In Focus This Week
CISA COVID working group releases FAQs on expanding absentee/VBM
Collaborative effort moved quickly to help elections officials during pandemic
By M. Mindy Moretti
According to the U.S. Census, in 2018, just 6.2 percent of the voters who cast a ballot in the Northeast part of the country did so by mail/via absentee. In the South, it was 9.7 percent. Overall, just 23.1 percent of the 2018 ballots were cast by mail/absentee.
Now with the nation in the grips of a global pandemic and the November 3 general election less than seven months away, many states are figuring out how to expand the ability to vote absentee/by mail.
For states like Arizona, where the majority of residents are on the state’s Permanent Early Voting List, which means they get a ballot in the mail, the lift to go to an all/mostly mail election for November, if they choose to, would be relatively “simple”. For places like the District of Columbia where only about 8 percent of the 2016 general election ballots were cast by absentee, the move to greatly expand voting by mail will be a big lift, but not impossible.
This week the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) Elections Infrastructure Government Coordinating Council (GCC) and Sector Coordinating Council’s (SCC) Joint COVID Working Group have put out six FAQ/ consideration documents on how to increase absentee or vote by mail in time for November. The purpose of the COVID working group is to support state and local officials and their private sector partners run elections during this pandemic by looking at everything from expanded mail voting to in-person voting in a social distancing environment.
“These are unprecedented times for everyone, especially election officials. These documents provide state and local election offices with answers to some of the questions they might have as well as some they might not have thought of yet but need to be aware of,” said Lori Augino, director of elections for the State of Washington and president of the National Association of State Election Directors. “I’m proud of how our community is working together to help Americans cast their ballots this year.”
The U.S. Election Assistance Commission, as an executive committee member agreed to chair the working group. The group started with calls focusing on general responses to the COVID-19 pandemic, but much of the requests for information centered on how to expand absentee/ voting by mail along a realistic spectrum in each state.
In order to not get bogged down in issues pertaining to each jurisdiction the group considered how to create a slightly different governing approach that could address the risks and concerns that the election community as a whole will need to consider. The working group further divided into smaller groups — or what they liked to call “swim lanes” — that focused on a specific area.
“With election officials around the country reexamining their 2020 election plans to account for the impact of COVID-19, I am confident this series of documents can help with the tough decisions they face,” said EAC Chairman Ben Hovland. “This group effort represents input from all aspects of the elections community including state and local election officials, federal partners, and industry professionals. The ability to pull people together and create these documents so quickly would not have been possible without the critical infrastructure governance being in place for elections.”
The goal was to expedite the collection of existing best practices and assist in the efficient development of tools and resources. Each subgroup was assigned a lead and worked through which elections officials and organizations would be contacted about each topic so they didn’t overwhelm the same people, people who are also be contacted by individual elections officials and the media.
According to Ryan Macias who served as a lead on several of the swim lanes, the support from both the GCC and SCC was great.
“We have to give a specific thanks to the SCC,” Macias said. “In addition to the assistance they provided us, they have collaborated to provide assistance to the election community by reaching out to external companies and associations- some of which may be competitors – to gather accurate and detailed information from the partners that will need to assist in the response.”
The working group recognized that state and local election officials needed information quickly but focused on creating a VBM Project Timeline before diving into the FAQs. The timeline provides a realistic calendar of tasks, specific to each area of focus, to help give a sense of how soon purchasing and other decisions will need to be made.
In addition to creating these initial FAQs, each of the respective working groups gathered information (i.e. procedures, training material, production calendars, etc.) pertaining to their “swim lane” that may assist election officials building an expanded VBM program.
The subgroups goal was to drive collaboration so these resources are as useful as possible for the election officials that are currently making difficult decisions on how to best serve their voters.
“I think everyone involved with this effort recognizes that if we’re going to solve the challenges facing election officials now and in November, we need collaboration – but we also need focus,” Jennifer Morrell, another subgroup leader, said. “We can’t have everyone trying to solve all of the problems. We need a way for subject matter experts, civic organizations, vendors, and other groups and organizations to provide the information and solutions that election administrators need now as well as an understanding of the considerations that will need to be made in preparation for November. In other words, we’re all in this together!”
The six FAQ/consideration documents cover outbound processes, ballot applications, inbound processes, signature verification and cure, electronic ballot delivery and ballot drop boxes. There will be four more FAQ/considerations on ensuring voters receive their ballots, education and outreach, in-person voting, and protecting staff to be published in the coming weeks.
Each of these documents was built with collaboration from members of the GCC, government election officials donating expertise to assist, and importantly, members of the private sector and non-profit organizations who work in this arena.
“Elections are hard to administer in the best of times—and incredibly difficult during presidentials,” said Noah Praetz one of the subgroup leaders. “Now this pandemic, and the significant changes that are necessitated, inspired the community to quickly coalesce and provide guidance so that election officials across the country could fast track their information gathering efforts and move on to implementation. This is a community of heroes.”
