In Focus This Week
What are costs of voting by mail?
The costs are as varied as the process
By M. Mindy Moretti
The next time you fly, whenever that may eventually be, if you ask everyone on the flight how much they paid for their ticket, you’ll get a different answer from just about every passenger.
The same can be said for how much it costs to conduct an election entirely or mostly by mail. It’s a bit different for every jurisdiction.
Election costs are traditionally difficult to gather given the dispersed nature of funding sources — federal dollars, state reimbursements, fees for services, general funds, etc.— as well as the functions across different governmental agencies (in some states).
Another obstacle is the way we talk about elections. The same term is used to describe different things (IE “early voting”) so it isn’t as easy as simply comparing election office budgets.
“However, if we break it down to the bare materials and functions—those specific to the policy being analyzed, we can get a semblance of understanding of baseline costs,” said Tammy Patrick senior advisor, Elections at the Democracy Fund.
Additionally, Patrick noted, the answer sought needs to be specified in order to ask the correct question. For instance, there is a difference between “what does it cost to conduct an all-mail election” and “what costs are specific to an all-mail election”?
As more and more jurisdictions ramp up their absentee/vote-by-mail capabilities for still-to-come primaries and of course November, we wanted to take a look at what officials can expect the final bill to look like, where they can cut financial corners and where they shouldn’t.
So before we get into cost cutting measures, just how much should it cost — generally.
Earlier this month, the Auburn University and The Election Center released the findings of the Investing in Elections project that surveyed Election Center members about office operations, methods of election and resources.
“The differences between budget, lead staff salaries, and cost per registered voter between mail ballot jurisdictions and all other jurisdictions in our sample are statistically significant. The budget and cost per registered voter figures are significantly greater in the mail ballot only jurisdictions,” wrote brief authors Kathleen Hale and Mitchell Brown.
“On balance, these data indicate that the jurisdictions in our sample using mail ballot only methods are operating in environments with larger budgets overall. This suggests that jurisdictions that are not currently all mail ballot jurisdictions are at a comparative resource disadvantage to those that do. This has implications for resource outlays in legislative and administrative decision-making for moving to an all vote-by-mail model,” the authors wrote.
In the Vote at Home Scale Plan, the National Vote at Home Institute estimated that it would cost a state like Michigan, $37,850,00 to implement a centralized plan and includes all that is needed to mail every voter a ballot, the operational costs to process them, and infrastructure updates.
The Brennan Center has also released a report on the Estimated Costs of Covid-19 Election Resiliency Measures which focuses on a number of measures to make the November 2020 election safe including expanding absentee/vote-by-mail. In their report Brennan estimates it will cost between $982 million–$1.4 billion nationwide.
“In this moment, everyone is asking what the costs would be in November with scaling up to VBM,” Democracy Fund’s Patrick said. “Here are some of the items to consider as states evaluate their needs for outbound processes:”
Ballot application average materials and costs
- $.15 postcard
- $.50 postage outbound & return business reply mail
- $.10 time stamping & scanning
- $.25 application data entry (60 an hour at $15hr average)
- $.30 per ballot card (if jurisdiction using paper ballot at the polls, this cost would be same under either system)
- $.15 per envelope (2-3 depending on privacy sleeve requirement)
- $.10 per insert
- $1.00-$6.00 postage (depending on class of service, mailing preparation, bulk discounts, round trip, etc.)
Processing costs vary widely if automated or manual process
- $1.50 automation processing (via vendor support or insertion/sorting equipment)
- $15-$20 if entirely manual process
“Review existing costs and contracts,” Patrick advised. “Don’t simply scale up existing — adopt best practices so you are scaling solutions rather than previous problems that didn’t come to light due to small volume. There is a cost to business as usual…”
And even with the most detailed of plans, unexpected costs are going to take you by surprise. It’s the known unknowns.
“The costs that took me a bit by surprise, even with our detailed planning process, was the ‘extra’ costs associated with full integration,” said Neal Kelley, Orange County, California registrar of voters. “There are always hidden costs in integrating systems, but these were pretty large and was frustrating. If I had to do it all over again I would focus extreme attention on those downstream issues.”
And even for an already large vote-by-mail jurisdiction, the pandemic is changing things. Kelley noted that he’s recently regrouped and increased his extracting capacity by 25% and his scanning capacity by 50% following the COVID-19 outbreak.
