In Focus This Week
More Choice, Less Overwhelm
Introducing Ranked Choice Voting in NYC
By Charlotte Levitt
Director of Marketing & Digital Communications, New York City Campaign Finance Board
On June 22, New York City held its largest local primary election in a generation, with over 500 candidates running for office. NYC also became the largest locality in the United States to adopt Ranked Choice Voting. For the first time, New Yorkers could list their top five candidates for local offices, in order of preference, instead of choosing just one.
But some candidates and community leaders worried that Ranked Choice Voting was too complicated and could disenfranchise voters, especially in the midst of a pandemic that limited in-person outreach. They had a point. The counting process was too complex to fully explain in a 30-second PSA or on a poster. Tasked with leading the voter education effort, our team faced a communications conundrum: how to equip voters with the information they needed and wanted, without overwhelming them with details?
The answer: provide lots of ways in, and let the voter choose how deep they want to go.
Seek First to Understand
Though it was new to NYC, Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) has been used successfully in many other jurisdictions, from Ireland to San Francisco to Maine. Our staff started by seeing what had worked there, reviewing educational materials, test-driving online tools, and consuming a wide variety of articles, podcasts, and videos.
But we also thought through what made New York different: scale (it was by far the largest US jurisdiction to use RCV); diversity (New Yorkers come from many cultures and countries and speak a large number of languages); and context (no one else had done this during a public health crisis that limited in-person gatherings).
We needed to talk to New Yorkers to understand their unique needs and concerns. Our research with the Center for Civic Design focused on depth, conducting hour-long online interviews in which we shared messaging and design prototypes and solicited input on how to improve them, iterating in response to what we heard. We centered the populations that had been historically underrepresented in NYC elections: youth under 30 and naturalized citizens, most of them people of color, including sessions in languages other than English. Staff engaged deeply in the process, sitting in on interviews and helping to create materials to test, not just waiting for the final report.
A Spectrum of Engagement
It became clear that some voters (about half) just wanted the basics: how many candidates they could vote for, and how to fill out their ballot.
Others wanted to go deep to understand how votes were counted round-by-round and how this new system might change candidates’ incentives and strategies.
We also learned that the benefits that resonated with New Yorkers were a bit different. The idea of having more say in who wins the election, and of electing diverse leaders who better represented them, were compelling. But some of the benefits we tested – reducing the costs of elections administration and taking away the pressure to vote for a “lesser of two evils” candidate – were too in the weeds for New Yorkers. They cared about impact more than process or strategy.
Different folks learned differently, so concise written explanations, graphic visualizations, and animations all had their place. We needed a multi-tiered approach, and a variety of materials, encapsulated by a framework that the Center for Civic Design termed “bite – snack – meal,” which invited users to start small and take in more information if (and when) they were ready for it.
Bite, Snack, Meal
By the end of our research phase, we knew what kinds of materials we needed to create, and how our explanations should be phrased, designed, and built. We started by sharing what we’d learned with candidates and community-based organizations, so that we could all create materials based on the same underlying messaging and principles.
Then, we got to work building our own campaign. We started with what voters would encounter first: the “bite” they’d get from materials like our ad campaign or postcard. In these materials, we focused on why local elections matter, explaining that Ranked Choice Voting gives us even more say in who represents us.
From there, we thought about the “snacks” they’d encounter next – a website landing page, a video, an online training. In these, we honed in on the how: the process of filling out a ranked ballot, with illustrations and opportunities to practice.
Finally, for those who wanted more, we offered full-blown “meal” content in materials like our 80-page Voter Guide, a counting simulation, and online FAQs. We also embedded ranking into the process of learning about who the candidates are, creating a tear-out “cheat sheet” and an online tool to help voters keep track of their top five choices for each office.
All of the materials were translated into five languages and tested for accessibility, meeting WCAG’s “AA” standards. (Blue State created our digital tools, as part of a website redesign, and Once-Future Office designed the advertising campaign, based on design guidelines by Pentagram.)
Digesting Lessons Learned
In June, voters headed to the polls. More than 85% of them ranked 2 or more candidates for mayor, and over 95% said they found the new ranked ballot easy to understand. Turnout was the highest it had been in two decades for a city election.
As more states and cities contemplate enacting Ranked Choice Voting, we hope that the materials and ideas we’ve shared will be helpful to others considering how to roll out this system to voters. But we also think the approach we took – of creating a spectrum of communications, for voters who want to learn in different ways – applies to any public education effort, in voting and other fields.
We’re happy to share advice, lessons learned, and perspective with individuals and organizations, so please reach out to me, Charlotte Levitt, at email@example.com. It’s never too soon to start thinking about how to make information about 2022 elections more digestible!
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electionline Weekly will not publish on Thursday November 25 due to the Thanksgiving holiday.
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NIST Comment Period
NIST Draft Report on Promoting Access to Voting
Comment period open until November 22
As part of the federal government’s effort to improve access to voting, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has released a draft publication outlining barriers that voters with disabilities may encounter during the election process — as well as potential approaches for addressing them. NIST is requesting comments from the public on the draft by Nov. 22, 2021, to inform a final version expected in December.
The draft publication, formally titled Promoting Access to Voting: Recommendations for Addressing Barriers to Private and Independent Voting for People with Disabilities (NIST Special Publication 1273), forms part of NIST’s response to the March 7, 2021, Executive Order (EO) 14019 on Promoting Access to Voting.
How to Comment
You can comment via regulations.gov or directly to NIST. If possible, we encourage you to use this comment template for sending in your comments.
You can find the Request and the draft document through regulations.gov by Searching regulations.gov with “NIST-2021-0005.” Or, go directly to https://www.regulations.gov/document/NIST-2021-0005-0001for the notice and to submit your comments (click the “comment” icon) and https://www.regulations.gov/document/NIST-2021-0005-0002 to download the report.
You can also go to the NIST webpage https://www.nist.gov/itl/voting/executive-order-promoting-access-voting and scroll down to “New Request for Comments” which also has links to the report, the comment template, and the regulations.gov notice.
If you prefer, you can send your comments directly to NIST via firstname.lastname@example.org (and NIST will post them on the regulations.gov comments page for you).
