Grays Harbor County Commissioners are pretty much telling the state legislature where to get off when it comes to the latest harebrained idea out of Olympia: unfunded mandates related to ballot drop boxes.
In April the House passed Senate Bill 5472. The bill requires one ballot drop box per 15,000 residents in a county, with between 250 and 275 additional drop boxes expected statewide. According to the Spokesman Review, the measure “requires at least one ballot drop box for every 15,000 registered voters in a county and a minimum of one box in each city, town and census-designated place in a county with a post office.”
The problem, of course, is that it forces cash-strapped counties like Grays Harbor to fork out a significant chunk of change for the drop boxes with no $ help from the state. None of the Grays Harbor county commissioners are exactly turning cartwheels over another unfunded state mandate.
“I’m really frustrated with this” said Commissioner Vickie Raines at this morning’s commission meeting. Noting that Grays Harbor isn’t exactly Fort Knox, Raines exprssed frustration with the expected price tag attached to the mandate. “You’re looking at around $7,500 to $10,000 per ballot box. There are 16 to 20 (drop boxes) on the (county) list” she said.
Do the math. (That’s okay. I’ll wait.)
Costs to the county don’t end with drop box placement. The new requirement will also cost the county – taxpayers – in staff time and wages. Raines continued, “Were going to have to have someone at each ballot box at eight p.m. on voting night” to ensure integrity of the drop boxes.
Can you say ‘asinine’? Oh, wait. One of the commishes already did.
In fact, all three commishes expressed frustration with the unfunded mandate. Opined Commissioner Randy Ross, “There’s got to be a way through this, a way to appeal the decision.”
“I’m sure the state will pay for it,” joked Commissioner Wes Cormier.
Raines said she talked to State Rep. Brian Blake and State Senators Dean Takko and Kevin Van De Wege about the matter. She could not recall a conversation with (State Rep.) Jim Walsh. Raines said she’s fine with adding the drop boxes “if the state pays for it. But don’t push it (the costs) down on us.”
Supporters say the new law gives voters a way to cast ballots without paying for postage and increases access in rura areas. Opponents say the well-intended measure forces counties to spend thousands of dollars to serve small numbers of voters in remote communities.
What say you?