There is a story in today’s NY Times about election officials and the partisan roles that they play in elections and the general conflicts of interest that arise. An excerpt that is telling notes:
Representative Susan A. Davis, Democrat of California, has introduced a bill prohibiting chief state election officials from serving on the political campaigns of federal candidates. When Ms. Davis submitted the bill to the National Association of Secretaries of State for its support, she said she was initially told that they would present it for discussion at the annual convention. Later, however, she was told that it would not be because opposition was too strong.
“No one likes anyone to meddle in their jobs,” she said. “But you can’t be both a player and a referee at the same time.”
A similar bill in the Senate is sponsored by Senator Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California. Mrs. Feinstein’s bill has 11 co-sponsors, all Democrats, and is expected to face significant Republican opposition, as is the House bill.
Neither bill would prohibit election officials from overseeing elections in which they are candidates. Aides to both Ms. Davis and Mrs. Feinstein said such provisions might raise First Amendment or states’ rights challenges.
State ethics rules that limit the partisan behavior of election officials are rarely enforced and frequently come with loopholes, advocates of voting change say.
Mike and I (along with Morgan Llewellyn) have written a paper on election governance that has been accepted for publication that you can read here. The paper notes that people want elected, non-partisan election boards; about 2 percent of respondents prefer a single partisan elected official running elections.