July 22, 2024 6:34 pm

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Snohomish County opens new $8.6 million Election Center

EVERETT—Snohomish County leadership held a ribbon-cutting ceremony Tuesday, July 9, to celebrate its newest Election Center in Everett, which will house all election-based ballot processing and counting operations for Snohomish County.

Snohomish County Election
Ribbon cutting ceremony of the new $8.6 million state-of-the-art Snohomish County Election Center. (L-R) Snohomish County Auditor Garth Fell, Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers, County Councilman and 39th State Representative Sam Low, Snohomish County Prosecutor Jason Cummings, and former Edmonds City Council member now President-elect of League of Women Voters Adrienne Fraley-Monillas. Lynnwood Times | Mario Lotmore.

Prior to the opening of the Elections Center, Snohomish County leased out office space off campus which was an expensive (approximately, $1.5 million any given election), less efficient, and less accessible process.

Voter turnout in Presidential elections averages over 80% for Snohomish County. Nearly 450,000 ballots were cast by voters in the 2020 Presidential Election. During the past two presidential elections, Snohomish County leased temporary spaces to accommodate the increased turnout and ballots to count. These leased spaces required one-time investments for facility and security improvements, the county stated in a press release Tuesday.

Snohomish County Election
A peak inside the new $8.6 million state-of-the-art Snohomish County Election Center ready for the 2024 Presidential Election. Lynnwood Times | Mario Lotmore.

“Our democracy depends on accurate and transparent election systems, and Snohomish County has an excellent track record of fulfilling its responsibilities. The Elections Center will ensure those at the frontlines of democracy, our elections workers, have an efficient and safe space to count our votes this year, and voters can continue to have confidence in the results of elections,” said Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers.

Snohomish County Auditor Garth Fell informed the Lynnwood Times the county expects a voter turnout of about 35% of the primaries. Nearly half a million ballots will be sent out in Snohomish County.

Snohomish County Election
A peak inside the new $8.6 million state-of-the-art Snohomish County Election Center ready for the 2024 Presidential Election. Lynnwood Times | Mario Lotmore.

Speakers at the ceremony included Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers, County Councilman and 39th State Representative Sam Low, Snohomish County Auditor Garth Fell, Snohomish County Prosecutor Jason Cummings, and former Edmonds City Council member now President-elect of League of Women Voters Adrienne Fraley-Monillas.

“This is a space in which democracy takes life,” Fraley-Monillas said. “Thank you for taking such care in ensuring every vote counts, all of you.”

The opening of the new Election Center comes at a time right before the 2024 Presidential election, improving security of ballots and staff and enhances observation opportunities for the public as well as a more transparent process, the county said. The county designed the facility to specifically meet the productions needs of the upcoming election.

Snohomish County Election
Ribbon cutting ceremony of the new $8.6 million state-of-the-art Snohomish County Election Center. Snohomish County Auditor Garth Fell (center), with (L-R) Snohomish County Prosecutor Jason Cummings, Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers, County Councilman and 39th State Representative Sam Low, and former Edmonds City Council member now President-elect of League of Women Voters Adrienne Fraley-Monillas. Lynnwood Times | Mario Lotmore.

“As we head into a year where elections are front and center, this facility provides the space, security, and transparency we need to deliver topnotch elections for Snohomish County voters, and it demonstrates the County’s ongoing commitment to accurate, fair elections,” said Snohomish County Auditor Garth Fell.

Following the ribbon cutting ceremony Fell led a tour through the new facility, which is located on the third floor of the Admin West Building on the Snohomish County Campus—3000 Rockefeller Avenue in Everett. The remodeled space adds 17,000 square feet specifically dedicated to processing voters’ ballots, ensuring the entire process, from checking signatures on ballot envelopes to counting ballots, can be performed in a secure space on a single floor.

Snohomish County Election
Get out the vote materials by Snohomish County Auditor’s Office. Lynnwood Times | Mario Lotmore.

The Elections Center also adds an observer loop which allows candidates, political party members, and the public to monitor activities. Anyone and everyone can access this observer loop after checking in at the Election Center entrance and are able to read instructional posters that explain how ballots are counted.

“With large windows into every workspace and an observer track where people can freely walk, no part of the ballot counting process is hidden from view. This level of transparency should provide peace of mind to Snohomish County voters that we have a great system here,” said Sam Low, Snohomish County Councilmember and County Canvassing Board Member.

The county said by bringing together all aspects of elections administration under one roof, the Elections Center increases efficiency and streamlines support from other county offices and departments on the main county campus such as the IT Department and Sheriff’s Office.

The total budget of the Elections Center cost approximately $8.6 million and was funded by federal grants and money specifically set aside by county officials over several years to invest in elections-related capital improvements.

Key features of the new Elections Center include tightened security measures, expanded operational capacity, and improved observation opportunities.

The Lynnwood Times asked Prosecutor Cummings how the Prosecutor’s Office helps with election integrity and safety. Cummings replied his administration helps provide legal advice and services to support the Auditor’s Office during the elections so that if any legal issues come up, or if there’s a lawsuit the Prosecutor’s Office is defending the Auditor’s Office.

Snohomish County Election
Garth Fell, Snohomish County Auditor who is also in charge of elections for the county. Lynnwood Times | Mario Lotmore.

On the back end, he continued, if there’s an allegation of voter fraud it’s Cummings’ office who determines if there should be a criminal investigation or not. An example of this he gave is if someone were to sign a ballot for someone else, which his office he said discourages.

“Having served on the County Canvassing Board in previous Presidential election years, I know how important suitable, secure space is to ensure that high-turnout elections are conducted in a secure and professional manner. The Election Center will allow county staff to follow the methodical counting and auditing procedures they use to ensure accuracy and confidence in our election results,” said Jason Cummings, Snohomish County Prosecuting Attorney and County Canvassing Board Member.

After Election Day, two audits are conducted to confirm the accuracy of the ballot counting equipment and election results—a random batch audit and a risk-limiting audit. Prior to each election, all ballot counting equipment is tested for reliability and accuracy.

Anyone can observe the election process by visiting the Auditor’s office. Simply check in and follow the observer and visitor rules. 

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