In Focus This Week
The kids are alright
TN essay contest winners embody spirit and dedication of election administration
By M. Mindy Moretti
Turning 18 is a milestone birthday and while Matthew Shipley was excited about his milestone in November of 2020 however he was disappointed because his birthday fell after the Nov. 3 election.
“I have always been engaged in politics. I stay in touch with the news, talk with my family and friends about the government, and listen to podcasts that make me think about politics in a deeper way,” said Shipley of Sumner County, Tennessee.
And even though he couldn’t vote, he knew there was one important way he could participate in the 2020 election—serving as a poll worker.
“…I still wanted to make a difference and help out for this election cycle despite my age. As such, being a poll worker was something that I felt very proud of doing to help our community out during these challenging times. Usually many of the poll workers are of an older age or retired, so they are more susceptible to negative effects of contracting COVID-19. I wanted to be able to be there as a young healthy teenager to relieve the need for workers.”
Shipley was one of hundreds of teen poll workers in Tennessee and he is also one of three winners in Secretary of State Tre Hargett’s civic engagement essay contest. Hargett began his annual civic engagement essay contests in 2016, however this is the first year the contest was focused on poll officials.
At least 596 poll officials 21 and younger worked the primary election in August across the state. For November, 640 poll officials under 18 worked the presidential election. Another 782 between the ages of 18 to 25 worked as poll officials as well.
“I commend all of the students who stepped up to serve as poll officials for the November election. They performed critical polling site tasks, which helped their local election commission run a safe and secure election,” Hargett said. “By participating, these students saw the civic process in action and are now more prepared to be actively engaged citizens and our next generation of leaders.”
This year’s civics essay contest was open to any Tennessee resident, age 16 or older, who is enrolled in a public, charter or private school or home school association, who worked as a poll official during early voting or on Election Day for the Presidential election. Essays were judged on creativity, organization, development of ideas and response to the theme, civic duty. The state received nearly 50 entries.
These contest winners will all receive a TNStars 529 College Savings Program scholarship. The three first-place winners will receive a $1,000 scholarship, the second and third place winners receive $500 and $250 scholarships, respectively.
“We need to begin recruiting the next generation of poll officials, and the pandemic accelerated this need. This year’s contest was an effort to jumpstart our efforts to recruit younger Tennesseans and to encourage them to serve their communities as poll officials,” Hargett said. “Serving as a poll official provided an unmatched opportunity for students to see our electoral process in action and assist their community in running a safe and secure election.”
First Place, West: Gena Ann Parker – Millington Central High School (Shelby County)
According to Parker, she has always been interested in politics and government, but never more than the year 2020.
“I never thought about working as a poll worker, but when the opportunity arose, I took it. I also was enticed by the idea of making some extra cash!” Parker said.
Parker said the best part of being a poll worker—besides the aforementioned cash of course—was the opportunity to meet people she may not have otherwise had the chance to meet. She noted in between waves of voters, she had some interesting conversations and it was nice to hear other people’s outlook on life.
As most poll workers can attest to, the worst part of being a poll workers for Parker was the length of the day. She the lengthy day was more draining than she anticipate but she’s eager to serve again and would definitely encourage her peers to do so as well.
“It really showed me what an election held with integrity looks like,” Parker said. “It also showed me that there are more things going on behind the scenes than we see.”
Since I can remember, I always went to vote with my parents. They would come home from work, pick me up and we would drive 1.6 miles down the road to our polling location. I don’t remember much about the voting experience specifically, but I do remember the people that would check us in and give us our sticker at the end. When an opportunity arose to be a poll worker, I took it. Read more of Gena Ann Parker‘s Essay.
First Place, Middle: Matthew Shipley – Pope John Paul II High School (Sumner County)
Like Parker, Matthew Shipley said hands down the best part about being a poll worker was the people that he got to meet along the way.
“From the other election officials who also served as poll workers to the voters who came in the door, it was amazing to see people from all different backgrounds who all came together to make this election run smoothly,” Shipley said. “ I worked for two weeks for early voting in addition to Election Day, and I was able to build relationships with the other election workers and get advice about my future. At the end of the day, it was always a great feeling to count how many people voted and know that you helped make their vote count.”
Shipley said that he would definitely serve as a poll worker again and that the experience he had in 2020 has only helped expand his sense of civic engagement. He thinks being a poll worker would help everyone expand their civic engagement and build their sense of community, especially young people.
“If you’ve ever wanted to see an in-depth view of how elections work, be a poll worker and ask lots of questions. Many people who are involved in this process are very experienced and are so kind to share their knowledge with you,” Shipley said. “Also, you’ll be able to see lots of friends and people you know come in, which is always a great treat to be there as a familiar face during the voting process.”
4-8-9-5-0. I scribble down those six numbers as I match an application, ballot and candidate list together to be sent out in the mail.
4,000 masks. Too many or too little? Might as well add more just to be safe.
217 voting machines. They feel unnecessarily heavy after spending four hours pulling them off shelves to be cleaned and recalibrated.
28 precincts, but don’t forget about nursing homes, satellite sites, early voting, and the quarantine tent. There’s voting there too.
One Person. One Vote. Read more of Matthew Shipley‘s Essay.
First Place, East: Callie Carson – Scott High School (Scott County)
For Carson of Scott County, being able to serve as a poll worker before she could actually vote was the best part of being a poll worker.
“If you are worried about voting, then working the polls is a great experience to learn the process,” Carson said. “Also, it is a great opportunity to help your community and earn money.”
She wasn’t a big fan of the PPE that she had to wear all day long, but then again are any of us? She was excited to learn about the voting process and hopes to serve as a poll worker again if her schedule permits.
I am a seventeen-year-old girl who is a senior in high school. This was an awesome experience for me to watch and help with the voting process. I have never had the privilege of voting myself, so I was nervous for this opportunity and excited at the same time. I really not have any idea what to expect. I was scared that someone would ask me a question, and I would not have the correct response. Luckily, I had some amazing instructors right by my side. Read more of Callie Carson‘s Essay.
