Secretary of State Sam Reed's visit to Walla Walla runs gamut from bills to onions

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Washington Secretary of State Sam Reed conducts an impromptu reading session with a group of youngsters at the Walla Walla Library Thursday morning. The stop was part of a swing by Reed through this area to talk with officials and others about issues. (June 16, 2011)

WALLA WALLA -- On a visit Thursday, Secretary of State Sam Reed recounted the ups and downs of the recent legislative session, then got in some quality time with youngsters at the library.

Reed was on a swing through Southeastern Washington that started in the Tri-Cities Tuesday and then led through Waitsburg and Dayton on Wednesday. On Thursday, he met with the Union-Bulletin editorial board, visited Walla Walla City Library and had the honor of throwing out the first onion at the Walla Walla Sweets game that night.

During his trip, Reed met with local officials, citizens and others to talk about a host of issues, including changes in election laws, preserving the state's history and other matters.

"It was a brutal session in terms of the budget," Reed said about this year's session. But there were some successes.

Reed said one bill he most hoped would pass, Senate Bill 5171, allows ballots from military and overseas residents returned by fax or email to be counted as long as the signed declaration accompanies the ballot and the signature is verified.

"It did pass and I think it's going to make a big difference not only for military personnel, but for businesspeople, missionaries and others," he said.

The same bill will, starting next year, move Washington's primary election two weeks earlier, to early August. That brings the state into compliance with federal law requiring military ballots to be mailed 45 days before Election Day.

Another milestone was Senate Bill 5124, which establishes Washington as a full vote-by-mail state, Reed said. The main effect of that measure will mean that Pierce County will now join the rest of the state in conducting its elections by mail.

Still another election change was the suspension of the 2012 presidential primary, a move Reed said will save the state $10 million. The move was requested by both him and Gov. Chris Gregoire, but the plan passed into law includes a provision requiring the presidential primary to resume in 2016.

Reed also discussed projects to preserve the state's past, including expanding the office's oral history project to include political leaders outside of elected posts, such as Billy Frank Jr., a member of the Nisqually tribe who in the 1960s and 1970s campaigned for fishing rights on the Nisqually River.

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