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March 6, 2014

March 6, 2014

In Focus This Week

I. In Focus This Week

New effort to assist military/overseas voters
Overseas Vote Foundation studies new remote voting program

By M. Mindy Moretti

Making sure every vote counts and every vote is secure is of the utmost importance to all elections officials.


When the voters are members of our military or residents serving and living abroad, the counting of those votes is as important, it’s just a bit more complex.


Through the years there have been a variety of legislative measures such as the MOVE Act to make sure that ballots are sent to and accepted from overseas voters in a timely fashion.


There have been some attempts — some somewhat successful, some not-so-much — to create secure systems for overseas residents to case their ballots electronically.


Now the Overseas Vote Foundation (OVF) is conducting a new study that will team up scientists and state and local elections officials to look at the feasibility of end-to-end, verifiable, secure Internet voting for military and overseas voters.


The project is called End-to-End Verifiable Internet Voting: Specification and Feasibility Assessment Study (E2E VIV Project) and will examine a form of remote voting that enables a so-called “end-to-end verifiability” (E2E) property.


“In this study, we aim to examine and potentially make the case that use of the Internet enables and facilitates the introduction of E2E-verifiability and that the benefits of E2E-V may be able to overcome the vulnerabilities introduced by using the Internet,” explained Susan Dzieduszycka-Suinat, president and CEO, U.S. and Overseas Vote Foundation.


So for the layperson, just what does end-to-end mean? Electionline reached out to Tom Bridge with Technolutionary, LLC for an explanation.


“When you connect to the Internet, and go to a website, your connection might go through ten or fifteen different connection points to get there. For a lot of connections, that process doesn’t matter. No one will care if you’re visiting the Washington Post for some news, or ESPN for a sports score,” Bridge explained. “But, when it comes to something important, like credit card data, or voting, that the entire path be protected. That means that when data goes to a workstation abroad, it needs to be encrypted in a way that prevents tampering and prevents hijacking. It’s important that the data be passed in a way that keeps it from prying eyes.”


The E2E VIV project aims to produce a system specification and set of testing scenarios, which if they meet the requirements for security, auditability, and usability, will then be placed in the public domain.


“No participant on this project discounts the concerns of voting over the Internet, nor do they view E2E-verifiability as a magic sauce that makes the Internet secure,” Dzieduszycka-Suinat said. “Nevertheless they believe that E2E-V warrants examination in regards to the properties it achieves.”


According to Dzieduszycka-Suinat, the E2E VIV Project has three main goals:

  • Usability/Accessibility: this project will delineate and assess the E2E-verifiable voting protocol with usability and accessibility foremost in mind and determine if it meets requirements;
  • Security: the project will determine an optimal specification for a remote, end-to-end, verifiable Internet Voting (IV) system. It will guarantee an acceptable level of security to demonstrate to voters that their ballots are counted as cast. It will offer a method for signaling any suspicion and enable reparative action; and
  • Testing: the project will set an example of open testing and evaluation of any IV system. We will determine means for providing reasonable evidence that security is maintained. Voters and observers will be able to perform their own external validation of correct system performance.


Dzieduszycka-Suinat noted that, this is a phase I project to specify a system and that they are currently not building any system and it is not determined yet if that is even possible.


The project, funded by a grant through Democracy Fund [also a funder of electionline], should take about 18 months and will be complete by May of 2015.


Editor’s Note: Next week we will take a look at a military/overseas voting project being conducted by the South Dakota Secretary of State’s office.


