State senator to present legislation seeking end to vote-by-mail in Washington
Elections officials say turnout high and ballot issues low
WHATCOM COUNTY, Wash. – A state senator plans to introduce legislation to roll back Washington’s vote-by-mail system and restore polling places statewide.
State Sen. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale, said he is preparing legislation for the 2021 session in Olympia that would bring back the voting booth.
Absentee ballots could still be requested under the proposal and General Election day would become a state holiday.
“Nothing is more secure than the neighborhood voting booth, with pollworkers checking to make sure every voter is entitled to cast a ballot,” Ericksen said. “Washington has gotten off lucky for a decade. But the disarray in other states this year ought to teach us that we are vulnerable, too.”
Republican Secretary of State Kim Wyman, who was just re-elected by voters to another term, has told Q13 News repeatedly that vote-by-mail is safe.
Here’s a look at key points of the plan, according to Ericksen’s office:
- Washington would restore neighborhood polling-place voting.
- Absentee ballots would be provided on request, for elections taking place the year the request is made.
- Voters would have to show valid government-issued photo ID before being allowed to cast a ballot.
- County auditors would be required to provide in-person voting opportunities during the two weeks prior to an election.
- Voting machines would have to create a duplicate “paper trail” so that each ballot could be examined individually in the event of a recount.
- All absentee ballots would have to be received by election day, with the exception of military and overseas ballots.
- Voter-registration deadlines would be 14 days before an election, giving time for elections officials to check qualifications.
- “Ballot harvesting” would become a Class C felony, preventing third parties from collecting ballots from voters and possibly tampering with them before delivery to elections officials.
- General-election day would be established as a state holiday in Washington.
- School levy elections and non-emergency bond measures would appear on the primary or general-election ballot, rather than in low-turnout special elections.
“I think every member of the Washington Legislature, in both parties, will agree that the people need to have confidence in our elections system,” Ericksen said. “I am sure my colleagues are as interested as I am in ensuring the integrity of the Washington elections process, and that they will want to learn what the people think about it by holding a public hearing on this issue.”
Ericksen plans to introduce the bill when the pre-filing period begins in December for the upcoming 2021 legislative session.