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September 7, 2023

September 7, 2023

In Focus This Week

Back to school
Talking about civics without going over their heads

Kristen Cambell, CEO
Philanthropy for Active Civic Engagement

Philanthropy for Active Civic Engagement (PACE)’s Civic Language Perceptions Project is a three-year exploration into what Americans think about terms that are commonplace in “professional” civic spaces but perhaps not the everyday word choice of many people– terms like democracy, privilege, and pluralism. When we launched the project, we hoped it would ultimately tell us (and others) whether our neighbors are familiar with these terms and how to use this language without going over people’s heads.

Why study Americans’ perceptions of civic language? Because studies suggest that an informed vernacular about civic life in America is becoming increasingly rare. Many Americans lack knowledge about even the most basic facts about their government. For example, the latest round of the Annenberg Public Policy Center’s annual survey found that less than half (47%) of U.S. adults could name all three branches of government, down from 56% in 2021, and fewer Americans could name any of the five rights protected by the First Amendment in 2022 than in 2021.

Coupled with reduced civic knowledge is decreased engagement in civic behaviors, whether it be participation in community organizations or elections – especially among young Americans. School-based civic educational experiences are inconsistent (or non-existent) in many states, and we also know declines in media and journalism contributes to a lack of civic knowledge as well. Many are pointing out the stakes of revitalizing civic knowledge and engagement in our country: Without it, we will struggle to defend democracy and prevent tyranny.

Our study produced thousands of data points (16,000 pages, actually!), and we analyzed it through focus groups, mini-grants, and many other mechanisms. To understand the results even more deeply, we hosted five “Civic Language Solution Sprints” that invited over 50 funders, practitioners, and thought leaders to discuss their experiences around the thorniest civic language perceptions emerging in the study, such as perceptions that:

  • Young people are negative about “democracy”
  • Some words are “owned” by certain people or groups
  • The term “civic” is not landing
  • Civic terms are favored by historically “dominant” identities
  • There is a disconnect between professional usage and public perception of civic language

These conversations led to many lessons for those of us who are trying to motivate or mobilize everyday people toward strengthening democracy. Here are three our team has been sitting with.

Start with language already in people’s vocabulary
As one participant stated (paraphrased): “We need to get away from civic words that are ‘buzzy’ to words that have application outside the civic field, and to do that, we need to engage the audiences we seek to engage in the language creation process.” Many people shared that an effective strategy toward this is to start with their current understanding of concepts and connect deeper terms to the frameworks they already know. This requires a listening posture and the ability to translate their words and experiences to civic language.

An example of this came from a group that coordinated a youth civic engagement event. After talking with youth leaders, they decided that instead of calling it a “civic engagement event,” they would brand the event as “Do you hear me now?” which more directly connected with young people’s desire to be heard, seen, and valued as active community contributors–all things that civic engagement embodies.

Deconstruct terms and paraphrase quickly
For better or for worse, one of the ways participants have navigated civic language challenges is to use the term, and then quickly get to explaining what they mean by the term in plain, non-technical language. Here are specific examples that came up throughout our sessions:

  • By bridging, we mean putting people who don’t agree with each other in the same room.
  • By democracy, we mean how you govern your own life and participate in community, not just a form of government.
  • By pluralism, we mean how we are many people, living and working together.

In our fast-pace media environment where time to explain what you mean is not always afforded, taking opportunities to clarify terms is vital, otherwise people may draw their own conclusions about what they think you mean, which can lead to misinterpretation or even disengagement.

Focus less on building shared language and more on building shared experiences
Many participants across our sessions acknowledged that while we are talking about language challenges, they are a symptom of a larger issue: Americans have fewer shared contexts and experiences through which to engage with other people, especially those who are different from them. As one participant said, “I see this as part of the broader fracturing of the information environment. Different communities are using different information sources, coming to different facts/conclusions, using different language.”

However, there is hope. One helpful piece of advice provided during a sprint is to pair words together that appeal to “opposite” groups. For example, groups might experiment with using democracy (rated more positively by liberals, Democrats, upper class, and urban respondents) and liberty (rated more positively by conservatives, Republicans, working class, and rural respondents) in close proximity to each other.

I hope that sharing some of the wisdom that we gathered from civic leaders in the field provides guidance and food-for-thought as you navigate your specific civic language challenges. From here, PACE will continue to explore civic language and Americans’ perceptions and associations of the words that fuel our civic lives. I invite you to check back to PACEfunders.org/Language for new published learnings, findings, and events.


