In Focus This Week
Supporting election officials in a pandemic
CTCL launches a new 12-part webinar series
Sometime in early March, we started asking questions. At the Center for Tech and Civic Life (CTCL), we work with state and local officials across the country, so we wanted to understand what COVID-19 might mean for running elections. We had some guesses, to be sure, but knew the best insights would come from conversations with administrators.
So, what did folks say? You talked about increased mail balloting, scared poll workers, apprehensive (but committed) voters, and more. While reactions varied depending on the size of the jurisdiction and other factors, some common themes came through loud and clear.
- Everyone indicated that the pandemic meant:
- Enormous implementation challenges for increased mail balloting
- Voter outreach efforts at an unprecedented scale
- Profound uncertainty about voter behavior, preferences, and trust in the system.
Something else we heard a lot? “There’s so much new information! I could use some help sorting through it to find what’s useful for my community.”
If there’s one thing we love at CTCL, it’s sorting through emerging election guidance and sharing what we find. So, we got to work. Today we’re excited to share more about what we’ve put together along with our guest presenters– respected election officials and sector experts committed to making 2020 go smoothly.
Starting on Tuesday, May 19, CTCL is pleased to offer “COVID-19 and Election Administration: Approaches for Election Officials,” a set of 12 no-cost, 60-minute webinars highlighting top approaches to prepare for inclusive, safe, and secure elections.
The series runs Tuesdays and Thursdays between May 19th through the end of June (with a brief pause on June 2 for a busy election day!). 2:00-3:00pm ET each time, presenters will cover topics like the specifics of mail balloting, voter outreach and communication, and adapting in-person voting locations to keep everyone healthy. The focus is on clear information you can apply directly to your office. And, they’re will be plenty of time to ask questions of experienced presenters and fellow participants.
These webinars build on COVID-19 response FAQs & consideration documents produced by the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) Elections Infrastructure Government Coordinating Council and Sector Coordinating Council’s Joint COVID Working Group. The orientation webinar next Tuesday (May 19) features CISA’s Matthew Masterson.
Each session stands alone, so you can register for the ones most useful to you and your team. Use the registration page to sign up for the webinars, which are organized into the four themes described next.
Making sense of the moment
Voting policies, preferences, and best practices are shifting from day to day. So, the series starts off with a set of webinars designed to help you take stock of your 2020 plans and think through the big challenges ahead.
“Supporting election officials” (Thursday, May 21) covers the basics of how to keep you and your team healthy and well equipped for a hectic year– a fundamental, if often overlooked, part of election preparation.
Prior estimates for mail balloting, election staffing, and poll location distribution could use some updating. “Planning 2020 workload & resource allocation” (Tuesday, May 26) helps make sure you’re putting resources in the right places, avoiding long lines at polling places and unexpected delays processing mail ballots.
Anytime you shift resources, different groups will feel disparate effects– from traditional in-person voters, to medical professionals quarantining away from their families, to community members that depend on translated election materials. “Ensuring access, equity, and inclusion” (Thursday, May 28) highlights these disparate effects and offers concrete steps you can take to make sure everyone can exercise their right to vote.
This year, everyone from first-time voters to every-election-stalwarts, will need updated information about when, where, and how to vote. “Educating voters about their options” (Thursday, June 4) offers best practices for helping voters understand and trust their voting method choices.
Getting ballots to voters
A significant increase in mail balloting is a serious logistical challenge. Even if your state isn’t promoting voting by mail, you can still expect to see an increase in requests from nervous voters, stressing your existing practices.
“Maintaining voter lists” (Tuesday, June 9) and “Managing mail ballot request forms” (Thursday, June 11) focus on practical approaches for increasing voter list accuracy, streamlining voter registration and ballot request processes, and implementing creative approaches we’re seeing across the country.
Receiving and processing ballots
The stakes here are painful to think about: overstuffed drop boxes, misplaced ballots, long delays, and dubious chains of custody. Setting up clear, efficient procedures for receiving, processing, and organizing returned ballots can make a big difference when it comes to staying on top of things this year.
“Organizing ballot dropoff locations” (Tuesday, June 16) helps you think through your options, whether you’re considering sites open 24 hours a day or supervised locations in the election office.
“Streamlining the inbound ballot process” (Thursday, June 18) is designed to help jurisdictions that will likely see a significant increase in mail ballots plan for an efficient and secure chain of custody.
And, with voters’ signatures serving as a key security feature on returned ballot envelopes, “Verifying and curing signatures” (Tuesday, June 23) focuses on best practices for checking the signatures– plus options for how to alert voters when ballots are missing verifiable jane hancocks.
