Are Woodward and Cathcart “Too Comfortable”?

The WSDOT Backfire

Facing a triple digit heatwave while more than 600 people living in tents, cars, and RVs on a block at Second and Ray that is owned by the Washington State Department of Transportation, Jewels Helping Hands (under the leadership and commitment of Julie Garcia) teamed up with funding from the Empire Health Foundation and donations of time and materials from private citizens. The team acquired, erected, and staffed a cooling tent with misters and fans to bring some relief from the heat for the homeless people who were facing temperatures in the 120s inside some of their shelters on this mostly treeless, shadeless block. 

To its credit, the City of Spokane’s Woodward administration had extended air conditioned library hours to serve as cooling centers for citizens struggling with the extreme heat. 

Even so, the need for the on site cooling tent for the residents of Camp Hope is clear. For many residents leaving their few remaining belongings untended at Camp Hope (or anywhere) to seek air conditioning at a library would be a daunting idea. The choice would be to tough-out the heat on site or venture out and risk losing one’s few remaining possessions. Furthermore, try to imagine the scene if even half the 600 residents of Camp Hope appeared at the nearest library and joined all the other overheated local citizens seeking refuge there from their overheated homes and apartments. Finally, although a half mile to public transit or a mile a library may seem inconsequential to many, imagine negotiating that distance in 90 degree heat with a mobility issue and generally poor health.

Led by Julie Garcia, the private coalition moved ahead—and was clearly mindful of concerns:

On that same Thursday, July 28, in the middle of our triple digit heatwave, a headline in the Spokesman read “City of Spokane puts WSDOT on notice over cooling tent at Camp Hope homeless encampment”. Greg Mason writes:

In a letter dated Wednesday [July 27] to WSDOT…Spokane Fire Department Fire Marshal Lance Dahl identified the cooling tent as an “illegally constructed temporary structure” and requested its removal.

Failure to remove the tent by 9 a.m. Monday could result in a civil infraction of $536 for every day the structure remains in place after the deadline, according to a copy of the letter obtained by The Spokesman-Review.

You can surely bet that Fire Marshall Lance Dahl doesn’t send a threat like that to WSDOT without approval, and probably not without someone spurring him from the highest levels of City government—but, to read Greg Mason’s article in the Spokesman, you would think that Mr. Dahl was, on his own, engaging in a pissing match with WSDOT.

Here’s where I want to put in a plug for Carl Segerstrom and the team at local RANGE Media, an local online news start-up centered in Spokane and focusing on the region. Their work is well worth your financial support. In contrast to the Spokesman, Segerstrom and Baumgarten obtained emails from the City on June 28th that flesh out what was happening behind the scenes. Their article is entitled “Spokane mayor’s office has plans to dismantle cooling shelter at Camp Hope.” It is well worth the read as is Segerstrom’s entire six part series on Camp Hope and the heatwave

A government, like a corporation, as an entity, has “no ass to kick or soul to damn”. Reporting that says “the City of Spokane did ‘X’” means that the reporter doesn’t know exactly with whom a policy originated. Governments are composed of individual workers guided by people we elect. The votes that elect these people depend on our having a window on what they are up to.

According to RANGE, Breean Beggs, City Council President and an accomplished legal mind who likes to have the “i”s dotted and “t”s crossed, emailed the Council on Wednesday night (July 27) “giving councilmembers an update on a conversation Beggs had with Fire Chief Shaeffer about the steps needed to make the cooling tent legal, permitted and permissible.” Councilman Cathcart, true to form, apparently saw an opportunity to make the homelessness of the residents of Camp Hope “less comfortable” (to quote Mayor Woodward) by using WSDOT to take the fall for dismantling Camp Hope’s privately funded and managed cooling tent:

Councilmember Michael Cathcart early Thursday morning [July28th] to Smithson and City Administrator Johnnie Perkins asking them to address “legal questions and precedence concerns” Cathcart had surrounding permitting the Camp Hope cooling shelter.

