Iowa Public Television


Candidates for Secretary of State

posted on October 18, 2010

Tonight's program is the final program in our six-part series dedicated to the campaigns of 2010 and the candidates who will appear on November 2's general election. This week we've talked with candidates seeking federal office in the United States Congress and with candidates seeking statewide election on the Iowa Executive Council. Tonight, though, we continue with the discussion with candidates seeking to become Secretary of State. Let’s meet those candidates now.

The incumbent Secretary of State is Michael Mauro of Des Moines. Jake Porter of Des Moines seeks public office as a libertarian, and Matt Schultz of Council Bluffs is a republican seeking to become Secretary of State.

Yeager: Gentlemen, welcome to the format and the program. Mr. Mauro, I’m going to start with you. Why should people select you on November 2?

Mauro: Well, first I want to thank you for the opportunity to be here today. My name is Michael Mauro and I serve as the Iowa Secretary of State. Whether it's been as a county election director, county auditor, or secretary of state, I’ve been administering elections in Iowa for over 25 years, and during that time I’ve had a simple, basic philosophy, and that's to make the process as easy and accessible as possible, while at the same time make sure it is safe, secure, and fair. During my first term as secretary of state, I worked across party lines to make sure that happened. That’s why I’m so proud of the fact that I have 45 elected county auditors, the chief commissioners of their county, who formally endorse my campaign. That’s 31 democrats, 13 republicans, and 1 independent. Certainly with that wide spectrum of bipartisan support, it shows that my administration has been about results and not partisan politics. Let me give you an example. The overseas voting foundation recognized Iowa as the top state in the nation to make it easy and accessible for our military men and women to vote. I think that is great. The pew charitable trust recognizes our website as the top election website in the nation. I think that's great. I worked across and fought for to see that we have a uniform voting system in all 99 counties in Iowa. So what constitutes the vote in Des Moines is the same thing that constitutes the vote in Sioux City, Council Bluffs, and even davenport, and we feel so good about all those things. I worked with the republican county auditor from Cerro Gordo County to help deploy the precinct atlas electronic poll book system. That’s being used in half of our counties this election. That will make it easier for poll workers to work and add another layer of integrity to the election process. So why should people vote for me?Because I have a passion for this job. The voting process didn't start for me when I decided to run for secretary of state. It’s been my lifelong profession and I’m eager to carry it forward for the next four years. I know this:I’m the most knowledgeable; I’m the most experienced; and I’m the most qualified person for this job. And I’m excited about carrying this forward and making Iowa continue to be a role model for the rest of the nation. That’s why I’m running for election. That’s why I’m humbly here today to ask for your support and vote.

Yeager: Mr. Porter, why should people select you?

Porter: Well, my name is Jake pPorter and I’m the libertarian nominee for secretary of state. I am 22 years old. I live in Des Moines. I work in West Des Moines as an inventory management specialist. I bring quite a bit of experience. The secretary of state deals primarily in business and elections, which are two areas I know first hand. My experience includes starting two small businesses, managing Congressman Barr’s Iowa campaign when he ran for president, former business manager of a weekly newspaper, I served a term on the libertarian national committee and a term as at-large representative for the libertarian party of Iowa. I do have a degree in business administration, and I am running primarily because I want to cut the secretary of state salary from $103,000 a year to $50,000 a year.

Yeager: As a libertarian, how does that fit in with your role or view of how this job should be done?

Porter: Well, I believe the secretary of state should be what is required of it in the Iowa constitution and the Iowa code, nothing more, nothing less.

Yeager: All right. Mr. Schultz, why should people go and pick you?