Conducting in-person voting
Even where most voters opt for mail balloting, in-person voting will remain a crucial option for many folks. And a fair election is one where voters know you’re doing everything possible to keep them safe.
“Recruiting and training election workers” (Thursday, June 25) covers how to recruit folks from less vulnerable populations, train them online, and ensure they’re prepared to handle frequently asked pandemic-related voting questions.
Those election workers will be supporting voters in reconfigured voting locations. “Implementing public health guidelines for voting locations” (Tuesday, June 30) is all about how to keep everyone safe while they fulfill their civic duty.
Did we miss something? Or, are you working on a project others would benefit from seeing? Don’t hesitate to drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’re grateful for everything you do, and hope to see you over the next six weeks.
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2020 Election Updates
California: Although there was some controversy in the days leading up to the special election with the president slamming the state’s voting system and Los Angeles County Clerk and Recorder Dean Logan coming to the defense, on Tuesday when voters went to the polls or mailed in their ballots, things went relatively smoothly. All voters in the Congressional district received a mail ballot, but that didn’t stop some from hitting several districtwide vote centers. According to Courthouse News Service, at polling sites in the cities of Santa Clarita and Castaic, voters said they were confident elections officials had properly assessed the risks of Covid-19 spread. “It’s our civic duty to vote and I think people will take the proper precautions,” voter Sharina Ulloa told CNS. “Voters here just need to realize there isn’t a cure for [Covid-19] and we still need to be careful.”
Nebraska: Nebraska held the nation’s first statewide, in-person primary since April 7 and saw record turnout—although about 80 percent of that turnout came via mail ballots instead of at the polls on Tuesday. There were few is any reports of problems from the polls other than it was slow-going in places like Madison County, but elections officials and poll workers were a-ok with that. In-person turnout was light in Lancaster County as well. Despite the worries over COVID-19, Election Commissioner Dave Shively told the Journal Star, the participation in this year’s primary was “kind of extraordinary,” even if the scene at several polling places Tuesday didn’t make it look that way. “It was pretty light turnout from what we understand,” he said Tuesday shortly before polling places closed at 8 p.m. “I think things went kind of the way we hoped they would.” In Adams County, election official Ramona Thomas told KSNB it was like holding two elections. “It’s crazy. Essentially we were running two elections,” Ramona Thomas said. “We were dealing with the massive quantity of mail out ballots and then having to have everything ready for election day.” The state relied on young poll workers to fill the void left by older poll workers who had concerns about working during the pandemic. In Grand Island, 18-year-old Elise Vahle, who should be gearing up for her high school graduation this week was instead geared up with PPE for her job as the precinct captain. Vahle told Nebraska TV that she and her mom, who she recruited to serve as a poll worker as well, value all the voters, even when they were averaging five or six an hour, with a memorable first election. “I don’t think I could forget this.”
New Jersey: Thirty-three New Jersey localities held vote-by-mail elections this week. In Passaic County, a judge ordered that elections officials have until May 19 to complete the ballot tally. Also in Passaic County, the board of elections has decided not to count about 800 ballots in the six city council races after they were found in bundles in a mailbox. The New Jersey Attorney General’s Office is looking into possible voter fraud in the Paterson elections. Clerks in Hudson County say that the county’s first vote-by-mail election went off without a hitch. Record numbers of voters turned out for Burlington County’s first all-mail elections.
Ohio: County boards of elections across the state are putting the final touches on the 2020 vote-by-mail primary and in many counties like Lorain, Lucas, and Richland, hundreds of provisional and absentee ballots are being rejected and approved. In Butler County, 318 properly-cast ballots were rejected because the U.S. Postal Service delivered them three days after the state’s deadline. Secretary of State Frank LaRose has called for an investigation into why the ballots were delivered late. Also in Butler County, officials said this week that the the last-minute postponement of the March election cost the county BOE nearly $300,000 in staff, extra supplies, postage and other expenses.
Wisconsin: William Shakespeare’s famous line, “Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more;…” has to have been running through the heads of some Northern Wisconsin voters this week as they headed back to the polls for the second during a global pandemic. Although more people chose to vote in-person for the special election than did for the April primary, there were few reports of lines or issues. Just 48 percent voted absentee in Tuesday’s special election. “There was no concern at all,” David Murdock, 68, of Wausau told the Associated Press about voting in person on Tuesday. “It was far safer than going to, for instance, one of the convenience stores.” Poll workers in Superior worked hard to keep the polls sanitized, cleaning everything after each voter. One-hundred and sixty members of the Wisconsin National Guard helped out at the polls. Onedia County Clerk Tracy Hartman said that in an effort to show the Guard was not there for any sort of enforcement, they were not in uniform. “Our folks will look just like any other poll worker at the polling sites,” Capt. Joe Trovato, a spokesperson for the Wisconsin National Guard told News12. “They might just have a little shorter haircut in some cases.”