Before noon the same day [July 28] Interim City Attorney Lynden P. Smithson sent an email that:

…details a plan to tell the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) that the temporary cooling shelter is an illegal building and demand the agency remove it from their property by Monday, Aug. 1.

It is hard to imagine that Smithson acted with Mayor Woodward’s approval of the plan. What better way to make the homeless “less comfortable” and encourage them (unrealistically) to pick up and move during the day to the air-conditioned libraries her administration apparently thought an adequate response to the heatwave. Helping to break up Camp Hope by spurring WSDOT to do the dirty work must have seemed a dandy plan.

But WSDOT would not play along. The next day, in a joint statement with its parent department, the Washington State Department of Commerce, responded (the bold is mine):

Ultimately, the safety and well-being of people is our paramount concern,” the statement read. “In response to the city administration’s notice of violation, the state will not take action during this extreme weather to remove the cooling center.

Remember this episode when you vote next year. Keep informed. Read the articles on RANGE Media’s webpage about Camp Hope for a much clearer idea than the Spokesman provides of what’s going on there. A picture emerges of humans struggling to survive a heatwave as Cathcart and the Woodward administration try to make their already miserable lives even worse. 

The good news is that the City Council voted unanimously last Monday (August 1) to provide monetary support for the cooling tent at Camp Hopeand to pursue resolving the permitting issues later this week. Even “Council members Michael Cathcart and Jonathan Bingle voted in favor of the legislation after pitching a different proposal for spending the American Rescue Plan funding that did not receive enough council support to move forward.” Apparently, even Republicans are sensitive to the strikingly negative optics of kicking people when they’re already down.

Keep to the high ground,

Jerry

P.S. Last week Mayor of the City of Spokane Nadine Woodward announced her candidacy for a second term as Mayor not for this year’s election, but for the 2023 election. Odd timing. The only obvious advantage of declaring candidacy is the legal ability to accept campaign contributions. Leaping in right before a whole different set of elections potentially interferes with this election’s Republican candidates’ ability to fundraise. Her announcement cited “great momentum”. Among the “accomplishments” she touted were her support for hiring more police (note: support, not success), her success at getting the downtown police station moved (to what advantage I was never sure), and the impending opening the East Trent shelter in a building leased from Larry Stone, an opening now postponed from August 1 to mid September—maybe. This is “great momentum”??

P.P.S. There is additional irony to Woodward, Cathcart, and Smithson’s joint effort to make the residents of Camp Hope “less comfortable” during the heatwave. WeBelieveWeVote.com is a local organization that attempts to weld Republican political ideology with a right wing interpretation of what it means to be Christian. Arguably, WBWV helped elect Woodward and Cathcart. (Sadly, the internet WayBack Machine did not preserve Woodward and Cathcart’s WBWV Survey responses from 2019 and 2021, so the linkage is not airtight, as WBWV doesn’t offer an archives.) Nonetheless, question 12 of the current WBWV Survey asks for agreement with this statement:

Providing a safety net for the poor and needy is the responsibility of individuals, families, churches, and local communities. It is not the responsibility of the government, which primarily exists to protect citizens from foreign and domestic threats. 

Cathcart (wisely, I suspect) refused to take part in the Survey this year in his campaign for a County Commissioner seat. That said, this Republican attitude toward the responsibilities of government vs. churches and the remainder of the private sector is commonly preached in Republican circles. In spite of that, this recent Woodward administration legalistic strategy is directed against the private sector efforts to “take care of the poor and needy” at Camp Hope. What’s wrong with this picture?

Primary Election Deadline Day Is Tomorrow

Fill Out and Turn in Your Ballot! Call Your Friends. It’s Time to Participate.

This email was also published yesterday, so if you read it then there is no need to read it today—except, perhaps for the asterisk at the bottom (which is new).

