In Focus This Week
Vote for Access
New video series looks at how to make voting more accessible
Lawrence Carter is a blind voter in Raleigh, North Carolina. He uses a machine to help him cast his ballot, but recalls a time when it didn’t work. The poll worker told him, “Your wife is right over there—ask her to do it for you.”
Instead, Lawrence insisted on a new machine; exercising the right to cast his own ballot was important enough to sit and wait for.
Now a poll worker himself, when blind voters arrive with assistants, Lawrence shows them that it’s possible for them to vote by themselves. He’s also advocating for accessible absentee ballots so that blind voters can mail in their votes.
If Americans with disabilities voted at the same rate as non-disabled Americans, more than 2 million more votes would be cast.
The new video series Vote for Access examines why these votes could be missing in November’s national election — and how to make sure voters with disabilities are counted.
“Vote for Access is designed to address critical barriers that stop people with disabilities from casting their ballots and participating in our democracy. The fact that this series is launching right now cannot be a coincidence,” said Michelle Bishop, disability advocacy specialist for voting rights at the National Disability Rights Network (NDRN) “So, many of these issues have been flying under the radar for far too long, but COVID-19 is really forcing states to look at how we run our elections in new ways when all of our safety depends on it. How can vote by mail and absentee voting have been allowed to be inaccessible for so long, and why did it take a global pandemic to begin to face that? Vote for Access highlights the voices of voters with disabilities while pointing toward solutions.
In the 5-episode series, released this week across multiple social media platforms, host Imani Barbarin, a writer, advocate, and disabled voter of color, explains the barriers that prevent disabled votes from reaching the ballot box.
Nationwide, only 17 percent of polling places are fully accessible, transportation options are often inadequate, accessible electronic voting units are sometimes non-functioning, and informational websites on candidates and issues are not designed for universal access. These roadblocks mean that the needs of disabled citizens are less likely to be prioritized by leaders as we head into a pivotal election.
On April 16, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) introduced the VoteSafe Act of 2020, a bill that would make voting during the Covid-19 crisis more accessible by mandating early and mail-in voting, and funding efforts like curbside voting.
These solutions are featured in Vote for Access and have long been supported by disabled voters, whose experiences fundamentally inform the VoteSafe Act. But the decades-long fight for access reveals that measures like mail-in voting alone will not be enough to spark systemic change.
“Voting is participating, and in a country that so often relegates disabled people to institutions, isolation, and stereotypes, participation is powerful,” Barbarin says in the first episode.
Barbarin is joined by 16 guests from 14 states who share their insights and experiences as voters, poll workers, and researchers.
In Vote for Access, they jumpstart a national conversation that goes far beyond mail-in ballots to describe the multiplicity of barrier-breaking innovations they will need to make sure every vote counts.
One of those guests is Delynn Saunders of Arizona, a 5th-generation deaf voter and the parent of a deaf child.
She prefers to vote at home with a mail-in ballot because she struggles with reading and needs extra time to process information on the ballot. Most websites and platforms do not include American Sign Language translations, a barrier that prevents Delynn from feeling equally informed before she even sees a ballot.
“It feels like we’re constantly fighting,” she says of her struggle to find information on candidates and issues.
