PORT ANGELES — Representatives of a nonprofit seeking to add a ballot box in Sequim aired their frustration with the process during the Clallam County commissioners’ work session.
“We believe providing access to voting is one of the most important functions of our county government,” Dave Shreffler, Sequim Family Advocates president, told commissioners Monday.
“We feel like making voting easier is something we all should be able to support.”
He asked the county to consider earmarking money to add a ballot box in Carlsborg and an additional ballot box in Sequim.
Commissioner Mark Ozias said Clallam County Auditor Shoona Riggs already is working to add ballot boxes in Carlsborg, Sekiu, Neah Bay and Clallam Bay. A second box in Sequim is not included. At present, a ballot box is at 651 W. Washington St.
The county was required to do this under a state law passed last year, mandating counties to “establish a minimum of one ballot box per 15,000 registered voters in the county and one ballot box in each city, town and census designated place in the county with a post office.”
Shreffler said the county already owns another ballot box, in addition to the four needed for Carlsborg, Sekiu, Clallam Bay and Neah Bay, and asked that the fifth be provided in Sequim.
Commissioners said ballot boxes fall under Riggs’ duties.
Riggs, in a letter read by Ozias, said she was unable to attend the meeting because she was preparing to interview candidates for two positions in the elections department.
“She expresses her regrets for not being here,” Ozias said. “She indicates that her intention is to have all four of the legally required ballot boxes — which are her first priority — installed before the August primary of this year and Carlsborg is one of those four.”
Shreffler told the commissioners that Sequim Family Advocates has been “stonewalled” for the past 2½ years on the issue.
“It’s pretty disappointing that the auditor isn’t here today,” said Craig Stevenson, the nonprofit’s vice president.
“We initially wanted to have this dialogue a couple months ago, but this meeting was delayed.”
Sequim Family Advocate’s recommendation — which Shreffler and Stevenson said was supported by members of the Sequim School Board in 2015 — is to place the ballot boxes on school property. They recommend placing ballot boxes at Greywolf Elementary in Carlsborg and at Sequim High School, both areas frequented by many people in the Sequim community.
Shreffler said parents of school-age children are a demographic that has a low voter turnout and that adding ballot boxes in these locations could help increase their participation.
A representative of the Sequim School District who attended the meeting Monday said the district would need to consider exactly where the box should be placed and that the final decision would take a vote from the school board.
Ozias expressed his sympathy for how difficult it can be to get government to take action quickly on seemingly simple topics.
“I can tell you nothing is more frustrating to members of the community and members of your elected government than how long it takes and how complicated it can be to achieve something simple,” he said.
“Our heads explode on an almost daily basis because of what we’re talking about right now.”
Clallam County Administrator Jim Jones said the county already is having to deal with the increased costs of adding the four boxes and that boxes cost thousands of dollars each year to maintain.
This is because the state requires ballots to be under duel control, meaning at least two people have to retrieve ballots each day, he said.
“The state, in their wisdom in requiring this bill, didn’t provide any money for that,” Jones said. “As an issue, we clearly have to comply … we have to figure it out, but additional boxes do not come free.”
Stevenson said Sequim Family Advocates has volunteered to pay for the administrative costs of transporting ballots.
The county currently contracts with the League of Women Voters, which provides people to collect the ballots each election.
That costs the county $450 per election, said Paula Barnes, voter services committee member from the League of Women Voters of Clallam County.
Typically there are two elections each year, she said Tuesday, adding there may be more during years with special elections.
She said it hasn’t been discussed yet how much it would cost to service another ballot box in the Sequim area.
“They aren’t getting rich doing it,” Stevenson said. “If they were to go to one more box, what is that incremental bump in cost and are there people who would be willing to help fund that?”
Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at [email protected].