In Focus This Week
What suffrage means to me
Local elections officials talk suffrage on the 100th anniversary
By M. Mindy Moretti
Next week, August 18th — a Tuesday appropriately enough — marks the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment.
After years of struggle, some of if bloody and violent, on June 4, 1919, the Senate approved the 19th Amendment. It took another 16 months to garner the support of three-fourths of the states to ratify it.
Wisconsin is credited with being first and it was Tennessee that pushed the needle over the line for ratification on August 19, 1920 with Secretary of State Bainbridge Colby certifying the ratification on August 26, 2020.
Several states — Alabama, Delaware, Georgia, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, South Carolina and Virginia — rejected the 19th Amendment initially, but eventually ratified the Amendment after it was law with Mississippi being last in 1984.
As many have rightly noted, the 19th Amendment did not expressly give women the right to vote, it merely prohibited states from denying anyone the right to vote based on gender. Many women were still denied the right to vote based on the color of their skin and their fight for suffrage continued.
As part of our suffrage celebration we reached out to female local elections officials (LEOs) in all 50 states and asked them what suffrage means to them. The responses come from large and small jurisdictions, from both coasts and the Heartland. We heard from Democrats, Republicans and many whose party affiliation we have don’t even know! According to a 2018 survey by Reed College and the Democracy Fund, the typical local election official (LEO) is most likely a white female between 50–64 years of age, that being said, we did our very best to reach to LEOs of all races and ages.
Natalie Adona, Assistant Clerk-Recorder/Registrar of Voters, Nevada County, California: When I think of the fight for women’s suffrage, I see it as a necessary remedy to correct a grave injustice. I also think this is a good opportunity for reflection–it’s not lost on me that the franchise wasn’t automatically available for women when the 19th Amendment was ratified, especially for women of color. Without the 19th Amendment, I imagine that the election administration profession, and my own career, would have looked very different. I’m eternally grateful to the women who helped clear that path for me. Voting is one of the best ways to honor their achievements.
Tina Barton, City Clerk, City of Rochester Hills, Michigan: My first exposure to the women’s suffrage movement came by way of the mom of two kids that I adored as a young girl, Jane and Michael Banks. They lived at 17 Cherry Tree Lane and they had a practically perfect nanny. Their mom, Mrs. Banks, proudly marched and loudly sang the Sister Suffragette song, all while adorned in her sash that read, “Votes for Women.” While the Banks family lived in London, this scene introduced to me at a young age that other women had marched, protested, and fought for the right to vote. The “soldiers in petticoats and dauntless crusaders for women’s votes” valiantly paved a way for women to be heard, to have influence, and to bring change. She sang, “Our daughters’ daughters will adore us and they will sing in grateful chorus.” Yes, Mrs. Banks, I do adore you and every other woman who was part of the suffrage movement. I sing in grateful chorus, “Well done, Sister Suffragettes!”
Carye Blaney, County Clerk, Monongalia County, West Virginia: “On this historic occasion of the 100th Anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment, which deservingly gave women the RIGHT to vote, I am inspired by the courage and determination it took for the women in the early 1900’s to achieve this goal. As we sit here in 2020, an election year, reaping the benefits of their commitment and hard work, let us EXERCISE this most precious RIGHT. Let our generation of women be known 100 years from today for our commitment to making sure women EXERCISE their RIGHT to VOTE. Also, let us not forget that the struggle of gender equality continues and we need to join together, like the heroines who have walked the walk before us, so future generations of women will not be discriminated against because of their gender.”
Sara Knotts, Director, Brunswick County, North Carolina Board of Elections: I remember as a small child going to vote with my mom. We entered a curtained booth and I held her leg as she made her selections. I got a sticker, so it was quite the memorable experience! I also remember voting in my first election after I turned 18, walking into the polling place with my mom. I was nervous and unsure of what I was supposed to do, so we went as a family. Both of these trips to the polls were teaching moments. A woman passing on a lesson about civic duty and democracy to her daughter. It is hard to fathom that just 100 years before, those opportunities would not have been possible. When those women fought for women’s suffrage, they were fighting for my right to have those experiences.
Julie Leathers Stahl, Director Wayne County, Ohio Board of Elections: The anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment reminds me of my grandmother, who grew up during the Suffrage Movement. I can remember her telling me about her very first voting experience. The entire family took the day off from farm work and donned their best garments to cast their vote on Election Day. She expressed to me that she and her mother felt very blessed to be able exercise their right to vote. Through her stories, Gram instilled in me the importance of voting and a civic responsibility that I carry with me every day.
Tabitha Lehman, Election Commissioner, Sedgwick County, Kansas: As a young child, my family was very politically active. I remember participating in demonstrations, door to door campaigning, and always, voting. As I aged, that love of politics stayed with me. Registering to vote as soon as I was eligible and never missing an election turned into being an election poll worker, going to work full time at the election office and eventually being the chief election officer for our county. In Kansas the vast majority of county election officers are women, the women’s suffrage movement has shaped politics all across the country but it is very real here in Kansas with one of the founding League of Women Voter’s organizations being right here in our back yard.
Shona L. Mack-Pollock, Superintendent of Elections, Passaic County, New Jersey: As the Superintendent of Elections in Passaic County I have an opportunity to visit schools and speak to our youth about the importance of civic engagement. I always emphasize the significant power that we wield in the voting booth. I remind students that voting is a privilege, which cannot be taken lightly because of the sacrifices that were made to ensure that all Americans, regardless of race, gender, sex or religion are guaranteed this most fundamental right.
To be clear, the passage of the 15th Amendment in 1870 and the 19th Amendment in 1920 did not and does not prevent women, minorities, and other underrepresented, underserved populations from being disenfranchised. It is only because of the ongoing, collective efforts of countless leaders, advocates and elections officials throughout the nation, that we have seen innumerable barriers to suffrage being shattered. Yet, there is still much work that needs to be done.
Today, my role as an election official is critically important as I work with others, not only to preserve, but to continue to strengthen the integrity of the democratic process for generations to come. It is particularly inspiring to work with female leaders in our work to enhance and safeguard a system that empowers others. We are LIVING history.
I am incredibly awed and humbled by the responsibilities and privileges that I have been given because of the tireless efforts of those that paved the way for me. Thus, with the recognition that all eligible voters must be given the opportunity to fully, confidently and safely participate in the electoral process, I will continue to work to ensure access, equality and fairness for all citizens in every election.
Toni Pippins-Poole, Elections Administrator, Dallas County, Texas: The struggle for women rights began over 100 years ago which provided indeed historic results, even more so for the African American women. With the 15th Amendment passed in 1879 prohibited the denial of the right to vote based on race, color and other conditions, this didn’t include African American women.
The role of African American women played in the Suffrage movement was not highly recognized at that time, noting that while African Americans women were often excluded by the main Suffrage movement, that they did in fact play a vital role in Suffrage not only in the ratification of the 19th Amendment, but also moving forward through the civil rights fight of the 50s and early 60s. This struggle resulted to the enactment of Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Being an African American woman and the Election Administrator for Dallas County, I’m honored to be in this position to ensure that the right to cast a ballot unimpeded is maintained. During my election professional career of 33 years, I have spent my time to ensure all citizens have the same opportunity to register to vote without unnecessary barriers, and sought to ensure we continue to have fair access to the ballot box.
I am grateful for the past struggles of those great women before me, that we would all enjoy the democracy as it is today. However, we must continue our struggles to let our voices and actions be heard and seen to ensure that all continue to enjoy the democracy of tomorrow.
