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The following is presented as part of The Columbian’s Opinion content, which offers a point of view in order to provoke thought and debate of civic issues. Opinions represent the viewpoint of the author. Unsigned editorials represent the consensus opinion of The Columbian’s editorial board, which operates independently of the news department.

In Our View: Reelect Kim Wyman as secretary of state

The Columbian
Published: September 23, 2020, 6:03am

Perhaps the biggest selling point for Kim Wyman’s campaign to be reelected as Washington’s secretary of state is her list of endorsements. The Columbian’s Editorial Board joins that list in recommending that Wyman be elected to a third term as the state’s top elections official.

As always, this is merely a recommendation designed to generate discussion. The Columbian trusts that voters will study the candidates and the issues before casting an informed ballot.

In Wyman, voters will find a Republican candidate who has bipartisan support from the people who best know what her job entails. Three former Washington secretaries of state have endorsed her (all Republicans). So has a Democratic former secretary from Oregon. And so have sitting auditors in 24 of the state’s 39 counties, elected officials of all variety of political stripes; at the county level, auditors run elections.

The reason for that support is the admirable job Wyman has done during a particularly important time in American history. The 2016 presidential election faced coordinated attacks from foreign entities, and federal intelligence agencies have warned that attempts are being made again this year. Four years ago, state officials say, hackers attempted to infiltrate Washington’s election system but were rebuffed by the security system.

Adding to that concern are attempts in many states to suppress voter accessibility, including President Trump’s efforts to denigrate vote-by-mail. As Washington has demonstrated both before and during Wyman’s tenure, vote-by-mail can be safe and secure.

Wyman has become a national spokeswoman for vote-by-mail, making frequent appearances on national media to extoll its virtues. In the process, she has been an articulate advocate who generates trust from voters. As she told the editorial board during a recent interview, “What we do here in Washington really is a national model. … My job is to inspire confidence across the political spectrum, not just my party.”

That is an increasingly difficult job, with entities both foreign and domestic attempting to undermine that confidence. Challenger Gael Tarleton, a Democrat, effectively articulates that point and rightly sounds the alarm about election security.

“We need to protect our right to vote,” she told the board. “There are hostile parties who do not want to see our democracy endure.”

Tarleton’s credentials suggest that she would be an effective secretary of state. In the Voters’ Pamphlet, she writes, “I have 30 years of experience as a senior defense intelligence and national security analyst defending our country from attacks. I believe that this office needs a new type of leader to protect our election systems and voter information against current and emerging threats.” For the past eight years she has represented the 36th District (Seattle area) in the Legislature.

While Tarleton makes strong points, it is difficult to see why Wyman should be replaced. In 2018, Wyman’s office established a center to serve as a monitor and information-sharing service for all Washington counties; last year, the office created an Elections Security Operations Center that serves state and county elections officials.

Indeed, the role of secretary of state has changed in an era when cybersecurity is a primary concern. And Wyman has stayed at the forefront, maintaining the integrity she has demonstrated while overseeing 120 elections during 20 years as a county and then state election official.

The Columbian recommends that Kim Wyman be reelected as Washington’s secretary of state.