Oct 25, 2022
On this midweek show, Crystal chats with Julie Anderson about her campaign for Washington Secretary of State - why she decided to run, how partisanship affects the office, and the experience she brings to manage the Secretary of State’s broad portfolio. With regard to managing elections, they discuss her plans to increase voter turnout, her stance and approach to local jurisdictions potentially adopting alternative systems such as ranked choice voting, and how to handle misinformation that creates mistrust in our elections. Crystal then gives Julie an opportunity to respond to the many attacks from her detractors before switching gears to dig into her thoughts on managing the state archives - both preserving historical records and ensuring that the Public Records Act is administered efficiently and effectively.
As always, a full text transcript of the show is available below and at officialhacksandwonks.com.
Campaign Website - Julie Anderson
[00:00:00] Crystal Fincher: Welcome to Hacks & Wonks. I'm Crystal Fincher, and I'm a political consultant and your host. On this show, we talk with policy wonks and political hacks to gather insight into local politics and policy in Washington State through the lens of those doing the work with behind-the-scenes perspectives on what's happening, why it's happening, and what you can do about it. Full transcripts and resources referenced in the show are always available at officialhacksandwonks.com and in our episode notes.
Well, I am very excited to be welcoming to the show - Julie Anderson, who is a candidate for Secretary of State, which is one of the most important and consequential offices in the state and going to be up for election on your November ballot. Welcome, Julie.
[00:00:55] Julie Anderson: Thank you, Crystal - and thanks for acknowledging that the Secretary of State's office is really important. It's nice to meet somebody who's excited about picking leadership for the important office. That's - thank you.
[00:01:07] Crystal Fincher: Absolutely. So what made you decide to run for Secretary of State?
[00:01:12] Julie Anderson: Well, I certainly wasn't expecting to do this in 2022 - but definitely the importance of the office. I'm one of the end users of the office - the Secretary of State is my authorizing agency and leader for elections on the county level and also for document recording - so it's an important office to me and I know it's important to the other 38 counties as well. So when Kim picked up and left, I jumped right in. And I was also inspired to do it because I wanted, I saw this as an opportunity to make a shift in the office and run as a Nonpartisan and to hopefully create a little bit of an air bubble in the office and normalize the idea of hiring professional election administrators who aren't associated with the political party. So that's why I'm running.
[00:02:10] Crystal Fincher: And that has been a difference this cycle that we've seen - just that people are not familiar with. This office has been held by a Republican for several years, the only statewide office that was previously held by a Republican. With the appointment of former Senator Hobbs to now being Secretary Hobbs, which - a lot of people were advocating for your appointment in that seat, citing your experience for that - but he is there and a Democrat. But you have decided to run as an Independent. Why do you think being Independent is so important to the office? And do you think that we've suffered from having it be a partisan office in the past?
[00:02:53] Julie Anderson: One quick thing - I'm making a real point of calling myself Nonpartisan rather than Independent - because as you've noticed in Chris Vance's race, he calls himself an Independent and he has designs on creating an independent third party. I have no designs on creating a group or a party and - I don't have a group - so I am literally nonpartisan. Have we suffered by having partisans in that office before? I think that we've been really lucky with Sam Reed and Kim Wyman taking the job very seriously and performing the job in a nonpartisan fashion. I do think, however, that their party affiliation dragged some unnecessary drama into the office and made their work more difficult. It is a political office and so the opposing team is always looking for a way to knock you off at the end of your term, and is always positioning to put their best candidate forward doing that. So there's always a little jockeying around depriving the incumbent of oxygen and victories so that they're less credible whenever they run for re-election. And then in the electorate, there is also skepticism because we live in an increasingly hyper-polarized political environment, people are just naturally suspicious of somebody that holds a political party that they don't belong to. So those are two reasons why I think that partisanship in this job does not help or add value to the work. And I don't think that having a party affiliation does add value to the policy work or the operations of the office.
[00:04:38] Crystal Fincher: Now you have talked a lot about the experience that you bring to this office should you be elected. Can you talk about what your experience has been as Pierce County Auditor and how you feel it's going to be beneficial as Secretary of State?
