Candidate for WI Secretary of State position wants to turn back clock
The Democrat challenger for secretary of state says Wisconsin's current system of regulating elections is wrong because it does not answer to voters.
Scot Ross will run against fellow Democrat and incumbent Doug La Follette who was first elected to the post in 1974.
A Pittsburgh, Pa.-native, Ross says he believes the secretary of state should be responsible for election oversight in the state and not the State Elections Board.
"I'm making the case that that authority should return to the office so that we have fair and clean elections in the Wisconsin and make sure that everyone that has the right to vote gets to vote," said Ross.
The nine-member State Elections Board was established in 1974 and members are appointed by the governor, Senate majority leader, Speaker of the Assembly, Senate and Assembly minority leaders, chief justice of the State Supreme Court and the chief officer of each political party whose candidate for governor got at least 10 percent of the vote.
While he was not around when the change was made, Kevin Kennedy, executive director for the elections board said the change was tied to campaign finance reform.
"It was clear that they wanted to take partisan oversight of elections and put it in the hands of a non-partisan citizen's board," Kennedy said.
"That appears to be the model being recommended these days, so Wisconsin was pretty visionary to do that given the concerns raised by both Democratic and Republican secretaries of state across the country following the 2000 election," he added.
But for Ross the problem with the current set-up in Wisconsin is accountability.
"The problem is that there is a lack of direct accountability to taxpayers," Ross said.
Ross says that if elected he'll work with the Legislature to change state statutes to return election oversight authority to the secretary of state prior to the 1974 change.
Ross says he believes everyone should have the right to vote and he makes that the cornerstone of his campaign for the office which currently has nothing to do with elections.
He also is adamantly opposed to voter ID requirements and the elimination of Wisconsin's current system of same-day voter registration.
"I am absolutely opposed to voter identification, it is nothing more than a poll tax and the reason it is happening is because Republicans like Mark Green want to keep people who earn under $35,000 a year from voting," Ross said.
Ross says that voter ID initiatives are Republican attempts to prevent people from voting.
"Attempts by Republican elected officials to disenfranchise certain voters are un-American," he added.
An annual unscientific poll recently released by Sen. Sheila Harsdorf, R-River Falls, showed the 81 percent of area residents support voter ID requirements.
Despite his strong criticism of Republicans, Ross says he would be able to work with Republican legislators to change Wisconsin law. "I pledge that I am going to work with all sides to come up with something that moves things forward," he said. "I am confident there are a lot of good Republican legislators out there who will help move the ball forward."
Ross does not have a plan to ensure that those who are not allowed to vote don't such as illegal-aliens, other than to say that he would sit down with county clerks to hear their ideas on how to prevent voter registration fraud.
Ross moved to Wisconsin in 1997 and served as communications director for the first campaign of Peg Lautenschlager, the current state attorney general. He also served as communications director for U.S. Rep. Ron Kind, D-La Crosse.
Ross says he will bring enthusiasm to the position, something which he believes is lacking by the incumbent.
"Another thing I would do as Secretary of State is travel around the state and talk to high school students about getting involved in their community," Ross said.
He also says that he believes he could bring a better level of service to the office.
Ross is a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh with a degree in English and has a Master of Arts from George Washington University.
Brady Bautch is the Internet Publisher for the RiverTown Newspaper Group. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org