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Special election ends April 26 ?>

Special election ends April 26


While many in Washington are looking forward to the state’s first Presidential Primary in eight years, about a quarter of the state’s registered voters have a chance to vote in an earlier election — the April Special Election.

Ballots have been sent to 981,687 voters (24 percent of the state’s registered voters) in 22 of Washington’s 39 counties. Voters need to return their ballots at drop boxes or have them postmarked by April 26 in order to count.

The special election includes 48 ballot measures in 45 voting districts. Most of them are your typical levy and bond measures, but Pierce County has an advisory vote that asks whether the Pierce County Council should allow production, processing and retail sales of marijuana in specified zones in unincorporated Pierce County.

SOS panel: Wyman talks elections with Munro, Reed ?>

SOS panel: Wyman talks elections with Munro, Reed

Kim with Sam and Ralph at 2015 elections conf

Former Secretary of State Ralph Munro (left) talks about an elections issue as current Secretary of State Kim Wyman and her predecessor, Sam Reed, listen. (Photo courtesy of Lori Augino)

The current and two most recent secretaries of state for Washington were featured guests at the annual state elections conference in SeaTac on Thursday, sharing their stories and experiences from the past 34 years during a panel discussion.

Ralph Munro, who served 20 years as secretary of state beginning in 1981, traced Washington’s amazing progress in elections during recent decades. Munro said the state became a national leader by promoting voting rights for 18-year-olds, a “Motor Voter” program that allows citizens to register to vote at the time of acquiring a driver’s license, and major technological advances. He urged the election officials at the conference to continue vigorous outreach programs, particularly for voters with disabilities.

Sam Reed, who served as Thurston County Auditor for 23 years before becoming SOS in 2001, said the state has gone through a number of court challenges, including the fight to preserve wide-open Top 2 Primary voting, and hundreds of reforms needed after the ultra-close 2004 governor’s race that called Washington’s election system into question. Reed noted that WA helped pioneer online voter registration, online candidate filing and online voters’ guides and expanding voter information in general. He also talked about college civics tours and other strategies for engaging younger voters.

Kim Wyman, who was elected secretary of state in 2012 after succeeding Reed as Thurston County Auditor 12 years earlier, said the state faces many technology challenges, as well as adjusting to federal Help America Vote Act dollars drying up. Wyman said as the state adapts to new technology, it must be done carefully and in close collaboration between state and county elections offices. She said she was reminded in the early digital age that people were choosing between Beta and VHS for video players, and how if you made the wrong choice it had huge ramifications. She said that example has stuck with her. Adopting new voting equipment needs to be carefully made, Wyman added.

Sitting in armchairs on a stage before a packed ballroom crowd, the three secretaries bantered with each other and answered questions from attendees. At the end of their talk, Munro summed it up: “We faced a lot of big challenges over the decades and we always figured out a smart way to address those challenges. We’ve proven we’re capable of making smart decisions for the future.”

The annual elections conference, sponsored by the Washington State Association of County Auditors, has included workshops on (more…)

WA candidate Filing Week `important kickoff’ ?>

WA candidate Filing Week `important kickoff’

vote flag

It all becomes official when Washington candidates for public office file their papers with election officials during the week of May 12-16.

Filing by mail, now a little-used option, began quietly on April 28. But the more popular methods of filing for office, in-person or online, will take place during Filing Week.  Depending on the office sought, candidates will file either with the Secretary of State’s Office (on the 2nd floor of the Capitol) or with their county auditor.

The Secretary’s Elections Division will receive all filings for the U.S. House, multi-county legislative districts, the state Supreme Court, and multi-county races for Court of Appeals and Superior Court. Single-county legislative and judicial races and all other offices will handled by the counties’ elections offices.

In-person, fax or emailed filings will be handled during normal office hours. Those who file by fax or email need to follow up with a hard copy by May 16. Online filings will be accepted from 9 a.m., May 12, through 4 p.m., May 16. Filings by mail will be accepted through May 16.

Filing fees are 1 percent of one year’s salary for the office. Congressional filings are $1,740; Legislature, $421.06; Supreme Court, $1,675.05; Court of Appeals, $1,594.55; and Superior Court, $1,518.09. A petition process is available for those unable to pay the filing fee.

There are 162 state offices open for filing – 66 with OSOS and 96 filed at the counties. Thousands more slots are available for precinct committee officers, all filing locally.

Secretary of State Kim Wyman and State Elections Director Lori Augino urged strong participation in this year’s filings and elections. Said Wyman:

“Although there are no U.S. Senate or statewide executive offices on the ballot this year, there are so many important leadership positions for all of us to consider. It will soon be time for our citizens to engage – and hopefully enjoy – the political process that means so much in our democracy.

“This year’s ballot includes all 10 U.S. House races, including the wide-open 4th District, where Doc Hastings is retiring after 20 years; the entire 98-member state House and half of the 49-member state Senate; four Supreme Court seats and other judicial positions; and important local races.”

