In Focus This Week
Countdown to November 3: Secretary of state races
Chief elections official spot on the ballot in 7 states
By M. Mindy Moretti
The top elections official spot is on the ballot in seven states this November.
Of the seven races — Missouri, Montana, Oregon, Utah, Vermont, Washington and West Virginia — three of the seats are open. In Montana, incumbent Secretary of State Corey Stapleton chose not to run again. In Oregon, incumbent Secretary of State Bev Clarno is not running after being appointed to the role. And in Utah, Lt. Governor Spencer Cox is running for governor.
This is just a brief look at all the candidates with links to their campaign websites where available.
First-term incumbent Republican Jay Ashcroft is facing Democratic challenger Yinka Faleti. There are several minor party candidates on the ballot too including Paul Venable (Constitution Party), Paul Lehmann (Green Party) and Carl Herman Freese (Libertarian Party).
Ashcroft was first elected to office in 2016. His campaign website does not appear to be updated from 2016, but at the time he reported having a bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Engineering Management from the University of Missouri at Rolla. He worked for Missouri-based defense contractor before teaching engineering at St. Louis Community College. He received his JD from St. Louis University Law School which was followed by work at two private firms including his father’s. In 2016 he ran on passing voter photo ID in Missouri. While the state does require some proof of identity to vote, it is not a strict photo ID state.
Faleti immigrated to the United States from Nigeria when he was seven. He graduated as valedictorian of his junior high school in Florida. In lieu of his last two years of high school, Yinka attended and graduated from the Texas Academy of Mathematics and Science. From there, he accepted an appointment to and graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point. He served in the active duty United States Army as a combat arms officer in tank units for over six years. Yinka attained the rank of Captain after two deployments overseas to Kuwait as part of Operation Desert Spring prior to 9/11 and Operation Enduring Freedom in response to 9/11. He received his law degree from Washington University in St. Louis and served as the senior vice president of the United Way of Greater St. Louis. Most recently he as executive director of Forward Through Ferguson.
Bennett is a 5th generation Montanan and state senator. Prior to serving in the Senate, Bennett was a member of the Montana House of Representative and served at the minority whip from 2015 to 2016 and in the 2013-14 session served as the minority caucus leader. He has sponsored several elections-related bills while in the Senate including SB113 that would allow either a driver’s license or the last four of a Social Security number to register to vote and allowing counties to pay for polling locations in certain circumstances.
Jacobsen, who is also a native Montanan is currently deputy secretary of state. She educated in Montana receiving a degree from Carroll College and a master’s degree in public administration from University of Montana. She began her career in the telecom industry. Her current duties in the secretary of state’s office include working to replace the IT elections system.
In Oregon, Incumbent Secretary of State Bev Clarno (R), who was appointed by Governor Kate Brown (D) after the death of Secretary of State Dennis Richardson (R) is not seeking election to the position. Democrat Shemia Fagan will face Republican Kim Thatcher. There are also two third party candidates on the ballot, Libertarian Kyle Markley and Pacific Green Party candidate Nathalie Paravicini.
Fagan served in the Oregon House of Representative from 2013-2017 and is currently a state senator. Fagan graduated from Fagan graduated from Northwest Nazarene University with a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and religion in 2003. She received a law degree from Lewis & Clark Law School in 2009. In elementary school, Fagan was the first girl in Oregon to win a statewide chess championship.
Thatcher served in the Oregon House from 2005-2014 before being elected to the Senate where she has served since 2015. Thatcher attended Portland State University. Her professional experience includes being the owner/operator of Highway Specialties and owner/president of KT Contracting Company.
In Utah, the lieutenant governor serves as the state’s top elections official. Incumbent Spencer Cox is seeking the governor’s office leaving the lieutenant governor seat open. Democrat Karina Andelin Brown will face Republican Deirdre Henderson. Also in the ballot will be Wayne Hill (Independent American Party of Utah), Barry Evan Short (Libertarian Party), and two write-in candidate.
Brown has a bachelor’s in family studies and human development from Arizona State University and a master’s in human, environmental and consumer resources from Eastern Michigan University. She is currently enrolled in the Harvard Kennedy School. Brown is president of the Friends of the Cache County Children’s Justice Center Board. She also serves on the Cache Valley Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors and is Co-Chair of the Cache Chamber Legislative Affairs Committee. She is a Planning Commissioner for the city of Nibley, Utah. And she is the co-founder of the Cache Valley United for Change organization dedicated to promoting civic engagement. She is a Governing Board Member of Logan Regional Hospital.
Henderson is serving as the running mate of current Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox. She is currently a state senator, a role she was first elected to in 2012. Prior to running for public office, Henderson served as Political Director and Campaign Manager for Congressman Jason Chaffetz. She has a bachelor’s from Brigham Young University.
In Vermont, incumbent Secretary of State Jim Condos (D) is facing off against Republican H. Brooke Paige. Cris Ericson of the Vermont Progressive Party and Independent Pamala Smith are also seeking the seat.
Condos was first elected to the secretary of state’s office in 2010. Before that he served in the state Senate from 2001 to 2009. Condos was born in Orange, New Jersey, and raised in Burlington and South Burlington. He attended South Burlington High School and graduated from the University of Vermont in 1974. Condos’ professional experience includes working for a Vermont grocery distribution company and Vermont Gas Systems – a publicly-regulated utility.
Paige has run for office multiple times through the years in Vermont and is currently also running for attorney general. He earned his B.A. in business administration from the University of Delaware. After graduating, he worked as a food service manager and then in sales for a pharmaceutical laboratory. He went on to own and operate a newsstand business. Paige is a member of the Ephemera Society of America.
Wyman was first elected to secretary of state in 2012. Before that, she served as the Thurston County auditor from 2001-2013. Wyman received a B.A. from California State University, an M.P.A. from Troy State University, and an Honorary Doctorate in leadership from City University. Wyman was certified as an elections/registration administrator (CERA) for Washington state. She served as treasurer for the National Association of Secretaries of State and president of the Washington State Association of County Auditors.
