In Focus This Week
EDITOR’S NOTE: Beginning Tuesday, September 6 electionline.org will be moving to the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs where it will be operated as a project of the Project for Excellence in Election Administration with support from The Pew Charitable Trusts. Yours truly will continue to edit and post the site in cooperation with electionline.org’s founder, Doug Chapin.
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We’re both very excited about the future of the site and promise to continue electionline.org’s reputation as the Web’s best nonpartisan source of news, information and analysis about election administration nationwide. We’ll have lots more to say – knowing Doug, *lots* more to say – in the weeks to come.
Thanks to everyone for your continued support and keep reading electionline.org! – Mindy Moretti
I. In Focus This Week
East Coast earthquake rattles primaries in Virginia
Despite rumbling, voting continues
Voters in several Virginia counties headed to the polls on Tuesday under sunny, late-summer skies. Primary day 2011 seemed to be going along as normal for an August primary until about nine minutes before 2pm when the ground started to shake, rattle and roll.
The East Coast experienced a rare magnitude 5.8 earthquake at 1:51 p.m. on Tuesday. The epicenter of the quake was located in Mineral, Va.
Although some poll workers had to create makeshift voting precincts outside in the shade, voting never stopped throughout the state and polls remained open until their normal closing time of 7p.m.
In Louisa County, where the epicenter of the earthquake was located, Cristy Watkins, registrar of voters, said things went extremely well considering the circumstances.
Watkins said voting was never disrupted and while some voting booths were moved outside out of concern, polling places were able to run on generators or super-long extension cords.
With phone lines overwhelmed in the minutes following the quake, deputy registrars fanned out to the six affected polling places to check on poll workers and voters.
The county elections office was moved to the county’s emergency operations command center and the county’s IT department provided laptops to the elections officials.
“It was a real sense of community,” Watkins said. “Everyone pulled together and everyone in our office kept a real cool attitude.”
The Stafford County fire marshal inspected all 27 of the counties polling sites shortly after the quake and deemed them all safe and voting continued even though some of the polling place hosts tried to shut-down operations.
“We said no, we don’t do that on election day,” Registrar Greg Riddlemoser told The Freelance Star.”I’m very, very proud of the response of the precinct workers. Nobody really thinks that you’re going to have an earthquake on election day. I’m very pleased with the calm nature and the business mentality” of the poll officials.
Election officials throughout the affected counties seemed to take the historic (for the East Coast) event in stride.
About an hour after the earthquake, City of Falls Church Registrar Dave Bjerke quipped on Facebook, “Falls Church will not be suppressed. Outside the polls voting!”
In Arlington County where voting continued throughout, Registrar Linda Lindberg told a local website that the only people who called to keep the polls open later than the 7 p.m. closing time were the candidates themselves.
It was largely business as usual for Fairfax County, one of the state’s largest and most populated counties. A number of polling places were evacuated when the earthquake happened so they could assess if there was structural damage and all facilities that were evacuated set up in the parking lot with the voting machines running on battery power.
According to Edgardo Cortes, registrar, most facilities were cleared within an hour or two although one polling place did suffer structural damage so they remained outside through the close of polls at 7pm. The registrar’s office worked with the school to run electricity outside. All 232 polling places remained open for voting until the regular close of polls.
Operations in the county elections office were not affected by the earthquake although Cortes noted that they definitely felt the tremors.
“While our emergency plans contemplate blizzards, hurricanes, and even terrorist attacks, earthquakes weren’t really on our list of issues to plan for,” Cortes said. “I think our staff and election officers in the field performed incredibly well and ensured that we continued voting the entire day without more than a few minutes of interruption.”
Election News This Week
II. Election News This Week
- The secretary of state’s office in Maine is investigating a possible breach of its statewide voter registration database. The state was notified on Wednesday by a cyber-monitoring division of the U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security that Maine’s Central Voter Registration database had been compromised. According to The Bangor Daily News, the breach was discovered as part of a routine security check. “I am in the process of assessing what, if any information has been compromised,” Secretary of State Charlie Summers said in a statement. “I have taken immediate action to shut down this computer and disable the username and password for the town clerk.” The breach appears to have come from a specific computer that was infected with malware.
- Rock the Vote called on the state of Michigan this week to work to increase voter participation by allowing potential voters to register to vote online. “Today’s generation uses technology to register for classes and pay for taxes,” said Heather Smith, president of Rock the Vote. “It would seem quite normal that we’d also be able to fill out a voter registration form with technology.” A survey that tested how accessible the voting process was to all registered voters, released in June, found Michigan ranked 38th nationally, scoring 31 percent out of 100 percent. The average score was 41 percent, with the highest scoring state, Washington, at 68 percent. However, Secretary of State Ruth Johnson said Michigan has no plans to offer online voter registration, arguing the state needs to improve security in the voting process before introducing new technology. “There’s nothing that’s more important to the foundation of our democracy, our republic, our country than making sure our votes are clean and also encouraging people to vote,” she told WJR-AM 760. “It’s always a balancing act.” Johnson said new technology carries risks and could potentially compromise Michigan elections.
