Maine is about to get a new secretary of state. This is a big deal.

Brunswick resident Heather D. Martin wants to know what’s on your mind; email her at [email protected]

Secretaries of state matter. If you’ve been watching the national news, you’ve probably gained a new appreciation for the job. Brad Raffensperger, the Republican Secretary of State in Georgia, has been rather heroically holding the line on truth down there, particularly as it pertains to the fair and honest vote count. He is a living demonstration of why a knowledge of the law and a rigid adherence to truth are invaluable in moments of crisis.

It might not be the flashiest gig in politics, but it is one of the most important.

Here in Maine, the job is also huge. Massive. If you want to get a sense of the scope, just go to www.maine.gov/sos. In Maine, the secretary of state oversees the Bureau of Motor Vehicles (take a peek at your driver’s license, see whose signature makes it legal), the official archives (safeguarding the original state constitution, among other important documents), swearing in and overseeing notaries and, of course, they oversee our elections and guaranteed a fair and accurate vote. That’s a lot.

The current S.O.S., Matt Dunlap, has done a heck of a job.

During his tenure (which includes two separate stints in office), he piloted the office into the modern age by implementing remote electronic access, without which this current pandemic situation would have been significantly more difficult; directed the implementation of Maine’s Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment (MOVE) Act, allowing military personnel and others abroad secure and prompt access to the ballot and oversaw implementation of voter-approved ranked choice voting. Among many other things.

Dunlap garnered national attention when he publicly refuted unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud made by President Trump in 2018. By calmly, clearly and precisely making a fact-based, evidence supported argument with full transparency on process, Dunlap displayed the mettle of which he is made, as well as the importance of the office.

That may have been his most public demonstration of dedication to fair play and Rule of Law, but far from the only. Dunlap has been a constant advocate for voter protection and public access to government information, all while applying the rules equally, regardless of partisan affiliation. Town Clerks applaud him, and so do I.

But the office of secretary of state is term limited, and Dunlap has reached that limit. The state of Maine must now seek out a new secretary of state.

Or, to be more precise, as laid out in the Maine State Constitution, “The Secretary of State shall be chosen biennially at the first session of the Legislature, by joint ballot of the Senators and Representatives in convention.” Once the state legislators make their choice, the nominee is appointed by the governor to serve a term of two years, with a limit of not more than four consecutive terms total.

So. Who will our next secretary of state be? Whoever is chosen to fill this role must be well versed in Maine’s Constitution and procedural channels, must have a core belief in the importance of every person to be guaranteed a safe and protected vote, and must stand for our laws, our people and our freedoms – even, or especially, in the face of threats and intimidation. Maine has a long and proud tradition of a free and fair electoral system. Let’s ensure we maintain that.

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