In Focus This Week
Every election has a story to tell
Story of 2020 still being written, but some chapters are done
By Tammy Patrick, senior advisor
The Democracy Fund
Every election has a story to tell. Coming into the 2020 election, officials worked to take the necessary steps to ensure a positive voter experience, in light of the extreme enthusiasm for this presidential cycle and anticipated high voter turnout in the midst of a global pandemic. Election officials around the country considered whether existing resources were sufficient, if their forecasted budget covered potential additional supplies and staffing, and how to most efficiently handle registration. These additional considerations were tackled on top of the need to strengthen cyber defenses and thwart attempts by foreign adversaries to shake our trust in the American electoral process that arose from the 2016 election.
A few weeks into the Presidential Primary season, a global pandemic hit the nation—highlighting the dramatic differences between states with early election dates and those with elections later in the spring. The issues that arose during the primaries highlighted the need for election administration to adjust and rise to the unprecedented challenges presented by a nation simultaneously battling a pandemic. Elections offices were strained by – and struggled to fulfill – an extreme rise of ballot applications from the massive shift to absentee and vote by mail. Poll worker shortages, polling location denials, and limited early voting restricted in- person voting options and resulted in voters waiting in line – in masks and protective gear – for hours. In many jurisdictions, their prescriptive state laws dictated – in some cases prevented officials from serving their voters to the best of ability – what type of facilities could be used as polls and who could serve as a pollworker and in which locations.
Voters Needed Options
Some states, however, were better positioned with laws, processes and resources in place that prioritized voters’ varied needs. States that provided voters with more options in terms of when and where to vote were best able to pivot during the pandemic to spread out when ballots were cast throughout the voting period of the election—enabling voters to fulfill their civic duty while still combatting the spread of COVID-19. Election Day became the “last day to vote” in those states, not the only day to vote. Those states that took decisive actions to listen to their state and local election officials on how to best conduct the election, led to more than 100 million ballots cast before Election Day—more than half of the total turnout.
Although the final official numbers are not yet in from every state, we know that more voters than ever opted to have their ballot handed to them by their United States Postal Service (USPS) mail carrier rather than a pollworker, and that the dedicated public servants at USPS delivered the majority of ballots within their First Class delivery standard of two to five days with the average ballot tracking at two days for local voters.
However, there were still challenges. In some jurisdictions this year, USPS leadership agreed to manually pull ballots out of the mailstream and deliver them locally rather than processing through the normal automated process at centralized processing plants. This caused confusion around ballot tracking, and led some to believe – and promote the false narrative – that ballots were lost rather than simply not scanned due to the manual delivery. Additionally, tens of thousands of ballots were mailed after USPS’s recommended timeline – one week before ballots were due – with many mailed on Election Day in states that reject ballots not received by the time the polls close.
Democracy Under Attack
As in the 2016 election, we saw continued efforts to undermine confidence in the system in an attempt to dissuade participation and discredit the outcome of the race. More than 400 lawsuits were filed either seeking to restrict or expand voters’ options. This tension extends to policies either lauded as serving the electorate well or attempts to wrongly influence the election including practices like drive-thru voting, ballot drop boxes, mailing of ballot applications to all registered voters, mailing ballots to all registered voters, paying for postage, expansion of in person voting, expansion of early voting, use of postmarks or other information from USPS to demonstrate the ballot had been mailed before the close of the polls.
“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic”. This is part of the common oath that the thousands of election administrators and close to a million pollworkers take each election. Indeed, it is part of the oath of office many of our elected officials swear to, including those in Congress and the Vice President of the United States. I cannot think of another election where the oath was so tested, where the mettle of the legions of Americans who make our Democracy function were challenged and their integrity maligned as it was this year. A year when election officials were faced with ensuring the sanctity of the ballot was protected as fires raged, hurricanes battered our shores, tornadoes struck, and almost a quarter million Americans lost their lives in a global pandemic. A year when philanthropy stepped in and provided resources in excess of what our sitting Congress saw fit to allocate. A year when too often partisan rancor impeded the practical solutions provided by state and local election officials. A year when more Americans than ever before made certain that their voices were heard at the ballot box. Yes, a year that we should be celebrating the tenacity of the American Voter and those who serve them in defiance of all these odds.
