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October 2, 2014

October 2, 2014

In Focus This Week

I. In Focus This Week

With clear eyes and full hearts voters in Iowa can’t lose
High school football games among sites for early voting in Johnson Co.

By M. Mindy Moretti

On a lovely fall evening, with just a wisp of the waxing crescent moon hanging overhead, residents of Tiffin, Iowa did what so many people do on Friday nights in fall.

They gathered at Clear Creek Amana High School to watch the hometown Clippers take on the Chiefs from Keokuk under the lights of Friday night.

However, what made this Friday night different than so many others was that residents could combine their love of football with their civic duty.

For only the second election cycle, the Johnson County Auditor’s Office is taking the ballot box to the voters with its mobile voting unit.

Beginning last week, the mobile vote unit is spending Friday nights at six county football games giving the county’s voters an opportunity vote early and enjoy the gridiron.

“It comes down to voter outreach,” said Travis Weipert, Johnson County auditor. “As we continue to be a society on-the-go we decided to bring voting to the people. Here in Iowa, everyone loves their Friday night football.” 

This isn’t the first time the VoteMobile has been used during sporting events.

Last year during a bond vote the votemobile made its debut when auditor’s office set it up at a high school basketball. The response was overwhelmingly positive thus leading Weipert and his staff to make the move to football for the 2014 mid-term elections.

When the trailer isn’t being used for voting or voter registration it is used for rural health initiatives. The Rural Health Safety Clinic of Greater Johnson County purchased the 36-foot long trailer in 2013 for public outreach.

After learning about Marshall County’s use of a mobile voter unit during the 2012 election, Weipert got in touch with the health department to see if they could work together. He noted that because the trailer is used for multiple county functions, the cost to his office for use of the trailer is relatively minimal.

Staff of the trailer varies from location to location, but at most voting sites about five staff members work the trailer.

Turnout at a Friday night football game can range from the mid-hundreds to more than a thousand spectators. Weipert doesn’t have an exact number of voters who cast their ballots during the football game but he did add that the votemobile always has a lot of voters no matter where/when it shows up.

According to Weipert, the feedback from the mobile voting unit has been nothing but positive. Although he can’t pinpoint any, he said the only complaints he might hear would be about wasting taxpayer money on early voting.

The auditor’s office does have to get permission to bring the VoteMobile to school events, but Weipert said that has not been a problem.

“The schools are so excited to have us they pretty much offer any location where we think voters will turnout,” Weipert said.  

And the vote mobile doesn’t just limit its visits to public high schools. This week, the votemobile will be there when Regina High School — the only Catholic K-12 education center in Iowa City — takes on Columbus.

Oh and for those wondering, Clear Creek-Amana beat Keokuk 52-7 keeping Clear Creek-Amana perfect at home.

Editor’s Note: If you’ve got a new/unique way to reach out to voters either for registration or to cast a ballot, we’d love to hear about it. Let us know at mmoretti@electionline.org.