- This week, Ohio Secretary of State John Husted cautioned county officials against sending out automatic absentee ballot applications. In the directive issued Monday, Husted said because not all counties mail unsolicited applications for absentee voter ballots it “creates a disparate availability of access to the franchise for voters across [Ohio]”. “Uniformity in the way in which Ohio’s elections are administered is of the utmost importance, which is why Ohio must have a standardized approach to administering elections that ensures equal access for all voters,” Husted said in a statement. Cuyahoga County Executive Ed Fitzgerald expressed his disappointment with the directive to a local television station. “This is taking a step backward in terms of ballot access,” Fitzgerald told the station. “We should be doing what we can to make voting easier in Ohio.”
Research and Report Summaries
III. Research and Report Summaries
electionline provides brief summaries of recent research and reports in the field of election administration. Please e-mail links to research to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Electoral Reform and Voter Turnout in the American States – American Political Science Association Annual Meeting, Sept. 1-4, 2011: Papers will be presented on several issues related to election administration including what happens at the polling place, early voting, and the adoption of election reform in the states.
Florida: Election reform
Indiana: Early voting
Kansas: Kris Kobach
New Hampshire: Voter ID
Ohio: Absentee ballots
Virginia: Stafford County
V. Job Openings
Deputy Registrar of Voters, Solano County, Calif. — assists with managing the operations of the County’s Registrar of Voters (ROV) Office in the Department of Information Technology, through the supervision of subordinate supervisory, professional, technical and support staff. The Deputy Registrar of Voters helps administer all elections in the County, is a member of the Department’s management team, and participates in the development and implantation of the Divisions policies, procedures and initiatives. Education: A Bachelor’s Degree in Public Administration, Political Science or a closely related field. Experience: Five (5) years of technical elections experience, including one year in a supervisory capacity OR Five (5) years of professional analytical or administrative experience, including at least one year preparing for and administering elections as well as at least one year in an Elections supervisory capacity. Salary: $82,482-100,257. Deadline: open, applications accepted beginning Aug. 30. For more information and an application, click here.
Legal Counsel, Montgomery County Board of Elections, Rockville, Md. — the Montgomery County Board of Elections, an agency responsible for administering elections in Montgomery County, Maryland, seeks an experienced legal counsel to the Board. Excellent written and oral communication skills are required. Litigation experience, as well as some knowledge of Maryland election law and procedures, would be helpful. Must be a registered voter of Montgomery County and admitted to practice law in Maryland. Attendance required at monthly and other Board meetings and multi-day canvass sessions after elections. Must be available to provide advice when needed at other times, including on Election Days. Compensation to be determined. Incumbent intends to re-apply. Interested applicants should submit the following by email by Tuesday, September 6, 2011: (1) a cover letter addressing requirements of the position, (2) a resume detailing educational background and relevant work experience, and (3) a statement of proposed rate of compensation. All submissions should be emailed to email@example.com. No phone calls, please.
Registration Chief, Fulton County Board of Elections, Fulton County, Ga. — incumbent in this class performs duties related to planning, implementing, and managing operational activities for the Registration Division of the Registration and Elections Department, including maintenance of the State Voter Registration System, absentee voting process, and provisional ballot research and tabulations. Responsibilities include managing assigned staff, developing and implementing policies and procedures related to the laws governing the voter registration process, preparing divisional budgets, and implementing reapportionment guidelines.This is the fourth level within a four-level voter registration classification series. Registration Chief is distinguished from Registration Manager in that the former prepares annual divisional budgets and implements reapportionment functions mandated by the state legislature in addition to managing assigned staff, whereas the latter oversees daily registration operations and staff training in addition to supervising assigned staff. Incumbent in this class reports directly to the Registration and Elections, Director.Manages assigned staff, including establishing workloads; prioritizing work assignments; evaluating employee performance; developing, interpreting, and enforcing policies and procedures; resolving staff issues; making hiring or termination decisions/recommendations; and administering disciplinary action as required. Manages and oversees voter registration operational processes, including the absentee by mail voting and provisional ballot process and tabulations, updating and maintenance of the State Voter Registration System, and verification of petitions. Compiles and maintains voter lists from official voter registration records. Consults with Geographic Information Systems staff to resolve street index and mapping issues. Interprets and ensures adherence to all federal, state, and local laws and regulations governing voter registration and absentee voting. Implements reapportionment functions as mandated by state law. Ensures compliance with official registration and election procedures and recommends and implements changes as appropriate. Prepares and submits monthly reports on voter registration operations and activities. Plans and coordinates divisional functions and programs with assigned staff and other agencies. Prepares and submits the annual division budget. Responds to media inquiries related to registration issues. Attends and participates in Board of Registration and Elections meetings. Performs the duties of the Registration and Elections Director in his/her absence as required. Salary: $71,172-108,180. Application: For more information and an online application click here. Deadline:Aug. 30, 2011.