According to the Spokane County Elections webpage as of last Friday, July 29th at 2:30 PM, only 68,204 (19.05%) of the 357,994 ballots that were mailed out to active* registered voters in Spokane County had been filled out, received, and accepted at the County Elections Office. That’s pretty dismal. Ballots have been in the hands of the voters for two weeks—and only 1 in 5 of us voters have done our homework.

Let’s look at the (somewhat twisted) bright side: the lower the ballot turn-in number the more each of our votes counts (proportionally) in the outcome. Do your own homework and then make it your business today to call at least five of your friends and remind them to vote their Primary ballot and either get it postmarked or, better, deposit it in a Drop Box by 8 PM Tuesday, August 2nd. (For a list of Spokane County’s active Drop Boxes click here. There are some new ones and a couple of currently “closed” Drop Boxes listed. Don’t find yourself at a closed Drop Box site at 7:59PM Tuesday.)

If you’ve already sent in your ballot, check to see that it has been received and accepted (that is it passed the signature verification step), but signing in at vote.wa.gov and clicking “Ballot Status” under “My Ballot”.

Need more information? I published (and discussed) a number of get-to-know-the-candidates voter guides in last Friday’s email. Click here to go back to that post. One addition: I think a good argument can be made for the position of Secretary of State to be non-partisan. The only non-partisan candidate for Secretary of State is Julie Anderson, currently the Pierce County Auditor. Especially for any middle-of-the-road or Republican friends you might urge to vote today, suggest they check out Ms. Anderson’s interview with Kent Adams from July 27 on “Spokane Talks”. The interview is just 18 minutes long. Judging by multiple Republican ads that follow the interview (ads that I presume are also torturing TV watchers these days), Mr. Adams’ audience leans Republican. The interview is a great civics review of the job of Washington’s Secretary of State. Ms. Anderson makes a compelling argument both for her expertise and for her non-partisan stance, an argument that ought to appeal to sane voters of all parties.

Keep to the high ground,

Jerry

*Given the national news about partisan purging of voters who haven’t turned in a ballot for a few years I wondered exactly what the term “active” in “active registered voters” was defined. I emailed the Elections office to ask what constitutes an inactive registered voter. I received (on the weekend) the following reassuring reply from Spokane County Auditor Vicky Dalton:

An “active voter” is a registration record that will be mailed a ballot. If we receive a notice that the address is not current or that the voter has moved, then the record is flagged “inactive” and ballots will no longer be mailed until the voter (or official agency like USPS) updates their info. Notices could be a returned ballot packet by the USPS marked undeliverable or no longer at this address, a forwarding address from USPS, notification from Department of Licensing of a Driver’s License surrender and so on.

Local Candidate Information Guides

Resources–Positive and Negative–for filling out your Primary Ballot this weekend.

Your Washington State Primary Election ballot must be put in a Drop Box or postmarked by 8PM August 2, this coming Tuesday, for it to be counted. If you haven’t done your homework or you’re stuck deciding for whom to vote, here’s some help. (If you’ve already turned in your ballot, go to vote.wa.govand check under My Ballot/Ballot Status to see that your ballot has been received and accepted.)

First, understand that you are not required to vote for a candidate in every race. A race in which you do not cast a vote is counted as an “undervote.” If you’re stuck after checking out the available resources, don’t let that keep you from turning in your ballot. There is no penalty for incomplete homework. (Undervotes can be seen tallied in each race on the final Certification Documents in the Election Archives at the SpokaneCounty.org website.)

My personal favorite resource for candidate recommendations is the Progressive Voters’ Guide. It provides reasoned analysis of candidate qualifications in many, but not all, races. Here’s the link: progressivevotersguide.com

The League of Women Voters of the Spokane Area, a non-partisan organization, has a website (click on the name) with a lot of good voter information and candidate forums on video. They are a bit time-consuming to watch, but they offer a pretty clear idea of the preparation of the candidates who participate. Candidates are not provided with the questions ahead of the forum (although a well-prepared candidate would likely have a pretty good idea what might be asked).