Election News This Week

II. Election News This Week

  • An analysis by the Orlando Sentinel shows how early voting has changed in The Sunshine State since the 2010 midterm elections and since sweep election-reform legislation was approved in 2013. According to the paper, 49 of the state’s 67 counties reduced the number of days they offered early voting during the August primary. The average reduction was 2.6 days. In addition 46 counties cut the overall number of hours that early voting was offered. Despite the cuts, the paper notes that the early voting changes have appeared to have no effect on overall turnout. “I was kind of surprised,” Daniel Smith, a University of Florida political scientist who analyzed the turnout data told the paper. “There’s no pattern emerging in terms of the flexibility the supervisors have.”
  • San Bernardino County supervisors had to hold a special meeting last week to approve a purchase order for ballots after the county dropped its contract with Runbeck Election Services when the company failed to get new equipment certified by the secretary of state’s office. The late move to a new printing company should not affect the printing of the November ballots.
  • More than 5,000 mail-in ballots in Galveston County will have to be reprinted, voting machines will need to be reprogrammed and 600 ballots already cast will be voided because the ballots failed to identify a county judge candidate as an independent.
  • The Wisconsin Government Accountability Board asked the Legislature for almost half a million dollars to create a statewide voter education campaign on the new voter ID law. The campaign — revived from one used in 2012 — will include TV, radio and online advertising.
  • The U.S. Justice Department has published a new technical assistance publication about federal laws that protect the rights of voters with disabilities. The Americans with Disabilities Act & Other Federal Laws Protecting the Rights of Voters with Disabilities provides guidance about how federal disability rights laws apply to the elections process.
  • A water main break in an elections office is never a good thing, but with little more than a month to go till the November elections, that’s what workers in the Macon-Bibb County, Georgia board of elections were faced with. No registration records or equipment were damaged but with voter registration closing on October 6, the break certainly didn’t come at a good time. Charlene Maynard, the office’s elections secretary put a good spin on the situation though. “The carpet does look a lot cleaner,” she told The Telegraph.
  • Personnel News: U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced that he will step down as soon as a replacement is appointed. Lisa Goodwin, the Bangor, Maine city clerk was awarded the Lorraine M. Fleury Award at the Maine State Election Administration Conference. Rokey W. Suleman is the new Interim General Registrar for Prince William County, Virginia. Suleman is replacing Doug Geib who is moving to Texas to become the director of voter registration for Travis County. Wilma Marsh-Monsanto has been suspended from the St. Thomas-St. John board of elections for willfully delaying the certification of the primary election.

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.

California’s Uncounted Vote-By-Mail Ballots: Identifying Variation in County Processing – UC Davis Center for Regional Change, September 2014: A new analysis of the 2012 general election in California found more than 50 percent of all ballots cast were cast by mail. Of the approximately 6.7 million mail ballots cast about 69,000, or 1 percent, were rejected. Nearly 48 percent of those rejected were received too late by county officials. In the June 2014 primary, the rejection rate was higher at 2.9 percent.

Additionally the study found that more than one quarter of mail ballots in the 2012 general election were not actually restored by mail. 27 percent were returned either at a polling place or election offices.

Observations on Wait Times for Voters on Election Day 2012 – United States Government Accountability Office, September 2014: The Government Accountability Office (GAO) estimates that 78 percent of jurisdictions did not have wait times officials considered too long in 2012 while 22 percent did. The report notes that officials have different ideas of what waiting too long is, with some saying more than 10 minutes while others said more than 30 minutes. Additionally, the GAO observed most jurisdictions do not collect data that would help calculate wait times.

Legal Update

IV. Legal Update

Alaska: Alaskan elections officials are now free to print their ballots after the plaintiff in a lawsuit challenging the merged campaigns of two candidates said he will not appeal a judge’s ruling that said the ticket was valid. On Wednesday, the three-judge panel ruled that the Democratic Party does not have to supply a name to appear on the ballot.

Arkansas: At press time, lawyers for and against Arkansas’ voter ID law were arguing before the state’s high court. A judge in Pulaski County ruled the law violated the state’s constitution, but he suspended his ruling while it is being appealed.

Kansas: The Case of the Democrat on the Ballot took another twist this week when the plaintiff in the most recent case failed to show up in court for a Monday hearing. An attorney for the plaintiff said that he had grown tired of the high-profile legal fight. Attorneys for the Democrats asked that the case be dismissed. Secretary of State Kris Kobach asked the court to make a decision by 2pm on Wednesday so counties could begin printing ballots. On Wednesday, a three-judge panel released a 21-page ruling saying that the Democratic Party does not have to supply a name for the Senate race.

In conclusion to the ruling, the court wrote: “…when a candidate vacancy occurs after a primary, it is the judgment of the political party as to whether to challenge, or not, for the office by assessing both candidate availability and viability, and as well, its own party’s best interests.

