Catherine Berwicks loads ballots into a tray after scanning them at the Snohomish County Elections Ballot Processing Center onAug. 4, 2020 in Everett. (Andy Bronson / The Herald file photo)

Catherine Berwicks loads ballots into a tray after scanning them at the Snohomish County Elections Ballot Processing Center onAug. 4, 2020 in Everett. (Andy Bronson / The Herald file photo)

Editorial: Hobbs edges Anderson for Secretary of State

Both candidates have proven abilities to protect election integrity and assure voter confidence.

By The Herald Editorial Board

Among the most important races for this year’s primary and general election is that for secretary of state.

As the state’s chief election officer, the Secretary of State office’s importance has only increased since the 2020 election because of unfounded accusations among some — even in the face of a range of improvements in voter access and election security, integrity and reliability — that have cast doubt on state and national elections.

Washington state had been fortunate in recent years because of the stewardship of Kim Wyman, a Republican, since her first election to the office in 2012. Wyman built a reputation for election integrity and a nonpartisan tone, one that, following her election to a third term in 2020, drew the attention of the Biden administration, which appointed her to a federal election security post, leaving open her uncompleted term.

While Republicans lobbied for someone from their party to replace Wyman, Gov. Jay Inslee, appointed state Sen. Steve Hobbs, a Lake Stevens Democrat, to serve until voters this fall could confirm that appointment or elect a new secretary.

Eight candidates filed for the office, four of whom — because of their past elected experience; three as former or current state legislators; one as a county auditor — were interviewed last week by The Herald Editorial Board.

In addition to the current office holder, Hobbs, the candidates with the most relevant experience are:

Republican Mike Miloscia, a former state representative and senator, from Federal Way;

Republican state Sen. Keith Wagoner, of Sedro-Woolley, who represents the 39th Legislative District, and serves as minority whip; and

Julie Anderson, who is running as a nonpartisan, and has served as the Pierce County auditor since 2009.

Some background about the office: The secretary of state is Washington’s chief elections officer, responsible for supervising state and local elections and working with 39 county auditor’s offices running those elections, certifying results and producing the state voters guide. The position in recent years has required efforts to encourage voter registration and turnout, adopt new technologies and policies to support that work and bolster the security of voting infrastructure and practices.

Washington is one of six states where all voting is done by mail-in ballots. Currently, more than 4.78 million state residents are registered to vote, up more than 285,000 voters since the 2018 election.

The office also is responsible for running the state library and safeguarding and providing access to historical records and collections; registering and licensing corporations, partnerships and trademarks; registering charities and nonprofits; serves as chairman of the state Productivity Board; and administers the address confidentiality program for survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking.

Miloscia, who ran for state auditor in 2016, and has worked professionally as a Air Force contracts manager, quality examiner and teacher, has an analytic mindset and drive useful to the office.

To best address voters’ concerns over election integrity, Miloscia said he would seek to use “the power of quality management and audits” to restore confidence in elections.

Wagoner has been among those who have worked across the aisle most effectively, recently on the state’s tax structure work group, considering potential reforms to the state’s package of taxes. Wagoner, while focused on serving the office’s chief task for elections, also expressed enthusiasm for the secretary of state’s other responsibilities.

Wagoner said that the basic structure of the state’s election system is sound but there are “leaks in the system that need to be addressed.” During the pandemic, Wagoner said, there were mistakes made at the county level that have generated some doubt and need attention.

Either Wagoner or Miloscia could serve the office well, but the two candidates best suited for the job are Hobbs and Anderson.

Anderson — like Wyman, a county auditor prior to her election — offers the most directly applicable experience from her 13 years as a county auditor, as well as a record that includes her current leadership as president of the state association of county auditors.

Among proposals that Anderson said would help restore confidence among all voters is a corps of nonpartisan observers to augment the election observers appointed by the two parties, to help verify the integrity of elections, something she has already established in Pierce County.

Additionally, Anderson has outlined a raft of proposals to improve access to elections and strengthen election security and transparency, including adding to existing audits a system of “risk-limiting audits” that would use a statistically valid sample of ballots across all 39 counties in particular races, including the top-of-the-ticket races that draw the most interest.

As well Anderson said she would seek to remove partisanship from election administration, starting with her decision to run without party affiliation, bypassing party financial and other campaign support. Anderson — again as Wyman had sought and as this editorial board has recommended — wants to the see the Legislature make the office nonpartisan for future elections. Of all the policies that all four candidates offered as ways to improve voter confidence, candidates running for auditor and serving as nonpartisans could be among the most effective tools to that end.