Election Security Updates
Online Voting: In an 8-page report co-authored by four federal agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency and issued to states last week, the federal government said it considers online voting to be a “high-risk” way of running elections, even if all the security protocols are followed. “We recommend paper ballot return as electronic ballot return technologies are high-risk even with controls in place,” says the document, according to a copy obtained by The Wall Street Journal.
California: A 2019-2020 Napa County grand jury investigated he county election division and how it handles ballots. In a newly released report, “Results You Can Count On,” the grand jury concluded that votes are accurately counted, tallied and recorded. The grand jury did issue a warning about the county’s use of social media. “Napa County’s Election Division has no policy in place regarding access, logging or accountability for their social media accounts,” the report stated. “I’m very pleased with the report,” Registrar of Voters John Tuteur told the Napa Valley Register. “I’m working with the Board of Supervisors and the county public information office on the issue of security on the county social media sites.”
Rescheduled Primaries: At press time, the following states have rescheduled their primaries: Connecticut 6/2; Delaware 7/4; 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; 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.
Native American Voters: While many—most—states are pushing full-steam ahead to expand vote-by-mail for not only their yet-to-be-held primaries, but also the general election, some advocate are sounding the alarm about the impacts expanded vote by mail could have on Native American voters. As outlined by the Native American Rights Fund, an organization that provides legal assistance to tribes and Native American individuals, the potential obstacles range from issues with access to traditional mail services, to a lack of broadband connectivity, and in some cases, cultural communication barriers. Experts also point out that high poverty rates and some states’ voter identification requirements create even more potential roadblocks for Native Americans seeking to cast their ballots. “We’ve tried to point out to people — you got to stack all of these things on top of each other,” Natalie Landreth, a senior staff attorney with Native American Rights Fund said in an interview with ABC News. “Having a rural, non-traditional address, no home mail delivery and being forced into a situation where you have to use a P.O. box causes all of these practical hurdles that people seem unaware of as they’re advocating universally that vote by mail is so rad,” Landreth said.
NASS: This week, the National Association of Secretaries of State held a virtual briefing with more than 125 participants and in partnership with American Jewish Committee’s (AJC) Project Interchange, to discuss with Israeli elections officials how to keep polling places safe, and ensure voter turnout during the coronavirus pandemic. In March, Israel conducted national elections, with precautions instituted to ensure voting and safeguarding of Israel’s election sites, voters and poll workers. Special “pop up” polling locations were staffed by paramedics wearing protective suits and masks. Voters and polling station staff were physically separated. Israel’s Health Ministry allowed those under quarantine who were asymptomatic to vote, so long as they wore face masks and gloves, did not use public transportation and followed other directives. As a result, voter turnout on March 2 was the highest since 1999. “As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to evolve, election officials both here in the U.S. and around the world are working day and night to keep our elections, voters and poll workers safe. During this unprecedented time, it is hugely important to work with our allies like Israel to ask questions and learn from one another. Today’s briefing was an excellent conversation and I look forward to continued dialogue,” said Paul Pate, NASS President and Iowa Secretary of State.
California: Gov. Gavin Newsom has signed an executive order requiring that ballots be mailed to the state’s 20.6 million voters for the November general election. “It’s great for public health, it’s great for voting rights, it’s gonna be great for participation,” said Secretary of State Alex Padilla. California is the first state to make the switch to all-mail voting for the November 3 election.
Colorado: Secretary of State Jena Griswold has issued temporary changes to election procedures that will be in effect for the June 30 primary election and provide guidance about health protocols for all participants. Under the new procedures, county clerks must test their poll workers with infrared thermometers prior to them reporting to voting locations. Election judges and other staff will need to wear face masks and personal protective equipment at all times, as will any observers or media present. For the latter category of people, counties must also take their temperatures if they plan to remain at a polling site for an hour or longer. Workers must clean all voting equipment after each use. If additional public health guidelines emerge close to Election Day, counties must follow whichever directive provides the most protection. The secretary of state’s office must sign off on any changes that counties want to make for which the revised rules do not provide guidance.
