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May 10, 2012

May 10, 2012

In Focus This Week

I. In Focus This Week

Potential perfect storm of changes await Idaho voters next week
Election officials work to prepare voters for what’s to come

By M. Mindy Moretti
Electionline.org

Recently, an election official noted that “uncertainty is the enemy of election administration.”

This year in Idaho, which holds its primary on May 15, not only has uncertainty been an enemy, but so has change.

In addition to redistricting, the state legislature made several major changes to how Idahoans vote and that has left many local election officials scrambling to implement the changes and explain them to voters.

This year will be Idaho’s first-ever closed primary. Every voter will have to declare a party affiliation for the first time. About a week before the election, the secretary of state’s office figured that about 85 percent of the state’s voters had yet to officially declare a party.

“Redistricting and closed primaries have the potential of creating a perfect storm,” said Christopher Rich, clerk for Ada County. “We have done substantial outreach with the media and they have been very helpful in explaining closed primaries and directing the public to our web site for further information.”

According to Sara Staub, Bingham County clerk, her county sent out new registration cards to registered voters, precinct by precinct and asked that they fill them out and designate their party so that this could be done prior to the primary election.  

“We had about 68 percent of the cards returned,” Staub said. “Because of cost, we were not able to do all of the precincts but we did a good cross section.  We felt this would help with the process on election day and help the lines move faster.”

All of this additional work to accommodate the legislatively mandated changes has cost counties money they didn’t have budgeted and required additional work from existing employees.

“It has literally ‘taxed’ the county’s resources for personnel.   The amount of additional work from training to PR has taken up a lot of time,” said Staub. “We have had to bring on extra part time workers to fill in the gaps.”

Patty Weeks, clerk of Nez Perce County echoed Straub’s concerns about the impact these changes have had on personnel, and ultimately the public.

“The personnel costs associated with this change answering the public’s questions — specifically about the caucus — were unexpected. Other parts of our operation have had to take a back seat and we have provided less service in order to accommodate the public inquiries,” Weeks said. “We did use some contingency money from our budget to meet additional newspaper costs.  The ballot costs were also a significant increase which we did budget.”

Counties haven’t been alone in their struggle to prepare for next week’s election. The state legislature allocated $200,000 to the secretary of state’s office for voter education efforts and to help counties make the necessary changes.

And many of the county officials sang the praises of the secretary of state’s office for the help it provided throughout the process.

In some instances it was one county helping another. Canyon County faced more redistricting hurdles than others did and was left scrambling to accommodate new precincts and the equipment necessary to make it happen. According to the Idaho Statesman, Twin Falls County, which actually lost precincts in the redistricting, gave Canyon County six AutoMark accessible voting machines.

“That saves us a ton of money,” Deputy Clerk Brad Jackson told the paper. “We had a quote for $4,200 apiece.”

Even though Twin Falls County didn’t face some of the same redistricting struggles that other counties did, that didn’t mean it’s been smooth sailing. Kristina Glascok, county clerk, said the changes have had a lot of impacts on her office including additional data entry, new ballot layout and design and guesstimating just how many ballots they will need.

In addition to that, training for poll workers has changed and consumed a lot of time.

“Poll worker training has been difficult explaining all of the changes,” Glascok said. “It has doubled the length of our training sessions.”

Clifford Hayes, clerk in Kootenai County said that early voting has helped prepare his poll workers and staff for what could happen on Tuesday. Overall, he’s been pleased with the response of the voters and his staff.

“There have been some voters that have been confused,” Hayes said. “But not numerous amounts so I think that people are starting to understand.”

Still, no matter how well they are prepared and how much voter outreach counties do in advance of Tuesday, they ultimately don’t know what to expect from voters.

“Our concern is the independent nature of Idaho voters combined with the number of voters who have registered as Unaffiliated,” Rich added. “Should they — the Unaffiliated voter — choose a nonpartisan ballot expecting to see contested races they will be gravely disappointed…. and how will that play out; hence our investment in additional personnel, training, materials and voter outreach.”

