In Focus This Week
Stanford-MIT Project on a Healthy Election
Project assess and promotes best practices for election integrity
By Claire DeSoi, communications assistant
MIT Election Data and Science Lab
Have you visited the Stanford-MIT Project on a Healthy Election yet? Perhaps you have; perhaps you keep meaning to get around to browsing its resources—there’s so much happening all at once this election year. It can seem like every hour brings a new problem, a different news cycle to digest and adjust for.
This year’s roller coaster primary season has brought into sharp relief the potentially catastrophic impact of COVID-19 this fall, if appropriate precautions are not taken. Several states delayed their primaries, with the hope the virus would be more manageable later on; others took steps to expand mail balloting, often without the necessary infrastructure to handle it. Still others forged ahead with in-person voting, leading voters to risk their lives to cast a ballot and endangering the poll workers assisting them. Each of these springtime experiments in democracy under unprecedented conditions provides valuable data that can be used to ensure similar mistakes are not repeated in the fall.
This spring, scholars at MIT and Stanford initiated a program to address the unprecedented and ongoing threat that the COVID-19 pandemic poses to the 2020 Election. The Stanford-MIT Project on a Healthy Election will bring academics and election administration experts together to assess and promote best practices to ensure the 2020 election can proceed with integrity, safety, and equal access.
“The nation’s election administrators know what steps are necessary to ensure a successful election in November,” said Nathaniel Persily, the James B. McClatchy Professor Law at Stanford and former Senior Research Director of the Presidential Commission on Election Administration. “They simply need the resources and the assistance to make the transition to mail balloting and safe polling-place voting.” The Stanford-MIT Project seeks to draw on the extensive knowledge of those in the trenches administering elections to establish best practices necessary to run an election under pandemic conditions.
“In the next few weeks and months, states and localities will be finalizing their plans to implement safe and secure voting environments for the upcoming primaries, and ultimately the November general elections,” said Charles Stewart III, Kenan Sahin Distinguished Professor of Political Science at MIT, Director of the MIT Election Data and Science Lab, and Co-Director of the Caltech/MIT Voting Technology Project. “Lessons brought together from the private sector and the academy will help ensure that this planning results in a safe environment that ensures access to the polls for all.”
Professors Stewart and Persily direct the new Stanford-MIT initiative. They worked together previously on the Presidential Commission on Election Administration (PCEA) in 2013, which produced a set of recommendations to deal, in particular, with long polling place lines evident in the 2012 election, as well as other problems, such as running elections during natural disasters.
Most recently, the project launched a new website, featuring tools, research, and other resources to address the ongoing threat that the COVID-19 pandemic poses to the 2020 elections. The resources available on the site are expanding every week, as teams at all of the partners in the project produce analysis of state primary elections, tools for calculating resources needed at polling places with new COVID-19 restrictions, and thorough resource guides on important topics like voting by mail.
We encourage everyone committed to safe, healthy elections to explore the research, data, and other resources on the website, and to contribute to the new “Idea Bank,” which encourages contribution and dialogue from academics, non-profits, the public, and election officials in the trenches. Learn more and browse the site at: healthyelections.org.
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Election 2020 Updates
Alabama: Although a record number of voters in the Yellowhammer State chose to vote via absentee for the July primary runoff, many voters did still cast in-person ballots on Tuesday. Voters in Madison County who cast in-person ballots said they felt completely safe on Tuesday. “Quick and easy and I felt 100% safe,” Jonathan Grizzard, a voter, told WAAY. “I think it shows how much they [elections officials and poll workers] care about the process themselves because I know it takes a lot of work to do this all day and I think it’s just as important to them as it is to us to make sure people get their voices heard through their vote.” Voters in Mobile County also appreciated the safety measures the county had taken for Tuesday. “Everyone had masks on. They had shields, they had the distancing, and so it was very good,” Cynthia Williams, a voter, shared. Masks were not required to vote on Tuesday in Alabama and there was one reported incident in Madison County where a voter claimed they were turned away for not wearing a mask. Madison County Probate Judge Frank Barger confirmed to WHTN that he was notified and took immediate action to ensure the couple could vote. He says he will review the incident and ensure this does not happen again. He emphasized this was an isolated incident and this did not occur anywhere else in the county on Tuesday. And it wouldn’t be an election day without something weird happening and on Tuesday that happened in the City of Oxford where a man was charged with making a terrorist threat after he allegedly threatened to start shooting up a polling place.
Louisiana: Voters in Louisiana headed to the polls on Saturday July 11 for their delayed presidential primary and while many voters did take advantage of early voting and absentee voting, some did cast in-person ballots. Before polls opened for Saturday’s primary, Orleans Parish was reporting that around 4,000 mail-in ballot requests sat in a local postal facility for an undetermined amount of time because of “short-paid postage.” The registrar’s office worked overtime to fulfill the requests and a regional spokesman for the Postal Service said employees were “brought up to speed” on the agencies policies for delivering election mail. Equipment problems caused a reporting delay in East Baton Rouge Parish. In Lafayette Parish, elections officials said they receive about 250 calls on primary day mostly from people complaining that they couldn’t vote for the candidate of their choice in the closed-primary presidential preference election. All of the problems were because the individuals were registered with one political party and wanted to vote for a candidate in the other political party, Lafayette Parish Registrar of Voters Charlene Menard said Monday.
