Elections rule change could boost primary costs for Washington counties

washingtonstateflag squareA rule change requiring counties in Washington to hold primary elections every time a partisan race is up for grabs could significantly increase the cost of elections for some counties.

In Chelan County, for example, taxpayers will pay about $100,000 for the Aug. 6 primary, even though the only race on the ballot is for county prosecutor and only one person is running for the position.

The bill approved by the Legislature by near-unanimous votes in April repeals part of an older law, which allowed counties to refrain from holding primary elections in odd-numbered years if two or fewer candidates were running in each of the races. Those candidates would skip the primary and appear only on the general election ballot in November.

That still remains true for non-partisan posts.

One side effect of the bill: Candidates can double their campaign fundraising.

Legislative and some county-level candidates may collect up to $900 per donor for their campaigns every time their names appear on a ballot, according to the state Public Disclosure Commission. Appearing on both a primary and general election ballot allows them to double that amount.

Rep. Sharon Wylie, D-Vancouver, says that the primary motivation behind the bill was campaign contributions.  (AP)

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