In Focus This Week
Honoring the best and brightest
Election associations present awards for 2021
Not to be outdone by Hollywood or Broadway, the elections community also hands out a series of awards each year to honor outstanding work in the field.
The awards from The Election Center, the International Association of Government Officials, the National Association of Secretaries of State and the National Association of State Election Directors cover everything from outstanding partnerships to innovation in the field to quick and inexpensive ideas to the use of technology.
This year’s winners include programs and practices in Arizona, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio, Utah, Washington and Wisconsin.
If you win one from each organization is that the equivalent of an EGOT? How would we arrange the letters?
Without further ado, here are the 2021 award winners.
The Election Center
The Election Center created the Professional Practices Program in 1996 to provide a forum in which election officials could share their successful practices with other jurisdictions. This is a celebration of best practices from small medium and large jurisdictions around the country and the U.S. Territories. It includes a category for state entries as well. All of the professional practices papers that are submitted in a year are posted on the Election Center website and members have the opportunity to search on topics to read about, learn and utilize best practices in their jurisdictions.
Freedom Award: Vote Anywhere: Transforming Voter Experience St. Louis County, Missouri — In 2020, the St. Louis County Board of Elections implemented significant innovations to transform the voting experience in Missouri’s largest jurisdiction, including full deployment of new voting equipment, the choice to vote at any polling location, and the ability to use technology tools to inform that choice. While the momentum behind these changes had been building for some time, administering four countywide elections in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated their progression and improvements continue in 2021. Individually, each innovation has merit, but it is their collective impact that has resulted in the greatest benefit for St. Louis County voters.
Stars & Stripes Award — Running the Floor with the Weber State Women’s Basketball Team Weber County, Utah: Globally, 2020 was a year unlike any in recent history. We all felt the effects of the pandemic, political uncertainty and economic challenges. Locally, Utah experienced an earthquake and a windstorm that uprooted many neighborhoods in our community. Amidst everything that was going on, the Weber State Women’s Basketball team was inspired by their coach, who’s mother has served as a poll worker for years, to get involved and make a difference. Serving as poll workers was out of the question since they were all registered to vote in the home states and communities so they volunteered to help setup and take down the polling place as well as work on Election as door greeters, sanitizers, and directing traffic. In total, 57 athletes were inspired to help provide more than 250 hours of service – proving that our elections can still benefit from people who aren’t registered to vote or eligible to serve as traditional poll workers. “We’ve been talking for months about everything that goes on in the world because that’s just how I run my program. After all this, they’ve got to go be people and help society in any way they can. So we’ve talked about the right to vote, women’s suffrage, civil rights, we got them all registered to vote … so this is just another piece of it, let’s go help other people do the same,” said Velaida Harris, Weber State Women’s Basketball head coach “To be recognized by your peers is always an incredible honor, especially in a year like 2020 that presented us all with so many different challenges. It was encouraging to me to see this group of student athletes get involved to make a difference in their community in such a meaningful way,” said Ryan Cowley, director of elections for Weber County.
Eagles Award: Improving Efficiency with the Esri Application Suite King County, Washington — King County Elections (KCE) was proud to accept the Eagles Award for the outstanding use of technology for our use of a customized Esri app suite built for our ballot drop box program. The Esri suite allows KCE leads and supervisors to see routes and ballot collection data in real-time, standardize processes, and automate data entry. Using the Esri platform has increased the output of ballot collection teams, reduced costs, improved record keeping, increased the ability of KCE to nimbly coordinate a large team of drivers while out in the field, and allowed for more informed decision-making when allocating resources. It’s just one example of how technology can be used to facilitate and promote democracy and voter participation, while increasing efficiencies and data-driven decision making. KCE is thrilled be able to share our best practices and lessons learned with our election administration colleagues across the country.
Guardian Award: Insights from High School Poll Workers Minneapolis, Minnesota — Teens can be powerful allies for elections administrators and those working to make voting accessible to the youngest eligible voters. This youth participatory action research project involved the collaborative efforts of Minneapolis Elections & Voter Services, the YMCA of the North’s Center for Youth Voice, the Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) at Tufts University’s Tisch College of Civic Life, Auburn University, and the Civic Scholars, a group of high school students and recent graduates from the Minneapolis area. The goal was to empower a diverse group of youths to develop leadership and professional skills while they helped the partner organizations better understand how young people develop civic skills and voices. Youth conducted research to highlight the experiences and benefits of young people who worked the polls, understand how youth poll worker programs might create a more equitable electorate, and share recommendations for others who may want to start, improve, and promote youth poll worker programs. They wrote a series of research briefs and created videos for the Student Election Judge Toolkit. Financial support from the Democracy Fund and the Minnesota Legacy Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund made this project possible.
Minuteman Award: Texting and Voting a Collaborative Time Saving Experience Lee County, North Carolina — The Lee County Board of Elections partnered with the Lee County Information Technology Department to create a chat bot to answer frequently asked questions by voters. The idea was proposed during the 2019 election by Nick Gaster, an employee of the Lee County IT department. The chat bot debuted in February during the early voting period for the March 3, 2020 primary election. The chat bot answered hundreds of voters’ questions, resulting in 392 fewer potential phone calls that would normally be answered by the elections staff. The chat bot saved staff time, allowing them to focus on conducting the election. The tool allowed voters to use their cell phones to text their election-related questions and receive automated answers in real time. To implement the tool, the board of elections only had to create the potential questions, while the IT department handled the rollout.
Security Award: Absentee Ballot Chain of Custody Improvements: Strengthening Security & Accountability St. Louis County, Missouri — Absentee voting, as St. Louis County’s Board of Elections historically knew it, dramatically changed in 2020. Like jurisdictions across the U.S., St. Louis County, Missouri experienced a remarkable increase in absentee ballots in 2020. More than one-quarter of a million absentee ballots were processed by St. Louis County’s Board of Elections for its Primary Election in August and the Presidential General Election in November. Putting lessons learned in 2020 into action, the agency kicked off 2021 with an initiative to improve the chain of custody process for inbound absentee ballots. Using a facilitated workshop format, agency leaders and team members employed a variety of improvement tools and techniques, including swim lane process mapping, visual management, and hands-on simulations. The effort successfully resulted in security and accounting improvements in time for an April countywide election with creative solutions generated in-house, at no additional cost.
