In Our View: Re-Elect Wyman

Republican Secretary of State has been effective, nonpartisan elections overseer

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When it comes to the race for Secretary of State, incumbent Republican Kim Wyman effectively boils down the issue: “The essential question in this election is, ‘Who do you trust to instill public confidence in elections?’ ” With more than 20 years as an election official at the county and state level — including the past four as Secretary of State — the resounding answer to that question is “Kim Wyman.”

The Columbian’s Editorial Board recommends that voters retain Wyman as the state’s top election official. As always, this is merely a recommendation; The Columbian trusts the ability and desire of voters to examine the issues and the candidates before making an informed decision.

In examining this race, the public will find that Wyman is an effective advocate for voters. While she is the only statewide elected Republican on the West Coast, she approaches the office in a nonpartisan manner — something that is essential for bolstering public trust in the process. It is notable that Wyman has endorsements from county election officials of both parties in all corners of the state (including Clark County Auditor Greg Kimsey). The people who know elections best support her re-election.

Wyman is being challenged by Tina Podlodowski, a former Microsoft manager and Seattle City Council member who is mounting an aggressive campaign. Podlodowski has some interesting ideas, but her repeated attempts to discredit Wyman eventually ring hollow. Rather than using a scattershot approach and hoping that some of her accusations hit their target, Podlodowski would be better served by targeted attacks built upon a solid factual foundation.

For example, during a meeting with the Editorial Board, she criticized the Secretary of State’s office for tweeting a link to a newspaper article about Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill Bryant, calling it a partisan and illegal use of the office. But Wyman’s office has sent out links to stories about Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee, something Podlodowski said she was not certain of.

Podlodowski also criticizes Wyman for declining voter turnout. Considering that turnout has been declining throughout the country, blaming Wyman for Washington’s voter turnout — which remains about average compared with other states — is both inaccurate and disingenuous.

Podlodowski also believes Washington should tie voter registration to driver’s licenses. But the issue is not that simple, as Washington does not require proof of citizenship for a driver’s license.

By dint of being a Republican in a state where Democrats dominate statewide elections, Wyman is facing a strong challenge. Podlodowski deserves credit for that, but any examination of the candidates’ qualifications leads to a conclusion that Wyman is the superior candidate. Washington’s voter rolls have expanded, and confidence in the system is strong. Meanwhile, Wyman provides a reasonable defense for her opposition to the 2012 Voting Rights Act that failed to pass the Legislature, and says she will work to create an updated version of the bill next year.

Realistically, the Secretary of State’s office should be nonpartisan; conducting elections is not a place for partisanship. But that is a discussion for another time. Meanwhile, Wyman has effectively acted as an independent, unbiased manager in overseeing the state’s elections, and she has earned another term in Olympia.