Voters here and in the rest of King County are a few days away from completing the change to putting an elected director in charge of the county elections department. Those advocating the switch – including the 56 percent “yes” from voters countywide in last November’s election in favor of revamping the job from a bureaucratic appointee to an elected official – want the position to, as much as possible, be free of partisanship and any related specter of possible political influences in the conduct of elections. Sherril Huff doesn’t seem to get that.
Under the revision of the county charter, Huff is the last person who will be an appointed elections director. Selected by County Executive Ron Sims, she has the job and wants to keep it, and that’s fine. She’s one of six candidates in the Feb. 3 election. Voters are in the process of picking one of them in the county’s first all-mail election, and Huff’s as strong a candidate as any in the field – in fact, if you go just by practical, relevant experience, she stronger than most, if not all. But we’re not endorsing one or the other.
We are, however, wondering why a county press release about the election would include what is, at the very least, an implied pat on Huff’s own back as the sitting chief of elections.
The press release, which was distributed to the news media (the Reporter received it by e-mail Jan. 22) and is posted on the election department’s Web site, notes the election that includes the race for an elections director has something else that’s also new – a way for voters to track their ballot online, telling them when the county mailed it to them, when it arrived back at the elections department for counting, and when it was verified by the department. The release includes this quote, attributed to Huff, about the new feature: “This is an incredible accomplishment for the elections office. In addition to being an educational tool, the mail ballot tracker gives voters the ability to be sure that we have received and processed their ballot, increasing confidence in the vote by mail system.”
“Incredible” is a subjective term that some might want to debate, but the election department is entitled to toot its own horn. But the head of that department – someone who is campaigning for votes to stay there – shouldn’t use county resources to praise the department’s work in her name, even if that work occurred with her at the helm. Huff should do that on her own time as a candidate.
We’re not trying to make a press release into a mountain. It’s just that if the elections department is going to rid itself of any suspicion of internal politicking, the effort must start at the top.
Pat Jenkins, publisher/editor