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Election News This Week

Vote by Mail Report:  The National Vote at Home Institute (NVAHI) has issued a research paper examining 18-34-year-old voter turnout in the 2020 Presidential election, both overall and by key race/ethnicities. The study calculated and analyzed turnout rates using two critical denominators — eligible citizens and active registered voters —  for 42 states for which sufficient age-related data was available. Young voters aged 18-34 — overall and by key race and ethnicities — had significantly higher turnout rates in the cohort of 10 Vote at Home states and Washington, D.C., that automatically mailed ballots to all active registered voters in 2020. Using Citizen Voting Age Population (CVAP) and Active Registered Voter (ARV) datasets from a Voter Participation Center study and a significant list vendor (Catalist), the research team first examined overall 18-34 turnout rates. Six of the top 10 states for eligible citizen turnout in 2020 – and eight of the top 15 for active registered voter turnout –were Vote at Home jurisdictions. Only one Vote at Home state (Nevada) was a 2020 battleground state; most others failed to make either list. To further analyze turnout rates of 18-34 year old white, Black, and Latino voters, the nine Vote at Home jurisdictions with available data were compared with four other cohorts. These were the seven 2020 battleground states that didn’t use this approach; ten non-Vote at Home states with Same Day/Election Day (SDR/EDR) registration policies; ten non-Vote at Home states with Automatic Voter Registration (AVR); and the remaining 16 states with none of these policies. Of the 32 possible turnout rate comparisons, using both the CVAP and ARV denominators, Vote at Home states triumphed, in all 32 instances, often by dramatic margins. “Despite billions spent by the major political parties on media ads, voter registration drives, and other Get out the Vote efforts targeting young voters, it was non-battleground, Vote at Home states that dominated the list of Top Turnout states for young voters in 2020,” said Barbara Smith Warner, NVAHI Executive Director. “While SDR/EDR and AVR policies also seem to boost young voter turnout,  their impact appears to be a fraction of the turnout increase that happens when states automatically deliver ballots to all voters, especially young voters,” said Phil Keisling, chief author of the study. Keisling chairs NVAHI’s Board and served as Oregon Secretary of State from 1991-99.

Door to Door: A number of counties in Upstate New York are dealing with people going door-to-door questioning the voter registration of residents who live there. “I think its incredibly sad that people have to go around and impersonate my staff, our staff here, saying that they’re part of our office and questioning voters on their registration,” Michele Sardo, Republican commissioner at the Onondaga County Board of Elections said. “It is one of the more vile things that I’ve seen in my 10 years as commissioner,” Dustin Czarny, the Democratic commissioner said. Other counties reporting door-to-door issues include Dutchess, Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence. Kathleen McGrath, director of public information at the New York State Board of Elections, told Capital Tonight that none of the voters that were approached committed a crime and had no demographic or political connections, the only thing in common was that they had moved. “We are extremely alarmed by these actions. These individuals are impersonating government officials in an effort to intimidate voters based on inaccurate and misleading information,” said Raymond J. Riley III, co-executive director of the State Board of Elections. “We strongly encourage those engaging in these activities to cease immediately.” Criminal impersonation in the second degree is a class A misdemeanor in New York. “The State Board of Elections remains in close communication with the County Boards and law enforcement to monitor this situation,” the release said.

100,000: This week, West Virginia Secretary of State Mac Warner celebrated the 100,000th youth voter registration during his tenure as secretary of state. During an event at Capital High School in Charleston, Rico Franquez became the 100,000th student to register to vote since Warner took office in 2017. Elections Divisions Director Brittany Westfall, and County Clerk Vera McCormick joined Warner to talk to students about the importance of civic engagement. The event also celebrated U.S. Sen. Jennings Randolph who worked to pass the 26th Amendment. Randolph was a West Virginia native and represented the state from 1958 to 1985. Warner said that West Virginia has a legacy of getting young people involved in politics. He named Saira Blair the youngest legislator ever elected, and Caleb Hanna as the youngest African American elected to office.  “When people hear about other 18 and19 year olds getting elected to office, they’re like, well, I could do that, too. And that’s the importance of coming out and telling that story and making them feel part of this proud legacy that West Virginia has,” Warner said.

Sticker News: The Ulster County, New York Board of Elections has announced that Julia Deyo, a 16-year-old student from Rondout Valley High School, is the winner of this year’s “I Voted” sticker contest. “With over 3,300 votes cast in total and more than 1,300 votes specifically in support of Julia’s artwork, it’s clear that her design resonated with the people of Ulster County,” the Board of Elections said in a statement. “This competition was a testament to the creativity and talent of our local youth, and Julia’s outstanding design truly captured the essence of civic engagement and the importance of voting.” Deyo’s winning “I Voted” sticker will be produced and distributed at all early voting centers starting October 28, allowing community members to display their civic pride when they participate in early voting. Additionally, these stickers will be available at all poll sites on November 7, ensuring that every voter on Election Day can showcase their commitment to democracy. In recognition of her artistic talent and her contribution to encouraging civic participation,  Deyo will be honored with the “Pride of Ulster County” award at an upcoming meeting of the Ulster County legislature. “The Ulster County Board of Elections would also like to express our gratitude to the other finalists and all the talented students who submitted their artwork for this year’s contest,” the Board of Elections said in a statement.  “Your creative contributions are essential in promoting civic awareness and engagement among our youth.” Last  year’s competition  featured the standout design by Hudson Rowan and captured widespread attention and went viral.

Personnel News: Jared DeMarinis has officially taken over as the administrator of elections for the state of Maryland. Warren County, Virginia Director of Elections and Voter Registrar Carol Tobin has retired. Tara Zagorski is the new Bad Axe, Michigan city clerk. Gary Smith is the new chairman of the Baxter County, Arkansas election commission.

Legislative Updates

California: By a vote of 30 – 6, California’s State Senate passed Assembly Bill (AB) 969 prohibiting Shasta County and other similarly minded voting jurisdictions from cancelling voting system contracts and counting votes by hand except under very limited and stringent conditions. “While this is one important step of many in the legislative process, I am glad to see this essential bill move forward to protect the voters of Shasta County,” stated Shasta County Election Clerk Cathy Darling Allen. Passed as an “urgency” measure since election season is fast approaching for November local jurisdiction elections, as well as the start of candidate filing for the nationwide Presidential Primary in March, the bill goes back to the Assembly to receive concurrence with Senate amendments. Then it will make its way to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s desk by Sept. 8 for a final decision. AB 969 previously passed the State Assembly on April 27 by a vote of 62 – 9. It was amended slightly while in the Senate.

