Why print?

The race for the Washington secretary of state’s office, which is open due to the retirement of Republican Sam Reed, doesn’t seem to be a logical hotbed of controversy, in part because Reed has handled the job so capably.

But this week, there is this: The appearance of this year’s voter guide to Washington candidates, or rather the fact that it is appearing on line rather than in print.

Democrat Kathleen Drew, a former legislator from east King County, who won her party’s convention endorsement earlier this month, has been critical of that. The Tacoma News Tribune reported that “She says Reed failed to ask for funding from the Legislature this year, and like other candidates she says she will make this a priority if elected.

Certainly voter guides like those in Washington and Oregon (Idaho never has gotten into them, as a state publication) are a good thing, and the more they’re used the better. (Our elections would be a whole lot better if voters paid attention to the voter guides and ignored completely all the commercials.) But is there real need to print and mail the hundreds of thousands of copies needed to cover the electorate? A couple of decades ago, maybe even 10 years ago, the answer might have been yes. But so few people now have no access to online guides that maybe an opt-in approach would be as advisable. And cost-effective.

And there’s even this: If something in a voter guide needs to be changed, use of an online guide would allow for the change. Once something is printed on paper, well, it’s printed on paper.

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