Auditor’s office in your living room

By Jim Haley

Herald Writer

A pair of computer applications and the Web have brought a lot more useful information closer to the fingertips of Snohomish County residents.

One of those applications will be especially useful to voters during this election season.

"It’s sort of the auditor’s office waltzing into the 21st century," county Auditor Bob Terwilliger said.

Here’s what’s new:

  • The ability to zero in on exactly what political races and issues are facing you in the upcoming election. You can easily compile a personal sample ballot for yourself and download candidate or issue profiles and information. Or, you can check out where your voting precinct is located. All you need is your home address.

  • Armchair access to the index for hundreds of thousands of documents on file with the auditor since 1976, everything from deeds to marriage license applications. Images of the documents are available if they were filed in 1997 or later.

    The information is public, and the new computer tools just make it easier for folks to get access to it, Terwilliger said.

    On the election information, there’s the opportunity to eliminate the many dozens of issues or races on the ballot that don’t affect you, said Scott Konopasek, the auditor’s election manager.

    "There are so many things that appear on a ballot in an odd (election) year," he said.

    The county’s program edits out all the things you don’t need to worry about. With your house number and street name, you’ll get a precinct, where the voting place is located, what districts you should pay attention to and links to candidate or issue statements. Much of the material is the same as that in the official county voter’s pamphlet — with a lot of extraneous material eliminated, all tailored to your address.

    There are vaguely similar programs available in other counties, but none quite as extensive, Konopasek said.

    "The system is very user-friendly," he said.

    After the election season, Konopasek plans to have information about elected officials and how constituents can reach them.

    The program could be particularly useful in places where folks aren’t sure in which taxing districts they live. For example, a trailer park on 112th Street SE had trailer spaces located in two separate school districts.

    The Silver Firs area also hovers between Everett and Snohomish schools, something that often confuses people, Konopasek said.

    For filed documents, Terwilliger said the entire index dating to 1976 is available on line for all kinds of documents, such as election public finance disclosure, army discharges, plats, surveys and more.

    More recent (since 1997) documents can be viewed from your home computer screen, something that will either save you a trip to the courthouse or maybe give you some needed information at odd hours when the auditor’s office isn’t open.

    The online information has been in place for about a month. It’s been used mostly by title, mortgage and escrow companies. Anybody looking for marriage licenses or thinking about developing a piece of property also might find the system useful, Terwilliger said.

    If you need a certified copy of a deed, for example, you’ll still have to come into the auditor’s office until the computer folks find a secure way for you to pay the required fee.

    Snohomish and Thurston counties also recently have been experimenting with electronic filing. That’s something that will be widespread soon, Terwilliger said.

    The county will lose a small amount of income from charging people for regular copies, but at the same time the on-line services will mean fewer folks will be taking up space and auditor employees’ time at the counter.

    There’s no charge for either of the auditor’s computer services.

    You can call Herald Writer Jim Haley at 425-339-3447

    or send e-mail to haley@heraldnet.com.

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