OLYMPIA — Due to risks associated with the continued impact of COVID-19, Secretary of State Wyman Kim Wyman and Washington’s county election officials called on Governor Jay Inslee to cancel the upcoming April 28 special election using the emergency powers granted to him in statute.
“When conducting elections, officials must always balance access with security. Right now, both of these standards are in peril,” said Wyman. “As this pandemic continues to evolve, we cannot guarantee to conduct this election by the same standards we administer every other election. We also cannot mitigate potential critical reductions in key election workers.”
Wyman is working with State Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal and other affected jurisdictions to find alternative options, including holding the elections during the August primary or November general. The elections can be rescheduled by the boards of each jurisdiction for future election dates, at their discretion.
Local jurisdictions across 18 counties were scheduled to hold special elections on April 28. Jurisdictions in at least two counties had proactively cancelled their April election requests by the time the letter was sent to the governor.
A copy of the letter sent to the governor can be read below.
Washington’s Office of Secretary of State oversees a number of areas within state government, including managing state elections, registering corporations and charities, and governing the use of the state flag and state seal. The office also manages the State Archives and the State Library, documents extraordinary stories in Washington’s history through Legacy Washington, oversees the Combined Fund Drive for charitable giving by state employees, and administers the state’s Address Confidentiality Program to help protect survivors of crime.
March 17, 2020
Governor Jay Inslee
416 14th Ave SW
Olympia, WA 98504
The Honorable Governor Jay Inslee,
Thank you for your leadership during these unprecedented times. COVID-19 has disrupted our daily lives in a way I have not seen in my lifetime. As a result, I along with county election officials across the state have activated our continuity of operations plans. As we plan election activities over the next six to eight weeks, we have identified serious risks that will likely limit our ability to successfully conduct the April 28 Special Election in a secure, accessible, and accurate manner.
We, as the chief election officers for the state of Washington, join together today to formally request you cancel the April Special Election using the emergency powers granted to you in statute. These elections can be rescheduled by the boards of each jurisdiction for August 4 or November 3, at their discretion. For background, none of the elections is to elect any person to office, but are a variety of levy and bond elections.
Local jurisdictions across 18 of our counties were slated to conduct special elections on April 28, 2020. As of this writing, in two of those counties, the jurisdictions have proactively cancelled those requests.
I join with the 16 remaining counties with scheduled special elections in being concerned about our ability to conduct this election. The election period begins now and lasts through certification day on May 8, 2020.
While public contact in an election is greatly reduced because Washington is a vote-by-mail state, the staffing requirements to conduct an election remain. The uncertainty of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic could dramatically impair a county’s ability to perform its statutory duties in an election. 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. These include mail processing, voter registration, canvassing results, and certifying an election.
When conducting elections, officials must always balance access and security. Right now, both of these standards are in peril. While the potential impacts are many and unknown, a positive COVID-19 diagnosis for an elections staff person could result in election offices being shut down for cleaning while the election is in progress and facilities are full of live ballots that require security. Additionally, election officials cannot safely assist voters in person while protecting their staff by maintaining social distancing required to slow the spread of COVID-19. Many counties operate with very small election departments, and if staff were exposed and in quarantine there would be no one available to run the election.
To facilitate this election at this time would be uncertain at best. The situation is changing daily and the uncertainty surrounding this pandemic significantly inhibits our ability to conduct this special election to the standards we hold in Washington. We are working with the State Superintendent of Public Instruction as well as other affected jurisdictions on alternative options for conducting this special election, including holding these elections during the August Primary or November General.
Therefore, I, along with county election officials throughout the state, ask that you cancel the April Special Election.
If you would like to discuss this matter further, please do not hesitate to reach out to us directly. Thank you for your urgent attention and consideration to this request.
Kim Wyman, Washington Secretary of State
Heidi Hunt, Adams County Auditor
Darla McKay, Asotin County Auditor
Brenda Chilton, Benton County Auditor
Skip Moore, Chelan County Auditor
Shoona Riggs, Clallam County Auditor
Greg Kimsey, Clark County Auditor
Carolyn Fundingsland, Cowlitz County Auditor
Thad Duvall, Douglas County Auditor
Donna Deal, Garfield County Auditor
Michele Jaderlund, Grant County Auditor
Joseph MacLean, Grays Harbor County Auditor
Sheilah Crider, Island County Auditor
Rose Ann Carroll, Jefferson County Auditor
Julie Wise, Director of King County Elections
Paul Andrews, Kitsap County Auditor
Jerry Pettit, Kittitas County Auditor
Brenda Sorensen, Klickitat County Auditor
Larry Grove, Lewis County Auditor
Shelly Johnston, Lincoln County Auditor
Paddy McGuire, Mason County Auditor
Cari Hall, Okanogan County Auditor
Joyce Kidd, Pacific County Auditor
Marianne Nichols, Pend Oreille County Auditor
Julie Anderson, Pierce County Auditor
Milene Henley, San Juan County Auditor
Sandra Perkins, Skagit County Auditor
Robert J. Waymire, Skamania County Auditor
Garth Fell, Snohomish County Auditor
Vicky Dalton, Spokane County Auditor
Lori Larsen, Stevens County Auditor
Mary Hall, Thurston County Auditor
Nicci Bergseng, Wahkiakum County Auditor
Karen Martin, Walla Walla County Auditor
Diana Bradrick, Whatcom County Auditor
Sandy Jamison, Whitman County Auditor
Charles Ross, Yakima County Auditor