Delaware: Gov. John Carney signed the fifteenth modification to his State of Emergency declaration, rescheduling Delaware’s presidential primary for July 7. The Delaware Department of Elections will mail absentee ballot applications to all registered Democrats and Republicans in the State of Delaware, providing all eligible registered Delaware voters the opportunity to vote by absentee ballot in the presidential primary election.
Florida: The Florida State Association of Supervisors of Elections, sent a letter to Gov. Ron DeSantis this week urging him to take $20 million in funds awarded to Florida as part of the $2 trillion coronavirus relief bill that became law in March. Florida is just one of four states that have yet to accept the federal funds. According to the Miami Herald, the letter is a follow-up to one the group sent a month ago, asking DeSantis to help supervisors prepare for the coming August and November elections by granting them some flexibility under the law — a request that has gone unanswered. “I … want to express my concern that Florida is lagging behind nearly every other state in securing CARES Act funding for elections,” Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections Craig Latimer wrote Wednesday. “While we wait, the goods and services we need are becoming scarce.” Through a spokesman, Secretary of State Laurel Lee responded: “We will be assisting our 67 county supervisors of elections to make these funds available in the most expeditious manner possible and to maximize the full benefit of these funds to meet identified areas of specific county and collective critical need and support consistent with the intent and purpose of the CARES Act.”
Indiana: While some states have been relying on members of the National Guard to serve as poll workers, Indiana is turning to the Guard for something different. The Guard is partnering with the secretary of state’s office to distribute PPE for polling places for the primary. According to Indiana Public Radio, Brig. Gen. Dale Lyles said the Guard worked with Republicans and Democrats to get an idea of how much PPE is needed at sites. “And over the course of the next five to 10 days we will be delivering enough PPE for all the workers at those sites to be protected,” Lyles says.
Missouri: Phelps County, Missouri Clerk Pamela Grow has turned down $42,696 in funding stating that she was living up to a campaign promise to never take federal funding. “I was quoted very publicly in local newspapers about my commitment to avoid taking federal money for the operation of my office,” Grow told the Rolla Daily News. In addition to her campaign promise not to take federal funding—the money was part of the granting program established by the CARES Act—Grow also city the reporting and accounting burdens that come with accepting federal funds.
Nevada: The Board of Examiners approved a $1 million contract with KPS3 to provide a “full service voter education marketing campaign” to help voters through the upcoming primary election. Funding for the project was provided by the federal government through the Help America Vote Act. The company will develop and implement a marketing plan including creation and maintenance of a website, creation of marketing materials and media access.
Tennessee: According to a document obtained by the Associated Press and confirmed by state elections officials, fear of contracting the coronavirus doesn’t meet medical criteria for voting absentee in Tennessee. “In consultation with the Attorney General’s office the fear of getting ill does not fall under the definition of ill,” Elections Coordinator Mark Goins told The Associated Press in a statement.
Texas: In a proclamation issued this week, Gov. Greg Abbott has ordered early voting for the July 14 runoffs to begin June 29 instead of on July 6. He noted that sticking with the truncated early voting window that’s typical for runoff elections “would prevent, hinder, or delay necessary action in coping with the COVID-19 disaster.”
Utah: Although the June 30 primary will be conducted entirely by mail, seven counties will provide drive-thru voting on election day. Salt Lake County will have 10 to 11 drive-up spots, according to County Clerk Sherrie Swensen. Voters will pull up, tell a poll worker their name, and drive away with a mail in ballot they can drop off later that day. “I know there’s individuals out there who would have done everything they needed to do and for whatever reason, don’t receive their ballot,” Swensen told KUER. “So I decided that it wouldn’t be fair to the voters for them not to have an option to get a ballot.”
Virginia: These are the good news stories we live for! With local elections set for next week Chesapeake, Virginia and officials in the registrar of voters office are working tirelessly to process thousands of absentee ballots and luckily for the registrar’s office, staff from the city’s public libraries, which are currently closed, have stepped up to help. For several weeks, three employees at the Central Library have helped prepare absentee ballot packets, stuffing each with two pages of voting instructions and a self-addressed, stamped return envelope. Another three to five are at the registrar daily, placing ballots in those packets to seal and send, sorting submitted ballots into one of 63 precincts, and answering phones. “They are priceless to us,” general registrar Mary Lynn Pinkerman told the Virginia Pilot. “We absolutely could not have done this without them.” “Librarians love serving the public, and this is another way we can do it,” Zachary Elder, Central Library manager told the paper. “It’s been exciting and a bit challenging, but every absentee ballot that comes in is one person who is a little safer. We’re also protecting our election poll workers — really all of our residents.”