Maine: It was a quiet day at the polls for Maine’s delayed primary with an “unprecedented” number of people choosing to cast their ballots by mail instead of in-person. For those voters that did show up on Tuesday, they reported finding well-spaced polling places with clean conditions. “Having some reservations about going into a crowded area, especially since I share a household with other housemates who are trying to avoid crowds,” Sam Mansfield told Maine Public Radio. “It felt like there were fewer than 15 people in that building and a lot of space between us, so I feel very comfortable.” Social distancing and the morning rush did cause some lines in York. “Between 9 and 9:15, we had more people lined up to vote than we could accommodate,” said Town Moderator Russell Osgood. By 11 a.m., the morning rush had passed, but turnout was steady. “We have about 15 people working the polls,” Town Clerk Mary-Anne Szeniawski told York Weekly “And there is a 50-person limit under the state guidelines.” “Everyone was cooperative,” said Szeniawski. There were no reports of issues with voters wearing masks as have occurred in some other primaries. “I’ve voted in every election since I’ve been eligible when I turned 18. To me, this is no different,” Fred Grooms, 60, of Presque Isle told the Bangor Daily News. “Yeah, you have the mask and stuff, but you know what, if wearing this can save even one person, I’m more than happy to do it.” Secretary of State Matt Dunlap spent most of Tuesday driving around visiting polling sites. “It’s going very smoothly. You know, we spent the last three months trying to figure out what this election was going to look like, and thinking about how do you conduct an election at the time of a pandemic, something that we’ve never had to do — we haven’t had to do this in over 100 years. And the time that we’ve devoted to this, and working with the clerks, and listening to what people’s concerns were, and what we had to do to protect people, I think it’s really paid off today,” Dunlap told Maine Public Radio.
Texas: The Lone Star State held primary runoffs this week and while large numbers of voters cast early ballots or voted by mail, many did show up in-person on election day. While there were some technical issues, there were few reports of problems with lines. Voters were not required to wear masks in polling places, although many did there were no reports of issues between voters and poll workers over mask wearing as has been reported elsewhere this election season. In Harris County, there were plexiglass dividers between voters and election workers, and everyone inside the voting room was wearing a mask. Voters also received rubber finger covers so their skin did not make contact with the voting machines. “It felt very safe to be in there,” voter Kari Noser told the Leader News. “It was not as scary or bad as I thought it would be.” In Dallas County, there were concerns about a lack of poll workers, but things went relatively smoothly on Tuesday. “The biggest issue occurred prior to the election when 10% of the election judges withdrew due to the post-opening flare-up of COVID-19,” Dallas County Democratic Party Chairwoman Carol Donovan told the Dallas News. “We have taken great precautions to protect our voters and election workers, including sanitizing vote centers and providing masks and gloves.” Travis County spent about $1 million to enhance safety at the polling places and that seems to have paid off based on initial reports. Voters in Fort Worth were pleased with the efforts elections officials took to keep them safe. “I came prepared with my own hand sanitizer and wipes, just to be on the safe side. I figured, couldn’t be any worse than going to the grocery store, and sure enough it wasn’t,” voter Malcolm Beaty told KERA. Cooke County Clerk Pam Harrison said her election night may have been on the fastest ever. “I’m very proud of all the voters…” Harrison said. “We only had to resolve four ballots last night [July 14]. That’s probably the quickest we’ve ever been done.” There were some non-COVID related issues that popped up Tuesday. In Taylor County, a delay in receiving results from an Abilene voting center, plus website issues, pushed the first results of the runoff to just before 9 p.m. Tuesday, said Freda Raga, elections administrator for Taylor County. But there were no glitches with any of the county’s voting equipment itself, and results were processed quickly once information from election judges was received, Ragan said. In Smith County, an e-poll book at one voting location briefly experienced some problems. According to Smith County Elections Coordinator Karen Nelson, there were no problems with the voting machines themselves, and no ballots were affected. Voters were asked to wait patiently or advised that they could go to another location if they were pressed for time. A technical glitch on the Texas secretary of state website affected the posting of the results was quickly resolved by the contractor. “We have addressed the error in displaying vote totals/percentages. This issue involved the display of the data on our dashboard—not the data itself,” the Texas Secretary of State tweeted. “We apologize for any inconvenience, and we appreciate your patience.” In story that’s sure to play out into the general election, there were issues with voters who had been diagnosed with COVID-19 attempting the cast their ballots. A Travis County couple who had been diagnosed with COVID the week before the election and wanted to still cast their ballots discovered at a positive diagnosis was not enough to provide them with an emergency absentee ballot. They would need a doctor’s note for that. Linda Harrison was able to get a note in time before the polls closed, but her husband was not and he was unable to cast a ballot on Tuesday. According to Texas Public Radio, about 68,000 other Texans were diagnosed with the disease since July 2. Elections advocates said they heard from about a half dozen but suspect many more. “The state of Texas has thrown up roadblock after roadblock to make voting more difficult,” said Mimi Marziani, Texas Civil Rights Project resident. “This is what voter suppression looks like in the year 2020. It is death by 1000 cuts.” And it wouldn’t be an election day in America without at least one feel-good story and this Tuesday’s story came from Tarrant County where COVID survivor Billy Szendrey, 64, was released from the hospital on Tuesday after 114 days including eight weeks on a ventilator and on the way home, he stopped to vote and showed off an “I Voted” sticker on his mask. Well done Billy, well done.
Election News This Week
Vote By Mail News: The Washington Post has obtained documents from the U.S. Postal Service in which new Postmaster General Louis DeJoy that told employees to leave mail behind at distribution centers if it delayed letter carriers from their routes. “If the plants run late, they will keep the mail for the next day,” according to a document titled, “New PMG’s [Postmaster General’s] expectations and plan.” Traditionally, postal workers are trained not to leave letters behind and to make multiple delivery trips to ensure timely distribution of letters and parcels. According to The Post, analysts say the documents present a stark reimagining of the USPS that could chase away customers — especially if the Administration gets the steep package rate increases it wants — and put the already beleaguered agency in deeper financial peril as private-sector competitors embark on hiring sprees to build out their own delivery networks. The Postal Service said in a statement that it was “developing a business plan to ensure that we will be financially stable and able to continue to provide reliable, affordable, safe and secure delivery of mail, packages and other communications to all Americans as a vital part of the nation’s critical infrastructure.” The Post also has a story this week about some of the issues the Postal Service has faced with vote by mail during the 2020 primary season. “As we anticipate that many voters may choose to use the mail to participate in the upcoming elections due to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are conducting . . . outreach with state, county and local election officials and Secretaries of State so that they can make informed decisions and educate the public about what they can expect when using the mail to vote,” the statement said. The stories from the Post comes the same week that an analysis from National Public Radio found that in the primary elections held so far this year, at least 65,000 absentee or mail-in ballots have been rejected because they arrived past the deadline, often through no fault of the voter. Also this week, the U.S. Postal Service’s internal watchdog released a report on the Wisconsin primary and found that hundreds of absentee ballots never made it to voters or went uncounted because of postmark problems. And in a speech in Georgia this week, the president continued his campaign against mail-in ballots and even seemed to imply in his speech that UPS delivered mail ballots.
