NPI's Cascadia Advocate

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

Tuesday, March 5th, 2019

Bill to make prepaid postage on return ballot envelopes permanent sails out of Senate

A bill that would make prepaid postage on return ballot envelopes a permanent voting reform in Washington State has cleared the Senate.

“This bill is a huge step forward in making Washington elections fairer and more accessible for everyone in the state,” said prime sponsor Joe Nguyen (D-34th District: West Seattle, Vashon). “For most people, the idea that you would have to pay to return your ballot, even if that only means a stamp, just doesn’t sit right. Passing this legislation removes that question and brings everyone to the table.”

Before last year’s midterms, ballot return envelopes sent out by county elections officials instructed voters to place a stamp on the envelope.

After King County decided to make prepaid postage universal within its jurisdiction, Secretary of State Kim Wyman and Governor Jay Inslee cobbled together the money to ensure the state’s other thirty-eight counties could do likewise.

But that was just a temporary measure.

Substitute Senate Bill 5063 permanently abolishes what had been tantamount to a miniature poll tax by requiring prepaid postage on ballot return envelopes at state expense. Implementation will cost an estimated $4.8 million during the 2019-2021 biennium, according to a fiscal note prepared by OFM.

It’s a small price to pay, relatively speaking, for the elimination of a seemingly small but actually very cumbersome barrier to voting for many people.

“I think we are stronger as individuals and communities when we all have access to voting and are a part of the process,” Senator Nguyen said in a news release. “I also want to thank Senator Bob Hasegawa for his years championing this legislation. We could not have accomplished this without his leadership and vision.”

SSB 5063 is one of NPI’s priority bills for the 2019 legislative session. We are thrilled to see it pass. This legislation is long overdue and we’re glad it’s finally arrived. The roll call vote on SSB 5063 was fittingly rather lopsided:

Roll Call
SB 5063
Ballots, prepaid postage
3rd Reading & Final Passage
3/5/2019

Yeas: 42; Nays: 3; Excused: 4

Voting Yea: Senators Bailey, Billig, Braun, Brown, Carlyle, Cleveland, Darneille, Das, Dhingra, Fortunato, Frockt, Hasegawa, Hawkins, Hobbs, Holy, Hunt, Keiser, King, Kuderer, Liias, Lovelett, McCoy, Mullet, Nguyen, O`Ban, Palumbo, Pedersen, Randall, Rivers, Rolfes, Saldaña, Salomon, Schoesler, Short, Takko, Van De Wege, Wagoner, Warnick, Wellman, Wilson (Claire), Wilson (Lynda), Zeiger

Voting Nay: Senators Ericksen, Honeyford, Padden

Excused: Senators Becker, Conway, Sheldon, Walsh

Three Republican Senators voted against the bill: Trump admirer and Eyman buddy Doug Ericksen, Jim Honeyford, and Mike Padden. Four senators did not vote.

SSB 5063 will next be considered by the Washington State House.

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2 Pings

  1. […] Washington: Washington’s Democratic-run state state Senate has passed a bill with near-unanimous support to make permanent a change introduced in 2018 that had the state prepay the postage on mail […]

  2. […] Washington: Washington’s Democratic-run state state Senate has passed a bill with near-unanimous support to make permanent a change introduced in 2018 that had the state prepay the postage on mail […]