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May 22, 2014

May 22, 2014

In Focus This Week

I. In Focus This Week

Growing Wide and Deep:
Two Strategies to Expand the Field of Election Administration

By Doug Chapin
Election Academy – University of Minnesota

On Monday, I participated via video in a University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy symposium entitled “Blueprint to Implementation: Election Administration Reform for 2014, 2016 and Beyond.”

At the tail end of that short video (view it here), I was asked what it will take to expand the profession of election administration in the foreseeable future.

A short version of that answer appears on the video, but I wanted to use the opportunity here to flesh out where I see the field of elections growing over the next few years – in particular, in recruiting and retaining election administrators for the long term future of the American system of elections.

The first strategy is to broaden the awareness of the scope of election administration to illuminate just how varied and interesting the work really is. As I said here at electionline on Valentine’s Day:

I love elections because they have something for everyone:

  • Like people? Elections are an intensely human activity, requiring people to work together despite the fact that politics often divides them.
  • Love process? Elections are ALL ABOUT process – laws, regulations, rules, procedures – a Type A’s dream.
  • Love technology? Elections give you a chance to work and play with all kinds of technology – whether made with bits of information or bits of plastic and metal.
  • Love design? There is no shortage of things and places to imagine, re-imagine and layout – ballots, brochures, polling places, etc.
  • Love government? Election administration is a huge public service challenge (dwindling budgets, uncertain legal environment, etc.) – but Election Day still has to happen.
  • Love America? Love democracy? This is how we do it – resolving our biggest (and smallest) questions with ballots, not bullets.

Quite simply, we need to show people – especially potential entrants into the field – that being an election official offers opportunities for fulfillment (and, hopefully, advancement) for just about any skill set. In turn, bringing those new skills into the election community will help all of us continue to grow and serve our voters.

The second strategy is to go beyond the “accidental” nature of the profession and actively seek out new recruits – particularly in communities who are under-represented in the electorate.

More and more, managing elections requires an awareness of and sensitivity to accessibility for voters with disabilities, a willingness and ability to provide election assistance in numerous languages and a keen eye for the impact of election laws and procedures on under-represented segments of the population including communities of color.

Rather than relying on a strategy of teaching these skills to the people who already populate the profession, why not reach out to (and bring in) members of those communities and give them elections know-how? In other words:

  • Who better than an election official with a disability to really see physical and procedural barriers to the vote – and then remove them?
  • Who better than a bi- or multi-lingual election official to understand that simple literal translations don’t always capture the true meaning of election materials or recognize cultural norms that matter to a voter?
  • Who better than an election official who comes from a community that doesn’t always vote to know how to reach members of those communities and identify what it takes to give them confidence in and enthusiasm for the voting process?

The current field of election administration is jam-packed with people who do their jobs professionally with skill and enthusiasm for the task of making our democracy work. If that tradition is to continue, however, we constantly need to bring new blood into the field. We can do that by demonstrating how truly multi-faceted and fascinating election administration is – and by bringing new (and just as important, different) faces into the ranks of election administrators.

Who’s with me?

Primary Roundup

II. May 20 Primary Roundup

While some members of the media were incorrectly referring to this Tuesday as Super Tuesday (eight states vote on June 3 for the biggest primary day), six states did head to the polls this week in the largest day of primary voting so far in 2014.

Although there were the usual hiccups, glitches, snafus, etc. by and large things went smoothly, even in Arkansas where the state was officially requesting photo ID for the first time to cast a ballot.

Here is a snapshot of what happened in each of the four states and two commonwealths:

Tuesday was the first official test of The Natural State’s new voter photo ID law. Although poll workers had asked to see ID for the last few elections, this was the first time that voters were required to show the requested ID and results were mixed.

The American Civil Liberties Union said that it is investigating reports that some polling places were “too strident” with enforcing the law including poll workers using the barcodes on driver’s licenses to scan the IDs, some thing that is not part of the law.

“Poll workers were not only being inconsistent in their enforcement or non-enforcement of the voter ID law but in some cases were overreaching and going outside the scope of the authority that the law gives them. They were basically pop quizzing voters about the information listed on any identification. That was not provided for in the voter ID law,” said Holly Dickson, legal director for the Arkansas division of the ACLU.

And of course just about everyone has heard about GOP Gubernatorial candidate Asa Hutchinson — a strong proponent of the voter ID law — forgetting his photo ID when he went to cast his ballot.

Voter ID issues weren’t the only problems that arose on election night. In Garland County, too few voting machines and voting machine breakdowns led to long lines with reports of some voters walking away before casting a ballot.

In Faulkner County, an unopposed candidate for the State Supreme Court wrote a letter to the county election commission claiming that a poll worker refused to post the polling place results on the door of the site after the polls had closed as required by law.

Several voters in Columbia County reported that one of the races was not appearing on the ballot on the electronic voting machines during early voting and at one voting site on election day. The early voting problem was because those voters weren’t eligible to vote for the race in question and the election day problem was because poll workers forgot to switch the machines back and forth between the statewide races and the local primary races.

Secretary of State Brian Kemp reported no major problems in The Peach State on Tuesday. But there were a few scattered problems.

Two Whitfield County precincts were forced to stay open an additional 30 minutes when there were problems with some of the electronic voting machines. The problem was quickly resolved but the Superior Court ordered the polling places to remain open.

Some Fulton County voters were surprised to learn that their longtime polling place had moved from a local church to the Georgia Tech campus.

Long ballots and a missing computer memory card were to blame for the delay in tallying the votes in Bibb and Houston counties. In Bibb, there weren’t any technical problems, but the length of the ballot slowed the tally. In Houston while the machines were all shut down and secured properly, a memory card was left inside a machine slowing the tally while the card was retrieved.

And in Cobb County, technical problems with six of the 70 voting machines in the county delayed the final results. After the ballots failed to load properly into the vote-counting machines, county elections staff had to manually process 470 ballots. Cobb Elections Director Janine Eveler noted that the slow tally—complained about by candidates and Twitterati alike—was due to the having different ballots for both parties as well as nonpartisan races.

There were relatively few reports of problems in The Gem State, but of course things didn’t go off completely without a hitch.

While many localities reported moderate to low voter turnout, in Ada County, two precincts in Kuna ran completely out of ballots and others reported low numbers of ballots remaining. In order to provide voter with a ballot, county elections officials made photocopies of ballots.

There were also scattered reports from around the states of voters being confused about being denied the right to cast a GOP ballot even if they are not registered Republicans. This is only the second election where the GOP chose to close its primary ballots to non-GOP voters.

“We’ve been working on training 800 poll workers for the last few weeks on the process,” Ada County Clerk Christopher Rich told KTVB. “But as you can imagine, you have a line of people outside, everyone walks in the door, and they may forget for a moment of what they were supposed to do.”

Temporarily misplaced ballots in Caribou County slowed the count down till after midnight. Retiring Clerk Veda Mascarenas blamed the problem on inexperienced temporary staff she had to hire because many of the experienced deputy clerks could not work the election since they were running for office.

In Kootenai County it wasn’t misplaced ballots that slowed down the counting process, but a “glitch” in the county’s voter tabulation software. The glitch caused at least a 30-minute delay in completing the tabulation process.

Former Idaho Speaker of the House Lawrence Denney won the GOP nomination for secretary of state despite the fact Phil McGrane had the support of retiring Secretary of State Ben Ysursa, numerous editorial boards and members of the state legislature.

Denney will face Democrat Holli Woodings—who ran unopposed—in November.

Kentucky was one of two Commonwealth’s that went to the polls this week and it was a mixed bag in The Bluegrass State.

In Daviess County, about 25 percent of the e-scan voting machines weren’t reading ballots properly. According to Clerk David Osborne, the problem stemmed from barcodes on the ballots. Elections workers spent much of the day printing ballot back-ups.

In Louisville, U.S. Senate Candidate Matt Bevin ran into some problems when his ballot was rejected when he attempted to vote for himself. The problem was quickly resolved and Bevin had a good attitude about the whole thing. “Uh-oh, I’m being rejected,” Bevin was heard saying at the polling place. “Is this what happens for everyone who votes Bevin?”

An election fraud hotline set up by the state’s Attorney General reported receiving 205 complaints including at least six in Jefferson County. The complaints in Jefferson County ranged from “general election fraud” to electioneering to campaign violations.

This one gets filed under, “how exactly is this possible?” In Campbell County, a GOP candidate for county commissioner was turned away from the polls because it turns out that she’s actually registered as a Democrat. Although she was on the ballot as a Republican candidate, she was disqualified from because she is a Democrat. No one is sure where or how the mix-up occurred, but the candidate, Gail Otto, thinks it may have occurred when she filed for unemployment.

And Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes officially became the Democratic nominee for Senate by handedly defeating her three opponents.

All was quiet on the Western front as voters in The Beaver State once again cast their ballots by mail this primary although early numbers seem to indicate that the primary could set a 54-year record for the lowest turnout.

The secretary of state’s website, which had suffered problems earlier this year, once again fell victim to cyber gremlins on election night. At one point the site was not show results for almost half of the counties in the state’s 2nd Congressional District.

Like the five other states holding primaries this week, the big news out of the Commonwealth was low voter turnout.

That being said, there were some issues from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh, and a few places in between; and some places that have had issues in the past, saw a relatively problem-free day.

In Montgomery County, which has faced it’s fair share of election day problems in the past, all 425 polling places opened on time and there were no reports of voting-machine problems.

Westmoreland County voters in 13 precincts were forced to cast their votes on paper ballots when voting machines briefly malfunctioned. Elections Bureau Director Jim Montini told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that no voters were turned away during the roughly 30 minutes it took to fix the problems.

Redistricting reared its ugly head in Bucks County where some voters were confused when they saw unfamiliar names on their ballot. “I’ve explained it until I was blue in the face,” Judy Braunston, an Upper Southampton Democratic committee member who handed out sample ballots Tuesday told the Bucks County Courier Times. “The people I’ve talked to have no idea….”