Kobach told KSNT that “I think it’s an incorrect decision and the Attorney General of the state agrees, but it is what it is.”

Montana: This week the Ravalli County commission voted not to take a specific position on a lawsuit brought against Secretary of State Linda McCulloch and the county’s election administrator by the state’s GOP over Montana’s open primary system. Also this week, four more county Republican parties signed onto the lawsuit.

New Jersey: Cape May County has asked a judge to determine who will pay for an upcoming December special election on whether to dissolve the Lower Cape May Regional School District. The county clerk said the county will not pay, but the town of Cape May has appealed to the county counsel who is subsequently asking a judge to decide.

North Carolina: Late last week, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments for and against the implementation of new voting laws in North Carolina, including ending same-day registration, a reduction in early voting and eliminating the counting of ballots cast outside of a person’s home precinct. On Wednesday, the court granted a preliminary injunction against the same-day registration provision and the ballot counting provision. In a 2-1 ruling the court ruled that a lower court judge “got the law plainly wrong in several crucial respects.”

Ohio: Over the weekend advocacy groups and state officials filed briefs with the U.S. Supreme Court arguing whether or not early voting should begin this week or next. On Saturday plaintiffs filed a 54-page brief arguing that early voting should commence on September 30 to avoid problems at the polls on November 4. On Sunday morning, the state filed a final brief replying to the plaintiffs’ brief. Just after 4 p.m., the day before early voting was set to start, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 to delay the start of early voting until October 7 as well eliminate voting on the Sunday before the election.

Tennessee: On Tuesday, the Wise County Democratic Party filed suit against the county election administrator and elections commission arguing that the election commission improperly appointed Jim Parker to replace Lannie Noble as elections administrator.

West Virginia: Although not gaining as much attention as Kansas’ ballot case, a similar case in West Virginia has moved to the state’s highest court. In August, Republican Delegate Suzette Raines withdrew from the race and the state election commission ruled that Raines could not be replaced on the ballot because, according to The Charleston Gazette, the problems Raines cited for stepping down did not qualify as “extenuating circumstances.” Republicans are attempting to get a name on the ballot, but military and overseas ballots with a blank spot have already been sent and Democrats are arguing that the Republicans intentionally delayed appealing to the Election Commission to put someone on the ballot. On Wednesday, the West Virginia Supreme Court ruled 5-0 to allow the GOP to select a candidate to place on the ballot. Affected areas will now have to reprint thousands of ballots.

Wisconsin: In an evenly split decision, the 7th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals turned down pleas for a hearing by the full court over the state’s voter photo ID law. No opinions were issued, but the according to The Washington Post, the order says: “In the coming days, members of the court may file opinions explaining their votes.” It is still possible for the case to go before the U.S. Supreme Court before the November election.


Legislative Update

V. Legislative Update

California: Gov. Jerry Brown signed a package of bills, aimed at encouraging voting, into law last week. Among the eight bills was legislation allowing 16-year-olds to pre-register to vote and changing the deadline for the arrival of absentee ballots.

Also among the bills was Assembly Bill 1873 which will allow San Diego County to offer mail ballots to all voters for special elections and limit the number of polling places used.

Another bill signed into law by Brown was SB 1523 which will change the way the state conducts the initiative process. Under the new law, there will be a month-long review process in which backers can make changes, a process for legislators and initiative proponents to craft compromise legislation and a new online list of top initiative donors.

Brown did not, however, sign all election-reform legislation into law. He chose to veto SB 1365 that would have expanded the California Voting Rights Act to allow claims of racial discrimination in the configuration of election districts.

Utah: Rep. Jon Cox (R-Ephraim) said that he is working on legislation that will allow 16 and 17-year-olds to preregister to vote as part of an enhanced focus on civic education.

