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May 9, 2013

May 9, 2013

In Focus This Week

I. In Focus This Week

Elections training goes online in Michigan
New program allows clerks to keep up from afar

By M. Mindy Moretti

From Harvard to Brown University to the University of Michigan, MOOCs — massive open online courses — have become all the rage with people from all backgrounds in every part of the world getting their learn on.

While their offerings may not be massive, or open (to those outside the elections field), the Michigan Secretary of State’s Office is jumping on the distance learning bandwagon with the creation of the new Michigan Election eLearning Center.

The training and resource center provides election administrators across Michigan with access to training courses, video tutorials and webinars that are all self-paced.

Michigan’s elections structure — where elections are administered at the city/township level, means the Bureau of Elections supports close to 1,600 individual offices with more than 30,000 workers statewide.

“These resources will assist those from the smallest jurisdictions, with minimal resources and time to attend in-person training; to the largest jurisdictions, many of whom are facing diminish staff and resources,” explained Christopher Thomas, director of elections for the State of Michigan.

While the eLearning Center will shift some in-person training to the web, it will not completely eliminate the need for elections officials to participate in some face-to-face training. And elections officials will be able to use the eLearning Center to sign-up for the in-person training, which Thomas said should be more efficient than previous sign-up procedures.

“The extensive capabilities of the new system will allow us to supplement existing training by providing specialized online courses on specific topics; record, store and re-use in-person courses for continual review and use by those that cannot attend in person; track individual learning plans and create customized plans for certain groups of clerks, such as those newly-elected or appointed; and automatically generate pre- and post-coursework and exercises to promote continuous learning,” Thomas said.

Topics for study range from election day management, operation of the state’s major technical programs — including the statewide voter registration database — and e-pollbook applications. Current manuals and other informational resources are accessible via a more powerful searching tool and organizational structure.

The state has also developed its own dedicated YouTube channel to house several video training segments that election officials can access at any time and use to supplement their own individual training programs for election day workers.

There are also extensive collaboration functions in the system that will enable information sharing through specialized user groups and discussion boards on specific topics.

According to Thomas, the state partnered with Michigan Virtual University to bring the program online. The partnership — initially a three-year contract — will cost about $25,000 annually and the state was able to cover those costs through Help America Vote Act funds. The state also had to purchase specialized software for two staff members that cost $2,500 per license.

Beyond establishing technology requirements for the desired functions and establishing a state-level contract for the learning management system, Thomas said many hours are involved in planning and developing the various materials and preparing them for final use.  

“Fortunately, we have the tools and talent in-house to handle these needs,” Thomas said.

Thomas said that other states should be able establish similar online training programs. He noted that many learning management systems and content development software packages are available commercially that offer a variety of functions with a range of price options.

While not necessarily a requirement, partnering with a hosting organization that specializes in online learning (as we have done with Michigan Virtual University) would seem to provide the most powerful, extensive and flexible package of tools available when dealing with a large and diverse statewide group of election officials,” Thomas said.

Although the system just launched, so far the feedback has been positive. The site includes a Feedback tool and some of the responses have included comments about ease of use, relevant topics, ease of learning from the office and, “This site is AMAZING! WOW! I’m still in the exploration stage, and am very impressed with what I have seen so far.”

The system is set up in such a way that it can be continually expanded by based on requests from users and the internal knowledge staff will gain as they assist local elections officials.

Michigan has a new legal requirement to develop an ongoing education program for clerks and a continual re-accreditation program every two years. The new eLearning center will be the cornerstone of this program, which will include several distinct modules.

But the elections division doesn’t just have its sites set on local elections officials.

“While plans for this system are limited to educating election officials (not voters directly), we may develop content to assist election officials in our shared and ongoing quest to better educate the general public on elections, voting and voter registration requirements, and issues specific to each election,” Thomas said.

