The statewide guide is available online via the agency’s site at www.vote.wa.gov. The lack of a printed primary guide is the rule, not the norm, and it is a “big frustration,” retiring Secretary of State Sam Reed says.
“We’ve taken a request to the Legislature almost every year since I’ve been secretary of state. With one exception … they denied” the request, Reed says.
The one exception was in 2008 when the state was switching from a nominating primary system to the “top two” runoff system and lawmakers agreed to put in the money, Reed said.
But after asking for funding in other election cycles and getting rebuffed, Reed said he did not ask for funding to pay for a printed guide this year – figuring it would not get funded in tough times if it wasn’t funded during good economic times. His office has estimated the cost of a printed guide would be about $1 million.
Kathleen Drew, an Olympia Democrat and one of six candidates hoping to replace Reed as secretary of state, has seized this as a campaign issue. She says Reed failed to ask for funding from the Legislature this year, and like other candidates she says she will make this a priority if elected.
“First of all I’d present it to the Legislature, which didn’t happen this year. Second, I would present it as a priority in the budget,” Drew said last week. Drew also put out a statement last week saying she was outraged the guide was being eliminated – a bit of a stretch, given that the guide is so rarely printed.
That said, voters in Thurston County are getting a local voter guide in the mail in July – printed by the county Auditor’s Office, according to Auditor Kim Wyman.
Like Drew, Wyman is running for secretary of state to replace Reed, who is retiring after three terms. Wyman is a Republican. Also running are Democrats state Sen. Jim Kastama of Puyallup and former Seattle mayor Greg Nickels; Human Rights Party candidate Sam Wright of Olympia; Constitution Party candidate Karen Murray of Quincy, and David J. Anderson of Olympia, who lists no party preference.
Wyman said she shares the belief that voters need more information in primaries. That is why she says she looked into printing candidate statements for all statewide races and courts in her county guide. But the cost for her pamphlet would have doubled – from about $19,739 to nearly $40,000.
This year’s printed primary guide is to cover local Superior Court judicial races in addition to candidates for the 22nd Legislative District that is fully contained in Thurston County, and county offices.
That said, Wyman is going to print copies of the statements from candidates for statewide offices and make them available to anyone who asks. For details or to get those printouts, call the county elections office at 360-786-5408.
“Folks that don’t have access to the Internet can contact our office. … We realize there is a group of people that don’t have access to the Internet,” Wyman explained. “We’ve always kind of done that as a backup for our customers. It works well. We won’t get a lot of requests for it.”
The printed local-primary guide has been mailed to voters in Thurston County since Reed was county auditor in the 1986. The local guide typically covers local races for jurisdictions located entirely inside Thurston County. After it became clear in past years that the state would not print its own primary guide, Wyman expanded it in 2010 to include some legislative races but not congressional – which drew criticism at the time for not being more expansive.
The printed Thurston County voter guides go into the mail next month and homeowners should start getting them around July 12.
Wyman’s office also has an online guide – via thurstonvotes.org – for those who want to look up local candidates sooner, according to assistant county elections manager Lynette Thornton.
If elected to the state elections job, Wyman said she will definitely do more. “That is one of my priorities, to find the resources to print a statewide voter pamphlet,” she said.
Drew said she also would have done more – specifically asking the Legislature to fund the pamphlets. She noted that despite Wyman’s efforts to put out a localized county guide, other jurisdictions – including Pierce, King, Snohomish and Kitsap counties – are putting out a printed primary guide that includes statewide candidates.
“Every other county that is doing a primary voters guide is doing the statewide (election),” Drew said.
This year’s primary is two weeks earlier than ever, thanks to a reform passed by lawmakers in 2011 to provide more time between elections for the purpose of sending and receiving overseas ballots.
Ballots for the Aug. 7 primary go to the post office July 18 and should start hitting mailboxes from July 19-21.Brad Shannon: 360-753-1688 email@example.com www.theolympian.com/politicsblog @BradShannon2