Secretary of State Sam Reed recently announced that this state played a significant role in creating a new postal classification for election mail - hopefully saving the state and county auditors millions of dollars when they mail voter pamphlets, ballots and other election-related materials.
So why is Thurston County Auditor Kim Wyman a bit apprehensive about the announcement?
She’s worried that the new postal rate might end up costing Thurston County taxpayers more – not less – than the election’s office is spending now.
Let’s face it. Wyman is a pretty shrewd negotiator. She has an excellent relationship with local postal officials and has worked hard to get the best possible rate for taxpayers.
She has hired an outside firm to process the election mail to ensure that it is presorted and properly coded to minimize the amount of time postal workers devote to process the mail.
As a result of that presorting and pre-coding, Wyman has been able to negotiate a substantially reduced price for each piece of mail – akin to the bulk rate paid by nonprofit organizations.
Auditor Wyman says Thurston County is paying 8 cents each to mail each ballot and 6 cents each for voter pamphlets. Compare that to the going rate for a first-class stamp today of 44 cents.
“Our fear is that the new standardized rates are going to cost us money,” Wyman said. “An increase of two or three cents for each piece when you mail out 150,000 of them multiple times a year, is something that definitely concerns me.”
Wyman makes one pledge: “We’re going to do everything we can to keep our rates down.”
That, of course, is good news for taxpayers and we’re convinced that Wyman will hold true to her word.
Let’s face it. Not all counties have negotiated such a low rate. That’s why many officials were applauding the agreement between the U.S. Postal Service and the Elections Center, a Texas-based nonprofit that works on election training and other election issues.
Last month, Sheryl Moss with the elections division of the Office of the Secretary of State announced that after 15 years of ongoing negotiations an agreement on mailing of election-related materials had been reached. Moss said the new mail class will receive first-class service at a cost between regular first class and standard nonprofit bulk mail. Mail codes will be required as well as a five-digit zip code presort. The election mail logo may also be required, Moss said.
In her note to election officials around the state, Moss said, “Many of you currently use standard mail for your election mail. The cost per piece is greatly reduced, but the cost of receiving change of address information and/or forwarding is quite high. The new class will have the same service as first class and additional charges may not be required.”
How much will the new election mail rates be? Nobody knows. Costs will be set by the Postal Regulatory Commission. The new rates could be set this year and should be in place for the 2012 presidential election.
Cathy Pearsall-Stipek, former Pierce County auditor and chairwoman of the elections mail project for the Elections Center, played a pivotal role in pressing the U.S. Postal Service into an agreement on the new rates.
And while uniform rates nationally is a step in the right direction, let’s hope that there’s enough wiggle room for auditors such as Wyman who have been out front on this issue and negotiated favorable rates with local postal officials.