A bill aimed at reducing restriction to voting for military and other overseas voters passed the Washington State Senate by a 47-1 vote on Friday. Senate Bill 5171 contains many provisions that will certainly make voting easier for Washington citizens living overseas including moving the primary election date two weeks earlier and meeting requirements of the Federal MOVE Act for mailing of absentee ballots 45 days prior to the election. We strongly support those provisions.
However, the bill also will allow for the acceptance of absentee ballots returned by email and fax. In addition to requiring, by affidavit, that voters returning their ballots electronically forego the secrecy of their ballot, it also makes the state’s elections vulnerable to tampering and error.
It is deeply disappointing that Secretary of State Sam Reed has actively supported this legislation. No one experienced the 2004 Gregoire/Rossi gubernatorial recount process more directly than Secretary Reed. That race, ultimately decided by 133 votes, stretched the issue of voter confidence to its absolute limits, and Secretary Reed, to his credit, did what he could to be available through and transparent about every step of the recount process. But the involved parties could not review voters’ intent for over 113,000 ballots, because at that time, Washington State used paperless electronic voting machines in two of the larger counties. The only votes that could be truly recounted were the paper ballots.