Morrow Georgia: After previously saying they would put an initiative before the voters, the Morrow City Council has reversed course and instead approved an ordinance that would allow the use the multi-language ballots in future city elections. The legislation started as a petition. Morrow City Council Member Van Tran and volunteers went door-to-door getting enough signatures to get the petition on the city council’s table.  City Council members then voted in an August 8 meeting to make the petition a referendum, which would have put the proposed question of “Should the City of Morrow use bilingual ballots on all future city elections?”  to a vote on an official ballot in the November 2023 city election. A Clayton County attorney then shut this plan down after they said they would “instruct the Clayton County Elections superintendent to not all the question” on the ballot.  Leaders felt they were left no other choice which led them to vote at an August 22 meeting to cancel that referendum and make the proposal an ordinance where it passed unanimously.

Idaho: Republican Senate reached 60% support to call the Legislature back in session to establish a May presidential primary — unless the party decides to hold a caucus instead. Another bill to put in place a primary, but in March, is also being circulated by a north Idaho lawmaker. Because the Legislature seemingly inadvertently eliminated a presidential primary in an attempt to move the election to May, the Idaho Republican Party approved a caucus process if a March primary isn’t reinstated by the Legislature. Leaders in the Idaho Senate are circulating draft legislation to create a presidential primary in May, however parties would still have the option to hold a caucus instead at their own expense. Previously, Idaho’s presidential primary was held in March. Lawmakers introduced legislation this year to move the election to May, estimating that consolidating the election would save the state up to $2.7 million. The bill, HB 138, passed 61-6 in the House and 23-11 in the Senate. However, the way the legislation was written actually eliminated the primary, so a trailer bill was introduced to fix the issue. The trailer passed through the Senate but died in a House committee.

North Carolina: Republican state lawmakers had hoped to advance a bill that would shift power of state and local elections boards, but a top GOP legislator announced the vote would be delayed until at least next week. House Speaker Tim Moore later told reporters that the bill needed a few tweaks before it would be ready for a vote, although the details of those pending changes weren’t clear. At the same time, the delay came as protesters arrived at the legislature to decry the proposed measure. Some groups had announced their intention to disrupt the voting session in protest, and there was an elevated police presence at the legislature when the decision was made to delay the vote. The bill’s GOP sponsors say Senate Bill 749 is needed to improve people’s trust in election integrity. But professional election administrators have objected, saying the legislation will create chaos and deadlock if it becomes law — harming people’s faith in the integrity of elections, rather than improving it. The main change in the now-delayed elections bill would be to end the state’s rule, in place for all of modern history, that whichever party controls the governor’s office gets a majority on the State Board of Elections as well as on individual county election boards. Right now, because Cooper is a Democrat, Democrats have a 3-2 advantage on the state and local election boards. The bill currently under consideration would create evenly split boards — with equal numbers of members from both major political parties.

Ohio: Sen. Michele Reynolds (R-Canal Winchester) has introduced legislation that would make some key changes to the current voter registration process. For starters, it would close primaries in Ohio. Right now, a voter can go into a polling place and vote in the party primary they choose on that day. After doing that, they are considered a member of that party until they vote in a different party’s primary. Voters can also be considered unaffiliated years after they stop voting in primaries. “It closes our primary system so whoever is registered within 30 days of the election, whatever party they are affiliated with, they are able to vote in that party’s primary,” Reynolds said. “But they are not allowed to vote in that party’s primary if they are not affiliated with that party.”  The bill would also allow Ohioans who don’t want to be affiliated with a political party to declare themselves unaffiliated in real time by simply filling out a form. The bill is new and while SB 147 has been introduced, it has not yet been assigned to a committee.

Pennsylvania: A bill aiming to move up Pennsylvania’s position in the 2024 presidential primary calendar advanced out of a key committee in the state Senate last week, but officials say changing the date less than eight months before the election would present a host of logistical problems. The Senate State Government Committee unanimously approved a bill that would move the primary up from April 23 to March 19, a change that would be effective only for next year’s election. The current primary date conflicts with the Jewish holiday of Passover, and the three other states that had primaries scheduled for the same day have already moved their dates. Some observant Jews would be unable to vote in person on the holiday.  The effort to move the primary has strong bipartisan and bicameral support in Pennsylvania, but the exact date it would be moved to is unclear.

Legal Updates

Alabama: Rep. David Cole resigned from his seat after applying to plead guilty to a voter fraud felony charge. Court records show Cole’s plea agreement calls for him to serve 60 days in the Madison County Jail. The plea agreement says Cole agrees to a three-year prison sentence which is split between the 60-day jail term with the remainder on probation. The plea agreement also says Cole agrees that the 60 days in jail is a “material part” of the plea agreement and the state agrees to not bring any additional charges based on his past conduct known to the state. It also includes Cole’s agreement to resign from office and pay back all money he earned as a member of the Alabama House of Representatives.  The agreement says in 2021 Cole planned to run for the District 10 seat but also knew because of redistricting his residence — which was in District 10 — might end up being in another district.

