April 17, 2014

I. In Focus This Week

Part-time poll workers: Problems solved or problems created
Would eliminating 12+ hour days solve some elections problems?

By M. Mindy Moretti

No one wants to be trapped indoors for 12-15 hours per day, especially in paradise and that’s part of the reason why Hawaii recently announced it will pilot a program allowing poll workers, on a very limited basis, to work part-time in the Aloha State.

Beginning this year, the state will allow one poll worker in 108 of Oahu’s largest polling places to split their shift — and the $85 per day stipend — with another poll worker. The pilot will not be available at any of the 90 polling sites on neighboring islands.

“We’ve had people asking us if they could work half a day in the past,” Scott Nago, Hawaii elections chief said.

Hawaii is not the first state of course to allow part-time poll workers.

Less than a third of states allow poll workers — on some level — to work part-time. Some jurisdictions limit the practice to student poll workers, where others limit it to the type of election-day worker.

But with voting wait time one of the indices in Pew’s recent Election Performance Index, could part-time poll workers help some of those lower performing states improve their ranking by encouraging more people to “volunteer” to work the polls?

“While there is tremendous push from the political parties and civic activists to allow part time poll workers, often it appears that the failure to have the part time option is an excuse, not a reason, for why people won’t work as poll workers,” said Cameron Quinn, director of elections in Fairfax County, Va.

In Virginia, poll workers are permitted to work part-time and it’s been met with varying degrees of success.

According to Quinn, most election officers (EO) are full-day officers and that is what is preferred. Assignment preference is given to those that serve full-time because they not only fill the larger need, but because they tend to be more reliable in their commitment.  

“Staff reports that many part-time poll workers are difficult to work with because they are very specific about their needs, rather than serving to meet the needs of the public,” Quinn said. “Further, there does not appear to be the same level of commitment, meaning that on average part time poll workers are more likely to be ‘no-shows.’”

Quinn said that her office strongly prefers placing part time poll workers who have arranged a partner to serve the other half of the shift themselves (rather than trying to match partners) as experience shows that the 2nd shift poll worker is less likely to show up without a tie or commitment to the person they are replacing.  

“It appears to take more than twice as much effort to fill one day-long precinct position with two half-day EOs,” Quinn said.

In Fairfax County, according to Quinn, there are three advantages to using part time poll workers:

  1. It allows long serving poll workers who are no longer able to work a full day to continue to serve for a longer period;
  2. It allows people who truly want to serve, but have commitments that prohibit them from serving for a full day, the opportunity to serve; and
  3. It works well for the Central Absentee Precinct where EOs process absentee ballots.

“The big disadvantage is that it takes up enormous staff time relative to the payoff,” Quinn said. “Additionally, the changeover period impacts precinct operations and those voters who show up at that point for much of the first hour of the changeover as people leave and arrive, and the new person has to get settled into the precinct’s rhythm.”  

Whitney Quesenbery and Dana Chisnell with the Center for Civic Design have spent countless hours studying and speaking with poll workers about the entire election- day process.

Quesenbery said that in the polling places where they observed part time poll workers, or additional poll workers brought in just during the morning and evening rush, the process seemed to work, but that’s because there was a process in place.

“…[I]portantly we saw good process built into polling place procedures where there were either part time worker or where workers changed role during the day,” Quesenberry said. “When the election procedures help the entire poll worker team take responsibility for running a good election in their polling place, they have more confidence in the election… and so can everyone else.” 

In some states, where the practice is allowed, local jurisdictions have weighed the pros and cons and decided not to go with part-time poll workers.

“Here in Delaware County, we currently do not to this, but have considered this concept,” said Ross McDonald, election services manager, Delaware County, Ohio. “As we fleshed out the pros and cons, we decided that the cons outweighed the benefits.”

McDonald noted that the biggest fear would be an incomplete chain of custodies for supplies and materials.

“This is highly problematic with regards to recounts.  Another fear is non-reporting by the second shift workers,” McDonald said.

McDonald also noted that while advertising the ability to work part-time might bolster recruitment efforts, there is also a down side to that.

“While 7 or 8 hours is much more attractive than 15 hours, by going to split shifts the office must double their recruiting numbers to meet that promise,” McDonald said. “In our situation, we don’t think the reduction in hours worked will be attractive enough to double our recruiting numbers.”

Quesenbery pointed out that there’s a strong local culture to elections, along with a lot of desire for continuity. Collective memory of “how it’s done” is important. But it’s also important to be able to make changes so that elections can adapt to social changes. 

“Part time service as a poll worker is an option that should be provided, but it should not be viewed as a panacea for the challenges of not having enough poll workers,” Quinn of Fairfax County said. “And elections offices considering use of part time poll workers need to be realistic about the challenges and explore and share ways to improve the challenges.”


