Secretary of State Kim Wyman and county election officials have called on Governor Jay Inslee to cancel the upcoming April 28 special election due to risks associated with the continued impact of COVID-19.
A letter to the Governor was signed by Grays Harbor County Auditor Joseph MacLean, Pacific County Auditor Joyce Kidd, and auditors across the state.
“When conducting elections, officials must always balance access with security. Right now, both of these standards are in peril,” said Wyman. “As this pandemic continues to evolve, we cannot guarantee to conduct this election by the same standards we administer every other election. We also cannot mitigate potential critical reductions in key election workers.”
Wyman is working with State Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal and other affected jurisdictions to find alternative options, including holding the elections during the August primary or November general.
The elections can be rescheduled by the boards of each jurisdiction for future election dates, at their discretion.
The Aberdeen School Board announced that a special meeting tonight will consider withdrawing from the April 28 election and postponing to a future date a bond proposal for a new Stevens Elementary School.
In a release, the board says “We must allow public access, but we also want to allow everyone the opportunity to maintain social distancing.
We are encouraging folks to join remotely and public comment will be in the form of written comments submitted in advance.“
Local jurisdictions across 18 counties were scheduled to hold special elections on April 28.
Jurisdictions in at least two counties had proactively cancelled their April election requests by the time the letter was sent to the governor.
Letter to Governor Jay Inslee;
The Honorable Governor Jay Inslee,
Thank you for your leadership during these unprecedented times. COVID-19 has disrupted our daily lives in a way I have not seen in my lifetime. As a result, I along with county election officials across the state have activated our continuity of operations plans. As we plan election activities over the next six to eight weeks, we have identified serious risks that will likely limit our ability to successfully conduct the April 28 Special Election in a secure, accessible, and accurate manner.
We, as the chief election officers for the state of Washington, join together today to formally request you cancel the April Special Election using the emergency powers granted to you in statute. These elections can be rescheduled by the boards of each jurisdiction for August 4 or November 3, at their discretion. For background, none of the elections is to elect any person to office, but are a variety of levy and bond elections.
Local jurisdictions across 18 of our counties were slated to conduct special elections on April 28, 2020. As of this writing, in two of those counties, the jurisdictions have proactively cancelled those requests.
I join with the 16 remaining counties with scheduled special elections in being concerned about our ability to conduct this election. The election period begins now and lasts through certification day on May 8, 2020.
While public contact in an election is greatly reduced because Washington is a vote-by-mail state, the staffing requirements to conduct an election remain. The uncertainty of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic could dramatically impair a county’s ability to perform its statutory duties in an election. From courthouse closures, to workforce reductions of election staff, postal staff, or disruptions with vendors who support election operations, circumstances outside of our control could make it impossible for counties to meet statutory election requirements. These include mail processing, voter registration, canvassing results, and certifying an election.
When conducting elections, officials must always balance access and security. Right now, both of these standards are in peril. While the potential impacts are many and unknown, a positive COVID-19 diagnosis for an elections staff person could result in election offices being shut down for cleaning while the election is in progress and facilities are full of live ballots that require security. Additionally, election officials cannot safely assist voters in person while protecting their staff by maintaining social distancing required to slow the spread of COVID-19. Many counties operate with very small election departments, and if staff were exposed and in quarantine there would be no one available to run the election.
To facilitate this election at this time would be uncertain at best. The situation is changing daily and the uncertainty surrounding this pandemic significantly inhibits our ability to conduct this special election to the standards we hold in Washington. We are working with the State Superintendent of Public Instruction as well as other affected jurisdictions on alternative options for conducting this special election, including holding these elections during the August Primary or November General.
Therefore, I, along with county election officials throughout the state, ask that you cancel the April Special Election.
If you would like to discuss this matter further, please do not hesitate to reach out to us directly. Thank you for your urgent attention and consideration to this request.
Adams County Auditor
Asotin County Auditor
Benton County Auditor
Chelan County Auditor
Clallam County Auditor
Clark County Auditor
Cowlitz County Auditor
Douglas County Auditor
Garfield County Auditor
Grant County Auditor
Grays Harbor County Auditor
Island County Auditor
Rose Ann Carroll
Jefferson County Auditor
Director of King County Elections
Kitsap County Auditor
Kittitas County Auditor
Klickitat County Auditor
Lewis County Auditor
Lincoln County Auditor
Mason County Auditor
Okanogan County Auditor
Pacific County Auditor
Pend Oreille County Auditor
Pierce County Auditor
San Juan County Auditor
Skagit County Auditor
Robert J. Waymire
Skamania County Auditor
Snohomish County Auditor
Spokane County Auditor
Stevens County Auditor
Thurston County Auditor
Wahkiakum County Auditor
Walla Walla County Auditor
Whatcom County Auditor
Whitman County Auditor
Yakima County Auditor