The Harris County, Texas commissioners court voted 3-2 along party lines this week to create a new, independent election administrator that will assume the voter registration duties of the tax assessor-collector and the election management role of the county clerk. According to The Houston Chronicle, tax Assessor-Collector Ann Harris Bennett and former Harris County Clerk Diane Trautman, who are both Democrats, opposed the move. Bennett in a letter to court members said her office successfully was registering voters, and she expressed doubt an independent administrator would be an improvement. “Checks and balances will be lost with elections and voter registration managed by one office only,” Bennett wrote. “In counties with election administrators, the lack of accountability between voter registrars and election clerks has caused the type of problem that erodes public trust.” The court plans to hire an elections administrator as soon as next month, though the office would not begin official operations until Nov. 18. County Clerk Chris Hollins, who supports the adoption of the elections administrator model, will remain in charge of the Nov. 3 general election.
Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold has implemented several elections changes first proposed in May. The changes adjust the administration of vote centers and help clerks account for the emergency closure of polling places. Among the changes, county clerks would be able to close or alter the hours of any polling site, but would need to relocate operations to a backup facility if the closure would drop the number of polling places below the minimum required by law. Clerks must also notify tribal nations that border their jurisdictions of their right to have a voter service and polling location within their borders. There is guidance for verifying the registration status of voters, and instructions for clerks to maintain a supply of provisional ballots equal to 10% of the turnout in the previous election where similar offices were on the ballot. Finally, the rules contain provisions related to the testing of equipment and the risk-limiting audit, which validates the accuracy of election results.
Cheers! Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose is partnering with more than 30 breweries to promote voter registration through a program called Raise a Glass to Democracy. The Raise a Glass to Democracy voter registration campaign began as a brainstorm between the secretary of state’s office and Rhinegeist Brewery. With their creative support, more than 30 Ohio breweries have signed up to create a beer using a universal label designed to encourage civic engagement and boost voter registration. Most breweries are expected to have their beers ready for sale at their respective locations by early September, well ahead of the October 5th registration deadline. The label promotes the VoteOhio.gov website while also allowing each brewer to include their own branding. “It is widely thought that many of the ideas for the American Revolution began in pubs with people getting together and talking about how they didn’t want to be under the oppression of the monarch anymore. The idea of democracy going together with beer drinking is very compatible,” said LaRose. “You can have your opinion, state you opinion, you can share it on social media, or you can go to public demonstrations, but unless you register and vote you are missing an important part of the civic process.” Apologies to everyone who may now have “Story of Tonight” from Hamilton stuck in their heads.
The latest episode of Reasonably Speaking brings together a panel of experts to discuss the merits and shortcomings of current vote-by-mail processes, including what went wrong in the primaries, and how the upcoming presidential election will likely face similar challenges unless changes are made. Led by Ohio State University Moritz College of Law Professor and Associate Reporter on The American Law Institute’s now completed Principles of the Law, Election Administration: Non-Precinct Voting and Resolution of Ballot-Counting Disputes, Steven F. Huefner, this episode features the following speakers: Edward B. Foley, The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law, Reporter for The American Law Institute’s Principles of the Law, Election Administration; Justin Levitt, Loyola Marymount University Loyola Law School; and Lisa Marshall Manheim, University of Washington School of Law. The panelists discussed the importance of understanding and clearly defining the purpose of elections and how voting-by-mail complications may undermine that definition if not properly addressed. Foley addressed his concerns for reform at the legislative level.
Get Well: Electionline is sending positive thoughts to Sedgwick County, Kansas Elections Commissioner Tabitha Lehman as she battles Lymphoma — in the midst of a global pandemic and during a presidential election year. In typical Tabitha fashion, upon making her diagnosis public, she didn’t’ ask for thoughts or prayers, she asked for poll workers. “I have been diagnosed with an aggressive form of Lymphoma,” Lehman wrote in a Facebook post. “While my prognosis is good, my treatment is also aggressive. “Many of you have asked me how you can help. I am genuinely serious when I say the best tangible thing you can do for me right now is sign up to be or recruit election workers.” Get well soon Tabitha…you’ve got this!
Personnel News: Ann Leider is retiring as the Alexandria, Virginia registrar of voters after more than 22 years of public service. Jeff Greenburg is stepping down as the director of the Mercer County, Pennsylvania Voter Registration and Election Bureau. Greenburg will be a regional director of the National Vote at Home Institute. Carla Thornhill has been promoted to chief of staff in the Mississippi secretary of state’s office. Kevin Jordan has joined the Union County, North Carolina board of elections.
California: California voters will decide in November on Prop. 17 that if approved would restore the voting rights to ex-felons on parole.
Colorado: Gov. Jared Polis has signed House Bill 1313 into law that requires county clerks to get replacement ballots in the mail quickly in eight to 15 days from an election. They now have to process new voter registration and changes that require a new ballot within two days, then get a ballot out within one business day. Replacement ballots also have to go out within a day. Within 11 days of an election, ballots must be sent by first class mail to help ensure they get there.
Connecticut: The Bolton Charter Review Commission has been meeting since the beginning of the year on a variety of issues including how to break ties in elections. Currently tied elections may be settled either through special election, or a coin toss, whichever the candidates decide. However the charter review commission is considering making coin tosses the default solution to tied elections. In addition to the fun nature of such a tiebreaker, commission member Jim Aldrich said the coin toss could save taxpayers between $3,000 to $5,000 for the cost of holding a special election.
