The Executive Summary: Secretary of State loses battle over ballot format

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October 18, 2012

Edited by Geoff Pallay

Welcome to the second-to-last Executive Summary before voters head to the polls on November 6.

In the recent Michigan primary election, Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson (R) added a question regarding a voter's citizenship to ballot applications that voters fill out in order to cast their ballot. Earlier in the year, legislation that included adding this question to ballot applications was vetoed by Michigan Governor Rick Snyder (R). However, Johnson has insisted that she has the authority to include it under her power to prescribe ballot forms. Johnson has asserted that adding the question adds extra security against potential non-citizens from casting a ballot.[1]

Following the primary, it came to light that some voters were asked and others were not. A lawsuit was filed, stipulating that "the citizenship checkbox will delay, and in some cases, hinder registered electors from voting. Those effects will be significantly magnified in the general election, and due to confusion and inconsistency in administration, they will apply to Michigan voters unequally." The plaintiffs include Ingham County Clerk Michael Bryanton, the ACLU of Michigan, Service Employees International Union Michigan State Council and voters from East Lansing, Shelby Township and Buena Vista Township.[2]

A federal judge has ruled that this question must be removed from the November ballot applications, saying that the question would slow the voting process and is confusing to voters. Opponents of the checkbox asserted that the box violates the Equal Protection clause of the U.S. Constitution.[3] Johnson has said that she will not pursue an appeal of the decision due to the impending election on November 6.[4]



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This year, 22 states are holding regularly-scheduled state executive official elections. In those elections, a total of 37 state executive seats and 57 down ballot seats are up for election. Wisconsin also held two special recall elections for Gov. Scott Walker and Lt. Gov Rebecca Kleefisch on June 5, 2012.

  • 21 states have already held primary elections.
  • Louisiana will hold its primary election for statewide races on November 6, 2012, when all other states hold their general election.

Recall targets Kansas Secretary of State

In early October, activists Sonny Scroggins and Frank Smith said they would begin circulating recall petitions against Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R) later in the month. Scroggins said Kobach has been targeted for his work on immigration issues, which regularly takes him out of state, as well as his support for the state's voter ID law.[5]

In order to force a recall vote, state law holds that organizers must collect valid signatures equivalent to 40 percent of the number of persons that voted in the last preceding election for the office. In this case, some 332,000 signatures would be necessary. Prior to that, however, they must first collect approximately 83,000 signatures and show just cause why Kobach should be recalled, which in Kansas can only be for a felony conviction, misconduct, incompetence, or failure to perform the duties of the office.[6][7]

Kobach said it is unlikely the effort would succeed, stating, "It appears that he is hoping Kansas voters will reverse a decision that they already made, because the two issues that Mr. Scroggins points to were the very same issues that were at the center of the general election in 2010. My election in 2010 reflected the reality that Kansas voters overwhelmingly favor photo ID requirements at the polls and they support efforts to reduce illegal immigration."[7]

Scroggins, acknowledging the odds against the effort, said, “Kris has got all the money, got the Koch brother behind him, and he's got Donald Trump, but we've got God on our side and we want everybody sitting at the table.”[7]


Idaho Controller

Brandon Woolf was permanently appointed as Idaho Controller on October 15. Woolf had been serving in the position on a temporary basis since July, when Gov. Butch Otter (R) named him to the post after then-controller Donna M. Jones suffered severe injuries in a single-vehicle rollover car crash, including a broken back. Woolf was serving as Chief Deputy Controller at the time.[8]

It was expected that Jones would return to the job after her recovery. However, Jones decided to resign effectively immediately on Monday after it was learned that her recovery could take up to two years. Jones stated, "I found myself pondering how I may best fulfill my sacred oath as I continue to heal. The conclusion I've reached is that the people of Idaho would be best served by a state controller who is able to fully devote her or his time and abilities to the job."[9]

Maryland Secretary of Labor

Leonard Howie was appointed as Maryland Secretary of Labor, Licensing and Regulation in mid-September and officially assumed his new duties on October 8. Howie takes over for Scott R. Jensen, who had served as interim secretary since May of this year following Alexander Sanchez's departure to become chief of staff to Baltimore's mayor.[10]

Prior to his appointment as secretary, Howie served as Deputy Secretary for Operations at the Department of Human Resources since November 2011. He served for four and a half years as the DLLR Deputy Secretary, was as an attorney with the Office for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Education, and a Senior Consultant with the Ethics Resource Center. Additionally, Howie has been an adjunct faculty member and program advisor at the University of the District of Columbia.[11]

Wyoming Treasurer

Wyoming's incumbent treasurer Joseph Meyer served until his death on October 7, 2012.[12] He was first elected in 2006, assuming office on January 2, 2007, and was re-elected in 2010. Before his election as treasurer, Meyer served as both Wyoming Secretary of State and Attorney General of Wyoming.[12] Meyer passed away after battling lung cancer since 2009. He also had brain surgery to remove cancer deposits in January 2012.[12] Deputy State Treasurer Sharon Garland will take over as the state's acting treasurer until a permanent replacement can be picked through an appointment process.[12]

Featured office

Featured office: Attorney General

Quick facts about Attorneys General

The Attorney General is an executive office in all 50 states. The attorney general of a state serves as the chief legal advisor and law enforcement officer for the state government. In many states, the attorney general is empowered to prosecute violations of state law, represent the state in legal disputes and issue legal advice to state agencies and the legislature. Attorneys general often set particular law enforcement priorities (e.g. drug law, civil rights violations or sexual crime) and focus extra resources on these issues. This puts them, in the words of the National Association of Attorneys General, at the "intersection of law and public policy."

Attorneys general can be selected four different ways:

There are no consistent standards when it comes to qualifications for attorneys general across the states. Some states have minimum age requirements, the requirement to be a resident of the state in which they are running and/or specified lengths of time in which the candidates must have been a licensed attorney, just to list some state's requirements. Others, like Delaware, Kansas and Tennessee, have little to no requirements at all.[13]

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