The Great Experiment
The story of this election is still being written. When it is done, we must carry forward the lessons learned this year, and not fall into the trap of returning the status quo. In the months ahead, many states will rightfully consider codifying the voting options used this year, and work to remedy the disconnect in some laws with USPS processes—including ballot application deadlines and “postmark” definitions. In a year full of immense challenges, there have been huge accomplishments and devastating challenges. We must now commit to adopting those that were successful and remedying others that were not to ensure voters are better served in the future.
(This article also appeared on Talking Points Memo.)
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Election News This Week
Recounts: Georgia completed its manual recount this week with President-Elect Joe Biden still up by 12,781 votes although President Donald J. Trump did gain about 1,400 votes. There’s no indication of broader problems beyond three counties that didn’t load all votes from memory cards and one county that didn’t rescan all ballots after an optical scanner was replaced because of a technical issue, Gabriel Sterling, Georgia’s voting system manager told The Atlanta Journal Constitution. Three of the four counties that had issues are Republican-leaning politically. When the recount and audit exposed issues, election workers fixed them before results are finalized, Sterling said. “The system is working the way it’s intended,” Sterling said. “These people are operating under the highest level of stress, in the most contentious election in their work life in the United States and in Georgia. So for the most part they are doing a really good job on this.” Trump requested a partial recount in Wisconsin this week with the focus on Milwaukee and Dane counties. Trump’s campaign paid the state $3 million and filed a petition for the partial recount on Wednesday. The Wisconsin Elections Commission authorized the recount just before midnight Wednesday. The recount petition alleges mistakes and fraud” were committed all over Wisconsin but particularly in Madison and Milwaukee. The petition does not provide specific examples of mistakes or fraud. A recount in Milwaukee County is estimated to cost about $2 million, according to the state Elections Commission. Dane County would cost about $740,000.
Certification: Since it’s 2020, of course something as mundane as certification has become a thing. In Arizona the state GOP is pressuring county officials statewide to delay certifying their election results despite no evidence of legitimate questions about the vote count. According to The Associated Press, in northwestern Arizona, Mohave County officials postponed their certification until Nov. 23, while other counties press ahead. The state GOP has also filed suit in Maricopa County stop certification. In Michigan, while all counties have now certified their results, it wasn’t without drama. In Wayne County, the board of canvassers first deadlocked on certification with Republican canvassers insisting many precincts in the county had conflicting figures for the numbers of votes cast and the number of voters they recorded as having participated, even though the disparities mostly involved a small number of ballots. According to The New York Times, at one point, a Republican board member, Monica Palmer, made a motion to “certify the results in the communities other than the city of Detroit” — a move that would effectively disenfranchise one of the nation’s major predominantly Black cities. Bowing to public pressure the board backtracked and certified the results. However, at press time, two Republican members of the canvassing board are seeking to rescind their certification. According to The Associated Press, the person familiar with the matter said Trump reached out to the canvassers, Monica Palmer and William Hartmann, on Tuesday evening after the revised vote to express gratitude for their support. Then, on Wednesday, Palmer and Hartmann signed affidavits saying they believe the county vote “should not be certified.” And while not controversial, it is so 2020. Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania has had to delay certification of its results due to a coronavirus outbreak.
