In Focus This Week
Has COVID-19 made audits even more important?
Key states conduct RLAs during pandemic
By Ginny Vander Roest, election implementation manager
While COVID-19 has pushed back primary dates and plans to try new things in many states, jurisdictions piloting the Risk-Limiting Audit (RLA) process continue to forge ahead. Three key RLAs have occurred over the last two months, using Arlo, VotingWorks’s open source RLA tool supported by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Each audit continues to prove the post-election audit process is efficient and effective, even across states with different voting methods.
In May, Michigan clerks piloted the largest risk limiting audit ever in terms of the number of jurisdictions and counties participating, with 277 local jurisdictions auditing randomly-selected ballots. This exercise built on the RLA process Michigan began exploring in November 2018 by conducting their first pilot at scale, this time auditing the results of the March 10th Presidential Primary. The voluntary statewide process was an overwhelming success, with over 80% participation even in the midst of a pandemic.
A pilot at this scale tells us a lot about the feasibility of conducting RLAs more broadly across the country. Michigan, traditionally a polling place voting state, has experienced a dramatic increase in the number of vote by mail ballots since a Constitutional Amendment allowing for no-excuse absentee passed in 2018. Add to that over 4800 polling places, with ballots stored securely in the custody of 1520 local jurisdictions, and the task might seem daunting. With almost all counties participating, however, Michigan was able to simulate a full statewide audit very closely, auditing 591 ballots for the random sample. The experience was quite smooth, especially given training and support had to be handled entirely remotely. These adaptations to the constraints of COVID-19 were actually a key factor in determining that RLAs can be successful at a very large scale, even with many other priorities vying for local officials’ attention.
Review Michigan’s 2020 Presidential Primary RLA Pilot Report for details including the public audit data file.
In June, Rhode Island, with the assistance of VotingWorks and Verified Voting , conducted its first official statewide RLA on their June 2nd Presidential Primary. This primary, like many this spring, had been pushed back due to the pandemic. The number of voters that used a mail ballot also increased exponentially from previous elections.
Despite these changes, Rhode Island joins Colorado as only the second state to conduct statewide RLAs as part of their standard post-election procedure. With wide margins, Rhode Island was able to confirm the outcome of both Presidential Primary races in just three hours, sampling 88 ballots. Their first pilot was conducted in January of 2019.
At the end of June, Georgia conducted its second RLA process pilot (the first of which was in November 2019). This round focused on the most populous county in the state, Fulton County. Fulton County confirmed the tabulation outcome of their county’s June 9th Presidential Primary results by sampling less than 30 ballots in an election where the voting method was split between traditional polling places, absentee ballots, and early voting conducted in both March and May.
While the actual number of ballots needed to confirm the outcome was small, that sample was drawn randomly from over 275,000 ballots. Successfully organizing and maintaining chain of custody at that scale, such that individual ballots can be retrieved quickly and easily, is no small feat. We applaud Georgia for continuing to experiment with RLAs as a way to provide voters with confidence in the vote counting process, and are eager to see what other states they might inspire to jump in.
While these sample sizes may seem low, they prove the efficiency of the risk limiting audit process. The Presidential Primary contests in these states had large margins of victory. When the margin of victory is large, the sample size is small. When the margin of victory is small, the sample size is larger. By adjusting the sample size based on the margin of victory, RLAs ensure that you’re always doing just enough work to confirm the outcome of the election – never more, or less, than needed.
Other counties and states are working on summer training programs for the risk limiting audit process. During the pandemic, the training and preparation for these pilots has been easily managed online and via traditional phone and email support chains. And while audit day can be managed in many different ways to include the public, every step is documented (including the open-source Arlo code ), allowing for a transparent process that can be independently verified by any interested party, whether they observe in person or not.
At Voting Works we know COVID-19 has turned even the best 2020 preparation plans upside down. We know there is much more to do to prepare for the November General election and the elections in between with a lot of uncertainty mixed in. If you’ve contemplated piloting an RLA in 2020, we have many ways to support your project remotely to ensure success. We’re even available to talk through sound practices for maintaining your paper ballots as you work through shifts in voting methods. All of which makes the conduct of an RLA much easier.
Auditing election outcomes is a key security measure in the election process and becomes more important in times of change and uncertainty. We’re here to help.
VotingWorks is a national non-partisan non-profit organization building secure, affordable, and simple tools for election administrators. Interested in talking to us about RLAs, open-source voting equipment, or affordably scaling vote-by-mail? You can reach us at email@example.com.
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2020 Election Updates
Delaware: The First State held one of the last presidential primaries this week and while the state was rolling out a new voting system for the first time statewide, with most people choosing to vote by mail in record numbers, there were few reports of issues. According to published reports, it was a very quiet day at the polls. “It’s been very, very slow today, and that could be contributed to the pandemic and COVID-19,” Sherita Bell, a poll worker in Lewes told The Delaware State News. “This is very different from four years ago.” Although it was a slow day at the polls Sussex County Department of Elections Director Ken McDowell was hopeful that fewer people would show up at the polls on Tuesday. “I was hoping they would more vote absentee because we’re giving them an opportunity to stay apart from the polling site with the six foot distancing and the masks and the chance of catching COVID-19,” he told WMDT. Some poll workers even lamented to the lack of voters at the polls. “I was hoping for more, because being busy is always better than sitting, but I’m not surprised by it just because of COVID…” said poll worker Gretchen Fox.
