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Mixed results from new GOP secretaries of state who pledged election integrity reforms

The secretaries are in states with Republican legislatures and governors.

Published: February 8, 2023 1:31pm

Updated: February 9, 2023 11:18pm

New GOP secretaries of state in Alabama, Indiana, South Dakota, and Wyoming all campaigned on pursuing election integrity reforms during the midterm elections, but some appear to have followed through on those promises more aggressively than others.

In Alabama, Secretary of State Wes Allen has begun implementing election integrity reforms.

Last month, during his second day on the job, Allen fulfilled a campaign promise by withdrawing Alabama from the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC), a nonprofit helps states clean up voter rolls and register voters.

"Providing the private information of Alabama citizens, including underage minors, to an out of state organization is troubling to me and to people that I heard from as I traveled the state for the last 20 months," Allen said in a statement. "That is no longer a concern because the data uploads of that information from Alabama to ERIC is over."

ERIC was founded by David Becker, who also founded the Center for Election Innovation & Research (CEIR), which received nearly $70 million from Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg's Chan Zuckerberg Initiative IN 2020? and claims, "The 2020 general election was the most secure in American history." 

Operated and financed by a coalition of state election agencies and chief election officers, ERIC had 32 states and Washington, D.C., as members in the partnership as of November 2022.

In a radio interview shortly after his inauguration, Allen explained his legislative priorities, which include election laws mandating the use of paper ballots and prohibiting the connection of tabulation machines to the internet.

New South Dakota Secretary of State Monae Johnson outlined her plans last week in a state legislative hearing to make system-wide upgrades to the state's election and voter registration system, including signature verification procedures, at a cost of up to $4.5 million.

However, the secretary of state's office will "probably" oppose legislative proposals for post-election audits this legislative session, according to the deputy secretary. Instead, the office wants to host a study this summer to look at post-election audit practices throughout the nation.

South Dakota is one of only a few states that don't have post-election audits. At least two bills seeking to introduce audits have been filed in the state Legislature, according to local news outlet KELOLAND.com.

Johnson's campaign website mentions election integrity as a top priority, specifically ensuring that elections in the state remain fair and lead in voter ID requirements.

In Indiana, Secretary of State Diego Morales said during his inaugural ceremony last month that his priority was to "make Indiana a national model for election confidence and integrity," but he appears not to have initiated election integrity measures since taking office.

Since his inauguration last month, Morales has tweeted two posts related to elections, both on Jan. 27.

His first tweet concerned his "remarks at the Indiana Executive Council on Cybersecurity." 

"The Secretary of State's office looks forward to collaborating with our partners to provide combined cybersecurity expertise and strong security protocols," Morales said. "By working together we can ensure the integrity of the voting process."

In his second tweet, he mentioned meeting with the Allen County Clerk.

"As Indiana Secretary of State, it is my job to ensure Clerks have the tools and resources they need," Morales posted. "I look forward to working together."

Morales, a former aide to then-Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, reportedly received poor performance write-ups when he held prior jobs in the secretary of state's office. He also walked back his plan to cut back on Indiana's 28-day early voting period.

Before the primary election last year, Morales wrote an op-ed alleging the "tainted" and "flawed" 2020 presidential election yielded "questionable" results. If elected, he promised, he would "move to paper ballots," "insist on identification to vote" and "mandate that every Hoosier vote in-person if possible, with important exceptions for those who cannot physically get to the polls."

Morales' office didn't immediately respond to a request for comment on Wednesday.

Wyoming Secretary of State Chuck Gray, who campaigned on combating voter fraud and eliminating ballot drop boxes, laid out his legislative priorities after taking office last month, including "proposed legislation which:

  • Ends crossover voting and protects the integrity of the primary process;
  • Increases security and clarification in Wyoming's voter identification requirements;
  • Bans ZuckBucks, private financing of government election offices;
  • Bans ballot harvesting; and
  • Maintains increased transparency in elections."

The Wyoming House of Representatives passed a bill this month that ends crossover voting — meaning a voter must vote for the party they are registered with — and sent it on to the state Senate.

"Ending crossover voting and protecting the integrity of the primary election process has been a key legislative priority this Session, and I couldn't be more excited by its passage on third reading today," Gray said in a statement last week.

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