Tammy Smith, Election Administrator, Wilson County, Tennessee: Having the privilege to vote is something that I think of daily as I often work long hours to protect the integrity of every vote cast in Wilson County, Tennessee. History tells us that only white males who owned land or paid taxes were given the opportunity to vote when the Constitution was written. I am so thankful for the many women who fought for our freedom to vote and astounded when women (or anyone actually) choose not to. Voting is a privilege and our voice in democracy. August 18, 2020 marks the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment being passed in Tennessee making us the 36th state and deciding vote for ratification of the amendment to the U. S. Constitution. I am so proud to be a Tennessean!
Kirk Showalter, General Registrar, City of Richmond, Virginia: 1776 saw the beginning of the dream that “…all men are created equal…” The Emancipation Proclamation of 1863 was the first major step in moving our new nation toward realizing that dream. But even after the bloody struggle that made us one nation rededicated to that dream, almost one-half of our citizens were still not truly free for they could not participate in the activity that allows government to be, “… of the people, by the people, for the people..” Women could not vote. That would take another 56 years. May the dream continue to grow.
Michelle L. Wilcox, Director, Auglaize County, Ohio Board of Elections: With the passage of the 19th Amendment 100 years ago giving women the right to vote helped all women move closer to equality in all aspects of American life. Being an elections leader, advocate, educator and having two daughters of my own, I recognize the importance and understand the legacy left by the early suffragists who paved the way for all women. Suffrage means not only can my voice be heard at the ballot box, but as a woman, I can be an example and continue to build upon those achievements for future generations.
Road to Suffrage
“I desire you would Remember the Ladies…”
Road to suffrage had its roots in revolution
By Hilary Rudy, deputy director of elections
Colorado Department of State
This month we mark the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment. This time last year, many of us were making plans to attend marches and celebrations to mark the centennial of women’s suffrage in the U.S. Our focus and our day-to-day lives have shifted dramatically over the last five months. But we must not let this important milestone get lost in the pandemic-driven chaos this summer.
The road to the women’s vote has its roots in the revolution. As early as the drafting of the Declaration of Independence, women requested inclusion. “I desire you would Remember the Ladies…” Abigail Adams beseeched of her husband as he travelled to the continental congress. But the request went unanswered and it would be more than 140 years before this right would be recognized for women across the country.
And it would not be won until women replaced the request with a demand and resolute action. The 72-year national battle began in earnest with the Seneca Falls Convention in 1848. To be sure, women petitioned their representatives and the President. But they also organized. And protested. They took the fight to the front steps of the White House, leveraging the lessons from women in the western states who achieved suffrage earlier. For their efforts, they were arrested, jailed, beaten, and force-fed when they went on hunger strikes.
We’re all familiar with the names Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, leaders in the national movement. These leaders toured in the west where the movement saw early success in territorial constitutions in Utah and Wyoming. Then in 1890 when Wyoming gained its nickname the “Equality State” by enshrining the right in its state constitution. And in 1893 Coloradans voted to grant full suffrage to women. In Colorado, the fight for suffrage was far less bloody than the national fight. Western states were younger and more pragmatic, and suffrage had the support of many early governors.
It was the grassroots effort of local leaders that ultimately convinced Colorado men that the time had come. Local leaders like Elizabeth Piper Ensley, one of the original 28 members and Treasurer of the Non-Partisan Equal Suffrage Association of Colorado. Ensley was an educator and life-long activist who organized for women’s rights, particularly for African American women. Her leadership was key to the success of the Colorado movement. Ensley is only one leader in Colorado who fought for women’s rights. There are so many advocates who deserve recognition and appreciation. Many of whom later joined their sisters in the fight in the nation’s capital advocating for the passage 19th Amendment.
This summer, we may not gather in-person for marches and lectures to celebrate this important centennial. But it seems a profoundly appropriate time to remember and reflect on the struggle and sacrifice of women a century ago, and more, to ensure our rights today. As we remember the sacrifice and fight that led to the ratification of the women’s right to vote in 1920, let’s take a few moments to learn the story of a suffragette and share it with a friend. Visit 2020centennial.org for resources and information about the suffrage movement across the country, and honor their sacrifice by helping a friend register and vote.
(Hilary Rudy is the Deputy Director of Elections for the Colorado Secretary of State’s office. She began her career in elections administration as an intern for the Secretary of State’s office in 2005 and joined the division full-time after graduation from law school in 2006. Over the course of her career, Hilary has worked closely with county election officials in implementing new processes and procedures. She was instrumental in implementing several statewide projects, including the rollout of the statewide voter registration system, the development and deployment of the military and overseas voter ballot delivery system, and the creation of the Eliza Pickrell Routt award developed in partnership with Inspire Colorado to recognize high school voter registration efforts. As a native of Western Colorado, Hilary enjoys traveling around the state to visit the counties in support of their election activities. In addition to partnering with the division’s training manager to develop and deliver county election certification and overseeing the division fellowship program to mentor future election administrators, she continues to expand her expertise and attained CERA certification in 2016. When the election schedule allows, Hilary enjoys captaining the Secretary’s softball team and enjoying the great Colorado outdoors.)
Suffrage Stamps and Stickers
On August 22, the U.S. Postal Service will release a Forever Stamp celebrating the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment. Inspired by historic photographs, the stamp features a stylized illustration of suffragists marching in a parade or other public demonstration. The clothes they wear and the banners they bear display the official colors of the National Woman’s Party — purple, white and gold. Art director Ethel Kessler designed the stamp with original art by Nancy Stahl.
The stamp will be released in a virtual First Day of Issue Ceremony for the 19th Amendment: Women Vote Forever Stamps at 11 a.m. on the 22nd. This virtual ceremony will be carried on the Postal Service’s social media channels, Facebook and Twitter. To connect with us on social media mention USPS online using the hashtags, #WomenVoteStamps #19thAmendmentStamps.
“I Voted” Stickers
Many states and local jurisdictions are commemorating the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment by offering custom “I Voted” stickers. Here is a look at some of them.
Connecticut: Wilton, Connecticut has joined a growing list of states and localities that will honor the 100th Anniversary of the 19th Amendment with special suffrage “I Voted” stickers. Although Wilton’s will be a bit different because they will be virtual stickers. A set of six stickers features the images of four Wilton women known to have registered to vote in Wilton in 1920. A fifth sticker features a group of Connecticut suffragists and the sixth honors all Wilton women, known and unknown, who cast their first ballot 100 years ago. Although the pandemic eliminated actual stickers, designer Pamela Hovland pursued the idea of virtual ones that people could display on their social media sites or print out and display in their windows or elsewhere. “We were very lucky to have photographs in the Wilton history room of about 30 to 40 of the women who voted in that election,” Julie Hughes who works in the Wilton Library’s history room told The Wilton Bulletin. “We were able to choose the best, sharpest photographs, and we were lucky those women were ones we happened to find historical information about.”
Idaho: Idaho voters will be able to celebrate casting a ballot and women’s suffrage with new “I Voted” stickers that will be handed out during the 2020 election cycle. Samantha Robson, a student at Kuna High School beat out more than 100 other entrants to have her artwork featured on the sticker. This started as a class project for me but it turned out to be a really exciting part of my year,” Robson said in a prepared statement. “Although it was pretty stressful at first, I am very grateful for the opportunity to put my work out there.”
