In state politics, the most enviable marker of power is the so-called “triplex.” To achieve a triplex, a political party must sweep the state’s three most influential offices. The first two are the governor and attorney general positions, the former due to extensive executive powers and the latter due to their power to sue the federal government. But it is the third and most frequently overlooked member of the triplex who may have the most influence over democracy: the secretary of state. The duties of the secretary of state encompass serving as the state’s chief election official, along with such administrative duties as permitting and business authentication. Because of their role in the electoral process, secretaries of state have critical influence over who can vote and how easy it is to do so.Full Article: Democracy’s Gatekeepers: 2018’s Secretary of State Elections | Harvard Political Review.
Secretary of State
Gov. Matt Mead on Thursday selected a former Wyoming secretary of state candidate and Laramie County prosecutor as the next secretary of state. Ed Buchanan will serve the remainder of Ed Murray’s term as the state’s election and business registration authority after Murray stepped down in early February over allegations of sexual misconduct. Mead said in a news release that Buchanan’s experience in the Legislature, military career and job as an attorney and prosecutor made him a good choice for the office. “Ed (Buchanan) is committed to Wyoming and to the responsibilities of the office,” Mead said in a news release.Full Article: Mead picks Buchanan for Wyoming secretary of state | News | wyomingnews.com.
Wyoming: Secretary of State Ed Murray resigns; move caps dramatic fall for Cheyenne politician | Casper Star Tribune
Wyoming Secretary of State Ed Murray announced his resignation late Friday afternoon, effective immediately. Murray said he has been “devastated” by two recent accusations of sexual misconduct and that he is now “unable to focus entirely on serving the good people of Wyoming.” … The resignation offers a dramatic conclusion to a two-month period during which the Cheyenne businessman went from the likely frontrunner to replace Gov. Matt Mead to a private citizen. Murray’s troubles began in mid-December when a woman named Tatiana Maxwell accused him in a public Facebook post of sexually assaulting her in the early 1980s when Murray and Maxwell were both working at a Cheyenne law firm. Murray strenuously denied the allegation.Full Article: Wyoming Secretary of State Ed Murray resigns; move caps dramatic fall for Cheyenne politician | 307 Politics | trib.com.
The former head of the Pennsylvania Department of State didn’t resign on his own but appears to have been ousted by Gov. Wolf, according to newly released documents. In an email he wrote to the governor on the day of his Oct. 11 resignation, Pedro Cortes indicated he didn’t know why he was being forced from office. “I have done a great deal of soul searching in the last 24 hours,” Cortes wrote. “I remain at a lost [sic] to understand why you would dispense with my services without sharing with me concerns you had about my professional performance or personal life.” “Wished I had that opportunity,” Cortes wrote.Full Article: Former Pa. election czar was fired, records show.
The recently fired assistant to the director of the State Board of Elections alleged in a letter to some members of the board that the office of Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes improperly gathered voter information from the state’s voter registration system during campaigns. In the letter, Matthew Selph, who was fired by the Board of Elections on Tuesday along with director Maryellen Allen, recalled a conversation with a staffer in the Secretary of State’s Office who said he was directed by the office to gather information “probably 3 or 4 times. . . every time they were running.” He did not specify what information was gathered. Selph has reported the conversation to the Executive Branch Ethics Commission. “Data that is released is documented, recorded and tracked through every step of the system to ensure that everything was done properly,” Selph, a Republican, wrote. “When the data was taken out of this building on a thumb drive, that trust was broken. We have no way to know what was on it, where it went or what it was used for.”Full Article: Fired staffer launches allegations at Secretary of State Grimes | Lexington Herald Leader.
Pedro Cortes, Pennsylvania’s secretary of state, abruptly resigned from office Wednesday, three weeks after his agency came under criticism for a glitch that may have allowed thousands of ineligible immigrants statewide to vote. Cortes’ departure was announced in a 349-word “personnel update” emailed from Gov. Wolf’s office that offered no reason and focused almost entirely on his replacement, interim Secretary of State Robert Torres. Just 14 of the words were about Cortes, who also served as secretary of state from 2003 to 2010 under Gov. Ed Rendell. J.J. Abbott, a spokesman for Wolf, said he could not offer an explanation for Cortes’ departure.Full Article: Pedro Cortes, Pa. secretary of state, steps down.
In recent weeks, our nation and our democracy were attacked by our own government. Donald Trump’s “voter integrity” commission demanded each state hand over the names, addresses, and social security numbers of millions of Americans citizens. Led by state secretaries of State, more than 40 states said “no” in whole or part to Trump’s effort. Just two weeks ago we learned of another unprecedented attack on our nation and our great democracy. Department of Homeland Security officials testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee that Russian agents attempted to hack the election systems of 21 states in advance of the 2016 elections. An earlier report by Bloomberg found that the election systems of up to 39 states were hacked by Russia.Full Article: Secretaries of State: Our democracy's new first responders | TheHill.
The nation’s Secretaries of State sent a clear message to the White House. Members of the National Association of Secretaries of State meeting in Indianapolis unanimously passed a bipartisan resolution underscoring the Constitutional rights of of states to administer local, state and federal elections. The resolution is in response to a letter from the Presidential Commission on Election Integrity, which requested secretaries turn over sensitive information about every voter including including party affiliation, voting history and Social Security numbers.Full Article: Secretaries of State pass resolution supporting state rights to - WDRB 41 Louisville News.
National: State election officials complain feds keep them in the dark on possible voting breaches | Associated Press
State election officials gathering this weekend amid an uproar over a White House commission investigating allegations of voter fraud and heightened concern about Russian attempts to interfere in U.S. elections say a lack of information from federal intelligence officials about attempts to breach voting systems across the country is a major concern. Both Republicans and Democrats gathered in Indianapolis for a meeting of the National Association of Secretaries of State say they are frustrated because they have been largely kept in the dark by federal officials. “The chief election official in each state should be told if there are potential breaches of that state’s data or potential intrusions,” said Republican Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams.Full Article: States complain feds keep them in the dark on possible voting breaches – Las Vegas Review-Journal.
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.Full Article: Secretary of State Reagan to attorney general: Is what I did legal?.
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.Full Article: Senate moves proposal to elect secretary of state closer to the ballot - Florida Politics.
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.Full Article: House bill revoking Kobach’s appointment power held ‘hostage’ by GOP chairman | Local News | hdnews.net.
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.”Full Article: Nebraska Secretary of State Gale Will Not Seek Re-Election | Nebraska News | US News.
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.Full Article: House members seek to strip Kobach of power to appoint election commissioners | The Topeka Capital-Journal.
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.Full Article: Elected secretary of state gets backing.
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.Full Article: Legislation that would make Florida's Secretary of State an elected position advances - Florida Politics.
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.Full Article: Elections: State Progress, Federal Train Wreck.
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.Full Article: Appeals court remands case on secretary of state fees - Washington Times.
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.Full Article: California's top elections officer finds his critique of Trump's voter fraud accusations blocked at national meeting - LA Times.
There may be one more statewide office for Florida voters to select the occupant of soon. Senate Joint Resolution 882, filed by Aaron Bean, proposes an amendment to the Florida Constitution for direct election of Florida’s Secretary of State starting in the 2022 election. The Bean bill also would elevate the Secretary of State to a Cabinet position in June 2019. The language of the legislation denotes a perceived flaw in the current model: “Currently, the secretary is appointed by and serves at the pleasure of the Governor and is not a Cabinet member.Full Article: Aaron Bean revives bill proposing elected Secretary of State - Florida Politics.