Again, we encourage you to use the comment template, if possible.
The NIST EO Voting Team
Election News This Week
Fake Ballot is Real News: More than 12,000 ballots were cast in the Orlando city council election earlier this month, but one in particular caught the attention of Orange County, Florida Supervisor of Elections Bill Cowles and his team. The ballot was rejected by a voting machine so Cowles and staff reviewed the ballot, which it mostly looked like any other ballot. It was marked with a number identifying it as being from the Rock Lake Community Center precinct. It was laid out identically to official ballots with correct fonts and spellings and listed the names of current candidates. However, the ballot did not have matching bar codes that line the perimeter of an official ballot. This particular ballot, deemed fake by Cowles’ office, had incorrect markings, and only on the top and bottom instead of all four sides. It also was printed on lighter-weight paper, Cowles confirmed with the company that does the office’s printing. “I’ve never seen somebody go out and create a ballot to the extent that this one looks like a regular ballot,” said Cowles, who has overseen elections in Orange County since 1996. Its creator remains a mystery. Cowles conceded the person likely won’t be identified, in part due to efforts to protect voters’ privacy during the counting process. City Commissioner Patty Sheehan, who served on the canvassing board, told The Orlando Sentinel she too had never seen anything like it. “It was clearly not a proper ballot,” said Sheehan, who has been on numerous canvassing boards over her 21 years on the city council. “It looked like it was meant to be nefarious.” Cowles said he’s limited in what he can do, as without the envelope, he can’t identify the voter or narrow down when his office received the ballot in the mail. “Even if I turned it over to [the Florida Department of Law Enforcement] or the State Attorney, I can’t give them the information they need,” he said. He said that because the vote wasn’t counted, it’s proof that state and county election systems are secure, and that they’re prepared to catch tricks. “The positive is the system caught it,” Cowles said. “I think it validates that the procedures we’re doing here on returns.”
2021 Election: The 2021 election season is not quite over. In Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, officials will break ties in 39 local races. Officials in Erie County, New York have started the arduous task of counting 34,000 write-in votes in the Buffalo mayor’s race. In Connecticut, complaints/contests have been filed in several local races including in West Haven, New Canaan, and South Windsor. In Ada County, Idaho a recount will be conducted for a Meridian City council seat. In Lehigh County, Pennsylvania, Republicans in the state Legislature are threatening to remove the county board of elections after it decided to allow mail-in ballots that weren’t dated to be counted in a county judicial race. The Democratic incumbents in two close Virginia House of Delegates elections filed court petitions for recounts in their races Wednesday. Louisiana held it’s storm-delayed elections this week and while there were no major issues, turnout was light, especially in those communities that were impacted the most by Hurricane Ida. During a runoff election in Richland County, South Carolina this week, a number of issues were reported with voting equipment causing the state to order a hand-count audit.
Helping Ex-Felons: The League of Women Voters Memphis Shelby County is rolling out a countywide public information campaign designed to help those with felony convictions restore their right to vote. “The Guide to Voting in Shelby County, Tennessee with a Felony Conviction” is being distributed to elected officials and more than 200 nonprofit organizations countywide as well as libraries and community centers. The guide helps walk readers through whether they are eligible to vote based on when their felony conviction was, what type of crime they committed and whether the conviction was reversed, pardoned or expunged. It includes information on a certificate of restoration of voting rights. “Most people with a felony conviction do not realize that they are eligible to restore their voting rights or may not have lost their right to register to vote at all. We want to change that,” said Sherry Hewlett, president of the League of Women Voters Memphis Shelby County, in a news release. “The League has a longstanding reputation as a reliable source of accurate information on voter eligibility, registration and voting. We are extending that legacy by providing a clear and comprehensive explanation of who is eligible to vote and how those who have lost their right to vote can restore it.”
Support for Democracy: According to the Arizona Mirror, Maricopa County, Arizona Recorder Stephen Richer has formed a political action committee in support of Republican candidates in Arizona that reject the false and baseless claims that the 2020 election was stolen. Richer, a Republican who was elected in 2020, has created Pro-Democracy Republicans of Arizona. The PAC will run independent expenditure campaigns in favor of candidates in GOP primaries for legislative and county-level races who “acknowledge the validity of the 2020 election and condemn the events of January 6, 2021 as a terrible result of the lies told about the November election,” according to a press statement on Wednesday announcing the committee’s formation. Richer said he wants to change the “incentive structure” surrounding the debate around the 2020 election. “We know that there’s a pot of gold at the and of the rainbow if you indulge some of these fantasies and some of these lies, and I think, quite frankly, that has motivated some of these speakers to be especially loud about it because they get rewarded in either Twitter followers or financial contributions from across the country,” he said. “So, this is my effort to at least reward or incentivize people to do the right thing, the responsible thing.”
Personnel News: Longtime Travis County, Texas Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir has announced that she will not seek re-election at the end of her current term. Joyce Kale-Pesta is retiring as the Mahoning County, Ohio board of elections but will become a member of the board and current Deputy Director Thomas McCabe will become BOE director. Cleta Mitchell has been named to the Board of Advisors for the Election Assistance Commission. Congratulations to Wichita Falls, Texas City Clerk Marie Balthrop for being named the Municipal Clerk of the Year by the Texas Municipal Clerks Association.
California: The Eureka City Council voted unanimously to implement a ranked choice voting system which was approved by voters in 2020. City Attorney Bob Black told the council that, if everything goes well, the system will most likely be in place by the 2022 election. In 2022 Eureka residents will be electing a mayor and councilmembers to represent the First, Third and Fifth Wards and Ranked Choice Voting will be used in any of the races where more than two candidates are running. Because this will be a new system to Eureka voters, the city plans to launch some educational efforts once staff gets the go ahead from the County Elections Office. Eureka City Clerk Pam Powell told the council that since Eureka does not hold its own elections, the process of implementing Ranked Choice Voting require the County Elections Office to install a new type of software, or will need to agree to do a hand count, if it does not yet have the proper software capabilities. Powell said that the City should have an update from the elections office by the first of the year.
