Ashcroft Reflects on First Year as Missouri Secretary of State

Ashcroft Reflects on First Year as Missouri Secretary of State

JEFFERSON CITY, MO/January 9, 2018 (STL.News) – Today marks one year since the inauguration of Jay Ashcroft to the Office of Missouri Secretary of State. The Office includes the following divisions: Administrative Rules, Business Services, Communications/Publications, Elections, Fiscal, Human Resources and Facilities, Information Technology, Securities, State Archives, State Library and Wolfner Library.

“This first year has been productive, and I am honored to serve Missourians as their Secretary of State,” Ashcroft said. “We implemented new voting requirements that help protect the integrity and security of our elections and have expanded ballot access to registered Missouri voters. We worked with state and federal officials to enhance the Safe at Home program, and are offering legislation to create additional safeguards for victims and their families.

“I was not elected to sit behind a desk, but rather to serve the great people of this state by being accessible, willing to listen, and ready to lead,” Ashcroft said. “No public official can be effective without listening to the people of Missouri. It’s been a humbling experience visiting people all across the state, hearing stories and gaining a better understanding of their concerns about our state and country.”

In his first year in statewide office, Ashcroft traveled the state extensively, listening and answering questions from Missourians in all 114 counties.

Ashcroft holds leadership roles in the National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS), co-chairing the State Heritage Committee, and serving on the Elections, Business Services, International Relations, Securities and Voter Participation Committees. He is also a Fellow in the prestigious, bipartisan Hunt-Kean Leadership Fellowship program. Following are some of the Office’s accomplishments in 2017.

Voter ID Implementation/ShowIt2Vote

Months before the voter ID law went into effect, divisions within the Ashcroft Administration worked together to develop www.ShowIt2Vote.com to promote the state’s new voter ID law. On March 6, 2017, Ashcroft held a press conference with a bi-partisan group of legislators in St. Louis to announce the effort. The Office created and published promotional materials for the public as well as posters and documentation required by law to be provided to local election authorities. The Office also worked with three state-contracted vendors to promote and advertise the new voting requirements, using newspaper, cable, radio, social media and television advertising.

Missouri’s new voter ID law was enacted June 1, 2017, and provided the benefit of expanding ballot access for registered voters. Days later, the Secretary of State was sued by the ACLU, on behalf of the NAACP and League of Women Voters, challenging the voter ID law. The nearly six-month-long court case ended on Jan. 2, 2018, when a judge dismissed the case, ruling in favor of the people of Missouri.

A toll-free hotline was established to help answer Missourians’ questions about the law. The hotline number is (866) 868-3245.

The bottom line is this: If you’re registered to vote, you can vote.

Safe at Home Statutory Changes/Federal Legislation Introduced

The Safe at Home program is an address confidentiality program that helps protect survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, rape or human trafficking. In the final two weeks of session last May, Ashcroft and legislators worked together to make it more difficult for judges to require a Safe at Home enrollee to divulge an address in court. Ashcroft recognized the program’s 10th anniversary on Aug. 28.

Following NASS’ unanimous approval of Ashcroft’s bi-partisan resolution, the Secretary worked with U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt and U.S. Rep. Jason Smith to introduce federal legislation requiring the federal government to recognize state address confidentiality programs, adding a layer of protection for survivors of abuse.

Carter County

After a flash flood in Van Buren last May, the Office provided a Local Records Emergency Grant to Carter County worth up to $100,000 to freeze-dry and decontaminate records and documents submerged during the flood. In May, the Office spent over 400 hours on-site, assessing and air-drying records needed to resume business. Ashcroft visited the county offices affected and discussed next steps with officials in Carter County.

Working with Sen. Doug Libla, Ashcroft awarded over $30,000 in federal funds to assist the Carter County Clerk replace voting equipment destroyed by the flood.