Every state is in a different place with respect to their current mail voting practices. Each has different tolerances and capabilities for expansion, with some states currently using lots of mail voting considering going all VBM. On the other side states with strict excuse requirements for absentee ballots are looking to open that process to no excuse, some even considering active outreach activities to help voters through the process, like direct mail of applications or allowing applications online. These activities come with operational and security challenges as well that we hoped to help them think through.—Noah Praetz, team lead
Outbound Mail Ballots
Ramping up operations to mail significantly more ballots to voters has tremendous logistical and security considerations. Rewriting contracts, finding vendors and materials, procuring equipment, reengineering manual processes, all take considerable thought and effort to be done securely with zero error tolerance. Our document isn’t prescriptive, but it does hope to position officials in a starting place where they see most of the field before them.—Noah Praetz, team lead
For many jurisdictions conducting vote by mail at scale may not be feasible with limited time between now and the November election. Also, voting by mail poses challenges for many voters, including those with specific needs and Native American populations. The key is to provide voters and election officials options to conduct a free and fair election during this pandemic, while identifying the considerations for managing the risks associated with expanding voting options at scale and under tight timelines.—Ryan Macias, team lead
Ballot Drop Box
Ballot drop boxes provided a way for last-minute voters to return their mail ballot in time to be counted. Temporary indoor boxes and drive-through boxes can be set up quickly and the equipment and supplies are relatively cheap. The key is identifying locations that are convenient, secure and accessible.—Jennifer Morrell, team lead
Inbound Ballot Process
The key to a successful inbound process is tracking and accounting for return ballot envelopes and ballots at each stage of the process and keeping them organized. In addition to tracking forms, color coding is a great practice to adopt. Colored mail trays, signs, and color indicators on mail carts ensure ballots are moved to the correct stage of the process and provide transparency.—Jennifer Morrell, team lead
Providing signature verification training is important for anyone involved in reviewing signatures. Fortunately, there are training programs from other states that can be borrowed. More importantly, election officials should think about meaningful ways to quickly notify voters of a discrepancy with their signature and provide them with an opportunity to cure the discrepancy.—Jennifer Morrell, team lead
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2020 Primary Updates
Wisconsin: Neither rain, nor hail, nor lawsuits nor a global pandemic kept the 2020 primary from happening in the Badger State this week. Even with more than a million absentee ballots requested and sent, some voters still headed to the polls on Tuesday and in some areas were forced to wait in lines for hours because of limited polling places, limited poll workers and social distancing. The fight to not hold the primary lasted until late in the day on Monday. Around mid-day Gov. Tony Evers issued an executive order to push the primary to June. State GOP leaders went to court and the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled that the show must go on. Additionally, the state GOP appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court that all absentee ballots must be submitted by the close of polls on primary day. In a 5-4 decision, the US Supreme Court agreed. So on Tuesday, poll workers across the state — including about 2,400 Wisconsin National Guard members — donned PPPE and opened up voting sites. Although we cannot say that ALL Wisconsin election jurisdictions limited the number of polling places, most did. For instance, Milwaukee went from 140+ sites to just five, Madison had only 66 instead of the normal 94. La Crosse was down to only eight. The reduced number of polling places and fewer poll workers forced voters in some places like Milwaukee and Green Bay to wait in line for hours to cast their vote. While local clerks and poll workers did their best to pull off the election, voters did face some issues. In Ellington, a sign was posted on one polling place telling voters they could not enter without a mask. This was not true and the sign was removed. In Lake Delton, the deputy clerk barred the media from photography at a polling site. The clerk cited the fact that there were two poll workers under 18 at the site and she did not want them photographed without their parent’s permission. The troubles for the Wisconsin primary didn’t end when the polls closed on election night. Problems with undelivered absentee ballots surfaced almost as soon as they were no longer valid because the polls had closed. Apparently “3 large tubs” of ballots from Oshkosh and Appleton were located after the primary. The Milwaukee Election Commission is seeking a formal Postal Service investigation into what happened to absentee ballots that never reached voters on time. At least 750 absentee ballots in Milwaukee had to be invalidated because they lacked the necessary witness signatures. And on an incredibly sad note, national experts say that in-person voting was likely a “disaster” for the state’s efforts to flatten the coronavirus curve.
Rescheduled Primaries: At press time, the following states have rescheduled their primaries: Connecticut 6/2; Delaware 6/2; Georgia 6/9; Indiana 6/2; Kentucky 6/23; Louisiana 6/20; Maryland 6/2; New Jersey 7/7; New York 6/23; Ohio 6/2; Pennsylvania 6/2; Rhode Island 6/2 Virginia 6/23; and West Virginia 6/9.
Legislative and legal actions surrounding the elections and the coronavirus pandemic can be found in their respective sections of the newsletter.
Funding: The U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) has announced that it is planning send funding to states that they can use for measures such as boosting mail-in and absentee voting, along with hiring more poll workers and buying sanitization supplies, by the end of next week. The agency noted in its announcement that it is “moving as quickly as possible” to provide exact guidance to states on how they can use these funds.
New Citizens: According to NBC News, if ceremonies and interviews to become a new U.S. citizen remain shut down until October without remote alternative, about 441,000 people who would have gained their voting eligibility in time to vote in November will be unable to do so. “USCIS did the right thing by pausing live oath ceremonies and live interviews, there’s no dispute about that,” Doug Rand, cofounder of Boundless Immigration told NBC. “The problem is USCIS hasn’t come up with a next step and come up with remote pathways for people to take the oath and do interviews.”
District of Columbia: The D.C. Board of Elections was forced to fully close its offices after numerous board employees came down the coronavirus symptoms after interacting with a member of the public who later tested positive. Staff who are not ill will be working remotely for the foreseeable future. “All emailed and online requests will be processed as usual,” board spokesperson Rachel Coll told DCist. “A phone number has been provided for telephone requests to be made. These methods will be checked remotely. Mailed and faxed requests will be retrieved by staff when it is safe to do so.”
Florida: On behalf of all 67 supervisors of elections, the Florida Supervisors of Elections (FSE) sent a letter to Gov. Ron DeSantis calling on him to sign an executive order to modify statutory procedures for the August 18 primary and the November general election. “There’s so much unknown at this point that it’s close to impossible to have any solid plans for August,” Polk County Supervisor Lori Edwards told the Miami Herald. “We need certainty and we need it soon so we can gather the resources and make our plans as needed.”
Georgia: The back-and-forth over Georgia’s rescheduled May primary continued this week with both the secretary of state and the governor saying they lack the authority to once again move the election. Finally on Thursday, after Gov. Brian Kemp extended the Georgia’s state of public health emergency, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger moved the primary to June 9. “This decision allows our office and county election officials to continue to put in place contingency plans to ensure that voting can be safe,” Raffensperger said according to The Atlanta Journal Constitution. “I certainly realize that every difficulty will not be completely solved by the time in-person voting begins for the June 9 election, but elections must happen in less than ideal circumstances.”
