Published April 10 2014
Forum editorial: A glowing ND report from PewAnyone familiar with the operation of the North Dakota Secretary of State’s Office will not be surprised by the glowing report about the state’s election system from the respected Pew Charitable Trusts. For the third time, North Dakota ranked first (this time for the 2012 election) in Pew’s Elections Performance Index, which looks at 17 indicators of election efficiency and voter access. Minnesota and Wisconsin elections ranked second and third.
Secretary of State Al Jaeger runs a good shop. Elections are the primary focus of his office, and throughout his tenure, he and his veteran staff have made steady improvements for the benefit of voters and local election officials. The process in North Dakota is recognized as the most voter-friendly in the nation. Consistently high voter turnout is one result. Another is timely adoption of new technology. Yet another is an almost non-existent level of voter fraud.
That record has been noticed in other states, and Jaeger often finds himself giving tutorials on how to do it right to election officials all over the nation.
But, since secretary of state is an elected political office, it’s a guarantee that Jaeger’s political opponents will try to find fault with his performance. For example, in her first shot across the political bow, endorsed Democratic candidate for secretary of state, April Fairfield, said Jaeger and his staff were incompetent. First, the record confirms her ham-handed characterization is not true. Second, in the unlikely prospect the former legislator wins in November, her sentiments about the professional staff in Jaeger’s office suggest she’d have to fire all of them.
The challenger’s cheap-shot remarks indicate desperation fueled by certain knowledge that she has a snowball’s chance in hell of unseating the incumbent. And as if to confirm the desperation, Democratic operatives are said to be circulating a photograph of Jaeger’s piled-high-with-work desk, suggesting such a “messy” desk means the secretary loses important documents. It’s a bushel of political rubbish, but it’s worth a laugh and a caution because it appears to signal the kind of nonsensical campaign Fairfield and her party will conduct.
Meanwhile, North Dakotans can rest assured the secretary of state will continue the competent and efficient work for which his office is known. And non-partisan organizations like Pew will continue to recognize North Dakota’s elections system as the best in the nation.
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Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper’s Editorial Board.