A highly anticipated election held during a pandemic caused Thurston County to get creative.
This year, people voting in person get to stay in the comfort of their car.
“This is a show of support that it doesn’t matter who you vote for — every voice is still important,” said voter Emily Baker.
Thurston County typically holds voter services at the courthouse but needed more space for social distancing and crowds. Twenty days before the election, they opened a drive-thru voting center at South Puget Sound Community College’s Mottman Campus.
At the site, workers wear masks and use butterfly nets to hand people their forms and ballots. Auditor Mary Hall said they’ve seen a steady stream of cars.
“We mailed our ballots actually earlier than any other county in the state. We mailed them on Oct. 8, and people have been returning them early, so we’re at about 70% right now, which is pretty amazing,” she said.
In previous presidential elections, voter turnout in Thurston County was closer to 40%.
So far, more than 139,000 people have turned in their ballots, which is already 4,000 more than the total number of ballots collected four years ago.
“We’ve also had a huge spike in voter registration. We’ve had 10,000 new registrations between the primary and the general election,” said Hall.
“It’s been a crazy year, so I’m not surprised, I guess,” said voter Shane Krsak.
Voter Dwayne Brady flew in Monday morning from Mississippi to vote in person.
“I believe there’s a lot of fraud can be out there anyways,” said Brady. “It felt safer doing it this way, making sure that it at least got turned in right.”
Brady wasn’t the only one with concerns.
This is Baker’s first time voting, so she decided to go to the voting center.
“I’ve mailed stuff, and it’s gotten lost. So, I’m like, I don’t even want to chance it. Just one vote, yeah, whatever, but it’s one vote that could make a difference eventually,” she said.
Thurston County’s drive-thru voting center is open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday. At the center, people can register to vote, get a replacement ballot and use accessible voting services.
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