In Focus This Week
20 Ways to Protect the 2020 Presidential Election
New report highlights measures that can be implemented before November
The Alliance for Securing Democracy (ASD) at the German Marshall Fund of the United States and the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) today released 20 for 20: 20 Ways to Protect the 2020 Presidential Election.
In this report, ASD’s Elections Integrity Fellow David Levine and BPC’s Elections Project Director Matthew Weil identify 20 ways states could further protect the 2020 presidential election with additional funding.
In response to the coronavirus pandemic, some states have begun using previously appropriated election security funds to cover unanticipated costs. While necessary, this redirection of funds creates a dilemma: states are using money originally intended to address key issues like election infrastructure and foreign interference to cover the new costs, leaving American democracy vulnerable to increasingly sophisticated foreign adversaries.
The 20 for 20 recommendations incorporate successful state-run programs, local officials’ input, and voter feedback to give federal lawmakers a better understanding of what could be done with additional funding and provide election officials with ideas for how to spend any election security funding they already have.
“As Congress considers additional action to secure the vote in response to the pandemic, they should not lose sight of the need to secure the election against foreign adversaries,” said ASD Elections Integrity Fellow David Levine. “The fact remains that intelligence officials have warned that authoritarian regimes like Russia, China, and Iran will try to interfere in the 2020 elections; the pandemic has not changed this assessment. From mitigating risks that result from increased vote by mail options to defending systems against ransomware attacks, 20 for 20 outlines important steps states can take to secure elections with additional funding. While Congress has provided some election security funding, more is needed to address these twin priorities of combatting foreign interference and making pandemic-related election adjustments. Ensuring a safe and secure election should be a national security priority that unites us all.”
“The pandemic has overwhelmed election administrators’ attention and led to massive changes in how our elections will look this November,” said BPC Director of the Elections Project Matthew Weil. “It does not mean the old concerns over election security fade away. Congress stepped to the plate in 2018 and 2019 to secure American elections. Those priorities were right then and need consistent focus going forward.
“20 for 20 shows all that state and local election officials can do to provide voting access during Covid-19 while simultaneously securing the process against nefarious actors. They just need the resources to do it.”
Some of the 20 recommendations include:
- Mitigate the potential risks associated with administering more voting by mail due to the coronavirus
- Help local election officials work with Facebook and Twitter to be identified as trusted sources
- Use a social media monitoring service to help fight election disinformation and/or misinformation efforts
- Further protect the state’s voter registration database from bad actors
- Hire additional cybersecurity staff
The CARES Act recently allocated $400 million in federal funding to address state and local governments’ coronavirus-related election needs. A recent report, Ensuring Safe Elections: Federal Funding Needs for State and Local Governments During the Pandemic, released by experts at the Alliance for Securing Democracy, the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law, the R Street Institute, and the University of Pittsburgh Institute for Cyber Law, Policy, and Security put the total need of the five featured states at least $414 million.
The 20 for 20 report can be accessed here.
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2020 Election Updates
Ohio: Butler County received more than 300 ballots after the May 8 deadline to receive absentee ballots for the April 28 primary. Butler County elections officials said the ballots were mailed on or before the April 27 deadline to be considered. U.S. Postal Service Chief Operating Officer and Executive Vice President David E. Williams said in a letter to Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose the postal service followed to its processes for delivering absentee ballots. “An unintentional missort of a tray of Butler County return ballots ultimately contributed to a gap in the mail flow, resulting in the delay,” Williams wrote. “The response left us with some unanswered questions, and that’s why Secretary LaRose has already requested greater detail about the new protocols that will be instituted and confirmation that the ballots were always secure while in the possession of the USPS,” Maggie Sheehan, Secretary of State spokeswoman told the Journal-News.
Oregon: Oregon held its primary this week entirely by mail, just like it’s been doing since 1993. But just because Oregon elections officials are pros at this whole vote-by-mail thing doesn’t mean conducting the election during a pandemic didn’t come with its own set of issues. In Deschutes County, Clerk Nancy Blankenship said this year’s primary election was unlike any other. Tuesday night’s election results trickled in later than expected. Blankenship said issues included having fewer staff due to COVID-19, voters complaining about receiving the wrong ballot and adapting to upgraded ballot sorter software and hardware. In Malheur County, technical difficulties with a ballot-counting machine delayed the results. In Multnomah County, pandemic primary day meant changes to the regular routine with voters being allowed to call ahead if they needed to get a ballot and plenty of safety precautions in the office. In Oregon’s hotly contested race to be the Democratic secretary of state nominee, State Sen. Shemia Fagan was the ultimate winner after The Oregonian originally called the race for Sen. Mark Hass on Tuesday night. Fagan ultimately won the race by about half a percentage point. Fagan will face Republican Kim Thatcher, a state lawmaker who won her race with more than 85% of the vote.
Virginia: A number of towns held local elections this week that were conducted largely by mail, but also featured in-person voting. Although things were very different at the polls on Tuesday, there were few reports of problems. Many of the localities including Chesapeake, Lynchburg, Salem, Shenandoah, Smithfield, Stauton and Waynesboro saw increases to absentee ballot like they had never seen before with the majority of voters casting their ballots by mail. Some people did of course go to the polls. Drive-thru voting in Fredericksburg was a big hit. Williamsburg voters also took advantage of the opportunity to vote from their car. Neither the rain nor the pandemic stopped some from voting in South Boston. “We thought the rain would be a factor, but we’ve had a good turnout. Overall, it’s amazing that people are coming out to vote in this weather,” said South Boston’s vice mayor Tina Wyatt-Younger. While there were no reported problems on election day, Lynchburg did have an “input error” on election night had on city council originally called for the wrong candidate.
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.
Alabama: Just because schools are closed due to the coronavirus doesn’t mean the learning about elections has to stop. According to the Montgomery Advertiser, Autauga County, Alabaa Probate Judge Kim Kervin came up with a way to keep students engaged by having them choose which is their favorite sandwich and then the winning sandwich would be featured in a sandwich eating contest between Police Chief Mark Thompson and Montgomery Advertiser reporter Marty Roney. The election “results” were tabulated by Autauga Circuit Clerk Deb Hill, Sheriff Joe Sedinger and Kervin, who also serve as the county’s elections commission during real voting. The candidates were peanut butter and jelly, ham and cheese and the pickled pig’s ear sandwich. As you may have guessed, the pickled pig’s ear sandwich came up the winner although there were rumors of possible voter fraud and improper influence. And it wouldn’t be an election without a glitch of some kind. In this case, Kervin had trouble finding pickled pig’s ears! “We really had great participation and we are looking forward to Friday,” Kervin told he paper. “It’s been a hoot.”
Alaska: Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer announced that the state’s primary election will be held using the normal voting procedures but that additional safety measures would be taken at the polls on Aug. 18 and the state will encourage residents to vote absentee and early. “The voters will have multiple choices come this election and they will and should pick the one they’re most comfortable with,” Meyer said according to Alaska Public Media. He said the Division of Elections will be prepared for even the worst situation. All voters who choose to vote in person will be given latex gloves to sign their names and mark their ballot. And voters without a mask will be provided one. Meyer said election workers will be given face shields.
Colorado: Gov. Jared Polis has signed three elections-related executive orders. Two of the orders revolve around petition signature collection and a third clarifies elections as a critical government function.
Also in Colorado, Denver Clerk & Recorder Paul Lopez sent a letter to the city’s mayor saying that the proposed furlough schedule—about 9,000 of the city’s 12,000 employees must take eight furlough days by the end of the year—will interfere with the elections division’s ability to process votes and other elections functions. The first of the fixed days, July 6, coincides with ballot processing for the June 30 primary. The second, September 4, coincides with the state’s ballot certification deadline “when our team needs to be available to prepare the ballot and TABOR notice for November,” Lopez wrote. The third, October 19, falls “on the first date we are required under state law to open voter service and polling centers,” he said. “Since nine of the 12 sites we are opening that day are in city facilities, that furlough day and corresponding city shut down will impede our ability to open vote centers and follow state law,” Lopez continued. Lopez is that his office’s budget revisions be approved without reductions and that staff remain essential employees and therefore exempt from furloughs.
Connecticut: Governor Lamont signed an executive order that will allow Connecticut voters the chance to vote by mail for the August primary elections. The executive order permits voting by mail if there is no federally approved and widely available vaccine for COVID-19 prevention. According to the executive order, “a person shall be permitted to lawfully state he or she is unable to appear at a polling place because of COVID-19 if, at the time he or she applies for or casts an absentee ballot for the August 11, 2020 primary election, there is no federally approved and widely available vaccine for prevention of COVID-19.” Secretary of the State Denise Merrill said she plans to have her office send every eligible voter an application by mail with a postage paid return envelope to begin the process.
Florida: After receiving pressure from the state’s supervisor of elections, the Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration intends to use $20.2 million from the federal government to help the state prepare for coronavirus-era voting this year. “It is Florida’s intent to request all of its funds,” Mark Ard, marketing and interim communications director for the Florida Secretary of State’s Office, said via email. “We are in the process of formalizing our request.”
Georgia: The absentee ballot clerk and front desk clerk in the McDuffie County elections office have both tested positive for COVID-19. Phyllis Wheeler, elections supervisor in McDuffie County said in a phone interview that she herself was tested Wednesday morning. Wheeler had to send home the rest of her staff, including a number of part-time workers and students that were working to process absentee applications and ballots, until the coronavirus test results are complete. Her assistant elections supervisor was also tested for the virus and is working until the results are known.
Indiana: The Lake County board of elections vote unanimously to begin counting absentee ballots starting at 6 a.m. on primary day, rather than holding the count until after the noon deadline for absentee ballots to be received. “We know we’re going to have, obviously, this year, a large number of absentee ballots,” John Reed, a Republican attorney for the Lake County Board of Elections and Voter Registration told the Northwest Times. “I hope with the early start things will get done in a timely fashion.”
Maine: The state GOP has secured essential worker status and may continue to gather signatures in an effort to repeal the state’s ranked choice voting law. According to the Bangor Daily News, Signature gatherers must collect voter signatures at stationary locations and place pens and petition on folding tables. The petition circulators must wear protective masks and gloves, stay six feet away from signers and enforce social distancing at signing stations. Signers will have access to single-use pens — they’ll take the pens home with them rather than return them to the campaign — and circulators will carry hand sanitizer and other sanitation products, such as wipes. The campaign has until June 15 to submit the 63,000 signatures necessary for a referendum. That’s 90 days after the Legislature adjourned this year due to the coronavirus, about a month earlier than originally anticipated.
Maryland: The Old Line State is conducting its first-ever statewide election primary primarily by mail and there have been some issues with the roll out. The Montgomery County Council is demanding the state hold an emergency meeting about why many voters are complaining about a continued wait for their primary ballots. “We are greatly concerned with the Board’s lack of urgency and action to communicate to voters the measures being taken,” council members wrote in a the letter. “Not only to correct the issues mentioned above, but to ensure a timely and fair election.” An out-of-state vendor failed to mail hundreds of thousands of ballots to Baltimore voters for nearly a week despite assuring Maryland they were on the way, officials revealed Tuesday amid growing concerns over administration of the June 2 primary. U.S. Postal Service trucks have been driving overnight shifts since officials learned of the problem Sunday, ferrying ballots from Minnesota to Maryland where they are placed into the local mail stream, said Nikki Charlson, deputy administrator of the Maryland Board of Elections. “We have significant unanswered questions about the process, and after the election, we will require a full accounting with a particular focus on Baltimore City ballots,” Charlson told the Baltimore Sun.. She said the state had delivered necessary voter information to the company in time for ballots to be mailed more than a week ago. “We are extremely disappointed that the vendor has failed to deliver according to the schedule,” Charlson said. The State Board held an emergency meeting Wednesday where it allowed for the expansion of early voting sites in the city of Baltimore. It also tripled the number of locations where voters could drop off their ballots.
Michigan: On Tuesday, Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson announced that all of Michigan’s 7.7 million registered voters would be mailed an absentee ballot application for the August and November elections. “By mailing applications we have ensured that no Michigander has to choose between their health and their right to vote,” Benson said. We know from the elections that took place this month that during the pandemic Michiganders want to safely vote.” Following her announcement, President Donald J. Trump, who has himself voted absentee, took to Twitter to condemn the move and threatened to withhold funding from the state. His initial Tweet noted that the state would be sending all voters ballots. He subsequently deleted that Tweet and in a subsequent Tweet noted the state was sending applications, but he still stood by his claim of potential voter fraud.
Mississippi: Secretary of State Michael Watson announced this week that his office is working through a contingency plan for the general election. “We didn’t want to overreact,” Watson told WLBT. “We wanted to make sure that we were focusing on election day and making them feel safe.” “Obviously, the poll workers are going to have PPE,” said Watson. “We are going to have sanitation stations set up for that. We are going to be providing that for all of our counties.” The state is exploring options of moving all counties to paper ballots. In the event that doesn’t happen by November, they’re looking at options. “We asked one of our vendors last week… as simple as something as a popsicle stick or a stylus… something that we can give the voter so they’re not continuously touching the machine,” noted Watson.
New Jersey: Gov. Phil Murhphy (D) announced last week that the state’s July 7 primary would be conducted largely, but not entirely by mail. Murphy said registered voters would automatically receive a vote-by-mail application ahead of the election. In-person polling places would be available in each municipality on July 7, he said. Social distancing and frequent cleaning at polling locations are required.
Ohio: The Summit County Board of Elections has been found in violation of coronavirus safety orders, and did not make wearing masks mandatory until Tuesday. According to the Akron Beacon Journal, a person filed a complaint with Summit County Public Health after watching employees who were not wearing masks during a live-streamed meeting May 12. On May 19, the Board of Elections live-streamed another meeting at which employees also were not wearing masks. A copy of the inspection report obtained by the Beacon Journal said the county office was not making all employees wear appropriate face coverings. The report said proper social distancing and barriers also were not in place.
