We always have thought ballot return envelopes should include prepaid postage.
Now that King County has forced the issue, every voter in the state will be able to mail their ballots in for free in the August primary and the November general elections.
In an emergency effort, Washington Secretary of State Kim Wyman and Gov. Jay Inslee combined money from their own office accounts to ensure postage is covered on ballot return envelopes statewide.
It is a temporary fix to a conundrum caused by the King County Council’s decision to save their constituents a stamp when they vote by mail.
While such a move is helpful for those living in King County, it threw the rest of the state off-balance and created an unfair voting process because other counties couldn’t afford to do the same.
All Washington state voters should have the same access to the ballot box.
King County already carries more political weight than other parts of the state, with one-third of Washington’s registered voters living within its borders. Making it more convenient for their residents to get their ballots turned in exacerbates that influence.
“When it comes to prepaid postage, I believe two components are necessary,” Wyman told King County Council members. “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 is right. Pre-paid postage on ballot returns should be implemented statewide or not at all.
Last year, King County experimented with a pilot program and found an 8 percent increase in voting when the postage was covered compared with previous election returns, according to the Seattle Times.
Let's face it, many people now pay their bills online and may not have a stamp handy when it comes time to mail in their ballots. If they have to make a special trip just to pay for postage, they may not bother voting.
In a twist, King County officials are now reportedly angry that Wyman and the Governor are covering the cost for ballot returns in 38 counties, but not theirs.
Instead, since King County already approved spending $381,000 to cover its own voters, Wyman and Inslee will ask the 2019 Legislature for a one-time reimbursement for that county’s expense.
King County officials now say that’s unfair, and want the state to cover their postage costs this year. However, if King County hadn’t gone off on its own, Wyman and Gov. Inslee never would have felt compelled to cover the rest of the state.
It’s a mad cycle.
What we need is a long-term solution.
If King County is determined to pay prepaid postage on mail-in ballots for its voters, the Legislature had better be prepared to find a way to cover this expense statewide. It’s the only way to make our election system fair.