In the race for the office of California’s secretary of state, attorney Mark Meuser and incumbent Alex Padilla are jockeying for voter support in the November election.
The secretary of state’s job includes serving as the state’s chief election officer, which entails managing state ballot initiatives. The secretary also registers businesses in the state and commissions notaries public.
Meuser, a Republican candidate, officially announced his candidacy for secretary of state in October 2017. He said his primary goal in this position would be to maintain California’s voter rolls to “ensure integrity” in the voting process. Meuser added that with questions of cybersecurity in recent elections, he wants to increase the encryption of voter databases to impede hacking. He also wants to institute more investigations and audits of voter rolls to prevent voter fraud.
“When you have bad voter registration rolls, it creates insecurity to the integrity of elections,” Meuser said. “All Californians should feel confident that only the legal votes cast were collected and counted correctly.”
According to Meuser, noncitizens who register to vote and are caught can be deported and denied citizenship for life. In order to prevent such deportations, he said it is important for the secretary of state to remove individuals not registered to vote from the rolls so they do not become victims of “sloppy government administration.” Meuser added that proper database management of Department of Motor Vehicles files and Social Security desk records can help ensure that only those legally registered to vote can cast a vote.
Meuser said his background as a constitutional election law attorney provides him an understanding of election law and its practical applications, setting him apart from his opponent. He said his knowledge of election procedure, policy and law would give him an “informed perspective” in the position of California’s chief election officer that would allow him to impartially maintain the voting process.
“It’s not a right or left issue — both sides of the aisle have concerns about election integrity issues, and I want both sides to feel confident that their ballot was properly counted,” Meuser said.
Alex Padilla, the incumbent and Democratic Party candidate for secretary of state, plans to maintain growth of voter registration should he be elected to a second term, according to his campaign website.
Padilla was unable to provide a comment as of press time.
As secretary of state, Padilla said on his website that he is implementing automatic voter registration, so people who are eligible to vote will be automatically registered when they apply for or renew their driver’s licenses or state IDs. Padilla also launched online preregistration, which allows 16- and 17-year-olds to register early so they can vote when they are 18.
Padilla also sponsored the Voter’s Choice Act, which — starting in five counties in 2018 — will allow voters to have more information about options of when, where and how they can cast their ballot. According to Padilla’s website, under this act there will be more options for voting by mail, 10 days of in-person early voting and flexibility of voting at any convenient vote center in the county.
In an op-ed penned for The Hill, Padilla said that as threats to the voting process through cyberattacks increase, defenses must evolve and funding must be secured to protect against “foreign interference.”
“Today, cyberattack vectors have expanded — and so must our defenses,” Padilla wrote in the op-ed. “This includes protecting our state voter registration databases, county election management systems, election night reporting websites, state and local government social media accounts and ensuring the information voters consume is accurate.”
In his first term, Padilla also pushed back against Trump’s allegations of voter fraud and did not provide him California voters’ private information. He additionally helped organize other secretaries of state around the country to do the same, according to his website.
“As Secretary, I will strongly oppose laws that undermine voting rights and I will work to maintain California’s leadership in national efforts to strengthen voting rights and increase access to the ballot,” Padilla said on his website.
Meuser and Padilla beat out six other candidates in the June 5 primary, earning 31 and 52.6 percent of the vote, respectively. The general election will be held Nov. 6.