The Importance of the Secretary of State and a Stolen Election

Dan Schnur, an independent candidate for California’s secretary of state position, served as a political consultant to John McCain, back when the Arizona senator was still a maverick running against George W. Bush. We have had tremendous disagreements on some policy issues, but we have similar views when it comes to integrity in government, the honesty of elections, the enhancement of voting rights and the education of voters.

Nothing in our lifetime was more upsetting than the theft of the 2000 election. Despite the denial of some in the body politic that “W” won the election, the results in Florida did not reflect the will of the voters. There is no doubt that Bush lost in the popular vote. It’s undeniable that “butterfly” ballots confused some in Florida who wanted to vote for Al Gore and ended up voting for Pat Buchanan. It can be debated whether a full accounting of the votes would have made a difference.

But the election’s outcome was appalling, as votes were not honored. Fair elections are essential in our republic and it is the duty of a secretary of state to ensure their fairness. The position also oversees corporate and campaign finance records.

Schnur is now listed as “decline-to-state,” having long lost his credentials as a Republican for being far too moderate. In fact, he might have been drummed out of his former party if he hadn’t walked away. That said, he is an honest person who believes in ethical politics regardless of party. He previously headed up the state’s Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC).

He has assembled a bipartisan team of political advisors from both sides of the aisle, including Karen Skelton, who helped the Clinton Administration, and Darry Sragow, a highly respected Democratic consultant. Locally, Jim Cunneen is a supporter.

Schnur’s stated first goal is to ban fundraising while the state legislature is in session. It has long been a custom in Sacramento for legislators to throw lavish events in the middle of session. This forces lobbyists, whose bills depend on their good relationships with lawmakers, to pony up support for their friends. The timing of such events is unseemly and legislative results have been affected.

Second, and even more important, he wants to engage new voters. Our state’s public education system has failed to encourage young citizens to participate in their democracy. The lowest voting participation comes from the young and disadvantaged. As educators have become more rigid in core curriculum—teaching to the test—civics, government and politics have been deemphasized. Schnur wants new voters to be educated about the process and participate in government.

And finally, Schnur views the secretary of state position as a nonpartisan job. People have more confidence in outcomes if a neutral party administers the process. Our secretary of state must be able to overcome any political persuasion and administer the process in a fair manner. Schnur is correct that integrity has no party. The only other qualified candidate is state Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima).

While California is not Florida, we have seen what happened there, when the voting process was corrupted by a purely partisan state administration—the governor just so happened to be the brother of the declared winner and the secretary of state chaired the Florida Republican Party.

We must take steps to ensure something like that never happens again—especially in California.

Rich Robinson is an attorney and political consultant in Silicon Valley.

Rich Robinson is an attorney and political consultant in Silicon Valley. Opinions are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of San Jose Inside.


  1. > Nothing in our lifetime was more upsetting than the theft of the 2000 election.

    The enduring image of the 2000 Florida election vote count was a TV report of an election judge—who was also a Democrat Party activist—holding a punch card ballot up to the light and soberly intoning “I think the intention of the voter was to vote for Al Gore”.

    Stealing an election in front of the cameras.  No shame whatsoever.

    • The supremes made the final ruling on the 2000 recount and it’s a bit disappointing to see someone from the legal profession calling it a “theft”.

      Mind chiming in on the Al Franken election while we’re at it?

      I also take you’re in agreement w atty general re. repealing state laws that prohibit felons from voting after their release from prison?

  2. In the mind of the progressive, “election integrity” means any measure guaranteeing the election of more Democrats.
    With their ongoing campaigns to make voting more convenient, disallow ID checks, reward illegal aliens with amnesty and voting rights etc., nobody’s done more to destroy the integrity of elections than the Democrat party.

  3. One worthless activity of the California Secretary of State is to publish the California Roster each year:

    First, it’s hopelessly out-of-date.  Scroll down to Santa Clara County and note that Liz Kniss is a county Supervisor and Miguel Marquez is County Counsel.  For Santa Cruz County, all five county Supervisors listed either were elected to another office, retired, or died.  The state Department of Fish & Game is listed, but it changed its name to Fish & Wildlife on January 1, 2013.

    Second, in this day and age of internet, the roster shouldn’t even be a document published on an annual basis.  It ought to be a webpage updated within 24 hours of filing.  If Superior Courts can update case info within 24 hours, why can’t the Secretary of State?

  4. He is not proposing much. We probably need free access for some candidate !top two at least) to TV and some kind of public financing of campaigns.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *