Finding a Path to Consensus: The CSG Justice Center Celebrates 20 Years

By Amelia Vorpahl

The U.S. criminal justice system can evoke complicated emotions.

If you asked people what the ultimate goals of the system should be, most answers would likely include things like reducing crime and recidivism, using public resources effectively, keeping people safe and allowing for a humane system that upholds accountability. However, how we achieve these goals is where much of the difficulty arises. Political realities, competing priorities and incomplete or contradictory data can make it incredibly hard for policymakers to fully grasp what’s needed. For decades, state leaders on both sides of the aisle have called for a way to talk about what’s working and what’s not without politics getting in the way.

“In the mid-1990s, it became very clear that if you had a meeting of legislators from different states, or of prosecutors, public defenders, or victims — that people agreed on a vast majority of the things that needed to be done to make the criminal justice system work better. And that was the genesis of what has grown into the [CSG] Justice Center,” said Mike Lawlor, a founding member of the CSG Justice Center advisory board.


The origin of the CSG Justice Center focused on the fundamental idea that leaders needed a space to help find consensus on how states could tackle complex issues of safety, health and justice. Two decades later, the organization has grown into a group of 120 researchers, practitioners, policy experts and writers with an advisory board representing a cross-section of key leaders shaping criminal justice policy across the country.“To have what’s effectively a 120-person criminal justice think tank attached to a membership organization like CSG and part of that family is very unique,” said CSG Justice Center Director Megan Quattlebaum. “We have staff going out in the field all over the country, which gives them a clear vantage point of what the needs of our members are. That is something special and important.”

To understand how the CSG Justice Center evolved from its beginnings to its current stature, you can start with one person: Mike Thompson. When 25-year-old Thompson was hired as a criminal justice policy analyst at CSG East in 1997, he was the sole staff member of the only CSG criminal justice program. While working to get the new CSG East program off the ground, Thompson targeted a handful of key justice issues that could earn consensus, including juvenile justice, support for victims of crime, improved responses to mental health needs and racial disparities in the justice system.

Although these topics sound fairly mainstream today, the late 1990s and early 2000s were challenging times for organizations in the criminal justice space. CSG East had to navigate a political atmosphere that lacked the bipartisanship and consensus on basic criminal justice policies seen today, especially regarding what drives crime and recidivism. Back then, Thompson said there were prevailing thoughts that people could fake a mental illness to get out of responsibility for committing a crime, or that people could be ordered into treatment without consent.

“I don’t care if you were a Democrat or a Republican, you didn’t want to be seen as soft on crime,” said Thompson. “But I came from corrections, and those guys weren’t ideological. They just said, ‘This is what needs to happen to run a safe prison and to reduce recidivism.’ So, I saw the mission as framing issues in a way that gets Republicans and Democrats around a table with experts to agree that these were problems we all want to solve.

”For one of its first major projects in 2002, CSG East brought together experts from behavioral health, criminal justice, law enforcement and other key fields to publish the Criminal Justice/Mental Health Consensus Project, a first-of-its-kind report with policy recommendations to help stakeholders address the needs of people with mental illness who are involved with the justice system. This report launched the type of work that the CSG Justice Center is now known for: gathering expertise from key leaders across impacted systems to promote data-driven and evidence-based policy ideas. Four years after this seminal report, the CSG Governing Board voted to establish the national CSG Justice Center, diverging the work of CSG East’s criminal justice program into a separate organization, still under Thompson’s leadership.


The staff and board members from early years describe the formation of the CSG Justice Center as having energy like that of a startup company, with the freedom, flexibility and hustle of having to build a program from the ground up. Everyone did everything, from hiring to budgets, to writing and even leading high-level meetings with federal and state leaders. There was no infrastructure and no rulebook to work from. Thompson laughed as he compared the CSG Justice Center to a “lemonade stand” in those early years. As with most startups, everyone has stories of mishaps and adventures they still love to retell.

Michael Festa, AARP Massachusetts state director and the first chair of the CSG Justice Center Advisory Board, fondly recalled an early board meeting in his Massachusetts garden enjoying a New England clambake when a torrential downpour started. The board members then spent hours on a bus, soaking wet. During the final meeting for the Consensus Project report, Thompson remembered running out of a ballroom with hundreds of top justice and health leaders to crowd around a phone because he was chosen as a friend’s “lifeline” on the television show “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?” which was taping the same day.