Schultz: Thanks, Paul. My name is Matt Schultz. I’m a city councilman in Council Bluffs, and I’m running for secretary of state for several reasons. First of all I’m married and I have three children and another one on the way, and I’m really concerned about the future of my children and the future of all our children and grandchildren here in Iowa. The secretary of state has a large business apparatus to its office. It receives all the business filings in the state. And as a result, it can have a huge impact on business in this state. I’m really concerned about all the jobs that are leaving Iowa, and I grew up in Des Moines. I went to the University of Iowa for my undergrad, and I went to Creighton Law School. A lot of people I went to school with unfortunately have had to leave our great state. They got their educations at Iowa State, UNI, Iowa, and all sorts of colleges that we have here in this great state. And unfortunately they've left because they needed to find a place where they could put food on the table and a roof over their head, and I’m concerned about that. I’m also concerned about our elections. I think we need a secretary of state who looks at this office from an accountability standpoint. I think that everyone should have to show a photo id when they vote at the polls, regardless of whether you're voting same-day registration. I think everyone should have to show their id. We have to show an id before we get on an airplane, before we open a checking account. We even have to show an id before we buy an adult beverage, so why not when we vote?I want to be a leader and I want to stand up and work with the county auditors and make sure that our state is not opening its door for election fraud. So that's why I think the people of Iowa should look at me as their next secretary of state.

Yeager: How does job creation fit into the role of secretary of state?

Schultz: That's a great question. I get it all the time. You know, for the last twelve years jobs have been neglected by Chet Culver and our current secretary of state. We need a secretary of state who modeled it like Paul Pate did, took the office and saw it as being a business office. I live in Council Bluffs and we have to compete with Nebraska. People in Sioux City have to compete with South Dakota. You know, our state has to compete nationwide for jobs. The secretary of state can be an advocate for jobs. Two years ago the democrats attacked our right to work laws. They also tried to repeal federal deductibility, which allows businesses and individuals to deduct their federal taxes from their state taxes. And unfortunately, our current secretary of state didn't say anything, didn't do anything. We need a secretary of state who sees his role as being an advocate for business. if the legislature is not going -- if the does something that hurts business, the secretary of state should be the first one to stand up and say this is bad for Iowa and this is bad for Iowa jobs.

Yeager: Okay. Mr. Miller should the office -- or Mr. Mauro, should the office be about jobs?

Mauro: Well, first, Matt never answered the question. He never did say what he was going to do to bring one job to Iowa. And so --

Yeager: I’ll ask him that. But why should this office be about jobs?

Mauro: Our office is about -- we have a business services division in our office, and we're proud of that business service division. We promote jobs in Iowa by doing what the secretary of state's duties are, and that is making sure that it's easy for businesses to operate in the state and we do that very well. Ninety percent of our filings are done electronically. Talk to the people from the bankers association. Talk to the people from the bar association. We do a great job at promoting businesses in Iowa by making it easy to work and do business in Iowa. There’s not one thing the secretary of state's office and -- no money in our budget that's going to allow us to be economic developers. So we're proud of what we do. We think we have a great business services division, and we're going to continue to make it -- and make it better.

Yeager: Mr. Porter, should the office be about business?You talk about business experience that you have as a small business owner.

Porter: Well, the secretary of state's office should help small business owners and future business owners to start their business. It shouldn't take a legal expert to start a business in the state. I believe that is what the role of secretary of state's office should be. I’m not running for the state legislature. If I wanted to create jobs, that would be where you would go. I’m running for the secretary of state, an administrative position, which is --

Yeager: All right. Mr. Schultz, do you see -- do you see the role of the office to just have a good environment or should there be something about changing -- maybe we should change the structure and put economic development inside of secretary of state.

Schultz: There doesn't just need to be a change of structure.  There needs to be -- there needs to be a leader in that office who says, look, we're hurting. This office has an opportunity to be an advocate for business. You can step out. You can meet with business leaders. You’re not going to see me just sit in that beautiful gold dome. I want to get out and meet with business leaders, meet with the chamber of commerce, talk to them about what's hurting them and how we can help. Then I want to go back to the legislature and tell the legislature, hey, this is what I’m hearing from business in Iowa. This is what needs to be done. We need to work on these regulations. We need to look at our tax structure. And these are the things that I would offer. And Mr. Mauro has done that for elections. He’s offered legislation and supported legislation for elections. I think we need a secretary of state who's going to do that for business. When the legislature does things that hurts business, Iowa needs a secretary of state who is going to say, hey, this is bad for Iowa jobs.

