America Needs Debra Bowen as California's Secretrary of State

A Rare BRAD BLOG Endorsement and an Exclusive Election Eve Interview with the Woman Who Might Save American Democracy

We don't generally do endorsements around here for the most part. In the case of California state Senator Debra Bowen's primary race to be the Democratic nominee for California's Secretary of State, however, we're more than happy to make an exception.

While many Californian's -- and even more non-Californian's -- may not know it, the path towards restoring America's crumbling democracy may well rest in a little noticed primary race that will take place here on Tuesday.

Bowen, as state senator and chair of the state's Election Committee in Sacramento, has led the way where few Democratic elected officials have even bothered to acquaint themselves. Specifically, Bowen has studied, learned, investigated, held hearings and delved deep into that murky territory of electronic voting, electoral integrity and the threat to our democracy posed by the privatization of our public electoral system by corporate interests using secret software to "count" America's votes.

As private and partisan corporations such as Diebold, ES&S, Sequoia, Hart InterCivic and all the rest have spidered out across the electoral landscape, usurping American values in the name of insidious corporate greed and at the expense of transparency, auditability and confidence in our once-great American democracy -- all at the cost and waste of billions of your tax-payer dollars, by the way -- few politicians have bothered to wend their way through the impossibly arcane and brain-withering technical details wherein the devil lies, most assuredly, in these matters of electronic voting.

An avowed computer geek, Bowen has been paying attention to these matters from the get-go while the vast majority of elected pols today do little more than whistle past democracy's graveyard. She has fought for electoral integrity by successfully moving legislation into law which mandates audits (only 1%, buy hey, it's a start) and paper records (not paper ballots, but hey, it's a start) for every vote cast in the Golden State.

While one would think such ideas would be no-brainers for every state in the union, it's remarkable how few seem to give a damn about any of those ideas and, in fact, have gone out of their way to fight off mandates for such accountability in elections. Debra Bowen, on the other hand, does give a damn.

Add to that, her work over the years championing a number of landmark pieces of legislation resulting in unprecedentd transparency for California's legislature to see it become the first in the world to post all official documents on line. Real openess and transparency in Government. Imagine that. Thank you, Senator.

In the meantime, in California -- or as Diebold refers to it, "America's Largest Voting Market" -- Arnold Schwarzenegger's hand-appointed Secretary of State, Bruce McPherson, has stunned those of us who follow issues of electoral integrity time and again over the last several month by allowing one voting system after another, which are known to be dangerously hackable and infinitely unreliable (as revealed by McPherson's very own tests and independent commissions!) to nonetheless proliferate the state in advance of both his own, and his bosses, The Governator's, first real elections which loom this November.

With every Blackwellian and illegal certification and pronouncement by the either apparently-clueless or brilliantly-sinister McPherson, Bowen has banged the drum, made noise, held hearings and otherwise done more than just about any other state legislator -- possibly in the country -- to try and draw attention to what the hell is going on here.

On Tuesday, Bowen faces another Democratic state senator, Deborah Ortiz, for the Democratic nomination. Unlike Bowen, we know little about Ortiz personally. And, in the bargain, she apparently knows little about elections -- an exceedingly troubling shortcoming for a potential Secretary of State in 2006.

Perhaps that is why every newspaper endorsement in the race has gone for Bowen. And yet, the race is still said to be too close to call as the vast majority of voters have yet to decide between either of the candidates.

By all accounts, Ortiz is a smart and able legislator. Nonetheless, she has -- incredibly -- gone on the record to support McPherson's impossibly irresponsible certification of voting machines recognized by nearly all legitimate Computer Scientists and Security Experts to be hopelessly flawed and vulnerable to tampering on a massive 'national security risk' level.

Neither Ortiz nor McPherson, unfortunately, is the sort of official that anyone should want to be setting the standards for "America's largest voting market", as what what happens in this state, effects every other one quite directly.

Bowen has (only partly) joked that she's running for Secretary of State in California for two reasons: J. Kenneth Blackwell and Katherine Harris.

And if you don't understand that "joke" then you've been watching entirely too much Fox News (and CNN and MSNBC and ABC and NBC and CBS get the picture.)

With 56% of Californian's still undecided in this "down ticket" race it's time to pull out all the stops to help see Bowen pass the first step of her challenge to unseat McPherson.

In an exclusive Election Eve interview with The BRAD BLOG, Bowen sat down with Jim Cirile to discuss what's at stake, what she's done, and a bit about what she hopes to do.

As she says in the interview, "we're asking everyone who has an e-mail list to bother the people on their lists for this one limited tell them that they know someone who's running for Secretary of State, and we need Debra Bowen to help restore our democracy."

That's America's democracy she'll be helping to restore. Not just California's.

Sounds good to us. Let's get busy.

If you need more inspiration, take these words from her website ( to heart and ask yourself how many other elected officials of late you've seen put such no-brainer phrases like this at the top their pages:

"There is an unprecedented crisis in confidence at both the national and state levels in the fair and independent conduct of elections. We must restore confidence, integrity, and independence in democratic government."

We agree. Let's get busy.

Later today we'll be posting Jim Cirile's exclusive interview with Senator Bowen at The BRAD BLOG.