South Carolina: About 20 Charleston County absentee ballots were found in Maryland this week—Maryland and South Carolina use the same Minnesota-based printer. According to The Post & Courier, ready-to-mail ballots have since made their way to Charleston-area voters, state and county election officials said, but it is just the latest problem with SeaChange Print Innovations, which prints and mails absentee ballots for 13 S.C. counties.
Wisconsin: The Wisconsin Elections Commission met this week to consider a proposal that would send registered voters an absentee ballot application. Staff at the state agency had proposed using $5.3 million of the funding to not only send a mass mailing of absentee ballot request forms and information about voting options to 2.7 million Wisconsinites. While the commission approved providing money to local and county clerks to cover additional voting by mail costs, it deadlocked on whether or not to automatically send ballot applications to residents. According to The Wisconsin State Journal, The commission may still end up approving a more targeted absentee ballot request form proposal that could possibly send forms to millions of registered voters.
Election News This Week
New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer recently released an audit of the New York City Board of Elections and the news was not good. “There’s nothing more sacred in our democracy than the right to vote. To protect the franchise, New York City must be a beacon for clean and fair elections,” Stringer said in a May 14 statement. “Our investigation found concerning evidence of mismanagement at the New York City Board of Elections, including lax record-keeping, broken machines, staff shortages, a lack of bilingual interpreters, and inaccessible polling locations for those with limited mobility.” A spokeswoman for the BOE said, “The Board declines to comment as our efforts and focus are on preparing for and conducting the Primary Election scheduled for June 23, 2020 during this moment of national crisis.” The comptroller recommended that the BOE increase its outreach effort to recruit new poll workers not only to expand bilingual services but to also ensure all polling locations are Americans with Disabilities Act accessible. To prevent issues on the equipment front, Stringer recommended that the BOE conduct testing before election day of poll books, cradle points, and ballot scanners.
Will Richland County, South Carolina be ready for the June primary and the November general election? That’s what state lawmakers want to know and they have demanded a meeting with county elections officials. “The primary is in three weeks, and we have no time to waste,” Rep. Beth Bernstein wrote in a letter signed by ten other members of the county’s 17-member delegation. “This is an important election, and the track record of elections in our county has not been too favorable in years past.” Richland County Elections Board director Charles Austin said the elections officials have been in discussion with officials in Greenville County, Charleston County and the State Election Commission looking at ways to minimize mistakes during the June primary. “The challenges that we’re dealing with are not unique to, nor are they exclusive to, Richland County,” Austin told The State. “We want to make sure we are proactive and we take the necessary steps in implementing appropriate actions to minimize the probability of issues.”
Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold said Tuesday that Colorado’s automatic voter registration system is now operational statewide. In 2019 the General Assembly, as part of a “Democracy Package,” passed a bill to automatically register voters when they obtained or renewed their driver’s license. County clerks would send the voters a notice explaining what happened, and give them an option of declining the registration or affiliating with a political party. The same procedure would apply for Medicaid applicants. Previously, Division of Motor Vehicles customers were asked whether they wanted to register. “Automatic Voter Registration is a keystone of the Democracy Package that I worked with the Colorado legislature to pass last year,” Griswold said in a statement. “AVR expands access to our elections and helps maintain up-to-date voter rolls, which is important for a vote-by-mail system like ours.”
Sticker News: Ooooh…these are awesome. To celebrate the 100th anniversary of women’s right to vote, student artists from across Nashville created commemorative designs. One will be turned into the city’s newest “I Voted” sticker to be passed out during the fall elections. The contest is a collaboration from Metro Arts and the Davidson County Election Commission. The contest received 75 entries from Nashville public, private and homeschool students in grades 7-12. A panel of residents narrowed the field down to eight. “The fantastic designs we received from talented student artists all over Nashville represented a wide range of schools, ages and ideas,” Metro Arts Executive Director Caroline Vincent said in a statement on Monday. “Now Nashvillians face the fun but tough task of choosing a favorite. This collaboration with the Election Commission is a true reflection of how art can bolster civic participation, and we look forward to finding out the winner and making these stickers for all of Nashville.”
Personnel News: Teton County, Wyoming Clerk Sherry Daigle is retiring at the end of May after almost 22 years in office. Mike Sutton has been appointed to the Wilcox County, Georgia board of elections. Christopher Hollins has been appointed interim county clerk in Harris County, Texas. Julie Marcus has been appointed supervisor of elections in Pinellas County, Florida. She has worked in the office for 17 years and has been chief deputy since 2012. Anson County, North Carolina Board of Elections Director Steve Adams has resigned. Laurence Pizer has announced that he will be stepping down as the Plymouth, Massachusetts clerk after 28 years on the job. Krystal Melvin has joined the Robeson County, North Carolina board of elections.
