In Focus This Week
The drive to vote
Polling places fall victim to distracted drivers
By M. Mindy Moretti
Michael Winn had seen a lot of unexpected things at polling places on election day in his time as an elections administrator.
Flooding, frrezes, power outages, gas leaks, etc. And he thought he’d just about seen/heard it all until this spring, when conducting his first election as the director of elections in Harris County, Texas, a car came crashing through the double glass doors at an early voting location.
While this was a first for Winn, it’s oddly not all that uncommon. Just this year alone there are have been reports of cars crashing into polling places in Connecticut, Mississippi, and New Jersey. It’s something electionline has been anecdotally following for years and the bigger surprise is when it doesn’t happen on an election day than when it does.
Fortunately, in many cases, thanks to robust emergency contingency plans, voting is able to continue as was the case in Harris County.
The Harris County polling place was immediately shut down so damage could be assessed and the cause of the accident could be determined — in this case a senior citizen hitting the wrong pedal instead of something more insidious.
“We were in constant communication with law enforcement,” Winn said. “And our voter outreach team they were tweeting and they were on social media immediately. They jumped into action and diverted voters to other locations and we were able to come back within 30mins.”
No one was hurt although according to Winn the car came within inches of a poll worker who was serving as a greeter at the polling location. She refused treatment for some minor cuts she received while dodging out of the way of the oncoming car and continued with her election duties.
So why does this seem to be such a recurring problem on voting days? No one really knows, but Jane Terry, senior director of Government Affairs for the National Safety Council noted that tens of thousands of crashes occur in parking lots and garage structures annually, resulting in hundreds of deaths and thousands of injuries.
“The parking areas for precincts can be particularly dangerous, as many people will be navigating them for the first time on election day,” Terry said. “Drivers should make sure they drive slowly in parking areas, use directional signals and avoid cutting across lots. They should also obey stop signs and no-parking signs, and always be on the lookout for pedestrians, particularly when backing up. Lastly, to avoid the chance of road rage on election day, drivers should keep their political opinions to themselves.”
Interestingly enough there have been several studies done about traffic fatalities and presidential election days. In 2008, Donald Redelmeier at the University of Iowa found that the average election leads to a 19 percent increase in the risk of a fatal crash during the hours of polling. This equaled about 24 people per election and was consistent across different ages and locations; and according to the author, greatly exceeded the risk on New Year’s Eve, Super Bowl Sunday. However a 2015 reanalysis of Redelmeier’s work suggests that presidential election days are no more dangerous than your average Tuesday.
Whether or not there are more traffic fatalities on election days or more drivers crash their cars into buildings on election day, safety and design experts agree that there are some things both elections officials and voters can do to minimize the risk.
“Election officials can reinforce safe driving behaviors by sharing relevant safety messages in the materials they distribute and online. Many of these messages are common sense: Buckle up in every seating position on every trip. Adhere to the speed limit. Don’t drive impaired, which includes driving fatigued – something early-morning voters should be particularly mindful of. In addition, voting parents should never leave their children alone in the car when they go to cast their ballot,” said Terry,
Although elections officials don’t have control over how a facility that’s used as a polling place is structured, there are some things they could do with signage and temporary design to help.
“Thinking about the allowable perimeter outside which campaigning can happen as a safety and security perimeter is one thought I had about this,” said Dana Chisnell of the Center for Civic Design. “That would mean that cars wouldn’t be allowed, either, except for accessibility reasons. But accidents are going to happen. So, building the scenario into your emergency preparedness training makes sense.”
Chisnell recommended that officials check out Vol. 08 of Field Guides to Ensuring Voter Intent which is all about guiding voters through the polling place and the work that the City of Minneapolis did with the Minneapolis College of Art and Design to create fresh polling place signs.
And back in Harris County, what, if anything, have Winn and his team learned from the incident?
“We didn’t make any changes to our emergency plan, but we did look at the buildings we’re using,” Winn said. “Maybe try to avoid using sites with glass fronts and use ones that have some sort of barrier in frontWe have not yet analyzed the impact that vote at home systems may have on reducing insurance rates but this may be a good research initiative..”
And of course there may be one sure way to avoid an election day polling place mishap.
“We have not yet analyzed the impact that vote at home systems may have on reducing insurance rates but this may be a good research initiative,” said Amber McReynolds, executive director Vote at Home Institute & Coalition
Election Security Updates
All the cool kids were in Las Vegas this week for Def Con’s Voting Village. According to The Washington Post, This year’s programming involved hacking voting equipment as well as panels with election officials and security experts, a demonstration of a $10 million experimental voting system from the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, and a “part speed-dating, part group therapy” session where state and local election officials gathered with hackers to hash out challenges of securing elections.
“Ultimately when I look at 2020, the top priority for me is engaging as far and wide as possible, touching as many stakeholders as possible, and making sure we have auditability in the system,” Chris Krebs, DHS’ top cyber official, said according to CNN.
