Voter GuideSecretary of State
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Posting

Secretary of State

The perfect role for a details-oriented administrator with a penchant for good record-keeping, a passion for drama-free election administration and an exceedingly flexible schedule every other November.

Qualifications:

  • Ability to juggle multiple (59) responsibilities at once under a non-negotiable deadline, as you will be overseeing elections for the state, plus every California county 
  • Data management skills to maintain the state’s campaign finance, lobbying and business records
  • Conflict resolution skills a plus, since the Secretary of State is party to every election-related lawsuit in the state (there will be many)

Compensation

$163,917 per year + you can go look at California’s original constitution in the State Archives whenever you want.

Web development skills and design experience are not necessary for this position. Just look at the state’s antique campaign finance web portal, Cal-Access. 

About the hiring process:

Last year, Gov. Gavin Newsom went on a promotion spree. After U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris took  the debatably better job of vice president, Newsom chose his longtime political ally, then-Secretary of State Alex Padilla. That left Padilla’s old job open; Newsom tapped San Diego Assemblymember Shirley Weber. 

As with many of Newsom’s appointments, Weber made history. The daughter of Arkansas sharecroppers, she is the state’s first Black top election administrator. With voting rights, electoral integrity and racial inequality in the headlines, Weber took the job vowing to boost civic education and voter participation

No Democrats stepped up to take on the incumbent. On the Republican side, Rob Bernosky, a member of the state party’s leadership from San Benito, threw his hat in the race at the very last minute, giving right-leaning California voters an alternative to Rachel Hamm, an author and YouTube personality who promotes various conspiracy theories. 

Bernosky’s bid paid off. He secured the second spot with 19% of the vote. But that’s nowhere close to Weber’s 59%, meaning he’ll have miles of ground to make up to make this a competitive race in November. 

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Key Topics
Where Candidates Stand on the Issues
The job
Voting
Ballot measures
Recalls
Security

The secretary of state is California’s chief elections officer, in charge of administering the state’s voting.

What are your two top priorities in the post?
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R
Robert Bernosky

1. To do whatever is necessary for all people to have the evidence necessary for them to believe voter rolls are clean and elections are fair, including making statements on where concerns are and what is being done to address them. The Secretary of State is today mostly a large data clearinghouse, and there are many opportunities for sloppiness and nefariousness that we need to seal. I also do not want any private money in election agencies. 2. I also want to make the Secretary of State’s office to be far more customer-service oriented, with telephones answered for both business interests and election-related inquiries.

D
Shirley Weber

First, we have to run safe, fair elections. Secondly, we need to make voting more accessible, increasing the percentage of Californians who are registered, and the percentage of registered voters who turn out each election.

How would you work with the governor and Legislature?
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R
Robert Bernosky

I will gladly work closely with the governor and the Legislature to achieve the priorities stated above.  I will be fact-based and not ever be crying fraud without verifiable evidence, instead of innuendo and conjecture. I want to have a reputation of credibility with them and have a partnership that works.

D
Shirley Weber

We work closely with the governor and Legislature when needed, both to craft legislation to improve voting rights, and also to ensure that we are following through on our commitments. A few examples: I’ve worked closely with legislators on the ongoing issue of whether and how to reform California’s recall process, and in ongoing legislation related to permanent absentee voting, voter list maintenance, ballot return processes and more.

How would you collaborate with county election officials?
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R
Robert Bernosky

I would like to encourage uniformity as much as possible in all elements of the election process.  The Secretary of State acts as a clearinghouse between other entities such as the Department of Motor Vehicles, Health and Human Services Agency, the Superior Court system, and other agencies that push information to each county, which may be duplicative of other sources counties get independently.  We need best practices put in place to all counties, and I will encourage each to adopt them.

D
Shirley Weber

My office works closely with every county in the state, keeping in regular communication about upcoming elections, procedures and policies, and ensuring that we’re doing everything we can to run safe, fair, accessible elections. One concrete example I’m proud of is that we’ve been able to increase the number of Voter Choice Act counties – now more than half the counties in the state – which has helped make it easier for people to decide how to cast their ballots. 

Since the gubernatorial recall election last year, California is sending mail ballots to all registered voters. But only 33% of those registered and 27% of those eligible voted in the June primary.

Is it important to increase voter participation? How would you do that?
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Robert Bernosky

I come across so many people every day that say they do not vote, mostly because they “don’t do politics.” I hope that I can do some marketing to emphasize voting is not political! Voting is choosing how your tax dollars are spent and how your schools perform, whether you can walk down the street without fear, and how much you pay for gas and food.

D
Shirley Weber

Yes. First, my office has expanded vote by mail to be a permanent feature of our elections, which makes it easier for voters to exercise their rights. Second, we’ve expanded the number of Voter Choice Act counties, where the ease of voting generally increases participation. Third, we work hard to make sure Californians are aware of the relevant deadlines around voter registration, polls opening and closing, and other necessary information, while combating election misinformation aimed at reducing turnout.

