Secretary of state touts new election changes

RICHLAND -- Secretary of State Sam Reed touted changes coming to Washington's election system in 2012 when he visited the Tri-Cities on Tuesday.

Among the changes are a shift to voting by mail for every county in the state and a change in the date of the August primary to accommodate overseas voters, primarily in the military, Reed told the Richland Rotary Club.

Also approved as part of a newly passed package of legislation this year is the elimination of the 2012 presidential primary, a move Reed said will save the state $10 million.

But he wants to work with the state's political parties to bring back a more meaningful presidential primary in 2016.

"We really need to have the parties use our primary like they do in virtually every other state in the nation," he said. "But they don't, so it seemed more practical and reasonable to suspend it."

In Washington, the Democrats select a presidential nominee through caucuses and disregard the outcome of the statewide primary vote, while Republicans use a combination of caucuses and 50 percent of the primary vote to determine a nominee.

Reed's stop at the Rotary meeting was part of a four-day tour of southeast Washington ending Friday. It includes stops in the Tri-Cities, Walla Walla and Columbia County before he returns to Olympia.

Reed said 2012 could prove an "interesting" election year with two major statewide offices up for grabs and Democratic Gov. Chris Gregoire announcing she won't seek a third term. Republican Attorney General Rob McKenna already has announced his bid for her job.

And all expectations are that Jay Inslee, former congressman for the Tri-Cities who went on to represent Seattle after being defeated by Doc Hastings in 1994, will be the Democrat who opposes McKenna in a run for the governor's mansion.

Reed said he hasn't decided yet whether he will run again for secretary of state.

And there is the matter of that presidential election in which President Obama could have a tough fight for a second term in office, especially as Republicans regained some footing in Washington, D.C., in the 2010 election.

"Right now it looks like it's going to be very interesting to see what happens, because based on what happened last year in the congressional elections, there could be big changes stirring," Reed said.

He urged voters to pay as careful attention to the upcoming local elections in November as they will to next year's state and federal races.

"They really do affect directly your homes, your businesses, your families, your schools, your parks and your roads," Reed said.