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Election News This Week
The Justice Department’s inspector general launched an investigation into whether current or former department officials improperly sought to “alter the outcome of the 2020 presidential election” in favor of former President Donald Trump. “The investigation will encompass all relevant allegations that may arise that are within the scope of the (office’s) jurisdiction,” Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz said. According to The New York Times, the former president considered firing acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen during the last weeks of the president’s administration in an effort to replace him with a loyalist to pursue challenges to election results. The inspector general has jurisdiction to investigate allegations concerning the conduct of former and current department employees but not other government officials.
The devil is in the details and that’s just what the Wisconsin State Journal wanted to find out when it delved into the “thousands of complaints” about the November election that were allegedly being reviewed by Republican members of the Legislature. According to the paper, while there were indeed thousands of complaining emails received between Nov. 3 and Dec. 8 the majority of them, however, were mass-generated form letters making nonspecific claims about alleged irregularities, a right-wing fraud-finding effort and a clip from Fox’s Sean Hannity show. The Wisconsin State Journal was able to identify just 28 allegations of election fraud or other irregularities that were specific enough to attempt to verify, but could only partially substantiate one, involving 42 votes. Interviews with dozens of prosecutors, election officials and people who lodged complaints made clear that most, if not all, of the allegations could be chalked up to hearsay or minor administrative errors. Fond du Lac County clerk Lisa Freiberg said the false claims about mass election irregularities and fraud from Trump and his state and federal allies have had a real effect in a “Republican county like mine.” “It’s going to take us years to get people to trust elections again,” she said. “My goal now is to educate legislators on what we do here in Fond du Lac County.”
Following reports that the New York City Board of Elections was going to hand count the results of the city’s first-ever ranked choice voting election because the state board of elections had yet to certify the software the city wanted to use, the SBOE now says they will work with the city to certify software. Their decision came hours after WNYC and Gothamist first reported on the partisan disagreement between boards that was forcing the city to shelve its plans to rely on the software. Republican state commissioners question the legality of the city adopting ranked choice voting without state approval. According WNYC, for the current special election, the city is expected still to manually count results but it’s now less likely the city would rely on a hand tally in elections later this spring. “In connection with the election that is currently going on, it is the commissioners’ preference that we would tally the votes with applicable law and that what we would do is count the votes through the regular machines,” he said. But if no candidate receives a majority of the vote during the first tally, a manual count would serve as the final result for the City Council race in District 24 of eastern Queens.
California election officials announced that 99.4% of more than 15 million mail-in ballots were verified and counted in the November election, a rejection rate notably lower than the March primary even though more than twice as many people voted. About 17.8 million ballots were cast overall, with nearly 87%, or — about 15.4 million, coming through the mail. Of the mail ballots, 86,401 were rejected, mostly because the signature on the ballot did not match the voter’s signature on record. In other cases, the ballots arrived too late to be counted, the voter failed to sign the ballot — which is required — or the envelope arrived without a ballot inside. The rejection rate was lower than in the March primary, when 102,428 mail-in ballots were disqualified in the state’s 58 counties, or about 1.5% or the nearly 7 million mail-in ballots returned. “Even as vote-by-mail was expanded statewide, vote-by-mail ballot rejection rates continued to fall,” acting Secretary of State James Schwab said in a statement. Registration also hit record levels in 2020 — more than 22 million were on the rolls — and more people voted in November than in any prior presidential election. The state elections agency also said 269,862 Californians took advantage of same-day voter registration in the two weeks leading up to the election.
Just when you think you’ve heard it all. A conservative Catholic priest is leaving his diocese in Madison, Wisconsin after apparently live-streaming himself performing an exorcism of alleged election fraud. Rev. John Zuhlsdorf also claimed he had permission to conduct the exorcisms from Madison Catholic Diocese Bishop Donald Hying — an assertion Hying denies. The exorcisms have since been removed from YouTube. None of the reports say what exactly Zuhlsdorf did while performing the exorcism, but since electionline is headquartered about 2 miles from “The Exorcist” steps we’ve got LOTS of questions. We’ll be here if anyone wants to spill the pea soup.
Personnel News: Michael Vu has left the building, at least the building where the registrar of voters office is located. After 24 years in the elections business, Vu will now be the assistant chief administrative officer of San Diego County. Assistant Registrar Cynthia Paes will serve as the Acting Registrar. Leah Bushnik is the new Windsor Locks, Connecticut Republican registrar of voters. The Michigan Association of County Clerks recently presented Sandy Moore, Crawford County Clerk/Register of Deeds, with a plaque in honor of her 25 years of service. Bridget Anne Kelly, a former top aide to ex-New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has announced her candidacy for Bergen County clerk. Linsey Dale has been appointed the Imperial County, California registrar of voters. Nic Smith has been reappointed to the Erie County, Ohio board of elections. Eureka Gober has resigned as the chief voter registrar and election superintendent in Stephens County, Georgia. Fran Leathers is stepping down as the Oconee, Georgia elections director. Marco Sommerville has been nominated to serve on the Summit County, Ohio board of elections. Denise Hernandez is the new Smith County, Texas elections administrator.
In Memoriam: Former Gilchrist County, Florida Supervisor of Elections Susan Bryant died at her home on January 15 after a long illness. She was 71. Bryant served as the county’s supervisor of elections from 1981 to 2006. Through her years in office she dealt with recounts, hanging chads, and even witnessed a coin toss to settle a tied race. According to her obituary, she was instrumental in the Gilchrist Education Foundation serving as president for several years. In 2014 she was recognized with the Director of Emeritus award by the foundation for years of service and dedication. The Trenton Rotary Club presented her with the Paul Harris Fellow award for providing friendly relations for people of the world. She was a member of the Trenton Woman’s Club, serving her term as president too. In 1998, she was the recipient of the Gilchrist Citizen of the Year for her countless selfless acts of leadership and kindness.
Election Security News
CISA: According to CyberScoop, the Biden administration plans to select Rob Silvers, a lawyer and former Department of Homeland Security official to lead CISA. Silvers was senior adviser to Homeland Security Director nominee Alejandro Mayorkas from 2013 and 2014, when the latter was deputy DHS secretary. Silvers then served as assistant DHS secretary for cyber policy in the last year of the Obama administration. That would have given him insights into another alleged Russian hacking campaign: the probing of election infrastructure and theft of Democratic National Committee emails in 2016. Silvers was also involved in the Obama administration’s negotiation of a 2015 agreement with China forbidding intellectual property theft through hacking. “Rob is extremely easy to work with,” said Ari Schwartz, a former senior cybersecurity official in the Obama administration who worked with Silvers. “He’s very thoughtful and listens to all sides of [cybersecurity] issues. He would ensure that CISA issues would remain top-tier issues at DHS.”
