Late last week, media sources, both local and national, were abuzz with the figure $770,000 released by Secretary of State Sam Reed. That is, supposedly, the “cost” for a special election to replace Rep. Jay Inslee (D-WA-1). Inslee recently resigned his seat to run for Governor.
Last Friday I listened to KUOW’s Weekday Friday news round-up as they spent quite a bit of time on the topic of this special election. (Aside: I was a little surprised that the four esteemed journalists in the studio didn’t understand that the Governor cannot appoint a replacement for a Representative…it’s in the Constitution.)
I was puzzled by the figure. I mean, the special election will take place on the same days as the primary and general election. Does it really cost $770,000 to add one race to the ballet for about 11% of the state’s voters? Is that the cost of adding a couple of pages to the voter’s guide for residents of the old 1st CD?
Now…if Inslee had resigned just days earlier (before March 6th), it would have required a stand-alone special election. I could imagine a new election costing taxpayers $770,000. But that isn’t what happened. Inslee, intentionally or not, delayed his resignation and a stand-alone special election was avoided.
For the answer to the puzzling cost figure we turn to TNT.
Katie Blinn, the co-director of elections with the Secretary of state, said there isn’t really an increase in election costs only a change in how those costs are distributed. County elections offices divide the cost of elections among the government entities with matters on the ballot. But state law dictates that the state doesn’t pay anything for state and federal elections held in even-numbered years like this. It only chips in for special elections that are normally held in odd-numbered years and for any election to fill an unexpired U.S. Senate or U.S. House position.
So there are not additional costs other than the postcard mailing. What Blinn’s response seems to indicate is that the costs will be shared by an additional governmental entity. As state costs go up, the costs borne by local governments will go down.
In short…the election itself costs taxpayers almost nothing extra. What we are talking about with the $770,000 is the transfer of funds between different government entities; budgetary shuffling. Somehow, the mainstream media missed that subtly. And maybe it’s because Sam Reed wasn’t particularly clear about what the $770,000 is.
The Democrats, of course, point out that Sam Reed is the McKenna campaign’s Thurston County co-chair, and that “[t]he conflict of interest is clear.”
The SOS office is also requesting $225,000 to do voter education—essentially to mail out postcards to educate voters about the confusing special election in the old 1st and the regular election in the new first. I’m not sure why the voter’s pamphlet—you know, that document sent to all voters that educates them about the elections and candidates—cannot be used to educate voters about the special election. Perhaps it violates the RCW or something. I don’t know.
So boos and hisses to the majority of the MSM that hyperventilated over the $770,000 “cost” of a special election.
And boos and hisses to the SOS office for failing to clearly communicate to the media the meaning of the $770,000 figure. It’s an integrity issue, given how a high-ball estimate would look like conflict of interest. Reed should have gone out of his way to explain exactly what the figure means, and provide an actual estimate of taxpayer’s costs.
Finally, Reed should have been out front with corrections last week when the media was hyping the figure incorrectly.