Fall colors at the Capitol ?>

Fall colors at the Capitol


(Photo courtesy of Benjamin Helle)

Nothing says it’s autumn like leaves changing colors. That’s definitely the case here at the Capitol, as trees have transformed into brilliant shades of orange and yellow. Gotta love fall!

Washington celebrating Get out the Disability Vote Week ?>

Washington celebrating Get out the Disability Vote Week


Washington Secretary of State Kim Wyman on Monday launched the state’s first Get out the Disability Vote Week to bring attention to accessible voting information and ballots to the disability community and encourage them to participate in the upcoming General Election and learn how a ballot is counted.

The state also took note of National Disability Voter Registration Week July 11-15.

Twelve county election departments are also participating in the event (Cowlitz, Island, Chelan, Jefferson, Kittitas, Thurston, Pierce, Franklin, Clark, King, Mason and Clallam) and all counties are ready with assistance and encouragement for voters living with disabilities, said state Elections Director Lori Augino.

Wyman, the state’s chief elections officer,  said the celebration is in keeping with outreach the state and counties do to language minorities, those with vision difficulties, Millennials and traditionally underrepresented populations. She added:

“We are delighted to recognize and promote Get out the Disability Vote Week and encourage everyone to take part in this important election. The privilege and right to vote is the great foundation of our democracy, and all voices are welcome and needed.”

Based on the US Census survey:

  • 782,644 or 15% of the voting age population have at least one disability
  • 52% of those with a disability have an ambulatory disability (walking)
  • 16% of those with a disability have a vision disability
  • Every county is required to have a Disability Advisory Committee (DAC) where members of the community can advise the county elections department to ensure that elections are accessible to all voters. DACs have suggested drop box locations, outreach events and materials, and improvements to voting centers in all 39 counties.
  • Every county is required to have at least one Accessible Voting Unit available in each of its Voting Centers.
  • Many counties have an online ballot that is accessible to voters using assistive technology that they can use to vote and return their ballot.
  • The State Voters’ Pamphlet is available in text, audio, and accessible HTML. Voters can also subscribe to a mailing list to receive the audio version on a CD or USB drive by mail. Members of the Washington Talking Book and Braille Library receive the audio version on an audio book compatible with their audio book player.
  • MyVote was designed and independently tested to meet and exceed Americans with Disabilities Act Web Content Accessibility Guidelines Level AA.


Last survivor of Watergate’s “Saturday Night Massacre” profiled ?>

Last survivor of Watergate’s “Saturday Night Massacre” profiled


William Ruckelshaus with President Nixon. (Photo courtesy of Legacy Washington)

Thursday marked the anniversary of a pivotal moment in one of the most shocking political scandals in American history. On Oct. 20, 1973, two key U.S. Justice Department officials resigned their positions rather carry out President Nixon’s order to fire Watergate special prosecutor Archibald Cox.

One of the Justice officials, William Ruckelshaus, is the subject of a compelling profile just launched by Secretary of State Kim Wyman’s Legacy Washington  team.

Wyman says the profile is a must-read for history buffs and political junkies alike:

“Bill is widely admired for following his conscience in a historic political scandal. For all he witnessed, he loves his country and remains committed to its bedrock principles. His story captures the influences that forged his character and his riveting experiences in the Nixon White House.”

“The Conscience of Mr. Clean,” written by Legacy Washington project director Trova Heffernan, is the latest profile in the “Who are we?” series, an educational project that explores the lives of diverse Washingtonians who have led fascinating lives. The Ruckelshaus profile can be found here.

In the in-depth profile, Ruckelshaus, a longtime resident of Washington state, recounts the  influences of his younger years in Indiana and his ascent through the Nixon administration. Ruckelshaus was the first leader of the Environmental Protection Agency in the early 1970s and  temporarily ran the FBI before Nixon named him deputy attorney general.

As the FBI’s acting director, Ruckelshaus investigated the 1972 burglary of the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate building and its cover-up, and saw the resignation of Mark Felt, the FBI’s No. 2 man who later would be identified as “Deep Throat,” the key anonymous Watergate source for Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein.

During his time in the Justice Department, Ruckelshaus investigated the bribery case against Spiro Agnew, the first vice president to resign in disgrace. Ruckelshaus and Attorney General Elliot Richardson both resigned instead of following Nixon’s order to fire Cox.

