EDITORIAL | Stamp shouldn't be hurdle to returning ballot

Voting takes time.

To effectively do your civic duty, you have to research each candidate for each office, and determine who most closely shares your set of values, and who you believe would be the best to serve.

Or, perhaps, you look at the endorsements from the organizations or media outlets that you trust, and mark your ballot accordingly knowing certain candidates have a seal of approval that you respect.

Regardless, if you’re casting a ballot and doing more than closing your eyes and randomly picking bubbles to fill in, you’re committing something of value — your time — to shape the future that your elected officials will have a hand in shaping.

Shouldn’t that be enough?

As of now, if you want to return that ballot by mail, it isn’t.

It’s not a lot of money, 49 cents. But it essentially serves as a tiny poll tax. And for younger voters, many of whom now do much of what previous generations did by mail — pay bills, send letters, etc. — online, it’s not a given that they’ll even have a stamp on hand.

Plain and simple, it’s an unnecessary barrier.

Some may say that the preponderance of drop boxes makes this argument irrelevant. While that does eliminate any financial barrier, it also doesn’t account for the fact that not everyone is within easy access of one. And, well, having your mailman pick up your ballot is easier than going to drop one off.

Don’t believe us?

Earlier this year, King County tested the concept of postage-paid ballots for a pair of measures in the City of Maple Valley and for the Shoreline School District. At a cost of about $10,000, turnout for the pair of special elections was significantly higher than projected — at 37 and 40 percent, respectively — than the 30 percent estimate based on previous elections. That should be the goal: Removing any and all barriers to voting in this state.

This was even an issue during last year’s elections, with then-state-Sen. (now U.S. Representative) Pramila Jayapal and Secretary of State candidate (now chair of the state Democratic Party) Tina Podlodowski writing in a joint op-ed for Seattle Met Magazine that, “finding and paying for a stamp is just one more unnecessary obstacle to voting.”

We agreed then, and we agree now.

Certainly, there’s more still to be done to increase access to voting (automatic registration a la Oregon, anyone?) but making it easier for those already registered to return their ballots is a great way to start.