I. In Focus This Week
A Profile: Washington Secretary of State Sam Reed
After 12 years, Reed set to retire at end of term in Jan. 2013
By M. Mindy Moretti
Washington’s Sam Reed isn’t spending his last few months in office resting on his laurels.
After 12 years overseeing elections for the State of Washington and before that running elections for 20 years in Thurston County, Reed is preparing to retire at the end of his term in January 2013.
But before that, he’s got a lot to get done.
Besides overseeing a smorgasbord of local, state, federal and special elections, Reed has also embarked on his final college civics tour — an endeavor that has the 70-year-old visiting 45 Washington college campuses throughout the spring.
“The college civics tour is always fun for me and students, and it’s a great way to help get them more interesting in voting and being involved,” Reed said in a press release. “I really look forward to visiting campuses across the state.”
In addition to the annual college civics tour, during his tenure Reed oversaw the implementation of the state’s new top-two primary system, helped the entire state transition to a vote-by-mail state, and was honored with a Gonzaga Law Medal for his handling of the 2004 gubernatorial race.
Reed wasn’t just active in Washington elections, but also in the field of elections nationwide. He is a past president of the National Association of Secretaries of State and served as an advisor to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission.
“Sam Reed is, in my opinion, the model of what a Secretary of State should be: a thoughtful source for new ideas, a firm and steady voice for nonpartisanship and integrity and, above all, a friend and ally both to voters and to the women and men who conduct elections across his state – and across the nation,” said Doug Chapin, director, Program for Excellence in Election Administration Humphrey School of Public Affairs, University of Minnesota “He will be missed but I am grateful for his service and for the legacy he leaves to the profession of election administration.”
ElectionlineWeekly caught up with Secretary Reed for a quick Q&A before he had to head off to another college visit.
After 12 years in office, you’ll be retiring in January. Why now? Why did you choose not to run again?
It has been such a deep honor and privilege to work for more than 40 years in a field I love, but it is time for me to have more flexibility in terms of my service and to spend more time with my family. Also, after 12 years, it is time for new ideas and a fresh face in the Office of Secretary of State. I wish my successor well, and know these will be amazing years ahead, as the new Secretary builds on the reforms and successes we have built together in this state, Republicans and Democrats and independents.
What would you say has been the biggest change you have seen in elections during your tenure?
In a state that is home to Microsoft and many high-tech companies, we’ve been called America’s most “wired” state and I really have experienced that in connection with the administration of elections and the explosion of really good, convenient voter information that is available at the click of a mouse. Technology has changed how we do business – and for the better. We have a wonderful Voter Registration Database that we can scrub regularly. We have amazing online voter resources, including digital and video voters’ guides, and people enjoy registering online, by mail and visiting our personalized voter vault we call MyVote. We are crosschecking voter registrations across state lines, and we have other improvements up our sleeve – including a cool partnership of our state with Facebook and Microsoft to drive more people to our voter registration website. Eventually, I would think we’ll see online voting, once the process is secure and accountable.
How we vote has also changed over the course of the last decade. We have switched entirely to vote-by-mail, and it is quite popular. We also pioneered a “Top 2 Primary” that has been adopted by California voters and spurred interest in other states.
What was the most difficult time/issue you faced during your tenure?
Easily, the biggest challenge was the 2004 gubernatorial recount after the closest finish in our state history – 133 votes – and two recounts, followed by an election challenge that lasted half a year! The election was upheld, but the close scrutiny uncovered myriad shortcomings that needed attention. We used this as a huge “teachable moment” and implemented bipartisan reform – over 1,000 changes in legislation and administrative code.
What do you feel was your greatest accomplishment and why?
I am very proud of our office and our county election departments working so diligently to restore voter confidence that was battered in the 2004 election. At the end of the day, people say they will remember the integrity of this office and that we did not once play partisan politics with election administration. That was really a remarkable period of our state’s modern political history.
I also am very proud that we were able to achieve a wide-open primary process that the people want. After the blanket primary was thrown out, we were able to work with the Legislature and with a voter initiative to create a similar Top 2 process that I recommend to all states. We went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court to preserve the Top 2 and got a 7-2 opinion. Likewise we got a strong Supreme Court ruling on “Doe v. Reed” that was a landmark public records case that upheld our belief that initiative petitions are releasable public records. We struck a blow for transparency in government.
