King Conservation District rolls out online voting for board election
February 15, 2011
By Warren Kagarise
Supervisors handle conservation projects, programs in Issaquah
The little-noticed election for a King Conservation District board seat kicked off Feb. 15 and, for the first time, district voters in Issaquah and elsewhere can cast ballots online.
The monthlong election is for a supervisor seat on the board of the conservation district — the agency responsible for promoting sustainable use of natural resources, and providing information and technical assistance to landowners.
The electorate must choose among Kent farmer Bruce Elliott, Redmond real estate agent Teri Herrera, Duvall farmer Eric Nelson and Sammamish retiree Preston Prudente for the open seat.
“We are pleased to have a full slate of candidates for our inaugural online election,” board Chairman Bill Knutsen said in a statement.
Members handle a $6.5 million budget and offer guidance to staff members and for district programs. Supervisors also help to identify critical conservation needs in the district and seek feedback about conservation programs from district residents.
The all-volunteer board includes three elected members and a pair of supervisors appointed by the Washington State Conservation Commission. Both elected and appointed supervisors serve three-year terms.
Landowners fund the district through a $10-per-parcel assessment fee. Though the district receives some funding from the state conservation commission — plus King County, state and federal grants — state legislators do not allocate dollars to the agency.
The board administers conservation projects and other programs throughout the 62-year-old district.
In Issaquah, the district infused more than $320,000 into the project to restore a key stretch along Issaquah Creek in Squak Valley Park North. Crews completed the long-planned habitat-restoration project late last year.
The district also offered a series of workshops dedicated to eco-conscious housekeeping and landscaping in Issaquah last spring.
In addition to Issaquah, the district includes all of King County except for Enumclaw, Federal Way, Milton, Pacific and Skykomish.
Voters inside the district started to cast e-ballots in the supervisor race Feb. 15. The voting period runs through March 15.
King County Elections does not administer district elections. Rather, the district has retained Bellevue-based Election Trust to coordinate the balloting. The company has managed past district elections at traditional polling places, such as the Issaquah Library.
The district has introduced online voting to replace the scattered polling places used in past supervisor elections. Voters can cast e-ballots from computers using a PIN authentication provided by the district.
In the ongoing election, officials also plan to offer in-person voting at the district’s Renton office March 15.
Leaders shifted from the traditional Election Day to a 30-day voting period in a bid to boost voter turnout. The district provided a mere seven polling places across King County during the 2010 supervisor election due to budget constraints.
Though the district encompasses most of the 1.1 million registered voters in the county, anemic turnout has defined recent conservation district elections. The most recent election in March 2010 attracted 4,232 voters — a sharp increase from the 2,757 voters in the 2009 contest. Only 198 voters cast ballots in the 2008 supervisor race.
How to vote in the King Conservation District election
King Conservation District voters must select a board member from a slate of five candidates.
The monthlong election period ends at 9 p.m. March 15. Voters can also cast ballots in person at the district office — 1107 S.W. Grady Way, Suite 130, Renton — from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. March 15.
The election is open to registered voters in Issaquah and elsewhere in King County, except for Enumclaw, Federal Way, Milton, Pacific and Skykomish — cities outside the district.
Voters must confirm eligibility by submitting a signed affidavit through e-mail, fax or postal mail. The eligibility form is available at the district website, www.kingcd.org.
Then, after eligibility is confirmed, voters receive a personal identification number via e-mail. Voters receive complete voting-access information in the same e-mail delivery.
If a voter has not received a PIN by 5 p.m. March 14, he or she must cast a ballot in person at the Renton office.
Voters without e-mail addresses can instead use addresses provided by a family member or friend. Voter eligibility is not based on a personal e-mail address. Voters without e-mail addresses or computer access can cast ballots in person.
The district has retained Election Trust and a secure voting platform to conduct the election. The system, Scytl Pnyx eVoting, has been successfully deployed for United States overseas and military voters since 2008.