Maine: Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap announced this week that the state’s Republican Party fell 1,600 signatures short in their efforts to get a ballot measure on the November that would repeal the usage of ranked choice voting for presidential elections. The state GOP had reportedly submitted 72,512 signatures, but only 61,334 of them were valid.
New Hampshire: Gov. Chris Sununu has vetoed a bill that would expand absentee voting in the Granite State. The voting bill would, among other things, allow for no-excuse absentee voting and would set up online voter registration next year. Democrats say the changes would modernize the state voting system and make elections more secure. In his veto message, Sununu noted that the secretary of state has already said people can vote absentee this year if they have concerns about COVID-19.
Rhode Island: At press time, the House is set to take up a pair of bills designed to make it easier to vote before election day and encourage voters to cast a ballot by mail during the COVID-19 pandemic. The legislation was passed by the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday evening with the two Republican members of the committee voting in opposition. One bill, would allow voters to cast ballots up to 20 days before the election in a regular vote-counting machine at their city or town hall. The second bill would send a mail ballot application to every registered voter, as Rhode Island did for the June presidential primary, to reduce the risk of spreading coronavirus at polling places.
Utah: Utah state Sen. Todd Weiler (R-Woods Cross), plans to sponsor a bill that would prohibit organizations, like political campaigns, from turning in voters’ ballots for them. Weiler said he wants the bill to be passed in a special session in August so it could go into effect before the November election.
Vermont: An appointed commission in the city of Winooski is reviewing the city charter to allow all qualified Winooski residents to vote in local elections, regardless of their citizenship status. “This would give a voice to our neighbors on local matters that would affect them, their families and their lives,” said Liz Edsell, the chairperson of the charter commission.
In Burlington, the city council vote 6-5 this week to put a proposal on the November ballot that if approved would move the city back to a ranked choice voting system for municipal elections.
Virginia: The Arlington County board has opted against considering a proposal to move county board elections to a ranked choice system. General Assembly members this year approved legislation by Del. Patrick Hope (D-Arlington) allowing Arlington to switch to instant-runoff voting for County Board elections as early as this November.
California: The Republican National Committee dropped its challenge to an executive order by California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) expanding vote-by-mail access to every voter in the state, conceding in recent federal court filings that a subsequent law has mooted the dispute. Judge Morrison C. England Jr. signed an order dismissing the lawsuit on the same day.
Florida: The state of Florida is urging the U.S. Supreme Court to reject a bid by voting rights advocates to lift a stay on a lower court’s ruling that allowed Florida felons to regain the right to vote, regardless of unpaid fines and other financial obligations. In its written response filed Tuesday, lawyers for Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, argued that “all Floridians will be irreparably harmed if the district court’s patently erroneous injunction is reinstated, enabling hundreds of thousands of ineligible voters to take part in the upcoming elections, one of which is only a month away.” Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, one of the high court’s most conservative members, is handling the request.
Iowa: LULAC, and Majority Forward, a Washington-based nonprofit that supports voter registration and turnout, filed a petition of law and equity against Secretary of State Paul Pate on Tuesday. It challenges Section 124 of House File 2643, which bars county officials from using the state’s voter registration database to fill in missing information on absentee ballot request forms. Instead, if there is missing information on a request form, county officials must email or call the voter within 24 hours to get the information, and if they cannot be reached by those methods, a letter should be sent. If the correct information isn’t obtained, the voter won’t receive a ballot. The lawsuit, filed in Johnson County District Court, is calling for a temporary and permanent injunction of the rule, and wants the court to deem it unconstitutional.
Michigan: The Michigan Court of Appeals ruled this week that absentee ballots must be in the local clerk’s office by Election Day in order to be counted. The League of Women Voters sued the state in May, arguing that absentee ballots should be allowed to be received after Election Day as long as they are postmarked on or before Election Day. The Court found the restriction was not “a severe burden on the right to vote” and therefore was constitutional. “…[A] voter is not required to mail his or her absentee ballot. Rather, the voter or an immediate family member may deliver the ballot in person to the city or township clerk, or, if requested, the clerk must pick up the ballot or send an election assistant to pick up the ballot,” the Court said in its opinion.
Missouri: Cole County Judge Jon Beetem denied the motion for a preliminary injunction sought by the Missouri NAACP and the League of Women Voters that would have immediately made it easier for Missourians to vote with a mail-in ballot during the coronavirus pandemic. The lawsuit seeks to allow all Missourians to cast absentee ballots without notarization in 2020. The Missouri Supreme Court sent the lawsuit back for further review, ruling last month that Beetem was wrong to dismiss it. Beetem said Friday the groups presented no new arguments. “Absent evidence that the ‘consistently effective social distancing and related strategies to prevent the spread of COVID-19’ could not be employed in the notary circumstances, the court concludes that plaintiffs have not made a convincing showing of irreparable harm from the notarization requirement for mail-in ballots,” he wrote.
New York: Incumbent congressman Eliot Engel has sued both New York City and Westchester County’s Board of Elections during a recount that could take weeks to resolve. That lawsuit is meant to entail “the court to rule on the validity of the casting or canvassing, or refusal to cast or canvass, any such ballots,” in efforts to modify the anticipated result of the ongoing recount, which began July 8 at the headquarters on the Bronx’s Grand Concourse.
Also in New York, the League of Women Voters of New York State and the League of Women Voters of the United States joined a federal lawsuit in order to limit the number of absentee ballot rejections. According to the complaint, New York rejected 14 percent of absentee ballots in 2018 and for the past two election cycles. The state’s ballot rejection rate has been among the highest in the country. The lawsuit asks that the state provide a way for voters who have their ballots rejected to have enough time to fix a signature error.