Maine: Gov. Janet Mills said this week that the coronavirus will likely force the state to delay the congressional and legislative primaries that were scheduled for June 9 while eyeing July 14 as her preferred date for a rescheduled election. Mills comment was not coordinated with Secretary of State Matt Dunlap who said he would prefer an all-mail election. Mills has unilateral power to move the election or change the election process.
Maryland: The Maryland State Board of elections has reversed course and will now offer limited in-person voting for the June 2 primary. Each county and Baltimore City will have a minimum of one voting center. Despite the shift, board members expressed their concerns. “I’m very wary about subjecting workers to this virus,” board member Malcolm L. Funn said. “We have to recognize the seriousness of this situation that we’re in.”
Mississippi: The City of Aberdeen has moved the city’s local elections. The primary will now be held May 5 and the general election June 2. A special election for Mississippi House District 88 has been moved to June 23. It was originally set for April 21.
Montana: All 56 of Montana’s counties will conduct their June primary by mail. Initially most of the counties with the largest populations said they would do it, but by the time Friday deadline rolled around, all counties had joined in.
Nevada: In news that’s surely happening everywhere, Nevada reported that while more than 20,000 people registered to vote in March, those numbers decreased dramatically at the end of the month due to the closure of DMV offices. Although the state’s June 9 primary will now be by mail, the secretary of state’s office did confirm this week that there would be “extremely limited” in-person early voting in the weeks leading up to primary day.
New Jersey: Gov Phil Murphy has moved the state’s primary from June 2 to July 7. Hudson County Clerk E. Junior Maldonado has revealed he tested positive for COVID-19, indicating that he’s “struggling with the symptoms” and is asking everyone for their prayers. In order to maintain social distancing, Union County Clerk Joanne Rajoppi accounted that the 2020 primary election ballot position drawing will be live-streamed on Facebook.
New York: Gothamist is reporting that New York City Board of Elections staff working in borough offices have died from the effects of COVID-19 and another 15 people in the BOE’s main office in lower Manhattan have tested positive. Although BOE staff has not been explicitly deemed essential workers, BOE’s Executive Director Michael Ryan told Gothamist / WNYC that they had been given guidance by the State Board of Elections to continue operations. “We at the Board have a legal mandate to conduct our jobs. The continuity of government depends in part on some of the work that we’re doing,” Ryan said. This week, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said that all voters in the state will be allowed to vote-by-mail in the June 23 primaries.
North Dakota: The Standing Rock tribal community is working with Sioux County to make sure that all voters can receive a mail ballot for the upcoming primary. “If they’re going to send them to their physical address, as you could look back in history we’ve been having trouble with that,” Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Chairman Mike Faith told KFYR.
Ohio: Another great idea coming out of Ohio this week. The Dayton Daily News, Springfield News-Sun and Journal-News, in partnership with the secretary of state’s office created and printed an absentee ballot request form that ran in the Sunday edition of the three papers. The Wayne County board of elections has installed a 24-hour ballot drop box in front of their offices. Secretary of State Frank LaRose’s office will be sending absentee ballot application postcards to every registered voter.
Texas: The secretary of state’s office has instructed local officials to immediately push back their May2 elections if they had not already done so—many had. “If you don’t move your May 2nd election, you are subjecting voters to health risks and potential criminal violations,” Keith Ingram the director of the office’s Elections Division wrote in an email Thursday to local election officials. “Failure to postpone your election will put your election at severe risk for an election contest.”
Virginia: Gov. Ralph Northam has announced that the June 9 congressional primaries will be postponed by two weeks and the May municipal elections could be moved to November. Northam used his executive power to postpone the June 9 primaries to the 23rd. However, he does not have the power to move the municipal primaries and so he’s asking the General Assembly to move them to coincide with the November general election. Lawmakers are set to return to the capitol on April 22.
West Virginia: The City of Nitro has postponed its elections from June 2 to July 9.
Election Security Updates
Vendors: Microsoft announced it is expanding its cybersecurity offerings to state and local election officials, including access to a free service that offers threat detection on email or other accounts, and specialized services from the company’s incident-response group. The first offering gives state and local officials — as well as members of Congress and their staffs — access to AccountGuard, a service that alerts users of Microsoft’s Outlook and Hotmail email platforms or its Office 365 suite of productivity applications if their accounts are threatened or compromised by hackers known to be associated with a foreign government.
Illinois: The Tazewell County Clerk’s Office announced that it is among the first entities in the state of Illinois to join a Facebook CyberSecurity Pilot Project being organized by the Illinois State Board of Elections. The official Facebook Page for the office is called “Tazewell County Clerk & Recorder of Deeds”. “Since the introduction of our Facebook Page in December of 2018, this social media outlet has become a leading source of public information concerning the activities of the Tazewell County Board, Tazewell County Elections, and the activities of the Tazewell County Clerk & Recorder of Deeds Office” Tazewell County Clerk John C. Ackerman said in a statement. “We have made major cyber security investments to our Tazewell County Website and office workstations thanks to Federal Grant opportunities and the assistance of the Illinois State Board of Elections. But this marks the first independent effort to safeguard our Facebook Page, which has become a vital trusted source of information.”
Election News This Week
Well this has certainly distracted us from all the coronavirus news. There’s a fight brewing in Prairie County, Montana — population 1,179, total area 1,743 square miles — over who will be the county’s next election administrator. After current election administrator Shari Robertson (who also serves as county clerk of the District Court, clerk and recorder) failed to file the paper to run for office, she must now run as a write-in. “I guess I missed it,” Robertson told The Billings Gazette, describing the realization as “numbing.” Robertson believed, as did others in the county government, that she had been elected to a four-year term two years ago. However one person has filed for the seat, Ruth Peck who Robertson defeated in the primary and general in 2018. Some have accused Peck of waiting till the 5pm filing deadline to file so as to not bring it to Robertson’s attention. “Apparently I stirred up a huge hornets’ nest,” Peck told the paper. The county commission has looked into changing the filing deadline and the candidates have gotten legal representation. “Oh my goodness,” Todd Devlin, Prairie County Commission chairman, told the paper when asked about the situation. “Small town America, huh?” Devlin said.
