Gregoire signs ballot design law

OLYMPIA — Gov. Chris Gregoire on Friday signed a measure meant to make ballots less confusing to voters.

Under the measure that was unanimously passed by both the House and Senate, ballots will have to be clearly marked to show where ballot instructions end and the spot to vote begins.

The bill was sparked by confusion in King County over a cluttered ballot design that officials say caused about 40,000 voters to skip over Tim Eyman’s Initiative 1033 in the November election.

State elections director Nick Handy said that the ballot placement issue did not affect the outcome of that race, in which more than 57 percent of voters opposed the measure seeking to cap growth on revenue flowing into the main checking accounts of city, county and state government.

But voters who accidentally didn’t vote “were essentially disenfranchised by bad ballot design,” said bill sponsor, Rep. Scott White, D-Seattle.

Under the new law, ballots must have a clear delineation between the instructions and the area to vote, and the secretary of state must establish standards for ballot design and layout. The measure takes effect in June.

“This legislation is a major step forward in ensuring that ballots are designed to be more voter friendly,” Handy said.

Handy said that they are already working to set standards and design guidelines for all of the counties to follow. He said that the process will result in improved instructions and ballot design for the fall elections, but that statewide standards likely won’t be in place until 2011.

Also signed into law by Gregoire Friday:

  • A measure that requires local law enforcement officers, governmental agencies and others be notified when a criminally insane person escapes from a state institution. The measure is in response to the escape in September of a criminally insane killer who walked away while on a field trip to a Spokane fair. He was recaptured three days after escaping.

    A measure that allows honorary degrees to be granted to students who were ordered into internment camps during World War II. The degrees may be conferred by state universities or colleges upon people who were students at those institutions in 1942 but did not graduate because they were ordered into a camp. An honorary degree may also be requested by a representative of a deceased person who meets these conditions. Most of the Americans who were incarcerated in the camps throughout the United States during that time were of Japanese ancestry.

    A measure that requires used car dealers to inform potential buyers whether a vehicle was ever bought back from a manufacturer under another state’s Lemon Law program. Under current law, only dealers who sell new cars are required to make such a disclosure. The measure takes effect in June.

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