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2020 Primary Updates
Ohio: Ohio’s primary, originally slated for March 17 has finally come to an end this week with more than 1.45 million ballots cast by mail and limited in-person voting on Tuesday the 28th. Elections officials began the week not really knowing what to expect. Would voters turnout en masse at limited polling sites in order to cast a ballot? “There are ways to change the system to make it better for Ohioans and more voter friendly,” said Secretary of State Frank LaRose on Wednesday. “But the big picture is, in the midst of a crisis, we ran a fair and honest election where as long as you took the effort to get your request in… You could vote without jeopardizing your health. That’s good news for Ohio, and I think it can be an example to the rest of the nation.” In Stark County, they estimated that fewer than 500 people chose to vote in-person on election day although there was a steady stream of voters dropping off ballots at ballot drop boxes. In Butler County, nearly 50,000 people had already voted before primary day. In Marion County officials noted just how quiet election day was. “It’s definitely different, for sure,” Cindy Price, director of the Marion County Board of Elections told the Marion Star. “In our office, it hasn’t been as crazy as it would typically be on election day with all of our polling locations open. And (Monday), we didn’t have to go out and set up all those polling locations, but we were still here until around 11 o’clock getting things done. An election is a lot of work.” Officials in Lawrence County talked about how different election night was, with no candidates and reporters packing the county courthouse. “This is definitely uncharted territory,” J.T. Holt, a member Lawrence County Board of Elections told the Ironton Tribune. “We’ve never experienced anything like this.” Although they were prepared for it, no lines of voters materialized in Summit County. In Portage County, the Postal Service delivered 2,000 ballots on primary day in time for the deadline. Butler County received 9,000 ballots on primary day. Many elections officials who have been at this for a while commented on how different it was. “This hits number one. I used to say that my first election, the presidential in 2004, was my most memorable, but I think this one takes the cake,” said Lucas County Board of Elections Director, LaVera Scott. “I wouldn’t want to do it again in that kind of timeframe, but we did it,” Llyn McCoy, director of the Greene County Board of Elections, said. Officials in Clinton County, Jefferson County and Miami County also reflected on the uniqueness of the election. In Franklin County there was a line of about 30 voters waiting when the doors to the board of elections opened at 6:30 a.m. By mid-day only about 11 people had cast in-person ballots in Richland County and there were still about 2,000 outstanding absentee ballots. Turnout was down in many places including Ashtabula County. Now officials will finish their final tallies and turn their eyes toward November.
Wisconsin: At press time, state health officials announced that at least 52 people who got COVID-19 reported voting in person or working the polls during April’s primary election. The 52 positive cases include those who tested positive between April 9 and 21, which is the window in which people would likely have started exhibiting symptoms.
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; 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.
Public Opinion: A new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research finds Democrats are now much more likely than Republicans to support their state conducting elections exclusively by mail, 47% to 29%. The poll finds that 39% of Americans favor conducting all-mail elections, up from 19% in 2018. Another 40% are opposed. But even more, 48%, favor a move to voting only by mail if the coronavirus outbreak is ongoing in November. The poll also shows 60% of Americans support allowing people to vote via absentee ballot without requiring them to give a reason if the outbreak is still happening. That includes 73% percent of Democrats and 46% of Republicans. Some 40% of Republicans are opposed.
More Public Opinions: A majority of voters support the use of mail-in ballots in the 2020 general election, a new Hill-HarrisX poll found. Sixty-seven percent of registered voters in the April 19-20 survey approved of states holding elections exclusively using mail-in voting rather than having people go in-person to the polls, while 33% disapproved.
Even More Public Opinions: A new poll from the Pew Research Center found 67 percent of Americans say it is very or somewhat likely that the coronavirus outbreak will significantly affect people’s ability to cast a vote on Election Day in November. That includes 80 percent of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents, and half of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents. Seventy percent of Americans are in favor of allowing any voter to vote by mail if they want to, including 44 percent who strongly support the policy. Fifty-two percent of voters favor conducting all elections by mail, an increase of 18 percentage points since 2018.
Georgia: The Georgia News Lab and Georgia Public Broadcasting have a sobering look at how elections officials may react should someone in line to vote during the state’s June primary show symptoms of COVID-19. “I’ve asked for guidance from the state as to what we’re supposed to do if a manager notices anyone in line with symptoms,” Fulton County Elections Director Richard Barron said at a recent elections board meeting. “I still haven’t heard back.” A spokeswoman for Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said the office is actively working with counties to develop best practices for polling locations.
Indiana: This week Secretary of State Connie Lawson (R) introduced an online application to request an absentee ballot. Prior to this move, Hoosiers were only able to ask for an absentee ballot via fax, mail or email. “We’re facing an unusual situation in this year’s primary, and I am committed to making sure all Indiana voters can vote with security and convenience,” Lawson said according to WISH.
Iowa: This is the kind of collaboration we really like to see! The auditor’s offices of Johnson and Linn counties have agreed to support each other’s election activities in the event that the COVID-19 pandemic impairs service. The two counties are among those with the highest number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Iowa. “Over the years, the Johnson and Linn County Auditors’ Offices have collaborated and shared best practices,” said Linn County Auditor Joel Miller in a release. “The COVID-19 crisis has caused us to formally agree to help each other if one office closes down and the other office continues to operate.”
