WALLA WALLA — Washington Secretary of State Sam Reed visited the city Thursday as part of a statewide tour to mark his final year in office.
“I’m making the point to visit all 39 counties in the state of Washington and to check in with people and groups that have been particularly helpful over the years,” said Reed.
After more than four decades in state government, Reed is retiring at the end of his term, which expires in January. He spoke at the Marcus Whitman Hotel & Conference Center on Thursday, addressing his career and the importance of civility and bipartisanship in today’s politics. The speech was part of a multiday trip across eastern Washington.
In an interview before the talk, Reed said the issue of civility and bipartisanship concerns him watching the U.S. Congress, and, to a lesser extent, the state House of Representatives. His goal is to address community leaders around the state to ask for their help in encouraging these values.
“They’re the ones who people who are (running) for office come for support, for endorsements, for contributions,” he said. “(I’m) asking them to say, before I do this, I want to talk to you about civility and moderation and bipartisanship. And I’ve been getting a very good response.”
Reed has served as Washington’s secretary of state for the past 12 years, where one of his main duties has been overseeing Washington’s elections. A Republican in a state where Democrats often win statewide elections, Reed attributes his longevity in office to his moderate beliefs, as well as his achievements on the job.
“People really look at performance in office,” he said.
Over Reed’s time in office, the Secretary of State’s Office has overseen several innovative initiatives, such as an address confidentiality program which allows abuse victims to remove their address from public records to make it harder for abusers to find them. This program was the first of its kind in the nation, and has since been emulated by several other states.
Reed has prioritized efforts to improve voter turnout, including the statewide switch to vote-by-mail, which was completed in 2009, and MyVote, an interactive feature on the Secretary of State website that provides personalized voter information. He also has staff devoted specifically to outreach with English-as-a-second-language and disabled voters.
According to Reed, initiatives like this explain Washington’s relatively high voter turnout rates. In the 2010 general election, Washingtonians averaged 53.2 percent turnout, the third-highest turnout in the nation.
During his talk, Reed discussed the importance of bipartisanship in politics. He said that much of his success as secretary of state can be attributed to his ability to set aside partisan politics.
Although his term is almost over, Reed stuck to this principle when asked about his views on several state initiatives, explaining he can’t publicly articulate an opinion because his office is responsible for certifying initiative petitions.
“You’re the secretary of state of all the people,” he said. “When you’re conducting yourself, you really need to be above politics.”