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Thurston County makes changes ahead of August 4 primary election to prevent spread of COVID-19

Ballot envelopes don't need to be licked, workers are on two shifts and a drive-through voter registration service are just some of the changes put in place.

THURSTON COUNTY, Wash — Thurston County is getting creative to handle the upcoming primary election during the coronavirus pandemic.

Ballot envelopes don't need to be licked, workers are on two shifts and a drive-through voter registration service are just some of the changes put in place ahead of the August 4 primary.

"We had to start thinking outside of the box,” said county Auditor Mary Hall, who has worked in elections for more than 20 years.

With the courthouse elections office closed this summer, Hall and her staff had to find a remote location to handle voters who needed to pick up ballots, register in person, or the disabled who cannot vote-by-mail.

Luckily for the county, the nearby South Puget Sound Community College has extra space this summer. All of its classes are being held online.

Voters are able to register and pick-up ballots without getting out of their cars.

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"I feel much more comfortable out here actually,” said Jeff Crites, who was not looking forward to standing in line at the courthouse.

The disabled can vote in a campus building not currently being used.

The county used federal funding to pay for adhesives to be put on ballot envelopes so no one has to lick their ballots. At the ballot processing center, anyone who enters needs to pass a thermometer check.

The county took its 65 seasonal election workers and split them into two shifts, providing for more space between desks while keeping workers separate in case one of the shifts has to quarantine.

Jon Halverson is one of the temporary ballot inspectors hired by the county ahead of elections. This is the sixth year he’s worked in elections.

At 75, he knows leaving his house right now puts him at risk, but he said he feels safe working a job he loves.

“It’s my patriotic duty,” said Halvorson, “A lot better than staying home and watching TV.”

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