At Ms. Shea’s hair salon in the old Tillicum neighborhood, there are rules for shop talk.
“You can’t complain about issues if you’re not going to try to do something about the issue,” said Shea Allison, who has lived in the neighborhood for 17 years.
Allison said the neighborhood’s main issue is getting a ballot box. Nearly 300 people have signed a petition to the Pierce County Auditor
“It would be more convenient if there was a ballot box here,” Allison said. “It would be convenient if the elderly and retirees here.”
Right now there two ballot boxes less than 10 miles away from the Tillicum neighborhood. One is in Dupont and another is at Lakewood City Hall.
“It’s very inconvenient,” said resident Esther Magdan. “Sometimes I don’t even get my vote in in time and then my vote doesn’t count.”
Magdan said she can’t afford a car and can’t take a few hours out of her day to take the bus to get the ballot box.
“I don’t have enough for stamps sometimes,” Magdan said. “Money is difficult around here. There are a lot of people that use their money on their kids, and they just don’t have enough.”
According to the Pierce County Auditor’s Office, voting has always required some effort for voters.
“At least at this point we don’t feel the community is too underserved,” said Damon Townsend with the Pierce County Auditor’s office.
With 30 boxes, Townsend said Pierce County has more ballot boxes per capita than any other county in the state, and the placement of these boxes is mapped out carefully.
“We take all of our registered voters and geocode them,” Townsend said. “We see where physically their latitude and longitude is, and then we cross reference that to streets so we can see if you live at a certain address. We know that you have to drive all of these network of streets to get to a certain location, so we try to allocate our boxes where people wouldn’t have to drive as far as others.”
Townsend said each March the office reevaluates their ballot boxes system. Right now, less than 1.5 percent of registered voters in Pierce County has to travel more than 10 miles in a drop box.
“We want people to vote, and we want people to be able to vote,” Townsend said. “We’re not trying to hold anybody back. We’re not trying to disenfranchise anyone.”