Do-over: The N.C. state board of elections has unanimously voted that Columbus County must conduct a new Republican primary for the county commissioner district 2. According to WWAY, audits by the county board of elections of the March 3 primary election results showed 10 voters received a ballot style with the District 2 contest on it on Election Day, but they were not eligible to vote in that district. Contest results show a margin of 4 votes between Mack Ward, the top vote-getter, and Chris Smith, the runner-up. The new election will be held on June 23, the same day as the 11th Congressional District second primary in the western part of North Carolina.
All bets are off. For a brief period of time this week, bookmaker FanDuel, which was approved by the West Virginia lottery board, announced plans to allow betting on the 2020 general election. During the hourlong window when betting was available the site took one bet on the election. It was quickly shut down by state officials though. “Gambling on elections has been illegal in West Virginia since 1868,” Secretary of State Mac Warner said in a statement. “Gambling on the outcome of an election has no place in our American democracy. Not today. Not tomorrow. Not ever. This is a terrible idea. Let’s shut this down right now and be very clear about it.” West Virginia Lottery Director John Myers issued a statement Wednesday evening saying his office “screwed up.” “I thought it would be okay, but after review, it was clearly a mistake,” he said in the statement According to the Daily Herald. “We just screwed up. I didn’t have the authority to do it, it should have never happened and I apologize to everyone.”
Former 2020 Candidates on Elections Issues: This week former 2020 presidential candidates Sens Amy Klobuchar (DFL-Minnesota) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) both weighed in on the U.S. voting system this week. Not surprisingly, Warren has a plan for it. Warren’s proposed plan calls for $4 billion in new elections funding, 30 days of required early voting and a mail-in ballot to be sent to every registered voter in the country. “The chaos and the attempt to suppress the vote in Wisconsin should be a wake-up call for the United States Congress,” Warren said in an interview with NPR. “We need to act immediately.” For her part, Klobuchar, who has a record of working on election administration issues spoke with MTV News about the Natural Disaster and Emergency Ballot Act that she is co-sponsoring with Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon). “There are always efforts to make it hard for people to vote, and for the good of our democracy, we need to make it easier,” Klobuchar told MTV. “And when you have this situation where people have to choose between their health or voting, it makes no sense. That’s why we want to make it easier for people to vote and what this legislation would do is it makes it easier to vote by mail. And that’s great for everyone — no matter how old you are. You won’t have to go [to the polls] to vote and violate all these rules about not congregating together.”
Personnel News: Jefferson County, Ohio board of elections Diane Gribble has announced that she will retire following the November election. Lafayette County, Florida Supervisor of Elections Supervisor Travis Hart has announced that he will run for re-election. Cameron Brooks has announced that he is not seeking reappointment when his term on the Knox County election commission ends in 2021.
In Memoriam: John McFerren, a noted civil and voting rights activist in Tennessee has died. He was 95. According to The Commercial Appeal, McFerren began his work in the summer of 1959 when he helped lead a voter registration campaign. The registration drive led to death threats and threats of violence against McFerren and his fellow activists, but it also helped draw national attention as voter registration became a fight around the country. “Had it not been for him, I just hate to see what voting would have been like,’ Mark Stansbury, a radio host on WDIA told the paper.
Delaware: Lawmakers have filed legislation that would allow for vote-by-mail in the 2020 Delaware primary and general elections. The measure, an amendment sponsored by Rep. David Bentz, would eliminate an enactment date on an existing vote-by-mail bill. Currently, House Bill 175, sponsored by Rep. Gerald Brady, would allow voters to vote-by-mail beginning in 2022. Removing the enactment date would mean the bill would take effect upon General Assembly passage and Governor John Carney signing the measure into law.
Kentucky: Gov. Andy Beshear has vetoed a bill that would have required Kentuckians to show a photo ID in order to vote. Voters could have also showed a social security card or credit card and then sign an affidavit. Beshear said that the law would create an obstacle for Kentuckians trying to vote, especially during the coronavirus pandemic when offices that provide ID cards are closed to in-person traffic. “Furthermore, no documented evidence of recent voter fraud in the form of impersonation in Kentucky has been presented in support of Senate Bill 2 and, therefore, the legislation would be attempting to resolve a problem does not exist,” Beshear wrote.”
Minnesota: This week, Secretary of State Steve Simon unveiled legislation that would help Minnesota conduct elections during the coronavirus pandemic. The proposal would make “temporary, one-time” changes that would automatically send registered voters mail-in ballots and allow extra time for election administrators to process the votes. Simon said the changes would be in effect only during the peacetime state of emergency declared by Gov. Tim Walz and that witnesses would be required for voting in order to combat fraud.
Oklahoma: The mayor’s Charter Review Committee will review a proposal that will, among other things, move Oklahoma City’s elections so that they coincide with statewide dates.
South Carolina: Lawmakers met for a brief, emergency session this week to adopt measures that include setting aside up to $15 million to cover costs directly relate to protecting the health of the state’s voters, poll workers and local election employees.
Tennessee: Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee has signed several election law changes that lawmakers passed before they recessed due to the coronavirus, including one that scales back voter registration drive restrictions that a federal judge blocked and another that details voting options during disasters. The new law removes misdemeanor penalties for not completing certain administrative requirements and eliminates fines for submitting too many incomplete registration forms.
California: An appellate court upheld a lower courts ruling in late March that stated the California Voter Participation Rights Act (CVPRA) does not apply to charter cities like Pasadena. Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Mitchell L. Beckloff held that the CVPRA impermissibly intrudes upon the province of chartered cities in dictating when they may hold their elections. The appellate opinion, by Presiding Justice Dennis Perluss, neither agrees nor disagrees with the trial court judge’s conclusion. Rather, the opinion states, that the Legislature didn’t make it clear whether it intended the CVPR—which went into effect Jan. 1, 2018—to apply to chartered cities or not so, to avoid a constitutional controversy, it will be assumed there was no such intention.
