Editor’s Note: Tina Podlodowski is one of two finalists for the position of Secretary of State. Today, her campaign published this open letter to Snohomish County elected leaders, calling on them to take immediate action to protect the right to vote. Requested actions include the placement of more drop boxes throughout the county. NPI strongly supports this open letter and thanks Tina for putting it together. We are reaching out to Kim Wyman’s staff to ask if the incumbent Secretary of State agrees with Tina that these actions should be taken.
Dear elected officials:
We request immediate action to protect the rights of all Snohomish County voters in the upcoming November 8th general election.
Free and fair elections are vital to the health of any democracy and in our democracy, your vote is your voice. Sadly, the voices of some voters will not be heard this year unless we remove serious barriers to voting.
On September 12th, 2016, the Everett Herald reported that Snohomish County ballots in the November 2016 election will require sixty-eight cents postage due to the weight of the ballot. (Cornfield, Jerry: “Longest Ballot in 10 Years Will Cost You 68 Cents to Mail.” Everett Herald 9/12/2016.)
This news is alarming because Snohomish County does not currently provide an adequate number of ballot drop boxes to serve the needs of its voters. There are only twelve ballot drop-box locations in Snohomish County. By comparison, there are thirty-six ballot drop off locations – three times as many – in Pierce County, which has about the same number of voters as Snohomish County.
Even with three times as many drop off locations, voters in Pierce County’s Tillicum village face barriers to both paying for postage or traveling the ten miles to the nearest drop box, and are struggling to get a drop box in their neighborhood. Clearly, with only twelve ballot drop-box locations, Snohomish voters are currently underserved.
According to the Survey of Performance of American Elections and PEW Charitable Trusts, more than thirty percent of Washington voters who used a ballot drop box in the 2014 general election did so because they did not have postage or needed to save money on postage.
Now, these same voters must either find a way to afford two stamps on their ballot or make the time to track down one of only twelve drop boxes.
Either of these expenditures could be enough to discourage many from casting their ballot and making their voice heard.
We ask that you take the following four actions immediately to rectify this problem:
- Request funding for an additional fifteen ballot drop boxes and/or drop box vans with extended hours, to be installed before October 20th in locations determined by population density, average income, and current drop box locations.
- Develop a comprehensive outreach plan to inform voters that two “Forever stamps” or sixty-eight cents of postage is necessary to mail back a ballot. This information should be made available in all ballot translation languages
- Work with the United States Postal Service to ensure adequate training for postal carriers is provided about the election laws and best practices for returning all ballots, regardless of postage, to the county elections office.
- Collaborate with local community groups throughout the county to identify other opportunities for communication, engagement and ensuring all voters are able to cast a ballot this November.
Thank you for your attention to this serious matter. Voting rights are the bedrock of our democracy and we hope you will take immediate action to rectify this serious threat to your constituents’ right to vote.