Iowa: Woodbury County held a special election for the county board of supervisors this week and many voters, who had actually cast absentee ballots several months ago in the delayed election forgot and then showed up at the polls on Tuesday. Woodbury County Auditor Pat Gill According to a news release from Gill Tuesday afternoon, his office sent a notice to all active registered voters in March, to notify them of the special election, and because of the onset of the pandemic, they should request an absentee ballot. Officials say voters responded with more than 10,000 requests, and Gill’s office received more than 8,000 ballots back over several weeks. Gill says on March 20, Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate postponed the original election date and set the new date for July 7. According to KTIV, phones were “ringing off the hook, as precinct election officials were calling when a prospective voter had gone to the polls and the register reflects they have already participated.”
New Jersey: Following local elections earlier this summer that made people question the state’s vote-by-mail system, Tuesday postponed primary was relatively smooth. Although ballots are still being counted, none of the problems that surfaced in the local elections have reappeared. Although the majority of voters did cast their ballots by mail, some voters did insist on going to the polls. “I got it (a vote-by-mail ballot) in the mail, but decided I’d rather vote in person,” Leia Calabrese told the Press of Atlantic City after voting at the polls. “It just made me feel like I really voted.” On Monday night the Atlantic County Board of Elections said it had already received about 34,000 vote-by-mail ballots, of which about 29,000 had been “zipped and stripped.” That means the signatures had been checked, the certificates removed and envelopes opened. The County Clerk had mailed out about 105,000 ballots, so the return rate is already about 30%. The one problem that did arise on Tuesday for in-person voters was the state had to temporarily shut down its polling place locator for an unspecified problem. “For a brief time this morning, the Division of Elections removed its polling place lookup tool, which was providing inaccurate information to some voters, said Alicia D’Alessandro, a spokeswoman for Secretary of State Tahesha Way. “While fixing the tool, the Division of Elections directed voters to contact our office or their county clerk to verify the correct polling location.”
Oklahoma: Last week the day after the Oklahoma primary, local television headlines announced a case of potential voter fraud after a woman claimed someone had voted on behalf of her dead husband. Turns out it wasn’t voter fraud but a simple mistake. Canadian County Election Board Secretary Wanda Armold says it didn’t take long to figure out the problem after they started investigating what happened. “We pulled the registry and looked at it,” Armold told KFOR. “I immediately noticed that two lines down from the deceased person’s name was a name very similar.” Just below the name Ronald Michael was the name Robert Mickle. Mickle confirmed to KFOR that it was his signature next to the wrong name. “I didn’t mean to sign in the wrong spot. Believe me,” Mickle said. “I was in a hurry that morning. Came in, voted, ran out the door.”
Election Security Updates
Appropriations: Democrats on a House Appropriations Committee panel included $500 million to boost election security as part of their version of an annual funding bill introduced this week. The version of the fiscal 2021 Financial Services and General Government spending bill rolled out by the House Appropriations subcommittee on financial services and general government would appropriate half a billion dollars to the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) to “enhance election technology and make election security improvements.” The bill specifies that states may only use the election security funds to replace “direct-recording electronic” voting equipment with voting systems that use some form of paper ballots. States would only be allowed to use any remaining funds once they have certified to the EAC that all direct-recording election equipment has been replaced.
Election News This Week
In late June, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued guidance to states recommending that voters consider alternatives to casting their ballots in person during upcoming elections. The guidance suggests that state and local election officials take steps to minimize crowds at voting locations, including offering “alternative voting methods.” Voters who want to cast ballots in person should consider showing up at off-peak times, bringing their own black ink pens or touch-screen pens for voting machines, and washing their hands before entering and after leaving the polling location, the guidance said. Workers and voters alike, it said, should wear face coverings. According to The Washington Post, the CDC guidelines were developed with the help of election officials who had shared the limitations and opportunities they observed throughout this year’s primaries, as well as public health experts who shared updated research about the virus. “I’m glad to see CDC issue this vital guidance, which is an important step in the right direction that will help protect citizens’ ability to vote,” Sen. Patty Murray (Wash.), the top Democrat on the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, said in a statement. “But this still only scratches the surface.” She and others in her party plan to push for more federal funding to protect the fall elections, she said.
Late last week, the Maryland State Board of Elections submitted its final recommendations on the state’s November elections to Gov. Larry Hogan Jr. (R) late last week, following a lengthy review of the June 2 mail-in primary. The elections board drew up three options for the November election for Hogan to consider: holding the election entirely by mail, holding a traditional in-person election, or a mix of both. On Wednesday, Hogan announced that the state would conduct a “normal” election in November meaning that every precinct will be open on Election Day for in-person voting and all early vote centers will be open as well. As part of his decision, Hogan said he will ask the board of elections to send an application to vote by mail to all eligible voters. While the state board of elections was split over entirely mail-in voting or a hybrid of mail voting and vote centers, the board was unanimous in its opposition to conducting a precint-based election. County elections officials have expressed their concerns not only with the decision to send applications for absentee ballots as opposed to the ballots themselves, but also the opening of all precincts on Election Day.
Fourteen U.S. Senators have sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Justice expressing their concerns about the possible disenfranchisement of Native Americans due to changes in the voting process because of the coronavirus. The letter urges DOJ to work with Tribal governments to find solutions so voters aren’t disenfranchised. “With the 2020 general election fast approaching, there is concern that measures intended to ensure safe voting during the pandemic may make [existing] challenges worse,” a letter sent to the DOJ reads. “Across the country, states are closing polling locations in response to the COVID-19 pandemic…We are deeply concerned that the disproportionate impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Tribal communities will spread to the ballot box via changes in voting procedures that may disenfranchise Native American voters.” The letter asks DOJ to respond to three specific questions: Will the Department commit to working with Tribal leaders and Native American communities to find solutions to problems associated with voting during a pandemic that will not disenfranchise voters?; Has the Department received complaints regarding a lack of polling locations for Native American voters during this year’s primary elections? Please provide reports detailing those complaints and any documents citing complaints that voters were unable to cast a vote due to the lack of accessible poll locations; and has the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division’s Indian Working Group engaged with election officials to ensure that Native American voting rights are protected during the upcoming elections? If so, what actions have been taken?
