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April 3, 2014

April 3, 2014

In Focus This Week

I. In Focus This Week


Problems and questions face D.C. following primary
Late results because of technical problems have people talking

By M. Mindy Moretti

The complaining on social media began almost as soon as the polls in Washington, D.C. closed at 8 p.m. on the April 1 primary. Where were the first results? Why haven’t we heard anything?


While certainly the 8 p.m. naysayers could be dismissed for their short attention spans and need for instant gratification, when 9 p.m. came and went with no results, not even those from early voting, even calmer heads started to wonder: Again? Why are there no results?


Whoever was running the D.C. Board of Elections’ Twitter page was doing their best to keep people informed, but by 9:30 the Twitterati and local media were having none of it.


Finally at 9:55 p.m. the first results began to trickle in, but there were discrepancies in the numbers between what reporters were given and what was appearing on the DCBOE’s website.


It was near 2 a.m. before the final votes were tallied in an election that had the lowest election turnout in 30 years.


“It’s ridiculous that we have to wait that long,” Council member Kenyan R. McDuffie (D-Ward 5), who chairs the committee that oversees DCBOE told The Washington Post. “


In an April 3 letter to DCBOE Director Cliff Tatum and Board Chair Deborah Nichols, McDuffie expressed concern about the ongoing problems at the DCBOE, no matter the turnout


“In the District, residents and candidates have a right to expect orderly and timely election results,” McDuffie wrote. “Seemingly, no matter what level of voter turnout there is in an election, the Board continues to experience some type of difficulty in tabulating the results.”


McDuffie has called an April 29th round table so officials from the BOE can explain the situation and answer questions.


So what actually happened in a single-entity jurisdiction that doesn’t have to deal with the quagmire of local, county and state reporting, and is there a way to prevent it from happening again? [Editor’s Note: Representatives from the D.C. Board of Elections did not respond to electionline’s inquiries so comments from BOE officials are from local media outlets]


First, according to published reports, DCBOE did not begin counting early votes until the polls closed at 8 p.m. on election day instead of earlier in the day. Those familiar with procedures at DCBOE said the Board is permitted to count early votes during election day and it was done in past elections.


While this would not have solved all the problems, it would have provided candidates, the media and the public something to chew on while DCBOE was collecting and tabulating election-day results. It is unclear why the Board chose to wait until 8 p.m. to count those ballots.


Secondly, there were issues shutting down DRE machines at several precinct locations. D.C. is one of a handful of jurisdictions that allows voters to choose between casting their ballot on paper or via iVotronic DRE machines.


On election day approximately 43,000 voters chose paper and 29,000 chose electronic.


While in past elections there was one DRE machine per polling site, the city added more than 150 additional DRE machines citywide.


“Just by the numbers of the machines that we had out there, and the fact that our poll workers were for the first time, some of them, closing two IVOs [electronic voting machine] and three IVOs as opposed to the one IVO, it took a little longer than what we’re used to,” Tatum told WAMU.


In D.C. there are not just two different voting systems but multiple electronic systems. Poll workers had to go through a complex-sounding process to transfer the results from one DRE to the other so that all the votes in the precinct were reported together.


“When you have two systems, you have more shutting down and more reconciling to do. You have more checks to do and more checklists to check,” said Dana Chisnell with the Center for Civic Design. “You also have to reconcile *between* the systems, so it wouldn’t be surprising to me if there was confusion around that.” 


For their research, Chisnell and Whitney Quesenbery have observed poll workers shutting down polling places and completing the reporting process. Quesenbery noted that good procedures make a big difference.


“In the best places, the reconciliation process not only recorded the information from the voting system but helped poll workers catch and correct mistakes before they even left the polling place, while the whole team was there to figure out the problem,” she said.  


Quesenbery said that from the media reports she has read it also sounds like the reporting system at the DCOBE wasn’t set up to notice that the results didn’t add up.


“Where, for example, is the check of total votes cast against the number of signing in at the polling place?” Quesenbery pondered. “Election night is always chaotic. How do we design systems and procedures that take this into account so that checks and double-checks are built into the process?”


Of course there are benefits to having the dual system. Pam Smith with Verified Voting noted having a dual system like D.C. does means that there is always a back-up available should there be problems during the day.


However, on election night and in the days that followed, it wasn’t just the late results that had people concerned, it was the conflicting reports from elections officials about what happened and when.


