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July 17, 2014

July 17, 2014

In Focus This Week

I. In Focus This Week

County elections official in ‘uncharted territory’ with Calif. recount
While elections workers count others debate changes to recount law

By M. Mindy Moretti

For elections officials in California, during a busy election year, July is often the time for well-deserved vacations, elections office housekeeping and a time for general administrative work and slow ramp-up to November.

But this year, elections officials in 15 of the state’s 58 counties are either busy hand-counting ballots or preparing for their turn to count.

On July 6, Democrat John Perez, who came in third behind Democrat Betty Yee in the race for state controller sent a letter to California Secretary of State Debra Bowen requesting a recount.

Under California law, any voter may request a recount if they pay for it. Perez, who lost to Yee by 481 votes, requested that 15 counties manually recount dozens, if not all of their precincts.

“Never in California history has the vote difference between two candidates for statewide office been so narrow, 481 votes or 1/100th of one percent, out of more than four million ballots cast,” Perez said in a statement at the time of his request. “It is therefore of the utmost importance that an additional, carefully conducted review of the ballots be undertaken to ensure that every vote is counted, as intended.”

The recount will focus on precinct-cast ballots from the June 3 primary, but Perez is also seeking to review all “voted ballots that were not included in the official canvas, including unopened rejected vote-by-mail (“VBM”) ballots and provisional ballots…”

Perez has requested that the counties count in the order he outlined in his letter beginning with Kern and Imperial counties.

For elections officials, particularly in Kern and Imperial, it has meant calling staff back from vacations, bringing on additional staff and shifting focus.

“Since we were the first county on the recount list, we immediately began the planning process to identify what resources we would need so that we could begin the recount as soon as possible,” said Mary Bedard, Kern County auditor-controller-county clerk.

Bedard said her office consulted with the secretary of state’s off and county counsel prior to beginning the recount. The office also put together four recount boards and a staging crew to pull the ballots by precinct as required. In addition, reports, seals, challenge envelopes and other supplies were created to support the process.

While all of the counties involved in the recount have begun the initial preparation process, some further down the list are taking a wait-and-see approach to bringing on additional staff and resources.

“At this juncture, we have not hired any additional staff. Once the process commences, we will bring in experienced temporary staff to train and prepare for the recount,” said Mark Church, assessor-county clerk-recorder & chief elections officer for San Mateo County, number five on Perez’s list. “The process for our county will commence once the other four counties identified before us have completed their recounts.”

Even though, according to the secretary of state’s office, the June 3 primary was the lowest voter turnout for any statewide election in California — 25.2 percent — counties are faced with a task, most have never seen before on this scale.

“My [initial] response [to the recount] was a mixture of curiosity and apprehension at being involved in the first modern era, statewide recount in California,” said John Tuteur, Napa County registrar of voters, number 12 on the recount list. “Given the excellent guidance provided by the secretary of state team and the mutual cooperation between the 15 county election officials participating in the recount process, my apprehension is lessening and the curiosity growing.”

Dollars and cents
The California recount law requires the requestor to pay for all costs associated with the recount. What those costs may be varies from county to county.

“There is no standardization to how a county figures out its cost for the recount,” said Kim Alexander, president and founder of the California Voter Foundation (CalVote). “That’s a level of unevenness that makes me nervous.”

For instance in Riverside County, number nine on the recount list, Registrar of Voters Rebecca Spencer said her office will charge for all costs associated with the recount and on day one of the recount — whenever their day one comes — the county will charge for all the preparation work in addition to the recount boards and supervisor required to complete day one. They will then request a deposit at the beginning of each subsequent day.

Riverside already has 20 temporary staff pulling ballots from the requested precincts and another 20 on standby fro when the recount begins.

In Tulare County, Rita Woodward, auditor-controller, treasurer-tax collector, registrar of voters, said the county will not do any actual work on the recount until the requestor pays their estimated costs.

“I want our estimated cost up front, to get all our costs incurred,” Woodward said. “Counsel is checking to see if we must accept a daily payment. We have found that historically a loser does not want to pay election bills, so I do not want to wait until they are done – what if there is no change is the results?  And once we are done with the manual count, there is still the cost of putting everything back in storage.”

Some elections officials have said that while the requestor certainly will be footing the bill for the bulk of the recount, there are some costs that the county will have to absorb.

“We anticipate absorbing a small amount of administrative time and resources before, during, and after the recount,” Church of San Mateo County said. “These costs in turn will not be reimbursed by the requestor.  We expect to have the majority of our expenses to be paid by the requestor.”  

Changes to come?
Needless to say, calls to review/change California’s recount laws began before even the first ballot was counted — again.

“This whole episode has raised a lot of questions about the need for it to be reformed,” Alexander with CalVote said.

