Secretary of State-Elect at MCTC

Tim Wilson
Staff Writer

Secretary of State-elect Mark Ritchie’s talk in the Helland Center on Monday, November 20, advertised as “The Politics of Sustainability,” covered a range of subjects from election protection to non-partisanship, all while mostly ignoring the purported topic.

Ritchie limited his discussion of sustainability to his twenty- year involvement with the non- profit, Minneapolis based Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP), of which he was president. IATP works with local businesses and organizations to form long-term sustainability.

“Our vision of sustainability has to do with survival,” said Ritchie of the IATP.Ritchie also mentioned his involvement with National Voice, a non- profit organization with a “get out the vote” sort of aim at broadening the electorate, which he founded.

His frustration with electoral politics mirrors the frustrations of the general public, such as jaded views of elections stemming from Florida in 2000, “vote challengers” harassing voters at the polls, and distrust of voting machines. He cited “psychological barriers” concerning elections assumptions that arise from repeatedly seeing scandals. His worry was “that elections themselves aren’t credible.”

All of these reasons led to his involvement with National Voice, and finally his decision to run for Secretary of State, saying that“getting people engaged in democracy” was a huge motive.

He said he was “driven by a picture of how I could help.”

Of National Voice, Ritchie said they “were the advocates working with the policy- makers.”

“Policies make the future, but people make the policies,” he stressed, citing part of his reason to become involved in electoral politics, “understanding of policies [is] married to the policy makers.”

Much of Ritchie’s decision to run for the office of Secretary of State was rooted in frustration, mostly with current Secretary of State Mary Kiffmeyer, who been in office since 1999.

“I was stunned,” said Ritchie of the Secretary of State office’s job in informing polling stations of rules and policies concerning election judges and process, in the recent midterm elections. His National Voice organization took it upon itself to prepare polling stations, a job that, according to Ritchie, should have been done by the Secretary of State’s office.

National Voice registered 5.1 million voters, and got 10 million to the polls.

“[2004] was a tumultuous kind of election,” said Ritchie. He went on to discuss in more detail the importance of poll protection; “aggressively putting people in election protection roles” to fend off poll challengers.

Ritchie ended his talk by fielding questions, and specifically addressing the new Instant Runoff Voting, which Minneapolis will be the first city in Minnesota to experiment with.

He stressed that “every voter needs to feel empowered.”