Secretary of State

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Texas: Secretary of State David Whitley resigns as end-of-session deadline nears | Austin American-Statesman

Shortly before the Senate’s closing gavel ended his term as Texas secretary of state, David Whitley delivered his letter of resignation, “effective immediately,” to Gov. Greg Abbott on Monday afternoon. Whitley needed Senate confirmation by the end of the legislative session to remain on the job but fell short of the required 21 votes despite expected support from all 19 Republican senators. All 12 Democrats, however, held firm in their opposition to Whitley over his handling of an error-filled investigation into the citizenship status of registered voters that prompted three federal lawsuits and an eventual court settlement that halted the probe and limited the scope of future investigations. Abbott, Whitley’s friend and mentor, was unable to dislodge opposition to the nominee in the 3½ months since Whitley’s confirmation hearing before the Senate Nominations Committee.

Full Article: David Whitley resigns as end-of-session deadline nears - News - Austin American-Statesman - Austin, TX.

Texas: David Whitley could face a tough confirmation for Texas secretary of state | The Texas Tribune

The governor’s appointments for secretary of state typically sail through the Texas Senate. But against the backdrop of a flawed voter citizenship check that risked the votes of tens of thousands of naturalized citizens, Gov. Greg Abbott’s latest pick finds himself in need of Democratic support. And the minority party’s doubts about — if not outright opposition to — his confirmation are growing. A longtime Abbott aide appointed to the post in December, David Whitley is set to face the Senate Nominations Committee on Thursday after almost two weeks of intense scrutiny of his decision to question the citizenship status of almost 100,000 voters using flawed data that seemingly singled out naturalized citizens for review. He’s since been named as a defendant in three lawsuits alleging the review was unconstitutional and violated federal safeguards for voters of color, who are more likely to support Democrats. And he’s facing questions from Democratic lawmakers about why he handed that list of voters to the attorney general’s office for possible prosecution even before the names were reviewed by local elections officials.

Full Article: David Whitley could face a tough confirmation for Texas secretary of state | The Texas Tribune.

National: Election Security Advocates Battle the National Association of Secretaries of State over Opposition to Strengthening Voting Systems | Politico

Indiana’s top election official is refusing to release her communications with the National Association of Secretaries of State, limiting the public’s understanding of both her role and the role of NASS in squashing federal legislation to upgrade voting systems, Eric reports. Indiana Secretary of State Connie Lawson is fighting a public records request that could shed light on both the NASS stance in election security debates and the influence that the small community of voting technology vendors has over the organization.

Full Article: Secretary of state, election security advocates square off - POLITICO.

Florida: Florida Secretary of State Mike Ertel resigns over blackface photos | Tallahassee Democrat

Thursday morning, Michael Ertel, appointed Secretary of State by Gov. Ron DeSantis weeks earlier, testified before a House committee about the several lawsuits filed over the 2018 election. By mid-afternoon, Ertel turned in his resignation, after photos emerged of him posing as a Hurricane Katrina victim in blackface at a private Halloween party 14 years ago. The photos obtained by the Tallahassee Democrat were shown to the Governor’s Office shortly after noon Thursday. About two hours later it issued a terse statement.  “The governor accepted Secretary Ertel’s resignation,” the Governor’s Office said.

Full Article: Florida Secretary of State Mike Ertel resigns over blackface photos.

Michigan: GOP bid to strip power from Democratic secretary of state likely dead | The Detroit News

A Senate Republican power play proposal to shift campaign oversight from Democratic Secretary of State-elect Jocelyn Benson to a new political commission is poised to die in the Michigan House. The House Elections Committee will not take up the controversial legislation when it meets Wednesday morning for the last time of the year, said Rep. Aaron Miller, who chairs the panel. With two days left in the lame-duck session, the proposal is “dead” in committee, Miller, R-Sturgis, said late Tuesday. “No games are going to be played tomorrow. Full disclosure, those bills are not coming up tomorrow.” While it’s possible the GOP-led House still could discharge the legislation from committee for floor action, a caucus source told The Detroit News that is not expected to happen.

Full Article: Michigan House kills bid to strip power from secretary of state.

