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May 15, 2014

May 15, 2014

In Focus This Week

I. In Focus This Week

Has social media changed elections?
Social media can provide an important snapshot, if not the whole picture

By M. Mindy Moretti

Twenty years ago, my first job was as a News Aide at The Washington Post. On election night 1994 I was given a telephone and sent on my way to the D.C. Board of Elections (DCBOE).

Upon arrival at the DCBOE, I plugged my phone into a jack in the wall in a room set up for reporters and once polls closed about every 30 minutes to an hour someone from the BOE would bring those of us in the room a stack of green bar paper with precinct results listed and I would call in results to then-Metro Editor Joann Armao.

Sometime around midnight, with votes still waiting to be counted, but the outcome clear and a home delivery deadline looming, Armao called the race for Democrat Marion Barry who was making a comeback following time spent in prison.

It was closer to 2 a.m. by the time I could unplug my phone and take the last stack of green bar paper home with me for analysis in the morning.

A lot sure has changed in the past 20 years, but has the instant gratification of social media and the web made the public’s and media’s expectations for election night unrealistic? Do elections officials on social media see it as a burden or a cost-effective way to stay up-to-the-minute with what’s going on at the polls and provide useful information to voters?

How important is it?
“It’s extremely important—Twitter especially,” said Brian Newby, Johnson County, Kansas clerk and author of the Election Diary blog. “I’ve gone from thinking Twitter was essentially useless (2008) to vital, particularly as a monitoring tool. 

Newby noted that social media allows his office to monitor legislative activity on elections, what people are experiencing in the days leading to an election, their experiences with advance voting (such as a ballot not received), and then on election day at the polls. 

“It lets us be much more responsive to issues because we hear about them right away.  Plus, Twitter especially is central to our connector approach to outreach,” Newby said. “We don’t have an outreach budget ($0), so our approach is to get information to connectors and influential who, in turn, can pivot and get it out to their following.  Twitter is great for that.”

According to a Pew study, as of September 2013 73 percent of adults over the age of 18 who are online are on social networking sites.

Facebook of course is the granddaddy with 71 percent of online adults having a Facebook account. Only 18 percent of online adults are on Twitter and 17 percent use Instagram.

The U.S. Elections Assistance Commission attempts to keep track state and local elections officials on social media. Most state election administrative offices have Twitter and/or Facebook accounts and many county and city election administrators are online too, but certainly not all.

Pasco County, Florida is on Twitter, Facebook, Flickr and Instagram. The county was the first in the country to post real-time voter turnout during early voting and on Election Day.

“I try to harness technology to disseminate information to voters as well as the media and social media is paramount to communication in the 21st Century,” said Brian Corely, supervisor of elections in Pasco.

Corley said that when he began posting the real-time turnout stats in 2012, those Tweets were picked up to the level where international journalists were calling his office and they were also referenced on CNN and Fox News.

Does it create unrealistic expectations?
Corely and Newby both agreed that due to the 24/7-news cycle that we all live in these days, social media hasn’t necessarily created unrealistic expectations on election night.

“We live a in a 10 o’clock news society and the expectation is that results are on TV as people tune in,” Newby said. “Social media hasn’t changed that.  But our real-time communication world does fuel the expectation that we should have results tabulated immediately after the polls close.”

In fact, if used correctly, social media can actually help an elections office keep voters, the media and candidates updated if there are delays in the tally.”

“We have to some degree created the expectation of results posted very quickly and the public needs to understand that our staff and poll workers do the absolute best to ensure timely results that are accurate,” Corley said. “Social media can be helpful in relaying information … any delay beyond our control and the anticipated posting of results as an example.”

Social media, the media and elections
According to Martin Austermuhle, web producer and reporter for WAMU, social media should be seen as something of an early warning system: It offers an insight into how things are evolving during the election or on election night, offering views of what could be either isolated incidents or the tip of the iceberg of much larger problems.

“The use of social media during elections cuts both ways, I think,” said, Austermuhle “While tools like Twitter and Facebook allow voters to immediately voice complaints about the process — long lines, problems with voting machines, etc. — the usual social media tunnel vision can sometimes take over. A few people complaining can make it seem like the whole process is falling apart, when it’s really not.”