According to published reports, on Tuesday night Tatum blamed the problem on poll workers not being trained well enough, while on Wednesday a spokeswoman for the Board told The Washington Post that even though there were additional volunteers at each precinct, they were simply overwhelmed.


“Training does matter. But I wish this explanation didn’t sound so much like blaming the poll workers,” Quesenbery said. “If you are introducing new procedures, you have to be sure everyone working the election is ready for them.”


Smith said that it’s also important to manage expectations as well because there will be problems.


“This is where transparency comes in and is really important,” Smith said. “We really encourage people to open up the process to observation as much as possible because it’s helpful for transparency. The more people understand about the system and how it works, the more transparent it is.”


Quesenbery said that ultimately it sounds like a key culprit of D.C.’s problems Tuesday night is a system for collecting and reporting results that didn’t serve the election officials, or the public, very well. 


“At least they caught the problem on election night and could send election workers out to the precincts to collect the votes,” Quesenbery said. “What if the discrepancy had been smaller?”


Election News This Week

II. Election News This Week

  • Federal elections officials requested a temporary stay in the proof-of-citizenship ruling. Lawyers for the U.S. Election Assistance Commission asked that U.S. District Judge Eric Melgren stay his order requiring the EAC to include a proof-of-citizenship box on national voter registration forms while the EAC appeals the ruling. “In any event, this case — which implicates the fundamental right to register to vote — presents novel legal questions of undoubted seriousness, complexity, and weight, thereby making preservation of the status quo appropriate pending further review,” the government wrote in its filing.
  • On Wednesday, North Carolina elections officials told legislators that about as many as 765 voters may have cast ballots in two states in 2012. The state conducted a cross-check of voter records among 28 states and found the instances where first and last names, dates of birth and last four digits of social security numbers matched exactly.
  • U.S. District Court Judge Donald Molloy said a voting rights lawsuit brought by three American Indian tribes in Montana will go forward after state and county officials attempted to get the case dismissed. The suit, brought by members of the Crow, Northern Cheyenne and Fort Belknap tribes, seeks to bring satellite voting center to reservations so voters don’t have to travel long distances to courthouses for early voting and election-day registration.
  • The New York City board of elections is doing a bit of spring cleaning. As the agency works to digitize its records, millions of old voter registrations cards are now obsolete. The agency will shred the “buff cards”—the piece of the voter registration form the BOE saves when someone registers—and free up about 10,000 square feet of storage space in borough offices.
  • It’s not the Hatfield and McCoy feud, but tensions are high between Fairfield, Conn.’s Democrat and Republican registrars of voters. Last fall, Republican Registrar Roger Autuori was charged with breach of peace for slapping Matthew Waggner, the Democrat. Now the two are fighting over a sign. Autuori has reportedly been gluing a sign on the wall indicating his office had moved and Waggner reportedly keeps removing the sign. “I have put in a work order … to repaint the large glue stain on the wall, and a memo is apparently forthcoming as to the appropriateness of damaging town property in this manner,” Waggner told the Fairfield Citizen. Autuori called Waggner’s actions childish.
  • And in other signage news, the Riverside County, Calif. registrar of voters office recently came under fire because some critics claimed the office’s logo looked too much like a logo used by President Barack Obama. “(The logo) was designed simply to add a patriotic art element to improve the look of the web page,” Interim Registrar Rebecca Spencer wrote to the Press-Enterprise in an email. “This office does not favor any party over another and we don’t want anyone to even wonder if that might ever occur.” The logo, which was designed in-house by staff has been altered to appear less like the Obama logo.
  • While this could be filed under personnel news, there’s a bit more to the story than that. Comal County, Texas commissioners voted to eliminate the county’s elections administrator position, a position they had just created a year ago. According to the Express-News, the decision to eliminate the position altogether came after the county elections commission failed to fire Elections Administrator Julie Kassab. The commissioners voted 3-2 to move election and registration duties to the county clerk.
  • Personnel News: Last week we noted that California State Sen. Leland Yee, a candidate for secretary of state, had been indicted on numerous corruption charges. Yee, who was considered the leading contender for the seat, has officially withdrawn from the race. In Minnesota’s secretary of state race, former Sen. Ted Daley announced that he will not run after all and former State Rep. Dan Severson, who lost to current Secretary of State Mark Ritchie in 2010 announced that he will once again seek the seat. In more secretary of state news, former Wyoming Speaker of the House Ed Buchanan announced that he will seek the secretary’s seat as will former Rep. Pete Illoway. WisPolitics.Com has a piece on Kevin Kennedy who this week celebrates 35 years with the GAB. Gerald Hudak has been approved to serve on the Luzerne County, Pa. election board.

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

Florida: A Senate bill to allow online voter registration in the Sunshine State will go no further than the Senate this year because the House has decided it won’t pass any voting-related legislation this session.

Illinois: A proposed constitutional amendment beefing up the voting rights of individuals cleared a committee vote 16-0 this week. If the amendment makes the ballot — and is approved by voters — would prohibit future General Assemblies and local election authorities from imposing voting restrictions.

Kentucky: Senate Majority Leader Damon Thayer told the Courier-Journal that he most likely will not call House Bill 70 for a second Senate floor vote this session which would effectively kill the bill. HB 70 would have restored the voting rights to most ex-felons upon completion of their sentences.

Missouri: On Wednesday the Senate approved a bill that will allow people responding to state or federal disasters to cast their ballot by email or fax.

Nebraska: Governor Dave Heineman signed LB 661 into law this week allowing Nebraskans to register online to vote.

Vermont: The House is set to debate legislation that would move the primary from the fourth Tuesday in August to the first Tuesday, a move required by the federal MOVE Act. Similar legislation failed in the Senate last year.

Wisconsin: As expected, Gov. Scott Walker (R) signed into law legislation that will limit early voting hours, however he used a line-item veto to remove language that would have restricted early voting to just 45 hours.

Walker also signed into law legislation that will allow election observers stand 3 to 8 feed from the check-in table or the same-day registration table at polling places.


V. Upcoming Events

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

National Association of Counties Annual Conference and Exposition: NACo’s 79th Annual Conference and Exposition provides an opportunity for all county leaders and staff to learn, network and guide the direction of the association. This year, the conference will be held in Orleans Parish, (New Orleans) Louisiana. The Annual Conference provides county officials with a great opportunity to vote on NACo’s policies related to federal legislation and regulation; elect officers; network with colleagues; learn about innovative county programs; find out about issues impacting counties across the country; and view products and services from participating companies and exhibitors. ​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Where: New Orleans. When: July 11-14. For more information and to register, click here.

National Association of Secretaries of State Summer Conference: NASS is celebrating a Star Spangled Summer at this year’s annual conference in Baltimore. Members will exchange ideas, share lessons learned and highlight best practices in policy making and programming for state member offices.  Agenda programming will include: Expert speakers who will inspire new ways of thinking about state agency leadership; Real-world lessons & success stories from state peers; Topical workshops focused on communications & professional skills advancement; Networking opportunities with public and private-sector attendees; and Excursions to explore Baltimore & learn more about culture and state government. Where: Baltimore. When: July 13-16. For more information and to register, click here.

International Association of Clerks, Recorders, Election Officials and Treasurers’ (IACREOT) Annual Conference: IACRETO will hold its annual conference this summer in Bonita Springs, Fla. The agenda will include seminars, training sessions, a delegate awards luncheon, IACREOTs elections and board meeting as well other opportunities for networking. Where: Bonita Springs, Fla. When: July 19-24, 2014. For complete information and to register, click here.

National Conference of State Legislatures Legislative Summit: Bring home 1,000 ideas from the land of 10,000 lakes this summer. For 40 years, the Legislative Summit is where legislators and staff come together across the aisle to tackle critical problems and find solutions that work. With more than 100 sessions, the time to dig deep into issues you care about, and opportunities to make new friendships and connections. Where: Minneapolis. When: August 19-22, 2014. For more information and to register, click here.

Elections Center 30th Annual National Conference: More information will be forthcoming, but mark your calendars now for the annual conference. Courses offered at the annual conference will include Course 5 (Ethics in Elections); Course 6 (Communications in Election Administration); Renewal Course 20 (Federal Impact on Elections-1960s to present); and New Renewal Course 27. Where: San Francisco. When: August 19-23, 2014. For more information and to register, click here.

National Association of County Recorders, Elections Officials and Clerks: More information will be forthcoming, but mark your calendars now for the annual conference. Where: Long Beach, Calif. When: August 22-25, 2014. For more information and to register, click here.

National Association of State Election Directors: More information will be forthcoming, but mark your calendars now for the annual conference. Where: San Francisco. When: August 22-24, 2014. For more information and to register, click here.


VI. Opinion

Alabama: Wilcox County | Mobile ID units

California: Election help | Secretary of state race

Delaware: Same-day registration

District of Columbia: Runoff elections | Vote count, II

Florida: Flagler County, II, III | Voter purge, II | Online voter registration

Idaho: Secretary of state race

Indiana: Poll workers

Kansas: Elections schedule

Missouri: Voter ID

Nebraska: Online voter registration

New Jersey: Newark election

North Carolina: Election law change

Ohio: Online voter registration

Texas: Comal County

Wisconsin: Voter ID, II | Voting rights | Early voting, II, III

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.

Communication and Development Director, Rock the Vote, New York City — Rock the Vote is seeking a Communications & Development Director to help raise the profile and necessary funds to support our ambitious programs in 2014 and beyond. Specifically, the Rock the Vote Communications & Development Director will oversee the communications plan, including but not limited to: developing messages, talking points, press, and fundraising materials; reaching out to press and performing press outreach. In addition, this position will manage a group of staff running our voting rights advocacy and social media programs. Rock the Vote is looking for a great writer, an effective communicator, and a detail-oriented and pro-active person to fill this position. Qualifications: A competitive candidate for this position will have: Bachelor’s degree; 6-8 years communications and/or development experience working with campaigns or nonprofits; proven and highly effective organizational skills; 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; management experience required; this individual will manage 2-5 staff. Candidates must have a demonstrated ability to work on multiple projects at one time; to set ambitious but achievable goals; to coordinate activities of the senior leadership and leverage other Rock the Vote resources in order to meet these goals; and a willingness to work long hours as necessary; experience working effectively with colleagues, junior staff and senior leaders; including members of an active board of directors/advisors; ability to work very closely with other members of the team, but also to manage your own work independently. Deadline: Open until filled. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.

Counsel, Democracy Program, The Brennan Center, New York City (two positions)— The Brennan Center is seeking seeking an experienced attorney to work in the Brennan Center’s Democracy Program. The Counsel will work on two projects: Voting Rights and Elections. Responsibilities may include: conducting legal, academic, and factual research and writing reports that shed light on problems in our systems of democracy and propose concrete policy solutions; advancing Brennan Center goals through media and communications work, including public speaking engagements, media appearances, blog posts, op-eds and conferences; supervising appellate and trial court litigation or amicus practice to protect and expand voting rights, including work on case development, discovery, and motions and briefs; coordinating legislative and policy advocacy at the state and federal level; counseling federal and state policy makers and advocates, and drafting and reviewing legislation. Qualifications: The position requires a J.D. degree; 5 or more years of legal experience (including clerkships, if any) in the public interest, government, private, or academic sectors; and admission in the New York State Bar either before or shortly after it commences. The ideal candidate will have exceptional written and oral communications skills; a strong litigation background; demonstrated success in policy advocacy; a strong entrepreneurial spirit; a passion for the work of the Center; and experience working with the media. This position requires the ability to work effectively in a team-based and deadline-driven environment. It also requires exceptional writing skills (for a variety of audiences, including legal, legislative, journalistic, and public); excellent analytic, strategic, and research skills; creativity, versatility, and flexibility; strong coalitional and coordination skills; and the ability to deal with diverse clients and allies. Demonstrated commitment to the public interest is a real plus. For more information and the complete listing, 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: April 30, 2014. Application: For the complete listing and to apply, click here.

Senior Office Assistant, Forsyth County, N.C.—come join our team at the Board of Elections! The Senior Office Assistant duties and responsibilities include interacting with public, data entry, scanning documents, maintaining and producing records, sorting and processing mail and reports, and answering telephone inquiries from the public. You will maintain campaign finance, board meeting minutes, accounts payable and office supplies. The successful candidate needs a considerable working knowledge of PC’s and image scanning processes and be able to understand and communicate state election law and to follow established policies and procedures of the Board of Elections office. A willingness to attend State Board of Elections seminars and achieve Notary Public certification is a plus. A college degree is preferred. Deadline: April 11, 2014. Application: For the complete listing and to apply, click here.

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