Spokane Valley Speaks podcasts with Al Merkel offers extensive interviews with many candidates. In some cases the lack of an interview speaks volumes. For example, Spokane County Auditor Vicky Dalton sat for a two episodes that offered extensive detail on what the Auditor does. But, as stated on the website with the Vicky Dalton interviews, “Candidate Bob McCaslin, also running for Auditor, was invited to interview as well. He initially agreed but withdrew after receiving the questions which were the same as those used for this interview.” It is hard not to assume that he was afraid his ignorance of the Auditor’s job would be exposed.

WeBelieveWeVote.com (WBWV) can also be useful. It seems to me that a higher percentage of candidates than usual are listed as “DID NOT RESPOND”. Considering the slanted Survey statements and the fact that some like myself now use this website mostly to decide for whom NOT to vote, not responding might be politically wise for some candidates who might otherwise score well with WBWV. (Bob McCaslin for County Auditor and Michael Cathcart for County Commissioner District 2 might be in that category, for example. Neither responded to WBWV.)

The “We Believe” part of WBWV’s name deserves some scrutiny. A candidate who indicates complete agreement (a 10 out of 10 rating) with the usual first statement on WBWV’s Survey, “The Holy Bible is the supernatural, inspired Word of God; it is inerrant, supreme, complete, and final” is self identifying as a Fundamentalist Christian. Biblical inerrancy implies belief in a literal seven day Creation, Noah’s Flood, End Times predictions, etc. that preclude acceptance (and understanding) of much of modern biology, geology, and climate science. Many practicing, highly moral Christians do not subscribe to Biblical inerrancy and the world view it implies. No one, especially Christians who are not of a Fundamentalist stripe, of whom I know many, should assume that the WBWV expresses universal Christian values. Make no assumptions about shared belief.

However, if you’re stuck making a decision in a race where all the candidates are of one party checking out WBWV may be helpful. For example, see the Spokane County Commissioner Race in the new County Commissioner District 4 (SE Spokane County). All three candidates responded to the questionnaire and all three get a 98% or above “alignment rating”. Don’t stop with just the alignment rating. Be sure to click “View Survey Responses.” There you can read the comments the candidate submitted. To my reading, Mary Kuney offers by far and away the most reasoned commentary (See question 12, for example). The other two are only interested in demonstrating their far right, Fundamentalist Christian bona fides. 

Properly used, WBWV offers useful information.

At one time or another I have written about and offered links to information about many of the candidates in this election. Visit the blog archives at jxindivisible.org and type a name into the Search box to see what comes up.

Do your homework. Fill out your ballot and drop it in a Drop Box this weekend. Avoid the rush! (If you need a Drop Box recommendation go to vote.wa.gov and click “Ballot Drop Boxes and Voting Centers for an interactive map.)

Keep to the high ground,

Jerry

Contraception and “Our” Representative

Lies and twisted words to avoid commitment

In 1965 in Griswold v. Connecticut the U.S. Supreme Court, based largely on a “right to privacy” rooted in the due process clause of the 14th Amendment to our Constitution, ruled that married couples in the U.S. are guaranteed the liberty to buy and use contraceptives without federal or state government restriction. The Griswold decision struck down a Connecticut State law that prohibited any person from using “any drug, medicinal article or instrument for the purpose of preventing conception”. Most of us today can barely imagine a state in which it was illegal to buy and use contraception—but so it was. Before Griswold there was a hodgepodge of federal and state laws known as the “Comstock laws,” some of which went so far as to make it a crime even to pass along information about contraception (First Amendment violation, anyone?). (Note that the bulk of these laws were voted into place by men before women acquired the right to vote under the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920.)

The right to privacy, upon which the constitutional logic of Griswold depends, was just thrown out by the rightwing U.S. Supreme Court majority in the recent Dobbs decision. In his concurring opinion Justice Thomas could hardly conceal his delight at the prospect of “revisiting” Griswold now that the Court has declared that no constitutional right to privacy exists.