Renée Brackett, executive assistant to senior management and he Justice Center’s longest-serving employee, called the early days “a train going 400 miles an hour.” She spoke about being a “one-man shop” while planning a conference for 1,000 people during her first year on the job. “I can still remember the dates because I didn’t sleep the entire Christmas break,” she said.

While the founding CSG Justice Center team navigated the challenges of building a new organization, they also pioneered entirely new ways of approaching criminal justice policy. Marshall Clement, CSG Justice Center deputy director and one of the early staff members, remembers piloting the groundbreaking Justice Reinvestment Initiative. His small team traveled across the country multiple times a month to gather data, listen to stakeholders and convene working groups using the data to develop policy options that would reduce corrections costs and allow states to reinvest savings in making communities safer. In more than 30 participating states, their efforts through the years have led to a reduction — by thousands — of the number of people behind bars, as well as lower recidivism rates, prison closures and millions of dollars reinvested in community-based treatment and alternatives to incarceration.

Both Thompson and Clement are quick to commend the hard work of the early staff members and to uplift the critical role that the first advisory board members played in getting the organization started. The board’s early leadership and guidance set the stage for the incredible success of the CSG Justice Center over the next 20 years.Michael Festa says he feels blessed to have been one of the first board members and credits its focus on “bipartisanship, evidence-based policies, finding a path to consensus, and perhaps just as important, doing all of it with mutual respect and genuine affection.”


By all accounts, the tireless work ethic, grit and drive of the founding CSG Justice Center staff and board members has paid off. The criminal justice policy landscape of 2022 is very different than that of 2002, and Quattlebaum attributes this to the Justice Center’s work over the last two decades along with its partners and members. For example, she argues that there is an increasing recognition of how outcomes on community supervision drive prison admissions and populations, crediting the Justice Center’s research division and its Confined and Costly 50-state revocations report for helping make that case. She’s also seen states focus more on how they can better respond to people with mental illness and behavioral health conditions by reducing justice system contact and expanding access to treatment, including through innovative ideas like co-responder teams and community responder programs.

“Twenty years ago, co-response programs in law enforcement departments were not something you’d find in jurisdictions across the country. Twenty years ago, the national recognition of a bipartisan consensus around criminal justice policies just wasn’t there,” said Quattlebaum. “We know the criminal justice system needs collaboration with the housing system, with workforce development, with mental and behavioral health systems and with education. From our earliest days, we had staff whose expertise came from the health side and not the criminal justice side.”

Clement agrees and said he’s proud of the major evolutions that he has seen take place at the CSG Justice Center over his 17-year tenure, including the growth of the organization and staff itself, the impact of its work in transforming the criminal justice and behavioral health fields and the rise in public awareness of necessary reform to our systems of safety and justice.


Although the CSG Justice Center’s work touches on every facet of the justice system, a throughline is the focus on data and research. From the beginning, the Justice Center pioneered a bipartisan, data-driven approach to criminal justice reform in red and blue states alike that was unprecedented in the justice policy landscape. The key to this success, spanning the past 20 years, has been the Justice Center’s ability to uplift its members to speak firsthand about the needs in their communities.

“In order to build possibilities, you have to have a lot of perspectives at the table so that you’re really understanding the problem in its fullest dimension,” said Quattlebaum. “You have to have the courts and the executive and legislative branches at the table if you really want to see justice systems become more efficient and fairer. All those folks need to be in the conversation.”

While the CSG Justice Center has helped reform criminal justice policy in the United States, the organization is increasingly seeing the need to look further upstream to prevent justice system involvement altogether. This includes helping communities build more robust crisis response systems that prevent arrests and jail stays for people with behavioral health needs as well as a focus on front-end diversion in juvenile justice systems. Reentry and diversion systems also face challenges in growing to scale, and the Justice Center has prioritized ensuring that there is a baseline level of services across the country while helping states tailor supports to individual needs.

“The work of the CSG Justice Center over the last 20 years has been the work of a lot of people. You’d have to fill up the entire magazine with names if you really want to do it justice,” said Quattlebaum. “So many people’s ideas and effort have gone into making us what we are today. I can’t say enough how grateful we are to everybody who has been a part of this incredible project.”


So, where does the CSG Justice Center go from here? Quattlebaum says that the organization’s commitment to consensus-based work won’t change, but one example of its new direction is found in its prioritization of racial equity. Internally, staff are having candid conversations about policies and practices that will ensure that the Justice Center is a transparent, fair and welcoming workplace. In its external work, there is increased focus on helping states directly tackle racially disproportionate outcomes in their justice systems. This focus has come directly from member requests.

