How States Hold Fair Elections

Common Ground Committee Let's Find Common Ground Podcast Episode 92

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How States Hold Fair Elections: Steve Hobbs and Michael Adams

Until recently most of us outside state government didn’t know much about the role of Secretary of State, the state’s top election official. We simply didn’t think about it. But since the 2020 presidential race, election laws and procedures have been in the spotlight – and election officials have come under attack.

In this episode of Let’s Find Common Ground we meet Democrat Steve Hobbs, Secretary of State for Washington, and Republican Michael Adams, Secretary of State for Kentucky.

Kentucky is a vote in-person state, while Washington has voting by mail and at the dropbox. But no matter how people vote, suspicion of the electoral process is rife. In recent years both men have encountered election deniers and faced threats to themselves and their staff.

“These abuses, even if they’re not full-fledged threats of violence – it adds up,” says Michael Adams, “and it begins to really lay some strain on our election process.”

Hear what each of our guests is doing to protect democracy in his state, why being part of the Electronic Registration Information System (ERIC) is so important, and why volunteers are a vital part of free and fair elections. All on this episode of Let’s Find Common Ground.

Steve Hobbs

Common Ground Committee Let's Find Common Ground Steve HobbsSteve Hobbs is Washington’s 16th Secretary of State. He began his tenure in 2021 and was elected by the people of Washington in 2022.

Secretary Hobbs leads one of Washington’s most diverse state-government offices, which is responsible for managing state and local elections, corporation and charity filings, Washington State Library, Washington Talking Book & Braille Library, and Washington State Archives. In addition, his office oversees the Combined Fund Drive for charitable giving by state employees and administers the state’s Address Confidentiality Program to help protect survivors of crime.

When Secretary Hobbs assumed office, he prioritized greater election security, countering misleading and harmful election disinformation, and expanded voter education and outreach. In addition, he pledged to preserve Washington’s unique and rich history by enhancing the State Archives’ and State Library’s capacity and ability to store and share state documents and other records.

Prior to becoming Secretary of State, Hobbs was the state senator for Washington’s 44th legislative district from 2006 to 2021. During his tenure, he served on numerous committees, including the Transportation Committee as chair.

Secretary Hobbs enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1987 as a private and rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel with the Washington Army National Guard. He received an associate degree from Everett Community College and bachelor’s and master’s degrees in political science and public administration, respectively, from the University of Washington.

Michael Adams

Common Ground Committee Let's Find Common Ground Michael AdamsMichael G. Adams, a native of Paducah, is Kentucky’s 86th Secretary of State and the 77th person to serve in that role.

Michael attended McCracken County public schools and was the first in his family to get a bachelor’s degree. After graduating from the University of Louisville, Michael attended Harvard Law School on low-income aid. Returning to Kentucky, Michael clerked for Chief U.S. District Judge John Heyburn, worked on Senator Mitch McConnell’s 2002 reelection campaign staff, and served as Deputy General Counsel to Governor Ernie Fletcher, before moving to Washington to accept an appointment as Counsel to the U.S. Deputy Attorney General in the second Bush Administration.

In 2007, Michael began full-time private practice in election law, first as General Counsel to the Republican Governors Association, and later opening a national practice in the field. He has represented several national political committees, numerous national political figures, and statewide campaign efforts in all 50 states. Because of this unique election experience, in 2016 Michael was appointed to the Kentucky State Board of Elections, where he gained critical preparation for serving as the Commonwealth’s chief election official.

Inaugurated as Secretary of State on January 6, 2020, Michael first pushed his signature legislative issue, Kentucky’s first Photo ID to Vote law, through the General Assembly, then pivoted to saving the primary and general elections from the problems that befell other states during the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2021, Adams presented state legislators with the most ambitious election reform plan since 1891, and the bill passed both chambers with near-unanimous support. Michael’s work in making it easy to vote and hard to cheat, and taking Kentucky from the back of the pack to a national leader in election administration in mere months, has earned praise throughout America and across party lines.

Michael is happily married to Christina and is the proud father of Lucia.