Clallam and Jefferson counties both saw increases in voter turnout in this year’s primary, the first year the state provided prepaid postage on ballots. (Jesse Major/Peninsula Daily News)

Clallam and Jefferson counties both saw increases in voter turnout in this year’s primary, the first year the state provided prepaid postage on ballots. (Jesse Major/Peninsula Daily News)

Clallam, Jefferson see voter turnout boost in primary with prepaid postage

PORT ANGELES — Clallam and Jefferson counties each saw a significant increase in voter turnout during the August primary — the first election in which the state provide prepaid postage on ballots.

Clallam County’s voter turnout climbed to 49 percent, the highest primary turnout the county has seen since at least 2013.

Jefferson County’s voter turnout rose to 60.3 percent, also the highest primary voter turnout that county has seen in recent years.

Clallam County Commissioner Mark Ozias said during the county’s work session Monday he was “heartened” to see the boost in election participation in Clallam County.

Auditor Shoona Riggs told the commissioners she’s looking forward to the Nov. 6 general election to see what sort of impact the prepaid postage might have.

“It’ll be interesting to see if we have a lot of people use mailboxes instead of drop boxes,” she said.

Clallam County saw an increase of nearly 15 percentage points over its 2013-17 average for primary elections. In 2016, Clallam County had a voter turnout of 41 percent while in 2013 and 2017 voter turnout was at 29 percent.

Jefferson County saw an increase of 17.6 percentage points over its 2013-17 average for primary elections.

In 2014, Jefferson County saw a 50.55 percent voter turnout while its low over that period was 35.2 percent in 2017.

State Rep. Mike Chapman, D-Port Angeles, said Monday he believes there will be legislation in the coming year that would provide continued funding from the state for prepaid postage.

“I’ll keep advocating for prepaid postage,” he said.

“In our community it’s important for people who don’t live near the courthouse.”

He said he hopes there also will be legislation that would scale back the number of ballot drop boxes counties are required to have.

The county was required to increase the number of its ballot boxes under a state law passed last year, mandating counties to “establish a minimum of one ballot box per 15,000 registered voters in the county and one ballot box in each city, town and census designated place in the county with a post office.”

The county was required to pick up the costs on adding ballot boxes and the costs of collecting ballots during an election.

“The way the law was written made it goofy,” Chapman said. “Clallam Bay and Sekiu need a box, but Joyce doesn’t?”

He said he hopes that law will change.

“With prepaid postage I hope we would take away requirements for counties to have drop boxes and [instead] put the money into prepaid postage,” Chapman said.

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Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at [email protected].

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