Republican Dennis Richardson has in two straight elections asked voters to look past his record as a former six-term legislator representing a conservative, Southern Oregon district.
“The social issues have been resolved,” Richardson said at a forum in Eugene after Brad Avakian, his Democratic opponent for secretary of state, pointed out the ideological differences between the two, notably Richardson’s opposition to abortion. “What is crucial is that we’re not talking about social issues.”
While his stance on abortion isn’t germane to the role of Oregon’s chief elections officer, Richardson’s support for voter registration laws in the Legislature closely relates to his current run and highlights another in a wide array stark contrasts between he and Avakian.
Richardson for three straight sessions as a state legislator supported or sponsored bills that some liken to voter-suppression measures that have passed in Republican-controlled states elsewhere and have been struck down in state and federal courts.
Two measures Richardson supported, House Bill 2583 in 2005 and House Bill 3432 in 2009, would have required eligible voters to provide proof of U.S. citizenship before they could register to vote. While voters currently must attest to their eligibility, the bills would have required them to prove it using a passport, naturalization document or birth certificate….
Richardson says he no longer sees a need for the laws, but believes there are steps Oregon should take to ensure the integrity of its elections.
“It was never about voter suppression, it was about ensuring integrity of our elections,” Richardson said.
In a state where the secretary of state’s office has at times pushed to expand voter ballot access, including establishing the nation’s first vote-by-mail elections and automatic voter registration, proof of citizenship laws are a stark contrast to the progressive electoral process in Oregon.
“I don’t know why I voted the way I did at that time,” Richardson said of the bills. “But I know who I am today and how I’ll function (as secretary of state), and that’s to maintain the laws and to ensure that voting is open, fair and transparent for candidates, parties and for voters.”