State money for postage-paid ballots might not be enough

Snohomish County gets $166,000, but if turnout is high this year, it might cost more.

EVERETT — Snohomish County is in line to receive $166,000 from the state to pay the postage on ballots returned by mail in this year’s elections.

But it may not be enough to cover all the costs, which could leave county taxpayers on the hook to the U.S. Postal Service.

“Counties are appreciative of the money that is being made available,” Snohomish County Auditor Carolyn Weikel said last week. “There is a very, very high possibility the $166,000 will not be enough,”

It’s a scenario facing the 38 counties which, for the first time ever, are eligible to receive a state grant to pay the postage on ballots returned by mail.

Gov. Jay Inslee and Secretary of State Kim Wyman announced last month they had come up with $1.2 million for this purpose. They acted in response to King County where the County Council agreed to provide prepaid postage for its voters.

Wyman, who brought the issue to the governor, argued it would be unfair if only voters in the most populous county had this option.

Because King County had already funded its 2018 ballot return envelopes, Inslee and Wyman focused on coming up with funds for the rest of the counties. They said they will ask the 2019 Legislature to reimburse King County for its expenses.

The way the process will work is Wyman’s office will send funding to any county that chooses to provide prepaid ballot return postage. The pre-determined amounts are based on voter turnout in each county in the 2010 and 2014 elections. And it assumes a cost of about 50 cents per ballot sent back by mail.

Pierce County, the state’s second most populous, is in line to receive the largest sum, $171,682, according to the state. Snohomish County, the state’s third most populous, is next at $166,601. Island County is eligible for $25,342.

Snohomish County’s allotment will cover a total of about 333,000 ballots in the primary and general elections. Whether it’s enough will depend on turnout and use of drop boxes versus the mail.

It would have been more than enough money in 2014. Turnout was low — 25.6 percent in the primary and 51.3 percent in the general. Ballots cast totalled roughly 320,000 for the two elections combined.

In 2010, it might not have been enough. Turnout reached 38.6 percent in the primary and 71.7 percent in the general. There were 415,822 ballots counted in that year’s elections.

Turnout in this year’s primary is expected in the range of 30 to 35 percent of the 440,000 registered voters, Weikel said.

Typically the figure is close to double for the fall. There should be plenty of voter interest this year with the expected presence on the ballot of statewide initiatives dealing with guns and taxes on carbon and soda.

Having the option of prepaid postage for the first time could push turnout higher, Weikel said.

If it’s not enough, she said she’ll have to ask the Snohomish County Council for money to cover any bills. On the other hand, if there are state dollars left over, they can be applied to elections in 2019.

“There is a strong possibility the money will not cover the postage costs,” she said. “We’ll see.”

________

This story was first published in the Everett Herald. Jerry Cornfield can be reached at 360-352-8623 or jcornfield@herald net.com. Follow him on Twitter at @dospueblos.


In consideration of how we voice our opinions in the modern world, we’ve closed comments on our websites. We value the opinions of our readers and we encourage you to keep the conversation going.

Please feel free to share your story tips by emailing editor@bothell-reporter.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.bothell-reporter.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) We reserve the right to edit letters, but if you keep yours to 300 words or less, we won’t ask you to shorten it.

More in Northwest

File photo
As new COVID-19 variant looms, vaccination disparities linger in King County

County data shows gaps among age, geography and race.

Gov. Jay Inslee joined other governors at the Climate Registry & Climate Action Reserve press conference in Glasgow, Scotland, to talk about climate achievements and goals. From left, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, Hawaii Gov. David Ige, Gov. Jay Inslee and Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker. (Photo courtesy of Gov. Jay Inslee)
Inslee: State agency vehicles must be all-electric by 2035

Gov. Jay Inslee has signed an executive order aimed at transitioning state… Continue reading

The Washington State Redistricting Commission held a public meeting over Zoom on Monday night to draw the final legislative and congressional district boundaries. Most of the five-hour session was spent in "caucus meetings" which were unavailable to the viewing public. (Washington State Redistricting Commission)
Bipartisan commission fails to draw new political boundaries

For the first time in state history, the Supreme Court will define new congressional and legislative districts.

Stock photo
State’s pediatric flu vaccinations down about 25% from this time last year

Health officials say sharp decline in childhood flu vaccination rates is concerning

tsr
King County Courthouse comfort dog dies

King County’s first Involuntary Treatment Act (ITA) courthouse comfort dog has died,… Continue reading

Example of what it can look like when you replace a grass lawn with native plants. Photo by Henry Stewart-Wood/Sound Publishing
Tired of mowing the lawn? Consider using native plants

Replacing your lawn with Northwest vegetation can be beneficial to homeowners and wildlife alike.

Stock photo
Seattle-area pair indicted for defrauding COVID-19 benefit programs

Amount exceeds $1 million; including $500,000 from state Employment Security Department

Sen. Steve Hobbs. File photo
Sen. Steve Hobbs named secretary of state

Gov. Jay Inslee appointed the Snohomish County Democrat to succeed departing Republican Kim Wyman.

Stock photo
Children ages 5 to 11 eligible for Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine

State DOH officials say pediatric vaccine will help protect children, slow disease spread

Left: Dow Constantine, Right: Joe Nguyen (screenshot from King County website)
Constantine leads in vote count for King County Executive

Incumbent Dow Constantine is challenged by State Sen. Joe Nguyen.

t
Sound Transit hires new chief communications officer

Andy Izquierdo left Waste Management to join agency; will make $290,000 per year

File photo.
Global health experts weigh-in on putting the pandemic behind us

Pharmaceutical companies will have to waive patent rights to address vaccine disparities, they say.