Politicians generally don’t try to curb their own power, but that’s exactly what Oregon’s second-highest official is mulling over.
In one of his first moves to create new policy, Secretary of State Dennis Richardson has tasked lawyers within the Legislature to draft a bill that would roll back his authority to order elections investigations, said Richardson’s spokesman, Michael Calcagno.
If the bill is introduced and passed, elections investigations could only be launched if an external complaint is filed. Richardson would still oversee administration of election law, state audits and maintain business incorporation documents, among other duties.
The law that allows Richardson to self-initiate elections inquiries is “very tumultuous,” Calcagno said, because using it could be viewed as targeting political opponents.
Previous secretaries of state haven’t been accused of unfairly wielding their powers, said Jim Moore, professor of political science at Pacific University. Richardson’s request for the legislation is in-line with the small-government approach he campaigned on, Moore said, but it also gives him fewer teeth to go after elections misdeeds.
Richardson, a Republican from Central Point, campaigned on promises to reform under-performing aspects of elections law — and govern without partisanship. He was not available for comment.
Calcagno said the idea is not to weaken Richardson’s office, but to make it less partisan.
“The question at hand is do we want to depoliticize the office,” Calcagno said, “and I think the answer to that is yes.”
Calcagno declined to release a copy of the draft legislation, saying it is not finalized. He said Richardson has not settled on whether to introduce the concept to the Legislature.
— Gordon R. Friedman