Election News This Week

II. Election News This Week

  • Texas held the country’s first primary elections of 2014 as well as the state’s first major election with the new voter ID law in place and minus the weather, there were relatively few problems. Secretary of state Nandita Berry said that overall she was very pleased with how things went on Tuesday. The biggest problem was the icy spring weather that forced polls in Travis County to open at 11 a.m. In Jefferson County, early voting ballots had to be retabulated. Howard County results were delayed when a poll worker did not properly close a voting machine. In Cameron County, a voter who joked about having a gun and lack of security put the school on lockdown. A power outage at one Victoria County had elections workers directing voters to another nearby firehouse where voting was also taking place. A polling place in Smith County had to be closed due to a gas leak. Voters were sent to the county elections office to cast their ballots. Following the request from a candidate, the state sent an elections inspector to Upton County. And elections websites in Dallas and Denton counties went down for a while early in the morning with the problem being blamed on heavy traffic. In Titus County, elections officials had to hand-count ballots after a typo on the ballot caused scanner errors. And last but not least, Brown County Elections Administrator Suzy Young and her staff provided inmate road crews with a barbecue thank-you lunch for helping transport elections equipment.
  • Texas wasn’t the only place hampered by weather this week. The town of Middletown, Del. had to postpone its election to fill three seats on the town council until March 24. “We had talked in advance about what we were going to do, so if we did get a snowstorm, we could react quickly and responsibly,” David Rich, who serves on the town election board told the Middletown Transcript. “With the forecast where it was Sunday night, we felt like postponing the election was the best and safest decision for voters in Middletown.”
  • KPBS has a fascinating story about the history of vote-by-mail and how a special election in San Diego in 1981 got the mail ballot ball rolling. According to the report, Norma Paulus, the Oregon secretary of state at the time, studied the San Diego special election to craft Oregon’s vote-by-mail system.
  • The Multnomah County, Ore. elections division is re-sending approximately 3,200 voter registration cards after incorrect addresses were printed on the cards. According to The Oregonian, Tim Scott, elections director characterized the mix-up as a data-processing mistake on the cards and that the information in the county database is correct.
  • A recent study by psychology professors at Rice University says that voters who cast ballots via their smartphone made fewer errors than when voting by traditional methods in a mock election. According to the Houston Chronicle, the study involved 84 participants, 48 of whom had smartphones. The research tested three voting methods: by smartphone, electronic voting machine and paper ballots. Their results, the paper said, show there were no consistent differences between the smartphone-based system and other voting methods in efficiency and perceived usability. “More important, though, smartphone owners committed fewer errors on the mobile voting system than on the traditional voting systems,” the authors stated in their report.
  • Last year, Illinois approved legislation allowing 17-year olds to pre-register and vote in primary elections if they will be 18 by the general. Following a recent registration push, more than 9,000 17-year-olds in Chicago and the surrounding suburbs registered in time to cast a ballot in the March 18 primary.
  • Personnel News: After 30 years in the elections business, Al Davidson, uniform voting systems program manager in the Colorado secretary of state’s office is retiring. Davidson started out as a county clerk in Marion County, Ore. in 1984 and has also worked in the private sector and in several Colorado counties. Former Oregon Elections Director Steve Trout has joined Clear Ballot as the director of election innovation. Former State Sen. Mitch Toryanski has announced that he will run for Idaho secretary of state. William Sherer has joined the Stark County, Ohio board of elections. Ron Rothenbuhler and Jon Stainbrook have joined the Lucas County, Ohio board of elections. Also in Lucas County, the board voted to remove Meghan Gallagher as the director and replace her with Gina Kaczala. Karen Vincent and Charles Klein were sworn in to the Muskingum County, Ohio board of elections. Amanda H. Duncan has been named the new Catawba County, N.C. director of elections. Joshua Meduna, assistant director of elections for Worcester, Mass. is stepping down to take a position in the Foreign Service. Yakima Mayor Micah Cawley announced that he will seek the county auditor’s seat. Kelly Gillis is the new chairman of the Miami County, Ohio board of elections.

Research and Report Summaries

III. Research and Report Summaries

electionline provides brief summaries of recent research and reports in the field of election administration. The summaries are courtesy of the research staff of The Pew Charitable Trusts Elections Initiatives. Please email links to research to Sean Greene at Pew.

Legislative Update

IV. Legislative Update

Arizona: As expected, Gov. Jan Brewer (R) signed legislation into law that repeals a 2013 election reform law and puts an end to a citizen referendum on the law.