Tarleton is currently a member of the Washington House of Representatives. She was first election to the House in 2012. She served as the majority floor leader from 2016 to 2018. Prior to that she served as a commissioner for the Port of Seattle from 2008-2013. Tarleton received a B.S. and an M.A. from Georgetown University. She was a senior defense intelligence analyst for the Pentagon focusing on port security.
If you’re feeling a sense of déjà vu when looking at the candidates for The Mountain State’s top elections official it’s because you sort of are. The 2020 contest pits incumbent Mac Warner (R) against challenger Natalie Tennant (D). The roles were reversed in 2016.
Warner was first elected to office in 2016. Warner is a native West Virginian and a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. Warner served in the Army for 23 years as a JAG Corps officer. In Afghanistan, Warner ran an office that was in charge of mentoring senior government officials in rule of law. Warner received his J.D. from West Virginia University. He also has a Master in military law from the Army Judge Advocate General’s school and a Master in international law from the University of Virginia.
Tennant served as West Virginia’s secretary of state from 2009-2017. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and master’s degree in corporate and organizational communication both from West Virginia University. During her undergrad she served as the first female Mountaineer mascot in the school’s history. Tennant worked as a television anchor and reporter at WBOY-TV in Clarksburg and WCHS-TV in Charleston. Prior to taking office in January 2009, she and her husband co-owned Wells Media Group LLC, a business that specialized in media training and video production. She has also served on the board of directors for the American Heart Association and Susan G. Komen for the Cure.
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Election News This Week
Early Voting News: In-person early voting has started in Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana, Nevada, West Virginia and Wisconsin and like other states. As of Oct. 22 the U.S. Elections Project reported that about 44 million Americans had already voted in person or via mail. For in-person early voting lines have been long and there have been some technical glitches with equipment, but overall it’s gone smoothly. But because in-person voting does involve actual people that means there are bound to be issues. Tensions boiled over at a Wake County, North Carolina early voting site when Gary Pendleton, a former Republican state legislator and an official poll observer was charged with misdemeanor assault for pushing a poll worker who blocked him from entering the polling site. In Memphis, Tennessee a poll worker was fired after telling someone who was wearing a Black Lives Matter t-shirt that they had to turn it inside out in order to come into the polling place a vote. “He was given very clear instructions. He was given clear instructions the next day, and again didn’t pay attention to them. So he was terminated,” Elections administrator Linda Phillips said. Police were called to one Broward County, Florida polling place after voters attempted to vote without masks. Fort Lauderdale police said the person in charge of the polling location called them, and Broward County’s supervisor of elections was eventually called. He informed them that it is legal to show up to the polls without a mask, as long as the voters are not being unruly or disruptive. In Denton County, Texas two longtime poll workers quit after another poll worker refused to wear a mask. A Miami, Florida police officer is facing disciplinary action after showing up at an early voting site an voting not only in uniform, but also wearing a Trump mask. The Pinellas County, Florida sheriff’s office is investigating a report of possible armed voter intimidation at a St. Petersburg voting location. Responding to complaints, officials in Dougherty County, Georgia have added a security officer, shade and water for those standing in line at early voting sites. And in Orange County, Florida, it wasn’t man, but machine. The county’s website was down on the first day of early voting due to a technical issue. “We are sorry for the inconvenience of our web site being unavailable (Monday) morning. We have encountered a technical issue with our DNS server (that) translates the IP address to the domain name,” officials said in a statement. “Our site has not been hacked and there has not been any security breach, this is a technical issue (that) we are working to resolve.
Drop Box News: California Attorney General Xavier Becerra sought a court order this week to force state Republicans to turn over information about the party’s use of private ballot drop boxes in a handful of counties. In Los Angeles County, authorities are investigating a fire that was started in one of the county’s ballot drop boxes. Officials retrieved 230 pieces of “material” from the drop box and are now sifting through the seared, soggy pile to see what can be saved. If a ballot can’t be preserved, officials will work to alert the voters who need to resubmit their ballots using the contact information printed on the envelope. Rumors about voter intimidation at Denver drop boxes spread quickly across social media last week, but the Denver Elections office was able to review surveillance video and determine that what was being spread on social media did not actually happen. “Because we’re three weeks from a major election, we’re taking it seriously,” spokesman Alton Dillard told The Denver Post. “We are not just blowing it off.” According to officials in King County, Washington the county’s ballot drop boxes are filling up as an unprecedented rate. In West Seattle Junction, King County election workers were forced to clean up feces that had sullied the area around the drop box. The office reported that the box itself was find and no ballots were defiled. In King County, and Multnomah County, Oregon, private security firms have been hired to keep watch on the ballot boxes this year. A ballot box security guard was shot and wounded in Northeast Baltimore in what investigators believe was an attempted robbery of the guard’s personal. Baltimore City Election Director Armstead Jones said the guard is employed by a private security company contracted by the Baltimore City Board of Elections to monitor many of the city’s ballot drop boxes 24 hours a day. The man was in critical but stable condition Thursday afternoon after being shot multiple times, Jones said. “After looking at video surveillance footage of the parking-lot, detectives learned that armed subjects approached the victim’s vehicle and tried to open the car door,” police said in a statement. “The victim refused and the suspects began shooting at the victim. The ballet box was not touched and did not appear at any time to be the focus of the gunmen.” In Anne Arundel County, Maryland, the county has leased 32 solar powered trailers equipped with 360-degree remote cameras that they use to monitor the drop box sites 24/7. “It’s a really unique, really innovative solution for security,” David Garreis with the Anne Arundel County Board of Elections told Fox45 News.