Election News This Week
History Lesson: The History Channel has a really interesting piece on how the Vietnam War draft spurred the fight to lower the voting age. In 1965, 130,991 young men were inducted in the military service; a year later, the number ballooned to 382,010. Many of them were ages 18-20 and therefore unable to vote. The article notes that while it was the Vietnam War that spurred the change, the fight to lower the voting age began much earlier, during World War II, which is when the slogan “Old Enough to Fight, Old Enough to Vote.” West Virginia Rep. Jennings Randolph proposed a constitutional amendment. In his 1954 State of the Union address President Dwight D. Eisenhower encouraged lawmakers to take up the issue. But it was Vietnam that really got the ball rolling with President Lyndon B. Johnson asking Congress in 1968 to move on the voting age.
Suffrage News: A nonprofit in Tennessee is sponsoring a mural festival called Walls for Women in celebration of the centennial of the 19th Amendment which was ratified on August 20, 1920 when Tennessee signed on. The festival, slated to take place between July 18th and August 18th will feature murals by female artists all over the state.
Congratulations! Reed College Professor of Political Science Paul Gronke was selected as part of the 2020 class of Andrew Carnegie Fellows. The award supports high-caliber scholarship in the social sciences and humanities, making it possible for recipients to continue their research on pressing issues and cultural transitions affecting U.S. citizens at home and abroad. Gronke was recognized for his scholarship on election security and accessibility. “We are at a critical moment in American democracy. Democratic institutions are at risk when politicians are increasingly willing to subvert these institutions for political gain,” Gronke told Reed Magazine. “I am honored and humbled to be selected for such a prestigious fellowship, which will allow me to pursue important research regarding the integrity of these institutions at a vital moment of rapid political and social change.”
Citing concerns over working during a global health pandemic, Dearborn Heights City Clerk Walter Prusiewicz has tendered his resignation. According to the Press & Guide, he didn’t give an exact date for when the resignation would take place, but offered to stay on in an advisory role for the August and November elections. Prusiewicz said he isn’t comfortable working on-site during an election. He said election workers would be compelled to accept absentee ballots that were hand-delivered on election day, and he isn’t comfortable handling those without leaving them quarantined for at least a day like he currently does with mail both at his house and in the office. He said that he would consider staying on, if the administration can work out a plan to let him work from home as long as he feels it not safe be in the office. Prusiewicz has been clerk since 2011.
Personnel News: Louis DeJoy, a North Carolina businessman and longtime Republican donor has been tapped to serve as the next Post Master General for the U.S. Postal Service. Harris County, Texas Clerk Diane Trautman announced that she will be stepping down May 31 due sto health concerns. Michael Haas has resigned from the Wisconsin Elections Commission and will now serve as the new Madison city attorney. Appomattox County, Virginia’s longtime general registrar and director of elections Sabrina Smith is set to retire on July 1 after 30 years of service. Travis Alexander, who has been a Greenville county poll worker and elections official for nearly 12 years, is the new Pickens County, South Carolina Board of Voter Registration and Elections executive director.
In Memoriam: Hilton Carter, an original Tuskegee Airman and former deputy director of elections for the Franklin County, Ohio board of elections died this week. He was 91. Carter, born in New Orleans on June 30, 1928, enlisted in the Army and was in the Air Corps, the precursor of the Air Force. He was among the nation’s first black airmen. “I was a crew chief and gunner. Whatever they needed,” said Carter, who was involved during the pivotal final months of fighting in the Pacific that led to Japan’s surrender in August 1945. After the war, Carter became a member of the newly formed Air Force and rose to the level of staff sergeant. He is survived by his wife Odessa; a daughter, Paula (Dylan) Barrett; a daughter-in law, Beverly Carter; four grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his son, Richard Carter, and a brother, Daniel.
Federal Legislation: House Democrats have included $3.6 billion in election funding as part of the $3 trillion coronavirus stimulus bill they rolled out on Tuesday. The funding is meant to assist states in addressing new challenges posed by holding elections during the COVID-19 pandemic, such as expanding mail-in and early in-person voting. At least 50 percent of the funds would be required to go to local governments to help administer elections, and states would have until late next year to access the funds.
California: The Yolo County board of supervisors voted 4-1 to sign and send a letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom backing the California Association of Clerks and Election Officials’ request to expand vote-by-mail services for the election due to concerns related to novel coronavirus.
In San Francisco, Several San Francisco supervisors are supporting a charter amendment that would give voting rights to 16- and 17-year-old city residents for municipal elections. The measure is planned for the November ballot. The young voters would have to meet all of the qualifications for voter registration under state law besides the 18-year-old age minimum, and would have to register to vote with the city’s Department of Elections, according to the language in the proposed charter amendment.
