HELENA – Secretary of State Linda McCulloch filed Thursday for re-election and vowed to keep fighting for fair, honest, open and accurate elections for all eligible Montana voters.

McCulloch, a Democrat, faces no primary opposition for re-election so far in the race for the state’s chief election official.

Three Republicans are running for the right to challenge McCulloch for the $86,018-a-year job. Only Scott Aspenlieder of Helena has filed so far. The other GOP candidates are former Secretary of State Brad Johnson of East Helena, whom McCulloch defeated in 2008, and Drew Turiano of Helena.

In her filing speech, McCulloch called voting the “very essence of our democracy” and said she has fought every attempt to make it harder for eligible Montanans to cast a ballot.

“Onerous ID requirements, arcane restrictions on voter registration and limited access to absentee ballots are nothing more than deliberate efforts to disenfranchise voters,” she said. “We need to make voting accessible and easy for all eligible Montanans.”

That’s why McCulloch said she will continue to support ways to increasing vote by mail and absentee balloting in Montana.

In November 2010, 47 percent of Montanans voted by mail. McCulloch said she would guarantee that number will be higher in the November election this year.

The 2011 Legislature defeated a bill introduced by Rep. Pat Ingraham, R-Thompson Falls, on behalf of McCulloch that would have switched most elections to a vote-by-mail system.

McCulloch said she will offer the bill again in 2013 and said she fully expects it to pass. Sometimes, ideas that are seen as controversial take several sessions before they are enacted in to law.

When she became secretary of state in January 2009, McCulloch said she began to root out wasteful spending under her predecessor, Johnson. She said she halted more than $60,000 in illegal salary bonuses that Johnson had awarded to his outgoing staff.

McCulloch said she cut spending in the office by 18 percent the first year without cutting jobs, reducing services or raising fees to save $1.3 million.

Her office’s budget is now balanced, she said, and will end in the black for the second consecutive year.

She also touted her work on the state Land Board during the past 11 years — three as secretary of state and eight as superintendent of public instruction. McCulloch said she has voted for good-paying energy and resource development jobs and projects that have generated more than $800 million for state schools.

McCulloch, 57, is an Ohio native who moved to Montana in 1978. She received bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Montana and worked as an elementary school librarian.

She represented Missoula in the state House from 1995 to 1999 before her election as state superintendent of public instruction in 2000 and re-election in 2004.

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