Governor and Secretary of State to fund statewide prepaid ballot postage

King County, however, won’t get any of that money.

Governor Jay Inslee and Secretary of State Kim Wyman say they have identified funding sources to cover the cost of establishing prepaid postage for ballots statewide in advance of the 2018 midterm elections.

Through a combination of $600,000 in various savings from both the governor’s office and Wyman’s office—for a total of $1.2 million—the state will be able to pay for 38 of Washington’s 39 counties to offer prepaid postage for all ballots in the upcoming 2018 primary and general elections.

Two weeks ago, the King County Council passed its own ordinance funding prepaid ballot postage in the county for the 2018 elections—to the tune of $381,000—in an effort to boost voter turnout after several successful pilot projects. Prior to the bill’s passage, Wyman testified before the council, asking them to hold off voting on the ordinance until prepaid postage could be established statewide. She also requested $2 million from Governor Inslee to fund the program.

“This is about leveling the playing field and making elections equal for all citizens of Washington State,” Wyman said in a joint announcement rolled out on the morning of May 15.

King County, however, was left out of the funding allocation due to the recent passage of its prepaid ballot postage ordinance. In the announcement, both Inslee and Wyman said they would ask the state Legislature during the 2019 session for a one-time reimbursement to cover King County’s prepaid ballot postage expenses for the 2018 elections. According to the release, the cost of covering all 39 counties would be $1.8 million, while state officials could only cobble together $1.2 million.

The exclusion has rubbed some local elected officials the wrong way. In a joint statement, King County Executive Dow Constantine, Council Chair Joe McDermott, and Elections Director Julie Wise condemned the move. “The decision to exclude King County — and only King County — from the state reimbursement plan for prepaid ballot postage is grossly unfair. We urge state leaders to reconsider.” (They added that if the state cannot afford to fully fund all counties statewide in time for the 2018 elections, that they should partially fund all counties uniformly.)

In a phone interview with Seattle Weekly, Council Chair McDermott said that while he is glad that counties across the state will have prepaid postage for ballots, that the exclusion plays a disproportionate burden on King County. “I believe it is unfair to not front-fund the cost statewide,” he said.

McDermott added that, during the 2018 legislative session, bipartisan efforts to pass laws funding prepaid ballot postage statewide made no headway and Wyman was not advocating for them at the time. “That was not something that secretary Wyman was championing. When that failed to happen, King County took action in the jurisdiction that we control.”

Additionally, McDermott argued that, due to a cost-sharing agreement in place under the county’s current prepaid ballot postage legislation with local cities, that other jurisdictions within King County are impacted by this. “To leave King County out or to make it contingent on legislative action come January—which you can never count on—leaves not only the county but cities … at a disadvantage,” he said.

Councilmember Dave Upthegrove, one of the cosponsors of the King County prepaid ballot postage ordinance, was more blunt about his displeasure with the governor’s announcement. “It’s complete bullshit that the governor is providing unequal funding and it’s ridiculous that he’s slapping King County in the face like this.”

“The fact that the governor wants us to take a hit and not other counties is disrespectful,” he added.

Upthegrove said that he has asked the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office if they have any standing to pursue litigation against the state for different treatment of counties when it comes to funding local elections.

jkelety@soundpublishing.com

More in News

Despite Supreme Court Ruling, activists fight youth incarceration in King County

No New Youth Jail Coalition members send Valentines to King County officials asking them to reconsider funding priorities

Sound Transit seeks public comment about new light rail yard site

Dick’s Drive-In in Kent one of six potential locations

Kent mayor sets State of the City address for March 14

Will deliver speech at Kent-Meridian Performing Arts Center

Puget Sound Fire call report

Type, number of incidents

Man found dead after shooting at police during Kent standoff

Suspect was wanted by Seattle Police on a felony warrant

Southbound traffic backs up as northbound drivers cruise on with ease on the Highway 99 viaduct on Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2019. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
WSDOT hopes ‘Viadoom’ habits continue

The department credits commuters with adapting to the closure and mitigating impacts.

Former two-term state Senator Joe Fain has a new job – president and CEO of the Bellevue Chamber of Commerce. REPORTER FILE PHOTO
Bellevue Chamber of Commerce selects Fain as new president and CEO

The Bellevue Chamber of Commerce announced Friday that it had selected former… Continue reading

Kent man arrested in Auburn hit-and-run incident that seriously injured boy

Auburn Police have arrested a Kent man suspected of being the driver… Continue reading

Kent’s East Valley Highway lanes to close for construction Feb. 19-May 31

One lane, each direction between South 196th and South 180th streets

Most Read