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2005 primary most likely to be conducted by mail

YAKIMA - Don't expect to go to the polls this fall for the 2005 primary election. Instead, absentee ballots will most likely be mailed out to everyone in Yakima County. The county commissioners Tuesday morning approved a 100 percent primary election by mail ballot, the first step to a county-wide mail ballot primary election.

Holding the odd-year primary, scheduled for Sept. 20, by mail-in ballot is expected to reduce election costs to the county.

Yakima County Auditor Corky Mattingly supports the odd-year primary by mail ballot because more than 80 percent of the voters who do vote in the primary will be absentee voters.

In support of the idea of a mail ballot primary, she said if they were to have the polls open during the primary that most of the polling places will be virtually empty on election day.

"The comparison of voter turnout in the 1999 primary (polls) and 2003 primary (all mail) shows a 44 percent increase in voter turnout," said Mattingly.

She added that there will be a significant cost savings by using the mail ballot process, pointing out that there was a 23 percent cost reduction between the 2001 primary, which was conducted using polls, and the 2003 primary, which was conducted by mail.

A third reason, Mattingly pointed out a mail-in primary is preferred is because it will help the county "clean up" the voters registration file, which is a federal requirement every two years.

"By combining it with the conduct of the primary, we can save the considerable cost of doing it as a special project," said Mattingly. "These special project costs would normally be included with voter registration costs annually prorated out to the county, as well as the cities and towns in Yakima County."

Mattingly pointed out that the September primary is the only election this fall in which the county can conduct an election totally by mail ballot.

"This is an opportunity to make the dollars spent on elections more cost effective for our citizens," she added.

The approval of the county commissioners is the first step in having a mail-in primary. The next step will be to go to each of the individual districts holding a primary election for permission for a county-wide mail-in primary election.

. Melissa Dekker can be contacted at (509) 837-4500, or e-mail mdekker@eaglenewspapers.com

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