The Legislature has agreed to end poll voting in Washington.
A measure that would close the polls in the last holdout – Pierce County – passed the House on Friday on a largely partisan 52-43 vote that sends it to Gov. Chris Gregoire for her signature.
Rep. Sam Hunt, an Olympia Democrat who has sought for years to move the state to all-mail balloting, said it was needed “to bring our system into uniformity, to increase voter turnout and actually to save elections costs in Pierce County.”
Just more than 10,000 Pierce County voters cast ballots at the polls in August at a cost of $16.97 per vote, County Auditor Julie Anderson says, compared with 135,000 votes cast by mail at a cost of $6.88 per ballot.
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State lawmakers stepped into a local debate among Pierce County officials. The County Council wants to keep poll voting; Anderson and County Executive Pat McCarthy say it’s too costly.
Rep. David Taylor, R-Moxee, argued that lawmakers shouldn’t substitute their judgment for the County Council’s.
“The 38 other counties got to make that choice,” Taylor said. “We’re making the 39th county do it. We’re saying you don’t have any choice.”
Republicans mourned the demise of poll voting. Rep. Ed Orcutt of Kalama said mailed-in ballots can’t promise the same secrecy as a voting booth. “Can you guarantee to me that when a husband and wife get a ballot, that one or the other isn’t bullying the other when they’re doing it at their home?” he said.
Voters would still be able to travel to at least one voting center in each county if they needed help.