A three-judge panel unanimously struck down Alabama’s recently redrawn congressional map, finding that the GOP-drafted plan did not comply with the Voting Rights Act as it did not create a second district in which Black voters would likely be able to elect their preferred candidate. Court-appointed experts will now draw a new map for the 2024 elections. Alabama is expected to appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court. The state Legislature had passed their latest congressional map in late July, after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled a month earlier that the previous map violated the civil rights law. But the revised plan only included one majority-Black district, with a second district that had less than 50% Black residents. The federal ruling that originally struck down Alabama’s map in 2022 ordered the Legislature to draw “two districts in which Black voters either comprise a voting-age majority or something quite close to it.” In their sharply worded opinion on Tuesday, the federal panel disagreed. “Law requires the creation of an additional district that affords Black Alabamians, like everyone else, a fair and reasonable opportunity to elect candidates of their choice. The 2023 Plan plainly fails to do so,” U.S. Circuit Judge Stanley Marcus, U.S. District Judge Anna Manasco and U.S. District Judge Terry Moorer wrote. The judges wrote that they were “deeply troubled” that Alabama lawmakers enacted a map that disregarded the findings in 2022.

Arizona: Joshua Russell, 44, of Bucyrus, Ohio and Mark Rissi, 64, of Hiawatha, Iowa have both been charged by the U.S. Department of Justice for threatening elections officials. Rissi was sentenced to 2.5 years in prison for death threats against Arizona’s former attorney general and a Maricopa County election official over the 2020 election. Rissi threated to “lynch” an election official. On or about August 2, 2022, Russel left a threatening voicemail on the Arizona secretary of state’s voicemail. He had plead guilty to sending threatening communications to an election officials. “The Justice Department has no tolerance for illegal threats that target those who administer our elections, and it will not hesitate to investigate and prosecute such criminal conduct,” Acting Assistant Attorney General Nicole M. Argentieri, the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, said in a prepared statement.

Yavapai County Superior Court Judge John Napper, said state law is “clear and unambiguous” that election officials must compare the signatures on the envelopes with the voter’s actual registration record. And that, he said, consists only of the document signed when a person first registered along with subsequent changes for things like altering party affiliation. And what that means, the judge said, is it is illegal for county election officials to instead use other documents to determine if the signature on that ballot envelope is correct and should be accepted. Napper’s conclusion is not the last word. Strictly speaking, he only rejected efforts by Secretary of State Adrian Fontes to have the lawsuit by two groups challenging the process thrown out. Napper has not issued a final order. “We look forward to the issue being litigated,” said Paul Smith-Leonard, spokesman for Fontes. But the judge, in his ruling, made it clear that he is not buying arguments by the secretary of state that the rules in the Elections Procedures Manual allowing the comparison of signatures against other documents – the practice now widely in use – complies with what state law clearly requires.

Colorado: Former clerk of Mesa County Tina Peters pleaded not guilty to criminal charges stemming from the 2021 leak of voting machine passwords during a security update. Peters, 68, faces three felony counts of attempting to influence a public servant, four felony counts related to impersonation and identity theft and a misdemeanor count each of official misconduct, violating her duties and failing to comply with the secretary of state’s requirements. She is scheduled for an eight-day jury trial in February. “This case needs to go to trial,” said 21st Judicial District Judge Matthew Barrett after denying requests from Peters’ attorney to push the trial back to accommodate a tight schedule. The charges follow a grand jury indictment filed in 2022 by citizens who had elected Peters as county clerk and recorder.

Connecticut: U.S. Attorney Vanessa Robert Avery has filed an appeal with the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals of last month’s ruling by U.S. District Judge Victor Bolden dismissing the first count of the indictment against Michael DeFilippo, that charged DeFilippo with engaging in a conspiracy against constitutional rights by interfering with qualified voters’ right to vote and have their undiluted votes counted in his election to the Bridgeport City Council. Bolden granted the motion to dismiss based on the argument of DeFilippo’s lawyer, Francis O’Reilly that there is no federal constitutional right to vote and have one’s vote counted in state or municipal elections and primaries. DeFilippo still faces trial on Sept. 18 on identity theft and fraudulent registration offenses, which carry a maximum of five years in prison.

Georgia: Chad Christopher Stark, 55 of Leander, Texas pleaded guilty in the Northern District of Georgia Thursday to posting a message online threatening several Georgia public officials following the 2020 election. Stark pleaded guilty to one count of sending a threat using a telecommunications device. He faces a maximum penalty of two years in prison, the United States Department of Justice said. Court documents said around Jan. 5, 2021, Stark posted a message to Craigslist entitled, “Georgia Patriots it’s time to kill [Official A] the Chinese agent – $10,000.” “His egregious conduct placed our democracy in jeopardy, striking at the heart of the process we assume to be insulated from such attacks,” U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Buchanan for the Northern District of Georgia said. “Our office will remain steadfast in partnering with federal, state, and local authorities to safeguard those who work to secure our elections.” A sentencing date has not yet been set. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors, according to a news release.

Kentucky: The Fair Elections Center and Kentucky Equal Justice Center will be petitioning the U.S Supreme Court on their voting rights restoration lawsuit against the state of Kentucky for not automatically restoring voting rights after felony prison sentences are completed. After a three-judge panel from the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati upheld a district court ruling which dismissed the lawsuit, known as Lostutter v. Kentucky, the Court denied a motion Thursday for a re-hearing “En Banc,” meaning all judges in the Sixth Circuit would participate. The suit, filed against the state and Gov. Andy Beshear, in his official capacity, challenges the state’s arbitrary process for restoring voting rights to Kentuckians with past felony convictions. The Fair Elections Center will now petition the Supreme Court of the United States by October 18, 2023, to take up the case, which they filed on behalf of all Kentuckians with any out-of-state or federal felony convictions.

