Secretary of State asks lawmakers for modest election reforms

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Sam Reed
Secretary of State
From the office of the Secretary of State, Sam Reed

In an effort to save money and make the elections process more efficient during these tight budget times, Secretary of State Sam Reed is asking the Legislature to lower the cost of producing the statewide Voters' Pamphlet, eliminate the primary for judicial races with fewer than three candidates, and implement other ideas to reduce elections costs for the state and counties.

Reed said the centerpiece of his elections cost-savings legislation is allowing the full text of ballot measures to be placed online for free on the Secretary of State's website instead of the printed Voters' Pamphlet, which is produced by Reed's Elections Division.

The Secretary of State is required by the Washington Constitution to send the Voters' Pamphlet to all 3 million Washington households.

"It is very costly to produce and print the Voters' Pamphlet every year, especially when there are one or more initiatives or referenda on the ballot," Reed said. "The entire text for Referendum 71 consumed 33 pages in the Voters' Pamphlet three years ago. That's a lot of pages devoted to a ballot measure, and we often have three or four measures every year.

"When you consider that few people bother to read the entire text of a ballot measure and how costly it is to include in the printed Voters' Pamphlet, it makes sense to just put the text of a ballot measure online. If people want to read the entire text, it will be accessible on their computer or hand-held device," added Reed, the state's top elections officer.

Providing a measure's text online instead of in the printed Voters' Pamphlet would save about $364,000 a year.

Reed's elections cost reduction legislation also would:
  • Repeal the requirement to hold a primary election for judicial races when only one or two candidates have filed. That would save more than copy million about every four years.
  • Repeal the requirement to provide County Auditors with printed versions of elections laws and instead require that the laws be posted on the Secretary of State's website.
  • Reduce the paperwork for processing initiative filings by allowing initiative sponsors to file the measure electronically and repealing the requirement to notify initiative sponsors and House and Senate administration by mail
  • Clarify that Washington voter registration information can be compared with information in other states to identify voters who are registered in another state and/or voting in another state.

"My office and I have made it a high priority to ensure the integrity of elections in our state. That's why we are doing preliminary work with other states and the PEW Research Center to prepare for sharing voter registration information with other states to avoid voter duplication. This part of the bill helps make Washington's elections system even stronger," Reed said.
The elections savings and efficiencies bill will be introduced next week. The 60-day legislative session begins January 9, 2012.


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