Georgia: New elections chief will uphold strict voting standards | Atlanta Journal Constitution

As Georgia’s next top elections official, Republican Brad Raffensperger promises to defend broad voter-registration cancellations and strict voting requirements that have fueled accusations of widespread disenfranchisement. Raffensperger, the winner of Tuesday’s runoff for Georgia secretary of state, will continue the work of his predecessor, Gov.-elect Brian Kemp. Democrat John Barrow conceded to Raffensperger on Wednesday. While voter fraud is rare in Georgia, Raffensperger emphasizes election integrity over easy access to voting. He plans to cancel registrations of inactive voters, as Kemp did when more than 1.4 million people were removed from the state’s voting list starting in 2012.

Full Article: New Ga. elections chief will uphold strict voting standards.

Michigan: Republicans vote to strip power from incoming Democrat | The Guardian

The Republican-led Michigan senate has voted to bar the incoming Democratic secretary of state from enforcing campaign finance law, one day after Republicans in Wisconsin similarly took action to restrict the power of newly elected Democrats. The 25-11 vote, which fell along party lines, was the latest salvo by Republicans seeking to capitalize on a lame-duck session before handing control of the state’s top elected offices to Democrats. The measure is among several that opponents say ignore voters who spoke loudly at the ballot box during the midterm elections last month, sweeping Democrats into the roles of governor, attorney general and secretary of state in Michigan. The GOP-controlled state legislature also rammed through bills to gut the $12-an-hour minimum wage and paid sick leave laws, which are pending approval from the outgoing Republican governor, Rick Snyder. Democrat Gretchen Whitmer is poised to take over the governor’s mansion on 1 January and would veto the controversial Republican legislation.

Full Article: Michigan Republicans vote to strip power from incoming Democrat | US news | The Guardian.

New Hampshire: Gardner wins reelection after revote, 209 to 205 | Union Leader

In a day of high drama at the State House, Bill Gardner, the nation’s longest serving Secretary of State, held off a formidable challenge by former Executive Councilor Colin Van Ostern, eking out a four-vote win to another two-year term. Gardner, the underdog in this race for the first time in decades, pulled off a remarkable upset, beating Van Ostern on the second ballot of voting by House and Senate members, 209-205. First elected in 1976, Gardner told the New Hampshire Union Leader he was hoping for one more term, bringing him to the 100th anniversary of the state’s First-in-the-Nation Primary in 2020.

Full Article: Gardner wins reelection after revote, 209 to 205 | State | unionleader.com.

Michigan: GOP panel votes to strip power from Democratic secretary of state | The Detroit News

Senate Republicans are advancing a controversial plan that would strip incoming Democratic Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson of the power to enforce the state’s campaign finance laws. The Senate Elections Committee on Wednesday approved legislation that would instead shift campaign finance oversight to a bipartisan committee. The six members would be picked from a list submitted by each of the two major political parties. The legislation is among a slew of lame-duck power play proposals by legislative Republicans, who will retain their majorities next year in the House and Senate as Democrats take over top statewide offices, including the secretary of state post that has been occupied by a Republican the past 24 years.

Full Article: Mich. GOP panel votes to strip power from Democratic secretary of state.

Georgia: With New Scrutiny On Voting In Georgia, State Will Pick Top Election Official | WABE

The Nov. 6 midterms, and the prolonged vote count afterward, tested Georgian’s trust in how the state’s elections are administered. Multiple lawsuits were filed, and Democrats and Republicans, without evidence, accused each other of trying to steal the election. Now, less than two weeks after the statewide results were certified, voters will pick a new Secretary of State, Georgia’s top election official. Neither Republican Brad Raffensperger nor Democrat John Barrow could secure a majority of votes in the Nov. 6 general election, pushing their race to a runoff on Tuesday. The winner of the runoff will replace interim Secretary of State, Robyn Crittenden, who was appointed by Republican Gov. Nathan Deal when former Republican Secretary of State Brian Kemp resigned.

Full Article: With New Scrutiny On Voting In Georgia, State Will Pick Top Election Official | 90.1 FM WABE.

Georgia: Voting access takes center stage in Georgia runoff | Associated Press

As a battle over the fairness of Georgia’s recent election for governor moves from the political arena to the courtroom, two men are locked in a runoff race, with far less fanfare, to oversee the future of the state’s election apparatus. Republican state Rep. Brad Raffensperger faces former Democratic congressman John Barrow in a Dec. 4 runoff for Georgia secretary of state after neither garnered the more than 50 percent of votes required to win outright on Nov. 6. Official results show Raffensperger led by about 16,000 votes out of over 3.8 million cast. Raffensperger has support from President Donald Trump, who earlier this week endorsed him via Twitter. Barrow, meanwhile, has the endorsement of some top state Democrats, including former gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams. At stake in their runoff is the ability to reshape the state’s election system, which came under a national microscope during the recent race for governor between Abrams and Republican Secretary of State — now governor-elect — Brian Kemp.

Full Article: Voting access takes center stage in Georgia runoff | Myrtle Beach Sun News.

Georgia: Voting rights at stake in runoff for Georgia elections chief | The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

After an election marred by voting problems, Georgia voters will decide in Tuesday’s runoff who should fix them. One candidate for Georgia secretary of state wants to tackle voter purges, long lines and voting rights. His opponent prefers leaving most elections management to county officials and improving training. Democrat John Barrow, a former U.S. congressman, said he’d seek both voting fairness and accuracy if elected as the state’s top elections official. He faces Republican Brad Raffensperger, an engineering firm CEO who said he would ensure only U.S. citizens can vote and mostly maintain Georgia’s current election process.

Full Article: Georgia Secretary of State Runoff 2018: Barrow vs. Raffensperger.

National: Partisan Election Officials Are ‘Inherently Unfair’ But Probably Here To Stay | NPR

When Ohio State elections law professor Daniel Tokaji tells colleagues from other parts of the world about how the United States picks election officials, he says they’re stunned. “And not in the good way,” says Tokaji. That’s because in a large portion of the U.S., elections are supervised by an official who is openly aligned with a political party. It’s a system of election administration that’s routinely come under scrutiny over the past two decades, and did again in this year’s midterms especially in Georgia, Florida and Kansas. “Just about everyone recognizes that it’s inherently unfair for the umpire in our elections to be also a player on one of the two teams, Democrat or Republican,” Tokaji says.

Full Article: Partisan Election Officials Are 'Inherently Unfair' But Probably Here To Stay : NPR.

New Hampshire: Political legend falls prey to Trump effect | Politico

Secretary of State Bill Gardner has had a decadeslong run as the legendary, hard-nosed guardian of New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation primary. But he may not make it through the Trump era. Gardner, a fixture in presidential politics after more than 40 years in office, may be on the verge of a bitter ouster from his job after supporting stricter voter eligibility requirements and participating in President Donald Trump’s ill-fated voter fraud commission. Though he has traditionally garnered support from both Republicans and Democrats — the Legislature selects the state’s secretary of state every two years — New Hampshire House Democrats overwhelmingly threw their support to a rival Democrat, Colin Van Ostern, in a preliminary caucus vote recently.

Full Article: New Hampshire political legend falls prey to Trump effect - POLITICO.

Georgia: Brian Kemp under scrutiny after announcing probe of Democrats | Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Secretary of State Brian Kemp has had two roles this year: Running Georgia’s elections and running for governor of the state. Democrats, including former President Jimmy Carter, have called on him to step aside, warning repeatedly of potential conflicts of interest. Kemp is now facing renewed scrutiny after his office announced Sunday — without providing evidence and doing so just hours before Election Day — that it is investigating the Georgia Democratic Party for an alleged hack of the state’s voter registration system. The move to publicly disclose the probe appeared to break with tradition in the office, which oversees voting integrity, as it differed from how Kemp’s team handled an earlier cyber breach at Kennesaw State University. Edgardo Cortés, Virginia’s former elections commissioner, called Sunday’s announcement “bizarre” and said the timing of it is “problematic,” adding he wouldn’t have done it had he been in Kemp’s shoes. Such public statements, Cortés said, could depress voter turnout by making people question the reliability of the election system.

Full Article: Georgia Election 2018: Kemp under scrutiny in waning days.

