Debra Bowen wins ‘Profile in Courage’ award

bowen.gifCalifornia Secretary of State Debra Bowen is among this year’s recipients of the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award, cited for her imposition of strict new controls on electronic voting despite the political fallout. John F. Kennedy Library Foundation president Caroline Kennedy and U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., will present Bowen with the award at a May 12 ceremony at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston.

Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner received the same award for similar work to ensure the integrity of her state’s vote, while a special lifetime achievement award goes to former Mississippi Gov. William Winter for leadership in championing racial equality and educational opportunity.

“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,” Caroline Kennedy said in a news release. “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.”

Per the release:

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.

The JFK Profile in Courage Award goes to public servants who have made courageous decisions of conscience without regard for the personal or professional consequences. It’s named for President Kennedy’s 1957 Pulitzer Prize-winning book, Profiles in Courage, recounting the stories of eight U.S. senators who risked their careers — incurring constituents’ or powerful interest groups’ wrath — by taking principled stands for unpopular positions. The John F. Kennedy Library Foundation created the award in 1989.

More on the award, after the jump…

Past recipients of the Profile in Courage Award include former President Gerald Ford; U.S. Representative John Murtha; former Navy General Counsel Alberto Mora; the Peacemakers of Northern Ireland who negotiated the historic Good Friday Peace Agreement; Ukraine President Viktor Yushchenko; U.S. Senators John McCain and Russell Feingold; Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin; former Governors Roy Barnes (GA) and David Beasley (SC); and former U.S. Congressman Carl Elliott, Sr. of Alabama.

Al Hunt, Washington managing editor of Bloomberg News, chairs the 14-member Profile in Courage Award Committee. Committee members are Michael Beschloss, author and presidential historian; David Burke, former president of CBS News; U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss.; Marian Wright Edelman, president of the Children’s Defense Fund; Antonia Hernandez, president and chief executive officer of the California Community Foundation; Elaine Jones, former director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund; Caroline Kennedy, president of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation; U.S. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass.; Paul G. Kirk, Jr., chairman of the board of directors of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation; Shari Redstone, President, National Amusements, Inc; John Seigenthaler, founder of the First Amendment Center at Vanderbilt University; U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine; and Patricia M. Wald, former judge of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.

  • Jim and Sharlene Hamilton

    We are so happy that you have chosen Debra Bowen for this wonderful award. We here in California are so proud of her and feel that our votes are protected under her watch.

    Thank you,
    Jim and Sharlene Hamilton