Kentucky: Gov. Andy Beshear (D) and Secretary of State Michael Adams (R) have come to a bipartisan agreement that will allow all registered voters to cast an absentee ballot in the June primary. Under the governor’s order, Kentucky’s registered voters will be notified that they can vote by mail-in absentee balloting. They will be able to go online to request an absentee ballot. State elections officials also are working on a plan for limited in-person voting and possible drive-thru voting for the June 23 primary, the governor’s office said.
Maryland: The town of Elkton has decided to delay its May 12 local election instead of conducting the election by mail citing the expense and security. “While we do provide the ability for absentee voting during a ‘normal’ election, conducting a face-to-face election provides a greater level of security, as everything takes place in one room,” the official said. Middletown completed its municipal elections this week a process that took three weeks. In addition to mail-in balloting, there was also in-person voting and the town had it’s highest turnout ever.
New Hampshire: Secretary of State Bill Gardner announced the creation of six-member bipartisan committee to study and recommend how federal COVID-19 relief funds can be used to ensure safe and accessible voting later this year if the pandemic is continuing. The state received $3.2 million in CARES funding for elections-related spending.
New York: In addition to sending every registered voter an absentee ballot application, the state board of elections has also chosen to cancel the presidential preference primary which had been scheduled to run concurrently with the June 23 primary for other federal, state and local offices.
North Dakota: Following a March executive order from Gov. Doug Burgum allowing counties to vote by mail in the June 9 primary if they wanted to, it was announced last week that all 53 counties would be conducting their primaries by mail. The state said it would mail ballot applications to every eligible voter.
Pennsylvania: Officials in Allegheny County are moving forward with a plan that will close 85 percent of the county’s polling places for the June 2 primary. The county, has about 1,300 polling places and it wants to reduce that number to fewer than 200. The resolution must be approved by the Pennsylvania Department of State.
Vermont: In agreement with the governor, Secretary of State Jim Condos issued a directive identifying new procedures for conducting local elections. The permitted processes were devised based on direct feedback to the Secretary of State’s office from Town and City Clerks and local officials, and include: Mailing a ballot proactively to every active or registered voterl Implementing a “drive-up” voting procedure; Holding a polling location outside; Forgoing the review of write-in votes in certain instances; and Adjusting the deadline for nominating paperwork for candidates.
Virginia: After the Legislature failed to act to move municipal elections to November as suggested by Gov. Ralph Northam, Northam this week announced that he’ll be pushing those elections by two weeks, “Virginians should not have to choose between their ballot and their health,” Northam said, noting this is the most he can do under state law. It means most towns in Virginia will vote in-person May 19 instead of May 5.
Election News This Week
Poplarville City Attorney Manya Bryan is developing an ordinance to abolish the city’s municipal election commissioners so the city can then enter into an agreement with Pearl River County to conduct the city’s municipal elections. City Clerk Jane O’Neal told the Picayune Item, the city clerk would still have some duties related to running municipal elections, but she believes having county election commissioners conduct elections for the city would be a great benefit to the city. O’Neal said she does not know what having the county conduct the elections might cost. The Board directed O’Neal to find a cost estimate, while Bryan develops an ordinance for the Board to consider at the next meeting.
With all the talk of vote by mail, the Bluefield Daily Telegraph has a great story out of Princeton, West Virginia about a group of Veteran’s who talked about their experiences casting ballots while serving overseas and their plans to vote from home during the state’s June primary. “Yes, I’d like to vote the absentee ballot,” World War II and Korean War Veteran Jack Hatcher told the paper. “I think that would be ideal for a veteran. A lot of them aren’t able to get to the polls. I’m 102, and I’ve signed up to go with the absentee.”
Impressive numbers. Before the country went on “lockdown” and students were still learning at school instead of remotely, nearly 30,000 New York City high school students registered to vote during the city’s Civics Week. The total number, 29,642 is up 18,233 from 2019. “The Civics Week Student Voter Registration Drive was a great opportunity to empower youth through pre-registering and registering high school students to vote,” Laura Wood, senior advisor and general counsel for DemocracyNYC, which co-led the voter drive with the Mayor’s Public Engagement Unit and the Department of Education told the Queens Eagle. The achievement was the result of “tremendous citywide coordination and outreach effort,” Wood added.
South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster has appointed four new people to serve as the Pickens County elections board. All members of the previous board and the executive director and all staff resigned in March. According to new board member Lilian Boatwright, the top priority of the board is to hire a new director so the director can hire staff. Boatwright told the Independent Mail she and the other members will need to make the director hire quickly so the new director can get to work. Her priority is to make sure the election will be safe and, if it is, communicate that loudly to voters. “We’re jumping into the deep end,” she told the paper. In addition to Boatwright, the new members are James Liddle, Richard Reese and Robert Rauton.
Personnel News: The Worcester, Massachusetts Election Commission last week re-elected Kimberly Vanderspek as its chairperson and Danaah McCallum as its secretary. As chair of the five-member commission, Vanderspek nominated, and the Election Commission approved, the appointment of Winifred Octave as vice chair. Brandi Bantz is the new Mesa County, Colorado elections manager.
In Memoriam: Thomas “Tom” Parkins, who served as the Alexandria, Virginia registrar of voters for more than a decade has died. He was 70. In addition to serving as Alexandria’s registrar for more than a decade before retiring in 2015, Parkins also served as a senior election consultant for the International Foundation of Election Systems (IFES). Originally from Iowa, before serving as Alexandria’s registrar, in 1987 Parkins was elected as the auditor and commissioner of elections in Polk County, Iowa, a position he held for almost 10 years. “For him, in Iowa … making sure that people had an easy, accessible way to vote [was important],” Parkins’ daughter Cassie Parkins told the Alexandria Times. “In Iowa, he worked on legislation that expanded early voting to satellite voting sites.” According to the paper, Parkins is remembered for his refusal to engage in partisan politics, despite his own well-known political leanings. “He had a lot of energy and he was an excellent big picture decision maker and planner and not a micro-manager, so he was really easy to work with,” Anna Lieder, the current registrar of voters who previously worked as Parkins’ deputy before taking over the position, said. “He would come up with big ideas and things that he wanted to implement but then let people carry things out on their own.”
Editor’s Note: Two of our daily search terms are election judge and poll worker. Typically once a week or so an obituary about someone who served as a long-time election judge or poll worker will pop up in our daily news searches. For the past month or so it’s been daily, and often more than one a day. While the obits don’t always say how someone died, it’s difficult not to make the leap that given the current global pandemic that many of these dedicated Americans died from complications from COVID-19. Poll workers are at the heart of our democracy and sadly we seem to be losing them at a steady rate.
California: The Los Angeles County board of supervisors is approved a proposal that would send a mail ballot to all eligible Angelenos in the general election. The proposal would mean that the County of Los Angeles would send mail-in-ballots to every eligible voter in all elections starting with the November 3, 2020 general election. It would also instruct the registrar-recorder/county clerk to take appropriate measures to align in-person voting options for the general election to ensure the safety of voters and election workers. The Supervisors have also proposed sending letters to both the Los Angeles County Congressional Delegation and the Los Angeles County State Legislative Delegation urging that funding be allocated to support the implementation of the expanded vote-by-mail model.
Louisiana: An emergency plan for Louisiana’s delayed spring elections was approved by the state Legislature after Republican lawmakers rolled back an expansion of mail-in ballots for people concerned about the coronavirus. The state House and Senate both approved the revised plan, crafted by Republican Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin, even as a contingent of GOP lawmakers sought to block it because they believed it still featured too much access to mail-in ballots.
Minnesota: The Minnesota House State Government Finance Division approved a bill Monday, which authorizes the Minnesota Secretary of State to direct that the 2020 state primary and state general elections be conducted primarily by mail.
Texas: Harris County Commissioners Court on Tuesday voted to spend up to $12 million for an expected uptick in requests for mail-in ballots in the July primary runoff and November general election from voters concerned about contracting the novel coronavirus at polling places. The three Democrats on the five-member court voted to give County Clerk Diane Trautman enough to send a mail-in ballot to every registered voter in the county over the objections of the two Republican members who said the clerk failed to justify the expense.
Arizona: In a legal filing submitted this week, Attorney General Mark Brnovich laid out for the U.S. Supreme Court Justices why he believes the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals got it wrong earlier this year when it declared that the state acted illegally in making it a crime to return someone else’s early ballot. According to Capitol Media Services, he said the state had good reason to act in a way to prevent the potential for fraud and intimidation of voters by political operatives who were collecting these ballots. But Brnovich also told the justices they have to slap down the logic used by the appellate judges — that Arizona lawmakers enacted the ballot harvesting law with the goal of suppressing minority vote — in voiding the law. He said if that verbiage is allowed to stand, it could pave the way for future challenges, and not just here.