“I think a lot about how policy and practice changes can be sustained over time. We assist policymakers to build a wide and deep base of support so that the reforms states enact are deeply embedded and sustainable moving forward. It’s important to think about how it lasts.” Quattlebaum said. “At some basic level, you have to be playing the long game.”

Looking ahead, the CSG Justice Center is focused on three big areas in which it sees broad bipartisan support, including breaking cycles of incarceration; advancing health, opportunity and equity; and using data to improve safety and justice. State and local leaders are focused on the shortcomings of safety and justice systems and are interested in ways to transform these systems to increase public safety at less cost. By ensuring its work is grounded in the present-day challenges of leaders on the ground, the Justice Center is moving the field forward with ground-breaking research and building capacity to develop innovative and practical tools while scaling up how it helps state and local leaders across all 50 states.

This article appeared in the CSG Capitol Ideas magazine (2022, Issue 4). View current and past issues at

Called to Serve

Tennessee Commissioner of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services Marie Williams chairs the CSG Justice Center Advisory Board.

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Behind the Ballot Sec. Toulouse-Oliver

Maggie Toulouse-Oliver – New Mexico’s Secretary of State

Working in public office since 2007, Secretary Maggie Toulouse Oliver has experienced her fair share of elections. From her first position as county clerk to her current role as secretary of state, Toulouse Oliver has years of expertise in the formation and preparation of election administration. This year, as she and her staff prepare for election season, they face a changed political landscape as New Mexico comes off one of the nation’s most extreme instances of election disinformation. 

Earlier this year, Secretary Toulouse Oliver enlisted the help of the New Mexico state Supreme Court to order a county commission to certify the results of primary election in Otero County after members of the commission refused to do so citing concerns with the vote-tallying process. 

“I think it is indicative of the types of things that are happening in other states,” she said. “So, as we prepare for November, not only are we doing all the other things that we always have to do in the lead up to an election, but now we’re also having to actively combat myths and disinformation among citizens and elected officials.” 

New Mexico has been at the forefront of election accuracy, enacting a post-election audit law in 2005 and working year-round to vamp up cybersecurity collaboratively through The New Mexico Election Security Program Office and the New Mexico Secretary of State’s Information Technology Division. However, this year Toulouse Oliver is focused on three main components to help mitigate disinformation surrounding elections: an extensive, documented review of the election process; outreach to the public; and a nonpartisan approach to collaborating with entities like county commissions. 

The Office of the Secretary of State has already been making attempts to communicate directly to the public while working to dispel any misconceptions about the process through a “Rumor vs. Reality” fact-checking webpage. Though Oliver wants to personally connect with people working in county commissions, who play an integral role in the democratic process, to quell any concerns they may have about the integrity of votes in New Mexico. 

While Oliver has her own partisan ties, she values the importance of a nonpartisan workplace and the oath she took before assuming office to ensure fairness and accuracy. Beyond that, she wants people to know that there is more that unites us than divides us. 

“Election officials, no matter whether they’re Democratic or Republican, take the aspect of their job to ensure fairness and accuracy very seriously. I certainly do that too. In fact, we swear an oath on that,” she said. “Election officials at all levels, from the highest levels down to the local poll worker, are experiencing threats based on our participation in our democratic process. I think it’s really important right now to talk about ourselves as humans, right? I’m a single mom and I have both a 24-year-old son and a 12-year-old son to whom I’m dedicated to more than anything else. Beyond my kids, this job of ensuring fair and accurate elections is my number two.”

Behind the Ballot with Sec. Raffensperger

Brad Raffensperger – Georgia’s Secretary of State

Brad Raffensperger may have a high profile in the national media, but the Georgia secretary of state’s focus is the same as when he took office in 2018 — keeping elections secure, accessible and fair in his home state. 

He couldn’t have anticipated when he started this job how quickly challenges would come, both from the right and the left. 

“When I ran in 2018, I didn’t realize that, as soon as I took office, I’d have nine lawsuits from the losing gubernatorial candidate and her allies,” Raffesnperger said. “We’ve been pushing back on false election claims, really, since January of 2019.” 

When he ran, Raffensperger says the issues were straightforward — Georgia was still using outdated direct recording electronic voting machines. His campaign message was based on security: the state needed to move to new voting machines with a verifiable paper ballot, and Raffesnperger wanted the authority to join the electronic registration information center, known as ERIC, a collaborative tool that allows states to objectively and accurately update voter rolls. 

