Secretary of state may seek to make office nonpartisan

Politics

Secretary of state oversees elections

FILE – In this May 17, 2016, file photo, ballots are prepared for counting at Multnomah County election headquarters in Portland, Ore. Federal officials are working to bolster defenses on the state and even county levels against interference in the 2020 elections, running scenarios where things go awry in the run-up to the vote. In Oregon, officials from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency carried out a tabletop exercise with county and state elections officials last week. (AP Photo/Don Ryan, File)

SALEM, Ore. (AP) – Oregon’s secretary of state is preparing an effort to make her office, the state’s top elections watchdog, a nonpartisan post.

The Oregonian/OregonLive reports that deputy to Secretary of State Bev Clarno, Richard Vial, said they are considering it and may ask the Legislature to adopt the change that would make that happen.

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Oregon Secretary of State Bev Clarno, 2019

Of the 35 states that elect their secretaries of state, all but one is held by a politician affiliated with a specific party.

In places where the secretary of state oversees elections, though, that role is increasingly contentious. Candidates frequently complain that partisan elections officials favor candidates from their own party.

The secretary of state’s job is the only statewide office Republicans have held in the past 19 years. Dennis Richardson beat Democrat Brad Avakian in 2016 and Gov. Kate Brown appointed Clarno, a Republican, to fill the seat after Richardson died in February.

State law requires governors to fill such openings with appointees from the same party as those who vacate the post.

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