Do you support more outreach to non-white and underrepresented communities?
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Robert Bernosky

Absolutely, for the reasons stated above.

D
Shirley Weber

Yes. We need to work hard to ensure as many Californians as possible are able to exercise their right to vote. My family has seen first-hand how Black Americans and other underrepresented groups can face greater barriers to voting. My father was unable to vote in the Jim Crow South, where I was born before we ultimately settled in California. My office has expanded our outreach program to work closely with underrepresented communities to ensure that we are doing our best to help people access the tools needed to vote.

With only seven measures on the November ballot, California voters will get their say this year on the fewest propositions in a century. A couple, including one to raise the minimum wage, barely failed to qualify.

Do you support changing the signature requirements, either raising or reducing them?
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Robert Bernosky

What I support is not changing the rules frequently and to suit particular agendas. We are more-or-less a direct democracy, so ballot measures are always going to be a part of our lives.  So many measures don’t make the cut, so it seems like we have an adequate threshold today, but I am open-minded on the issue.

D
Shirley Weber

I do support raising the minimum number of signatures required for a recall.

While it didn’t qualify, there is a proposal to take the drafting of titles and summaries away from the attorney general. Do you support that change? If so, who should have that authority?
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R
Robert Bernosky

I absolutely support changing the authority from the attorney general’s office to where it is more properly based: in the Secretary of State’s office. It’s just like the DMV registering voters; what expertise and allegiance to the election process do DMV employees have? Let’s let them license drivers and register cars, and let the Secretary of State take care of registering voters.

D
Shirley Weber

No, I do not support removing that authority from the Attorney General. But I believe we need to better inform the public in a nonpartisan way on what the propositions do and what their impact will be.

After the failed effort to remove Gov. Gavin Newsom last year, lawmakers and several policy groups looked at reforming the recall process, with some pointing out that a candidate who received far fewer votes than the number who opposed the recall could become governor.  

Do you support getting rid of recalls entirely?
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R
Robert Bernosky

My personal preference is that we would not have recall elections; they are expensive and have only triggered two actual elections. But I am going to waffle a bit and say I do not object to the elected being in fear of them.

D
Shirley Weber

Recalls are a tool to ensure the voters have the opportunity to remove an elected official who has abused his office, committed crimes, or is clearly negligent or unsuited for office. It is not an opportunity to relitigate an election that your preferred candidate lost. And it should not be gamed to place somebody in office more to your liking. We have term limits and elections for that. Democratic elections only work if we acknowledge that there are people who get more votes than others and that we have to accept the results. I’ve had heartbreaking losses in elections, but I accepted the loss, as have most people who have run, because that’s how democracy works.

Do you support increasing the signature requirement to qualify a recall?
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R
Robert Bernosky

If we are going to continue to have recall elections, I am comfortable with where the thresholds are today.

D
Shirley Weber

Yes. The 2021 recall election cost taxpayers nearly $276 million. If you are going to remove a duly elected official from office and taxpayers are on the hook for hundreds of millions of dollars, the number of signatures should represent a significant percentage of the population.

Do you back a requirement for a more specific cause for a recall?
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R
Robert Bernosky

No, because then you are asking for subjectiveness to be metered by those in power.

D
Shirley Weber

Yes, I would support a specific cause requirement. We could look to the models used by Alaska, Georgia, Kansas, Minnesota, Montana, Rhode Island and Washington to see how their cause requirements work in practice, as we decide on the specifics of our version.

Do you support allowing the incumbent to run in a recall? What about elevating the lieutenant governor if the governor is recalled?
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R
Robert Bernosky

No, doing so muddies the water.

D
Shirley Weber

Yes, I believe the lieutenant governor should serve out the remainder of the term if the governor is recalled.

While a bigger issue in other states, California isn’t immune to threats to election workers or to unfounded allegations of voter fraud and other election disinformation. 

Do you support a bill to protect election workers and their privacy by keeping their addresses confidential?
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R
Robert Bernosky

I believe that any worker’s personal information should be confidential, whether for an election, any other government position, or private industry. I think the chief elections official should certify whatever needs to be certified, if there are residency requirements.

D
Shirley Weber

Yes. These are our neighbors, family and friends, and they dedicate themselves to making our democracy work. Unfortunately, they have become targets for harassment, threats and abuse by those who don’t want our elections to function like they should. They deserve better.

What steps would you take to combat election disinformation?
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Robert Bernosky

When there is doubt in any part of the election process, the Secretary of State needs to unemotionally and quickly address it with credibility.

D
Shirley Weber

We have current efforts underway to provide as much correct information about how, when and where to vote as possible about the elections to voters. We troubleshoot in misinformation, disinformation and malinformation trends to correct the record when necessary. We’ve also made efforts to demystify the elections, from voting machines to certification of results. Those will continue and will be expanded moving forward.

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