Editor’s note: This is part of a series about candidates in advance of the June 7 primary.
Public trust, transparency and integrity of both the elected official and the election process are the core values on which Elrawd MacLearn, candidate for county-clerk recorder-assessor has built his campaign.
He has stepped up to challenge incumbent Joe Holland, who has held the office for 20 years in Santa Barbara County. Mr. MacLearn currently works for the county health department as a health inspector.
Mr. MacLearn has served in politics since he was in high school when he started working as a polling place inspector for the registrar of voters when he was 18, and he was eventually promoted to a supervisor role.
“I am a person who believes in solutions and creating solutions and not just complaining about it and not doing anything,” Mr. MacLearn told the News-Press. “One of the issues that is discussed at every single election is election integrity. Even when I was younger listening to the elections between Al Gore and George Bush and the recounts they had to do, that was really cemented in my mind. Even further back to the 2000 election, when I was even younger it made a huge impact on my psyche.”
This is not Mr. MacLearn’s first run for public office. In 2020, he ran for Santa Barbara Unified School District School Board trustee and lost.
“Being a candidate allowed me to see different aspects of elections,” said Mr. MacLearn. “Aside from campaign costs, running for office can be very expensive. Mandatory fees can be a few thousand dollars to $12,000. These fees must be paid by the candidate before the candidate can actually do anything.”
The duties of the county-clerk recorder assessor office fall into three primary categories: maintaining marriage, birth and death certificates; assessing property value; and managing elections. The last area involves printing ballots, counting and certifying ballots, ensuring that candidates are qualified to run, and maintaining voter registration.
“In public offices there should be transparency in what is going on. The voters have a legal right to access. To be ignored is total disdain for the public and the voter,” said Mr. MacLearn.
“Why can’t the public and the government agency have an open and honest discussion when there are clear concerns? I got started due to public officials not being responsive to the voter,” he said. “Joe Holland is the most known, unknown public official. You see his name everywhere, but no one really knows what he does.”
Mr. MacLearn currently serves as the planning commissioner for the city of Goleta. Additionally, he was involved with student government during his undergraduate career and ran for student senate. Mr. MacLearn graduated with a bachelor’s in 2017 in biology from UCLA.
“I didn’t like the politics involved on campus, and I still don’t. Someone who dislikes the politics is the best person to actually be involved, because I am not in it for the accolades,” said Mr. MacLearn.
Mr. MacLearn discussed his qualifications for the office. “I believe that I have the integrity necessary for public office. It seems like right now there is a lack of faith and trust in not only the elections process but in government in general.
“Now more than ever, we need people like myself in office to show the public that things can get done in a better way,” he said.
“It isn’t you vs. the government,” Mr. MacLearn said. “We can make changes together. Faith needs to be restored in our government process. It’s not a Republican or a Democrat thing; it’s across the board. Everyone feels disenfranchised by public officials.
“I am willing and able to make things better,” he said.
“Joe Holland has been in office for 20 years going for 24. When you have been in office for that long you become jaded and disconnected from the general populace. Additionally, I am a quick learner. There are going to be things that need to be done in that office that I am able to learn quickly,” Mr. MacLearn said.
The News-Press asked Mr. MacLearn why he felt he was better qualified than the incumbent.
“I didn’t realize this until I started running for this position, but he’s a candidate for the election and he is the one managing the election. He should recuse himself so that there is no conflict of interest even if that conflict of interest is perceived. Being able to have integrity is being willing to say ‘I want to be above reproach.’ I want to take those stances so I am not even able to be perceived as doing something wrong. It’s about restoring public trust. If he isn’t going to take those steps, then I am clearly more qualified than him.”
Mr. MacLearn explained how he would ensure the accuracy, security and transparency of elections. “The first thing to start off is to ensure the accuracy of the voter registration. Right now the methods are very passive. It causes a lot of confusion and waste.
“The process needs to be updated, turning from a passive to an active registration. Including a thorough investigation of change of address registration. We also need to update inter-agency communication,” said Mr. MacLearn.
“The public has a lot of mistrust in the voting system,” said Mr MacLearn.
The county relies on voting machines. (Ballots are scanned.)
“We need to do a third party audit on the system to restore public trust,” Mr. MacLearn said. “A third-party audit on the system has never been done. We need to do more than 1% manual tabulation (manual counting).”
“If we really want to ensure the accuracy of the voting system, let’s do 100% manual tabulation for an election or two. I don’t think honesty has a price tag to it. The office has a $22 million budget,” said Mr. MacLearn.
He explained that a 100% manual tabulation is not a long-term solution and it is not feasible in the long run, but he believes that it is worth the cost for one or two elections to restore public trust in the election process.
“I am about restoring the public’s trust. I am a big supporter of technology and doing things more efficiently,” said Mr MacLearn.
The News-Press asked Mr. MacLearn how he felt about mail-in ballots.
“It doesn’t matter how I feel because it’s state law. It gets more people involved because the ballot is brought to their doorstep,” Mr. MacLearn said. “There was over 80% voter turnout in the 2020 general election.
“Negatively, it is a lot less secure. There are various points that could be exploited by people with ill intent,” said Mr. MacLearn.
Mr. MacLearn discussed how he would serve in the assessor part of the office:
“I would assess property value as low as legally possible. I want the mentality to be we want to ensure the lowest property tax possible,” he said.
“One thing I can change is to make the property records freely accessible to the public. You currently have to pay to access records and it should be free. It builds trust and transparency,” said Mr. MacLearn.
To learn more, visit the candidate’s website: elrawd.com/meet-elrawd.