Will your state be the Florida of 2008?

by Maggie Littlewood // Published November 2, 2006

The fate of the next presidential election could be determined this November.

Dear voter,

I know that you're all busy following the Dem. vs. GOP horserace right now:

Will race-baiting in Tennessee cost Democrats control of the Senate? Will the "Macaca" and page scandals wipe out GOP party leaders? Will John Kerry's Iraq joke harm the Democrats' chances?

Yes, yes... these are all fascinating questions, and many-a-pundit has made prognostications on these points. Meanwhile, the parties themselves are prepping their lawyers for recounts and post-election litigation shenanigans. That's because, once again, America's shoddy election administration and unfair practices could alter the outcomes in close races -- of which there seem to be many this year. Indeed, Democratic control of the Senate may well turn on whether Claire McCaskill builds a substantial enough lead to overcome Missouri's shoddy election practices.

But you knew that right? You remembered how Katherine Harris and Ken Blackwell (both the chief election administrators in their respective states while simultaneously chairing Bush's presidential campaign in their states) tried to rig their states' rules to benefit their party? So that must mean you're tracking this year's Secretary of State's races with keen interest....

While close congressional races (and a few gubernatorial races) monopolize most of the media attention regarding the upcoming election, the races for Secretary of State have once again gone under the radar. Although the Secretary of State in most states operates as the Chief Election Official, the position did not garner much attention until the elections in Florida in 2000 and Ohio in 2004. Even still, very few voters are paying attention to these contests this year - raising the specter that once again, all of the focus on these positions will happen after damage has already been done and after their is nothing we can do about it. This year, 25 states are having elections for their Chief Election Officer (usually the Secretary of State, but in Alaska the Attorney General and in Massachusetts, the Secretary of the Commonwealth).

In addition to their responsibility to officiate the recount in case of a dispute, the Secretary of State is also responsible for ensuring that the election process runs smoothly, with machines properly functioning and trained local officials. While the job description of the Secretary of State varies, the importance of the position cannot be ignored. As the Chief Election Officer, the Secretary of State has the ability to ensure that there is integrity in the election process. Because of this, it is ironic that there is less attention on these races since the winners will be the ones who will be certifying future elections.

In an attempt to provide more information about these races and the election process for each state, we have compiled lists of all candidates for this position, complete with their contact information and websites, when applicable. We have also posted the responses to a questionnaire that we sent candidates to find out where they stood on pertinent issues regarding election reform and voter participation.

This year don't be caught off guard.

Check it out: Democracy SoS Project