National: State election chiefs oversee vote while seeking higher office | McClatchy

In three states, the referee for the midterm elections is also on the field as a player. Elected secretaries of state in Georgia and Kansas — who in their official capacities oversee the elections in their states — are running for governor. Ohio’s secretary of state is running for lieutenant governor. All are Republicans. They have faced scattered calls to resign but have refused to do so. Election reformers say the situation underscores the conflict of interest when an official has responsibilities for an election while also running as a candidate. “There is just too much of a temptation if a political party is in a position to run the mechanics of an election to try to tilt it, and it’s a temptation we ought not to encourage,” said former U.S. Rep. Lee Hamilton, an Indiana Democrat who spent 34 years on Capitol Hill. “This is not nuclear physics.” While the three secretaries of state are Republican, concerns about inappropriate actions by partisans who hold the office transcend parties. An independent counsel earlier this month began investigating Kentucky’s Democratic secretary of state, Alison Lundergan Grimes, over allegations that her office accessed voter registration data to check the party affiliation of job applicants. Grimes may seek higher office next year.

Full Article: State election chiefs oversee vote while seeking higher office | McClatchy Washington Bureau.

Georgia: Democrat Abrams demands GOP’s Kemp resign as Georgia secretary of state amid ‘voter suppression’ uproar | CNN

Georgia Democrat Stacey Abrams’ campaign is calling on Republican Secretary of State Brian Kemp to resign following a report his office is using a controversial verification law to effectively suppress the minority vote in their race to become the state’s next governor. The demand from the Abrams campaign comes in response to an Associated Press report on records it obtained showing Georgia has put a hold on more than 53,000 voter registration applications — nearly seven-in-ten of them belonging to African Americans — because they failed to clear the state’s “exact match” standard. Under the policy, even the most minor discrepancy — like a typo or missing letter — between a voter’s registration and their drivers license, social security or state ID cards can be flagged.

Full Article: Democrat Abrams demands GOP's Kemp resign as Georgia secretary of state amid 'voter suppression' uproar - CNNPolitics.

North Dakota: GOP to support independent secretary of state candidate after learning about nominee’s peeping case | West Fargo Pioneer

The North Dakota Republican Party confirmed it will support an independent candidate for secretary of state Tuesday, May 22, one day after that office’s longtime occupant said he would mount such a campaign. Republican Al Jaeger said Monday he’ll work to gather the 1,000 signatures necessary to appear on the November ballot as an independent. That announcement came a day after the Republican-endorsed candidate, Will Gardner, dropped out of the race once his 2006 peeping arrest surfaced. The North Dakota Republican Party said in a news release Tuesday that independent candidates who intend to petition for a letter of support should appear before a Republican State Committee meeting June 16 in Fargo, a few days after the primary election. The party will begin drafting procedural rules for the meeting.

Full Article: ND GOP to support independent secretary of state candidate after learning about nominee’s peeping case | West Fargo Pioneer.

North Dakota: Jaeger to run as independent after Gardner drops out of secretary of state’s race | West Fargo Pioneer

North Dakota Secretary of State Al Jaeger plans to seek re-election as an independent in November after the Republican-endorsed candidate dropped out once his 2006 peeping arrest surfaced. Jaeger, a Republican who has been in office since 1993, said Monday, May 21, he conferred with Republican Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem about his legal options and determined an independent run was his only viable path to re-election. “I know the office well. I believe I have a good record,” Jaeger said. Jaeger will need 1,000 signatures by Sept. 4 to appear on the November ballot.

Full Article: Jaeger to run as independent after Gardner drops out of ND secretary of state’s race | West Fargo Pioneer.

Louisiana: Secretary of State quits amid sexual misconduct claim | Associated Press

With calls for his resignation increasing, Louisiana’s secretary of state announced Tuesday that he is leaving his position as state elections chief amid allegations he sexually harassed one of his employees. Secretary of State Tom Schedler said in a letter to the governor that he will be stepping down May 8, becoming the highest-level public official in Louisiana to be felled by sexual misconduct accusations since the #MeToo movement began unseating people in positions of power in Hollywood, the media and government. “I leave office with a heavy heart knowing I have disappointed the people in my life who care for me the most,” Schedler wrote. “But I also have experienced from them the miraculous power of forgiveness and grace during the twilight of my career, and for that I am grateful.”

Full Article: Louisiana elections chief quits amid sexual misconduct claim.