“We had a very terrible day, dealing with this.” After a video of an elections worker marking a ballot went viral, elections officials in Montgomery County, Md. were forced to hold an emergency meeting and investigate the incident. On Tuesday, someone posted a video on YouTube that they took off of 4Chan showing a clip from the county’s live feed of ballot processing. In the clip an elections worker can be seen marking a ballot. The narrator suggests some sort of fraud it being committed. The video has been viewed almost 100,000 times and the county was inundated with calls from all over the country. Kevin Karpinski, counsel for Montgomery County’s elections board, told board members on Wednesday the allegation of misconduct is unfounded. Karpinski said he interviewed the canvass worker shown in the clip, spoke to other volunteers who were working at the time and reviewed every ballot that the worker had helped to sort. According to The Washington Post, what the clip actually captures was the canvass worker darkening an oval that had been filled in too lightly. “Something like this just feeds into people who believe mail-in voting is fraudulent,” county’s elections board chair, Jim Shalleck told The Post. “It’s very unfortunate.”
This sick beat: The California Voter Foundation is out with a new video to help voters prepare to vote this election cycle. “The Voting Way” is a nonpartisan song and music video aimed at helping California voters (and others too) successfully cast 2020 ballot during the pandemic. “Voting is challenging for many people, especially during a pandemic,” said Kim Alexander, who wrote the song’s lyrics and recruited volunteer, professional performers and editors to help record and produce the music video. “We put this song together to give voters a creative and entertaining way to help them prepare to vote with confidence.” As with past CVF songs, “The Voting Way” uses rhyme and a bit of humor to inform voters about the importance of getting vote-by-mail ballots in on time and remembering to sign their ballot envelope. CVF’s election songs are inspired by “Schoolhouse Rock,” the 1970’s children’s television series that used music and animation to educate a generation about civics, math and grammar. Unlike past years past, the video and song had to be recorded using Zoom. “We are all learning new skills in the time of Covid,” Alexander remarked. “It was an incredibly inspiring experience to work with performers from across Northern California who volunteered their time and talent for this project.”
Congratulations! Congratulations to South Portland, Maine’s Emily Scully for winning the Rookie of the Year from the Maine Town and City Clerk’s Association. Several people in South Portland City Hall nominated Scully for the award, City Manager Scott Morelli said, including staff members in and outside of Scully’s office, as well as current and former city councilors. The secretary of state also wrote a letter of support for the application. “You folks are extremely lucky to have someone at the helm who certainly has put the needs of your citizens first,” said Shelly Crosby, president of the MTCCA. In an email to the Portland Press Herald Scully said it was an honor to receive the award. In an email Scully said that it has been a great honor to receive the Maine Rookie of the Year Award. “Most people know a ‘rookie’ to be someone who is in their first year on the job — but to anyone who has worked in municipal government, you’re a ‘rookie’ for the first five years,” she said. “The truth is, it really does take this long to learn the ropes — especially when you come into municipal work without any prior experience, as I did. I continue to learn new things every day, and every day I’m presented with new challenges. That’s what I like about this job. I have enjoyed serving the city of South Portland and hope to continue to do so for many years to come.”
Get Well: Okaloosa County Supervisor of Elections Paul Lux and an employee have tested for positive for coronavirus, according to a recent release. The elections office says they have been following CDC guidelines since March at both locations. Lux will work remotely and self-isolate for the recommended period of time while operations for the November 3 General Election continue, the office says. Lux told The Destin Log that he feels well other than being a little run down, which he said could be attributed to the extra hours he and his staff have put in preparing for the election. “The upside is if my condition continues to improve I should be back to work for the closeout of early voting and the election,” he said. Best wishes on a speedy recovery!
Sticker News: It’s not the same, but we’ll take it! Louisiana Secretary of State has released a digital, downloadable “I Voted” sticker the November 3 and December 5 elections. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, polling locations will not be able to distribute physical “I Voted” stickers to help protect the health and safety of our election workers and voters. “Knowing the excitement voters have for “I Voted” stickers, we wanted to make sure there was a way for voters to express their pride in voting,” Secretary Ardoin said. “So in the midst of a pandemic, we introduce the Louisiana version of an electronic “I Voted” sticker.” After downloading the sticker, it can be displayed on social media or used as a digital background for electronic devices. It comes in two color options!
More Sticker News: Georgia’s iconic peach “I Voted” sticker has been tarted up a bit for this year. The field of white around the traditional design has been expanded. Underneath the peach, the phrase “I secured my vote!” appears in black, all in capital letters. According to The Atlanta Journal Constitution, the change was not announced by Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger’s office. However, the messaging does match the office’s Secure the Vote initiative “The phrase has a double meaning,” Deputy Secretary of State Jordan Fuchs said. “It shows that you voted in person, but it also speaks to election security that’s been a global story recently.” Fuchs said the phrase will remind voters about Georgia’s transition to its new voting system that involves scanning paper ballots.
Personnel News: Jo Swain, a longtime member of the Crawford County, Ohio board of elections is stepping down at the end of her term in February 2021. Debra Porter, Imperial County, California registrar of voters since 2014, will retire effective Nov. 3. Luz Torres has been appointed the new Democratic election commissioner in Chautauqua County, New York. Tom Turco is stepping down as the Republican election commissioner in Ulster County, New York. Rev. Will Fosse and Amie Hamilton have resigned from the Van Buren County, Arkansas election commission.
In Memoriam: Mary Esterine Moyler, a volunteer election officer for the Williamsburg, Virginia Office of the Registrar for more than 20 years has died. She was 89. “She believed deeply, deeply, deeply in voting and getting out the vote, and she was extremely helpful in getting out the vote among people,” said Joyce McKnight, voter registrar for the city of Williamsburg from 1981 to 1998, in a phone interview. McKnight had been friends with Moyler since to high school. She described Moyler as a person of “absolute integrity,” who made it a mission to make sure that everyone had the opportunity to vote, especially the Black communities in the city. Moyler served as a Williamsburg election officer with unbridled enthusiasm, and as she got older she became known as the woman who handed the “I Voted” stickers to Stryker Preinct voters at the Williamsburg Community Building polling site on North Boundary Street.
