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Atkins ready to work with new voter registration law

Government — The new secretary of state is sworn in by her predecessor, state's new governor


Jeanne Atkins says that as the 25th Oregon secretary of state, she is already preparing to put into effect legislation linking voter registration automatically with driver records.

Atkins made the comments March 11, after taking the oath from Gov. Kate Brown, who appointed Atkins to succeed her for the less than two years remaining in Brown’s second term.

“We have some resource issues to resolve with the Legislature to make sure we have everything we need to get it done,” she said, in terms of money for the statewide voter registration system and Oregon’s 36 counties.PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP - Sworn in - New Oregon Secretary of State Jeanne Atkins took the oath of office March 11 from Gov. Kate Brown (back to camera), son John, husband John (holding Bible).

Brown says she will sign House Bill 2177, a top priority as secretary of state before she succeeded John Kitzhaber as governor upon his resignation Feb. 18.

Atkins, 65, is a longtime Democratic legislative and senatorial staffer. Her most recent position was state director for U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley, for whom she worked for more than a decade when he was Democratic leader and then speaker of the Oregon House.

She also was staff director for the Oregon Senate Majority Office more than two decades ago, and was a manager in the Oregon Department of Human Services.

“Now I have been given the opportunity to protect and strengthen some of our deepest values,” she said.

The secretary of state oversees elections – which are conducted by the counties — audits, public records and some small-business assistance.

Holding a Bible on which Atkins affirmed her oath was her husband, John, a former staffer to U.S. Rep. Les AuCoin in the 1970s and 1980s. They have been married 43 years and live in Portland.

Also watching were their son, John, a third-year law student in Texas, and Terry Anne Paquette, Jeanne Atkins’ sister, who is a teacher in California.

Atkins made two losing bids for the Oregon House from Washington County in 1992 and 1994. She said she is not a candidate for a full term of her own as secretary of state in 2016.

“I had a very successful retirement going,” she quipped. “It’s been described as an epic failed retirement by some of my friends.”

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