Tech Thursday

VI. Tech Thursday

National News: This week the U.S. and Overseas Vote Foundation, Verified Voting, Rock the Vote and Common Cause released a new widget to help military, overseas and college voters, as well as anyone who may need to, vote absentee. The Can I Vote Absentee widget, which can easily be added to any website allows voters to enter their state and then are instantly provided with all they need to know about voting absentee in that state.

Alaska: Stephen Mell, an Alaska resident attending his first year of college in Missouri has created an app called vote-ak.us to make it easier for college students and others to get absentee ballots. Mell admitted that he was completely clueless about how to address an envelope and that was part of the inspiration behind the app. His system is very similar to the state’s app, except that through Mell’s app the voter can sign their request on their smartphone, no need for a printer, envelope or stamp.

Kentucky: Secretary of State Allison Lundergan Grimes announced that to-date about 400 residents have used the state’s new online absentee ballot system designed for military and overseas voters.


VII. Opinions

National Opinions: Voter registration | Eric Holder, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII | Voter registration | Early voting, II, III, IV

Arizona: Secretary of state race

California: Secretary of state race, II

Colorado: Secretary of state race

Florida: Provisional ballots | Background checks | Lines

Georgia: Voter fraud, II

Indiana: Secretary of state race

Mississippi: Delbert Hosemann

Montana: Election-day registration

New York: Election agency jobs

North Carolina: Voting law changes | Durham County

Ohio: Early voting, II, III, IV

Oklahoma: Turnout

Oregon: Top-two primary

Texas: Voter ID, II | Voter registration | Voter fraud

Utah: Voter participation

Virginia: Voter ID

West Virginia: Ballot ruling

Wisconsin: Voter ID, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII, IX, X

Upcoming Events

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VIII. Upcoming Events

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

EVOTE2014: Verifying the Vote — The Competence Center for Electronic Voting and Participation is hosting a 6th annual conference on electronic voting. This conference is one of the leading international events for e-voting experts from all over the world. One of its major objectives is provide a forum for interdisciplinary and open discussion of all issues relating to electronic voting. The format of the conference is a three-day meeting that deals with the topics from a both a theoretical perspective and a practical one. Practical papers should use case studies. No parallel sessions will be held, and sufficient space will be given for informal communication. Where: Lochau/Bregenz, Austria. When: October 29-31, 2014. 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.

National Conference of State Legislatures Forum— Mark your calendars now for NCSL’s fall forum. More information will be available in September, but make sure to get this in ink on your calendar now. Where: Washington, D.C. When: December 9-12.

Job Openings

 IX. 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.

Project Coordinator, Future of California Elections, Los Angeles — the Future of California Elections (FoCE) seeks a temporary full-time Project Coordinator to serve as a California-based staff person responsible for administration and program support of all the activities of the Future of California collaboration, a coalition of election officials, civil rights organizations and reform advocates dedicated to an open, transparent and well-functioning system of democracy in California. The position is based in Los Angeles from November 2014 through April 2015. Responsibilities include: Assist with aspects of website, manage social media outlets, assist with tracking press mentions, manage public outreach for 2015 conference, assist with monitoring developments in California/nationwide, assist with research, manage logistics for 2015 conference, and assist with legislative tracking. Qualifications: Bachelor’s degree; experience in web design and social media management; demonstrated ability to work with spreadsheets and budgets with a high degree of accuracy; strong analytical, oral and written communication skills, including proofreading and editing; excellent project management skills, including the ability to create and maintain files and recording systems accurately; demonstrated proficiency in computer technology including applications for project and data management and electronic calendars (Excel, Microsoft Word, PowerPoint and Outlook); experience in conference planning and support preferred; ability to take initiative and work independently, with little supervision; and able to conduct oneself in a highly professional manner; and demonstrated appreciation for the diversity of California’s population. Application: Please send cover letter, resume and salary requirements to Deputy Director Astrid Garcia at astrid@FutureofCAElections.org. For the complete job listing, click here.

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