In Focus This Week
New election security policy recommendations from D3P
By Eric Rosenbach, Robby Mook and Maria Barsallo Lynch
Defending Digital Democracy Project
The Belfer Center’s bipartisan Defending Digital Democracy Project (D3P) is pleased to release Beyond 2020: Policy Recommendations for the Future of Election Security. This report captures the challenges and opportunities facing our election security ecosystem based on D3P’s analysis from our time spent working nationally with decision-makers in the field, including election administrators, national security and cybersecurity experts, and civic thought leaders from across federal, state, and local governments.
Though the election security ecosystem survived the triple threat of cybersecurity, physical security, and mis- and disinformation in 2020, this success will prove to be untenable without proper investment and reinforcement ahead of future election cycles. This report highlights D3P’s key recommendations for how these challenges can be addressed by policymakers:
- Strengthen statewide cybersecurity coordination and funding by consolidating IT infrastructure and regularizing local election appropriations;
- Streamline federal government support by carving out clear roles and responsibilities for the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) and the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) to defend election infrastructure and support election administrators, and expanding proactive funding avenues for state and local election infrastructure modernization;
- Increase trust in election integrity by expanding proactive state communications efforts and civil society partnerships, improving federal cross-sector coordination for responding to mis- and disinformation, and increasing transparency and accountability of those who traffic election-related disinformation;
- Invest in election security talent through academic partnerships and intergovernmental fellowships to develop pipeline programs that supply talented personnel to election offices.
These recommendations are meant to shed light for state and federal lawmakers on some of the most pressing challenges and opportunities facing the U.S. election system today. The U.S. election system continues to encounter innumerable, existential challenges that threaten one of the most defining features of democracy. Without swift, sufficient action from state and federal government leadership, widespread distrust in the 2020 election process and outcome will further deteriorate and destabilize the only institutions that can address this problem. If D3P’s nationwide work with committed public servants is any indication, we are confident America’s election officials and elected leaders who play a role in upholding and defending democracy can meet the challenge.
Since July 2017, the Belfer Center’s bipartisan Defending Digital Democracy Project has worked alongside election administrators, national security and cybersecurity experts, political and civic thought leaders to develop and deliver practical strategies, tools, and recommendations to protect democratic processes and systems from cyber and information attacks. These efforts have taken the form of incident communication response plans, tabletop exercises, playbooks for countering and responding to cybersecurity attacks and information operations, data analysis and national training events in person and online.
The project has also provided recommendations through congressional testimony and reports.
Throughout the course of our work, D3P has engaged over a thousand election officials across more than 40 states and the District of Columbia. We’ve been honored to work with public servants in defending democracy and hope this report contributes to the work ahead.
We’ve been honored to work with public servants in defending democracy and hope this report contributes to the work ahead.
EAC adopts new voluntary voting system guidelines 2.0
Updated guidelines pave way for next generation of voting systems across the country
The U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) announced the adoption of the Voluntary Voting System Guidelines (VVSG) 2.0, a major step toward improving the manufacturing and testing of voting machines. The four EAC Commissioners unanimously approved the VVSG 2.0 documents including the Principles and Guidelines and Requirements, as well as approving the Testing and Certification Program Manual, and Voting System Test Laboratories (VSTL) Manual during a public meeting this morning.
The VVSG 2.0 represents a significant advancement in defining standards that will serve as the cornerstone of the next generation of voting systems. It lays the groundwork for 21st century voting systems that are desperately needed with improved cybersecurity, accessibility, and usability requirements. The VVSG 2.0 also supports various audit methods supporting software independence to confirm the accuracy of the vote and increase voter confidence. With its adoption, manufacturers are empowered to begin designing and building voting machines according to these new guidelines.
“The VVSG 2.0 was formulated through a painstaking, meticulous process by a diverse body of stakeholders. This standard shows that a robust and credible framework is achievable with the right level of urgency, resources, commitment, and collaboration,” said EAC Chairman Ben Hovland.
As elections are decentralized throughout the country, the VVSG are the only set of uniform specifications and requirements against which voting systems can be tested to determine if the voting systems meet required standards. Some factors examined under these tests include basic functionality, accessibility, accuracy, reliability, and security capabilities.
“The VVSG 2.0 represents a significant leap forward in states’ ability to modernize their own standards and voting systems to ensure the most secure, transparent, and accurate elections possible,” remarked EAC Vice Chair Don Palmer.
HAVA mandates that the EAC develop and maintain these requirements. Despite the requirements being voluntary, at least 38 states use the standards in some way making today’s vote on advancing of the next version of VVSG very important. This is the most significant update of the federal standards for voting technology since VVSG 1.0 was adopted in 2005.
The major updates included in the VVSG 2.0 are the following:
Improved cybersecurity requirements to secure voting and election management systems associated with the administration of elections.