Michigan: U.S. District Judge George Caram Steeh dismissed Warren Mayor Jim Fouts’ civil rights lawsuit requesting the primary election for Warren mayor be decertified and a special mayoral election be held with his name on the ballot before the November general election. Fouts’ legal team plans to file an immediate appeal with the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit, based in Cincinnati, asking that the review be expedited. Steeh wrote in a 23-page opinion that the court “finds it has subject matter jurisdiction over plaintiff’s complaint, but that the plaintiff fails to state any claim upon which relief may be granted.” Steeh’s opinion came after written filings by the parties, but without a hearing. Steeh granted motions by two of the defendants to dismiss the case, and said a motion by Fouts to expedite review was moot, dismissing the case in its entirety. On Facebook, Fouts said his legal team was surprised Steeh didn’t allow oral arguments, despite telling them a few weeks earlier he was “95% certain that there will be oral arguments.” Fouts filed the federal lawsuit Aug. 2 — six days before the primary election — against the Warren City Council, the city Election Commission, the city clerk and the Macomb County clerk.

New Jersey: Viana Bailey, who lost the June Democratic primary for an Atlantic City Council seat by six votes, has filed a lawsuit seeking to overturn the election results and toss the winner, LaToya Dunston, from the ticket. Bailey alleges that fourteen votes were cast by four voters who don’t live in Atlantic City’s Second Ward, with at least seven of them residing at Dunston’s home address. Other allegations involve controversial former City Council President Craig Callaway, who served as the assistor for 26 voters who told election officials they needed help due to a disability.  Bailey says three voters didn’t complete the required disability certificates, and claims others did not have the disability they claimed. In court filings, Bailey’s attorney, Daniel Antonelli, provided examples of some voters who certified that they needed Callaway’s assistance because they could not read the ballot and were active Facebook users.   He said that 35 disability certificates “contain irregularities that require further examination in order to protect the public interest in the outcome of the election.” And at least four vote-by-mail ballots were not filled out by the voter, Bailey claims.

North Dakota: The state is asking a judge to dismiss a recent League of Women Voters of North Dakota motion to intervene in a lawsuit that could curb mail-in voting across the state. In Aug. 23 filings, the Campaign Legal Center on behalf of the League moved to intervene in a lawsuit brought by a local election official and a conservative legal organization. The League argued its interests as a voter advocacy organization with multiple members that vote by mail should give it standing to intervene in the case. But state Election Director Erika White and the Secretary of State’s office argue that White’s defense applies to all North Dakota residents as it is focused on protecting state law, which isn’t “limited to certain individuals.” Burleigh County Auditor Mark Splonskowski and the Public Interest Legal Foundation filed the initial suit in early July against White. The foundation bills itself as a nonprofit dedicated to election integrity. The plaintiffs argue that federal and state law are conflicted in regard to the acceptance of mail-in ballots after Election Day. The League’s filing echoes the key argument made by the state: that the conflict described in Splonskowski’s suit doesn’t exist. The group claims the legality of mail-in voting has been defined extensively in other courts, with other suits failing to find conflicts between federal and state election laws. The state recognizes the impact of a dismissal will impact White and the League in different ways, but it argues that the defense, which is “focused on protecting a validly enacted state law,” adequately represents the League’s interests.

Washington: The Benton County commissioners approved a settlement this week in a lawsuit related to the 2020 election, in which the county was accused of rejecting the signatures of Latino voters at a rate three times higher than other groups. Benton County was sued in 2021, along with Yakima and Chelan counties, over what voting rights advocates alleged was a pattern of discrimination. In the 2020 election Benton County Latino voter rejections were three times higher than white voters, while Chelan rejected ballots at 3.2 times higher and Yakima rejected Latino ballots at 3.9 times higher. In June, a federal judge in Richland ordered the parties to begin discussing a settlement in order to avoid an October trial and potential federal intervention, according to court documents. Then two weeks ago U.S. Judge Mary Dimke ruled against the counties in their request to dismiss the lawsuit. And on Tuesday, Benton County agreed to settle the case for $75,000.

Wisconsin: Waukesha County Circuit Judge Michael Maxwell blocked Wisconsin election officials from using a federal voter registration form, finding they never formally approved its use. Conservative law firm Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty filed a lawsuit in Sept. 2022 asking a judge to declare the National Mail Voter Registration Application illegal in the state. The lawsuit alleged that the form doesn’t include places to fill in information such as whether a voter has been convicted of a felony and how long they’ve lived in their district. The lawsuit goes on to argue that the Wisconsin Elections Commission never authorized the form’s use and never developed administrative rules governing its use. WEC attorneys argued that the form was approved by an election agency that preceded the commission. Maxwell ruled that the WEC never authorized it and never promulgated any administrative rules governing its use. WEC attorneys couldn’t produce any credible evidence on when, where or how the form was approved, he added. With that settled, he said, there was no need to determine whether the form complies with Wisconsin law.