Florida: U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle has ruled that testimony and expert statements for the trial over a 2019 state law regarding felon voting will be conducted on a live web-based conferencing system. In 2018 Floridians approved a constitutional amendment that restored voting rights to felons who have completed their sentences. The legislature crafted a law that stops them from voting if they have unpaid fines, fees and restitution. The trial is set to begin April 27.
Also this week, Hinkle issued an order saying he intends to grant class certification to plaintiffs who allege that the state’s 2019 law amounts to a poll tax. In the order Tuesday on class certification, Hinkle rejected Secretary of State Laurel Lee’s arguments that a broad expansion of plaintiffs was unnecessary. “The plaintiffs’ Twenty-fourth Amendment and inability-to-pay claims turn on issues that can be properly resolved in a single action, once and for all. Class treatment is proper,” Hinkle wrote in the 18-page order, referring to the U.S. Constitution’s 24th Amendment barring poll taxes.
A settlement has been reach in a 2019 lawsuit over a state law that essentially prevented supervisors of elections from placing early voting sites on college campuses. In a directive this week from Secretary of State Laurel Lee says that supervisors need not ensure that a certain number of non-permitted parking sites are available at every single early voting site. Instead, the directive says that supervisors can use a number of factors to determine how adequate the parking is on a campus before deciding on whether to place such a polling place there.
Georgia: The ACLU has filed suit against the state arguing that requiring voters to put a stamp on their absentee ballot is the equivalent of a poll tax. According to Courthouse News Service, although the 55-cent cost of a first-class postage stamp may be small, the challengers say any financial barrier to voting is unconstitutional. Postage costs could be higher for longer and heavier ballots.
Ohio: The state of Ohio asked a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit that voting-rights advocates filed over a new primary-election plan that state lawmakers adopted after polls were closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. In a response filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, state attorneys argued that changing the election again would sow more confusion among voters and that the lawsuit is built on the erroneous claim that Ohio’s election date had been changed. On Friday, U.S. District Court Judge Michael Watson denied the suit. “The Constitution does not require the best plan, just a lawful one,” Watson wrote in his order. “As is apparent from the briefing in this lawsuit, every group has a different idea of what the best plan would be. But the Court will not declare the Ohio Legislature’s unanimous bill to be unconstitutional simply because other options may have been better.”
Also in Ohio, the state Supreme Court has ordered a response by April 10 in a case alleging voter fraud in Lorain County. According to the Morning Journal, on March 9, former Lorain city councilman Dennis Flores filed a case at the state Supreme Court seeking an order for the county prosecutor to investigate alleged voter fraud in a 2015 race for city council.
Minnesota: In a 5-2 decision, the Minnesota Supreme Court has ruled in favor of Secretary of State Steve Simon and that his office does not need to turn over information sought by the Minnesota Voters Alliance regarding voters’ status, reasons for any challenges to their registrations and information on voters not currently registered. According to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, the Supreme Court said the additional information sought by the Voters Alliance was accessible only to public officials for specific purposes. In declining access to that information, the secretary of state followed the law, the court said.
Texas: The Texas Democrats have filed a federal lawsuit in San Antonio this week arguing that holding traditional elections within state and federal safety guidelines attempting to limit spread of the new coronavirus pandemic would impose unconstitutional and illegal burdens on voters unless state law is clarified to expand voting by mail. The Harris County commission has authorized the county’s attorney to file an amicus brief in the suit.
Vendors: Tusk Philanthropies which has been working with a group of state and local elections officials to provide and online voting option for military and overseas voters has told Voatz that it needs to address vulnerabilities before it can regain the confidence of elections officials. “Voatz needs to address some of the concerns,” Sheila Nix, president of Tusk Philanthropies told StateScoop. “After the Trail of Bits piece, from Tusk’s point of view, they need to figure this out on their own,” she said. “Their strategy for going forward is their strategy.”
Opinions This Week
National Opinions: Vote by mail, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII, IX | Voter suppression | Voting rules | Election litigation | Coronavirus, II, III | Ranked choice voting | General election, II, III, IV | Voting rights, II | Local election administrators | Youth vote, II | President, II, III, IV | Turnout
District of Columbia: Vote by mail
Georgia: Vote by mail
Hawaii: Vote by mail
Maryland: Fair elections
Michigan: Election administration
New Hampshire: No-excuse absentee voting
New York: Absentee voting
North Carolina: Voting safety
Oregon: Secretary of state
Texas: Vote by mail
Utah: Vote by mail
West Virginia: Primary
VVSG 2.0 Public Comment Period
The U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) is taking important steps to advance the development of the next generation of federal voting system standards, known as the Voluntary Voting System Guidelines 2.0, or VVSG 2.0. These steps include sharing the recommended VVSG 2.0 Requirements with the EAC’s Standards Board and Board of Advisors for review, launching a 90-day public comment period, and scheduling a virtual public hearing for Friday, March 27.
“Each step toward final approval of VVSG 2.0 is another step toward improving election security. The final VVSG requirements will enable manufacturers to develop updated, improved, accessible, and secure voting technology. The process to gather feedback from our stakeholders is critical to completing this process,” added EAC Chairman Ben Hovland, who has served as the EAC’s designated federal official for the TGDC for the past year. “We look forward to getting input from our Board of Advisors and Standards Board, and to hear from the public through the hearings and public comments.”
Last month, the Technical Guidelines Development Committee (TGDC) unanimously voted to provide the EAC with recommendations on the VVSG 2.0 Requirements. The recommended requirements, developed with the support of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), were submitted to the EAC’s Acting Executive Director on March 9, 2020.
On March 11, the EAC submitted the proposed VVSG 2.0 Requirements to the EAC’s Standards Board and Board of Advisors for review.
The EAC has initiated a 90-day public comment period on the VVSG 2.0 Requirements, which will run through June 22, 2020. Those who wish to review the VVSG 2.0 Requirements document, as recommended by the TGDC, and submit comments may do so via regulations.gov.