Oakland County, Michigan: The Oakland County board of commissioners, County Clerk Lisa Brown and Oakland Schools joined forces on an “I Voted” sticker contest county students in 6-12 grade. Penelope Blanchard, a 9th grader from Walled Lake Western High School, was selected as the winner from the 9th through 12th grade group while Charlisa Penzak, a 6th grader from Birmingham Covington School, was chosen as the winner from the 6th through 8th grade group. Both students received a $1,000 prize while the teachers who sponsored each design won $250 for their classrooms. A panel of judges reviewed more than 600 submissions on the use of creativity, artistic skill, execution and interpretation of the theme. The two winning designs, which will be printed on stickers and distributed to voters across the county.
Nashville, Tennessee: Congratulations to 17-year-old Milka Negasi who created the winning design for a new “I Voted” sticker for the city of Nashville, Tennessee. Negasi’s design celebrates the 100th anniversary of suffrage which gave women the right to vote when Tennessee became the final state necessary to ratify the amendment in August of 1920. “It shows the importance of all women in the voting process, and how the inclusion of these voices is absolutely fundamental to initiating the representation people would like to see in political elections and pushing for the right changes in policy,” Negasi told the Metro Nashville Arts Commission. Metro Arts partnered with the Davidson County Election Commission to host the contest for middle and high school students to highlight Tennessee’s role in securing women’s right to vote. Negasi’s design was selected from among 75 contest entries.The new sticker will be available at all Davidson County early voting and Election Day voting locations for the August general and November presidential elections.
Utah: The Utah Office of Elections and Better Days 2020 announced that this year’s Utah “I Voted” stickers will feature images commemorating the 150th anniversary of the first American women to vote under an equal suffrage law, which occurred in Utah. The stickers will also feature the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which extended women’s voting rights throughout the nation, said a news release from the Office of the Lt. Governor. To celebrate these anniversaries, the organizations partnered to produce a special edition set of “I Voted” stickers, which will be distributed throughout the months of June and November of this year via some mail-in ballots, at drive-through voting locations and via other means. Precautions will be taken to ensure safety of sticker delivery and distribution in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Additional Suffrage Resources
Daughters of Suffrage
As Americans mark a century since that struggle the New York Times has an interactive piece where suffragists’ descendants reflect here on the movement’s legacy among Americans of all races, faiths and genders battling for what the suffragists — quoting the president at the time — described as “liberty: the fundamental demand of the human spirit.”
Although largely a movement of white, wealthy women, the suffrage movement also included Black suffragettes. History.com has the story of 5 Black suffragists who fought for the 19th Amendment and so much more.
Six years before the final passage of the 19th Amendment, the 1913 parade in Washington, D.C. made a lot of headlines. In its special Battle for the Ballot section, The Washington Post has really interesting stories about the parade including: The Black sorority that faced racism in the suffrage movement but refused to walk away
From Elaine Weiss’” The Woman’s Hour”, which reads like a page turning novel about the race to get the last state necessary — Tennessee — to ratify the 19th Amendment, to Faye E. Dudden’s “Fighting Chance” which looks at the divide between white and black suffragists to Sen. Kristen Gilibrand’s “Bold and Brave,” a book for young adults, here are some books about suffrage and women’s voting to add to your nightstand—when you have time to read for fun again!
Earlier this summer, American Experience on PBS aired a two-night documentary called The Vote. Because we live in 2020 and not 1920 or even 1970 if you missed the episodes when they originally aired, you can stream them online.
In addition to being able stream both episodes of The Vote you can find additional shorts on Ida B. Wells, Alice Paul, Harriot Stanton Blatch, and Carrie Chapman Catt. There are also articles about the first woman to vote in Utah and Black women’s 200 year-fight for the vote.
The site also features an interactive called She Resisted: Strategies for Suffrage. She Resisted explores the final decade of the women’s suffrage movement through its most powerful images, brought to life with color for the first time. Live through the epic 1913 Washington, D.C. procession, in which thousands of women took to the streets to demand their right to the franchise; thrill at Ida B. Wells’s successful voter registration drive; and admire suffragists’ commitment to nonviolent resistance, which included hunger strikes and withstanding brutal force feedings. Working with renowned photographic colorist Marina Amaral to meticulously restore color to century-old archival stills, and video enhancement experts neural.love to upscale and colorize archival footage using neural networks, American Experience brings you an intimate look at the women who forever transformed the politics of social and political change in America.
And something to look forward to! On August 26, officials in New York City will unveil the first-ever statue to women in Central Park. Called the Women’s Rights Pioneers Monument the 14-foot-tall bronze monument features Susan B. Anthony, Sojourner Truth and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, three of the more prominent leaders in the nationwide fight for women’s right to vote.
According to The New York Times, the sculpture depicts the three figures gathered around a table for what seems to be a discussion or a strategy meeting. Anthony stands in the middle, holding a pamphlet that reads “Votes for Women”; Stanton, seated to her left, holds a pen, presumably taking notes; and Truth appears to be in midsentence.
“I wanted to show women working together,” said Meredith Bergmann, the sculptor chosen from dozens of artists to create the statue. “I kept thinking of women now, working together in some kitchen on a laptop, trying to change the world.”
2020 Election Updates
Connecticut: Like most other primary states this summer, Connecticut, which changes its absentee voting laws for 2020, was overwhelmed with mail ballots but relatively underwhelmed with voters showing up at the polls. One of the biggest questions before polls opened on Tuesday was whether or not power would be restored to all the polling sites following Hurricane Isaias. Fortunately for voters and poll workers alike, it was. In-person turnout was low with one poll worker in Greenwich calling it eerie how quiet it was. In Waterbury, where some poll sites saw less than two dozen voters before noon, one poll worker called it “ridiculously slow.” Governor Ned Lamont did extend the absentee ballot deadline to Thursday as long as ballots were postmarked by close of polls on Tuesday. Absentee ballot counting continues statewide.
Georgia: What a difference a couple of months make. Georgians returned to the polls this week for a runoff and after the disastrous primary in many counties, Tuesday went off with relatively few problems. It wasn’t 100 percent smooth sailing—is any election ever?—but the difference was dramatic. In Bibb County poll closing time had to be extended after there were equipment issues at two polling places. In-person voting in Chatham County went relatively smoothly although there were some issues early on with getting equipment properly set up. Polls in Floyd County were forced to stay open till 9 p.m. when software issues during the first couple of hours caused issues. Voters at at least one polling place in DeKalb County, who had lined up before the polls opened, were forced to wait longer when the cards necessary to operate the state’s new voting system weren’t on site. In Hall County, voters appreciated how quick the process was. “It was as easy as can be,” Lisa Nicol, a voter, told The Times. “In and out, quick. No issues at all.”
Hawaii: Although many Hawaiians have been voting by mail, Saturday marked the first all-mail election in the Aloha State and 99% of those who voted did so with a mail ballot. And that move to an all-mail election lead to a historic turnout record for a state that typically ranks at the bottom of turnout lists. While most voters cast their ballots by mail, some did show up at voting centers located in each county to cast their ballot in-person. In Maui County, the vote center saw about 170 voters on primary day. Voters who cast their ballots in-person did so for a variety of reasons including they never received their mail ballot and curiosity. I wanted to see what the technology looks like. I wanted to use it myself,” Daniel Dismukes, Haiku resident told the Maui News. In-person voting wasn’t without controversy though. Honolulu Hale was open for voting on Oahu despite the fact that 10 employees at city hall had tested positive for the coronavirus. Using the building forced some poll workers not to show up. Kristen Perreira, a temporary elections worker, said keeping Honolulu Hale open on Saturday simply wasn’t safe. She decided not to go in because she didn’t feel the city was taking the right precautions. “This is not safe. I don’t feel like they value us as people,” she told Hawaii News Now.