- Software independence
- Requires systems to be air-gapped from other networks and disallows the use of wireless technologies
- Physical security
- Multi-factor authentication
- System integrity
- Data protection
- Ensures devices are capable of importing and exporting data in common data formats
- Requires manufacturers to provide complete specifications of how the format is implemented
- Requires that encoded data uses a publicly available method
Improved accessibility requirements to enhance the voting experience for voters with disabilities:
- VVSG 2.0 allows for systems where all voters can vote privately and independently throughout the voting process: Marking; Verifying; Casting
- Language access throughout the process
- Improved documentation requirements for accessibility testing
- Voter privacy features
- Accessibility requirements derived from federal laws
- Ballot secrecy
- Improved auditability
- User-centered design
- Reorganized to simplify usage and focus on functional requirements
- Penetration testing
- Component testing pilot program
The EAC employed numerous parallel processes to get to the finish line with Executive Director, Mona Harrington, providing a recommendation of adoption of the VVSG 2.0 today. “Our work is not completed. The EAC will continue to work with NIST’s National Voluntary Laboratory Accreditation Program (NVLAP) to make updates for VVSG 2.0 to provide accreditation of labs, develop a VVSG Lifecycle Policy, and implement an end-to-end cryptographic protocol evaluation plan. We are very excited about today’s vote and what that means for the future of voting systems.”
The EAC Commissioners, Chairman Ben Hovland, Vice Chair Don Palmer, Commissioner Thomas Hicks, and Commissioner Christy McCormick, issued this joint statement, “It was a pleasure to work with such a knowledgeable and diverse team of experts to define a new standard. We are proud of the work accomplished. An exciting future awaits but there is a lot of hard work yet to be done. We look forward to those next steps and to see these standards implemented.”
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Election News This Week
With the NY-22 race finally over (for now pending possible further court action), pressure is being put on New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to remove the Oneida County election commissioners, an authority he has under state law. Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente Jr. has sent a letter to Cuomo seeking the election commissioners removal. According to the Observer-Dispatch, In his letter, Picente pointed to state Supreme Court Justice Scott DelConte’s findings that the county board of elections failed to comply with state and federal election law. “Most disturbingly, Justice DelConte found that the failures of the Election Commissioners resulted in the failure to cast as many as 1,100 legitimate ballots and the rejection of an unknown number of voters who went to polling places and were turned away,” Picente said in the letter. “The denial of this most fundamental and sacred right of citizenship requires immediate action,” he said. “We have an obligation to act when the rights of our citizens are denied.” According to Politico, at a State Board of Elections meeting on Wednesday, it emerged that the future of the Oneida officials came up during an executive session on Monday, when state commissioners decided to give their county counterparts “one week to make a decision regarding their status.” If nothing changes by next Monday, Democratic board chair Doug Kellner said the state board will consider asking the governor “to formally remove the commissioners.”
Misinformation: The University of Washington’s Center for an Informed Public recently announced a new award program that will recognize an individual or organization that has made outstanding contributions, achievements, or bodies of work that significantly resist strategic misinformation, promote an informed society, and strengthen democratic discourse. The CIP Award for Excellence, which will highlight those making a positive impact in mitigating the challenges of mis- and disinformation, will come with a $5,000 award for the winner. The recipient of the award will receive a commemorative plaque and is invited to visit the center and give a talk on their work. The award will recognize work in one or more of four categories: research, education, engagement, or law and policy. A multidisciplinary selection committee, which will review and evaluate all nominations, consists of leaders in the mis- and disinformation field, including one member of the CIP Faculty. The following criteria will be among the factors considered in the selection process: Excellence: Successful nominees will have demonstrated excellence in their contributions to mitigating the challenges of mis- and disinformation. Impact: Successful nominees will have demonstrated that their work has had, or shows great promise for, societal impact. This could include basic research, technologies, educational tools, visualizations, or other artifacts that translate research into practice. Consideration will be given to impact evident in one or more communities as well as engagement with underrepresented or hard-to-reach groups or populations. Impact could also include influencing policy at local or national levels. Further consideration will be given to contributions that lay the groundwork for others and/or that have the potential to influence important future advances in the field. Innovation: Successful nominees will break new ground in their work and/or demonstrate exceptional creativity.
NASS News: The National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS) presented the 2020 Margaret Chase Smith American Democracy Award for political courage to Mr. Bryan Stevenson, Public Interest Lawyer and Founder of the Equal Justice Initiative. Stevenson oversaw the Center for Human Rights in Montgomery, Alabama and then transformed the operation into the Equal Justice Initiative. His career also includes establishing the Legacy Museum and the National Memorial for Peace and Justice—the nation’s first memorial dedicated to the legacy of the over 4,400 African American men, women, and children tragically harmed and tortured between 1877 and 1950. Stevenson was nominated by Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill. In other NASS news, during the association’s recent virtual conference, the members of NASS voted to establish the John Lewis Youth Leadership Award. This award aims to honor the impact of the extraordinary accomplishments of Congressman John Lewis. His courageous achievements during the 1960s Civil Rights Movement, as well as his long tenure of public service has inspired, and will continue to inspire, Americans for generations to come. NASS members can select and award a civic-minded, young person in their state each calendar year who demonstrates leadership, has a passion for social justice, and works to improve the quality of life for their fellow citizens. In order to be eligible for the award, recipients must be 25 years or younger at the time of the award presentation.
Celebrating Suffrage: Let’s be honest, the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote got a bit overshadowed by the pandemic (patient zero must have been a male ;)) so we’re going to keep brining you suffrage-related news in 2021! After recently purchasing a building in Geneva, New York, David J. Whitcomb discovered a treasure trove of photos from photographer James Hale including long forgotten photos of Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Elizabeth Smith Miller. “The first thing I saw was a whole bunch of picture frames stacked together and these frames are gorgeous. They’re the turn-of-the-century, they’re gold, gilded, and they shone really bright and I was like ‘Oh my God,'” he said. “I lowered myself and said ‘I think we just found the ‘Goonies’ treasure.'” While not the Goonies treasure, Whitcomb’s discovery is still pretty cool.