Election News This Week

II. Election News This Week

  • Several jurisdictions across the country held elections on Tuesday and while turnout was generally low and problems were few and far between, it doesn’t mean the day was entire without hiccups. In Sandusky County, Ohio a raccoon made it’s way into a substation knocking the power out to large portions of the town of Bellevue. Although polling places were a bit dark, due to battery back-ups, voting machines kept running and no voters were turned away. In Scott County, Iowa, the town of Dixon tested out a new system to allow voters to have their licenses or voter ID cards scanned as a way to sign-in at the polling place. In Mississippi, voters in Brookhaven ran into a few problems created by redistricting and throughout Hinds County voters experienced some issues with the county’s new electronic voting machines.
  • Fallout from the November 2012 election continues in Richland County, S.C. The State newspaper recently discovered that taxpayers are spending more than $150,000 in legal fees for attorneys hired to investigate what exactly happened on November 6. The same newspaper also discovered that there are issues with each of the top three candidates the county is interviewing to replace former elections director Lillian McBride. In light of the report from The State, one finalist, Adam Ragan, elections director in Gaston County, N.C. dropped out of the running on Monday. On Tuesday Sumter County elections chief Patricia Jefferson also dropped out of the running. All of this comes at a time when a new documentary “I Voted?” that highlights problems with South Carolina’s voting system is being released.
  • For six years, the City of Gaithersburg, which is in Montgomery County, Md. has been borrowing voting booths from Frederick County, but this year, with both Gaithersburg and the City of Frederick conducting elections on the same day, Gaithersburg has had to turn elsewhere for its voting booths. Unfortunately the city was unable to find similar equipment in Maryland or Virginia to borrow and will instead have to purchase new machines and voting booths.
  • Update: Previously, electionline reported on the roof collapse in the storage are of the Stark County, Ohio board of elections office. Work recently began to restore the roof, but the Canton City Health Dept. put a stop work order on the roof repairs to test for asbestos. The county tested the roof and work has commenced anew.
  • Personnel News: Dianne Hill, Saline, Mich. city clerk is retiring after 42 years working at city hall. Linda Grist, Cabarrus County, N.C. elections director for 21 years is planning to retire at the end of June. Carol Link Soles, secretary of the county BOE will replace Grist. Andrew Wright, an employee of the Summit County, Ohio BOE was fired this week after it was learned he anonymously posted threatening comments to the Akron Beacon Journal’s website. Amy Wenrick has stepped down as the Democratic co-director of the Tippecanoe County, Ind. board of elections. Replacing Wenrick will be Brian Mangus. Adrienne Hines has been appointed to the Ottawa County, Ohio board of elections. The Napa County, Calif. board of supervisors will hold a study session later this year to determine if elections should be removed from the job description of the county assessor-recorder-clerk and registrar of voters John Tuteur. Although any change would affect Tuteur’s term it would also be permanent. Kelvin Scott has been appointed to a two-year term on the Hamilton County, Tenn. election commission.

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 Diversifying Electorate—Voting Rates by Race and Hispanic Origin in 2012 – U.S. Census Bureau, May 2012: The U.S. Census Bureau released its report on the 2012 election and found for the first time ever blacks voted at a higher rate than whites. Blacks were the only racial or ethnic group to see an increase in turnout compared with 2008. Overall turnout dropped to 61.8 in 2012 percent from 63.6 percent in 2008.

Legislative Update

IV. Legislative Update

Alabama: Lawmakers have approved a bill that would make it easier for first responders to vote in elections if they are called away to work an emergency. Under the legislation, if the governor declares a state of emergency near election time, the secretary of state may issue an emergency rule allowing first responders to fill out absentee ballots. The bill is headed to the governor’s desk.

Legislation, which was approved by the House last week, that would change the deadline to register to vote to 17 (instead of 10) days before an election cleared it’s first hurdle in the Senate this week along a party-line vote.

Arizona: The best-laid plans of legislators oft go astray. Last year, the Arizona legislature approved — and Gov. Jan Brewer signed into law — legislation that would allow localities to move their elections to even years in order to coincide with other elections to save money and boost turnout. Problem is, it was never made clear whether terms of existing elections officials should be shortened by a year or lengthened by a year. Rep. Michelle Ugenti (R-Scottsdale) has introduced legislation leaving the decision up to cities and towns but now HB2527 is stalled in the House.

California: Senate Bill 361, introduced by Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima) would add additional resources to the secretary of state’s website such as voter registration status, poll locator and ballot status look-up. Padilla has previously announced his intentions to run for secretary of state.

Colorado: By a 20-15 partisan vote, the Senate approved sweeping election reform legislation that would provide a mail ballot to every voter, allow vote centers statewide for those who chose not to vote-by-mail and allow same-day registration. Legislators by-and-large agreed on vote-by-mail and vote centers, but fought over same-day registration. The bill returns to the House for approval of technical amendments added in the Senate and then goes to governor.

Delaware: The First State’s attempt to join the ranks of state’s allowing same-day registration heads to the full House after the committee reviewing the bill released it following a brief hearing.

Florida: In the waning hours of the 2013 legislative session, the Florida Legislature approved a bill attempting to solve some of the Election Day problems that arose in 2012. County supervisors of elections will be able to provide early voting for 14 days in advance of an election, including the Sunday before. The bill also allows supervisors of elections to expand locations for early voting. The legislation also limits ballot summaries for constitutional amendments to 75 words and provides veterans with more times to register to vote. The bill also sets the 2016 primary for the first Tuesday allowed by both parties. Eliminated from the legislation before its final approval was a provision that would have allowed the secretary of state’s office to declare elections supervisors out of compliance. The bill was approved 115-1 by the House and 27-13 by the Senate. Gov. Rick Scott (R) is expected to sign the legislation.

