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Letter: Van Ostern will bring office into 21st century


Tuesday, December 04, 2018

Secretary of State Bill Gardner has been great at fending off challenges to New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation presidential primary. But his office handles much more than elections, and it clearly needs new leadership.

On Wednesday, state legislators should praise and thank Gardner and then replace him with Colin Van Ostern, a tech- and business-savvy 39-year-old.

At his “Free and Fair N.H.” site, Van Ostern describes the agency’s flaws, some dating back years, and proposes an impressive range of steps to make the office more accountable, transparent and efficient. They include overhauling its balky and confusing website and seven ideas from businesses to streamline the office’s important Corporate Division.

Some say we need Gardner to preserve our leadoff primary. But state law requires our primary to be first, and both parties will fight fiercely to defend it when necessary.

Van Ostern’s experience in Democratic politics makes some believe he would politicize the secretary’s office. But Gardner put his politics aside when he became secretary in 1976, and Van Ostern will, too. How could he not after making “free and fair” elections and administration the core of his campaign? Countless Americans have made such transitions, including Earl Warren, a Republican who ran for president who was governor of California before becoming chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.

I have followed Gardner since 1980 and applaud his accomplishments. But we need to bring this agency into the 21st century, and Van Ostern is the person to do it.

JOE MAGRUDER

Concord