Threats to Democracy: Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs (D) and Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R) have both gone on the record about threats made to their or their family’s personal safety from people disgruntled by the results. In Arizona, Hobbs’ home address and other personal information were posted on social media. She has received at least one death threat and a group recently protested outside of her home chanting “We are watching you.” In a statement Hobbs said that the “ongoing and escalating threats of violence” against her, her family and her office are “utterly abhorrent,” pledging that the “continued intimidation tactics will not prevent me from performing the duties I swore an oath to do.” She specifically faulted Trump and other elected officials for fueling distrust in the voting system. “There are those, including the president, members of Congress and their elected officials, who are perpetuating misinformation and are encouraging others to distrust the election results in a manner that violates the oath of office they took,” Hobbs said. “It is well past time that they stop. Their words and actions have consequences.” In Georgia, Raffensperger said that death threats actually came to his wife’s cell phone. “What’s really troubling about it is when threats actually came into my wife’s you know cell phone,” Raffensperger told Fox 5. These are some of the threats sent to Raffensperger’s wife’s private cell phone number: “You better not botch this recount. Your life depends on it.” “Your husband deserves to face a firing squad.” “The Raffenspergers should be put on trial for treason and face execution.”
If we had to pick one story that encapsulates the year elections officials have had in 2020 and the integrity with which they’ve faced the challenges, it would be the story of Brunswick County, North Carolina Elections Director Sara Knotts. Late last week Knotts tweeted out, “Hardest thing I’ve done as an elections administrator: present a challenge against the absentee ballot cast by my mom. In NC, the qualifications to vote are judged on election day. She passed away from glioblastoma after submitting her ballot but before Nov. 3 #electionintegrity.” “I couldn’t even bring myself to start doing the briefings on the challenges and I couldn’t figure out why,” Knotts told the News & Observer. “Then I opened the folder, saw her name and realized I had been putting it off.” Knotts told the paper this election has been hard on her and her staff. The allegations and suspicion hurt them. “I wanted people to trust the process and know that not just me, but all election administrators, worked hard for this,” Knotts said. “We really want people to have trust in the system.” Knotts’ story took off, especially after she was interviewed by the News & Observer. We’ve seen it published all over the country. Hopefully Americans can learn something from it.
Increased Accessibility: The Center for Tech and Civic Life has a piece on “20 Ways Election Officials Increased Accessibility During the November Election.” It’s a great rundown of all the things state and local officials did this year to accommodate the pandemic. As the piece notes, while many of these initiatives were implemented as emergency responses to the COVID-19 pandemic, election officials are suggesting that these changes become permanent features of future elections. That way, every voter, regardless of age, background, or ability, can easily participate in the electoral process.
Personnel News: Stephen Richer will be the new Maricopa County, Arizona recorder. Gail Pellerin is stepping down as the Santa Cruz County, California clerk/registrar of voters [Exit Interview to come in a few weeks]. Amy Buss is the new Carroll County, Illinois clerk. Nancy Vigorito has been appointed to the North Attleboro, Massachusetts election commission. Gloria Maestas is retiring after 25 years as the Los Alamos County, New Mexico election manager. Appleton, Maine Town Clerk Pamela Smith and Deputy Town Clerk Rebecca Hughes both turned in their resignation letters Oct. 22, giving notice that Nov. 5 would be their last day. The two wanted to help with the Nov. 3 election before leaving their positions. Smith worked for the town for 29 years and Hughes for 22. Gabriella Cázares-Kelly is the Pima County, Arizona recorder-elect. Liz P. Horne is retiring after 16 years as the Columbia County, Florida supervisor of elections. Kathy Van Wolfe is retiring as the McLennan County, Texas election administrator after 26 years on the job. Isabel Longoria has been sworn in as Harris County, Texas’ first-ever elections administrator. Lewis County, West Virginia Deputy Clerk Stella Poling is retiring after 22 years on the job.