Today, Ruckelshaus devotes much of his time to restoring Puget Sound and efforts to save the salmon. He is chairman of the William D. Ruckelshaus Center, a collaboration between the University of Washington and Washington State University that focuses on complex public policy.

In 2015, President Obama awarded Ruckelshaus the Medal of Freedom, the country’s highest civilian honor.

“Who are we?” profiles a diverse group of Washingtonians who have persevered to make important contributions to their state, a kaleidoscope of 7 million people. Other honorees include a former U.S. representative; two talented young Latino winemakers; the pastor who brought Martin Luther King Jr. to Seattle; two Native American activists; a member of the disability rights hall of fame; the youngest-ever mayor of a Washington city; the director of the Eastern Washington Veterans’ Cemetery; and an Asian-American artist. The “Who are we?” series can be viewed here.

The next profile, to be released later this fall, will spotlight Hank Adams, a longtime Washingtonian and a member of the Assiniboine-Sioux, called the “most important Indian.”

`Watershed year’: WA voting season under way! ?>

`Watershed year’: WA voting season under way!


Washington’s voting period for the 2016 Election is under way, with counties mailing about 4.2 million ballots and awaiting a robust turnout of at least 80 percent.

A handful of counties sent ballots on Tuesday and nearly all the rest were scheduled to go out Wednesday and Thursday. Friday is the deadline for outbound mail. Deadline for a postmark is Election Day, Nov. 8, and drop boxes may be used before 8 p.m. that day.

A record 4,250,526 Washington residents are registered. About 72,000 military and overseas ballots were mailed by Sept. 24.

The state’s chief elections officer, Secretary of State Kim Wyman, is looking for a big turnout:

“We are seeing exceptional interest in this presidential-year election.  Since April, more than 250,000 new voters have registered, including an unprecedented surge of 50,000 just before this month’s deadline for online, motor voter and mail-in registration.

“There really is something for everyone in this election. We have perhaps the most fascinating and unpredictable presidential race in history, with 24-7 news coverage. We also face the largest number of ballot measures ever, plus the big Sound Transit vote in three Puget Sound counties. The ballot also features congressional races, the fight for control of both houses of the Legislature, all nine statewide offices, the judiciary and many local races and propositions.

“This really is a watershed year in this country and this state, and I urge every registered voter to take part. This is the prime opportunity for every voice to be heard.”

Wyman stressed that despite recent reports of Russian attempts to hack state election systems and attacks on “rigged” elections, “We have full and complete confidence in the integrity of our system. Elections professionals will treat every voted ballot will great care and security. Every vote will be tabulated as the voter intended.”

The state is working with cybersecurity experts and independent reviewers to make sure the system remains secure, and county tabulation systems are air-gapped and not hooked up to the Internet, said state Elections Director Lori Augino. Said Wyman:

“We have multiple layers of security, both physical and electronic.”

Wyman and many county auditors are recommending that the 2017 Legislature adopt REAL ID legislation that will give election administrators a tool for assuring that voters who register document their citizenship, as required by state and federal law.

Although the presidential race has drawn much of the media and voter interest, voters will also choose the governor and other statewide elected officials. Five of the incumbents are not seeking re-election: lieutenant governor, treasurer, auditor, lands commissioner and superintendent of public instruction. For the first time, a statewide race will feature two finalists from the same party. Republican candidates for state treasurer finished 1-2 in the Top 2 August Primary and advanced.

Voters statewide will ballot for a U.S. Senate seat and 10 U.S. House seats are up this year, including the 7th District, where the dean of the state delegation, Jim McDermott, is retiring and two Democrats emerged from the Top 2 Primary. In the 4th District, two Republicans are the finalists.

Most of the Legislature is on the ballot, too, including all 98 House seats and 26 of the 49 Senate positions.

Three state Supreme Court races are on the ballot, as are other judicial posts.

Six citizen initiatives await, including minimum wage, carbon tax, gun restrictions under “extreme risk” protection orders, campaign finance reform, identity protection for seniors and vulnerable individuals, and challenge of the Citizens United ruling. A constitutional amendment would set an earlier deadline for future redistricting. Two tax advisory votes also await.

The Elections Division recently mailed Voters’ Pamphlets to 3.3 million households in 32 zoned editions.

Looking for other ways to study the candidates and ballot measures?
• MyVote – Visit www.myvote.wa.gov to view your candidates and ballot measures.