“Election administrators may be surprised how much more it costs to scale up a small absentee ballot program to one where 80-90% of your voters maybe voting by mail,” said Hillary Hall, senior advisor for state and local election officials with National Vote at Home.
Here are some areas that may not be obvious:
- Proper chain of custody procedures for both picking up ballots for processing and internally as ballots make their way through the process
- Resources for a call/email center. With new voting, calls and emails increase dramatically. That is why using the best to design the original information and using something like Ballot Scout are so important. Addressing issues on the front end will reduce voters needing to speak with your office.
- The cost of voters sending in duplicate requests for ballots
- Setting up a system to track your data on the front end. This will help you see issues as the election progresses and give you data for the next election. This is especially important if you still have a primary election before the November election. Some examples` of data to collect, processing times each step in ballot processing, staffing, ballots returns
- Storage for vote by mail records- need to store envelopes and the ballots, time lines for those
Hall said there are some ways officials can cuts costs including staffing levels, polling place consolidation and eliminating the ballot request process. On the staffing front, Hall said ballots take time to process and staffing can be allocated so that it takes place over a few days and without overtime. However it means elections officials need to manage expectations.
“It is important to fill-in campaigns and parties in ahead of time and keep them updated. The first most important update is to communicate how many ballots have been received after the polls close on election day. Interested parties should also know what ballots may still come in (even if this is a guess, postmark vs close of polls impacts this as does deadlines for overseas and military voters),” Hall said. “The last part that must be updated is daily or twice daily updates on how many ballots have been processed and counted and how many still need to be processed.”
Reynaldo Valenzuela Jr., CERA, director of elections Maricopa County, Arizona noted that the biggest expense in his county is on staffing.
“Initially before automation to assist us with inserting outgoing early voting mail packets, we were caught off guard on how tedious a process it is to manually ready an outgoing packet and all of its contents – and do it correctly without error,” Valenzuela said. “The human capital cost was extraordinary and no matter how well you plan, manual inserting is just not possible once you get past a certain volume, and for us that was at over 400,000.”
None of the costs listed here include estimated costs of additional equipment: insertion/sorter machines, extractors, and central tabulation for those who seek to automate themselves. And that’s something officials will need to seriously consider. Valenzuela stressed the importance of automating the process as much as possible also provided a list of vendors that make it possible to streamline the vote-by-mail process.
Valenzuela also cautioned that figuring out costs for 2020 could be harder to estimate than down the road.
“In the beginning of no-excuse voting it was quite difficult to estimate the number of requests that would come in and every election had differing request volumes based on the type of election. So unique supplies for each cycle were hard to order for,” Valenzuela explained. “However, we quickly grew into a universal set of items that were valid for any election to include making the ballot width (3 column) standard for outgoing and incoming envelopes so they would properly fit versus using 1, 2 or 3 column optical scan ballots. For the most part though, it was a quick set standard operating procedure for supplies and not too many pain points as far as over budgeting.”
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2020 Primary Updates
Wisconsin: The Wisconsin Elections Commission unanimously agreed to dig deeper into the issue of unreturned absentee ballots in the state’s April 7 election. Of the absentee ballots requested in the spring election, 1.1 million — about 88% — were returned and counted, while 135,417 ballots were never returned, according to the latest data. Commission Chairman Dean Knudson noted the average absentee ballot return rate is 80 to 85% for state elections. “My point here is while much has been made of this, we actually had a higher than the historical average percentage of valid return,” Knudson said according to The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. But the raw number of unreturned ballots went up because so many more people tried to vote absentee because of the coronavirus pandemic, he said according to the paper. Meanwhile the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, in partnership with the PBS series Frontline and Columbia Journalism Investigations takes a deep dive into what happened with the absentee ballots in the April 7 primary and found, that while officials are pointing most of the blame toward the U.S. Postal service, the mailing of absentee ballots was plagued by “…inadequate computer systems, overwhelmed clerks and misleading ballot information.” The WEC also debated whether or not to investigate the lack of polling places in Milwaukee and Green Bay but that failed to move forward after the commission deadlocked on the issue. According to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Officials have identified seven people who appear to have contracted COVID-19 through activities related to the April 7 election, Milwaukee Health Commissioner Jeanette Kowalik said Monday. Six of the cases are in voters and one is a poll worker, Kowalik said.