Opinions This Week

National Opinions: Election interference | Election deniers | Ex-felon voting rights | Election workers | List maintenance | Election threats, II | Ballot counting

Colorado: Election subversion

Georgia: List maintenance | Voting rights

Idaho: Primaries

Iowa: Bilingual voting materials

Kansas: Funding

Massachusetts: Voter ID

Nebraska: Election laws

Nevada: Democracy

New York: Voting equipment

North Carolina: Election Day | Voter ID | Voting rights, II | Election legislation

North Dakota: Election denialism

Ohio: Secretary of state, II | Election administration

Pennsylvania: Election lies | ERIC | Ballot counting

Texas: Harris County

Virginia: Ranked choice voting

West Virginia: Voter registration

Wisconsin: Election deniers

Upcoming Events

How younger voters will affect the future of American politics: By the 2028 presidential election, people under the age of 45 will constitute the majority of American voters. Studying these cohorts of younger voters is key to understanding what lies ahead. Experts in Brookings’ Center for Public Management have been analyzing the voting patterns, behaviors, and demographics of younger voters, demonstrating how the youngest generations are unlike those who came before. On September 12, join the Center for Effective Public Management for a virtual event to discuss the ways in which Americans under 45 will impact future elections and transform our democracy. When: Sept. 12, 2pm Eastern. Where: Online.

National Voter Registration Day: National Voter Registration Day is a nonpartisan civic holiday celebrating our democracy. It has quickly gained momentum since it was first observed in 2012, with more than 5 million voters registered to vote on the holiday to date. Celebrated every September, National Voter Registration Day involves volunteers and organizations from all over the country hitting the streets in a single day of coordinated field, technology, and media efforts. The holiday is endorsed by the National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS), the National Association of State Election Directors (NASED), the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC), and the National Association of Election Officials (The Election Center). When: September 19.

How Should Platforms Handle Election Speech and Disinformation in 2024?: The Safeguarding Democracy Project at UCLA promotes research, collaboration, and advocacy under the leadership of UCLA Law Professor Richard L. Hasen; one of the nation’s leading election scholars. The Safeguarding Democracy Project is built upon the premise that tackling issues of the U.S. election integrity must be collaborative: across ideologies, across scholarly disciplines, and as a bridge between theory and practice. Josh Lawson (formerly of Meta) and Yoel Roth (formerly of Twitter). Moderated by Richard L. Hasen. Cosponsored by UCLA Law’s Institute for Technology, Law & Policy. When: Sept. 26, 3:15pm Eastern. Where: Online.

The Roberts Court and American Democracy: The Safeguarding Democracy Project at UCLA promotes research, collaboration, and advocacy under the leadership of UCLA Law Professor Richard L. Hasen; one of the nation’s leading election scholars. The Safeguarding Democracy Project is built upon the premise that tackling issues of the U.S. election integrity must be collaborative: across ideologies, across scholarly disciplines, and as a bridge between theory and practice. Joan Biskupic (CNN Legal Analyst and author) in conversation with Richard L. Hasen about her new book, “Nine Black Robes.” When: Oct. 12, 3pm Eastern. Where: Online.

The Trump Prosecutions, the First Amendment, and Election Interference: The Safeguarding Democracy Project at UCLA promotes research, collaboration, and advocacy under the leadership of UCLA Law Professor Richard L. Hasen; one of the nation’s leading election scholars. The Safeguarding Democracy Project is built upon the premise that tackling issues of the U.S. election integrity must be collaborative: across ideologies, across scholarly disciplines, and as a bridge between theory and practice. Genevieve Lakier (University of Chicago via Zoom), Eugene Volokh (UCLA). Moderated by Richard L. Hasen. When: Oct. 17 3:15pm Eastern. Where: Online.

Covering the Risks to Elections on the State and Local Level: Views from the Beat Reporters: The Safeguarding Democracy Project at UCLA promotes research, collaboration, and advocacy under the leadership of UCLA Law Professor Richard L. Hasen; one of the nation’s leading election scholars. The Safeguarding Democracy Project is built upon the premise that tackling issues of the U.S. election integrity must be collaborative: across ideologies, across scholarly disciplines, and as a bridge between theory and practice. Jonathan Lai (Philadelphia Inquirer, Politico), Carrie Levine (Votebeat), Patrick Marley (WaPo), and Yvonne Wingett Sanchez (WaPo). Moderated by Pamela Fessler (retired from NPR). When: November 16, 3pm Eastern. Where: Online.

Job Postings This Week

electionlineWeekly publishes election administration job postings each week as a free service to our readers. To have your job listed in the newsletter, please send a copy of the job description, including a web link to mmoretti@electionline.org.  Job postings must be received by 5pm on Wednesday in order to appear in the Thursday newsletter. Listings will run for three weeks or till the deadline listed in the posting.

Assistant Manager-Poll Worker Department, Palm Beach County, Florida— The Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections is looking for an experienced Assistant Poll Worker Department Manager. In this role, you will oversee the planning and the completion of various projects, administrative functions, operations, and specialized tasks in the Poll Worker Department. The work involves knowledge and application of departmental operations, planning, assigning responsibilities, monitoring election worker classes, maintaining records, evaluating performance, and the ability to review work for accuracy. This position requires initiative and sound independent judgement in the application of office policies, election laws, and procedures. Must be personable and maintain effective working relationships with colleagues, associates, and the general public. All work is performed under the guidance of the Supervisor of Elections. The ideal candidate will have an excellent work ethic, including consistent performance, reliability, and attendance. The desire and ability to work well in a fast-paced collaborative environment with a smile are essential to the position. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.

