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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Ferry County voters will need stamps to mail primary ballot

Ferry County voters will have to put a stamp on the envelope to mail in their primary ballot this summer.

In an effort to be what she describes as keeping an eye on taxpayers’ money in a tight budget year, Ferry County Auditor Dianna Galvan said primary ballots will go out and come back the way they have ever since the state switched to all-mail voting: deposited in a drop box or with a first-class stamp on them.

The general election ballots will be postage-paid, Galvan said.

Galvan’s decision drew sharp criticism from the state Democratic Party, and from Karen Hardy, a Democrat running for state Senate in the 7th Legislative District that includes Ferry County.

Hardy called it a “nonresponsive, undemocratic decision” and said it would create confusion for voters, especially on the Colville Confederated Tribes Reservation, which is split between Ferry and Okanogan counties. Those who live in Okanogan will have postage-paid envelopes, those who live in Ferry won’t, she said.

“Ms. Galvan’s unilateral decision means that citizens of Ferry County will not have the same access to voting that citizens in all other counties of this state will soon enjoy,” Hardy said in a news release.

Primary voters in the state’s other 38 counties will have the postage covered, with 35 using pre-paid accounts and two small counties – Columbia and Wahkiakum – putting first-class stamps on the return envelopes, Erich Ebel, a spokesman for Wyman, said. The state developed a formula for how much each county would get based on historic turnout and certain costs.

But Galvan said the grant being offered by the state wasn’t going to cover all her costs for both elections, which included throwing away both the outer and inner envelopes for about 4,500 voters in the county in each election, and ordering new ones. To save money, Ferry County ordered enough ballot envelopes in 2016 to last through the end of this year. It would also have to pay to set up a system for pre-paid postage, where each returned envelope would cost about $1.77 because the volume of envelopes would be so small.

She’ll put 50-cent first-class stamps on the existing envelopes for the general election, but even that’s a bit of a challenge because it takes time to get 4,500 stamps in Republic. Primary ballots are being prepared this week, to be mailed Thursday.

“I’m not saying (voters) don’t deserve it,” Galvan said of postage-paid balloting. “I was thinking about taxpayer dollars.”

Galvan said her father grew up on the reservation and she’s sensitive to the fact that tribal turnout has been dropping in recent years. This year the county put two new drop boxes on the reservation, one in Keller and one in Inchelium. It also has drop boxes in Republic, Danville and Curlew.

There is a third option for returning a ballot that doesn’t involve using a drop box or affixing a stamp, but it’s not one elections officials recommend, or even talk about very much. An unstamped ballot envelope will be delivered to an elections office, postage due, which the county will pay.