I. In Focus This Week
Experience is the Best Guide: What Four Departing Election Officials Can Teach the Next Generation of Election Administrators
By Doug Chapin
I talk a lot about the generational change underway in the field of elections and the need to identify, recruit and train the election administrators of the 21st Century.
Sometimes when I do, I get feedback suggesting that this focus on the future slights current and former election officials who have served their communities for years.
To that, I plead not guilty; while the job is changing to include new skills like data security and design, it will still include countless key aspects of election administration that endure even as laws and technology change.
In other words, while a new generation of election officials may step into the jobs of the departing generation, they will need to acquire and emulate numerous key traits exemplified by their predecessors before they can fill their shoes.
Indeed, four recent retirements in the field demonstrate the kind of commitment and innovation that the next generation of election officials will want to keep in mind as they take the reins of the nation’s democracy:
- Contra Costa, California’s Steve Weir was, to paraphrase a country song, “data before data was cool” – his passion for collecting, analyzing and acting upon information about the electoral process was ahead of his time. I still quote one of his favorite sayings all the time: “Data is the best antidote to an anecdote!” He also wasn’t afraid to be creative when it came to solving problems – like the time he and his staff used a steam iron to press creased ballots in order to help feed them through the scanners.
- Larimer County, Colorado’s Scott Doyle pioneered the concept of Election Day vote centers – using technology and well-situated polling locations to reinvent the voting experience by detaching it from a reliance on neighborhood precincts. In addition, he was years ahead of most of the field with regard to electronic pollbooks.
- Clark County, Nevada’s Larry Lomax had an extraordinary understanding of the need to focus on elections from the voter’s point of view. His commitment to bringing polling places to voters rather than the other way around – locating voting machines in grocery stores and malls – helped redefine the concept of a “community location” in siting voting locations.
- Alabama Secretary of State Beth Chapman (who has announced she will not run for office in 2014) was a champion for military and overseas voting rights – providing impetus for change on an issue that had languished for many years. Most importantly, she embraced the need for bipartisanship and kept the focus on the voters receiving the ballot instead of the candidates who might (or not) benefit.
Their example sets a very high bar for the next generation of election administrators. The lessons they teach – be flexible, be innovative, focus on the voter and collect data fanatically but never let partisanship affect your performance – is an excellent curriculum for anyone hoping to work in election administration.
II. Election News This Week
- School and city elections were scheduled for April 9 in South Dakota, but an unexpected spring snowstorm forced Secretary of State Jason Gant to postpone the elections until April 16. At least 30 school and city elections were affected.
- Adams County, Ill. is offering poll watchers the chance to do their watching from the comfort of their own homes/offices. In seven of the county’s polling places, for a $50 fee, the county will give poll watchers access to the county’s electronic poll books to view virtually who has voted and who has not. Several of the state’s larger counties are already offering this service and according to the Quincy Whig, the number of poll watchers physically in the polling place has dropped significantly. Clerk Georgia Volm told the paper that elections judges are particularly happy about fewer non-voters in the polling place. While other counties are offering the service, Adams seems to be the only one charging for it. “We’re different because we’re charging for the information. I feel that any time we can collect something to offset ongoing government expenses, that’s good,” Volm told the paper.
- Heavy rains this week caused the roof of the Stark County, Ohio board of elections to partially collapse. The roof collapsed on the garage where the county stores its 1600 voting machines. Staff was in the building when the collapse occurred, but fortunately no one was hurt. The BOE will assess the extent of the damage to the voting machines on Thursday and go from there—the county has an election scheduled for May.
- Here at electionline, we try not to focus on politics and campaigns too much, but sometimes election administration and campaigns collide. A recent article in the Los Angeles Times highlighted that the increasing popularity of vote-by-mail in California has meant for a longer campaign season for candidates. “You have to make sure you get your message out there in time for the earlier voters,” Lori Cox Han, professor of political science at Chapman University told the paper.
- In other vote-by-mail news, the U.S. Postal Service on Wednesday announced that it has canceled its plans to eliminate Saturday delivery.
- Personnel News: Sharon Drayer, Erie County, Pa. board of elections supervisor for 20 years announced her May retirement this week. Robert Hornak, executive director of the Queens, N.Y. Republican Party has resigned from the board of elections. Lee Hollenbeck has been appointed to represent the Republican Party on the Fulton County board of elections. Myla Eldridge, director of elections for the Marion County BOE has announced that she will run for county clerk in Marion.
- In Memoriam: Constance Caldwell, former chief judge of the Montgomery County, Md. board of elections died March 18. She was 72. Caldwell served on the board of elections from 1993 to 2008.