Having gleefully trashed the constitutional right to privacy upon which we have relied for half a century, one might hope that even Republicans might move swiftly to reassure us that the government will still somehow be kept out of our bedrooms and out of our other of most intimate decisions. On the contrary, they have voted overwhelmingly against all attempts to federally codify any of these rights. (See P.S.)

“Our” eastern Washington Representative to the U.S. House, Cathy McMorris Rodgers, rose to speak on the floor of the House against H.R. 8373, the Contraception Access Bill. As standard bearer of Republican catch-phrases, McMorris Rodgers did not disappoint.

Read the actual text of H.R. 8373, where we find the bill’s definition of contraception, that which the law means to protect:

(1) CONTRACEPTION.—The term “contraception” means an action taken to prevent pregnancy, including the use of contraceptives or fertility-awareness based methods, and sterilization procedures.

I don’t know how the definition could be more clear. 

In her floor speech McMorris Rodgers first whines that Democrats didn’t “work with her” in drafting of the bill. Was she denied input from the floor? Was she prevented from casting a vote on amendments? Then she breathlessly declares that the bill “opens the door further to extreme abortion on demand and their [Democrats] agenda”. She invokes Planned Parenthood and claims, without evidence, that the bill allows “…drugs to be used for abortions without restrictions.” She whines that Democrats provided a definition of contraception that is “not limited to FDA approved products”. A true statement, but totally off-point: fertility-awareness methods certainly do not require any approval from the FDA. She rambles on to a claim that the bill would require “the Little Sisters of the Poor” to violate their religion and provide contraception. Pure horse manure. McMorris Rodgers is fully aware (and later says) that these “Little Sisters” already have a litigated and acknowledged constitutional right to refuse, a fact that makes any supposed “requirement” entirely moot. She reaches her crescendo with:

“Democrats are conflating the issues of abortion and contraception to promote unrestricted abortion for all nine months of pregnancy! Contraception is fundamentally different than abortion!”

McMorris Rodgers’ own conflation of contraception with abortion and her invocation of every anti-abortion buzz phrase she knows to explain why she opposes contraception is a shameless display of political poppycock.

In this spectacle on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives I see a woman devoid of intellectual honesty using dishonest, manipulative, anti-abortion catch phrases to excuse herself and her Republican compatriots from voting to safeguard access to contraception. Furthermore, given her Fundamentalist belief system, her devotion to Republicanism as a team sport, and her prior lack of direct sponsorship of any significant bills, I have zero confidence that she will make good on her claim that she will move to codify access to contraception. 

Words are cheap. Legislative action requires a level of initiative, commitment, and collegial cajoling I cannot remember McMorris Rodgers ever demonstrating. 

Vote her out of office before she further trashes our rights.

Keep to the high ground,

Jerry

P.S. Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives promptly voted “Nay” nearly en masse to all efforts to federally protect any of the rights once based on the right to privacy. Heather Cox Richardson offered a tally. McMorris Rodgers cast a “Nay” vote on all four bills:

In the House, Republicans voted against federal protection of an individual’s right to choose whether to continue or end a pregnancy and to protect a health care provider’s ability to provide abortion services: 209 Republicans voted no; 2 didn’t vote. That’s 99% of House Republicans. [H.R. 8296]

They voted against the right to use contraception: 195 out of 209 Republicans voted no; 2 didn’t vote. That’s 96% of House Republicans. [H.R. 8373]

They voted against marriage equality: 157 out of 204 Republicans voted no; 7 didn’t vote. That’s 77% of House Republicans. [H.R. 8404]

They voted against a bill guaranteeing a woman’s right to travel across state lines to obtain abortion services: 205 out of 208 Republicans voted no; 3 didn’t vote. That’s 97% of House Republicans. [H.R. 8297]

Ballot Processing

As seen by an official observer

On July 6th I wrote a plea to my readers for volunteers to serve as Spokane County Election Observers for the Democratic Party. I was immensely pleased to hear yesterday that seventy of the readers of this email responded, a number that should sufficient to fill out all the time slots. Spokane County’s (and Washington State’s) ballot handling system is already processing ballots mailed in for the August 2 Primary Election deadline. Today I want to pass along the experience of one of the observers, Dan Simonson, after his first session of observing the process of ballot handling:

I signed up as an election observer with the Democratic Party.  I then attended a 1-hour class at the Spokane County Elections center at 1033 W Gardner Ave.  The center is in a completely nondescript industrial-looking building that also houses the Public Defenders office and a few others.

