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. 

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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