Washington: Despite more threats voting system not breached, elections officials say | Jim Camden/The Spokesman-Review

Although attempts to disrupt the U.S. elections have increased, Washington’s voting system is safer than it was in 2016 and has withstood any attacks, state and local elections officials said Monday. Those findings dovetail with news that nearly half of all ballots sent out have been returned in an unprecedented early vote. The state’s Elections Security Operations Center has been monitoring the VoteWA system and the 39 counties’ elections systems for any attacks, Secretary of State Kim Wyman said. “We’re confident that our system has not had any breaches, has not been compromised in any way and that it is operating fully secure,” she said. Using some $20 million in federal funds for cybersecurity, the state built strong firewalls around the system and ways to monitor the traffic going in and out of VoteWa. “We have a much higher confidence level than we did, even two years ago, with the cybersecurity of our system,” Wyman said.

Washington: With new ballot-tabulation machines, King County residents can vote with ‘pink sparkly pen’ if they’d like | Joseph O’Sullivan/The Seattle Times

After the year you’ve had, King County voter, do you need some spice in your life? Well, if you’d like, go ahead and take a step on the wild side and mark that election ballot with a pink sparkly pen. That’s right, gone are the bad old days when the muckety-mucks over at King County Elections Department printed out ballots instructing you to fill out your election ballots in blue or black ink, giving you flashbacks to some horrid and surely embarrassing grade-school test experience. That’s because the tabulation equipment acquired by the department in 2017 is more versatile, according to Kendall LeVan Hodson, chief of staff to Elections Director Julie Wise.“We’d of course still count the ballots if they didn’t use blue or black ink, it just typically required that they be duplicated, which was time consuming and costly,” LeVan Hodson wrote in an email.  “The new tabulation system we put in in 2017 reads almost anything, so — after testing that out a little bit — we decided to remove that (use blue or black ink only) on the instructions.” That’s why in 2018, the instructions calling for blue or black ink were nixed, she added.

Washington: Mail-In Voting Is ‘Not Rampant Voter Fraud,’ Says Washington’s Top Election Official | Emma Bowman/NPR

This past week, President Trump renewed his unsubstantiated claim that mail-in voting begets inaccurate or fraudulent results when he raised the prospect of delaying November’s election. “With Universal Mail-In Voting (not Absentee Voting, which is good), 2020 will be the most INACCURATE & FRAUDULENT Election in history,” Trump tweeted Thursday. Trump’s rhetoric alarms Kim Wyman, the secretary of state of Washington, one of a handful of states that vote almost entirely by mail. A growing number of states are embracing mail-in voting — which is essentially the same as absentee voting — over fears that going to polling stations could increase exposure to the coronavirus. “I think it really shatters peoples’ confidence in the process,” Wyman, a Republican, said in an interview with All Things Considered on Saturday. “We need to make sure we’re inspiring confidence in the public that this is a fair election. And the way you do that is balancing access and security.” Contrary to the president’s claims, fraudulent mail-in voting is very rare, according to election security experts. And as for Washington, Wyman said, “We’ve seen a very low incidence of any kind of voter fraud.”

Washington: Does vote-by-mail lead to voter fraud? Washington’s 2018 election data says no | Joel Connelly/Seattle Post Intelligencer

released figures Monday on the 2018 election. Just 142 cases of improper voting out of 3.1 million ballots were referred to county sheriffs and prosecutors for legal action. That’s 0.004% of what was an energized electorate. The nation has begun to look at vote-by-mail, currently used in Washington and four other states, after last months “pandemic primary” in Wisconsin. With Republican legislators balking at any change in rules, voters in Milwaukee had to stand in line for 1 1/2 to 2 hours with fewer than 10 polling places open in the city. Thousands of absentee votes, requested by voters, were not delivered on time. Trump voted by mail in Florida’s March 3 primary, but has decried letting other voters do likewise. “No, mail ballots,” the 45th president declared last month. “They cheat. Mail ballots are a very dangerous thing for this country because they are cheaters. You get thousands and thousands of people sitting in somebody’s living room signing ballots all over the place.”