  • Online Voters’ Guide – View all state candidates and ballot measures online at MyVote.wa.gov. There are versions in English, Chinese, Spanish and Vietnamese, as well as an audio version of the Voters’ Pamphlet.
  • Video Voters’ Guide – Our Elections Division and TVW have again teamed up to offer the 2016 Video Voters Guide, which includes statements by candidates for  federal and statewide offices, as well as the three state Supreme Court positions on the ballot, and pro and con arguments on the statewide ballot measures.
Secretary Wyman: Charges of rigged US elections `irresponsible’ ?>

Secretary Wyman: Charges of rigged US elections `irresponsible’


Washington Secretary of State Kim Wyman released this statement Tuesday:

In recent days, we have heard heated campaign rhetoric about American elections being “rigged” and somehow predetermined. This kind of baseless accusation is irresponsible and threatens to undermine voter confidence on this most basic foundation of democracy.

As a 24-year election administrator at the state and local level, with close relationships with the national elections community, federal security experts and independent academics, I have full and complete confidence in our system. Every eligible ballot will be handled securely and will be tabulated carefully and accurately.

As ballots go out this week, I am pleased to note that our paper-based system creates an audit trail. Our state registration system remains cybersecure and our tabulation systems in the counties are air-gapped and not connected to the Internet. We have multiple layers of security, both physical and electronic.

Voter fraud in the United States is considered extraordinary unlikely by experts. The voting system is highly decentralized, with each state, red, blue and purple, running their own elections with a total of over 9,000 election professionals who are directly accountable to elected or appointed officials. The culture is that professionals leave their personal politics at the door and treat every ballot with integrity.

This is quite true of our 39 tireless county auditors and election directors. Our counties operate with full transparency and welcome observers, some even using live webcams to show ballot processing.

It makes no sense that election managers would somehow indulge in a conspiracy across party lines and state lines.

As with concerns about cybersecurity, Washington remains vigilant to any possible voter fraud.

Voters should have trust in our elections system. My hope is that every registered voter will confidently cast their ballot. We will ensure their ballot is tabulated just as they cast it. There will be no rigging on our watch.

WA voter reg sets a one-day record; total now tops 4.2m ?>

WA voter reg sets a one-day record; total now tops 4.2m


Voter registrations in Washington hit a new one-day record on Monday, the deadline for online and mail-in registration. In that single day, 27,601 signed up online via the Secretary of State’s MyVote.wa.gov. That broke the previous record set just a day earlier, 23,167. Before that, the all-time one-day record was set last spring, 13,109, with help from Facebook prompts.

The number of registered voters now stands at 4,207,379. It’s the first time we’ve exceeded 4.2 million. We celebrated our four millionth voter just seven months ago.

The number is expected to climb as online and mail applications are processed by the counties. Also, in-person new registrations are welcome throughout Oct. 31.

Secretary of State Kim Wyman, the state’s chief elections officer and an election administrator for the past 23 years, said she’s never seen a surge like this:

“We are ecstatic to see more than 50,000 new registrations in the past 48 hours. These are great days for citizen engagement and we welcome every single new voter.”

The rush in new registrations was prompted by the Monday deadline for online and mail-in applications and by heavy interest in the presidential race, the St. Louis debate and 24-7 news coverage, Wyman said.

She noted that there are plenty of other draws for voting this year, too – all nine statewide offices, a Senate seat and all 10 U.S. House seats, judicial races, control of the Legislature, and a raft of state and local races and propositions. She added:

“It’s a feast for voters.”

Voters are getting their Voters’ Pamphlet in the mail this week and ballots will be mailed by the counties beginning next Wednesday. Military and overseas voters are already voting.

WA Voters’ Pamphlet is coming soon! ?>

WA Voters’ Pamphlet is coming soon!

Voter's Pamphlet Cover - 2016 General

The front cover of this year’s General Election Voters’ Pamphlet. (Image courtesy of Elections Division)

As you get ready to vote in the General Election this fall, make sure to check your mail for one of the most useful educational tools you can have before you vote your ballot!

The 2016 General Election Voters’ Pamphlet is being mailed to Washington residents over the next week, starting this weekend.

If you receive a damaged Voters’ Pamphlet or you don’t receive your copy by Oct. 17, please call our Voter Hotline at (800) 448-4881 or e-mail the Elections Division at elections@sos.wa.gov for assistance.