Mark Anderson, supervisor of elections in Bay County, Florida said it’s important for voters and reporters to remember that an election — especially those in Florida — is not over on election night. He worries that in some respects, social media and the regular media fuel that notion, which can in turn cause problems for elections officials.

“Elections officials perform the elections and have the facts and required timelines. It is never over election night…” said Anderson whose office is on Facebook and Twitter. “The media should stop calling election winners and losers before the actual results have been provided, it is not fair to the voters or the elections officials when a recount from a close election occurs and everyone is already confused because of media statements with no facts.”

That being said, it does seem clear that it is important for state and local elections officials to be on social media, not only to provide results, explain delays or simply keep their voters and local media informed, but also to let the world know what’s happening.

Beth Donovan, Washington Editor for NPR Newsnoted that for national news reporters social media really provides a look into what’s happening in the world outside the Beltway.

“I’ve edited election coverage for NPR since the pre-cell phone era, and social media has changed the way we gather news dramatically,” said Donovan. “It’s played a growing role election night, and I suspect social, and particularly Twitter, will be the front line for results in November.”


Election News This Week

II. Election News This Week

  • Primaries: Voters in two more states — Nebraska and West Virginia — went to the polls this week to cast ballots in the 2014 mid-term elections. The biggest issues in Nebraska, besides the low voter turnout, the state reported few problems on Tuesday. Several polling sites did need to be relocated in advance of the election due to storm damage. Some counties also served as test sites for new electronic poll books. Officials in West Virginia were also lamenting the low voter turnout on Tuesday. While a few localities experienced some minor issues on Tuesday, overall officials reported that things went smoothly. Due to a power outage at a polling place, Logan County officials had some issues with counting the ballots and in Clay County, technical difficulties delayed the tallying till 1:30am.
  • Following devastating spring storms, Mississippi Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann has set up a mobile office to help residents get the necessary photo ID for the upcoming June 3 primary — the state’s first primary under the new law. “Many Mississippians are struggling to put their lives together after the deadly tornadoes,” Hosemann said in a statement.  “Having an acceptable photo ID to present on Election Day should not be one of their worries.  We want to provide a convenience to anyone who lost their identification during the storms and may not have a photo ID to present on Election Day.” 
  • In other voter ID news, the Arkansas Supreme Court reinstated the state’s voter photo ID law, but did not rule on the constitutionality of the law. The justices vacated the lower court’s ruling saying Pulaski County Circuit Judge Tim Fox did not have the authority to strike down the law in the case regarding absentee ballots. In Nevada, proponents of a voter ID initiative that was declared invalid have corrected the initiative and refiled it with the secretary of state’s office. And in Wisconsin, Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen filed papers before the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago appealing the ruling by a District Judge blocking the state’s law.
  • Working from a recommendation by a committee appointed to look into the operations of the Lucas County board of elections, Ohio Secretary of State John Husted notified five members of the Lucas County BOE that they will be fired pending a hearing set for press time. According to the Toledo Free Press, BOE Director Gina Kaczala, Deputy Director Dan DeAngelis, board chairman Ron Rothenbuhler and board members Jon Stainbrook and Anthony DiGidio received letters May 12 notifying them Husted would “commence proceedings … to remove you from your position.” DeAngelis announced that he will resign on June 2 instead of face the hearing.
  • One elections worker has lost their job and an election commissioner is threatening not to certify the election in Davidson County, Tennessee after six people were allowed to cast two ballots, once during early voting and once on election day. Elections staff blamed the double voting on a clerical error, but Election Commissioner Tricia Herzfeld wrote in a letter that staff and fellow commissioners failed to talk about potential irregularities. According to The Tennessean, the mistake marks the second time in two years county officials have faced complaints about the work by ES&S.
  • Someone (most likely not Mark Twain, contrary to popular belief) once said that golf is a good walk spoiled. Well elections officials in Montgomery County, Maryland are hoping that it’s not a good election spoiled! The Tiger Woods Foundation’s Quicken Loans National Golf Tournament will be held at Congressional Country Club the week of June 23 — Marylanders go to the polls on June 24. Because the tournament, even practice days, brings thousand of spectators to the area, elections officials are concerned about the impact traffic may have on voters and they are encouraging people in the eight potentially affected polling places to vote early.
  • Personnel News: Patty Rosand, Clallam County, Washington auditor will retire at the end of this year. Rosand began as the elections supervisor in 1987 and sought the auditor’s seat in 2006. She oversaw 110 elections during her tenure. Karl Tatgenhorst will represent the Libertarian party in the Indiana secretary of state race. Volusia County, Florida Council Chair Jason Davis is stepping down from his position on the county canvassing board. Two-term Marion County, Indiana Clerk Beth White officially filed to run for secretary of state. Connie R. Crumhorn has been hired to serve as the new St. Bernard Parish, Louisiana registrar of voters. Her mother served in the same position for 18 years before resigning in 2007. Former State Rep. Donna Barrett has been named to Tennessee State Election Commission.
  • In Memoriam: Longtime Marion County, Florida Supervisor of Elections Dee Brown died Wednesday of post-surgery complications. She was 68. Brown joined the elections office in 1979 as a statistician and was first elected to the supervisor’s position in 1986. She did not seek re-election in 2012. “She was a very good boss. She allowed her staff to do what she hired them to do. She used to always say someone once told her, ‘Always surround yourself with competent people and let them do their job,’ ” Wesley Wilcox, current Marion County elections supervisor told Ocala Star Banner.

