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Council: Keep Pierce County polling places open in 2010

Post by David Wickert on Nov. 13, 2009 at 6:36 am with 10 Comments »
November 13, 2009 11:59 am

Pierce County polls will remain open in 2010 under a budget provision approved by the County Council this week.

Now the county auditor’s office has to find the money to make it happen.

The council Tuesday approved a measure that sets aside $150,000 of the auditor’s budget to maintain poll voting next year. The provision also prohibits the auditor from decreasing the number of polling places (it currently has 56 traditional polling locations).

But the council did not restore the $150,000 to pay for poll voting that County Executive Pat McCarthy recently removed from the auditor’s 2010 budget.

“We couldn’t find the money,” said council Chairman Roger Bush, R-Graham. “We think that can be absorbed within the auditor’s budget.”

The council’s move means Pierce County will remain the only one in the state that still permits some voters to cast their ballots at the polls. Other state residents – and most in Pierce County – cast their ballots by mail.

About 10 percent of voters – or less than 18,000 – cast their votes at the polls in the general election earlier this month, according to a tally earlier this week.

The survival of poll voting here has at times been in doubt. Earlier this year the Legislature considered – but did not pass – a law that would have forced Pierce County to conduct elections exclusively by absentee ballot.

Auditor Jan Shabro in May asked the council permission to close the polls temporarily to save money. And McCarthy – who closed dozens of polling places during her tenure as auditor – stripped $150,000 for poll voting from her proposed 2010 budget.

McCarthy said she could not justify keeping the polls open at a time when the county must cut spending on law enforcement and other services.

But the council has repeatedly stated its intention to keep the polls open.

“I think good government always tries to protect the rights of the minority,” Bush said. “In this case, while it’s a minority of the voters who vote by polls, it is a big part of their involvement in civic affairs.”

Still, the council didn’t restore McCarthy’s funding cut for the polls. Now the auditor’s office must find the money to keep the polls open.

Shabro may already have found it. She said the office has saved money from an employee’s departure and from hiring fewer extra workers at election time that can be used to pay for poll voting.

It will be up to Julie Anderson – who defeated Shabro in this month’s race for auditor – to implement the council’s direction.

“I’m surprised that the County Council, which has been very supportive of poll voting, has basically defunded poll voting,” Anderson said.

Anderson criticized the council for unveiling the provision late Tuesday following a meeting recess and shortly before the budget was approved. And she expressed surprise the council can “prescribe how an executive office directly elected by the people will run elections.”

Bush said there’s no reason anyone should be surprised because the council has been consistent in its support for the polls.

“A segment of the population says, we want poll voting,” he said. “We have heard that and said we should accommodate that.”

Leave a comment Comments → 10
  1. “And she expressed surprise the council can ‘prescribe how an executive office directly elected by the people will run elections.'”

    All Hail Julie!!! Just look at it this way Julie. The president can start a war but the congress has to fund it…we call it checks and balances.

  2. newswatch says:

    Closing the polls should be put to a vote of the people.

  3. Right on newswatch, let’s put it to the vote.

    “And she expressed surprise the council can ‘prescribe how an executive office directly elected by the people will run elections.'”

    She can flip them the bird. What can they do to her, besides cutting funding to the assessor’s office?

  4. Spartacus says:

    This is why RCV is a failure. It gave us contentious Dale Washam, and now a clueless auditor. Had she familiarized herself with how the county, and country for that matter, runs she’d not be making such uninformed comments.

    Newswatch is right! Let’s put this to a vote of the people, without RCV!

  5. headedsouth says:

    Bush – what right of the minority are you protecting? There is no rights being taken away. Poll voters can still vote, just not the way they want. So now jobs are lost so poll votes can rally around a little table at some church or school instead of voting like the majority of people in Pierce County and the State.

    Newswatch and Spartcus – why would you waste money putting this issue to a vote when you know it will lose since only a small amount of the population votes at the polls. I just took a poll at work and I am sorry 25 out of 25 people said down with the Poll Voters. Move on.

  6. I have to agree. I like the poll locations, but it should be up to the people flipping the bill. Closing the polls should be added to what ever the next voting cycle will be. DONT CREATE A SPECIAL ELECTION FOR IT! While you’re at it, add recall Washam to the ballot.

  7. pcinsider1 says:

    Great! Once again Pierce is the only county in Washington that has to run TWO elections. Unfortunately the $150,000.00 unfunderd cost will come out of the staff in the Auditor’s office, so next time you take a number to purchase your license tabs or apply for your passport or marriage license, you can thank the Co Council for the wait.

  8. mchawkeye says:

    It seems as though the council wants to eliminate the needed public services and staff to promote their own agenda. The fact is the County budget is in dire straits. Closing the polls SAVES money without losing the right to vote! This shouldn’t be a difficult decision, it is no surprise the council kept the budget out of sight until the last moment. If they used this same logic throughout the entire budget they will probably replace the computers with adding machines, and the phones with drums. One other question. Is Dick Cheney advising this Bush too?

  9. At this last genereal election that’s about $8.50 per poll vote ($150,000/17,548). We were worried about $0.61 a stamp for an absentee(157,539)? The council has a budget crisis and they make a stupid decision with the elections budget? Seems to me that this decision was made when they found out their questionably appointed Auditor pick was not elected by the people. SO they are demanding the new Auditor do the same job WITHOUT the money. This is a brutally political and devisive council and the voters need to remember remember how this council has voted when they come up for election.

  10. Will the last person to run screaming from Pierce County, please bring the flag?

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