Colorado: Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) signed into law HB 1164 that reforms the municipal elections process.

District of Columbia: Councilmember David Grosso (I) introduced an elections reform package that includes three pieces of legislation, one of which would move the city to an instant runoff voting system. A second piece of legislation would create open primaries and the third piece of legislation is campaign-finance related.

Georgia: A Senate bill that will reconstitute the Douglas County board of elections and registration effective Jan. 1, 2015 received final approval. Under the new law, the five members of the board will be chosen by each major political party (2 Democrats and 2 Republicans) and the county board of commissioners will pick the fifth member.

Iowa: The Senate unanimously approved Senate File 2278 which would allow the secretary of state’s office to establish online voter registration. The bill moves next to the House.

Maine: A bill proposing a constitutional amendment to allow Maine residents to early vote failed in the House of Representatives by an 87-57 vote, which was shy of the two-thirds vote necessary.

Massachusetts: An elections-reform bill is making its way through the State House that would provide online voter registration, pre-registration for 16-and 17-year-olds as well as allow for early voting.

Michigan: Rep. Woodrow Stanley, D-Flint has once again introduced legislation that would allow for no-excuse absentee voting. Stanley has introduced similar legislation each session since 2009.

Minnesota: The House Elections Committee unanimously approved legislation that will allow online voter registration. Although the state is already accepting registration online, the governor and legislative auditor said a law to allow it was required.

Mississippi: A bill that would have reformed the municipal elections process died in committee two weeks after being introduced.

Missouri: With the next presidential election season less than two years away, some states, including Missouri, are trying to figure out their 2016 elections calendar.

New York: The New York City Council has identified ending the city’s runoff elections process and instead instituting an instant runoff voting system as a top legislative priority and will be lobbying the state legislature on behalf of the change.

Utah: A Senate committee advanced a bill that would expand a pilot program to allow disabled voters to cast a ballot online.

Rep. Rebecca Chavez-Houck has once again introduced a bill that would allow county clerks to pilot an election-day registration program.


V. Upcoming Events

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


VI. Opinion

National News: Election problems | Voter ID

Alabama: Instant runoff voting

California: Special election costs | Secretary of state race

Connecticut: Online voter registration

Florida: Ex-felon voting rights | Closed primaries

Iowa: Voting process

Kentucky: Ex-felon voting rights, II

Massachusetts: Election reform, II, III

Missouri: Voter ID, II | Voter suppression

Nevada: Voter ID

New Mexico: Ex-felon voting rights

North Carolina: Voting changes | Voter ID

Ohio: Secretary of state race | Early voting

Oregon: Online voting

Pennsylvania: Voter ID, II

South Carolina: Richland County, II, III, IV, V

Texas: Polling places | Early voting

Utah: Election reform | Voter list

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.

Assistant Director of Elections, Worcester, Mass. — successful candidate shall assist the Clerk in the operation and administration of all phases of local, state and federal elections and with the direction, coordination, development and supervision of the staff involved in conducting and monitoring elections, voter registration activity and the compilation of the annual street list. Responsibilities will include preparing reports, conducting research and analysis and outreach efforts and assumes the task of recruitment, training and supervision of poll workers.  Will participate in outreach and training of student poll workers from the public high schools; in the acquisition and maintenance of voting equipment and supplies; assist with the preparation and presentation of the annual budget; support for the five member (5) Board of Election Commissioners as assigned; and perform other duties as requested by the City Clerk. Qualifications: successful candidate shall be a person experienced and knowledgeable in the operation of elections and shall have graduated from a four-year college or university with studies in public administration, political science, history, urban studies or similar field of concentration. The successful candidate shall be familiar with statutes and regulations of the Commonwealth regarding elections and voter registration, or, those of another state and, if from another state, commit to becoming thoroughly knowledgeable of Massachusetts law and procedures within one year of the date of hiring. Salary: $63,000 to $81,000. Deadline: March 21, 2014. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.