Certification Manager, Hart InterCivic— Hart InterCivic is looking for a Certification Manager to join our team in Austin, Texas. The Certification Manager’s responsibilities include planning and managing federal and state certification activities, ongoing compliance activities, and leadership of the Certification Team. The Certification Manager will report to the VP of Product Management and will work closely with key internal and external stakeholders and cross-functional input providers including Sales, Product Management, Finance, Operations and Engineering. The ideal candidate will be a master communicator, will have the ability to move seamlessly from big picture to detailed planning activities and will have experience working with state and local government elections processes, high-level project management skills, and the ability to manage priorities to ensure adherence to externally driven deadlines. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.

Data Analyst, Protect Democracy— VoteShield, a project of Protect Democracy, seeks highly motivated and civic-minded Data Analysts to join our growing team. VoteShield’s goal is to maintain complete and accurate voter data in order to ensure free and fair elections for all qualified voters. As a member of this world-class analysis and engineering team, you will analyze voter registration data, work with election administrators, and grow your technical skills. Ideal candidates will be critical thinkers with a command of data analysis techniques and the ability to distill findings into clear, accessible reports and presentations. We are seeking people who bring an interest in civic data, commitment to non-partisanship, and passion for defending and strengthening our democracy through free and fair elections. We do not expect that any one candidate will have all of the experiences and requirements listed — our current data analysis team comes from a variety of professional backgrounds, including academia and the public and private sectors. We highly encourage you to apply if the job description gets you excited about the role and the work of Protect Democracy & VoteShield. You may work from any location in the United States, and candidates from diverse backgrounds and from across the political and ideological spectrum are strongly encouraged to apply. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.

Election Professional, The Elections Group— The Elections Group is growing its team of election professionals. You will work in support of state and local election officials as they enhance or implement new programs and adapt procedures as necessary in a dynamic operating environment. Our team works quickly to assess needs and provide guidance, resources and support in all areas of election administration, including security, audits, communications and election operations. This is an opportunity to be a part of a collaborative and professional group who are passionate about elections and serving the people who run them.  Our employment model includes remote work with some travel required and competitive compensation. We will be hiring full-time, part-time and contract positions over the next several months. Applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.

IT Coordinator, St. Johns County, Florida— The IT Coordinator is a critical role in the organization responsible for overseeing the technology operations of the Supervisor of Elections office operating in a Microsoft Windows environment. This includes managing the IT staff, ensuring the security and integrity of the organization’s data and systems, and identifying and implementing new technologies to improve efficiency and productivity. The IT Coordinator manages core network operations, reports to senior management, and collaborates with other department heads to align Information Technology strategies to maximize organizational operations. Responsible for ensuring the smooth operation of the Supervisor of Elections office and systems while identifying and implementing new technologies to improve efficiency and productivity. Salary: $80,000 – $92,500 a year. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.

Network Manager, Rhode Island Secretary of State’s Office— The Network Manager will manage, maintain, document, and operate the Department of State’s (Department) network. Additionally, the Network Manager will configure, update, secure, and install network equipment with the Department’s infrastructure as well as work with other members of the eGov and IT Division to ensure secure reliable service to staff and the public. The Network Manager performs various duties including, but not limited to: Install, secure, maintain, troubleshoot, and repair LAN and WAN network hardware, software, systems, and cabling; Work with Department staff to assist them in understanding and utilizing network services and resources; Build and maintain network log infrastructure and support critical response initiatives; Manage, monitor, document, and expand the network infrastructure; Resolve desktop and networking problems; Assist staff with maintaining voice, data, and wireless communications; Develop and implement policies related to secure hardware and software; Optimize and maintain network security through the proper design, implementation and maintenance of network devices, appliances, and other systems; Plan and implement new network installations and upgrades; Maintain an orderly networking office and equipment storage area; Participate in Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity planning, drill, and implementation activities; and Perform other duties as required. Salary: $73,416 – $83,126. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.

NextVote Project Manager, 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, the Customer Support Center team, Product Management and the Engineering 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. Responsibilities: Acquire an expert level of knowledge of Hart products. Develop project plans and applicable subordinate plans, including identification of risks and contingency plans. Identify and schedule project deliverables, milestones, and required tasks. Coordinate and conduct requirements-gathering for functional elements of voter registration products. Develop election-based training schedules for voter registration customers that guide them through first election activities. Assess customer needs throughout the project and manage those needs, expectations and relationships. Direct and coordinate activities to ensure project progresses on schedule. Provide technical advice and resolve problems. Create a strong customer relationship that encourages questions and participation. Coordinate customer-level data migration activities (milestones) for voter registration products. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.

