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July 26, 2012

July 26, 2012

In Focus This Week

I. In Focus This Week

Washington State partners with Microsoft and Facebook
Facebook voter registration app set to launch soon

By M. Mindy Moretti

Now, in addition to letting all their friends know about what they had for dinner last night, or their political views, what they are listening to on Spotify, or their relationship status, Facebook users in Washington State will soon be able to let all their friends know that they are registered to vote.

The Washington Secretary of State’s Office has teamed up with Microsoft and Facebook to offer citizens in Washington a first-in-the-nation opportunity to register to vote via the social networking site.

“Our estimate [through Pew’s Electronic Registration Information Center] is that we have potentially two million eligible, but unregistered voters,” said Dave Ammons, spokesman for the secretary of state’s office. “The Facebook app is a marvelous way to prompt people onto our MyVote site for both registration and updates, as well as our voter vault of customized information.”

Ammons noted that the state has had online registration since 2008 and that it is quite popular, especially with the Millennials. About a third of the state’s registration traffic is online.

Washington had already teamed up with Microsoft to create the states voting web portal My Vote so according to Shane Hamlin, co-director of elections for the state, there was a confidence there in working with Microsoft on this project.

After being approached by Facebook about the possibility, Microsoft created a special application for the social networking site that will allow citizens in Washington to tap into the state’s online voter registration system and register.

The app essentially pre-populates a form with whatever information Facebook has on the user — usually just a name and birthdate — and then the state’s voter registration system takes over first confirming whether or not the user is actually a registered voter or not.

If it turns out the user is already registered, the site takes to you a page that lets the user log-in to My Vote to confirm that their information is all up-to-date. If the user isn’t registered, they are then taken through the registration and verification process.

Hamlin said the entire process takes about 5-6 minutes and about 7 screens to be complete. He noted that throughout the process there is helpful information provided about voter registration deadlines.

“Our system as it exists on our website is the same as it is on Facebook,” Hamlin said.

The app will be available through Secretary of State Sam Reed’s Facebook page as well as through the state’s elections Facebook page.

As with any online application, security is always an issue. And in this instance there are also concerns about privacy because Facebook has received complaints about what information Facebook keeps about its users.

Hamlin said that there were discussions within the secretary of state’s office about some of the mixed feelings people have about Facebook and that despite the mixed views they eventually decided it was too great an opportunity to pass up.

“Facebook, Microsoft, and Washington State have worked hard to protect privacy and the integrity of the elections, while affording voters this convenience,” said David Becker, director, Elections Initiatives, Pew Center on the States [electionline.org is funded by the Pew Center on the States] “All three should all be credited with partnering together to make this system work for voters.”

Elections officials, Microsoft and Facebook have been working on the project for about a year now, but according to Hamlin, his IT staff has only had to spend about 12 hours or less working on the project and absolutely no additional money.

And since the story first came out last week — a bit earlier than Hamlin and his team had planned — he’s spent countless hours talking to reporters about the project. News stories about the partnership have appeared in just about every major newspaper in the country and pretty much everywhere in between.

“I’ve spent more time than anyone just managing it and being part of communications,” Hamlin said.

The app has yet to launch yet because they are still working out some issues on the user side of things like compatibility with various browsers. Hamlin said as soon as they issues are ironed out, they will launch the app—which will be well in advance of the state’s voter registration deadline for the November election.

Hamlin said his office has already been contacted by several other states wishing to replicate what Washington is doing with Facebook.

“I think that any state that has online registration can have a conversation internally because the program can be modified to accommodate almost any state’s online voter registration,” Hamlin said.

Editor’s Note: While perusing the state’s Facebook page, electionline came upon an “I Voted” photo that users can share with their Facebook friends to indicate that they have indeed voted. As you know, electionline has a fondness for “I Voted” stickers and thinks this is a great (free) way for elections officials to help people let their friends know they voted!