Alaska: According to Sen. Mike Shower (R-Wasilla) Senate Bill 39 is intended to strengthen the security of Alaska’s election system in a nonpartisan way, but several legislative observers began circulating alarmed emails, with Native Peoples Action asserting that Section 22 of the bill “may ban municipalities from having vote-by-mail elections.” That section would prohibit cities and boroughs from automatically sending ballots to registered voters, a cornerstone concept of by-mail voting systems. Cities and boroughs would still be able to send ballots to voters who request them. Nils Andreassen, director of the Alaska Municipal League, said he isn’t yet certain whether vote-by-mail would become impossible under that restriction, but at the least, cities like Anchorage would have to “start over” and rewrite their election laws.
Arizona: The Senate Government Committee has advanced Senate Bill 1069 that would remove voters from the permanent early voting list who do not vote using a mail ballot in both the primary and general election for two consecutive primary and general elections. This would not affect voters who return their ballots at a polling place or drop box. Known as “PEVL,” the program has proven popular since legislators created it in 2007, allowing voters to sign up to receive ballots in the mail for each election in which they are eligible to participate. Voters previously had to submit a request for each election. But as of Jan. 5, about 3.2 million Arizona voters were on the permanent list.
Maricopa County, AZ: The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to hire two independent companies to conduct an audit that will examine again whether the machines counted votes properly, whether they were hacked or tampered with, and whether the county used proper procedures when leasing its machines from Dominion Voting Systems. The supervisors said before the vote that they have full confidence the election ran smoothly and votes were counted accurately, after multiple audits and hand counts came back without errors and after election challenges were dismissed by the courts. Chairman Jack Sellers said the audit is meant to alleviate the concerns of those who still “have serious doubts about our election process.” “I really want to alleviate their concerns and their issues with whatever it is we are doing and convince them that this was in fact truly an honest election with good integrity,” he said.
Connecticut: Sen. Will Haskell, D-Westport has filed a mandatory voting bill. Under the bill anyone not voting could be faced with a $20 fine. Haskell doesn’t expect his compulsory-voting bill to get very far, but he thinks it’s a good place to start a conversation on how to encourage voting. “This bill isn’t going to pass, but it ought to be discussed in the United States and I want to have a positive impact on the debate on elections and voter accessibility,” said Haskell, vice chairman of the committee. “Voting laws are inconvenient in Connecticut for commuters, senior citizens and working parents.” He believes that if the mandatory voting became law, political campaigns would change drastically, fostering a wider debate among voters on what they want in their government, rather than energizing party faithful and suppressing opposition turnout.
Delaware: A bill looking to make voting easier in Delaware passed through committee Thursday along party lines. House Bill 75 looks to amend Article V of the Delaware Constitution to allow for absentee voting, without a voter needing to provide a reason for the ballot. The bill ultimately passed with three Democratic votes in favor to two Republican votes against. “We, as a state government, should be making it as easy and convenient as possible for our constituents and the residents of our state to vote, and encouraging as many people as possible to vote and exercise the right to vote,” Rep. David Bentz, sponsor of the bill, said during the House Administration meeting on January 21, 2021.
Georgia: The Troup County board of commissioners unanimously approved a resolution asking the state Legislature to reform the county’s board of elections. The resolution asks Troup’s delegate to support the reform. If approved and signed into law, the Troup BOE will consist of five members, appointed by a majority vote of county commissioners. Four members would represent the county district they serve and one member would serve as an at-large member and chairperson.
Senate Bill 29 would require voters to make copies of their photo ID and mail them to election officials twice before being allowed to cast an absentee ballot. The would create a photo ID requirement for voting outside of polling places in Georgia. Voters would need to submit ID both when applying for absentee ballots and when returning them.
Indiana: Under Senate Bill 260, schools that are used as polling places would not be permitted to have in-person learning on Election Day. School officials have long protested using schools as polling places, but the author of the bill, Sen. Greg Walker said the move to online instruction has lessened the conflict.
Indiana lawmakers want to make a few changes to the state’s vote-by-mail system in the wake of a surge of mail-in ballots during the COVID-19 pandemic. Current law says if a voter who requested a mail-in ballot can’t physically mail it back in, only someone living in their house can do it for them. Valerie Warycha, Indiana secretary of state deputy chief of staff, said legislation would let any family member return the mail-in ballot. he measure heard in a Senate committee this week would also change the deadline to return a mail-in ballot. It’s currently noon on Election Day. Under the bill, it would be 6 p.m., when polls close – but only in counties that use vote centers or electronic poll books, which is at least 70 counties statewide.
Rep. Vernon Smith (D-Gary) has filed a bill, which would allow voters to register at the polls on Election Day, as long as they haven’t voted already and show identification and proof of residence. “We need to begin removing the harmful barriers that discourage people from exercising their right to vote,” Smith said in a news release. “There is strong evidence that same-day registration increases voter turnout. The more people we have participating in our democratic process, the better.”
Louisiana: Louisiana will keep in place expanded mail-in voting for the upcoming special congressional elections, in line with a court order last fall, after state lawmakers approved the emergency plan this week. The state House voted 80-8 and the state Senate voted 35-3 in favor of the plan, which expands the absentee voting to the same categories of people affected by the pandemic who were allowed to vote by mail in the fall elections. Lawmakers voted by mail ballot for the plan. “I am pleased that this emergency plan passed with overwhelming, bipartisan support at every step of this process. This plan is a pragmatic response to the recent unprecedented surge in the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin, a Republican. “Together, the Clerks of Court, Registrars of Voters and their staff along with the entire SOS elections staff will provide the people of Louisiana safe, secure and accurate elections to which they are accustomed.”