[00:04:51] Julie Anderson: Sure. So for over 12 years - 13 in November - I've been the nonpartisan county auditor for Pierce County, which is our state's second largest county. Which means I've conducted hundreds of elections in Washington State and have also presided over a recording document program - making recording documents, preserving them, and making them accessible to the public - and then also business registry and licensing. So with that experience, I'm familiar from the bottom up with Washington State's votewa.gov election management system because my team was part of, really, building it along with other lead counties and obviously the Secretary of State's office. I sat on the Executive Steering Committee while that was under development and when it launched and went live in 2019. So having that background, I think helps, puts me in a position to better help the county auditors and the election administrators using that system. It also helps me to design and implement policy proposals for the Legislature to consider since I know how the system works. And it also puts me in a position for visioning how to modernize the office, what the needs are to go the next step, and where the gaps are. And when we're talking about elections - where the gaps are specifically - we don't have a lot of residual gains left to make in Washington State, but the ones that we do need to make are going to be the most difficult and challenging. And I think that's where experience matters.
[00:06:33] Crystal Fincher: It absolutely matters - and it matters for more than just the elections too. The elections are certainly the most visible part of what the Secretary of State does, but it has such a broad portfolio of responsibilities. And just recapping those briefly for people who may be unfamiliar. In addition to supervising local elections, filing and verifying initiatives and referenda, and distributing the Voters' Pamphlets - also responsible for registering private corporations, limited partnerships and trademarks; registering individuals and organizations, and commercial fundraisers involved in charitable solicitations; administering the state's Address Confidentiality program, which is critically important for survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking - so very important too, public safety really - collecting and preserving the historical records of the state and making those records available for research; coordinating implementation of the state's records management laws, which are constantly in the news for one reason or another; affixing the state's seal; regulating use of the seal; filing and attesting to official acts of the governor; certifying what the Legislature does; and sometimes even called upon to represent the state in international trade and cultural missions and greeting dignitaries. There's so much under that umbrella, each of which seems like it could potentially be its own office really, but so broad. How has your experience as an auditor helped to prepare you for the full portfolio of what you're going to be managing if you're elected to be Secretary of State?
[00:08:07] Julie Anderson: I would say it's auditor plus my whole professional portfolio. So I come with public and nonprofit leadership experience in human services, criminal justice, and economic development. I was notably the Executive Director of the YWCA in Tacoma-Pierce County, so that speaks to the sensitivity and understanding of the Address Confidentiality Program, and I can tell you how I would apply that to expand that program. And then in economic development, I was a Senior Policy Advisor for the State Department of Commerce, where my portfolio included workforce development and developing a green economy and also innovation zones. But that body of work in the public and nonprofit sector means that I'm really tuned into the importance of community, and the unique conditions in community, and understanding that I have to have a partnership in community to do any of those things well. A top-down management model or staying isolated in that executive position is not going to make the organization better or better connected with the citizens and residents of Washington. And we don't just serve citizens, we serve the residents of Washington State. So I think that my community connections and my work on the 2020 census, for example, I have some great ideas about how to engage community in each of those programs, whether it's talking about voter turnout, access for people living with disabilities, or how we are talking about curating the heritage and history of Washington State to make sure that we don't disappear people and cultures and make sure that we're doing culturally relevant screening of our collection and portfolio and working in partnership with community to do that.
[00:10:04] Crystal Fincher: So now you mentioned voter engagement and turnout - you've talked on a few occasions about efforts to increase voter registration, and increasing voter registration is not necessarily consistent with increasing voter turnout. What do you propose to do to increase voter turnout, to increase the amount of people who are participating in our government and democracy, making their voices heard? And how are you going to go about that?
[00:10:32] Julie Anderson: Well, it's my belief that election administrators are facilitators, not catalysts. And looping back to community, I'm going to leverage community a lot. For example, I think you have to pay attention, first of all, to data and trends. We know that the four-year election cycle has really unique peaks and valleys that are pretty darn predictable. In a presidential election cycle, we probably don't need a lot of help with getting the word out. But in these off-year elections and in local elections, we need a tremendous amount of help because that's when voter turnout is the lowest.
