Rob Hodgkinson, 59, L-Stilwell, is running for Kansas secretary of state to streamline business filings, improve the agency's website, and advocate for more audits of Kansas elections to ensure that votes are counted accurately.
Hodgkinson has a background in information technology (IT) that he says would serve him well as secretary of state. He consulted with multiple companies to ensure that their computers were Y2K compliant so they wouldn't malfunction when the year 2000 began. He later helped run a company's IT department as a systems analyst.
"That experience is something we need in the secretary of state's office," he said. "That background let's me know when people are telling me stuff that might not necessarily be accurate."
Hodgkinson co-owned a window remodeling company from 2007 to 2012. He said he helped grow the business from two employees to 10. For the last five years, he has helped people buy and sell homes as a real estate agent.
Hodgkinson said a third party candidate would do a better job as secretary of state than someone from one of the two major parties.
"I'm not wearing the uniform of one of the two teams," he said. "Being the person trying to decide on disputes when you're on one of the teams is like a pick-up basketball game and trying to call your own fouls. That's not how its supposed to be done."
Hodkinson said he believes his opponents, Brian McClendon (D) and Scott Schwab (R), are attempting to use the secretary of state's office as a stepping stone toward pursuing higher office. Hodkinson criticized current Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who is running to be Kansas governor, for doing the same.
"I don't want to be governor, and I sure don't want to go to Washington D.C. I am a fifth-generation Kansan. I am staying here."
One of Hodkinson's priorities would be to make the Kansas Secretary of State's website work properly on phones and other mobile devices. He also wants to streamline the process for business owners to file paperwork with the Secretary of State's office.
Regarding elections, Hodkinson would advocate for more election audits to ensure ballots are counted correctly. He wants election machines to have paper records for these audits.
"I am a big fan of hand-marked paper ballots," he said. "The computers have their use. You need the computers for a lot of people that are physically challenged. But computers can still be compromised, and it can happen quick."
Voter registration and ID
According to Hodkinson, there is little voter fraud in Kansas. He said that the secretary of state doesn't need the power to prosecute voter fraud, a task he believes could be better carried out by county and district attorneys. He said that many of the people charged by Kobach with voter fraud didn't intentionally break the law and didn't need to be prosecuted.
"They needed their hand slapped and told don't do this again," he said. "But we do need to prosecute cases where there is intent. People will try to game the system. We have to stay vigilant."
Hodkinson said he believes that photo IDs, which citizens are currently required to present in order to vote, should be easier to obtain. Until that happens, he would oppose requiring an ID to cast a ballot.
"We have to make it easy to get a picture ID, and it's not today," he said. "Everything is done through the driver's license office. If you can't get an ID easily, then using IDs for voting is wrong. If you can get the IDs simply, yes, let's do it. That's where I see the biggest challenge today, because people can't get IDs easily if your elderly or not driving anymore."
A federal judge ruled a requirement in Kansas law that Kansans must prove U.S. citizenship to register to vote unconstitutional in June. Hodkinson agreed with the decision and said that requiring a voter to declare that he or she is a citizen, under penalty of perjury, should be sufficient. He said undocumented immigrants are unlikely to attempt to vote illegally, because they don't want to be noticed.
Hodkinson said he supports ranked choice voting, which would allow voters to rank candidates in each race and have their votes transferred to other candidates if their first choice is eliminated. He said this would make it less likely that someone would win without the support of a majority of voters.
Hodkinson served on a study group on the future of elections in Kansas that former Secretary of State Ron Thornburgh created in 2009. Hodkinson met with advocates for voters with physical handicaps and county clerks and discussed several topics, including third parties and the federal Help America Vote Act.
"It was enlightening for me because people were talking about things that I never would have thought about," he said.
Hodkinson has made several previous unsuccessful runs for public office. He campaigned in 2002 and 2004 to represent District 27 in the Kansas House, in 2006 for Kansas secretary of state, and in 2008 to represent District 37 in the Kansas Senate. He ran as a Libertarian in each election.
Hodkinson was elected Kansas chair of the Libertarian Party in 2005 and served in that position for seven years.