North Carolina: Legislative Republicans have called on the courts to lift an injunction and require voter to present photo identification at the polls this November, saying a bill they passed earlier this year should satisfy the last arguments against the rule. There are two lawsuits seeking – so far, successfully – to block the state’s voter ID requirement: one state and one federal. Republican lawmakers filed a motion in the state case last week, asking judges to drop their injunction against the state’s voter ID law. They argued that a provision included in House Bill 1169 earlier this year should satisfy the court.
Also in North Carolina, the ACLU and the organization’s North Carolina chapter have sued state lawmakers in an effort to eliminate the witness requirement for voting by mail. “No one should be forced to choose between their health and their vote,” said Dale Ho, director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project, in a statement announcing the lawsuit. “Removing the witness requirements in the middle of a deadly pandemic just makes sense. It is an obvious and common-sense solution that protects people’s health and their right to vote.”
Pennsylvania: The Pennsylvania Democratic Party is suing the state’s top elections agency and all 67 county election boards over the commonwealth’s vote-by-mail process. The case focuses on ballot return deadlines, ballot drop off procedures and other mail-in voting issues. But it also seeks a court order that would essentially counter claims made in the federal lawsuit initiated two weeks ago by President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign. The Democrats’ suit, for example, seeks to maintain the current requirement that poll watchers reside in the county where they’re working. The Trump campaign’s lawsuit argues that Pennsylvania residents should be able to serve as poll watchers anywhere in the state. Democrats also are asking the court to clarify that counties can come up with their own ballot collection plans and require counties to accept mail-in ballots submitted without a secrecy envelope.
South Carolina: In a joint agreement filed last week, state Election Commission officials said they intend to provide prepaid postage on all absentee ballot return envelopes this year, regardless of the number of voters who qualify and take advantage of absentee voting by mail, eliminating the need for any further legal action on the issue. Several Democratic Party organizations and individual voters complained in federal court earlier this year about the requirement that voters pay for postage to return their absentee ballots by mail, arguing it presents an undue burden on the right to vote and effectively serves as a poll tax.
Tennessee: Davidson County Chancellor Ellen Hobbs Lyle ruled this week that state officials are not in contempt of court because they keep enforcing a Tennessee law barring many first-time voters from casting absentee ballots, despite her decision that all eligible voters can vote by mail during the coronavirus pandemic. In her ruling, Lyle said voting rights groups that sued for the absentee expansion did not explicitly ask her to block the separate law, which requires voters who register by mail to appear in person during their first election. She allowed the groups to request to amend her ruling that has temporarily expanded by-mail voting, but cautioned not to interpret that as a decision whether or not those voters are eligible under her ruling.
West Virginia: Thomas Cooper, 47 of Randolph County, has plead guilty to voter fraud. Cooper pleaded guilty to one count of attempt to defraud the residents of West Virginia of a fair election and one count of injury to the mail. The Pendleton County clerk noticed that party affiliations seem to have been altered on eight absentee ballot request forms. The clerk reported that to the secretary of state which began an investigation. “In West Virginia, every vote counts and those that attempt to disrupt our democratic processes will be held accountable for their actions,” Secretary of State Mac Warner said in a statement.
Also in West Virginia, Tess Bishop, daughter of the Harpers Ferry mayor Wayne Bishop, has pleaded guilty to illegal voting. Tess Bishop, who registered to vote in Utah in March of 2019, was charged with “unlawfully and knowingly” voting in the June 2019 Harpers Ferry election where her father was up for re-election.
Research and Report Summaries
Pandemic Preparedness Scorecard: This week the Brookings Institution’s Center for Effective Public Management (CEPM) released a pandemic preparedness scorecard evaluating the ease of voting by mail in each of the 50 states and Washington, D.C. States are scored on dimensions such as requesting, completing, and submitting a mail-in ballot, resulting in grades from A-F. Only seven states received an A grade. These include deep blue states such as California, purple states such as Colorado, and red states such as Utah. Except for California and D.C., these are all states that have used universal vote-by-mail successfully in past major elections. The remaining states allow for absentee voting—but there are huge variations in the ease of applying for, receiving, and submitting a valid absentee ballot. While the report maintains that the safest way to vote in an election is by mail, it acknowledges that in-person voting will take place. In order to preserve the integrity of the November elections, the authors recommend coupling reforms that make it easier to vote from home with reforms that keep as many in-person polling places as possible open and safe this November. Lead researcher and founding director of CEPM Elaine Kamarck writes that, “The integrity of in-person voting in November requires recruiting and training new poll workers…It means keeping as many polling places open as possible and letting people know that they are open to reduce wait times. And it means aggressive publicity to educate the public about how they can vote from home and about all other changes to state and local voting processes.” The scorecard will continue to be updated regularly as states enact additional election reforms through November 2020.
Opinions This Week
California: Voter suppression
Colorado: Voter integrity
Connecticut: Absentee voting
Indiana: Election litigation
Iowa: Remote voting
Kentucky: Vote by mail
Maine: Absentee voting
Michigan: Election security
New York: Primary
North Carolina: Vote by mail
North Dakota: Election reform
Oklahoma: Vote by mail
Tennessee: Vote by mail
Texas: Vote by mail glitches
EAC Online Cybersecurity Training
The U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) announced the immediate availability of self-paced, cybersecurity training specific to election officials at no cost to all State, Local, Tribal, and Territorial election offices. The training consists of both video and written materials separated into three modules, Cybersecurity 101, 201, and 301.
The training was developed by the Center for Tech and Civic Life (CTCL) and is delivered through their online platform. The training is designed specifically for election administrators and provides foundational knowledge on cybersecurity terminology, best practices in election offices, practical application, and communication.
“Providing high-quality cybersecurity training and resources to election officials has been a priority of the EAC,” remarked EAC Chairman Ben Hovland. “The EAC is excited to make this election-focused training available now as part of our broader efforts to assist election officials and improve their security posture during 2020 and beyond.”
As part of its mandate under the Help America Vote Act (HAVA), the EAC is tasked with maintaining a clearinghouse of election administration resources, best practices, training, checklists, and other information useful to election officials responsible for conducting U.S elections and securing and maintaining the critical infrastructure that supports them. The EAC is currently engaged in an agency-wide effort to update, collect, and produce new materials in support of the EAC mission.