California: The San Diego city council’s rules committee voted 3-2 last to week to allow further evaluation of a measure that would shift city elections to a ranked choice voting system. The ballot measure will return to the committee for second debate June 10 and if approved by the committee a second time, the full council would have until Aug. 7 to place the measure on the November ballot.
Louisiana: A House committee rejected 9-5 a bill by Rep. Mandie Landry, D-New Orleans, that would have allowed all registered voters to vote by mail in all state elections, including this fall’s presidential contest. Landry’s bill would not mandate voting by mail but simply allow it to be used more broadly. The bill failed in a party-line vote, with Republicans against it and Democrats for it.
Missouri: With the deadline for action looming, the House approved a bill that will allow for the expanded use of absentee ballots during the global pandemic. All voters will be given the option of casting an absentee ballot in August and November regardless of the reason why. Despite the expanded ability to cast an absentee ballot, voters wishing to vote absentee will still need to get their ballot notarized. In addition to the absentee voting changes, the bill also gives the secretary of state subpoena power when investigating suspected election offenses.
Pennsylvania: The House has approved legislation that would require the Department of State to produce a report documenting any problems associated with the unprecedented number of mail-in ballots in the June primary. Under House Bill 2502, which passed by a vote of 201-1, the Department of State would have 60 days to issue a report on the number of absentee and mail-in ballots, as well as incidents in which ballots were sent to the wrong address or there were allegations that someone tried to use a mail-in ballot to vote for someone else. State Rep. Mike Carroll, D-Luzerne, was the only negative vote. The legislation’s prospects in the state Senate aren’t clear. A spokeswoman for Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman, R-Centre, didn’t immediately respond on Wednesday to a question about whether the Senate plans to act on the bill. Much of the data that would be mandated in this new report is already included in an annual report completed by the Department of State. The House proposal would require the state to generate that information more quickly, so that it’s available ahead of the presidential election.
Texas: The Harris County Commissioner’s Court is considering a proposal that would move election responsibilities for the county from an elected clerk to a nonpartisan election administrator. The move would put a single office in charge of running elections and managing the voter roll, both gargantuan tasks in the state’s largest county, which has 4.7 million residents. Voter registration is currently the responsibility of the tax assessor-collector, owing to the office’s historic role collecting poll taxes. The county clerk’s office administers elections. The county attorney’s office prepared a four-page memorandum last week detailing how to switch to an elections administrator. Of the 10 most populous counties in Texas, only Harris and Travis have yet to adopt the elections administrator model.
Wisconsin: Reps. Staush Gruszynski, D-Green Bay, and Joel Kitchens, R-Sturgeon Bay have introduced bipartisan legislation that would direct how elections should be held in the event of an emergency such as the current public health emergency. The bill would ensure that, during a statewide emergency, an absentee ballot application is mailed to each registered voter who has not already requested one. It would also mandate that a certain number of polling places remain open so people who wanted to register on election day could do so. Mailing ballot applications would be the job of the Wisconsin Elections Commission, voters would then complete the ballot request forms and send them to their local clerks to receive the actual ballots.
Wyoming: The Sweetwater County commission vote to approve a resolution to establish the Sweetwater County Courthouse as an absentee polling location and counting center. People will be allowed to go to the courthouse prior to Election Day, fill out an absentee ballot and put it into a voting machine. The machine will accommodate voters from all districts and precincts within the county. The resolution states that the polling place will be open the same hours as the courthouse on normal business days during the time period allowed for absentee voting.
District of Columbia: Two residents of the District’s Ward 8 have filed suit against the city’s Board of Elections over the BOE’s pandemic-primary plans. The suit, which claims the plans violate the Voting Rights Act, alleges that the plaintiffs have had spotty mail service at their homes for years and it has only gotten worse since the pandemic. The suit claims that neither plaintiff received a Voter’s Guide and that one plaintiff has yet to receive her allot. “COVID-19 has lead to a bunch of hastily implemented voting policies, and the District of Columbia didn’t adequately take into account the historical conditions of Ward 8, or the current reality of Ward 8,” Aristotle Theresa an attorney for the plaintiffs told DCist. “As a result, it’s had a negative impact on a protected class, in this case mostly African Americans.” The lawsuit asks for the BOE to provide additional polling locations in the more populous parts of Ward 8 and to pay attorneys’ fees for the suit.
Georgia: U.S. District Judge Timothy Batten dismissed a lawsuit that was seeking to once again postpone Georgia’s primary. Batten wrote that elected Georgia officials have the authority to decide how to run elections — not the courts. “The framers of the Constitution did not envision a primary role for the courts in managing elections, but instead reserved election management to the legislatures,” Batten wrote in a 12-page order after a hearing earlier in the day.