Election News This Week

II. Election News This Week

  • The Palm Beach Post wrote a series of articles this week detailing the issues that Florida counties — especially Palm Beach County — have struggled with in the 12 years since the infamous Bush v. Gore. The stories covered defects in voting machines, major fumbles since 2000, Sequoia Voting Systems, the repercussions Leon County Elections Supervisor Ion Sancho faced after allowing a hacker to test the county’s system, and ongoing problems with vote counting that many counties have faced. The series also included several stories about simple ways to fix many of the issues still being faced in some counties.
  • The Ohio House voted this week to repeal a controversial election reform law initially approved in 2011. The law is subject to a referendum in November, but lawmakers want it gone before it comes up for a vote.
  • This is why you need to be careful what you post on Facebook, no matter what: Officials in Mississippi are expressing their concerns that the state’s voter ID law will get an objective and proper review by the U.S. Department of Justice after a DOJ employee referred to the state as “disgusting and shameful” on her Facebook page. Stephanie Gyamif, a civil rights analyst for the department made the comment in relation to University of Southern Mississippi fans asking a player for an opposing team, who is Puerto Rican, for his green card during the NCAA tournament. The comments were made on Gyamif’s personal Facebook page. In a letter, DOJ said they reviewed the incident and confirmed that Gyamif doesn’t deal with Mississippi issues so there will not be a problem. Hosemann doesn’t agree. “I think when you read comments like the comments this DOJ person posted on Facebook, I think anybody with any common sense can realize that there’s a culture of prejudice there in the Justice Department against Southern states and against Mississippi,” Hosemann said at a press conference this week.
  • Sacramento County voters will get a newly designed “I Voted” sticker after they cast their ballot on June 5. The winning sticker, created by an area high school student in the County’s first “I Voted” sticker contest, is also featured on the cover of the June 2012 sample ballot booklet. Voter Registration and Elections invited students from five area high schools to design a new “I Voted” sticker. The response was overwhelming with 76 entries submitted. “The goal of the contest was to engage high school students’ talent, while at the same time encouraging their participation in a civic activity by creating a new “I Voted” sticker for the voters of Sacramento County,” Registrar of Voters Jill LaVine told From The Capitol.
  • Personnel News: Anchorage Deputy Clerk Jacqueline Duke was fired by the Anchorage Assembly this week.
  • In Memoriam: Nicholas deB. Katzenbach, who helped write the Voting Rights Act, died this week. He was 90.
  • Available Grant: The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) has issued a call for proposals for projects that will pursue accessible election technology research and development. ITIF will grant up to $750,000 for projects that focus on: solving specific accessibility problems identified in their design plans; solutions that can be integrated into existing voting systems; and/or focus on disabilities that received less focus in previous research, such as cognitive and age-related disabilities. Applicants may request funding up to $500,000 in total costs over a period of 6 to 18 months. ITIF expects to make between five to ten awards in the range of $20,000 to $200,000; however, ITIF may deviate from the planned number of awards and award amounts at its discretion.Preference will be given to applicants that are public or private institutions of higher education. Others, including businesses, independent researchers, non-profit organizations, and state and local government agencies, who are interested in applying for grant funds are encouraged to collaborate with a college or university as the primary recipient. Applicant organizations must be based in the United States.The deadline to submit a proposal is June 1, 2012.A direct link to the announcement (PDF) can be found here.

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 sgreene@pewtrusts.org.

Assessing Electoral Fraud in New Democracies: Refining the Vocabulary – Chad Vickery and Erica Shein, International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES), May 2012: New research from IFES reviews the existing literature about definitions of electoral fraud and presents its own set of definitions aimed at helping election officials, experts, and others identify and address electoral fraud when it happens.

Growing trend of plurality wins in governors’ races – Lindsey Needham, FairVote, May 7, 2012: In analyzing elections data since 1946, FairVote finds that the number of governors elected without winning at least 50 percent of the vote has increased in almost every decade. In 2010-2011, 28 percent of the nation’s 39 races for governor were won by candidates who did not receive a majority of the vote. Over the last twenty years, eight governors have been elected with less than 40 percent of the vote.

Opinions

IV. Opinions

Alaska: Ballot problems, II, III

California: Ballot language; Quirky primary

Connecticut: Cost of elections; Same-day registration; Election reform

Florida: Election supervisors, II; New election law, II, III, IV; Palm Beach County; Hendry County

Indiana: Vote Centers

Montana: Secretary of state

New Hampshire: Voter ID

North Carolina: Polling places

Pennsylvania: Voter ID, II; Bilingual ballots

South Carolina: Special elections

Texas: Voter ID

Virginia: Voter ID; Felon voting rights

Washington: Accessible elections

Wisconsin: Voter ID

**Some sites may require registration.

Job Openings

V. Job Openings

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 mmoretti@electionline.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.

