the state Legislature and some judge positions on the ballot this year, among other things. The top two vote-getters in each race will advance to the general election in November.

Ballot deadline: Postmarked no later than Tuesday, Aug. 4, or into a drop box by 8 p.m. that same day.

When we'll see the first returns: The expectation is that most places will still report their first results shortly after 8 p.m., but Anderson in Pierce County says there might be fewer ballots counted by the time the first returns drop, because fewer people can occupy the tabulation room in order to provide physical distancing. It's typical in Washington for the results to trickle out over the course of several days. 

BALLOT COUNTING IN A PANDEMIC

Election workers wear gloves and a mask as they put ballots into manageable batches at the Pierce County Auditor's office in Tacoma.
Credit Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

Pierce County election workers now occupy cavernous rooms to check signatures as ballots arrive for the Aug. 4 primary.
Credit Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

Care has been taken to make sure workers keep their distance from each other at the Pierce County Auditor's office, while they process incoming ballots for the Aug. 4 primary.
Credit Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

Masks are required, temperatures are checked, and workers are kept far apart as they count ballots for the Aug. 4 primary.
Credit Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX