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April 10, 2014

April 10, 2014

In Focus This Week

I. In Focus This Week

Pew releases latest Elections Performance Index
Waits reduced 3 minutes; D.C. most improved; 6 states at bottom for 3rd time


Between 2008 and 2012, state election performance overall improved by 4.4 percentage points, according to The Pew Charitable Trusts’ latest Elections Performance Index, released this week.

The expanded index makes it possible for all 50 states and the District of Columbia to measure how well they conducted elections compared not only with other states, but also over time.

This annual study allows states to measure election administration by looking at such indicators as wait times at polling locations, availability of voting information tools online, rejection of voter registrations, problems with registration or absentee ballots, rejection of military and overseas ballots, voter turnout, and accuracy of voting technology.

“We know common-sense solutions to improve elections exist. States are pioneering innovations that make a real difference in the efficiency and accuracy of their elections operations while also saving money,” said David Becker, director of Pew’s election initiatives project. “The Election Performance Index allows policymakers to pinpoint what’s working while also identifying areas where improvement is needed.”

Overall, 40 states and the District improved their scores in the 2012 election, compared with 2008.

The scores of 21 states and the District rose at a rate greater than the national average, 19 states’ averages improved but didn’t keep pace with the national average, and 10 states’ performance declined.

The District improved the most — 20 points —f rom 2008 to 2012 but still remained among the lower performers.

Overall, Georgia showed the sharpest decline, dropping seven points from 2008 to 2012. The state’s voter turnout fell below the national average, and the state had one of the largest increases in nonvoting due to disability or illness. Georgia also did not add online voter registration or post-election audits of voting equipment performance, which many other states have implemented since 2008.

Hawaii and Vermont also had large drops in overall performance.

Other findings:

  • Thirteen states offered online voter registration in 2012, compared with just two in 2008;
  • Wait times decreased, on average, about three minutes since 2008. Florida had the longest wait and the largest increase in wait time in 2012 — up 16.1 minutes from 2008 to 2012. Although both South Carolina and Georgia had long wait times in 2012, they also had the largest decreases, down 36.3 and 19.8 minutes, respectively;
  • Eighteen states and the District reported 100 percent complete data in 2012, compared with only seven in 2008. Improved data collection allows analysts to more finely assess how well elections are run and how to fine-tune them;
  • Overall voter turnout dropped 3.4 percentage points in 2012 from 2008. Turnout percentages in the Midwest and Northeast were higher than in the South in 2012. Two Midwestern states — Minnesota and Wisconsin — had the highest turnout rate in both 2008 and 2012;
  • Although the percentage of eligible voters casting ballots dropped in 2012, compared with 2008, the rate of those deterred by illness or disability or because of problems with registration or absentee ballots also fell;
  • More states offered online voter information tools in 2012;
  • Thirty states and the District required post-election audits of voting equipment performance in 2012, compared with 22 in 2008. Mandating a post-election audit allows states to ensure that voting equipment is functioning properly and delivering an accurate result;
  • The highest-performing states — those in the top 25 percent — were Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Washington, and Wisconsin; and
  • The lowest performers — those in the bottom 25 percent — were Alabama, Arkansas, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Kansas, Mississippi, New York, Oklahoma, Texas, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia. Six of these — Alabama, California, Mississippi, New York, Oklahoma, and West Virginia — were also ranked at the bottom in 2008 and 2010, and Mississippi was the lowest performer in all three years tracked.

Research shows that states offering more convenient opportunities for voter registration had a lower rate of rejected registrations, lower use of provisional ballots, and fewer voters unable to cast ballots due to registration problems.

Meanwhile states that utilized the latest technology to conduct data matching of state voter registration lists, such as the Electronic Registration Information Center, had a reduced rate of provisional ballots cast and rejected and in individuals who experienced registration problems.

A state’s overall performance is calculated and averaged based on the 17 indicators that make up the index, each agreed upon by an expert advisory group led by Charles Stewart III, professor of political science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

This study draws upon quantifiable data for all 50 states and the District of Columbia from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey Voting and Registration Supplement, the Election Assistance Commission’s Election Administration and Voting Survey and its Statutory Overview, state election division records, the Survey of the Performance of American Elections, George Mason University’s United States Elections Project, and Pew’s reports “Being Online Is Not Enough” and “Being Online Is Still Not Enough.” For the complete methodology visit the study’s methodology page.

[Coming Next Week: Part-time poll workers, problem solved or problem created? If you have used or do use part-time poll workers, let us know. We also want to hear from you if you haven’t, but have considered it, why you didn’t end up going that direction. Drop us a line.]

Election News This Week

II. Election News This Week

  • Several officials, including former President Bill Clinton and former Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young are encouraging federal officials to include photos on social security cards to help avoid problems with voter ID.
  • Sioux Falls, S.D. conducted its first election with widespread use of vote centers and while overall voters like the vote center concept, there were some bumps along the way. Some voters were still in line an hour after the polls had officially closed because of a last-minute rush and there was also a counting delay because the ballots were 17-inches instead of 14. Also, although they’ve been in use for three years, there were some issues with the e-poll books during the election.
  • Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted has created an oversight committee in “…an effort to address ongoing problems at the Lucas County Board of Elections.” In an April 7 letter to the board, Husted alluded to problems at the board that have persisted even though the board was released from administrative oversight in 2013. “Despite the guidance and support elections officials in Lucas County have received from my office in recent years, it has become apparent that there is a severe lack of communication among board members and between the board and its staff,” Husted wrote in his letter. “I am disappointed to be in this position yet again. I believe it is your sworn responsibility to provide local solutions to local problems.”
  • With 102 individuals qualifying for local races in Wilson County, Tenn. and with statewide races — including 10 people running for governor and federal races — including 14 candidates for U.S. Senate, voters can expect to see a 14-page ballot during the Aug. 7 primary. “We have 47 local races, not including retention votes and state and federal primary races,” Elections Administrator Phillip Warren told The Wilson Post. “This is going to be as long as the 2006 ballot, but we’re taking steps to speed the process along.”
  • With the cherry blossoms in Washington, D.C. at their peak it appears that the winter of our discontent may finally be over…except for elections officials in Lancaster County, Pa. Due to the number of snow days school children in Lancaster had off this year, eight schools will not be used as polling locations for the May primary because class will be in session to make up for the snow days.

  • Voters in Miami-Dade County, Fla. might want to think twice about having that venti latte or a bean burrito before heading to the polls next time. In email exchanges between a disability rights lawyer and county officials obtained by the Sun Sentinel it was discovered that voters are not allowed to use the bathroom while waiting to vote. “It’s absolutely stunning,” Marc Dubin director of advocacy for the Center for Independent Living of South Florida, which serves people with disabilities in Miami-Dade County told the paper. “It is a current policy of the Department of Elections. It’s in effect right now.” The policy is not in place in the states two other large counties — Broward and Palm Beach. “Anybody who’s at that site is able to come in and use the bathroom,” Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher told the paper.
  • Update on the News: Late last week, the Richland County, S.C. elections commission and board of voter registration were officially split into two offices albeit not by the April 1 deadline as demanded by Judge Thomas Cooper. Heading up the new board of voter registration is Lillian McBride, the embattled former elections director. Needless to say, people are not happy. “If there is anyone who had any trust in Richland County Elections before today, I find it hard to believe that they have trust in it after hearing today’s news,” SCGOP Chairman Matt Moore told WLTX. But that’s not the end of Richland’s problems. On Friday, the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) announced that it is officially investigating the agency and Judge Cooper issued a court order threatening to undo actions take by the elections board since his December ruling to that found the board’s merger unconstitutional. In an email, Cooper said he would bring the county into court later in April for a hearing.
  • Personnel News: Pat Miller, current deputy secretary of state in South Dakota has announced that she will seek the secretary’s seat. Incumbent Secretary of State Al Jaeger received the Republican nomination for the secretary’s seat at a party convention over the weekend. Former Cheyenne lawmaker Pete Illoway announced his plans to run for the Wyoming secretary of state’s office. And Murray makes six… Also on Friday, Ed Murray announced his plans to run for secretary of state in the Cowboy State, bringing the total number of candidates to five Republicans and one Constitution Party member. Arlene Castorina is out as a clerk for the State Island Board of Elections because her son, Ronald Castorina, Jr., a commissioner with the board, decided she had to go. Julie Mathis has been named the chief financial officer of Hart InterCivic. Former Kentucky Secretary of State Trey Grayson announced that he will step down from his position at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government effective June 30. Tim Claflin has resigned from the Cumberland County, Tenn. election commission in order to run for office.

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

Federal: The Senate Rules Committee approved the Safeguarding Elections for our Nation’s Troops through Reforms and Improvements (SENTRI) Act. If approved, the legislation would require states to send absentee ballots 46 days before an election and require the Dept. of Defense to provide voter assistance to service members as a routine part of their annual training.

Delaware: The House approved legislation that would allow for same-day registration in the First State. The legislation was approved 24 to 15 and now heads to the Senate.

Illinois: An amendment to the Illinois Constitution that would ban voter suppression was approved 109-5 by the House this week. The measure now moves to the Senate.

Maine: House lawmakers rejected a bill that would have added the state to a growing list of states dumping the Electoral College and instead moving to a popular vote system.

Michigan: Lt. Gov. Brian Calley signed into law legislation that will prohibit clerks from disclosing the last four digits of a voter’s social security number in FOIA requests. In addition, the legislation sets rules for petition circulators and clarifies rules for candidate filing.

Ohio: Under and amendment added to the budget (House bill 483) local governments that send out unsolicited absentee ballot applications would have had 10 percent of their state funding cut. Following pushback from a variety of sources, including Secretary of State Jon Husted, the amendment was pulled.


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: IACREOT 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

National News: Voter suppression | Voting rights

Arkansas: Voter ID

California: Long Beach election | Voting rights

Delaware: Same-day registration

Florida: Voter purge, II | Voter fraud | Online voter registration | Voting changes

Idaho: Performance Index

Iowa: Secretary of state

Kansas: Election uncertainty | Voter suppression

Michigan: Election system

Minnesota: Instant runoff voting

Nebraska: Online voter registration

Nevada: Early voting | Performance Index

New Jersey: Trenton election date

North Carolina: Voter fraud, II, III | Voter ID, II | Voter rolls

Ohio: Precinct changes

South Carolina: Richland County

Texas: Voter ID | Election changes | Election code

Wisconsin: 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.

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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