June will be a big month for Idaho Secretary of State Ben Ysursa. He’ll celebrate his 65th birthday and mark 40 years in office – 28 as the closest aide to the late Secretary Pete Cenarrusa and a dozen as Cenarrusa’s successor and Idaho’s top election official. He’ll have put to bed the last of the 21 primaries. Just one contest will remain – the November election to decide who will be the first secretary since 1967 without roots in northern Spain. ”It will obviously be a non-Basque,” Ysursa joked Tuesday as he announced his support for Republican Phil McGrane. “So it’s even more important to watch.” Kidding aside, Ysursa fought back emotion as he spoke of the office’s tradition of fairness. Just behind him, his wife, Penny, who worked for Cenarrusa and met her husband on the job in 1974, teared up as a Capitol crowd loudly applauded Ysursa.
Secretary of State
State Sen. Leland Yee withdrew from the California secretary of state race Thursday, one day after his arrest on public corruption charges, his attorney said. ”This was a very personal decision on the part of the senator,” said Paul DeMeester, his attorney, at a news conference outside the federal courthouse in San Francisco. “This is what he wanted to do.” Yee, a Democrat who represents half of San Francisco and most of San Mateo County, was one of 26 people ensnared in a five-year federal investigation that targeted Raymond “Shrimp Boy” Chow, a notorious Chinatown gangster who had claimed to have gone straight, officials said. An outspoken advocate of gun control and open government, Yee is charged with conspiring to traffic in firearms as well as six counts of scheming to defraud citizens of honest services. He has not commented on the allegations. Investigators say Yee took bribes in exchange for political favors in order to pay off a $70,000 debt from an unsuccessful run for San Francisco mayor in 2011 and to fund his run for secretary of state. The bribes were paid by undercover agents, the FBI said.
Oregon: Secretary of State website breach: Database users asked to change passwords to personal accounts | OregonLive
The Oregon Secretary of State’s office has deleted all passwords for users of its business and elections databases after a breach of its website Feb. 4. Users are also asked to change their passwords to personal accounts if they used the same passwords for the Secretary of State’s Central Business Registry or ORESTAR, the state’s campaign finance reporting system. It’s unclear if the hackers accessed the passwords, but the agency is recommending that the passwords to personal accounts be changed as a precautionary measures, agency spokesman Tony Green said. ”The investigation so far indicates that sensitive personal information was not compromised,” said an agency email sent Thursday night to database users.
Jocelyn Benson is the Dean of Wayne State University’s Law School and has written a book on the role of state Secretaries of State. Michigan Democrats chose Benson as their nominee for Secretary of State in 2010. She lost that race to the Republican currently in the office, Ruth Johnson. Benson is also the founder of the Michigan Center for Election and Law as well as Military Spouses of Michigan. WMUK’s Gordon Evans asked Benson about drawing legislative boundaries. She has advocated changes in Michigan’s process, which currently leaves it to the lawmakers to agree on the districts for state Legislature, as well as Congress. Benson says any process that involves citizens would have more integrity than the currently system. She says it is difficult to keep politics out of drawing boundaries for legislative districts. But Benson says states that include citizens have a system which is more fair than having lawmakers create their own districts. Benson says election administration should be non-partisan. But she says Secretaries of State can have a major influence on elections. Benson says both parties are trying to influence races for Secretary of State because they know it’s important. “But it’s still wrong” she says.
National: Big-money partisanship invades quiet realm of secretary of state elections | The Washington Post
The partisan battle over voting restrictions is engulfing secretary-of-state races around the country, as parties on both sides focus on controlling the offices responsible for administering election laws. Democrats and Republicans are launching high-profile and well-financed campaigns aimed at spending millions of dollars in what are normally under-the-radar contests. On the left, veterans of President Obama’s reelection campaign have launched iVote, a super PAC that will funnel money to battleground states with competitive races for secretary of state. Another group, dubbed SoS for Democracy, is being led by longtime labor activists Steve Rosenthal and Larry Scanlon. From the right, a super PAC called SOS for SoS — organized by a former top official at an outside group that supported Newt Gingrich — is aiming to raise and spend $10 million on key races.
National: Groups pledge to spend millions on secretary of state races in Ohio, other battleground states | Cleveland Plain Dealer
Ohioans surfing the web this week may see ads railing against Secretary of State Jon Husted, but they’re not from his Democratic challenger, state Sen. Nina Turner. A Democratic-led national political action committee began running online ads against Husted last week and a conservative-driven rival PAC also plans to raise and spend money on the race as well. The national attention is to be expected, given recent politically charged battles in the Statehouse over early voting days and ballot procedures. But the national groups also are looking to the 2016 presidential race and the role secretaries of states can play as chief elections officials in crafting and enforcing voting rules that favor their respective parties. The 2014 voting hours set by Husted last week, which omit evenings and the Sunday before Election day, have been characterized by Democrats as a partisan move to suppress voting by minorities and working Ohioans.
With the first voters of the 2014 mid-term election cycle already heading to the polls; with secretaries of state garnering more national attention than ever before; and with state legislatures expanding and limiting the right to vote across the country, 24 states will elect a top election official this year. In 13 of those 24 states, the incumbent is seeking re-election, but in nine states voters are guaranteed a new top election official. Those nine states include Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Iowa, Minnesota, and Nevada. Some of the nine are term-limited or retiring, while others are seeking higher office including governor and the U.S. Senate.
Iowa was one of the few states that saw voter turnout increase in 2012. Brad Anderson is proud of the role he played in encouraging turnout there as state director of President Obama’s campaign. Now he’s running for secretary of state, which would put him in charge of overseeing elections. ”I have a plan to make Iowa No. 1 in voter turnout,” Anderson says. The fact that a former Obama operative wants to run elections makes some people nervous. But he’s part of a trend of overtly partisan figures running for a job designed to be neutral when it comes to election administration. No fewer than three superPACs have been formed in recent weeks — two on the left, one on the right — with plans to spend millions of dollars this year influencing elections for what used to be a low-profile post in most states.
The banner ad that popped up online last month from an organization called iVote used a line as innocuous as a civic textbook: “Because every vote should count.” In fact, the ad, and the Democratic group that sponsored it, iVote, are part of a highly partisan and increasingly expensive battle over an elected position most voters are barely aware of. Thirty-nine states elect their secretary of State, and because the job includes overseeing the administration of elections, Republican and Democratic PACs have emerged to fight for control of the position. In addition to iVote, a second Democratic PAC called SOS for Democracy and a Republican group named SOS for SOS have also begun raising money for secretary of State races in November.
On Thursday, a new voting-rights campaign called iVote launched, and it plans to target its resources at secretary of state races in Colorado, Nevada, Iowa and Ohio. Last week, a conservative super PAC named SOS for SoS kicked off its fundraising campaign in secretary of state races in nine states — including Colorado, Iowa and Ohio. In December 2012, two longtime Democratic strategists started the SoS (Secretary of State) for Democracy super PAC, which plans to be involved in six races — including Ohio and Iowa. Why has a series of elections known to send the most aerobic of election-year browser refreshers into a deep sleep suddenly taken on the contours of a close Senate contest? Blame a string of events that started with the 2000 presidential election and reached their climax with the current battle over voting rights. The Constitution states, “the Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof,” and in 38 states, secretaries of state are tasked with carrying out the will of the legislature and orchestrating the complex system that decides who gets to run the country.