Yeager: Okay. All right. Mr. Mauro, let's talk about voter turnout. It doesn't seem like it's as high as it could be. How do you get it higher?

Mauro: Well, I think Iowa does a great job of voter turnout. Let’s go back to the presidential election of 2008. We were the fifth highest state in the nation for percentage of people turning out. That is spectacular. This election cycle -- let's talk about this election cycle. Don’t kid yourself. Voters are engaged. We’re going to have a big turnout. We already have had more early voter requests to this date than we had in 2006 and 2002. So I think voters might be slow recognizing and getting engaged in the process, but they're there now. And you're going to see a better-than-average turnout in this upcoming -- well over a million voters. Iowa is a pretty engaged state and their voters take it seriously and I can see the enthusiasm beginning to sprout all over the place.

Yeager: How do you get that to be 100 percent of all eligible voters?

Mauro: Well, there's never -- a hundred percent doesn't happen anywhere in the country. But take this into consideration, we're fifth best in the nation percentage turnout and we're always engaged. Iowa is always on the top when it comes to participating in the process, and a lot of that has to do with the caucuses. The caucus process here starts early and also republicans are coming through the state now. So Iowa voters are, one, engaged; two, they are intelligent and three, they're well informed.

Yeager: All right. Mr. Porter, how do you get more people to vote?

Porter: You've got to attract good candidates. We need to make it easier for first-time candidates to find out what's required of them to run for office. I think that's just one area that I can help with. I’m a first-time candidate and I’m also a libertarian candidate, which can be a little bit tricky getting on the ballot. There’s different requirements that the Iowa code has for third-party candidates.

Yeager: But do you see the job as one that should promote and try to find more voters and get them to the polls?

Porter: absolutely we should always be trying to find more voters and getting them to the polls. We should go to colleges and speak to those groups. We should have direct mailings encouraging people to vote.

Yeager: All right. Mr. Schultz, why -- why do we need people to vote? Why do we need to get -- why do we need to have that number higher?

Schultz: Voting is important. We want as many people who are eligible to vote to participate in the process. As secretary of state I think that's an important role that that office has. I’d like to use the new media tools, like Twitter and Facebook, and incorporate that also in the secretary of state's website to help promote voting, especially to our younger voters and continue to do those things to promote voting in Iowa. I think the key is that when you're promoting different issues and promoting voting, I think it's important that the office does it and not the candidates, so to speak. You won't see my face or my name on any promotion tools to try and get voting out because to me that's just using taxpayer money for campaigning. I think that these sorts of things should be promoted by the office, and it should just have the office's name on it.

Yeager: All right. Let’s talk computers. Should we do online voting in Iowa?

Mauro: Online -- are you asking me?

Yeager: Yeah.

Mauro: First off, I want to respond to a couple comments that matt made, and Jake made a good comment when we were talking about businesses. Jake made the comment that he was running for secretary of state, which he wants to bring more businesses to Iowa. Maybe he should consider running for the legislature or governor or Congress or one of those things. Jake made that point, and point well taken. The second thing I want to respond to is about our public service announcements. They’re good. They’re educational pieces. I am the secretary of state, and that's the job of secretary of state to do that. We’ve worked so hard -- one of my big goals coming into this -- and I’m sure both of my opponents agree with this -- making sure that people with disabilities can participate. We have a ballot out-of-market device out there that makes it easier for them to participate independently and privately. That’s so darn important. It’s important we have it in place. I’ve received notes and letters from people around the state saying thank you, Mr. Mauro, for making us aware of this. Thank you, Mr. Mauro, for allowing us to vote like everybody else votes. So on those two things, I’m so strong about those and I’m doing my job. That’s the job -- you want a bully pulpit?I’m giving you the bully pulpit on things that pertain to the secretary of state's office, making voting easy and accessible to everyone.

Yeager: Mr. Schultz, do you have a problem with the PSAs that he's talking about?