One of the things that I would propose doing is partnering with local government and with schools to focus on municipal elections and pooling resources and having - the Secretary of State can certainly provide materials and infrastructure, but the execution of how that gets delivered in a community is going to be unique in every community. But I can see municipalities all focusing their energy on a one-week period where we're getting voters prepared to vote, getting them to develop a plan, and helping them if they need reminding about what their local government does for them and with them. And then partnering with schools in that same one-week period where you're doing some education in schools about local government and then challenging kids to go home and talk to their parents about the election, so they can have a dinner table, a kitchen table conversation about it. So there's concentrated energy in just one week, it's hyper-localized - because strategies that are going to work in Asotin County is going to be completely different than King County - and locals know best. So I see myself as being a facilitator and having local communities tell the Secretary of State how I can help. But at least laying out a plan and applying some leadership to get everybody pulling in one direction, concentrating on one week, I think would be helpful.
You have probably visited my website and you also know that I plan a VOICE Program, which is Voter Outreach and Innovative Civic Engagement, where I'd be replicating some really successful strategies from the 2020 Census, pooling philanthropic dollars with government dollars, and then having a very low-barrier granting program where communities can propose their own voter outreach and engagement programs. And again, I can't wait to see how creative people are, and it's going to get very - we're going to get some very niche products, but yeah.
So those are a couple of ideas, but I would say that the first thing is really paying attention to the data, not just the trends that I talked about - which elections have low turnout and don't - but also geography. One of the great things about the Washington State Voting Rights Act that has been proposed - we already have a Voting Rights Act, but what I think of as Phase 2 that's been proposed - is it came with money and authority for the University of Washington to hold data and they're going to be getting electoral inputs, like candidate filing, rates of voter registration, rates of ballot return, and combining that with demographic data. And doing basically heat mapping and analysis so that we can also look at geographic areas and populations that have low voter turnout or low levels of engagement. So let's pay attention to the trends, let's pay attention to what that Washington State Voting Rights Act data tells us, and start developing strategies in response to that.
[00:14:28] Crystal Fincher: That makes sense, and the ideas that you have - especially that one week, I'd love to see that implemented - that would be exciting. There are also efforts to increase turnout through some structural changes to the ways that we vote, and there are changes that are on the ballot in several jurisdictions right now in our state, including ranked choice voting, approval voting, a number of different things. Are you in favor of ranked choice voting, approval voting, some of these changes? Do you support those?
[00:14:55] Julie Anderson: I support the local option bill for ranked choice voting that has been kicking around in the Legislature for about six years now, and I look forward to supporting local jurisdictions that want to adopt ranked choice voting. I think it is head and shoulders the leader in electoral reform proposals, and it seems to be particularly popular among young voters - and Gen Xers and Millennials are going to be the biggest share of the voting population by 2028 - if we're talking about increasing voter turnout, we've also got to look at youth and really change the way we talk with youth - not talk at them, and not using government channels. I look forward to harnessing some of that young adult leadership and having them tell us the best ways to engage with young voters, and one of the things that they're saying is ranked choice voting. There's a lot of disenchantment with our primary system, and I think that they're really looking for alternatives and wanting untraditional candidates and maybe minority party candidates to have a fighting chance in the primary. So I think they're excited about that, and if your community decides to take it on, I'm ready to support. There's a load of work to be done to make ranked choice voting successful, and there's a lot of rulemaking that falls on the Secretary of State, so one of the first things I'm going to do is gather together a cohort of communities that are seriously talking about this and start working on the rulemaking so that we have a chance of having some standardization as this rolls out.
[00:16:32] Crystal Fincher: Absolutely, and one component of that that I think is particularly important - I'm wondering what your perspective is on it - is the voter education component. Whenever there is a change - we struggle with our existing system to make sure everyone understands how to make sure that everyone understands how to vote, and even something like - hey, remember to sign the ballot - still slips through the cracks for a lot of people. Several things can seem very intuitive, but maybe not actually be for everyone for a lot of different reasons. When we're making a major change, the importance of education is that much greater. How do you propose, when there are changes, to make sure that we do have an adequate amount of voter education in all of our communities across the state so that people aren't intimidated or disenfranchised by the change?