EAC Commissioners are expected to consider the VVSG 2.0 for adoption following their review of feedback provided by the Standards Board and Board of Advisors on the proposed VVSG 2.0 Requirements, as well as testimony and comments provided during public hearings and the public comment period.
Upon adoption, VVSG 2.0 would be the fifth iteration of national-level voting system standards. VVSG 2.0 offers a new approach to the organization of the guidelines and seeks to address the next generation of voting equipment. It contains new and expanded material in many areas, including reliability and quality, usability and accessibility, security, and testing. The Federal Election Commission published the first two sets of federal standards in 1990 and 2002. The EAC then adopted Version 1.0 of the VVSG on December 13, 2005. In an effort to update and improve version 1.0 of the VVSG, on March 31, 2015, the EAC commissioners unanimously approved VVSG 1.1.
The advancement of the VVSG 2.0 Requirements follows efforts in recent years to advance the VVSG 2.0 Principles and Guidelines, which are 15 principles and related guidelines that form the core of VVSG 2.0 and are supported by the Requirements. The TGDC provided the EAC with recommendations on the VVSG 2.0 Principles and Guidelines in September 2017. The EAC Standards Board and Board of Advisors recommended the VVSG 2.0 Principles and Guidelines for adoption in April 2018. The EAC solicited public comments on the VVSG 2.0 Principles and Guidelines from February to June 2019, and held three public hearings on them in April and May 2019.
The Help America Vote Act (HAVA) establishes three federal advisory committees that support the EAC in its work: the Technical Guidelines Development Committee (TGDC), the Standards Board, and the Board of Advisors.
The TGDC assists the EAC in developing the VVSG. The chairperson of the TGDC is the director of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). The TGDC is composed of 14 other members appointed jointly by EAC and the director of NIST, including state and local election officials, individuals with technical and scientific expertise in voting systems, and representatives from the Access Board, American National Standards Institute, and Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.
The Standards Board and Board of Advisors advise the EAC on various matters, including the development of the VVSG. The Standards Board consists of 55 state election officials selected by their respective chief state election official, and 55 local election officials selected through a process supervised by the chief state election official. HAVA prohibits any two members representing the same state to be members of the same political party.
The Board of Advisors consists of 37 members, as specified by HAVA. Members include two people appointed by each of the following groups: National Governors Association; National Conference of State Legislatures; National Association of Secretaries of State; The National Association of State Election Directors; National Association of Counties; The National Association of County Recorders, Election Officials and Clerks; The U.S. Conference of Mayors; Election Center; International Association of Clerks, Recorders, Election Officials, and Treasurers; U.S. Commission on Civil Rights; and Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board. Other members include representatives from the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Public Integrity, and the Civil Rights Division; the director of the U.S. Department of Defense Federal Voting Assistance Program; four professionals from the field of science and technology, one each appointed by the Speaker and the Minority Leader of the U.S. House of Representatives, and the Majority and Minority leaders of the U.S. Senate; and eight members representing voter interests, with the chairs and the ranking minority members of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on House Administration and the U.S. Senate Committee on Rules and Administration each appointing two members.
COVID-19 & Policy Options for Expanding Mail-in Ballots this November: Learn how you can be an informed and effective advocate for state-level policy change during this one-hour webinar featuring three expert speakers: Amber McReynolds, CEO for the National Vote At Home Institute and Coalition, will explain the current status of voting-by-mail / absentee voting across states, their options for expanding access, and key implementation questions states must address during their transition. Secretary of State Kim Wyman (R-Washington) will share how her state, an early adopter of Vote-by-Mail, makes elections accessible to populations for whom mailed ballots may present a challenge. Finally, Ben Hovland, Chairman of the Elections Assistance Commission, will discuss financial and technical support for states in preparing for the November elections. When: April 23 at 2pm(ET). Where: Online.
Local Representation: RCV as a State Rights Voting Remedy — Three states—California, Washington, and Oregon—now have their own voting rights acts, and multiple state legislatures are debating state VRA proposals this session. State VRAs come with opportunities for innovative remedies, like ranked-choice voting. Attend this session to learn about ranked-choice voting’s place in state voting rights challenges from California to (the) New York (island). Where: Online. When: April 29, 11am Eastern.
NASED Summer 2020 Conference: — Twice a year, the National Association of State Election Directors members gather to discuss the latest developments in election administration. Members of the public are welcome to attend at the non-member registration rate. Check back here for more information about the Summer 2020 Conference. Where: Reno, Nevada When: July 19-22.
NASS Summer 2020 Conference: The National Association of Secretaries of State will hold their Summer 2020 conference at the Silver Legacy Reno, Nevada. Check back here for more information about the Winter 2020 conference when it becomes available. Where: Reno, Nevada. When: July 19-22.
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.