Washington: Where Everyone Votes by Mail – an interview with Secretary of State Kim Wyman | Lisa Lerer/The New York Times

Amid controversies over testing and respirators, social distancing and stimulus checks, another issue has been bubbling up as a heated partisan battle in our era of pandemic: voting by mail. Democrats and voting rights groups are pushing proposals to expand access to mail-in ballots as a way to protect voters from spreading the virus and ensuring that millions — particularly African-American and poorer voters who tend to vote for Democrats — are not disenfranchised. Republicans largely oppose the idea, arguing that vote-by-mail elections could lead to fraud, since voters don’t have to show up in person at a polling place. Across the country, Republican leaders are fighting state-level statutes that could expand absentee balloting and mail-in-only elections and increase postal balloting. President Trump has also voiced another concern, one Democrats believe is a prime motivation for his party’s opposition: Mail-in ballots would make it easier to vote, prompting more people to participate in the election and, they believe, hurt Republican candidates. He’s complained that a national expansion of vote-by-mail and early voting would mean “you’d never have a Republican elected in this country again.” There’s little evidence that vote-by-mail leads to widespread fraud or favors Democrats. Mr. Trump, himself, voted by mail in Florida’s primary election last month and the 2018 midterms.

Washington: Officials say April election will take place despite coronavirus concerns | Joseph O’Sullivan/The Seattle Times

Gov. Jay Inslee’s office will let Washington’s April 28 special election proceed despite worries among county election officials about safely administering and counting ballots during the coronavirus pandemic. Those concerns earlier this month led Secretary of State Kim Wyman and Washington’s county auditors to write a letter to Inslee requesting the election be canceled. The April elections are not considered a high-profile affair. Only 18 of Washington’s counties are scheduled to have issues on the ballot. Those elections don’t involve any candidates running for office, but present proposed bonds and levies to voters. Washington’s vote-by-mail system limits the contact voters have, compared with other places – think long lines at polling places in other states.

Washington: State elections chief asks Inslee to cancel April 28 special election | James Drew/Tacoma News Tribune

Washington Secretary of State Kim Wyman said Wednesday she has asked Gov. Jay Inslee to cancel the April 28 special election to protect the health of elections workers during the novel coronavirus outbreak. “What’s invisible to most voters is that our county election officials rely on a lot of people to conduct an election. Counties and vendors require staff to work in close quarters to support an election and the age of most of these employees is 60 years old or older — the very folks we are most worried about protecting during the pandemic,” Wyman said. Wyman said the Secretary of State’s office began to think about the need to cancel the April 28 special election while implementing social distancing for the March 10 presidential primary. “When you look at large counties like King County or Pierce County where you have maybe 50 to 100 part-time workers who are coming in to help you process ballots, it’s very difficult in the close quarters that they work in to be able to give a 6-foot space around every worker,” she said.

Washington: Secretary of State Kim Wyman asks Inslee to cancel April special elections over coronavirus concerns | Joseph O’Sullivan/The Seattle Times

Washington Secretary of State Kim Wyman has asked Gov. Jay Inslee to use his emergency authority to cancel the April 28 special elections in response to the new coronavirus. Those elections are scheduled to take place across 18 of Washington’s counties but don’t involve any candidates for office, according to a letter to the governor Tuesday by Wyman. Rather, they give voters choices on proposed bonds and levies. While there is less contact in Washington’s vote-by-mail system compared with other states, she wrote, election planners worry there are too many questions about adequately administering an election. “From courthouse closures, to workforce reductions of election staff, postal staff, or disruptions with vendors who support election operations, circumstances outside of our control could make it impossible for counties to meet statutory election requirements,” Wyman wrote. “These include mail processing, voter registration, canvassing results, and certifying an election.”