As it turned out, however, Raffesnperger encountered an elections climate that was far from ordinary. 

“We didn’t expect it — I don’t think anyone could have expected it, really — looking at the scrutiny that [secretaries of state] have gone through since the recent elections,” he said. 

Raffensperger says tensions around elections aren’t new. In Georgia, the problem goes back at least to 2014, and he lays blame to activist groups like the New Georgia Project, and to those who refused to accept the results of the 2016 election, as well. In 2020, Raffensperger didn’t hesitate to call out his own side of the aisle when former President Donald Trump made unfounded claims about fraud in the 2020 election. 

“The challenge the President had is that we looked up and down the line to make sure that we checked out every single allegation,” Raffensperger said. “By the time we had that call with the President, we knew that the numbers were the numbers. And it was just trying to respectfully and as calmly, you know, let the President know that. ‘These are what the numbers are, sir.’” 

False claims about elections — from the right or the left — are distractions. The important thing, Raffesnperger says, are that elections in Georgia are more secure and more accessible than ever before. The state has photo ID for all forms of voting, automatic voter registration and citizenship checks through the Department of Driver Services, and 17 days of mandatory early voting. Raffensperger says registration rates shot up, and today the state has more than 7.5 million voters. 

“It just shows you that it’s easier to vote in Georgia, but we’ve struck that proper balance. Georgia is really doing a great job and we’re going to focus in on that.” 

Raffensperger says trust and consensus building are two of the ways state leaders and everyday citizens can move away from election conflict and begin restoring trust in democratic institutions. 

“Someone said that Eisenhower was a very effective president because he looked at where he could get 60-80% of people agreeing on an issue, and then he focused on that,” Raffensperger said. “He didn’t worry about the stuff where he knew he was going to get 20-40% or even 55%.” 

Raffesnperger believes that change really begins on the individual level, though. Rather than focusing on policies, he says focusing on principles and character will create pathways back from the precipice. That, and a little bit of good will. 

“Luke Bryan said it best — most people are good,” Raffensperger said. “So never lose sight of that: that most Americans are good people.” 

Behind the Ballot with Scott Nago

Text iverkayed that reads "Behind the Ballot" accompanied by an image of Scott Nago, Hawaii's Chief Elections Officer

Scott Nago – Hawaii Chief Elections Officer

While COVID-19 scrambled election plans in other states, Scott Nago had an advantage — legislation signed by Hawaii Gov. David Ige in 2019 had prepared the state for all-mail elections beginning in 2020. 

As chief election officer in Hawaii, Nago couldn’t have known in 2019 just how important the move to all-mail elections would become for public health, but he’d known for years it would be an important step to improve voter turnout. Some version of an all-mail voting bill had been introduced in the legislature every year since Nago started working in the state election office 1998, he said, and he was “pleasantly surprised” when it finally passed in 2019. 

“It wasn’t overnight,” he said. “It was something that took a long time to get done.” 

For several years, voters had already shown a preference for voting by no-excuse absentee ballot. Moving to all-mail elections was a response to voter preference, especially since voters were more than usually reluctant to go to polls because of COVID-19. 

“They would have probably requested an absentee mail ballot anyway,” Nago said. “But once they found out that your ballot is automatically coming to you in the mail, all you have to do is vote it, sign it and get it back to us by the deadline — it’s really easy.” 

All mail voting has streamlined the administration side of elections, too, significantly reduced the number of personnel needed and the logistics of securing polling locations. 

“From a selfish point of view for an election administrator, when you have a polling place election, there’s a lot of moving parts that you just can’t control,” Nago said. 

When the state had polling place elections, Nago needed to reserve 250 polling places statewide, booked two years in advance. He had to recruit people to open and prepare the polling places in addition to recruiting poll workers. Each of these elements was a potential point of failure. 

“All it takes is one person to oversleep or get sick, and we can’t open on time, and we have to scramble to send somebody out there with a key or wake up a principal of a school or a custodian just to get access to the polling place to open it up on election day,” he said. “A lot of that logistical headache is gone with the vote by mail.” 

Since Nago started working in the state election office, the state has implemented automatic voter registration, conducted two elections by mail and offered online registration. The challenge now is simply getting the word out. One other point Nago wants to spread the word about — election officials everywhere are doing their best for voters. 

