Secretaries of State

Community Organizing Ideas and Issues

Secretaries of State
      San Francisco  As important as the top of the ballot is, all of the mess about voter registration was a good reminder how important it is on the state level to have some good, solid, fair people in the office of Secretary of State.  While in San Francisco I dropped by to visit with Michael Kieschnick, one of the head honchos of CREDO (formerly Working Assets), to see what he was thinking about on this score.
      Michael is one of the few people anywhere who personally and persistently monitors the policies, politics, and performance of Secretaries of State around the country.  From time to time my phone will ring and he will be asking me about who might be good and who might be better in this state or that state, while I quickly fumble around on the bare shelves of my brain trying to remember exactly who is Secretary of State in one state or another.  
      He reported more progress this year on this project.  He was four for four, backing winners in places like North Carolina, Oregon, and Montana.  In a couple of races in typical deprecating Michael fashion, the support they brought to bear was either critical, or “at least the candidate said it was.” In many of these races being able to get some independent expenditure efforts in the list helps little noticed races get the serious attention they deserve.
      Michael predicts 2010 will be another very important year, so it is worth making your own notes about whom, what, and where.
      When I talk about universal voter registration, it will be the states that are likely to have to produce the lists and make sure they work.  And, in the states, it will invariably be the office of the Secretary of State that makes sure it all happens.  This makes avocations like Michael’s more and more important.
      Good citizenship is no hobby, and people like Michael believe it is also something more than a spectator sport or investment opportunity.  He and a crew of 15 in fact looked around for a race where they would work and their work might matter on the ground, and had a great experience hitting the doors in Longmont, Colorado in the last week of the campaign.  Someone good won, and someone bad lost, but more importantly, if you ask me, some good citizens proved the truth of an old slogan that an organizer named Gene Gibbons put on the front of his door in the Little Rock ACORN office in 1973:  “Mouth good, action better!”

Oregon Secretary of State