In addition to being accused of committing campaign finance fraud (trial date pending), Wyman, who is up for reelection this year, is also under fire for mailing out thousands of incorrect Spanish language voters guides in mid-October.
After being threatened with a lawsuit by the Washington State Central Democratic Committee and calls from other organizations including OneAmerica Votes, Wyman's office announced on Monday that they will send out about 136,000 letters to Spanish-speaking homes to notify them of the translation error, The Associated Press reports. (Last week, the office only planned to send out 647 letters to people in custody of the Department of Corrections who weren't incarcerated for a felony, said Brian Zylstra, deputy communications director for the Secretary of State's office.)
Here's the backstory on how we got into this whole mess in the first place:
When ballots were mailed out mid-month, Wyman's office sent out thousands of inaccurate Spanish language voters guides across the state, which may have led some residents to believe they are ineligible to vote. The misprinted guide stated the following:
Tina Podlodowski, who is running against Wyman this year, explained in a press release:
The literal translation of the Spanish text is "not under the supervision of the Department of Corrections by reason of conviction for an offense in the state of Washington."
There is a big difference between a conviction for an offense and conviction of a felony. Washington's long-standing legal translation of "felony" in Spanish is "delito grave." The lesser offense of "misdemeanor" is rendered as "delito menor."
In Washington state, incarcerated residents are still permitted to vote if they haven't been convicted of a felony. However, Podlodowski's campaign noted in a press release, the above translation from Spanish to English is inaccurate. Additionally, this language was changed from a previous iteration of the Spanish voters guide in 2014, the campaign reported.
When the Secretary of State's office received calls to fix the mistake, Wyman did not issue an apology or make adequate efforts to amend the mistake until her office was threatened with the lawsuit, said representatives with the Podlodowski campaign, Washington State Democrats, and OneAmerica Votes. The Stranger reached out to the Wyman campaign on Tuesday, but they didn't return calls for comment. The Secretary of State's office deferred to the campaign for comment on the criticisms of Wyman's lack of action and apology.
For some organizations, Wyman's resistance is just another part of a long pattern of voter suppression.
"While Secretary Wyman has denied accusations of voter suppression, in this case, actions speak louder than words," said Toby Guevin, director of civic engagement at OneAmerica Votes.
The mistake may seem small, but it has big ramifications. As of 2014, Washington had the 12th largest Latinx population in the United States. About 334,000 Hispanic people are eligible voters in Washington, the Pew Research Center reported.
“Washington voters should be alarmed by Republican Secretary of State Kim Wyman’s dismal performance as our chief voting officer," Podlodowski wrote in a statement, released Monday evening. "She failed to quickly clarify this error with all voters who received her misinformation — yet another example of voting rights at risk under her watch. It is unacceptable that only after threat of legal action is she moving forward to protect the rights of all Washington voters.”
Wyman's office maintains that the error was not intentional.
"We're sorry for any confusion this may have caused," said Zylstra from the Secretary of State's office. "We are not a voter suppression state and we never have been and never will be. We care very much about our minority language voters and we provide translations of our voter material including our voter registration forms in 19 different languages, including English, Spanish, Chinese, and Vietnamese."
According to Guevin of OneAmerica Votes, since Wyman took office in 2012 she and her campaign staffers have "done very little if anything to take down the barriers folks face"—including failing to champion the Washington Voting Rights Act in 2012, which would have repaired our voting system and provided fairer representation for minorities.
Wyman opposed the bill in 2012 and—frustratingly—did not weigh in in 2016.
This post has been updated to clarify that the Secretary of State's office originally planned to send out 647 notification letters, not new voters guides.