Secretary of State candidates visit Vancouver

The two candidates vying to replace Secretary of State Sam Reed discussed Clark County’s low voter turnout in the Aug. 7 primary, as well as the lack of a printed statewide voters’ pamphlet, during a visit on Tuesday afternoon with The Columbian’s editorial board.

Republican Kim Wyman and Democrat Kathleen Drew both said they want to make sure a statewide voters’ pamphlet is sent to voters before a primary election. The lack of a statewide primary guide embedded within the voters’ pamphlet for Clark County elections created confusion for some voters.

It was especially unhelpful for those voters who lacked computer skills and could not access the online statewide voters’ guide.

The primary elections are “the most confusing” time for voters, Drew said. “There’s the people running for judge, the seven candidates for secretary of state,” for example.

The Secretary of State’s office cited a lack of money as the reason it would not send out a primary elections guide.

“It’s a budgetary challenge, and it’s also one of a willingness to really make it happen,” Wyman said. She added that the secretary of state should work with lawmakers to ensure the $1.2 million needed to print the guide is available.

Low voter turnout

Also during the editorial board meeting, Drew pointed out that Clark County had the lowest voter turnout in the Aug. 7 primary, when compared with any other county in the state. About 30 percent of registered voters cast a ballot in the primary.

To increase voter participation, Drew proposed allowing voter registration on the same day as an election, allowing 16 and 17 year olds to preregister to vote, and to put voter drop boxes on college campuses.

Also, Drew said, “I would work with people in the community to try and … come up with specific types of policies that might help.”

Wyman said she was cautious about the same-day voter registration idea, as well as the idea to preregister teens for voting. Wyman suggested using Facebook and other online methods to motivate 18-year-olds to register to vote.

“This is entering a time in their life where they are most mobile,” Wyman said. “They’re going off to college. They got their first job and they’re moving out of their parents’ house. I’m not sure how valuable the (voter registration) data (for 16 and 17 year olds) will be at that point.”

Drew responded: “I don’t know very many people whose kids go far away to college, and when they do, they register to vote at home.”

Politics, visitor center

The two candidates also debated about how politically open a secretary of state should be. Wyman said she doesn’t believe it’s appropriate to discuss her stances on social issues, such as same sex marriage or abortion, while Drew, a former state senator, said she believes making her opinions known is a good way to be transparent.

The two agreed that Washington’s laws about voter identification do not need to be made more strict, but they disagreed about the proposed Heritage Center on the capitol campus.

“That project needs to get back on track, and it’s been sidelined for funding reasons,” Wyman said. “We need that for our kids.”

But Drew said now is not the time to build the center.

“I think we’re still fiscally hurt at the state level,” Drew said. She added that she would like to see the project completed in the future, but right now, it isn’t right to spend “millions of dollars on a brand new building so that we have a good visitor’s center.”

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