The class went over the whole process of securing the election integrity, which was pretty impressive!  I had no idea the lengths to which they go to make sure that not only is every ballot counted, but that there are always at least _two_ people involved any time a ballot or a ballot envelope is touched.  Log sheets, signed off by the staff, accompany each batch of ballots, and security is pretty tight.

Once I had taken the class, and signed an attestation form, I was good to go to become an observer.

Friday at 8:30 am I showed up for my 2-hour shift.  I had to sign in and obtain a badge on a lanyard, the badge had my name on it and “Democrat” in blue at the bottom.

There were three of us, two Democrats and one Republican.  Another Republican came later.  We were escorted in to the first stage area.  This is where the ballot envelopes are handled.

Sorting Ballot Envelopes and Capturing Signatures

The ballots are delivered in bulk from the Post Office and ballot boxes.  They sit in bins of about 200, not sorted at all. I sat behind a dividing rope and observed the ballot envelope sorter.  An amazing machine.  Reminded me of visiting the Coca-Cola bottling plant when I was a kid (rumor had it that if you watched long enough, they would give you a free coke – I watched a _long_ time before getting one!)

The worker set up the machine by running a test envelope through.  It is one long conveyor belt-type of operation, but the envelopes are fed in, one at a time, vertically (standing up, not flat) and they then run by a camera that does two things: it reads the bar code containing your name and address and legislative district, and takes a photo of your signature.  I would say that when running, two – three ballot envelopes a second pass by the camera.

Right after the camera, there are a bunch of bins lining the belt on either side.  There are bins for each Legislative District (LDs 3, 4, and 6 and parts of LDs 7 & 9), one for the “no signature” envelopes (more on those later) and one for errors, such as a blurry bar code or some other defect.  A gate clicks open to intercept an appropriate ballot envelope, and you watch them pile up quickly. Once the batch is run through, the worker fills in a piece of paper with information from the computer screen attached to the machine, which gives the batch number, the number of ballot envelopes, etc.  He signed it and put it in a tray, which was then taken by another worker and the info entered into another computer.

One interesting point: these folks take their work very seriously.  At the machine were TWO workers.  At one point, the one guy needed to get some gloves, and had to call the supervisor over to relieve him so that the other guy wouldn’t be left alone with the ballot envelopes.  No funny business.

Once the ballot envelopes are run through for the “first pass”, the “no signature” envelopes are taken away (about 2 – 5 for each run of 200, it seemed) and those voters are notified by mail that they need to sign the ballot, I can’t tell you how it works beyond that.

Signature Verification

Here’s a very cool thing:  Every single ballot envelope signature is then verified.  Prior to this, I had imagined that signature verification was done randomly, using some pre-determined random sampling scheme.  Nope.  Every signature is looked at by a worker and compared to your “signature on file”, which can be either the signature on your voter registration form or the signature on your driver license.  

Here’s how that works.  I was escorted over to the signature verification area, where there were 4 workers gazing at two computer screens each.  I could watch what they were seeing on monitors placed in front of the observers for that purpose.  Each monitor displays the signature area and the names of 4 ballot envelopes horizontally across the screen.  Below the signature captured on the ballot envelope photo (by the previous machine, see above) are displayed not only the signatures on file for that person, but also the signatures on file for anyone else at that address! So if there is a discrepancy, they can try to figure out if it was signed by another member of the voters’ family, I guess.

