NPI's Cascadia Advocate

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.

Friday, March 27th, 2020

Governor Jay Inslee rebuffs SOS Kim Wyman, won’t cancel April 2020 special election

Wash­ing­ton Gov­er­nor Jay Inslee has reject­ed a request by Sec­re­tary of State Kim Wyman to can­cel the upcom­ing April 2020 spe­cial elec­tion, which means the elec­tion will be held as planned, at least in those juris­dic­tions that wish to move for­ward with the con­sid­er­a­tion of a local levy or bond measure.

“Rather than post­pon­ing the spe­cial April elec­tions, we are work­ing with Sec­re­tary Wyman on what could be done to help audi­tors man­age elec­tions dur­ing the out­break, for April and lat­er in the year,” Inslee’s chief of staff David Post­man (a for­mer polit­i­cal reporter) told The Seat­tle Times’ Joseph O’Sul­li­van.

Wyman had actu­al­ly called for the elec­tion to be can­celed alto­geth­er, not post­poned, but even a post­pone­ment has been ruled out.

Wyman called the deci­sion “frus­trat­ing” and told O’Sul­li­van she was “dis­ap­point­ed”.

But offi­cials with sev­er­al fire and school dis­tricts are relieved. They have bud­gets they need to put togeth­er by June 30th, and hav­ing their levy and bond propo­si­tions called off by exec­u­tive decree would have been frus­trat­ing and dis­ap­point­ing.

It would also have set a bad prece­dent. As NPI’s Gael Tar­leton (who is chal­leng­ing Wyman) has argued, democ­ra­cies don’t can­cel elections.

Even dur­ing a pan­dem­ic, we need to be able to hold elections.

For a democ­ra­cy, free and fair elec­tions are a bedrock, essen­tial pub­lic service.

We are for­tu­nate that we use a vote at home sys­tem here in Wash­ing­ton, with no polling places, only acces­si­ble vot­ing cen­ters and same-day vot­er reg­is­tra­tion sites. Peo­ple do not need to queue up in long lines to vote. The bal­lot comes to them and they have sev­er­al weeks to fill it out and return it.

Some­one has to count the returned bal­lots, of course, and the peo­ple who do have to be in some degree of prox­im­i­ty to each oth­er to car­ry out their work.

That’s what Kim Wyman pro­fess­es to be con­cerned about.

We all want elec­tion work­ers to be safe, but we don’t achieve that by pulling the plug on the means by which we make deci­sions about how to gov­ern ourselves.

Rather than can­cel­ing the April spe­cial elec­tion, coun­ty audi­tors should use it as an oppor­tu­ni­ty to estab­lish and test pro­to­cols for the safe han­dling of ballots.

We’re going to be hav­ing more elec­tions lat­er this year, and can­cel­ing those would deny Wash­ing­to­ni­ans the pow­er to decide who rep­re­sents them.

As a vet­er­an elec­tions admin­is­tra­tor, Kim Wyman ought to appre­ci­ate bet­ter than any­one that can­cel­ing the August and Novem­ber elec­tions would be just as dis­rup­tive to our state and coun­try as this pan­dem­ic has been.

Since can­cel­ing those elec­tions would be unthink­able, why bring the ham­mer down on the school and fire dis­tricts that made a law­ful deci­sion to go to the bal­lot next month? Wyman’s pro­pos­al was a bad idea and we’re glad Inslee said no to it.

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