Whatcom legislator seeks end to Washington’s all-mail voting

Sen. Doug Ericksen wants to bring back in-person voting and make Election Day a holiday.

  • Robert Mittendorf The Bellingham Herald (Bellingham, Wash.)
  • Wednesday, November 11, 2020 5:39am
  • Northwest
Sen. Doug Erickson

Sen. Doug Erickson

By Robert Mittendorf / The Bellingham Herald

State Sen. Doug Ericksen is preparing legislation to return Washington state to in-person voting, require voter ID at the polls and invalidate most absentee ballots that arrive by mail after Election Day.

Ericksen, a Ferndale Republican, claimed without providing evidence or citing specifics that there are “longstanding concerns” about election security.

“Nothing is more secure than the neighborhood voting booth, with poll workers checking to make sure every voter is entitled to cast a ballot,” Ericksen said in a statement Tuesday, Nov. 10. “Washington has gotten off lucky for a decade. But the disarray in other states this year ought to teach us that we are vulnerable, too.”

Under Ericksen’s measure:

• Absentee ballots would continue to be available on request.

• In-person voting options would be available before Election Day.

• Election Day would be a holiday.

Counties in Washington state have had the option of all-mail voting since 2005, and vote-by-mail elections became state law in 2011, after 38 of 39 counties had taken that step.

Elections officials across the nation have said that all-mail voting assures easy access to the ballot, can be conducted more cheaply, and steps are taken to prevent fraud.

Washington Secretary of State Kim Wyman has frequently refuted claims that the Evergreen State’s elections are vulnerable to fraud.

“Washington election officials have worked diligently for more than 10 years to make the state’s vote-by-mail system accessible, secure, and fair,” Wyman told The Bellingham Herald in an email.

“I’m proud of the hard work and thoughtfulness the Office of the Secretary of State and county election officials have put into making this system successful. I believe it has served as a model for other states looking to transition to full mail-in voting,” she said.

Wyman, the only Republican elected to a statewide post this month, assured voters on her Twitter page that the election was just and equitable.

“I want to thank voters for entrusting me with not only the fair and secure administration of our elections, but with the preservation of our state’s history, library collections, and numerous other programs that enrich the lives of Washingtonians,” Wyman tweeted Nov. 5.

State Rep. Sharon Shewmake, D-Bellingham, tweeted Tuesday that other U.S. states should follow Washington’s lead toward universal ballot access.

“Our county had 87%+ turnout!” Shewmake tweeted. “Families sat around their dinner table and discussed civics, economics, their hopes and dreams TOGETHER. We need more of this, not less.”

Much of what Ericksen claimed was “disarray” occurred in states whose Legislatures prevented them from processing ballots before Election Day, which is a time-consuming process.

In Washington state, which has been voting mostly by mail for nearly two decades, ballots are processed as they arrive.

Processing means that voter registration and signatures are verified and ballots are scanned into an “air-gapped” computer system not connected to the internet.

In Washington, votes are tabulated after 8 p.m. Election Day and results are available quickly because the ballots were processed beforehand.

Ericksen was elected to his third four-year Senate term in 2018, defeating Democratic challenger Pinky Vargas, a Bellingham City Council member, by 45 votes â��” 49.9 percent to 49.8 percent â��” out of 72,779 votes cast.

Such a close margin required a hand recount under state law, and election security wasn’t questioned publicly at the time.

He represents the 42nd Legislative District, encompassing rural Whatcom County, its small cities, and northern Bellingham neighborhoods.

Voters have flipped the district in recent years, electing Democrats to its two state House seats.

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