Maryland: A pair of bills under consideration in the State House would continue that trend by sending mail-in ballots to every registered voter in every election. The proposals, from Delegates Jon Cardin, D-Baltimore County, and Julian Ivey, D-Prince George’s, would not eliminate in-person voting, but would give every voter the chance to cast their ballot by mail. “My goal is to create convenience and confidence and security,” Cardin said. “I think that this doesn’t inhibit security, it increases confidence and it increases convenience.” Ivey said he wants to make voting more accessible to people with disabilities, older Marylanders and people whose work schedules make it difficult to vote in person. Cardin said he believes mailing ballots to every voter will encourage more people to vote. He also argued the measure would do little to increase costs because the state already mails sample ballots to voters before the election. “This really does open up the franchise to everyone,” Cardin said. “Regardless of what issues may arise, whether it’s pandemics, whether it’s natural disasters … we want to make sure that the system is conducted fluidly and openly.”
Minnesota: Under House File 9, House Dems have proposed a number of elections-related reforms including automatic voter registration, allowing those as young as 16 to pre-register and allow the state to send absentee ballots automatically to those who’ve signed up to be permanent absentee voters. The bill would require every county in Minnesota to provide at least one secure ballot drop box location for people voting absentee. Those became very popular in 2020 as people sought ways to make sure their ballots got to their destinations before Election Day. The measure would also do away with the witness requirement for absentee ballots. Minnesota is one of 12 states in the nation that require a witness to sign the outer envelope, a rule that was temporarily waived via court order in 2020 due to the pandemic. The same bill also would restoring voting rights to felony offenders who are no longer incarcerated. An estimated 50,000 Minnesotans of voting age currently can’t vote because they’re still serving probation in their communities.
Things got heated between Secretary of State Steve Simon and members of the Senate’s election committee while discussing Senate File 173 which would require Minnesotans to present a valid photo ID in order to vote. Simon was allotted three minutes to testify before the committee on Wednesday, where he said there are few, isolated instances of voter fraud in Minnesota’s elections. He said a voter ID law could do more harm than good, disenfranchising people who wouldn’t be otherwise. The Republican-majority committee passed the bill 5-3 on party lines, moving it on to the Senate’s transportation committee.
Mississippi: A bill that could allow Mississippi voters to be purged from voting rolls if they fail to vote within a set time period was moved ahead to a full vote in the state Senate Tuesday. According to the proposed legislation, Senate Bill 2588 would allow county registrars or a county election commission to send a notice confirming a voter’s registration. If that voter does not respond to the notice, update their voter registration information or vote for four consecutive years, county officials would then be able to purge them from the state election system. Voters would not be able to be purged in the 90 days before a federal primary or a general election, according to the legislation. If passed through the state legislature and signed into law, the amendment would go into effect on July 1.
Montana: The House State Administration Committee held a hearing on House Bill 176, sponsored by Rep. Sharon Greef, a Republican from Florence. Currently, Montana residents can still register to vote at county election offices on the morning before Election Day and on Election Day. HB 176 would end the late registration period at 5 p.m. the preceding Friday. Supporters said same-day registration puts too much burden on county election officials. They argued making this change would reduce the chance of mistakes and ensure people have confidence in the election system. Montana Secretary of State Christi Jacobsen said HB 176 was one of five main “election integrity” measures her office will be supporting during the legislative session. Dana Corson, her elections director, said they receive frequent complaints about the long lines Election Day registration can create at election offices.
Senate Bill 107, carried by Sen. Bryce Bennet (D-Missoula) who lost his bid for Secretary of State last fall would extend the deadline for regular voter registration. The deadline was extended in November because of the pandemic to make it easier for people to register to vote from home and not have to come into an office, because late registration must be done in-person. That change improved how things worked in the election, said Lewis and Clark County elections supervisor Audrey McCue. The Secretary of State’s office did not offer testimony in support of or in opposition to the bill Wednesday. There were no opponents to the legislation, which was heard by the Senate State Administration Committee.
New Hampshire: Senate Bill 54, introduced by Sen. Robert Guida (R-Warrant) would require voters to include copies of their photo IDs in absentee ballot applications and again when the completed ballots are returned. Giuda said Senate Bill 54 would require that a voter include a photocopy of his or her New Hampshire driver’s license, non-driver’s identification card or other identification with the application for an absentee ballot and also inside the outer envelope when returning the absentee ballot. Giuda said there would enough time prior to the next election for people to make copies of their IDs. He said he would be willing to push back the effective date of the bill, which is currently 60 days after passage. He said the bill is focused on the 2022 state elections more than on this year’s municipal elections.
Senate Bill 47 would allow any eligible voter to cast absentee ballot in future elections without citing specific reasons for not being able to go to his or her polling place. Although open absentee voting was successful in 2020 according to WMUR the bill is viewed as a longshot, however. Even if it were to pass the Republican-controlled Legislature, it could run into a veto by Gov. Chris Sununu, who nixed similar legislation last year. Separately, Senate Bill 47 would make permanent the temporary 2020 provision that allowed town clerks to pre-process absentee ballots by opening the outer envelopes on the Thursday, Friday, Saturday or Monday prior to Election Day. This provision appears to have bipartisan support.
North Dakota: A bill under consideration by the Legislature would require the full text of a ballot measure to be printed. Currently, the text of a ballot measure can be summarized and simplified on the ballot for voters. Some lawmakers say advocacy groups are writing lengthy and multi-issue measures on-purpose, knowing they’ll be simplified on the ballot. The Deputy Secretary of State Jim Silrum said the Secretary’s Office, questioned the proposed solution. “Is this what it would take to educate the voters? We can’t say that for sure. We don’t know if this would work or not,” said Silrum. Some measures are two to four pages long. The bill would require all those pages to be printed on the ballot.
Oklahoma: Sen. Mary Boren, D-Norman has filed three elections-related bills: Senate Bill 509 seeks to extend the time period for early voting from three days to 21 days. Senate Bill 576 looks to allow individuals the opportunity to “cure” their mail-in ballot if it is rejected for any number of reasons. And Senate Bill 579 would voters to permanently use a photo ID in place of a notarization when submitting a mail-in ballot.
Sen. Rob Standridge, R-Norman has filed Senate Joint Resolution 19 which seeks to amend the state constitution, which allows for voters to request a mail-in ballot without an excuse. Standridge’s joint resolution would make it to where voters must have a specified reason for requesting a mail-in ballot.