Minnesota: Same story, different state. In what Secretary of State Steve Simon called a successful dress rehearsal, voters headed to the polls in small numbers, but cast their ballots in large numbers for the Minnesota primary. “We’re on pace to shatter a bunch of records when it comes to people voting from home as well,” Simon said. “So, generally, I think high turnout, high interest, high energy, high intensity, what you’d expect in a presidential year in Minnesota.” For the voters that did bother to show up at the polls on Tuesday, they found well-prepared poll workers, but not too many other voters. Poll workers were just as busy sanitizing polling places as they were handing out ballots. “We’ve been spraying down the voting booths, the tables here, door handles,” said Darci Karau a precinct captain in Blue Earth County. In Duluth, the residents that did show up at the poll said they felt safe under the circumstances. “I felt very safe that they had hand sanitizer available as soon as you walk through the doors. I was wearing my mask, they had like little shields,” said Rochelle Goodrich, a Duluth resident. Primary day was record-breaking in St. Louis County. By Tuesday afternoon, the county had accepted 16,104 absentee ballots, the previous high was 3,662 in 2018.
Puerto Rico: On Sunday, Puerto Rico was forced to partially suspend voting for primaries marred by a lack of ballots as officials called on the president of the U.S. territory’s elections commission to resign. The primaries for voting centers that had not received ballots by early afternoon are expected to be rescheduled, while voting would continue elsewhere, the commission said. “I have never seen on American soil something like what has just been done here in Puerto Rico. It’s an embarrassment to our government and our people,” said Pedro Pierluisi, who is running against Gov. Wanda Vázquez, to become the nominee for the pro-statehood New Progressive Party. Meanwhile, Vázquez called the situation “a disaster” and demanded the resignation of the president of the elections commission. According to The Washington Post, the federal control board that oversees Puerto Rico’s finances issued a statement saying the “dysfunctional” voting process was unacceptable and blamed it on what it said was inefficiency by the elections commission. On Tuesday Vázquez filed suit against the elections commission seeking a re-do of voting at polling centers that opened late, not just those that ran out of ballots. The suit also seeks to stop the release of unconfirmed results from centers where voting did take place on Sunday. The island’s Supreme Court agreed to hear the case. “The uncertainty created since the process began in the morning hours caused thousands of voters to leave the voting centers where chaos and confusion reigned,” according Vazquez’s lawsuit, filed before the Court of First Instance. On Wednesday, the island’s Supreme Court ruled that the primary must resume on Sunday.
Tennessee: The Thursday Aug. 6 primary in the Volunteer State went off with relatively few in-person problems. Many Tennesseans chose to vote early or by mail instead of showing up at the polls on primary day. “Early voting was really good, so I think that made a difference,” Montgomery County Poll Worker Connie Booth told the Leaf Chronicle. She also thought most people voted early in a bid to avoid bigger crowds amid the ongoing pandemic. Booth’s Clarksville polling place averaged about 15 voters per hour. In-person voters in Shelby County expressed their satisfaction with the safety precautions put in place at polling locations. 89-year-old Gertrude Davis said she felt safe voting. Everyone was masked up, and there was plenty of space to move around, she said. When asked what brought her to the polls, Davis didn’t elaborate on specific issues, but instead told the Commercial Appeal, “I’m a voter, baby. I don’t miss an Election Day.” In Maury County, 80-year-old poll worker Marlene Cannon was pleased with what election officials had done to make sure everyone was safe. “I would not have it any other way,” Cannon, wearing a face shield and sitting behind a clear plexiglass barrier told the Columbia Daily Herald. “I hope that I am encouragement for someone else. It is very important. We have to make sure this continues.” In Hamilton County, voters saw line-free polls and COVID safety precautions. “Things are a little bit spread out than what they normally are because of the social distancing. Before, they would only take up about half of that room. Now, they’ve got it all (laughs) and then some”, voter James Baldwin told 12 News Now.
Vermont: According to unofficial data, Vermont broke a turnout record with the 2020 primary election with 157,193 Vermonters voting. That broke the primary record of 120K set in 2016. While the bulk of those votes did come via mail, people still did show up for in-person voting and there were few, if no reports of trouble. Social distancing requirements in some town voting sites did cause a few lines, but they seemed minimal. Those who did vote in-person did so for a variety of reasons including forgetting to mail back their ballots or simply because it’s tradition. “I still feel that there is something special about actually going to the polls and casting a vote,” Poll Worker Katrina VanTyne told Seven Days. “Voting by mail, it’s just not as ceremonious.” Williston Town Clerk Sarah Mason said voters really seemed to love the hybrid vote by mail/in-person system that was available. “People really, really, really liked this,” she said. “I mean, they sent love notes, thank yous on the outside of the [ballot] envelope.” Drive-thru voting has become very popular this year and that was no different in Manchester, Vermont. “It’s amazing,” poll worker Martha Heilemann said about manning the drive-thru location. “It’s not inconvenient — we didn’t know what to expect.”
Wisconsin: Third time’s the charm. Following two pandemic elections that made national headlines, voters headed back to the polls and mailboxes one more time this week and with nearly one million absentee ballots requested, it was a relatively quiet day at the polls. Elections officials said they felt more prepared this time around and were looking at the August elections as a test run for November. Officials from Appleton to Green Bay to Madison reported quick if any lines at all throughout the day. In Madison, absentee ballots made up 79 percent of the total ballots cast on Tuesday. And while the National Guard did step in and help out like it had done in previous elections, young people also answered the call. “That has been quite something to see take place,” Maribeth Witzel-Behl, the City of Madison Clerk told NBC15. “There are a lot of new poll workers that I talked to who told me that they are working at the polls because their parents are not able to or their grandparents are not able to.”
Election News This Week
Plans for November: Several states solidified their plans for voting in November. Arkansas governor Asa Hutchinson (R) signed an executive order allowing voters to vote absentee without an excuse. Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb has gone on the record saying that he does not support making mail-in absentee balloting available to all registered voters for the general election due to COVID-19. “Folks need to understand that it is safe to vote,” Holcomb said according to The Times. “Indiana will have a safe and secure and healthy, in-person election on Nov. 3.” And the donnybrook over the general election in Maryland seemed to finally come to an end this week after the state board of elections proposed sending every voter an absentee ballot application and opening XX voting centers statewide. Gov. Larry Hogan (R) who had initially demanded that all polling locations in the state be open on November 3, approved the SBOE’s plan. In Montana, Gov. Steve Bullock (D) gave counties the green light to decide whether or not they wanted to conduct the November election entirely by mail. In Ohio, Secretary of State Frank LaRose announced this week several plans for November including that each county would be permitted to use one ballot drop box located at the county board of elections and that masks, while encouraged, would not be required for in-person voting in November.
Sanitized! In support of its ‘Brew Democracy’ initiative designed to increase participation in the political process and bring the nation’s political leaders together, Anheuser-Busch is producing and donating more than eight million ounces of hand sanitizer to polling locations across the United States for this November’s General Election. In coordination with the National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS), the National Association of State Election Directors (NASED) and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), Anheuser-Busch will distribute the hand sanitizer to state election offices that have requested it to help ensure the safety of voters and polling site workers throughout the election process. “Having sufficient, critical personal protective equipment is absolutely necessary for the general election in November. We truly appreciate Anheuser-Busch for their willingness to produce and donate hand sanitizer to state and local election officials as they work on the frontlines of democracy in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Maggie Toulouse Oliver, NASS President and New Mexico Secretary of State. The brewer will leverage its production capabilities to produce hand sanitizer at its Baldwinsville, NY and Los Angeles, CA breweries as well as through its partners at Cutwater Spirits (San Diego, CA) and Devils Backbone Brewing Company (Roseland, VA) then utilize its logistics expertise to deliver the sanitizer through its wholesaler network to polling locations and election offices across the country.
