Analysis

Returning Completed Ballots in Pierce County, Washington

Recently, Pew noted that in states where all ballots are sent to registered voters in the mail, many citizens return their ballots by hand, often by depositing them in drop boxes that are available 24 hours a day.

In Pierce County, Washington, the state’s second-most populous county, approximately 54 percent of the more than 220,000 ballots cast in the 2014 general election were returned at one of 29 drop boxes. The boxes were available starting 19 days before Election Day.

State officials used a geographic information system and applied an analytic tool to determine the best locations for drop boxes. Ideal placement allows each box to serve the most voters and requires no more than a 10-minute drive for anyone dropping off a ballot. 

The county has had vote by mail in place since 2011, and the auditor’s office, which runs elections, found that small drop boxes filled up too quickly. Officials switched to larger, fire-resistant drop boxes weighing about 600 pounds that can hold up to 1,500 ballots. Each box cost approximately $5,000 to $6,000.

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