Oregon: Lawmakers in Oregon introduced legislation this month that would enable people in prison to vote. The proposed bills, filed in both chambers of the Democrat-run legislature, would add Oregon to the growing set of jurisdictions with no felony disenfranchisement. Maine, Vermont, and Washington, D.C., already do not strip anyone of the right to vote when they are convicted of a felony. Oregon would technically be the first state to abolish felony disenfranchisement, since Maine and Vermont never practiced it in the first place. Representative Andrea Salinas, a Democrat who is sponsoring the legislation in the Oregon House, told the Political Report that the issue is personal because her cousin was incarcerated multiple times and ultimately died by suicide. “When the advocates came to me with this bill, I was like, ‘This is what my cousin Andrew would have needed—a piece of what he would have needed to stay connected to the community,” she said.
Pennsylvania: State Rep. Ed Gainey has introduced a bill that would allow for automatic voter registration in the commonwealth. The bill would automatically register people who use services in the departments of Human Services, Transportation or Military and Veteran Affairs.
State Rep. Mike Carroll said he will introduce legislation to amend the Pennsylvania Election Code later this month. The changes being offered by Carroll include: Return the voter registration deadline to 30 days before election day; Change the absentee and mail-in ballot application deadline to three weeks before election day; Eliminate the mail-in ballot secrecy envelope; Require that the pre-canvassing of mail-in ballots begin on the Saturday prior to election day; Require counties to install one ballot drop box per 30,000 residents; Prohibit the curing of ballots once received by the county board of elections; Prohibit the receipt of mail-in or absentee ballots after 8 p.m. on election day, except for military ballots.
South Dakota: During the Senate State Affairs committee Friday morning, SB 24 which would “provide for voter registration through an online voter registration system provided by the Office of the Secretary of State” was amended to remove allowing initial voter registration to happen online. The amendment was proposed by Sen. Jim Bolin (R-Canton) after the committee heard numerous proponent testimony including from South Dakota Secretary of State Steve Barnett, numerous South Dakota tribes and AARP. There was no opponent testimony against SB 24. Bolin’s amendment passed the committee 6-3. After the amendment passed, the bill was sent to the Senate floor by an 8-1 vote. Barnett told KELOLAND News the amended version of SB 24 was “a step in the right direction.” He said he will continue to support the amended version of SB 24 as it moves to the Senate floor, adding his goal all along was to offer and provide a service for South Dakotans that isn’t currently offered. When asked if he was disappointed with the amendment, Barnett said he believed there were enough safeguards in place to allow for new voters to register online. He also pointed out there was no opposition testimony to SB 24 and there’s plenty of examples of secure online resources like banking, driver’s license renewals. The bill was approved by the Senate 21-13 and sent to the House for consideration.
The South Dakota House State Affairs Committee vote 7-6 against a plan that would forced the state to have copies of ballot measures available at each voting booth in the future. Rep. Fred Deutsch (R-Florence) originally proposed that sponsors of ballot measures be responsible for providing copies to voters, including by mail, with the sponsors paying the costs for the copies. After that idea met resistance, Deutsch softened it. He suggested the South Dakota Secretary of State pay for putting copies at approximately 16 voting booths at each of 565 polling places.
Texas: Rep. Keith Bell (R-Forney) filed House Bill 1264, an “election integrity” bill which would require timelier filing of death certificates to remove deceased individuals from the voter rolls. House Bill 1264 calls for the immediate removal of a registered voter from the certified voter roll after their death certificate is submitted. The Election Code currently allows the local registrar of deaths to file each abstract with the voter registrar of the decedent’s county of residency and the Secretary of State no later than the 10th day of the month following the month in which the abstract is prepared. Bell’s amendment calls for the local registrar to file the abstract “as soon as possible, but not later than one day after the abstract is prepared.”
Virginia: The Virginia Senate narrowly passed a measure Thursday to move any municipal elections still held in the spring to November. Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, a Democrat, broke a 19-19 tie on the bill by Sen. Lionell Spruill, D-Chesapeake, following a lengthy debate. Advocates said November elections allow more voter participation, while opponents worried about national partisan politics tainting local races. “I put this bill in for the people,” Spruill said. The bill now moves on to the House of Delegates for its consideration. Senators who were against this idea said the legislature shouldn’t force this upon localities that are empowered to do this themselves but have chosen not to.
The House Privileges and Elections Committee expanded a felon voting rights proposal to allow former inmates to vote when they’re released from incarceration, a change potentially allowing their rights to be restored years earlier than envisioned under the plan’s prior rules. As originally drafted, the proposed constitutional amendment would have automatically restored felons’ civil rights after they had completed their sentence and any period of supervised probation. During a subcommittee hearing, a representative of Gov. Ralph Northam told House members the administration would support that approach. The panel amended the proposal accordingly.
House Bill 1970 which would have reestablished voter ID rules, which would require voters to show a government-issued ID at the polls showing proof of residence, was killed today in a Privileges and Elections Committee subcommittee.
House Bill 2205, aimed and ending same-day voter registration, also failed in committee. Delegate Todd Gilbert (R-Shenandoah) introduced the bill, calling the law signed by Gov. Ralph Northam in 2020, which will allow people to register to vote on Election Day starting in 2022, flawed, and unlike anything else in the U.S. Clara Belle Wheeler, a former member of Virginia’s Board of Elections, argued the law’s repeal does not disenfranchise voters, as the state now allows voters to cast their ballots in-person 45 days up to Election Day.
The Virginia House of Delegates passed a bill banning firearms within 40 feet of polling places to prevent voter intimidation. The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence has been working on this for more than a year. “Studies that come in show that guns at polling places chill people’s freedom to really feel safe and exercising this very fundamental right,” said Brady President Kris Brown. “So I would say what we saw come out of the House of Delegates, and we’re so happy to see this passage, is the culmination of work we’ve been doing.”
Sen. Jennifer McClellen (D-Richmond) has introduced a bill that would require local governments to advertise in advance for the public to comment or be reviewed by the attorney general’s office any polling place changes. The bill has already passed the first hurdle; a party-line vote in the Senate Privileges and Elections Committee. It’s now headed to the Senate Finance Committee, where senators will determine if Virginia can afford the cost of prosecuting new cases of voter intimidation. Katie Boyle with the Virginia Association of Counties says that’s a burden for local governments. “This bill imposes fairly heavy oversight, even to changes that are ministerial such as relocation of polling places,” Boyle says.