Iowa: The Senate has rejected an amendment to an appropriations bill that would have required voters to show photo ID in order to cast a ballot. The amendment, which ultimately failed 26-24 on a party line vote, would have required a voter to show a state-issued photo ID or allow another voter with the proper ID to vouch for a voter without ID.

Maine: Legislation introduced this week would eliminate the state’s caucus system and replace it with a single primary election using ranked-choice voting for state and local offices. LD1422 would give candidates the option of declaring their party affiliation or not on ballots.

Minnesota: House File 894 and Senate File 677, both election reform bills, have hit their respective floors. The Senate bill would move primary elections to the first Tuesday after the third Monday in June and would allow for no-excuse absentee voting. The House bill, approved 74-60 on Wednesday, includes no-excuse absentee voting, mail voting for some towns, modified voting rights for ex-felons, and participating in the National Popular vote compact.

New Hampshire: This week a Senate committee approved legislation that would alter the state’s voter ID law by removing its “clear statutory reference to student IDs as an acceptable form of voter ID.” The bill was approved on party line vote 3-2.

New York: The Assembly approved a bill that would allow for early voting two weeks prior to an election. The bill would have allowed counties to open at least five polling places for the two weeks leading up to the election. The Senate is not expected to act on the bill.

Like the swallows to Capistrano, lever-voting machines are back in the news in New York. This time, legislation (S4088B) would allow New York City to use lever-voting machines for all non-federal elections including the upcoming primary, run-off and general elections in 2013. The Senate approved the legislation this week. It heads next to the Assembly.

North Carolina: The House unanimously approved legislation giving county elections boards the ability to close/consolidate polling places for runoff elections. The bill next moves to the Senate.

Another bill approved by the House, HB460, would request that funeral directors provide families with the necessary paperwork to have the deceased removed from voter rolls. The bill also allows executors, estate administrators and attorneys and not just family members, to request the necessary paperwork to remove the voter.

Ohio: Rep. Kathleen Clyde (D-68th) and Sen. Nina Turner (D-25th) are introducing legislation to create a study committee to improve the way the state updates voter registration information.

Senate Bill 109, described as “general clean up provisions” that would increase the flexibility of local boards of elections ran into partisan opposition this week. Democrats voted against the bill because of a provision that makes clear that if a person casting an absentee or provisional ballot double votes by filling in the name of the candidate and also writing in the candidate, the vote will be counted.

Rhode Island: This week, the House approved two separate bills that would eliminate the requirement that voters provide a reason for applying for an emergency mail ballot. House Bill 5567 changes the emergency mail ballot law so that a voter’s reason for applying for an emergency mail ballot need not have arisen within 20 days before the election, only that they became aware of the reason within 20 days of the election. The second bill, H5568A, would change the application form.

Texas: A bill approved by the House this week that would require voter registrars to explain, in writing, why they rejected a potential voter’s registration application.


V. Upcoming Events

Please email upcoming event — conferences, symposiums, seminars, webinars, etc. to mmoretti@electionline.org.

Nonprofit VOTE Voter Registration Modernization Webinar — Over the last few years, a number of states have enacted laws and policies to update their voter registration systems–including innovations online registration, Election Day Registration, and portable registration. This move toward voter registration modernization, supported by both voters and elections officials, has gained momentum and a number of states have already proposed new legislation in 2013. Join us for a review of voter registration updates and other important voter registration reforms.Featured Presenter: Myrna Pérez is Senior Counsel at the Brennan Center for Justice. Where: Online. To register, click here. When: Thursday May 16 at 2 p.m. Eastern.

IACREOT 42nd Annual Conference and Trade Show — The excitement is building; the crowds are restless; the speakers are at the gate raring to go! And, we’re off to the IACREOT Annual Conference in beautiful Louisville, KY, home of world famous Churchill Downs. IACREOT has a stimulating, educational and yes, exciting conference planned for you. Timely seminars conducted by experts in your field, professional classes on best practices and nationally known speakers will bring you the latest developments in your division. Scroll through the Call to Conference for an in-depth calendar of classes, activities and speakers. Add a world-class Trade Show with vendors who conduct business in a variety of counties, parishes, states and countries and can demonstrate their products in front of your eyes. Mix an entertaining venue and you have all the ingredients for a successful conference. We just need you! So pack your bags, bring your Derby bonnet and let’s go! There also will be pre and post conference public administration courses taught by the faculty of George Washington University, our partner in the Certified Public Leadership Program. Where: Louisville, Ky. When: June 28-July 2, 2013. Registration.