It wouldn’t be an election day without a bomb scare somewhere and Tuesday’s “winner” was a polling place in Ford City in Armstrong County. “The threat was vague, but we still took precautionary measures,” Ford City police Sgt. John Atherton told the Tribune-Review. “No bomb was found. It is unknown if it was an act to disrupt the election.” Voting was not interrupted.

Luzerne County’s website fell victim to perhaps some of the same gremlins as the Oregon website did when county elections workers ran into a problem trying to load results onto the website about an hour after the polls closed. The problem was resolved in just under 30 minutes.

As with every election in the Commonwealth a variety of stories came out of Philadelphia including the police and District Attorney being called to one polling place and reports of very low turnout numbers in a polling place that had been moved out of a bar.

And finally, a piece of news out of the Keystone State that is sure to get avid electionline readers riled up. Early in the day, reports were trickling out on social media that a polling place in Philadelphia was without “I Voted” stickers! Fortunately a city commissioner saw the Twitter traffic and delivered stickers to the polling place…whew!

Election News This Week

III. Election News This Week

  • The National Federation of the Blind sued Maryland election officials this week, charging that their decisionnot to approve a system that would make it easier for disabled people to cast absentee ballots privately violates federal law. The state board of elections overruled the BOE staff’s recommendation to allow it to use ballot-marking technology. According to The Baltimore Sun, the lawsuit charges that the board’s decision deprives each of the opportunity to vote “privately and independently.”
  • Press releases from local elections office seeking poll workers are nothing new, but the recent call for poll workers in Cass County, North Dakota was a first for the county. “We were struggling to fill positions and had no one on our alternate lists,” DeAnn Buckhouse, election coordinator for Cass County told The Forum. Fortunately for Buckhouse the call proved successful, but she does remain worried for future elections as the process becomes more tech-heavy and poll workers become older.
  • While marijuana may not yet be legal in Alabama, just because you smoke it doesn’t mean you can’t vote. After it was discovered that some residents were improperly kept off the voter rolls in Houston Co., the secretary of state’s office sent a reminder to all county registrars that people convicted for simple marijuana possession are still eligible to vote.
  • Speaking of people convicted of crimes, some interesting news out of Kentucky where the state legislature fiercely debated the restoration of ex-felons voting rights this session before the legislation ultimately failed. In Daviess County, a work crew from the county detention center spent part of last week helping the clerk’s office load voting equipment for delivery to polling places. And, a Bluegrass Poll found that 52 percent of Kentuckians support a change that would allow ex-felons who have completed the terms of their sentence to, in most cases, regain their voting rights.
  • Personnel News: Ed Murray officially filed to run for secretary of state in Wyoming. Arizona State Sen. Michele Reagan has officially filed to run for secretary of state in The Grand Canyon State. Jane Hibbert, longtime Yarmouth, Massachusetts town clerk is retiring after 34 years in the clerk-treasurer’s office including 10 as clerk. Annette Sturdy has been hired as the new clerk of the city of St. Clair, Michigan. Ed Buchanan became the third of five expected GOP candidates to file for the Wyoming secretary of state’s seat. Scott Morgan, a publisher, has filed to run against Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach in the upcoming GOP primary. Former Kentucky Secretary of State Trey Grayson is returning to Kentucky to become the president of the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce. New St. Bernard Parish, Louisiana Registrar Connie Crumhorn was sworn into office this week.

Legislative Updates

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IV. Legislative Update

Massachusetts: Gov. Deval Patrick (D) is preparing to sign into law the recently approved package of elections reforms that include online voter registration, early voting, pre-registration for 16- and 17-year-olds and institute a post-election audit process.

New Jersey: A bill pending in the New Jersey legislature would allow soldiers and diplomats serving overseas to vote completely online. Currently, voters may request and return their mail-in ballot by fax or email.

New York: Legislation, backed by Democrats in both the Senate and Assembly, that would have combined the state and federal primaries into one date in June is being stalled by Republicans in both houses who prefer a combined August primary.

U.S. Virgin Islands: Gov. John deJongh Jr. vetoed Bill No. 30-0357 which would have allowed for early voting on the Caribbean Islands. In his veto letter deJongh said that while he supports early voting, this legislation violated V.I. code because it would have implemented an election law change within six months of an election.

Texas: The House Committee on Elections heard testimony this week about moving the Lone Star State’s voter registration system online. Legislators told KEYE that when the legislative session gets going, a bill will be brought forward.


Upcoming Events

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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 Opinions: Voter ID, II, III | Ballot design | Voting Rights Act, II, III | Access to voting | U.S. voting system | Online voting | Early voting

Arkansas: Election procedures

District of Columbia: D.C.BOE

Florida: Independent elections office

Idaho: Closed primaries

Illinois: Voter turnout

Iowa: Matt Schulz

Kansas: Kris Kobach

Kentucky: Voter turnout

Massachusetts: Election reform legislation, II

Montana: Missoula County

New Jersey: Felon voting rights, II, III

North Carolina: Absentee ballots

Pennsylvania: Voter ID | Open primaries | Voter turnout

Tennessee: Voter ID, II

Texas: VoteRiders

Wisconsin: Voter ID, II | Early voting

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.

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.

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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