With Maine’s postponed primary less than a week away, we’re getting a bit of a look into one possible nationwide scenario for November. According to the Bangor Daily News, Democrats are dominating absentee ballot requests as a new poll showed a significant majority of Republicans intend to vote on Election Day. According to the paper, Democrats typically outpace Republicans in absentee ballot requests. During the 2018 general election, about 80,000 Democrats voted absentee compared to 53,000 Republicans. However, the differences are more striking this year. More than 120,000 Democrats have requested absentee ballots compared to just 32,000 Republicans, according to the secretary of state’s office.
We suspect we’ll be seeing more and more of this in the coming months. The Erie County, Ohio board of elections will close every Friday until at least mid-September. The financial impacts of the coronavirus have taken a toll on county budgets and officials in various departments must take unpaid time off. According to the Sandusky Register, To ensure a full staff when the office is open, the elections board’s workforce opted to collectively take mandatory time off together. The elections board should maintain normal hours in the weeks leading up to the 2020 presidential election.
Personnel News: Marion County, West Virginia Clerk Janice Cosco is resigning after 39 years on the job. Dallas County, Texas Elections Administrator Toni Pippins-Poole has submitted her resignation effective Nov. 30. Norwalk, Connecticut Republican Registrar of Voters Karen Doyle Lyons has announced her retirement. Claire Woodall-Vogg has been appointed the new executive director of the Milwaukee, Wisconsin election commission. Woodall-Vogg currently serves as the commission’s business systems administrator
Alaska: The Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly has overturned a veto from Mayor Charlie Pierce on Ordinance 20-24 that would allow the borough to create a hybrid vote by mail/vote center system for . According to Alaska Public Radio, in defense of his veto, Pierce had previously claimed on social media that the vote-by-mail system would be mandatory, which is not the case. Assembly President Kelly Cooper called a post on Pierce’s campaign Facebook to that effect on June 13 irresponsible for its inaccuracy. The ordinance has resolutions of support from every city in the borough, and included stakeholders from across the borough. Ordinance 20-24 not only provides for vote-by-mail elections, but provides for more time between regular elections and run-offs, and it removes position statements from ballot initiatives in the voter pamphlet. The ordinance will go into effect in 2021 and only apply to borough elections.
Arkansas: Supporters of a proposed constitutional amendment authorizing ranked-choice voting for most state offices said they turned in more than 94,000 signatures of registered voters. The Open Primaries Arkansas committee said its proposed amendment would create an open primary election system under which candidates for U.S. Congress, the General Assembly, and state constitutional officers would appear on a unified primary election ballot to all eligible voters. In the general election, voters would have the option to rank the four candidates in order of preference and ensure the candidate with majority support is the winner, according to the committee. Ballot committees are required to submit signatures of 89,151 signatures of registered voters and signatures of registered voters equaling 5 % of the voters who cast votes for governor in the 2018 election in 15 counties to qualify their proposal for the ballot. They also are required to get the approval of the state Board of Election Commissioners for their proposed ballot titles and popular names for their proposals.
District of Columbia: As part emergency police reform legislation, felons in the District of Columbia will be allowed to vote while still incarcerated and the Board of Elections will be required to proactively mail absentee ballots to DC residents held at the DC Jail as well as in federal prisons nationwide. Federal inmates could request absentee ballots for the November election, but elections officials would not be required to send those ballots to all prisoners this year. The District has allowed felons to vote after leaving prison, and also allows those convicted of misdemeanors to vote from jail. The legislation requires the D.C. Board of Elections — which already works with the jail to facilitate voting for those awaiting trial who have not been convicted, or are serving time on misdemeanor charges — to distribute absentee ballots for felons being held at the jail. The emergency legislation directs the elections board in 2021 to reach out to the Federal Bureau of Prisons to obtain the contact information of D.C. resident inmates and to send them ballots. The prisoners would be registered at their last address before incarceration.
Massachusetts: Gov. Charlie Baker has signed a vote by mail bill into law. This is the first time in Massachusetts history that all eligible residents will have the opportunity to vote early and by mail in both the state primary and general election. Early voting for the state primary will happen between August 22 – August 28. In-person early voting for the November general election will be held from October 17 to October 30.
Nevada: The Lyon County commission have passed a resolution opposing the use of mail-in ballots for the November general election. The commissioner’s resolution states that mail-in ballots “causes concern for dishonesty and voter fraud in mail-in elections” and “that the Lyon County Board of Commissioners opposes the exclusive use of mail-in ballots in the general election in November, 2020 and future elections and urges the secretary of state and county clerks to use in-person voting except in the case of absentee ballots.”
New York: Sen. Todd Kaminsky (D-Long Beach) and Assemblywoman. Nily Rozic (D-Queens) have introduced a bill that would allow college students to work at polling sites where they are not registered to vote. State law currently requires poll-site workers to work in the election district where they live.