VI. Opinion

National: Voting rights

Alabama: Voter ID | Voting Rights Act

Alaska: Redistricting

Colorado: Election legislation, II, III

Connecticut: Early voting

Delaware: Election-day registration

District of Columbia: Online voter registration

Florida: Election reform, II

Georgia: Columbia County

Idaho: Poll workers

Indiana: Election reform

Maryland: Voter access

Massachusetts: Special elections

Mississippi: Voting Rights Act

Missouri: Recounts

New Hampshire: Voter ID, II

New Jersey: Early voting

New Mexico: Election reform

New York: Early voting, II | Election reform

North Carolina: Voter ID

Ohio: Early voting | Election reform | Voter suppression

Pennsylvania: Voting rights

West Virginia: Marshall County

Wyoming: Voter ID

Job Openings

VII. 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.

Director, Federal Voting Assistance Program, Arlington, Va. — establishes, develops, and directs the DoD Voting Assistance Program and provides policy guidance to the DoD components and partners with the components to provide training and facilitate their voting assistance programs; develops and prescribes the official Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot, including secrecy envelopes and mailing envelops for such ballot, for the use of elections for Federal Office by overseas voters; serves as the liaison to State Chief Election Officers and works closely with their professional organizations, such as the National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS) and the National Association of State Election Directors (NASED), to consult and ensure that officials are aware of the requirements of UOCAVA.  The Director also works closely with professional election organizations, such as the Election Center, and is responsible for building strong, working relationships with these organizations and their individual members; implements and administers the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 to ensure Congressional intent and compliance with the specific provisions are carried out to enable all citizens to register at armed forced recruitment offices; deals with officials in foreign governments and at all levels of federal, state, and local governments, both elected and appointed, as well as executives in major U.S. and multi-national corporations, executives of political parties, candidates for elected offices, the general public, and Service Members, their families, and all U.S. citizens residing outside of the U.S.  The political and operational sensitivities in dealing with these different and diverse constituencies vary according to the nature and complexity of the subject matter. Salary: $119,554-$179,700. Deadline: May 15, 2013. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.

Project/Election Coordinator, Burleigh County, ND —under the supervision of the County Auditor/Treasurer, performs a wide variety of professional level administrative duties and responsibilities that normally include responsibility for management of programs and projects.  Coordinate the activities associated with election functions including recruitment and training of election workers, absentee voting, early voting, coordination and setting up of polling locations.  Perform duties requiring analytical and administrative skills necessary to provide professional-level coordination, interpretation, communication, and research in completing tasks.  Plan and coordinate activities related to new technologies and their application in departmental operations.  Maintain accurate records, with respect to real estate tax assessments and collections, and prepare necessary documentation to create real property assessment rolls, tax lists and property tax statements.  Assist department head in supervisory role, identify and analyze problems that require action and recommend solutions. Minimum Qualifications:Requires five (5) years of work experience in high-level administrative support duties that includes participation in the development, or modification of major projects or procedures.  College-level coursework in computer science, business or public administration, or related field with coursework reflecting the required abilities may be substituted for the required work experience on a year-for-year basis.  Requires knowledge of administrative processes, procedures, or methods, and work experience with considerable knowledge, skill, and ability in duties similar in type and complexity to those performed at this level.  Must be proficient with word processing, and spreadsheet software, such as MSWord and Excel and have extensive knowledge of mainframe and microprocessor computer systems. Starting Salary:  $45,760 – $51,459.  Deadline: May 15, 2013.  For the complete job listing and to apply,click here.

Registrar, Prince William Co., Va. — provides leadership and management in the Office of Elections in Prince William County, Virginia. Prince William County has a diverse and growing population (currently 413,500) and is located in Northern Virginia. There are over 250,000 registered to vote in the County. In 2012, Prince William County was “bailed out” of the U.S. Department of Justice Preclearance requirement, after demonstrating decades of fair electoral practices. The General Registrar’s responsibilities are directed by the Code of Virginia as it relates to registering eligible voters and maintaining accurate lists. Additionally, the General Registrar is responsible to the Electoral Board in the conduct of fair and accurate elections. The General Registrar must maintain impartiality in the discharge of duties. The General Registrar is the Department Head for the Office of Elections, and is expected to interact with other agencies and the general public. As Department Head, the General Registrar must manage an office of 10 employees, manage hundreds of volunteer Election Officers on Election Days, and manage the office budget of approximately $2 million. Education and Experience: Education and experience equivalent to a Bachelor’s Degree in Public/Business Administration or a related field; 3-5 years of progressively responsible work in a registrar’s office to include management and budgeting experience; 2-3 years of experience at a supervisory level. Relevant experience in election law/administration, voter registration, as an election officer, or political experience may be considered toward required experience. Deadline: May 25, 2013. For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.

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