Georgia: The House of Representative overwhelmingly approved a set of bills that would dissolve the current Floyd County Board of Elections and create a new five-person board. The votes on House Bills 9EX and 8EX passed out of the House, 150-7, on the local legislation calendar and were immediately transmitted to the Senate, said Rep. Katie Dempsey, R-Rome. Under the proposed legislation, the three-member Floyd County Elections Board would be dissolved and replaced with a five-member board. The five members would be appointed by the Floyd County Commission. Commissioners would choose four of the members from lists submitted by county executive committees of the two local political parties whose candidates for Georgia governor received the most votes in the previous election. At this point, that means two members from the Floyd County Republican Party and two from the Floyd County Democratic Party. The fifth member would be selected by the Floyd County commissioners and would serve as chairperson of the board. There also would be an elections supervisor, completely separate from the board, who would be a county employee. The board would make the recommendation to hire but county commissioners would have the last say.
Illinois: Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed a law making voting easier for person with disabilities and creating a group to study removal of further barriers. The law also makes adjustments in deadlines and other technical requirements for candidates in next year’s primary election because it’s later. Pritzker signed a law in June moving the primary from March 15 to June 28 because late-arriving 2020 Census numbers delayed the drawing of new congressional district boundaries. Under the law, which takes effect immediately, any polling place that is accessible to voters with disabilities and elderly voters shall include at least one voting booth that is wheelchair accessible. The Access to Voting for Persons with Disabilities Advisory Task Force will be composed of 15 members, three each appointed by the governor and leaders of the partisan caucuses in House and Senate. The groups must meet at least four times and publish its results. Another change allows voters to designate sex on voter registration forms as “male,” “female” or “non-binary.” The measure was sponsored by Senate President Don Harmon, an Oak Park Democrat, and Democratic Rep. Katie Stuart of Edwardsville.
New Jersey: Proposed legislation that would increase the pay to $400 for poll workers on Election Day has been approved by the Assembly State and Local Government Committee. The bill (S-598/A-1527) would raise the pay of statewide poll workers for each General, Primary, and Special Election to $400 per day from $200 or the State minimum wage, whichever is greater. In June 2021, the Legislature and Governor enacted legislation increasing poll worker pay for the June Primary to $400 and the Governor activated the National Guard to supplement election duties. On Oct. 5, 2021, Governor Murphy issued Executive Order 266 implementing $400 compensation for each poll worker per day.
The Senate State Government, Wagering, Tourism & Historic Preservation Committee cleared two bills related to voting restrictions and access: one which would allow voters to cure mail-in ballots that are missing a certificate, and another which would give New Jersey voters living abroad the right to vote in all state and local elections. Both bills were previously passed by the Assembly over the summer; the ballot-curing bill passed 50-25, and the overseas voter bill 49-25.
North Carolina: With the legislative year nearing an end, Republicans advanced a string of measures that voting rights groups fear would prevent lawfully cast ballots from being counted and discourage participation in the 2022 election. Among the measures Republicans are pursuing is a plan to prevent the counting of absentee ballots that arrive at county elections offices after polls close on Election Day. Republicans are again seeking to require courts to share citizenship data with state elections officials if a potential juror says they are unable to participate because they are not U.S. residents. The move renews an effort that failed in 2019 when Cooper vetoed the plan. Additionally, legislators are looking to pass a bill that would prevent private money from flowing to state and county elections boards. According to WRAL, the bills the GOP moved through the House rules committee are unlikely to become law, as they would almost assuredly lack the support of Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper and enough Democratic state lawmakers to override a possible veto.
Oklahoma: State Sen. Nathan Dahm announced this week that he’s filed a bill in response to what he called “unaddressed concerns with election irregularities” regarding the 2020 election. Dahm, R-Broken Bow, filed Senate Bill 7X, which a news release says calls for a forensic audit. The bill, called the Post-Election Forensic Audit Act of 2021, would order a forensic audit of the November 2020 election results. Senate Bill 7X calls for a third party to perform a forensic audit on the three largest counties in Oklahoma, the three smallest and another three randomly selected counties. The governor, pro tempore of the Senate and the speaker of the House would appoint a third party within 30 days of the passage of the bill. “Oklahoma has one of the best election processes, partially because we have worked over the years to increase accountability measures such as requiring voter identification,” Dahm said. “A forensic audit is another accountability measure we can use to make our system even better. I seriously question those who are opposed to holding the government accountable with transparency measures, and I look forward to having a vote on this bill during special session.”
Pennsylvania: The state House of Representatives is poised to vote this week on legislation aimed at changing the way Pennsylvania runs it elections — although without changes, it appears headed for a gubernatorial veto. The multi-faceted 183-page bill would alter the voter identification rules, impose additional security requirements on ballot drop boxes and limit the number of these boxes to one for every 100,000 residents. It would move up the deadline to register to vote to 30 days before an election from the current 15 days. It would allow county election officials to begin preparing mailed ballots for counting five days before election day. It would introduce early voting to Pennsylvania starting in 2025, when voters would be allowed to cast ballots over a six-day period ending the Wednesday before the election. And, among other changes, it would create a Bureau of Election Audits in the auditor general’s office and install additional auditing requirements to confirm election results. This legislation, dubbed the “Pennsylvania Voting Rights Protect Act,” closely mimics one that was vetoed by Gov. Tom Wolf earlier this year. The House voted 110-90 to include in the bill some deadlines for counties to report their vote tallies or risk not receiving a state reimbursement for the election that the bill would offer. Counties would have until 9 o’clock on election night to count the mail-in and absentee ballots received prior to Election Day. By 2 a.m. the next day, the mail-in and absentee ballots received on Election Day would have to be tallied. Then by 6 o’clock the morning after the election, counties would have to compute all in-person and mailed returns and post the results with exceptions for provisional ballots, those set aside for compliance with the law, and military and overseas ballots. The bill is now in a position to be considered for final passage by the House when it returns to session on Dec. 13.
