Brian McClendon said the job of Kansas Secretary of State has become increasingly technical, and one he is well suited for as a research professor, engineer and startup founder.
McClendon, a Lawrence Democrat, holds a degree in electrical engineering. He worked for Google in California as VP of engineering, having co-founded the startup that became Google Earth. He built the teams and programs behind Google Earth, Google Maps and Street View. McClendon then got a job at Uber, working on their maps team and self-driving car team. About a year and a half ago, McClendon returned to his hometown in Lawrence to become a research professor at KU.
McClendon visited the secretary of state’s website when seeking help with voter registration, but he said it was difficult to find the information he needed. He began looking at the responsibilities for the job, including acting as the front door for businesses in Kansas and overseeing the largest technology contract in the state, and discovered the job was now largely a technical one. He filed to run in May, and is the only Democratic candidate for the office.
McClendon’s three priorities as Secretary of State would be to make voter registration and election systems more efficient and accurate; improve the business interface with the state; and make information about the state more accessible and transparent.
Improving voting and election systems would include making sure all counties have the funds for voting machines that create a paper trail.
“Some counties still have purely digital machines, which can’t be audited,” McClendon said.
He also wants a full evaluation of the state’s election system, and to change the access process.
McClendon criticized the Crosscheck system, which sent Kansans’ voting data to 26 states with no rules on how it could be used. McClendon called the site deeply insecure and subjected to poor management and planning.
“We need to be much more secure with Kansans’ identifying date,” he said.
As the entry point for doing business in Kansas, McClendon said the Secretary of State’s website should be as welcoming and simple to use as possible. Because a lot of businesses fail due to debt created at the beginning, the office should offer recommendations on ways owners can start up with minimal costs.
Regarding transparency, “we need to publish more information in the state, and make it searchable,” McClendon said.
McClendon said the secretary of state’s website has a 10-year-old design and contains a lot of dead links. It doesn’t work on mobile devices, and a lot of the information don’t come up when searched for.
Another thing McClendon is passionate about is promoting computer science and technology education in Kansas. He said the state needs to graduate more computer science students in order to fill open positions in the state.
“There’s a huge opportunity for kids to get good paying jobs if we build in more computer science education,” he said.