Washington: Senate committee reviewing Secretary of State’s election security bill | Northern Kittitas County Tribune

Secretary of State Kim Wyman’s election-security legislation, Senate Bill 6412, received a hearing in the Senate State Government, Tribal Relations and Elections Committee recently. The bill aims to bolster election security on four fronts — eliminate cyber threats by removing risky electronic ballot-return methods, improve third-party ballot collection, provide post-election security through statistical audits, and appropriate $1.8 million in order to draw nearly $9 million in federal matching funds to augment security. Sen. Hans Zeiger, R-Puyallup, is sponsoring the bill. “These critical election security improvements cannot wait. Cyber criminals are relentless, and in this upcoming, momentous election cycle, voters need to have confidence that our systems are secure and their information will remain protected,” said Wyman. “The race to secure our elections has no finish line, but Senate Bill 6412 propels elections officials in the right direction for 2020 and beyond.” Testifying in support of the bill was Kirstin Mueller, election-security issue chair for the League of Women Voters of Washington. “Over the last few years, detailed cybersecurity reports have been released, outlining what each state can do to improve the security of their elections. These reports have many recommendations in common – ensure a secure chain of custody of voted ballots, require paper ballots that voters have marked by hand or with the use of an assistive device, perform statistically based post-election audits that can catch and correct incorrect election outcomes, and keep all elements of voting and tabulation away from the internet. This legislation improves Washington’s election security in all of these critical areas,” Mueller said. “We believe this bill provides the right balance of access and security, and it protects organizations like the League, who want to help, by providing a way to track ballots.”

Washington: Seattle-area election will use smartphone voting system that worries some experts | Jay Greene /The Washington Post

As it became clear that a technical mishap would delay results from the Iowa caucuses last week, Sheila Nix raced to prepare a chart illustrating how the glitch was isolated. Nix is president of Tusk Philanthropies, an organization that’s working to boost turnout through mobile-voting projects and was not involved in the Iowa caucuses. But she has been working on a Seattle-area election that culminates Tuesday to elect a seat on the board of the King Conservation District, which promotes sustainable uses of natural resources. It is one of Tusk’s most high-profile efforts. Nix didn’t want the Iowa debacle to discourage potential voters from using their mobile phones to cast their ballots. The chart Nix’s team created, posted on the King Conservation District’s website, noted that the technology used in Iowa, unlike Tusk’s partners, was “untested, and created in secrecy,” and that Iowa didn’t have a backup plan in the event there was a problem. But she said she also recognizes that the fiasco in Iowa was a setback for everyone working on digital elections. “We know we have an additional level of education that must be done,” Nix said. ‘It kind of failed us’: With eyes of the world on Iowa, another hiccup in American democracy.

Washington: We voted with a smartphone in a Seattle-area election, and this is what we discovered | Monica Nickelsburg/GeekWire

Mobile voting is fast, convenient, and vulnerable. Those were my takeaways testing out the mobile voting pilot available to all voters in the greater Seattle region Tuesday. More than 1.2 million Seattle-area voters have the option to cast their ballots online in a little-known election for the Board of Supervisors of the King Conservation District, a resource-management organization operating under state authority. To cast my ballot online, I visited the King Conservation District website on my smartphone. The first page explained my options for voting, including casting my ballot online. It also included an infographic detailing how this mobile voting pilot is different from the app that malfunctioned during the Iowa Democratic caucuses last week. Clicking “Vote Now” led to a series of prompts within the web browser on my phone. First I reviewed the sample ballot provided. Then it was time for the main event. … The speed and convenience of mobile voting is undeniable. … But there will always be folks who sit small, local elections out. My husband, for example, probably won’t vote in this one. Could that become an opportunity for fraud? I decided to find out.