Democracy Award: Partners in Ballot Access Minneapolis, Minnesota— Minneapolis was presented the 2021 Democracy Award for its Partners in Ballot Access program, a partnership between Minneapolis Elections & Voter Services (EVS) and the Minneapolis Convention Center (MCC) to address the unprecedented impact to the 2020 Presidential Election cycle caused by the global health pandemic (COVID-19). Through our shared beliefs in public service, this partnership helped to expand ballot access during the COVID-19 pandemic, filled mission-critical positions, provided expanded space to accommodate absentee voting operations, tightened security, and reduced overall administration costs. Most notable was the new ballot drop off initiative that emerged from the partnership, resulting in 12 staffed locations being opened and over 42,000 ballots successfully returned to election officials. Programs like these will play vital roles as election officials strive for innovation, while also achieving our mission of fair, safe, and equitable elections. You can learn more about this partnership from the Convention Center’s perspective here.
State Award: Cybersecurity Tabletop Exercise Secretary of State, Arizona —The Arizona Secretary of State’s Office hosted a Cybersecurity Preparedness Tabletop Training exercise with all of the state’s 15 counties in December 2019. Along with county representatives, state and federal cybersecurity partners also participated in the event. Information Security Officer Ken Matta designed the program, which divided participants into five fictional counties, and made them run through some of the worst-case scenarios they could experience before, during and after an election. Each person was assigned a role throughout the process, which was different from their actual job in order to take the person out of their comfort zone and provide a different perspective. “It is an honor to win the 2021 State Award for Professional Practices from the Election Center.” Secretary of State Katie Hobbs said. “Our dedicated team, led by Information Security Officer Ken Matta, spent countless hours working on this project to ensure that the counties got a real sense of what they could experience before, during, and after an election that was as big as the one we had in 2020. We couldn’t have done it without the participation of all 15 counties, who took the time to join us and committed to immersing themselves in the stressful scenarios we laid out for them.”
International Association of Government Officials
The 2021 IGO Innovator Award was presented to Gilberto Zelaya, community engagement/public information officer at the Montgomery County, Maryland board of elections for: Leveraging bilingual Short Message Service (SMS) texting to facilitate voter information and empowerment during the COVID-19 pandemic. Short Message Service (SMS) texting provided county voters with reassuringly simple, straightforward and time sensitive information and service generated hyperlinks. BOE’s bilingual SMS short code broadens the Board’s reach into the community, the speed in which services are rendered and mitigates common service requests made to the off by traditional means. “It’s an honor and privilege to be recognized by iGO and to receive its prestigious Election Official’s Division Innovator Award,” Zelaya said. “ With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, traditional methods of community engagement and empowerment were abruptly reduced or eliminated. Our Bilingual Short Message Service (SMS) texting program provided County voters with reassuringly simple, straightforward, and instantaneous time sensitive information. The ability to leverage commonly used technology not only strengthens the electorate, but more importantly, solidifies our resolve to serve.”
National Association of Secretaries of State
The 2021 NASS IDEAS (Innovation, Dedication, Excellence and Achievement in Service) Award went to Michigan’s Department of State for the Democracy is a Team Sport: Forging Active Partnerships Between Election Officials and Major League Sports which launched in 2020. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the program created partnerships with Michigan’s professional sports teams to educate voters, as well as support election administration. These efforts included use of team facilities as polling locations, holding voter registration events, and creating public service announcements with athletes promoting accurate and trusted elections information. “Democracy prevailed in 2020 because we forged new partnerships and came together in new ways to ensure every vote counted and every voice was heard. Part of that work involved the unprecedented involvement of Michigan’s professional sports teams to support election administration, recruit poll workers and educate voters about how to cast their ballot in the midst of a global pandemic. These collaborations ensured we were able to hold our state’s safest, most secure and most accessible election to date, and we’re extremely grateful for the leadership displayed by the Detroit Pistons, Lions, Tigers and Red Wings in helping to ensure the integrity and accessibility of our election,” Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson said in a statement. “It means so much to have this work applauded by my fellow Secretaries of State across the country with this award, and I am grateful for their support and recognition for our work.”
National Association of State Election Directors
The 2021 NASED Innovators Award was presented to the Office of the Ohio Secretary of State. Innovators Award highlights innovative training procedures, technologies, partnerships, and practices from the 50 states, District of Columbia, and the five U.S. territories. The secretary of state’s office was presented the 2021 NASED Innovators Award for their Precinct Election Official Recruitment program for the 2020 election. Ohio was selected out of 14 submissions from 10 states. NASED President Michelle Tassinari said: “On behalf of NASED, I am proud to present the 2021 NASED Innovators Award to the Ohio Secretary of State’s office. Ohio was the first state to allow attorneys statewide to earn CLE credit for serving as poll workers, and their idea spread quickly to other states. It also led to a national partnership between NASED, our colleagues at the National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS), and the American Bar Association in advance of the November 2020 election. “Overcoming a once in a lifetime challenge required an innovative approach – one that relied on the patriotism of Ohioans who appreciated the monumental task facing our state,” Secretary of State Frank LaRose said in a statement.” Thanks to a record 56,000 Ohio poll workers, and the bipartisan teams of election officials who trained them, our state ran the most successful election in our state’s history. Our state has earned a reputation as the gold standard of election administration, and we’ll maintain that position long as we continue to embrace the creativity and grit that got us there. Thank you to NASED for this incredible honor – it’s one I share with my team, Ohio’s election officials, and tens of thousands of poll workers who made sure Ohio’s voice was heard.” Electionline Weekly wrote about the program back in February of 2020.
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Election News This Week
March On For Voting Rights: Thousands of Americans gathered in cities and towns, including Washington, DC on the 58th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington to protest recent legislation they say suppresses voter rights, particularly for voters of color and young voters, in many Republican-led states. According to NPR, organizers say the event in DC, which began at McPherson Square and included a march that ended on the Mall, drew thousands. Organizers of the march say that the state-level legislation and the weakening of the Voting Rights Act “signal a return to the Jim Crow era.” Protesters called on elected officials to protect democracy, including the passage of federal legislation that would ensure fair and easy access to voting across the country. Frank Smith was a civil rights activist with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee who attended the 1963 march. “What has not changed is that there’s been a just a drumbeat, a steady drumbeat of effort on the part of these Republican politicians to repress the Black vote, to take away Black voting rights,” he said in a phone interview ahead of the march. “So we’re still in a fight to maintain our voting rights that should be taken for granted because we are citizens of the United States,” he told NPR. Additional rallies were held everywhere from Arizona to Colorado to Connecticut to Florida to Georgia to Iowa to Maine to Missouri, to North Carolina to Pennsylvania to Texas and to Wyoming.
California Recall: Willdfires have displaced nearly 60,000 Californians. Gov. Gavin Newsom has signed an executive order to allow out-of-county workers who are unable to cast ballots in their home precincts to be provided with provisional ballots, upon request, for the upcoming state election. El Dorado County was forced to close ballot collection boxes in the South Lake Tahoe area due to the Caldor Fire. “The County does not want to be unable to retrieve ballots placed in the boxes due to evacuations,” officials said in the release. Santa Cruz County is once again employing its mobile voting unit. The county first successfully used the unit during the 2020 election season. The celebration of the 100th anniversary of Suffrage continued in Orange County as the Long Beach Suffrage 100 organization gathered to cast ballots at a county drop box. Following the vandalization of a ballot drop box in Torrance, several elections officials spoke with the Press-Enterprise about the security of drop boxes.
Guidance on Redistricting: This week, the U.S. Department of Justice released a set of redistricting guidelines related to the Voting Rights Act, warning states and local governments redrawing district maps against diluting the voting power of minority communities. “Where jurisdictions don’t draw maps that fairly enable all citizens, regardless of race or membership in a language minority, to elect the candidates of their choice, the Justice Department will act,” a Justice Department official told reporters Wednesday during a briefing. The DOJ official noted that the current round of redistricting would be the first time in decades that some states, including Texas, draw new maps without preclearance from the department. A 2013 Supreme Court decision, Shelby County v. Holder, invalidated the formula the government used to subject states to that scrutiny. Now, if one of those states draws a map that dilutes the power of minority voters, the Justice Department would need to sue after the fact to have the map tossed under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. That portion of the law bans discrimination against voters on the basis of race, color or member of a language minority.
Personnel News: John Shepherd is retiring as the Ashe County, North Carolina board of elections director after more than 25 years. D. Michael Bennett is stepping down as the chairman of the District of Columbia board of elections. Longtime Jefferson County, Florida Supervisor of Elections Marty Bishop is stepping down. Kendell Mason has resigned as the Bourbon County, Kansas clerk. Dianne Slopak is retiring as the Norwich, Connecticut Republican registrar. Samantha Gange is the new Rock Island, Iowa city clerk. Meketa Brown is the new Guyton, Georgia city clerk. Lynn Bailey is stepping down as the Richmond County, Georgia board of elections executive director. James Byrne has resigned from the Delaware County, Pennsylvania board of elections.
In Memoriam: Joanne Koester, former Sarasota County, Florida supervisor of elections Died August 3. She was 87. Koester served from 1976 to 1996 and was the county’s longest serving supervisor of elections. “During the time that we were serving as supervisors, we would commiserate quite a bit together, because we were counties of pretty much like size,” said Kurt Browning, former Florida secretary of state. “I would lean on her, and she, me. And we would laugh. I mean, we would just laugh.” Browning said Koester aimed for perfection in her work. “She was so concerned about making sure that all of her elections were flawless, that nobody could question what she was doing,” he said. “That’s the way she wanted it. And she worked hard at that.” Marilyn Gerkin worked for Koester for six years, and then succeeded her as Sarasota County’s supervisor of elections. “She was a very sweet lady, very dedicated,” Gerkin said. “She loved the job. She did an excellent job. She was someone who was respected and admired.”
Colorado: The Denver City Council has approved a ballot measure that, if passed by voters, would move Denver’s municipal elections from May to April to address federal deadlines for mailing ballots to military and overseas voters. The measure was passed unanimously without comment. The measure will now be added to the November 2021 ballot for voter approval. This change was made necessary after Colorado adopted a federal requirement for cities to provide ballots to overseas and military voters 45 days before elections. Currently, Denver’s municipal elections are followed by runoffs only 30 days later, with the top two candidates appearing on the runoff ballot. If passed by voters in November, the date change would begin with the next municipal election in 2023. Denver’s municipal elections are held every four years, appointing the city’s mayor, city council members, auditor and clerk.
Michigan: Michigan Republicans are gearing up to launch a petition drive to enact major changes to voting by circumventing Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s veto. Many of the proposed changes have already been introduced by GOP state lawmakers. The planned petition from Secure MI Vote, a ballot committee set up in December, proposes a strict photo ID requirement at polling locations and a brand new one for absentee voters, according to a summary of the petition shared by Fred Wszolek, a consultant to the campaign. The petition would set up a $3 million Voter Access Fund to provide personal ID cards free of charge. The petition, if adopted, would also prohibit the secretary of state and clerks from distributing unsolicited applications to request an absentee ballot and bar election officials from accepting funding from third-party groups. In response to the news of the effort, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, a Democrat, wrote in a tweet that the effort marks an escalation in “the battle over the future of our democracy.” Michigan’s process for approving voter-initiated legislation stands out as a national outlier in allowing lawmakers to enact changes proposed by a minority of voters whose proposals are not subject to either a popular vote or the governor’s approval. By collecting about 340,000 voter signatures, Secure MI Vote can propose changes to Michigan’s election law that the GOP-controlled Legislature can enact without Whitmer’s signature or placement on the ballot in a statewide election.