Personnel News: Lisa Borgacz is the new Algonac, Michigan city clerk. Angela Guillen is the new Howell, Michigan city clerk. Millard Garland has stepped down after serving 18 years on the Carter County, Tennessee election commission. Jeff Ellington has been promoted to chief executive officer of Runbeck Election Services. Steven Richman, chief counsel for the New York City Board of elections has retired. Dawn Stultz-Vaughn has been sworn as the new Henry County, Virginia registrar of voters. Joann Bautista has joined the Maine secretary of state’s office as a policy advisor. Marcy DeMartile is the new Plumas County, California Clerk-Recorder/Registrar of Voters. DeMartile has been with the county for approximately 18 years. She replaces Kathy Williams who retired in December 2020. Rebecca Anglin is the new Oconee County, Georgia elections director.
In Memoriam: Timothy James, an engineer for the New York City Board of Elections has died of COVID-19. According to The Eagle, James’ death comes two weeks after he alerted authorities to an outbreak of coronavirus in the board of elections Queens’ office. James, a former aide to ex-State Sen. Shirley Huntley and a past board member at the Guy R. Brewer Democratic Club, died on February 6 after working in the Queens warehouse that stores voting machines. At least five employees there tested positive for COVID-19 in late January. At least four BOE staff have died from COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic. “While we are essential workers, we transmute into frontline workers during the height of election season,” said CWA Local 1183 President Donna Ellaby, who represents BOE workers. “We are overcrowded in our offices.” In addition to his work with the BOE, James founded an education nonprofit and manned the barbecue at community events. Southern Queens Park Association Executive Director Jacqueline Boyce said she was heartbroken to learn of James’ death and called him a “terrific community servant.” “He worked for the city but he was a community servant,” Boyce said. “He was a special man.”
Research and Report Summaries
The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (OSCE/ODIHR) released the final report of its limited election observation mission to the 2020 U.S. elections this week. The report summarizes the mission’s findings and offers recommendations to better align U.S. elections with OSCE commitments and other international standards for democratic elections. Priority recommendations include consideration of: reforming the Electoral College system to ensure equality of the vote; independent redistricting commissions; ratification of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities; greater codification of basic election procedures in federal law; anti-discrimination measures to protect racial and linguistic minorities; full congressional representation for citizens of the District of Columbia and U.S. territories; and harmonization of voter identification laws.
The Congressional Research Service released a brief on federal voting system standards last week. Ahead of the Election Assistance Commission’s scheduled vote on version 2.0 of the Voluntary Voting System Guidelines (VVSG), the brief, Voluntary Voting System Guidelines: An Overview, summarizes the origins of the VVSG, the standards setting process, the basic contours of changes for VVSG 2.0, and other selected issues for consideration by lawmakers.
The Federal Voting Assistance Program released a research note on military and overseas voting last month. The research note, Data Standardization and the UOCAVA Voting Pipeline, investigates how the timing of ballot requests and modes of transmission influence ballot return for military and overseas voters.
Election Security Updates
CIS launched its new “Managing Cybersecurity Supply Chain Risks in Election Technology: A Guide for Election Technology Providers” this week; the guide is the first of its kind for the industry, and continues CIS’s approach of providing best practices for specific problem areas identified to CIS by the election community.
Election officials and technology providers have identified the need for guidance on managing supply chain risk to address the large proportion of election technology that is outsourced. This document was compiled with input from the broader elections community to include election tech providers and CISA; it introduces methodology via threat model to thwart the most significant attacks, breaking down each major component of the election infrastructure while addressing risks and mitigations.
Managing Cybersecurity Supply Chain Risks in Election Technology is non-technical in nature, and describes a 5-step process for identifying and managing suppliers based on a prioritization of risk to an election technology provider’s products and services:
- Identify and document supply chain, including asset identification
- Assess risks to prioritize critical components and services as those facing the most significant threats
- Assess your relationships with suppliers relative to criticality of products and services
- Align and manage supplier relationships to manage risk
- Conduct ongoing assessment and monitoring of key dependencies associated with critical components
The guide ONLY addresses risks involving hardware, firmware, and software sourced externally for use in election equipment.
Federal Legislation: Congresswoman Grace Meng is reintroducing legislation in the House of Representatives to lower the voting age in America to 16. Since 16- and 17-year-olds are legally permitted to work, drive, and pay federal income taxes, Meng says they should also be able to have their voices heard at the ballot box. In 2018, Meng introduced the measure (H.J. Res. 138) to replace the 26th amendment to the United States Constitution with a new amendment that would allow 16- and 17-year-olds to vote. The last time the voting age was changed was when it was lowered from 21 to 18 in 1971. If enacted, the voting age would be lowered for federal, state and local elections. Meng’s legislation includes 17 original co-sponsors. “Our young people, including 16- and 17-year-olds, continue to fight and advocate for so many issues that they are passionate about from gun safety to the climate crisis,” Meng said. “They have been tremendously engaged on policies affecting their lives and their futures. Their activism, determination, and efforts to demand change are inspirational and have truly impacted our nation. It’s time to give them a voice in our democracy by permitting them to be heard at the ballot box. “I believe that it is right and fair to also allow them to vote. Let’s let them be heard and make their voices count. Let’s give them a say in choosing who they want their government representatives to be. I’m proud to stand with our young people in introducing this legislation, and I urge my colleagues in the House to support it.”
