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Soapbox: We can carry Oregon's progressive spirit forward

Does it matter who is Oregon’s secretary of state? You bet it does. The secretary of state is the second-highest elected office in Oregon. It is not an entry-level position.

When I ran for this job in 2008, I told voters that I would be their watchdog: find savings and efficiencies in state government; fight fraud in Oregon’s citizen initiative process; and personally engage Oregonians on their right to vote. Four years later, I’m proud to say that is exactly what I’ve done — and more.

This is why Barbara Roberts, former governor and secretary of state, has endorsed my re-election, saying that on the issues of transparency, accountability and scrutinizing the operations of state government, I have done an extraordinary job as secretary of state.

Using the secretary of state’s auditing power, I work to ensure that your tax dollars are managed wisely. In fact, during my first term, my team identified more than $180 million in savings that instead can be directed to our schools and health care for families, kids and seniors.

To help Oregon small businesses, my team audited our community colleges and workforce development programs to ensure that education and training programs match the skills employers need. With the help of chambers of commerce across the state, we launched an online “one-stop shop” so that entrepreneurs can easily find what they need to establish businesses and create jobs without getting mired in red tape.

Finally, over the past four years, we have done truly exciting, exceptional things to strengthen democracy itself. I’m proud to say that we’ve had more than 160,000 Oregonians use the state’s new online voter registration — a system that saves taxpayer dollars. We were also the first state in the nation to use iPad technology to help voters with disabilities and overseas military voters cast their ballot.

Ensuring a strong democracy also means cracking down on fraud and abuse in the paid signature gathering process for ballot initiatives. That’s why I helped change the law to make sure chief petitioners are held accountable for the people they hire to collect your personal information and to prevent chief petitioners from hiring anyone who has been convicted of fraud, forgery or identity theft.

My main opponent, Republican Knute Buehler, doesn’t have one minute of relevant experience, yet he’s running for the second-highest office in the state, and what he has offered so far in his campaign should concern every Oregonian.

On our most fundamental right as Americans — the right to vote — Dr. Buehler threatens to bring the war on voting to Oregon.

Over 30 states have considered new laws that limit access to the ballot box. In passing these laws, right-wing proponents allege that there is wide-spread elections fraud. However, there is no evidence of wide-spread fraud in Oregon or any other state.

The real reason behind the war on voting is to suppress voter turnout, particularly among the poor, minority citizens and women — and the Brennan Center for Justice concludes these laws could make it more difficult “for more than 5 million eligible voters to cast ballots” in the 2012 election.

Dr. Buehler has twice complained that Oregonians “have to show more ID to rent a movie from Blockbuster than to register to vote in Oregon” and that he just “wants to make sure they are Oregonians.” On Oregon’s vote-by-mail system, Dr. Buehler has concerns about “undue pressure to vote because you don’t have the privacy of a polling booth.”

Dr. Buehler’s statements aim to scare Oregonians into believing that our elections aren’t secure, the same false premise on which the right-wing war on voting is based. This is not someone Oregonians can trust to defend our most basic right as Americans.

Oregon is a special place with a remarkable spirit of innovation and progress. Together we can defend the progressive spirit we have created here in Oregon — and keep it moving forward.

Kate Brown is seeking re-election as Oregon’s secretary of state.




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