Editorial: Ritchie will bring integrity to office

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Forget who belongs to which party. The choice for Minnesota secretary of state is simple. Vote for the challenger, Mark Ritchie.

Incumbent Mary Kiffmeyer has played partisan politics with the office. She replaced many skilled and experienced staff members with cronies. The remaining staff was left frustrated by the inexperience and poor work ethic of the newcomers. As a result, many of the remaining staff left, too.

Nary an election filing season rolls around without candidates making noise over their troubles with her office. They say members of differing parties get differing answers. This practice has to stop.

Moreover, critics say that unless she&8217;s up for election and in the spotlight she fails to inform people of voting law changes.

She turned a nonpartisan role &8212; the running of Minnesota elections &8212; into a partisan role. In doing so, customer service declined.

Kiffmeyer came under fire for questionable practices in the 2004 election relating to the handling of a contract with a computer firm that was hired to improve the voter registration system. The state auditor investigated

unreasonable charges. Kiffmeyer&8217;s contract with the firm even tried to silence state employees from speaking or writing about the contract &8212; tantamount to a gag order of sorts. Further, legislators expressed frustration over Kiffmeyer&8217;s unwillingness to cooperate with their requests.

This isn&8217;t national security; it&8217;s a secretary of state&8217;s office. If she understood government operates best in the light of sunshine, she might not have found herself explaining the controversy before the Senate Elections Committee.

Mark Ritchie wants to bring respect and integrity back to the office, and it&8217;s high time. The people who seek the office belong to a political party, but the office holder should act nonpartisan.

Minnesotans recall the fair, evenhanded ethic secretaries of state followed for decades.

We believe Ritchie will follow that ethic.