The Secretary of State should not answer to any party. Rob Hodgkinson, Libertarian candidate for Secretary, said the office should not be a partisan run department and should not be beholding to any party.

"I can see the Secretary of State office being run that way," said Hodgkinson who made a brief stopover in Pratt Wednesday.

Hodgkinson said he was running for Secretary of State and not using the office as a stepping stone to a senate seat or the governor's office.

"I'm running so I can do the job right and serve Kansas," Hodgkinson said.

Getting voters registered and then getting them to the polls is a primary goal for Hodgkinson. With the recent close races in the Kansas primary elections, it became clear that every vote does matter and Hodgkinson intends to be a force in getting voters to the polls.

"The Secretary of State can be a cheerleader to make it happen," Hodgkinson said. "We need to improve voter registration."

Getting more people involved in the political process means getting more people to run for office. Hodgkinson was very pleased with the number of candidates in the primary election, especially the number of candidates for governor. He wants to help grow the number of political candidates and help them learn the process for running for office.

Getting more people involved means they have to have access to the Secretary of State office and part of that is going through the office web site. Right now, the site is a jumble of legalese that is hard to understand and it's certainly not mobile friendly.

"We need to clean it up and make it better. The web site is hard to get through," Hodgkinson said.

With his background in IT, he has multiple IT certifications and helped businesses upgrade their computer systems for Y2K, Hodgkinson said he has the background to help make that happen.

He was IT for Robbie Manufacturing and handled all IT issues from the CEO to the guys in the plant.

Getting more people to register and vote is important and so is making sure they are properly registered. Currently, the office is using Crosscheck, a program written in the 1990s, to check other state data bases to find anyone that is registered in more than one location. Hodgkinson is not happy with Crosscheck and said it was 99 percent inaccurate. Other states are bailing out on Crosscheck and Kansas should follow suite. The office needs a new program to check voter registration. Getting an accurate program will be an important step to preventing voter fraud.

"We need to end that program completely. It needs to go," Hodgkinson said.

Hodgkinson is also not satisfied with new voting machines in Kansas. In Johnson County, voters that choose to vote on a touch screen that prints out a paper with their candidate choices. That paper also has a bar code on the top with the voter information that is read when the ballot is cast. While the system does allow the voter to review the ballot before it is recorded, Hodgkinson said it doesn't really verify the ballot because people can't read bar codes.

An optical scanner would have worked without the use of a bar code. The ballot readout would have to be larger but it would make it easy to recount a ballot if necessary and not have to relay on a machine that is programmed to read bar codes.

Making the registration process easier to understand is also a high priority and the Secretary of State can become an educator. Hodgkinson has already addressed about 25 high schools about various issues facing the state as well as the voting process and the importance of voting. He's also spoken at all six major colleges and that is what the Secretary of State needs to do.

"I've got the soapbox and that's what I should be doing," Hodgkinson said.

Those 35 years old and younger have the biggest number that are not voting. They need to be tweaked and Hodgkinson intends to keep visiting schools and get those voters involved.

"As Secretary of State, I plan to do that as much as possible," Hodgkinson said.

Along with getting rid of Crosscheck, Hodgkinson wants to get rid of prosecutorial powers in the secretary's office. Kobach had just 14 cases and 10 of those were unintentional where the voter just got confused on what they should do. Those people only needed a hand slap and not be taken to court. The other four cases could be handled by county and district attorneys better so if he gets elected, the prosecutorial staff will be let go.

"I'm not a lawyer and I'm not going to do it," Hodgkinson said.

Hodgkinson has run for political office five times including secretary of state in 2006 and state senate in 2008 losing both races. He decided to run on the Libertarian ticket because third party and independent candidates bring specific issues to the forefront that incumbents do not want to discuss.

He served seven years as State Chairman for the Libertarian Party of Kansas and has testified many times in front of legislative committees.

Hodgkinson is married to Cheryl and they have three grown children, seven grandchildren and two dogs.

@GaleR_Tribune grose@pratttribune.com