“In elections, there’s only one answer — the right answer,” he said. 

“There’s no interpretation. You have to follow the law. And that’s what we’re going to do because we want to make it fair as possible. We don’t want to be talked about, as the election officials. We don’t want the story to be about us. We want it to be about candidates at the end of the night.” 

Civics for a Healthy State

By Carl Sims

The CSG Civic Health Subcommittee of the Healthy States National Task Force is exploring how states can improve civic discourse and participation through immediate-term actions by state leaders and long-term investments in civic education. 

The subcommittee is part of a larger initiative — the 2021-22 CSG Healthy States National Task Force. A bipartisan working group of state leaders from all three branches of government, the task force is working to provide resources and recommendations for state governments on how to best address current state challenges, including those resulting from and intensified by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Supported by CSG staff and other subject matter experts, the task force focuses on four key policy areas to provide states a holistic policy strategy for their shared challenges. In addition to civic health, the national task force is exploring infrastructures related to fiscal health, workforce and economic health and human health. Click here to learn more about the 2021-22 CSG Healthy States National Task Force. 

Tennessee state Sen. Bo Watson and Delaware state Sen. Bryan Townsend, who co-chair the national task force, say civic health represents a basic building block of a free society. Without a minimum understanding of how government works, or their role in it, citizens will not be able to fulfill their obligations to each other — or to the future. 

“A fundamental tenet of our democratic republic is that an educated citizenry is a vital requisite for our survival as a free people; therefore, to be civically healthy it is imperative that our citizens understand how our system of government operates so they can best engage and hold accountable the government they elect,” Watson said. 

For Townsend, civic health is built on the faith citizens have in one another and in their institutions of government. Consequently, he says it’s vitally important that people — elected leaders and citizens alike —learn ways to disagree without becoming “toxically disagreeable.” 

“Civic health is the measure of how well we have adopted such an approach, building the necessary systems and culture of using them,” he said. “Without it, our disagreements will consume us and the potential of America.” 

Considerations for Leaders 

The Civic Health subcommittee addresses foundational questions around building healthy and resilient democratic institutions and advancing civic education. Maine Secretary of State Shenna Bellows, who co-chairs the subcommittee with Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose, says she is most excited by the subcommittee’s meaningful and civil engagement across party lines. 

“The committee itself is comprised of elected officials with diverse roles representing both major political parties, and the diversity of political background and experience has deepened the conversations about what the health of our civic institutions can look like if we truly engage with one another,” she said. “It’s been fascinating to find that sometimes we agree on principles but not on word choices. Breaking through that initial resistance to try to find shared understanding is really important. We’re in a dangerous moment for our democracy, and finding a path forward is going to require dialogue, especially when it’s difficult.” 

Subcommittee members have suggested that leaders can improve public trust in government institutions and improve civic discourse by utilizing the capacity and profile of their office. In particular, state leaders may consider the following: 

• Proactively combatting misinformation and disinformation as it is occurring. Additionally, and to help in that effort, state leaders should have strong social media presences and post regularly, even outside of major events like elections, to build legitimacy and maintain a steady stream of reliable civic information. 

• Working on one’s emotional intelligence to make bipartisan solutions more possible. 

• Recognizing how humans respond organically to context, structure and signals and require a feeling of safety for difficult conversations. 

• Creating discourse among differing groups by establishing values and a vision. Ask participants: “What do we want to be true of the place where we live?” 

Subcommittee members say these actions can be complemented by long-term investments in K-12 civic education. Evidence suggests a connection between civic education and civic engagement. According to a 2011 report titled, “Guardian of Democracy: The Civic Mission of Schools,” students who receive high-quality education are more likely to “understand public issues, view political engagement as a means of addressing communal challenges, and participate in civic activities.” 

Current challenges to a robust civic education framework include the following: 

• A 2020 poll from the Annenberg Constitution Day Civics Survey found that only 51% of Americans polled could name all three branches of government. 

• The federal government invests five cents per student for civics, but $54 per student for STEM. 

• Student performance on the National Assessment of Educational Progress in Civics is stagnant, with civic knowledge and skills spread inequitably by race/ethnicity. 

States can also consider how civic education must celebrate the country’s accomplishments while acknowledging the country’s difficult history and its difficult present. Improvements to a civic education framework may include greater funding for civic education, strengthening course requirements and assessments, reforming education standards and curriculum and enhancing accountability. 

