Elected officials shouldn't get to choose who gets to choose elected officials
Elected officials shouldn't get to choose who gets to choose elected officials

Incum­bent Repub­li­can Sec­re­tary of State Kim Wyman made it known this morn­ing that, if reelect­ed, she will be ask­ing the Leg­is­la­ture to enact leg­is­la­tion to at least par­tial­ly imple­ment the pri­va­cy-infring­ing fed­er­al “REAL ID” Act in order to “check for cit­i­zen­ship of peo­ple who want to reg­is­ter and vote in Washington”.

“Our pack­age is rea­son­able; it’s long over­due,” Wyman said in a news release. “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,” she added.

Demo­c­ra­t­ic chal­lenger Tina Pod­lodows­ki prompt­ly blast­ed Wyman’s announcement.

“Sec­re­tary of State Kim Wyman is show­ing her true par­ti­san Repub­li­can col­ors in an effort to score polit­i­cal points on vot­ing access issues,” Pod­lodows­ki said in response to Wyman’s announce­ment. “Like her party’s pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee, Don­ald Trump, she is inten­tion­al­ly inflam­ing anti-immi­grant sen­ti­ments by sug­gest­ing non-cit­i­zens are try­ing to vote in Wash­ing­ton State.”

“As a daugh­ter of two immi­grants who became nat­u­ral­ized cit­i­zens, I’m appalled by how low Kim Wyman is will­ing to stoop to try and paint immi­grants in Wash­ing­ton State as per­pet­u­a­tors of vot­er fraud, a con­tin­u­ing Repub­li­can nar­ra­tive in the 2016 elec­tion that is sim­ply not true. Shame on her.”

OneAm­er­i­ca’s Rich Stolz also strong­ly denounced Wyman’s posturing.

“We are appalled at Sec­re­tary Wyman’s Trump-style exploita­tion of the Burling­ton tragedy to win polit­i­cal points,” Stolz said in a state­ment sent to NPI. “With the Burling­ton inves­ti­ga­tion still under­way, and even after news reports had con­firmed that Arcan Cetin was in fact a cit­i­zen, Sec­re­tary Wyman this morn­ing announced pol­i­cy pro­pos­als tak­en out of the right-wing vot­er sup­pres­sion playbook.”

“As Sec­re­tary Wyman acknowl­edged her­self, the penal­ties for non-cit­i­zen vot­ing are severe — up to five years in prison, a $10,000 fine and like­ly deportation.”

“Instead of propos­ing poli­cies that weak­en our Democ­ra­cy by plac­ing unnec­es­sary bar­ri­ers between cit­i­zens and their right to vote, Wyman should focus on ensur­ing that the upcom­ing elec­tion revers­es the trend — under her lead­er­ship — of dwin­dling vot­er turnout,” Stolz added. (Analy­sis pub­lished by NPI shows that vot­er turnout has been con­sis­tent­ly falling dur­ing Wyman’s tenure as Sec­re­tary of State.)

The ACLU of Wash­ing­ton, which has long been a lead­ing advo­cate for the right to pri­va­cy in the Ever­green State, reg­is­tered its oppo­si­tion as well.

“The ACLU of Wash­ing­ton is dis­ap­point­ed in the Sec­re­tary of State’s pro­pos­al, which is a solu­tion look­ing for a prob­lem,” said Shankar Narayan, ACLU of Wash­ing­ton Tech­nol­o­gy and Project Direc­tor. “There is no cred­i­ble evi­dence of non-cit­i­zens vot­ing in Wash­ing­ton — such actions are already a felony in Wash­ing­ton and could lead to an indi­vid­ual being deport­ed. Rather than adding lay­ers of bureau­cra­cy that will deter legit­i­mate vot­ers or false­ly stig­ma­tiz­ing immi­grants, our pub­lic offi­cials should be mak­ing the bal­lot more, rather than less, accessible.”

“Com­man­deer­ing state dri­vers’ licens­es to become de fac­to nation­al ID cards is an expen­sive pro­pos­al that would rely on flawed fed­er­al data­bas­es. Doing so would not improve pub­lic safe­ty and would add need­less bur­den to the process of get­ting a license. Wash­ing­ton can do bet­ter than this flawed pol­i­cy,” Narayan commented.