II. Election News This Week

  • According to published reports, Flagler Co., Fla. Supervisor of Elections Kimberle Weeks and the city of Palm Coast have come to an agreement on how residents of Palm Coast will cast their ballots on election day. Weeks had been at odds with city officials for more than eight months about the spring election and it was feared that Palm Coast voters would have to visit two different polling places on election day. Under an interlocal agreement the county will include Palm Coast’s election day questions on county ballots.
  • Iowa legislators and elections officials are grappling with a way to fix a problem with postmarks. Under Iowa law, in order to be counted, absentee ballots must be postmarked the day before Election Day or earlier. But because the envelopes used are business mail reply envelopes, the U.S. Postal Service often does not postmark those. “We just can’t depend on the Postal Service to assure that your vote counts,” state Rep. Cindy Winckler, D-Davenport told the Des Moines Register. According to the paper, elections officials coordinated with USPS in 2012 to ensure that the envelopes were postmarked, but it is unclear if the same coordination is happening in 2014.
  • In less than a month since it launched, more than 4,000 people have registered to vote or updated their registration information using Georgia’s new online voter registration system.
  • Kansas and Arizona were each afforded one more week to respond to federal elections officials request for a stay in the proof-of-citizenship suit.
  • In other lawsuit news, an Arkansas Circuit Court judge has ruled that the state GOP may intervene in a lawsuit over how absentee ballots should be handled under the state’s new voter ID law. Also in Arkansas, the state’s branch of the ACLU filed suit in state court this week on behalf of four plaintiffs seeking to overturn the state’s voter ID law.
  • Mississippi Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann has been traveling the state and closely monitoring preparations for the upcoming June 3 primary because it is the first election in Mississippi that will require voters to show a photo ID. To-date Hosemann said between 600-700 voters have gotten free IDs provided by the state and 1.5 million pamphlets and posters have been distributed statewide. We had a whole history here, and part of this process, I think, is to close that chapter,” Hosemann told The Dispatch. “We want the Mississippi electorate to be focused on health care, education, jobs, the things that are important. Not historical barriers. We’re not going to repeat history. We’re not going to replicate those problems, and we haven’t.” 
  • Personnel News: Velma Bourg, St. Bernard Parish registrar of voters has resigned. She served as registrar since 2007 but worked in the office for 22 years. Andrew Spano is the newest member of the New York state Board of Elections. Roy Schneider, Garfield County, Okla.’s election board secretary is retiring.

III. Research and Report Summaries

electionline provides brief summaries of recent research and reports in the field of election administration. The summaries are courtesy of the research staff of The Pew Charitable Trusts Elections Initiatives. Please email links to research to Sean Greene at Pew.

Ranked Choice Voting and Civility: New Evidence from American Cities – By Andrew Douglas, FairVote: The Center for Voting and Democracy, April 2014: A recent survey of voters in three cities that allow ranked-choice voting (RCV) in 2013 and seven cites without ranked-choice voting found differences in how these voters perceived campaigns. Specifically, voters in RCV cities were less likely to report that candidates criticized one another “a great deal” than voters from non-RCV cities (5.3 percent to 25.3 percent). They were also almost three times as likely to say that candidates had not criticized one another at all (35.7 percent to 12.4 percent). 

It also found that more than 90 percent of those surveyed in RCV cities found understanding their ballot instructions either somewhat or very easy.

Equal Access: How to Include Persons with Disabilities in Elections and Political Processes – International Foundation for Electoral Systems and National Democratic Institute, April 2014: This manual describes the challenges facing voters with disabilities and provides strategies for strengthening the participation of persons with disabilities in elections and the political process.


IV. Legislative Update

District of Columbia: Councilmember Jack Evans has introduced election reform legislation that would make several changes to the city’s election laws: move the primary to June; create a March presidential preference primary; and create open primaries.

Illinois: If approved, House Bill 4480 would allow Illinois school districts to decline to have their schools used as polling places. Another pending polling place bill would prohibit buildings that sell “spirituous or intoxicating liquor” from being polling places. This would eliminate veterans’ clubs, social halls and golf course clubhouses from serving as voting sites.

Missouri: The Missouri House approved legislation that would ask voters to approve early voting in the Show Me state on an upcoming ballot.

Kentucky: A House committee made a last ditch effort to move legislation that would restore voting rights to most felons who have completed their terms of service. As amended, the bill would restore the voting rights to felons immediately upon completion of their sentences, but it would also allow the legislature to enact a waiting period of up to three years. The bill now moves to the senate.

Tennessee: The Senate sent legislation to Gov. Bill Haslam that, if signed, would ban United Nations elections monitors from observing Tennessee elections. The Senate approved the measure 23-2 and the House approved it 75-20.

V. Upcoming Events

Please email upcoming event — conferences, symposiums, seminars, webinars, etc. to mmoretti@electionline.org.

