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July 18, 2019

July 18, 2019

In Focus This Week

Defending Elections
New report from Brennan highlights state funding needs for election security

By Edgardo Cortes, election security advisor
Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law

State and local election officials are on the front lines of our elections, defending them and our votes, on a year-round basis. To do their job today, in the face of ever-evolving threats and bad actors, election officials need more resources to further strengthen our election infrastructure against attack.

“While every state administers elections in its own unique way, the common denominator among election officials is the need for additional election security funding,” said James Tatum, the Bullock County, AL, probate judge and chief local election official, when we spoke with him earlier this week.

That is the theme of Defending Elections: Federal Funding Needs for State Election Security, the new report we coauthored with the Alliance for Securing Democracy, Pitt Cyber, and R Street.

Defending Elections focuses on six states that represent the broad range of election security challenges faced by officials across the country. Our case studies of Alabama, Arizona, Illinois, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Pennsylvania provide much needed insight into how state and local election officials will use additional federal funding to help secure our elections.

“Congress took an important step last year by providing funding, but it wasn’t nearly enough to tackle the full range of threats that officials confront on a daily basis,” said Liz Howard, counsel in the Brennan Center’s Democracy Program and former deputy commissioner of elections for the Virginia Department of Elections.

The report offers two key findings:

  • Election officials across the country are investing their portion of the $380 in 2018 HAVA election security grant funds wisely in important election security projects. In fact, the EAC estimates that 85% of these funds will be used prior to the 2020 election.
  • There is more work to do. Election officials across the country face unfunded election security needs. Our report identifies four main categories of unfunded election security projects: 1) voter registration database upgrades/replacement, 2) new voting equipment, 3) audits and 4) cybersecurity support programs.

Although DHS and FBI officials may have recently indicated that they were not under-resourced at the federal level, Defending Elections shows that this is not the case at the state and local level.  Further, rural counties may be more likely to be negatively impacted without additional federal funding for election security.

With 474 days to go until the presidential election, Congress needs to act quickly to ensure election officials have the resources necessary to do their jobs and protect our elections from threats of foreign interference. You can read the full report here.

(Edgardo Cortes is an elections security advisor for the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law. Before that Cortes served as Virginia’s first election commissioner. He has also served as the Chairman of the Board for the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC) and Chairman of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission Standards Board. Cortés was a charter member of the Election Infrastructure Government Coordinating Council established by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.)


Election Security Updates

This week, the Senate has finally approved at least one piece of election security legislation. On Wednesday night, the Senate approved the Defending the Integrity of Voting Systems Act by unanimous consent. If signed into law, the bill allows the Justice Department to pursue federal charges against anyone who hacks voting systems used in federal elections under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-Rhode Island), Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut.) and Lindsey Graham (R- South Carolina) introduced the legislation earlier this year. 

“Our legislation to protect voting machines will better equip the Department of Justice to fight back against hackers that intend to interfere with our election,” Blumenthal said when the bill was introduced according to The Hill.

Also this week, Principal National Intelligence Deputy Director Sue Gordon, who serves as deputy to Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats spoke to CBS News about the state of election security.

“This is a world where the threats are to and through information,” she told the news agency, “So, both our opportunities and our challenges, I think, are related to that.”

Gordon said foreign adversaries’ efforts to interfere with the country’s election security potentially pose a near-existential threat.

“I can think of no greater threat to America than actions that would make us not believe in ourselves,” she said. “That is, national interests of our adversaries using information in order to sow seeds of division … or make people believe their votes don’t count, or position tools in our infrastructure” to otherwise affect the integrity of voting processes.

2019 Election Updates

New York: There’s still no word on which two contestants will appear on the November ballot for mayor in the town of Watertown. The town, which conducts its own elections, has no rules in place for when there is a tie and in the June election, there was a tie for second place—the top two finishers advance to November. Shortly after the tie was determined, the city’s top lawyer said all three candidates should be placed on the November ballot. This week, the city council voted on a resolution that all three candidates should advance. However Jefferson County Republican election commissioner Jude R. Seymour said he will only certify two candidates for the November election and will await on a judicial ruling before moving forward. On Tuesday, Watertown resident set the legal ball in motion by filing suit seeking to have all three candidates placed on the ballot.

Also in New York, the recount in the Queens district attorney race got underway this week.