In Memoriam: Liz Stone, the longest serving general registrar in Virginia died at her home after a brief illness. She was 83. Stone served as Henry County’s general registrar 45 years including overseeing the 2020 general election. “This news deeply saddens us,” said Jim Adams, chair of the Henry County Board of Supervisors said in a release. “Liz Stone continuously upheld the values of trust, accountability, caring, commitment, and excellence. On behalf of the Board of Supervisors and all of the residents of Henry County, I extend my deepest condolences to her family and friends.” Stone began those responsibilities as an assistant general registrar in 1975, during the presidency of Gerald Ford, and she just served her 12th presidential election. She was named general registrar in 1979, when Jimmy Carter was in the White House. She also oversaw 11 governors’ races and hundreds of state and local elections. “Liz was the quintessential public servant,” County Administrator Tim Hall said in a press release. “She was most diligent about ensuring democracy through constitutionally sound and fair elections. “She possessed the highest sense of integrity and commitment. I loved working with Liz, and I will miss her.”
Election Security Updates
CISA: On Tuesday, via a Tweet, President Donald J. Trump fired Christopher Krebs, who headed the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) at DHS and led successful efforts to help state and local election offices protect their systems and to rebut misinformation. According to The Washington Post, Earlier Tuesday, Krebs in a tweet refuted allegations that election systems were manipulated, saying that “59 election security experts all agree, ‘in every case of which we are aware, these claims either have been unsubstantiated or are technically incoherent.’ ” Krebs’s statement amounted to a debunking of Trump’s central claim that the November election was stolen. Trump said on Twitter: “The recent statement by Chris Krebs on the security of the 2020 Election was highly inaccurate, in that there were massive improprieties and fraud — including dead people voting, Poll Watchers not allowed into polling locations, ‘glitches’ in the voting machines which changed votes from Trump to Biden, late voting, and many more. Therefore, effective immediately, Chris Krebs has been terminated as Director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency.” Krebs’ dismissal was met with anger and frustration from elections officials, U.S. Senators and cyber experts.
Federal Legislation: Georgia U.S. Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler are introducing a new bill to protect future elections. It’s called the Securing America’s Future Election and Votes Act. It would create a bipartisan commission to review the 2020 election and report to Congress recommendations to strengthen election integrity for the future. Nine Republicans and nine Democrats would be appointed to the commission if the bill passes. The commission would investigate: The effects of national emergencies like the coronavirus on our election system, the security risks facing mail-in ballots, and the extent of voter fraud in our election system. The commission would also develop best practices for mitigating fraud and increasing election security at the local, state, and federal levels.
U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly, (R-Pennsylvania), introduced legislation that requires states to install video surveillance of ballot drop boxes, permits poll watching by at least two campaign representatives, prohibits ballot harvesting and requires a full audit of municipal voting systems. The bill also includes a provision requiring that election officials count and record mail-in and absentee ballots immediately upon receipt, with the results kept secret until the polls have closed on Election Day. The bill, called The Protect Election Integrity Act of 2020, will update federal election law to “restore their trust, which is essential to the health of our republic,” Kelly said in a statement.
Michigan: Republican Bronna Kahle of Adrian introduced a bill that would require county clerks to send a list of people who died over age 18 to the Michigan Secretary of State’s Office, which could use the information to check voter registration records and cancel their voting rights. Kahle said the legislation would improve the integrity of Michigan’s elections by keeping the qualified voter file up to date. Under current laws, county clerks forward death information and people’s last known address to municipal city or township clerks, who are supposed to check their files and cancel the voter registration for anyone who dies.
Oklahoma: State Sen. Nathan Dahm filed a series of election integrity bills this week. Senate Concurrent Resolution 1 measure would call on the legislatures of each state that did not report results on Election Day to use their power to audit and recount their election results. The legislation would call on state legislatures to follow the constitutional provision allowing them to select electors. It also would call on Congress to use their constitutional powers to pass national voter ID laws and require paper ballots. Senate Bill 33 would refocus the Electoral College in Oklahoma by requiring the legislature to select future electors unless Congress passes election integrity bills, including national voter laws. State Sen. David Bullard authored Senate Bill 32, which was co-authored by Dahm. The proposed bill would prohibit the implementation of any national popular vote system to be used for the Electoral College to cast their votes for the state of Oklahoma. Senate Bill 34 would require the secretary of the Oklahoma State Election Board to complete an audit of random election results to verify the paper ballots cast in the audited election match the electronic election results tabulated and tallied by the electronic election machines. According to officials, the measure would apply to school board elections in February, municipal elections in April, primary elections in June, run-off elections in August, and the general election in November.
