Spokane County Struggles To Comply With New Ballot Box Law

Feb 28, 2018

Spokane County needs to add new ballot boxes to comply with new Washington law, but it has run into a few hurdles.

Spokane County elections officials are struggling to comply with a new state law that requires the county to install several more drop boxes for election ballots. The new law was approved last year by the Washington legislature, but didn’t include any money to help cover counties’ costs.

In 2017 the legislature imposed a new formula that requires one drop box for every 15,000 registered voters. And it requires at least one box in every city and town and every area recognized by the census bureau with a post office.

Spokane County Auditor Vicky Dalton says the county now has 19 drop boxes, many of them at city and county libraries. She says the new rules mandate another nine boxes. Most of those will go in the county’s small towns such as Waverly. She says one is destined for the hamlet of Town and Country in the north part of the county, which has a post office but isn’t technically incorporated, and has no public land on which to put a box.

Another difficult area is Fairchild Air Force Base. Dalton says the Department of Defense doesn’t want a ballot box there.

“If you look at Fairchild, there really isn’t any place except the front gate that would even work to put a drop box and then that becomes a security issue for them,” Dalton said.

Dalton says the county managed to find two used drop boxes and has bought five others. Total cost: between $15,000-20,000. The state isn’t writing the check for that, the county is. That’s not Dalton’s only concern.

“Now we are going to be faced with drop boxes that are not well used, that many not be in as secure an area as we would like them to be. It’s going to increase our costs and the time that it takes to collect the ballots,” she said.