From making sure voting rolls are accurate to preventing foreign interference in local elections, Kansas secretary of state candidate Dennis Taylor said voters must have confidence in the electoral process.
“For me, its a trust issue,” the Republican hopeful said. Taylor was in Great Bend Friday on a swing to western Kansas counties before attending a parade in Hays Saturday and a hectic schedule of candidate forums this coming week.
He referenced the Kansas voting law, championed by current Secretary of State-turned gubernatorial candidate Kris Kobach. It would have required people to prove their U.S. citizenship before they can vote, but was ruled unconstitutional by a federal judge who said Kobach had failed during a trial to show evidence of widespread voter fraud.
“I will take the ABC approach to election system security, “ Taylor said. This means: Auditing elections; backing up votes with voter-verified paper ballots in all counties; and constantly verifying systems security.
Election workers can check all the IDs they want, but unless those are audited, the system is worthless, he said. “If we’re going to do this, we need to do this right and audit elections.”
As for election hacking, Taylor is pretty sure an outside power, probably Russia, probed for weaknesses in the voter registration system in over 20 states in 2016. Now, with elections looming, these hacker may want to jump in and cause mayhem.
Taylor said the is no way they could change ballots. But, they could create chaos by changing addresses voters’ registrations don’t jibe with voter rolls.
“We need to be more proactive in making sure that sort of interference doesn’t occur,” he said.
The bottom line, he said, is whether problems are caused by domestic or foreign sources, they can undermine the confidence Americans have in the election process. With only about 50 percent of the electorate casting ballots in midterm elections, he said we can ill afford to chase voters away.
A crowded field
Kobach not seeking another term has left the field wide open for the secretary job.
The Other GOP candidates include: Randy Duncan, 14th District state representative from Olathe; Keith Esau; Craig McCullah; and 49th District state representative from Olathe and Great Bend native Scott Schwab. There are also Democrat Brian McClendon and Libertarian Rob Hodgkinson vying for the post.
Partisan primaries take place on Aug. 7 with the general election set for Nov. 6.
But, Taylor said, looking at the Republican field, two have a legislative background and none have an administrative background. “This is not a legislative job, this is a management job.”
He has served as a county commissioner and auditor in his native Shawnee County, managed a strategic planning firm and worked with former Governor Mike Hayden. “I am the only candidate to have local, state and management experience,” he said.
“The times require someone with broader skills,” he said. “Management is different.”
Setting the stage
Heading into the 2018 election, the sitting secretary of state is Kobach, who was first elected in 2010 and was re-elected in 2014. Kobach announced on June 17, 2017, that he would run for governor rather than seek a third term in 2018.
Kansas is currently a Republican trifecta, with the GOP controlling Cedar Crest and both houses of the Legislature. It has held this status since Gov. Sam Brownback (R) took office in 2011. Kansas is currently a Republican triplex, a term to describe when one political party holds the following three positions in a state’s government: governor, attorney general, and secretary of state.
As a democracy reform adviser, Taylor represented the U.S. Government in 15 foreign capitals on four continents for more than a decade.
“I have worked in a dozen countries where, for most of my lifetime, either voting was not allowed, trying to vote was dangerous, candidates were not chosen by the people, and/or the elections were shams,” he said. “Just being able to run for office reminds me not everyone is so privileged,” Taylor added, noting, “as Americans we need to treasure our voting rights.”
Taylor spent 12 years as an executive with several private strategic planning companies and 18 years in public management including as chief of staff to the Kansas Senate, a Shawnee County commissioner, the Shawnee County auditor, the Kansas secretary of labor, and as chief of staff to former Governor Mike Hayden.
A native Topekan, Taylor is also a practicing attorney and practiced in Topeka for many years.