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:
Ballots, prepaid postage
3rd Reading & Final Passage
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.