Election Security Updates
This week, voters in several states including Alaska, Florida and Oklahoma received threatening emails suggesting something would happen to them if they did not voter for the president. According to Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe the U.S. intelligence community believes Iranian and Russian operatives obtained voter-record information, which enabled Iran to target some people with intimidating emails based on party registration. Ratcliffe sought to reassure Americans about the integrity of their votes and the processes by which elections are run. “These actions are desperate attempts by desperate adversaries,” Ratcliffe said, but pledged confidence in American elections and said, “You can be confident your votes are secured.” Russian influence specialists don’t appear to have used their voter data in a similar scheme, Ratcliffe said, but they may.
Federal Legislation: This week the president signed legislation making it a federal crime to attempt to hack federal voting systems. The Defending the Integrity of Voting Systems Act was unanimously approved by the House last month, over a year after the Senate also unanimously passed the legislation. Trump signed the legislation on Tuesday, just two weeks before the election. The new law empowers the Department of Justice to pursue charges against anyone who attempts to hack a voting system under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, commonly used by the agency to pursue charges against malicious hackers. The bill’s original introduction was the result of a 2018 report compiled by the DOJ’s Cyber Digital Task Force, which evaluated ways the federal government could improve its response to cyber threats. The bipartisan bill was introduced by Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) last year.
Louisiana: A House committee advanced a compromise bill Tuesday, Oct. 20 that would re-work how lawmakers adopt rules for elections held during states of emergency. Under current law, the legislature and governor must each approve the Secretary of State’s plan, which may include expanded mail-in voting or an extended early voting period to accommodate the emergency. But there are no opportunities to amend the idea without starting the entire process over, meaning a ‘no’ vote from any stakeholder kills the idea and delays its replacement. Under the new proposal, lawmakers would adopt election rules in a manner more like how they pass bills. The Secretary of State would present the idea to a joint governmental affairs committee, which would advance the plan to the full body for a vote. The governor could sign or veto the idea, and the legislature could override a potential veto. But perhaps most important, lawmakers would give the Secretary of State more flexibility to change the proposal as it advances through the process. The bill creates a strict timeline for accomplishing the task. The bill now moves to the full House for debate. It would have to return to the Senate for approval of the committee’s re-write before the governor signs off.
Michigan: Gov. Gretchen Whitmer vetoed bills that would have made it a felony to knowingly try to apply for multiple absentee ballots or to fill out an application for others without their consent. The Democratic governor said voter fraud — such as trying to vote more than once — already is a crime, and the Republican-sponsored legislation would “muddy the waters” and “likely confuse voters” about what conduct is criminal. “Any suggestion that the filing of a second absentee ballot application is criminal behavior creates needless confusion and fearmongering around the absentee voting process,” Whitmer wrote in her veto letter. “It is bad for voters and bad for our elections.” The main bill was passed by the GOP-controlled House and Senate on bipartisan 77-26 and 32-6 votes, with some Democrats opposed.
New Jersey: The Assembly State and Local Government Committee approved a bill that would allow New Jerseyans to cast ballots in-person for two weeks ahead of election day. The bill, sponsored by Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker (D-South Brunswick), would allow two weeks early in-person voting for the state’s May non-partisan municipal elections and November general elections. Under the bill, counties would operate between three and seven — based on county population — early voting centers and would be required to obtain electronic poll books needed to administer an early voting system
The Senate State Government, Wagering, Tourism and Historic Preservation Committee approved along party lines S-2923, which would prevent police from providing general protection of polling locations, serving as election challengers unless they are on the ballot or standing within 100 feet of a polling place unless they are voting. Police could respond to a disturbance or other specific issue that occurs at a polling place if their assistance is requested.
Texas: Galveston County Judge Mark Henry issued an executive order stating that elections workers who require Galveston County voters to wear a mask will be fined up to $1000. According to KHOU, Henry said that order ensures that that all eligible Galveston County voters will be granted the right to vote, regardless if they are wearing a mask/face covering or not. Under the county judge’s order, if any election worker attempts to require a mask/face covering or denies an eligible voter the opportunity to vote at a polling location in Galveston County, the Galveston County Sheriff’s Office will be issuing a $1,000 fine to that election worker.
Federal Lawsuit: Mi Familia Vota Education Fund and two registered voters have filed suit against the president and administration officials alleging voter intimidation. The lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia names the president, Attorney General William Barr and acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf as defendants. Plaintiffs assert in the 53-page complaint that all three officials have violated the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the Ku Klux Klan Act and the Constitution. The beginning of the complaint lists six actions the officials have taken that the plaintiffs said were equivalent to voter intimidation. The actions in question include calling on Trump supporters to serve as “‘poll watchers,’” sending law enforcement to polling stations, having “sabotaged” mail delivery, threatening mail-in voting and those ballots’ ability to be counted, proposing to delay the election and not committing to a peaceful transition of power. “Defendants’ actions over the past five months make these threats terrifyingly credible,” the complaint said. “Defendants have displayed a willingness to use the full force of the federal government to suppress constitutionally protected activity and incite private actors to do the same.”
Alabama: State officials in Alabama asked the U.S. Supreme Court to block a lower court order that allows voters to cast their ballots curbside at polling places. Three weeks after absentee voting began, a federal judge barred the state from enforcing two laws governing mail ballots. They required voters to submit a copy of a photo ID and to confirm their identity by offering the signatures of two witnesses or a notarized statement. That ruling came in a lawsuit filed by voting rights groups that said they were seeking an option for people at risk of severe illness from Covid-19 or who had a disability. Alabama law does not prohibit that practice, but it doesn’t provide for it, either. The Secretary of State, John Merrill, said it would not be feasible for the state to make it available for in this year’s election. The Eleventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals stayed the orders pertaining to mail ballots, so the original state requirements remain in effect. But it allowed the ruling on curbside voting to stand. In asking the Supreme Court to block curbside voting, the state said it would “cause confusion and much harm,” pose safety concerns and could compromise ballot secrecy. Attorneys general for the District of Columbia and 16 states have filed a brief with the Supreme court opposing the statewide ban. The AGs said many of the states that joined in the brief have experience with curbside voting and policies that leave decisions on curbside voting to local officials. “Through that experience, states have learned that curbside voting is safe, relatively easy to implement, and not associated with voter fraud,” the brief says. “Moreover, curbside voting is particularly beneficial for vulnerable citizens and those with mobility challenges, including those with disabilities. Especially in the context of the novel coronavirus, it furthers states’ interests to allow counties—within reason, and consistent with the law—to implement common-sense measures like curbside voting meant to safeguard both the franchise and public health.” On Wednesday, in a 5 to 3 ruling the U.S. Supreme Court blocked the lower court ruling. The court’s brief, unsigned order gave no reasons, which is typical when it rules on emergency applications, and it said the order would remain in effect while appeals moved forward. In dissent, Justice Sonia Sotomayor, joined by Justices Stephen G. Breyer and Elena Kagan, said the state’s policy discriminated against older and disabled voters.
