Secretary of State Sam Reed asks lawmakers to trim election costs
January 7, 2012 · Updated 5:09 PM
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.
A second bill in Reed’s modest legislative package aims to reduce the backlog of out-of-state research requests for the State Library’s small research staff. The State Library is a division of the Office of Secretary of State. The third measure in the package would allow participants in the Address Confidentiality Program, which is also run by the agency, to register in a domestic partnership confidentially.
Making elections less costly and more efficient
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 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 $1 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 already share some voter registration information with other states and the PEW Research Center 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.
Helping reduce State Library’s out-of-state research requests
House Bill 2222 (prime-sponsored by Rep. Mary Helen Roberts) and Senate Bill 6047 (prime-sponsored by Sen. Maralyn Chase) would authorize the State Library to charge for research at the State Library requested by a nonresident, to recover the cost of fulfilling the request.
“While the State Library’s staff level has shrunk in recent years due to deep budget cuts, research requests, which are mostly from out of state, have continued to flood in. The bill would allow more time for library staff to focus on in-state questions and research requests, and for the State Library to add more staff with the money raised,” Reed said.
ACP enrollees who register as a domestic partner
This legislation would allow someone who is enrolled in the Address Confidentiality Program to register a domestic partnership confidentially, for his or her safety. The domestic partnership registry is administered by the Office of Secretary of State’s Corporation and Charities Division. The bill is expected to be introduced next week.
“Under current state law, people who are enrolled in the ACP can vote or get married confidentially. This bill would allow someone in the ACP to register in a domestic partnership confidentially so their safety isn’t compromised,” Reed said.
Established in 1991, the ACP’s goal is to keep crime victims safe. It helps participants keep their new location secret by providing a substitute address they can use instead. It is designed to prevent offenders from using the state’s public records to locate their victims and cause further harm. The ACP is available to survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, trafficking, and/or stalking, and certain criminal justice employees who have been targets of threats or harassment on the job or due to the job.