[00:17:23] Julie Anderson: First, taking a clue with other states that have been doing this a while - I've been through several webinars and in-person visits with jurisdictions that do it. But instead of just copying what somebody else does, I want to do usability testing. Assume nothing. Let's get that cohort together, let's get stakeholders and end users together. Do mock ballots, do mock voter instructions. And actually test it through scientific usability testing and find out where the errors are going to be made and what we can do to change it. And that includes - ranked choice voting ballots that may need to be translated for people that don't speak English well, or different types of ranked choice voting - that's the other thing that's not well understood is - the local option doesn't force you to combine a primary and a general election and just have one election. It's an option. It also leaves open the opportunity for applying a ranked choice voting ballot and using proportional representation elections. There's all sorts of different ways that a ranked choice voting ballot can be applied depending on what the jurisdiction is trying to achieve. We need to do usability testing in all of those forms.
[00:18:44] Crystal Fincher: Looking at that and the coordination that's necessary for that, your opponent has talked about - hey, there's a lot of misinformation and disinformation out in the current environment. Now's not the time to make changes, we're experiencing enough of a crisis with trust from some people in our current systems - it's going to require a lot of education, may disenfranchise people. Do you think that's reason enough to not move forward with things that could potentially increase turnout or help better represent communities?
[00:19:17] Julie Anderson: Name a reform that didn't have opposition. Name a reform that didn't have barriers and reasons not to do it. Reform is hard in the beginning, and I think we need to have more confidence than that. We need to approach it carefully. We need to do that usability testing. We need to do lots of voter education. Tactically, one of the things that I would like to do - you've noticed on my website, one of the things I propose with transparency is - I want to find a secure way to have voted ballots and cast vote records visible to the public. Other states do it. There is a way to do it. We may need legislation - because paramount is preserving voter privacy, right? That goes without saying. We absolutely can't do it if we can't guarantee voter privacy. But if there is a way that we can, and I believe that there is, and if we can get rules made by the Secretary or legislative fixes, then making those available is really going to help demystify people who don't trust a ranked choice voting ballot and the algorithm that gets used to reallocate votes. If we can make cast vote records public, there is open source software available where they can run the records themselves and retest the vote allocation if they want to. So, I want to look at things like that not only because there is a lot of public interest in auditing elections, but because it also is an enabling feature to making ranked choice voting more understandable and independently auditable. And there is some really neat communication tools that other jurisdictions have used in terms of color coding the reallocation of votes between each round, and they've gotten good results.
[00:21:13] Crystal Fincher: And the issue of trust overall is one that you will have to contend with.
[00:21:17] Julie Anderson: Always.
[00:21:17] Crystal Fincher: We are dealing with an environment where there is certainly disinformation and people who are just spreading information that is false, whether it's denial of the 2020 election federally, or in our state and local elections, who question the security of vote by mail, of ballot dropboxes, of a variety of things that we have implemented successfully. And what they cite about them is false. That's a bad faith effort. But because of that bad faith effort, there are a lot of people who genuinely believe that there are problems - from all sorts of backgrounds, for all sorts of reasons. So how, in this environment where there is disinformation, do you help increase trust in our voting systems and our electoral system with people who frankly just don't have faith in it currently?
[00:22:13] Julie Anderson: First of all, not acting defensively, and not acting aggressively, and having a nonpartisan message. The best thing that we can do to maintain and increase confidence is to keep doing what we're doing, which is running error-free elections that are auditable and serve the people. We can do some minor things that I've suggested on my website for transparency. We can do additional risk-limiting audits. Doing a statewide risk-limiting audit, I think, is a good idea. We currently have audits in counties that are called by the political parties, but they're not statistically valid batches of ballots that are being hand counted, and every county is counting a different race. To the Loren Culps of the world, who are just mystified by how the top-of-the-ticket candidate could lose, while the down-ballot candidates prevail, a statewide risk-limiting audit would be really helpful. And by the way, I would be proposing this as a best practice, even if we weren't currently getting pushback from candidates and parties.
But to loop back to your question about confidence. Crystal, this is where I think that the nonpartisanship really helps. There's a good study out there that shows that you can, by double digits, move - and this is a phrase I do not like to use, but for shorthand's sake, let's say an election denier, somebody that really believes that the 2020 election was stolen. Even among that group, you can move them by double digits into the confidence tally by simply talking about the due process and the ability to challenge an election. Instead of acting aggressively and defensively about the accusation that it's stolen, just calmly educate them and inform them how elections can be challenged, the due process, how they can challenge individual voter registrations, and repeat how interested we are in any evidence that they have, and that we don't even need them to go to court for them to present us with evidence. I'm still waiting in Pierce County to get some of that canvassing work that the communities say - the door-to-door stuff that they're doing. They're not doing it in Pierce County, but I'm waiting for that because we can sit down and walk through the data with them. And almost always, it's a misconception of - either they're missing pieces that they don't know, or they're misinterpreting the data - and we can walk through it. And occasionally, I would expect to find a correct case. Occasionally, I would expect them to find, among 4.7 million voters and voter registrations, an error in a voter registration record - and we want to know about it and need help fixing it.
