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Originally published Wednesday, January 12, 2011 at 3:57 PM

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State should move primary election to mid-June, speed up mail-in ballots

Secretary of State Sam Reed wants to move the state's primary election to the first Tuesday in August. A better choice is mid-June. And, at long last, let's get those ballots in by Election Day!

IF Washington has to move its third-Tuesday-in-August primary election, it should do so in a way that works well for voters. The best bet is mid-June, not the first Tuesday in August, which is prime vacation season.

Secretary of State Sam Reed once again is trying to fine-tune the flow of elections. Appropriately so. Elections could run a lot more smoothly.

Just a few years ago, the primary occurred in late September, but seven weeks was not sufficient to process primary results and prepare for the November general election. The change was made to the third week in August, which was fine. But new federal law requires that military ballots be mailed 45 days — not 30 days — before Election Day.

To comply, and not continually need a waiver, the state should pick an optimum date for voters, not lawmakers.

Granted, legislators make the decision, meaning too much consideration is given to their re-election planning. Lawmakers are not allowed to raise money for 30 days before a session or during a regular or special legislative session.

That makes incumbents reluctant to give challengers unfettered fundraising time while they are frozen out. How about letting elected officials figure out how to start raising money in the fall?

June is preferable because most people have not yet left for vacation. The first week in August is the peak of summer.

Reed's other proposal is a perennial, because lawmakers are immune to change. Ballots in Washington take forever and a Sunday to tally because the state foolishly allows voters to postmark them by Election Day. A better idea is to have ballots received by Election Day. Then Washington can join the rest of the country reporting useful results that week.

Oregon has managed this way for years. People who like to vote late learn where the drop boxes are and make the deadline. They do not miss the ebb and flow of the election.

The state should pursue a June primary. The law says we must accommodate military ballots.

And let's be daring enough to step out of the Dark Ages and require ballots be received by Election Day.

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