Libertarian Secretary of State candidate Mark Rutherford says he wants to dramatically improve on the 3.5 percent of the vote his party got in the race four years ago. He faces incumbent Republican Connie Lawson and Democrat Jim Harper. Indiana Public Broadcasting’s Brandon Smith talks with Rutherford about his views on the issues in this year’s race.
Brandon Smith: I want to talk about, as a chief election officer, what you do you feel that Indiana isn’t doing that you would do differently?
Mark Rutherford: Well, the voting security is a horrible thing. We’re not even close to what banks do, what big companies do, small companies do in security. Small companies have better security than the voting systems in Indiana. It’s not getting the attention it needs and that’s awful because the first thing that a government does to be respected is have voting systems that people trust. We have no backup system paper right now. Why do you have a paper backup system now? Because the electronic system is not secure enough. We had allegations of a couple years ago that the Russians were just kind of meddling around, or somebody with Russian ties were, and that tells me that we’re nowhere near where we need to be. It’s doing what government does so often – it’s putting its money elsewhere and it’s not doing it for priority number one, which is that the succession of elected officials and the selection of elected officials is the very first thing that it must do, and it must do well. Just throwing money at it doesn’t let alone do it. It’s got to be wise and with thought and with the very best to do that – and that’s not happening right now.
Smith: Besides that, what else would you do to help guarantee election security in Indiana?
Rutherford: Well, one thing is getting better electronic systems. The systems are not up to par. I don’t see the type of companies that need to be doing that, doing that. Not knocking the companies now because they’re doing it from a fair market position, which is this is what they want, this is what we can afford to do to give them what they want and make a decent living off of it. You’ve got to put a lot more effort into it. And you’ve got to go out and find the very best, not do what we normally do in state government, which is try to get cheap.
Smith: Given the criticisms you and others, including Mr. Harper, the Democratic candidate, have sort of lobbed at what Secretary Lawson has done or hasn’t done on election security – along with the General Assembly – should Hoosiers be worried about their votes and whether or not they’re secure when they cast their ballot?
Rutherford: They should be worried about their votes and casting their ballots. You never know when I would use the term meltdown happens. You don’t know who’s doing what. We know that there are people who have always done this. If you study history, historians know this, countries have been delving into other countries’ business for hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of years. So you need to be ahead of it and have the systems to counter that. And it’s just not happening right now.
Smith: The Secretary of State oversees elections. Should the Secretary of State also be playing a role in advocating for election reforms like independent redistricting?
Rutherford: Yes. As Secretary of State, if you’re paying attention you should be telling the General Assembly what’s working and what’s not working. It should be the number one advocate for election reform. And we do need election reform. We need it on gerrymandering and redistricting, where it’s not politicians picking the voters, it’s voters picking the politicians. Gerrymandering prevents that; we need to have somebody there going ‘This needs to change.’
Smith: What other election reforms would you like to see Indiana take part in?
Rutherford: Well, one of them is I like to joke – but it’s really not a joke – that we have a great election code for 1870. We no longer do a horse-and-buggy or a horse to the courthouse. There’s no need to make sure everybody’s together on the same day to make sure that we have only the people who should be voting, voting. You can have voting in other ways that other states are experimenting with. Early voting should be more convenient. Why should we just have one day? Why should it be just six o’clock to six o’clock when that’s not the way this world works anymore, especially here in Indiana? Those hours keep people from voting. It’s easier to absentee vote than it used to be but still that’s a hassle. Why can’t there be more time, more early voting centers? Those are reforms that are desperately needed.