Alaska: The Alaska Center Education Fund, Alaska Public Interest Research Group and a Sitka resident filed suit seeking to give absentee voters in Alaska a chance to fix mail-in ballot errors that would prevent their votes from being counted. While voters are able to fix ballot mistakes in some municipal elections, Alaska law doesn’t provide for a similar process. State law currently requires that voters be notified their ballots were rejected within 60 days of the election results being certified. This year, the target date for certifying the results is Nov. 25, so voters wouldn’t be notified until late January. The lawsuit seeks to require the Division of Elections to notify voters their ballots were rejected because of a lack of signature or identifying information before the votes are certified, and to give them a chance to correct it. The filing also notes that there will be an unprecedented number of absentee ballots this year, and that inexperienced voters are more likely to have their ballots rejected because they made an error.
Arizona: A three-judge panel from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said it would not move back the deadline for mail ballots from the Navajo Nation. Citing slow mail service and long distances between polling places, several voters from the Navajo Nation filed a lawsuit in August arguing that their ballots should still be tallied if received after 7 p.m. on Election Day but postmarked by that date. The panel said hile the lawsuit “is replete with general allegations concerning the various hardships the Navajo Nation members who live on the reservation generally face with respect to mail voting,” the voters had not shown how the current deadline will harm their ability to vote in this election. The court also said there did not seem to be any way to extend the deadline on mail ballots for voters from the Navajo Nation but not for other voters casting ballots in the same counties.
Brad Luebke, 39 of Goodyear, has been sentenced to six months of probation and fined $400 for a 2018 incident at a polling place. He went into the polling site at Desert Spring Community Church on Nov. 6, 2018, with a holstered BB gun and a cellphone camera on a specialized mount and a microphone. It was a clear violation of the 75-foot rule, which bans those items that close to a polling site. Luebke was told to get rid of the restricted items, but he refused, so police were called. When they showed up, he was found outside the church and taken into custody.
California: California Attorney General Xavier Becerra sought a court order this week to force state Republicans to turn over information about the party’s use of private ballot drop boxes in a handful of counties. The complaint filed in Sacramento County Superior Court alleges several examples of the drop boxes being promoted as either “authorized” or “official.” It says the GOP effort “caused confusion among voters, prompted complaints from county elections officials alarmed about their use, and raised serious concerns about whether the appropriate chain of custody was being observed for ballots deposited” in the boxes. “Here in California, we’re doing everything in our power to protect the integrity of our elections,” Becerra said in a written statement. “As part of that and pursuant to our statutory authority, we issued subpoenas and interrogatories to determine the extent to which the deployment of unauthorized ballot drop boxes may have impacted Californians.” State GOP officials said last week that the labels were the work of “overzealous” local volunteers and that they were quickly replaced. And they have insisted that without those erroneous signs, there is nothing else about their effort to cause concern.
Florida: Judge Linda Allen said aid Supervisor of Elections Julie Marcus is following the law by asking voters if the address on their driver’s license is current. The decision came during an emergency hearing requested by Marcus’s challenger in next month’s election who said the question violates state law. Allen acknowledged Dan Helm’s sincerity in seeking relief but denied his request to block poll workers from asking the question. She also said the Supervisor’s office should review its policy in the future. “It is something that deserves further consideration by the Supervisor of Elections,” Allen said. At question was a Florida statute regarding how poll workers confirm a voter’s address. Helm read the statute. “When an elector presents his or her picture identificati on to the clerk or inspector and the elector’s address on the picture identification matches the elector’s address in the supervisor’s records, the elector may not be asked to provide additional information or to recite his or her home address.” Pinellas County poll worker training materials directs poll workers to ask voters if the address on their identification is current. Helm said that violates the law.
Georgia: The Georgia Supreme Court has cleared the way for Jesse Houle to become commissioner from Athens-Clarke County’s District 6. In a two-man race, Houle lost to incumbent Jerry NeSmith in nonpartisan elections in June. NeSmith, 71, won with 1,866 votes to 1,405 for Houle. NeSmith died just days before the election, however, and under Georgia law, votes for NeSmith were declared void, leaving Houle the winner of the seat. A bipartisan group of voters challenged the law in Athens-Clarke County Superior Court, saying it effectively disenfranchised District 6 voters. A Superior Court judge upheld the law, ruling against the plaintiffs and their claims that their rights to equal protection and to vote had been denied. In sum, the Superior Court did not err by determining that the appellants’ challenge to the action of the Board of Elections was without merit,” Justice Charlie Bethel wrote. “The application of those statutes by the Board in this case violated no rights of the appellants recognized under the First or Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution or Article I, Section I, Paragraph II of the Georgia Constitution.”
Illinois: Circuit Judge Raylene Grischow has ruled local units of government are exempt from a law the General Assembly passed this year declaring the Nov. 3 general election as a state holiday and requiring all government offices to be closed that day, unless they are used as polling places or for other election-related services. The Illinois Municipal League, a nonprofit advocacy group that represents local governments, filed suit in July seeking a declaratory judgment stating that the law did not apply to its members. Grischow ruled that if the law were applied to local governments, it would amount to an impermissible unfunded mandate. “Where the Legislature fails to make necessary appropriations allowing reimbursement of expenses, local governments are not required to implement such mandates,” Grischow wrote.