Election Security Updates
The Senate Intelligence Committee has released a report—the fourth of an expected five volumes—this week saying that the Intelligence Community was correct in its assessment of Russian interference in the run-up to the 2016 presidential primary. According to The Hill, the bipartisan committee concluded that the Intelligence Community’s Assessment (ICA) “presents a coherent and well-constructed intelligence basis for the case of unprecedented Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election,” and that all analysts involved in compiling the ICA were under no pressure to come to a specific conclusion.
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 7/11; Maine 7/14; Maryland 6/2; New Jersey 7/7; New York 6/23; Ohio 4/28; 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.
Bipartisan Policy Center: America’s election officials are scrambling to administer upcoming elections during an unprecedented pandemic. Federal assistance is desperately needed to adjust to new realities on the ground. Congress has appropriated $400 million through the CARES Act for emergency election security grants, a critical infusion of cash for election administrators. Will states and local administrators receive the funds in time to use them this fall? How will states use this funding? Will it be enough for elections to administered safely and legitimately? States have various needs spanning from security upgrades to procuring envelopes in anticipation of an influx in mail voting. This week, Bipartisan Policy Center Elections Project Director Matthew Weil lead a panel discussion about how the U.S. Election Assistance Commission is working with state and local officials to distribute federal funds and provide key resources to protect America’s voters and voting systems. Weil was joined by EAC Commissioners Ben Hovland and Donald Palmer as well Rob Rock, director of elections for Rhode Island and Michael Winn, director of elections for Harris County, Texas. You can view the discussion here.
Public Opinion: A new poll from NBC News/The Wall Street Journal finds that while politicians bicker about voting by mail, 2/3 of the public supports it for the upcoming November general election. A majority of voters — 58 percent — favor nationwide reform of election rules that would allow all eligible voters to cast their ballots by mail. And nearly 10 percent more say that, while the rules should not be permanently changed, all voters should be able to mail in their ballots this November because of concerns that the coronavirus may still be a major public health threat this fall. he survey shows that 58 percent of voters support allowing voting by mail generally, while 39 percent do not support it. When an additional 9 percent of voters who back a one-time exception for November are added, a total of two-thirds — 67 percent — of the electorate supports allowing anyone to vote by mail in this year’s general election. Just 29 percent disagree.
Alabama: The executive committee of the Alabama League of Municipalities has elected to wait until June to decide if the group wants to seek a delay in city elections later this year due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Elections for most municipalities in the state are now scheduled for Aug. 25.
Colorado: In the past we’ve written about low-turnout elections where less than a dozen people showed up, but in most of those elections, only about a dozen people were eligible to vote. For the April 7 municipal election in Glendale, only 16 of the county’s roughly 5,000 voters cast a ballot. “I had 13 people request absentee ballots prior to the election and we had three actual voters come in. So that’s the 16,” said City Clerk Veronica Marvin, according to The Denver Post. Marvin said she ordered 500 ballots for the in-person polling place election. Another 16 were mailed to military members and overseas citizens, but not returned. Marvin says her city did what it could to let voters know about the April 7 election and allow them to vote under such unusual circumstances. “We tried to get voters in here,” she said, “but I understand.”
District of Columbia: While District officials are encouraging voters to cast a ballot by mail for the June 2 primary, there will be vote centers in all eight wards however if a voter chooses to cast a ballot in-person they will be required to wear a mask in the polling place.
Idaho: The Idaho Secretary of State is partnering with Albertsons and Safeway to help provide voters with the return postage needed to submit absentee ballots for the May 19 primary election. Secretary of State Lawerence Denney said he had to reverse a previous statement that the state government would pay for the return postage of the absentee ballots, because some counties had not attached postage to the materials for absentee ballots. To address the concern that some voters will not receive return postage, Deputy Secretary of State Chad Houck said voters can bring their return envelopes with their ballots to any participating Albertsons or Safeway to get a stamp for their ballot.
Indiana: Secretary of State Connie Lawson announced last week that the state would have some limited in-person voting opportunities for the June 2 primary both on election day and during an abbreviated period of early voting. Following an update to IndianaVoters.com, Hoosiers will now be able to request their absentee ballots electronically without the need to print and mail a form. The Indiana Election Commission has passed an order allowing precinct-based counties to combine precincts adjacent to one another in the primary.
