In March, California Assemblyman Jeff Gorell (R-Camarillo) proposed a new amendment to the state Constitution which if passed would make the secretary of state’s office a nonpartisan office. Gorell believes that it is the obligation and duty of the secretary of state to ensure California has “fair, open, and honest elections” that are certified objectively.
"Just as importantly," he added in an interview for IVN that the secretary of state has the responsibility of making sure “all Californians, regardless of party, are enfranchised and have the opportunity to register and the opportunity to vote and are encouraged to do so through various different means.”According to Gorell, this is a nonpartisan focus. He went on to say that along with the business side of the secretary of state’s office in approving corporations and being the “clearing house” for reporting changes in corporate structure, the responsibilities of the office extend beyond partisanship and partisan politics.
“The kind of people we want to encourage to run for these kinds of seats and to be these kind of statewide officials are people who don’t necessarily come up through the partisan process,” he said. “And you find these people at the local level.”
Gorell believes California should look at local offices for candidates to fill the position of secretary of state because these officials often do not participate in partisan activities. They assure accuracy, transparency, and efficiency in local elections, and the perception is that the lack of partisanship at the local level “is a healthy thing.”
While lawmakers can take away the partisan nature of the position and its elections, Gorell understands that the opportunity for partisanship is not so easily eliminated. However, while the opportunity will always be there, it is the obligation to one’s party that disappears.
“That is a step in the right direction,” he said.
Gorell would not go so far as to say that all constitutional offices should be nonpartisan, such as comptroller and treasurer — at least not at the moment. He said that people cast a ballot for many of these offices, including governor and lieutenant governor, because they have adopted certain policy positions and political agendas for the state. He argues that people do not vote for secretary of state for the same reason.
“They vote for someone who they think is the most honest, who is the most fair, who is the most objective, and who is able to push back on the influences of party operatives,” Gorell said.
He added that he would not rule out considering other constitutional offices in the future, but that is not the goal of his bill. The amendment could be left up to California voters on the November ballot, but it first must get a two-thirds vote in both chambers of the state Legislature. The amendment was introduced on March 5 in the General Assembly and awaits further consideration.
Photo Credit: The Sacramento Bee