Hobbs, provided the advantage of his appointment to the office, has not coasted while waiting for the election. Since taking office in November, Hobbs has adopted policies and shepherded improvements that have added to what Wyman left in place.

Hobbs has enhanced the state’s election system’s security and cybersecurity, building on his own experience as a lieutenant colonel in the state Army National Guard and continuing a previous secretary of state relationship with the National Guard to upgrade and test against simulated attacks on computer systems. As well he has secured funding from the Legislature to hire more technicians for the office’s security center.

Hobbs also is working at the county level on voter outreach and education. That advocacy work continues, Hobbs said, as he seeks funding for a pilot project that would establish an “SOS” response team to address specific problems of individual counties with cybersecurity or other issues.

Regarding a broader concern, Hobbs said, he intends to seek legislation that would address “deep fakes,” which can digitally manipulate audio and video to make people — in particular candidates — appear to say and do things they have not. That’s in addition to current efforts to address misinformation and disinformation regarding elections, candidates and ballot measures that can sap voter confidence, including working with social media platforms to take down and correct inaccurate and misleading posts.

Voters have the good fortune to be faced with a difficult choice between two abundantly qualified and dedicated candidates who understand the importance of this office to the state’s and nation’s representative democracy and to every voter’s ballot.

Hobbs has earned the endorsement — not because of his appointment to the office — but because of what he has done in less than a year serving in that office.

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Opinion

Editorial cartoons for Sunday, May 26

A sketchy look at the news of the day.… Continue reading

FILE - A worker cleans a jet bridge at Paine Field in Everett, Wash., before passengers board an Alaska Airlines flight, March 4, 2019. Seattle-based Alaska Airlines owns Horizon Air. Three passengers sued Alaska Airlines on Thursday, Nov. 2, 2023, saying they suffered emotional distress from an incident last month in which an off-duty pilot, was accused of trying to shut down the engines of a flight from Washington state to San Francisco. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)
Editorial: FAA bill set to improve flight safety, experience

With FAA reauthorization, Congress proves it’s capable of legislating and not just throwing shade.

The author’s 19-year-old niece, Veronika, was among seven people killed by a gunman on May 23, 2014, in Isla Vista, Calif.
Comment: I lost my niece to gun violence 10 years ago this week

Since then, Washington state voters and lawmakers have taken bold steps to discourage gun violence.

Comment: Reroute of Harvey Field runway not worth flood risk

Without a projected need for expansion, the work risks flooding impacts to wildlife and residents.

Expanding grants will help more students get college degrees

For good or ill, the American labor force is being automated. To… Continue reading

Was I-5’s long closure necessary?

It seems there needs to be a rational discussion and possibly a… Continue reading

Balloon releases are harming wildlife

When will the media stop perpetuating the myth that releasing balloons into… Continue reading

1oth LD, Senate race: St. Clair brings experience to post

We are fortunate to have an outstanding Democratic candidate running for State… Continue reading

FILE — TikTok content creators at a news conference with several House Democrats on Capitol Hill on Tuesday, March 12, 2024. A bill that would force a sale of TikTok by its Chinese owner, ByteDance — or ban it outright — was passed by the Senate and is expected to be signed into law by President Biden; now the process is likely to get even more complicated. (Haiyun Jiang/The New York Times)
Comment: Why TikTok’s lawsuit of federal ban isn’t all talk

The social media app’s makers are challenging the ban on legitimate First Amendment grounds.

The vessel Tonga Chief, a 10-year-old Singaporean container ship, is moored at the Port of Everett Seaport in November, 2023, in Everett. (Ryan Berry / The Herald file photo)
Editorial: Leave port tax issue for campaign, not the ballot

Including “taxing district” on ballot issue to expand the Port of Everett’s boundaries is prejudicial.

Snohomish County Councilmembers Nate Nehring, left, and Jared Mead, speaking, take turns moderating a panel including Tulip Tribes Chairwoman Teri Gobin, Stanwood Mayor Sid Roberts and Lynnwood Mayor Christine Frizzell during the Building Bridges Summit on Monday, Dec. 4, 2023, at Western Washington University Everett in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Editorial: Candidates, voters have campaign promises to make

Two county officials’ efforts to improve political discourse skills are expanding to youths and adults.

Attorney General Bob Ferguson speaks to a reporter as his 2024 gubernatorial campaign launch event gets underway in Seattle, on Saturday, Sept. 9, 2023. ( Jerry Cornfield/Washington State Standard)
Editorial: Recruiting two Bob Fergusons isn’t election integrity

A GOP activist paid the filing fee for two gubernatorial candidates who share the attorney general’s name.

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.