It Came In The Mail: While spending exorbitant amounts of time talking about vote by mail, state and local elections authorities have been forced to deal with a few other mail-related issues this cycle as well. As they do every major election, the Center for Voter Information, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit, sends out voter registration and vote by mail information and often times those mailings cause confusion and additional work for local elections officials. This year has been no different with elections officials from Florida to Ohio to Montana fielding calls about the mailers. In Virginia, more than 500,000 forms with incorrect information were sent to voters causing confusion for voters and more work and headaches for election officials. But the Center for Voter Information isn’t the only culprit. In New Hampshire, the state GOP sent out mailers with incorrect information on where to send absentee voter registration forms. The group blamed a printing error. And sometimes, it’s not third-party organizations that have issues. In the District of Columbia, the D.C. Board of Elections—which will be mailing every registered voter a ballot for the November election — sent voters registration confirmation mailers, voters are complaining that poor design and instructions have prevented them from completing the forms. In Champaign County, Illinois vote by mail applications have a transposed zip code on the application. The clerk’s office is encouraging voters to write in the correct zip code and the office has spoken with the local postmaster to ensure that the applications are delivered. In Rhode Island, Jamestown Canvassing Clerk Karen Montoya said a mailer from the secretary of state’s office has had her phones ringing off the hook because it’s led to some confusion among voters about the 2020 voting process. Our best advice to advocates or election administrators doing mailings is probably read twice, mail once.
COVID-19: The Greene County, Missouri clerk, members of his staff and four volunteers have been forced to quarantine after learning they had all been in closed contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19. County Clerk Shane Schoeller told KSMU the person with the illness was not an election judge and they do not work directly with the public. “And, per our contact with the Greene County Health Department, which I contacted immediately, they gave us the standard guideline in terms of, you know, exposure, and it had to be anyone who’s been in close contact with this individual for a total of 15 minutes cumulatively over a 24 hour period.” Despite being quarantined, Schoeller said they’ll be able to certify the results of the August 11 election. They’ve worked with the Springfield-Greene County Health Department to determine how to do it safely.
225-miles to vote: A documentary called “One Vote”, filmed in 2016 and now available on streaming services like Amazon and iTunes tells the stories of the efforts voters in five different locations go to cast their ballots. Needless to say, the story of the Bondy Family in Alaska caught our attention. The family owns the Alpine Creek Lodge at mile 68 on the Denali Highway. As residents of Mat-Su Borough, their closest polling place is 225 miles away in Sheep Mountain. According KTUU, to get to Sheep Mountain, they have to use a combination of dog sleds, snowmachines and vehicles. Despite the difficulty, Jennifer Bondy told KTUU her family votes in every election. They prefer to be at the polls in person, but they also register for an absentee ballot in case the weather prevents them from safely traveling. “Voting in person is important, it definitely shows for our son, it makes sure he realizes how important it is to make that journey out,” Jennifer told the station. Next time someone tells you they don’t have time to vote, please let them know about the Bondy family in Alaska.
Sticker News: Great day in the morning! After years of no reward and then a couple of cycles with bracelets, Chicagoans who vote in the 2020 general election will finally not only be getting “I Voted” stickers but custom ones to boot! According to Book Club Chicago, The stickers will be given to people who vote in person, and they’ll be included in vote by mail ballots when they’re sent out. Like the wristbands, the stickers are blue and red and say, “I VOTED!” They also note this year marks the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which gave some women the right to vote. Sticker lovers can actually thank the coronavirus for the switch from bracelets to stickers. “One reason for the change [to stickers] is the growth of vote by mail. We’re using an automated system to prepare the ballot envelopes, and the sticker works better in the insert process than a wristband,” election board Chairwoman Marisel Hernandez said in an emailed statement. “The second reason is that the sticker cards will be easier to hand out safely in early voting and Election Day voting.”
Personnel News: Ward County, North Dakota Auditor/Treasurer Devra Smestand is retiring on Aug. 31. Smestand has been on the job for more than 16 years. Former deputy auditor Marisa Haman will take over. Michele Barnes has resigned as the Dare County, North Carolina board of elections director. Tina Marie Broussard is the new Vermillion Parish, Louisiana registrar of voters—the first woman to ever hold the office.
Election Security Updates
Ohio: Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose has issued the nation’s first state elections system Vulnerability Disclosure Policy. The policy, common among larger private sector businesses, establishes procedures for outside researchers to inspect the Secretary of State’s website for vulnerabilities. Once those vulnerabilities are reported, it allows 120 calendar days for LaRose’s office to repair the vulnerability before the researcher may publicly announce its discovery. Having a defined time period provides assurances to the cybersecurity community that reporting of potential vulnerabilities will be treated with the seriousness they deserve. “We need to be vigilant and this smart approach ensures that Ohio continues to lead on election cybersecurity,” said LaRose. “Make no mistake, our nation’s enemies will be looking to disrupt our elections, and our websites & databases are among their top targets. By putting this policy in place, we’ll be able to work with cybersecurity researchers to find our vulnerabilities before the bad guys do.” The policy describes what systems and types of research are covered, how to report vulnerabilities to the Secretary of State’s office, what is asked of cyber security researchers, and what researchers can expect from the office.
California: Gov. Gavin Newsome (D) has signed legislation into law that allows counties offer fewer in-person polling places in exchange for opening the sites earlier. Senate Bill 423 allows counties to merge precincts, as long as they keep the ratio of one precinct per 10,000 registered voters instead of the typical 1,000 voters. These consolidated polling places must be open from Saturday, Oct. 31, through Monday, Nov. 2, for at least eight hours each day and from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Election Day. Counties will also be required to open one ballot drop-off location for every 15,000 registered voters for 28 days before the election.
Maryland: The Gaithersburg city council voted unanimously to get rid of write-in candidates in city elections. The council said the threshold to get on the ballot—100 signatures—isn’t that difficult and the write-in process can be confusing to voters and election workers.
Michigan: The Ann Arbor city council voted 6-5 to shoot down a proposal that would have put a ballot measure on the November ballot asking voters if they wanted city elections to use ranked choice voting if it becomes allowable under state law. Some council members’ reasons for opposing it were that it’s not currently allowed in Michigan, though there is legislation pending to allow it, and some said they didn’t want to layer ranked-choice voting on top of the city’s partisan elections and instead want to shift to elections without party labels.
Also in Michigan, voters in Grand Rapids will decide in November whether local elections, including races for city commission, will take place during even years as opposed to the current odd-year cycle. City voters will additionally decide if they want the two candidates for a single city office that get the most votes in an August primary to face off in the November general election.
Mississippi: The Clay County Board of Supervisors on Thursday unanimously approved providing an extra $50 in hazard pay to each poll worker working the upcoming special election on Sept. 22 for the vacant Mississippi House of Representatives seat in District 37. Poll workers are already scheduled to receive the $50 hazard pay for the November election.
New Jersey: The Ocean County board of freeholders passed a resolution saying that voters should not have limitations placed on them when it comes to voting in the November election. The resolution calls on the governor to allow for use of in-person voting in conjunction with voluntary mail voting. “Our citizens should not be told how to cast a ballot,” Ocean County Freeholder Gary Quinn said. “When the state starts doing that we begin to chip away at the democratic process.”
