No postage necessary
No postage necessary

Wash­ing­ton Gov­er­nor Jay Inslee and Sec­re­tary of State Kim Wyman have cob­bled togeth­er enough emer­gency fund­ing to ensure that all coun­ties in Wash­ing­ton State can offer pre­paid postage on bal­lot return envelopes this year, Inslee’s office announced in a press release today.

About $600,000 in fund­ing allo­cat­ed to the gov­er­nor’s office by leg­is­la­tors will be paired with anoth­er $600,000 from Wyman’s office to cov­er the costs of waiv­ing the cost of postage for all vot­ers out­side of King County.

“In this year’s elec­tion cycle, five hun­dred and nine­ty-six offices are up for elec­tion, includ­ing U.S. Sen­a­tor, all ten of Washington’s con­gres­sion­al rep­re­sen­ta­tives, more than one hun­dred and twen­ty seats in the Leg­is­la­ture, three state Supreme Court jus­tice­ships, more than twen­ty supe­ri­or and appeals court judge­ships, and four hun­dred and thir­ty-eight coun­ty and local offices,” not­ed the press release.

“More vot­er par­tic­i­pa­tion makes for a stronger democ­ra­cy. Because Wash­ing­ton is a vote-by-mail state, pre-paid postage is one impor­tant way we can reduce bar­ri­ers to cast­ing bal­lots,” said Inslee. “We’ll be work­ing with leg­is­la­tors to secure ongo­ing fund­ing, estab­lish a per­ma­nent statewide pro­gram, and ensure King Coun­ty is reim­bursed for their proac­tive work on this effort.”

“This is about lev­el­ing the play­ing field and mak­ing elec­tions equal for all cit­i­zens of Wash­ing­ton State,” said Wyman, who sup­port­ed the King Coun­ty mea­sure and has sup­port­ed statewide bal­lot postage pro­pos­als for a num­ber of leg­isla­tive sessions.

“I want to thank the gov­er­nor for his col­lab­o­ra­tion, and I look for­ward to work­ing with him to get a bill passed in 2019 to make Wash­ing­ton the first state in Amer­i­ca with per­ma­nent uni­ver­sal postage-paid vot­ing by mail.”

King Coun­ty lead­ers prompt­ly expressed annoy­ance that the state’s largest juris­dic­tion will have to ask for reim­burse­ment in 2019 rather than receiv­ing mon­ey from the state upfront like the oth­er counties.

“We are proud that our lead­er­ship spurred statewide action to increase vot­ing access across Wash­ing­ton,” said Exec­u­tive Dow Con­stan­tine, Coun­cilmem­ber Joe McDer­mott, and Elec­tions Direc­tor Julie Wise in a joint statement.

“How­ev­er, the deci­sion to exclude King Coun­ty — and only King Coun­ty — from the state reim­burse­ment plan for pre­paid bal­lot postage is gross­ly unfair. We urge state lead­ers to recon­sid­er. If the state can­not afford to ful­ly reim­burse all coun­ties for bal­lot postage, it should pro­vide the same par­tial, per vot­er sub­sidy statewide.”

“Our 2.2 mil­lion res­i­dents already fund a dis­pro­por­tion­ate share of the state’s bud­get,” the three elect­ed lead­ers not­ed. “King Coun­ty will con­tin­ue to make vot­ing eas­i­er and more acces­si­ble, and if need­ed we will go to the Leg­is­la­ture next year to again seek fair treat­ment for our residents.”

We under­stand why King Coun­ty lead­ers are annoyed, but to them, we say: This is the price of lead­er­ship. King Coun­ty’s peo­ple and elect­ed rep­re­sen­ta­tives can be very proud that we forced the state exec­u­tive depart­ment into action by imple­ment­ing a plan to pro­vide pre­paid bal­lot return envelopes this year.

King Coun­ty can always go back to the Leg­is­la­ture in 2019 and request reim­burse­ment. A sub­stan­tial num­ber of Wash­ing­ton’s state leg­is­la­tors are from King Coun­ty, includ­ing the cur­rent Speak­er of the House, House Major­i­ty Leader, House Major­i­ty Floor Leader, and Sen­ate Major­i­ty Leader.

If Democ­rats remain in con­trol of both hous­es, as expect­ed, the chances are excel­lent such a request would be granted.

What’s impor­tant right now is not where the mon­ey comes from, but that the mon­ey has been found to make this hap­pen. It’s a big deal… it means a major bar­ri­er to vot­ing has been final­ly removed, and on a statewide basis.

Cou­pled with the Access to Democ­ra­cy pack­age (which includes the Vot­ing Rights Act, same-day vot­er reg­is­tra­tion, auto­mat­ic vot­er reg­is­tra­tion, and pre­reg­is­tra­tion), 2018 will go down in our his­to­ry books as a water­shed year for fair­er elections.

Demo­c­ra­t­ic State Par­ty Chair Tina Pod­lodows­ki is jus­ti­fi­ably thrilled that the vot­ing reforms she cam­paigned on when she ran for Sec­re­tary of State two years ago are being imple­ment­ed at last. The arrival of Demo­c­ra­t­ic State Sen­a­tor Man­ka Dhin­gra in Olympia was the key to the Access to Democ­ra­cy pack­age, while King Coun­ty’s bold lead­er­ship was the key to secur­ing pre­paid postage for all.

The Trump regime may be pro­duc­ing dis­as­trous poli­cies at the fed­er­al lev­el, but pro­gres­sive ideas are advanc­ing here at the state level.

That’s some­thing to celebrate.

We thank Gov­er­nor Inslee for say­ing yes to Wyman’s request for emer­gency fund­ing, as we asked him to do, and we look for­ward to help­ing edu­cate vot­ers that there is no longer a cost asso­ci­at­ed with return­ing a bal­lot through the Unit­ed States Postal Ser­vice. We’ll need leg­is­la­tion in 2019 to make the change per­ma­nent. We stand ready to work with Sen­a­tors Pat­ty Kud­er­er and Sam Hunt to get it done, along with Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Zack Hud­gins and Lau­rie Dolan in the House.

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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One reply on “All Washington voters to get prepaid postage on their ballot return envelopes in 2018”

  1. Actu­al­ly, this is gross­ly unfair that King Coun­ty is exclud­ed and I won­der if this is with­in statute.
    That being said, I think that it is good and will bring more participation.

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