Dedicated Thurston County Staff Carry Out Election Despite Historic Snow Storm
By: Mary Hall

Monday, March 4, 2019

While most people were listening to the dreadful forecast and making grocery lists to ensure they had what they needed while they were snowbound, the Auditor and Thurston County elections department were working with Emergency Management to ensure the February 12 Special Election went on without a snag.

There is no provision in state law that allows us to delay an election for any reason, including a massive snow storm. That means, that despite the snow, the election must go on.

Before the first round of the snowstorm hit, the Auditor's Office began warning voters about the impacts the weather was going to have on their ability to vote. Turning in your ballots early through the mail or using a drop box was the best way to ensure your vote counts.About 18 inches of snow fell in Thurston County the weekend before Election Day. The snow preceding the special election was the largest in Thurston County since the early 1970s.

Everyone in the elections department made it into work, even if they had to get a ride from someone who had a vehicle that could brave the snow. I am so proud of my staff, they had the dedication that it took to get here and make sure the work got done.

Despite the harsh weather, the turnout for the election (35 percent) was similar other special elections, if not a bit higher.

On Election Night, Elections staff were stationed at every ballot box that was opened throughout the county to ensure they were closed promptly at 8 p.m. Election staff teamed up with the Thurston County's Search and Rescue Team to make sure they could get to all ballot boxes to bring back the ballots.

The auditor's elections staff collected 934 ballots from 10 ballot boxes.  Because of road closures, election staff had not been able to go out the night before.

The historic snow also led to power outages across the county, which in turn took down the county's internet services and website. The Thurston County Auditor's office used their COOP plan and switched over to their backup website. They were able to quickly get back online in a limited fashion.

Voters could access the auditor's website and find information about the Tanglewilde Parks and Recreation District and Yelm Community Schools levy elections. They could find election statistics, voter pamphlets for both elections, and a sample ballot. There was also a link to the state's My Vote system where voters could download a ballot, if they needed a replacement ballot.

We've put a lot of thought into and practiced how we deal with situations like severe weather conditions and flooding. Our continuation of operations planning and preparation paid off due to the hard work and dedication of the elections team in partnership with emergency management. I also want to give a huge shout out to Public Works and Emergency Management to helping ensure a successful election night.