Schultz: Absolutely. I don't have a problem with the substance of the PSA, but the fact that Mr. Mauro is placed in that PSA, his face is on there, his voice. When this is a program that's promoting voting for people with disabilities but not one ad is being published or done in Council Bluffs, according to his own press release, where Iowa school for the deaf is, one of the largest -- from my understanding, where one of the largest communities of deaf is. If this was about promoting voting for those with disabilities, why aren't these ads coming on television, coming on the radio in Council Bluffs. I think this is just a veil campaign ad. If it quacks like a duck, it's a duck.

Yeager: Mr. Porter, what do you think?Would you agree with the PSAs that we have?

Porter: I believe in the PSAs, however, I do not believe they should be mention a specific candidate. My campaign has spent over thousands of dollars on radio ads. However, we can't compete with taxpayer money.

Yeager: All right. Let’s go back to the question I initially asked. Let’s talk about online voting. Do we think online voting is a good idea, and how would you make it safe and secure?

Mauro: The technology is there right now to have that done. No state is really doing online voting at this particular time. Remember, making it easy and accessible and safely and securely are things that you have to balance out. I think as time goes on the sophistication of technology is always moving forward, that's a possibility. It won't be happening in the short term here in Iowa.

Yeager: All right. Mr. Porter, what do you think, online voting?

Porter: I want to make sure it's not going to be hacked by criminals or people that wish to do our system harm. I believe we should maintain a paper trail.

Yeager: We talked about computers and helping the Facebook and Twitter and social media. So what do you think?You talk about showing a photo id to vote. How do you make it safe and secure on online voting?

Schultz: You don't. I’m against it. I don't think we should have online voting. I think we should continue to have the paper trail. That was put in place. And that is one thing that I think Mr. Mauro did do a good job on, and I’m in support of that. I think we should have a paper trail.

Yeager: All right. What about mail-in voting?Oregon has used it. I know a couple other states have talked about it. They mail a ballot to every person. Is that a good idea to help study the issues so they're not surprised and go, oh, I didn't know about soil and water commissioner?

Schultz: We already have absentee voting and early voting, which is done primarily through mail or going to your county auditor's office, and we're getting a lot of turnout on that. But I don't think that that's something that should be done statewide. I think there's something to be said for going to the polls and exercising your right. And personally I don't think that we should adopt Oregon’s statute requiring people to vote through mail.

Yeager: All right. Mr. Porter, what do you think?

Porter: I agree with matt.

Yeager: Mr. Mauro?

Mauro: We have a good combination of mail vote and at the polls, and it's worked very effectively here in Iowa. And Iowa does have good turnouts, so it's working now. I suggest we stay with it.

Yeager: There could be some benefits of maybe a taxpayer savings of not having the poll workers. I know in counties you've got people who are out for months at a time and things like that. You don't think that would be a savings of dollars if you would do mail-in and --

Mauro: If you're going to do mail-in exclusively, you eliminate your polling place and you eliminate your election workers. it does change the way you have to do the election process and the way it's going to be handled at the county auditor's office, and you're going to be mailing out -- for this particular election, you're going to be mailing out over two million ballots. Right now in Iowa we pay for the postage going out and coming back. Some states have made it work effectively. I’m not so sure the savings of dollars are there or everyone's support is there.

Yeager: What do you think, would that be a cost savings if we were to do mail?Would you be in favor if that was more of a --

Porter: No. There are several people, myself included, that like to go to the polls and vote in person.

Yeager: Same question, Mr. Schultz.

Schultz: Yeah, I don't think --

Yeager: Okay. Won’t change it. I want to talk about cleaning -- clean elections, fair elections, safe election. We all remember 2000 and what happened in Florida. We don't want to see that happen again. Do you feel that Iowa elections, Mr. Schultz, are safe and secure?

Schultz: I think that right now we have a few policies in place that need to be changed to make them more safe and secure. Same-day registration was put in place in the last two years, which allows people to register on Election Day and vote on Election Day. I think these should be provisional ballots, in other words, ballots that are set aside and put in an envelope. That allows us to be able to make sure you are who you say you are and that you're eligible to vote. I know there are 44 people in Linn County who are be investigated. If you're a felon and you don't have your voting rights restored, you could register on Election Day and someone may not be able to catch that. So we need those ballots put into an envelope so that we can make sure that that's not played with. Otherwise it goes in with everyone else's and you can't unring that bell.