Idaho: Congressional hopeful Nicholas Jones has asked a federal court to give Idaho voters more time to get their ballots after the state’s online portal was overloaded with a last-minute flood of requests Tuesday. Jones’ campaign said Secretary of State Lawerence Denney (R) failed to fulfill his duty as Idaho’s elections chief. His attorneys asked the Idaho Federal District Court to push back the deadline for Idahoans to request their ballots to Tuesday, May 26 at 8 p.m., a full week extension from the original cut-off date.
Missouri: Civil rights groups on Tuesday appealed to the Missouri Supreme Court after a local judge dismissed their lawsuit seeking to allow all Missourians to vote absentee in upcoming elections to help reduce the risk of catching or spreading the coronavirus. The lawsuit was filed in Jefferson City by the ACLU of Missouri and the Missouri Voter Protection Coalition on behalf of the NAACP, the League of Women Voters and several residents. It claims that requiring voters to appear at traditional polling places during the pandemic puts lives at risk. Cole County Circuit Judge Jon Beetem in a Monday judgment tossed the lawsuit, writing that the civil rights groups who sued were asking for widespread absentee voting for all future elections regardless of whether COVID-19 is still around. Beetem wrote that the plaintiffs sought “radical and permanent transformation of Missouri voting practices without the authorization of the Legislature.”
Minnesota: The League of Women Voters has filed suit against Secretary of State Steve Simon over the state’s witness requirement for absentee ballots. The suit argues that voters should not need a witness signature during the global health pandemic. “Minnesota consistently has the highest voter turnout in the nation, with many safeguards in place to ensure election integrity,” said Michelle Witte, executive director at the League of Women Voters Minnesota. “Making this small change to our witness requirements during this global pandemic will not damage that integrity — it will only make our elections stronger by ensuring that all voters have as few barriers as possible to exercise their constitutional right.”
Montana: Judge Jessica Fehr of Montana’s Thirteenth Judicial District Court in Yellowstone County granted a request from five tribal governments and two Native American voting rights organizations to put a temporary hold on the Montana Ballot Interference Prevention Act. The groups claim the law, passed in 2018, wrongfully imposed negative and extreme restrictions on efforts to collect ballots throughout the state. Judge Fehr found that there was merit to the group’s claims and ordered to the state to halt enforcement of the law pending further hearings on the matter.
Nevada: True the Vote has submitted a revised complaint against the state over the upcoming by-mail primary. The suit argues that mail-only balloting is no longer necessary to limit the risk of COVID-19 spreading among voters. The complaint also argues that Clark County’s procedures for distributing ballots and conducting the election unduly favor that county’s voters over those in other parts of the state.
New Hampshire: The state Supreme Court ruled that a person who has a New Hampshire home is considered a resident when it comes to elections, answering questions posed by a federal judge who is presiding over a challenge to a state law. The law, which took effect last July, requires voters to be full-fledged residents of New Hampshire and ended state law distinctions between “residency” and “domicile.” The case now returns to the lower court.
New Jersey: On May 12 the state ran its first test of an online voting app developed by Democracy Live for voters with disabilities and now human rights activists and law school students have sued the state over the new online voting system for voters with disabilities. The lawsuit maintains the electronic voting system violates a 2010 court order that New Jersey conduct its elections in the traditional, offline manner.
Also in New Jersey, Several organizations have filed a lawsuit in New Jersey seeking changes to the state’s vote-by-mail system before the July 7 primary. The lawsuit asks that every voter be informed if their ballot is rejected and be given a chance to prove their identity and have their vote counted. It was filed on behalf of the League of Women Voters, the NAACP, and an individual New Jersey voter. “Covid-19 has been exposing deep cracks in our society’s foundation,” said Ryan Haygood, director of the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice. “Those cracks are causing earthquakes in black and brown communities here in New Jersey and so this lawsuit is really about making sure those cracks don’t reach our democracy.”
New York: This week, several members of the Monroe County Democratic Party executive committee and a former party chairman sued Democratic county legislators, the party committee, and party leadership to try to stop the currently planned selection process for a new election commissioner. “A stolen election always results in irreparable harm,” the lawsuit alleges. “Impropriety and the appearance of impropriety erode our community’s faith in our leaders and, more importantly, the democratic process itself.” The previous commissioner, Colleen Anderson, resigned from the post, and it has been filled on an interim basis by deputy commissioner Lashana Boose since March 5. Boose is one of the candidates for the full-time position.
