Elections matter. But they only matter when people are given the opportunity to participate. Are invited to be part of our electoral process, and provided the resources and education necessary to make an informed decision.
Enter our Secretary of State, and County Auditors (plus the King County Elections Director). As the folks in charge of voting systems, these folks have some jobs to do. Design and mail ballots, provide ballot drop boxes, voter guides, and instructions on how to return a ballot. Hell, there's a controlling RCW on this last point:
The voter must be instructed to either return the ballot to the county auditor no later than 8:00 p.m. the day of the election or primary, or mail the ballot to the county auditor with a postmark no later than the day of the election or primary.
RCW 29A.40.091(4) (emphasis added).
In fact, this duty is so important, that failure to do so knowingly is a class C felony (RCW 29A.84.720) punishable by a sentence of up to five years in prison and/or a fine of $10,000 (RCW 9A.20.021(C)). Additionally, anyone who commits this crime shall forfeit their office (29A.84.720).
In comes Julie Anderson, the current Pierce County Auditor. And this insert that was sent to voters in Pierce County - the second most populous county in Washington, and a swing county:
As can be seen, something is not right here. While the statute clearly states that the "mail by" deadline to voters is "postmarked by the day of the election," this instructional insert implies to voters that if they don't mail by November 4, their ballots will not be counted. When coupled with the the refusal to provide a ballot drop-box in Tillicum - a community with a large non-white population, and many low-income households, this appears to be voter suppression of people who are more likely to vote a Democratic ticket.
When confronted with this pretty egregious error, the Pierce County Auditor has dug in. The office is refusing to mail out corrected instructions, continues to refuse to provide ballot drop boxes in many low-income communities that lack adequate transit service, and, as of this moment, has not even provided a correction on the landing page of the office's website.
Of course, we thankfully have a statewide chief elections officer. Our Secretary of State clearly would be stepping in to call foul, and demand that the Pierce County Auditor do her job pursuant to the law. I mean, c'mon! This is literally a felony. So, being the persistent (or annoying) bugger I am, I asked the Secretary of State's office, via Twitter, their take (they have a very active Twitter account). The response:
That's right. The state's main elections office believes that telling voters mail-in ballots are due in the mail by 11/4 is a "practical deadline," even though it is a blatant violation of the law.
I mean, I get it. Our current elected Secretary of State is the only statewide elected Republican. As a member of Trump's GOP, she's gotta be watching out for ways to suppress progressive voter turnout. See, in Washington, 50-70% of votes aren't cast until the final weekend of voting. And these late voters tend to be much more progressive and much more likely to vote for Democrats, for sensible gun laws, and for raising the minimum wage. These are things Republicans in Washington don't want. While Kim Wyman's Presidential Candidate Donald Trump is complaining about voter fraud, Kim Wyman is supporting voter suppression.
Luckily, we have a candidate for Secretary of State who would rather enfranchise voters. Someone who has committed to more ballot drop boxes in low-income communities, on reservations, and college campuses. A candidate who wants to work with Auditors on ways to increase voter participation, not suppress turnout with illegal tactics. Plus a lot of great ideas on how to streamline the LLC and non-profit registration portals in Washington to better serve our small businesses and social justice organizations.
I was voting for Tina Podlodowski for Secretary of State already. But the voter suppression team of Kim Wyman and Julie Anderson has me even more excited, and has me reminding my friends and family of the importance of firing Kim Wyman, and hiring Tina Podlodowski, who will be a true leader on voter engagement, participation, and activation in Washington State.