Today I will sit down with my ballot for the Tuesday primary. It has a single race on it, for Port of Tacoma commissioner.
The only function of my vote is to eliminate one of the three candidates so that voters will have only two candidates on their ballots in November.
More than 130,000 voters around the county are in the same position. Most of them are likely to decide this is not worth the effort or the stamp.
Printing and postage for these 130,000 ballots is not cheap. In addition, the Pierce County Elections Department has hired poll workers and will open polling locations Tuesday for all of the precincts, including those 146 precincts where only the port race is on the ballot. Some precincts will likely experience less than 10 percent turnout.
Is there a better way? Yes. We can see the better way here in Pierce County this November.
In the only other countywide race this year with more than two candidates, Julie Anderson, Will Baker and Jan Shabro are vying for the position of auditor. Since it is a ranked choice voting (RCV) race, there is no separate primary; the primary is folded into the general election and a majority winner will be determined with just one election.
What would happen if the port commissioners were elected with RCV? There would have been no August primary for the port. No ballots would have been sent to those 130,000 voters. The Elections Department would have saved hundreds of thousands of dollars being spent on printing and mailing. It would not have to open polls for these precincts.
Who will pay for this additional expense? The Port of Tacoma will receive a bill for more than $300,000 to eliminate just one candidate. This expense was budgeted by the port and made the budget process tougher in these difficult economic times.
The possibility of the port being stuck with a big bill to eliminate one candidate was known far in advance. The Elections Department could have taken the initiative and asked for a special dispensation to allow the port to use RCV this year and save money.
Instead, the Elections Department never talks about the savings recognized by the county through the use of RCV this year and never initiated discussions with the secretary of state’s office to save this money.
This year, the county is paying nothing for the primary election. In the future, local entities (especially the port) should be allowed to use this cost-savings procedure to eliminate an election.
Kelly Haughton of Gig Harbor is the president of Citizens for a Better Ballot.