Reed prepares for $1.4 million Elections Division budget cuts

The Office of Secretary of State, preparing for deep budget cuts in the state Elections Division, is asking Washington lawmakers and voters for help in making the cutback plan a reality.

The overall agency, girding for budget cuts of 20 percent or more, already has begun staff reductions. Out-of-state travel and training, use of private-sector consultants, and equipment purchases have been curtailed.

Each division of the agency — the state Library, the state Archives, Corporations Division, Elections and the executive office — is identifying cuts. Most can be identified and carried out internally, but the Elections Division needs some legislation to allow its cutback plan to go forward.

Three new measures were submitted to the Legislature yesterday. They would make the changes in state law and the state Constitution that are necessary for implementing spending cuts for printing, slimming down Voters’ Pamphlets, and reviewing local elections offices.

“These are painful cuts that we don’t want to make, but that we must,” said Secretary of State Sam Reed. “These are not ordinary times, and we have to take some extraordinary actions. We do intend to do our part to help re-balance the budget. Some of the changes won’t be missed by the average citizen, and others will. We will manage our way through this recession, with an eye toward maintaining strong and effective programs that are so important to the voters and our patrons and customers.”

The cost-cut plan for the Elections Division would take the division down from $7 million to $5.6 million. In addition to the staff reductions, the plan affects other areas, including:

Voters’ Pamphlet — The division would save $68,000 in printing costs, and would trim $77,000 by having shorter candidate statements and background materials for the next two years.

Overseas Voters — The state would save $120,000 if lawmakers repeal a requirement that the division print the ballot envelopes for military and overseas voters. Counties would take over the task.

Local election oversight — The legislation would eliminate the Election Administration & Certification Board. State reviews of county election operations would be scaled back from once every three years to once every five years. The more frequent reviews would resume in July, 2011. Legislation would repeal the requirement that the state reimburse political parties for travel expenses. Cost savings would be $152,000. Reductions in state staff have already been made.