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.