Texas: Last week, in a late night vote the House, by a vote of 79-37 approved Senate Bill 1. Over 12 hours, the Democrats offered more than three dozen amendments — trying to scrap portions of the bill, establish automatic voter registration and require a state study on the impact of voting law changes to different demographic groups, among several others — that were pushed to a pile of failed long-shot proposals. This week, Republicans in both the House and Senate signed off on a final version of Senate Bill 1 and sent the legislation to Gov. Greg Abbott (R) who has said he will sign the bill. Briefly, here is what Senate Bill 1 does: Bans drive-thru voting, creates new regulations for early voting hours, including a ban on 24-hour voting, bans the distribution of mail-in ballot applications, creates new ID requirements for voting by mail, creates a correction process for voting by mail, enhances poll watcher protections, establishes monthly citizenship checks and creates new rules for voter assistance.
California: U.S. District Judge Michael Fitzgerald affirmed in a ruling Aug. 27 that California’s recall process is constitutional, weeks before voting in a recall election against Gov. Gavin Newsom is scheduled to end. “The United States Constitution and its principle of ‘one person, one vote’ does not prevent California from holding its ongoing gubernatorial recall election as scheduled,” Fitzgerald of California’s Central District wrote in the ruling. “There is nothing unconstitutional about placing in one ballot a vote for or against the recall of the Governor and then a vote for a replacement candidate.” Fitzgerald declined suit, noting that the legal challenger “plainly feels disgruntled that a replacement candidate with a small plurality might replace a sitting governor who, based on a robust ‘No’ vote, might well have beaten that same replacement candidate in a general election.” “As that may be,” the judge continued, “such disgruntlement raises no federal constitutional issues and certainly does not give the federal judiciary the right to halt the mammoth undertaking of this gubernatorial recall election.”
Dominion Voting Systems claims they were forced to submit private financial information to Santa Clara County when applying for a contract to supply voting systems. That information is now at risk of being disclosed through the Freedom of Information Act and the California Privacy Rights Act. Dominion ultimately won the contract for up to eight years, with an option to renew for two additional two-year terms, but they now face the possibility that their financials will be splayed across the internet for all to see, according to a complaint. Dominion claims as part of the process that led to their winning the contract, they had to send the county detailed financial documents, along with proprietary information “about the technical and functional components of their voting systems, as well as the personal identifying information of key employees.” That includes 47 pages of audited financial statements produced between 2015 and 2017 — each page of which was marked “Confidential & Proprietary — No Part of this Document May Be Disclosed or Copied,” according to the complaint. According to Dominion, releasing the financial statements would “reveal sensitive information about the present and future state of Dominion’s business” including their areas of investment, debts and their dependence on certain customers, the release of which would directly harm their business.
Colorado: Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold filed suit this week to remove Mesa County Clerk and Recorder Tina Peters. “My priority is ensuring that the voters of Mesa County have accessible and secure elections. With the quickly approaching election, I am taking action to ensure that the county’s election office can provide great elections for Mesa voters,” said Secretary of State Jena Griswold in a statement. “As secretary of state, I will continue to provide the support and oversight needed to ensure the integrity of Colorado’s elections.” According to the 13-page complaint, Peters “allowed an unauthorized individual to participate in the secure process for installing an update to the county’s electronic voting system, leading to the public disclosure of state-guarded passwords needed to access the equipment.” “Colorado’s electorate cannot wait for the final resolution of these investigations and any criminal charges that may ultimately be filed. Counties are now preparing for the November 2, 2021 coordinated statewide election, and Mesa County’s participation in that election must be conducted by a chief designated election official who is able to perform the duties required by the Election Code,” the complaint states.
Additionally, Belinda Knisley, deputy clerk in Mesa County is facing charges for alleged burglary and cyber crimes. Kinsley turned herself in on Sept. 1. According to local media outlets, Court documents show Knisley was placed on administrative leave after she was accused of “creating a hostile work environment” and told she was not allowed to be inside her workplace or to access any of Mesa County’s online systems. Two days after her suspension, the arrest affidavit says Knisley was seen at the office and was using the computer and password of County Clerk Tina Peters (R) to attempt to print something. It’s not clear what she was trying to print. Knisley is facing the following charges for accessing a computer or network without authorization and for unlawfully entering a building with the intent to commit a crime, according to the arrest affidavit: Second Degree Burglary (Class 4 Felony) Cybercrime (Class 2 Misdemeanor) She was given a $2,000 Personal Recognizance Bond and ordered not to have contact of any type with the Clerk’s Office or its employees.
Georgia: Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger is going to court to unseal absentee ballot documents for a study of signature verification in last year’s presidential election. The secretary of state’s office confirmed that it is seeking court orders to retrieve absentee ballot envelopes in at least 17 counties. Other counties have disclosed election materials without requiring a judge’s approval. Raffensperger announced the study after state legislators called for further verification of election 2020 results. An audit of absentee ballot signatures in Cobb County completed later that month found no cases of fraud. Though election officials no longer use signature matching for absentee ballots, the study will evaluate verification methods employed in November’s election, said Trey Hood, a University of Georgia political science professor hired by the secretary of state’s office to conduct the research. Georgia law requires court clerks to maintain election materials under seal “unless otherwise ordered by the superior court.” But some counties turned over absentee ballot envelopes under a statute in the state’s new voting law that gives the secretary of state authority to inspect them within 24 months of an election.
A three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court’s ruling that said requiring voters to provide their own stamps for mail-in ballots and ballot applications does not amount to an unconstitutional poll tax. The American Civil Liberties Union and its Georgia chapter filed a lawsuit in April 2020 saying that Georgia’s postage requirement for absentee ballots and ballot applications effectively imposes a poll tax and is therefore unconstitutional. The challenge was brought on behalf of voters and a group seeking to empower communities of color, the Black Voters Matter Fund. “We hold that the fact that absentee voters in Georgia who decide to vote by mail must pay their own postage is not a ‘tax’ or unconstitutional fee on voting,” Circuit Judge Elizabeth Branch wrote in the opinion for a three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. That affirmed an August 2020 ruling by U.S. District Judge Amy Totenberg in Atlanta. Totenberg had acknowledged the potential difficulties of in-person voting, particularly during the coronavirus pandemic, but she said that the fact that it’s available means that the postage requirement is not tantamount to an unconstitutional poll tax. The 11th Circuit opinion notes that Georgia voters can cast a ballot in two main ways — in person or using the absentee process. They can vote in person on Election Day or during an early voting period. Absentee voters can return their ballots by mail, put them in a drop box or bring them directly to the county election office. “While voting often involves incidental costs like transportation, parking, child care, taking time off work, and —for those who choose to vote absentee by mail — the cost of a postage stamp, those incidental costs do not mean that Georgia has imposed an unconstitutional poll tax or fee on its voters,” the 11th Circuit opinion says.
