Valley voters brave high water
October 2, 2008 · Updated 4:22 PM
Bryan Stokosa donned a pair of hip waders to ford through waist-deep water to collect the ballots of neighbors trapped by flood waters Election Day, Nov. 7.
Stokosa ferried the ballots of Linda Morn, Barry Levenberg, Juli Ward and Lisa Schilling in a plastic baggie from the flooded intersection of Reinig and North Fork roads to Jodi Laasko, who dropped them off at the Sallal Grange polling station.
It was just one of the hurdles Valley voters had to contend with as flooding isolated some areas. Several polling places were closed because of high water, including Snoqualmie Elementary School in Snoqualmie and the Mount Si Senior Center in North Bend. Alternate sites were used. Church on the Ridge, a polling station on Snoqualmie Ridge, was without power for several hours in the morning until a generator could be brought to the site.
Though provisional ballots were available at the Snoqualmie fire station, they didn't have spaces for the community center bond and levy measure and voters were urged to write in their choice on the ballots.
However, despite the record-breaking flood, the hardships did not deter many voters in King County as citizens turned out in greater than expected numbers countywide.
"Voters clearly responded to requests to cast a mail-in or provisional ballot by the deadline to make sure their vote would count," said Jim Buck, interim director of Washington State Records, Elections, and Licensing Services. "Despite the ballot challenges, staff made sure people could cast a vote. So ultimately, this big turnout is good for democracy."
Flood waters closed roads in the Carnation area, making it impossible for poll workers to deliver ballots from three poll locations to regional election depots after the polls closed at 8 p.m. Ordinarily, the ballots would be transported from the poll sites at Stillwater Elementary, Duvall Church and the Riverview School District headquarters to the temporary election annex for counting.
Hearing of the problem, mayors Bill Paulsen of Carnation and Will Ibershof of Duvall, along with Glen Merriman, chief of the Duvall-Carnation Police Department, swung into action, working with King County Election staff to devise a chain of custody to secure the ballots until roads were passable again.
"The voters did their part under some very difficult conditions this evening," Paulsen said. "So we wanted to do what we could to make sure their efforts weren't wasted and that we safeguarded their ballots and the integrity of the election process."
When voting ended at the Riverview polling location in Carnation, poll workers completed their accountability work, sealed their bags, and handed the ballots to a Carnation Police officer. The officer then completed documentation transferring custody of the materials and had a poll worker sign it. The officer then drove the ballots to the emergency operation center at the Duvall Fire Station where they were secured overnight in the evidence room.
Poll workers at the Stillwater Elementary and Duvall Church poll sites delivered their equipment bags and materials directly to the evidence room at the fire station where an officer met them to complete an evidence custody form. The equipment bags and materials were secured in the evidence room until roads cleared and election staff signed for them to complete the chain of custody documentation.
"From the moment the officers take custody of the ballots, we are creating a chain of custody, just like we do with evidence," said Merriman. "That means we'll secure the ballots and document their location and who has control of them at every step in the process until they are handed over to King County Elections staff."
"The cities' help was invaluable in this process," said Buck. "This is a perfect example of how regional officials can work together to serve the community. We owe them a huge thanks."