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Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's uplifting perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Thursday, January 26th, 2017

Good news break: King County testing prepaid postage on ballot return envelopes

It’s about time:

King Coun­ty Elec­tions is test­ing pre-paid postage with the Feb­ru­ary 14 spe­cial elec­tions in the City of Maple Val­ley and the Shore­line School Dis­trict. Bal­lot pack­ets were mailed on Wednes­day to vot­ers in both juris­dic­tions. Each pack­et includes a return enve­lope with the postage already paid.

“This is some­thing I’ve want­ed to test since I ran for office,” said Julie Wise, King Coun­ty Elec­tions Direc­tor. “Pre-paid postage is anoth­er tool to remove bar­ri­ers to vot­ing and increase con­ve­nience – and this pilot will help us under­stand what it might look like for King County.”

King Coun­ty Elec­tions is pay­ing for the postage, which will cost about $3,300 for Maple Val­ley and about $9,000 for the Shore­line School Dis­trict. Elec­tions is charged only for bal­lots returned through the U.S. Postal Service.

“We are com­mit­ted to ensur­ing a secure, accu­rate and low-bar­ri­er elec­tions sys­tem that enables every cit­i­zen to ful­ly par­tic­i­pate in our democ­ra­cy,” said King Coun­ty Coun­cilmem­ber Rod Dembowski.

Objec­tives for the pre-paid postage pilot include under­stand­ing whether or not the process works admin­is­tra­tive­ly and to see if more vot­ers return their bal­lots than in pre­vi­ous elec­tions. Bal­lot pack­ets include an infor­ma­tion­al insert explain­ing that the postage on a voter’s return enve­lope is paid and that they can imme­di­ate­ly return their bal­lots through the U.S. Postal Ser­vice. Bal­lots can also be brought to one of nine drop box­es open for the election.

“This test of pre-paid postage on bal­lots under­scores our con­tin­ued efforts to expand vot­er turnout, includ­ing qua­dru­pling the num­ber of bal­lot drop box­es across King Coun­ty,” said King Coun­ty Exec­u­tive Dow Con­stan­tine. “We want vot­ing to be as easy as pos­si­ble to ensure our poli­cies and insti­tu­tions reflect the will of the people.”

There are a total of 64,032 reg­is­tered vot­ers in Maple Val­ley and the Shore­line School Dis­trict. King Coun­ty Elec­tions esti­mates a 30 per­cent vot­er turnout rate.

Maple Val­ley will vote on a gen­er­al oblig­a­tion bond for park and recre­ation facil­i­ty improve­ments. The Shore­line School Dis­trict, which includes Lake For­est Park, will vote on a school con­struc­tion bond.

We’re very glad to see this pilot project hap­pen­ing, but there ought to be a com­mit­ment to mak­ing it per­ma­nent for future elec­tions. Low­er­ing bar­ri­ers to vot­ing must be a pri­or­i­ty at both the state and local lev­els. Vot­er turnout has been a down­ward tra­jec­to­ry for years and action is need­ed to reverse this harm­ful trend.

Pro­vid­ing bal­lot return envelopes with pre­paid postage sim­pli­fies par­tic­i­pat­ing in elec­tions because it means vot­ers can sim­ply take their com­plet­ed bal­lot to any post office with­out need­ing to hunt for — or pur­chase — a stamp. There should­n’t be any cost involved in exer­cis­ing the sacred duty of vot­ing. Requir­ing stamps to vote by mail is akin to charg­ing a tiny poll tax. It’s a prac­tice that needs to end.

Last year, Demo­c­ra­t­ic Sec­re­tary of State chal­lenger Tina Pod­lodows­ki (who is now run­ning to become Chair of the Wash­ing­ton State Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty) cam­paigned on pro­vid­ing fund­ing to imple­ment pre­paid postage on return bal­lots to all of Wash­ing­ton’s thir­ty-nine coun­ties. Pod­lodows­ki was resound­ing­ly backed by King Coun­ty vot­ers, but came up short in swing coun­ties like Pierce, where Repub­li­can incum­bent Kim Wyman cruised to reelec­tion with big majorities.

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One Comment

  1. This would be a big step for­ward if it were imple­ment­ed for all vot­ers in the county. 

    # by Astrid Wagoner :: February 17th, 2017 at 4:09 PM
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