Is there anything specific that you still hope to accomplish as secretary of state before leaving office in January?
As part of my “farewell tour,” I am stressing civility, moderation and civic engagement. I find that audiences are hungry for a message that takes issue with the strident, nasty politics that seem to have gripped Congress and infected some of our legislatures. People want problem-solvers to get serious, and to leave campaign rhetoric and vilification behind when it comes time to govern.
I have high hopes for an excellent 2012 election cycle, with record registration and turnout quite possible in our state. We may vote on gay marriage, marijuana decriminalization, and tax limits, all on one ballot. We have big turnover in Congress, statewide offices and legislative races, so there will be a generational feel to the election. People are really engaged, and that’s very good.
I also plan to continue promoting a new Washington State Heritage Center on our Capitol Campus that will bring together the State Archives, State Library, an education center, and exhibits that will describe our amazing political process and rich heritage. That will give us some context for when we have elections and choose our leaders.
What will you miss most about being secretary of state?
I have to say that I have thoroughly enjoyed public service and dealing with all of the public policy issues, all the players and the process, the citizens and citizen engagement, legislators, the news media, the other Secretaries of State, the County Auditors who run the elections, and all the rest. As an old political science grad from Washington State University, I have really enjoyed that part of it – never a dull moment!
As an expert in the field of elections, where do you see the administration of elections going in this country?
I think we will continue to see this trend of everything being electronic and digital, including online voting some day. I don’t know how long that will take, but I think it will happen.
I also think we will continue to see decentralization of election administration, with the role of state and local government growing.
What’s next for you, besides being able to sleep in on election day?
I plan to stay involved in my community and my state, as a “senior statesman,” working on non-profit boards and commissions, doing a bit of writing, maybe teaching and speaking, and definitely I’ll be talking about civility, civic involvement and political moderation. I hope to mentor candidates. And I really look forward to spending more time with my wife, Margie, and my grandsons and the rest of the family. I am curious to see what the next stage of my life looks like! I’m in great health and, right now I’m feeling very, very grateful and content.
Editor’s Note: In the coming weeks electionlineWeekly will also profile Missouri’s Robin Carnahan who chose not to seek reelection after two terms as the Show Me State’s top elections official.
II. Election News This Week
- Louisiana Secretary of State Tom Schedler testified before a state Senate committee last week expressing concerns about the impacts proposed changes to the state’s pension system would have on voting in Louisiana. Schedler testified that about a dozen top officials in his office are eligible for retirement and, according to the Times-Picayune, at least five have told him they will retire if the proposed changes become law. “These jobs are not jobs that I could train someone to do in 60 or 90 days,” Schedler told the paper. Without experienced employees working the election, Louisiana elections could become as notorious as Florida’s did in 2000, he said. Among the employees who may retire include the worker responsible for handling the creation of ballots and employees responsible for programming voting machines.
- According to consultants hired by the DuPage County, Ill. board, the county’s election commission needs to operate in a more open and efficient way. According to the Sun-Times, the consultants recommended much closer oversight of the commission’s purchasing practices. “We’re not talking about the accuracy of election results. We’re talking about internal operations,” County Board Chairman Dan Cronin told the paper. Election officials, Cronin said, initially questioned the county’s authority to demand information from the commission, which receives its funding through the County Board. The consultants told the board documentation confirming proper procurement rules were followed was lacking in all but one of the 13 contracts the firm examined as part of its assessment. In a statement, members of the election board stressed that their organization is independent and bipartisan, designed to function “shielded from the day-to-day political winds of the central county government” — and noted that they have succeeded in conducting accurate, fair elections.
- Texas State Attorney General Greg Abbott’s office inadvertently released the Social Security numbers of millions of Lone Star voters to lawyers on the opposing side in the voter ID case. Abbott’s office claims that the numbers were never released to the public and were always password protected.
- Primary Follow-Up: Five states — Connecticut, Delaware, New York, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island — held primary contests this week. With the GOP presidential nomination all but sewn up and few hotly contested local races, turnout was low in all five states. The low turnout gave officials in Pennsylvania and Rhode Island an opportunity to ease into each state’s new voter ID laws. In the Keystone State, it was a dry run before it becomes law in advance of the November election. In the Ocean State, where the law is officially in place, officials reported that only about 25 people failed to have the proper ID at the polls. And even though the surprise spring snowstorm didn’t seem to cause any problems at the polls, the day wasn’t completely without cause for concern. Early Tuesday morning there was a shooting near a polling place in Chester, Pa.
