Election officials predict strong primary turnout

Election officials predict strong primary turnout
With the state primary election mailing deadline still two weeks away, top election officials already are saying there could be a record turnout this year.

King County mailed out 674,000 absentee ballots last week, and they are coming back in record numbers, with 22,000 processed in the past two days.

"My turnout prediction is a high one, relatively speaking," says Secretary of State Sam Reed. "It is the highest we have seen in the state of Washington for a long time. It's 46 percent."

Reed says the state is excited by presidential race between Barack Obama and John McCain and also by the rematch between Governor Chris Gregoire and Republican Dino Rossi.

But could more voters foul up the system? Could there even be a repeat of 2004, with its counts and recounts, lost ballots suddenly found and complaints that dead people and felons voted before Gregoire was declared the winner by 133 votes?

Not likely, says King County Elections Director Sherill Huff

"I certainly don't think that in this county or anywhere in the state that people will experience anything close to 2004," she said.

Here are some of 300 changes King County made to improve the ballot-counting:

- Every worker coming into or leaving an area with ballots goes through scanners that check I.D.

- A deputy sheriff watches, and the area where ballots are kept is even more secure.

- New systems track every ballot.

- To prevent tampering, only people with the highest clearance get through this checkpoint which even looks at fingerprints.

- There are 59 cameras watching everything. And when all the workers leave at night, eight intrusion alarms are turned on.

It will be November before the governor's race and the presidential showdown are decided. But the secretary of state says people are turned on, and that's why he's confident in predicting a big turnout.