For the first time since the horse-and-buggy days of statehood, Washington is boosting the expense allowance for members of the state’s Electoral College, the party activists who cast the state’s electoral votes for the U.S. presidential ticket that wins the state popular vote.
The Senate gave strong bipartisan approval on Friday to a House-passed bill that was championed by Secretary of State Kim Wyman and shepherded through the long legislative process by office intern Nate Hauger from Central Washington University.
The measure, House Bill 1639, cleared the Senate 38 to 10 and headed to Gov. Jay Inslee for his signature. The bill adjusts the travel, meal and lodging compensation by linking to the rate for state officials and employees on official business, which is periodically adjusted by the state budget office to reflect inflation.
The Electoral College compensation rate has not been adjusted since 1891 — $5 a day for expenses and 10-cent-a-mile for transportation costs. In the early years, lawmakers were told, the main cost was for a hotel room and a stable and hay for the horses.
The current rates: a maximum of $61 a day for meals, $88 for lodging and 56.5 cents per mile for transportation.
The bill passed the Senate floor today with largely bipartisan support after senators turned aside an amendment by Sen. Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley, for a one-time adjustment to $25 a day and 50 cents a mile, with no automatic escalator. Padden was himself an elector in 1976, drawing attention by voting for Ronald Reagan after Gerald R. Ford had carried Washington.
The bill was sponsored in the House by Reps. Steve Bergquist, D-Seattle, and Liz Pike, R-Camas, and others. It was championed in the Senate by Sen. Pam Roach, R-Auburn, Sen. Bob Hasegawa, D-Seattle, and others.
The Office of Secretary of State organizes the gathering of the Electoral College in Olympia at the Capitol after each presidential election. As in most states, the winner of Washington’s popular vote gets the state’s full bloc of electoral votes – currently 12 votes, one for each congressional district and two at-large. The College met in the State Reception Room last Dec. 17 to cast votes for President Obama and Vice President Biden.
They were chosen at party caucuses and the state convention by fellow Democrats last summer, and came to Olympia for the Electoral College gathering from across the state, some at great distance.
On an interesting note, an intern at the Office of Secretary of State was heavily involved with the drafting and research of this bill. You can read more about his story and his testimony on HB 1639 here.
Secretary Wyman said she was proud of Nate’s work and thanked the Legislature for approving the bill.