Rep. Gael Tarleton released a statement Friday condemning the potential cancelation of upcoming special elections in April.
Washington voters in local jurisdictions across 18 counties were scheduled to hold a special election on April 28 for several proposed bonds and levies. Due to the COVID-19 outbreak and the concomitant statewide isolation measures, the fate of the April elections is now in doubt.
Dictatorships cancel elections. Democracies don’t. Our vote-by-mail system should enable us to protect both election workers and our democracy,” Tarleton said. “Now more than ever, people need to know that their voice still counts. Our Legislature must help fire districts, schools and utilities get the funding they need to keep our communities operational and safe.”
In response to the COVID-19 outbreak, Secretary of State Kim Wyman requested publicly this week that Governor Inslee cancel the special election using the emergency powers granted to him in state law.
When conducting elections, officials must always balance access with security. Right now, both of these standards are in peril,” said Wyman. “As this pandemic continues to evolve, we cannot guarantee to conduct this election by the same standards we administer every other election. We also cannot mitigate potential critical reductions in key election workers.”
Both Tarleton and Wyman have suggested that the elections could be postponed, rather than cancelled entirely. Potential dates floated by Wyman include the August 4th Washington primary or the November 3rd general election.
In a subsequent statement to the Wire, however, Rep. Tarleton said that April elections could still go on if officials take certain precautionary measures.
The Secretary of State’s office could work with Washington’s Department of Health and the Governor’s office to:
1) Identify options for elections workers to work in shifts as ballots come in, so that there are no more than 10 people on any given shift.
2) Request a delay in the election certification date so that ballot processing could be spread over a longer period of time, to accommodate elections workers’ revised schedules.
3) Ensure that county public health officials coordinate with county auditors to maintain a clean work place for elections workers.
If local officials decide they don’t want to go to the ballot in April, that is their choice. But if local jurisdictions need to go to the ballot in order to protect their district operations and plan for their new fiscal year, then they should be able to hold their elections in April.”
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It is within the purview of local elections boards in local jurisdictions to reschedule election dates.
To fill in gaps left by bond and levies hanging in the balance, Tarleton suggested that a special session may be needed in the months ahead.