Minnesota: The Senate, by a 66 to 1 vote has followed in the House’s footsteps by approving legislation that permits candidates to file electronically, extends the counting period for absentee ballots and releases $17 million in federal election money. The bill also allows elections officials to relocate polling places away from sites such as nursing homes or assisted living facilities.
Missouri: The House has approved a bill that would allow for no-excuse absentee voting. If signed into law it would only apply to the August and November 2020 statewide elections. The proposed change, which still needs Senate approval, comes after county clerks and voting rights groups have said people shouldn’t have to risk going to polling places during a global pandemic. Currently voters most provide a valid excuse for not voting in-person. Illegally casting an absentee ballot is a feloyn.
Oklahoma: The Senate approved and the governor quickly signed into law a bill that would reinstate the need for a notary witness in order to cast an absentee ballot except during a state of emergency. Under the bill, for the duration of the COVID-19 state of emergency, voters who wish to submit absentee ballots by mail will need to include a photocopy of their voter registration card or photo identification. Once the emergency declaration is over, absentee voters would then be required to have their ballots notarized by a notary public.
South Carolina: South Carolina lawmakers unanimously voted on a bill that would expand absentee voting for the June primaries due to fears over the coronavirus pandemic. The measure would allow all South Carolinians to request an absentee ballot and mail in their vote, rather than going to a polling location. If the bill is signed into law voters must list the coronavirus pandemic as they reason for voting absentee. It will also only apply to the June primaries and run-offs. Gov. Henry McMaster signed the legislation into law on Wednesday.
Texas: Killeen city elections were moved from May to November this year due to the pandemic, and the City Council will discuss whether that should be a permanent change. According to city documents, changing the date would require “a statutory amendment to the Texas Elections Code.”
Vermont: Members of the Senate Gov Ops committee have decided to draft standby legislation that removes the need for the governor to sign off on Covid-19 emergency election protocols. The legislation is not expected to move forward unless the Secretary of State’s Office and the governor’s team cannot come to an agreement by the end of the week over expanding the state’s mail-in voting capacity for the general election.
Wisconsin: The Oshkosh Common Council approve a measure 4-2 this week that will have the city clerk sending absentee ballot applications to all registered voters for the November general election. The two opposing councilors cited the near $90,000 in costs as their reason for voting against the measure.
Arkansas: Arkansas will begin ensuring that change-of-address information submitted for driver’s license purposes is used to update voter registration records under an agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice. The agreement is aimed at resolving claims that Arkansas didn’t provide certain opportunities to update voter-registration records as required by the National Voter Registration Act of 1993. The law requires states to update voter records when the address on the driver’s license or other IDs is changed, unless the person chooses otherwise.
California: The Long Beach Reform Coalition has filed a lawsuit against Los Angeles County Clerk/Recorder Dean Logan over the county’s new voting system and an aborted recount of the city’s Measure A ballot initiative. The lawsuit, filed Monday, May 11, in Los Angeles County Superior Court, seeks to have the Registrar’s Office restart the Measure A recount “at a reasonable cost,” said Ian Patton, director of the coalition.
Georgia: U.S. Judge William Ray II has denied a preliminary injunction for the use of Spanish-language mailers about absentee voting in Gwinnett County. Gwinnett County is the only county in the state required to provide bilingual polling materials and a suit was filed by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law arguing that the county must also send absentee ballot materials in Spanish. In his decision, Ray said he thought their request represented a “reasonable and desirable outcome” and “may very well be the best public policy.” But, he wrote, it was not the law. Ray noted that the Voting Rights Act applies to the county and that it was the secretary of state’s office sending out the materials and that office has “no duty” to provide bilingual materials.
The New Georgia Project, a voter registration group, has filed a lawsuit challenging a Georgia law that requires absentee ballots to arrive in county election offices by 7 p.m. on election day. The lawsuit also asks a judge to order free ballot postage, allow groups like the New Georgia Project to turn in ballots for voters, and require better notification of voters whose absentee ballot requests are rejected.
Louisiana: The NAACP, Power Coalition for Equity and Justice and four individual voters have sued the state over an emergency election plan. The suit says the plan falls short in protecting voters from the coronavirus and call the plan “unduly restrictive” and seeks to repeal the requirements that voters present an excuse to receive an absentee ballot, thereby expanding them to everyone.