Election News This Week

II. Election News This Week

  • A lawsuit was filed in Memphis, Tenn. this week that if successful would have prevented state officials from disallowing library-issued photo cards as a form of identification for voting. According to the Commercial Appeal, Coordinator of Elections Mark Goins has said that the library cards do not count as ID because they are issued by the city and not the state or federal government. On Wednesday, a judge denied the temporary restraining order.
  • Pennsylvania’s ongoing and increasing loud debate over voter ID headed to the courtroom this week with lawyers from the ACLU and other groups arguing that the law would disenfranchise thousands of Pennsylvanians. The ACLU is suing on behalf of 10 residents who do not have driver’s license. In advance of the hearings, the state has said that it won’t present “any evidence or argument” that in-person voter fraud is likely to occur if the voter ID law isn’t enacted.
  • There’s big trouble brewing on the Big Island of Hawai’i. On Monday, with no notice, the Hawai’I County Clerk Jamae Kawauchi closed the elections office in Hilo. While the Kono office remained open a sign on the door in Hilo said the office was closed for an audit. The closure of the office less than three weeks before the state’s primary raised concerns. Kawauchi initially refused to answer questions about why the office was closed, but then told West Hawai’i Today that she wanted to give the voter rolls a thorough review. “We’re looking at the list to make sure it’s clean and accurate,” Kawauchi told the paper. “We’re trying to be as thorough as possible to run a fair and well-run election. … This is part of us making sure we’re doing everything we can to make that happen.” On Wednesday, in a move the Big Island News Center called “unprecedented,” Scott Nago, chief elections officer for the State of Hawai’i sent Kawauchi a letter condemning her handling of the situation and calling her to answer a number of questions and accusations.
  • Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted has been working overtime breaking ties from the Summit County Board of election. When a vote at a county board of elections ends in a tie, it’s the responsibility of the secretary of state to break those ties. The Summit Board has recently sent Husted eight tie votes from two meetings to break. Two of the most recent ties were votes over whether to allow citizens to speak at elections meetings or not.
  • Personnel News: Long-time Saline, Mich. Clerk Dianne Hill was recently honored as 2012 City Clerk of the Year by the Michigan Association of Municipal Clerks. Also receiving honors this month is Snohomish County, Wash. Auditor Carolyn Weikel who was recently recognized as Washington’s 2012 Auditor of the Year. Friday marks the last day for Matt Morse in the Elections Initiatives section of the Pew Center on the States. After Friday Matt will spend some time traveling and then will be hanging out his own shingle as a consultant. Electionline certainly wishes Matt the very best (lunch at Busboys soon!).

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.

Counting Votes 2012: A state-by-state look at voting technology preparedness – Susannah Goodman, Common Cause Education Fund, Michelle Mulder, Rutgers School of Law – Newark Constitutional Litigation Clinic, and Pamela Smith, Verified Voting Foundation, July 2012: This 50-state report examines how ready each state is to address voting machine problems in the upcoming election. Five states – Minnesota, New Hampshire, Ohio, Vermont and Wisconsin – are found to be very well prepared to deal with breakdowns.

Making Voting More Accessible for Veterans with Disabilities – Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, July 24, 2012: This report focuses on challenges veterans with disabilities face when voting, including inaccessible polling places, issues with ballot design, and further improvement that is needed to certain voting technologies. State and local election procedures that address these issues are examined and best practices are suggested.

Election Observing – June 5, 2012 Recall Elections Final Report – League of Women Voters of Wisconsin Education Network, July 25, 2012: The League of Women Voters released findings from a citizen poll watcher program in place for the June 5 recall election in Wisconsin. The report summarizes observations from 421 polling locations and notes few problems across most of the state. One problem observed includes confusion about what kinds of proof-of-residence documents were acceptable for election day registration.


IV. Opinion

National: Voter ID, II, III, IV; Election reform; Voter participation; Voter fraud

California: Vote-by-mail

Colorado: Scott Gessler, II

Florida: Hillsborough County; Hernando County

Kansas: Voter ID

Kentucky: Ex-felon voting rights, II

Michigan: Election reform; Voter ID veto

Mississippi: Voter ID

North Carolina: Runoff election; Election funding

Ohio: Early voting, II, III; Uniform election rules

Pennsylvania: Voter ID, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII

Texas: Accurate voter rolls, II; Voter ID

Washington: Secretary of state

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 Director, Rock the Vote, Washington, D.C. — Director will oversee its national 2012 voter registration, education and get-out-the-vote campaign.  This senior level position is critical to our organization’s success in 2012 and beyond.  The ideal candidate is an experienced leader and manager, who is comfortable working with online technologies and grassroots communities, and has a passion for the work.  Oh, and is creative, smart, and pro-active too. The position will work closely with and report directly to Rock the Vote’s President. Qualifications: 7-10 years experience working in political and/or grassroots organizations; 3-5 years experience managing staff and volunteers; proven and highly effective organizational skills (in other words, extremely detailed oriented). Proven and highly effective written and oral communication skills; ability to multitask and shift priorities; aptitude for working under tight deadlines in a fast-paced environment; commitment to the organizational mission; ability to work very closely with other members of the team, but also to manage your own work independently; a sense of humor. Salary: Salary is competitive and benefits include health & dental insurance. Application: Email resume and cover letter, plus three references with phone and email, to jobs@rockthevote.com.  Please include “Elections Director” in the subject line.  Deadline: Position will be filled as soon as possible. For more information and the complete job posting, click here.

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