Elections Supervisor, Marion County, Salem, Ore. — administers and directs all functions relating to elections including: Voter registration; candidacy filings; ballot preparation; voting; vote tally; jurisdictional mapping; petition management; publications; reporting statistics to the Secretary of State; community outreach; community education; customer service; and budgeting. This position reports to the Marion County Clerk and is responsible for the supervision of all employees within the Elections division, including regular clerical and technical personnel, temporary employees, and Election Board members.  Supervisory duties include hiring; training; planning, assigning and reviewing work; conducting performance evaluations; and responding to disciplinary issues. Salary: $4,194.67 – $5,622.93 Monthly. For job announcement and online application, click here. Deadline: This recruitment will remain open until filled. Applicants are encouraged to apply as soon as possible as this recruitment may close at any time, without further notice.

Communications Manager, Pew Center on the States, Washington, D.C. – position offers a unique opportunity for an individual to contribute to exciting, high-profile initiatives. This position, based in Pew’s Washington, D.C. office, reports to the Pew Center on the States’ Senior Officer, Communications and is part of the staff of Pew’s communications department. The communications manager is responsible for developing and executing a comprehensive and robust communications program to increase the visibility and impact of Pew’s experts, research, initiatives and events with target audiences. This position will also work with other communications colleagues to plan and execute integrated strategies, campaigns and outreach and other duties as assigned. Requirements: Bachelor’s degree required including skills associated with completion of an undergraduate degree program in communications, journalism or related major, such as an understanding of media operations, news organizations and new media technologies. Graduate degree in public affairs, public policy or journalism desirable; at least eight years of direct experience in position with communications/PR responsibilities, with considerable experience as a media relations professional – knowledge of pitching, media strategies – required. Experience in public policy preferred; superior oral and written communications skills. Proven experience drafting media materials and other public documents including press releases, fact sheets, speeches and op-eds; ability to synthesize and summarize large amounts of information and to focus quickly on the essence of an issue, as well as to identify, understand and address different policy perspectives. Confident in presenting one’s own ideas and diplomatically persuading others as appropriate; and strong interest and/or experience in state policy required. For the complete job posting and information on how to apply, click here.

Information Technology Manager [GEMS], Lucas County Board of Elections, Ohio — Prepares current Election Database from Master GEMS Database; Prepares Audio Ballot for each Election; Prepares and programs Ballot on Demand for every Election; Assists in preparing ballot layout and design of ballot language in GEMS System for voting equipment; Through cross training assists in maintaining the DIMS-Net Voter Registration System including testing, applying new updates, communicating with the vendor concerning any issues and notifying the Director/Deputy Director of the same; With the assistance of the Election Technology Manager, conducts a full investigation of every Annexation, Reprecincting, Polling Location change, Local Option activity, an examination of the “Blue Book” and a confirmatory call to the Lucas County Prosecutor’s Office to determine the accuracy of the proposed Election Database before setting the GEMS Server for Election; Maintains a current inventory of all Board of Elections computer hardware and software to ensure proper licensing; Monitors computer backup of Board of Elections Systems; Assists the Election Technology Manager in developing office staff computer/education programs to enhance Board of Elections’ job performance; Develops periodic GEMS training classes for upper level management; Attends monthly Data Processing Board meetings on behalf of the Board of Elections; Develops/implements software requests, including, but not limited to, new development and/or enhancements of the GEMS System; Ensures that the Board of Elections website is current and updated in a timely manner and that it contains all statutorily mandated information; Meets all statutory deadlines regarding voter records; Evaluates office procedures involving information technology and designs and implements new procedures where needed; Produces all reports and data files pertaining to election results; Prepares and posts J-Results; Prepares and posts all Election results reports as required by the Ohio Secretary of State on Election night; Assesses new technologies for possible application; Maintains confidentiality and business integrity; Cross trains in DIMS-Net Voter Registration Software; Demonstrates the ability to maintain/administer DIMS-NeT program and to instruct staff on the proper usage of the same; Demonstrates the ability to construct a recount database in GEMS; Demonstrates the ability to successfully manually enter Election Data into the GEMS Server; Demonstrates the ability to successfully upload Election Memory Cards into the GEMS Server on Election night. Performs all other duties as assigned, by the Director/Deputy Director, the Board of Elections, and/or as prescribed by law. The applicant must be a registered Democrat in Ohio. Salary: $59,934.42 plus benefits. Application: Interested candidates should forward a cover letter, resume and references to:Lucas County Board of Elections; 1 Government Center Suite 300;Toledo Ohio 43604-2250; or email to: gmkaczala@co.lucas.oh.us