[00:25:30] Crystal Fincher: Now, you talk about it - that seems reasonable, that is encouraging data and research, and there's certainly a lot that we can talk to people about with that. And it does seem like not being a partisan may be helpful in explaining that - the trust and faith that people have there. But you've been under attack from the Chair of the Democratic Party over this past week. It looks like saying that - oh, no, no, no, Julie Anderson is a partisan, she is a Republican, has a - I will read it and allow you to respond. I see - testified against bills expanding voter accessibility, against election officials promoting voter outreach and education, office sent flawed ballots, takes no position on campaign finance laws, accountable to no one, have talked about having a consultant and campaign staff or consultants who are Republicans and have supported Republicans. Now, I will say - there are quite a few Democrats that I saw question this and say - especially from Pierce County - saying, well, we've regularly seen Julie Anderson in Democratic events also. But some people countered with - well, now we're looking at her with JT Wilcox. I guess starting with the partisanship, and now you're actually associated with Republicans - and I think Rob McKenna has notably talked about endorsing and supporting you - you have been at those events. Can people credibly see you as a Nonpartisan when they see these associations and these endorsements?
[00:27:16] Julie Anderson: Sure. I'm a Nonpartisan because I don't belong to any political party, which is different than not talking to anybody. I am not soliciting or accepting any endorsements from any political party, and I'm also not soliciting or accepting any money. But I regularly ask to be introduced. I try to break into legislative meetings and PCO meetings of both parties. Sometimes they'll let me in to introduce myself, sometimes they won't. I asked JT Wilcox if I could crash his salmon bake because I wanted to meet Republicans, and he said yes. And I'm sure that he got a rash of - from his supporters - for having me there. But just not belonging to a party doesn't mean that I don't talk with people, and I think that's important for the Secretary of State to do. One of the critiques is that I'm accountable to no one - I'm accountable to voters, and I've been re-elected overwhelmingly three times as an election administrator in Pierce County, so I have earned the trust and the votes of the residents of Pierce County who have seen me in action. I think it says something that the political parties don't run opponents against me. Presumably if I'm bad and bad for their party's interests, they're going to run somebody against me.
The people who are working on my campaign - it was very difficult to find any consultancy that would take me on as a client because there were both credible Republicans and credible Democrats running in the race, and here comes this Nonpartisan lady wanting a contract with them. That's a business model and a relationship they didn't want to ruin, and so it was very hard to find somebody. I ended up getting a referral from Mary Robnett, who's the Pierce County Prosecutor who ran as a Nonpartisan, and I said, who were your consultants? And she introduced me to Josh Amato, and he has been associated as a Republican, I don't even know if he's still a Republican - I'm imagining that he is - and he has worked on Republican campaigns and Nonpartisan campaigns. This is an income-constrained campaign. I do not have a lot of money. I have been having to run this campaign the way I'll run the Secretary of State's office, which is modestly and judiciously. So I had to wait until the general election to hire a staff person, and when I did, I chose a young gentleman who came from the Derek Kilmer campaign, and had worked on Emily Randall's campaign, and worked with the Alliance for Gun Responsibility. It is true that I contracted with an independent vendor for PR in the primary, and she had Republican roots. But my detractors are cherry-picking - they also failed to notice that I hired a fundraiser who is very progressive and comes from the non-profit community, so I think I'm pretty balanced in who vendors, what kind of vendors are helping me. But most importantly, the vendors don't boss the candidate around. I'm the one that's responsible for every single policy position that you hear me talk about. Do you think the Republican consultant was happy about me saying I support ranked choice voting in the Washington State Voting Rights Act? No, he thought that that was a crazy thing to do - but I'm the boss, not him. I've lost track of the attacks. What other attacks do we want to look at?
