King County Elections tried something new last month when ballots were mailed out for the February special election.
The department launched a pilot program of prepaid postage for the city of Maple Valley’s bond and the Shoreline School District’s measure.
One of the main objectives of this pilot program, according to the Elections website, was to see if more voters returned their ballots than in previous special elections.
The projected voter turnout for the pilot, the website stated, was 30 percent. However, in Maple Valley, the Elections department saw a 37 percent turnout and the Shoreline School District saw a 40 percent voter turnout.
For Maple Valley, this was a 5 percent increase from the last special election where voter turnout was 32 percent.
This pilot program cost the King County Elections $10,140.
Julie Wise, King County Elections director, said this pilot program was successful.
“About 74 percent of ballots were returned through the mail and 26 percent through drop boxes, which shows that voters really took advantage of prepaid postage,” she said.
Of those percentages above, 74 returned through mail and 26 by drop boxes, is a combined total from both Maple Valley and Shoreline.
The Elections department is planning to run another test during the April special election on Vashon Island, Wise said.
She added because of the diversity of King County, “it is important to see what prepaid postage looks like in a variety of situations.”
Before permanently implementing this postage system, Wise said the department wants to study the outcomes of different elections first.
Because of the costs involved with implementing this countywide, Wise said the Elections department would have to work with the County Council and other jurisdictions to see if this program is something that could be funded on an ongoing basis.
“My top priority is to remove barriers to voting and I believe that requires a variety of approaches,” Wise said when asked if the increased number of ballots outweighs any costs involved. “While we are still studying the outcomes of this pilot, we think that combined with drop boxes, pre-paid postage is definitely worth continued investigation.”