Arizona: The Arizona Senate voted to not hold the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors in contempt for failing to turn over voting machines and ballots from the November election. The vote was expected to pass with a Republican majority, but GOP Rep. Paul Boyer voted against the resolution, evening the tallies at 15 each and killing the resolution. If the vote would have passed, the five-member board consisting of just one Democrat could have been subject to immediate arrest. “Ultimately, today’s vote to reject the resolution provides more time for us to work together for the sole purpose of gaining more clarity,” Boyer said in a statement. “It is NOT a final determination, nor is it the end of the process. “My vote is about patience. It’s about resolving disagreements civilly, and these are things that I believe all Senators can agree upon regardless of our respective votes today.” The Senate has been trying since mid-December to get access to ballots and other materials so they can do their own audit of the election results. They are prompted in part by the many Republicans who subscribe to unfounded claims that President Joe Biden won Arizona because of problems with vote counting. GOP senators say they’re just trying to boost voter confidence in elections.
Florida: Republican Sen. George Gainer of Panama City filed SB774, which would make super voting sites optional for counties across the Sunshine State. Rep. Thomas Maney, R-Fort Walton Beach, filed an identical bill, HB635, in the House. During the early voting period, voters can cast a ballot at any early voting site in their county. On Election Day, they must go to a particular voting precinct. This often causes voter confusion on Election Day, Andersen said. The proposed super voting sites would allow voters to cast their ballot in person at any super voting site in their county, even on Election Day. Voters’ ballots are recorded to prevent anyone from trying to vote a second time. To qualify as a super voting site, it must provide the same opportunity to all voters to cast a ballot and needs sufficient parking. These are already requirements for early voting sites, suggesting most counties that shift toward super voting will just use their early voting sites.
Georgia: The deadline for voters to request absentee ballots would be moved back to 10 days before election day, according to a bill that passed a House committee Tuesday with bipartisan support. The legislation would also require county election officials to get absentee ballots in the mail within three business days after receipt. Currently, voters can request absentee ballots until the Friday before election day, but that doesn’t leave much time to receive and return ballots. State law requires absentee ballots to be returned to county election offices before polls close on election day. “It’s almost misleading the way our current law works,” said state Rep. Barry Fleming, a Republican from Harlem and chairman of the House Special Committee on Election Integrity. “You could request a ballot properly, and there would be almost no way you’d get it back in time.” The measure, House Bill 270, doesn’t make exceptions for last-minute absentee ballot requests from voters with emergencies, such as COVID-19 quarantine, illness or military duty. The committee had approved a previous version of the bill last week, but the lawmakers reconsidered it Tuesday in response to concerns. Initially, the legislation would have prohibited election officials from mailing absentee ballots in the last 10 days before election day, and voters would have had to request ballots beforehand. The bill will now be considered by the House Rules Committee before reaching a full vote of the Georgia House of Representatives.
Idaho: Following an election with a record number of mail-in votes and widespread misinformation on voter fraud, legislators and elections officials have been working to rewrite Idaho’s absentee voting laws. The Senate State Affairs Committee has voted to introduce multiple bills on the topic. The most significant was presented Monday by Ada County Clerk Phil McGrane. It would make the temporary voting changes passed during the August special legislative session permanent. The methods used in Idaho during the 2020 election expired on Dec. 31, 2020. During the special session, lawmakers approved a law allowing the opening and scanning of ballots beginning seven days before Election Day that November. A new addition to the bill would change the requirement for absentee ballots to be sent out to voters from 45 days prior to the election to 30 days prior to the election. Military voters or voters living overseas would still be required to have it sent 45 days prior. Two additional bills on the topic were printed on Monday and referred to the Senate State Affairs committee. Senate Bill 1064 would no longer allow absentee voters to request a new mail-in ballot for a different party. Now, voters “can only request the issuance of a new ballot of the same type they originally requested.” Senate Bill 1069 would require all issues with absentee ballots to be resolved by 8 p.m. on the day of the election. The clerk must attempt to contact the voter “to ensure the issue is not related to any form of fraud” and give the voter “the opportunity to remedy the issue.”
The House State Affairs Committee gave a do-pass recommendation toa new bill that would make it a felony to collect and return ballots on behalf of others. Under the proposed law, voters would only be allowed to handle two ballots at one time unless a person was authorized to hold more. Authorized persons would include postal workers. The bill, said sponsor Rep. Mike Moyle, R-Star, is intended to prevent ballot harvesting. “It may not be a problem in Idaho today. I think we need to fix it before it does become a problem,” Moyle said. Phil McGrane, Ada County Clerk, testified in favor of the bill, though he would have preferred a voter be allowed to drop off up to six ballots, rather than just two.