Nebraska: Secretary of State Bob Evnen told the Omaha World-Herald that 340,000 Nebraskans had requested mail-in ballots as of last week. Another 50,000 voters who live in rural counties where voting by mail is the only option will also receive mail-in ballots.
Pennsylvania: Allegheny County will send mail-in ballot applications to every registered voter in the county who hasn’t already applied for one for this June’s primary election. According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the county is currently “finalizing” the mailings, which will include an application and a postage-paid envelope addressed back to the county elections office, according to a written announcement.
U.S. Virgin Islands: The board of elections has voted to ask the USVI Senate to lift restrictions for filing absentee ballots so all registered voters can file absentee ballots, essentially allowing all voters to vote by mail.
West Virginia: By a 7-0 vote the Martinsburg city council affirmed its decision to hold the city’s municipal election on July 28. Berkeley County had recommended the election be held in conjunction with the June 9 state primary.
Wisconsin: The Milwaukee Common Council voted unanimously to approve mailing about 300,000 registered city voters an absentee ballot request form for the November general election. “We can’t allow another horrific election day to happen in Milwaukee,” Alder Marina Dimitrijevic said according to Wisconsin Public Radio. “Wisconsin Republicans have proven just how far they’ll go to stop our most vulnerable communities from voting. We need to make sure every single vote is counted this fall, and that means giving all voters the resources they need to vote from the safety of their own homes.”
Vendors: Smartmatic has expanded its risk-mitigation portfolio to help election jurisdictions conduct safe, secure and efficient elections this November. The new offering encompasses a comprehensive set of integrated services, technology solutions, and personal protection products to help reduce the risk of exposure to novel coronavirus for voters, poll workers and election officials. Recognizing that not all jurisdictions may be able to drastically adjust their voting methods by November, Smartmatic is offering support in three areas to provide jurisdictions flexibility in conducting elections: Election Worker Safety, Safe In-Person Voting and Safe Voting at Home.
Election News This Week
The ACLU of Nebraska has launched a statewide voter education campaign targeted Nebraskans in county jails. The organization is mailing more than 3,700 pamphlets, voter registration forms and early request forms to county jails. The new “Know Your Rights” pamphlet is a key element of the campaign. The pamphlet includes: Voter eligibility requirements; Step-by-step guide to voting in jail; Glossary of important terms; and Common questions about voting rights for Nebraskans with criminal justice system involvement including the rights of Nebraskans presumed innocent yet detained pretrial as well as those convicted of a misdemeanor or felony. The pamphlet also clearly explains Nebraska’s arbitrary two-year waiting period for people with felony convictions, a source of frequent questions and confusion.
Nevertheless they persisted! National Geographic has a really fascinating piece about how the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918 nearly derailed the suffrage movement. According to the article, suffragists had been fighting for women’s right to vote for 70 year and then the Spanish flu struck the leaders of one of the longest-running political movements in the country’s history had to figure out how to continue their campaign in the midst of the deadliest pandemic in modern times. “These are sad times for the whole world, grown unexpectedly sadder by the sudden and sweeping epidemic of influenza,” wrote Carrie Chapman Catt, president of the National American Woman Suffrage Association, in a letter to supporters in 1918. “This new affliction is bringing sorrow into many suffrage homes and is presenting a serious new obstacle in our Referendum campaigns and in the Congressional and Senatorial campaigns,” she continued. “We must therefore be prepared for failure.” Obviously we know they were successful with their efforts and let’s hope that eventually we’ll all be able to visit all those amazing exhibits so many historical societies and museums had planned for the 100th anniversary of ratification.
The Webby Awards is teaming up with Vote.org to turn its public voting process into a digital voter registration rally with the aim of drawing 5 million participants. The 24th annual Webby Awards ceremony was originally scheduled for May 11 in New York, but it was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic. Under the new schedule, the voting period for the Webby Awards begins Tuesday, April 28, when nominees will be announced on the Webby Awards website. When people make their choices for the Webby Awards, they will also have the opportunity to confirm their voter registration status. Vote.org CEO Andrea Hailey added, “We are thrilled to be partnering with the Webby Awards to encourage millions of people to check their registration status. There has never been a more important time for voters to have access to digital tools that empower them to participate in our democracy from their home. With Covid-19, we see election rules and access to voting changing every day. It is critical to ensure that every eligible voter in America can have their voice heard this November.”