III. Research and Report Summaries
electionline provides brief summaries of recent research and reports in the field of election administration. Please e-mail links to research to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Waiting to Vote in 2012 – Charles Stewart III, Journal of Law and Politics, forthcoming, April 2013: New survey-based research from the 2012 general election shows that two-thirds of voters waited in line less than 10 minutes and only 3 percent waited longer than an hour. However, there was a good deal of variation in wait times which was in part related to geography and race. Urban voters waited longer than rural voters, early voters waited longer than Election Day voters, and African American and Hispanic voters waited longer than whites. Florida voters waited the longest – averaging almost 40 minutes. Vermont voters waited the least at less than two minutes.
“Fixing that”: Lines at the Polling Place – Justin Levitt, Journal of Law and Politics, forthcoming, April 2013” This paper provides an overview of where there are opportunities to reduce wait times at the polls: reducing the number of people arriving at any one time, increasing points of service, or decreasing the length of the transactions. Possible changes in policy or procedure include:
- Increasing opportunities for absentee and early voting;
- Increasing the number of poll workers;
- Larger polling places and more polling places;
- More and/or better maintained voting systems;
- Better information for voters; and
- A modernized voter registration system.
IV. Legislative Update
Alaska: HB3, which would require Alaskans to show a photo ID to vote is on it’s way to the full House pending scheduling by the House Rules Committee. Under the legislation, voters would have to present a photo ID or two forms of non-photo ID. If two elections officials in the polling place know the voter, the ID requirement can be waived.
Arkansas: The Senate has approved legislation that would create a voter integrity unit within the secretary of state’s office. The purpose of the unit will be to investigate complaints about election fraud.
California: The Assembly approved AB131 47-21 last week. Under the bill applicants who fail to list their birthplace on their voter registration form would still be deemed eligible to vote. Currently county election officials must reject applications or contact the applicant to fill in the blank.
Colorado: Democrats are expected to introduce sweeping election-reform legislation this week. Under the proposed legislation, every registered Colorado voter would receive a mail ballot although they would still be able to vote in person. The legislation would also eliminate the label “inactive” from voters who failed to vote in the most recent election. It would also allow for same-day voter registration.
House Bill 1067 went down to defeat in committee this week due partly because the bills’ sponsor Rep. Carole Murray (R-Castle Rock) missed the hearing for it. The bill would have allowed county clerks to waive sending mail ballots in uncontested primaries. Murray is the former Douglas County clerk and recorder.
Florida: Legislation to reform previous election reform legislation (Senate Bill 600) made it through the Senate Rules Committee this week. Included in the bill: up to 14 days of early voting including one Sunday. The most contentious part of the legislation — to require all absentee ballots to be witnessed—remained in the bill.
Kansas: Under legislation approved by the Kansas Legislature, information about voters who cast provisional ballots will not be made public.
Maryland: In the waning hours of the 2013 legislative session, the General Assembly approved legislation that will expand the state’s early voting from six to eight days and will increase the number of hours each day early voting is available. The bill will also allow same-day registration. Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) proposed the legislation and said he will sign it.
Montana: The Senate approved SB 405 that would place a referendum to eliminate same-day registration on an upcoming ballot. The bill faces a third and final reading in the Senate and then moves to the House.
Nevada: A voter registration bill with the support of Secretary of State Ross Miller is meeting with opposition in the Assembly. The bill, AB440, would extend voter registration in the 2014 election cycle through the early voting period, ending the Friday before Election Day and expand to same-day registration in 2016.
Under Senate bills 666 and 667 parents would be barred from listing their children as dependents on state tax forms if the children register to vote at a different address. The bill is aimed at college students who vote in college communities even though their licenses and other aspects of their life may be listed at their parents address.
Tennessee: After several weeks of back-and-forth the Tennessee Legislature finally sent a bill to Gov. Bill Haslam that would prohibit the use of library cards and college IDs for photo IDs to vote.
Rep. Terri Weaver (R-Lancaster) has pulled a bill (SB803) that would have banned cameras and cellphones from polling places. Although the bill unanimously passed the Senate it ran into opposition in the House.
Texas: Several pieces of election reform legislation were introduced this week. HB 2093 would reduce the number of early voting days from 12 to five. Following fierce debate in the House Elections committee, the bill was pulled. House Bill 2372 would require the secretary of state’s office to cross check the state’s voter registration database with other states to ensure that no one is registered in more than one state. Another bill would require cameras in polling places so voters could check online to see if there were lines at the polling place.