North Dakota: According to the Bismarck Tribune, legislators may discuss implementing a statewide voter registration system in the 2021 session. North Dakota is the only state that does not have a voter registration system and with voters relying more and more on mail balloting, some have expressed concerns about the lack of a registration system. “I think the Legislature next session has to look at the very question …,” Sen. Ray Holmberg, R-Grand Forks, said. “Are we going to actually have a voter registration system run through the secretary of state’s office and not through the department of motor vehicles?” Jaeger said North Dakota’s current system is simple and he expressed confidence that only qualified voters cast ballots for the June election. “Right now I’m not convinced that any changes should be made,” the longtime secretary of state told the Tribune. “We should be allowed to work with the system that we have now and continue to refine it and use it.”
Also in North Dakota, advocates pushing for election reform have submitted what they say are the necessary number of signatures to get the reforms on the November ballot. The, 3-page proposal lays out new election processes to be inserted into North Dakota’s constitution, including: Transmission of ballots to eligible military and overseas voters 60 days before an election; Paper records of each vote cast; Election audits of one or more random precincts of each legislative district; Open primaries and instant runoffs for statewide, legislative and congressional offices; Drawing of legislative districts by North Dakota’s Ethics Commission rather than the Legislature; and Subdivision of House districts. Secretary of State Al Jaeger has until Aug. 10 to review 36,708 signatures on 1,079 petitions. Supporters need at least 26,904 signatures of qualified North Dakota voters to place the measure on the November ballot.
Utah: Rep. Mike Winder (R-West Valley City), and Sen. Curt Bramble (R-Provo), are planning to introduce a bill during January’s legislative session to require that all “government-funded” primaries in Utah to use ranked-choice voting beginning May of 2021.
Vermont: Gov. Phil Scott said he’s allowing a bill to allow mail-in voting during the November presidential to become law without his signature. In a letter to members of the Vermont Legislature, Scott said there appeared to be a technical problem with the law that creates an ambiguity in how the secretary of state deals with ballot returns. Under the new law all voters will receive ballots in the mail and they can return them by mail, take them to their local town or city clerk or bring the ballot to their polling place on Election Day.
Also in Vermont, the Burlington Charter Change Committee voted 2 to 1 this week to ask Mayor Miro Weinberger to call forth a special election this November that would have voters choosing whether or not to adopt a ranked choice voting system. According to WCAX, if Weinberger agrees to the special election, a separate ballot would be created to ask voters if they think Burlington should reinstate ranked choice voting in mayoral, city councilor, and school commissioner elections.
Alabama: By a 5-to-4 vote, the U.S. Supreme Court blocked a trial judge’s order that would have made it easier for voters in three Alabama counties to use absentee ballots in this month’s primary runoff election. The court’s brief, unsigned order gave no reasons, which is typical when it rules on emergency applications, and it said the order would remain in effect while appeals moved forward. The court’s four more liberal members — Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen G. Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan — said they would have rejected Alabama’s request.
Arizona: In legal papers filed with the U.S. Supreme Court, Secretary of State Katie Hobbs said the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals got it right when it concluded that the state’s ban on ballot harvesting, approved by the Republican-controlled Legislature in 2016, was adopted at least in part to discourage minority voting. She also noted the appellate judges found that it does, in fact, have a disproportionate effect on the ability of minorities to cast a ballot.
Connecticut: A new lawsuit was filed to force the state to expand access to absentee ballots in the November election as a precaution against the coronavirus The American Civil Liberties Union sued in federal court Thursday to force the state to make absentee ballots available to every eligible Connecticut voter in November. Failing to do so during a pandemic, when waiting in long poll lines could increase viral transmission, is a violation of the right to vote, the suit claims. The ACLU sued on behalf of a voting rights group, an elderly voter vulnerable to viral infection and the NAACP. The suit claims Blacks in Connecticut suffer disproportionately from health and voter access problems as victims of years of systemic racism.
Florida: A group of Florida voters and civil rights groups have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to reinstate a ruling by a federal trial court that struck down a state law that requires ex-felons to repay all court fees and costs before their voting rights may be reinstated. The U.S. Court of Appeals of the 11th Circuit put the lower court ruling on hard while it considers the state’s appeal. With the deadline to register to vote for Florida’s primaries less than two weeks away, the plaintiffs argue that the appellate court’s hold “creates chaos and confusion about who can and cannot vote, where a wrong guess creates the risk of criminal prosecution.” In their filing, the voters urged the Supreme Court to lift the 11th Circuit’s stay and reinstate the district court’s ruling. Citing the court’s 2006 decision in Purcell v. Gonzalez, which stands for the principle that courts should be wary about making changes in the run-up to an election, the voters complained that the 11th Circuit’s order “has created triple the ‘confusion and consequent incentive to remain away from the polls’” as the Supreme Court found in Purcell. And it did so, the voters continued, “just three weeks before the registration deadline for the August primary” and “after vote-by-mail applications were already received and just as ballots were mailed to overseas voters.”
Rep. Joseph S. Geller, D-Aventura, Rep. Geraldine Thompson, D-Windermere, Sen. Victor M. Torres, D-Kissimmee, Dan Helm, a candidate for Supervisor of Elections in Pinellas County, as well as eight voters and the Florida Democratic Party have filed suit in Leon County Circuit Court seeking to stop the state from destroying digital images of ballots after an election. The suit asks a judge to require the state to order local election officials to retain the ballot images from optical scanning machines for 22 months.
Indiana: Common Cause Indiana has filed a lawsuit to overturn a 2019 election law which prohibits voters, political parties and candidates from asking a court to keep polling locations open past 6 p.m. closing time if they encounter voting problems. Under the law only county election boards may ask to keep the polls open beyond 6pm. The suit, filed in federal court in Indianapolis argues that the law violates the First and Fourteenth amendments causing an undue burden on voting, as well as the Supremacy Clause, which allows citizens to petition state courts for certain Constitutional reliefs available under federal law.
