WSR 05-05-098

PROPOSED RULES

DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE


[ Filed February 16, 2005, 11:18 a.m. ]

Original Notice.

Title of Rule and Other Identifying Information: The Department of Agriculture is responsible for administering elections for advisory votes, marketing order referenda, and board member selection. The proposed rule will address the issue of how the Department of Agriculture will respond and process unsigned ballot envelopes, which is part of the certification process to vote.

Hearing Location(s): Washington State Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Building, Second Floor, Conference Room 259, 1111 Washington Street S.E., Olympia, WA 98504-2560, on March 23, 2005, at 10:00 a.m.

Date of Intended Adoption: April 1, 2005.

Submit Written Comments to: George Huffman, Washington State Department of Agriculture, P.O. Box 42560, Olympia, WA 98504-2560, e-mail ghuffman@agr.wa.gov, fax (360) 902-2092, by March 24, 2005, 5:00 p.m.

Assistance for Persons with Disabilities: Contact Rochelle Painter at (360) 902-2060, by March 16, 2005, TTY (360) 902-1996.

Purpose of the Proposal and Its Anticipated Effects, Including Any Changes in Existing Rules: The proposed rule is new and does not affect existing permanent rules. It proposes to make permanent the emergency rule adopted December 20, 2004. The proposed new rule sections establish department procedures for conducting commodity commission elections for advisory votes, marketing order referenda, and board member selection and specifically address how the department will handle unsigned ballot envelopes submitted by voters.

Statutory Authority for Adoption: RCW 15.65.047 and 15.66.055.

Statute Being Implemented: Chapters 15.65 and 15.66 RCW.

Rule is not necessitated by federal law, federal or state court decision.

Name of Proponent: Washington State Department of Agriculture, governmental.

Name of Agency Personnel Responsible for Drafting and Implementation: Lynn Briscoe, Olympia, (360) 902-2043; and Enforcement: William E. Brookreson, Olympia, (360) 902-1810.

No small business economic impact statement has been prepared under chapter 19.85 RCW. There is no requirement for an economic impact statement as the proposed rule relates primarily to internal processes on how unsigned ballots will be handled by the department. The only cost to an affected producer may be a first class postage stamp to return the certification. This cost falls far below the guidelines for an economic impact statement.

A cost-benefit analysis is not required under RCW 34.05.328. Same as above.

February 16, 2005

Valoria H. Loveland

Director

Procedural Rules for Administrative Function for Commodity Commissions Elections
NEW SECTION
WAC 16-501-525   Unsigned ballot envelopes: Advisory votes, referenda, and board member elections.   The director of the department of agriculture is responsible for administering elections for advisory votes, marketing order referenda and board member selection as required in chapters 15.65 and 15.66 RCW.

(1) The Department will mail ballots to those eligible to vote in each election according to the terms of the applicable statute and marketing order. Each voter will be provided an official ballot, instructions for voting, a security envelope and a return ballot-mailing envelope with a "Certificate of Eligibility" (certification) printed on the reverse side of the envelope.

(2) After casting its vote in the election, an eligible voter must place the ballot in the security envelope. The security envelope is then to be placed in the ballot-mailing return envelope with the certification on the reverse side. To validate its ballot, the voter is required to complete, sign and date the certification.

(3) In the event a ballot is submitted to the Department and the certification is not signed and dated in accordance with the instructions contained on the outside of the ballot-mailing return envelope or the ballot is returned in a different envelope without a certification, the Department shall process the ballot and the ballot-mailing return envelope as follows, if the Department is able to ascertain the identity of the eligible voter from the envelope:

(a) The Department will not open the ballot-mailing return envelope, but will make a copy of the reverse side of the ballot-mailing return envelope with the printed certification. The original ballot-mailing return envelope will be held by the Department.

(b) The Department will provide the eligible voter with a copy of the ballot-mailing return envelope with the certification and require the voter to sign the copy of the certification and mail it back to the Department so that it is received not later than the date specified in the correspondence accompanying the certification.

(c) The Department shall advise the voter about the correct procedures for completing the unsigned certification and that, in order for the ballot to be counted, the voter must sign and date the copy of the certification, and mail it back to the Department so that it does not arrive later than the specified date.

(d) The signed certification must be received by the Department within fourteen (14) calendar days from the date the copy of the certification was mailed to the voter as evidenced by the United States mail date stamp, for the voter's ballot to be validated.

(e) If the Department does not receive the signed certification with the requested information within the specified timeframe, the original ballot-mailing envelope will not be opened nor will the ballot it contains be counted. The unopened ballot-mailing envelope will be set aside and retained in accordance with the appropriate records retention schedule.

(4) A record shall be kept of the date on which the Department mailed the copy of the certification to the eligible voter, the date on which the voter signed the certification and the date that the Department received the certification. That record will be retained in accordance with applicable records retention schedules for ballots.

(5) Only validated ballots will be included in a ballot count.

(6) This rule applies to elections and run-offs required by statute that are conducted after the effective date of this rule. However, subsections (3) and (4) do not apply in an election once any election ballots have been counted or in a run-off election once any run-off election ballots have been counted.

(7) This rule does not apply if the recount period specified in the applicable statute has expired.

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Washington State Code Reviser's Office