Pennsylvania: State House Republicans on Wednesday moved a step closer to launching a review of the 2020 presidential election in Pennsylvania, though the process would not be completed until after the state’s vote is officially certified. The resolution tasks a bipartisan committee that holds subpoena power with compiling a report on issues and “inconsistencies,” and hiring a firm to audit the vote to ensure “the accuracy of the results,” the measure’s sponsor said. While the Department of State plans to undertake a similar review, GOP lawmakers said the work outlined in the resolution would be independent from Secretary of the Commonwealth Kathy Boockvar, who they noted is named in several election lawsuits brought by the Trump campaign.
Utah: The Government Operations Interim Committee has advanced a bill that would allow cities to have the option to take part in a mobile voting pilot project, and residents in those municipalities would then have the ability to choose whether to vote from their phones. “The city of Vineyard may say, ‘Hey, this is an option we’re opening to our electorate,’ and then as a resident in Vineyard you could say, ‘Gee, I’m going to vote electronically. I’m going to vote by mail. I’m going to vote the old fashioned way,’” said Mike Winder, R-West Valley City and the proposal’s sponsor. “It just gives you the voter options.” Rep. Suzanne Harrison, who was one of three lawmakers to ultimately vote against the bill, raised concerns during the meeting about the security of mobile voting as reports have outlined possible vulnerabilities for the method in general and specifically within Voatz, the app that Utah County uses.
Arizona: A lawsuit filed by the state GOP contends Maricopa County is not complying with state laws which require there be a hand-count audit after each election to ensure that what was recorded by the voting machines matches the ballots that went into them. That was done with no irregularities found. But attorney Jack Wilenchik representing the Arizona Republican Party says state law requires that the sample has to be done of at least 2% of all the precincts. In Maricopa County, he said, with 748 precincts, that would require checks at 15 separate precincts. Only thing is, Maricopa County — and some others — use “voting centers” rather than requiring residents to cast a ballot at the specific precinct in which they live. This year, Wilenchik said, there were about 175 of these. And what that means, he said, is that an audit of 2% of 175 voting centers is not sufficient, regardless of how many people voted at each one. Maricopa County Superior Court Judge John Hannah Jr. appeared skeptical of GOP arguments that the county’s audit of ballots from its voting centers runs counter to state law, which requires an audit by precinct – even though the county did not have precinct-based voting this year. He said he would provide his ruling at press time.
California: Sutter County Superior Court Judge Sarah Heckman has ruled that Gov. Gavin Newsom abused his authority by issuing an executive order that required vote-by-mail ballots be sent to all registered voters, according to documents. Heckman’s ruling places a permanent injunction against the Governor that prevents him from changing existing state law, even during a pandemic. The ruling does not affect the results of the 2020 general election. California Assemblymembers James Gallagher (R-Yuba City) and Kevin Kiley (R-Rocklin) brought the lawsuit against Governor Newsom. Newsom has said that he will appeal the ruling.
Carlos Antonio De Bourbon Montenegro, 53, and Marcos Raul Arevalo, 34 of Hawthorne were charged with multiple counts of voter fraud after allegedly trying to register 8,000 “fictitious, nonexistent or deceased” voters to receive mail-in ballots. The scheme was part of an illicit bid by Montenegro to become mayor of Hawthorne, according to a criminal complaint made public Tuesday.
