Would increase public confidence by returning state to in-person polling-place voting.
Valid ID would be required and voting machines would have to establish a paper trail.
Absentee ballots would continue to be available on request, in-person voting options would be available prior to an election, and general-election day would be declared a holiday.
State Sen. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale, is readying legislation for the 2021 legislative session to restore public trust in Washington state’s voting procedures – and bring back the voting booth.
Ericksen said his “Free and Fair Elections Act of 2021” is prompted by the uproar over national by-mail voting that has raised doubt regarding the legitimacy of ballot counts in other states. In Washington, where by-mail voting has been employed statewide since 2011, longstanding concerns about the security of voting procedures have been raised but never addressed.
“Nothing is more secure than the neighborhood voting booth, with pollworkers checking to make sure every voter is entitled to cast a ballot,” Ericksen explained. “Washington has gotten off lucky for a decade. But the disarray in other states this year ought to teach us that we are vulnerable, too.”
Ericksen’s legislation addresses numerous security gaps and other problems with Washington-state elections procedures. He will introduce his bill when the period for pre-filing legislation for the 2021 legislative session opens in December.
Key provisions of Ericksen’s proposal are:
Washington would restore neighborhood polling-place voting.
Absentee ballots would be provided on request, for elections taking place the year the request is made.
Voters would have to show valid government-issued photo ID before being allowed to cast a ballot.
County auditors would be required to provide in-person voting opportunities during the two weeks prior to an election.
Voting machines would have to create a duplicate “paper trail” so that each ballot could be examined individually in the event of a recount.
All absentee ballots would have to be received by election day, with the exception of military and overseas ballots.
Voter-registration deadlines would be 14 days before an election, giving time for elections officials to check qualifications.
“Ballot harvesting” would become a Class C felony, preventing third parties from collecting ballots from voters and possibly tampering with them before delivery to elections officials.
General-election day would be established as a state holiday in Washington.
School levy elections and non-emergency bond measures would appear on the primary or general-election ballot, rather than in low-turnout special elections.
“For years, many of us have warned of the danger posed by all-mail voting,” Ericksen said. “This season our worst fears have been realized – not in this state, but others. The constant refrain in Washington is that we’re safe, because we have experience. This is naïve and foolhardy. Even in this state, we have heard reports of ballots being sent to the wrong addresses or to persons who are no longer Washington residents.
“Too often people say ‘It can’t happen here.’ There were many in this state who said that in the year 2000, as we watched the Florida recount disaster unfold. And then it did happen here, four years later, in the worst case of elections mismanagement in the history of our state. It took eight months to settle the gubernatorial race in court, and even now there are deep suspicions about the legitimacy of the result.
“I think every member of the Washington Legislature, in both parties, will agree that the people need to have confidence in our elections system. I am sure my colleagues are as interested as I am in ensuring the integrity of the Washington elections process, and that they will want to learn what the people think about it by holding a public hearing on this issue.”