OLYMPIA — The deterioration of the circa-1962 Washington State Archives building puts priceless, irreplaceable historic documents at risk of catastrophic destruction by a fire or flood and needs to be addressed by the Legislature immediately, Secretary of State Kim Wyman said.
Both the State Archives on the Capitol Campus and the Washington State Library in Tumwater outgrew their facilities years ago, which has required each to house state documents in leased locations that have become obsolete. Consolidating the State Library and Archives into a new state-owned facility built to address current and future demands is a top priority, Wyman said.
“Our State Archives building lacks fire suppression for most records areas. It regularly suffers leaks from the water and sewer pipes that hang from the concrete ceilings in archival storage areas,” Wyman said. “Our Legislature has a tremendous opportunity this year to resolve this longstanding and worsening need, while simultaneously making wise use of state resources by consolidating a number of divisions into one location.”
Wyman added she is confident that the Legislature recognizes the current situation as untenable, and that the planned Library-Archives Building on south campus is a sensible and foresighted solution. The Legislature appropriated $5 million for its design work and project planning in 2018. Building on that preliminary investment, her 2019 project proposal to the Legislature includes siting, architectural, and fiscal planning to account for the full logistics of the new building.
Wyman’s additional legislative priorities include moving the Washington Presidential Primary from late May to early March, scheduling the state primary earlier in the year to increase turnout, and providing more robust resources to protect Washington’s survivors of crime through the Address Confidentiality Program, which serves nearly 5,000 enrolled adults and children.
“With near record-setting turnout in the recent General Election, it is time Washington voters have a stronger voice in the national conversation about presidential nominees,” Wyman said. “History has shown that one way to gain that influence and improve civic engagement is by participating in the nomination process before the outcome becomes certain.”
Wyman added that she’d like to see an end to unintended voter suppression in the Presidential Primary by introducing an “undeclared” ballot in which Washington citizens could vote for any candidate without having to choose a political party. Under the current system, an otherwise eligible voter unwilling to declare party preference is denied a ballot in a publicly-funded election.
“These are fundamental responsibilities of government: to make judicious use of public resources and increase access for Washington citizens who want to participate in government,” Wyman said. “Prudent action in these areas will make Washingtonians safer, empower our voters, and protect our rich history. I look forward to helping the Legislature and the Governor make this session efficient and productive.”
Washington’s Office of Secretary of State oversees a number of areas within state government, including managing state elections, registering corporations and charities, and governing the use of the state flag and state seal. The office also manages the State Archives and the State Library, documents extraordinary stories in Washington’s history through Legacy Washington, oversees the Combined Fund Drive for charitable giving by state employees, and administers the state’s Address Confidentiality Program to help protect survivors of crime.