Washington: ‘Proceed very cautiously’: Experts say online elections raise security concerns | Amy Radil/KUOW

Voting online is now an option for certain voters in King, Pierce, and Mason counties. But Washington state lawmakers and security experts say these methods should be “off the table” in 2020. Tuesday, February 11 is the last day for voters in the King Conservation District election to submit their online ballots. The election made headlines last month as the country’s first in which all eligible voters cast ballots via smartphones and computers. Pierce and Mason counties plan to use the same method to allow military and overseas voters to cast ballots in the presidential primary. But the failure of the app at the Iowa caucuses last Monday has inflamed doubts around online voting. Even before then, Washington Secretary of State Kim Wyman and cybersecurity experts condemned online balloting calling for the exclusive use of paper ballots this year. Should Washington voters worry about online voting? …Computer scientist Jeremy Epstein has a much different perspective than Tusk. He argues the platforms Tusk has funded through two firms, Voatz and Democracy Live, are not transparent. “Both Voatz and Democracy Live have talked about, ‘Oh yes we’ve had security assessments,’” said Epstein, who works for the Association for Computing Machinery. “But they won’t release any information on what they’ve tested, what the results are. They just said, ‘don’t worry, be happy.’” Epstein said there are no standards for secure internet voting because it is “fundamentally insecure. ” He add that “we don’t want to build standards for ‘safe cigarettes,’” and “we don’t build standards for ‘safe’ internet voting because it’s a contradiction in terms.”

Washington: Voting by Phone Gets a Big Test, but There Are Concerns | Emily S. Rueb/The New York Times

More than a million registered voters in the Seattle area can now cast a ballot for an obscure election using a smartphone or computer. Organizers are calling the pilot program the largest mobile voting effort in the country. Julie Wise, the director of elections in King County, said the election would be “a key step in moving toward electronic access” for voters across the region, in a statement released on Wednesday from Tusk Philanthropies, the nonprofit partnering with the county’s board of elections. The vote in King County, Wash., which includes Seattle, will fill an open spot on the board of the King Conservation District, an agency that manages natural resources. Beginning this week, eligible voters will be able to use a smartphone or computer to log into a portal created by Democracy Live, a Seattle-based company that receives government funding. “There’s no special app, there’s no electronic storage of votes. Instead a voter’s choice is recorded onto a PDF, which they then verify before submission,” Ms. Wise said in an email on Thursday. Once the ballots are received, the board will follow the same processing protocols that are used for mail-in ballots, she added.

Washington: Secretary of state questions online, mobile voting plan in King County race | David Gutman/The Seattle Times

Washington Secretary of State Kim Wyman expressed concerns Wednesday with newly announced plans to allow voters in one obscure King County election to vote online through mobile devices. The plan, which went into effect Wednesday, allows voters to cast ballots through a touch-screen device in the race for King Conservation District Board of Supervisors. That election, which is held annually for a volunteer position on a board with no regulatory power, has traditionally drawn voter turnout of only about 1%. Because of a quirk in state law, the conservation district has to hold its elections in the first three months of the year, so voting can’t piggyback on the primary or general election ballots in August or November. And, sending out paper ballots to all 1.2 million eligible voters in the district would eat up about a quarter of the small agency’s annual budget. So, they’re trying voting by mobile device, the first election in the country to offer that technology to every eligible voter. “Any time you connect a system online, it becomes vulnerable to attack,” said Wyman, a Republican, who oversees most of the state’s elections, but not those of conservation districts.

Washington: Secretary Of State Pushes ‘Election Security’ Bill | Associated Press

Washington Secretary of State Kim Wyman is seeking $1.8 million in state money for security in county election offices that would make Washington eligible for another $8.6 million in matching federal funds. The Seattle Times reports that the budget request is part of an election security proposal Wyman, a Republican, unveiled Wednesday. The bill also provides stricter penalties and restrictions surrounding the collection of ballots — which are mailed to each of the state’s nearly 4.5 million voters — and provides more thorough post-election audits for race recounts. It also would eliminate online ballots for military and overseas voters, to reduce the risk of potential malware coming into elections offices.

