Worried about the integrity of today’s election? You should be. The United States has a dysfunctional election system that produces unequal results depending on the state in which one lives, that is vulnerable to intimidation and manipulation, and that does not consistently guarantee that all eligible Americans can vote and have those votes counted.
The Florida debacle of 2000, the Ohio crisis of 2004 and the dozens of disasters in the primary voting this year have confirmed that the basis processes of our democracy are in need of radical repair.
But where does the process begin?
How about with races around the country for Secretary of State, the position that in most states is responsible to organizing and running elections?
Reform candidates are running in states across the country. One of the best, Debra Bowen, is running in California, the nation’s most populous state. Others include Jennifer Brunner in Ohio, Ken Gordon in Colorado, Michael Mauro in Ohio, Carmella Sabaugh in Michigan, Mary Herrera in New Mexico and Ross Miller in Nevada. All of these campaigns have been highlighted by SOS: The Secretary of State Project (www.secstateproject.org) as “clean candidates” who “will protect voter rights in 2008.” But they are more than that: If elected, these candidates will form the frontline in a national push for clean and fair elections.
And it will be a multipartisan push.
How do we know? The most outspoken champion of reform among candidates for Secretary of State around the country is Minnesota’s Mark Ritchie, a veteran activist who in 2004 headed the National Voice coalition, the nonpartisan Get Out the Vote campaign that coordinated the work of over 1000 groups nationwide and registered 5 million new voters.
Frustrated by electoral irregularities that year — particularly in Ohio — Ritchie entered the race for Secretary of State against Minnesota’s hyper-partisan Republican incumbent Mary Kiffmeyer.
Ritchie has throughout this campaign emphasized his commitment to protecting the rights of all voters and of all parties. He’s done so with such passion that, on the eve of the election, a prominent independent candidate in the race — Bruce Kennedy, who is an outspoken advocate for Instant Run-Off Voting (IRV) — issued a statement urging undecided voters to cast their ballots for Ritchie.
“I’ve known for several years that Mary Kiffmeyer is not a good Secretary of State for MN. She lacks ‘people skills’ with her own employees and with election officials around the state that she is coordinating. Mark clearly has a more positive and collaborative style than Mary Kiffmeyer,” announced Kennedy. “Mark is a hard worker. As this campaign progressed, I became persuaded that he will be a strong voice for IRV in Minnesota. Bottom line, he has a good chance to win. I don’t. I am recommending to any voters who are undecided to vote for Mark Ritchie.”