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WA Sec of State candidate Tarleton: ‘Our voting rights are under attack’

(AP Photo/John Froschauer, File)

There’s a race for secretary of state this year between incumbent Republican Kim Wyman and Democratic state representative Gael Tarleton of the 36th Legislative District. Tarleton joined Seattle’s Morning News to discuss threats to voting rights and what prompted her to run.

“We have had a game changing scenario since 2016, and I’m running because our voting rights are under attack. I’m running because our elections have been under attack since 2016. And then here we are in 2020, and now Trump is attacking our election,” she said.

“So as a former senior defense intelligence analyst, I take it seriously when you have both attacks happening — one from the outside, one from the inside. You better take it seriously,” she added. “Don’t ever take it for granted that we will always have our democracy here.”

But considering that Washington state runs its own elections, does Trump really have any power to impact them?

“Trump found the way to have power when everyone least expected it,” Tarleton said. “He started dismantling the operational capability of the U.S. Postal Service, and that’s when we should have started paying attention. When we found out that mail sorting machines were being removed, that mail processing centers in Washington state were being removed, that collection boxes from the postal office were being removed. And most importantly, when we found out that postal workers schedules were being massively disrupted so that they were not being allowed to deliver the mail on time, that’s the warning sign.”

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“And then the final warning was when our secretary of state got a letter July 31 from the post office saying, ‘Oh, by the way, don’t count on your mail to deliver your ballots,'” Tarleton added. “And what was her response? Invite Trump to come to our voting by mail. That’s not a plan.”

Does Tarleton not buy the idea that the post office was just carrying out a previously planned efficiency program?

“An inefficiency program does not ordinarily include a removal of equipment that processes mail at high speed,” she said. “Our mail is already disrupted. I mail five letters a week from the post office in this state because all of my family and my husband’s family lives on the East Coast, and it used to be three to five days. I could count on them getting there. Now it’s seven to ten days in Massachusetts, or in New Jersey, or in Virginia. There is no predictability and that’s the risk.”

Do she have any indications that there’s going to be a problem mailing out the ballots?

“The attorney general, [Bob] Ferguson, did file a lawsuit in our federal courts against the Trump administration, and his lawsuit was specifically focused on Washington state, to tell us where the damage has been done to the operational capability of the post office. The first hearings were with the federal court in eastern Washington, I think a couple of weeks ago,” she said.

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“What that judge said is: ‘I need in my hands where the mail sorting machines have been removed, where the mail processing centers have been closed, what collection boxes have been removed, and which counties have been most affected,'” she said. “And the Trump administration’s response is there isn’t really any way we can provide you that information in a rapid period of time.”

Listen to Seattle’s Morning News weekday mornings from 5 – 9 a.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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