“The orientation and training of our election workers on ways to combat cybersecurity threats is the backbone of our defenses against overseas or domestic bad actors. This partnership with the Center for Tech and Civic Life allows us to offer quality training and resources in direct support of local election officials and their critical mission,” said EAC Vice Chair Donald Palmer.
This election-focused cybersecurity training is available immediately through the EAC website. The courses are available at no cost through May 2021.
NASS 2020 Virtual Conference: After careful consideration and discussion with the NASS Executive Board, the decision was made to cancel the 2020 NASS Summer Conference that was scheduled to take place from July 19-22, 2020 at the Silver Legacy in Reno, Nevada. In lieu of an in-person conference, NASS will host a Virtual Summer Conference, July 17th and July 20-22. Mark your calendar to join us online in July! The registration fee is $50 per person for all registration types except corporate non-member. Registration will close on July 14th at 8 PM EDT. Login information for conference sessions will begin to be distributed on Wednesday, July 15th to the email address provided at registration. When: July 17-22. Where: Online
NACo Tech Xchange – Election Security: How Counties Can Continue to Address Ransomware to Ensure Safe and Secure Elections: The presentation describes what ransomware is, attack vectors used, how it impacts state, local, tribal, and territorial government entities, and specifically how it can impact election infrastructure. Additionally, it provides a set of recommendations for protecting networks against a ransomware attack, as well as response steps for those affected by ransomware. Presenters: Ryan Macias, Subject Matter Expert on Election Security, Lafayette Group, Inc., CISA Election Security Initiative Consultant; Mike Woodward, MS-ISAC Cyber Threat Intel Analyst; and Tim Davis, EI-ISAC Elections Operations Analyst. When 2pm Eastern July 27. Where: Online
Making Democracy Work: Information About a Career in Election Administration: Join us for an informational webinar with alumni, faculty, and staff in the Humphrey School of Public Affairs Certificate in Election Administration (CEA) program. Learn about the curriculum, time commitment, career paths in elections, joining a virtual community of colleagues, and much more. Ask questions and get the answers you need. The Humphrey School of Public Affairs offers the first of its kind nationwide online graduate- and undergraduate-level program to prepare professionals in election administration. The CEA is designed with maximum flexibility for those experienced individuals already managing state and local election offices, as well as those seeking to become part of the next generation of creative and committed leaders. When: July 27. Where: Online
Election Security: Security for Whom?: Good elections are secure elections—but what does that mean? Does it mean that election processes help eligible people vote, while thwarting anyone else? Does it mean accurate vote tabulation—and being able to prove that the counting was done right? Does it mean keeping voters safe at the polls? Does it mean giving the voting public a sense of security in a time of disinformation and misinformation? Yes, yes, yes and yes. Learn from national elections experts about cybersecurity, election validation and audits, healthy polling places and communicating about security. Where: Online: When: August 13, 12pm Central
Online CERA and CERV Session: In these extraordinary times, we are pleased to continue to offer additional CERA/CERV courses remotely using online tools via Auburn University. There are two sets of online courses being offered in July and August 2020 so please read the course information with corresponding dates. We are offering courses 7,8, 9, 10 and renewal course 17 beginning on July 13 and ending on July 31, 2020 (see calendar on page 2). An optional technical assistance session for Canvas and Zoom will be offered on July 10 from 1:00-2:00 pm or 3:00-4:00 pm Central Time and repeated on July 13 from 1:00-2:00 or 3:00-4:00 pm Central Time. We are offering courses, 3,4,5,6 and renewal course 33 beginning on July 20 and ending on August 7, 2020. An optional technical assistance session for Canvas and Zoom will be offered on July 15 from 1:00-2:00 pm Central Time and repeated on July 16 from 1:00-2:00 Central Time.
D3P National Training Tour: The Defending Digital Democracy Project (D3P) is launching a national training tour effort for local election officials as they prepare for the 2020 election. Given the many changes of the past months, this tour will be conducted digitally and is designed to give officials the best of D3P live training sessions in a new format. In addition to supporting local election officials through customized training, the tour may also host some special sessions for state election officials. Local jurisdictions can sign up for a block of virtual training sessions from June to August 2020, with the timing, content, and outputs customizable based on election officials’ schedules and priority needs. D3P’s work is committed to supporting officials in protecting the elections process. Just as you continue your work to serve the American people, we continue our work to serve you. This is a free, virtual resource that will involve discussion groups, live table top simulations, and state-specific content. Key training topics include operations management, crisis communications, disinformation, and Covid-19 support. When: Now through August 28. 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.
