There is good news on how PCO filings will be handled this year. As you know, last year the legislature passed the bill that removed the filing fee for PCOs. This was great news for election administrators because now we can extend the accuracy and efficiency we have experienced with online candidate filings to candidates for PCO.
We are developing an online candidate filing for PCOs! This will be done exactly like the other candidate filing but it will be completely separate. I am going to attempt to explain how it works and why it is important for all candidates to use it.
There are many benefits to the parties, candidates and our department. Candidates will be able to file from their home, a library, maybe from your headquarters or from our office: anywhere they have access to a computer. Every year we have numerous candidates file in the wrong precinct and we have to contact these individuals to inform them of the errors they have made on the forms. Candidates also find out (sometimes too late for those who file at the last minute) that they have failed to update their voter registration if they have recently moved. When we receive the bulk filings from the party representatives there may be missing information, again requiring our office to make contact with candidates. All this is very time consuming and puts everyone at a greater risk for error.
When a person files online it is as simple as filing out the paper form. Candidates will enter required information and only the precinct for which they are eligible will be offered as a filing option. If their address is out of date they will know this immediately. If they omit any information they will not be able to proceed, prompting you to not skip a required field. Candidates who have completed their filing will be listed on our web site twice daily throughout filing week. This will keep everyone up to date on which precincts have no candidates filed and limit the number of unintentionally contested races.
Accuracy and efficiency will realized by King County Elections in the processing of declarations. In addition to the number of reasons requiring staff to make contact with candidates, we also experience a challenge in deciphering handwriting on forms; lay out and proofing the ballot is a labor intensive endeavor. When a candidate uses online candidate filing the information entered will be drawn directly from our voter registration system and linked directly to the system that puts the candidate on the correct ballot. We will drastically reduce the number of hours spent entering candidate names and therefore reduce the number of errors. We have experienced this improved process over the past 4 years when other elected officials have used online candidate filing.
Some quick answers to potential questions:
- A space will be provided to enter the name you want to appear on the ballot.
- A line will be provided for a mailing address.
- If you want to see who has filed, go on our website and see if someone has filed in your precinct and party.
- If you do not have access to a computer our office will have a bank of computers available with staff available to assist, no computer skills required.
- This is a secure and private way to file. Any information you provide becomes a public record after you complete the declaration.
- We have been using online candidate filing for all offices for the last 4 years and receive great reviews from users. More than 80% of candidates used on line candidate filing last year.
- Our office will have a paper record of all filings.
I have included a flier for you to print and distribute to any potential candidate for PCO. Distribute them at your upcoming meetings. It includes when filing will begin and offers contact information. As we get closer to candidate filing time our web site will have more information. I will also organize a meeting in April with party representatives to have a demonstration to answer questions so in turn you will be able to assist PCOs. The entire state is aiming at no paper declarations this year. In years past the Public Disclosure Commission produced paper declaration for candidates, as a cost-savings measure they will not be distributing forms to counties. With the Secretary of State office now making online candidate filing available across the state everyone is hoping for no paper, no waste. As I stated earlier, our office will have a printout of the completed form that every candidate files as a record.
Any question, please contact me. Please share this news with your PCOs. I am confident that we will all benefit from this new development.
Program Manager Election Operations
King County Elections
919 SW Grady Way
Renton, WA 98057