Upon visual inspection, the worker decides whether to accept the signature or reject it.  There were some great examples of “judgment calls”, and all rejected signatures are then examined by the supervisor and handled somehow.  

Ballot Handling

After signature verification, the ballot batches are recounted (to account for losses in the signature verification process, etc.) and the count noted again.  

Important: Up to this point, the ballots have not left their envelopes.  All of this processing is done on the envelopes.  At the next station, the ballots that have passed inspection (signatures that match, readable barcodes, etc.) are removed from their envelopes and stacked together, ready for the next step, the actual counting.  At this point, however, my shift was up, so I never got to see the ballot counting machine, which was in a separate room with lots of windows looking in, but locked tight.  

So there you have it – hopefully I will get to see the ballot counter on my next shift, but I have signed up for morning shifts so I may miss it.  Anyone out there lucky enough to see the ballot counter working, let us know!

Dan Simonson

I’m looking forward to a later observer report on the efforts made to “cure” the envelopes with questionable signatures (or other errors) before the envelopes are opened and the ballots separated from their envelopes and the anonymized ballot sent to the counting machine.

Keep to the high ground,

Jerry

WA Secretary of State

Another argument for RCV

There are eight candidates on the primary ballot for Washington State Secretary of State, two Democrats (including the recently appointed incumbent, a former legislator, Steve Hobbs, and Marquez Tiggs who strongly advocates for the state to go back to in person voting); one Nonpartisan, Julie Anderson; one who “Prefers America First (R) Party”; one who “Prefers Union Party”; and three who identify simply as Republicans.

The office of Secretary of State has drawn a lot of interest as a position of importance to the conduct of elections as the Republican Party continues to ride the discredited claims of election fraud of a certain former President. Those riding the discredited claims all identify themselves by terms like “restoring election integrity” or “restoring voter confidence in elections” while quietly admitting that they don’t believe that widespread voter fraud occurs in Washington State. They want to ride Trump’s Big Lie into the office of Secretary of State to fix a system they admit isn’t broken. Worse, they propose expensive new overriding audits without offering an intelligent analysis of how the current Washington State elections system even works. 

No one on the August 2nd Primary ballot, except long term Pierce County Auditor Julie Anderson, has significant experience in elections administration.

In statewide elections in Washington State Democratic incumbents (even if freshly appointed) tend to have an electoral edge. Considering that, it seems likely that Steve Hobbs will gain one of the two “top-two” primary positions to appear on the November General Election ballot. 

I want to see Julie Anderson as a strong “top two” primary finisher. 

  • As Pierce County’s Auditor, Julie brings more than a decade of experience running fair, transparent elections, and she is the only candidate in this race with elections experience.
  • She’s endorsed by the bulk of our state’s County Auditors – Republicans, Democrats, and Independents. Auditors are the people who run our elections; they know Julie, and they have confidence in her leadership.
  • She’s running as a nonpartisan, because she is committed to keeping politics out of elections. (In Pierce Co. the County Auditor is a non-partisan position—Pierce is a “home rule charter county”.)
  • And Julie Anderson supports ranked-choice voting (read Julie’s RCV issue paper). As the only candidate in this race with experience as an election official, she is the only candidate who has considered how Ranked Choice Voting would be properly implemented if voters chose to adopt RCV (as they have in Maine and Alaska, and may soon do so in Seattle).

Ironically, if we had already adopted Ranked Choice Voting, voting for Secretary of State in this August Primary Election second-guessing one’s voting strategy would not be required. With RCV I would simply rank Julie Anderson #1 and Steve Hobbs #2, confident that my votes would not support unqualified candidates. 

Keep to the high ground,

Jerry

RCV and the Prosecutor

Strategic Voting and Self-fulfilling Prophecy

In Washington State elected county prosecuting attorney (aka “the county prosecutor”) sets the tone for the criminal justice system in that county. In Spokane County, the fourth largest county by population among the 39 counties of the State of Washington, the County Prosecuting Attorney presides over a department consisting of 66 attorneys, 66 support staff and 7 victim-witness staff members. The salary of the Spokane County Prosecuting Attorney is $199,675.00, the same as a Superior Court Judge, higher than any other Spokane County elected official.