Indiana: The Republican-controlled House overwhelming rejected a Democratic proposal to eliminate the requirement that Hoosiers satisfy at least one of 13 possible excuses to vote by mail, and instead permit all registered voters to cast their ballot through the mail. State Rep. Tonya Pfaff, D-Terre Haute, proposed the no-excuse mail-in ballot amendment to House Bill 1365, which addresses a variety of election issues. Pfaff said Hoosiers clearly are interested in voting by mail since turnout was up in the 2020 primary election when all voters were allowed to request and submit a mail-in ballot due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “Indiana showed that we could conduct an election with no-excuse absentee voting without any incidents of fraud,” Pfaff said. The House ultimately voted 66-28 to reject Pfaff’s call for no-excuse absentee voting in Indiana. Data show Indiana ranked in the lowest fifth of states for voter turnout during the 2020 general election.
The House voted unanimously on this week in support of legislation co-authored by state Rep. Zach Payne, R-Charlestown, expanding early voting opportunities for Hoosiers. In Indiana, all registered voters are eligible to vote early in-person starting 28 days before an election. Dates, times and locations vary by county. Currently, every county must have early voting open for seven hours on the two Saturdays ahead of Election Day. Payne said with this legislation, the circuit court clerk would have the option of opening for at least four hours the third Saturday before Election Day. House Bill 1479 now moves to the Senate for further consideration.
Maine: Under current law, any eligible Maine voter can request an absentee ballot. Under a new proposal before lawmakers, voters that have requested an absentee ballot in past elections would automatically receive one in the mail. Secretary of State Shenna Bellows supports the bill as a way to make voting easier and more accessible. “Fifteen states have in place some form of ongoing absentee voting and have done so with appropriate security measures in place,” she says. The measure was opposed by a group representing municipal clerks and by the Maine Municipal Association because of the additional mailing costs.
Maryland: At a press conference, Senators Justin D. Ready (R-Carroll), Jason C. Gallion (R-Cecil and Harford) and Minority Leader Bryan W. Simonaire (R-Anne Arundel) proposed a slew of election reforms, citing “major deficiencies” in the 2020 election. Simonaire said the measures, which include requiring signature verification on mail-in ballots, are meant to build public trust in the state’s election system. Some of those proposals include ensuring that party affiliation is hidden on mail-in ballots, and requiring signature verification for those ballots. Ready is sponsoring a bill that would require voters to show a form of identification before casting their ballot to verify their name and address. Voters could use a government-issued photo ID, utility bill, bank statement, government check, paycheck, “any other recent government document that shows the voter’s name and address,” a voter notification card or a sample ballot.
Massachusetts: Secretary of State William Galvin (D) will file a bill with the Legislature to permanently implement broad-based voting by mail and same-day voter registration in the Commonwealth. The bill would let registered voters apply to vote by mail in any primary or general election. That process was allowed for the 2020 state primaries and November election, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, Galvin’s bill would allow same-day registration, a change from current law, which requires residents to be registered at least 20 days before an election to vote. Galvin plans to file his bill this month, according to the statement.
Michigan: A package of bills introduced in the Michigan House of Representatives would provide changes to the state’s voter registration rolls as well as transparency on election officials who have not completed state-mandated training. House Bills 4127 through 4131 currently remain under consideration in the House Elections and Ethics Committee. The bills have sponsors in both the Democratic and Republican parties. Specifically, here is what each bill proposes:
House Bill 4127, introduced by Rep. Matt Hall, R-Marshall, would require the Secretary of State’s office to verify the birthdate of voters who currently have a placeholder birthdate on their voter record.
House Bill 4128, introduced by Rep. Julie Calley, R-Portland, would require the Secretary of State’s office to reach out to voters who have not voted since the November 2000 election. If those voters did not respond or vote in the following two general elections, they would be removed from the state’s Qualified Voter Roll.
House Bill 4129, introduced by Rep. Steve Marino, R-Harrison Township, would require the Secretary of State in odd-numbered years to publish a list on its website of local and county clerks who have not completed updated training requirements until the training is complete.
House Bill 4130, introduced by Rep. Matt Koleszar, D-Plymouth Township, would push back filing deadlines for expenditure and finance reports from lobbyists.
House Bill 4131, introduced by Rep. Terry Sabo, D-Laketon Township, would give Bureau of Elections staff more time to review campaign finance and lobbying reports.
Minnesota: The Minnesota Senate’s transportation committee approved a bill that would require Minnesotans to present a valid photo identification for in-person and absentee voting. The bill establishes a new voter identification card free-of-charge to individuals who lack proper identification and cannot afford it. The bill was previously approved by the state government committee, and it will next be heard in the finance committee. The legislation would require voters to produce valid, government-issued photo identification when voting in person, by absentee or mail-in ballot. Individuals unable to provide valid proof of identity or residence would be able to cast a provisional ballot, affording the voter a period of time in which they could obtain valid identification. Same-day voter registration would also remain intact.
Mississippi: Senate Bill 2113 would ensure that counties are selecting voting machines that meet national standards. It requires they have a certification by the United States Election Assistance Commission. “Make sure your machine operates, can’t be hacked. As you know, we’re not attached to the internet on our machines… all those things come into play,” said Lt. Gov. Hosemann. “We’ve just got to do whatever we can to provide confidence for people to vote,” noted Sen. Angela Hill.
