If Brian McClendon succeeds in succeeding Kris Kobach as secretary of state, he plans to relinquish the proprietorial power Kobach secured to fight voter fraud.
McClendon, a Democrat from Lawrence whose expertise is in technology, said elections officers should work to discover illegal activity, then turn the evidence over to the attorney general or a district attorney.
The Legislature in 2015 gave Kobach the power to prosecute voting crimes, and his office has secured nine convictions. Kobach claims thousands of noncitizens are participating in elections, but all but one of his convictions turned out to be Republicans, McClendon said.
“The secretary of state’s office should not be spending legal dollars on this,” McClendon said. “This was carved out for very bizarre reasons and should be put back where it belongs.”
McClendon outlined his interest in seeking the office during a conversation with The Topeka Capital-Journal’s editorial advisory board. His opponents on the ballot are Republican state Rep. Scott Schwab and Libertarian Rob Hodgkinson.
McClendon’s resume includes 10 years designing supercomputers and 20 years of managing data, with stints as an executive at Google and Uber.
But it was his work on ksvotes.org that inspired him to enter the political arena. He realized how difficult it was to register to vote in Kansas and made a website that allows people to register in less than 3 minutes. So far, 10,000 people have done so.
The website uses a federal form to bypass the state law championed by Kobach that required new voters to show a birth certificate or other proof of citizenship. A federal judge ruled that law unconstitutional earlier this year.
Kobach should have been working to make it easier for eligible voters to register, McClendon said. The Democrat realized this was a job he could do. The secretary of state’s office has a clear mission, McClendon said, and a group of people who are working hard -- they just lack leadership.
He likened the position to his past roles of building and running technology services and brushed aside suggestion that this would be a steppingstone to a higher office.
“I look at this as a job that I can do that can help the state and help voting in elections and solve some problems that we have both in Kansas and in the country, and that’s where I’m focused,” McClendon said. “This is not part of some grand plan for me.”
McClendon has a number of ideas for securing elections, such as training workers against spearfishing, which Russian hackers used to access some voting records in 2016. The process involves finding workers who have access to data and tricking them into providing credentials.
The state also could do more to encourage advance balloting, McClendon said, which allows voters more time to review their options and eases the strain on election day poll workers. He suggested the state allow registered voters to make a standing request for a ballot to be mailed ahead of every election. In the meantime, voters can sign up to receive one at ksvotes.org.
Additionally, the secretary of state should do more to encourage participation in elections, McClendon said.
“Part of it,” he said, “is promotion and marketing. The secretary of state’s job should be to promote voting as a thing to do -- inform everybody about the time, the place, the when, the where.
“I can safely say our current secretary of state has done the exact opposite with all of his activities so far. And that’s one of the reasons that we’re 36th in turnout out of 50 states. There’s no excuse for that.”