Oregon Secretary of State Kate Brown visited The Skanner offices last week to talk about improving the auditing system, the citizens initiative system and how to reach traditionally disenfranchised communities of voters.
As secretary of state, Brown's office oversees the election process; is responsible for conducting fiscal and performance audits of state agencies; registers all corporate business ventures in the state; and is responsible for archiving all the valuable public records of government, as well as publishing the Oregon Blue Book and Oregon Administrative Rules.
One of the things at the top of Brown's list is initiative reform. The state's citizen initiative system has been responsible for some sweeping changes to the state since its inception in 1902. The "Oregon System" has generated much controversy over the years. Petitioners tried several times in the early 1900s for equal voting rights for women, as well as several attempts to ban liquor before those constitutional amendments made the national scene. But special interest domination of recent elections has spurred calls for action by critics.
Most recently, the City Club of Portland released a report calling for several levels of reforms to the system. Brown is supporting legislative reform that would call for civil and criminal penalties for petitioners caught falsifying signatures. She also supports the idea of legal aid for petition drafters to iron out any legal problems before an initiative makes it on the ballot.
Brown is also hoping to provide better voter outreach to students through the No Child Left Behind Act. She said she is also orchestrating outreach efforts for the upcoming 2010 U.S. Census.
Improving performance and fiscal audits are also at the top of Brown's list. She has recruited Portland's auditor, Gary Blackmer, to lead the effort.