Vermont: Legislators considered a bill that would move the state’s primary from the fourth Tuesday in August to the first Tuesday beginning in 2014. The legislation, which was requested by the secretary of state’s office, was overwhelmingly rejected by senators who feared it would affect turnout.
V. Upcoming Events
Please email upcoming event — conferences, symposiums, seminars, webinars, etc. to email@example.com.
Voter Turnout in the 2012 Election: With elections now certified in all 50 states, Nonprofit VOTE has released America Goes to the Polls 2012, the latest in a series of reports on national turnout and voting trends. In this webinar we will share some of the report’s most interesting findings, including state-by-state voter turnout rankings and factors affecting turnout, such as Election Day Registration and swing state status. We will also examine key voting trends among populations served by nonprofits, as well as proposals to expand voter registration and the opportunity to vote. When: Thursday April 18th at 2:00pm Eastern.
Florida: Election reform
Hawaii: Election-day registration
Indiana: New voting machines
Kansas: Poll workers
Maryland: Same-day registration
Minnesota: Ranked-choice voting
New York: Fair elections
Ohio: Electronic poll books
Oklahoma: Voter turnout
Rhode Island: Election reform
Tennessee: Election officials
VII. Job Openings
electionlineWeekly publishes election administration job postings each week as a free service to our readers. To have your job listed in the newsletter, please send a copy of the job description, including a web link to firstname.lastname@example.org. Job postings must be received by 5pm on Wednesday in order to appear in the Thursday newsletter. Listings will run for three weeks or till the deadline listed in the posting.
Project/Election Coordinator, Burleigh County, ND – under the supervision of the County Auditor/Treasurer, performs a wide variety of professional level administrative duties and responsibilities that normally include responsibility for management of programs and projects. Coordinate the activities associated with election functions including recruitment and training of election workers, absentee voting, early voting, coordination and setting up of polling locations. Perform duties requiring analytical and administrative skills necessary to provide professional-level coordination, interpretation, communication, and research in completing tasks. Plan and coordinate activities related to new technologies and their application in departmental operations. Maintain accurate records, with respect to real estate tax assessments and collections, and prepare necessary documentation to create real property assessment rolls, tax lists and property tax statements. Assist department head in supervisory role, identify and analyze problems that require action and recommend solutions. Minimum Qualifications: Requires five (5) years of work experience in high-level administrative support duties that includes participation in the development, or modification of major projects or procedures. College-level coursework in computer science, business or public administration, or related field with coursework reflecting the required abilities may be substituted for the required work experience on a year-for-year basis. Requires knowledge of administrative processes, procedures, or methods, and work experience with considerable knowledge, skill, and ability in duties similar in type and complexity to those performed at this level. Must be proficient with word processing, and spreadsheet software, such as MSWord and Excel and have extensive knowledge of mainframe and microprocessor computer systems. Starting Salary: $45,760 – $51,459. Deadline: May 15, 2013. For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Senior Information Technology Specialist, Montgomery County, Md. Board of Elections — lead permanent technology staff and directly responsible to and supervised by the Election Director. Responsibilities include: planning and implementation of technical programming, testing and preparation of the county’s allotment of the statewide voting system, voting equipment and voter registration system in collaboration with state, the contract holder; is experienced and familiar with system integration, functionality and usage of the Oracle database and preparation of Crystal reports, GIS, Word, Access, and Excel, and analyzing statistical data; supervises and works with permanent and temporary programming employees; evaluates alternative system and equipment funding sources; represents department and addresses election issues at election system related meetings and board meetings; and performs technology related duties as required and necessary, maintaining a high standard of accuracy. As required by the State Board of Elections, the successful candidate must be a registered voter in Maryland and successfully complete a background check. The successful candidate must possess a Maryland driver’s license and use of a vehicle. The employee must work with and supervise permanent and temporary employees in a secure environment and be able to responsibly handle sensitive equipment and related security in an orderly and timely manner according to prescribed procedures. Minimum Qualifications include: Five (5) years of experience in the information technology field in areas such as programming, systems analysis, and data/telecommunications. Education: Bachelor’s Degree in computer science or related field from an accredited college or university and/or certifications in specific programming languages or operating systems to include programming languages such as SQL, Oracle Developer 2000. Equivalency: An equivalent combination of education and experience may be substituted. For applicants possessing very hard-to-find skills that are a critical need to the department/agency, training and certification may be accepted in lieu of full degree requirements. Salary: $64,960-$108,343. Deadline: April 20. For a complete job listing and to apply, click here.