Incumbent Spokane County Prosecutor Larry Haskell has drawn a lot of criticism—and three challengers in the August 2 Primary Election. A lot of the criticism arises from the persistent freely offered white nationalist opinions of his wife, Lesley, expressed on Gab and elsewhere. Daniel Walters, writing in the Inlander in January provides details. The flap over Lesley’s comments and her hobnobbing with the Proud Boys started soon after Mr. Haskell was first elected from the ranks of the Prosecutor’s Office in 2014. (For an extended sampling of the controversy click here for The Inlander and here for the Spokesman Review.)

Respectable Republicans in Spokane County might shake their heads at Lesley and Larry’s attendance at a fundraiser for Matt Shea’s “Liberty State” and for Mr. Haskell’s approving comments concerning Shea’s thinly disguised attempt to cleave eastern Washington off into a separate state dominated by theocrats like himself. 

Less noticed, Larry Haskell has opposed criminal justice reformbacked dissolution of the Spokane Regional Law and Justice Council, and elaborately (and incorrectlyargues that considering “racial equity” is not permitted in our legal system. All that suggests, contrary to Haskell’s protestations, that he shares his wife’s opinions—but carefully cloaks his opinions in legalese. 

What to do when you have such an incumbent running the Prosecutor’s office? Vote him out—but that requires a challenger with the chops to beat Haskell in the November General Election, a candidate who makes it through the August 2 Primary, the race for which you have now have a ballot (if you live anywhere in Spokane County).

We have three candidates running against Haskell, two Republicans, Stephanie Olsen, a 47-year-old assistant state attorney general who formerly worked under Haskell; Stefanie Collins, a 55-year-old longtime deputy prosecuting attorney still working in Haskell’s office; and one non-partisan, Deb Conklin, a 69-year-old United Methodist pastor and former deputy prosecutor in Clallam County, Washington. 

Here’s where my wish for Ranked Choice Voting comes in. If I could rank my choices for our August Primary Election I would list Deb Conklin #1, Stephanie Olsen #2, Stefanie Collins, #3, and leave #4 blank. After spending nearly an hour listening to an April interview with Deb Conklin on Range Media last evening I am convinced she has the skill, commitment, and experience to manage the Spokane County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office wisely and justly. 

I took the time to watch the League of Women Voters of Spokane 2022 Prosecuting Attorney Candidates Forum on youtube. I wish that a majority of other voters would do the same. At the forum the candidates have no foreknowledge of the questions to be asked, so the forum is a test of thinking on one’s seat. Deb Conklin expressed my hope for the prosecutor’s office very clearly. Mr. Haskell quoted laws and regulations, seeming to suggest that current prosecutor practice offers little room for discretion. I do not find him believable. Ms. Olsen (currently working in the WA State Attorney General’s office) struggled to express herself. She might make a great county prosecutor, but, sadly, she did not come across as well-prepared or comfortable fielding the questions asked. Ms. Collins (currently working in the Spokane County Prosecutor’s office) was better spoken. Ms. Collins may not be bathed in the rhetoric of white supremacy by a Leslie Haskell every night at the dinner table the way Larry Haskell likely is, but I was left wondering how much change in the Prosecutor’s office Ms. Collins would bring. 

Unfortunately, if enough voters buy the idea that only an avowed Republican can win a seat as Spokane County Prosecutor against Mr. Haskell, that idea becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Until we have Ranked Choice Voting, I will content myself with voting for the person I believe is the best-equipped candidate for the job, Deb Conklin, the non-partisan. 

Deb Conklin makes a point that resonates with me: Administering justice requires not only understanding the law but listening to people, both the victim and the accused. The skills of a good prosecutor and a good minister have a lot in common. 

Keep to the high ground,

Jerry