California: The California Republican Party sued state officials to ban “ballot harvesting” in the upcoming runoff for the seat of former Democratic Rep. Katie Hill. In a lawsuit filed late Wednesday in state court against Governor Gavin Newsom and other officials, the party claims allowing campaign workers and volunteers to go door-to-door to collect ballots conflicts with the statewide shelter-in-place order caused by the coronavirus pandemic. The lawsuit accuses Newsom of “dodging” the party’s requests for clarity as to whether the practice should be allowed in a pair of May 12 special elections.
Florida: Arguments were heard this week over changes to state law that require ex-felons to repay all financial restitution before they may regain their rights.
Indiana: Twelve voters, two of them members of Indiana Vote by Mail, have filed suit against the Indiana Election Commission and the Indiana secretary of state seeking to expand the use of mail-in ballots for the November 3 general election. The lawsuit contends the state’s election law allowing some — but not all — registered voters to vote by mail violates the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitutions and the Equal Privileges and Immunities Clause of the Indiana Constitution.
Iowa: Woodbury County District Court Judge Jeff Poulson heard arguments in a lawsuit brought against the County Auditor Pat Gill by Sioux City businessman and former state Senator Rick Bertrand. The former Iowa state senator claims Gill’s plan to limit polling places because of COVID-19 puts Republicans at a disadvantage.
Kansas: The U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeal has affirmed a lower court’s ruling that the law requiring prospective voters to provide birth certificates, passports and other documents to confirm their citizenship when registering to vote places an undue barrier to Kansans exercising their constitutional right to vote. The court said the number of suspended voters directly undercuts the state’s argument that the law ensures the integrity of elections. “And, furthermore, if the Secretary is correct that Kansas’s recent history is sprinkled with some hotly contested, close elections such that he reasonably could have an especially keen interest in ensuring that every proper vote counts, we are hard-pressed to see how that interest is furthered by the DPOC law—a law that undisputedly has disenfranchised approximately 30,000 would-be Kansas voters who presumably would otherwise have been eligible to vote in such close elections,” the ruling states.
Maryland: U.S. District Court Judge Ellen Hollander has ruled that the state board of elections must hand over voter registration data for registered voters in Montgomery County to Judicial Watch. In her opinion, Hollander wrote: “Judicial Watch need not demonstrate its need for birth date information in order to facilitate its effort to ensure that the voter rolls are properly maintained. Nevertheless, it has put forward reasonable justifications for requiring birth date information, including using birth dates to find duplicate registrations and searching for voters who remain on the rolls despite ‘improbable’ age.” “Because full voter birth dates appear on completed voter registration applications, the Administrator may not bypass the Act by unilaterally revising the Application.”
Also in Maryland, the Anne Arundel Circuit Court has ruled that a notice must be placed inside each ballot package in Hagerstown (Washington County) to inform voters that the city’s mayoral and city council races are nonpartisan. The county’s Republican Central Committee asked for a legal review of the primary election ballot, which lumped the nonpartisan Hagerstown city election with partisan races. The committee also noted that the ballot doesn’t indicate that the city races are nonpartisan.
Michigan: Nymna Turkish PC is suing Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson and Director of Elections Jonathan Brater for failing to provide alternatives for blind people to vote absentee. The lawsuit requests a judge to require Michigan to implement an accessible absentee voting alternative by the May 5 election. The federal lawsuit was filed over the weekend, on behalf of blind Michiganders Michael Powell and Fred Wurtzel, the current and former president of the Michigan Affiliate of the National Federation of the Blind. “People will get COVID because they cannot vote from home,” Turkish said, who’s a blind Michigan voter himself.
Minnesota: Ramsey County Judge Thomas Gilligan has ruled that the Minnesota Secretary of State’s Office must post signs at polling places explaining that voters who have a disability or are unable to read or write can choose someone to help them cast their ballot. Voters will not be allowed to seek help from their employer or a representative of their union. “The Voting Rights Act expressly pre-empts any state law that imposes restrictions that conflict with and are contrary to its protections,” Gilligan wrote. “Minnesota does not have the authority to enforce a criminal law that is pre-empted by the Supremacy Clause of the United States Constitution.”
