When Keri and I voted on Sunday night, she wondered why we have to pay for stamps to vote. I repeated my fantasy “If I was running”: I’d mail stamps to likely voters before their ballots arrived.

What if we all just dropped our ballots in the mail without stamps. If we all lived in Thurston County (like I do), seems like they’d get delivered anyway and the county would eventually pay for our postage.

While I’m not totally sure that paying for postage is a “poll tax” (actually going somewhere to vote probably costs something too), the political wisdom of asking people to put a stamp on a ballot is distasteful at least. So says Rep. Williams:

Democratic state Rep. Brendan Williams of Olympia agrees with DeMucha, saying the postage requirement is a poll tax. Williams, who has suggested using state money for postage, also said he thinks county auditors might cover postage using the savings from going to vote-by-mail in 36 of the state’s 39 counties.

A story in the Puyallup Herald from back in May points to the cost, especially since we’re not talking about just once a year in November:

The auditor’s office and school districts are looking at ways to make it a non-issue for voters.

“We’d like to pay return postage,” Cook said, explaining the postage would be part of the election costs.

However the expense may be too great to make it a reality, said Pat McCarthy, Pierce County auditor.

The Puyallup and Sumner School Districts paid $156,000 combined for election costs for the February bond measures.

District officials think the cost of providing postage would be out-weighed by the voter response.

People don’t want to go to the grocery store to buy a book of stamps or go to the post office for a single stamp just to send in a ballot, Cook said.

So what would the postage cost? Assuming we’re talking about full postage, if the 2006 election were held in Thurston County this year, we’re talking about around 85,000 voters. Let’s just say 100,000 for the sake of arguing that free postage would boost turn out. That’s $41,000, which doesn’t sound like very much.

Statewide, the cost would have been just about $864,000 (not assuming a boost in turnout).