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Sen. O’Ban proposes bill to protect voter privacy in presidential primary

Mailed-in primary ballots with Democratic Party affiliation await counting at the King County Elections processing center on March 09, 2020 in Renton, Washington.(Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

The 2020 presidential primary in Washington state requires voters to declare a party affiliation on the outside of the mailing envelope in order for a vote to be counted, which has raised concerns with voters.

KIRO Radio, KTTH primary guide

Senator Steve O’Ban (R-Pierce County) sponsored a new bill last week that would require county auditors to use an additional envelope for presidential primary ballots to ensure a voter’s party affiliation is kept private while the ballots are in transit.

The bill also allows an option for an unaffiliated ballot, where voters do not have to declare a party, but the votes would still be counted and reported.

“I did not vote for Senate Bill 5273, which requires voters to declare a party,” O’Ban said. “Taxpayers should not be funding a partisan primary process. And every vote matters. The wishes of people who choose not to declare a party affiliation should still be counted.”

According to Secretary of State Kim Wyman, the last time the unaffiliated option was available in 2000, more than half a million people chose it. Wyman thinks it may be an option again in the future, especially following the feedback received from this election.

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As it stands, election staff will not see a ballot and personal information at the same time, which is why the affiliation check box is on the outside of the envelope.

“We have a duty to protect the sanctity of a secret ballot by keeping the outside of the mailing envelope free of any hint about the vote inside. It’s not the mail carrier’s, or anyone else’s, business if the ballot inside might support a Republican or Democrat candidate,” O’Ban said. “Voters have a right to be concerned about Washington’s current primary.”

The Washington state primary is Tuesday. All ballots must be postmarked by March 10 or placed in a drop box by 8 p.m.

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