Utah: A Legislative committee unexpectedly killed a proposal to expand the menu of election options available to cities under a pilot program begun in 2019. A bill adding a new method, known as approval voting, was on the table this week. Lawmakers narrowly rejected the proposal, which stunned groups backing the bill. Lawmakers expressed confusion about the new method and whether it was even necessary. Josh Daniels, Utah County Clerk, says municipal elections are a great place to experiment with new voting methods, which is why the pilot program makes sense for cities that want to try something different. “From a state perspective, oftentimes when they’re going to do something new with their process, they’ll do it during a municipal election year because the election process is a little smaller,” Daniels said. Weber County Clerk Ricky Hatch predicted as many as 30 cities in Utah would jump at the chance to implement approval voting. As it stands, they will not get that chance. The committee narrowly voted against recommending the bill to the full Legislature during the 2022 session, which begins in January.
Vermont: Gov. Phil Scott said that he would consider new legislation to provide protection to election workers who have increasingly received disturbing messages by phone or email. “Election workers are doing their civic duty, and they don’t deserve any of what they are receiving across the nation,” the governor said. Noting the polarization in the country “in all facets of government,” Scott said, “we all just need to step back and realize how fortunate we are to live in the country that we have. And we need, as well, to just remember that we are Americans first, and Vermonters as well, and just treat each other with respect and civility.” State Sen. Dick Sears, D-Bennington aid, “A number of us will be introducing legislation based on the federal standards for criminal threats, which would be a little stronger than the state standard.” But he added that legislation “doesn’t solve all the problems” when “people just get out of control and push the ‘send’ button with no consequences.” Scott said he will consider what the Legislature develops, “and I look forward to having the debate.”
Federal Lawsuit: Dominion Voting Systems sued Fox Corporation and Fox Broadcasting for defamation this week in an effort to discover what role Chairman Rupert Murdoch and son Lachlan played in pushing fraud claims about the company’s voting machines, after Fox News allegedly tried to shield the Murdochs from liability when Dominion sued the right-leaning news network earlier this year. The lawsuit, filed in Delaware state court alleges Fox Corporation executives including the Murdochs “exerted direct control over Fox News’ programming decisions” in the aftermath of the election, namely by making false claims tying Dominion’s machines to voter fraud. Dominion sued Fox News for defamation in March, but alleges that as part of that lawsuit, Fox News has “disclaimed any responsibility” for Fox Corporation and Broadcasting’s actions and refused to turn over documents from them or the Murdochs, necessitating the second lawsuit “to hold them liable.” Rupert and Lachlan Murdoch, who serves as Fox Corporation’s CEO, “[play] a central and public role in the management and oversight of Fox News” and so would have been responsible for any lies about Dominion aired on the network, the lawsuit alleges, also noting Rupert’s reported friendship with former President Donald Trump. Fox Corporation denied the allegations in a statement to Bloomberg, and Fox News has moved to dismiss the lawsuit against it, claiming its reporting about Dominion is protected under the First Amendment.
Arkansas: Federal Judge P.K. Holmes refused Secretary of State John Thurston’s request that a League of Women Voters lawsuit over Arkansas absentee voting procedures should be dismissed. He said the state could not claim immunity from lawsuit over a voting rights issue and he said the lawsuit made a sufficient argument for the case to proceed to discovery and trial. He said he would not order a preliminary injunction because, even if plaintiffs can prove constitutional rights are violated by state procedures, the state would have an opportunity to correct them before the next election. The judge looked with apparent favor on the argument that absentee votes could be disqualified for errors or omissions not material to qualifications to vote. Under rules in place when the lawsuit was filed (since made even stricter by the Republican-controlled legislature), Holmes wrote: Where absentee voters have only one opportunity to provide information reflecting their citizenship, residency, age, registration status, or photo identification, it would be difficult to find that rejection of their ballots because of an error or omission concerning this information violates the materiality provision. However, where State law requires absentee voters to provide some of that information several times and, as Plaintiffs allege, they have correctly provided that information at least once, but absentee voters’ ballots are nonetheless rejected on the basis of a mismatch or omission in one of the multiple documents they have provided, they have plausibly alleged a denial of the right to vote on the basis of immaterial errors or omissions. As Defendants recognize the materiality provision is intended to address those state election practices that increase the number of errors or omissions on papers or records related to voting and provide an excuse to disenfranchise otherwise qualified voters. Discovery may yield evidence demonstrating the materiality of requiring this information to be provided on multiple forms, but at this stage of litigation the Court draws reasonable inferences in Plaintiffs’ favor, and the motion to dismiss these claims will be denied.
Connecticut: Barry Lee Cohen, Republican challenger for mayor of West Haven has filed suit against democratic incumbent, Mayor Nancy Rossi, along with the city over those election results. Rossi officially secured another term after a recount separated her and Cohen by just 32 votes. Town officials, including the city clerk and the democratic and republican registrar of voters, were named in the suit. The GOP challenger claims statutory procedures were ignored, and now his team is asking the City Clerk to give them access to all materials related to the election. “Although I have been denied access to public records related to the municipal election, from what we have seen, and from what we have learned from people, there are significant irregularities with the absentee ballots cast in the election,” Cohen said in a statement Cohen also argued that some of those ballots should have been rejected if they did not meet state requirements.
Georgia: A court settlement requires the Georgia secretary of state’s office to improve its responsiveness to records requests after a government watchdog organization alleged it failed to turn over public election documents. The agreement resolves a lawsuit filed by American Oversight that said state election officials stalled or ignored requests for information about an absentee ballot fraud task force, communications with the Republican National Committee, coronavirus response and election operations. Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger’s office must produce readily available records within three business days of open records requests, improve training, require prepayment only when records retrieval costs exceed $500 and make a $35,000 payment to American Oversight, according to the Oct. 20 settlement agreement in Fulton County Superior Court. “The secretary of state’s office cannot ignore Georgia’s robust open records law,” said Austin Evers, executive director of American Oversight. “This agreement includes much-needed reforms designed to remedy the inconsistencies, delays and breakdowns in communication that prevent records requesters from accessing what is rightfully theirs.” State election officials said last year that responses to open records requests were at times delayed because American Oversight didn’t accept estimated charges in a timely manner. “We hold ourselves to the principles of transparency,” Deputy Secretary of State Jordan Fuchs said. “Our team will continue to answer requests as quickly as possible and believe that we would have won this case if the state had chosen to expend its limited resources to fight this frivolous lawsuit.”