- Personnel News: Northampton County, Va. General Registrar Theresa A. Wiser has officiated over her last election. Wiser, on the job since 1999, will retire at the end of June. Stephen Graves, a system analyst for the New York City board of elections has resigned following accusations of soliciting $25,000 from a voting machine company. Former Sumner County, Tenn. Administrator of Elections Darleen McDougal will not face criminal charges. She had been accused of sabotaging her office — including deleting important files — after she was fired in November. R. Gene Smith has joined the Campbell County, Va. electoral board. After 12 years in office, Bay County, Fla. Supervisor of Elections Mark Anderson has decided not to seek re-election. In a press release, Anderson said he wants to “move on to other things.” Long-time Bowie, Md. Clerk Pamela Fleming retired this week after 41 years on the job. A year after announcing plans to retire and become a full-time grandmother, Volusia County, Fla. Supervisor of Elections Ann McFall is back in the race.
- In Memoriam: Longtime Lisbon, Conn. Democratic Registrar of voters Ivy Mathers died this week. She was 86. Mathers was one of the town’s longest serving employees serving as the registrar since the mid-1960s. “She knew the Connecticut statutes and election laws as good as anyone I’ve ever met,” Mary Grant, Republican registrar of voters told The Bulletin. “She always did everything right to the letter of the law. Everything was done with perfection.”
III. Research and Report Summaries
electionline provides brief summaries of recent research and reports in the field of election administration. Please e-mail links to research to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Legislative Action Bulletin – National Conference of State Legislatures, April 23, 2012: This update summarizes state legislation related to candidate qualifications and voter ID.
Alaska: Special investigator
Colorado: Voter ID
District of Columbia: Nonpartisan primaries
Georgia: Voter fraud
Illinois: Election system
Michigan: Budget cuts
Minnesota: Hidden costs of voting
Montana: New website
New Hampshire: Voter ID
New York: Polling places
Ohio: Bulky ballots
Oregon: Kate Brown
Virginia: Voter ID
Wisconsin: Waukesha County
Wyoming: Rural polling places
**Some sites may require registration.
V. Job Openings
electionlineWeekly publishes election administration job postings each week as a free service to our readers. To have your job listed in the newsletter, please send a copy of the job description, including a web link to email@example.com. Job postings must be received by 5pm on Wednesday in order to appear in the Thursday newsletter. Listings will run for three weeks or till the deadline listed in the posting.
Computer Engineer, U.S. Election Assistance Commission, Washington, D.C. — incumbent will assist with and consult on technical reviews, and is directly responsible for assisting with and consulting on technical reviews of documentation submitted by manufacturers and test labs during the testing of voting systems applying for EAC certification. This includes review of (1) Technical Data Packages, (2) Test Plans, and (3) Test Reports. In addition, the EAC will work with the laboratories as they develop test methods and specific test cases for manufacturer specific electronic voting systems. Reviews shall ensure that a plan was in place to properly test each voting system to the applicable voting system standards, that these test were properly performed and documented, and that the test results demonstrate conformance with applicable voting system standards. As the employee develops expertise in this area, he/she may also be tasked with serving as the EAC program manager for specific voting system test engagements. Experience in: computer architecture, testing methodologies and network principles; technical standards and standards sett; voting system testing and/or election administration practices. Salary: $59,383-$91,801. Application: For the complete job listing and how to apply, click here. Deadline: April 30, 2012.
Elections Supervisor, Marion County, Salem, Ore. — administers and directs all functions relating to elections including: Voter registration; candidacy filings; ballot preparation; voting; vote tally; jurisdictional mapping; petition management; publications; reporting statistics to the Secretary of State; community outreach; community education; customer service; and budgeting. This position reports to the Marion County Clerk and is responsible for the supervision of all employees within the Elections division, including regular clerical and technical personnel, temporary employees, and Election Board members. Supervisory duties include hiring; training; planning, assigning and reviewing work; conducting performance evaluations; and responding to disciplinary issues. Salary: $4,194.67 – $5,622.93 Monthly. For job announcement and online application, click here. Deadline: This recruitment will remain open until filled. Applicants are encouraged to apply as soon as possible as this recruitment may close at any time, without further notice.