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King County report says all-mail voting hasn’t increased turnout, hasn’t reduced costs. (But at least all the ballots are counted now)

Post by Peter Callaghan / The News Tribune on Aug. 12, 2011 at 8:56 am |
August 12, 2011 10:02 am

The Seattle Times has a story this morning on an assessment of King County’s switch to all-mail voting.

Prior to 2009, King County used the same hybrid system as Pierce – liberal vote-by-mail rules but the retention of precinct voting for those who preferred to vote in person. The rationale for changing to all-mail was that it would increase voter turnout and eliminate the expense of opening and staffing the polls.

But the county council report, based on somewhat limited comparisons, says neither has happened.

“It is interesting to note that voting by mail appears to have made no difference in election turnout,” wrote Mike Alvine, the report’s author and an analyst for the Metropolitan King County Council.

The story contains an interesting note about cost. “The report suggests vote-by-mail did not increase the cost to running a nonpresidential election, which has remained around $12 million since 2006.”

But advocates of vote by mail have argued that it would be cheaper, not the same.

Last session the Legislature ordered Pierce County to close its polls and use all-mail voting. The first such election is the current primary. Ballots must be postmarked by Tuesday, August 16.

But for a county with some history of election-department turmoil, the report found that the number of ballots not counted has fallen to zero.

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