Just take the partisan out of the secretary of state office

seal of mnI am going to veer off standard left rhetoric here and try to make some out of the ordinary commentary about issues involving the job of the Secretary of State.

The GOP Senate membership is filing a complaint against Secretary of State Mark Ritchie in regards to his stances on the Photo ID Voting Amendment.

And, oddly enough, I think the Senators almost have a valid point. But I doubt they are doing this to protect some grandiose idea about the SOS office or Constitutional separation of powers. They are filing this complaint because they don’t like Mr. Ritchie and they have an equally partisan stance to support the Photo ID amendment which they, themselves, forced on the ballot via one branch of government rules.

Buit I would like to talk about the larger picture. Since the 2000 election, which centered in Florida, in which votes were manhandled like a sack of potatoes and election law was interpreted by partisan hacks, the office of the Secretary of State (in all states) has been looked upon as just another office for partisan exploitation.

Instead of Constitutional amendments that manipulate how and why we vote, why don’t we use the amendment process to get at the heart of the problem. Amend the Constitution to fundamentally change the Secretary of State office itself.

Here is what I would like to see. Instead of having the Secretary of State official elected via a partisan electoral process, have this person appointed by the Governor and ratified by the Senate for a 10 year term in which their sole responsibility was to oversee the registration process and increase participation.

They would not be listed with a (D) or an (R). Their sole purpose would be to be the chief election judge of the state and oversee all election officials in the state as part of a process and not a partisan office.

In addition, the appointed Secretary of State would have oversight responsibility in formulating the new boundaries for legislative and Congressional seats….taking the entire process out of the hands of partisans and keeping it where it usually ends up anyway — in the hands of the judiciary. 

When you look at the job that Katherine Harris did in Florida in 2000, or the attempts to remove Obama from the ballot by SOS’s in Colorado and Kansas, or the firing of the Indiana Secretary of State for (of all things) a voting fraud conviction…..when you see all of that, don’t you think something is wrong with how our election process is handled?

This Photo ID amendment foolishness (and I mean it, it is foolishness) would not be considered if partisan attitudes could be removed from this office. Republicans think Mark Ritchie is too partisan but if compared to the previous office holder, Mary Kiffmeyer, whose to say which was worse in that regard?

The people who hold the office of Secretary of State are placed there, at the moment, by a partisan election process….. so how can we not expect partisan actions to result?

I would very much prefer that the office itself be above all of that. That we find people who will devote themselves fully to the democratic process of voting as a secretary of state.

Their job description? That voter registration is improved and perfected. That voting machines are fully standardized. That recounts can be fully trusted to be outside of partisan leanings. And, most importantly, that voter participation is increased to the point that everyone can have their voice heard.

I know this is another idealistic pipe dream…..but really why can’t it be done? Why not?

This post was written David Mindeman and originally published on mnpACT! Progressive Political Blog. Follow Dave on Twitter: @newtbuster.

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Comments (1)

  1. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 10/05/2012 - 02:55 pm.

    What problem are we trying to solve here?

    We’ve been through several secretary of states and office performs well regardless of who’s elected. The truth is the SOS have very little wiggle room in terms of policy, the actual office is run according to statute, not the whims of the SOS. Please let’s not have the “left” join the chorus of solutions in search of problems with yet another unnecessary change to the constitution. What we have here is an historically unique situation that’s landed in Mark Ritchie’s lap, and republicans are freaking out because their sure bet/no brainer amendments are in trouble. That’s no reason to start changing the constitution.

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