Minnesota: A group of older Minnesota voters is suing the secretary of state over concerns that the state’s absentee voting rules could put their vote — and their health — at risk this year. The suit argues that many older voters who are self-quarantining to avoid contracting the COVID-19 virus won’t be able to get the required witness signatures on their mail-in ballots. The lawsuit, filed Wednesday in Ramsey County District Court by the Minnesota Alliance for Retired Americans Educational Fund, looks to stop the state from enforcing that requirement and also to adopt a postmark deadline on mail-in ballots.
New Hampshire: Attorneys for the state are appealing to the New Hampshire Supreme Court a lower court decision striking down as unconstitutional a 2017 Republican-backed law that tightened identification requirements for registering to vote in the Granite State. Judge David Anderson ruled on April 8 that the law known as Senate Bill 3 violates the New Hampshire Constitution by “burdening the fundamental right to vote” and because it has an unequal impact on certain people in the state, primarily young people, college students and people who frequently relocate to different communities. The Supreme Court justices will now prescreen the appeal and will decide whether to accept or decline the case, a court spokesperson said. If it is accepted, a briefing schedule will be issued. After the briefs are filed, the court will decide whether to hold oral arguments or whether to decide the case based on the written briefs.
New York: Democratic members of the state’s Board of Elections have filed an appeal of a federal judge’s reinstatement of the New York presidential primary. The appeal by board Commissioner Andrew Spano and other members came a day after the June 23 primary was reinstated by U.S. District Judge Analisa Torres in Manhattan, who said canceling it would be unconstitutional and deprive withdrawn presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Andrew Yang of proper representation at the Democratic convention. Torres said there was enough time before the primary to plan how to carry it out safely.
Also in New York, two Queens borough president candidates have filed lawsuits against Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the state’s Board of Elections over his executive order canceling the special election.
North Carolina: A trio of judges held a hearing this week on whether or not state legislators should have to turn over emails that could show what they discussed while writing the state’s currently on hold 2018 voter ID law. On Wednesday, lawyers representing GOP lawmakers on one side and the Southern Coalition for Social Justice on the other side argued over whether that “legislative privilege” is absolute, or if there are instances when it can be broken.
Pennsylvania: Common Cause Pennsylvania and the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania moved to intervene in a lawsuit brought by Judicial Watch Inc. seeking an order compelling the state and several counties to comply with voter list maintenance that it claims is lacking. Olivia Thorne, president of the League of Women Voters of Delaware County, told the DelCo Times that the decision to intervene was based in part on the league trying to ensure no legitimate, eligible voters are wrongly removed. “Why do this right before a presidential election?” she asked. “We work very hard all the time trying to register voters, and the idea that people would be taken off the list when they registered for the last presidential (election), it’s sort of frustrating in some ways. … This is what we’re really trying to avoid, is having people disenfranchised.”
Texas: Two voting rights advocates have filed a complaint with the Dallas County district attorney, alleging Attorney General Ken Paxton committed voter fraud in each of the state’s 254 counties by contradicting a judge’s order expanding the availability of mail-in voting during the pandemic. “Attorney General Ken Paxton’s letter intentionally misled Texas elections officials about eligibility to vote by mail,” said Kendall Scudder, one of the complainants. “Mail-in ballots aren’t where the election fraud is happening, it’s happening in the office of our indicted attorney general.”
Attorney General Ken Paxton has asked the Texas Supreme Court to weigh in on the state’s vote-by-mail laws, bypassing a state appeals court. The Texas Democratic Party sued state and local election officials in March to get clarification on whether state law allows voters who don’t want to risk exposure to the coronavirus to use mail-in ballots during elections in July and November. A Travis County district judge sided with the plaintiffs. Paxton filed a petition Wednesday directly with the Texas Supreme Court, however, “requesting that the court compel the early-voting clerks for Dallas, Cameron, El Paso, Harris and Travis Counties to follow Texas law on mail-in ballots,” according to a press release from his office.
A coalition of voters and civil rights groups filed suit this week dives into the mechanics of mail-in balloting, arguing that existing rules will deprive voters of their constitutional rights in the middle of a public health crisis. In the federal lawsuit filed in San Antonio, five Texas voters with medical conditions, Voto Latino, the NAACP Texas and the Texas Alliance for Retired Americans argue that four existing rules for absentee voting will place undue burdens on the right to vote, or risk disenfranchising Texans, during the pandemic.
The League of United Latin American Citizens’ national and Texas arms signed on this week to the Texas Democratic Party’s federal lawsuit against the state raising claims that the state’s absentee voting restriction is unconstitutional and violates the federal Voting Rights Act’s prohibition on discrimination against voters based on race. LULAC argues the restriction that limits age eligibility for voting by mail to those 65 and older disproportionately harms Texas Latinos because they tend to be younger in age.