Communications Associate, Democracy Works— The communications team ensures the vision of Democracy Works is clearly and creatively articulated to our stakeholders in a variety of contexts. We develop strategic communication plans and programs for our internal and external audiences, promoting the mission and brand of Democracy Works across several channels. We love democracy and are excited to communicate our work to strengthen it. As a part of the team, you will: Support and maintain a strategic, goal-oriented vision for all Democracy Works internal and external communication projects; Develop fresh story ideas: Proactively research and write materials to tell our story and engage a variety of audiences (i.e. website, blog and social media content); Produce communication materials: Prepare executive talking points and bios, briefing materials, newsletters, and presentations that align with our organization’s strategic goals and branding; Assist other teams by copy-editing and proofreading written content; Brainstorm strategic outreach ideas, and produce creative content for new and ongoing projects; Media outreach: Identify strategic narratives and compelling storylines to pitch relevant reporters and secure timely media coverage; Media monitoring: Track and report media coverage of Democracy Works, our products, campaigns, and industry trends; and Press lists: Build and maintain comprehensive press lists to develop relationships with reporters Deadline: Target start date April 28. Salary: $58K-$68K. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Deputy Chief Information Security Officer, U.S. Election Assistance Commission— As the Deputy Chief Information Security Officer (Deputy CISO), the incumbent provides policy, leadership and direction, and serves as a key contributor to the EAC’s strategy regarding achieving mission goals; ensuring that all IT functions are integrated, prioritized and executed within agency priorities and allocated resources; and working closely with EAC’s service providers. Salary: $96,970 to $148,967. Deadline: April 27. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Development Director, Election Administration Resource Center— The Election Administration Resource Center is seeking a proactive, relationship-driven Development Director to help shape the organization’s fundraising strategy and establish a group of individual and foundation donors. You will collaborate with the Board, Executive Director, and staff to lead the organization to strong financial sustainability. Current funding is on a three-year cycle, and plans for the 2021-2024 period will start immediately. You are a highly-organized, self-monitoring exceptional communicator who loves prospecting, authentic relationship building, and making big asks. General job responsibilities: Work with the Finance Officer to plan and operate the annual budget; Establish and maintain relationships with various organizations throughout the nation and utilize these to enhance the mission of the Election Administration Resource Center; Identify potential donors and otherwise increase the overall visibility of the Election Administration Resource Center. Diversifying revenue streams and securing multi-year funding opportunities should be a primary focus; Lead the development and execution of a million dollar three-year fundraising strategy growing existing budget from $1M to $2M annually; Define appropriate goals, track metrics, and prepare progress reports for the board and grant funders; Develop and execute fundraising campaigns to increase the reach of the Election Administration Resource Center and generate revenue. Application: Please send a resume, three references, salary history, and requirements, along with a cover letter of no more than two pages to email@example.com.
Director, Jefferson County, OH BOE— The Jefferson County Board of Elections is currently accepting applications for the position of Director. The candidate must be a member of the Democratic Party and a qualified elector of Jefferson County within 30 days of employment at the agency. The Director will oversee the total operations of the Jefferson County Board of Elections, in conjunction with the current Deputy Director and members of the Board of Elections. All functions of the operation of the office fall under the responsibility of the Director. The following are the common operations of the office, but not all fall under the complete operation of the Director. The Director has the discretion of assigning duties to the Deputy Director and staff members as he or she sees fit. Deadline: May 20. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Director of Communications, U.S. Election Assistance Commission— Plans and implements communications plans, events, media campaigns, press conferences, briefings, messaging and interviews. Participates in developing communications and media initiatives, planning and implementing of media events, and maintaining a proactive media strategy for the EAC. Develops and maintains productive relationships with members of the media. Enlist the cooperation of media representatives in providing accurate information to the public that furthers the goals and objectives of the EAC. Provides background information to the media as required and drafts talking points for spokespersons ahead of interviews and presentations. Researches, develops, writes and edits reports, presentations, press releases, fact sheets, feature articles, letters, speeches, testimony, annual reports, opinion pieces, videos, and other public-facing communications materials that effectively communicate the Commission’s goals to EAC stakeholders and a variety of public and internal audiences. Procures and manages contracts and assists with the procurement of other Communications-related needs, i.e. photography, video, subscriptions, and other non-EAC services and goods. Attends staff briefings and policy discussions to gain knowledge of Commission activities in order to remain current on the latest developments of interest to the public, assist in preparing for and responding to media inquiries, and formulate recommendations regarding agency policies and programs. Performs other related duties as assigned. Salary: $96,970 to $148,967. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Director, Information Services, Orange County, Florida— The director of information systems oversees all operations of the Information Systems Division. The director also provides strategic direction to the organization regarding Information Systems initiative and needs, and establishes security systems, policies, procedures and protocols related to all Information System functions. The director reports to the supervisor of elections, supervises a staff of 16, as well as temporary workers during election events. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Elections Administration Manager, NC State Board of Elections— The State Board of Elections oversees the enforcement of federal and state laws, rules and procedures governing the conduct of elections, voter registration, and campaign finance activities in North Carolina. The Election Administration unit develops and manages processes, procedures, and policies for the conduct of elections by the State Board of Elections and county boards of elections. Specific programs include voter registration, absentee voting, in-person voting, provisional voting, candidate filing, petitions, and other areas or special programs specific to election administration. This primary purpose of this position is to oversee and manage a team of program specialists and program assistants in developing processes, procedures, and policies for the conduct of elections by the State Board of Elections and county boards of elections, specifically voter registration, absentee voting, in-person voting, provisional voting, candidate filing, petitions, and other areas or special programs specific to election administration. This position works collaboratively with other agency divisions including Training & Outreach, Voting Systems, Campaign Finance, Business Operations, and IT. Provides election administration policy recommendations to the agency’s Strategy Team and Executive Director. Salary: $51,895 – $83,025. Deadline: April 17. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply click here.
Grants Specialist, U.S. Election Assistance Commission— The Grants Specialist will assist the Grants Director to manage and administer the grants program for the EAC pursuant to 5 USC §3109 (See 42 USC §15324(b)) and §204 (6)(c) of HAVA. The incumbent provides expert advice to EAC leadership regarding grants management; provides advice and guidance to States and U.S. territories regarding the use of funds provided by EAC to ensure State/U.S. territory compliance with HAVA, Appropriations Law and Office of Management and Budget (OMB) circulars; conducts pre- and post-audits to review how funds have been spent; and makes recommendations to the Executive Director for audit resolutions. Salary: $69,581 to $128,920 per year. Deadline: June 17. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Portfolio Manager-Development/Fundraising, Democracy Works— The development team is responsible for generating revenue for Democracy Works programs, initiatives, and general operating expenses through individual donors, corporate partnerships, and foundation grants. We create strategic plans for each relationship and provide a tailored approach that engages each donor specific to their interests in strengthening democracy. As a part of the team, you will: Manage an assigned portfolio of donors and prospects with intent to discover donor potential. Have a minimum annual fundraising goal tied to a blended portfolio as specified in performance standards, including both renewable gifts and new incremental revenue. Develop aggregate donor management plans resulting in phone interaction and local face to face solicitation. Develop and execute an ongoing strategy for qualifying donors in extensive donor discovery, retention and growth of donor contributions, as well as recapture from previous donors. Work collaboratively with other departments and partners to refine and segment fundraising strategies matching the objectives and interests of the donor/prospect. Implement programs/activities to identify, cultivate and solicit donors nationally at the $10,000 level or higher, with an emphasis on maximizing revenue for Democracy Works. Update donor records in Salesforce following donor contacts. Be accountable for cultivating relationships of mostly individual, foundation and some corporate fundraising with focus on retention, recapture and growth. Salary: $72,000-$86,000. 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.