Iowa: The Iowa Supreme Court has upheld a new law making it harder for county auditors to process absentee ballot requests with missing or incomplete information, days before Iowa’s deadline to request a ballot for the 2020 election. The court issued a decision Wednesday evening upholding a Republican-supported law that prevents auditors from using the state’s voter registration database to fill in any missing information or correct errors when a voter requests an absentee ballot. The law instead requires the auditor’s office to contact the voter by telephone, email or physical mail. “On the present record, we are not persuaded the statute imposes a significant burden on absentee voters,” the court’s four-member majority wrote. “It is not a direct burden on voting itself. Rather, it requires elected officials to collect identification information from the applicant to correct a defective application when the applicant attempts to obtain a ballot to vote absentee.”
Michigan: The Michigan Court of Appeals a lower court ruling that said late-arriving ballots must be counted, as long as they are postmarked the day before Election Day. The Republican-controlled Legislature had appealed the September ruling by Michigan Court of Claims Judge Cynthia Stephens that said ballots postmarked before Election Day could arrive as much as 14 days late and still be counted. A three-judge panel of the Court of Appeals ruled unanimously in favor of the House and Senate in the case involving the union-backed Michigan Alliance for Retired Americans. The ruling also reversed Stephens on the question of who may lawfully possess another voter’s ballot to give assistance. Stephens said that with a voter’s consent, anyone can help deliver an absentee ballot from 5 p.m. on the Friday before the election until polls close. Under normal state law, only immediate family members or a local clerk, until 5 p.m. on the Friday before Election Day, can help.
Minnesota: U.S. District Judge Michael J. Davis ruled that the City of Minneapolis can accept $2.3 million in grant funds from the Center for Tech and Civic Life. The Minnesota Voters Alliance and four Minneapolis residents had asked the courts to block the city from accepting the money, arguing that a combination of state and federal laws would prohibit those types of private donations. The alliance accused the center of focusing its help on places with “progressive voting patterns.” Davis wrote that the alliance lacked standing and the voters involved in the suit failed to show that the city’s acceptance of the grant money would interfere with their ability to vote. “As Minneapolis voters, they are beneficiaries of the City’s use of the grant money to make voting safer and more efficient,” Davis wrote. “An attenuated argument that Plaintiffs will be unhappy with the election results if their fellow Minneapolis residents can also safely vote during a pandemic does not show that Plaintiffs’ own voting rights have been impaired or denied.”
The Minnesota chapters of the League of Women Voters and the Council on American-Islamic Relations have filed suit against Tennessee-based Atlas Aegis and it’s effort to recruit and deploy an armed and paid militia to Minnesota polling places. In the complaint, plaintiffs asked U.S. District Judge Nancy Brasel to prevent the company and chairman Anthony Caudle from doing so. The groups argue recruiting militias to observe polling places is a violation of the Voting Rights Act. “Defendants’ objective is to further intimidate people with certain political beliefs from accessing polling locations through the presence of armed, highly trained, and elite security personnel,” the lawsuit states. “Defendants’ threat is terrifyingly credible given the concrete steps they have already taken to recruit those armed personnel, particularly considering the context of broader intimidation efforts targeting voters and activists in Minnesota and elsewhere in the United States.”
New Hampshire: New Hampshire’s attorney general has stepped into yet another attempt to limit student voting in the Granite State. The New Hampshire Republican Party had sought to prohibit students from voting in New Hampshire if they were studying elsewhere due to the pandemic. Assistant Attorney General Nicholas Chong Yen, who leads the state’s Election Law Unit, wrote in a letter issued Oct. 21 that voting eligibility “hinges on the facts relevant to that particular individual,” and “broad guidance may not capture every possible permutation.” But Chong Yen said three things are clear: Someone doesn’t give up their ability to vote in New Hampshire due to a “temporary absence;” someone can’t vote in New Hampshire if they’ve never established a “physical presence” here to begin with; and students are allowed to vote in New Hampshire even if they’re originally from another state. “As the New Hampshire Supreme Court has recently confirmed, it reflects longstanding domicile law that a student living in New Hampshire and attending an institution of learning may lawfully claim domicile in the town or ward in which the student lives if the student’s claim of domicile meets the requirements of [New Hampshire’s voting eligibility law],” Chong Yen wrote
New Jersey: A three-judge panel of a New Jersey appeals courts rejected a losing Republican U.S. Senate candidate’s bid to invalidate the primary results and stop the state’s mail-in ballot program for the general election. Hirsh Singh petitioned the court after he lost the primary to Rik Mehta in July by about 9,000 votes out of approximately 300,000 ballots cast, claiming he would have won if the mail-in ballot procedures put in place for the primary were nullified. Singh also sought to invalidate the state’s mail-in ballot procedures for the November general election. In the court’s ruling Wednesday, the three-judge panel rejected Singh’s claims, upholding the primary results and the state’s mail-in ballot program. They wrote that Singh can still petition a lower court to consider his claims of irregularities in the counting of mail-in ballots in some locations. The court wrote, “disrupting that process now would inevitably cause widespread upheaval and potential voter disenfranchisement. Similarly, an order nullifying the primary election at this juncture and invalidating nominees on the general election ballot would produce comparable harm.”
North Carolina: The North Carolina court of appeals issued a temporary stay to a lower court’s acceptance of a settlement that changed North Carolina’s absentee voting rules. An agreement was reached over the weekend that the State Board of Elections will go back to its old way of dealing with absentee ballots mailed in without a witness signature: The voter will have to fill out a new ballot and get a signature for his or her vote to count. County boards of elections will now have to spoil potentially thousands of ballots without witness signatures and contact the voters to provide them an opportunity to submit another properly completed ballot.
In a 12-3 vote, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rule that mailed-in ballots postmarked by 5 p.m. Nov. 3 — Election Day — should be accepted by the N.C. Board of Elections until Nov. 12. “All ballots must still be mailed on or before Election Day,” according to the ruling. “The change is simply an extension from three to nine days after Election Day for a timely ballot to be received and counted. That is all. “North Carolina voters deserve clarity on whether they must rely on an overburdened Post Office to deliver their ballots within three days after Election Day,” the ruling continued. “The need for clarity has become even more urgent in the last week, as in-person early voting started in North Carolina on October 15 and will end on October 31.”
