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Vote Downballot: NPI talks with Kathleen Drew, candidate for Secretary of State

Every four years, in addition to casting votes for president and governor, Washingtonians are also called upon to elect more than half a dozen other individuals to serve in the state’s executive department.

The contests for these positions are often referred to as downballot races because they appear further down the ballot. They usually don’t receive as much publicity or attention as marquee races like governor, senator, or even U.S. Representative, but they are important nonetheless.

In total, there are eight other executive department positions besides governor. Here is a list of the positions with a short summary of the duties of each:

  • Lieutenant Governor: Presides over Senate, fills in for governor
  • Attorney General: State’s chief lawyer
  • Secretary of State: State’s elections administrator and custodian of records
  • Treasurer: Manages the state’s funds
  • Auditor: Inspects the state’s books, evaluates effectiveness of public agencies
  • Commissioner of Public Lands: Heads Department of Natural Resources
  • Insurance Commissioner: Regulates insurance companies
  • Superintendent of Public Instruction: Oversees K-12 public schools

This year, we have a very competitive race for Secretary of State between Kathleen Drew and Kim Wyman. Republicans have held the position for more than half a century, and Drew, the Democratic candidate, aims to change that.

Kathleen took a break from the campaign trail to talk to us about why she’s running and what she hopes to accomplish if she is elected on Tuesday. What follows is our unedited conversation with her.

NPI: What prompted you to run for Secretary of State? What skills do you think you bring to the position?

Kathleen Drew: As a former State Senator and policy advisor to the Governor, I’m the only candidate with statewide experience, who understands how to work with legislators on both the sides of the aisle to get things done.

As a State Senator, I authored our state’s Ethics in Public Service law and served on the Commission on Government Ethics and Campaign Finance Reform. I helped build our higher education branch campus system to increase access for students across our state and to clean up Puget Sound.

I have a history of bipartisan collaboration, both as a legislator and as an appointed official. I bring 25 years of experience working on issues important to Washington residents and have worked with people in every area of our state.

I am running for Secretary of State to put results over politics and get things done for the people of Washington. I am the only candidate committed to:

  • Increasing voter information by printing a primary election statewide voters’ pamphlet, a bill I sponsored in the state Senate.
  • Expanding voter participation by increasing ballot drop box locations; pushing for Election Day voter registration; and advocating for preregistering sixteen and seventeen-year-olds to vote when they get their drivers’ licenses, automatically registering them to vote when they turn eighteen.
  • Working with both Democrats and Republicans in a bipartisan fashion like I did in the Governor’s office to streamline the state’s procurement process and help make it easier for overseas military voters to cast their votes.

I’m the only pro-choice woman running for statewide executive office. I will stand up for voters’ rights, women’s rights and marriage equality.

NPI: In many states across the country, we are currently seeing long lines at polling places. Some frustrated voters are giving up because the early voting lines are so long. We don’t have this problem in Washington because we vote by mail. Do you believe other states should follow the Pacific Northwest’s lead and adopt vote-by-mail?

Kathleen Drew: Absolutely. Vote by mail has increased voter participation, which I believe should be the top priority of a Secretary of State.

NPI: What is your position on same-day voter registration? Shouldn’t it be possible for voters who are not on the rolls to register and participate up until the deadline for returning ballots arrives?

Kathleen Drew: Washington State had 32,000 voters register between October 8, the last day to register online, and October 29, the last day to register in-person. When I am Secretary of State, I will work to enact Election Day voter registration, so that no Washingtonian ever misses a deadline to vote. Election Day voter registration is a proven way of allowing eligible citizens to cast their vote. It boosts turnout by approximately five to seven points in the seven states that allow eligible citizens to register on Election Day—with a decreased dependence on provisional ballots and without any reported increase in voter fraud.

Ralph Munro led the movement for Motor Voter registration and on-demand absentee voting. Sam Reed led the way for all vote-by-mail voting. The result has been to increase registration and voting by eligible citizens. I look forward to making my own contribution by enacting Election Day voter registration for all eligible citizens in Washington.

NPI: Not long ago, as part of a voter outreach campaign, the Secretary of State’s office sent out confusing postcards to thousands of Washingtonian households which stated “You may be eligible to vote, but don’t appear to be registered.”

The postcards were not addressed to specific individuals. Many voters who *are* registered reported receiving these postcards and becoming very confused. The Secretary of State’s office said improper data entry could have resulted in postcards getting sent to voters who shouldn’t have been on the mailing list for the campaign. If you are elected, what measures will you put into place to ensure that mistakes like this do not happen?

Kathleen Drew: It is clear that sending out postcards to voters about their registration status is something that should not be happening forty-six days before an election day. It is confusing to voters. At the time, I urged the Secretary of State’s office to do whatever they could do correct this error immediately. When I am Secretary of State, I will not be conducting that type of voter education effort so close to an election day. This situation also taught us that our database contains many errors and a high priority should be placed on cleaning it up. I would also put in place additional oversight measures when sending out information to voters to ensure that avoidable mistakes are not made that cause confusion.

