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.
Instead, she and the governor issued a statement saying their offices could each come up with $600,000 – enough to reimburse all counties except King, where roughly one-third of Washington’s registered voters live, and where the County Council voted last week to spend $381,000 for the prepaid postage.
They said they’ll ask the Legislature next year to reimburse King County – and to make Washington the first state with a permanent prepaid ballot program.
“More voter participation makes for a stronger democracy,” Inslee said. “Because Washington is a vote-by-mail state, pre-paid postage is one important way we can reduce barriers to casting ballots.”