Tacoma Houses Might Be Cheaper, But It Costs More to Vote There

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With the Approve/Oppose Referendum 71 camps running at a statistical tie in the last SurveyUSA poll, every vote counts. So when someone realized that Pierce County ballots require 61 cents in postage, as opposed to the standard 44 cent stamp you need to stick to your King County ballot, Facebook, arbiter of all things, lit up with angry commentors.

"Please VOTE!! Don't let the tricks of the opposition stop up!!," wrote one user (presumably meaning stop "us," it's not easy to spell check in a state of moral outrage.)

"Stupid move on the part of Pierce County elections people," echoed another.

So what's the deal and how much postage do you need to get your vote counted? It all comes down to that favorite esoteric democracy topic of SW columnist Krist Novoselic: Ranked Choice Voting.

In Pierce County, home of Tacoma, you can vote for two people for local offices. The first is the person you really, really want to win, and the second is for the person you can tolerate. The idea is to make more mainstream candidates consider the needs of the Ralph Nader crowd. When their fringey first choice gets booted, an Al Gore could still win by picking up those second-place spots.

But because only Pierce County does it, they have a separate ballot for local elections and the state-supplied ballot for everything else, including Referendum 71, explains County Auditor Jan Shabro. The extra weight requires extra postage.

"It's printed at least five places in the voter's pamphlet," an exasperated-sounding Shabro says by phone. "With pictures."

The SurveyUSA poll had R71 up 45 percent to 42 percent with a margin of error big enough to cover the gap. So making sure votes are cast correctly in urban, and therefor generally more liberal-leaning, places like Pierce County is essential to the Approve 71 campaign. Like King County, Pierce also has a number of places where you can drop the ballot off sans postage. Just remember, the deadline is Nov. 3.

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