Nevada: Donald “Kirk” Hartle of Las Vegas plead guilty to a misdemeanor — voting more than once in the same election — and told Clark County District Court Judge Carli Kierny he accepted full responsibility for his actions and regrets them. Hartle’s attorney, David Chesnoff, prevented his client from having to describe publicly how he voted early using a ballot that had been mailed to his dead wife. Rosemarie Hartle died in 2017 but her name remained on the voter rolls. Chesnoff told the judge that state Attorney General Aaron Ford’s office agreed to reduce two felony charges against Hartle to the misdemeanor. Kierny made it clear she was unhappy with the deal but accepted it. Hartle was fined $2,000 and has to stay out of trouble for one year. The judge set a Nov. 17, 2022, date to review the result. “This seems to me to be a cheap political stunt that kind of backfired,” Kierny said, “and shows that our voting system actually works because you were ultimately caught.”
New Jersey: Superior Court Judge Ernest Caposela ordered Passaic County Superintendent of Elections Shona Mack-Pollock to release a partial list of voters who cast provisional ballots in the November 2 general election over the objection of the deputy attorney general. The order came just hours before the Passaic County Board of Elections begins counting votes for the first time since last Wednesday for countywide contests with razor-thin margins, including an incumbent county commissioner who trails his GOP challenge by just 11 votes out of more than 100,000 cast. Deputy attorney general George N. Cohen defending Mack-Pollock’s decision not to release the list last week. “It’s not in their workload,” Cohen said. “They’ve been working non-stop.” Caposela saw the release of the list as “preventive medicine vs. surgery” in the event that races for county commissioner and surrogate wind up back in court as part of a recount. Caposela challenged Cohen on the ability to remove votes from the tally once they are counted, in the event that the loser in the race is able to successfully challenge the provisional vote. Cohen said there was a remedy: that voters could be subpoenaed as witnesses and under oath, be forced to say who they voted for. Caposela didn’t like that option, pointing to the reluctance of voters to appear in court and publicly declare who they voted for on a secret ballot. There are about 4,000 vote-provisional ballots – and at least a dozen vote-by-mail ballots – still uncounted in Passaic County.
North Carolina: McCrae Dowless, who has been accused of running an absentee ballot scheme to fraudulently boost Republican politicians in 2016 and 2018 rejected a plea deal in court this week. He appears set to fight the charges and could go to trial next summer according to the News & Observer. Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman has charged Dowless with 13 felonies. Most are related to the 2018 election in which Dowless was hired to help Mark Harris, a Baptist preacher from Charlotte who was running for Congress as a Republican in the 9th Congressional District, which at the time stretched from the Charlotte suburbs east to Bladen County. Freeman said she offered Dowless a plea deal in which he would agree not to work on elections in the future, but receive little prison time, if he pleads guilty to all but one of the charges he’s facing. Freeman said Monday her offer included a year in prison that would run concurrently to Dowless’ federal sentence — meaning if he took the deal, he would only spend an extra six months behind bars in addition to the six-month sentence he is about to begin for the disability fraud. Dowless shot it down.
Pennsylvania: The Montgomery County and Bucks County boards of elections have filed a lawsuit against the Pennsylvania Department of State secretary seeking to clarify the rules for mail-in and absentee ballots. At issue is whether ballots where voters do not include a date with their signature as instructed can still be counted. “The Pennsylvania Supreme Court held that a county board of elections must have a compelling reason for refusing to canvass a ballot due to minor irregularities,” the suit said. And it added, “The legislature has failed to provide any clarification for voters or county boards of election regarding the voter’s declaration.” Rep. Seth Grove (R-York) said the legislature is filing a brief to intervene in the case, which is pending in Commonwealth Court. According to the docket, state lawyers asked for more time to respond to the suit, which was filed Oct. 1.
Wisconsin: GOP candidate for governor Rebecca Kleefisch filed a lawsuit against the Wisconsin Elections Commission, calling on the state Supreme Court to suspend guidance the commission issued to local election officials ahead of the 2020 election. The lawsuit asks the state’s highest court to take the case immediately, bypassing lower courts that would typically handle such matters first. It argues guidance related to absentee ballot drop boxes, polling place locations and voting in nursing homes violated state laws on the subjects and should be changed ahead of the state’s 2022 election. Related to absentee ballot drop boxes, Kleefisch’s lawsuit argues the elections commission illegally allowed their use in 2020, because there is no provision in state law that allows ballots to be returned other than by an in-person drop off to a clerk’s office or by mail. Regarding voting in nursing homes, the lawsuit contends that March 2020 elections commission guidance directing nursing homes to have residents vote by mail with the help of facility staff, rather than with the help of in-person “special voting deputies,” violated state law. Finally, related to polling places, Kleefisch’s lawsuit argues the elections commission illegally allowed local election officials to consolidate or move polling places in 2020 without required approvals.
Opinions This Week
Connecticut: Absentee ballots
Georgia: Fulton County
Kansas: Voter registration
Nevada: Secretary of state race
North Carolina: Boards of elections
Vermont: Election threats
Washington: Secretary of state
West Virginia: Federal election legislation
Democracy Fund Language Access for Voters Summit: We hope you will join our summit on the importance of language access for voters. With the newest set of Section 203 determinations likely to be released in early December, this virtual convening of election officials, voting rights advocates, and translation experts will feature discussions on a variety of language needs and the services necessary to meet those needs, to meet voters where they are. Join us on December 13-14th at 2pm ET/11am PT to share ideas, tools, and best practices with a focus on practical ideas about what needs to be done between now and November 2022 in order to provide effective language assistance in communities across the United States. Please stay tuned for more information about our program, panelists, and workshops. When: December 13-14, 2pm-5pm Eastern. Where: Online.
IGO Mid-Winter Conference: The International Association of Government Officials will hold its 2022 Mid-Winter Conference in-person in Indian Wells, California. Registration is currently available. Check back for more information on the agenda. When: January 20-25, 2022. Where: Indian Wells, California.
