As a state that votes entirely by mail, providing pre-paid postage on ballot return envelopes is a subject that comes up from time to time. So this year, we decided to test pre-paid postage with the February 14 special election in Maple Valley and the Shoreline School District. Voters in both jurisdictions received ballot packets that included a return envelope with the postage already paid.
One of the reasons we tested pre-paid postage was to see if more voters returned their ballots than in previous special elections. And they did! Voter turnout was 37 percent in Maple Valley, and 40 percent in the Shoreline School District. During the previous special election, voter turnout was 32 percent in Maple Valley and 30 percent in Shoreline.
While many factors impact voter turnout, we are excited to see the increased participation. Our team will test pre-paid postage again for an upcoming election to study its overall impact.
Another outcome of pre-paid postage was that more voters chose to mail their ballots than to use one of nine drop boxes open for the election. About 74 percent of ballots were returned through the mail and 26 percent through drop boxes.
The pre-paid postage test cost King County Elections $10,140.
Maple Valley voters rejected a general obligation bond for park and recreation facility improvements. Voters in the Shoreline School District, which includes Lake Forest Park, approved a school construction bond.
Final results of the special election will be certified later today.
I applaud this pilot program. It is outrageous that we are forced to either pay to vote (as if we were paying the water bill) or go to a drop box. Luckily I live close enough to a drop box so that it is not a major effort to vote. I will never pay to vote. I could assume if a voter does not mail the ballot back, that the county is not charged for the postage. But cynical speaking, the county seems to have prepaid for the postage, so the 60% who did not bother to vote in essence wasted tax payers’ money. I would like to get a definitive answer on that question. In any event, let’s drop vote by mail and go back to the good old-fashioned polling places!!
Thanks for the feedback. The pre-paid postage test cost King County Elections $10,140. To clarify, we were only charged for ballots returned through the U.S. Postal Service.
Thanks for the quick response. I feel better.
I agree Mark. Paying postage, in an 100% by mail state, is essentially paying to vote. Also, if there in One Thing in this country that taxes should be used for before anything else, it the voting process.
Money well spent King County. Well done.
I’m not sure I agree with cause and effect. The Prop 1 “Vote Yes For Shoreline Schools” was a very well run campaign. The bond issue was kept very quiet until the yard signs went up all on the same day, about a month before the election. The flyer explaining the ballot measure, with a very low yearly figure arrived in the mail the same day the ballot arrived. And of course, there was only one measure on the ballot. I think the response would have been about the same if we did have to buy a stamp!
Thank you for doing this. I’m glad to see the turnout growing, though I wish more people participated in our democracy already.