Washington: Thanks to a local blog, elections officials in Walla Walla County were alerted to a missing issue on the August 6 ballot in time to update the ballot before going to print.

Election News This Week

Research by Clemson University economic historian Jhacova Williams shows black Southerners who live in counties where more lynchings occurred in the past are less likely to register to vote today. They are also less likely to indicate they voted in recent presidential elections compared with their white counterparts. “It’s not due to education levels or low earnings or incarceration rates or voter apathy because of Republican Party dominance in these Southern states,” Williams told the Post & Courier, citing factors commonly used to explain lower voter participation rates among African Americans in the South. “This is about trust,” she told the paper. In her research, “Historical Lynchings and the Contemporary Voting Behavior of Blacks,” found that for every additional lynching reported per 10,000 people in the black voting-age population in 1900, the voter registration rate of blacks today decreases by 1 percent. (Photo from the National Memorial for Peace and Justice).

Miami-Dade County, Florida State’s Attorney’s Office is developing a plan in collaboration with several other local agencies to help identify people who are unable to pay fines and fees and help them come up with alternatives to making payments so they can have their voting rights restored. According to WRLN at least $278 million in fines are owed in Miami-Dade County. “We should not be an obstacle for a person who has the right to vote,” Katherine Fernandez-Rundle told WRLN. As a prosecutor, her office has the standing to alter the terms of old cases. “Those who can pay should pay, and those who cannot can work out something else, like community service hours,” said Fernandez-Rundle. “It is not a waiver.”

Oops! In what officials are calling a clerical error, ever since the Blue Valley Mobile Home Park—and it’s roughly 900 residents—were annexed by the city of Boise about 150 of those voters have been left off the city voting rolls. According to the Idaho Statesman, Voters in Blue Valley were added to city rolls in June, Levine said Wednesday, after Blue Valley residents realized what had happened and complained. The county elections director said officials are looking into how the problem occurred and who is responsible. “We work very hard to keep the roles up to date, but there are times when we don’t catch an annexation,” County Clerk Phil McGrane told the paper. “I think it’s really unfortunate it didn’t get caught earlier.”

What a great idea hon! Baseball fans attending ballgames at Oriole Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore will now be able to register to vote on Friday night home games. Club spokesman Greg Bader told The Capital Gazette voter registration will be held at various locations throughout the ballpark, Bader said, including at the women’s equality exhibit location behind home plate. The exhibit, which opened June 14, is a part of the Orioles’ yearlong commemoration of women’s equality and the centennial of the ratification of the 19th amendment. “We want our fans to learn about the struggle for women to obtain the right to vote in this country so that it is not a right that is taken for granted,” Bader told the paper.

Personnel News: Dr. Kathleen Ruth has been sworn in as a member of the Fulton County, Georgia board of elections. Thad Hall is the new director of elections in Coconino County, Arizona. Before that he was interim director of elections in Richland County, South Carolina. Former Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander is taking the lead of the Veterans Community Project and will lead the national expansion of the local Kansas City nonprofit that is focused on ending veterans’ homelessness. Gwinnett County, Georgia Voter Registration and Elections division Deputy Director Kristi Royston has been appointed the acting elections supervisor. Rindge, New Hampshire Town Clerk Nancy Martin says she plans to retire in September.

In Memoriam: Less than year after retiring as the Allegheny County, Pennsylvania elections division director, Mark Wolosik died on July 14. He was 65. Wolosik began working in the county elections office in high school and worked there for almost 50 years. Beaver County Elections Director Dorene Mandity told the Post-Tribune she was devastated by the news. “I called him, “The legend,’” Mandity told the paper. “If I called and said, ‘Mark I need to know about this,’ he would just cite the section of the law. He knew it off the top of his head. He was so well known, so knowledgeable, that everybody went to him. He helped me more times than I can say.” Wolosik worked more than 100  elections during his time in the elections office. “He was perfect for the job, honest as the day is long, unflappable and just right by the book,” County Common Pleas Judge Tom Flaherty told the Trib. “Thank God that Allegheny County had someone like that running the Department of Elections.” Wolosik is survived by his wife, Cheryl, a stepson, Justin, and a step-grandson. A memorial service will be planned for a future date.

Former Westchester County, New York board of elections deputy commissioner Paula Rollins has died. She was 63. Before venturing into the world of politics, Rollins had a successful career in opera as a mezzo-soprano and toured the United States and Europe.