A number of judicial positions are open for the remainder of unexpired terms, including the state Supreme Court seat vacated by Justice Jim Johnson. Six-year terms for three other high court seats also are up for election this year, as are 12 Court of Appeals positions; and 13 Superior Court seats.

Augino said election professionals on Wyman’s staff and around the state are fired up about the mid-term elections, and hoping for a bumper crop of good (more…)

Online voter registratation deadline is Monday ?>

Online voter registratation deadline is Monday

Chase Warren

Chase Warren, who just turned 18, holds up his voter registration form, completed on his birthday. (Photo courtesy of Jennifer Way)

Congratulations to Chase Warren of Olympia, not only for his 18th birthday but for remembering to register to vote! Chase stopped by our office Friday afternoon, quickly and painlessly filled out a voter registration form, and left as a Washingtonian voter. He helped Washington move just a little closer to the 4-million-registered-voter mark.

Chase chose to register the old-school way, using a paper registration form. But you can also register online or via mail. Just remember that next Monday (Oct. 7 ) is the last day to register to vote online or by mail in time to vote in the General Election later this fall. Monday is also the last day to update your registration status, such as a change of address.  If you’ve never registered to vote in Washington, don’t fret.  You have until Oct. 28 to register in person at your county elections department!


Wyman elected to national exec board ?>

Wyman elected to national exec board

Photo for Blog

Washington Secretary of State Kim Wyman, rounding out her first six months in office, was honored to be elected to the executive board of the National Association of Secretaries of State.

Wyman, second from right in photo, was unanimously elected vice president for the western region of the United States by her peers at the NASS summer conference in Anchorage over the weekend.  Oregon Secretary of State Kate Brown, to the left of Wyman in the photo, is the president-elect.

Wyman said she was pleased by the effectiveness and vigor of the organization and happy to be part of the board. She added:

“NASS is a powerful bipartisan voice in Washington, D.C., and across the country for strong policies at the state and federal levels for elections and a variety of other services provided by the secretaries of state. NASS also offers a way for the states to share best-practices as we work at continuous reform and improvement.”

Wyman is a long-time election administrator, including 12 years as Thurston County auditor, and continues to advise several national reform panels.  Wyman’s predecessor, Sam Reed, served a term as NASS president.

Start your engines! Filing Week May 13-17! ?>

Start your engines! Filing Week May 13-17!


Candidate Filing Week, the official kickoff of the 2013 campaign season, is coming soon.

For candidates throughout Washington, including local offices and three State Senate seats, it all begins Monday morning with the launch of Filing Week.

For state offices, online filing begins Monday at 9 a.m. and runs night and day until 4 p.m. Friday, May 17. (Some county elections departments provide online filing, too.) In-person filing with the Secretary of State starts Monday at 8 a.m. and ends at close of business (5 p.m.) on Friday.

Candidates file with either the Secretary of State or the County Auditor, depending on the office. If you’re running for a legislative or judicial office encompassing more than one county, you file with the Secretary of State. You can file online, by mail, or in person. In-person candidate filing at the Secretary of State’s office will be at our Executive Office on the second floor of the Legislative Building our Elections Division’s office, 520 Union Ave. SE in Olympia. If you’re running for a legislative or judicial office within one county, you file with your county elections office.

All declarations must be received by the end of the business day on May 17. And what if you change your mind after filing and decide you don’t want to run after all? May 20 is the last day for candidates to withdraw.

Go here to learn how to file for office and here to see the eight state offices open for election this year and the filing fee for each one.

For those planning to run for Appeals Court judge or Superior Court judge this year, Gov. Inslee has signed  a Top 2 elections bill into law that requires the two primary favorites for each race for Supreme Court, Appeals Court and Superior Court to advance to the 2013 General Election ballot.

If you have questions about the Top 2 Primary, check out this FAQ section.

September is National Voter Registration Month ?>

September is National Voter Registration Month

If you haven’t registered yet to vote in Washington and need a little prompting, just realize there is an entire month devoted to this one easy but important action.

September is National Voter Registration Month. Secretary of State Sam Reed is joining fellow members of the National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS) to work toward the goal of making eligible voters aware of registration deadlines and requirements for the General Election ending Nov. 6.  Reed and other NASS members are also using this as an opportunity to promote state resources to help with the registration process.

“This month is all about reminding citizens to get registered,” said Reed.  “Voting is one of our most important rights and we want to start reaching out to voters now so they will be prepared before the upcoming election.”

Reed and other Secretaries of State throughout the U.S. want to encourage voter participation and increase awareness of state requirements and deadlines as much as possible. Despite record-breaking registration and voter turnout levels in many states for the November 2008 presidential election, 6 million potential voters didn’t cast a ballot because they missed a voter registration deadline or didn’t know how to register to vote.

There is still time to get registered to vote if you haven’t already. Eligible citizens who are 18 years of age or older may register to vote, and every state except North Dakota has a registration requirement for voting. Washington is one of 10 states currently offering online voter registration and is the first state to offer voter registration via Facebook.