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Business Services Division

  • We handled roughly 250,000 phone calls and assisted more than 15,000 walk-in customers in Jefferson City, St. Louis, Kansas City and Springfield.
  • We added 96,000 new organizations to the business registry, including 52,000 LLCs.
  • The Safe at Home program served 562 new participants and currently assists 1,709 participants.
  • We commissioned 18,000 new or recommissioned notaries.
  • We successfully worked to allow electronic notarization in Missouri.
  • Ashcroft is working with state legislators, NASS and other stakeholders to make Missouri the first state to introduce true, comprehensive remote notarization.

Elections Division

  • Restoring bi-partisanship, Ashcroft appointed co-directors of elections, one a democrat and one a republican.
  • Co-directors visited in-person with all 116 of Missouri’s local election officials prior to their first election day under the new voter ID requirements.
  • We identified potential cost savings of about $1 million during future presidential preference primaries by ending improper reimbursement of election costs.
  • For the first time, Ashcroft required receipts for reimbursement of special election costs, providing transparency and accountability.
  • We awarded $1 million in grants to all 116 local election authorities to assist in improving election administration.
  • For the first time, we used new statutory authority to investigate election irregularities in multiple jurisdictions and forwarded findings to proper authorities.
  • For the first time since the early 1980s, we oversaw the submission, processing and certification of a referendum petition.
  • We processed more than 320 initiative petitions (IPs) for the 2018 election cycle, the most in Missouri history. (The submission deadline for IPs is in May 2018.)
  • We successfully completed more than 80 elections in 71 counties.
  • We completed federal HAVA (Help America Vote Act) monitoring visits to Callaway, Washington, Franklin, Phelps, Warren, Johnson, Clay and Camden Counties.

Securities Division

  • We created the Vulnerable Citizens Services Unit to focus on Missourians who may be more susceptible to fraud.
    Ashcroft reemphasized investor education. We participated in 62 investor education events around the state, including events at the Missouri State Fair, Missouri Bar Association meetings and health care provider conferences.
  • The securities commissioner ordered more than $7.5 million to be returned to aggrieved investors, and more than $1.2 million to be paid to county and township school funds through civil penalties.
  • We directed more than $1.1 million toward the Investor Education and Protection Fund.
  • We collected more than $4.7 million in filing fees and received more than 2,750 registration and exemption filings. We also collected more than $9.25 million in filing fees from investment firms and professionals.

State Archives – Records Management/Local Records

  • In the first 10 months of 2017, we added nearly 20,000 boxes, 165,000 files and 348 reels of microfilm to the state’s records tracking system.
  • We created 5 million images from state agency records, an annual cost savings of $35,000 in onsite document storage.
  • We assisted 181 local government entities and 80 counties and the City of St. Louis on records management and retention issues.

State Library

  • Ashcroft fought for Missouri’s libraries, successfully restoring $1.6 million in statutorily-required funding. Since January of 2017, 157 grants have been issued for more than $1.5 million.
  • We assisted in planning a successful Government Documents Information Conference with the University of Missouri.
  • Wolfner Library’s Summer Reading Program had the highest program completion rate in 10 years, at nearly 70 percent.
  • Ashcroft recorded three children’s books for Wolfner Library, and challenged other state officials to participate.

Other Divisions

  • Through a new Time Reporting System (TRS) developed by the Information Technology division, Human Resources began requiring staff to track actual time worked, creating accountability and transparency.
  • Fiscal processed 1,137 fiscal notes and 88 full fiscal note responses.
  • IT implemented internal network solutions to provide greater encryption, performance and power, and enhanced security measures already in place.
  • Publications compiled the Official Manual, published the General Assembly Roster, Missouri Roster, and Constitution, and completed more than 250 design projects.
  • Communications handled the Office’s media inquiries, social media, program promotion, video development, photography and ad design.

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SOURCE: news provided by SOS.MO.Gov, published on STL.News by St. Louis Media, LLC (MS)

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