Information Technology Team Leader/Supervisor, Lucas County Board of Elections, Ohio —Assists in maintaining and administrating the DIMS-NeT Voter Registration System including testing, applying new updates, and communicating with the vendor concerning any issues and reporting those concerns/issues to the Director/Deputy Director; Also assists current Election Database from Master GEMS Database; Prepares Audio Ballot for each Election; Prepares and programs Ballot on Demand for every Election; Assists in preparing ballot layout and design of ballot language in GEMS System for voting equipment; Through cross training assists in maintaining the DIMS-Net Voter Registration System including testing, applying new updates, communicating with the vendor concerning any issues and notifying the IT Manager(s) of the same, conducts a full investigation of every Annexation, Reprecincting, Polling Location change, Local Option activity, an examination of the “Blue Book” and a confirmatory call to the Lucas County Prosecutor’s Office to determine the accuracy of the proposed Election Database before setting the GEMS Server for Election; Maintains a current inventory of all Board of Elections computer hardware and software to ensure proper licensing; Monitors computer backup of Board of Elections Systems; Assists the Election Technology Manager in developing office staff computer/education programs to enhance Board of Elections’ job performance; Develops periodic GEMS training classes for upper level management; Develops/implements software requests, including, but not limited to, new development and/or enhancements of the GEMS System; Ensures that the Board of Elections website is current and updated in a timely manner and that it contains all statutorily mandated information; Meets all statutory deadlines regarding voter records; Evaluates office procedures involving information technology and designs and implements new procedures where needed; Produces all reports and data files pertaining to election results; Prepares and posts J-Results; Prepares and posts all Election results reports as required by the Ohio Secretary of State on Election night; Assesses new technologies for possible application; Maintains confidentiality and business integrity. Must be able to successfully manually enter Election Data into the GEMS Server and demonstrates the ability to successfully upload Election Memory Cards into the GEMS Server on Election night. The applicant must be a registered Republican in Ohio. Salary: $39,999.96 plus benefits. Application: Interested candidates should forward a cover letter, resume and references to:Lucas County Board of Elections; 1 Government Center Suite 300;Toledo Ohio 43604-2250; or email to: gmkaczala@co.lucas.oh.us

Senior Associate, Elections Initiatives, Pew Center on the States, Washington, D.C. — Election Initiatives aim to foster an election system that achieves the highest standards of accuracy, convenience, efficiency and security by supporting research that examines the most pressing election problems and undertaking an array of pilot projects to address issues identified during elections. Pew’s research and experiments inform our approach to identifying efficient, cost-effective solutions – policies, practices and technologies – that address the key challenges facing the election process. Responsibilities: Draft reports, briefs, memos, and communication materials that are relevant to project goals and easily understood by the target audiences including the public, media, and policy makers as well as internal audiences. Edit and proof draft documents for accuracy; oversee Election Initiatives budget and spending priorities; assist project staff by developing and processing contracts, vendor agreements and subgrants to effectively achieve the Election Initiatives’ project goals; assist with overall strategic thinking of the Election Initiatives projects including the development and management of internal Board documents, annual plans, timelines, strategy papers, and bi-weekly team meetings; work to identify, develop, and draft new funding agreements and philanthropic partners; assist in partnership outreach and coordination for the Election Initiatives team, including contract implementation and management, and managing the project’s presence online; assist in the planning, development and smooth implementation of public forums and convenings. Requirements: Bachelor’s degree required; advanced degree preferred; 4 to 8 years of relevant professional experience, including demonstrated research, administrative and writing skills. Experience in public policy and election administration preferred; ability to write clearly and cogently for multiple audiences including policy makers, the media and public; ability to synthesize and summarize large amounts of information and to focus quickly on the essence of an issue, as well as to identify, understand and synthesize different policy perspectives; strong systems skills including Microsoft Office products required: word processing (Word); spreadsheets (Excel); presentations (PowerPoint); and workload management (Outlook); ability to work professionally and collegially within a creative, fast-paced corporate culture that emphasizes excellence and teamwork; demonstrated time- and project-management skills, including an ability to meet multiple deadlines by maintaining a high level of organization and attention to detail. Application: For more information and to apply, click here.

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