King County Elections Director Julie Wise is requesting funding from the County Council to provide all voters in the county with ballots with prepaid postage based on a successful prepaid postage trial program that increased voter participation.
King County Executive Dow Constantine Wednesday submitted a supplemental budget request to the council that would provide voters with prepaid ballots starting this year and would make it part of ongoing operations costs.
“When I was elected, one of my commitments was to remove barriers to voting,” said Wise in a county news release. “As we increase access with prepaid postage and ballot drop boxes, we’re beginning to see a real impact.”
If approved by the council, registered voters would receive ballots with prepaid postage this year, starting with the August primary election.
“At a time when American democracy is threatened by our own federal government, we are taking action in King County to ensure that all people have a voice,” Constantine said. “Providing ballots with prepaid postage will remove a small but significant barrier to the democratic process in our region.”
By removing an additional barrier to voting, the proposal encourages more residents to exercise their constitutional right. Simplifying the process with prepaid postage also will allow for a higher ballot return rate and encourage diverse communities to become further involved in the elections process.
The overall request to the council is for $381,000 to provide prepaid postage for 2018, although the expected impact to the county’s general fund budget will only be $191,000 because cities and special districts will contribute the additional cost, according to county officials.
This estimate is reliant on voter turnout and method as voters may use either a drop box or return ballots by mail. The county will only incur a charge for prepaid postage when a voter specifically returns a ballot by mail.
This is the latest action taken by King County Elections to encourage more voter participation. In 2016, King County quadrupled the number of ballot drop boxes across the county and increased voter outreach in communities where English is not the primary language.