Maryland: The state of Maryland will pay $230,000 to settle a lawsuit brought by visually impaired voters and the National Federation of the Blind that alleged the state’s electronic voting machines compromised voter secrecy and violated the Americans with Disabilities Act. Three voters and the federation sued the state in federal court two years ago, detailing problems with the electronic devices, which are often used by voters with vision impairments or other disabilities. Since 2016, most Maryland voters have used paper ballots marked with a pen. Before that, all voters used touch screen machines. The lawsuit contended that in some instances, election judges were poorly trained or that the voting machines, known as “ballot marking devices,” were inoperable. And the lawsuit noted that the ballot marking device prints out a ballot that’s a different size and shape than the paper ballots used by other voters. That means that if only one voter used the ballot marking devices at a voting location, their ballot could be identified among the rest. Under the settlement, the Maryland State Board of Elections agreed to: improve election judge training, ensure at least half of all polling sites have two ballot marking devices, offer both paper ballots and ballot marking devices “neutrally to all voters” and work to have at least 10 voters at each site use the ballot marking devices. The state also must pay $2,000 to the National Federation of the Blind to produce an educational video about working with blind people at the polls. The video will be posted on the state website and it may be used as supplemental material for election judge training. And the next time that the state works on a new voting system, the state agreed to make sure that hand-filled ballots and those made by ballot marking devices are the same size and shape.
Michigan: A hearing is scheduled in an Antrim County election-related lawsuit in which Michigan’s Secretary of State intervened, despite a judge’s earlier decision dismissing the case. A local man, Bill Bailey, filed suit Nov. 23, accusing the county of voter fraud and of violating his constitutional rights, Antrim County Clerk Sheryl Guy acknowledged her office’s human error, an assertion backed by the state’s Senate Oversight Committee, which in June released a 55-page report rejecting claims of widespread election fraud in Antrim County and in Michigan. Bailey had also accused the county of diluting his vote, after a marijuana proposal, allowing a single dispensary in the Village of Central Lake, passed by a single vote. More than three months have passed since 13th Circuit Court Judge Kevin Elsenheimer dismissed Bailey’s lawsuit, granting a motion for summary disposition filed April 9 by attorneys with Antrim County and the state’s Attorney General’s office. Elsenheimer is scheduled to hear arguments on the objection Sept. 13, at a hearing that will take place in person at the Antrim County Courthouse beginning at 11:45 a.m.
New York: A New York appeals panel affirmed the state attorney general’s injunction against the Rensselaer County Board of Elections requiring it to provide Black and Latino voters in the upstate county with equal access to early voting locations. Attorney General Letitia James sued the county in May, accusing the elections board and its commissioners, Jason Schofield and Edward McDonough, of failing to provide voters with “adequate and equitable access” to early voting poll sites, as required by New York state’s early voting law. On June 7, New York Supreme Court justice Adam W. Silverman tossed out Rensselaer County’s three rural early voting locations for being too far spread out and not providing equitable access. The Rensselaer County Board of Elections instead appealed Silverman’s decision to challenge the annulment of exiting early voting sites. The New York Supreme Court’s 3rd Appellate Division affirmed Silverman’s underlying order Thursday and found that the elections board failed to adhere to the new law about the location of early voting places through choices it made for 2020 and did not make any revisions for 2021. The five-judge panel unanimously ruled that Rensselaer County’s designated sites did not meet state law requirements and said the board failed to conduct a serious assessment of the site or the law. “In attempting to explain their actions after the fact, the commissioners baldly averred that they had considered all the statutory factors as part of a ‘rigorous process’ to establish early voting polling places,” Presiding Justice Elizabeth A. Garry wrote for the court. “Yet, they provided few specifics as to the information they relied upon or how any of the required factors supported their determination.”
North Carolina: A panel of state trial judges refused to halt its order restoring voting rights for tens of thousands of North Carolina residents convicted of felonies whose current punishments don’t include prison time. The three judges denied the delay sought by attorneys for top Republican lawmakers on the same day the panel’s majority filed an explanation about why they authorized voting access for potentially 56,000 offenders in North Carolina otherwise unable to cast ballots. One of the judges announced that decision earlier this week, in advance of a written order. GOP lawmakers wanted the temporary delay while they appeal the ruling. A trial concluded last week in a lawsuit filed in 2019 by several civil rights groups and ex-offenders challenging state law on the restoration of voting rights. The two Superior Court judges — Lisa Bell and Keith Gregory — who agreed to issue the preliminary injunction wrote that the harm the offenders alleged they would experience by having to wait another election without voting was “both substantial and irreparable.” The order, however, said that election officials can’t deny voter registration to any convicted felon who is on probation, parole or post-release supervision. The two judges pointed to evidence presented at last week’s trial that felony disenfranchisement had origins from a Reconstruction-era effort to intentionally prevent Black residents from voting. The plaintiffs’ lawyers argued the rules in place today still violated the state constitution on free speech and equal protection requirements. “There is no denying the insidious, discriminatory history surrounding voter disenfranchisement and efforts for voting rights restoration in North Carolina,” Bell and Gregory’s order read. Their order amended an injunction from last September that ruled outstanding restitution, fees or other court-imposed monetary obligations couldn’t prevent convicted felons from voting if they’ve completed all other portions of their sentence. The expanded injunction took effect earlier this week, as State Board of Elections workers finalized registration forms for this fall’s municipal elections.
