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Elections office to get new digs

After being squeezed for space when a new election system was installed, the Island County Auditor’s Office will soon have more space.

The elections office within the Auditor’s Office will move soon from its current location in the county administration building to a storefront on North Main Street.

Elections officials have been working in cramped quarters since the county implemented a new vote tabulation system and instituted an all-mail voting system.

Island County Auditor Suzanne Sinclair said the space problem came to the forefront with the 2006 election. That’s when staff had to spread out to other rooms in the building to count votes, which made it awkward for staff to work, Sinclair said.

She added the small office that houses the elections department makes it difficult for the canvassing board to work and for observers to watch the tabulation process.

The new spot, which is located in the same building as a thrift store and veterinarian’s office, is approximately three times the size of the elections staff’s current office.

Sinclair said the the new location provides good security for storing the ballots.

The addition of the new office comes several years after the county renovated its administration building.

Sinclair said the renovation came before the county had to change its voting systems.

“We didn’t anticipate having to get a new vote tabulation system and we didn’t know what it was going to look like,” Sinclair said.

The new system has quite a bit more equipment then the old punch card system. The new system includes scanning equipment and computers that took up too much space in the cramped office.

The county had to change its voting system as a requirement of the Help America Vote Act.

“We knew we were going to get a new system but is hard to forecast how much room it was going to take up,” Sinclair said.

She anticipates moving sometime this month. That way the move will be complete in time for the Aug. 21 primary election which is being conducted entirely by mail.

Once that move happens, people registering to vote or filing for candidacy will have to do so at the new office located at the 402 North Main St. She said that spot was chosen because it was close to the auditor’s main office.

She didn’t know how yet how much it will cost the county to lease the spot. The county is still negotiating with the property owner.

In addition the county has to get a conditional use permit from the town of Coupeville. The proposal went before the Planning Commission Thursday evening and the Town Council has to eventually sign off on the proposal.

Sinclair said the former elections office space will be used by current staff.

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