Also in New York, a three-judge federal panel sided with a lower court ruling and has reinstated the New York presidential primary for June 23. “We have reviewed all of the remaining arguments raised by defendants on appeal and find them to be without merit,” the three judges on the 2nd Circuit appeals court wrote Tuesday morning. A more complete written decision will be issued in the near future, the judges said.
Oklahoma: The Oklahoma Democratic Party and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee have sued to overturn the state’s absentee voting rules in the midst of the coronavirus outbreak. Requirements that include notarized ballots and a photo identification create barriers to voters, state party chair Alicia Andrews said in a statement. “Oklahomans deserve to make their voices heard safely without further barriers to the voting process as we continue to deal with a worldwide pandemic,” Andrews said. “The additional barriers to the mail-in voting process do nothing more than further suppress the votes of marginalized groups and put citizens in harm’s way under the false claims of reducing voter fraud.” The lawsuit against the state Election Board and Election Board Secretary Paul Ziriax comes after a bill signed into law earlier this month imposed the restrictions on absentee ballots.
Pennsylvania: The state Supreme Court dismissed a lawsuit seeking to force Pennsylvania elections officials to accept absentee or mail-in ballots as long as they are received within a week after the primary or general elections during the pandemic. Disability Rights Pennsylvania, the Senior Law Center and several other parties filed the suit in late April, arguing that postal delays from the pandemic could cause ballots to be received too late to count.
Also in Pennsylvania, Judicial Watch has filed suit against several counties and the commonwealth over voter list maintenance. Common Cause PA and the Pennsylvania League of Women Voters have asked the U.S. District Court judge overseeing the case for party status in order to defend Bucks, Chester and Delaware counties.
South Carolina: U.S. District Judge Michelle Childs heard arguments last week in court proceedings seeking to eliminate two of South Carolina’s absentee requirements: Whether to set aside the state legal requirement that a voter’s absentee ballot envelope must contain the signature and address of a witness to the voter’s ballot; and whether to allow mailed-in ballots to still be counted if they reach elections officials after 7 p.m. on the day of an election. Currently, mailed-in absentee ballots must get to elections officials by that time or they aren’t counted.
Tennessee: The American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee filed the suit on behalf of several residents who believe their health conditions would make voting during the COVID-19 pandemic a threat to their safety. Currently, eligible voters must provide a qualifying excuse as to why they need to vote by mail, the ACLU said. The suit pushes the state to expand those requirements and allow all eligible voters to vote by absentee ballot. “No one should be forced to choose between their health and their vote. Tennessee can simultaneously keep the public safe and protect democracy, but is refusing to do so. Eliminating the excuse requirement during COVID-19 is a common-sense solution that protects people’s health and their right to vote, which is why many other states have already made vote by mail and absentee voting available,” Dale Ho, director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project, said in a release.
Texas: For those keeping track at home, since we last met, expanded vote by mail in Texas was on again and now it’s off again. On Thursday the Texas 14th Court of Appeals ruled that a trial court order from April would stay in place and that basically anyone is eligible to vote by mail during the pandemic. On Friday, the state’s Supreme Court temporarily put on hold the expansion of voting by mail. The state’s Supreme Court did not weigh the merits of the case at this time. On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Fred Biery granted a preliminary injunction that allows all registered voters to vote by mail during the pandemic after finding the state’s existing election rules violate the Equal Protection Clause. On Tuesday, the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans once again put the expansion of mail voting on hold. The appeals court’s action is an administrative stay that is in place while the court considers whether to block the lower court ruling while it hears the appeal. So just to clarify, at press time (12pm-ish Eastern on May 21), expanded voting by mail during the pandemic is on hold.
West Virginia: While most of the litigation this week is focused on the 2020 election, the West Virginia Supreme Court heard arguments over a June 2019 municipal election in Harpers Ferry and whether or not 11 provisional ballots should be counted. If all of the possible votes on the four ballots are counted, six candidates have a chance to either win or retain a council seat. In oral arguments in the case streamed live over the internet, Supreme Court justices cited some case law but mostly asked questions about the primary issue of whether the four voters who cast the contested ballots should have their votes counted due to address errors made at the West Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles. The address errors mistakenly add “West” to each of the four voters Washington Street mailing address, causing those voters to be registered incorrectly in the neighboring voting precinct for Bolivar residents. The errors prevented the four voters from appearing in Harpers Ferry poll book of qualified voters on Election Day. Three current Harpers Ferry Town Council members are arguing — contrary to legal opinions of Jefferson County Judge Debra McLaughlin and West Virginia Secretary of State Mac Warner—that the votes on the provisional ballots shouldn’t count because those voters were not “duly registered” for the election.
