County’s new voting system more ‘intuitive,’ election head says

Officials said the old system was secure, but had become harder to repair and update.

Under the new Snohomish County election system, voters must fill in an oval on the mail-in ballot, like on a standardized test.

Under the new Snohomish County election system, voters must fill in an oval on the mail-in ballot, like on a standardized test.

EVERETT — Snohomish County plans to roll out a new voting system next month.

It will change the ballot look and vote-counting procedures — but not much else.

“The voter experience will mostly be the same,” county elections manager Garth Fell said.

The system is known as ClearVote. It promises better security and efficiency than the system the county is phasing out. It also costs much less. King and Whatcom counties are using versions of it.

Voters still can expect to receive a paper ballot in the mail ahead of the April 24 special election.

From there, the most obvious difference is how to mark ballots. Under the new system, voters must fill in an oval, like on a standardized test, instead of drawing lines to their choices.

“We think that’s probably more standard or intuitive to most people,” Fell said.

There are color and layout changes, too. The new system uses a sleeve to ensure ballot secrecy, instead of a sealable envelope.

The county paid Clear Ballot Group of Boston $675,000 for the ClearVote package. That compares to the $5 million-plus spent on the old system, in place since 2002.

The price reduction owes in part to technology improvements, Fell said. The switch to all-mail elections also eliminated the need to deploy equipment to numerous polling stations. The county will continue to operate accessible voting equipment for people who have trouble using mail-in ballots.

County elections officials said the old system was secure, but had become harder to repair and update.

ClearVote is unconnected to the internet. No voter names or other information are stored in the system. State elections officials recently approved Snohomish County’s version for use, after a series of tests.

The April 24 election features a Sno-Isle Library levy for most of the county (excluding Everett, Bothell, Index and Woodway). The Darrington School District is re-running a levy that failed in February. Voters in east county also get to weigh in on merging fire districts Nos. 26 & 28.

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Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465; Twitter: @NWhaglund.

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