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Sec. Of State Candidates Differ On Voter Registration Ideas

Liz Jones

The job duties for Washington's Secretary of State range from oversight of elections to the state historical archives. Two candidates vying for the position squared off Tuesday in a Seattle City Club debate. KUOW's Liz Jones has some highlights.


Washington's current Secretary of State, Sam Reed, is retiring after 12 years on the job.

The candidates aiming to replace him are Kathleen Drew, a Democrat, and Kim Wyman, a Republican. Drew is a former state senator and Wyman is currently the auditor of Thurston County.

The City Club debate brought out their views on things like printed voter pamphlets, electronic voting and the state initiative process. They both agree electronic voting faces big hurdles with technology and public trust.

One area of friction arose around voter registration. Drew listed off a few ways she'd try to bring in new voters.

Drew: "We need to make sure and engage young people by making sure that we have election day registration and encouraging our voter, uh, driver's system to be able to pre–register — pre–register, not register — 16–year–olds and 17–year–olds to vote so they're automatically registered on their 18th birthday. "

Wyman takes a more guarded approach to those proposals.

Wyman: "Some of the legislation you're hearing about — pre–registering 16– and 17–year–olds and election day registration — these are partisanly driven issues. And I caution us to look at it across the board because when you look at states that have 16– and 17–year–old pre–registration, we don't see an increase in those voters voting or when they become 18, voting. So the data isn't really showing that this is going to improve turnout and I think we need to just be cautious."

Secretary of State is a partisan position, but whoever's elected is charged to not play party politics with elections and other voter issues.

Outgoing Secretary Reed has drawn praise for taking an unbiased approach to hot issues, like the contested Gregoire–Rossi governor's race in 2004.

Reed is a Republican and he's the latest in a string of Republicans who've held this post for nearly 50 years.

In the August primary, Wyman won about 40 percent of the vote. Drew split the ballot with two other Democrats. Together, the Democrats pulled in about 52 percent.

I'm Liz Jones, KUOW News.

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