voterS pamphlets coming Thurston County residents will receive voters pamphlets in the mail before this year’s primary and general elections after all.
Responding to mounting public opposition, the county Auditor’s Office reversed its decision to suspend household delivery of the booklet, which contains information about candidates and issues.
Some local candidates and the League of Women Voters of Thurston County had voiced concerns about the cost-cutting move, especially as it relates to seniors. They form a traditionally strong voting bloc and might lack the mobility or computer knowledge to find the information for themselves.
“It’s probably too big and too abrupt a change to stop mailing it to households,” Auditor Kim Wyman acknowledged Friday.
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Eliminating delivery of the pamphlets was one of the cuts her office made to trim $411,000 out of its operating budget. Thurston County was forced to lay off employees and end programs and services to close a projected $5.4 million midyear budget shortfall, the result of lower-than-expected tax revenue.
Auditor’s Office representatives had said they would produce a limited number of copies that would be available at various locations throughout the county or mailed upon request. The pamphlet also will be posted at www.co.thurston.wa.us/auditor.
Public agencies with issues or candidates on the ballot share in the production and mailing costs of the voters pamphlets.
The county auditor said initial response was positive, but the “tide started shifting” after The Olympian published a story about the coming change. Wyman said she heard from residents and public agencies, particularly fire districts.
The mailing will be paid for through pay concessions by the seven department managers, either through furloughs or benefit contributions paid out of pocket, as well as savings the office realized with a change in state law ending a requirement that the auditor send inactive voters applications to receive a ballot.
The reversal was great news for Mel Low, chief of the East Olympia Fire District.
The district will ask for voter approval in August for a levy-lid lift that Low said is complicated because it involves two steps and multiple years. Also, homeowners might not pay more in property taxes if the measure is approved because of possible savings elsewhere – in fire insurance premiums stemming from an improved rating and the retirement of a capital bond next year, he said.
Low said the district ran through 13 drafts of an explanatory brochure it’s distributing to pass muster with the state Public Disclosure Commission. State law forbids public agencies from using taxpayer money to advocate for a ballot measure. The voters pamphlet, however, allows more leniency for public agencies to state their case to voters.
“Without the right information, it can’t be successful,” he said of the ballot measure.
Christian Hill: 360-754-5427