This year, Seattle embarked on a bold political experiment in public funding for elections: the Democracy Voucher program. But Hisam Goueli, a candidate for Seattle City Council Position 8, says the new voucher system is broken and lead to “frustration and tears” for his campaign. Although he received nearly $20,000, the money arrived the day before the primary election. Goueli saw the program as a great opportunity for a first-time candidate like himself to run a competitive campaign. In the taxpayer-funder program, each registered voted in Seattle was issued four $25 vouchers, which they can “donate” to the candidate of their choice. But Goueli says that dream turned into a total nightmare, when he and his campaign manager ended up spending “four or five hours each day trying to get the democracy voucher program working.”
Articles about voting issues in Washington State.
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.
Washington state’s voter rolls are “accurate,” and the state follows federal election laws. That’s the message Washington Director of Elections, Lori Augino, is sending to the U.S. Department of Justice. President Donald Trump has alleged widespread voter fraud in last year’s election. He’s formed a Commission on Election Integrity to investigate. Trump’s Department of Justice has also sent letters to secretaries of state asking for information on how they purge their voter rolls of “ineligible voters.” Augino has now sent a four-page response to DOJ. It says the state routinely compares its voter registration database to lists of deaths and felony convictions. And the state looks for duplicates every night.
Washington: In Seattle, vouchers let voters steer city money to political campaigns. But some aren’t buying it | Los Angeles Times
The nation’s first “political voucher” system — a coupon of sorts that lets voters direct public money into the campaigns of candidates — is a rousing success in Jon Grant’s view. Vying for a seat on the Seattle City Council, Grant has raised $186,000 through the vouchers, which are funded by a city property tax and intended to offset the financial advantage of big-money candidates. “The last time I ran,” says Grant, a community activist who unsuccessfully sought a council seat in 2015, “our campaign was outspent 8 to 1.” This time he’s the one outspending his opponents.
Seattle’s first-in-the-nation voucher system for publicly financing political campaigns is facing a new legal challenge by two local property owners who say it forces them to support candidates they don’t like. The Pacific Legal Foundation, a libertarian-leaning law firm, sued the city Wednesday in King County Superior Court over the “democracy voucher” program, which was passed by voters in 2015 and is being used for the first time in this year’s City Council and city attorney races. Under the program, Seattle’s voters decided to tax themselves $3 million a year in exchange for four $25 vouchers that they can sign over to candidates. According to the city, it costs the average homeowner $11.50 per year.
As many as 100 election departments from cities and counties across the United States may have been penetrated by Russian hackers. That’s the revelation from a report allegedly from the National Security Agency, according to an online media outlet The Intercept, which published what it claims to be a classified report that said Russian agents at the direction of the government attacked a voting machine company and then tried to infiltrate local election boards. The FBI on Tuesday arrested a federal contractor for allegedly having leaked the NSA report to The Intercept.
Washington: How Many Voters Could Automatic Voter Registration Add to the Voter Rolls in Washington State? | Sightline Institute
Oregon’s New Motor Voter law empowered more than a quarter-million voters in its first nine months. Six states plus Washington, DC, are now implementing automatic voter registration, including Alaska, which approved it by a landslide in November. Evergreen State readers may be wondering: What about Washington? Can’t we do that, too? Yes. But it’s complicated. The number of voting-age Washingtonians who are not registered to vote has grown steadily in the past few decades. Although more voters registered in 2016, nearly 1.3 million voting-age adults in Washington remain unregistered. Adding them to voter rolls once they prove their citizenship would ensure they receive mail-in ballots and can vote in future elections. Most registered voters cast ballots only some of the time, which is their choice. When Oregon introduced its automatic registration system this year, about a quarter of the automatically registered newcomers to the rolls cast ballots in November’s US election.
A state Senate bill that would require counties to increase the number of ballot drop boxes could bump the cost of elections in Kitsap County by more than $50,000, election officials say. The bill, which is awaiting the governor’s signature, would force counties to add one drop box for every 15,000 voters, one in every city and in each census-designated place with a post office. Sen. Kirk Pearson, R- Monroe, the bill’s lone sponsor, argued in testimony that adding more ballot boxes would increase access to voting in smaller, less-populated areas. The cost of postage should be considered a barrier that discourages people from voting, he said. But county election officials say the parameters of the measure are too restrictive and would force taxpayers to bear the brunt of the cost.
Washington: Ballot Box Bill Near Becoming Law, But Not Popular with Elections Officials | Spokane Public Radio
Every piece of legislation considered by a body of elected officials has some kind of back story. Sometimes a bill is sparked by an idea from a constituent. That was the case with one bill (Senate Bill 5472) now waiting for Washington Governor Jay Inslee’s signature. It started with an innocuous question about election drop boxes. “A high school teacher in the town of Granite Falls asked me, ‘Why doesn’t my community have a drop box?’ His community, Granite Falls, has about 35-hundred people,” said Sen. Kirk Pearson (R-Monroe). The drop box to which he’s referring is a place where voters can take their completed ballots. The other option in Washington is to mail ballots. But Pearson doesn’t like that option, as he told his colleagues on the Senate floor in February.
Washington: Voting Rights bill moves forward on narrow vote in Washington Senate | The Spokesman-Review
Many Washington cities and counties could elect their council and commission members by district under a bill some senators described Thursday as a voting rights act and others denounced as a Band-Aid. The proposal, one of five “Voting Rights” bills introduced in the Legislature, passed on a 25-24 party-line vote. It would allow smaller cities and counties the ability to drop at-large elections in favor of districts with equal population. Many of Washington’s largest cities and home-rule counties already can do that, and Sen. Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, said it was only fair to let small cities do what Spokane and Seattle have already done. But critics of the bill said it doesn’t go far enough because it doesn’t ensure that minority groups will get an equal shot at fair representation when districts are drawn. They said a more comprehensive Democratic bill had more protections, but it didn’t get out of committee.