With everyone talking about vote-by-mail, Military.com takes a really interesting look at how the absentee voting of the U.S. troops during the election of 1864 helped President Abraham Lincoln win re-election. Secretary of War Edwin Stanton proposed a system of absentee voting that left it up to the states to regulate but allowed soldiers on the front lines to vote. Twenty-five states would change their laws to allow soldiers to vote while away, either at a field station in their military encampment or by mail.
Personnel News: Rhode Island Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea was elected by members of the Elections Infrastructure Information Sharing and Analysis Center (EI-ISAC) to serve on the EI-ISAC Executive Committee. Navajo County, Arizona Recorder Doris Clark has resigned. Shari Brewer has resigned as the Butler County, Pennsylvania election director after 10 years on the job.
In Memoriam: Beverly Walker, a registration officer with Fulton County, Georgia’s elections division has died from COVID-19. She was 62. Walker worked for the elections division for more than 15 years before retiring in 2012, then returning on a part-time basis. “It’s created quite a bit of sadness in my department,” Elections Supervisor Richard Barron said of Walker’s passing according to Georgia Public Broadcasting. “This is pretty real to us.”
Federal Legislation: Sen. Kamala Harris (D-California) has introduced the VoteSafe Act of 2020 $5 billion piece of legislation that would satisfy what voting experts and advocates estimate states need to enact necessary reforms. Working closely with various secretaries of state, Harris crafted a bill that would standardize early in-person voting periods, mandating that each state have at least a 20-day period ahead of the November 3rd general election. It would also require states to permit no-excuse mail-in absentee voting for this election, allowing any citizen to submit such a ballot, regardless of explanation. The bill would also maintain minimum due process protections for each voter.
California: The Kern County Board of Supervisors rejected a proposal that would have provided all voters with mail-in ballots for November’s election. Kern County Clerk Mary Bedard brought the recommendation forward. “This is simply giving people options, that’s all this is,” Bedard told supervisors, adding that satellite elections offices would be set up to allow limited in-person voting. “It’s recommending that the people be given options and the counties be given options.” About 72 percent of Kern County voters already vote by mail,
Louisiana: Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin has submitted a new plan to legislators to expand absentee voting during the pandemic. Originally, the plan would have allowed absentee ballots for those 60 or older, those subject to a stay-at-home order, those unable to appear in public due to concern of exposure or transmission of COVID-19, or those caring for a child or grandchild whose school or child care provider is closed because of the virus. According to The Advocate, all those reasons are now gone, according to a revised plan submitted by Ardoin’s office. The remaining reasons people would be able to access a mail-in ballot, according to the plan, include those at higher risk because of serious medical conditions, those subject to a “medically necessary quarantine or isolation order,” those advised by a health provider to self-quarantine, those experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and seeking a medical diagnosis, or those caring for someone who is subject to a quarantine order and has been advised to self-quarantine. The new plan won approval from two key state House and Senate committees this week
Massachusetts: Secretary of State William F. Galvin said he is crafting a legislative package that would allow early voting by mail before September’s primary election and expand the window people could send in ballots before November’s general election Galvin said he’s finalizing details of the proposal, with the goal of releasing it in May to allow time for it to gain legislative approval. Galvin said he believes any changes should still keep open in-person voting on Sept. 1, the state primary, and Nov. 3, the general presidential election, to allow voters “maximum options” for casting a ballot.
New York: State Sen. Tim Kennedy (D-Buffalo) introduced new legislation which would require the state Board of Elections to send absentee ballots to all New Yorkers. According to the legislation, the Boards of Elections would be required to mail absentee ballots no later than 30 days before any election scheduled.
Utah: The Utah Legislature voted during a special session last week to run an upcoming primary election entirely by mail and temporarily do away with traditional polling places. The bill would automatically repeal on Aug. 1, so in-person voting can return for the general election in November. The bill would also suspend in-person early voting and same-day voter registration and give staffers more time to count ballots to ensure they are safe.
Virginia: During a special session, the Senate rejected a recommendation from Gov. Ralph Northam to move May municipal elections to November. Under Northam’s plan, absentee ballots that already have been cast would have been destroyed, and people would have to vote again in November. Elected officials’ with terms expiring June 30 would have seen those terms extended. The House of Delegates narrowly approved Northam’s recommendation 47-45, but the Senate declined to take up the proposal.