Washington: Secretary of State Kim Wyman endorsed a bipartisan-sponsored bill to expand voting in presidential primaries to those not aligned with a political party. House Bill 1265 would give voters the option to not declare a party affiliation on their ballot for presidential primaries by adding an “unaffiliated” option. Under current state law, voters are required to declare their party affiliation on their ballot envelope for primaries, effectively binding their vote to the candidate aligned with the party. Their marked affiliation also becomes public record for 60 days, although their vote is not. If they do not indicate their party declaration, or vote for the candidate opposite of their declared party, their vote will not be counted. Wyman, who has advocated for the option since it was removed by the Legislature in 2007, emphasized the bill would allow for greater participation in future primaries.
Wyoming: House Bill 75 would require voters show an ID in order to vote. The bill is sponsored by Rep. Chuck Gray [R-Natrona County], and a long list of co-sponsors. The bill would, among other things, mandate that “acceptable identification” be presented by anyone voting in person. The ID could be a Wyoming driver’s license, a tribal ID card, a Wyoming ID card, a U.S. passport, a U.S. military card, or a valid Medicare insurance card. Laramie County Clerk Debra Lee told Townsquare Media of Cheyenne on Monday that the Wyoming County Clerks Association has held a teleconference with Rep. Gray about the bill. But she said so far the organization has not taken a position either for or against the proposal.
Federal Courts: Dominion Voting Systems filed a defamation lawsuit seeking more than $1.3 billion from Rudolph W. Giuliani, the lawyer for former president Donald Trump who played a key role in promoting the falsehood that the 2020 election was rigged. The 107-page complaint, filed in federal court in D.C., cites dozens of statements Giuliani made about Dominion — on Twitter, in appearances on conservative media shows and on his own podcast — to promote the “false preconceived narrative” that the election was stolen from Trump. That “Big Lie” not only damaged Dominion’s reputation and business and led to death threats against its employees, but also laid the groundwork for hundreds of people to storm the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, the complaint says.
Federal Charges: A man who was known as a far-right Twitter troll was arrested and charged with spreading disinformation online that tricked Democratic voters in 2016 into trying to cast their ballots by phone instead of going to the polls. Federal prosecutors accused Douglass Mackey, 31, of coordinating with co-conspirators to spread memes on Twitter falsely claiming that Hillary Clinton’s supporters could vote by sending a text message to a specific phone number. As a result of the misinformation campaign, prosecutors said, at least 4,900 unique phone numbers texted the number in a futile effort to cast votes for Clinton. “With Mackey’s arrest, we serve notice that those who would subvert the democratic process in this manner cannot rely on the cloak of internet anonymity to evade responsibility for their crimes,” said Seth DuCharme, the acting United States attorney in Brooklyn, whose office is prosecuting the case. Mr. Mackey, who was released from custody on Wednesday on a $50,000 bond, faces an unusual charge: conspiracy to violate rights, which makes it illegal for people to conspire to “oppress” or “intimidate” anyone from exercising a constitutional right, such as voting. The charge carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.
Georgia: The Georgia secretary of state’s office paid $30,000 to resolve a lawsuit over the state’s role in Crosscheck, a defunct program for canceling voter registrations. The settlement ended the lawsuit, but the plaintiffs didn’t get what they had sought: records showing that Gov. Brian Kemp, when he was secretary of state, had used Crosscheck to cancel Georgia voters. Though Georgia election officials contributed voter information to other states that participated in Crosscheck, they said they never used it on their own voters. They said the cancellations of 534,000 Georgia voter registrations in 2017 and 287,000 registrations in 2019 were done separately from Crosscheck. The settlement was obtained Friday by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution through the Georgia Open Records Act. The settlement in September also required Georgia to disclose, if possible, voter registration records provided to the state through the Crosscheck program.
Iowa: Leonard Strand, chief judge of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Iowa dismissed a lawsuit claiming it was illegal for county election officials to receive money from outside organizations to pay for election expenses. The judge said the plaintiffs lacked standing. Iowa’s Black Hawk and Scott Counties accepted grants from the Center for Tech and Civic Life, a non-profit organization that offered “Covid-19 Response Grants” to local election jurisdictions that lacked sufficient funding to cover unforeseen costs of conducting an election safely during a pandemic. The Iowa Voter Alliance, Todd Obadal, Michael C. Angelos, and Diane L. Holst argued in a complaint filed last October — ahead of the Nov. 3, 2020 election — that federal law requires private election assistance in federal elections be directed to states, not to counties or cities. “Because plaintiffs have raised only abstract and generalized grievances,” Strand wrote, “they have not shown injury in fact sufficient to have standing for claims under the equal protection clause or the Ninth Amendment.” The plaintiffs “failed to allege facts showing that the counties’ actions resulted in a concrete and particularized injury to their right to vote or to their rights under the Fourteenth and Ninth Amendments.”
Michigan: A Michigan man is facing a felony charge for what he says was simply an election day joke about coronavirus. But a judge decided there’s enough evidence to go to trial. Police charged Peter Trzos with falsely claiming to expose someone to a harmful biological substance. Authorities say he brought his mail-in ballot to Keego Harbor City Hall on Election Day. He says the election clerk made him lick the envelope to seal it. The clerk says as he handed it to her, he said, “Here’s some COVID for you.” She says she believed her health and life were in danger. Trzos’ lawyer says she knew it was a joke. If convicted, Trzos could get up to five years in jail.
New Jersey: Superior Court Judge Joseph Marczyk has stayed a do-over election for Atlantic County Commissioner initially set for April 20 pending an appeal. Marczyk had voided the results of the November 2020 election after County Clerk Ed McGettigan mailed incorrect ballots to 554 voters in a race where Witherspoon defeated Republican Andrew Parker by 286 votes in November. Republicans had argued that the election should be run again. The election could still occur in April, if the appellate court moves quickly enough to give election officials time to print and mail ballots, but the timing appears extraordinarily close.