Director of Elections, Forsyth County, N.C. position is the department head appointed by the Forsyth County Board of Elections. The position works in a fast-paced environment and utilizes a thorough knowledge of procedures and policies set forth by the State Board of Elections and the General Statutes for registration, voting, and reporting the results of elections. The position requires the ability to interpret and apply election laws and regulations; the ability to train and supervise others effectively and to maintain an effective working relationship with employees; the ability to establish and maintain good working relationships with precinct officials and representatives of news services and the ability to deal courteously with the general public. Responsibilities include preparing the ballots for Board approval and arranging for the distribution of all essential materials to all precincts; preparing budget proposals and administering the budget for the department. The Director obtains legal opinions from the State Board of Elections on election procedures and advises municipalities, proposed new municipalities, and attorneys on various election procedures. Qualifications: Experience in election administration through several presidential elections is preferred. Previous experience in supervising employees is preferred.Graduation from a four-year college or university in public administration, or related field and three years management experience. A higher education level may be considered as a substitution for all or part of the experience requirement. A four-year degree outside of the relevant academic field plus additional years of relevant experience may also be considered. Deadline: March 11, 2014. Application: For the complete listing and to apply, click here.

Elections Administrator, Tarrant County, Texas — shall perform the duties and functions of the Voter Registrar; the duties and functions placed on the County Clerk by the Election Code or by statutes outside the Election Code. Provides executive strategic and tactical direction and support to directors, managers, and supervisors in the operations of their department or division. This level of support and direction is achieved by delegating and/or reviewing the management of work assignments, service delivery, resources provided, and budget required; ensuring the training, evaluation and personal development of their employees; handling difficult problems; managing the development, implementation, and oversight of applicable unit products and services; monitoring department resources; and ensuring compliance with policies and laws. Salary: $3,283.96 – $3,612.36 biweekly. Deadline: Open until filled. Application: For the complete job posting and to apply, click here.

Elections Data Analyst, Colorado Secretary of State —position provides data administration services related to the statewide voter registration system. Oversees voter registration data and elections data posted to the state website. Serves as technical writer for data utilization as required. Responsibilities include: Extracting, analyzing, and presenting or reporting data in various formats for multiple stakeholders, including election officials and the public. Qualifications: Four years of combined experience creating and executing SQL database queries, posting reports/data files to FTP sites, relational database experience, MS Office Professional experience. A bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university will substitute for one year of experience. Salary: $3,590 – $4,943 monthly. Deadline: Monday March 10, 2014 at 11:59pm MT. Application: For complete job posting and to apply click here.

Election Programmer, Jefferson County, Texas — coordinate and code all ballot information including precinct, office, candidate, and polling location data; and provide English, Spanish and audio coding.  Coordinate the accuracy of the paper and iVotronic ballot.  Responsible for loading election data on iVotronic touchscreens, personal electronic ballots, and flash cards.  Responsible for performing operational testing.  Responsible for overseeing the logic and accuracy testing of ballots.  Program and make ready all electronic pollbook tablets which contain the voter registration database, including backup of data.  Create and maintain election equipment inventory database.  Must assist field technicians during early voting and on Election Day.  Responsible for backing up all audit data and election files.  Report election results to Secretary of State of Texas.  Create and maintain computer database files utilizing various software applications to create documents.  Preserve the election files as prescribed by the Secretary of State. Provide training to employees and election workers in the use of voting equipment and on pertinent election laws.  Coordinate work orders to Warehouse Supervisor, to prepare, test and set up election equipment as needed.  Maintain the Online Poll Worker training and election websites through website publishing, quality assurance, feedback monitoring, and performance monitoring. Assist with training scheduling and support at the Election Barn.  Perform the management duties of the Elections Warehouse Technician Manager in his/her absence. Education & Experience:  Education and experience equivalent to an Associate’s degree from an accredited college or university in computer science, or in a job related field of study required.  One (1) year of work related experience.  Experience in election programming preferred. Salary: $43,094-$58,858. Deadline: Open until filled. Application: For the complete job posting and to apply click here

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