According to the Sacramento Bee, Assemblyman Kevin Mullin (D-San Mateo) plans to introduce legislation when the General Assembly is back in session next month to overhaul the state’s recount laws.

Cathy Darling Allen, Shasta County clerk/registrar of voters and outgoing president of the California Association of Clerks and Elections Officials (CACEO) said although her county is not involved in the recount she is monitoring the situation—a process she referred to as “not ready for prime time” and is especially keeping track of the discussions about legislative changes.

“CACEO had a standing Elections Legislative Committee with existing relationships with both the Assembly and state Senate election committees staffers, and of course with many legislators as well,” Allen said. “We will be able to evaluate proposed legislation with this very recent recount experience in mind.”

Alexander noted that California already has strong election verification laws, but she is hoping to see changes to the process. Codifying more of the procedures so that all the counties are on the same page and doing things the same way.

Darling agreed and noted that while counties and the secretary of state’s office talk to each other on a semi regular basis to help ensure uniformity, there could still be room for improvement legislatively.

“There’s been good communication so far – but nothing we can do will change the strangeness and unwieldiness of this process,” Darling said.

Primary Roundup

II. Primary Roundup

Voters in Alabama went back to the polls this week to complete the runoff portion of their 2014 primary election and the two biggest stories had to be the cost of the election — about $3 million — and guns in polling places.

As expected, there were several incidents with voters attempting to vote while openly carrying a gun. In Pelham, despite a sign posted at the polling site prohibiting guns, voter Robert Kennedy entered the building and cast his ballot without incident Kennedy had been turned away from the polling place in June. In Alabaster, voter John David Murphy voluntarily removed his gun before casting his ballot at the Methodist Church.

Like the original primary and the primaries in so many other states, low turnout was also a topic of the day, although officials in Anniston said the turnout was not as low as expected.

The only technical glitches that seemed to happen occurred in Conecuh County where voters in as many as 26 of the county’s precinct faced delays when the voting machines failed to accept ballots.

In Morgan County, a voter claimed they arrived at their polling place 10 minutes before the polls closed and they were denied the right to vote because clocks on the voting machines were running about 10 minutes fast and therefore indicated that the polls should be closed.

Officials in Calhoun County are reviewing absentee ballots and requests because the number — 364 requests and 205 returned — was unusually high for a primary runoff election.

And John Merrill defeated Reese McKinney in the runoff for the GOP nomination for secretary of state. Merrill was first elected to the state house in 2010 and prior to that worked in a number of private-sector jobs. Merrill will face Democrat Lula Albert-Kaigler in November.

Election News This Week

III. Election News This Week

  • In an interview with ABC News, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said the Department of Justice plans to challenge voting restrictions — voter ID and early voting limitations — in Wisconsin and Ohio. In an un-aired interview, Holder say DOJ plans to soon file in cases that are already in existence in both states.
  • This week, the North Carolina State Board of Elections and the Wake County BOE rejected a request by the Voter Integrity Project to stage a photo shoot inside a polling place that would have had “a number of masked people lined up attempting to vote as unidentified voters.” According to WRAL, the Voter Integrity Project is a group that lobbies for stricter photo ID laws in the state. The initial request incited an email war-of-words between elections officials and the group’s president.
  • Officials in Iowa are considering whether or not the state should move to a primary runoff system. Currently, if a winning candidate does not receive at least 35 percent of the vote, party delegates choose a candidate at a convention. Although a bill to move to a primary runoff system failed last year, the conversations continue. “I didn’t like the idea of having just a very few people make the final decision and end up with a situation where they picked somebody who wasn’t even close,” Rep. Guy Vander Linden, who is chairman of the House State Government Committee told Radio Iowa. One of the sticking points though is that a statewide runoff could cost counties up to $500,000.
  • Based on preliminary turnout numbers, the District of Columbia will end up spending about $200 per vote for a school board special election it held this week. The D.C. Board of Elections had requested that the Council allow them to conduct the election by mail, but the Council failed to act. Turnout was about 2.6 percent.
  • The Washington Post has an interesting article on what happens when elections end in a tie. The paper reviewed state laws and found that 35 states allow tied elections to be decided by a coin toss or other means of chance. The paper found that most states are vague in how the lots are cast, but some like Idaho (coin toss), Oklahoma (pulling names from a container) and North Carolina (drawing of lots or a do-over, depending on turnout) are specific.
  • Personnel News: State Sen. Will Kraus (R) announced his intentions to run for Missouri secretary of state in 2016. Rosalind Watson, Kershaw County, South Carolina director of voter registration has retired after nine years on the job. Lake County, Florida Supervisor of Elections Emogene Stegall was recently honored by the county for her years of service. She joined the supervisors’ office in 1958 and became supervisor in 1972. Kay Basler, St. Genevieve County, Missouri clerk recently announced that she will be forced to retire before her term is up on December 31 due to health reasons. Late last week, New York City Board of Elections President Gregory Soumas quit in advance of a possible ouster by the city council. John Frankee, a former Milwaukee judge has been appointed by Gov. Scott Walker (R) to serve on the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board. Lynda Roberts will be the new Marin County, California registrar of voters when current registrar Elaine Ginnold retires later this month. Montgomery County, Pennsylvania Voter Services Assistant Director Patricia Allen and Voter Registration Supervisor Rhonda King were fired this week when their positions were eliminated through an office reorganization. Eugene Wilbur, chair of the Lexington County, South Carolina election commission resigned in protest this week when the county council refused to give the election commission the space it said it needed to properly conduct the November election.
  • In Memoriam: Barbara Ramus Major, longtime New London, Connecticut Republican registrar of voters has died. Major served as the registrar for almost 20 years. “There is no one in New London who typified Whaler Pride more than Barbara Major,” Democratic Registrar of Voters William Giesing told The Day. “She put her heart into New London, and this city is a better place for it.” Giesing, who worked alongside Major for about nine years, said Major excelled at making contacts and organizing to make sure Election Day went off without a hitch. “So many elections went off very smoothly because of Barbara,” he told the paper.

Tech Thursday

IV. Tech Thursday

Michigan: Detroit is the first city in Michigan to allow registered voters to apply for an absentee ballot via a smartphone app. According to the Detroit Free Press, City Clerk Janice Winfrey worked with the Michigan Democratic Party to create the app in an effort to reach out voters aged 18-35.

Winfrey told the paper she had no issue partnering with Democrats to establish the app and noted that she would have worked with any party willing to help put in the work. “What matters is that voters have the information available on their smart phones,” Winfrey told the paper.

Registered voters provide their name and address and, through touch screens, their signatures. Elections workers verify the information and make sure signatures match those already on file, she said.

“It’s very much like those that are hand delivered or faxed,” Winfrey told the paper. If signatures don’t match, applicants will be mailed a letter telling them as much.


V. Opinion

National Opinions: Student voting, II | Voter fraud

Alabama: Voting rights

Arizona: Early voting

California: Recount, II, III | Debra Bowen | Vote-by-mail

Colorado: Boulder County

District of Columbia: Special election

Georgia: Guns in polling places

Guam: Election process

Illinois: Voter fraud

Indiana: Prisoner voting

Kansas: Suspended registrations | Voter registration, II

Minnesota: Voter registration | Voter fraud

Mississippi: Runoff election

Nevada: Voter turnout

North Carolina: Voter laws, II, III, IV, V | Teen voters | Instant-runoff voting

Ohio: Voting laws

South Carolina: Voter ID

Tennessee: Early voting | Election administrator

Texas: Travis County | Vote centers

Wisconsin: Voter ID | League of Women Voters | Polling places

Wyoming: Voting rights

Upcoming Events

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VI. Upcoming Events

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

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

National Voter Registration Day — The 3rd annual National Voter Registration Day is scheduled for September 23. In its first two years, more than 1,000 groups and 10,000 volunteers registered over 360,000 people to vote. When: September 23. For more information, click here.

National Student/Parent Mock Election — Now in it’s 34th year, the National Student/Parent Mock Election invites you to join the world’s largest national mock election and nation’s larges civic education project. Since 1980, students have learned what it means to be informed voters, casting votes for Presidential, U.S. Congressional and gubernatorial candidates. What’s more, students continue to demonstrate the value of civic engagement – from organizing their own debates and campaign activities to holding student rallies. When: October 30, 2014. For more information and to register, please click here.


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.

Elections Assistant, Ramsey County, Minnesota — postingis for a temporary, seasonal positions required to administer the 2014 state elections in Ramsey County. These positions will be filled for up to six months, depending on the needs of the elections office. Reappointment for future election years is possible. Typical duties include: processing high volume, time sensitive election materials with a high level of accuracy; preparing election equipment and supplies for shipment to and from polling places; explaining election procedures to voters in-person, on the phone and by email; entry of voter registration and absentee applications into databases; and preparing absentee ballot materials for mail and in-person voting. Qualifications: Successful applicants will be enrolled in or recent graduates from an academic program leading to a bachelor’s degree in political science, government, public administration, planning, computer science and engineering, business administration or related fields. Experience in a paid or volunteer capacity in an election-related activity is highly desirable. Hands-on experience with Microsoft Office applications is also desirable. Deadline: August 1. Applications: For the complete listing and to apply, click here.

