Secretary Hobbs calls for postal improvements for ballot delivery

OLYMPIA — This afternoon, Secretary of State Steve Hobbs sent a letter formally asking what steps the United States Postal Service will take to prevent out-of-service mail collection boxes from being left in public spaces during Washington elections.

Disused collection boxes in public spaces in King and Pierce counties have been found to contain at least 124 voted ballots from the Nov. 7, 2023, General Election. Because the ballots were found days after Election Day, they were delivered late to the appropriate county elections offices. Under the provisions of state law found in RCW 29A.40.110 (4), elections officials have used the dates provided on the ballot envelopes to help determine ballot validity.

“This deeply unsettling and potentially disenfranchising situation requires immediate attention and improvement so it never happens again to Washington voters,” Secretary Hobbs said. “I am very proud of the longstanding partnership between state and local elections officials and the USPS, which gives me full confidence that appropriate steps will be taken.”

In his letter to USPS Governmental Relations leadership, Secretary Hobbs requested to know what specific measures USPS would implement to prevent voter confusion and distrust caused by leaving disused mailboxes in public spaces during mail voting periods. Washington has five state elections scheduled for 2024, including the March Presidential Primary.

“Every year, millions of dollars in state, county, and local public funds pay for postage to deliver democracy in the form of our ballot distributions, voter’s pamphlets, and ballot return envelopes,” Secretary Hobbs said. “With that degree of investment, our voters must be able to trust that every ballot put into a USPS mailbox will be delivered and counted.”

Washington’s Office of the Secretary of State oversees a number of areas within state government, including managing state elections, registering corporations and charities, and governing the use of the state flag and state seal. The office also manages the State Archives and the State Library, documents extraordinary stories in Washington’s history through Legacy Washington, oversees the Combined Fund Drive for charitable giving by state employees, and administers the state’s Address Confidentiality Program to help protect survivors of crime.