New York: Oswego County Supreme Court Justice Scott DelConte granted a two-day extension to the Oneida County Board of Elections, which was set to report corrected vote counts this Wednesday. In a letter addressed to DelConte on Monday, Assistant Oneida County Attorney Robert Pronteau wrote that Jan. 27 was the earliest possible date for the canvass to commence, following an initial review. He also said that the canvassing required a space in which members of the Board of Elections could adhere to COVID-19 protocols, which they could not do so safely in their own office. DelConte granted the Oneida Board’s request on Monday, giving them until 6 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 29 to return their corrections and report an updated vote count.
Pennsylvania: The U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to announce in as soon as a month whether it will hear the election case of U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly, who started his legal fight against the results of the presidential race within weeks after fellow Republican Donald Trump lost the White House to Democrat Joe Biden. If the high court refuses to hear the case, the rejection will mark the end of another of Kelly’s legal attempts to challenge universal, no-excuses mail-in voting in Pennsylvania as unconstitutional and thus “illegal,” in Kelly’s words. If the Supreme Court decides to hear the case, Kelly’s claims will remain alive, raising the possibility that he could prevail and upend the same mail-in voting system that the GOP-controlled General Assembly, through Act 77, adopted with widespread bipartisan support in 2019. The Supreme Court on Feb. 19 will hold a conference on Kelly’s case and decide whether to hear it, according to a note entered on the docket of Kelly’s case last week. Kelly wants the Supreme Court to agree to hear his case by granting his petition for what is known as a writ of certiorari. The justices are to review a number of such requests at their Feb. 19 conference.
Virginia: Richmond Circuit Judge David Eugene Cheek Sr. has approved an agreement between two statewide candidates and state elections officials to reduce the ballot signature requirements for the June Democratic statewide primary amid COVID-19. The Democrats’ candidates will only have to secure the signatures of 2,000 qualified voters, including 50 in each of the state’s 11 congressional districts. Petition signers will be able to submit signatures to campaigns by mail or electronically. By Feb. 5, state elections officials will develop a new form that will let qualified voters sign their names without being in the presence of someone circulating a petition. Candidates will have until March 25 to submit petition signatures to the Department of Elections.
Opinions This Week
Arizona: Election legislation
Connecticut: Civic duty
Indiana: Election legislation
Kansas: Sedgwick County
Louisiana: Vote by mail
Maine: Trust in elections
Massachusetts: Special election
Ohio: Election administration
South Carolina: Voter ID
South Dakota: Online voter registration
West Virginia: Confidence in elections
NASED Winter Conference: We’re disappointed not to meet in person, but we look forward to seeing you virtually at the NASED Virtual Conference. Sessions topics include: Effective Incident Response; What Happened in 2020 and Cyber Priorities for 2021; Managing Misinformation on Social Media Platforms and Media Relations: Working Collaboratively to Build Trust. When: February 1-5. Where: Online.
NASS 2021 Winter Virtual Conference: NASS will hold its 2021 Winter Conference virtually this year. Elections-related events include workshops and sessions on election cybersecurity. The Elections Committee will consider two resolutions. When February 2-5. Where. Online.
Validating Common Data Format Implementations: Ensuring conformance against the election common data formats shouldn’t be hard. Thankfully, there are time tested techniques to validate data exchanges against standard formats. In this webinar, we will explore different approaches to common data format validation, how to specify the data points required for particular implementations, and a case study using the tools with the Wisconsin Elections Commission. Topics include: What a schema can validate; Performing schema validation; Specifying required and disallowed elements with subsetting; and Validating state and local business rules with Schematron. When February 10, 1pm Eastern. Where: Online.
EAC Meeting to Vote on Adoption of VVSG 2.0: The U.S. Election Assistance Commission will vote on the Voluntary Voting System Guidelines (VVSG) 2.0 on Wednesday, February 10. The VVSG 2.0 represents a significant advancement in defining standards that will serve as the template for the next generation of secure, accessible, and accurate voting systems. If adopted, VVSG 2.0 would be the fifth iteration of national-level voting system standards. During the meeting, Commissioners will hear a presentation from EAC Executive Director Mona Harrington about the updates to the VVSG, a policy recommendation, and the work that went into getting VVSG 2.0 to this point. When: February 10, 10 a.m. Eastern. Where: Online.
Job Postings This Week
electionlineWeekly publishes election administration job postings each week as a free service to our readers. To have your job listed in the newsletter, please send a copy of the job description, including a web link to firstname.lastname@example.org. Job postings must be received by 5pm on Wednesday in order to appear in the Thursday newsletter. Listings will run for three weeks or till the deadline listed in the posting.