[00:31:07] Crystal Fincher: Well, I think one worth addressing is testifying against bills expanding voter accessibility - and I think that one, maybe for voters, is probably a concern. If looking at Republicans - hearing the attacks on seemingly democracy, partisanship - hey, we want to stop same-day registration, we don't like vote by mail, we need to reduce the amount of drop boxes, and the types of reforms that we have embraced here in Washington State - and is that going to impact where you stand on those issues and how much of a leader you are there?
[00:31:47] Julie Anderson: So, in testifying, I had a leadership role in the statewide Association of County Auditors. So, I was either the Legislative Co-chair on the Legislative Committee or the President. And 39 counties come to a consensus on what their position on bills is - and because of proximity or leadership position, I was often asked to represent the association on those bills. Crystal, name for me a legislative proposal that is perfect on the first day that it's introduced.
[00:32:18] Crystal Fincher: Well, I can't do that. I can't do that.
[00:32:20] Julie Anderson: Not many. Many of them need to, in the legislative process - through testimony, stakeholder engagement, and the amendment process - needs to be changed. And often county auditors, who are the ones that have to operationalize good ideas and bad ideas, have feedback and have concerns. Most of that testimony was done at a time when the state wasn't paying for state elections, and it was all falling back on county general funds. It wasn't until 2020 that the state passed a bill to start funding their share of state elections, and it didn't take effect until 2021, which does us no good - it's really going to make an impact this year. So, a lot of the testimony was driven by our concerns about resources, time, money, and staffing to get done some complicated things. In other cases, it was technology. So, same-day registration only became viable when we had VoteWA up and running so that we had real-time visibility on registration and balloting transactions around the state. And I will say - again, cherry-picking, my detractors are - in as early as 2015, I was personally advocating for the Washington State Voting Rights Act well before it got passed, even though the association either had a neutral stance or they had constructive feedback and testimony. So, I am a strong supporter of vote-by-mail, strong supporter of same-day registration, strong supporter of just about every electoral reform that's taken place since 2016.
And the expansion of ballot dropboxes - I know that one piece of feedback that's been fluttering around is my opposition to dropboxes on college campuses - again, in my role as, in the Association of County Auditors. And - like in Pierce County, at that time, I was really struggling for expanding dropboxes, period, in my community. And I knew, using that geographical and demographic data and that voter turnout data that I used to make decisions, I knew that there were pockets in my community that really could have benefited from a ballot dropbox - as opposed to the University of Washington of Tacoma, which is a commuter school, not a residential school with young people far-flung from all over the United States that might be confused about how to get a ballot or how to register. It's a commuter school. And having a ballot dropbox on that campus, where people are driving to and from their homes to classes, and not being able to install a box at the Housing Authority or at Manitou, which - anyway, you don't know my neighborhoods.
[00:35:35] Crystal Fincher: I know a little bit.
[00:35:37] Julie Anderson: Okay. All right, all right. So that didn't make a lot of sense to me, and I stand by that. I really think that the control of where ballot dropboxes go should be local, using local intelligence and local needs. I completely support the threshold, like population standards. And by the way, all of this wraps around to why I support the Washington State Voting Rights Act, and the expanded version that's going to come up in session again this year. Right now, we have a Voting Rights Act that is really specifically tailored or focused on vote dilution and that helped us get through redistricting safely. But we are now talking about vote denial and vote abridgment. And I support it strongly for this very reason. If you're going to give local election administrators control over where to place ballot dropboxes, we need to make sure it's not at the detriment of protected populations and that it's doing the most good. And I like that kind of structure.
[00:36:47] Crystal Fincher: And I hear you there. I guess the questions that pop up for me personally when I hear that are - one, for me, ideally, shouldn't we be able to find a way to place them in more places, period? And should being a commuter location or a commuter school, given that we aren't limited to returning ballots in a jurisdiction where we're registered, where we vote - a lot of people do commute there, which means a lot of people are there. It's a convenient place to be able to vote. It's an enfranchising thing, even though it may not be for the particular precinct that that ballot dropbox is located in, or neighborhood. Do you factor those things in to making your decisions there?
