by James Hearne
The visit was part of a 45-campus tour across Washington, and it coincided with the end of Whatcom’s “Civics Week,” which featured activities such as voter registration and political trivia quizzes.
This was not the first such tour Reed has undertaken, though it is certainly the largest. It’s also his last visit as Secretary of State. Reed announced he will be retiring at the end of the current term, his third. He will not be seeking reelection.
During an exclusive interview with the Horizon, Reed said that he believes the reason for such low turnout is that younger voters have not yet made a connection to their community. “They think, ‘Who are these candidates; why should I care?’” he said. “Part of my job, in my view, is making that connection.”
College aged students have always displayed low turnout rates and higher levels of voter apathy. The U.S. Census shows that only 31 percent of voters aged 18-24 filled out ballots during the 2010 election, compared with at least 47 percent for all other age groups.
Over his 12 year career, Reed has accrued plenty of accomplishments under his belt. One of the ones he is most proud of is keeping Washington’s open primary system, which is where a voter does not have to be a registered member of a political party to vote in that party’s primary. There were numerous attempts to challenge that policy, and it was taken all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which voted to uphold the open primary.
“It fits in with the political culture of our state,” Reed said.
Another accomplishment of his administration was the handling of the 2004 gubernatorial recount between Republican Dino Rossi and Democrat Christine Gregoire. Reed tried to approach the matter in a fair, impartial manner. “I hope I set a standard for being very transparent,” he said.
Is he concerned about the comparisons to the Florida presidential recount fiasco in 2000? Reed chuckled and said that, at first, he didn’t make the connection. “I was the county auditor in Olympia for years, and I had overseen eight recounts during my time,” he said. “It was just business as usual to me.”
There are, however, things that Reed said he feels he is leaving undone.
The Washington state library is without a home. In addition to overseeing elections, the office of Secretary of State also presides over the state archives and library. Currently, these materials are stored in a building in Tumwater.
“We need a new building,” Reed said. “There’s nowhere that people can learn about Washington State history.”
Reed said that there was a bond, passed in 2007, for the opening of a new building, but that was turned upside down when the bond market crashed in 2008. “It was just bad timing,” Reed said.
Reed has visited high schools and even military bases to try to encourage young voter turnout, and he recommends that his successor, whoever it will be, continues to reach young people. “Keep getting out there and meeting young people,” he said.
“Be a cheerleader,” he added with a laugh.
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