The Senate has approved a bill that would speed up the process of purging inactive voters’ names from the election rolls. The bill says local election commissioners would send a postcard to registered voters who do not cast a ballot in any local, state or federal election during a two-year period that includes two federal elections — a presidential election and a midterm congressional election. If voters fail to confirm their address within four years of receiving the postcard, or if they fail to vote during that time, the county would remove their name from the rolls. Voters’ names could not be removed within 90 days of an election, and the county would have to maintain records for at least two years showing a purged name. The bill passed 36-16 on a party line vote.
Montana: The bill to end same day registration in Montana was initially tabled in committee, but then it was brought back and now it has been approved by the full House. The House voted 61-39 for House Bill 176, which would end voter registration at noon on the Monday before Election Day. Some Republicans tried to amend the bill on the floor to set the voter-registration deadline on the Friday before Election Day – which is what the original bill said before it was amended in committee. That attempt failed on a 44-56 vote – and, as members prepared to vote on the bill itself, Rep. Derek Skees, R-Kalispell, promised fellow conservatives he would attempt to amend the bill back to the Friday deadline in the Senate. He urged them not to kill the bill on the floor, because they didn’t like the Monday deadline. Six Republicans voted with all 33 House Democrats against the measure.
Last year was the first year Montana voters didn’t have to pay return postage on their mail-in ballots. It also was a record breaking year for voter turnout. A bill in the House State Administration Committee would keep it that way. House Bill 287, sponsored by Rep. Kelly Kortum, D-Bozeman, would make the Secretary of State’s office pay for ballot return postage. The bill’s five proponents, including Sam Forstag of the American Civil Liberties Union, said having paid postage on ballots would make it easier for low-income and minority Montanans to vote.
New Mexico: State Rep. Gail Chasey, D-Albuquerque, is sponsoring a bill to give felons more immediate access to their voting rights following the completion of their prison sentences. She championed a similar bill in 2019, though that bill also sought to allow felons to vote while incarcerated. It did not pass. Chasey’s bill, House Bill 74, passed the House Judiciary Committee last week on a 6-4 vote. It awaits a vote on the House floor. If H.B. 74 is signed into law, an inmate would be offered the opportunity to register to vote or update their registration as they prepare for release from a state correctional facility.
New York: The New York State Assembly passed a series of bills aimed at reducing in person contact during the pandemic. If passed by the State Senate and signed into law by the governor, the bills would reduce the amount of signatures needed in 2021 to get on the ballot. Other measures include eliminating the need to hold primaries in races where there is only one candidate, as well as allowing some steps of the process to be completed virtually. These bills are separate from the series of election reform bills passed by the state senate in January. Those bills focused more on absentee ballots, as well as expanding options for people to vote.
North Dakota: House Bill 1447 would require universities and colleges in North Dakota to include the date of birth and residential address on student photo identification cards. The card could then be used to confirm a student’s residence when voting. When issuing the ID cards to students, an institution also would need to provide each student with information regarding voter eligibility requirements.
The House has approved a bill that limits early voting dates to 9 days before Election Day. Early voting is currently allowed up to 15 days before an election. Rep. Steve Vetter (R-Grand Forks) carried the bill on the House floor. “Although we want early voting, we don’t want to draw it out for too long of a time. This bill leaves lots of time to vote.” The vote was 78 13 to approve the measure. It now goes to the Senate.
Oklahoma: A Senate panel passed a measure making it easier to cast ballots for people who vote absentee. Senate Bill 440, by state Sen. Adam Pugh, R-Edmond, would add three days of in-person absentee voting per election. It would extend the in-person absentee period for casting ballots to 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday immediately preceding the election. It also keeps the 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday option. Current law allows in-person absentee voting from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday and Friday and 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday. Pugh said he waited in line for four hours to cast his ballot in November. He said precincts all across his district had waiting lines. Oklahoma has the shortest period for early voting, he said. “We are the worst state in the country for voter turnout,” Pugh said. He said the measure is an incremental change.
Utah: With a 72-0 bipartisan vote, the House has approved HB70 which would allow Utah voters to digitally track their mail-in ballots throughout the election process and to correct any problems that might arise in the counting of their ballots. The provisions of the proposed law would allow voters, starting in the 2022 federal midterm election, to choose to receive either text messages or e-mail notifications regarding the status of their ballots.
HB180, introduced by Rep. Carl Albrecht (R-Richfield) would create a “neutral advisor” position outside the lieutenant governor’s office to review complaints against his or her campaign. Under Albrecht’s bill, the neutral advisor would be appointed by the governor if and when a future lieutenant governor ran for other statewide offices. Utah Elections Director Justin Lee said that his office worked with Albrecht to craft the current language of the bill. “This really matches very closely with what we did in 2019 and 2020,” Lee said, referencing the appointment of McKeachnie. “We know people are concerned when election officials are running for other office, and so we certainly want to make sure that the public knows that there are processes in place to have other people take a look at it so that we don’t have conflicts and the system remains fair and equal for everyone.” The bill has been approved by the House.
A resolution recognizing Utah’s 2020 election success won approval from a panel of lawmakers this week. Rep. Joel Briscoe, D-Salt Lake City, sponsored HCR11 to acknowledge Utah’s county clerks ran a widely successful election without significant problems in an election year when other states grappled with voting by mail and comments from former President Donald Trump that undermined the validity of the election results — baseless claims that lacked evidence and faltered in dozens of court cases. “I just want to give a shoutout to Utah’s county clerks for running a great election,” Briscoe said in front of the House Government Operations Committee. “We’ve heard a lot in the press and the media about problems with elections, but that’s not true in Utah. We talk a lot about the Utah way, and we run great elections in Utah.”