Kentucky: A group has filed a lawsuit to force state leaders to offer extended mail-in ballots for Kentucky’s November elections. Gov. Andy Beshear, Secretary of State Michael Adams, and other state leaders are defendants in the lawsuit. The four plaintiffs claim health conditions put them at increased risk of severe illness or death from COVID-19.
Montana: Yellowstone County District Court Judge Jessica Fehr has issued a preliminary injunction against a state law that restricts who can collect ballots, finding it likely violates Native Americans’ right to vote. The Ballot Interference Prevention Act, enacted by Montana’s 2017 Legislature, restricts who can collect ballots and dictates that caregivers, family members and others can collect no more than six ballots per election. Several Native American tribes and advocacy groups claim in their suit challenging the law that Native Americans in Montana’s seven reservations are particularly isolated, and tribal members often must rely on someone else to collect or transport their ballots to the post office. “The Court finds that BIPA serves no legitimate purpose; it fails to enhance the security of absentee voting; it does not make absentee voting easier or more effective; it does not reduce the cost of conducting elections and it does not increase voter turnout,” Fehr wrote in her 11-page ruling. Fehr added that the state “failed to demonstrate through any evidence the existence of any compelling state interest that would warrant the interference of the right to vote created by BIPA.”
New Hampshire: Disabilities Rights Center-New Hampshire sued Secretary of State William Gardner on behalf of the National Federation of the Blind and its New Hampshire chapter, Granite State Independent Living, and three voters with disabilities. The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court, seeks to force the state to implement an accessible, electronic absentee voting system. Every step of New Hampshire’s absentee voting program is inaccessible,” the lawsuit states. “Plaintiffs are entitled to equal access to New Hampshire’s absentee voting program to vote privately, secretly, independently, and safely, as individuals without disabilities can.”
North Dakota: The governor and secretary of state are asking a judge to toss out a lawsuit seeking to annul the June election. Attorneys responded Monday to the claims of U.S. House candidate Roland Riemers and state superintendent candidate Charles Tuttle, who were unsuccessful in the statewide election held entirely by mail due to the coronavirus pandemic. They sued Gov. Doug Burgum, Secretary of State Al Jaeger and the state. The pair alleged “irregularities and violations of election laws and illegal abuse of executive power.” The attorneys for the state have asked the judge to dismiss the case without a hearing, citing no standing for the lawsuit and myriad irregularities in its claims.
Texas: The U.S. Supreme Court won’t fast-track a bid by Texas Democrats to decide whether all Texas voters can vote by mail during the coronavirus pandemic, leaving in place the state’s current regulations for the July 14 primary runoff election. But the case, which now returns to a lower court, could be back before the Supreme Court before general election in November. Texas law allows voters to mail in their ballots only if they are 65 or older, confined in jail, will be out of the county during the election period, or cite a disability or illness. But Texas Democrats have argued that voters who are susceptible to contracting the new coronavirus should be able to vote by mail as the pandemic continues to ravage the state.
Wisconsin: A three-judge panel found that the state can restrict early voting hours and restored a requirement that people must live in a district for 28 days, not 10, before they can vote. The panel also said emailing and faxing absentee ballots is unconstitutional. The state’s photo ID requirement for voters wasn’t in question, although the panel did find that expired student IDs are acceptable at the polls. The court blocked an option to allow people to vote without an ID if they show an affidavit saying they tried to obtain one. Judge Frank Easterbrook, who wrote the opinion, noted that the restrictions don’t burden people in the state, where voters still enjoy more ways to register, long poll hours on Election Day and absentee voting options than in other states. “Wisconsin has lots of rules that make voting easier,” Easterbrook wrote. “These facts matter when assessing challenges to a handful of rules that make voting harder.”
Social Media: Both Bloomberg and Roll Call have stories this week about the chaos that could ensue on social media in the days following the General Election if we do not have a clear winner, which seems unlikely given that many people may choose to vote by mail. According to Roll Call, the 11 weeks between Election Day and Inauguration Day could be rife with disinformation coming from all directions as criminal hackers, enemy states and even domestic political forces try to shape people’s perceptions of what actually happened. Lawsuits are also likely to proliferate if the outcome is not clear. “It’s inevitable that we’ll have convoluted election results and it’s inevitable there’ll be a period of time when results are confusing, and it’s not clear what’s going on,” Graham Brookie, director and managing editor of the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab told Roll Call. From social media executives to federal, state and local officials, everyone needs to be prepared for “what could happen so they can avoid the information vacuum that’s extremely vulnerable to disinformation.”
Facebook: Civil rights auditors hired by Facebook to scrutinize the social media giant’s record delivered what many are referring to as a “scathing” report on the company’s decisions to prioritize free speech above other values, which the auditors called a “tremendous setback” that opened the door for abuse by politicians. The report criticized Facebook’s choice to leave several posts by President Trump untouched, including three in May that the auditors said “clearly violated” the company’s policies prohibiting voter suppression, hate speech and incitement of violence. The report also found that Facebook provides a forum for white supremacy and white nationalism. Although Facebook has been reluctant to make changes in the past, according to The Washington Post, the Facebook-commissioned report potentially carries more weight than other criticisms on the grounds of civil rights because the social network granted the auditors extensive access to its systems and executives, and it encompassed feedback from over 100 civil rights groups. However, it provides no guarantee that Facebook will make major changes to its policies or practices.
