Sunday, October 08, 2006

Secretary of State Project

For election reform advocates, people who remember Florida in 2000 and Ohio in 2004, and those who are capable of delaying gratification, I'd like to point out one of the neatest Democratic fundraising efforts out there this year -- the Secretary of State Project. These folks are raising money for Democratic Secretary of State candidates in seven important 2008 presidential battlegrounds. With Democrats controlling these offices, we'll have a lot less to worry about in terms of Republicans trying to intimidate poor voters and impose burdensome requirements on registration and voting, at the time when it'll matter the most.

Consider Ohio, where Jennifer Brunner is pitted against Greg Hartmann. Brunner supports a more equal distribution of voting machines, which would prevent poor black voters for having to wait hours in line to vote. She's a very qualified candidate too, having served as Deputy Director of the Secretary of State's office and spent over 10 years working on election law. Hartmann, who ran the Bush-Cheney re-election effort in his county, has pledged to "do more" than Blackwell in restricting voting. Polls have Brunner ahead by 36-28 and 35-32 margins, but Hartmann has more money.

There's also Minnesota, where progressive leader Mark Ritchie is trying to unseat partisan incumbent Mary Kiffmeyer. Ritchie was the leader of a major voter-registration effort in 2004 that coordinated the work of over a thousand different groups who registered more than 5 million new voters. I'll just copy the SoS project's description of Kiffmeyer for your perusal:

Mary Kiffmeyer was first elected in November 1998, and was re-elected in November 2002. In 2004 Kiffmeyer issued election rules that would have prevented Native Americans who lived outside of Minnesota's reservations using tribal ID cards to vote in the general elections. Federal law states that tribal ID cards are an acceptable form of identification.

Some of Kiffmeyer's other controversial actions include using the Secretary of State office as a sponsor for an evangelical event, allowing her office to run out of voter registration forms in the month before the 2004 election, and challenging the right of absentee voters to change their vote in 2002 after Senator Wellstone was killed in a plane accident ten days before the election. She has even opposed Minnesota's election day registration rule, complaining that it made running elections like planning a party without knowing how many people have RSVP'd.

Kiffmeyer is a hard-core religious conservative, having 'told the attendees of a 2004 National Day of Prayer event in Minnesota that the "five words" that are "probably most destructive" in America today are "separation of church and state."' It's important to remember that 2008 will be the year when Norm Coleman, who won the Minnesota Senate seat only after Wellstone's death, comes up for re-election. Kiffmeyer only won re-election by 3 percent in 2002, so the seat isn't out of reach.

Another tight race is in Nevada, where Ross Miller is facing off against Danny Tarkanian. Miller supports a centralized vote-by-mail system, an extension of voter registration deadlines, and felony penalties for people who intimidate voters or interfere with voter registration. Tarkanian's website, meanwhile, trumpets the support from Michelle Malkin and Bill O'Reilly for his proposed requirement of voter ID and proof of citizenship at the polls. Tarkanian has high name recognition due to being the son of basketball coach Jerry Tarkanian, who won a national championship at UNLV (and was sanctioned for NCAA violations at every university where he coached). Polls are weird, with Miller leading Tarkanian 42-33 in one poll and trailing 44-32 in another.

There are a whole bunch of different issues where the Secretary of State's office matters, from requiring a paper trail for electronic voting machines, to distributing voting resources equally, to making sure that poor people aren't required to provide identification that's difficult for them to attain. All of these issues are important for helping Democrats take the White House in 2008, and in general for preventing gruesome offenses against democracy. If you want to look at more of the candidates that the Secretary of State project is promoting, go to their website. Or if you'd like to follow me in donating to Jennifer Brunner, Mark Ritchie, and Ross Miller, you can do so at the Werewolf Political Strategy ActBlue page.

No comments: