Washington Secretary of State Kim Wyman and dozens of election officials across the state have urged Gov. Jay Inslee to cancel the April 28 special election, saying the novel coronavirus outbreak could put workers facilitating the election at risk of infection should the contest continue.
In the letter dated March 17, Wyman, along with election officials and county auditors from across the state, called for the election’s cancelation. The signees included Clark County Auditor Greg Kimsey. The letter calls on Inslee to cancel the election using statutory emergency powers as another measure to slow the spread of novel coronavirus.
In an announcement, Secretary of State Wyman wrote that the balance of access and security necessary for an election was “in peril,” with the ever-evolving outbreak making it hard to guarantee an election now would be up to the same standards as those before coronavirus.
Wyman’s announcement noted that jurisdictions in 18 counties had ballot measures for April’s election. The letter read that none of the ballot measures were for elected offices, though several votes on bonds and levies that would affect property taxes were set for next month.
In North County, two votes for school district ballot measures were set. Ridgefield School District is seeking a $40.5 million construction bond to build a new elementary school. Woodland Public Schools is looking for a replacement to its expiring property tax levy used to make up shortfalls in state funding.
Both the bond and levy are retries at similar measures in February when approval votes failed to pass their respective thresholds. Though Woodland’s levy request is identical, Ridgefield had pared down their bond request by about $66 million to address the most critical needs.
Wyman’s letter read that jurisdictions like the Ridgefield and Woodland school districts would be able to make the decision to put the ballot measures on either the August primary election or November general election should Inslee cancel April’s contests.
Though Washington’s vote-by-mail elections don’t require in-person polling places like some other states, Wyman’s letter addressed that staff would still be needed to facilitate gathering and counting of votes.
“From courthouse closures, to workforce reductions of election staff, postal staff, or disruptions with vendors who support election operations, circumstances outside of our control could make it impossible for counties to meet statutory election requirements,” the letter read, noting mail processing, voter registration, canvassing results, and certifying an election could be affected.
Though the full impact of novel coronavirus remains to be seen, the letter stated that should an individual on a county’s elections staff test positive for the virus it could shutter an office for cleaning while an election was in process. Staff would also not be able to assist voters in person while adhering to social distancing protocol to stop the virus’ spread.
“To facilitate this election at this time would be uncertain at best,” the letter read.
As of press deadline Inslee had not made a decision on whether to cancel the election. A spokesperson for the governor’s office said Inslee and staff were briefed on the matter March 19, and that “discussion was ongoing.”