Pennsylvania: Fourteen Republican state lawmakers have filed a new lawsuit challenging Pennsylvania’s mail-in voting law, calling it unconstitutional and asking for it to be thrown out. The legal challenge was filed in the state Commonwealth Court. It is the latest attempt by Republicans to invalidate the 2019 law that Republican lawmakers almost unanimously supported. The central claim of the lawsuit is that the law — which allowed no-excuse voting by mail — is unconstitutional under a constitutional provision that requires lawmakers to provide a way for people to vote if they are unable to vote in person for specific reasons. The lawsuit says the law allows people to vote by mail even if they do not qualify for one of the exemptions, which include being out of town on business, illness, physical disability, election day duties or a religious observance. The Constitution does not explicitly say that the Legislature cannot extend absentee voting to others. Just over 2.5 million people voted under the law in 2020′s presidential election, most of them Democrats, out of 6.9 million total cast.
Virginia: In an official opinion, Attorney General Mark Herring says guns are banned near early voting locations when they are being used as a polling place. Herring concludes that a new law prohibiting firearms within 40 feet of all polling places in Virginia applies to early voting locations. But the attorney general contends the rule only applies “to the 40-foot boundary around the discrete portion of that building that is used as the polling place,” not the whole building. “No Virginian should ever feel unsafe when they are voting whether they are voting in person on Election Day or whether they are voting in person early,” Herring said in a statement. Albemarle County Electoral Board Chairman Peter Wurzer requested the formal opinion from Herring’s office. Wurzer asked whether central absentee voter precincts, voter satellite offices and offices of general registrars are considered as polling places during the early voting period, if the law applies to those locations and whether it includes the polling areas or the entire building.
Washington: Yakima County commissioners have agreed to settle a lawsuit alleging violations of the Voting Rights Act, an immigrant rights group announced. The lawsuit by OneAmerica claims Yakima County’s voting system disenfranchises Latino voters. The Yakima County Commission is divided into three districts and candidates are selected by voters only in their respective district in primary elections. But that changes in general elections, when all three commission seats become at-large and subject to countywide selection. Several years ago, the Yakima City Council was hit with a similar lawsuit and was ordered by a federal judge to redraw districts and hold elections in all council districts, which led to the election of three Latinas to the council. According to 2020 census data, Latinos now make up more than half of Yakima County’s population.
Wisconsin: A lawsuit reportedly filed aims to have documents and thousands of emails requested related to the administration of the 2020 produced. However, as of Wednesday, City Attorney Scott Letteney indicated “that none of these requestors have contacted the City regarding insufficiencies to those responses, nor have they submitted follow-up requests,” according to the city. The plaintiffs in the lawsuit claim this is false, and that requests for the documents were made “months ago.” However, emails shared by the city with The Journal Times on Thursday show that nearly 200 emails were given to the attorney leading the lawsuit last month. The plaintiffs argue that more emails need to be shared.
Arizona: The City of Chandler is about to give mobile voting a try. The Chandler City Council unanimously voted to spend up to $50,000 on a pilot project this fall that would involve a mock election, not a real one. While some in the county wonder if now is the right time to test pilot the program, Vice Mayor Mark Stewart said the technology could bolster voter confidence. Stewart others acknowledge using this type of technology in an actual Arizona election likely is years away and would take county and state buy-in, which the city doesn’t have at this point. The Secretary of State’s Office said in an email it’s “deeply concerned” about election security and generally does not support online or mobile voting because of potential security risks. The office said state law doesn’t allow the use of mobile voting and it would require a legislative change. Maricopa County Supervisor Jack Sellers, whose district includes Chandler, said he supports the city exploring the idea but given the 2020 election and ongoing Senate-ordered audit, officials would have to make sure “to cross our Ts and dot our Is” before making changes to the voting system. “I certainly think there’s a future for that and it could be a real efficiency improvement for allowing people to vote and doing it securely,” he said. “I encourage what Chandler is doing to experiment with this and get some feedback because there’s a lot we need to learn.”
Opinions This Week
Massachusetts: Election reform
New Jersey: Vote by mail
Ohio: Voting rights
Tennessee: For the People Act
Washington: Dead voters
West Virginia: Voting rights
Wyoming: Voter fraud
NISGIC Annual Conference: The 2021 NSGIC Annual Conference will be held September 20 – 24 as a hybrid event at the Renaissance Dallas Addison Hotel and leveraging technology to provide for virtual participation, as well. The safety and comfort of conference participants are paramount. We will be following all guidance in place at the time of the conference and working closely with venues to ensure full care is given. We understand that not all conference attendees will be able to join us in person. Those participating virtually can expect a rich experience with interactive plenary presentations, networking opportunities, and participatory workshops and other sessions. (We’re so sure you’re going to enjoy the experience, we urge you to consider participating from home or another space where you can give it your full attention.) Whether you attend in-person or virtually, the NSGIC Annual Conference is the hub of critical connections for state, local, tribal, and federal GIS policymakers and coordinators, private sector partners and solution-providers, and other leaders in the geospatial ecosystem. Like nowhere else, the NSGIC Annual Conference is a place where relationships are built, information is shared, and collaborations are born. When: September 20-24. Where: Hybrid—Dallas & Virtual.
National Conference of State Legislators Legislative Summit: The Legislative Summit is NCSL’s premier annual event and provides a platform for legislators, staff and other public policy professionals to learn from the nation’s foremost experts, as well as each other, about solutions to the country’s most pressing issues. Watch for registration and hotel details in early June 2021. When: November 3-5. Where: Tampa, Florida
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.
