Rantz: Integrity concerns over Washington party declaration on primary ballot envelope

Feb 26, 2024, 8:44 AM | Updated: 12:34 pm

Image: Some believe the Washington primary ballot isn't all that private....

Washington party declaration: Some believe the state's primary ballot isn't all that private. (Photo: Jason Rantz, AM 770 KTTH)

(Photo: Jason Rantz, AM 770 KTTH)

Voters are again miffed and concerned that you must check a Washington party declaration on the outside of the primary ballot return envelope. If a voter does not declare a political party preference, the vote will not count during the presidential primary.

Washington state follows the traditional nominating process when selecting primary winners from the Republican and Democrat parties. Unlike other primary races where the top-two recipients with the most votes advance, voters get to choose the primary winner of their own party. The party declaration appears on the back of the envelope, which means it’s not especially private.

This is not new. The process changed in 2019. And a primary is not technically an election, either. But it remains understandably controversial to some.

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Here’s why Washington presidential primary ballot envelope asks for party declaration

There are two reasons for this process.

First, state parties and campaigns want to know who to target for political mailers. Party declarations are technically public, so long as you follow the public disclosure process for the information.

The state does not have party voter registration making it difficult to track who should be targeted with mailers. Both Republicans and Democrats want to spend dollars wisely, sending the right campaign literature to the voters most likely to support their respective candidates.

Second, the party affiliation declaration is on the outside of the Washington ballot envelope supposedly so that it may be sorted before being opened.

Still, there is reasonable concern, often expressed by Republican voters, that it might lead the ballot envelop to be tossed given how ideological disagreements to lead to petty fighting. That concern is why Republican lawmakers have tried to add an unaffiliated option to the ballot envelopes.

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Privacy concerns are reasonable this Washington presidential primary

While privacy concerns are reasonable, anyone can opt to turn their ballots in directly to an election office or via a ballot box. That means a postal worker won’t see the envelope. It is a crime, however, for a postal worker to destroy any ballot.

“I’m not crazy about this party declaration requirement on the presidential primary ballot,” Washington State Republican Party chair State Rep. Jim Walsh (R-Aberdeen) explained to the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH.

“This is not a new thing. It’s been in state law for several presidential election cycles,” he said.

Still, he points out that, “the law requires the declaration. It does not require the format of putting the choice on the outside of the envelope. That has design decision rests with state and local election officials.”

It is why he “recommends people not mail the ballot. Deliver it to a ballot box. Or give it to a trusted person to deliver.”

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Perspective on the privacy concerns

Walsh is one of the Republican lawmakers who has tried to remove the party declaration requirement from law for years. Democrats have repeatedly opposed those reforms. They know it impacts Republican votes as those voters are more likely to be untrusting of the process. But, in fairness, an unaffiliated option would also force the Democrat party to change their primary to a caucus due to rules from the national Democrat party.

It’s also important to have perspective on this particular concern.

Fraud at the primary stage doesn’t make a whole lot of sense this election cycle. Donald Trump will be the nominee and it’s unlikely any other candidate would come close enough for stealth fraud to take place. And while fraud (and mistakes) obviously occur, there’s been no recent evidence of widespread fraud that would be enough to change national elections. But voters rightly remember the scandal around the recount between then-gubernatorial candidates Dino Rossi (R) and Christine Gregoire (D).

Be cautious of conspiracy theories around the Washington election

There’s reason to always be alert to possible vulnerabilities and lawmakers should do more to ensure the system is audited and avoid any appearance that they’re not doing everything they can to ensure the system is free from abuse. Voters should demand reasonable efforts for those in charge to be more transparent about our Washington elections. There are only positive outcomes when you show the system works as planned.

It’s also important to note that those who spread unverified claims of voter fraud do nothing but convince others not to vote. And it’s Republicans who are hurt the most by this.

If mail-in voting isn’t embraced, it simply convinces people to sit an election out for fear that their vote won’t count anyway. Then when a Republican loses, fraud is used as a catch-all excuse to explain the poor result but the Republican lost because you didn’t vote. Republicans should avoid this trap. It won’t impact Trump — sorry, he’s not winning Washington. But with so many issues that conservatives have staked positions (carbon tax, police pursuits, parental rights, etc.), there’s a legitimate chance that Republicans bring home some significant victories. Conspiracy theories around voting will only hurt the cause.

Listen to the Jason Rantz Show on weekday afternoons from 3-6 p.m. on KTTH 770 AM (HD Radio 97.3 FM HD-Channel 3). Subscribe to the podcast here. Follow Jason on X, formerly known as TwitterInstagram and Facebook.

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Rantz: Integrity concerns over Washington party declaration on primary ballot envelope