Who Votes Now? Demographics, Issues and Turnout in the U.S.: Nonprofit Vote presents a webinar Hear about the turnout and representation gap and its implications for your nonprofit and community. This special webinar presentation on the book Who Votes Now? features co-author Jonathan Nagler. He’ll share highlights from the book on the composition of the electorate, new analysis of the missing voices, and policy preferences of younger and lower-income voters who turn out to vote at lower rates. Does it make a difference who votes? The book’s answer is an unequivocal “yes.” Where: Webinar. When: April 24 at 2 p.m. For more information, click here.

National Association of Counties Annual Conference and Exposition: NACo’s 79th Annual Conference and Exposition provides an opportunity for all county leaders and staff to learn, network and guide the direction of the association. This year, the conference will be held in Orleans Parish, (New Orleans) Louisiana. The Annual Conference provides county officials with a great opportunity to vote on NACo’s policies related to federal legislation and regulation; elect officers; network with colleagues; learn about innovative county programs; find out about issues impacting counties across the country; and view products and services from participating companies and exhibitors. ​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Where: New Orleans. When: July 11-14. For more information and to register, click here.

National Association of Secretaries of State Summer Conference: NASS is celebrating a Star Spangled Summer at this year’s annual conference in Baltimore. Members will exchange ideas, share lessons learned and highlight best practices in policy making and programming for state member offices.  Agenda programming will include: Expert speakers who will inspire new ways of thinking about state agency leadership; Real-world lessons & success stories from state peers; Topical workshops focused on communications & professional skills advancement; Networking opportunities with public and private-sector attendees; and Excursions to explore Baltimore & learn more about culture and state government. Where: Baltimore. When: July 13-16. For more information and to register, click here.

International Association of Clerks, Recorders, Election Officials and Treasurers’ (IACREOT) Annual Conference: IACREOT will hold its annual conference this summer in Bonita Springs, Fla. The agenda will include seminars, training sessions, a delegate awards luncheon, IACREOTs elections and board meeting as well other opportunities for networking. Where: Bonita Springs, Fla. When: July 19-24, 2014. For complete information and to register, click here.

National Conference of State Legislatures Legislative Summit: Bring home 1,000 ideas from the land of 10,000 lakes this summer. For 40 years, the Legislative Summit is where legislators and staff come together across the aisle to tackle critical problems and find solutions that work. With more than 100 sessions, the time to dig deep into issues you care about, and opportunities to make new friendships and connections. Where: Minneapolis. When: August 19-22, 2014. For more information and to register, click here.

Elections Center 30th Annual National Conference: More information will be forthcoming, but mark your calendars now for the annual conference. Courses offered at the annual conference will include Course 5 (Ethics in Elections); Course 6 (Communications in Election Administration); Renewal Course 20 (Federal Impact on Elections-1960s to present); and New Renewal Course 27. Where: San Francisco. When: August 19-23, 2014. For more information and to register, click here.

National Association of County Recorders, Elections Officials and Clerks: More information will be forthcoming, but mark your calendars now for the annual conference. Where: Long Beach, Calif. When: August 22-25, 2014. For more information and to register, click here.

National Association of State Election Directors: More information will be forthcoming, but mark your calendars now for the annual conference. Where: San Francisco. When: August 22-24, 2014. For more information and to register, click here.

VI. Opinion

National News: Social Security cards, II | Veteran Voting Support Act | Voting rights, II, III | National Popular Vote

California: San Mateo County

Delaware: Voting rights | Same-day registration, II | Election performance

Florida: Flagler County, II | Voting rights, II | Voter registration | Escambia County | Election performance

Illinois: Precinct cuts

Indiana: Vote centers

Iowa: Ex-felon voting rights

Kansas: Kris Kobach

Maryland: Takoma Park

Missouri: Voter ID, II, III

New Jersey: Instant-runoff voting | Vote-by-mail

North Carolina: Voter rolls, II, III | Voter fraud, II, III

North Dakota: Election performance

Ohio: Lucas County | Absentee ballots

Pennsylvania: Voting rights

Rhode Island: Voter ID

South Dakota: Election process

Texas: Voter ID

Utah: Online voting

Virginia: Election improvements

Washington: Election performance, II

Wisconsin: Election dates; Election changes

Wyoming: Secretary of state race

 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 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.

