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UW Election Eye 2012

Campaign 2012 through the eyes of UW faculty and students

March 30, 2012 at 10:49 AM

King County Elections survey finds high satisfaction; youth want technology

King County Elections ballot

King County switched to an entirely vote-by-mail system after the 2008 general election. It is now exploring more technologically advanced options, such as voting online. (Photo by Alicia Halberg/UW Election Eye)

King County Elections released survey results earlier this week looking into voters’ awareness, perceptions, and satisfaction with the department, as well as the viability of using new technologies in future elections.

Results varied substantially by age group.

King County is home to 1.1 million registered voters, and King County Elections‘ mission statement focuses on “conducting accurate, secure and accessible elections” for those voters.

The phone survey was conducted in September and October of 2011 with 604 interviews across North, South, and East King County. Respondents were evenly split on gender (51% female), heavily identified as Caucasian (83%), and an average age of 47 years old. Additionally, half said they had an annual income of $75,000 or more, and 30% had completed a four-year college degree and 29% had completed post-graduate education.

The survey found that 86% of respondents are satisfied with the overall quality of services provided by King County Elections, and the main reason for dissatisfaction was “nostalgia for voting in person” — something I’d bet could be mitigated by sending out those “I voted” stickers with ballots. This concern notably beat out worries about mail fraud, which garnered half as many responses.

A whopping 79% of respondents said that it is “very important for King County to make investments in future elections innovations.” This is something that Washington state has already worked to achieve by transitioning entirely to vote-by-mail, one of a handful of states across the country, and allowing ballot-tracking online.  Notably, a main focus of the county’s survey was introducing voting online as well as a group of smartphone applications. These apps would allow users to find election results, check on their voter registration, and set countdown clocks to election day.

Younger voters supported the notion of online more than older generations. The survey results did not provide a full breakdown of age and preference, but it did note that 45% of those under 45 preferred online voting. In contrast, among those over 65, fully 82% favored casting paper ballots. In a more indirect comparison of age group characteristics, other subgroups who favored paper ballots included those who usually communicate via landline telephones, 76%, and those who vote in every election, 68%.

Of all respondents, 37% believed that hackers create more voter fraud with online elections. On the other hand, 10% of those who favored online voting said that they felt it was a more secure method than voting by mail.

Countries near and far have tested out online voting; more than 80 Canadian cities have tested out an online system, and in 2007 Estonia began allowing voting online. Oregon has also toyed around with a technological solution, allowing disabled voters to use iPads to vote in a new pilot program.

The survey concludes this matter by recommending that King County look into “vigorously promoting future online voting” and electronic delivery of voter information due to increasing mail costs and to boost youth voter participation. “Although large majorities of respondents currently prefer a mail ballot and voting information delivered by mail, preference for these things will likely decrease as voters now under age 45, who largely prefer online services, make greater gains in the population of voters,” the report said.

King County Elections recently mailed out ballots for the April 17, 2012 special election on a host of public services. The 2012 presidential election will be the first completely vote-by-mail presidential general election for Washington state voters.

Comments | Topics: Demographics, King County, king county elections

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