The Voters’ Pamphlet is available in English, Spanish, Chinese and Vietnamese.

The Voters’ Pamphlet, provided by our Elections Division, is full of useful information about state candidates and measures found on this fall’s ballot. It includes info on the six statewide initiatives on the ballot: Initiative 1433, which aims to raise the state’s minimum wage; Initiative 1464 (campaign finance laws and lobbyists); I-1491 (court-issued extreme risk protection orders temporarily preventing access to firearms); I-1501 (increasing penalties for criminal identity theft and consumer fraud targeted  seniors and vulnerable individuals); I-732 (imposing carbon emission tax on certain fossil fuels); and I-735 (urging state’s congressional delegation to propose amendment to U.S. Constitution that declares constitutional rights belong only to individuals, not corporations, and constitutionally protected free speech excludes the spending of money).

The popular voter education booklet also has information on one proposed amendment to the state Constitution, Senate Joint Resolution 8210, which addresses moving the deadline to complete redistricting every decade. There’s also info on the two nonbinding advisory votes on revenue-related bills passed by the state Legislature this year.

Here are some facts and figures about this year’s Voters’ Pamphlet:
• The Elections Division is mailing it to 3.3 million households throughout Washington. There is no opt-out list. It is delivered to every household in the state as required by the Washington Constitution. Mailing to all households is the most cost-effective way to deliver it.
• It’s printed in 32 editions, including in Chinese, Vietnamese and Spanish. The Chinese and Vietnamese versions are mailed in King County. Voters in Adams, Franklin and Yakima counties receive bilingual (English/Spanish) editions.
• Accessible audio and text formats are available for voters who are blind or have limited vision. Go here if you need the Voters’ Pamphlet as a plain text, audio or Word document file. Voters without Internet access can contact the Elections Division for subscription options.
• Additional copies of the printed Voters’ Pamphlet are available in County Auditor offices, libraries, post offices, long-term care centers and disability service centers.
• The smallest edition of the Voters’ Pamphlet is 136 pages. Most editions range between 136 and 152 pages. Franklin County, which has a bilingual edition, has the largest Voters’ Pamphlet at 288 pages.
• Our office does not fact-check or correct statements or arguments by candidates or ballot measure committees. They are printed as submitted.

Our office has produced and distributed a Voters’ Pamphlet for just over a century. The state’s first Voters’ Pamphlet was sent to Washingtonians in 1914.

Looking for other ways to study this fall’s candidates and ballot measures?
• MyVote – Visit www.myvote.wa.gov to view your candidates and ballot measures.

• Online Voters’ Guide – View all state candidates and ballot measures online here. There are versions in English, Chinese, Spanish and Vietnamese, as well as an audio version of the Voters’ Pamphlet.

• Video Voters’ Guide – Our Elections Division and TVW have again teamed up to offer the 2016 Video Voters Guide, which includes statements by candidates for  federal and statewide offices, as well as the three state Supreme Court positions on the ballot, and pro and con arguments on the statewide ballot measures.

Reminder: Oct. 10 is WA voter-reg deadline ?>

Reminder: Oct. 10 is WA voter-reg deadline


A reminder that Monday, Oct. 10, is the deadline for online and mail-in voter registration ahead of the General Election.

Secretary Wyman and the state Elections Director Lori Augino said Tuesday that county election departments will also honor mail-in applications with an Oct. 11 postmark.

The Oct. 10 deadline could have been a problem for some who are registering by mail, since that is a federal holiday and the post office will not process or postmark on that day or on Sunday the 9th.

That means the functional deadline to mail the form would be Oct. 8. That would violate the National Voter Registration Act provision that says no state may have a mail-in voter registration deadline longer than 30 days. Oct. 8 would be 31 days before Election Day.

Wyman, herself a former county auditor, said it made no sense that a voter acting in good faith could mail on time, but not get a timely postmark. Wyman and the state Elections Division, in an email early last week, recommended that all counties honor an Oct. 11 postmark.

Oct. 10 at midnight remains the deadline for online registration. In-person registration at the county elections offices also remains an option through Oct. 31.

Wyman called on the 2017 Legislature to approve previous efforts by the auditors and her office to move the mail registration deadline to 28 days before the election, instead of 29 days. The bill, first introduced two years ago, would also move the online, motor-voter, and in-person deadline to 11 days before the election.


