By Evan Smith Herald Writer
Snohomish County Auditor Carolyn Weikel gave her opinion on to five elections bills now before the state House of Representatives.
She said that many of the bills were good ideas that would be expensive.
The House committee on government operations and elections approved the five bills Feb. 11.
One is Mountlake Terrace Democratic Rep. Luis Moscoso’s “Washington Voting Rights Act,” which would encourage cities and other jurisdictions to switch from at-large elections to smaller districted elections. The bill would allow groups that have difficulties getting elected in at-large elections to sue in state courts if they feel their rights are violated.
Weikel said that she and other county elections officials from around the state had stayed neutral on the Voting Rights Act because it is an issue of politics rather than one of elections administration. She said that the bill could lead to litigation and that having elections in many districts could make local elections more expensive.
Another bill would change the registration deadlines from the current 29 days prior to Election Day to the day of the election for in-person registration in the auditor’s office and eight days for online registration.
Weikel said that the association of county auditors favored having a single election registration deadline instead of one for in-person registration and another for mail and on-line registration. She added that the auditors’ association had proposed a compromise that would set a single deadline 11 days before Election Day. She said that an 11-day deadline would leave two weekends before Election Day and it would avoid confusion between the current 29-day and eight-day deadlines.
A third bill would increase the number of postage-free ballot drop box locations.
Weikel said that the proposal for more ballot drop boxes is a good idea that needs more study. She said that all parts of the state are different. She said that the bill would require four boxes on the Everett Community College campus, something that isn’t needed. Weikel said that 40 percent of Snohomish County ballots came from the 11 drop boxes around the county but that adding more would be expensive.
A fourth bill would allow for pre-registration of 16- and 17-year-olds who get driver’s licenses, making them eligible to vote when they reach 18.
Weikel said that she and other county elections officials questioned the proposal because many students move by the time they reach 18. She said outreach in schools is a better approach.
The final bill would require county auditors and the secretary of state to develop a uniform ballot design for use in all elections in the state.
Weikel said that uniform ballots weren’t necessary and would be expensive. She said that the number of people who move from county to county are few. She added that many counties would have to adopt new forms. She said that the bill might have been good if each county was just starting but would be too expensive with different counties having different systems.
Evan Smith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org