Washington: How Washington is fighting back against attempts to hack ballots | Nick Bowman/KIRO

A week ago, Washington Secretary of State Kim Wyman told KIRO Radio that the state’s election system routinely faces faces tens of thousands of hacking attempts daily. But how exactly is Washington’s system designed to fight those attacks? Wyman stopped in again to detail the various measures in place. “The biggest thing is we moved to the VoteWA system, and so this has enabled us not only to build a stronger firewall, more robust security, and monitoring systems around it, but now … any user that gets into our system, they have to be pre-approved,” Wyman told KIRO Radio’s Dave Ross. VoteWA is system that was first enacted for August’s primary election, featuring a handful of new security measures to ensure results aren’t altered, hacked, or tampered with in any way. Results from each of the state’s 39 counties are tabulated from paper ballots, and then transferred to an air-gapped machine (i.e. a computer not connected to the internet). The results are then transferred to a flash drive, which is plugged into an internet-enabled computer to transmit the final results.

Washington: ‘Tens of thousands’ of attempts daily to hack Washington’s election system | Dyer Oxley/MyNorthwest

Washington state’s general election is one month away and aside from making sure the process is ready to run smoothly, Secretary of State Kim Wyman has another concern on her mind — cybersecurity and election hacking. “We have attempts every day,” she told KIRO Radio. “Tens of thousands of attempts to get into our system … right now, we are just blocking all of them.” “Some (hackers) are just trying to see what they can see, ‘what can we get to and what can we play with,’” Wyman said. “And some have bigger chess moves. They are trying to undermine confidence that voters have in our system.”

Washington: Primary election tests new voter system, but ‘everything went according to plan’ | Joseph O’Sullivan/The Seattle Times

Washington’s same-day voter-registration law and new elections system faced a major stress test Tuesday as voters around the state returned ballots for the primary election. The new statewide voter management system, VoteWA, had a rocky rollout this spring, but county auditors Tuesday said it was running smoothly as the 8 p.m. election deadline came and went. “Everything went according to plan and worked out really well,” said King County Elections Director Julie Wise after Tuesday night’s election results posted. She previously had expressed concerns about the system being ready for the primary. Turnout in King County was projected to hit 36%, and possibly be a few points higher than that in Seattle, where seven City Council seats are up for grabs. VoteWA, which is rooted in a centralized voter-registration database, is expected to cut the risk of fraud, strengthen the security of the state’s elections and give many counties new elections capabilities.

Washington: Key test for Washington state as Tuesday’s primary features new elections system, same-day registration | Joseph O’Sullivan/The Seattle Times

Substantial new changes to Washington’s elections system face a key test this week, as voters around the state cast ballots in Tuesday’s primary. Washington has adopted same-day voter registration, which allows eligible citizens to register and receive a ballot up until 8 p.m. Tuesday, the end of the election period. And elections officials are deploying a new, statewide voter-management system that has had a rocky rollout in some counties. Known as VoteWA, it is expected to make elections more secure, reduce the risk of fraud and give many counties an upgrade in their elections capabilities. At the root of the new system is a statewide voter database that is updated in real time. So if someone wants to register to vote in King County, for instance, elections workers should be able to immediately determine whether that person has already cast a ballot elsewhere in the state. The system’s data is also exported to create ballots, voter-registration cards and other materials provided to voters. The state’s actual vote-tabulation machines are separate from VoteWA and not connected to the internet, and thus not affected by any potential VoteWA issues.

Washington: State’s new voting system concerns county elections officials | Aaron Kunkler/Kent Reporter

County election officials are raising concerns about the new Washington state voting system ahead of the Aug. 6 primary election while state officials say they have confidence in it. The new voting system, VoteWA, is a $9.5 million program that came online last May and is meant to unify all 39 county voting systems in the state into a single entity. This will allow greater security and more easily facilitate same-day voter registration, said Washington’s Secretary of State Kim Wyman, who has advocated for the program. “I want people to know that our system is secure and that our counties are going to be ready for the August primary and the November general elections,” Wyman said. Several issues have made King County Elections officials less confident. The state shut down the old voting system on May 24 and spent several days transferring voter data to VoteWA. Following this, counties double-checked the new data with their previous voter records to ensure accuracy, which meant they were not able to register new voters in the system until June 9. In King County, this led to a backlog of 16,000 voters, said King County Elections director Julie Wise during a July 10 meeting of the county’s Regional Policy Committee. “There was a rush to get this system implemented, and it’s not ready to go,” Wise said. “I know that that’s concerning, and that it causes alarm for people, but I do want to say we are working diligently.”

