Secretary of State Kim Wyman will be traveling to colleges across Washington and talking with students about the importance of voting and giving back to the community.
Wyman kicked off her 16-college-campus civics tour at South Puget Sound Community College, coming for an hour long luncheon with interested students and faculty.
This College Civics Tour program was started in 2006 by Wyman’s predecessor, Sam Reed.
As Secretary of State, Wyman’s main priorities is supervising state and local elections, and certifying the results of state primaries and general elections.
Currently, Wyman is focused on getting more voters involved in the voting process and local politics, specifically the younger generation.
“It’s so important to get engaged in your community: follow a campaign, read about the issues on the ballot, make choices, and vote,” she said. “You’re connecting yourself to your community and taking power into your own hands.”
According to her, at high-turnout elections, like the Presidential election every four years, only about 79 percent of registered voters cast their vote. In low-turnout elections, only 51 percent of registered voters show up.
“When people don’t vote, they’re handing their power over to other people,” said Wyman.
“The 18 to 25 year old demographic, who consistently has the lowest turnout, is letting the 65+ year demographic –– who has a 79 percent voter turnout- have all the power,” she said.
When young voters do vote, they make a difference: we saw that in Obama’s election and his re-election, Wyman said.
“Barack Obama was brilliant. He used the internet and social media in a way no had before in political campaigns,” she said.
It was his ability to connect with the young demographic that made the difference in his win, said Wyman.
Wyman also emphasizes the importance of participating in local elections.
“Most people focus on the presidential election because it’s really glamorous and it gets a lot of press,” she said, “But really, in your day to day life, President Obama doesn’t have as much of an effect on us here in Washington as our local government.”
“Many of the decisions that affect Washington residents on a day-to-day basis -the quality of our water, the books we see in schools, the time it takes for a response team to get to an accident site- are decisions made at the state or county level,” said Wyman.
“And yet, the local elections have the lowest voter turnouts,” she said.
SPSCC President Timothy Stokes, an attendee at the luncheon, said, “She gave our students great advice on how to get involved and how to pursue their passion.”
According to Wyman, people should find what they love to do, learn everything they can about their passion, hone their skills, and then do it.
“People should be mindful that money follows passion,” said Wyman.
“I started out wanting to be an audiologist but after working in the clinical field, I realized it was a bore to me,” she said. “I began looking for other things to do and eventually wound up working as the Election Supervisor and it was this ‘I am-meant-to-do-this’ feeling.”
“I felt passionate about my job and gained a sense of importance,” she said.
In 2012, Wyman got the opportunity to run for Secretary of State when her predecessor Sam Reed decided to step down.
“It was a lot of work and many people don’t even know who the Secretary of State is -most people aren’t even sure of what I do- but I had a conviction to protect every single person’s right to vote, to make sure that everyone who is eligible has access,” she said.
Wyman prides herself on being nonpartisan, “I avoid talking about my personal beliefs on political issues during campaigning because I believe it taints the way voters think I’m going to count their ballot.”
Luncheon attendee and political science major, student Andrew Burgess said it was great to talk with Wyman, “She’s very straightforward, she’s got a great sense of humor, and she’s very good at connecting with the younger population.”