HB 2421 is a commitment from the state to pay its pro rata share of all elections starting in 2021. This is a great bill for the counties, correcting an outdated system that has the state reimburse counties for odd-year elections only, even though there are multiple elections every year. Last year, the counties had a big victory in getting the state to agree to pay for prepaid postage for ballots. Under this new bill, instead of postage being a stand-alone expense, it becomes just one of the election costs for which the state will reimburse counties starting next year. WSAC worked this bill (and the Senate version) very hard to get the language right and ensure that “all election expenses” means just that: all, paid in full. There is language in the bill that WSAC flagged because it tries to skirt unfunded mandate protections (it purports to include all “retrospective” and “prospective” expenses within its language), but in the end, the language used matters less than the funding, and WSAC will be there next year to ensure that the Legislature keeps its promise and funds all elections going forward, starting with the 2021-23 budget. For now, this is a big win – especially for a short session!
SB 6313 relates to engaging young voters, especially those in the state’s four-year universities. The bill did not directly affect the counties, but WSAC worked with the Secretary of State and the auditors to ensure that definitions, duties, and funding levels were correct. The bill:
- Allows a person to vote in a primary election if they are 17 years old and will be 18 by the general election.
- Requires the Department of Licensing to provide an automated process for 16 and 17 year olds to sign up to register to vote when receiving or renewing enhanced driver’s license, identicard, or changing the address on an existing enhanced driver’s license or identicard.
- Requires each public university to open a nonpartisan student engagement hub, which allows students to download exact copies of their ballot, allows voters to register in person, and provides ballots and voter registration materials. Each university must contract with the county auditor for the operation of student engagement hubs.
- Requires the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, in collaboration with the Association of County Auditors, and a 501(c)(3) nonprofit engaged in voter outreach and increasing participation, to identify and make available civics materials for high school courses.
WSAC expects any additional county costs to be included in the election expenses provided in HB 2421 and will work next year to ensure these costs are included in the relevant budgets.
Other election bills that would have affected the counties were also introduced but did not pass. WSAC tracked and testified on all of them, including a bill that would have moved all elections to even-numbered years, creating logistical and legal problems for some local governments (the bill did not pass).