Updated: Did Pre-Paid Postage Increase Voter Turnout?

by lewwaters

Elections officials and political party leaders have long been concerned over what at times is an abysmal turnout of voters on our elections, especially in midterm or off-year elections. By all appearances it seems that unless a president is being elected, the majority of registered voters can’t be bothered to cast their vote.

In my opinion that is a deadly position to take as it is during those non-presidential elections when most local officials are elected, mayors, city council, county council or commissioners, each with more direct effect on citizens than any president.

An experiment was tried this year in Clark County of sending out postage pre-paid envelopes to entice voters to send in their ballots, since we are all mail-in voting. Did it improve anything?

Just days before the actual election date, the local newspaper of record, the Lazy C (aka the Columbian) ran an article, Ballot returns way ahead of a year ago where County Auditor Greg Kimsey is quoted saying, “it’s hard to say at this point if the bump in returns is due to prepaid postage or an increase in voter participation. We’re also seeing a reduction in the number of returns to ballot drop sites.”

While pre-paid postage no doubt had some voters drop ballots in the mail over driving to a drop box to drop off their ballot, it isn’t exactly a fair representation to equate this year’s election, a midterm election, to the off year election a year ago.

Reason is traditional turnout is highest during presidential election years, followed by midterm elections, those half way through a president’s term and the elections of in between, or off-year seeing the lowest returns of all.

To get a better view of this year’s midterm election to past years I did a little research in election archives to compare. As of this date, Aug 11, 2018 we are so far seeing a ballot return of 35.38% which will increase slightly once the election is certified and all ballots are counted. I would guess we will see around 37%.

So how does that stack up with past midterm elections?

Looking through the archives I found 2002: 37.15% 2006: 35.74% 2010: 38.99% 2014: 28.61% in midterm primary turnout.

Turnout for off-year election during the same period was; 2001: 21.45% 2003: 25.45% 2005: 43.91% 2007: 30.23% 2009: 23.29% 2011: 21.82% 2013: 19.56% 2015: 25.88% 2017: 16.16%.

As can be seen, turnout for off-year elections is poor, much lower each and every year.

For midterm elections, while better than seen in 2014, it falls right in line with previous midterm elections, but accomplished little to overcome voter apathy.

And of course, this was an experiment, a try me if you will, to see if voters would be more inclined to mark and return their ballots and I highly doubt one election would be enough to determine the overall effectiveness.

The down side of course, taxpayers are again footing the bill.

In my personal opinion, voter apathy is a multifaceted problem and has no simple solution.

What it will take to wake up the masses in between presidential elections is a mystery to me. Reasons each registered voter does not vote are likely as varied as the voters themselves.

But I’ll also add the internal battles of local political parties and the deep ideological divide and extreme incivility between partisans with their ongoing vitriolic and demeaning jabs at each other isn’t helping.

I have said to others, while the partisan battles for power and control rage on, there is a whole country out here falling apart.

Voter apathy seems to be more a symptom of a much larger problem facing us.

UPDATE: County sees drop in mailed ballots even with postage paid

“Only 63.4 percent of ballots for this year’s primary election were returned through the U.S. Postal Service, according to Clark County Elections Office, which certified the Aug. 7 election results Tuesday. Last year, the return rate by mail was 66.4 percent. In the last midterm primary, 2016, returns via the post office were 58.7 percent.”

8 Comments to “Updated: Did Pre-Paid Postage Increase Voter Turnout?”

  1. Prepaid BULK MAIL ballots are going to be an issue since they aren’t postage stamped by the post office AND they are delivered as 2nd class meaning that we could see the ballots returned later than elections date with no proof of when they were mailed. If this process continues the tax payers need to insist on first class mail only.


  2. Hey there is a bright side to the paid postage–now the unions and homeless activists don’t have to shoulder the cost of mailing all those ballots they collect?? Our count in Spokane county will go on for weeks ahead, so we have no idea what our numbers are. It’s the longest count of elections in the history of the world!!! Thousands of “damaged” or “mismarked” ballots will be slowly and methodically “re-marked” by Democrat hires and will use up thousands of extra ballots, all of which costs lots of money. (Wasn’t the reason for the change from poll voting to save money? Keep in mind, with only 35% of the ballots returned, 65% are thrown into the garbage. Sigh. More costs.) Hundreds of ballots in Spokane County are mailed to Mexico and beyond, so it takes awhile for them to get back here. (So how long have these voters lived outside the U.S. and WA state? Why can’t we re-register in person every 6 years? I guess we will have to increase the numbers of out of WA voters so they can vote electronically??) Is our SOS checking the age of all voters via the State Constitutional and U.S. Constitutional requirements? Just asking. This system is a mess.


  3. Oh, another concern I forgot. Signatures are checked via one person and one set of eyeballs….thousands of signatures are judged to be “unmatched”…so they go into piles of thousands on a cart at our Spokane office. My son got his ballot parked in that corner several years ago. He got a notice about is “signature mismatch” a month after the elections were final. When he called to ask the clerk if his vote had been counted (it was still in the envelopes mind you) the woman answered….”I guess so.” When you go to check your ballot online, you are told it has been “received”….not counted. For me, this is a red flag….anybody else?? I have asked the SOS to consider ordering signature verification machines like the ones Bank of America uses daily across the earth, but I was told “they aren’t good enough for us”. Sigh.)


  4. Clark County seems to have a fairly efficient system. I took the elections observer training a number of years ago and observed the steps they go through down there. If memory serves, there was a couple people verifying signatures through computer comparison. Questionable ballots (multiple markings or write in) are separated to be individually viewed to ascertain intent and if unable to figure it out, it goes before a board to review it. I observed the lengths taken along with a Democrat observer to ensure no hanky panky and was left impressed with how well it is done.

    I came away with a high degree of confidence that voter fraud would be very difficult to get away with here.


  5. I’ve done observing for many years, as well as served as chairman of the Spokane County Republican Party for two years. I am not at all satisfied with the current elections system. If you send me your email, I will send you a nine page synopsis of my concerns, along with those of our county GOP experts on elections, Ruth Ryan and Alene Lindstrand. This is a very complex system, far more concerning as you delve into it than it seems on the surface. Lots of holes and places for problems. Cindy Zapotocky, Spokane
    Washington Conservative Coalition email: waconco@gmail.com


  6. I have no doubt of what you see there. I only addressed Clark County and how they manage it.


  7. Nicely done Lew. It would be nice to believe our fellow countrymen would want to participate in their own fate.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I’m not in favor of footing the bill for people who could otherwise not be bothered. This smells like Progressive activism.


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