Montana Secretary of State Linda McCulloch
Linda McCulloch was first elected to the secretary of state’s office in November 2008 and subsequently re-elected in 2012. She was the first and will remain for now the only woman to serve in the role of secretary of state in Montana.
Before becoming secretary she was a senior member of the State Board of Land Commissioners, served as Superintendent of Public Instruction, served three terms in Montana House of Representatives and was on the faculty of the University of Montana.
Obviously you are term-limited and could not seek re-election as secretary of state, how do you feel about your time in office coming to an end?
I have loved being Secretary of State! I enjoy the work, the staff and the 56 County Election Administrators who do a great job conducting elections.
What would you say has been the biggest change you have seen in elections during your tenure?
The biggest change has probably been the huge increase in the use of technology for voting and elections. I implemented an electronic election results reporting system in 2010 that has been widely acclaimed for its broad and varied information about the candidates and ballot issues. We have updated it every election and I think the 2016 update was the best. At least that’s what the public has said.
I also started an Electronic Absentee System for military voters. We have increased military voting and have hundreds of comments from service men and women that this has been the first time they are able to vote and know their vote counted.
What was the most difficult time/issue you have faced (elections wise of course) as secretary?
I can honestly say there hasn’t been anything difficult in the office. What has been frustrating is the legislature’s inability to pass Online Voter Registration for the past three Sessions. They pay taxes online, shop online and do banking online, but are reluctant to pass OVR, the safest and most efficient way to register to vote.
What do feel was your greatest accomplishment and why?
I’ve implemented a lot of things that I am very proud of in my eight years as Secretary of State. A few examples are a new, modern system for our business services filings, and processes and systems that have allowed greater access for all qualified voters, like an electronic system for military voters and an electronic system for voters with disabilities, and an online system and app for voters to track their absentee ballot, find their polling place and view a sample ballot.
My first year in office I implemented a post-election audit that has increased transparency in our election process. Additionally, I’m immensely proud to be ranked twelfth in election administration policy and performance nationwide by the PEW Election Performance Index.
Is there anything you still hope to accomplish as secretary before leaving office? I plan to leave the office in great shape; all policies up to date, all work up to date and legislation introduced for the session that begins January 2, 2017.
What will you miss most about being secretary of state?
I will miss it all---the work, the staff, the customers, the Land Board, and the County Election Administrators.
As an expert in the field of elections, where do you see the administration of elections headed?
I see more technological advances for both the administration of elections, and for the voters. Things like automatic and online voter registration that create efficiencies and improve accuracy, and more streamlining of the administration of elections through use of electronic poll books and modern voting systems.
What’s next for you, besides being able to sleep in on election days?
I am moving back to my hometown of Missoula, Montana and hope to do some observing of elections. Beyond that I am wide open!
Any parting words of advice for your successor?
Get to know your staff and the work of the SOS office before making any changes. Trust your staff, they are the experts. Rely on the County Election Administrators, they know what they are doing and do it well.