VoteAmerica: Debra Cleaver, who first launched Vote.org in 2008 but parted ways with the organization last year has launched a new get out the vote effort called VoteAmerica. According to Tech Crunch, VoteAmerica’s goal is to boost voter turnout by helping people vote by mail. “It seems at this point that Americans are either going to be unable or unwilling to vote in person in the November election, which could lead to catastrophically low turnout,” Cleaver said in an interview with TechCrunch. “But if we have our way, there will be no perceivable dip in turnout in November.” Cleaver describes VoteAmerica as a lean team with deep experience—and one ready to hit the ground running. According to TechCrunch, using fax APIs, VoteAmerica is building out a system that allows voters to request a vote-by-mail application just by taking a photo of their signature. VoteAmerica’s tool then uses code to put the signature in the right spot on the form and then programmatically faxes it to the relevant local election official. “This is kind of wonky because we’re using truly antiquated technology to modernize the vote-by-mail process,” Cleaver said. “But if you have a mobile device—and 87% of Americans have a smartphone—we’re building technology that lets you sign up directly from your mobile device without printing and mailing.”
Montana: Four Montana organizations launched an online portal to encourage voter registration. The Forward Montana Foundation, Montana Women Vote, MontPIRG, and Western Native Voice hove a long history of registering eligible Montanans to vote at events, in local businesses, and on college campuses. The groups are now collaborating on an online portal to help Montanans register to vote. “With the drastic reduction of in-person voter registration efforts, Montanans needed a creative solution to make voter registration more accessible,” said Kelly Armington, Board Choir of MontPIRG. “This safe, secure, and non-partisan website will ensure that every eligible resident is able to get registered to vote even during this pandemic.”
Opinions This Week
Indiana: Early voting
Maine: Vote by mail
Maryland: Vote by mail
Massachusetts: Vote by mail
Minnesota: Voting safety
North Dakota: Vote by mail
South Dakota: Absentee voting
Tennessee: Shelby County
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.
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.
The Challenges of Counting the Vote in 2020: Election Day does not end on the first Tuesday after the second Monday in November. Election administrators across the country must count and reconcile vote totals across all methods of voting—early, in-person on Election Day, and absentee. The 2020 presidential election faces unprecedented challenges amid voting during the coronavirus pandemic, which may greatly alter the ways Americans vote. With historic rates of mail ballots expected this year, how will election officials meet the demand, and what policies will they need to help them balance the speed and accuracy required by the public in counting the vote? Join The Bipartisan Policy Center for a moderated discussion about the oft-ignored policy and logistical issues involved in counting the vote, featuring state and local election officials that have first-hand experience preparing and executing elections during the COVID-19 crisis. When: May 21, 2pm Eastern. Where: Online.
Navigating the New Urgency and Tactics Around Voter Registration: During this webinar Nonprofit VOTE will review the impact the pandemic is having on voter registration rates, the laws and opportunities that vary across states around voter registration, and some quick, actionable tips for promoting voter registration digitally now. Our guest speakers have experience in the field working with voters and will share how they are pivoting their strategies in light of the pandemic response. The recording and slides for this webinar will be sent one week after the webinar airs. When: May 22, 2pm Eastern. Where: Online.
Job Postings This Week
electionlineWeekly publishes election administration job postings each week as a free service to our readers. To have your job listed in the newsletter, please send a copy of the job description, including a web link to 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.
Campaign Finance Director, Wake County, NC— The Wake County Board of Elections is seeking a Campaign Finance Specialist to manage communication support and report auditing for candidates and committees who file campaign finance reports at the county level. The Campaign Finance Specialist must maintain in-depth knowledge of campaign finance law and reporting schedules. In this position you will be responsible for communicating with candidates and campaign committee treasurers, conducting financial audits of campaign finance reports, referring late or non-compliant reports to the NC State Board of Elections for further investigation or financial penalties, maintaining directories and databases of elected officials and report filing statuses, developing candidate and campaign finance informational guides, managing the Candidates and Campaign Finance section of the Board of Elections website, organizing and administering candidate filing, and assisting campaign committee treasurers with campaign reporting software. Wake County is home to the State Capital and one of the fastest growing areas in the nation and the second-most populous county in the state, with approximately 1,000,000 residents. The County has received national and international rankings and accolades from publications such as Money, Fortune, and Time magazines as being one of the best places to live, work and play. Salary: Hiring Range: $20.19 – $27.26. 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.
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.
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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