‘A bittersweet night’ as Sec. of State Wyman reflects on her last Washington election

Nov 2, 2021, 10:22 PM | Updated: Nov 3, 2021, 9:51 am
(AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
(AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

As results for November’s general election came in Tuesday night, Washington Secretary of State Kim Wyman marked the end of an era.

She joined KIRO Nights with Jack Stine to discuss the election process and her hand in preserving its integrity. It will be the end of a 30-year career assisting the state’s elections.

“I actually worked in my first election in Thurston County just as a kind of extra help person in 1991,” Wyman said. “This is the anniversary, 30 years later, of that.”

“My very, very first election was in the city of Lakewood when I was accepting polling place ballots from poll workers, so they could be taken in Canada in the 1988 presidential election,” Wyman said. “It’s kind of a bittersweet night. It’s a lot of fun, and the excitement is just the same today as it was 30 years ago, but I will miss this part of it.”

“But I’m really looking forward to being able to help secure our system on a national level,” she added.

This will be her last election with Washington state as she was recently selected by the Biden administration for a new role as Senior Election Security Lead for the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency.

Washington Sec. of State Wyman resigns, ticketed for new role with Biden administration

Wyman discussed the selection process of a new Secretary of State for Washington, and her confidence in a future successor.

“I have high confidence. … One of the things you learn sitting in the big chair in Olympia is that there are 300 people in this office that make sure our customers are served well every day and that the job is done well every day,” Wyman said.

“Our election staff, in my opinion, is the best in the country,” she noted. “The elections division here in the Secretary of State’s Office is full of professionals who really dedicated their careers to making sure our elections are accessible and secure, and they do that work in a very unbiased manner, and they’re really committed to it.”

“I know that’s going to continue after I leave, and then the next secretary is going to inherit a really outstanding staff, and I know that the voters in the state are going to be well represented,” she said.

Wyman spoke to relatively low voter turnout in 2021, in comparison with the 2020 presidential election. She predicts that overall turnout will likely settle around 35%.

“It’s disappointing because even 35% is [few] voters showing up and casting a ballot, picking the people who are going to really lead their local jurisdictions and really determine their quality of life,” Wyman continued.

“That’s disheartening, and it’s a trend that’s happened for the 30 years I’ve been in this profession. Voters that turn out, their vote weighs a lot,” she said.

The Secretary of State closed with a message to Washington voters who harbor concerns about election fraud: She is an advocate for those constituents to participate in the election process.

“Contact your local county election office and go take a tour during an election,” Wyman said. “Go and observe because I think that when people can actually see the steps, we take all of the security measures, we take both physical security and cybersecurity, and all the reconciliation that happens.”

“I think that they get a different picture of what actually happens to conduct an election,” she explained. “And I think it will help improve their confidence in the election and, in fact, I would encourage some of them to apply for jobs. We need temporary workers to work in elections — I think that that’s one of the best ways to make people understand what actually happens. We really try to be transparent and I encourage people to take advantage of that.”

Wyman offered some final thoughts on her tenure with the secretary of state’s office.

“I’m just really proud of the election system we’ve built here in Washington, and my colleagues in the 39 counties and in this office have worked really hard to ensure that our accessible, secure system is going to be maintained for decades to come,” Wyman concluded. “We want to serve the voters. I’m proud of the legacy. We’ve laughed, and it’s been an honor to do this work.”

Listen to KIRO Nights weeknights from 7 – 10 p.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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‘A bittersweet night’ as Sec. of State Wyman reflects on her last Washington election