How we address justice and equity
Over the last week we've gotten questions about how the Auditor's Office is tackling important issues brought up during recent protests. While I take these issues seriously, the Auditor's Office has a narrow purview. For more context, I wanted to share the message we've been sending to people who have inquired with us.
Thank you for your message. As a local elected official, I think it is important for people to get answers from their government. This is especially true now as we obviously have so much important work ahead of us.
The Auditor's Office does not have operational oversight over law enforcement. While my office does have financial oversight for county offices and departments, I don't make policy decisions on how budgets are set or spent. Budgets are set for the Sheriff by the board of county commissioners. I can assure you that I give each office and department the same level of scrutiny regarding their financial controls. To that end, I oversee not only the financial controls of the Sheriff's Department (which includes both patrol and jail divisions), but also the Prosecutor's Office, Courts, Public Defense and Pretrial Services. I also don't have any authority outside of Thurston County government.
Thurston County has received four clean audits in a row from the state Auditor's Office. This clean financial record means that each part of the county is spending public funds as intended and are safeguarding taxpayer dollars. Again, this is the only role I have authority over with regard to the Sheriff's department.
I care deeply about equity and removing systemic barriers. As Auditor, I am also the Chief Elections Official for the county. In that role I have worked to pass legislation to expand voting rights. Same day voter registration, automatic voter registration and pre-registration are all tools that I helped pass out of the legislature. Each of these broadens the vote to people who have been traditionally shut out.
For the last few years, I've been championing bills that would automatically restore voting rights for people as soon they are out of prison. The Secretary of State's Office and the Department of Corrections would also be required to compare felon lists monthly. Currently they just compare the lists twice a year, which leads to big injustices.
I recently helped a voter restore their rights just in time to vote. The voter was recently released from state supervision, but their voter registration had been rejected several times by the Secretary of State's Office. The out of date list was preventing their registration from going forward. This bureaucratic slip-up almost unfairly took away the right of this person to vote.
I will continue working hard on these issues, but I also admit that I don't have all the answers. If you have any suggestions how my office can address issues of justice and equity, please don't hesitate to reach out.
Thurston County Auditor