“IT, key tenant, can’t audit the system, can’t look at the logs, you don’t know what happened,” he added. “Gotta get auditability, I’ll say it, gotta have a paper ballot backup.”
This week in a Tweet, President Donald J. Trump weighed in on the debate over election security by saying: “No debate on Election Security should go forward without first agreeing that Voter ID (Identification) must play a very strong part in any final agreement. Without Voter ID, it is all so meaningless!”
2019 Election Updates
Mississippi: Several Benton County voters claim they were not given the option to vote Republican. Others say that they never saw sample ballots before receiving their voting card. Still others claim that they were given options and ballots were clearly posted. Issues with a ballot scanner in Noxubee County delayed results for several hours.
Utah: Voters went to the polls in the Beehive State and overall county clerks reported no problems, unless you consider low turnout a problem. “Everything went very smoothly today,” Salt Lake County Clerk Sherrie Swensen told KKSL. “The only disappointment is that there weren’t more voters.” There was a marked improvement of the process in Utah County where 2018 saw long lines. The county’s use of ballot dropboxes seemed to be a big help. “People are really loving those and utilizing them,” Utah County Clerk Amelia Powers told KKSL. In Washington County, turnout was nearly double what it was in 2017, but even with the increased turnout, things went smoothly according to county elections officials.
Washington: Computer problems delayed release of Douglas County election results by about 90 minutes Tuesday night. The delay was caused by the county’s inability to send results to the state, Douglas County Auditor Thad Duvall said Wednesday. Results were not posted on the county’s elections webpage until 10 p.m. Yakima County Auditor Charles Ross deemed the county’s new vote center a success.
Election News This Week
Beginning in October of this year, UOCAVA voters in Montana will be use to use a digital signature via a Common Access Card (CAC) to register and vote in Montana. A CAC is a “smart card” and is about the size of a credit card. It is the standard identification for active duty uniformed service personnel, Selected Reserve, DoD civilian employees, and eligible contractor personnel. Each CAC includes a digital signature certificate. The Overseas Voting Initiative (OVI) provided technical assistance in Montana. Nevada began a similar program in 2013 and since its implementation the number of voted UOCAVA ballots rejected has decreased by 70 percent.
With no-excuse absentee voting making its debut this primary, many Michiganders took advantage of the option, which presented an unexpected issue for elections officials, enough time to count the ballots. Under current Michigan law absentee ballots can only be counted starting at 7 a.m. on Election Day now county clerks, with the support of the secretary of state, are seeking a legislative cure to be allowed to process the ballots on a different timeline. “The secretary of state has called for legislation to allow clerks to start counting absent voter ballots before Election Day,” Benson spokesperson Shawn Starkey told Michigan Live. “Issues associated with clerks handling a larger volume of absent voter ballots are a major point of focus and one of the things the Election Modernization Advisory Committee is looking at,” he said. In Rochester Hills, 81 percent of voters cast their ballots absentee this month. “When does it stop? When do they say ok, the processing time and accuracy are in battle with each other here?” Clerk Tina Barton asked. “…I just feel like we’re pushing people to the max, here.”
It’s taken five years, but county elections officials in Arizona finally have a new elections procedure manual. The manual was last officially updated in 2014 under then-Secretary of State Ken Bennett. Former Secretary of State Michele Reagan decided not to update the manual for 2016 and then when she updated the manual in 2018, but Gov. Doug Ducey did not approve of the update after county elections officials complained about the updates.
Last week we highlighted a win for democracy and moms everywhere, but we’re not so sure about this week. Recently while proclaiming his confidence in the state’s election system, Utah Lt. Governor Spencer Cox, who is the state’s chief elections official, noted that the few cases of voter fraud in Utah are often perpetrated by moms! Specifically Latter-day Saint moms whose kids are away on missions. “They think, ‘Oh, I’ll just fill it out for him, and I’ll sign it and send it back in,’” Cox explained recently according to The Salt Lake Tribune. “They could go to jail for that,” he said. “So we kindly … call them up and tell them that’s illegal, you can’t do that.” Utah County Elections Director Rozan Mitchell said the overzealous moms are often caught by their signatures. “You say, ‘I’m pretty sure that Nathan’s signature is not that fancy and loopy,'” Mitchell told the paer. “And you … look at other signatures of voters registered at that address and you go, ‘That signature matches his mother’s to a tee.’
Personnel News: Jocelyn Bucaro has been named the Denver director of elections. Tiffany Rozell was recently appointed Cherokee County, Oklahoma election board secretary. Judd Wilson has resigned as the Kootenai County, Idaho election manager. Jeremiah Johnson has been selected to fill a vacancy on the Tuscarawas County, Ohio board of elections. Colleen Anderson has been elected to serve at the Monroe County, New York Democratic elections commissioner. Juli Wallin has stepped down as the Emmet County, Michigan clerk. Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold said recently that she will not be running for U.S. Senate. Julia Bruck is the new director of communications in the Tennessee secretary of state’s office. The North Carolina State Board of Elections has voted to make Damon Circosta the new board chairman. David Levine is leaving his position as director of elections for Ada County, Idaho and will be joining the German Marshall Fund of the United States to serve as an election integrity fellow. Jamie McLeod-Skinner has announced that she will run for secretary of state of Oregon in 2020. Former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams announced this week that she is launching Fair Fight 2020, a voting rights initiative.