Washington: ‘Not ready for prime time.’ Washington State election officials sound alarm over new voter registration system | Austin Jenkins/NW News Network

County election officials in Washington are warning that a new statewide voter registration database system is not ready for the state’s August 6 primary and could result in some voters getting incorrect ballots or no ballot at all. The concerns reached a crescendo on Tuesday at a work session of the Washington Senate’s State Government, Tribal Relations and Elections Committee. A panel of county auditors and election chiefs told members of the committee that the new VoteWA system is “not ready for prime time” and that they are proceeding with the primary election “on a hope and a prayer.” Washington Secretary of State Kim Wyman, a Republican, acknowledged that she decided to “go live” with phase one of the system over the objections of some county auditors, but defended that decision as necessary because of the age and security vulnerabilities of the old system.  “If you want to know why I made the decision that I made, it was I was so worried and freaked out by my security team that said we cannot keep operating this system,” Wyman told the committee members.

Washington: Problems with State’s new $9.5M voter-registration system leave officials racing to get ballots printed, mailed | Joseph O’Sullivan/The Seattle Times

County officials across Washington are racing to enter a backlog of voter-registration data into a new statewide elections system in time to get ballots printed and mailed by mid-July, for the Aug. 6 primary. That backlog — information such as new registrations and changes of address for more than 16,000 voters in King County alone — comes after voter databases shuttered for about a month while the state transitioned to the new VoteWA system. The software program is intended as a statewide voter-information database to replace the less centralized systems currently used among Washington’s 39 counties, which administer elections. VoteWA allows election administrators to see voter changes made across the state in real-time, which will help implement Washington’s new same-day voter-registration law. That law is now in effect for the Aug. 6 primary. But now, as election workers try to make up for lost time, they are finding the VoteWA system slowing to a crawl — and sometimes entirely shut down. On June 28, state officials had to take VoteWA, which now handles all Washington voter data, offline for the whole day, a Friday, and into the weekend. The situation prompted King County Elections Director Julie Wise to send home eight temporary elections workers who had shown up that Friday to help enter voter data. VoteWA — which has drawn scrutiny from Wise and some other elections officials after problems were discovered during testing last month — was down again Wednesday for a shorter period of time, according to auditors in Clark and Mason counties.

Washington: Legislature considers removing barriers to voting on reservations | The Spokesman-Review

Washington could remove barriers to registering to vote and casting ballots on reservations, where voter participation is lower than the rest of the state. Committees in the House and Senate on Wednesday considered identical versions of the Native American Voting Rights Act, which would allow tribal members with nontraditional addresses to register and be mailed ballots and allow tribes to request more drop boxes. Problems with addresses and distant drop boxes prevent tribal members from registering and voting, said Alex Hur, who represents One America and Washington Voting Justice Coalition.

Washington: Native American voting rights bill proposed ahead of upcoming legislative session | WNPA

A proposed bill would allow the residential address portion of a voter registration form to be filled out with a nontraditional address. Democrat majority caucus chair, Sen. John McCoy, D-Tulalip, pre-filed SB 5079, titled The Native American voting rights act of Washington. “The Washington state Legislature has a chance to rectify historical wrongs with the passage of the Native American Voting Rights Act. In doing so, we will send a loud and simple message to the Native community: we recognize that civic participation as we know it today began with American Indians, and as sovereign citizens of the United States you have the right to have your voice heard at every level of government,” said McCoy.