Ohio: The Ohio Supreme Court will consider whether Republican Secretary of State Frank LaRose was justified in refusing to appoint a Democratic Party official to a county elections board seat, citing a voter fraud accusation from four years ago. The Ashtabula County Democratic Party filed its complaint with the Supreme Court late last week, asking justices to decide whether LaRose “abused his discretion” in refusing to appoint county Democratic party Chairman Eli Kalil to the vacant board seat. The court set a Friday deadline for the filing of motions in the complaint. The court has not said when it would rule.
Pennsylvania: A judge ruled a three-day pop-up voting event will be allowed this weekend at Subaru Park in Chester. “It’s a location where people can feel safe. It’s outdoors, lots of space, it’s open on a Sunday,” said William Martin, the Delaware County solicitor. “It’s the county’s objective that we want to expand the franchise so that the people who have registered to vote have the greatest possible opportunity to vote,” Martin said. Republicans had sued to keep the site closed.
The U.S. Supreme Court declined without comment to take up case that could have limited when Pennsylvania can count absentee ballots. The lower court ruled that officials may accept ballots up to three days after days after the election as long as they are postmarked by Election Day. Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Clarence Thomas — said they would have agreed to the stay request. But Chief Justice John Roberts joined the court’s three most liberal members to reject the request. In its ruling, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court said that ballots could be counted if they were received by 5 p.m. Nov. 6, as long as they were mailed by Election Day, Nov. 3. It also said that ballots without a postmark would “be presumed to have been mailed by Election Day” unless there was strong evidence to the contrary.
U.S. Middle District Judge Matthew W. Brann denied a motion for a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction that would have blocked the use of about $13 million by Philadelphia and Centre and Delaware counties. They had applied for and been awarded the funds by the Center for Tech and Civil Life (CTCL) that has given grants to 15 other Pennsylvania counties that were not parties to the lawsuit. The Pennsylvania Vote Alliance, eight conservative GOP members of the state House and five individuals sued, claiming the grants targeted entities with progressive voting records. The City of Philadelphia, Centre and Delaware counties have used the money in a nonpartisan way to facilitate the upcoming election and not to increase voter turnout, Brann found. “The implication that increased voter turnout is inherently beneficial to progressive candidates is dubious at best,” he wrote. The voter alliance has failed to articulate precisely which of its interests have been infringed, Brann wrote.
Tennessee: A three-judge panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals split Thursday in denying the preliminary injunction, which sought to let voters fix signature issues before mail ballot rejections. For the majority, Judge Julia Smith Gibbons wrote there’s no evidence Tennessee’s signature verification procedures will infringe anyone’s constitutional rights. She noted extremely few voters face signature-related rejections, saying voters can cast another absentee ballot or vote provisionally, time permitting. Judge Karen Nelson Moore’s dissent claimed “yet another chapter in the concentrated effort to restrict the vote.” She said allowing signature fixes would prevent “the possibility of confused voters clogging up polling places” after they already tried voting.
This week, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals also ruled that first-time voters may vote absentee if they are eligible. State law requires that all first-time voters, no matter how/where they register, must vote in person. The state was sued by advocates and a lower court sided with the advocates. The state appealed to the federal appellate court which also sided with the plaintiffs. “Considering that both plaintiffs and defendants have widely publicized the district court’s order in this case and that voting is well underway in Tennessee, a stay of the district court’s preliminary injunction at this point would substantially injure the plaintiffs and is not in the public’s best interest,” Judge Julia Smith Gibbons wrote in the Oct. 19 majority opinion for the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals. “Granting a stay now, with the November 3, 2020 General Election less than a month away, risks introducing confusion into Tennessee’s electoral process. Defendants have not convinced us that there is any sound reason to do so,” Circuit Judge Karen Moore wrote in a concurring opinion. “Put simply, Defendants’ motion for a stay pending appeal is too little, too late.”
Chancellor Ellen Hobbs Lyle dismissed a challenge by voting rights advocates to expand mail balloting to all voters in light of concerns over the spread of COVID-19. Hobbs Lyle said she no longer has the authority to rule on the case, and even if she did, by the time it could go to trial it would be moot, with the election just weeks away. “Even in the time of a worldwide pandemic emergency, the Tennessee Supreme Court held that the Legislature’s routine excuse-only absentee voting policy, enacted for normal times, nevertheless controls how persons exercise the right to vote during a pandemic, and stated, ‘These policy choices will be judged by history and by the citizens of Tennessee. We, however, properly may not and will not judge the relative merits of them, regardless of our own views,'” she wrote in Tuesday order.
Texas: District Judge Tim Sulak ruled that Texas counties can have multiple drop-off locations for hand delivery of absentee ballots, overriding Gov. Greg Abbott’s recent directive limiting counties to one drop-off location. But it remains unclear if state District Judge Tim Sulak’s decision will lead to the reopening of ballot drop-off locations that were shut down in Harris and Travis counties after Abbott’s order. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, on behalf of Abbott and Texas Secretary of State Ruth Hughs, immediately filed an appeal that paused Sulak’s decision until the state’s 3rd Court of Appeals in Austin reviews it. Sulak’s ruling is the latest turn in a handful of lawsuits in state and federal courts challenging Abbott’s Oct. 1 order, which shut down multiple ballot drop-off locations in Harris and Travis counties.
The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled this week that if they decide the signature on the ballot can’t be verified, Texas election officials may continue rejecting mail-in ballots without notifying voters until after the election that their ballot wasn’t counted The appeals court halted a lower court’s injunction, which had not gone into effect, that would have required the Texas secretary of state to either advise local election officials that mail-in ballots may not be rejected using the existing signature-comparison process, or require them to set up a notification system giving voters a chance to challenge a rejection while their vote still counts. Requiring such a process would compromise the integrity of the mail-in ballots “as Texas officials are preparing for a dramatic increase of mail-in voting, driven by a global pandemic,” reads the Monday opinion issued by Judge Jerry E. Smith.