NASED Winter Conference: Watch this space for more information. When: January 27-30, 2022. Where: Washington, DC.
NASS Winter Conference: Watch this space for more information. When: January 27-30, 2022. Where: Washington, DC.
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.
CEO, Democracy Works— Democracy Works seeks a strategic, committed leader to serve as its Chief Executive Officer. Democracy Works’ rise over the last 11 years was led by its Founding Chief Executive Officer who will be stepping down at the end of 2021. The incoming CEO will step into an organization in strong financial and strategic health, with an exceptional team. Reporting to Democracy Works’ Board of Directors, the CEO will serve as the organization’s most senior external advocate and fundraiser, overseeing the organization’s continued growth in its current moment and beyond. The CEO will also set organizational strategy, enabling Democracy Works to continue to deliver consistent, high-quality products, research, and expert assistance in pursuit of a fairer voting system. As the organization’s primary strategic leader, the CEO will support Democracy Works’ leadership team and staff to achieve exceptional results and impact at scale. Upon starting, it is anticipated that the CEO will lead an organizational strategic review and a foundational analysis of organizational strengths and opportunities in the areas of diversity, equity, inclusion, and access working closely with staff to chart its course into the future. The CEO will play a critical leadership role to foster an inclusive workplace that not only values and is responsive to the diversity of staff and the audiences it serves, but elevates all voices and identities across its work internally and with external partners. CEO will also build the organization’s internal capacity to ensure diversity, equity, and inclusion are central tenets of Democracy Works and are embedded across the organization. The CEO will directly manage a senior leadership team of 8 and an organization of over 60 staff. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Counsel, Fair Elections Center— Fair Elections Center is a national, nonpartisan, non-profit voting rights and election reform organization based in Washington, D.C. Our mission is to use litigation and advocacy to remove barriers to registration and voting, particularly those disenfranchising underrepresented and marginalized communities, and to improve election administration. Fair Elections Center is seeking an attorney with a background or strong interest in civil rights, voting rights, and/or election reform to join our legal team. The Center has an aggressive and expanding litigation docket, including pending challenges to the arbitrary felon voting rights restoration scheme in Kentucky, restrictions and penalties imposed on voter registration activity and voter assistance for persons with disabilities in Florida, and unnecessary barriers to the use of student IDs as voter ID in Wisconsin. Recent cases include a First Amendment challenge to Florida’s arbitrary voting rights restoration system which resulted in the first court order striking down a state felon disenfranchisement or re-enfranchisement scheme in over 30 years, and lawsuits in Wisconsin, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Louisiana, and Kentucky to make voting safer and more accessible during the COVID-19 pandemic. Salary: $85,000 to $100,000. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Director of Elections & Voter Services (Assistant City Clerk), Minneapolis, Minnesota— We’re a division of the Office of the City Clerk. We administer local, state, and federal elections for Minneapolis voters. Our estimated population is 430,000 with about 270,000 registered voters. We champion civic participation for all Minneapolis citizens through accurate, fair, and accessible elections. We strive to be leaders in election administration through innovation and collaboration. As the largest and most vibrant city in the state, Minneapolis depends on purposeful, dedicated and innovative employees. Minneapolis has a large variety of careers for people of all experiences and backgrounds who come together for a singular purpose—serving the residents, businesses and visitors of Minneapolis. The Assistant City Clerk is responsible for the direction of a business line in the City Clerk’s Office, including acting as the Responsible Authority and Data Compliance Official, Chief Elections Official, or Chief Legislative Officer. Responsibilities includes: Direction of a business line, including developing strategic goals with the City Clerk Council/Council Leadership; and developing, implementing, and maintaining programs to implement those goals; Manage multiple competing projects of varying complexity across the department and enterprise; Manage the daily operations of the department, including budget, financial, personnel issues, departmental business plans, involvement in Council office matters, and various special projects; Develop, implement, and manage initiatives that improve the service delivery to City administration, and the public; Develop strategic goals with the City Clerk; and develop, implement, and maintain programs to implement those goals; Collaborate with the City Clerk on the preparation of annual budgets, budget presentations, emergency operations and continuity of operations plans; Oversee the preparation of reports, research efforts, planning documents and presentations to elected officials, stakeholder groups and the public; Supervise divisional staff, delegating, coaching, and developing the staff’s professional expertise, and fostering an atmosphere that values the rewards responsiveness, innovation, thoroughness and professionalism; Establish and maintain effective organizational and public relations through the development and implementation of outreach and engagement plans, including hosting events and presenting to the public; Partner and provide professional consultation to City leadership, departments, and other partners, internal and external to the City enterprise; Research, and respond to Mayor and Council Member inquiries and issues independently, including complex requests from policy-makers, the media, and the public involving significant amounts of data or sensitive data; Manage multiple competing projects of varying complexity across the department and enterprise; Oversee and ensure the Implementation of program goals and objectives; Work with the City Clerk regarding support, discipline. and discharge of staff from the department, and when handling controversial or politically sensitive issues; Provide leadership of department-wide initiatives and City-wide initiatives, and oversight of financial decisions for the City Clerk’s Office; Establish and enforce administrative policies, procedures, and standards for the Office; and Act as the City Clerk as assigned. Salary: $112,139.04 – $132,934.88. Deadline: December 5. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Director, Voter Registration & Elections, DeKalb County, Georgia— The purpose of this classification is to plan, direct, and oversee the operations and staff involved in voter registration and elections processes for the County and to ensure compliance with local, state, and federal election and voter registration laws, rules, and regulations under the general oversight of the Board of Registration & Elections. Essential Functions: The following duties are normal for this classification. The omission of specific statements of the duties does not exclude them from the classification if the work is similar, related, or a logical assignment for this classification. Other duties may be required and assigned. Manages, directs, and evaluates assigned staff; oversees employee work schedules to ensure adequate coverage and control; reviews timesheets; approves/processes employee concerns and problems and counsels or disciplines as appropriate; assists with or completes employee performance appraisals; directs work; acts as a liaison between employees and County administrators and elected officials; and trains staff in operations, policies, and procedures. Organizes, prioritizes, and assigns work; prioritizes and schedules work activities in order to meet objectives; ensures that subordinates have the proper resources needed to complete the assigned work; monitors status of work in progress and inspects completed work; and consults with assigned staff to assist with complex/problem situations and provide technical expertise. Partners with Board of Registration & Elections to establish vision and goals for department and overall conduct of all elections-related efforts in the County; develops and implements long and short-term plans, goals, and objectives for department; evaluates effectiveness and efficiency of department activities; establishes, reviews, and revises policies, procedures, plans, and programs; and researches, assesses, and develops strategies to meet current and future election and voter registration needs. Supports, guides, and responds to requests and directives from the Board of Registration & Elections; ensures Board members understand their role and duties; plans, prepares, and executes Board meetings in partnership with Board Chair; communicates with and informs Board members in accordance with Board by-laws. Interprets, applies, and ensures compliance with all applicable codes, laws, rules, regulations, standards, policies and procedures; initiates any actions necessary to correct deviations or violations; maintains a comprehensive, current knowledge of applicable laws/regulations and pending legislation that may impact department operations; and maintains an awareness of new products, methods, trends and advances in the profession. Consults with Board of Registration & Elections to develop, implement, and administers department budget; applies current and commonly accepted financial management practices to create and monitor project and program budgets; presents and defends budget to County officials and Commissioners; monitors expenditures for adherence to established budgetary parameters; and prepares and submits invoices and other financial documentation. Directs functions and activities of the department; directs voter registration programs, voter education and outreach programs; administers elections; recruits and trains poll workers; and oversees storage, maintenance, preparation, and testing of election equipment. Directs voter registration activities; reviews and approves staffing levels during high volume and peak registration periods; monitors work activities to ensure timely processing of applications and maintenance of voter registration rolls; and conducts voter education seminars and training for citizens. Conducts elections; supervises departmental personnel to ensure that all elections are conducted in accordance with state and federal laws and regulations; determines locations and schedule for early voting; organizes equipment and staff deployment levels for early and election day voting; reviews training packets; monitors early voting traffic and election task lists; approves ballot layouts; and implements changes in procedures to resolve issues. Represents department to media, voters, other departments, municipalities and other stakeholders; represents department at Board of Commissioners meetings, Registration and Elections Board meetings, and to Secretary of State’s office; answers questions and provides information; coordinates work activities; reviews status of work; and resolves problems. Salary: $102,843 – $159,408. Deadline: November 19. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Election Administrator, Hood County, Texas— Provides customer assistance necessary in structuring, organizing and implementing the voter registration process and the county election process. Examples of Important Responsibilities and Duties—Important responsibilities and duties may include, but are not limited to, the following: Perform voter registration duties and the duties of organizing and conducting elections for the county; Hire, supervise and train department employees and election workers; Custodian of election equipment and all election records; Effectively manage public relations for the Election Administrator office by providing election information, issuing press releases, conducting interviews and participating in interviews with the media; Prepare and present annual department budget for approval of the County Elections Commission; Make reports to and work closely with the County Election Commission as well as the County Commissioners Court; Provide the clerical assistance needed by the Commissioners Court in canvassing precinct election returns; Responsible for filing of petitions, determining their validity and any other matters preceding the ordering of the election; Be willing to work and possibly contract with other political subdivisions in the county for their election needs; Attend annual Texas Secretary of State Election Law Seminar and any other functions deemed necessary; Represent the county in an honest and professional manner; and Perform any and all other duties of an Election Administrator as set forth in the Texas Election Code. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Elections Deputy Director, Oregon Secretary of State’s Office– In this critical management role in the Elections Division, you will be responsible for directing coordination, accessibility, and execution of Oregon’s nationally recognized vote by mail system. The primary purpose of this position is to assist the Division Director in the execution of the statutory responsibilities and general operations of the Elections Division. You will collaborate with the Elections Director and Elections Manager to develop the Division’s budget, organizational goals and objectives as well as advance the direction of the Division. As the subject matter expert, you will coordinate the conduct of elections at the state and local level. You will perform supervisory functions including, but not limited to: hiring, training/coaching, planning, assigning, prioritizing and reviewing work, evaluating performance, implementing disciplinary action and responding to complaints. In conjunction with the Director, you will act as liaison to the 36 counties across the state and oversee units closely related to public elections management. These are primarily: systems and databases required for elections management as well as processes, statutes, rules, and staff involved in management of the elections cycle, with a focus on initiative, referendum, and referral, and candidate procedures. Salary: $7,597 -$12,341/month.Deadline: November 23. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Elections Director, Pinal County, Arizona— Under the direction of the County Manager or designee performs professional work of considerable difficulty planning, directing, coordinating and controlling overall operations of the Elections Department to ensure that goals and objectives are accomplished in compliance with all elections laws. The Elections Director works to maintain a secure, transparent, accessible, free and fair election that inspires public confidence in the election system. This position is not covered under the Pinal County Merit System. Incumbents in this position serve at the pleasure of their respective Appointing Authority. The employment relationship of incumbents in this position is “at will” the employee may be terminated at any time, for any reason, with or without cause. Salary: $87,718 – $140,349. Application: For the complete listing and to apply, click here.
