King County last week adopted an ordinance to pay for ballot return postage for its residents. That county decision prompted Wyman to call on Inslee’s office to determine if funding could be secured to allow Washington’s 38 other counties to offer the same service.
Inslee’s office found a way to achieve statewide parity for the 2018 elections by combining $600,000 of the governor’s funds with a matching contribution from Wyman’s office. That money will come from current fiscal year salary savings from unfilled positions and unanticipated existing funds intended to reimburse counties for previous election costs.
The total cost for funding all 39 counties is an estimated $1.8 million. Inslee and Wyman were able to secure $1.2 million combined, and because King County has already funded its 2018 Primary and General Election ballot return envelopes, Inslee and Wyman will ask the 2019 Legislature for a one-time reimbursement for that county’s expenses. Wyman’s office will administer the 2018 funding as a grant to all of the 38 counties that choose to provide pre-paid ballot return postage to their voters.
“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,” Inslee said. “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.”
The Legislature approved several bills earlier this year to promote access to democracy, including automatic voter registration, Election Day registration, and the Future Voter program for 16- and 17-year olds.
In this year’s election cycle, 596 offices are up for election, including U.S. Senator, all 10 of Washington’s Congressional representatives, more than 120 seats in the Legislature, 3 state Supreme Court justiceships, more than 20 superior and appeals judgeships, and 438 county and local offices. Washington state’s 2018 Primary is scheduled for Aug. 7, and the General Election will take place on Nov. 6.