Campaign Manager, Bipartisan Policy Center — BPC is currently seeking candidates for a new role—Campaign Manager—to support the work of the Elections Project. The Elections Project explores and analyzes the entire election ecosystem, from voter registration to casting a ballot to the counting and finalizing of results. Its goal is to help policymakers enact sustainable bipartisan policy reforms, informed by election officials, that improve the voting experience for a diverse electorate. The Elections Project most recently launched the Business Alliance for Effective Democracy. BPC created the Business Alliance to provide an objective forum designed to facilitate proactive corporate engagement on polarizing election policy issues. The Alliance—comprised largely of Fortune 100 companies—focuses on concrete actions that corporate stakeholders can take to shore up our democracy in this fraught political moment. The Elections Project also runs BPC’s Task Force on Elections. This group of 28 state and local election administrators seeks achievable, bipartisan policy solutions that can be implemented well across the country. The Task Force forms the basis of the Elections Project’s focus on state-based policy reforms for voting. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Communications Manager, Sarasota County, Florida— This position of Communications Manager is responsible for the development, implementation and evaluation of communication initiatives for the Sarasota County Supervisor of Elections. These communication efforts include sharing timely and relevant elections-related information with voters, media, government agencies and internal staff through written and electronic communication mediums. This nonpartisan and nonpolitical position supports the mission and responsibilities of the supervisor of elections, provides guidance and leadership to temporary and permanent office staff regarding all communications activities. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Election Administrator, Bell County, Texas—From being an expert on election law to understanding election machine technology to being a detail-oriented person while still seeing the big event that is an election, the Elections Administrator must take ownership of the entire election process from start to finish. This position directs the daily operations of the elections office to ensure the lawful conduct and integrity of Federal, State, County, and local elections. The Elections Administrator performs the duties and functions of the Voter Registrar for the county; performs election-related duties as may be required by federal, state, and/or local law; is responsible for the conduct of elections, to include but is not limited to: preparing ballots, ordering ballots, furnishing and maintaining election equipment and supplies. Deadline: September 16. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Elections Director, Boulder County, Colorado— The Boulder County Clerk and Recorder’s Office has an opening for an Elections Director that serves at the pleasure of and reports directly to the elected Clerk and Recorder. The Elections Director position is within the Deputy of Elections job classification. The Elections Director is one of the office’s six Leadership Team members, third in command of the Clerk and Recorder organization and oversees a staff of twelve permanent Elections Staff members (and upwards of 600 election judges during certain election times). The Elections Division provides comprehensive elections services for Boulder County, including voter records, voter services, ballot processing, technical and logistical support, and end-to end election administration. Commitment to building an inclusive, forward looking, continual improvement, and supportive work culture is required. This position leads the team and is accountable for the execution of compliant, accurate, accessible and transparent elections for a county of nearly 250,000 voters. This position will ensure the integrity and accuracy of the election management processes in accordance with federal and state laws, Secretary of State rules and Clerk and Recorder policies. Salary: Hiring Range: $89,256 – $128,544. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Executive Director, South Carolina Election Commission— The Executive Director is the chief executive officer of the State Election Commission and has the responsibility for the overall direction and management of the Agency, ensuring the mission, goals and objectives are accomplished. The Executive Director also serves as the chief state election official for the State. The position has supervisory authority over county boards of voter registration and elections and is responsible for the oversight of the statewide voter registration system, conduct of elections, certification of election results, hearing election protests and appeals, statewide electronic voting system and administration of mandatory training and certification program for county election officials. Provides supervisory authority over county boards of registration and elections. Oversees statewide voter registration system, statewide voting system and other election related technologies used to conduct elections. Oversees a compliance audit program of county boards. Keeps commission members informed about election related matters, commission meetings, election certifications and protests and appeals. Establishes policies and sets strategic direction of the agency. Works with public and private partners to protect the state’s critical election infrastructure. Ensures agency operates efficiently, cost effectively and according to state fiscal and human resources guidelines and state law. Oversees public relations and agency outreach efforts to ensure the agency maintains a positive public image. Serves as liaison with General Assembly. Attends legislative meetings, presents testimony and budget requests. Represents the agency with advocacy groups, political parties, partners and other customers. Oversees statewide training efforts for county and municipal election officials and poll workers. Seeks opportunities for agency growth, innovation and improvement. Salary: $114,933 – $178,168. Deadline: September 7. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Executive Director, National Vote at Home Institute— NVAHI (“Vote at Home”) is now accepting applications to fill its top leadership position of Executive Director. Vote at Home’s Executive Director will serve in a chief executive role and report directly to the board of the National Vote at Home Institute (a non-partisan, 501 c (3) organization). National Vote at Home Institute is a nonpartisan organization dedicated to making sure every American can vote in secure, safe, accessible, and equitable elections by expanding and improving vote by mail, absentee and early voting processes and supporting election officials, Secretary of States, Commissioners, and boards. The Vote at Home Executive Director shall be responsible for managing all aspects of the organizations’ operations, including: Strategy. Recommending, implementing, and effectively executing all VAH policies and key strategies and programs as approved by the board. Budget. Fundraising and budget administration, to ensure Vote at Home’s financial sustainability and the effective and efficient expenditure of available funds. Management. The proper management and supervision of all staff, contractors, and contracts to promote diversity and equity, ensure a collaborative and productive workplace, and comply fully with all applicable federal, state, and local laws. Partnerships. The creation of collaborative partnership relationships with other key organizations and individuals to help promote and amplify VAH’s work. Communication. The effective communication, in a wide variety of public and private forums, of Vote at Home’s vision, mission, key strategies, and core messages. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Election Services Specialist, Contra Costa County, California — Are you an innovator and high achiever? Service driven? Dedicated to quality? The Contra Costa County Clerk-Recorder’s Office, Elections Division is currently recruiting an Elections Services Specialist. The Elections Services Specialist position will be assigned to one of the functional sections of the Elections Division as a Voter Services Specialist, Candidate Specialist, Election Day Operations Specialist, Precinct/Mapping Services Specialist, Warehouse Specialist, or IT and Voting System Operations Specialist. Salary: $57,122.04 – $69,432.12. Deadline: Sept. 5. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Election Services Technician, Contra Costa County, California— The Contra Costa County Clerk-Recorder’s Office, Elections Division is currently recruiting for two (2) Voters Services Technicians. The Elections Services Technician position will be assigned to one of the functional sections of the Elections Division as described below: As a Voter Services Technician, you will: Conduct daily processing of voter information in database systems Perform vote by mail functions including processing voter requests for ballots and signature verification of returned ballots; Examine petitions and conducts signature verification of petitions; Review voter eligibility and assists in processing provisional ballots; and Provide phone, in-person, and email customer services. Salary: $50,024.40 – $60,804.96. Deadline: Sept. 5. Application: for the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Information Security Officer, Virginia Department of Elections— The State Board, through the Department of Elections (ELECT), shall supervise and coordinate the work of the county and city electoral boards and of the registrars to obtain uniformity in their practices and proceedings and legality and purity in all elections. It shall make rules and regulations and issue instructions and provide information consistent with the election laws to the electoral boards and registrars to promote the proper administration of election laws. Ensuring the integrity and accuracy of the administration of elections through the administration of the state-wide voter registration system, campaign finance disclosure application and other agency applications and solutions. Ensuring that the systems perform to the expectations of the users and conform to applicable federal and state laws and Board rules and regulations. Leads ELECT’s Information Security Program to ensure ELECT Systems remain confidential, integrity is maintained, and ELECT systems remain available for all users. Ensures ELECT systems meet federal, Commonwealth of Virginia and agency security standards. The position will work with ELECT development teams, network service providers and security staff of the Commonwealth of Virginia to ensure security requirements are included in SDLC activities. Responsible for creating and maintaining security policies, artifacts, tracking vulnerability remediation and updating system security plans to meet changing business, security and technology requirements. Responsible implementing and monitoring security controls for ELECT’s information technology systems. Oversees Information Security Program, ELECT’s Data Privacy Program and ELECT’s Locality Security Program including Voting Systems and Voter Registration System Security. Salary: Up to $150,000. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Policy Analyst, Bipartisan Policty Center— BPC is currently seeking a Policy Analyst to support the work of the Elections Project. The Elections Project explores and analyzes the entire election ecosystem, from voter registration to casting a ballot to the counting and finalizing of results. Our goal is to help policymakers enact sustainable bipartisan policy reforms, informed by election officials, that improve the voting experience for a diverse electorate. The Policy Analyst will play a central role in the development and implementation of the Election Project’s research and advocacy priorities. This analyst role is new and will include all existing priorities of the Elections Project as well as build on newer efforts focused on federal voting reforms. The Policy Analyst must be well-versed in election administration, eager to promote free and fair elections through evidence-based policy research. The position will report to the Director of the Elections Project Matthew Weil and work closely with others on BPC’s elections team. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Poll Worker Coordinator, Hillsborough County, Florida— These may include but are not limited to poll worker record maintenance, developing process and writing procedures, training and mentoring temporary staff, implementation of services, and back-up to management on daily tasks and supervision of staff. Coordinate poll worker recruitment, assignments, and scheduling. Provide oversight, audit and instruction to temporary employees on data entry and maintenance of poll worker records. Process and audit poll worker applications entered into the database for accuracy. Process poll worker payroll and training related forms. Assist in analyzing and resolving issues with poll worker applications, assignment requests, training completions, and other Poll Worker Services areas. Provide supervision, training and instruction to temporary staff. Champion and implement paperless workflows using available technologies, resources and tools. Communicate internally with other department and outside agencies. Respond to poll worker inquiries via email, text message, phone, or face to face. Provide friendly, courteous customer service and resolve issues in a timely manner. Assist, as needed, with securing training facilities, Early Voting sites, and Election Day polling places. The Supervisor of Elections will require all applicants scheduled to attend an on-boarding session on or after August 30, 2021 to show proof of being fully vaccinated before their employment can begin. Fully vaccinated is two full weeks after final vaccination shot. Salary: $36,000-$46,000, Deadline: September 16. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Registrar of Voters, San Diego County, California— The Registrar of Voters of the County of San Diego is an executive management position reporting to the Assistant Chief Administrative Officer. The Registrar leads the Department and provides eligible citizens of San Diego County with widespread and ongoing opportunities to register and vote in fair and accurate elections for all federal, state and local offices and measures; and provide access to the information needed to utilize the initiative, referendum, and recall petition processes. Salary: $170,000 – $190,000. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Research Director, Center for Election Innovation and Research— The Research Director will report to the Executive Director and lead CEIR’s research initiatives. These initiatives include, but are not limited to, matters pertaining to voter registration, voter access, election integrity and security, and election policy, generally. The Research Director will set goals aligned with CEIR’s mission and provide the research team with strategic direction on how to reach those goals, all while ensuring the rigor, integrity, and quality of all research activities. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Senior Director of Election Security, CIS— CIS (Center for Internet Security) is the trusted guide to confidence in the connected world. CIS collaborates with the global security community to lead both government and private-sector entities to security solutions and resources. CIS is an independent, not-for-profit organization. The Senior Director of Elections Security works within the Operations and Security Services (OSS) Department at CIS and reports to the Vice President of Elections Operations. The Senior Director of Elections Security partners with key internal and external stakeholders and experts in the elections and standards communities to lead CIS efforts in developing best practices, processes, and tools to support the security of elections systems. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Vice President of Election Operations and Support, CIS— CIS (Center for Internet Security) is the trusted guide to confidence in the connected world. CIS collaborates with the global security community to lead both government and private-sector entities to security solutions and resources. CIS is an independent, not-for-profit organization. Reporting to the Executive Vice President for Operations and Security Services (OSS), the Vice President for Election Operations will oversee all elections-related efforts within CIS, most importantly the Elections Infrastructure Information Sharing and Analysis Center (EI-ISAC) and related elections community support sponsored by the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA). This position will also manage election-related projects and activities that are funded by third parties or self-funded by CIS. The Vice President for Election Operations will lead an organization comprised of the CIS staff working on election-related efforts and will be responsible for outreach to U.S. state, local, tribal, and territorial election offices as well as private sector companies, researchers, and nonprofit organizations involved in supporting elections. This position may work remote in the US, with travel to our offices in Albany, NY and Washington, DC as needed. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Voter Registration Specialist, Wake County, North Carolina Board of Elections— The Wake County Board of Elections is currently seeking an experienced customer service professional to join our Voter Registration Team. The ideal candidate will be a detail-oriented, data entry guru with exceptional attention to detail and organizational skills. As a part of the Voter Registration Team, you are responsible for connecting written information with computer data. Salary: Hiring Range: $17.49 – $23.60. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
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