Elections Manager, Clackamas County, Oregon— Our Election Manager must manage and supervise elections flawlessly and with transparency, honoring and counting every vote. The incumbent will plan, organize and manage all general, primary, and special elections held in the county and ensure elections procedures and records comply with statutory requirements. Additionally, the position has supervision over four technical and clerical support personnel and, during elections, up to 100 temporary employees. The Elections Manager is responsible for managing the technical and administrative activities of the Elections Division, including voter registration, candidate filing, ballot preparation, voting, vote tallying, jurisdictional mapping, reporting, and other requirements related to conducting special, primary, and general elections in compliance with federal, state, and local statutes, regulations, and rules. Competitive applicants will be highly motivated, detail-oriented, and have well-developed management and supervisory skills. A demonstrated ability to maintain an environment of high integrity and dependability is critical in the role. Equity, diversity, and inclusion are at the core of everything we do. Clackamas County is committed to building a workforce that reflects the community we serve. In that spirit, we encourage applicants of diverse backgrounds and experiences to apply. Salary: $ 78,088.26 – $ 105,420.58. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Executive Assistant (Republican), Lucas County, Ohio— Reports to the Deputy Director; prepares reports, letters and create forms as required; prepares a variety of documents; assists with the preparation of ballot language according to statutory requirements and reports language for approval to the Secretary of State’s Office and County Prosecutor’s Office; assists with the preparation of legal notices for advertisement purposes according to statutory requirements; prepares timely financial reporting to the Secretary of State, the Lucas County Commissioner and the Office of Budget and Management; responsible for purchasing; coordinates travel arrangements/seminars; responsible for electronically taping all Board Meetings and typing minutes; responsible for preparation of all election reporting requirements to the Ohio’s Secretary of State, Ohio Department of Taxation, School Districts, County of Board of Commissioners, Councils and Cities, and Villages Townships Trustee, other taxing authorities and Department of Liquor Control; acts as liaison between municipalities, Secretary of State, and County Commissioners; responsible for preparing and posting Board Meeting Agenda Notices; prepares and post all media advisories; must maintain confidentiality and business integrity; performs all other duties as assigned, by the Director/Deputy Director, the Board of Elections and/or a prescribed by law. Also, back-up for the Executive Assistant to the Director. Process all new employees’ documents; prepares bi-weekly payroll for all staff, seasonal employees and Board members; review all time sheets, maintain accurate records for all vacation, compensatory and sick leave accrued and used by full-time employees. Other duties as assigned. Must be a Republican. Salary: $23-$25/hour. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Government Services Strategy Impact and Learning Associate, CTCL— Election officials want to administer elections where every eligible voter can easily and securely cast their vote. But moving from intention to real-world impact can be challenging, especially without evidence of what works and what doesn’t work. As the Strategy, Impact, & Learning Associate on CTCL’s Government Services team, you will help measure and maximize the impact of CTCL’s work supporting election officials. You will identify metrics, design evaluations, coordinate with partners, and collect and analyze data. You will contribute to a culture of learning at the heart of CTCL’s Gov Services team, which will expand outward to our partners that work directly with election offices, and expand further outward to every election office in the country. You will be filling a new position and will report to the Senior Strategy, Impact, and Learning Manager. If you care about democracy, if you believe in the importance of public service, and if you love to exceed expectations, this is the job for you. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
MACCEA Executive Director Missouri Association of County Clerks and Election Authorities— The Missouri Association of County Clerks and Election Authorities (MACCEA) is a professional association of county clerks and election authorities from Missouri’s 116 counties and election authority jurisdictions. MACCEA’s Executive Board is comprised of elected county clerks and appointed election directors whose full-time jobs are to manage county offices, conduct high profile elections, and work in the challenging environment of county government administration. The Board is a volunteer position and officers are elected by the association membership with additional members appointed by the Board President. The new Executive Director position will help the Board better support our membership in their roles as county clerks and election authorities, as well as support the association’s vision, mission, and goals. MACCEA seeks a contract Executive Director with diverse non-profit management, governance, conference planning, and communications experience. The Executive Director reports to the 12-member MACCEA Executive Board. Duties and association management are delegated to the Executive Director by the MACCEA Bylaws and under the direction of the Executive Board. Routine and recurring work includes: In cooperation with the Board President, prepares minutes and agendas for meetings; Facilitate logistics (in-person and virtual) for meetings and conferences throughout the year; Organize and lead necessary follow-up actions from Board and Association meetings; Develop new initiatives, with input and guidance of the Board, to further MACCEA objectives; Manage the content of the MACCEA website; Proactively initiate and maintain regular communications with the 12-member Executive Board; Work with the Executive Board to implement MACCEA’s Strategic Plan; Research funding sources, including sponsorships, grants, etc.; Work directly with county clerks and election directors to address concerns, answer questions, and support them in their offices; and, Exhibit knowledge and expertise in the content areas of county government for which county clerks and election directors are responsible. Salary: $55,000 – $65,000. Deadline: November 19. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Policy and Compliance Administrator, Denver, Colorado— The Elections Division provides comprehensive, nationally-recognized, election services for the City and County of Denver. These services include voter records management, voter services, petition management, election administration, elections operations, and strategic communications and outreach. The Elections program goal is to conduct fair, accurate, accessible, secure, transparent, efficient and reliable elections. Do you have a passion for serving others? If so, we want to hear from you! The City and County of Denver has an exciting opportunity for a Policy and Compliance Administrator to serve in the Office of the Clerk & Recorder Paul D. López.In this position, you will work with both divisions to ensure the office’s compliance with federal and state law. As a home rule municipality, Denver is uniquely situated to be involved with both state law and its own charter and ordinances. Additionally, as the Policy and Compliance Administrator, you can expect to: Interpret Denver and Colorado law to advise the Denver Clerk and Recorder on compliance issues related to his duties and the functions of the office; Draft legislation and administrative rules at the direction of the Clerk and Recorder; Serve as the Clerk’s legislative liaison to the Colorado General Assembly; Conduct research for policy determinations as directed by the Clerk and Recorder; Meet with stakeholders and members of the community to achieve the Clerk’s policy goals; Conduct comparative research and keep track of court cases; Represent the Clerk on inter-agency and inter-governmental commissions, etc.; Build strategic relationships for the Clerk and Recorder’s Office with other governmental entities, including the Colorado County Clerks’ Association; Coordinate with the City Attorney’s office to determine the Clerk’s legal strategy for litigation; Perform other duties as assigned or requested; and Assignments for this position are diverse in nature and require determining practical solutions in a fast-paced environment. Salary: $83,348 – $137,524. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Project Manager, Professional Services, Hart InterCivic– Project Managers at Hart InterCivic are highly motivated “self-starters” who are enthusiastic about providing exceptional customer service. Working with other members of the Professional Services and Operations teams, the Project Manager directs activity, solves problems, and develops lasting and strong relationships with our customers. Hart InterCivic’s unique and industry-known culture of innovation, transparency, and customer-centric focus creates an environment where team members will continually grow and be challenged to develop their careers. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
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