Secretary of state pushes for pre-paid postage for ballots

Kim Wyman is asking Gov. Jay Inslee for the authority to reimburse counties for postal costs.

OLYMPIA — As King County looks to pick up the postage tab for its voters in this year’s elections, Secretary of State Kim Wyman will try to make it possible for every county in Washington to do the same for their voters.

She will ask Gov. Jay Inslee this week for the authority to reimburse counties for the cost of postage on ballots returned by mail in the primary and general elections.

Wyman announced her plan Monday in testimony to the King County Council on its prepaid postage proposal. She asked the council to delay final approval while she made her pitch to the governor. The council put off a vote for a week.

“When it comes to prepaid postage, I believe two components are necessary,” Wyman said in her prepared testimony. “One, that it be implemented statewide, and two, that it cover every election. We have to treat every voter in the state fairly and equally, and do everything we can to avoid confusing voters.”

Wyman needs Inslee to grant her the ability and resources to reimburse all 39 counties, including King County, for return postage costs for the two elections. The tab will be about $1.8 million — $622,602 in the primary and $1,156,261 in the general.

She will cast it as an emergency because counties face an approaching deadline to begin printing return ballot envelopes for the August election, her office said. For Snohomish County, it is mid- to late-May, according to a county election official.

“We will review the particular proposal,” said Tara Lee, a spokeswoman for Inslee. “Generally the governor is supportive of prepaid postage to increase access to democracy.”

Legislation for prepaid postage has been introduced in the Legislature each of the past two years but not received a vote in either the House or Senate. Wyman backed those efforts.

And last week Sens. Joe Fain, R-Auburn, and Mark Mullet, D-Issaquah, announced plans to try again in 2019.

Meanwhile, a 2017 law sought to make it a little easier and cheaper for voters by expanding the number of drop boxes in which they can place their ballots without any postage.

The law requires drop boxes be placed in every city, town and census designated location.

This year, lawmakers passed legislation that aims to get more people registered and voting. One new law will expand automatic registration efforts.

Another law, known as same-day registration, will allow a person to register and vote on Election Day. The bills will take effect in time for the 2019 primary and general elections.

Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; jcornfield@herald net.com. Twitter: @dospueblos.

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