Facebook: Bexar County doesn’t have a vote center wait time map but voters in the county have found a work around in a Facebook Group called “Bexar County Voting Location Wait Times.” The group is free of political statements, but is a rolling list of locals sharing the polling location they chose and how long the process took. Some post screenshots of their phone timer, others share photos of lines. Based off the more than 1,000 members added in day, the group is proving to be a much-needed utility. Lily Casura, one of the creators of the group, told the San Antonio Express she’s been told it’s a “godsend.” “People posts pictures and posts about their experiences, mostly very positive, and some of us have even taken to sharing screengrabs of our phone timers to show little time it took — all to encourage others to vote,” Casura explained.
Google: Google has added new election-related features to Google Search and Google Maps. In Google Search, Search for things like “early voting locations” or “ballot drop boxes near me” will show details on where you can vote in person or return your mail-in ballot, whether you are voting early or on Election Day. The same tool will also pop up when you search for things like “how to find polling place” or “where to vote,” so there’s some flexibility in it. If you have Google Assistant-powered devices such as Google Home, you can say, “Hey Google, where do I vote?” and Assistant should be able to figure it out accordingly based on your current location. Similarly, if you search for your voting location in Google Maps, you’ll have easy access to the feature in Search to help you confirm where you can cast your vote. Google with the Voting Information Project on the information.
Opinions This Week
National Opinions: Election Day | Election security, II, III | Voter suppression, II | Ballot design | Voters with disabilities | Election integrity | Ex-felon voting rights | Foreign interference | 2000 election | Voting rights, II | Ballot counting | Absentee voting, II | Lines | Poll workers | Masks | U.S. Supreme Court | Jail voting | Election laws | Signature matching
Alabama: Poll workers
Arizona: Voting safety
Colorado: Election oversight
Hawaii: Voting rights
Indiana: Voting rights
Kentucky: Early voting
Michigan: Election night
Montana: Election officials
New Mexico: Guns at polling places
New York: Early voting
Oklahoma: Election security
South Carolina: Poll workers
Tennessee: Drop boxes
Vermont: Election security
Virginia: Black voters
The 2020 Voting Experience and Goals for Reform: Following an unprecedented year of uncertainty, adaptation, and innovation in voting 2020, the Bipartisan Policy Center will host its fourth post-presidential election cycle event bringing together election administrators, policymakers, academics, advocates, and campaigns to examine the voting experience. We will discuss the impact of election administration reforms on improving the voting experience over four years ago as well as securing the voting process. Topics to be covered include: the shifts needed for voting during a pandemic; the rise of voting by mail, the use of technology in the election ecosystem, and how it can be secured; the future of funding elections in America; how changes in election laws and litigation impacted the election; how improved data collection and analysis can further improve the administration of elections. This event is sponsored by Democracy Fund and Carnegie Corporation of New York. More information will be forthcoming. When: Dec. 15, 11am-5pm 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.
Chief Counsel, California Citizens Redistricting Commission— The California Citizens Redistricting Commission (Commission) seeks a Chief Counsel with demonstrated experience and expertise in implementation and enforcement of federal Voting Rights Act of 1965 combined with the background and knowledge to support the Commission’s redistricting mission. The applicant should be a creative problem-solver with strong communication, negotiation, and relationship building skills. A strong candidate for this position will have a background in the Bagley-Keene Open Meeting Act requirements and experience advising public commissions, boards, agencies or departments. The Commission is a 14-member body created by the passage of the Voters FIRST Act, in 2008. It is charged with redrawing the California State Senate and Assembly, State Board of Equalization, and Congressional districts based on information gathered during the 2020 census. The Commission must draw the districts in conformity with strict, nonpartisan rules designed to create districts of reasonably equal population that will provide fair representation for all Californians. It is a further mandate that this process be conducted in an open and transparent manner, allowing for participation by the public. The commission is required to approve final maps by December 15, 2021. Salary: $12,824-$14,800 per month. Deadline: Interviews begin 10/13 and the job is open until filled. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Clerk, Douglas County, Colorado— This position (4 openings) serves as office support for the Elections Division of the Clerk and Recorder’s Office. The Election Clerk provides customer service, assists with clerical functions, and performs data entry for voter registration. Other duties in support of the conduct of elections or mail ballot processing may be assigned. Must be detail oriented, well organized, productive, and able to adapt in a high change environment. This role requires both independent judgment and the ability to work well as a part of a team. Professional representation of the Clerk and Recorder’s Office to the public is required to include standards outlined in the Vision, Mission, and Core Values of the Office. Provides daily customer service; answers phones; greets and serves in person customers; Performs general scanning, typing, filing, and collating functions; Performs complex data entry for new, changed, and canceled voter registrations; Performs verification and tracking of data entry; Assists with election judge coordination; Assists with processing incoming and outgoing mail; Administers state election laws and rules, and federal election laws to provide successful voting experience to staff and public; Maintains confidentiality of information consistent with applicable federal, state and county rules, and regulations; Provides support to election coordination, including deployment of materials to coordinating entities and Voter Service and Polling Center. This task may require operation of a motor vehicle; Assists with various special projects; Lives out the Vision, Mission, and Core Values of the Clerk and Recorder’s Office, maintains a supportive environment conducive to teamwork. Salary: 13.50 – 16.90 per hour. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Customer Success Manager, Dominion Voting Systems, Denver— The Customer Success Manager role started on a simple promise of transforming customer engagement from ‘reactive’ to ‘proactive’. Our CSM’s know that when our elections customers purchase Dominion Voting products that this is only the start of a meaningful exchange between Dominion Voting and our customers. Our CSM’s build value over time by balancing customer benefits and company profits. As the CSM, you will be the first voice of the customer and you will be responsible for the customer’s overall success, as defined by the customer. You will be successful in this role if you have superb people leadership skills, customer empathy, elections knowledge and experience, Dominion Voting product knowledge, and excellent project management skills. 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.
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