Yeager: All right. Same question.

Porter: I don't want to do away with same-day voter registration. I think it's a great thing we have in this state; however, I do want to make sure that it's being implemented properly and that it's not being used to commit fraud.

Yeager: Do you find, Mr. Mauro, that our polls are safe and secure?

Mauro: They are. They work very well. I’m puzzled by Mr. Schultz’s comment that he wants to have same-day registration where you come and show a picture, you verify who you are, the information is right there, and he's saying with his trust and verify system, he is entrusting somebody coming and showing their identification with their address on it. I don't think he understands how the election system works, because you're talking about the same-day voter registration, bring the picture, show the picture, verify who you are, and Mr. Schultz is saying voter provisional ballots. That shows me clearly he doesn't understand how the process works, that's why I have 13 republican auditors -- I do a good job. Thirteen republican auditors, including the auditor from his home county, a republican, who says I want to see Michael Mauro stay in this job because I’m about the results. I’m not about partisan politics. I’m about participation. So I’m proud of the same-day voter registration system. We can always make it better. But don't let anybody kid you. It allows 45,000 -- many of those people weren't new registrations. They had moved from one county to another, and with the technology we have in place -- I’m sure these guys like new technology -- we're able to verify that right at the polling place and allow them to vote on Election Day. And for those people who violate the laws, their punishments are severe. Class D felony, $7,500 fine, five years in prison.

Yeager: How do you respond?

Schultz: Well, it's funny, actually, because, quite frankly, I do understand what's going on, and I’m not sure Mr. Mauro does. This is -- this is a fundamental difference between Michael and I, and that is same-day voter registration, yeah, you show an ID and, yeah, that's great. That is something that should be a part of that. But the problem is if you're an ineligible voter, if you -- if you are a felon who hasn't had your voting rights restored, you can still show your ID, you could get it through. And the problem is, yeah, you can be prosecuted afterward, but your vote counts as if you're an eligible voter. We had a close election in Cedar Rapids. Thirteen votes a state legislator won by. Our elections are getting closer and closer. We cannot afford to have anybody abuse the process, and that's why it's simple. I’m just asking, put this in a separate envelope. We’re not saying you can't vote, but we want to make sure that you're eligible to vote. And then if you are already registered ahead of time, then I think you should just show an id because you've already gone through the process and proved you're eligible to vote. But on Election Day we can't prove whether or not you are a felon who hasn't had your voting rights restored.

Yeager: Mr. Porter, what do you think about this?Is either one of them making an argument that's compelling to you?

Porter: No.

Yeager: What would be your take then?

Porter: Well, my take is just that we do need to make sure that there's not fraud, but this is also something that state legislature has to look at. The secretary of state does not make law.

Yeager: Should felons, Mr. Mauro, be allowed to vote?

Mauro: I’m glad you brought that up because with another republican county auditor from Cerro Gordo County, we've just deployed and implemented the precinct atlas electronic poll book system, which has all -- half the counties are using that now --which has all the felons listed in that poll book system. And when that guy that Matt says is gonna show up there and try to commit another felony, shows up, it's going to flag him right there. So again, taking advantage of technology. Again showing, one, my office is about results and not partisan politics. I continue to work with republicans and democrats across this state to make sure this process works for everybody. And that precinct atlas electronic poll book received a national award for cooperation between state and local government. I think we have a great system, and I’m proud of it.

Yeager: So should felons, though, be allowed to vote?

Mauro: Absolutely felons should not be allowed to vote.

Yeager: No. I want to make sure we get this clear.