Verified Voting in the News: State has new laws and the Air National Guard to help secure 2018 midterm election | TechRepublic

Changes to election procedures and assistance from the Washington Air National Guard are underway, as Washington state prepares for the 2018 midterm elections. After learning that it was one of the 21 states whose voter registration database was targeted, Washington is taking extra measures to stay secure. While Washington’s voter registration database wasn’t breached, rumors are swirling that those states targeted in 2016 could be targeted again in 2018, according to Danielle Root, voting manager at the Center for American Progress. “Many national security experts and officials have warned that 2016 was likely a testing ground for Russia,” said Root, so states must stay vigilant. Voter registration databases are an obvious target for attack, said Dan Weiske, advisor to the National Cybersecurity Center. “Any of the publicly connected systems, like the registration systems, are going to be the largest areas of attack and the highest risk,” said Weiske. “There’s a lot of data that sits on those, and it’s accessible by the public.”

Washington: With Russian hacking fresh in mind, Washington state beefs up elections cybersecurity | The Seattle Times

Exercises that simulate a hacking attempt. Assistance from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, with higher-level security clearances for top state officials. A Washington National Guard contingent ramping up to go on alert. In years past, you might have mistaken these preparations as defense against a foreign invasion. But in Washington, in 2018, this is what officials are doing to safeguard the state’s elections systems. Roughly a year after Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential elections, federal officials announced that Russian hackers had targeted the election systems of at least 21 states, including Washington.

Washington: State sues Facebook, Google over political ads | Associated Press

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson on Monday sued Facebook (FB) and Google (GOOG), saying the companies failed to maintain information about political advertising as required by state law. Washington law requires the companies to maintain information about buyers of political ads, the cost, how they pay for it and the candidate or ballot measure at issue, according to the lawsuits, filed in King County Superior Court on Monday. The companies also must make that information available to the public upon request. Ferguson said neither Facebook nor Google did so, even though Washington candidates and political committees have spent nearly $5 million to advertise on those platforms in the past decade.

Washington: State to pay for ballot postage to boost turnout | Associated Press

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and Secretary of State Kim Wyman said Tuesday that Washington state will pay for prepaid postage on mail-in ballots in this year’s primary and general elections in an attempt to boost turnout – but not for voters in King County, where local officials approved their own measure last week. The decision Tuesday came at Wyman’s request and was prompted by King County’s plans. Wyman said it would be unfair if voters in the most populous county could mail their ballots for free while those elsewhere had to pay for stamps, and she asked Inslee to let her spend nearly $2 million to reimburse all 39 counties on prepaid postage this year.

Washington: King County senators say state should pay for mailed ballots | Snoqualmie Valley Record

With Washington voters having cast their ballots through the mail since 2011, Sens. Joe Fain and Mark Mullet said today that the state should pay for postage to increase voter participation and reduce any confusion or barriers to participating in elections. The two lawmakers from King County drafted legislation this month that they intend to file ahead of the 2019 legislative session. “Voting is a critically important right and our state has an interest in removing barriers that keep people from exercising that right,” said Fain, R-Auburn, who has worked on election reform and proposals to expand voter access while a member of the state Senate in a press release. “Whether it is the cost or fact that many don’t keep stamps at home in an increasingly paperless society, this is one way to simplify the process and encourage people to participate in our self-government.”

Washington: Secretary of State Kim Wyman asks Gov. Inslee for $2 million to fund prepaid postage for mail-in ballots | The Seattle Times

Gov. Jay Inslee is considering a request from the state’s top election official to spend $2 million to cover prepaid postage on mail-in ballots for this year’s elections. Secretary of State Kim Wyman made the emergency request in response to a similar measure before the Metropolitan King County Council. On Monday the county council decided to delay a vote by a week on a request sponsored by Councilmember Dave Upthegrove to spend $381,000 for prepaid postage for the Aug. 7 primary and the November general election. The request originated with King County Elections Director Julie Wise.