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TIMES ENDORSEMENTS

Keep up the good work

October 20, 2006

BRUCE MCPHERSON WAS NAMED California's secretary of state last year after Kevin Shelley resigned, leaving his office in a mess. The state was out of compliance with the Help America Vote Act, federal dollars for upgrading equipment and training poll workers were frozen and the Department of Justice was threatening legal action. McPherson righted the ship so quickly that California was ready to handle a special election just eight months after he took over. He's done great work under difficult circumstances and should be reelected for another four years.

Having a smart, experienced and hardworking top elections official is important. Since the Florida controversy of 2000 introduced the words "hanging chad" into the political vocabulary, voting machines and election processes are rightfully under heightened scrutiny. Balloting has gone electronic in many states, and the new systems have experienced some very troubling failures. We need a secretary of state who can ensure that voting is secure and free from fraud without burdening local elections officials and volunteer poll workers with untenable requirements and without automatically buying into the latest conspiracy theory about rigging the vote.

McPherson brings the right combination of wariness and pragmatism to the job. He also brings stability, an important factor after Shelley's abbreviated tenure. His Democratic opponent, state Sen. Debra Bowen, has established a strong track record of her own with legislation securing voter rights and public disclosure, and she promises tough scrutiny of voting systems. In fact, Bowen would make a good secretary of state; this is one of the few statewide offices with two genuinely attractive candidates. It's just that we already have a good secretary of state. It would be unwise to change course yet again in this key office without a compelling reason.

McPherson is a moderate Republican who believes the office should be nonpartisan, and he administers accordingly. He exudes respect for the public's right to an open government by providing easily reviewable data on political campaigns and state functions. This yen for transparency may be a product of his years editing his family's newspaper, the Santa Cruz Sentinel. As a state legislator, he authored bills requiring elected officials to post their statements of economic interests and other information online. He also recognizes that the current system is incomplete and difficult to navigate. Having turned around the elections system, he can now focus on improving public access to information on his office's website. He says he will do it, and he has a good record of keeping his word.

The Times endorses Bruce McPherson for reelection as secretary of state.

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