OLYMPIA, Wash., November 18, 2023—Secretary of State Steve Hobbs sent a letter on Thursday to Mary Ann Simpson, Western States Government Relations Liaison Director, formally asking what steps the United States Postal Service (USPS) will take to prevent disused (out-of-service) mail collection boxes from being left in public spaces during Washington elections.
“The delayed discovery of at least 124 voters’ ballots in USPS collection boxes in public spaces in King and Pierce counties undercut a foundational tenet of our vote-by-mail architecture,” Secretary Hobbs wrote. “Every Washington voter needs to be able to trust that a mailed ballot is a voted ballot. It is unacceptable that voted ballots placed in USPS receptacles went undelivered for so long. Leaving disused collection boxes in public spaces during an election creates a potential disenfranchisement.”
Disused collection boxes in public spaces in King and Pierce counties have been found to contain at least 124 voted ballots from the November 7, 2023, General Election. Because the ballots were found days after Election Day, they were delivered late to the appropriate county elections offices. Under the provisions of state law found in RCW 29A.40.110 (4), elections officials have used the dates provided on the ballot envelopes to help determine ballot validity.
“This deeply unsettling and potentially disenfranchising situation requires immediate attention and improvement, so it never happens again to Washington voters,” Secretary Hobbs said. “I am very proud of the longstanding partnership between state and local elections officials and the USPS, which gives me full confidence that appropriate steps will be taken.”
Washington was among the first states in the nation to invest in postage-paid ballot return envelopes statewide. Secretary Hobbs remains confident that USPS and his office can learn from these experiences to deliver the reliability required with in the process and expected by voters.
“Every year, millions of dollars in state, county, and local public funds pay for postage to deliver democracy in the form of our ballot distributions, voter’s pamphlets, and ballot return envelopes,” Secretary Hobbs said. “With that degree of investment, our voters must be able to trust that every ballot put into a USPS mailbox will be delivered and counted.”
Washington’s Office of the Secretary of State oversees a number of areas within state government, including managing state elections, registering corporations and charities, and governing the use of the state flag and state seal. The office also manages the State Archives and the State Library, documents extraordinary stories in Washington’s history through Legacy Washington, oversees the Combined Fund Drive for charitable giving by state employees, and administers the state’s Address Confidentiality Program to help protect survivors of crime.
SOURCE: Office of Secretary of State