Director of Communications, Democracy Fund, Washington, D.C.—seeking a creative thinker with senior-level strategic communications experience and a deep commitment to non-partisan political reform to serve as its first Director of Communications. The director will be responsible for developing the organization’s overall communications and branding strategy, as well as managing all internal and external messaging. The director will work closely with the organization’s program team to advance our strategic goals and support the needs of Democracy Fund grantees. The director will be responsible for cultivating the organization’s role as an important convener and thought leader in the field, while building a network of advisors, partners, and champions who will increase the organization’s influence and impact. Qualifications: Deep passion for strengthening American democracy; excellent written and oral communication skills required; at least 10 years of experience in communications, coalition building, organizing, policy analysis, advocacy, or public affairs; strong strategic mind set and proven ability to translate strategy into action; success in developing and maintaining institutional, political, and personal relationships; strong track record of working with Republican, Democratic, and Independent political leaders; extensive experience with social media; ability to travel periodically for project work; demonstrated experience handling multiple assignments simultaneously; flexibility and initiative to work both independently and as part of a team; familiarity with the field of democracy and political reform, as well as the organizations and leaders involved in the field. Education: BA required. Deadline: Open until filled. For the complete job posting and to apply, click here.

Director of Elections, Forsyth County, N.C. position is the department head appointed by the Forsyth County Board of Elections. The position works in a fast-paced environment and utilizes a thorough knowledge of procedures and policies set forth by the State Board of Elections and the General Statutes for registration, voting, and reporting the results of elections. The position requires the ability to interpret and apply election laws and regulations; the ability to train and supervise others effectively and to maintain an effective working relationship with employees; the ability to establish and maintain good working relationships with precinct officials and representatives of news services and the ability to deal courteously with the general public. Responsibilities include preparing the ballots for Board approval and arranging for the distribution of all essential materials to all precincts; preparing budget proposals and administering the budget for the department. The Director obtains legal opinions from the State Board of Elections on election procedures and advises municipalities, proposed new municipalities, and attorneys on various election procedures. Qualifications: Experience in election administration through several presidential elections is preferred. Previous experience in supervising employees is preferred.Graduation from a four-year college or university in public administration, or related field and three years management experience. A higher education level may be considered as a substitution for all or part of the experience requirement. A four-year degree outside of the relevant academic field plus additional years of relevant experience may also be considered. Deadline: April 30, 2014. Application: For the complete listing and to apply, click here.

Elections Training Specialist, Ohio Secretary of State’s Office — under the supervision of the Deputy Elections Administrator, researches, writes, and coordinates the development of training materials published by the Secretary of State for use by boards of elections in recruiting and training precinct election officials, including, but not limited to, Precinct Election Official Training Manual and the Quick Reference Flip Chart Guide; Develops and maintains a library of training materials developed and published by boards of elections for recruiting and training precinct election materials. Reviews county materials for compliance with the minimum content standards in the Secretary of State’s materials; Develops and maintains the Secretary of State’s online poll worker training system. Assists boards of elections and users with properly accessing and utilizing the system; Develops and implements training seminars and/or meetings for board of elections personnel regarding the recruitment and training of precinct election officials, webinars for county election officials, training programs for new board members, directors, and deputy directors, participates in the planning of the Secretary of State’s summer conference for county election officials, and other topics; Writes, coordinates the development, and curates forms and other resource materials published by the Secretary of State’s office for use by county boards of elections; Liaises with the Secretary of State’s Communications Department on elections-related publications, including but not limited to the PEO recruitment resources and forms, and the Poll Worker Newsletter, and liaises with county boards of elections and other entities on all matters relating to PEO recruitment and training; Answers correspondence, e-mails and telephone calls; represents office at related meetings & conferences. Performs other duties as required. Qualifications: Completion of undergraduate core program in communications, education, public administration or any related area of study; 12 mos. experience in program development and evaluation of program initiatives; 3 mos. experience in developing and conducting trainings; 3 mos. experience in voter registration programs and/or election advocacy.Or equivalent of Minimum Qualifications noted above. Deadline: Open until filled. Application: For the complete listing and to apply, click here.

Voting Systems Manager, Colorado Secretary of State — position manages the voting systems team to ensure certification of voting systems, county support for technical issues, and implementation of the Election Night Reporting, Uniform Voting Systems, Post-Election Audit, Risk-Limiting Audit, and Ballot on Demand programs. Responsibilities include: Supervision of the voting system team, oversees certification of voting systems and verification or reinstallation of trusted build on county systems, ensures timely reporting of election night results on statewide basis, plans and implement Uniform Voting System when approved and funded, assists counties with technical issues relating to pre-election voting system testing, coordinates statutory post-election audits and plans for and implements risk-limiting audits on statewide basis, provides assistance to counties with ballot-on-demand, ensures that county voting systems are periodically audited and used in compliance with all applicable legal requirements, assists counties and vendors in resolving technological issues related to voting systems. Qualifications: Graduation from an accredited college or university with a bachelor’s degree in Public Administration, Business Administration, Business Management, or Political Science and three years of professional program management and implementation experience. Salary: $4,764.00 – $6,803.00 Monthly. Deadline: Friday, May 2, 2014 at 11:59pm MT, or until 50 applications are received. Application: For complete job posting and to apply click here.