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Olympia Rep. Sam Hunt wastes no time in filing bill to close Pierce County polling places

Post by Peter Callaghan / The News Tribune on Dec. 29, 2010 at 3:00 pm with 13 Comments »
December 29, 2010 4:00 pm

Sam Hunt, an Olympia Democrat and chairman of the House State Government and Tribal Affairs Committee, has long had the state’s remaining polling places in his sights.

Twice he has passed a bill in the House to end all polling place voting and shift all state voters to mail-only voting. Twice the bill has failed in the Senate. Since he began his quest, all counties except Pierce have opted to go all-mail on their own. So now his House Bill 1002, the third bill filed for the 2011 session, would effect only the 29,000 or so voters in the state’s second-largest county who still chose to vote at the polls.

The bill is lengthy because it must make changes to election-related verbiage throughout state law. For example, it would change every reference to “absentee” ballots to “mail” ballots and all references to “polling places” to “voting centers.” Those are the locations scattered around vote-by-mail counties where disabled voters can access special voting equipment and where voters can cast provisional ballots.

It also changes the time when votes can start being counted from “the closing of polls” to “8 p.m. on election day.” (Although it is a puzzle why 8 p.m. is still a magic hour if there are no polls to close. Ballots can still be cast up until midnight if the voter can find a post office that will postmark it).

But the net effect is to force Pierce to close its remaining polls.

Hunt, as well as Secretary of State Sam Reed, thinks the time has come for consistency in statewide voting. But that reverses the policy that each county could decide how it votes. While all other counties have shifted to all-mail, the Republican-controlled Pierce County Council has so far thwarted County Executive Pat McCarthy‘s wish to close the polls completely.

That Pierce still has some polls open does not effect the state at all. Any extra costs are borne by the county, not the state. And the poll votes are usually counted long before the final mailed ballots are counted so Pierce doesn’t contribute to any delays. And the presence of poll voting does not limit in any way the ability of other county voters to vote by mail.

One political change in Olympia gives Hunt a better chance this next session. Both of the senators who were protective of Pierce County’s local choice – Darlene Fairley of Lake Forest Park and Eric Oemig of Kirkland – are gone. Fairley retired and Oemig was defeated for re-election.

Leave a comment Comments → 13
  1. robinhooddoc says:

    Peter,

    As a professional journalist you should be aware of appropriate word usage in a given situation.

    I refer you to the last word in the first paragraph (sites).

    Unless it was your intent to utilize it as a pun, (and if that were the case you should have identified its usage as such) the correct word to use in that situation is sights.

    You ought to know better!

  2. Peter Callaghan says:

    RHD:

    Thanks so much for your help and advice.

  3. Stalin voted by mail. True story.

  4. Voting shouldn’t cost money either. There should be no postage required.

    I also recall a couple of years ago when there were multiple ballots that had to be filled and mailed, there was no mention that it would require extra postage until it was reported on the news that many ballots were being returned for insufficient funds. If that happens again, but the ballot is returned after the required ballot submission date, what happens then?

  5. hortonpeak says:

    To all you folks moaning about no poll voting, how many of you have volunteered to staff a polling place? Just asking. Cheers.

  6. hortonpeak says:

    However, I will admit that ballots should be postage free. To me it is a bit of a, “poll” tax.

  7. hortonpeak says:

    An additional couple of comments. First, the two folks in the leg who were most supportive of poll voting were not from Pierce County. Secondly, perhaps it might be worth looking at poll voting in Pierce County and why some folks like it so much. Of course, each side will have their opinion but then some enterprising young “journalist” might want to look into it. Oh never mind, they have so far failed dismally when given the opportunity.

  8. I think Sam Hunt should introduce a bill keeping himself out of the House State Government then casting his lonely out of touch Ideas by mail!

  9. hortonpeak says:

    Jeggo, WTF.

  10. Can Pierce County file a recall petition on Sam Hunt? If not, why not? I don’t remember ever seeing his name on any of the ballots I used for my vote.

  11. derylmccarty says:

    …so Pierce doesn’t contribute to any delays…

    More than that, it actually speeds the count since, as I recall the law, the county must continue without stop to count ballots on election day (and after) until all of the poll ballots are counted. Counting poll ballots are a matter of plugging in the “flash drive” from the poll machines and letting the computer do its thing. All the while the mail in ballots are being counted on separate machines and all of the numbers to date are released when the poll ballot counting is finished.

    The arguments I have always heard from Pierce County citizens are that “it’s my choice, not the state’s choice how I vote, and I may choose to use the mail in system but I want the poll as my civics touchstone”. And opposing that is the argument that it costs too much.

    The first argument is hearfelt and hard to argue against. Poll voting is a civics lesson that you can touch along with your friends, neighbors and family. It’s hard to argue against that resultant sense of community and involvement.

    But money talks…often incessantly. We must ask ourselves whether poll voting and mail in voting together is too costly and what the “best” solution might be.

    But the TNT asks the right question in the way they wrote the story. If the state constitution grants the power to conduct elections to the counties, then what is some state representative doing trying to change how WE do things and how WE pay for things?

    Besides, hasn’t the Legislature got a few (billion) bigger fish to fry in just trying to balance its budget?

  12. As I’ve said before.. put this on the next ballot and let the people of Pierce County decide. Till then , the State and every other Poli needs to butt out.
    I just do not understand why this hasn’t been placed on the ballot over the last few years. Its simple and should have been done long ago. But for yahoo’s in the govt. to make the decision FOR the voters instead of letting the voters voice be heard is unacceptable.
    Just put it on the ballot and end the controversy.
    If we vote to keep it, its our budget. If we vote to end it, its by our voice and choice.

  13. davemac64 says:

    I believe forced mail voting is unconstitutional. It also opens up proven fraud opportunity (King County anyone?). I vote at the polls as does my wife. I will probably look to sue the county and state if they force me to vote by mail.

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