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Tech and Transparency Advocate Leland Yee Wants To Be California's Next Secretary of State

BY Sarah Lai Stirland | Tuesday, November 27 2012

Leland Yee. Photo: Tim Bartel/Flickr

California State Senator Leland Yee, a Democrat representing San Francisco, said Monday that he's decided to run for Secretary of State, and that he wants to use the position to explore the possibilites of enabling people to vote online. He's running to succeed Debra Bowen, who will be termed out in 2014.

Yee authored a 2011 bill that enabled more than a million California voters to register online during this election cycle. He highlighted that factoid in his press announcement, and said that he wants to go further.

"If we can safely pay our bills via the Internet and board an airplane with a smart phone, we should be able to securely and easily vote electronically as well," he said.

Bowen's office noted earlier this month that that voter registration levels in California reached a record 18 million people.

Yee's Chief of Staff Adam Keigwin didn't answer a query at the time of this posting as to why the state senator wants to focus on online voting, given computer security experts' repeated warnings on how easy it is to sabotage the process.*

Other than his online voter registration initiative, Yee has made a name for himself in local open government circles for championing their cause. In his Twitter announcement Monday, he said that he wants to "expand on our recent election, tech, and open gov success."

Yee has authored several bills aimed at making state government more accountable, but not all of them have become law. One of them doubling lobbyist registration fees to pay for the modernization of the state's 12-year-old campaign finance reporting system CAL-ACCESS was signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown in September, but another that would have required all California government agencies to save their public documents in an "open format," failed to become law in the face of opposition from local governments worried about the impact the legislation would have had on their ability to redact personal information.

As the Los Angeles Times points out, Yee is one of six other candidates who have filed papers to raise money for potential campaigns for the position. They include state Sens. Elaine Alquist (D-Santa Clara) and Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima), and state Assemblymen Charles Calderon (D-Whittier) and Mike Davis (D-Los Angeles).

*Keigwin contacted techPresident after we posted and noted: "Obviously past attempts were unsuccessful and would not be acceptable, but he believes we can at least have the conversation and be trying to develop the technology that could make it work."

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