Business Enablement Project Manager, Hart InterCivic— The Business Enablement Project Manager manages projects that further the advancement of business for the organization. These projects include the development of RFP responses, management of strategic regulatory activities, execution of market research activities, and internal projects to support the improvement of business processes to support the Proposals and Certification Teams. The Business Enablement Project Manager must be able to function effectively on all levels of corporate structure in order to identify opportunities, analyze business needs, and identify and solve problems that present barriers to market entry. The Business Enablement Project Manager must be able to exercise sound judgment, interact with internal and external stakeholders, and complete projects professionally in high-pressure situations. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Communications Associate, Center for Tech and Civic Life — When you think about elections, you might think about popular candidates, “I voted” stickers, and all sorts of paperwork and deadlines. But behind the scenes are thousands of election administrators in state and local governments who are working hard to make sure ballots are counted and voices are heard. To serve every community and make democracy work, election administrators need 21st-century tools and training. You can help them get it! As the CTCL Government Services Communications Associate, you will grow and engage our network of election administrators (what we call ELECTricity) and connect them with resources like CTCL training courses and ElectionTools.org. You’ll work with the Government Services team and report to the Impact and Learning Manager. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Director of Registration and Elections, Mercer County, Pennsylvania: Manages and administers the County voter registration and election processes, in accordance with the County Code, the policies of the Board of Commissioners and/or Board of Elections and Federal, State and Local laws and regulations by performing the following duties personally or through subordinate managers. Directly supervises the Clerical Assistants, Election Officials and any temporary employees in the Voter Registration and Election Office. Carries out supervisory responsibilities in accordance with the County’s policies and applicable laws. Responsibilities include training employees; planning, assigning and directing work; appraising performance; addressing complaints and resolving problems. Manages the general operations of registering voters and coordinating elections in the County in accordance with the Federal, State and Local laws and regulations. Coordinates current and long-range voter registration and election objectives, plans, and policies, subject to approval by the Board of Commissioners and/or Board of Elections. Dispenses voter registration and election advice, guidance, direction consistent with established laws and regulations. Plans, directs and supervises the work of department personnel. Recruits and train all staff including poll precinct workers. Supervises the proper posting and accurate filing of registration cards and the preparation of street lists. Supervises the preparation of and delivery of voting machines and requisitions and distributes necessary voting supplies. Registers voters and cancels the right of electors whose voting privileges have been revoked. Directs the drawing for the position of candidates and the unofficial and official vote counts. Designs ballots for elections. Oversees the analysis, maintenance and communication of voting and election records required by law or governing bodies, or other departments in the organization. Establishes and maintains an effective system of communication throughout the County related to voter registration and election. Prepares necessary legal and public notices. Oversees the selection and coordination of election polling places consistent with State and Federal laws. Answers telephone inquiries regarding problems and gives information to callers or routes call to appropriate State or County department or agency. Prepares and oversees department budgeting, financial management, purchasing, grant management, department accountability and related activities for the County. Salary Range: $37,822 $53,470. Deadline: July 30. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Elections Specialist I-III, Douglas County, Colorado — This position is focused on routine customer service and general office/clerical support including data entry, communications, and processing mail. This is a support role capable of performing a variety of tasks, with problem solving abilities, managing multiple competing responsibilities and prioritizing to maintain a continuous flow of election office operations. This is a visible and crucial position requiring exceptional computer, customer service, and communication skills. This position may require technical work in a lead role capable of performing a variety of complex tasks, with solving problem abilities, managing multiple competing tasks and prioritizing to maintain a continuous flow of operations and temporary support. This position may be classified as an Elections Specialist I, II, or III dependent upon the skills of the candidate and the department’s business needs. Salary: $34,614 – 54,050. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Election Supervisor, City of Richmond — The City of Richmond, Virginia, Office of the General Registrar is seeking to fill the position of Election Supervisor. The purpose of the position is to provide management of and administrative assistance for all aspects of absentee voting to the Office of the General Registrar. This includes military and overseas voting, in-person voting before Election Day, through the mail absentee voting and post-election absentee ballot processing. The incumbent must be able to multi-task and demonstrate sound, independent judgement. The incumbent must have the ability to prioritize organize and evaluate work; determine appropriate action and adjust workloads according to deadlines and other program requirements. Experience in dealing effectively with a broad range of people in a business environment, with members of the community and with the public is essential. The incumbent in this position will be required to work within adhere to, interpret, apply and explain federal and state regulations, policies and procedures and respond in writing and verbally. This is a full time permanent position with benefits. Salary range $42,80 to $64,320 annually. Deadline: July 31. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Elections Supervisor, Dallas County, Texas— Assists management by planning, organizing, delegating and overseeing the daily operations of one or more areas of responsibility associated with the election process. Oversees the election program area to ensure staffing coverage is adequate, and productivity standards are met and are effective develops and implements goals and objectives, performance measures and techniques to evaluate programmatic activities reviews correspondence and reports from local, state and or federal agencies analyzes statistical data and prepares and maintains related reports. Researches and maintains comprehensive knowledge and understanding of applicable laws, policies and procedures to effectively communicate with staff, and acts as liaison and departmental representative to elected officials, political representatives, candidates, judges, contracting customers, vendors, general public, and or other county, state and federal representatives to resolve problems, answer questions, provide assistance and modify policies procedures. Hires and trains supervisory and support staff, evaluates performance and initiates disciplinary actions coordinates and monitors scheduling, productivity and workloads. Assists in budget preparation and maintains related data and reports. Performs other duties as assigned. Salary Range: $49,765.92 – $62,100.24. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
HAVA Administrator, Nevada Secretary of State— The Nevada secretary of state’s office is seeking a HAVA Administrator. The incumbent in this position will manage the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) grant and in this capacity will work with members of the State Elections Division, county registrar of voters, and other elections related positions in the federal, state, and county governments to manage the application of the HAVA grant and support the conduct of state and federal elections. This position will be a key member of the State elections team and will be primarily responsible for the analysis and interpretation of federal and state elections law. This position will supervise up to six other elections-related employees. State employee Benefits – Medical, dental, vision care, life and disability insurance programs are available; eleven paid holidays per year; three weeks of annual leave; three weeks of sick leave; state defined benefit retirement plan; tax-sheltered deferred compensation plan available. State employees do not contribute to Social Security; however, a small Medicare deduction is required. Salary: $66,628.08 – $100,161.36. The Secretary of State’s Office is located in downtown Carson City, near beautiful Lake Tahoe in Northern Nevada, which offers a destination location to live, work and play. 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.