Voters’ Pamphlet accessible to voters living with disabilities ?>

Voters’ Pamphlet accessible to voters living with disabilities


WTBBL narrator Rachel Glass records text from this year’s Voters’ Pamphlet. (Photo courtesy WTBBL)

This year’s statewide General Election Voters’ Pamphlet will be mailed out soon to more than 3 million Washington households. The largest edition, at nearly 300 pages, will take even the most patient reader a long time to get through it cover to cover.

For Washington voters living with disabilities, trying to read a printed edition of the Voters’ Pamphlet can be an impossible task. Every single voter deserves the right to learn more about the candidates and issues that Washingtonians will vote on this fall.

That’s why our Elections Division and the Washington Talking Book & Braille Library are again partnering to convert the Voters’ Pamphlet into audio so WTBBL patrons and other voters can learn about the people and measures they’ll consider when they fill out their ballots in a few weeks.

According to the Elections Division, the audio version of the Voters’ Pamphlet is now available. Elections will send a CD or USB flash drive that contains the audio version of the Voters’ Pamphlet to those who sign up by contacting the Elections Division’s voter hotline at (800) 448-4881 or voterspamphlet@sos.wa.gov. Those signing up need to provide their preferred format, name, telephone number and mailing address. Information for voters with disabilities can be found here. You can access the audio pamphlet online, too.

“Our office is committed to ensuring accessible elections for all Washington voters, including an audio Voters’ Pamphlet, so they have what they need to make an informed decision when they vote,” said Elections Director Lori Augino. “We are thrilled to partner with WTBBL to create the material and get it in the hands of voters who will benefit from an audio Voters’ Pamphlet.” (more…)

Secretary Wyman, auditors propose election reforms ?>

Secretary Wyman, auditors propose election reforms

Kim and auditors at news conference 2016

Secretary of State Kim Wyman and county election leaders have announced a bipartisan proposal to clear the way to check for citizenship of people who want to register and vote in Washington.

At a news conference in Spokane on Friday, Wyman and county partners proposed legislation for the upcoming session that would adopt the REAL ID Act for Washington. That would mean people would have to present citizenship verification to get a driver’s license, and election administrators could then do a citizenship check at the front end of the process.

The package also includes a plan for automatic voter registration of those who provide documentation of citizenship, with an opt-out provision. Oregon currently runs such a program. Without a citizenship check, that’s not possible in Washington, since both state and federal law ban registration and voting by non-citizens.

Wyman, the state’s chief elections officer, said:

“Our package is reasonable; it’s long overdue.  Our current laws are not working the way we need them to.”

During this past week, questions were raised about the citizenship of Arcan Cetin, who confessed to murdering five people at Cascade Mall in Burlington. He registered in 2014 and voted in three elections. On each of those occasions, he affirmed that he was a U.S. citizen and met the other qualifications to be a voter. The penalty of registration and voter fraud is a prison term of up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

Wyman said:

“This issue pales in comparison to the tragedy of five innocent lives lost. But when the citizenship of Mr. Cetin was publicly called into question as part of the story, it shined a bright light on the fact that under current state law, as election administrators, we are not able to confirm the citizenship of any registered voter.

“This week’s situation has highlighted a problem with current law. We need to verify citizenship and the other requirements for voting at the beginning of the voter registration process – rather than retroactively scrutinizing individual registrations through a lens of partisanship or events, like those of this past week.

Following action in New Mexico recently, Washington is now one of only three states that have not moved to comply with the federal REAL ID Act. States that are in compliance collect and track citizenship information at their driver’s license agencies, and can screen the data for non-citizens.

Wyman added:

 “That’s the way our laws read, and, no, it doesn’t make sense!” Wyman said. “The Department of Licensing is not authorized or directed by state law to require this.  The Secretary of State and the auditors of Washington are not permitted to demand proof of citizenship – and so there is no way to verify.

“I find this completely unacceptable.  Our laws are not working the way they need them to. We need to construct laws and processes to verify voter eligibility on the front end of the voter registration application. We are here today to propose some sensible and concrete solutions to correct this problem. The time for action is now. People are understandably frustrated about this situation and we are frustrated as well. It’s time for action in the January session.”

Wyman noted that the federal REAL ID Act of 2005 is the law of the land and the Department of Homeland Security has been pressuring every state to comply. DHS has announced that (more…)