Research and Report Summaries

Harvard’s Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation released a case study on the role of the private sector in voter registration last month. The study, Civic Responsibility: The Power of Companies to Increase Voter Turnout, analyzes and evaluates the implementation of civic participation programs by companies aimed at increasing voter turnout. Examining the work of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, Endeavor, Gap Inc., Patagonia, Snap, Inc., Spotify, Target, and Twitter, the study finds that leadership of these companies view encouraging voter participation as both good for democracy and good for business.

The Rutgers School of Management and Labor Relations released a report on voter participation among persons with disabilities last week. Based on analysis of Census data from the 2018 Voting and Registration Supplement to the Current Population Survey, the report, Disability and Voter Turnout in the 2018 Elections, finds that voter turnout increased by 8.5 percent in 2018 among citizens with disabilities relative to the 2014 midterm elections. The report notes, however, that there was a national “disability gap” of 4.7 percent when comparing turnout between citizens with and without disabilities. Seven states experienced no disability gap at all (i.e. turnout was higher among citizens with disabilities than those without), including Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Hawaii, Illinois, Nevada, and New Mexico. Ten states experienced a disability gap higher than 10 percent, including the District of Columbia, Kentucky, Maryland, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia, and Wisconsin.

The Congressional Research Service issued two issue briefs and a fact sheet on election topics earlier this month:

(Research and Report Summaries are written by David Kuennen.) 

Legislative Updates

Guam: The Guam Election Commission is proposing several changes to the island’s election laws including making Election Day an island holiday and mandatory tabulation and publication of names on write-in votes. “We believe declaring General Election Day as a holiday is likely to increase voter participation and turnout,” Election Commissioner Jerry Crisostomo told the Pacific Daily News.

Massachusetts: The Boston city council is considering a proposal that would make Election Day a city holiday. “If we want to give disadvantaged people throughout our city a strong voice in our electoral process, this is a fine place to start,” City Councilor Matt O’Malley said last week.

Also in Massachusetts, this week the Springfield City Council vote 10 to 1 to override the veto of Mayor Domenic Sarno and put an ordinance on the books that requires the city to take specific steps, including mailers and robocalls, to notify voters about upcoming elections. However, it turns out that the city doesn’t have the funds to do it this year and the mayor, who is opposed, will not be providing additional funds.

Ohio: Members of the Akron city council have reintroduced a plan that would support the end of partisan primaries through a charter amendment.

Legal Updates

Florida: State Democrats are suing over a 70-year state law that requires candidates belonging to the party of the current governor be listed first on the ballot. Former Supervisor of Election Ion Sancho is testifying in the case on the effects of ballot order.

Also in Florida, U.S. District Judge Walker has recused himself from presiding over a suit challenging Republican-backed restrictions on the restoration of voting rights for ex-felons. Walker said he was forced to recuse himself after former Gov. Rick Scott’s chief of staff, and now Broward County’s supervisor of elections, hired an attorney from a law firm where Walker’s wife is a partner. “Although the conduct at issue is deeply troubling,” Walker wrote according to The Miami Herald, “I am relieved of those concerns by confidence in my colleagues on this Court to preside over the remainder of this case and judge it fairly and wisely.”

Mississippi: This week, attorneys defending Mississippi say a lawsuit challenging the state’s system of choosing a governor is about “partisan politics,” not protecting African Americans’ voting rights. It says Mississippi’s 1890 constitution “has its basis in racism,” requiring gubernatorial candidates to win a majority of the popular vote and a majority of the 122 Mississippi House districts. Without both, the election is decided by the House. According to The Associated  Press, in court papers, Mississippi’s Republican House speaker and secretary of state said they shouldn’t be sued but Democratic Attorney General Jim Hood should be.

Utah: The U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously upheld the lower court’s decision that San Juan County had violated the constitutional rights of residents in its previous racially gerrymandered voting districts. The appeals court also affirmed the new court-imposed districts that resulted in the county’s first Navajo-majority commission.