Policy Associate, National Vote at Home Institute— Under the general direction of the National Policy Director, the Policy Associate is responsible for supporting the policy goals of the National Vote at Home Institute (NVAHI), including the design and implementation of mail ballot policies and procedures nationwide. The Policy Associate is responsible for internal data capture and interpretation in a shifting policy landscape and will also contribute heavily to data analysis and strategy decisions that the data informs. As an entrepreneurial and growing nonprofit, NVAHI seeks an energetic, flexible, and creative team member to help us grow our impact. The compensation range for this position is$45,000-$60,000/year depending on experience. This position is remote and requires a personal computer, phone, and access to the internet. Applications: For those interested in applying, please send a resume, cover letter, and references to National Policy Director Audrey Kline at email@example.com with subject line “Policy Associate”
Project Associate, Center for Tech and Civic Life — When you think about elections, you might think about popular candidates, “I voted” stickers, and all sorts of paperwork and deadlines. But behind the scenes are thousands of election administrators in state and local governments who are working hard to make sure ballots are counted and voices are heard. To serve every community and make democracy work, election administrators need practical, research-based approaches that can improve their operations. These include things like voter registration, resource allocation, and language access. As the CTCL Projects Associate, you will learn about the complex challenges that voters face and help election administrators address those challenges. You’ll work with the Government Services team and report to the Senior Project Manager. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Project Coordinator, Center for Election Innovation and Research— CEIR seeks a qualified, full-time Project Coordinator to join our team. The Project Coordinator will report to the Program Director and will be responsible for monitoring project progress, promoting communication, and ensuring key milestones are met. The Project Coordinator will partner with CEIR’s Research manager and other project staff to create project action plans and coordinate resources. This is an excellent opportunity for an experienced and highly motivated individual who wants to join a quickly growing nonprofit that seeks to make a substantial, positive, nonpartisan impact on elections and American democracy. CEIR’s office is in Washington, DC, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, all CEIR staff are working remotely for the foreseeable future. Therefore, while we prefer applicants who live in the Washington, DC Metro Area, we will also consider qualified applicants who live elsewhere. 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.
Research Fellow, Democracy Works— The Research team collects and standardizes information on how voting works—how to register, how to vote, and when and where elections are happening. Streamlining democracy in this way requires quite a bit of knowledge: what form you use to register to vote in Wyoming, to whom you mail your absentee ballot application in Maine, and whether there’s an election taking place in Oklahoma RIGHT NOW (there probably is!). This information is used by various consumers, both internal and external. 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. As a part of the team, you will work with the Data Project Manager and Director of Election Research to conduct research outreach for the Voting Information Project, contacting thousands of state and local election officials. You will: Conduct phone and email outreach to local election administrators to get accurate, up-to-date information on elections; Compile the election information into a detailed spreadsheet; Perform quality assurance checks on the information to assure accuracy and completeness of the data; Research user-reported errors; and assist the election research team with other tasks, as they arise. Salary: $13,000 for 13 week fellowship (paid in semi-monthly installments). 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.
Senior Deputy Board Clerk/Elections Assistant, Mono County, California— Under general supervision, to coordinate and perform a variety of complex, specialized support work for the County Board of Supervisors and the maintenance of official Board records; to serve as back-up, recording meetings and developing minutes for the County Board of Supervisors and the Assessment Appeals Board; to perform a variety of administrative and staff support work for County elections; to provide assistance and information to the public regarding the functions of County Boards and Commissions and County Elections; to assist other County staff with the understanding of assigned program and department/work unit procedures and requirements; to perform a variety of advanced technical and office support work such as web maintenance; process assessment; oversee management of process; research old records and laws; and to do related work as required. Salary: $60,626 annually. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
State Audit Expansion Specialist, Verified Voting— A critical component of election security is the ability to determine whether the computers that counted the votes counted them correctly. To do that, jurisdictions must have a system that incorporates paper ballots that are retained for recounts and audits. After the election, the paper ballots must be checked against the computer-reported results via a rigorous statistically sound audit, called a risk-limiting audit. Verified Voting is working with election officials to implement risk-limiting audits in as many jurisdictions as possible for the 2020 elections. The State Audit Expansion Specialist will report directly to the Director of Science and Technology Policy and will be primarily responsible for the education and outreach required to build trust with election officials in order to implement statewide RLAs of swing states. The State Audit Expansion Specialist will also support the design, development, implementation and reporting of audit pilots in a variety of jurisdictions, and will be able to contribute to the formulation of state and local audit policy. Salary Range $65,000-$75,000. Application: Please submit a resume and a short cover letter regarding your interest in the position and salary requirements to: firstname.lastname@example.org. commensurate with experience.
Systems Specialist, Denver, Colorado— The Operations, Integrated Solutions team assist our Tier 1 Operations teams in technical support while taking on operational projects that are extremely technical in nature, or scoped beyond the geographical boundaries of any one Tier 1 Operations team. The Operations, Integrated Solutions consists of 6 teams with specific focuses including Documentation & Training, Printer & Dealer Support, Advanced Field Support, Data Integration, Software Integration and Hardware Integration. This role will be responsible for implementing and ongoing support of multiple web applications reporting within Operations ISG. Dominion Voting has a family of web applications including imagecast remote (ICR), internet voting, ballot auditing & review, and election night reporting sites and in this position, you will manage the implementation and ongoing support of these applications, interfacing with both internal resources and customers. This position will require extensive customer facing training and support and process recommendations in addition to the web technology elements. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Technology Associate, Center for Tech and Civic Life— When you think about elections, you might think about popular candidates, “I voted” stickers, and all sorts of paperwork and deadlines. But behind the scenes are thousands of election administrators in state and local governments who are working hard to make sure ballots are counted and voices are heard. To serve every community and make democracy work, election administrators need 21st-century tools and training. You can help them get it! As the CTCL Government Services Technology Associate, you will implement streamlined, digital learning experiences that advance the tech and communication skills of America’s election administrators. You’ll work with the Government Services team and report to the Program Manager. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Vice President of Election Operations, Center for Internet Security— Reporting to the Executive Vice President for Operations and Security Services (OSS), the Vice President of Election Operations will oversee all elections-related efforts within CIS, most importantly the Elections Infrastructure Information Sharing and Analysis Center (EI-ISAC) and related elections community support sponsored by the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA). This position will also manage election-related projects and activities that are funded by third parties or self-funded by CIS. The Vice President of Election Operations will lead an organization comprised of the CIS staff working on election-related efforts and will be responsible for outreach to U.S. state, local, tribal, and territorial election offices as well as private sector companies, researchers, and nonprofit organizations involved in supporting elections. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
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