Proposals Manager, Hart InterCivic— The Proposals Program Manager will be responsible for leading and coordinating cross-functional teams for the successful development of proposals and management of the proposal lifecycle. This includes requests for proposals, requests for information, support for post-proposal contract questions, and other related activities. The Proposals Program Manager will work closely with key stakeholders and input providers across each peer group including Sales, Product Management, Finance, Operations and Engineering. This position reports to the Director of Certification and Proposals. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Quality Assurance Engineer, Democracy Works—You will be our first QA-specific hire, meaning that we are looking for someone who can help us build our approach to QA from the ground up with an eye toward providing guidance to our engineers in their work and potentially building out additional QA capacity over time. As a part of the team you will: Stand up end-to-end testing on our large/complex microservices setup; Structure our approach to QA from the ground up and potentially build a team of QA engineers over time; Write automated testing for our user-facings tools; Integrate into our dev process to confirm the quality of the code our developers are producing; Do some amount of manual testing as needed; Regularly collaborate with other members of the voter engagement team. Salary: $105K-$125K. Deadline: Target start date April 27. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Senior Cyber Program Manager, U.S. Election Assistance Commission— As the Senior Cyber Program Manager, the incumbent provides policy, leadership and direction, and serves as a key contributor to the EAC’s strategy regarding the Election Technology Program. The incumbent furthers the EAC’s efforts in various arenas; works to improve federal, state and local relations with regard to elections; and provides strategic guidance to senior staff on various issues pertaining to elections and specifically, election security. Salary: $96,970 to $148,967. Deadline: April 27. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Senior Software Quality Assurance Engineer, NC State Board of Elections— The purpose of this position is to perform senior software test engineer (STE) tasks for the Quality Assurance (QA) needs of the agency. This position must accurately define, analyze, plan, design, develop, document and inspect development/application/system workflow processes. Testing includes designing, writing, coding and performing functional, integration, regression, performance, and other tests as needed on new development, enhancements and repairs (bug fixes) for the agency. New and existing system functions are evaluated to determine if they work as designed. Tests are performed across all agency systems including web, client server and mobile device configurations to meet the modernization requirements of the agency The employee will provide technical and analytical work in supporting applications for the business, research, and instructional functions of the agency. This position must also create, define, and ensure compliance to IT, testing and development standards and best practices. The position must collaborate with management and technical staff at all levels. Salary: $56,339 – $91,817. Deadline: April 10. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Site Reliability Engineer, Democracy Works— As our first Site Reliability Engineer, you will guide the direction of the infrastructure engineering discipline at Democracy Works; exemplifying reliable, measurable, secure and repeatable practices that will act as a “force multiplier” across our products. You will: Maintain our infrastructure using Terraform and Kubernetes. Design, build, maintain, and plan for growth of infrastructure at Democracy Works. Create and maintain monitoring and alerting for services. Create and maintain documentation for the systems and tools that you work with. Automate “toil” – discover repetitive manual actions, document those actions, and automate them if possible. Improve existing automation to mitigate risk introduced through the natural process of software change. Join an on-call rotation for services you are responsible for. Review existing code and architecture for security and reliability. Work closely with developers and product teams regarding security and reliability implications of software and infrastructure changes. Aid developers in debugging production issues across services in a distributed system. Assist with interview processes for other available roles at Democracy Works. Work with product teams to balance and prioritize your work according to external deadlines and organizational goals. Salary: $105,000 – $125,000. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Systems Program Analyst, NC State Board of Elections— Implement and maintain the agency’s large and complex network Maintains solid technical competence for communication systems while grasping the integration and interaction of all supported systems. Architect Cloud Infrastructure in Microsoft Azure, Amazon Web Services (AWS), or other cloud provider. Evaluate, recommend, design, implement, maintain and secure Infrastructure elements in support of the agency mission. The analyst should execute the following tasks and responsibilities: Supports Information Technology Infrastructure Supports Information Technology Infrastructure to include Database, Server, Networking, Equipment, Architecture and Design. Ensures all data is properly collected, stored, and secured, using tools that analyze performance metrics, service levels, server status, and system outages. Implement and maintains network architecture, switch programming, agency firewalls, and Disaster Recovery (DR) testing and documentation that includes scheduling, performing and verifying system backup processes for all systems. Manages Microsoft Server installation and administration including adding and removing roles such as Active Directory, Domain Name Service (DNS), Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP), Group policies, Folder redirection, and version control to protect data, add and remove users and setup of permissions and distribution groups. Works with outside vendors as needed to purchase necessary equipment, modify systems and/or complete programming updates. Monitors network performance (availability, utilization, throughput and latency) and test for weaknesses. Follows operational standards and policies for the department, and recommends updates when appropriate. Salary: $68,170 – $110,876. Deadline: April 13. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here
Voter Service Manager, Arapahoe County, Colorado— This position provides the opportunity for you to take your voting or government-related experience to a new level in an exciting year where we will administer a statewide primary election in June and the November Presidential General Election. Join our team of dedicated public servants in supporting voters across Arapahoe County while upholding public trust and integrity in our elections process. This position will assist with complex administrative and supervisory work in directing daily activities. The Voter Service Manager supports the Elections Deputy Director, Chief Deputy Director and the Clerk and Recorder with issues concerning all operations of Elections. Salary: $65,960 – $105,365. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
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