It’s a fact few people, even politicians know: Every jurisdiction, whether it be a city, town, fire district, school district or water district, must pay its county’s election department to get their races and measures on a ballot. There’s one exception- the State of Washington. State laws says the state is exempt from reimbursing counties the costs of putting state and federal races on ballots during years ending in an even number. State auditors and election officials say those costs are being place on the backs of counties and jurisdictions — some that can barely afford to put on an election. “The state is getting a free ride in even years when it’s the most expensive,” says Julie Anderson, Pierce County Auditor who is heading up a legislative effort of state auditors to change the law.
All races for state officers and the legislature happen on even-numbered years unless there’s a special election. “It’s no accident, the year they chose not to fund is the year they are all on the ballot,” says Anderson of state lawmakers. “It’s unfair.”
In odd-numbered years, the state will reimburse counties a prorated share of the election costs, but county election officials say it’s a hollow gesture because it’s a rare occurrence.
“Often times there aren’t state races in an odd year,” says Julie Wise, the Director of the King County Elections Department.