The rocky relations between Secretary of State Michele Reagan and Arizona’s county recorders continue. The flash point: Voter registration. Last fall, and again in early February, her office tapped into the voter-registration databases run by Maricopa and Pima counties. The two large counties were perplexed — and more than a little peeved. They said this had not happened since a test on the system in 2010. Plus, Reagan should have forwarded whatever request for information her office was researching to them, instead of just logging in, Maricopa County Recorder Adrian Fontes and Pima County Recorder F. Ann Rodriguez said. And to add insult to injury, they complained they couldn’t get answers on why Reagan’s office was, in their view, snooping in their data.
Secretary of State
The Senate voted tentatively Tuesday to ask the voters next year whether Florida’s secretary of state should once again be an elective position. SJR 882, by Sen. Aaron Bean, would amend the state constitution to make the Secretary of State an elected member of the Cabinet beginning with the 2022 General Election. Identical legislation is pending in the House. The Senate action set up the measure for a final vote. Bean argued the state’s chief elections officer should be “accountable to the people.” Now, secretaries of state are appointed by the governor. If approved by a supermajority on the House and 60 percent of the voters, the amendment would take effect on June 1. That would allow the next governor to appoint someone following the 2018 election cycle.
Kansas: House bill revoking Kobach’s appointment power held ‘hostage’ by GOP chairman | Topeka Capital-Journal
A Republican committee chairman formally submitted a bill Friday to the full House stripping Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach of power to pick the top election officer in the state’s four most populous counties after Democrats complained the legislation had inexplicably disappeared. Rep. Keith Esau, chairman of the House Elections Committee, said bill-drafting issues, instead of his personal opposition to the measure, delayed presentation of the measure to the House in accordance with a rule requiring delivery within two legislative work days. More than a week elapsed between the committee’s approval of Senate Bill 8 and the chairman’s compliance with the rule.
Nebraska Secretary of State John Gale announced Monday that he will not seek re-election in 2018, ending a career that focused on expanding voter participation and upgrading election equipment. Gale has served as the state’s top elections official since 2000, when he was appointed by then-Gov. Mike Johanns. His decision sets the stage for a potentially competitive race to replace him. “Being Secretary of State has been one of the most fulfilling, exciting and memorable experiences of my career,” Gale said in a statement. “I feel very lucky to have been able to offer my public service as a constitutional officer to Nebraska and its citizens.”
Kansas: House members seek to strip Kobach of power to appoint election commissioners | The Topeka Capital-Journal
A fresh effort surfaced Wednesday in the House to transform election commissioners into locally elected positions instead of appointments by the Secretary of State — a change that would affect Shawnee County. Members of the House Elections Committee tacked an amendment onto a Senate bill that proponents say would make election offices in the state’s largest counties accountable to the people they serve. Rep. John Alcala, D-Topeka, said he supports the change and sees it as a matter of local control. “To me, it all falls back on local control,” Alcala said. “And I think that’s where it should be.” The Topeka Capital-Journal contacted Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s office seeking comment. Kobach has previously told The Capital-Journal lawmakers should leave the appointing system as it is.
House panel approved a proposed constitutional amendment Monday that could shift power in Florida’s executive branch. Rep. Gayle Harrell, R-Stuart, wants to convert the office of secretary of state into an elected Cabinet position, eliminating the governor’s power to appoint Florida’s highest elections official. The move would undo a change approved by voters in 1998 that strengthened the office of the governor, which shares power in many areas with three statewide elected officials who make up the Florida Cabinet.
Florida: Legislation that would make Secretary of State an elected position advances | Florida Politics
Historically, the Secretary of State in Florida was elected by the public, but that changed in 1998, when constitutional changes removed that position from the elected Cabinet of the executive branch. Now, 19 years later, Fernandina Beach Republican Sen. Aaron Bean wants to bring that position back into the Cabinet. At the Senate Committee on Ethics and Elections meeting on Tuesday, Bean told his colleagues that the main motivation for his joint resolution (SB 882) is to add another member to the Cabinet, which currently consists of four members – the governor, attorney general, chief financial officer and agriculture commissioner.
The National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS) met February 16 and 17 on Pennsylvania Avenue, two blocks from the White House. Ironically, despite irresponsible claims of massive voter fraud and legitimate worries about voter suppression, participants in the NASS Conference and its sister group, the National Association of State Election Directors (NASED), had a fair amount to feel pretty good about. They could reflect upon an Election Day in November that in a procedural sense went fairly smoothly—not a description often applied to the 2016 election. The chaos and conflict at the polls that was feared by many did not materialize. The incidence of long lines and polling place problems was significantly reduced from 2012, and the gaps between the experiences of voters in white precincts and precincts in communities of color narrowed as well, according to MIT Professor Charles Stewart, based on the Survey on the Performance of American Elections conducted immediately after the elections. Two issues, however, were too fraught with partisan conflict to achieve any consensus on the part of the assembled secretaries of state: Russian hacking and calculated interference in the election, and the president’s claim of massive voter fraud.
The Colorado Court of Appeals has sent back to district court a lawsuit challenging fees collected by the secretary of state’s office to fund elections. The National Federation of Independent Business claims that the business-filing fees are taxes because they pay for non-business-related functions and must be voter-approved under the 1992 Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights. A Denver district court dismissed a federation lawsuit in 2015. It ruled, in part, that the fees are constitutional because they were in effect before TABOR was adopted. TABOR requires voter approval of tax hikes.
National: California’s top elections officer finds his critique of Trump’s voter fraud accusations blocked at national meeting | Los Angeles Times
Secretary of State Alex Padilla, one of the most vocal critics of President Trump’s unproved accusations of voter fraud, lost in an effort Friday to convince other elections officials to take a stand on the issue. Padilla, attending a conference of the National Assn. of Secretaries of State, had drafted a resolution calling Trump’s repeated allegations of widespread illegal voting “without merit” and urging the president to “cease his baseless allegations about voter fraud.” But he was blocked at the last minute from introducing the resolution at the Washington gathering, even though the bipartisan organization issued a statement last month disputing Trump’s comments. The president’s assertions, never backed up with any specific information, have included the election results certified in California.