Originally published July 24, 2013 at 11:34a.m., updated July 24, 2013 at 11:34a.m.
It’s ridiculous the Walla Walla School District must pay for the cost of the Aug. 6 primary even though there’s no longer a three-way race needing to be trimmed to two candidates.
One of the candidates for the open School Board seat dropped out of the race, which means the remaining two candidates will be moving on to the November ballot regardless of the balloting.
But since the wheels were already turning (ballots had been sent overseas to those in the military) it was too late to stop the election. The ballots had to be mailed and will be counted.
But when compared to the situation in Wenatchee, local taxpayers got off easy shelling out just $22,000 for an election that doesn’t matter.
The folks in Chelan County are on the hook for about $100,000 to pay for an election in which the only race on the ballot has just one candidate.
A change in state law requires counties to hold primary elections every time a partisan position is up for election. Given this is an odd-year election in which most races are nonpartisan (school boards and city councils), few partisan races are on the ballot.
The new law was approved by the Legislature by near-unanimous votes in the House and Senate. It 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.
The old law makes for more sense for taxpayers — but not politicians.
Candidates for partisan offices can double their campaign fundraising since they are technically running in two elections.
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 Lori Anderson of the state Public Disclosure Commission. Appearing on both a primary and general election ballot allows them to double that amount.
Lawmakers who supported the change are now calling this expensive non-election an unintended consequence.
“It may be an unintended consequence, but it’s a hell of an unintended consequence for us,” Chelan County Auditor Skip Moore said.
He’s got that right.
The Legislature needs to revisit the issue to clean up the expensive mess created for Chelan County taxpayers. And while lawmakers are it they should take a look at Walla Walla taxpayers’ $22,000 bill for a meaningless election.