Cape May County freeholders also passed a resolution opposing an entirely by mail November election. In their opposition resolution, the freeholders cited a laundry list of reasons why in-person voting should be allowed in addition to mail balloting. Some of the reasons cited include concerns about fraud and the length of time it takes to count mail ballots.
North Dakota: Supporters of a proposed constitutional initiative for sweeping election changes in North Dakota have gathered enough petition signatures to qualify for the November ballot. The proposal lays out new election processes to be inserted into North Dakota’s constitution, including: Earlier transmission of ballots to eligible military and overseas voters; Paper records of each vote cast; Election audits of one or more random precincts of each legislative district; Open primaries and instant runoffs for statewide, legislative and congressional offices; Drawing of legislative districts by North Dakota’s Ethics Commission rather than the Legislature; and Subdivision of House districts
Vermont: Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger issued his first-ever veto on an effort to reinstate ranked choice voting in the city. According to Seven Days, in a one-page memo, Weinberger wrote that he objects to “the timing, avoidable expense and substance” of the city council’s July 13 resolution to bring back ranked-choice voting. The measure, passed by a slim 6-5 majority, sought to place the question on the November ballot. “I am returning the Resolution … to you unsigned,” the mayor wrote in the August 6 memo. “I do not take this action lightly.”
Alabama: Montgomery County Civil Court Judge J.R. Gaines has dismissed a lawsuit filed in May by the League of Women Voters and several elderly or sick Alabamians that had contended that provisions requiring absentee voters to have photo IDs before getting their ballots and another requiring a notary public or two witnesses attest that the voter filled out the ballot violate Alabama’s constitution amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Gaines dismissed the lawsuit for several reasons. “For the reasons laid out in the defendants’ motions to dismiss, the court finds that it lacks jurisdiction over Plaintiffs’ complaint because Plaintiffs present a nonjusticiable political question, plaintiffs lack standing to sue defendants, and the claims against defendants are barred by sovereign immunity,” Gaines wrote in his order. “Additionally, the court notes that even if it had found that jurisdiction exists, it would have found that plaintiffs have failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, for the reasons laid out in the defendants’ motions to dismiss.”
Also in Alabama, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund have filed a petition asking that all of the judges on the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals reconsider the July 21 decision by a panel of three judges that fell 2-1 in favor of the state’s voter ID law. The 2011 law requires voters in Alabama to show a valid, government-issued photo ID to vote. The NAACP, Greater Birmingham Ministries and several minority voters sued, arguing that lawmakers knowingly crafted the law to prevent Black people and other minorities, who are less likely to have such photo IDs, from voting. The three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals found that the burden of Alabama’s voter ID law is minimal, and does not “violate the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments of the Constitution, nor does it violate the Voting Rights Act.”
California: Journalist Kim Zetter has filed suit in LA County Superior Court to get copies of an external after action report from the Los Angeles County March primary. According to Courthouse News Service, the LA County Board of Supervisors asked the Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk’s office to investigate the missteps and that 135-page internal report was released to the public, with recommendations on how the voting system could be improved by November. A separate, external audit conducted by Slalom Consulting was not released in its entirety, but only in summary form. Zetter twice requested the report including a formal request under the California Public Records Act. According to Zetter, the county said the records were exempt from disclosure. Zetter argues the county has not been able to make a proper “determination” as to why it is withholding public records as required by California law nor did it entertain the prospect of redacting portions of the document that could be withheld before they are released. Finally, Zetter says the records “contain information that is already public or is not subject to any basis for withholding” under California law.
Florida: U.S. District Judge Mark Walker dismissed Florida Secretary of State Laurel Lee from a long-running dispute about providing Spanish-language ballots and voting materials in 32 counties, but he allowed the case to move forward. Walker last year issued a preliminary injunction ordering Lee to require 32 counties to take a series of steps, including providing Spanish-language ballots and materials, in time for the March 2020 presidential primary elections. The order Friday allowed the case to move forward with Alachua County Supervisor of Elections Kim Barton as a defendant. She is a representative of the other 31 supervisors whose counties are involved.
Georgia: The Democratic Party and three voters have sued the state asking the courts to step in to prevent long lines during the November election. The suit is seeking to have a judge require more polling places, better-trained poll workers and emergency paper ballots. “The issues we saw in Georgia in the primary cannot be repeated in November,” said U.S. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada, the chairwoman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, a plaintiff in the lawsuit. “This is a problem with a clear solution, and there is no reason elections officials should not take the reasonable steps to make sure Georgians don’t stand in line for hours to vote.” Joining the DSCC in filing the suit were the Democratic Party of Georgia, two Fulton County voters and a Cobb County voter.
Also in Georgia, U.S. District Judge Amy Totenberg denied an effort to convert Georgia elections to paper ballots filled out by hand, declining to throw out the state’s new voting system after its first statewide test in this spring’s primaries. Totenberg had allowed the suit to move forward based on problems with the state’s June primary however she ultimately ruled against the switch. The lawsuit argued that the state’s dependence on electronic voting made elections susceptible to manipulation or hacking. The plaintiffs said voters couldn’t truly confirm the accuracy of their printed ballots, which encode votes in bar codes for tabulation. “The court appreciates the plaintiffs’ central claim addresses the problem posed by tabulating votes based on a bar code that cannot be verified by voters in conjunction with the lack of meaningful, rigorous auditing,” Totenberg wrote. “However … the court finds that plaintiffs’ showing has been insufficient” because it was based on information presented before this year’s elections.
In another ruling, Totenberg rejected an argument that requiring voters to provide their own stamps for mail-in ballots and ballot applications amounts to an unconstitutional poll tax. A lawsuit filed in April by the American Civil Liberties Union and its Georgia chapter alleged that the postage requirement effectively imposes a poll tax and is an unjustifiable burden on the right to vote. Totenberg acknowledged the potential difficulties of in-person voting, particularly during a pandemic, but said that its availability means that the postage requirement is not tantamount to an unconstitutional poll tax. “The fact that any registered voter may vote in Georgia on election day without purchasing a stamp, and without undertaking any ‘extra steps’ besides showing up at the voting precinct and complying with generally applicable election regulations, necessitates a conclusion that stamps are not poll taxes,” Totenberg wrote in her order.
Illinois: The Cook County Republican Party has sued Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D), members of the Illinois State Board of Elections and Chicago Board of Election Commissioners as well as Cook County Clerk Karen Yarbrough over SB1863 which allows county clerks to send all voters a mail ballot application and make Election Day a state holiday. The 20-page complaint says Pritzker violated Illinoisans’ voting rights “by signing into law a partisan voting scheme that is designed to harvest Democratic ballots, dilute Republican ballots, and, if the election still doesn’t turn out the way he wants it, to generate enough Democratic ballots after election day to sway the result.”
Iowa: The president’s re-election campaign and the Republican Party are suing Linn County Auditor Joel Miller and Johnson County Auditor Travis Weipert. While state is sending out blank absentee ballot request forms, Linn County and Johnson County will be sending out the absentee ballot request forms with the necessary information already populated leaving the voter to simply sign and return. “The responsibility of filling out personal information on absentee ballot applications is a key safeguard to confirm the applicant’s identity and should rest squarely with the voter. The rogue County Auditors must immediately stop their harmful actions that threaten the validity of and confidence in the upcoming election,” RNC Chairman Ronna McDaniel said in a statement.