[00:37:34] Julie Anderson: Oh, yeah - I'm making a rookie mistake getting into an argument with the host. So it made perfect sense when I was able to place it at the transit station on the street of Pacific Avenue, just outside of UWT, as opposed to inside a pedestrian plaza not accessible by an automobile and not visible to the general public. And also, by the way, very hard to geolocate on Google Maps for people that are searching for a place to drop their ballot. I do think that the number of ballot dropboxes is increasing - the number is worth looking at, especially because we don't know what's going to happen with the United States Postal Service. By the way, I would work hard as Secretary of State to work with letter carriers to preserve door-to-door delivery. But if that doesn't happen and Congress continues to privatize that service, we need to be prepared and with more dropboxes. And you know something - the Voting Rights Act and UW's data collection that they're going to be doing is going to be very informative about whether we have enough ballot dropboxes and if we have them in the right place. So I'm completely open to it - I just don't like the Legislature deciding where they go. I want to be holistic, data-driven with local intelligence.
[00:39:05] Crystal Fincher: That absolutely makes sense. The other one I just want to get to - just talking about accuracy - we've actually seen errors in a number of jurisdictions in a number of ways - from misprinted Voters' Pamphlets, ballots that have to be reprinted. There was talk you provided voters false information and lost 100 cast ballots. What happened there?
[00:39:30] Julie Anderson: Okay, two separate incidents, and you're right - errors happen all over the state and all over the country - reminding us all that elections is a human process. We leverage technology a lot, but it requires expertise and a lot of proofreading and sometimes things slip through the crack. In one case, the vendor that Pierce County - well actually, the vendor that is used by over 60% of the electorate in Washington State, K&H - made an error when we mailed out ballots to our military voters and 88 voters out of 550,000 were impacted. What happened was they shuffled the return envelope with the mailer so that 88 people got a ballot packet on time, but the return ballot had somebody else's name on it. When we found out about that, we immediately contacted the voters, reissued the ballots, and immediately sent out a press release. That's what you can count on from me - is tattling on myself, telling people, taking corrective action, and doing whatever we can to make sure it doesn't happen again. In that case, I amended the contract with the provider that said next time you have a machine stoppage and you've got a set of quality control procedures that you use - this is like using your Xerox in your office or your home where you have a paper jam, and then by the time you finish ripping everything out, you've got to figure - do I reprint the whole document or do I figure out what page I left out on? The quality control at that plant is to reprint the whole darn thing, and somebody on the line decided that would be wasteful and they didn't do it. And so I amended the contract to say there's going to be consequences if you deviate from your own quality control.
In the infamous case in 2016 where Pierce County urged voters to, if they were going to use the United States Postal Service, to do so - let's see, I think it was 5 days before the election - but if they were going to use a drop and to please use a dropbox otherwise. The allegation says that we were sued - we were not sued. There was a threat of a lawsuit and at the end of the day - what the Democratic Party wanted was for me to mail out a postcard to voters saying that's advice not a requirement, and they wanted me to make that clear on our website. And so that's what we did. And at the end of the day, the attorneys agreed we did nothing illegal. And we haven't done it again since because it created such a stir and so much upset. So we don't even give people advice anymore about - if they're using the Postal Service to do it early, but you should.
[00:42:45] Crystal Fincher: Well and yeah - that's the complicated thing. And as someone who is interested in making sure people not only vote, but that their votes get counted and they arrive on time, we are experiencing more challenges with the United States Post Office. There is some uncertainty and certainly at the time, during the 2016 election, there's lots of conversation about potentially challenges with mailing things. So I do generally advise people to mail as early as you can if you're going to do that, but yeah - so I am glad we have gotten some clarity on a number of these issues, but also want to ask about some other things. I guess one of them is talking about preserving the historical records of the State and making them readily available to the public. What are your plans there and how can you make those more accessible and available to researchers, to the public, to everyone?
[00:43:41] Julie Anderson: A couple of things. One, the Secretary of State's office, I think, is behind in terms of digitizing paper records and getting them indexed and available. I do believe that my opponent has invested in additional scanning equipment, so that's a good thing. I don't know if they have sufficient FTEs to do that - I'll have to look at that when I get there. But my big concern is looking towards the future government - so our state archives hold all of the records that are produced by local and state government that have permanent retention value all the way from territorial days to right this minute. And in the last 10 years, government has been producing a heck of a lot of digital native, digital born documents that never were a piece of paper. And in my experience, our state archives still has a paper mindset because they're used to working with precious ephemera and paper documents. But we've been producing tons of native, digital born documents that are complex and interactive. Is the Secretary of State's office ready to ingest a high volume of digital records that are interactive and richly indexed, and turn them around and make them accessible to the public? I don't think so, and that's a project that I want to tackle right away. If you think about everything that just happened with redistricting - with all of those maps that were generated, so many different versions - and if you tracked it, you know that that was highly interactive data, right? You could move lines around. That is a record. Is it being preserved in that state, that interactive state, or are the maps being preserved? So those are the questions I'm interested in and want us to be forward thinking about. I am a certified public records officer, so I am very passionate about public access to public information and one of the things that the Secretary of State's office needs to do - there's two things - is provide more training to local records officers and maybe even a camp for requesters. I think that would be a good idea.