Opinions This Week

National Opinions: Voter participation | Election security, II |Voting rights

Alabama: Secretary of state

California: Vote-by-mail

Florida: Ex-felon voting rights

Guam: Election reform

Iowa: Ex-felon voting rights, II

Massachusetts: Turnout

New Mexico: Ranked choice voting

New York: Queens recount, II | Jefferson County | Ballot images

Ohio: Election date | Secretary of state

Pennsylvania: Voting equipment, II, III, IV, V

Virginia: Off-year elections

Washington: Voting system, II, III, IV

Upcoming Events

National Conference of State Legislatures: NCSL’s Legislative Summit will feature numerous elections-related sessions include several about redistricting, voter registration, infrastructure and the Census. And if that wasn’t enough, Dolly Parton will be one of the featured keynote speakers.  When: August 5-8. Where: Nashville.

NSGIC Elections GeoSummit. The Elections GeoSummit brings together the nation’s leaders in elections management and geographic information systems (GIS) to share leading-edge findings and craft best practices to enhance election systems through 2020 and beyond. The event represents the culmination of NSGIC’s two-year Geo-Enabled Elections project, and features agenda highlights including learnings and best practices from states working to integrate GIS in Elections. Wisconsin Election Administrator Meagan Wolfe will be the keynote speaker. When: August 14. Where: Washington, DC.

Election Center 35th Annual National Conference: This year’s Conference attendees will be inspired and energized as we head into the final stretch of the 2019 Election year. We will share substantive elections issues including crucial critical infrastructure information, new election initiatives and tons of practical and meaningful election administration tools and resources including the newest innovations and ideas to help election officials as the 2020 presidential year quickly approaches. When: Aug. 17-24. Where: Orlando.

CTCL Post-Election Audits Online Series: The Center for Technology and Civic Life (CTCL) is launching a 3-course online series on Post-Election Audits, in partnership with Jennifer Morrell and the Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT). Whether you conduct traditional audits, risk-limiting audits, or none at all, this curriculum will empower you to conduct more rigorous post-election audits and boost public trust. Each 90 minute course costs $50 per attendee. Where: Online. When. Aug. 20-27.

Job Postings This Week

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.

Bilingual Resources and Marketing Specialist, Gwinnett County, Georgia —  Gwinnett County Voter Registration and Elections is responsible for planning and organizing all election voter-related activities and assist Gwinnett’s cities and special districts with election preparations. The division is comprised of staff that are proud to be part of a team that works together to assure that every vote counts. This position will be responsible for marketing and outreach for our Elections Division. The incumbent will create marketing material, work with community partners/organizations and conduct outreach related to Gwinnett County’s Election Division and the Bilingual Election Law (Sec. 203 of the Voting Rights Act). The incumbent must be proficient in oral, written and reading comprehension of the Spanish language. The primary responsibility for this position will be to educate and inform various community organizations, registered and prospective voters about election processes in both English and Spanish. The incumbent will also be required to set up and take down tables, display boards and various marketing materials for public events. Salary: $42,1620 $48,486. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.

Customer Support Consultant, Hart InterCivic— The Customer Support Consultant is responsible for providing application and hardware support to Hart InterCivic customers via telephone and email for all Hart InterCivic products.  The Support Consultant is also responsible for monitoring all requests to ensure efficient, effective resolution. The successful CSC will work directly with customers and other staff members. The position is responsible for responding to customer contacts, dealing with issues in a professional manner, providing technical direction to customers in a manner they can understand and being a customer advocate.  The CSC must have outstanding written and verbal communication skills. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.

Departmental Analyst, Michigan Secretary of State’s Office — The incumbent will provide training, guidance and policy interpretation to county, city, and township clerks statewide based on voter registration, Michigan Election Law, established election-related policies and procedures, and the eLearning Center. Assist with the coordination of Bureau of Elections (BOE) activities related to the planning, scheduling, development, revision, delivery and ongoing assessment of BOE training programs for over 1,600 election officials statewide. Assist in them supervision and administration of the election laws under the direction of the Secretary of State, Director of Elections and the Board of State Canvassers. Assist with regular statewide reporting projects, including the Provisional Ballot Report, Military and Overseas Voter Report, Post-Election Audit reports and other election-related requests and topics. Salary: $20.62 – $34.89 Hourly. Deadline: July 22. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.