Mississippi: The Mississippi Center for Justice and the ACLU have filed suit in Hinds County Chancery court on behalf of seven voters in Hinds and Rankin counties against Secretary of State Michael Watson, who oversees elections, and circuit clerks in Hinds and Rankin counties who distribute absentee ballots. The suit is seeking to expand the state’s absentee voting laws. “In deciding whether to attend any public gathering, particularly a polling place on election day, voters are required to consider, and are permitted to follow, public health guidance,” the lawsuit says. The lawsuits asks a judge to clarify that all voters following public health guidance to avoid contracting COVID-19 can use the “temporary physical disability” excuse to cast absentee ballots.
Nevada: Attorney General Aaron Ford, on behalf of Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske, has filed a 24-page motion to dismiss a lawsuit brought by the president’s re-election campaign against Assembly Bill 4 that will send every registered voter a ballot for the general election. The motion asserts the campaign has singled out Nevada for litigation rather than letting the policy debate occur outside the courthouse. The motion notes that Utah, Colorado, Oregon, Hawaii and Washington have also adopted mail-in voting systems for the upcoming election. “Given the fears surrounding the pandemic, these vote-by-mail systems have great potential to prompt widespread voting by mail in the 2020 general election,” the motion states. “Yet President Donald J. Trump has not sued the elected officials in these other states, opting instead to let the debate about vote-by-mail election processes play out in non-judicial forums within these states.”
North Dakota: The Brighter Future Alliance is asking the state’s Supreme Court to keep an election reform ballot measure off the November ballot. The group argues that the sponsors of the measure failed to provide a full text of the measure while they were gathering signatures, a requirement it says was established by a Supreme Court ruling in in 1924. Secretary of State Al Jaeger on Tuesday approved the initiative for the November election. “There is no question of fact here at all,” Lacee Anderson, spokesman for the Brighter Future Alliance told The Associated Press. “Not one signature gatherer provided a copy of the statute referenced in the measure.” Carol Sawicki, chairwoman of North Dakota Voters First, which gathered the signatures, said the lawsuit is a waste of taxpayer dollars. “Drop the suit. Let the people vote,” Sawicki told the AP. “North Dakotans deserve more choices at the ballot box, not fewer.”
Pennsylvania: The League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania, the Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh and two individual voters filed a federal lawsuit late last week seeking to force election officials to change the way that voters’ signatures on mail-in ballots are verified, asserting that tens of thousands of voters are at risk of being disenfranchised in the fall presidential election. County election officials rely on signature matching to verify mail-in ballots, but do not give voters adequate notice if their ballot was rejected because of a problem with the signature, or a chance to fix it, the lawsuit alleged. The suit seeks to require election officials to give voters the chance to fix ballots that are either missing signatures, or where there’s a perceived signature mismatch.
Rhode Island: The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit declined to put on hold a July 30 decision by U.S. District Court Judge Mary S. McElroy that paved the way for the signature requirement to be waived in the September primary and November General election, when mail ballots are expected to be heavily used because of the coronavirus pandemic. In an unsigned opinion, the Appeals panel noted that many voters may be dissuaded from voting if they either have to appear in person at the polls or vote in the presence of two witnesses to cast a mail ballot. It is “certain that the burdens are much more unusual and substantial than those that voters are generally expected to bear,” the panel wrote. “Taking an unusual and in fact unnecessary chance with your life is a heavy burden to bear simply to vote.” The Rhode Island Republican Party and Republican National Committee filed an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
South Carolina: Leaders of the S.C. House and Senate want the State Supreme Court to dismiss a voter petition that seeks to expand the right to vote absentee in the upcoming November election. In papers filed Tuesday with the S.C. Supreme Court, House Speaker Jay Lucas and Senate President Harvey Peeler, both Republicans, urge the Supreme Court to dismiss the petition and say the right to seek changes in state election laws resides in the Legislature and not in the courts. “While the coronavirus certainly presents challenges to previously-routine parts of American life, it does not and cannot wipe out the separation-of-powers doctrine, nor can it render the entirety of the state’s Election Code unconstitutional, as urged by the Petitioners,” Peeler, of Cherokee County, said in his legal filing. “The case should be dismissed accordingly.” In his legal filing, Lucas, of Darlington, urged the Supreme Court to hear arguments on the matter — but only for the purposes of dismissing the petition.
Tennessee: Attorneys for the state are asking U.S. District Judge Eli Richardson to dismiss a federal lawsuit seeking to allow voting by mail because of the COVID-19 pandemic because plaintiffs in the case ended up voting in person in the August primary. Kendra Lee, voter protection director for the Tennessee Democratic Party was listed as a plaintiff in the suit. “Because Ms. Lee has asthma and bronchitis,” the federal complaint read, “she cannot safely vote in person because in so doing, she would potentially expose herself to the risk of serious complications from COVID-19. If forced to choose between voting in person or not at all this Fall, Ms. Lee will likely choose not voting — despite her desire to do so — in order to protect her health and safety.” But Lee voted in person during the early voting period.
Also in Tennessee, U.S. District Judge Eli Richardson ruled Wednesday that he won’t block Tennessee’s criminal restriction on some distribution of absentee voting-related forms for the November election, saying the groups that challenged the law were confused over which forms are which and likely cited the wrong law. Richardson wrote that the plaintiffs cited examples related to a law that makes it a Class E felony for everyone outside of election officials to give an application for an absentee ballot to anyone who doesn’t first ask for one. “Plaintiffs plainly are confused to an extent about the difference between an application and a request for an application,” Richardson wrote.
Facebook: The Bipartisan Policy Center announced it has partnered with Facebook to supply important and impartial information about the voting process and the 2020 election to users of the social media platform through a new Voting Information Center, launched today. Facebook will use content authored by BPC to provide Facts About Voting dealing with the election date, voting by mail, how and where to check your registration status, and other critical topics as voters navigate this unprecedented election. The information will also be used to help counter the spread of misinformation in the run-up to the election. “The keys to a functioning democracy are that every eligible voter has the opportunity to participate and the election outcome is trusted and accepted by candidates and the general public,” said BPC President Jason Grumet. “In a moment of information overload, BPC welcomes the opportunity to provide voters with unbiased facts about the election process.”
Twitter: Twitter has announced it is expanding rules against misinformation on mail-in ballots and early voting. Twitter’s move will involve coming up with new policies “that emphasize accurate information about all available options to vote, including by mail and early voting.” “We’re focused on empowering every eligible person to register and vote through partnerships, tools and new policies,” Jessica Herrera-Flanigan, Twitter’s vice president for public policy in the Americas, told Reuters in an email.
Snapchat: Snapchat announced new tools and features aimed at empowering its young users to vote and learn about their voting options — including a new feature that allows people to register to vote directly in the app. The platform reaches 75% of those in the U.S. between the ages of 13 to 34 years old, the company said — adding that roughly 300,000 to 500,000 of its users turn 18 each month. Snapchat said it plans to launch four new, election-related features by early September, according to a spokesperson. As part of this feature, a new “Voter Registration Mini” will allow users to register to vote directly in Snapchat, in a partnership with the online tool TurboVote that aims to streamline the process. It will also include a tracker to monitor how many users have registered to vote on Snapchat. A new “Voter Guide” will provide resources on topics like voting by mail, ballot education, voter registration, accessibility and voter suppression, in an effort to “help make voting more accessible for all groups who have been historically disenfranchised,” the company said. The guide is available by keyword search and will feature content from the NAACP, ACLU, BallotReady, DemocracyWorks, APIA Vote, I am a Voter, Vote Early Day, National Voter Registration Day and more.
