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Columbia Missourian

Secretary of state candidates share their priorities

By Jaime Williams
October 30, 2012 | 4:51 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — The Nov. 6 ballot for secretary of state includes four candidates vying to replace Democrat Robin Carnahan, who is not seeking re-election. The secretary of state is responsible for certifying legislatively approved ballot measures and preparing ballots, for publishing and certifying election results, for regulating state security laws and for registering all businesses and corporations that want to operate in the state.

Three of the candidates shared the priorities they would pursue if elected to the office. Common issues were revising voter identification laws, encouraging business and fair ballot language. Information about the job and candidates' backgrounds can be found in the voter's guide to secretary of state candidates.

Jason Kander, Democrat

Kander said he will fight what he believes is the "true fraud" in our elections, which is Missouri's campaign finance laws. He said he would support actions that would limit contributions, ban gifts from lobbyists to legislators, and prohibit politicians from laundering political money through multiple political action committees to conceal the original sources.

Kander said he focused on ethics reforms when he was elected to the Missouri House of Representatives. He said the secretary of state is in a unique position to advocate for voters. 

Kander said voter identification laws are a hot topic, but he doesn't consider them the biggest issue facing voters. He said ensuring effective state leaders is more important to the public.

"That said, I have always supported a sensible identification law that does not disenfranchise eligible voters," he said.

Kander cites Idaho as a model. In Idaho, if a voter does not have photo identification, they can sign an affidavit with their name and address. It is a felony to provide false information.

Kander said he supports a "no excuse needed" absentee ballot and would like Missouri to allow early voting by mail. He said both measures would mean more eligible Missourians would be able to vote.

Kander said growing jobs is another priority of his. He said his office would try to help connect business with nonprofits designed to help them.

Kander said he got into politics because when he served in Afghanistan, he saw firsthand what happens when people don't trust the government. He believes it's important for the next secretary of state to take a non-partisan approach.

Shane Schoeller (R)

Schoeller said one of his top priorities is ensuring safer elections and protecting ballots. He supports legislation that would require photo identification when voting.

"It is very hard to identify voter fraud the way our system is," he said

Schoeller, citing watchdog.org, said in 15 Missouri counties the number of registered voters is greater than the population. Schoeller gave two reasons for why requiring photo identification would not exclude eligible voters.

"First and foremost is that people use photo ID throughout their daily lives," he said. "More than that is those without photo identification could still vote in the plan I passed earlier this year."

Under the plan Schoeller supports, those who were born before 1941 wouldn't have to present photo IDs at the polls. Those born after 1941 would have to sign a form promising to present a photo ID at a later date or sign a form with their name and address so election officials could verify their identification. All the votes would be counted unless authorities later find that a voter was not the person they claimed to be.

Schoeller pointed to Kansas as a model. He said that state recently passed a similar measure and it seems to be working well.

Schoeller said another priority is creating a business-friendly office. He said there just fewer than 60 different classifications you can register a business under in Missouri.

"It gets confusing and discouraging," he said.

He again pointed to Kansas as a model, where there are fewer than 10 business classifications. He said he would want to work with the General Assembly to streamline the classifications and change the business statutes.

Schoeller said streamlining the registration process could help create jobs by removing obstacles.

Schoeller said that if elected, he also wants to ensure fair ballot language. To accomplish that, he said, he would propose the creation of a ballot commission that would review ballot language and summaries — and rewrite them, if necessary — before ballots are released. The language then would go to the attorney general for approval. Schoeller said that would save time and money by eliminating the need to involve the courts, although citizens would retain the option of seeking legal action.

Schoeller said he is running for secretary of state because he developed an appreciation of the position while working in the office for two years when Matt Blunt was secretary of state. 

Cisse Spragins (L)

Cisse Spragins, chairwoman of the Missouri Libertarian Party, cited two roles of the secretary of state that are important to her: running a clean election and certifying ballot language.

Spragins said it's a priority for her to crack down on business as usual in certain election districts where she believes people look the other way when fraud occurs.

"Some of my opponents are excited about passing voter ID laws," Spragins said. "But it doesn't matter how many laws we have if the people enforcing the laws are corrupt."

She said one specific goal of hers is to provide better training for election volunteers.

She said there should be much closer monitoring of elections by the secretary of state's office, especially when elections are close, and she believes there should be more investigation of fraud allegations. She said the secretary of state should refuse to certify the results of election until all questions of fraud are cleared.

Spragins said another problem in the state is the politicization of ballot language and referendums with "partisan wording." She said honest and consistent wording is especially important when signatures for petitions have been collected, or before they are collected.

Spragins said she chose to run for secretary of state race because it doesn't involve a highly charged political platform. She said it's an objective of the Missouri Libertarian Party to place candidates in as many races as possible. 

"I'm in politics because I have strong libertarian convictions," she said. "That's the only reason. I don't like politics... I don't see it as a career path, it's a duty." 

Justin Harter (C)

Justin Harter of Columbia could not be reached for comment. A Missouri Constitution Party official says he has not been in contact with the party. Harter has filed no campaign finance forms with the Missouri Ethics Commission.

Supervising editor is Scott Swafford