Legislative Updates

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III. Legislative Update


Massachusetts: A House-Senate panel reached an agreement on election reform legislation that would implement early voting one week prior to an election in 2016, allow 16 and 17-year olds to pre-register and implement online voter registration. Language to allow same-day registration was removed. The House approved the legislation on Wednesday. It is expected to pass the Senate without much delay and Gov. Deval Patrick has indicated he will sign it.

Minnesota: The House and Senate have reached a compromise over the use of electronic poll books at polling places and the legislation is expected to move forward.

Missouri: In the waning days of the session, both the House and Senate approved legislation that will put an amendment before voters to allow for early voting for six business days in advance of an election. Weekends are specifically excluded from the legislation.

New Jersey: Under a piece of legislation introduced by State Sen. Ronald Rice (D-Essex), prisoners, parolees and probationers would retain their voting rights as long as they had served in the military. The bill would apply to all veterans convicted of all crimes except sex offenses.

Wyoming: The Wyoming Joint Judiciary Interim Committee is considering sponsoring legislation to automatically restore voting rights to nonviolent felons after they have completed all the terms of their sentence.

Upcoming Events

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IV. 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.


V. Opinion

National Opinions: Voter ID, II, III, IV, V, VI | Voting Rights Act, II | Online voting

Alabama: Voter ID | Voter fraud

Arizona: Proof-of-citizenship

California: Voting challenges | Secretary of state race

Delaware: Integrity of vote | Same-day registration, II

District of Columbia: Voting rights

Florida: Early voting

Hawaii: Voter turnout

Indiana: Poll workers

Kansas: Voter suppression

Massachusetts: Early voting, II

Mississippi: Voter ID, II, III, IV

Missouri: Early voting

New Jersey: Felon voting legislation

Ohio: School polling places | Lucas County, II

Pennsylvania: Ballot problems | Voter ID, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII | Voting convenience