Leg­is­la­tors have already been dis­cussing how and whether to respond to the Depart­ment of Home­land Secu­ri­ty’s lat­est man­u­fac­tured dead­lines for com­ply­ing with pro­vi­sions of the more than decade-old REAL ID Act.

“Bipar­ti­san work on REAL ID has been under­way in the Leg­is­la­ture for sev­er­al years – led by House Speak­er Frank Chopp, Demo­c­ra­t­ic Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Judy Clib­born and Repub­li­can Sen­a­tor Cur­tis King – with leg­is­la­tion already sched­uled to be intro­duced in the 2017 Ses­sion,” Pod­lodows­ki observed.

“The con­ver­sa­tion on REAL ID and Auto­mat­ic Vot­er Reg­is­tra­tion has been devel­op­ing with Wyman sit­ting on the side­lines. Only now, after a recent tragedy, is she step­ping for­ward to score polit­i­cal points.”

The afore­men­tioned tragedy is the mass mur­der of five peo­ple at Cas­cade Mall in Burling­ton: Sarai Lara (16), Chuck Eagan (61), Belin­da Galde (64), Beat­rice Dot­son (95), Galde’s moth­er, and Shay­la Mar­tin (52). In the wake of the shoot­ing, news media ques­tioned whether sus­pect­ed per­pe­tra­tor Arcan Cetin (who has con­fessed to the mur­ders) was in fact an Amer­i­can citizen.

In our view, Wyman and her team inap­pro­pri­ate­ly used Cetin’s ter­ri­ble crime and the report­ing sur­round­ing it as fod­der for their news release.

The release quotes Wyman is saying:

“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 issue does­n’t have any­thing to do with what hap­pened in Burlington.

NPI believes our response to Wash­ing­ton’s declin­ing vot­er turnout needs to include elim­i­nat­ing bar­ri­ers to vot­ing, not cre­at­ing new ones.

Wyman’s news release today improp­er­ly con­flates sev­er­al issues — specif­i­cal­ly, the fed­er­al gov­ern­men­t’s man­u­fac­tured REAL ID dead­lines and Wash­ing­ton’s response, the accu­ra­cy and integri­ty of the state’s vot­er rolls, and what needs to be done to effec­tive­ly imple­ment auto­mat­ic vot­er registration.

Wyman’s call for “cit­i­zen­ship checks” sounds akin to a pho­to iden­ti­fi­ca­tion scheme for Wash­ing­ton State. Wash­ing­ton is most­ly vote by mail, with only a few acces­si­ble vot­ing cen­ters, so Repub­li­cans can’t argue we need a law that would require vot­ers to present cer­tain forms of pho­to ID at polling places.

But Kim Wyman is now argu­ing that “elec­tion admin­is­tra­tors” like her need to be able to ver­i­fy if a vot­er is in fact a citizen.

Why? As far as the rights of nat­ur­al per­sons are con­cerned, guilty until proven inno­cent is incom­pat­i­ble with the val­ues our coun­try was found­ed on.

Our ini­tial response to hear­ing this pro­pos­al was to ask some ques­tions, namely:

  1. Which pro­vi­sions of the REAL ID Act of 2005 are you propos­ing to com­ply with? (The law has a trou­bled his­to­ry and its imple­men­ta­tion is very incom­plete, hav­ing been repeat­ed­ly delayed.)
  2. What is the estimated/approximate cost of your pro­posed legislation?
  3. How will it be paid for?
  4. Are you actu­al­ly prepar­ing a draft of agency request leg­is­la­tion, or are you going to defer to part­ner leg­is­la­tors to work on that?
  5. What do you say to those who con­tend full adoption/implementation of REAL ID could vio­late the con­sti­tu­tion­al rights guar­an­teed to Wash­ing­to­ni­ans by the Wash­ing­ton State Constitution?

Wyman’s staff did not offer answers to these ques­tions, except to say that Wyman antic­i­pates work­ing with Judy Clib­born and Cur­tis King, the respec­tive cur­rent chairs of the House and Sen­ate Trans­porta­tion Com­mit­tees, on this legislation.

(That’s assum­ing that vot­ers pre­serve the sta­tus quo in Olympia. The par­ties are bat­tling furi­ous­ly for con­trol over both cham­bers. Repub­li­cans’ hopes of win­ning both have large­ly fad­ed, while Democ­rats are embold­ened about expand­ing their House major­i­ty and elect­ing a major­i­ty in the Sen­ate as well.)

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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