Nevada: This week, U.S. District Judge Miranda Du heard arguments—via teleconference—from parties involved in a suit over the state’s vote-by-mail primary. Lawyers for state and national Democratic interests and True the Vote, a conservative voting rights group, are challenging the plan from opposing angles: Democrats want more in-person polling places and other protections for ensuring voting opportunities. The conservative group is claiming an all-mail procedure presents a greater potential for ballot fraud. Du said she would rule by the end of the week.
New York: Andrew Yang, the former presidential candidate, is suing the New York State Board of Elections in federal court after the state election commission effectively canceled the Democratic presidential primary there. Yang, along with seven New Yorkers who filed to serve as Yang delegates to the Democratic National Convention, filed suit on Monday arguing that they should not be removed because they had otherwise met the requirements to be on the ballot.
North Dakota: The state of North Dakota and American Indian tribes filed an agreement in federal court that seeks to officially settle a legal dispute over the state’s voter identification requirements. The deal that will be official with a judge’s signature aims to eliminate voting barriers for Native Americans. It comes two months after the state and tribes announced an agreement to settle two federal lawsuits. The consent decree, details several methods for addressing the fact that provable residential street addresses — a requirement to vote in North Dakota — can be hard to come by on reservations. It also calls for financial help from the state and improved communication between state and tribal officials. U.S. District Judge Dan Hovland has approved the deal that he called “…fair, reasonable and consistent with the law and public interest.”
Oklahoma: The League of Women Voters of Oklahoma and two voters have filed suit against Election Board Secretary Paul Ziriax seeking to drop the state requirement that absentee ballots be notarized. “Unlike voters in almost every other state, however, Oklahomans seeking to vote absentee must overcome a substantial obstacle,” the suit said. “Oklahoma is one of only three states in the entire country where — at least according to the Respondent, the Secretary of the State Election Board — an absentee ballot must be accompanied by an affidavit notarized in person by a notary public.” The requirement for a notary to sign the absentee ballot puts a burden on those seeking to avoid contracting COVID-19, according to the suit. Attorneys for the state have asked the court to toss the suit saying changing absentee voter requirements would upend the will of Oklahoma’s Legislature and voters, according to court documents.
Pennsylvania: The Public Interest Law Center has filed suit seeking to extend the deadline for when absentee ballots can be received in local elections offices. The suit is asking Pennsylvania Supreme Court to change the rules so that any absentee and mail-in ballot must be counted so long as the voter sends it by June 2 and counties get it by June 9.
Also in Pennsylvania, U.S. District Judge Paul S. Diamond found there was “no credible evidence” to support Green Party presidential nominee Jill Stein’s concerns over Philadelphia’s voting equipment and that granting her request would effectively disenfranchise Philadelphia voters, as there would be no way to replace the machines with new ones in time for the election. “The Commonwealth and the city have expended considerable resources to demonstrate that Dr. Stein has based her motion on absolutely nothing,” he wrote according to The Philadelphia Inquirer. “Yet,” he added, her “daft theories … will undoubtedly shake the belief of some in their government because Stein has convinced them that voting integrity is at risk in Pennsylvania. This is certainly the most unfortunate consequence of Stein’s pointless motion.”
Texas: Citing the threats of the coronavirus, six Texas voters filed suit in federal court challenging restrictions that limit age eligibility for voting by mail to those 65 and older. The voters — all between the ages of 18 and 28 — claim the Texas election code violates the 26th Amendment’s protections against voting restrictions that discriminate based on age. While all Texas voters 65 and older can request a mail-in ballot, those younger than 65 must meet a narrow set of requirements to qualify.
Virginia: Last week, the League of Women Voters of Virginia sued the state in an effort to drop the requirement that absentee ballot signatures be witnessed. This week, the state’s attorney general and State Board of Elections—the defendant in the case—issued a joint brief in support of a consent decree that allows absentee ballots without witness signatures for those who believe they cannot safely have a witness present. The consent decree still needs sign off from the court and on Wednesday, the Republican Party of Virginia filed paper work seeking to intervene in the suit.
Wisconsin: Supreme Court Justice Daniel Kelly, who recently lost his election bid, said he will participate in the state’s voter purge case after recusing himself in December. According to the Wisconsin State Journal, Kelly’s participation in the case, which could result in removing from the rolls as many as 200,000 Wisconsin voters who may have moved, would add another conservative justice to the case and make it more likely the voter purge will happen. The case will now be heard by the full 5-2 conservative majority court instead of the 4-2 ratio during Kelly’s recusal.