Mauro: Should felons be allowed to vote?No. We have a process where they can get their citizenship restored. Now, let me make sure that everybody understands this. You go through a process of restoration after you -- after you did your time, paid your restitution, you can have your citizenship restored through the governor's office. Once that restoration process is in place, you're not allowed to vote. The difficulty being many of these people who come through this process -- I’ve met with parole officers across this state. We’ve talked over how we can make sure that this doesn't -- people don't fall through the cracks. I have a difficult time believing that a person that just served time in jail is just sitting at home the night before the election saying, honey, make sure I get up tomorrow so I can go vote to commit the second felony so I can have somebody in office. It needs to be worked out and there's a lot of things that still need to be addressed with that.

Yeager: Mr. Porter, should felons be allowed to vote?

Porter: That's an issue for the state legislature to decide.

Yeager: Not something that you're going to take a position on?

Porter: Not something I’m going to take a position on. If the state legislature wants to allow felons to vote, that will be something they can decide.

Yeager: You would just facilitate it and allow it to happen if the legislature would say so?

Porter: And the Supreme Court would agree.

Yeager: Okay. Mr. Schultz, should felons be allowed to vote in Iowa?

Schultz: Well, no. No, felons should not be allowed to vote. and right now with Governor Vilsack's executive order, they're given a fast track to be able to get to the governor's office, and I would like to know how many felons governor culver has restored rights to since he's been governor. But right now with that executive order 42, there's a fast track for felons to be able to get those rights restored, and I think it should go back to the way it was before. And I think part of being secretary of state is being a leader and taking positions and not just passing the buck off saying, oh, that's for the legislature, that's for the governor. I think you are elected to be a voice for the people in that you need to be a leader. And, yes, the legislature passes the law, but you can be a powerful advocate.

Yeager: All right. Give me thirty seconds here on why people should be studying this issue, watch this program again in case they missed something. Why, Mr. Mauro, should they vote?

Mauro: Quickly I want to tell you about the voter ID --

Yeager: That's your thirty seconds.

Mauro: That's going to be my thirty seconds because I’ve already told everybody why I’m the most competent, capable, and knowledgeable person for this job. The voter’s ID system here, matt doesn't take you the full way. Requiring people to show a picture of voter identification card doesn't take into fact our military overseas voters. What are they going to show?We had 500,000 people vote absentee in the last presidential election. Is he asking them to send a picture in the mail?What about our people in our nursing homes?You can't have two different systems here. It much more complicated and has to be free. Now, if it's going to be free, how are we going to pay for it?You certainly can't put a poll tax. Is matt proposing a poll tax for people to participate in the process?So make sure people -- it sounds -- cliché sounds good. Make sure you keep it in context. It’s more complicated than saying just show me the picture.

Yeager: Mr. Porter, why should people vote and study on this issue of voting for secretary of state?

Porter: Well, this issue is very important. Our votes are the most important thing in the country. We need to make sure they are secure. We need to make sure people are able to vote. And I think that these two have demonstrated the reason why I’m the perfect candidate, somebody who is independent from the two major parties, and I think that's who we need to oversee our elections.

Yeager: All right. Thirty seconds for Mr. Schultz. Why is this office so important to the state?

Schultz: This office is so important to the state because of its business and election rolls. And I want to respond to Michael because I believe that everyone should have to show a photo id when they go to vote, when they show up at the polls. And what I’m going to do for those -- for absentee ballots and early voting, I’m going to put together a bipartisan commission to look at ways to make sure that our laws are secure as they can be. I think we need leadership in this office, and if you think you should have to show an id when you go to vote, you need to vote Schultz.

Yeager: All right. That’s Matt Schultz from Council Bluffs. Jake Porter is from Des Moines. And Michael Mauro is current secretary of the state of Iowa. Gentlemen, thank you so very much. Great discussion here. We greatly appreciate you coming in and spending the time. As we mentioned, that is our final program already. This evening's program concludes our six-part series devoted to the candidates who will appear on the general election ballot of 2010. We discuss policy and a little politics with candidates seeking federal office in the United States Congress and with candidates seeking statewide office on the Iowa Executive Council. We do thank each candidate for their time and also their perspectives. My name is Paul Yeager, reminding you, on behalf of Iowa Candidates 2010, to vote on November 2. Thanks for joining us here on statewide Iowa Public Television.

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