Opinions This Week
Arizona: Ex-felon voting rights
Arkansas: Easier voting
California: In-person voting
Kentucky: Voting system
Louisiana; Voting safety
Maine: Absentee voting
Maryland: General election
Michigan: Polling places
Minnesota: Vote by mail
Nevada: Vote by mail
New Jersey: Primary
New York: Primary
North Dakota: Voter registration
Pennsylvania: Bucks County
Texas: Election litigation
Utah: Ranked choice voting
Washington: Secretary of state race
West Virginia: Troops voting rights
Online CERA and CERV Session: In these extraordinary times, we are pleased to continue to offer additional CERA/CERV courses remotely using online tools via Auburn University. There are two sets of online courses being offered in July and August 2020 so please read the course information with corresponding dates. We are offering courses 7,8, 9, 10 and renewal course 17 beginning on July 13 and ending on July 31, 2020 (see calendar on page 2). An optional technical assistance session for Canvas and Zoom will be offered on July 10 from 1:00-2:00 pm or 3:00-4:00 pm Central Time and repeated on July 13 from 1:00-2:00 or 3:00-4:00 pm Central Time. We are offering courses, 3,4,5,6 and renewal course 33 beginning on July 20 and ending on August 7, 2020. An optional technical assistance session for Canvas and Zoom will be offered on July 15 from 1:00-2:00 pm Central Time and repeated on July 16 from 1:00-2:00 Central Time.
Supporting the Youth Vote in 2020: The 2020 general election has taken on renewed importance as the twin crises of racial injustice and a global pandemic profoundly change American life. For the generation just now coming of age and finding its voice politically, this year’s election offers an opportunity to shape the country’s future. Join the Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE), part of Tufts University’s Tisch College of Civic Life, and Gallup for a discussion on youth participation in the political process this November and beyond. Based on new research, the conversation will focus on: The political behaviors and attitudes of younger Millennials and Generation Z, many of whom will be voting in their first presidential election; Young Americans’ support for different candidates, and whether those candidates are reaching out to them; Young Americans’ activism and overall civic engagement, and their access to the election process—especially given changes to elections due to COVID-19; The issues at the core of young people’s interest in casting a ballot in November, with a special attention to the concerns of youth of color. When: July 14, 1pm Easter. Where: Online.
Voting in the Time of COVID-19: Wisconsin’s Experience: The April 7 election in the State of Wisconsin took place at an extraordinarily difficult time – the nation was just beginning to wrestle with the effects of the coronavirus, with significant impacts on the availability of people and resources usually needed to conduct a statewide vote. In addition, fierce partisan disagreements and resulting litigation created a fluid, contentious environment where the “rules of the road” were uncertain for election officials and voters alike. Through it all, Wisconsin’s election community – led by its State Election Commission – had to navigate both pandemic and politics to hold its primary. Join Wisconsin Elections Commission Administrator Meagan Wolfe for a discussion of the Badger State’s experience and lessons learned. Doug Chapin, Director of Election Research, Fors Marsh Group and CEA faculty will moderate. When: July 14. Where: Online.
NASS 2020 Virtual Conference: After careful consideration and discussion with the NASS Executive Board, the decision was made to cancel the 2020 NASS Summer Conference that was scheduled to take place from July 19-22, 2020 at the Silver Legacy in Reno, Nevada. In lieu of an in-person conference, NASS will host a Virtual Summer Conference, July 17th and July 20-22. Mark your calendar to join us online in July! The registration fee is $50 per person for all registration types except corporate non-member. Registration will close on July 14th at 8 PM EDT. Login information for conference sessions will begin to be distributed on Wednesday, July 15th to the email address provided at registration. When: July 17-22. Where: Online.
Making Our Democracy Work: Information About a Career in Election Administration: Join us for an informational webinar with alumni, faculty, and staff in the Humphrey School of Public Affairs Certificate in Election Administration (CEA) program. Learn about the curriculum, time commitment, career paths in elections, joining a virtual community of colleagues, and much more. Ask questions and get the answers you need. The Humphrey School of Public Affairs offers the first of its kind nationwide online graduate- and undergraduate-level program to prepare professionals in election administration. The CEA is designed with maximum flexibility for those experienced individuals already managing state and local election offices, as well as those seeking to become part of the next generation of creative and committed leaders. When: July 27. Where: Online.
D3P National Training Tour: The Defending Digital Democracy Project (D3P) is launching a national training tour effort for local election officials as they prepare for the 2020 election. Given the many changes of the past months, this tour will be conducted digitally and is designed to give officials the best of D3P live training sessions in a new format. In addition to supporting local election officials through customized training, the tour may also host some special sessions for state election officials. Local jurisdictions can sign up for a block of virtual training sessions from June to August 2020, with the timing, content, and outputs customizable based on election officials’ schedules and priority needs. D3P’s work is committed to supporting officials in protecting the elections process. Just as you continue your work to serve the American people, we continue our work to serve you. This is a free, virtual resource that will involve discussion groups, live table top simulations, and state-specific content. Key training topics include operations management, crisis communications, disinformation, and Covid-19 support. When: Now through August 28. Where: Online.
Job Postings This Week
electionlineWeekly publishes election administration job postings each week as a free service to our readers. To have your job listed in the newsletter, please send a copy of the job description, including a web link to firstname.lastname@example.org. Job postings must be received by 5pm on Wednesday in order to appear in the Thursday newsletter. Listings will run for three weeks or till the deadline listed in the posting.