Florida: A group of voting rights organizations is suing Florida again over its elections protocols during the COVID-19 pandemic, citing that not enough was done during the March 17 primary to allow registered voters to safely cast a ballot. In the amended complaint, the groups are asking in part for the state to supplement voter registration outreach efforts, expand mail voting deadlines and make other in-person voting options available.
Georgia: An election integrity group and five voters have filed suit seeking emergency changes to the state’s June 9 primary including another postponement and a switch to hand-marked paper ballots. The suit alleges that the state’s new touchscreens could spread the coronavirus. A judge should delay Georgia’s primary by three weeks, abandon touchscreens, allow curbside voting, create mobile “pop up” early-voting locations, permit vote centers on election day and provide protective equipment to poll workers, the lawsuit said.
Iowa: Former state Sen. Rick Bertrand filed a lawsuit against Woodbury County Auditor Pat Gill’s plans to offer limited in-person voting options for June’s primary and a July special supervisor’s election. Bertrand claims it will suppress voter turnout by white male Republicans as they’re least likely to use absentee ballots or other vote-by-mail options.
Maine: The Committee for Ranked Choice Voting has filed suit Kennebec County Superior Court against Secretary of State Matt Dunlap, alleging that the people’s veto process does not apply to the new ranked-choice voting law because the law is already in effect. The lawsuit alleges that Dunlap’s office misinterpreted Maine law when allowing the people’s veto process to move forward. Although the ranked-choice law was not codified until January, laws not signed by the governor “have the same force and effect” as if the governor had signed them in the same timeframe that the Legislature passed them, the suit states.
Missouri: In a lawsuit filed last week, plaintiffs led by the ACLU of Missouri asked a judge to declare that state law allowing someone to vote absentee due to “incapacity or confinement due to illness” applies to people sheltering in place. Currently, it’s not clear that’s the case, creating confusion with municipal contests all over the state set for June 2. Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft, a Republican and the state’s top elections official, has declined to clarify the issue, saying it’s not his place.
Nevada: The Democratic National Committee, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, Nevada State Democratic Party, and Priorities USA filed suit in the Eighth Judicial District Court of Clark County seeking to expand voting access for Nevada’s primary on June 9. The suit seeks mail ballots for all registered voters, not just those with active status, an increase in the number of in-person voting centers to reflect the population and geography size of each county and to bar enforcement of the state’s voter assistance ban and ballot rejection rules.
New York: A coalition of advocacy groups, including the American Council for the Blind, the National Center on Independent Living and the New York Association on Independent Living, have filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice arguing that the state’s absentee voting rules discriminate against the blind. The complaint argues that requiring voters to use paper ballots is discriminatory because that prevents blind people from voting “privately and independently.
Pennsylvania: The Pennsylvania Alliance for Retired Americans has filed suit against the state in an effort to make vote by mail easier during the pandemic. The suit seeks to require prepaid postage for all absentee and mail-in ballots; allow mail-in ballots to be counted if they are postmarked by Election Day and received up to seven days later, rather than received by Election Day, as under existing law; allow third parties to collect and return absentee or mail-in ballots; and uniform standard for verifying signatures on mail-in ballots, and to allow voters an opportunity to correct signature questions that might lead to their ballots being rejected.
South Carolina: The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is leading a lawsuit against the South Carolina Election Commission to allow residents to vote by mail in elections through the end of the year amid fears that coronavirus-related social distancing mandates will still be in place in the coming months.
In another lawsuit, the American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU of South Carolina, and the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund filed a federal lawsuit in Columbia over “South Carolina’s failure to take action to ensure all eligible voters can vote by mail during the COVID-19 pandemic” for the June 9 statewide primary, according to a statement from ACLU. The groups are challenging a state requirement that forces people who vote absentee to have a third-party witness signature on their ballot envelope, as well as an “’excuse’ requirement that fails to provide an accommodation to allow all eligible voters to vote absentee during the pandemic,” ACLU officials said.
Virginia: The American Civil Liberties Union and League of Women Voters filed suit in the U.S. District Court in Lynchburg asking the court to stop Virginia from enforcing the requirement during the pandemic and to have localities count “otherwise validly cast absentee ballots that are missing a witness signature for Virginia’s primary and general elections in 2020.”
