Long ridiculed for holding our nation's most stupidest election, an almost totally unpublicized contest in which voters stand in long lines at a handful of area libraries in order to cast their ballots for candidates who do no campaigning whatsoever, the King County Conservation District has apparently responded to critics by kicking off today one of the first in the nation online elections... an innovation that surely has election integrity advocates everywhere shitting their pants.

The view from the back of the line at 2010s KCCD polling station at the Bellevue Library
  • The view from the back of the line at 2010's KCCD polling station at the Bellevue Library

To be fair, the KCCD's new online voting option can't help but dramatically expand participation in the election, which last year produced record turnout of about 0.4 percent. No, I did not misplace the decimal point, and yes, that was a record high, a more than 50 percent increase over the number of ballots cast in 2009 (which was itself an all time high). And given the choice between voting online, or standing in line for 90 fucking minutes, I'm sure as hell happy to be able to choose the former.

But an online election? Really? Are all sides really prepared to trust this technology, especially here in King County, only six years after the 2004 election brouhaha? Wouldn't this be kinda like welcoming German reunification in, say, 1951?

The problem is, there is no good way to run a KCCD election. King County Elections must charge each governmental entity a per-voter fee, and that would eat up too much of the KCCD's $6 million budget to make an ordinary election feasible. And so for most of the last 70 years the KCCD has held an all-but-secret ballot, in which literally dozens of conservationists on one side, and property-rights extremists on the other, would turn out in their own private battle for control of the board and its budget.

The Internet revolution has improved awareness, increasing participation by several hundredfold since only 18 voters cast ballots countywide in 1989, but that hasn't made KCCD elections any less of a joke. So perhaps under these very limited circumstances I can accept online voting as the less bad of two very bad options. But here's hoping the rest of the nation doesn't look to KCCD as a promising example of democracy on the cheap.

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