Business Enablement Project Manager, Hart InterCivic— The Business Enablement Project Manager manages projects that further the advancement of business for the organization. These projects include the development of RFP responses, management of strategic regulatory activities, execution of market research activities, and internal projects to support the improvement of business processes to support the Proposals and Certification Teams. The Business Enablement Project Manager must be able to function effectively on all levels of corporate structure in order to identify opportunities, analyze business needs, and identify and solve problems that present barriers to market entry. The Business Enablement Project Manager must be able to exercise sound judgment, interact with internal and external stakeholders, and complete projects professionally in high-pressure situations. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Clerk/Recorder Elections Technician, Placer County, California— The mission of the Placer County Clerk-Recorder-Elections Office is to provide courteous, timely and professional recording and elections services to the citizens, businesses and public agencies of the county with the utmost integrity, transparency, consistency, fairness, legal compliance and cost effectiveness, using both the trained and committed staff of the department and technology to advance operations. The Office of the County Clerk-Recorder-Elections is comprised of three units: Clerk, Recorder, and Elections. Typical duties when assigned to the Clerk’s Office are to issue birth, death and marriage vital record copies; perform civil marriages, including same sex marriages; and file fictitious business name statements. Typical duties when assigned to the Recorder’s Office are to examine documents for recording requirements, cashier transactions, scan and index documents, and process passport applications. Typical duties when assigned to the Elections Office are to process voter registration cards; process vote-by-mail requests and official ballots; survey and secure polling locations; recruit and train poll workers; file official candidate paperwork; conduct voter outreach programs; and conduct federal, state, and local elections. Election season typically results in the necessity to work some weekends, evenings, and County-observed holidays. Positions in Elections typically require a valid driver’s license. Salary: 50,502.40 – $63,044.80/ Deadline: July 9. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Communications Associate, Center for Tech and Civic Life — When you think about elections, you might think about popular candidates, “I voted” stickers, and all sorts of paperwork and deadlines. But behind the scenes are thousands of election administrators in state and local governments who are working hard to make sure ballots are counted and voices are heard. To serve every community and make democracy work, election administrators need 21st-century tools and training. You can help them get it! As the CTCL Government Services Communications Associate, you will grow and engage our network of election administrators (what we call ELECTricity) and connect them with resources like CTCL training courses and ElectionTools.org. You’ll work with the Government Services team and report to the Impact and Learning Manager. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Elections Supervisor, Dallas County, Texas— Assists management by planning, organizing, delegating and overseeing the daily operations of one or more areas of responsibility associated with the election process. Oversees the election program area to ensure staffing coverage is adequate, and productivity standards are met and are effective develops and implements goals and objectives, performance measures and techniques to evaluate programmatic activities reviews correspondence and reports from local, state and or federal agencies analyzes statistical data and prepares and maintains related reports. Researches and maintains comprehensive knowledge and understanding of applicable laws, policies and procedures to effectively communicate with staff, and acts as liaison and departmental representative to elected officials, political representatives, candidates, judges, contracting customers, vendors, general public, and or other county, state and federal representatives to resolve problems, answer questions, provide assistance and modify policies procedures. Hires and trains supervisory and support staff, evaluates performance and initiates disciplinary actions coordinates and monitors scheduling, productivity and workloads. Assists in budget preparation and maintains related data and reports. Performs other duties as assigned. Salary Range: $49,765.92 – $62,100.24. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
HAVA Administrator, Nevada Secretary of State— The Nevada secretary of state’s office is seeking a HAVA Administrator. The incumbent in this position will manage the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) grant and in this capacity will work with members of the State Elections Division, county registrar of voters, and other elections related positions in the federal, state, and county governments to manage the application of the HAVA grant and support the conduct of state and federal elections. This position will be a key member of the State elections team and will be primarily responsible for the analysis and interpretation of federal and state elections law. This position will supervise up to six other elections-related employees. State employee Benefits – Medical, dental, vision care, life and disability insurance programs are available; eleven paid holidays per year; three weeks of annual leave; three weeks of sick leave; state defined benefit retirement plan; tax-sheltered deferred compensation plan available. State employees do not contribute to Social Security; however, a small Medicare deduction is required. Salary: $66,628.08 – $100,161.36. The Secretary of State’s Office is located in downtown Carson City, near beautiful Lake Tahoe in Northern Nevada, which offers a destination location to live, work and play. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
IT Security Engineer, Dominion Voting Systems— We are looking for an IT Security Engineer to join our IT team in Denver, Colorado! We are looking for a security-minded individual who can perform both day-to-day technical management and maintenance of IT security programs and who can also strategically assess and enhance the overall IT security enterprise-wide. This role covers a broad scope of responsibilities as some days you may be evaluating new security solutions and attending security briefings, while other days you will be managing our existing IT security toolsets and reviewing threat and log data to identify risk and mitigate vulnerabilities. You must be a self-starter, who collaborates well with others and can explain IT security best practices to anyone from the end-users to executive team members. You will also work for hand and hand with colleagues within the IT department and work with our vendors and external threat organizations to understand and mitigate risks. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Policy Associate, National Vote at Home Institute— Under the general direction of the National Policy Director, the Policy Associate is responsible for supporting the policy goals of the National Vote at Home Institute (NVAHI), including the design and implementation of mail ballot policies and procedures nationwide. The Policy Associate is responsible for internal data capture and interpretation in a shifting policy landscape and will also contribute heavily to data analysis and strategy decisions that the data informs. As an entrepreneurial and growing nonprofit, NVAHI seeks an energetic, flexible, and creative team member to help us grow our impact. The compensation range for this position is$45,000-$60,000/year depending on experience. This position is remote and requires a personal computer, phone, and access to the internet. Applications: For those interested in applying, please send a resume, cover letter, and references to National Policy Director Audrey Kline at email@example.com with subject line “Policy Associate”
