Missouri’s secretary of state would have the power to prosecute election crimes under a measure the Senate approved Thursday. Senators voted 25-4 to allow the secretary of state’s office to issue probable cause statements and take cases to court. The office’s election division currently investigates complaints, but any prosecution is left to local officials or the attorney general’s office. Sen. Will Kraus, a Republican from Lee’s Summit who sponsored the bill, said local prosecutors would still have the first opportunity to try a case. But often prosecutors focus on crimes in which someone was victimized, he said, so this bill would help ensure election cases have someone following through.
Secretary of State
A bill that would give the Secretary of State’s office the authority to prosecute voter fraud in Missouri is being submitted for 2016. The bill would also allow the Secretary of State to write probable cause statements in potential voter fraud cases. “It allows them to prosecute voter fraud cases if the local prosecutor chooses not to or doesn’t have the resources,” said Senator Will Kraus (R-Lee’s Summit), who is sponsoring the bill. “There are some small counties in the state of Missouri that may not have the resources and then there are some large counties that may be taking care of more violent crimes and other things that the prosecutors are a little busy with and don’t have the time for a voter fraud case.”
Wyoming: Chief election officer steps down, citing ‘philosophical differences” with newly elected secretary of state | Caspar Star-Tribune
Wyoming’s top elections official has stepped down due to “philosophical differences” with Secretary of State Ed Murray. Peggy Nighswonger, who has been the state’s elections director since 1996 and worked in the Wyoming Department of Education before that, retired last month. In an interview Monday, she said her working relationship with Murray was one of the reasons she decided to end her career with the state. “I have worked for nine elected officials, and sometimes you just don’t have the same philosophy as they have,” she said. “I’m old enough to retire, and as much as I hate to leave, I just felt it was time.”
Lieutenant governors and secretaries of state from across the country are heading to Maine this week for their annual summer conference. The National Association of Secretaries of State conference, hosted by Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap, begins Thursday. The four-day event will be held in Portland. Dunlap’s office says that lieutenant governors and secretaries of state from 34 states are planning to attend.
Connecticut: Senate Responds To Election Day Problems With Bill Giving More Oversight To Secretary Of State | Hartford Courant
The state Senate on Thursday responded to last Election Day’s polling place problems with unanimous approval of a bill that gives the Secretary of the State more control over elections officials and establishes a training and certification process for registrars of voters. Due in large part to office politics and poor personal relationships between election officials, Hartford’s registrars of voters failed in last fall’s statewide elections to adequately prepare and open several polling places on time, to properly tally votes and to properly account for absentee ballots, according to a investigative report released in January that outlined “multiple, serious errors.”
A state Senate committee on Tuesday took the unusual step of sending Pedro Cortes’ nomination for a second stint as Pennsylvania’s secretary of state to the Senate floor without any recommendation. The State Government Committee voted without dissent after an hourlong hearing that largely focused on Cortes’ role in the case of former Philadelphia abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell, who was convicted of murder and is serving a life sentence for killing three babies born alive during illegal abortions at his former clinic.
Three months after being sworn in, Secretary of State Wayne Williams has mostly stayed out of the news, and that’s the way he likes it. It’s a marked contrast from Williams’s predecessor, fellow Republican Scott Gessler, an election law attorney who embraced the nickname “honey badger,” a varmint known for the relentlessness of its attack. Where Gessler seemingly courted controversy — and was the target of one complaint after another from Democrats — Williams is taking a more conciliatory approach, working closely with county clerks across the state and stressing his office’s mission providing services to voters, businesses and nonprofit groups. “The role, once you’re in there, isn’t about which party you’re in, it’s how you serve the citizens,” Williams said in an interview with The Colorado Statesman. “There are some things I might do differently than another individual, but I try to work very hard to make sure this government office operates the way we would if we were trying to attract customers.”
Must public officials assess a new law to determine whether it’s constitutional before carrying it out? That’s the upshot of a federal-court ruling Monday declaring Secretary of State Jon Husted liable for enforcing a law passed by the Ohio General Assembly that later was declared unconstitutional. At issue was a 2013 measure — Senate Bill 47 — declaring that circulators of initiative petitions must be Ohio residents. Judge Michael Watson of U.S. District Court in Columbus said that even if Husted assumed the law were constitutional, “a reasonable official would have understood that enforcement of the residency requirement would violate plaintiffs’ First Amendment right to engage in political speech despite the presumptive validity of the statute.”
Tension between the two former secretary of state candidates played out in a state House committee hearing over a bill that would give New Mexico’s top elections administrator authority in preventing nonbinding advisory questions from inclusion on ballots. The bill, introduced by Rep. Zach Cook, R-Lincoln, stems from the inclusion of what amount to polling questions, that carry no legal weight, placed on ballots by three counties for last year’s November elections. In September, the state Supreme Court granted Santa Fe and Bernalillo counties a petition to include a question on the statewide November ballot asking voters whether they supported marijuana decriminalization.
Oregon: Kate Brown finds a caretaker by appointing Jeanne Atkins as Oregon secretary of state | The Oregonian
Jeanne Atkins, a veteran Democratic aide and women’s rights advocate appointed by Gov. Kate Brown to be Oregon’s new secretary of state, said Friday that she won’t run in 2016 for a full four-year term in the office. Instead, Atkins, 65, will serve in a caretaker role in the state’s second highest office, leaving what could be a long list of candidates to battle over the position in next year’s election. Brown announced Friday that she would appoint Atkins to fill the remaining 22 months of her term as secretary of state. Brown ascended to the governor’s office last month after John Kitzhaber resigned amid an influence-buying scandal.