Two public officials who challenged the reliability of electronic voting systems in a bid to ensure the integrity of the vote in their states have been named this year's recipients of the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award, it was announced today by the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation
. Debra Bowen
, Secretary of State of California, and Jennifer Brunner
, Secretary of State of Ohio, will be presented the prestigious award for political courage by Caroline Kennedy and Senator Edward M. Kennedy at a ceremony at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston on Monday, May 12.
A special Profile in Courage Award for Lifetime Achievement will be presented to former Mississippi Governor William Winter
for his leadership in championing racial equality and educational opportunity in Mississippi.
"As we prepare to cast our ballots for the next president of the United States, our confidence in the integrity and reliability of the voting process has never been more important," said Caroline Kennedy, president of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation. "Secretaries of State Debra Bowen and Jennifer Brunner have each demonstrated exceptional leadership in working to ensure that voting systems provide a full and accurate count of the vote. Our democracy depends on voter trust. Debra Bowen and Jennifer Brunner's efforts to earn that trust have made them true profiles in courage.
"Governor William Winter gives testimony to President Kennedy's belief that politics can truly be a noble profession," Kennedy continued. "His lifetime of public service, both to his country and his beloved state of Mississippi, has been distinguished by its devotion to equality and justice. We are proud to honor him with a Profile in Courage Award for lifetime achievement."
The John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award is presented annually to public servants who have made courageous decisions of conscience without regard for the personal or professional consequences. The award is named for President Kennedy's 1957 Pulitzer Prize-winning book, Profiles in Courage
, which recounts the stories of eight U.S. senators who risked their careers, incurring the wrath of constituents or powerful interest groups, by taking principled stands for unpopular positions. The John F. Kennedy Library Foundation created the Profile in Courage Award in 1989 to honor President Kennedy's commitment and contribution to public service. It is presented in May in celebration of President Kennedy's May 29th birthday. The Profile in Courage Award is represented by a sterling-silver lantern symbolizing a beacon of hope. The lantern was designed by Edwin Schlossberg and crafted by Tiffany & Co. Debra Bowen
Secretary of State, California
After a $450 million investment by California counties in electronic voting systems aimed at modernizing elections, newly elected Secretary of State Debra Bowen ordered an independent review of the new voting technologies to ensure they adequately protected the integrity of the vote. When the study revealed troubling flaws in the systems, Bowen strictly limited the use of direct-recording electronic voting machines, and imposed significant security and auditing requirements on systems to be used in California's February 5 presidential primary election. Bowen's decision was met with resistance by voting system vendors and many county elections officials. Jennifer Brunner
Secretary of State, Ohio
A series of voting irregularities in several major Ohio counties that use electronic voting systems led newly elected Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner to order that paper ballots be provided to any voter who requested one during the state's March 2008 presidential primary. Furthermore, Brunner called for the replacement of all of the state's electronic voting systems - used in 53 of Ohio's 88 counties - with paper ballots and optical scan technology before the November 2008 presidential election. Critics have objected to the cost and questioned the necessity of Brunner's proposals. William Winter
Former Governor, Mississippi
As Governor of Mississippi in the early 1980's, Winter called the state Legislature into special session to pass a landmark education reform proposal aimed at bringing uniform quality and racial tolerance to public education in Mississippi. Winter's Education Reform Act of 1982 was among the most radical pieces of legislation of its kind ever passed. In 1984, Winter ran unsuccessfully for Senate. He served on President Clinton's Advisory Board on Race from 1997 to 1998; more recently, he has been active in Gulf Coast recovery efforts following the coastal devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina in August 2005.