Project Associate, Center for Tech and Civic Life — When you think about elections, you might think about popular candidates, “I voted” stickers, and all sorts of paperwork and deadlines. But behind the scenes are thousands of election administrators in state and local governments who are working hard to make sure ballots are counted and voices are heard. To serve every community and make democracy work, election administrators need practical, research-based approaches that can improve their operations. These include things like voter registration, resource allocation, and language access. As the CTCL Projects Associate, you will learn about the complex challenges that voters face and help election administrators address those challenges. You’ll work with the Government Services team and report to the Senior Project Manager. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Project Manager, Hart InterCivic— Project Managers at Hart InterCivic are highly motivated “self-starters” who are enthusiastic about providing exceptional customer service. Working with other members of the Professional Services and Operations teams, the Project Manager directs activity, solves problems, and develops lasting and strong relationships with our customers. Hart InterCivic’s unique and industry known culture of innovation, transparency, and customer-centric focus creates an environment where team members will continually grow and be challenged to develop their careers. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Research Fellow, Democracy Works— The Research team collects and standardizes information on how voting works—how to register, how to vote, and when and where elections are happening. Streamlining democracy in this way requires quite a bit of knowledge: what form you use to register to vote in Wyoming, to whom you mail your absentee ballot application in Maine, and whether there’s an election taking place in Oklahoma RIGHT NOW (there probably is!). This information is used by various consumers, both internal and external. The Voting Information Project (VIP) coordinates with state election offices to publish nationally standardized information about where and how to vote—data that powers everything from Google’s polling place search to our text and email reminders to TurboVote users. As a part of the team, you will work with the Data Project Manager and Director of Election Research to conduct research outreach for the Voting Information Project, contacting thousands of state and local election officials. You will: Conduct phone and email outreach to local election administrators to get accurate, up-to-date information on elections; Compile the election information into a detailed spreadsheet; Perform quality assurance checks on the information to assure accuracy and completeness of the data; Research user-reported errors; and assist the election research team with other tasks, as they arise. Salary: $13,000 for 13 week fellowship (paid in semi-monthly installments). Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Senior Data Fellow, Voting Information Project— The Voting Information Project (VIP) coordinates with state election offices to publish nationally standardized information about where and how to vote—data that powers everything from Google’s polling place search, to our text and email reminders to TurboVote users. VIP’s dataset has served millions (and hundreds of millions) of voters since 2008. You will: Work with Democracy Works technical staff to write, run, and debug Python scripts to parse data; Assist with standardizing & sanitizing datasets; Perform quality assurance checks on the information to ensure accuracy and completeness of the data; Research and respond to user-reported errors; and Write and update technical documentation so that other members of the team can recreate processes. Application: For the complete listing and to apply, click here.
Senior Deputy Board Clerk/Elections Assistant, Mono County, California— Under general supervision, to coordinate and perform a variety of complex, specialized support work for the County Board of Supervisors and the maintenance of official Board records; to serve as back-up, recording meetings and developing minutes for the County Board of Supervisors and the Assessment Appeals Board; to perform a variety of administrative and staff support work for County elections; to provide assistance and information to the public regarding the functions of County Boards and Commissions and County Elections; to assist other County staff with the understanding of assigned program and department/work unit procedures and requirements; to perform a variety of advanced technical and office support work such as web maintenance; process assessment; oversee management of process; research old records and laws; and to do related work as required. Salary: $60,626 annually. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
State Audit Expansion Specialist, Verified Voting— A critical component of election security is the ability to determine whether the computers that counted the votes counted them correctly. To do that, jurisdictions must have a system that incorporates paper ballots that are retained for recounts and audits. After the election, the paper ballots must be checked against the computer-reported results via a rigorous statistically sound audit, called a risk-limiting audit. Verified Voting is working with election officials to implement risk-limiting audits in as many jurisdictions as possible for the 2020 elections. The State Audit Expansion Specialist will report directly to the Director of Science and Technology Policy and will be primarily responsible for the education and outreach required to build trust with election officials in order to implement statewide RLAs of swing states. The State Audit Expansion Specialist will also support the design, development, implementation and reporting of audit pilots in a variety of jurisdictions, and will be able to contribute to the formulation of state and local audit policy. Salary Range $65,000-$75,000. Application: Please submit a resume and a short cover letter regarding your interest in the position and salary requirements to: firstname.lastname@example.org. commensurate with experience.
Technology Associate, Center for Tech and Civic Life— When you think about elections, you might think about popular candidates, “I voted” stickers, and all sorts of paperwork and deadlines. But behind the scenes are thousands of election administrators in state and local governments who are working hard to make sure ballots are counted and voices are heard. To serve every community and make democracy work, election administrators need 21st-century tools and training. You can help them get it! As the CTCL Government Services Technology Associate, you will implement streamlined, digital learning experiences that advance the tech and communication skills of America’s election administrators. You’ll work with the Government Services team and report to the Program Manager. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Vice President of Election Operations, Center for Internet Security— Reporting to the Executive Vice President for Operations and Security Services (OSS), the Vice President of Election Operations will oversee all elections-related efforts within CIS, most importantly the Elections Infrastructure Information Sharing and Analysis Center (EI-ISAC) and related elections community support sponsored by the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA). This position will also manage election-related projects and activities that are funded by third parties or self-funded by CIS. The Vice President of Election Operations will lead an organization comprised of the CIS staff working on election-related efforts and will be responsible for outreach to U.S. state, local, tribal, and territorial election offices as well as private sector companies, researchers, and nonprofit organizations involved in supporting elections. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
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