California's next secretary of state will take over an office that has been stuck in neutral. Key projects that would make it easier to cast a ballot or track political campaign disclosures have been delayed, and there's been little urgency or advocacy from the outgoing incumbent,
The secretary of state, who is in effect the state's chief elections officer, should be more than a caretaker of the status quo. The job requires vision and a determination to make California a leader in voter turnout and technology, political transparency and civic engagement. Of the candidates running, Pete Peterson is the best choice for the post. He has innovative yet practical ideas to register voters, make ballot information more accessible and help make election day more convenient for busy Californians. He also brings a welcome focus on making the state's business registration system, which still relies on paper filings, more user-friendly. And he possesses an almost evangelical passion for public participation in the government, which is exactly what the office needs.
As a Republican, Peterson faces an uphill battle in a state that has not elected a member of the GOP to statewide office since 2006. But Californians should look beyond party affiliation in this race. Peterson views the job as nonpartisan, and his resume backs that up. As executive director of Pepperdine University's Davenport Institute for Public Engagement and Civic Leadership, he's spent the last several years training government officials on how to use technology to communicate with the public and how to get citizens to participate in civic decision-making. The secretary of state's office, which has a website straight out of the 1990s, could use his expertise.
His opponent, state Sen.
California needs a chief elections officer who is fully committed to the difficult work of modernizing the state's election system, creating transparent political campaigns and advocating for the needs of voters. Peterson should be the next secretary of state.