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Secretary of State Candidate hits the road

Monday, October 16, 2006

By JASON MOON

For The Times

GREENCASTLE -- With less than 30 days to go before the midterm election, Joe Pearson has already put a lot of miles on his vehicle. But he plans on more travel before Tuesday, Nov. 7.

Pearson, a Democrat, is one of four men running for Indiana Secretary of State. He faces incumbent Republican Todd Rokita, Libertarian Mike Kole and Green Party candidate Bill Stant.

He made a pit stop in Greencastle last week prior to heading west on U.S. 40.

"We're out on the campaign trail, which we've been since June," Pearson told the BannerGraphic. "We're trying to touch every community."

Since hitting the campaign trail, Pearson has preached his desire to make every vote count this election, particularly younger voters, elderly voters and veteran voters.

"I think we have to meet their ideas," Pearson said. "We talk to youth rather than with youth. Let them tell us why they don't participate.

"We have to engage our young people. Our young people, I think, are a little disenchanted."

Pearson said he has been campaigning for election system reforms since he started traveling the state.

He said statistics showed there has been a steady decline of voter turnout for elections since 1980.

"I think we have a major problem," he said. "We need to find ways to encourage people to do their civic duty. We need to address this issue."

Pearson said while on the campaign road, he has met several people who expressed difficulty when voting. He said he had met several veterans who were turned away on election day because a veteran identification card was not enough.

"Those are the types of things I think we need to change," Pearson said.

The Blackford County native said he has campaigned for several changes to the way Hoosiers vote, including:

-- Working with national, state and local election officials to determine the possibility of a paper trail after voters cast their ballot,

-- Save tax dollars by reducing duplicate voting records,

-- Ensuring the accuracy of records that are considered to be duplicates,

-- Using the expertise of the bipartisan staff of the Indiana Election Division, and

-- Listening to Hoosiers by hosting town hall-style meetings.

"Voting is for everybody," Pearson said. "We must modify the legislation. We need to have policies that encourage people to vote."

Pearson said he believed current voting laws have made it difficult for veterans, seniors and the poor to vote.

"The majority of us had an ID," Pearson said. "But it's those people out on the fringes that we have to help. There are other forms of documentation we can use."

Pearson added he was against a proposal of creating voting centers in districts, suggesting that a mall could be used as a central voting center, something he said he opposed. He said he believed while voting centers could work in metropolitan areas, they might not in rural areas.

"Every community is different," he said. "You have to work closely with the county."

Pearson also said he believed strongly in bringing back ethics to the Secretary of State position, pointing to a recent situation where Rokita gave his former campaign manager a $100,000 no-bid state contract to pursue two voting equipment companies blamed for problems during the May primary.

"People don't trust government," Pearson said. "We see that as a key component. Anyone ought to have rights to that contract."

Pearson said if elected, he would require all staffers to participate in ethics training to ensure things like this would not happen.

"I think it's a constant educational thing," he said.

Since beginning his campaign, Pearson said many have expressed concern for the Bureau of Motor Vehicles.

"This is not a Republican/Democrat issue," he said. "It's a matter of citizens across the state deserve customer service and deserve something closer to home.

"I think many would say the BMV is broken and needs to be fixed. The confidence is not there."

Pearson said accountability, better customer service, improved technology and accessibility are keys to fixing the current BMV dilemma.

"Now is the time to sit down in a nonpartisan way and do what's right for Hoosiers," he said.

Pearson said if elected, he would depend on communication from Hoosiers.

"It's imperative that you listen to people," he said. "I will rely heavily on the input from communities. I feel very strongly that we must do this for all Hoosiers.

"I don't view this race as an issue between Rokita and Pearson. I see this as a race for Hoosiers and how we can help Hoosiers."



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