When King County shifted to an all-mail voting system in 2009, it was supposed to increase voter participation. A progress report published Thursday makes the tentative conclusion that it hasn’t.
“It is interesting to note that voting by mail appears to have made no difference in election turnout,” wrote Mike Alvine, the report’s author and an analyst for the Metropolitan King County Council. Turnout was about the same — about 53 percent — in two comparable general elections, one before and one after the county implemented vote-by-mail.
The council’s Government Accountability and Oversight Committee is scheduled to discuss the report Tuesday. Increasing voter participation was a key objective in switching to a vote-by-mail system, according to a May 2006 council briefing.
Vote-by-mail had the backing of then-County Executive Ron Sims, who also suggested it would increase voter turnout. Councilmember Kathy Lambert, who chairs the county’s oversight committee, asked Alvine to study three aspects of the all-mail voting system: turnout, cost and accuracy.
The report reviewed data from 27 elections before using an all-mail system and eight elections after, including one Seattle-only election.
King County, with 1.1 million registered voters, is the largest jurisdiction in the country to use an all-mail election system. This year Washington state became the second state — after Oregon — to require all its counties to use mail-only systems. Only Pierce County hadn’t already made the switch.