O’Ban drops bill to protect voter privacy in presidential primary

OLYMPIA…There’s little doubt that Washington’s presidential primary requiring voters to declare a party affiliation on the back of the mailing envelope, for all to see, has raised concerns with voters. Today, Sen. Steve O’Ban dropped a bill to correct what many argue is a violation of privacy and a threat to the integrity of the primary itself.

Senate Bill 6697 would require county auditors to use an additional envelope for presidential primary ballots to ensure that a voter’s party affiliation is kept private while the ballots are in transit to the voting center, leaving the mailing envelope free of this information. It would also allow voters the option of declaring no party affiliation and requires that those unaffiliated ballots be counted and reported separately.

All ballots would be counted. Recent reports indicate that nearly 36,000 primary ballots in Washington have been disqualified for not indicating a party affiliation. Current protocol is based on Democrat-sponsored Senate Bill 5273, which forced voters to declare their party for their primary vote to count.

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

Current law requires that election staff not be able to see a ballot and any personal information that would tie it to a voter at the same time. This is why the affiliation declaration is not on the inside security envelope. The only alternative is for it to be on the mailing envelope, violating the voter’s privacy. An additional envelope, while requiring an extra step in the process, would protect voter information and still act as the barrier necessary to protect the integrity of the ballot itself.

“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. Voters have a right to be concerned about Washington’s current primary.”