Rhode Island: Master lever, II

Washington: Top-two primary

Wisconsin: Voter ID

Job Openings

VI. 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.

Deputy Director of Auditing and Accounting, New York City Campaign Finance Board — unit’s core function is to perform detailed, timely audits of campaigns’ financial disclosure statements and supporting documentation in accordance with Generally Accepted Government Auditing Standards (GAGAS). This position reports to the Director of Auditing and Accounting. Responsibilities: Manage the unit’s workflow. This includes assigning caseloads to audit staff, ensuring deadlines are met, and re-assigning work as needed to ensure balance and timeliness; train, supervise, direct, and evaluate senior auditors on audit assignments and ensure quality of work. Ensure that all audit staff receives appropriate training and supervision from senior auditors; review work performed by staff; approve work papers, audit findings, and audit reports; edit draft and final audit reports and other correspondence; communicate with management and other CFB units on various audit and compliance issues and assist other units in investigations and enforcement actions; make oral and written presentations to CFB staff members and the Board; and assist the Director in the overall management of the unit and perform Director’s duties in Director’s absence. Qualifications: A master’s degree or pursuing a graduate degree from an accredited university and at least six years of experience, at least three in a supervisory capacity, in one or a combination of the following: financial administration, accounting, compliance or investigative auditing, fraud reviews, forensic accounting, budget administration, economics, finance, fiscal or economic research, fiscal management, personnel or public administration, program evaluation, or a related area; OR a satisfactory combination of education and experience in the areas described above; previous experience in conducting performance audits in accordance with GAGAS and extensive knowledge of The Yellow Book; excellent written and verbal communication skills; experience editing and preparing audit communications; strong analytical, problem solving, and organizational skills; meticulous attention to detail; a demonstrated ability to meet tight deadlines, coordinate multiple projects and staff, and manage shifting priorities; and New York City residency within 90 days of starting the position. Application: If you would like to be considered for one of these opportunities, please email, fax, or mail your resume and cover letter, including current salary and salary requirements, to: Ms. Elizabeth Bauer; NYC Campaign Finance Board; 100 Church Street, 12th Floor; New York, New York 10007; Fax #212-409-1705; or resume@nyccfb.info. For the complete listing, please click here.

Director of Communications, Democracy Fund, Washington, D.C.—seeking a creative thinker with senior-level strategic communications experience and a deep commitment to non-partisan political reform to serve as its first Director of Communications. The director will be responsible for developing the organization’s overall communications and branding strategy, as well as managing all internal and external messaging. The director will work closely with the organization’s program team to advance our strategic goals and support the needs of Democracy Fund grantees. The director will be responsible for cultivating the organization’s role as an important convener and thought leader in the field, while building a network of advisors, partners, and champions who will increase the organization’s influence and impact. Qualifications: Deep passion for strengthening American democracy; excellent written and oral communication skills required; at least 10 years of experience in communications, coalition building, organizing, policy analysis, advocacy, or public affairs; strong strategic mind set and proven ability to translate strategy into action; success in developing and maintaining institutional, political, and personal relationships; strong track record of working with Republican, Democratic, and Independent political leaders; extensive experience with social media; ability to travel periodically for project work; demonstrated experience handling multiple assignments simultaneously; flexibility and initiative to work both independently and as part of a team; familiarity with the field of democracy and political reform, as well as the organizations and leaders involved in the field. Education: BA required. Deadline: Open until filled. For the complete job posting and to apply, click here.

Elections Training Specialist, Ohio Secretary of State’s Office — under the supervision of the Deputy Elections Administrator, researches, writes, and coordinates the development of training materials published by the Secretary of State for use by boards of elections in recruiting and training precinct election officials, including, but not limited to, Precinct Election Official Training Manual and the Quick Reference Flip Chart Guide; Develops and maintains a library of training materials developed and published by boards of elections for recruiting and training precinct election materials. Reviews county materials for compliance with the minimum content standards in the Secretary of State’s materials; Develops and maintains the Secretary of State’s online poll worker training system. Assists boards of elections and users with properly accessing and utilizing the system; Develops and implements training seminars and/or meetings for board of elections personnel regarding the recruitment and training of precinct election officials, webinars for county election officials, training programs for new board members, directors, and deputy directors, participates in the planning of the Secretary of State’s summer conference for county election officials, and other topics; Writes, coordinates the development, and curates forms and other resource materials published by the Secretary of State’s office for use by county boards of elections; Liaises with the Secretary of State’s Communications Department on elections-related publications, including but not limited to the PEO recruitment resources and forms, and the Poll Worker Newsletter, and liaises with county boards of elections and other entities on all matters relating to PEO recruitment and training; Answers correspondence, e-mails and telephone calls; represents office at related meetings & conferences. Performs other duties as required. Qualifications: Completion of undergraduate core program in communications, education, public administration or any related area of study; 12 mos. experience in program development and evaluation of program initiatives; 3 mos. experience in developing and conducting trainings; 3 mos. experience in voter registration programs and/or election advocacy.Or equivalent of Minimum Qualifications noted above. Deadline: Open until filled. Application: For the complete listing and to apply, click here.

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