Bilingual Coordinator/Clerk, York County, Pennsylvania— Assist in the voter registration and election process. Coordinates all bilingual activities of the Election/Voter Registration Office. Assemble and pack supplies for local election boards. Answer telephone. Assist in the voter registration and election process including scanning signatures. Assist at the front counter. File as required. Assist Spanish-speaking voters, candidates and other members of the public through interpretation and service. Coordinate all bilingual activities of the Election/Voter Registration Office. Speak before various community groups concerning the election/voter registration process. Other reasonable duties as assigned by Supervisor. Salary: $11.50/hr. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Certification Project Manager, Hart InterCIvic— The Certification Project Manager manages state and federal certification projects of our Hardware and Software products, under the direction of the Sr. Director of Product Management. The Certification Project Manager must be able to exercise sound judgment and interact with regulatory authorities in a professional manner, particularly in high-pressure situations. Essential Duties and Responsibilities (Other duties may be assigned): Submit state/federal certification application materials; Plan for and coordinate logistics for onsite state/federal certification activities; Lead onsite state/federal certification activities; Provide follow up to state/federal certification activities. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Election Services Manager, Douglas County, Colorado— The Election Services Manager is responsible for the management and coordination of elections administrative operations, voter registration, mapping for voting districts and precincts, addressing library, and support for mail ballot processing as directed by the leadership team. The objective of this position is to perform a variety of functions and diverse leadership roles on a routine basis, including performance management for a team of Election Specialists. This is a highly visible position requiring exceptional leadership, organizational, and communication skills. The Election Services Manager is responsible for oversight of responsibilities within the elections office and Voter Service and Polling Centers, coaching and supervision of staff; creation and enforcement of policies, procedures, and state and federal statutes and regulations; creation and execution of strategic and tactical plans for operating successful elections; coordination of election functions with entities participating in a County election or conducting their own election; managing key vendor relationships and election assets. Coordinates with and assists other Clerk & Recorder Divisions as needed. Salary: $57,430 – 86,145. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
General Registrar, Fairfax County, Virginia— The Fairfax County Electoral Board, serving Fairfax County (population 1.1 million), the largest locality in the Commonwealth of Virginia and a suburb of Washington, D.C., is recruiting qualified candidates with exceptional senior leadership and management experience for the position of General Registrar to serve a four-year term. This is an executive management position that reports to the 3-person Fairfax County Electoral Board. The Board is seeking an innovative leader with demonstrated management experience and political acumen. It is crucial that the General Registrar have excellent interpersonal skills and a high level of multi-cultural sensitivity to work effectively with a diverse community and employee population and a complex hierarchy. The General Registrar is an appointed state employee and sworn official with overall responsibility for administering the provisions of the Virginia election laws under guidelines established by the State Board of Elections and the Fairfax County Electoral Board including the duties and powers of the General Registrar as stated in Title 24.2 of the Code of Virginia and in compliance with other federal, state, and local laws, regulations, and policies. With close to 800,000 registered voters, and yearly or more frequent elections, the General Registrar is responsible for the oversight of a large and complex non-partisan voter registration and election administration agency with approximately 30 full-time equivalent employees, 200 temporary/seasonal employees and, during election season, 3,700 Election Officer employees. The General Registrar consults with, advises, and reports to the Fairfax County Electoral Board on all issues relative to election administration and voter registration. General Registrars serve at the pleasure of the Fairfax County Electoral Board. Pursuant to the Code of Virginia sec. 24.2-109, local electoral boards are granted the authority to appoint and remove from office, on notice, the General Registrar Salary: $95,447.87 – $159,078.61. Deadline: Jan. 29. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Information Technology Director, Leon County, Florida: This is an executive level position on the management team at the Leon County Supervisor of Elections Office (SOE). Our IT Director is a highly innovative position that requires managing and protecting technology for the SOE, supervising technical staff, creating and maintaining documentation, budgeting for technology needs, and a devotion to protecting voting integrity. The IT Director supports the SOE’s mission and maintains operational continuity. They work closely with Leon County’s Office of Information and Technology (OIT) Department and are expected to be available to respond to all technical issues and external threats. This role will often require technical support hours outside the traditional business schedule in order to monitor and assure the functionality and security of computer and network systems. Salary: $80,443-$132,731. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Language Services & Community Engagement Program Supervisor, King County, Washington— King County Department of Elections is searching for an energetic and resourceful professional who likes to “get stuff done.” The Language Services & Community Engagement Program Supervisor position in the Elections Department combines an exciting environment with the opportunity to cultivate talents and apply a variety of skills. The ideal candidate will thrive in an innovative, fast-paced environment and will not hesitate to roll up both sleeves, work hard, have fun, and get the job done. We are looking for a dynamic person to lead the Language Services and Community Engagement Program. This position will administer the Voter Education Fund outreach activities and programs as well as coordinate activities between the Department and community-based organizations, community leaders and other public sector partners. This position also supervises the team responsible for translating election materials, providing language-based assistance to new and existing voters in King County, and supporting the Department’s community engagement work. A key purpose of this position is to promote the vision, mission and priorities of the department with stakeholders as well as working with them to identify and ultimately remove barriers to voting. The outreach work is performed under limited supervision and requires considerable independent judgment and discretion in responding to and interacting with individuals and groups, sometimes in politically sensitive situations. The work requires an understanding of County and Department priorities, policies and procedures, as well as community interests and concerns. A successful candidate for this position will be comfortable both serving a very public role for the department, as well as overseeing technical internal processes related to translation and customer service. Salary: $78,992.16 – $100,127.46. Deadline: Jan. 28 Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Redistricting Litigation Counsel— The Citizens Redistricting Commission is seeking Statements of Qualifications (“SOQ”) from attorneys, including law firms and other entities, to provide legal services to defend its four final certified voting district maps (Congressional, and State Senate, Assembly, and Board of Equalization) in the event of litigation. The California Supreme Court has original jurisdiction over any claims that are brought in state court; however, cases may also be brought in federal court.The SOQ will be used by the Commission to selectcounsel for this purpose. An applicant may apply to provide such services, by responding to this Request for Information (“RFI”) in the manner described in Section III.At the Commission’s discretion, it may decideto hire more than one attorney or law firm based on the Commission’s perceived needs, and the attorney or law firm must be willing to coordinate with other firms as needed. If the Commission chooses representation from more than one attorney or law firm, the order of subordination with regards to any coordinated effort shall be made solely by the Commission or its designee. Deadline: Jan. 29. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Voter Information Coordinator (Elections Specialist), Pierce County, Washington— This individual will play an integral part in carrying out and conducting elections in Pierce County and in the day to day operations. This position supports the foundational aspect of our democratic process while providing services and outreach to our customers. Core Daily Responsibilities: Design and produce all publications, reports, manuals, flyers, legal advertisements, related election materials including Voter Pamphlets, and all jobs using a variety of desktop publishing software. Perform quality control work including proofreading, grammar, and spelling. Create and manage the voter pamphlet including submission of statements from candidates and committees. Active role in candidate filing and resolution submission. This work includes communicating with candidates and jurisdictions. Create ballot inserts for each election. Coordinate the language translation program of the voter pamphlet, ballot materials, and voter outreach materials. Work in conjunction with office media specialist to update and maintain social media accounts. Update website with relevant election information. Produce an accurate Voters’ Pamphlet for each election. Voter outreach to live and virtual audiences, upon request attend community events to educate prospective voters, supports school districts, colleges and universities with election related events and programs. Salary Hiring Range: $31.42 – $39.73 Hourly. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Voting Rights Act Counsel — The Citizens Redistricting Commission is seeking Statements of Qualifications (“SOQ”) from attorneys, including law firms and other entities to provide legal services to assist the Commission with its responsibilities pursuant to the Voters First Act. The SOQ will be used by the Commission to select counsel to advise specifically on Voting Rights Act (“VRA”) matters. An applicant may apply to provide such services either as an independent contractor or as an employee of the Commission, by responding to this Request for Information (“RFI”) in the manner described in Section III. Deadline: Jan. 29. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
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