Applicant

Secretary of State

Applicant Shirley Weber is asking you to hire her for the role of Secretary of State, which pays $163,917 per year. Her resume:

Shirley Weber

Secretary of State

Professional Profile

Gov. Gavin Newsom certainly had Shirley Weber’s biography in mind when he appointed her Secretary of State. The daughter of Arkansas sharecroppers who fled Jim Crow violence for Los Angeles, Weber says voting was a core part of her family tradition. Now she’s the first Black person ever to hold the role of chief overseer of California’s elections.

Weber’s professional roots are in higher education. A founding faculty member of San Diego State University’s Africana Studies program, Weber taught for nearly four decades before jumping into politics. After a spell on the local school board, she joined the California Assembly, where she developed a reputation as a fierce advocate for racial justice and as a Democrat willing to occasionally lock horns with teachers’ unions.

Experience

Secretary of State

2021-present

Oversaw the state’s 2021 gubernatorial recall election, in which her office defended itself against a lawsuit brought by Gov. Gavin Newsom, who wanted to have his party affiliation listed on the ballot. Her office also tried and failed to force recall candidates to publish their old tax returns.

Stuck to a state deadline that kept a $18 minimum wage ballot measure off of this year’s ballot — instead, allowing it to go before voters in 2024 — in the face of a lawsuit and political pressure from the campaign’s advocates. 

Drew some criticism, including from voting advocacy groups that raised alarms about a plan to cut the number of languages that many polling places would be required to provide services in — a decision Weber reversed.   

Assemblymember

2012-2021

Running with the support of then-San Diego Assemblymember and current Senate Speaker Pro Tem Toni Atkins, Weber became the first Black candidate to win a California legislative seat south of Los Angeles.

Introduced successful legislation making it more difficult for police to legally justify killing a civilian and to create a statewide reparations taskforce. She also authored numerous unsuccessful bills to lengthen the amount of time it would take for public school teachers to earn tenure and to set new teacher performance evaluation standards.

References

  • Gov. Gavin Newsom
  • EMILY’s List
  • California Labor Federation
  • California Democratic Party

Fun Fact

Weber likes to tell this story to illustrate how serious voting was to her family: When their South Los Angeles neighborhood’s polling place was kicked out of the local elementary school one year, Weber says her parents invited the county to relocate it to their living room.

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“I will spend all of my energies and all of my time making sure that the Secretary of State’s office is a voice for the voiceless.”

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Here’s where Shirley Weber, applicant for secretary of state, stands on the big questions about California’s elections.

Key Topics
Where Shirley Weber Stands 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.

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What are your two top priorities in the post?

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?

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?

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.     

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

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?

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.

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

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?

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.

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Do you support getting rid of recalls entirely?

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?

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?

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?

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. 

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

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?

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.