Operations Manager, Santa Fe County, New Mexico— Under the general direction of the Department Director or elected official, establishes, implements, and oversees sound financial management, accounting, budgeting, staffing, procurement, and monitoring of internal control systems and processes for a department.  Oversees multiple program support functions within the Department.  This position will also manage the customer service and front window functions of the Clerk’s office. Essential Job Functions: Collaborates with Finance Department to establish the departmental budget request and submittal; executes, analyzes, forecasts, and manages budget in compliance with County policy. Oversees the development, tracking, and processing of all Department contracts, Requests for Proposal (RFP), Personnel Actions (PA), and payroll. Tracks grants and bond expenditures to ensure timeliness and efficiency. Serves as the official liaison with County Finance Department, Legal Department, and Personnel Department regarding Contracts, RFP’s, and payroll. Ensures internal control structure, budgetary control system and all accounting processes are functioning effectively within the department. Certifies that payments to vendors are accurate and timely and are for goods and services rendered in accordance with County policy. Disseminates information to management regarding the fiscal procedures and responsibilities regarding all financial transactions and activities. Coordinates program support activities within the Department; may present information at Board of County Commission meetings; may develop policies and business procedures for the department; and may audit and verify department payroll matters. Supervises timesheet submission for the department, ensuring timesheets are accurate and complete. Coordinates with the County Human Resource Department regarding the processing and tracking of all employee actions and issues; collaborates with Human Resources to facilitate recruitment for the department. Assists the Department Director/Elected Official with projects and assignments of priority and ensures completion of assignments in an effective and timely manner. Responds to questions and requests for information for the department. Hires, orients, trains, supervises, assigns and reviews work of, evaluates, and disciplines staff; recommends staff for promotion, compensation increases; and disciplinary action. Schedules, plans, and oversees or assists with departmental meetings; attends external meetings as representative of department; and attends meetings with government officials, vendors, and the public. Maintains knowledge of emerging technology and trends, current industry standards, evolving technologies, and methodologies that will impact department. Manages the customer service procedures and protocols in the Clerk’s Office; is readily available by phone, chat and email.  Answers the main phone number and Clerk inbox; follows up with customer requests. Manages the Clerk’s Office calendar protocol, chat and ticketing systems. Maintains lists of regular customers by type: titles companies, surveyors, etc. Notifies customers of any operational changes, ensures holidays are posted. Maintains effective communications with users regarding vendor activities, problems, status, timelines and other details. Salary: $68,598 – $96,033. Deadline: Oct. 18. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.

Registration & Elections Supervisor, DeKalb County, Georgia— The following duties are normal for this position. 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. Supervises, directs, and evaluates assigned staff; develops and oversees employee work schedules to ensure adequate coverage and control; compiles and 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 management; 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; consults with assigned staff to assist with complex/problem situations and provide technical expertise; provides progress and activity reports to ; and assists with the revision of procedure manuals as appropriate. Conducts elections; supervises personnel to ensure that all elections are conducted in accordance with state and federal laws and regulations; secures early voting locations and recommends schedule; appoints site managers and determines staffing requirements for early and election day voting; works with polling locations and County Information Technology staff to ensure technology capabilities; develops and reviews training for compliance with election laws; monitors early voting traffic; recommends changes in procedures to resolve issues; conducts election night precinct check in, election audit and preparation of precinct statistics; monitors election tasks lists; monitors election software programming; and oversees financial filings process. Implements, monitors and maintains registration functions and processes; reviews registration functions and processes such as felon registrations, duplicate voters, citizenship verification, jury summons questionnaires, provisional voting, election night precinct check in and election audit; monitors and ensures compliance with established protocols and procedures; and updates protocols and procedures as needed. Prepares and completes a variety of registration, production and election reports; compiles and/or tracks various administrative and/or statistical data; generates and prepares data; submits all mandated reports to local, state and federal regulatory agencies or others as required; and maintains related records. Maintains training and procedure manuals; and develops, updates, and revises manuals for all procedures involving voter registration and election functions. 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. Assists in developing and implementing department budget; review. Salary: $54,927 – $88,433. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.

Research Director, CEIR— CEIR seeks a qualified Research Director to join our team. 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. This is an excellent opportunity for an experienced and highly motivated individual who wants to join a growing nonprofit that seeks to make a substantial, positive, nonpartisan impact on elections and American democracy. The Research Director role is a full-time job. CEIR supports hybrid work at its office in Washington, DC. However, we will consider outstanding candidates across the United States that wish to work remotely. CEIR’s office hours are 9am-5pm ET, and the Research Director is expected to be available during that time regardless of location. Salary Range: $110,000-160,000. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.

Senior Program Manager, Center for Tech and Civic Life– As a Senior Program Manager at CTCL, you will lead development of a program to assess, recognize, and celebrate outstanding performance by election departments nationwide. To develop this certification program, you’ll collaborate with internal and external partners, including election officials and subject matter experts. You’ll report to an Associate Director in the Government Services department and will manage a small team. Responsibilities: Design and manage a certification program for election departments. Own the development, oversight, and continuous improvement of the program, its credibility, inclusivity, and user experience. Ensure documentation is comprehensive and clear. Manage a team. Contribute to equitable hiring processes for new teammates. Lead direct reports to set goals every 6 months, and provide coaching in weekly 1:1s. Support direct reports to reach sustainable professional development goals and career milestones. Manage relationship with consultant – Collaborate with a certification expert to define and address program needs. Share timely questions and challenges in recurring meetings, and assign owners to action items. Engage key stakeholders – Coordinate with staff, legal counsel, partners, election officials, and subject matter experts to strengthen the program and build buy-in. Communicate regular updates and respond to inquiries on the program’s development, operation, and outcomes. Develop and lead Certification Board – Recruit, organize, and oversee a new, nonpartisan, diverse Certification Board. Ensure board’s alignment with CTCL’s values, mission, and commitment to priority audiences. Design governance model, define term limits, and provide appropriate support and structure for the board to achieve its goals. Salary: $79,198. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.

Training Program Coordinator, Charleston County, South Carolina— This position is responsible for the recruiting, coordinating, and training of Election Day poll managers on the policies, procedures, and SC State law regarding the administering of fair, honest, and accurate elections within the polling places on Election Day and during early voting. This position will also train all temporary Early Voting staff. This position will be responsible for developing all instruction manuals and materials. This position reports directly to the Deputy Director of Election Operations. Salary: $53,248 – $69,784. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.


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