The cost would be dependent on when such an election might happen and whether it could be combined with other issues on a ballot, Anderson said.
At a minimum, it will cost her office an estimated $40,000 to count and verify signatures on recall petitions when they’re delivered, she added.
Anderson made the comments Tuesday as council members discussed stripping $80,000 from her 2011 budget because that’s how much she previously said going to all-mail elections would save.
“Before you take this action, please know a couple of things that aren’t included in my budget,” she said.
She’s “fully expecting” to receive and need to process recall petitions against Washam, Anderson told council members. That where the $40,000 expenditure would occur.
“If there is a full-on election and I do certify the petitions, the cost of the election, which will fall on Pierce County, depending on which election cycle it falls in…will range anywhere from $350,000 all the way up to $900,000,” Anderson said.
Puyallup resident Robin Farris launched the recall against last Washam last fall, saying he’s guilty of malfeasance, has violated his oath of office and wasted taxpayer dollars.
A series of investigations found that Washam retaliated against employees and created a hostile work environment.
Several claims against the county have been filed by employees or former employees as the result of Washam’s actions since he took office in early 2009. One was settled for $79,000. The others seek damages of more than $4 million.
Farris and the the Committee to Recall Dale Washam say they need 73,055 valid signatures to get a recall election on the ballot. To date, they’ve gotten 17,945 voters to sign on, according to their website.
Anderson was clearly miffed Tuesday when the council deleted the $80,000 from her budget.
“The vote was symbolic,” she said afterward.
Anderson, a passionate advocate of vote-by-mail as a safe and cost-effective way to conduct elections, testified to that effect before the Legislature. The council voted to retain polls in Pierce County and told the Legislature to butt out of local politics.
The council lost. The Legislature passed a bill making Washington an all vote-by-mail state. The governor signed it. With a few exceptions where voters might need help, polling places are history in Pierce County.
Council Chairman Roger Bush, R-Graham, said it made good fiscal sense to take the money that would be saved and return it to the general fund balance.
Anderson told council members in addition to the recall election on the horizon, her office is preparing to issue ballots in Spanish, and perhaps Korean, and to provide voter assistance in those languages. That will add more costs to future elections, she said.
The U.S. Department of Justice will notify the county later this year of what’s necessary to fulfill requirements of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, she said. But she’s expecting Spanish will be a requirement and it’s very likely Korean will be, too.
Whether a county must offer election services in languages other than English depends on a number of factors, including the population of ethnic or minority groups in an area
Recently released U.S. Census figures show growing Hispanic and Korean populations in the county, Anderson said.
Councilmember Dick Muri, R-Steilacoom, asked the auditor why voting services in other languages would be required when a person needs to know English to become a U.S. citizen and therefore eligible to vote.
One of the factors the Justice Department considers in determining whether to order ballot services in other languages is how many residents report via the Census that they are most comfortable speaking and reading a language other than English, Anderson replied.
Ballot issues like wordy state initiatives are often so complex that even native speakers often have a difficult time discerning their meaning, she added.