[00:46:05] Crystal Fincher: No, I think that's excellent and was leading into - the next thing I wanted to talk about was document retention and how closely linked it is with records requests. And we're seeing challenges in that area in jurisdictions across the state - one, in properly retaining the correct records. But the purpose of that retention is so that they can be accessed and provided to people who are entitled to see them, including the public. And we are seeing and hearing reports from a number of reporters and people making requests in jurisdictions across the state who are receiving increased wait times, increased estimates of wait times - sometimes comically long, decades long wait times - for some of those requests potentially. Hearing that localities are short staffed - it's challenging to respond to these kinds of things. And even getting into accusations of bad faith use of the public disclosure request system and records request system - some people trying to do that. Or on the flip side, people just being unhappy about receiving a request and having something looked into and calling things a bad faith attack and looking to delay the process, maybe unnecessarily, in those. How can you help make that process more consistent, help localities handle those in a more consistent way so that people can request and receive public documents when they're entitled to them?
[00:47:46] Julie Anderson: Two things - I'm going to be the Secretary of State that's known as a "Clean your closet, kid" Secretary of State. Government is producing more records than ever and they don't know what to do with them. If you don't know how to store them, then you can't find them. So record retention is about record management. The Secretary of State's office used to have a pretty good training program for records officers about that. That needs to be rebooted and redoubled and it needs to have a modernized context. I cannot tell you how many emails are generated hourly by government. We don't know which of those are important or not until you have a sorting and classification system that you maintain constantly that marries emails with the associated documents, right? So that's something that we did in Pierce County. I want to take that passion with me to the Secretary of State's office and hire somebody that's an expert at this to help train local government. And I'll also be an advocate for resources for local government. There are some jurisdictions that are literally drowning and they're also having turnover issues. So I do want them to have resources, but first of all they got to know how to clean their room.
[00:49:10] Crystal Fincher: So as we close and as people are trying to figure out how to make this decision - they hear from you, they hear from your opponent, lots of outside groups, and a lot of noise. When you are talking to someone who is considering making this choice between you and your opponent, does not know which direction they're going to go, what do you tell them to help make that decision?
[00:49:32] Julie Anderson: That like them, I love Washington State's election laws - want to preserve them, make them even better. And for the first time in history, they have a choice of hiring somebody that's a professional administrator with expertise in these subjects without party strings attached.
[00:49:52] Crystal Fincher: Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with us today, join us today, and letting the voters just get more familiar with you. Much appreciated.
[00:50:01] Julie Anderson: Thank you. Thank you for the questions. And I love that you're a fan of the Public Records Act.
[00:50:06] Crystal Fincher: I'm such a fan of it - and if it's follow up and organizations being accountable to adhering to it. But yes, thank you so much.
[00:50:16] Julie Anderson: You're welcome - bye bye.
[00:50:18] Crystal Fincher: Thank you all for listening to Hacks & Wonks. The producer of Hacks & Wonks is Lisl Stadler. Our assistant producer is Shannon Cheng, and our Post-Production Assistant is Bryce Cannatelli. You can find Hacks & Wonks on Twitter @HacksWonks, and you can follow me @finchfrii, spelled F-I-N-C-H-F-R-I-I. You can catch Hacks & Wonks on iTunes, Spotify, or wherever else you get your podcasts - just type "Hacks and Wonks" into the search bar. Be sure to subscribe to get our Friday almost-live shows and our midweek show delivered right to your podcast feed. If you like us, leave us a review wherever you listen. You can also get a full transcript of this episode and links to the resources referenced in the show at officialhacksandwonks.com and in the episode notes.
Thanks for tuning in - talk to you next time.