Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie announced Tuesday that he would serve out the rest of his term and not seek reelection. Ritchie, a Democrat, has served as secretary of state since 2006, when he defeated Republican Secretary of State Mary Kiffmeyer. He would have faced reelection in 2014, along with other constitutional officers, though so far no Republican has declared his or her intention to run for the seat.
Ritchie, 61, said in a statement that stepping aside had been a “difficult decision” to make, and that he had arrived at his choice after consulting with family members.
“After months of thought and discussion with family, I concluded that January 2015 will be the right time for me to step aside — making way for the next generation of talented leadership in the Office of the Secretary of State,” said Ritchie.
Shortly after Ritchie’s announcement, former Hennepin County and Anoka County elections manager Rachel Bohman released a statement announcing that she would seek the office. Bohman, formerly Rachel Smith, was at the helm of Anoka County’s recount procedure in 2010. Bohman has previously worked for Secretaries of State Kiffmeyer and Joan Growe. Last month, Bohman told her colleagues with Hennepin County that she was leaving that job effective May 31, adding that she hoped to “remain active in elections.”
Over his time in office, Ritchie has consistently touted, and sought to maintain, Minnesota’s status as the top voter turnout state in the nation. Minnesota has produced the highest percentage of voter participation in 12 of the last 16 presidential elections, including last year’s. Last month, when a report from the U.S. Census Bureau credited Mississippi with the top rank among states for the 2012 election, Ritchie issued a statement that accused the Bureau of inaccuracy, and of using methodology that had faced “widespread” criticism.
“Minnesota voters delivered the highest turnout rate of eligible voters in the nation in 2012 as reported last fall,” Ritchie said. “In that election, we also saw a record turnout in our state’s history.”
Last year, Ritchie stepped into a political maelstrom regarding a pair of proposed constitutional amendments when he sought to change the title of the two questions as they would appear on election ballots. Ritchie’s move, which altered the titles on proposed amendments to ban gay marriage and require state issued ID for voters, was challenged by a pair of lawsuits from amendment supporters. Those suits proved successful, and the ballot titles reverted back to the original versions passed in the Legislature. Subsequent legal proceedings brought by Republican legislators accused Ritchie of illegally using state resources for partisan purposes in campaigning against the voter ID amendment, and some GOP activists even called for the commencement of impeachment proceedings against Ritchie.
The Office of Administrative Hearings complaint was eventually dismissed, and no serious steps were taken toward impeaching Ritchie, but the efforts were indicative of strong opposition to Ritchie among Republicans, who believed he had overstepped his role and tampered with the amendment process.
In his role as chief elections administrator, Ritchie oversaw a contentious election recount in 2008, between then-U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman and Al Franken, and another in 2010 in the gubernatorial contest between Gov. Mark Dayton and Tom Emmer.