Virginia: Sen. David Sutterlein (R-Roanoke) has introduced a bill requiring that absentee votes be recorded in the precincts where the voter lives. According to WVTF, the movement toward absentee voting is undercutting the ability of elected officials and journalists to examine the geography of elections. When you cast an absentee ballot, the data is usually not recorded in the precinct where you live. It’s recorded in an at-large precinct, lumping your vote in with all the other absentee votes in the county or the city. A Senate panel approved the bill, sending it to the Senate floor.
Washington: Rep. Kirsten Harris-Talley (D-Seattle) and 26 co-sponsors have introduced House Bill 1156 that would allow ranked choice voting in some local elections. The bill would allow counties, cities, towns, school districts, fire districts and port districts to implement ranked choice voting in elections where more than two candidates are competing. Up to five candidates can appear on the general election ballot, and voters are not limited by party preference. Additionally, the legislation would strengthen the Voting Rights Act, providing for reimbursement of costs associated with bringing forward a notice of systemic disenfranchisement of underrepresented communities.
Wisconsin: Rep. Mark Spreitzer (D-Beloit) and Sen. Chris Larson re introducing legislation that would bring ranked-choice voting to Wisconsin. “Ranked-choice voting is an innovative and practical way to make sure people can vote for who they truly want, rather than vote strategically for who they think has the best chance of winning,” Spreitzer said. “Ranked-choice voting also ensures that those who serve in elected office are there because they have the support of a clear majority of voters.” Larson said implementing ranked-choice voting would make it harder for extremist candidates to win.
Federal Litigation: Election technology company Smartmatic filed a massive lawsuit Thursday against Fox News, saying the network and some of its biggest on-air personalities made it into a villain and perpetuated false claims about the recent election. The suit names Fox stars Lou Dobbs, Maria Bartiromo and Jeanine Pirro, as well as Trump allies Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell. The defamation and disparagement lawsuit seeks more than $2.7 billion, citing damage from what Smartmatic calls a “disinformation campaign” that was waged by people who were unhappy with President Biden’s victory – but who also hoped to profit from former President Donald Trump’s persistent and erroneous claims that the election was fraudulent. “They knew the election was not stolen,” the company says it in a court filing. “They knew the election was not rigged or fixed. They knew these truths just as they knew the Earth is round and two plus two equals four.”
Arkansas: Whether the state can limit the number of times one person helps others vote goes to trial Nov. 15, a federal judge ruled. Arkansas United, a Springdale-based immigrant rights group, filed the suit on behalf of voters who aren’t proficient in English. A 2009 state law forbids any one person who isn’t an election official from helping more than six people vote at the polls in each election. The lawsuit argues the limit violates federal law. The federal Voter Rights Act allows eligible voters who need assistance to get it from the person of their choice. The lawsuit names Arkansas Secretary of State John Thurston and state election officials as well as local election officials in Benton, Washington and Sebastian counties. Arkansas United is likely to prevail, U.S. District Judge Timothy Brooks said in a November court order allowing the suit to proceed. Another court order Friday denied multiple arguments to dismiss the case. That order also asserted Arkansas United’s likely success in the matter. A record number of people who aren’t fluent in English voted in the general election ending Nov. 3, the Nov. 2 lawsuit by Arkansas United said. The limit of six people, in some cases, meant even a family member couldn’t render assistance to all close relatives who needed it, according to the lawsuit. The lawsuit asked for an immediate injunction to lift the limit.
Georgia: Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis has launched a wide-ranging criminal investigation into the former president. The investigation centers on a Jan. 2 phone call to Georgia’s Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger in which former President Donald J. Trump pleaded with him to “find” enough votes to overturn his narrow defeat in the state. “This letter is notice that the Fulton County District Attorney has opened an investigation into attempts to influence the administration of the 2020 Georgia General Election,” Willis wrote in correspondences delivered Wednesday morning to Raffensperger, Gov. Brian Kemp, Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan and Attorney General Chris Carr. Willis told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Wednesday that her office was best suited to handle the investigation since all other relevant state investigative agencies have conflicts. In her letter, Willis said her office “is the one agency with jurisdiction that is not a witness to the conduct that is the subject of the investigation.” “I don’t have any predetermined opinions” about whether a prosecution will even occur, she said. Willis would not say whether anyone else besides the former president is under investigation.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has a great run down of all the elections litigation pending in Georgia, a lot of related to the 2020 election. Overall there were more than 30 lawsuits that contested some aspects of the November presidential election or the January U.S. Senate runoff in Georgia. Most were tossed out by judges in short order. But others live on, and new lawsuits are still being filed. At least 13 lawsuits related to the November and January elections in Georgia are pending in various courts.
Iowa: Chief District Court Judge Leonard Strand has thrown out a lawsuit that sought to bar Black Hawk and Scott counties from using private grants to help fund the November 2020 general election. The Iowa Voter Alliance and three voters argued the counties did not have the authority to use $500,000 in grants from the nonprofit Center for Tech and Civic Life. The plaintiffs claimed CTCL was pursuing a progressive agenda by providing funds to promote absentee voting in urban districts. The court declined to bar use of the money ahead of the election, and last week Strand sided with the counties, dismissing and closing the case. Strand ruled that Iowa Voter Alliance failed to show it was harmed by the counties’ actions.