Georgia: Georgia’s state election board voted unanimously this week to authorize the secretary of state to create an online portal for voters to request absentee ballots for the November general election. To verify the voter’s identity, the system will check the name, date of birth and Georgia driver’s license or state identification card number provided by the applicant against the information in the state voter registration system. If that information doesn’t match, the applicant will be redirected to fill out a form that can be printed out and sent in so the voter’s signature can be verified against the signature on file.
Ohio: The best laid plans… The Trumbull County board of elections recently made the switch from a .us domain to a .gov, and while the .gov domain is preferred the switch didn’t go quite as planned. When someone tried to access the Trumbull County Board of Elections website, they received a message that read “Warning: Potential Security Risk Ahead. Firefox detected a potential security threat and did not continue to www.boe.co.trumbull.oh.us. If you visit this site, attackers could try to steal information like your passwords, emails, or credit card details.”
Texas: The Smith County Commissioners Court unanimously approved the building of a new website aimed at training judges and clerks for the upcoming November election. “This is a unique opportunity,” Karen Nelson, the county’s elections administrator, said. The website, funded by a COVID-19 relief grant to the county, is expected to launch in mid-September, with the objective to train workers safely amid the coronavirus pandemic. For this past primary election, Nelson said they trained 325 people in a “jam-packed” room. But as the pandemic continues to hamper large gatherings, the elections board had to come up with some “creative solutions.”
Also in Texas, Travis County is launching a text-2-register program. “In this age of COVID-19, we’ve got to find a safe and easy way to register to vote, participate in democracy, and that’s why we are so excited to unveil the text-2-register app,” said Bruce Elfant, Travis County’s Voter Registrar & Tax Assessor-Collector. This new approach is actually a reboot and merging of two older out-reach programs from 2015 and 2016; each had limited success. A cartoon ad campaign explains how text-2-register works. Basic information from a resident is first sent through a text message request, which then provides a response with a link to an online form, which is filled out and printed at home. “They can’t even complete the application if not all of the information is not there and so we are not going to get any more incomplete applications anymore, which will be great,” Elfant told Fox 7. A bright yellow envelope sent to the resident is used to mail the form to the county office. Clerical processing data is already on the form to help eliminate errors later.
Opinions This Week
National Opinion: General election | Vote by mail, II, III, IV | Voting Rights Act | Voter suppression | Election security, II | Voting rights, II | UOCAVA voters | International observers | U.S. Postal Service, II, III | Poll workers | Access to voting | Ex-felon voting rights | Election night, II | Election litigation, II | In-person voting | Funding
Arizona: Vote by mail
Idaho: County clerks
Louisiana: Absentee voting
Maine: Ranked choice voting
Montana: Vote by mail
New York: Primary
North Carolina: Mail voting
North Dakota: Election reform
Oklahoma: General election
South Carolina: General election
Texas: Early voting
Utah: Vote by mail
Washington: U.S. Postal Service
An occasional round up of some of the new(ish) resources made available to elections officials in advance of the 2020 general election.
Elections Officials Communication Toolkit, National Vote At Home Institute: Getting voters the information they need about elections when they need it is a constant challenge. Clear and focused communication will be essential as election officials like you accommodate increased mail ballot requests from voters wanting to vote safely at home this November. Less than 5% of election offices have dedicated communications staff, though we think most of you would agree that getting these messages to voters as effectively and efficiently as possible is a high priority. This Election Official Communications Toolkit is for all election officials, but particularly those of you who are looking to add more tools to your box. Whether you have no communications capacity or a large budget, you can find something useful to include in your elections communications plan.
Guide to Vulnerability Reporting for America’s Election Administrators, CISA: This resource provides election administrators with a step-by-step guide, list of resources, and a template for establishing a successful vulnerability disclosure program to address possible vulnerabilities in their state and local election systems.
EAC Online Cybersecurity Training, U.S. Election Assistance Commission and Center for Tech and Civic Life: 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.
50 Ideas for Recruiting and Retaining Election Workers, Center for Tech and Civic Life: Whether they’re staffing the polls, processing ballots, or fielding voter phone calls, your temporary election workers are invaluable. But many jurisdictions struggle to recruit enough, even without a global pandemic! That’s why we’re rounding up your success stories. Elections aren’t one-size-fits-all, so steal ideas you like and ignore the rest.
Vote By Mail
Vote By Mail Planning Calculator, Vote At Home Institute: The Voting by Mail Planning Calculator estimates the number of voters who choose mail ballots under a variety of scenarios and uses that information to model the likely costs and resource needs associated with supporting those mail voters. A user guide and step by step demo videos accompany it as well to make sure users can take full advantage of the capabilities.
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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.
Timing is Everything: Absentee Ballot Processing: The National Conference of State Legislatures will address the technical aspects of the process, and what states that expect to see an increase in absentee voting this year can do now to efficiently manage the flow of ballots in November (and maybe—just maybe—avoid delaying the release of election results). When: Aug. 26, 1pm Eastern. Where: Online
Lessons Learned From the 2020 Primaries: Now, before we’re in the thick of November’s election fever, is an excellent time to pause and reflect on this year’s primary season. What did we learn from the states, starting from Iowa’s caucuses in February all the way through September’s state primaries? We’ll discuss the timing for primaries, whether state and presidential primaries are best run jointly or as two separate events, how ranked-choice voting performed this year, independent voters’ role in political party decision-making and more. Expect to take away ideas for 2022 or 2024. Speakers include: Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate, Rob Richie, president and CEO of FairVote and Scott Saiki, Hawaii Speaker of the House and NSCL president-elect. When: Sept. 9, 2pm Eastern. Where: Online.
Job Postings This Week
electionlineWeekly publishes election administration job postings each week as a free service to our readers. To have your job listed in the newsletter, please send a copy of the job description, including a web link to email@example.com. Job postings must be received by 5pm on Wednesday in order to appear in the Thursday newsletter. Listings will run for three weeks or till the deadline listed in the posting.
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.
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.
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.
Legal Research Assistant, Nevada Secretary of State’s Office— Legal Research Assistants spend the majority of time providing the most difficult paralegal assistance/support to agency counsel, drawing upon their training and/or experience to analyze a specific set of facts; performing general legal research for a specific question of law; reaching a conclusion of law; presenting findings either orally or in writing for the attorney’s review; and composing briefs, pleadings, motions and other legal documents for the attorney’s review and signature. Incumbents possess a degree of knowledge and proficiency sufficient to perform work independently with little or no additional training. The position is an integral part of the Nevada Secretary of State’s Elections division located in Carson City. The incumbent would be responsible for numerous administrative and research functions supporting the entire electoral process as well as the drafting, review, and presentation of elections-related legislature. Applicants should have a basic familiarity with Nevada Revised Statute Title 24 – Elections, basic familiarity with Microsoft Office products, and a basic understanding of how state and federal elections are conducted. Deadline: Sept. 1. Salary: $47,188-$69.739. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
QA Analyst I, Dominion Voting Systems, Denver, Colorado— Responsible for quality assurance of DVS products. Ensure that products and services comply with all regulations and required functionality; verifies that all products and services either meet or exceed the requirements specified by the customers and guaranteed by the company. Job Responsibilities: Set up, install and configure test equipment and testbeds; Assist with System Test plan and coverage based on release content; Design, write, maintain, and execute automated and manual test cases, test scenarios, and test scripts including regression tests, functional tests, and data tests; Design and perform load and performance testing through a combination of automated and manual tests; Create test processes for new and existing software products; Define and evaluate test automation strategies; Encourage adoption of automation best practices throughout the Scrum agile-based, software development life-cycle; Work with the development team to resolve software bugs/defects; and Generate and report on test metrics. 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: email@example.com. 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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