Michigan: Supporters of President Donald Trump are seeking to exclude votes cast in Ingham County and other Democratic strongholds from Michigan’s presidential election totals, claiming in a lawsuit there were “issues and irregularities” in those communities but citing no examples in Ingham County and dubious or vague issues elsewhere. The suit, filed Wednesday by voters who supported Trump on Nov. 3, specifically targets Ingham, Washtenaw and Wayne counties “because they provide enough votes to change the results” of the election in Michigan, attorney Jim Bopp said. Invalidating votes in those three counties would mean tossing 1.2 million votes out of the roughly 5.5 million cast in Michigan. Democrat Joseph Biden won Michigan by about 146,000 votes. The voters’ accusation that Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, state elections officials, the three counties’ clerks and canvassers mishandled the election is “ludicrous,” shameful and poorly contrived, Ingham County Clerk Barb Byrum said. The lawsuit was voluntarily withdrawn on Monday. A hearing the case was never held.
Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Timothy Kenny ruled claims that Wayne County and Detroit election officials purposely cheated the system to swing the election for Joe Biden are “not credible” and denied a request to stop Michigan’s election results from being certified. In a Nov. 13 ruling, Kenny denied a request from Republican plaintiffs Cheryl Costantino and Edward McCall to stop Wayne County from certifying election results in a lawsuit that alleged election officials cheated the system. Republicans’ motion for a court-ordered independent audit of the results was denied by Kenny, who said “in addition to it being an unwarranted intrusion on the authority of the Legislature, such an audit would require the rest of (Wayne County) and the State to wait on results.” On Monday, the Michigan Court of Appeals rejected the request to reverse a Wayne County Circuit Court judge’s Friday ruling allowing the Wayne County Board of Canvassers to complete the audit of the November election and certify the county’s election results by the Nov. 17 deadline as required under state law.
Paul Parana, 47 of Canton Township, is charged with forging a signature on an absentee ballot, a five-year felony, and impersonating another to vote at an election, a four-year felony. Parana is alleged to have forged his daughter’s signature on an absentee ballot and submitting it to the Canton Township Clerk’s Office
Nevada: A state court legal fight to stop the counting of mail ballots in the Las Vegas area has ended after the Nevada Supreme Court dismissed an appeal by the Donald Trump campaign and the state Republican party, at their request. The campaign and GOP had tried to withdraw the appeal in the state case, submitting a document last week telling the seven-member court that it had reached a settlement calling for Clark County election officials to allow more observers at a ballot processing facility. However, not all the parties in the lawsuit signed the agreement. The case also involved the national and state Democratic parties, the Nevada secretary of state and the Clark County registrar of voters.
Former Nevada secretary of state and Democratic candidate for Clark County Commission District C Ross Miller, who won his race by a 10-vote margin is suing the Clark County commission for refusing to certify the results. Miller filed the lawsuit Tuesday afternoon in Clark County District Court, alleging that the board’s decision not to certify his race was “beyond its constitutional limitations.” His lawsuit is asking for the court to force the county commission to certify the results of the race and prevent the commission from ordering a special election.
New Jersey: A judge has rejected a bid to invalidate 157 mail-in ballots in Gloucester County following residency challenges filed by county Republicans. Christopher Powell, chairman of the county board of elections commissioners, said county elections Superintendent Stephanie Salvatore, who is also commissioner of voter registrations, investigated and determined that most of those ballots were valid or the information presented in the challenges was inaccurate or insufficient to prove the voters didn’t live locally. The four-member elections board, which consists of two Republican and two Democratic commissioners, deadlocked on whether to approve another 157 of the challenged ballots, said Powell, one of the Democratic commissioners, leaving Superior Court Assignment Judge Benjamin C. Telsey to break the tie.
North Dakota: A former tribal attorney says he will appeal a U.S. District Court judge’s decision to dismiss his complaint against the Three Affiliated Tribes Tribal Business Council that alleges violation of the federal Voting Rights Act. Raymond Cross, a member of the Three Affiliated Tribes, said the judge’s decision Oct. 28 to dismiss the case without a hearing denied plaintiffs a chance to respond. Cross brought the case with his sister, the late Marilyn Hudson. He said the appeal also will challenge Judge Daniel Traynor’s decision that the court lacks jurisdiction over the plaintiffs’ claims. Traynor cited a 1975 court ruling involving the Oglala Sioux Tribe of Pine Ridge Reservation, which determined the quasi-sovereign status of the Indian tribes gives them the ability to determine the extent to which the right to vote is to be exercised in tribal elections, absent explicit Congressional legislation to the contrary.