New York: State Supreme Court Justice Scott DelConte has ruled that Republican Claudia Tenney will be certified as the winner of New York’s 22nd Congressional District race. The ruling represents the most definitive answer to who won in an election saga with many twists and turns, though it’s not entirely over yet. Democrat Anthony Brindisi has promised to appeal at the state court, and he could seek to contest the election results at the House of Representatives itself. DelConte ruled that counties and the state elections board are to certify the election, rejecting an effort by Democrat Anthony Brindisi, who occupied the seat until early January, to keep the election unofficial until his appeal to a higher court concludes. In ruling against Brindisi, DelConte argued that the Democrat did not provide enough evidence that certifying Tenney would cause “irreparable harm,” given that he still had a remedy at the federal level. DelConte criticized local elections boards for what he said amounted to “systemic violations of state and federal election law” that affected both candidates. In particular, he singled out Oneida County’s failure to process more than 2,400 applications from voters who registered via the DMV, which rendered them unable to vote on Election Day.
New York state is within its rights to keep its election ballots decluttered and prevent voter confusion with rules limiting how a political party gets on ballots the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled this week. The Appellate Court rejected a challenge to the state’s new election ballot rules by the SAM Party of New York. It said the party, whose full name is Serve America Movement, was unlikely to succeed with claims that ballot rules violate the First and 14th amendments. But a three-judge panel of the 2nd Circuit in Manhattan in a ruling written by Circuit Judge Michael H. Park noted that the U.S. Constitution gives states broad rights over its elections. “While some voters would surely like to see the SAM Party automatically included on their ballot in the next cycle, the interest of those voters does not outweigh the broader public interest in administrable elections, ensuring that parties enjoy a modicum of electoral support, and the conservation of taxpayer dollars,” the appeals court said.
Virginia: The Virginia Department of Elections faces another lawsuit from Democratic candidates pursuing a contactless system to collect the required signatures to qualify for the party’s primary in June, this time from those vying for seats in the House of Delegates. Just a few weeks ago, a similar suit was settled between two Virginia Democrats eyeing statewide office this year, Paul Goldman and Del. Lee Carter (D-Manassas), and the state’s election officials. Richmond Circuit Court Judge David Eugene Cheek Sr. approved the finalized settlement requiring the Department of Elections to develop a non-contact method — either by mail or online — for statewide candidates by Friday. Del. Carter and six prospective House candidates filed another suit Tuesday in an effort to have the department provide the same process to those trying to make the primary ballot for the state legislature. The latest suit against the Department of Elections cites the health and safety concerns that come with the traditional in-person gathering method and claims, as the first complaint from Carter and Goldman did, of a violation of the candidates’ First Amendment rights.
Vendors: St. Louis-based KnowInk has acquired South Dakota-based BPro. The acquisition of BPro, announced this week, adds 450 jurisdictions to the 980 already using KnowInk’s Poll Pad system. The companies said BPro’s TotalVote system also adds capabilities in voter registration, list maintenance, campaign finance and vote reporting. BPro is based in Fort Pierre, South Dakota. Its owner, Brandon Campea, plans to remain with KnowInk. BPro has contracts with 10 states and with local officials in six other states.
Opinions This Week
Alaska: Election reform
California: Youth turnout
Hawaii: Automatic voter registration
Indiana: Voting rights
Michigan: Election Day holiday
Minnesota: Ranked choice voting
Montana: Same day registration
North Carolina: Election reform
Oklahoma: Voter suppression
Texas: Voting rights
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.
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.
Director of Operations, Virginia Department of Elections — This position provides executive leadership, supervision, and direction for Department of Elections’ operations. The position will support and collaborate with the Commissioner in creating, planning, and executing the agency’s strategic plan. The Director of Operations acts on behalf of the Commissioner in their absence or as delegated to make decisions related to operational objectives, supervise agency staff, manage agency operations, and successfully produce results. The Director of Operations will also support and implement programs, including reporting and progress updates, as directed by the Commissioner. The position will develop and maintain collaborative relationships and teamwork across the agency and with other agencies and external partners. Additionally, the position will champion continuous improvement of processes to streamline and improve agency operations. The Director of Operations will provide continuity of agency operations across administrations and ensure agency effectiveness. Salary: up to $120,000. 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.
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.
Logistics Specialist, Wake County, North Carolina— The Wake County Board of Elections is currently seeking an experienced Logistics Specialist to join our Team. The ideal candidate will have experience in planning and conducting elections at the county level and be exceptionally organized and detail oriented. As the primary warehouse team leader, you will oversee the warehouse daily operations, oversee elections supplies inventory and packing, ensure election documents are up to date, oversee supply distribution and return to and from our 206 polling places, communicate with vendors, assist with budget planning, maintain election records according to retention schedules, receive supply deliveries, and process supply orders. As a part of this Team, you are responsible for all polling place and supply inventory management, orchestrating staff, events, vendors, and supplies to ensure successful elections. Salary Hiring Range: $18.36 – $24.78. 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.
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