NPI: Do you agree with leading software engineers and programmers (like Richard Stallman of the Free Software Foundation) that voting should be done on paper?

Kathleen Drew: Yes, I believe that a paper trail for voting is important.

NPI: If elected, what kind of assistance do you envisioning providing to people who would like to form social benefit corporations (also known as “B” corporations) under the “low profit” model?

Kathleen Drew: Auditor Brian Sonntag just released a performance audit on regulatory reform, which found that laws that have been passed to reduce the regulatory burden haven’t been properly implemented. I will dedicate myself to using his recommendations to implement one-stop-shopping for companies to conduct business with the State, including newly created “B” corporations who will need special attention, as they are new in Washington. This will save taxpayer dollars and save businesses time and money.

The registration of corporations, charities and nonprofits is an area where the Secretary of State can and must provide a higher level of service. Today, when businesses register with the state, they must run around between different state agencies in order to comply with state law. That’s just bad for business. As Secretary of State, my office, the first stop for all new businesses and organizations, will coordinate with other state agencies to create a one-stop portal, through which all related government requirements and services can be easily accessed.

I’ve got just the background for this, having streamlined the state’s purchasing of goods and services from businesses, pulling those functions out of five separate agencies, into a single location. I will also expand acceptance and security for electronic signatures throughout state government.

The sooner we stop giving businesses and other corporations the runaround, the more effectively we can regulate the entire registration process to protect the public against fraud and abuse.

NPI: As Secretary of State, what will you do to protect voting rights for Washingtonians?

Kathleen Drew: I strongly oppose efforts to disenfranchise select groups of eligible voters under the guise of “voter fraud”. I will fight any effort to institute the partisan, politically-motivated voter suppression laws that a dozen states around the country have passed in an attempt to reduce voting among seniors, the poor, and voters of color. The job description of the Secretary of State requires her to be fair, balanced, impartial and non-partisan in performing her responsibilities.

The voters of Washington don’t want and won’t stand for a Katherine Harris or Kenneth Blackwell as our Secretary of State. I’m running for Secretary of State to protect these laws, the toughest and most effective in the nation, from being ignored, undermined or overturned.

I believe that all voters are equal. As Secretary of State, I’ll take a systemic look across the state to identify and remove barriers to registration and voting, especially to engage our minority and student populations. I will be practical, creative and cost-effective in meeting these voting challenges.

One way is by enlisting community college and university students to assist as county election workers during peak voting seasons. That way, we not only get the next generation engaged and involved for the future of our democracy, but we put them to useful work in the meantime – something any student, any parent and every voter can appreciate.

I also support increasing drop box locations especially so students and tribal communities can more easily turn in their ballots. We should be making it easier for folks to vote, not more difficult.

NPI: Years of budget shortfalls have taken a toll on the state’s ability to preserve and protect its history. As Secretary of State, what actions will you take to ensure the integrity of our state archives and library?

Kathleen Drew: My opponent had sent out a letter regarding my position on libraries that contains a number of inaccuracies. I am absolutely a strong supporter of our state library. In fact, when I was a policy advisor to Governor Gregoire and the Secretary of State proposed eliminating the budget for correction center libraries, we told them to go back to the drawing board.

Eliminating those libraries was not an option.

I am opposed to building a brand new building for the Heritage Center on the Capitol Campus in this tough economic climate. Instead, I believe we should focus on digitizing our state archives and being creative with the resources that we have.

NPI: There has been talk of eliminating the printed voter’s pamphlet or reducing its size and scope to save money. However, many rural Washingtonians lack high-speed Internet access (or don’t have Internet at all) and would not be able to easily access a voter’s guide that was only available electronically. If you are elected, will your budget request include funding for the traditional voter’s pamphlet Washington has printed for years?

Kathleen Drew: Absolutely. I believe that a democracy works best with an active and informed electorate. As Secretary of State, printing a statewide voters’ pamphlet to send to all voters in primary elections will be a top priority.

Nearly twenty years ago in the state Senate, I sponsored legislation that would allow for a printed primary voter’s guide.

My opponent, Thurston County Auditor Kim Wyman, kept critical information from voters by refusing to include information about state candidates in the voters’ pamphlet sent to voters before the primary election. She says it was because she was a candidate for statewide office this year.

I think this shows a lack of judgment on her part. We must ensure that all printed voter pamphlets include not only local candidates and ballot measures, but also statewide candidates and ballot measures. In Eastern Washington, where no primary voter pamphlet was printed, we saw a 13.6% drop-off in voter participation, and a 25% drop-off in counties like Garfield.

Counties that did print a voters’ pamphlet had half the drop-off: Pierce 6.3%, King 7.9% and Snohomish 6.9%.

These are not just numbers and percentages. They are voters. They represent Washington State voters who did not have enough information to participate. This is simply unacceptable.

We extend our thanks to Kathleen Drew for taking the time to talk with us.


One Comment

  1. Posted November 4th, 2012 at 12:59 PM | Permalink

    I think that Kathleen Drew is the right choice for the Secretary position.