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Aug. 9, 2012

Aug. 9, 2012

In Focus This Week

I. In Focus This Week

NOTE: Our friends and colleagues at the Pew Center on the States have launched a new monthly newsletter that summarizes the latest work and research of the Election Initiatives team. You can see the inaugural issue here, which highlights Pew’s work on voter registration and looks back at recent Election Data Dispatches focusing on provisional ballots and the cost of elections. You can subscribe at the bottom of the page to get this information monthly. Check it out! – Doug Chapin, Director


Polling Place Profile
Voting is not an emergency at this Richmond, Va. polling place

By M. Mindy Moretti

The last thing that most elections workers want to hear is that there is an ambulance outside their polling place, but that’s just part of doing business at a polling place in Richmond, Va.

Since 2004, Richmond, Va. has been using a conference room in Retreat Hospital as a polling place. The conference room is just down the hall from the emergency room.

Prior to 2004 a neighborhood school served as the polling location, but during an ADA compliance check, it was discovered that the school was not ADA compliant so a new polling place had to be found.

“We looked for other locations, but this is a particularly small precinct geographically as it is in a densely populated urban area,” explained Kirk Showalter, general registrar for the City of Richmond. “We could not find another equally suitable location in the precinct that met election and ADA requirements.”

So Showalter approached the hospital about a possible partnership.

“They had some questions about logistics at first, but were very interested in working with us because they were trying to establish themselves as a neighborhood hospital,” said Showalter. “The hospital is located in the middle of a densely populated urban area and is within easy walking distance of most people in the precinct.  They recognized the public relations value of being closely tied to the neighborhood by serving as a polling place.”

The polling place serves about 2,300 voters. Showalter said that the registrar’s office pays a $75 fee to the hospital for the use of the conference room, but that was voluntary on their part, the hospital did not require it.

Showalter said that some of the issues that arise at other hospitals — poor cell service, showing an ID to enter, needing to sign in — are not issues at Retreat Hospital.

The city has a dedicated land line in the conference room that they pay for that Showalter can use to communicate directly with her elections staff and voters may come and go to the polling place unencumbered by security measures.

According to Showalter, the benefits of having a polling place in a hospital include ADA compliance, ample parking and 24-hour access. Showalter noted that poll workers really seem to enjoy working in the hospital polling place because there is easy access to the facility’s cafeteria.

As far as she can tell Showalter said that she hasn’t seen any disadvantages to having a polling place located in a hospital.

electionlineWeekly is taking an occasional look at unique polling places throughout the country. Can you see Russia from your polling place? Does your polling place share space with cake mixes and frozen dinners? If you’ve got a unique location for a polling place, please let us know!

Election News This Week

II. Election News This Week

  • This week, the Virginia State Board of Elections decided not to take action against a nonprofit group’s voter registration drive that included mailings to pets and deceased residents. On Monday the board met for two hours to discuss the Voter Participation Center mailings and heard from more than a dozen speakers on both sides of the issue. The board’s review was prompted by a complaint filed by the presidential campaign of Gov. Mitt Romney.
  • Maryland has joined the growing ranks of states allowing residents to register to vote online. Although the new online system has been available for almost a month now, the state board of elections, with the support of Gov. Martin O’Malley officially launched the new service this week. It’s been on our radar screen for a while,” Mary Cramer Wagner, director of voter registration for the state board told The Washington Times. “You always want the next best thing.” Up the road a pace in Massachusetts, the state announced late last week that it’s voter registration form is now available online, although unlike in Maryland, voters in Massachusetts will still have to print out, sign and mail-in the form.
  • Yankton County, S.D. recently became a vote center county when the county commission voted to reduce the county’s 13 precincts to six vote centers. According to the Yankton Daily Press & Dakotan, the county will also begin using ePollbooks, instead of spending money to print out a poll book and paper register. In Indiana, one of the first states to embrace vote centers, several more counties began the process to make the move to centralized polling locations including Floyd, Montgomery and Vigo counties.
  • According to the Pueblo Chieftain, Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler expects to get approval from the U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security sometime this week or next to begin reviewing the citizenship of approximately 5,000 registered Colorado voters. Gessler told the paper his office has worked out a draft agreement with the federal department giving his staff access to databases that provide citizenship records. Homeland Security agreed to allow Gessler’s office access to citizenship information earlier this month after being threatened with a lawsuit by state Attorney General John Suthers.

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.

The Canvass – National Conference of State Legislatures, July/August 2012: The summer issue of the Canvass examines the details of voter list maintenance as well as spikes in voter registration activity right before presidential elections.


IV. Opinion

National News: Voter ID, II, III, IV; Election détente; Voting rights, II; Voter fraud; Early voting

Alabama: Voter ID

California: Top-two primary

Florida: Absentee voting, II; Palm Beach County; Sarasota County; Ballot brokering; Runoff elections; Santa Rosa County; Early voting

Georgia: Election night problems; Vote count

Kansas: Voter ID, II

Massachusetts: Election reform

Michigan: Citizenship question, II

Minnesota: Voter ID

Nebraska: Douglas County

New York: Protecting the vote

North Carolina: Polling perils; Voter ID

Ohio: Early voting, II; Absentee voting

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

Texas: Voter registration; Elections officials; Primary run-off; Harris County

Virginia: Voter ID

Wisconsin: Poll workers

**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, Luzerne County, Pa. — Performs work of planning, directing, coordinating and controlling overall operations of the Bureau of Elections Department to ensure that goals and objectives are accomplished by performing the following duties personally or through subordinate staff and/or supervisors; performs related work as required or assigned by the division head. Minimum Qualifications: Bachelors Degree from accredited college or university with major course work in public, business administration or closely related field; four years of proven elections management experience; two years supervisory or administrative capacity; two years management experience involving campaigns/elections; experience with electronic voting machines (programming & maintenance). Salary: $50-56,000. For complete job posting and how to apply, click here.

Legal Externs, Fair Elections Legal Network, Washington, D.C.The Fair Elections Legal Network (FELN) is seeking reliable law students with strong academic credentials for legal externships for the fall 2012 school term.  Externs would be expected to commit to a minimum of 10-15 hours per week. Primary responsibilities will include supporting the work of the legal staff to identify and respond to legal and administrative obstacles to voting rights and voter participation.  Duties will include performing legal research; identifying relevant legal, rulemaking, or legislative proceedings; and interacting with election reform organizations and election officials. Additional responsibilities may include assisting with outreach and organizing for a student voting project. Great opportunity for exposure to election law for someone who is a self-starter and comfortable handling significant responsibility. Must possess strong research, analytic, and written and oral communications skills. Ability to meet deadlines required. To apply please send a cover letter, resume, and writing sample to Ben Hovland at bhovland@fairelectionsnetwork.com

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