In Memoriam: Todd County, Kentucky Clerk Leslie Cunningham has died. She was diagnosed with cancer shortly after taking office in January. “Leslie was not only a colleague but a friend,” Todd County Judge-Executive Todd Mansfield told the Kentucky New Era. “We Todd Countians are saddened by this great loss.” Cunningham had served as deputy clerk for 13 years before winning the clerk’s seat in November 2018.
North Carolina: Senate Bill 683 would offers a variety of election reform options. It would start a pilot project to cover postage on absentee ballots, it would tinker with early voting hours and allow counties that use touchscreen voting machines to keep doing so.
South Dakota: The State Board of Elections plans to propose several pieces of elections-related legislation in the upcoming session including legislation that would allow for the creation of an online voter registration system. Another proposed bill would also remove a voters’ birth year from the publicly available voter data.
Virginia: The Chesapeake Council voted against moving the city’s local elections from May to November. The council voted 6-3 against the measure.
Florida: Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) is seeking a decision from the Florida Supreme Court about a new state law requiring people convicted of felonies to repay financial obligations before their voting rights can be restored. “It is ultimately my responsibility, through the Department of State, to ‘protect the integrity of the electoral process’ by maintaining accurate and current voter registration records, including ensuring only eligible voters remain on the statewide voter registration system,” DeSantis, wrote in a four-page letter to the Supreme Court on Friday.
Ohio: The U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that Ohio board of elections’ process of reviewing ballot initiatives does not violate the U.S. Constitution. The case involved a marijuana ballot initiative where the plaintiffs had claimed the Portage County BOE violated their First and Fourteenth Amendment rights by not allowing the initiative on the ballot.
Social Media: Mother Jones has an interesting piece about the Chicago Board of Elections Commissioners struggle with social media giant Facebook. Initially, the board’s spokesman tried to boost a post on the board’s page about the opening of early voting. Facebook denied the post because they said it was “related to politics”. “The time has come where [Facebook] needs to have an election team in place, and it can’t just be algorithms,” Board spokesman Jim Allen told Mother Jones.
California: An audit of the state’s new motor voter system found almost 84,000 duplicate voter records and more than twice that number with political party mistakes. According to The Los Angeles Times, the audit covered just the first five months of the new “motor voter” program, which was launched in April 2018. It found a wide array of problems with the rollout of the DMV system, including a limited amount of testing as well as inconsistent and confusing lines of communication between the state agencies involved in its creation.
Georgia: Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger has certified the state’s new voting system. The state had already entered into a $107 million agreement with Dominion Voting Systems for the equipment before it was officially certified by the state.
Louisiana: Tangipahoa Parish has launched a new website, TangiVotes.com in anticipation of the busy upcoming election seasons. Sections include an ‘I Would Like To’ section, intended to guide potential voters on restoring voting rights, viewing voter locations, options for voting by mail, and becoming an election worker. An ‘Election Dates’ section includes dates for all locations in Tangipahoa. The ‘Voting’ section features early voting tips, a checklist of items to bring on voting day, and options for voter identification cards. Residents also have access to change their party preferences, update information, and of course, register to vote in only a few clicks. The website can be translated into over 100 languages by changing language options on the home page.
Opinions This Week
Arkansas: Election security
Hawaii: Election Day
Louisiana: Election security
Missouri: Election security
Montana: Election transparency
Ohio: List maintenance
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
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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
Civic Design Researcher, Center for Civic Design — Do you have a special mix of government experience with so much skill at qualitative user research and usability testing that you appear to do it effortlessly? Love mashing up qualitative research methods to answer a Big Question? Have experience managing delicate stakeholder relationships? Ever had to face a steep learning curve to get the work done? Tell us about it. The right person cares deeply about plain language, usability, and accessibility—and is excited about solving wicked problems to make it easier for voters to vote the way they intend. 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.
Elections Director, Ada County, Idaho— The Elections Director collaborates with the Clerk of the District and Chief Deputy to plan, oversee, and administer elections for over 200,000 registered voters across 150 precincts. The Elections Director is responsible for ensuring all of the necessary resources are acquired and in place, poll workers are well prepared, and that Ada County’s elections are conducted in an accurate, efficient, and transparent manner that leaves Ada County voters with the upmost confidence in the elections process.The Elections Director is expected to exercise independent judgment and discretion, under the general direction of the Clerk of the District Court & Chief Deputy, to manage the administration of all federal, state, county and local district elections. The Director is responsible for planning, designing, and carrying out programs, projects, studies or other work related to election administration within Ada County. Salary: $77,500-$87,500 annually. Deadline: August 19th, 2019. 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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