Elections Supervisor, Community Services, Gwinnett County, Georgia— The elections supervisor is responsible for supervising lower levels, overseeing the day-to-day management of the elections section and ensuring that the section operates in compliance with state and federal laws. The incumbent will read and interpret federal election laws, the Georgia constitution and statutes, secretary of state directives, county resolutions, and ordinances to ensure division compliance. This position is responsible for outreach/education programs including bilingual voter outreach, voter information development, and preparation of voting materials such as brochures, sample ballots, etc. The supervisor will also ensure that the programs and policies are being implemented and adjusted as necessary to ensure compliance with Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act.  Salary: $74,940-$88,055. Deadline: July 28. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.

Program Associate, Elections Policy, The Democracy Fund — Democracy Fund’s Elections team is seeking a Program Associate to promote and advocate for national issues in voting policy, particularly election law and election cybersecurity policy. This role presents a unique opportunity to blend philanthropy, policy development, and legislative advocacy. The successful candidate will be passionate about educating leaders, officials, and the public on the urgent need for election reform and the danger that attacks on the electoral process pose to our democracy. he Program Associate will focus on increasing the public’s trust in elections, improving election security, advancing policies and practices that make elections more accessible, and reducing attempts to change election law for partisan benefit. Day-to-day tasks will include grantmaking, policy work, advocacy, coalition and relationship building, thought leadership, and developing innovative approaches to reduce real or perceived threats to American elections. We are looking for candidates who are determined to help our democracy work better. Strong candidates will possess several years of experience working on voting or election policy and leading advocacy or legislative policy change. The successful candidate will have a track record of working well with others to get things done in a complex, fast-paced environment and will thrive as part of a small, highly collaborative team. The Program Associate will report to the Associate Director, Elections. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.

Program Director, National Voter Registration Day — We are seeking a Program Director to organize and rally key national partners around one of the most prominent and important civic holidays in the nation – National Voter Registration Day – held on the fourth Tuesday of every September. In 2020, we aim to break past years’ records and register over one million voters with the help of over 50 major national partners and 4,500 field partners. To do this we require a creative and entrepreneurial Program Director with sincere people skills and a passion for civic engagement and democracy. Salary: $68,000 and $76,000. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.

Project Manager, Hart InterCivic— Project Managers at Hart InterCivic are highly motivated “self-starters” who are enthusiastic about providing exceptional customer service. Working with other members of the Professional Services and Operations teams, the Project Manager directs activity, solves problems, and develops lasting and strong relationships with our customers. Hart InterCivic’s unique and industry known culture of innovation, transparency, and customer-centric focus creates an environment where team members will continually grow and be challenged to develop their careers. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.

Product Manager, Hart InterCivic — as Product Manager, you will join a team that is charged with product planning, design, and execution throughout the lifecycle of Hart’s products, in support of the company’s overall strategy and goals. This includes: gathering, validating, and prioritizing internal and external customer needs; documenting and communicating product and technical requirements; gathering market and competitive intelligence; supporting the certification, sales, and marketing teams. The Product Manager must possess a unique blend of business and technical savvy – with experience in elections technology or other government-oriented products preferred.  To succeed in this role, the ideal candidate must spend time in the market to understand its unique attributes; demonstrate competence with specialized hardware and software; and find innovative solutions for the broader market. The Product Manager plays a key role in helping others to understand the product positioning, key benefits, and target customer, as well as providing advanced subject matter expertise in using the company’s products. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.

Research Scientist, MIT Election Data and Science Lab— MEDSL seeks a research scientist  to oversee the data science workflow of the lab’s election-related data collection, processing, and dissemination efforts.  MEDSL aims to improve the democratic experience for all U.S. voters by applying scientific principles to how elections are studied and administered. Responsibilities include assisting the director with designing and implementing research projects; gathering and analyzing data, designing research protocols, and documenting results; managing data science and quality control for the 2018 release of the Elections Performance Index (EPI); acquiring data from government sources and designing protocols to update indicators not provided by government sources; assisting with redistricting data collection/dissemination efforts; working with web designers to update EPI website and creating original content for MEDSL website; onboarding and monitoring the work of students/research support associates; tracking scholarship in the field of election science; and performing other data science/administrative/reporting duties as assigned. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.

Software Sales Specialist, VOTEC— VOTEC’s Sales Specialist is responsible for creating news sales with prospects and existing clients in targeted areas in the US. We are looking for an election professional comfortable using insight and consultative selling techniques to create interest that offers unique solutions on their operations, which link back to VOTEC’s solutions. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.


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