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Chief political reporter David Postman explores state, regional and national politics.

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June 2, 2008 8:39 AM

Dems field secretary of state candidate

Posted by David Postman

Election reform advocate Jason Osgood says he’ll file today to run as a Democrat against Secretary of State Sam Reed. Osgood, known at washblog as zappini - he also has his own blog -- writes about election issues.

Osgood is 40 and lives in Seattle. He is a computer programmer with a medical records company.

I wrote about him last September when his work stopped the King County Council from spending $345,000 on ballot tracking technology. The company that would have gotten the contract appeared to be out of business at the time. As I wrote about Osgood,

He has quietly established himself as the No. 1 opponent of the county's plan for all-mail elections. He's done it from the left, in contrast to the opposition we have come to expect from the right and done much to make the movement a bipartisan success.

But his campaign against Reed will not be about mail-only elections.

If the voters of Washington want to use mail ballots I will be sure that their privacy is ensured as much as possible.

What I’m going to talk about is protecting voter privacy and ensuring a fair and accurate public vote count.

And that’s where he thinks Reed is vulnerable. Osgood says the Secretary of State is pushing for a ballot tracking system - using unique bar codes linked to a voter’s identification - that threatens the secrecy of the vote. He also says that the high-speed ballot tabulators used in King County make it impossible for the count to be monitored by election observers.

Osgood hadn’t planned on running for office. But he thought someone should challenge Reed and run a campaign focused on election integrity. He told that to state Democratic Party Chairman Dwight Pelz and raised the names of a few potential candidates.

At some point, though, someone suggested Osgood run himself. He says the state Democratic Party will support his campaign.

But he hopes to be able to appeal to Reed’s critics on the right, too. Osgood has common ground with Stefan Sharkansky, the No. 1 critic of the problematic 2004 governor’s election.

Says Osgood:

I think that the Republicans have legitimate grievances, as well as the Democrats. This is a non-partisan issue. King County elections had problems with their procedures in 2004. They misplaced boxes of ballots and Sam Reed gave them a pass.

Reed says he’s an advocate of ballot tracking. But he says he’s never supported a system that would connect a ballot to a voter.

“Secrecy of the ballot is in our Constitution,” he said. He said there should be a system like FedEx uses to track package, “So you can keep track of the where these things are. You don’t know what’s inside the package, but you know where it is.”

As for the public count, Reed said the high-speed machines are a needed improvement. Party observers can watch the machines, he said, but access is limited “to maintain good ballot security.” He also said the machines are routinely checked with “logic and accuracy tests.”

I also asked Reed if there is any lingering Republican discontent with him over the 2004 governor’s election. He just got back from the state Republican Convention and says, among some insiders, there are still some hard feelings.

I had some people walk up and growl at me. And we had a booth and we had some young guys and young women working there who had people say, “Sam Reed, he cost Dino Rossi the election.”

I would say that after 3 ½ years, people have cooled down and they appreciate what we have done in terms of our major election reform.

Both Rossi and State Republican Party Chairman Luke Esser have praised the changes Reed has pushed through. Reed said that has helped cool some of the anger over 2004.

Filing for this year’s elections opened this morning at 8 a.m. and runs through Friday.

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