It may not get as much attention as some of the races at the top of this year’s ballots, but Montana’s Secretary of State election is certainly no less important.
As Montana’s top election official, the secretary of state is tasked with interpreting election laws and overseeing elections throughout the state. The secretary of state also maintains certain state records, files administrative rules, provides a variety of services to businesses and serves as one of Montana’s top five elected officials on the State Board of Land Commissioners.
The Democratic candidate, Monica Lindeen, worked as owner and general manager of a highly successful internet service provider and served in the Montana House of Representatives before being elected to her current role as Montana’s State Auditor/Securities and Insurance Commissioner. On the Republican side, candidate Corey Stapleton is a former naval officer and Montana state senator who currently works as a financial adviser.
While both candidates bring a lot to the table in terms of experience and ideas, we are particularly encouraged by what Stapleton has to offer and are endorsing him for this position.
As much as we like having our state leaders right here in Helena, we know they serve all Montanans and need to maintain a strong presence in every part of the state. And Stapleton said his goal as secretary of state is to spend half of his time in the office and the other half working with election officials in all 56 counties to see how they function and swap ideas about what does and doesn’t work well.
Stapleton also said he would encourage employees at all levels to let him know about problems without fear of retribution. And we believe it is wise of him to recognize that the most valuable input about an organization does not always come from the top.
One thing Stapleton said he would lose sleep over as secretary of state is the security of the computer systems used by his office. While he clearly looks at conspiracy theories with a critical eye, he doesn’t dismiss the very legitimate threat hackers could pose to the integrity of our elections.
In our view, recent headlines about cyberattacks throughout the United States and abroad tell us he has a lot of good reasons to be vigilant about hackers. And we believe the top election official in the state should have a healthy level of fear about these kinds of attacks, because they can happen to anyone.
Stapleton has also pointed out the need for standardized election processes throughout the state, which would undoubtedly increase efficiency and reduce confusion for election officials and voters. And he has called for more interaction between legislators and the Land Board, which oversees more than 5 million acres of state trust lands and more than 6 million acres of mineral rights.
Lindeen has also presented some good ideas, such as her proposal to conduct a comprehensive study of complaints and what is happening in other counties to identify any systemic issues.