California: San Mateo County has become the latest California county to adopt the “Where’s my Ballot” tool so voters can track the progress of their mail ballot.
Delaware: Delaware will allow voters with disabilities to return their ballots electronically in its primary election next month. NPR is the first to report the development, which has yet to be announced publicly. Both the state, and the Seattle-based company administering the technology, Democracy Live, confirmed the decision, although they dispute the term “Internet voting” for the cloud-based system.
Opinions This Week
National Opinions: Voting rights, II | U.S. Postal Service, II, III | Voter fraud, II | General election | Online voting | Voter registration | Post-pandemic elections | U.S. Supreme Court | Vote by mail, II, III | Ranked choice voting | Local elections officials
Alabama: Voting rights
California: Vote by mail
Connecticut: Vote by mail
Georgia: Fulton County
Illinois: Vote by mail
Kentucky: Secretary of state
Louisiana: Election plan
Mississippi: Vote by mail
Missouri: Absentee voting
Nevada: Primary litigation
New Hampshire: Funding
South Carolina: Vote by mail
Utah: Ranked choice voting
West Virginia: Pandemic
Wisconsin: Vote by mail
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.
“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.
What If the 2020 Presidential Election is Disputed?— On Monday, May 4, the Election Law program at The Ohio State University’s Moritz College of Law will host a virtual roundtable discussion entitled: What If the 2020 Presidential Election Is Disputed? A panel of nationally recognized legal scholars, political scientists, and experts in election administration, Electoral College procedures, and presidential succession will grapple with the legal issues that could arise in a series of hypothetical scenarios involving the 2020 presidential election. The conversations will be divided into three distinct time frames from Election Day to Inauguration Day when complex legal issues could test our electoral process in new and serious ways. What’s unique about this event—drawing upon special expertise at Ohio State—is the possibility that a disputed election this year would look very differently from Bush v. Gore in 2000 and therefore requires additional thought and attention. When: May 4 beginning at 11am Eastern. Where: Online.
Saving the Vote in 2020: Elections and the Coronavirus: The coronavirus is a health crisis and an economic crisis. Without urgent action, it will become a democracy crisis in November. How can we avoid a debacle? How can we have an election that is free, fair, secure – and safe? The Brennan Center for Justice is at the center of the fight to protect every voter and every vote. Last month, we released a comprehensive plan to ensure the safety and credibility of the election. Among its provisions: universal option to vote by mail and expanded early voting. In the next few weeks, Congress must act to provide funding for states to run their elections. Then a drive across the country so states can retool their systems so everyone can safely vote. When: May 4, 1pm Eastern. Where: Online.
Communicating Trusted Information: The Center for Tech and Civic Life is launching a 4-course online series, Communicating Trusted Election Information. The courses cover election websites, social media, accessible communications, and how to combat misinformation. Effective communication is especially important during the pandemic, so these courses are offered for free. When: May 5, 7, 12 and 14. Where: Online.
COVID-19 Webinars for Elections Officials: The Center for Tech and Civic Life is launching 12 free webinars on COVID-19 for election officials that cover topics ranging from ballot dropoff locations to virtually training election workers. The webinars feature experienced guest speakers with detailed, actionable practices that you can implement in your office. When: May 19-June 30. Where: Online.
Job Postings This Week
electionlineWeekly publishes election administration job postings each week as a free service to our readers. To have your job listed in the newsletter, please send a copy of the job description, including a web link to firstname.lastname@example.org. Job postings must be received by 5pm on Wednesday in order to appear in the Thursday newsletter. Listings will run for three weeks or till the deadline listed in the posting.
Assistant Elections Coordinator-Voter Services, Boulder County, Colorado— This position oversees a defined functional area of the Elections Division, and is also instrumental in defining strategy, objectives, and implementation processes for all aspects of the Elections Division. The Assistant Elections Coordinator-Voter Services position reports to the Deputy Clerk – Elections Coordinator and is a member of the Elections Leadership Team. The objective of this position is to empower and supervise the Voter Services Supervisor in coordinating and implementing Voter Service Polling Centers (VSPCs), including site identification, contracting, accessibility, operations, and reconciliation and Election Judge activities, including recruiting, hiring, training, and placement. This position will also coordinate and oversee Ballot Drop-off site planning, including identifying and contracting of new locations as well as accessibility and contingency planning. Additionally, this position will support and oversee a variety of voter service and outreach programs and supervise up to 3 full time staff. Salary: $45,108 – $64,068. Deadline: May 6. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
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.
