It's time all of Washington is vote-by-mail

The system is less expensive and more voter friendly.

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The transition to vote-by-mail elections hasn't been easy for some. Folks found comfort in the traditional polling place where friends and neighbors gathered to cast their ballots.

But when the state of Oregon adopted the vote-by-mail system, which was less expensive and more voter-friendly, it became clear vote-by-mail was the future.

A decade ago Washington state began to transition, county by county, to vote-by-mail. In 2006 Walla Walla County went all vote-by-mail. At that time 30 of the state's 39 counties had adopted vote-by-mail.

Today, all but one of the counties -- Pierce -- has replaced the ballot box with the mail box.

It's time to bring Pierce County on board. The state House this week approved a measure mandating vote-by-mail elections across the state. The transition to vote-by-mail has been appropriately slow. Voters and election officials had time to adjust to the changes and work out the bugs.

Vote-by-mail has proven to be cost effective and efficient. Voter turnout is up.

Still, citizens are adjusting to vote-by-mail. So, too, are candidates and their supporters.

Instead of gearing up for a single day of voting, campaigns must adapt to a voting period that is about two-weeks long. Some have done it better than others.

State officials also need to make some adjustments. Unfortunately, the Legislature has been slow to make minor tweaks to improve the system.

The most obvious glitch that needs fixing is that it takes far too long to count ballots. In very close races it can be several days, even a few weeks, before it is clear who has won the election.

It is estimated that only about half of the vote statewide has been counted by the end of election night. That leaves too many candidates and their supporters in limbo. They deserve to know if they've won or lost so they can move on.

Washington law allows all votes postmarked on Election Day to be counted. It can take weeks for the ballots to trickle in.

But in Oregon ballots have to be received by Election Day. Voters either have to mail their ballots several days before Election Day or drop them in drop boxes throughout communities.

The Washington state voter turnout rate in 2008 was 84.6 percent. Oregon's voter turnout that year was 85.7 percent -- and complete results are usually available on election night.

This and other tweaks can wait, however, until lawmakers get the entire state voting by mail.

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