Opinions This Week
Arizona: Vote by mail
Georgia: Vote by mail
Iowa: Election prep
Kansas: Voter safety
Maryland: Vote by mail
Michigan: Vote by mail
Minnesota Contingency planning
Nebraska: Douglas County
Nevada: Fair elections
New Jersey: Vote by mail
North Carolina: Coronavirus
Pennsylvania: Vote by mail
VVSG 2.0 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.
“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.
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.
When Women Vote: American voters, particularly women, face challenges when trying to vote. In the 100 years since the ratification of the 19th Amendment, reforms prohibiting restrictions on voting based on sex have led to improvements, but there is still room for continued progress. On April 30, the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Elections Project will host a discussion with the authors of When Women Vote, who make the case for further voting reform and for removing bias in the voting process by sharing stories and experiences of women voters and leaders throughout the United States. They will be joined by secretaries of state, who are the chief election officials at the state level. Panelists include: Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, Washington Secretary of State Kim Wyman and Amber McReynolds and Stephanie Donner, co-authors of When Women Vote. When April 30, 2pm. 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 email@example.com. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
Election Services Manager, Douglas County, Colorado— The Election Services Manager is responsible for the management and coordination of elections administrative operations, voter registration, mapping for voting districts and precincts, addressing library, and support for mail ballot processing as directed by the leadership team. The objective of this position is to perform a variety of functions and diverse leadership roles on a routine basis, including performance management for a team of Election Specialists. This is a highly visible position requiring exceptional leadership, organizational, and communication skills. The Election Services Manager is responsible for oversight of responsibilities within the elections office and Voter Service and Polling Centers, coaching and supervision of staff; creation and enforcement of policies, procedures, and state and federal statutes and regulations; creation and execution of strategic and tactical plans for operating successful elections; coordination of election functions with entities participating in a County election or conducting their own election; managing key vendor relationships and election assets. Coordinates with and assists other Clerk & Recorder Divisions as needed. Salary: $4,785.83 – $5,982.33 Monthly. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Election Specialist, King County, Washington— This recruitment will be used to fill multiple Term-Limited Temporary (TLT) positions within the Voter Services and Ballot Processing sections. These benefits-eligible TLT positions are anticipated to last until December 2020. A Special Duty Assignment may be considered for King County Career Service employees who have passed their initial probationary period. This recruitment may also be used to create a pool of candidates to fill future TLT positions that may occur over the next 6 months. The Department of Elections – is searching for energetic and resourceful professionals who like to “get stuff done”. The Administrative Specialist II positions in the Elections Department combines an exciting, fast-paced environment with the opportunity to cultivate talents and apply a variety of skills. The ideal candidate will have a desire to help ensure the democratic process through public service. They will thrive in an innovative environment and will not hesitate to roll up both sleeves, work hard, have fun, and get the job done. We are looking for candidates who have the flexibility and willingness to work at off site vote centers across King County when they are assigned. We are also looking for those that have the ability to work extra hours during peak election periods. Salary: $22.24 – $28.33 Hourly. Deadline: May 2. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Elections Technology Specialist, Boulder County, Colorado— The Boulder County Clerk and Recorder’s Office, Elections Division, has an opening for a Technology Specialist. This is a term position for the duration of 2020 which includes both the June 30 Primary Election and the November 3 General Election. This position will learn and perform a variety of complex, technical, and specialized tasks associated related to elections, software/hardware support, and voting systems. To be successful in this position you must be eager to learn, possess an aptitude for troubleshooting, technical information and documenting process through conversation, implementation and observation. Successful applicants will be comfortable in a high-stakes, team-focused work environment. We seek a person who is process-oriented and motivated to do meaningful work that facilitates the democratic process. Salary: $57, 024. 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, 2020. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
IT Security Engineer, Dominion Voting Systems— We are looking for an IT Security Engineer to join our IT team in Denver, Colorado! We are looking for a security-minded individual who can perform both day-to-day technical management and maintenance of IT security programs and who can also strategically assess and enhance the overall IT security enterprise-wide. This role covers a broad scope of responsibilities as some days you may be evaluating new security solutions and attending security briefings, while other days you will be managing our existing IT security toolsets and reviewing threat and log data to identify risk and mitigate vulnerabilities. You must be a self-starter, who collaborates well with others and can explain IT security best practices to anyone from the end-users to executive team members. You will also work for hand and hand with colleagues within the IT department and work with our vendors and external threat organizations to understand and mitigate risks. 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.
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.
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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