The deadline for online registration, address changes and other registration updates for the 2012 General Election is October 8.  General Election ballots will be mailed out to registered voters on October 19, and the deadline to register in person for new Washington voters is October 29. (more…)

Reed certifies Primary Election ?>

Reed certifies Primary Election

This month’s Primary Election has been certified, with Secretary of State Sam Reed doing the honors late Friday afternoon.

More than 1.4 million ballots were tallied in the Primary, with voter participation a lighter-than-forecast 38.5 percent.

The county-by-county numbers are here, along with the breakout for various races.

The turnout was the weakest for a presidential-gubernatorial election-year Primary in recent years.  The average has run about 43 percent, and Secretary Reed had forecast 46 percent this year, based on what seemed to be voter excitement about the 2012 races, from the hot White House race to wide-open races for governor, secretary of state, attorney general and auditor, good Supreme Court races, legislative and congressional contests, local issues and races, and growing interest in fall ballot issues, including same-sex marriage, marijuana, and charter schools.

Some analysts had blamed the earlier July-August primary period and the lack of funding for a printed Primary Voters’ Pamphlet. The primary was moved earlier by the Legislature to accommodate a new federal law requiring military and overseas ballots to be mailed out at least 45 days before the election. Previously, the primary was later in August and before that, in mid-September, but the Department of Justice and the Pentagon said that timeframe was no longer acceptable.  Reed and auditors have previously supported moving the primary to June, when voters’ children are still in school and family vacations have not begun. (more…)

Party challenge to Top 2 Primary back to Supreme Court? ?>

Party challenge to Top 2 Primary back to Supreme Court?

Washington Democrats and Libertarians are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to hear yet another challenge of the  state’s popular Top 2 Primary.  Various appeals have been underway since voters approved the system by a landslide eight years ago.

The open primary, which allows all voters to select their favorite candidates for each office, without regard to party label,  has been successfully used since 2008, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 7-2 to allow it.  The high court did leave open the possibility of further challenge based on the way the state administered the winnowing election.

Barring some unexpected development, the state plans to use the Top 2 Primary on Aug. 7 to winnow the field for governor and other statewide offices, Congress, the Legislature and other offices. The two top votegetters will advance to the General Election in November, with no party guaranteed a runoff spot.

Both the U.S. District Court and the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals have rejected arguments by the Democratic, Republican and Libertarian parties of Washington that their constitutional rights are violated.  The Republicans have dropped out of the new challenge. Just before the deadline late Wednesday, the Democrats and Libertarians filed separate requests that the high court hear a further appeal.

Secretary of State Sam Reed, the state’s elections chief, expressed disappointment that the Libertarians and Democrats persist in their challenge. He said he’s pleased that Republicans have heeded the request he has made repeatedly for all three parties to stop challenging a voter-approved system that is working well and producing good candidates and officeholders.

“Our system, which is a model for other states, really honors the way Washingtonians want to vote — for the person, not the party label. It really fits our populist, independent streak and allows people to split their ticket, rather than be confined to one party’s candidates.  The parties’ challenge of our old blanket-primary led to our Top 2 system, with a very unpopular detour to the Pick-a-Party system that limited our primary choices to a single party’s line of candidates.

“I hope the Supreme Court will decline to take the case, and will acknowledge that we followed the court’s roadmap for how to conduct the primary as a nonpartisan, winnow election that puts the voter in the driver’s seat.”

Attorney General Rob McKenna, who personally argued the original case before the Supreme Court, said:

“The people of the state of Washington have made it clear that they support a people’s primary—not a partisan primary.

“We’ve already argued this case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court—and won. The Secretary of State’s office then followed the direction of the court to ensure the Top 2 Primary was instituted in a manner that respects the parties’ rights to association while still honoring the will of the people to vote for the person not the party.

“During these tough budget times, it’s unfortunate that we’re still forced to spend state tax dollars defending the will of the people.”

The Democrats, writing in their request to the court,  complained that the system gives the parties no say in which candidate is allowed to claim their label. They also said the state hasn’t been required to show that disclaimers on the ballot are adequate remedy for voter confusion. (more…)

`It’s all about equal access to the voter’ ?>

`It’s all about equal access to the voter’

Washington’s voter accessibility project, a one-person, federally funded operation dedicated to helping individuals with disabilities, is a whirlwind of activity these days.

Fresh website information has just been launched, including resources, voting rights, and how to request a reasonable accommodation or assistance.  Accessibility Coordinator Tom Allman is busy training and providing technical assistance to county election departments, doing outreach to organizations and affected populations, and making sure polling centers and dropboxes are accessible.

Allman, who has a doctorate in rehabilitation and counseling, a Masters degree in counseling psychology, and a law degree, has 20 years of experience in the field, most recently working with Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle for students with disabilities, and as voting rights expert at the Nevada Disability Advocacy and Law Center.

Allman is enthused about helping counties, organizations and individuals be successful.  He has a full travel schedule, crisscrossing Washington state and participating in national efforts, including the White House Disability Group.  He has helped counties upgrade their facilities for (more…)