Pennsylvania: The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled 5-2 that a Trump campaign ballot processing observer in Philadelphia had no right to stand any particular distance away from election workers, and it’s up to counties to decide where poll watchers can stand. The state high court’s ruling overturns an earlier decision that the Trump campaign had called a major win, even while it affected no actual votes in Pennsylvania. But that small win has propelled the Trump campaign in recent days to argue that vote counts across the state have been unfair and prompted them to push suspicions of fraud. The chief justice of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, Republican Thomas Saylor, wrote that the Trump campaign’s apparent aim to throw out votes would be disenfranchisement. Saylor wrote in his dissent that he “fail[ed] to see that there is a real issue here.” He pointed out that issues over how an election is administered could largely be addressed by courts before the election, and even by trial courts early during ballot counting — not well after, as the Trump campaign has tried to do.
A Pennsylvania appellate court handed President Donald Trump’s campaign a minor victory, barring counties from including in their final vote tallies a small pool of mail ballots from people who had failed to provide required ID by a Monday deadline. In a two-page order, a Commonwealth Court judge struck down a decision by the Wolf administration to give voters more time, post-election, to fulfill the ID requirement. Although state law only requires first-time voters to show ID at the polls, all voters who applied to vote by mail had to be validated their identification against state records by Nov. 9. Two days before the election, Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar pushed that date back by three days, citing a court decision earlier this year that allowed late-arriving mail ballots to be counted as long as they had been mailed by Nov. 3 and received within three days of that date. In her order, Commonwealth Court President Judge Mary Hannah Leavitt ruled that Boockvar had no authority to do that.
A federal appeals court in Philadelphia on Friday rejected an effort led by a Republican congressional candidate to block about 9,300 ballots that arrived after Election Day. The three-judge panel, led by Chief U.S. Circuit Judge Brooks Smith, noted the “unprecedented challenges” facing the nation this year, especially the “vast disruption” caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Smith said the panel ruled “with commitment to a proposition indisputable in our democratic process: that the lawfully cast vote of every citizen must count.” The ruling involves the Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision to accept mail-in ballots that arrived by Friday, Nov. 6, three days after the close of polling places. Republicans have the same issue pending on appeal before the U.S. Supreme Court.
Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Joseph James ruled on Wednesday that 2,349 mail-in ballots can be counted because they were received by Election Day even though the voters failed to date the outside. James said, absent any evidence of fraud, count them all. ACLU legal director Vic Walczak said, “Judge James today in his opinion got it exactly right, said there was not even an allegation that these 2,300 voters were improper. Clearly these ballots arrived on time, and there’s absolutely no reason they shouldn’t be counted.”
Wisconsin: Three voters in northeast Wisconsin have filed a lawsuit in federal court seeking to throw out votes in three of the counties that delivered Wisconsin to President-elect Joe Biden: Milwaukee, Dane and Menominee. The lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Green Bay seeks to change the outcome of Wisconsin’s election to President Donald Trump’s favor by excluding the presidential votes from the counties in the state’s final election certification, alleging without evidence that absentee voting is fraught with widespread fraud. The plaintiffs allege voters in these counties may have bypassed state law requiring voters to provide photo identification by dubbing themselves “indefinitely confined” due to the coronavirus pandemic. The suit also takes issue with clerks’ ability to take corrective actions to remedy errors related to witness’s addresses on absentee ballots. The plaintiffs dropped their suit this week. A court filing didn’t give a reason and an attorney for the voters declined to say why, citing attorney-client privilege.
