Ever used the excuse “I didn’t have a stamp” as a reason for not voting? Well, it seems that excuse may be disappearing from the ‘Why I Didn’t Vote’ playbook…. at least for 2018.
On Monday May 7, 2018 the King County Council approved legislation allowing the Department of Elections to send voters postage paid envelopes to return their ballots in this year’s primary and general elections.
King County has roughly 1.2 million registered voters and is the largest jurisdiction in the U.S. to conduct all elections by mail. The budget request made by Executive Constantine on behalf of Elections Director, Julie Wise will provide King County voters with prepaid postage on returned ballots for the remainder of this year, starting with the August primary election.
“I am grateful to the Council for their unwavering support in giving me the tools I need to continue removing barriers for our voters. Prepaid postage along with our ballot drop boxes makes it easy for everyone to exercise their civic right to vote,” said Wise
Washington became a vote-by-mail state in 2011. While the Council and King County Elections worked to increase the number
of ballot drop boxes available to voters throughout the county, approximately half of the ballots received are still sent by mail. Prior to Monday’s action, all voters were personally required to place postage on their ballot.
“This measure puts a ballot box at the end of every driveway, and I’m excited to be a part of its passage,” said Councilmember Dave Upthegrove, Chair of the Council’s Budget Committee and prime sponsor of the legislation.
The U.S. Postal Service will charge King County a rate of 50 cents for each ballot returned by mail. According to KC Elections, in prior to this, when a voter forgot to place on stamp on a ballot, some post offices would send the ballot to King County regardless, but would charge the county $1.70. Other post offices would not forward the ballot at all.
The county expects the measure to increase voter access and participation. Elections conducted a pilot project over the winter, sending 65,000 voters in Shoreline and Maple Valley prepaid return envelopes. The percentage of total ballots returned by mail during the pilot was 74-percent, compared to 43-percent participation in the 2016 General Election.
Another co-sponsor of the ordinance, Councilmember Jeanne Kohl-Welles commented, “I’m confident that our action today will result in prepaid postage on ballots being implemented statewide.”
According to King County Elections, this recent move has prompted statewide discussions about prepaid postage.