Civic health presents a number of areas where state leaders can come together to collaborate to build civic engagement. For Bellows, one of the most promising areas is election access and voting rights. 

“I think it’s important that we continue to find ways to get back to a place where strengthening and protecting voting rights for all American citizens is a shared goal for all state leaders,” she said. “Civic health ultimately depends upon a healthy democracy where every citizen has equal access to exercise their constitutional rights to register to vote, cast their ballot and have their vote to be counted. Regardless of who we are or where we come from, everything else we care about depends upon that.” 

Townsend and Watson both identify the unique opportunity — and responsibility — states have in advancing civic health. 

“A principle of a democratic republican form of government is that the government that governs closest to the people, governs best; therefore, the states, in our federal system of government, have the primary duty and responsibility of providing civic education to their citizens since it is the states that have the most intimate relationship with their citizens,” Watson said. “In order for states to fully exercise the power afforded to them in the U.S. Constitution and to hold the federal government accountable, it is essential that states educate their citizens on how our government is structured, how it operates, how to engage it and how to hold it accountable.” 

Townsend noted that, even though national government has become dominant in the federalist system, state governments must take the lead in advancing civic health. 

“As our federalist system experiences tension from this preemption, the states still remain uniquely positioned to provide a renaissance in civic health by movingly nimbly to respond to individual state-level issues and evidencing to the electorate the ability of government to respond to the people. Such is the system design; we desperately need the states to fulfill this role.” 

Learn more about the Civic Health subcommittee and explore resources at: 

Behind the Ballot with Sec. Bellows

Shenna Bellows – Maine’s Secretary of State

Shenna Bellows has served as the executive director to the Holocaust and Human Rights Center as well as the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine. She was a Maine senator for four years before being selected by the Maine Legislature to serve as secretary of state. Throughout her career, and specifically in her role as secretary, Bellows has led with the philosophy of “radical transparency,” and this election season is no different. 

Bellows says that she and her staff are fighting against the brewing distrust of the voting process and widespread misinformation with open communication to the people of Maine. 

“Everything that we do, we share,” she said. “We have published voter information guides, we work with our local election officials to help conduct radio interviews to talk through election processes, not just once in election season, but in an ongoing basis. We have relationships with our radio hosts, with our television broadcasters and the local media so that they understand how our elections are administered.” 

 Partisan pushbacks are an area of concern across the nation. However, Maine’s deliberate bipartisan efforts have been extremely helpful in building back voter confidence. The state has codified law that requires an equal representation of Democrats and Republicans at the polls, information Bellows has used to ease the minds of voters and even recruit volunteers. This upcoming election season, state leaders are grappling with a drop in local election clerks, in-part due to the rise in animosity toward elections. Maine’s elections are run through municipalities, as opposed to being county-based and rely on over 500 election officials to administer state, local and federal elections. 

“One of the trends that we’re seeing that’s happening across the country is the retirement and turnover among local election officials. That’s precipitated in part because of a rise in threats against election workers and people being more extreme or angry when they’re interacting with their local election officials, which has made the job more challenging,” Bellows said. 

However, new bi-partisan legislation has put in place protections for poll workers in addition to bolstering the security and efficiency of elections. 

“We’ve been successful in our state legislature. The legislation to protect election workers was bipartisan and we were also able to work collaboratively in the legislature to secure additional resources for training and post-election audits to help strengthen public trust and the accuracy and security of our elections. So, we’ve been really pleased to see that.” 

Maine was one of the first states to introduce and adopt ranked choice voting with overwhelming support from voters. For Bellows, it was important to make this new voting process visible for all Mainers, which she says helped boost voter trust. 

“Like any other aspect of elections, what’s most important is to be fully transparent about how it works,” she said. “Live streaming the ranked choice voting tabulation, for example, helps people understand how that works. Making sure that we test some of our materials like ballot design and voting for people with disabilities with representatives from the disabilities community before we launch has increased voter confidence as well.” 

Beyond the ballot, Secretary Bellows is optimistic for a future of positive change. To achieve that future, she’s relying on her ideals of valiant honesty and fairness through cross-party collaboration. 

“We can only achieve permanent and lasting positive change if we work together and bipartisan coalitions to get things done. Our country depends on a process. That entails checks and balances and the free and fair debate of ideas. 

“The principle of no permanent friends and no permit enemies is one that I brought with me into elected office, because I think it’s really important to look past where we come from or our political affiliation to try to reach common ground around shared values.”