The National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS) held its annual summer conference in Daniels, WV from July 10-13 this past summer. Much of the conference was geared toward preparation for the 2012 Election cycle. A number of prominent speakers, including a number of state secretaries of state, “federal officials, private sector representatives, voter advocacy organizations and leading academics” voiced their views.

Sec. Kris Kobach, the controversial Secretary of State of Kansas who has become a lightning rod of criticism and praise over the past summer for his efforts in leading the charge against alleged voter fraud (see a 2009 Times profile about then-candidate Kobach here), discussed his state’s Secure and Fair Elections Act as part of his presentation on citizenship requirements for voter registration. He noted that his state’s law was drafted to “withstand judicial scrutiny” taking into account challenges to a similar law passed in Arizona (which Kobach also had a hand in drafting). Secretary Kobach defended laws like this, saying “we all want security in the knowledge that an election was fair… [a]nd that the winner of the election was the person who really won the race”.

Host Secretary Nathalie Tennant also spoke about elections, focusing on the use of technology in communicating with voters. She stressed the importance of using social media outlets such as Facebook, Twitter, and Skype to make sure voters know valuable information about upcoming elections. The use of such media might help to increase voter participation, she reasoned, as they are the “type of tools people are using to communicate.” Tennant’s office  recently launched a campaign to educate and inform voters of West Virginia’s upcoming special election for Governor and the necessary steps to register and vote. The media campaign coincides with the beginning of the NCAA football season and compares the two activities (voting and football, that is), calling both “American traditions.”

Similarly, Alabama Sec. of State Beth Chapman discussed the future of online voting. She predicted that while such Internet voting will not occur in the next three years (her remaining term of office as SoS), it will occur during her lifetime. “Some [internet voting] occurs in some states now,” she commented, “but the vast majority of states are probably not going to have internet voting … in the next four or five years.” Such electronic voting is on the rise, leading to a growing number of concerns about the security of such voting systems (for more on internet voting, see verifiedvoting.org).

Other elections topics discussed at the conference included the national popular vote, 2011 state law updates and trends, and voter registration.

The National Association of Secretaries of State is a non-partisan professional organization that operates as a forum for the effective exchange of public policy ideas, including the effective administration of state and local elections, among other roles of the offices of Secretaries of State and the Lieutenant Governors.

A draft agenda for the 2011 Summer Conference can be found here. Watch edited video and access news releases at the NASS Summer Conference Media Center.

Jim Ogorzalek is a first year law student at William and Mary School of Law

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