COLUMBIA --- Marjorie Johnson, the Democratic challenger seeking to unseat Republican Mark Hammond after two terms as South Carolina's secretary of state, argues the office isn't visible enough to the average consumer and its responsibilities could be handled by the lieutenant governor.
"There's little or no public interaction" with the position's holder, Johnson said. "It is an elevated administrative position."
Hammond argues that citizens are able to access what they need because of increased online services.
The secretary of state is responsible for a multitude of administrative functions, such as filing documents for businesses and corporations, regulating charitable organizations and commissioning notaries public. The office also registers trademarks and acts as the state's cable franchise authority.
It is also known for its annual "Scrooges and Angels" list, which helps charitable givers educate themselves about how various charities spend what they collect.
Hammond, a 46-year-old Spartanburg resident, said he wants to use his third term to step up protections against counterfeit merchandise and to press lawmakers for increased protections for charitable donors.
"I want to make sure that South Carolina attracts business investment and that the services our office provide are as user-friendly as possible," Hammond said. "People can access our Web site any day of the week, any hour of the day."
Hammond points to the establishment of the "Business One Stop" Web site, which allows businesses to file permits, licenses, registrations, and offers links to other state agencies as a major step forward.
"We've been able to streamline bureaucratic processes," Hammond said.
For example, he said, the state's 140,000 notaries public may now review and renew their commissions online.
Hammond was first elected secretary of state in 2002 and re-elected in 2006.
He was elected Spartanburg County clerk of court in 1996 and re-elected in 2000.
Johnson, a retired 75-year-old public relations executive who has been active in the Democratic Party in Richland County and lives in Columbia, said she thinks the office could be a nonpartisan position appointed by lawmakers, rather than elected.
Johnson said the secretary's responsibilities could be wrapped into those of the lieutenant governor, as several other dozen states do.
She said she decided to run because she didn't think enough women hold elective offices in the state.