Wisconsin: Advocates for people with disabilities and minority voters in Wisconsin filed a federal lawsuit Monday asking a judge to order that more poll workers be hired, every voter in the state receive an absentee ballot request form and a host of other changes be made to ensure the August primary and November presidential election can be held safely. The lawsuit argues that not enough has been done since then to ensure that the upcoming elections can be conducted safely and fairly. Proceeding without the changes sought would violate the U.S. Constitution, the Voting Rights Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act, the lawsuit alleges. The lawsuit also wants to require that absentee ballot drop boxes be installed in every community; state elections officials work with the U.S. Postal Service to ensure timely delivery, return and counting of absentee ballots; notify voters if their absentee ballots won’t be counted in time for them to fix problems; increase opportunities for curbside voting; and launch a public education campaign about voting options. It also wants to allow for absentee ballots to be counted for up to a week after the election if they are postmarked by election day or don’t have a postmark.
Opinions This Week
National Opinions: Vote by mail, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII | General election, II, III | Stacey Abrams, II | Voter suppression | Military voting by mail | U.S. Postal Service, II | Voting standards | U.S. citizenship | Disinformation | Youth vote | Voting wars
District of Columbia: Ranked choice voting
Florida: Election planning
Maine: Vote by mail
Mississippi: General election
North Carolina: Voting problems
Oklahoma: Absentee voting
Vermont: Election plan
Wisconsin: Ranked choice voting
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.
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.
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.
Election Legitimacy in Peril: Where Do We Go From Here?: American democracy rests on voters having confidence in the legitimacy of elections. But any number of events can undermine that confidence, including targeted interference by malicious actors, a pandemic, a refusal by losing candidates to accept defeat, severe weather events, and widespread infrastructure failures. When Americans are unable to cast ballots as expected, or results are not as clear or timely as anticipated, there will inevitably be complaints about perceived bias in the system that allows partisans to attack the process itself. Please join The Bipartisan Policy Center for a conversation with Secretaries of State Jena Griswold of Colorado and Frank LaRose of Ohio as we explore the spectrum of election legitimacy concerns we face in the United States and the role we all must play to ensure a legitimate election. When: May 27, 2pm Eastern. Where: Online.
Vote-by-Mail: What States are Doing, What States Should be Doing: The Coronavirus poses a dire challenge for election officials in conducting safe, accessible, and secure voting. This webinar explores the Vote-by-Mail (VBM) option with a terrific panel: Senator Amy Klobuchar (D – MN), joins us via a video to discuss her legislation to provide funding for VBM as well as other steps to facilitate it; Matthew Weil, Director of the Elections Project at the Bipartisan Policy Center discusses the legislative prospects for Senator Klobuchar’s bill and similar proposals; Wendy Underhill, Director for Elections and Redistricting at the National Conference of State Legislatures discusses the steps that states are taking; and Tammy Patrick, Senior Advisor on Elections at the Democracy Fund and Steering Committee member for the Certificate in Election Administration, outlines steps that states should be taking. When: Thursday May 28, 12pm Central. Where: Online.
Native American Participation 2020: Please join The Carter Center to discuss the challenges faced by Native American communities with regard to their participation in local, state and federal elections. These challenges are likely to be exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. As we enter the final months before the November 2020 elections, this roundtable will explore the continued barriers to Native American participation, including those posed by the pandemic, as well as key policy recommendations for promoting and protecting the electoral rights of Native Americans. Our guests include: Kim Wyman, Washington Secretary of State; Ruth Anna Buffalo, North Dakota House of Representatives District 27; Natalie Landreth, Native American Rights Fund; and Tammy Patrick, Democracy Fund. The Carter Center’s Avery Davis-Roberts will moderate the discussion. Forum members may participate in the live chat and questions will be passed along to the panel. When: Friday, May 29 12pm Eastern. Where: Online.
Job Postings This Week
electionlineWeekly publishes election administration job postings each week as a free service to our readers. To have your job listed in the newsletter, please send a copy of the job description, including a web link to firstname.lastname@example.org. Job postings must be received by 5pm on Wednesday in order to appear in the Thursday newsletter. Listings will run for three weeks or till the deadline listed in the posting.
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.
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.
Senior Data Fellow, Voting Information Project— The Voting Information Project (VIP) coordinates with state election offices to publish nationally standardized information about where and how to vote—data that powers everything from Google’s polling place search, to our text and email reminders to TurboVote users. VIP’s dataset has served millions (and hundreds of millions) of voters since 2008. You will: Work with Democracy Works technical staff to write, run, and debug Python scripts to parse data; Assist with standardizing & sanitizing datasets; Perform quality assurance checks on the information to ensure accuracy and completeness of the data; Research and respond to user-reported errors; and Write and update technical documentation so that other members of the team can recreate processes. Application: For the complete 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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