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.


Talk to us

Please share your story tips by emailing editor@federalwaymirror.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.federalwaymirror.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) Please keep letters to 300 words or less.

More in Northwest

Dr. Amit Desai of St. Francis Hospital in Federal Way receives a COVID-19 vaccine on Dec. 17, 2020. Photo courtesy of CHI Franciscan
Vaccination data reveals disparities among regions and race

South King County and certain minority groups are far behind on COVID-19 vaccine goals.

A protective mask hanging on a front door. (Sound Publishing file photo)
King County to lift indoor mask mandate on June 29

About 1.3 million county residents have completed their COVID-19 vaccine series.

File photo
King County leaders propose emergency funding for gun violence prevention initiative

Sixty-nine people were reportedly shot during the first quarter of 2021.

Pills taken during police investigation (photo credit: Bellevue Police)
Renton man charged with homicide after selling fentanyl pills to a Bellevue woman

Law enforcement warns of an alarming increase in fentanyl deaths.

Entrance to the Tukwila Library branch of the King County Library System. File photo Tags
King County libraries move to Phase 4 this month

Libraries across King County will advance to Phase 4 on June 30,… Continue reading

Stock photo
Too Good To Go app aims to creatively reduce food waste

Nearly 40 percent of all food goes to waste worldwide, according to compnay spokesperson.

t
King County Council approves facial recognition technology ban

Software ban applies to King County Sheriff’s Office

t
PSE’s electric customer rates increasing slightly

The new rates will go into effect July 1

Graphic rendering of ADU design used for Renton’s Permit Ready Accessory Dwelling Unit program (courtesy of City of Renton)
Backyard cottages might offer a partial solution to King County’s housing problem

Some cities are embracing the solution better than others.

Most Read