Election Data Analyst, NC State Board of Elections— The Elections Data Analyst will be part of the State Board’s Communications Team and report to the Public Information Officer, with regular guidance from the Chief Information Officer and his staff. The employee also will work routinely with other departments in the agency. The Elections Data Analyst provides consultative statistical work in the evaluation and analysis of program data for the State Board of Elections. This position functions with independence within very general guidelines and either initiates studies or works from broad goals and objectives to conduct studies. Study design, analysis, procedures, and conclusions are the responsibility of the position. Consequence of error in studies may be great, since program or project direction may result from the conclusions of significance or trends. Completed or draft studies are reviewed in terms of subject matter, correctness of interpretation, and conformance to agency policy. Salary: $48,051 – $65,000. Deadline: May 8. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Election Program Specialist, NC State Board of Elections— the In-Person Voting Program Specialist has extensive knowledge of election administration and performs detailed planning and preparation for conducting in-person person in all 100 North Carolina counties in compliance with General Statute 163. In-person voting includes one-stop early voting and Election Day for all primaries, second primaries, recounts, special elections, and general elections. In-person voting programs include but are not limited to voting inside the polling place, curbside voting, provisional voting, precinct officials, and electioneering. This position will work closely with agency legal counsel, Project Management section, Training & Outreach section, and other SBE and CBE stakeholders to review election law and make necessary recommendations in election processes, procedures, and information systems pertaining to in-person voting. Collaborates with Communications Division to develop and maintain web content and other public documents pertaining to in-person voting. This position provides in-person administration assistance, which includes statute and process clarification and materials creation and review. The work involves keeping informed of all laws, rules and regulations in North Carolina that apply to in-person voting, communicating this to the county boards of elections, and providing the necessary materials and supervision needed to conduct successful elections in North Carolina. Responsibilities will also include directing a program assistant, as well as a small group of seasonal temporary employees to carry out program standards and objectives. The employee will work with all federal, state and local agencies to assure all standards are met and in-person voting reports and surveys are completed. Salary: $46,203-$59,240. Deadline: May 8. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Election Specialist, NC State Board of Elections — the Candidate and Canvass Program Specialist has extensive knowledge of election administration and performs detailed planning and preparation for candidate filing, pre-election processes, post-election processes, and canvass in all 100 North Carolina counties and the State Board of Elections in compliance with General Statute 163. Performs work in assuring that candidate filing is successful in all 100 counties and the State Board of Elections, coordinating pre-elections tasks with the Voting Systems Division such as ballot proofing and election setup, coordinating post-election tasks such as the audits and surveys, and that the canvass process is properly conducted with the cooperation of all North Carolina county boards of elections and the State Board of Elections canvass. This position will work closely with agency legal counsel, Voting Systems section, IT division, Campaign Finance division, and other SBE and CBE stakeholders to review election law and make necessary recommendations in election processes, procedures, and information systems pertaining to candidate filing, candidate petitions, candidacy challenges, election protests, pre-election procedures, post-election procedures, and the canvass period. Collaborates with Communications division to develop and maintain web content and other public documents pertaining to these areas and the Judicial Voter Guide to North Carolina households. Work involves providing guidance to those in the SEIMS infrastructure work group as well as the SEIMS helpdesk in questions involving candidate filing and the candidate filing process. Responsibilities include working with the IT infrastructure team and Helpdesk in supporting counties with preparation for Canvass. Responsibilities will also include directing a program assistant and other staff to carry out program standards and objectives. Salary: $46,203-$59,240. Deadline: May 8. 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.
Operations Manager, Center for Election Innovation and Research— The Center for Election Innovation & Research (CEIR) seeks a qualified Operations Manager to join our team. The Operations Manager will report to the Program Director and will be responsible for the execution of CEIR’s general operations. The Operations Manager will be in charge of ensuring our human resources, finances, and administrative functions run efficiently and effectively. Under the supervision of the Program Director, the Operations Manager determines objectives and milestones, and builds effective relationships within the team and with outside partners. 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.
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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