Opinions This Week
National Opinions: Local election officials | Chris Krebs | Ballot counting | Postal Workers | Voter fraud claims, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII, IX, X | Election officials | Election lies | Ex-felon voting rights | Election security, II | Voter suppression | Media | Science-based election reform | Election result sabotage | Lindsey Graham | Equipment | Jim Crow | Military voters | Election catastrophe
Alaska: Ballot counting
Colorado: Election security
Connecticut: Voting modernization
District of Columbia: Ranked choice voting
Hawaii: Vote by mail
Idaho: Poll workers
Maryland: Ranked choice voting
Massachusetts: Ranked choice voting
Mississippi: No-excuse absentee voting
New Jersey: Vote by mail
Oklahoma: Ballot cure
Oregon: Ranked choice voting
Rhode Island: Poll workers
South Carolina: Absentee voting
Tennessee: First-time voters
Texas: Ballot counting
Elections GeoSummit: Each year, 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. When: Dec. 10, 1pm-5pm. Where: Online.
The 2020 Voting Experience and Goals for Reform: Following an unprecedented year of uncertainty, adaptation, and innovation in voting 2020, the Bipartisan Policy Center will host its fourth post-presidential election cycle event bringing together election administrators, policymakers, academics, advocates, and campaigns to examine the voting experience. We will discuss the impact of election administration reforms on improving the voting experience over four years ago as well as securing the voting process. Topics to be covered include: the shifts needed for voting during a pandemic; the rise of voting by mail, the use of technology in the election ecosystem, and how it can be secured; the future of funding elections in America; how changes in election laws and litigation impacted the election; how improved data collection and analysis can further improve the administration of elections. This event is sponsored by Democracy Fund and Carnegie Corporation of New York. More information will be forthcoming. When: Dec. 15, 11am-5pm Eastern. Where: Online
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 firstname.lastname@example.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.
Certification Project Manager, Hart InterCIvic— The Certification Project Manager manages state and federal certification projects of our Hardware and Software products, under the direction of the Sr. Director of Product Management. The Certification Project Manager must be able to exercise sound judgment and interact with regulatory authorities in a professional manner, particularly in high-pressure situations. Essential Duties and Responsibilities (Other duties may be assigned): Submit state/federal certification application materials; Plan for and coordinate logistics for onsite state/federal certification activities; Lead onsite state/federal certification activities; Provide follow up to state/federal certification activities. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Customer Success Manager, Dominion Voting Systems, Denver— The Customer Success Manager role started on a simple promise of transforming customer engagement from ‘reactive’ to ‘proactive’. Our CSM’s know that when our elections customers purchase Dominion Voting products that this is only the start of a meaningful exchange between Dominion Voting and our customers. Our CSM’s build value over time by balancing customer benefits and company profits. As the CSM, you will be the first voice of the customer and you will be responsible for the customer’s overall success, as defined by the customer. You will be successful in this role if you have superb people leadership skills, customer empathy, elections knowledge and experience, Dominion Voting product knowledge, and excellent project management skills. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Executive Director, Colorado County Clerks Association — The Colorado County Clerks Association is a not for profit 501 c (6) professional association that comprises the 63 elected county clerk and recorders. Governance plays an important role in determining how a professional association functions. The CCCA is no exception. Association Executive Board members work hard to maintain individual county offices, conduct high profile elections, and work in an environment of budget cuts and escalating costs. In addition to these workloads members then take on additional responsibilities by volunteering to work as board members, and committee chairs for the good of the state association. The Executive Director position was established nearly 10 years ago to administer and support the association vision, mission, and goals of the Colorado Clerks. The CCCA seeks a contract Executive Director with diverse non-profit management, governance, conference planning, and communications experience. The Executive Director reports to the 10-member CCCA Executive Board. The Board is elected by the association membership. The duties and management of selected other functions are delegated to the Executive Director by the CCCA Bylaws and under the direction of the President of the Board. Salary: $75,000. Deadline: December 4. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
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