Legal Mobilization Assistant Coordinator, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Washington, DC – The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law (“Lawyers’ Committee”) is seeking a bright, creative, qualified organizer to serve as an Assistant Coordinator for our Legal Mobilization Project (“LMP”). LMP works across and with all Lawyers’ Committee subject matter projects. The LMP staff attorneys and organizers utilize pro bono, technology, litigation, public policy advocacy, online communications, public education, non-litigation assistance and management tools to address civil rights challenges. At the core of LMP is the recognition that a comprehensive multi-dimensional approach can be incredibly effective in enforcing civil rights today. While the Legal Mobilization Project supports various initiatives and projects, the Assistant Coordinator will primarily work with the Voting Rights Project.The LMP Assistant Coordinator will provide logistical and organizing support to the Voting Rights Project team members as they organize Election Protection—the nation’s largest, non-partisan voter protection program—hearings for the National Commission on Voting Rights hearings and trainings for state and local partners. Salary: Competitive with fringe benefits package, included employer-funded health insurance. Deadline: July 25. Application: Please fill out the application form, which includes the full job description here.

Program Associates, The Democracy Fund, Washington, D.C.— Democracy Fund seeks to hire two Program Associates, each of whom will be focused on supporting one of our three initiatives and providing assistance to the other two. The three initiatives aim to create a more responsive political system, foster more informed participation, and improve the capacity of our political system to solve problems. We are looking for candidates who are passionate about making our political system work better and have significant experience working in at least one of the fields that we are engaged in, including election administration, campaign finance reform, civic and media innovation, or reducing political dysfunction. Strong candidates will be excellent writers, have strong research skills, work well with others, and have a proven track record of being able to get things done in a complex professional environment. As a bipartisan organization, we welcome applications from Republicans, Democrats, and Independents – a willingness to work across the aisle is essential. A major area of responsibility for each Program Associate will be to support our Program Directors in sourcing and evaluating grant opportunities, as well as working with our portfolio of grantee organizations to help them succeed. Additionally, Program Associates will work with the Democracy Fund team to design and implement strategies to more directly advance our goals through research, convening, and advocacy. Application: For the complete listing and to apply, click here.

Research Associate, Pew Election Initiatives, Washington, D.C. — associate’s primary responsibilities involve supporting the activities and goals of the Pew’s Elections Performance Index project. The Elections Performance Index provides election officials, policy makers and citizens the data and tools they need to assess the state of election administration in America and identify specific improvements that can be made in the way elections are conducted. At its core, the Elections Performance Index provides an empirical assessment of how well the nation’s democracy is working. This position will be an integral part of this project by overseeing its data and spearheading communication with states and counties. The associate will ensure the project meets internal and external deadlines by conducting and overseeing the data work necessary to construct the index and ensure the highest quality of reporting available. Along with this work, this individual will be required to coordinate and sustain our inquiries and relationships in the states with regards to this project. Responsibilities will include data validation, cleaning and coding; managing consultants; maintaining internal and external communications; and writing for reports, memos, policy briefs, 50-state scans and other research products that are highly relevant to policy deliberations.  Additionally the elections team is exploring creating similar indices within several states. The associate will be part of the team that helps develop and manage all elements of this work and must be able to think creatively about how to collect, use, and report elections information from state and local officials.  The associate may also undertake special projects aimed at improving the research portfolio of Election Initiatives and other projects in Pew’s elections portfolio as their workload permits. Deadline: Position open until filled. Application: For the complete job posting and how to apply, click here.

Voter Registration Division Director, Travis County, Texas — Responsible fordirecting, administering, managing, and coordinating all activities of the Voter Registration Division. Oversees division programs and functions including, but not limited to, administration of the voter registration and elections database system, geographic information and redistricting assignment system, State TEAM system, Voter web pages and content, public information requests and data release, imaging system, hardware platforms, and over 3200 member volunteer registrar program. Serves as the official Voter Registrar and subject matter expert in responding to public information requests and signing legal documents, attending legal proceedings and meetings, certifying election lists and data, and interpreting Federal, State, and local election law for 600,000+ registered voters, over 247 precincts, and over 230 election jurisdictions. Establishes and enforces plans to safeguard and ensure security of official voter documents and data, hardware and software systems, and the safety of staff and the general public Plans, organizes, implements, continuously evaluates division programs, and develops policies and procedures. Consistently seeks efficient methods for improvements to the Division by developing strategic planning activities and attending professional associations meetings and seminars. Qualifications: Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration, Business Management, Public Administration, Government, Communications, Public Relations or a directly related field and five years of increasingly responsible program development division level experience, including four years of mid- to senior level management experience. Master’s degree strongly preferred. CERA designation strongly preferred. Salary: $85,925 – $96,820. Deadline: July 31, 2014. Application: Submit the application, a cover letter, resume and current organization chart here.

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