April 18, 2013

I. In Focus This Week

Roof collapse in Stark County, Ohio dampens primary plans
Secretaries of state task force working on emergency preparedness

By M. Mindy Moretti

No one ever expects the Spanish Inquisition nor do you expect the roof to cave in on you, but that’s exactly what happened to elections officials in Stark County, Ohio.

On Wednesday April 10 a portion of the roof of the garage where the county stores its 1,400-plus electronic voting machines caved in dumping gallons of water and debris into the area.

Although none of the debris from the roof damaged the machines, water and subsequent moisture may have damaged the machines.

While this would be problematic for any elections office any time of the year, an added twist for officials is that Stark is scheduled to hold a primary in less than a month.

The board has been looking to move it’s entire operations to a new location, but this was the first time there had been a problem with roof. According to Jeffrey Matthews, director of the Stark County board of elections, the roof was inspected and resealed in 2006 prior to the board using the space for storing the voting equipment there.

“It is unknown at this point how many are damaged and due to corrosion, it may not be evident for some time,” said Matthews. “All were exposed to moisture, hundreds were exposed to water.”

Unfortunately surrounding Ohio counties weren’t able to help Stark County out like Texas counties were able to chip-in and loan Harris County voting machines after its voting machine warehouse burned to the ground in 2010.

“The other surrounding counties really don’t have the quantities that we would require,” Matthews said. “And most of them are conducting some kind of election.”

With the primary less than a month away and borrowing voting machines out of the question, the county quickly moved to Plan B, which is going to require spending about $250,000 to rent voting machines from the voting machine vendors — Dominion and ES&S.

Fortunately because the May primary typically sees smaller turnout than a presidential year election, the county was able to get permission from the secretary of state’s office to use fewer voting machines than it typically would.

Mathews said the county will also increase the number of backup paper ballots in a manner reflective of the percentages used in the 2012 presidential election.

“We do have emergency plans in place, however you learn that you don’t always anticipate every aspect of every possible scenario,” Matthews said.

Expect the unexpected
The National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS) has convened a task force to help counties like Stark and those in New York and New Jersey impacted by Hurricane Sandy in late 2012 expect the unexpected.

The task force, which includes secretaries of states and elections officials from around the country, is co-chaired by Louisiana’s Tom Schedler and Connecticut’s Denise Merrill, both of who are familiar with dealing with election emergencies.

Merrill said be prepared for situations like happened in Stark County will definitely be part of the task force’s work.

“That’s a classic example of the types of situations we want to prepare for,” Merrill said.

And Merrill speaks from experience. In 2011, about a week before local elections, just when registrars were getting ready to power up their voting equipment for testing and battery charging, an ice storm hit Connecticut knocking out power to thousands residents and buildings, some for up to a week. Merrill said towns had to share services and power to pull off the election.

Merrill said that while most elections officials have emergency plans in place, because large natural disasters seem to be happening at a much more frequent rate, the task force will focus much of it’s work there.

“When I gave workshop recently about emergency preparedness, there was tremendous interest,” Merrill said. “Our country is such a patchwork quilt of elections dates and procedures, what may seem like an isolated incident really isn’t.”

According to Merrill the task force has already had one organizational meeting and will meet again via conference call before they convene in person at the NASS annual conference this summer.

“We’ll build on the work of the EAC [U.S. Election Assistance Commission],” Merrill said. “They did have an emergency plan model that they developed and we will build off of that. We’ll focus on communications plans, who has statutory authority in the event of an emergency, who is in charge when the lights go out, things like that.”

II. Election News This Week

  • After years of shuffling through paper voter registration forms, Dewey Beach, Del. now has an electronic voter roll. This isn’t online voter registration, this is simply putting the board of elections voter registration rolls on a computer so staff and volunteers don’t have to thumb through years of paperwork to determine if someone is eligible to vote in the resort town. Even getting to this point though took some help from residents who donated the necessary computer and software to make it happen.
  • In an effort to increase voter participation in elections, a Jersey City, N.J. restaurant is registering voters and those who register to vote at the eatery will get a 50 percent discount on their meal. “Voting is such an important privilege that we have, and I want to make sure that everyone who wants to vote can,” owner Stephen McIntyer said. Voters who are already registered may show their voter ID card and receive the discount as well.
  • It seems to happen somewhere every election. A race ends up tied even after all the day-of, absentee and provisional ballots are counted and counted again. This time it was in Havana, Ill. Some jurisdictions use cards, others use ping pong balls, but in Havana it’s golf balls. Each candidate’s name was written on a golf ball, the two golf balls were then placed in a coffee can and, according to the State Jounral-Register, Mason County Clerk William Blessman put the can over his head and drew out one of the balls which declared Brenda Stadsholt as the new mayor of Havana.
  • Personnel News: California State Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima) has announced that he will run for secretary of state. Cooper County, Mo. Clerk Darryl Kempf recently spent some time observing the elections in Macedonia. Kempf was selected by the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights to serve as a short-term election observer. Jean Armstrong, former president of the Louisiana League of Women Voters and co-founder of the Louisiana Voting Rights Network was recently honored at the inaugural Women of Excellence Luncheon. Krystal Brown has been appointed to serve as the Teller County, Colo. clerk. Brown, who was serving as interim clerk after JJ Jamison stepped down earlier this year, is a nine-year employee of the clerk’s office as was second-in-command for the previous two years. Marlene Williams, Skokie, Ill. village clerk for more than 34 years is retiring. Conrad Pogorzelski, a member of the Gaston County, N.C. board of elections was arrested on Wednesday following a stand off with police who had initially come to Pogorzelski’s home to serve a court order. Charles B. Kinch and Patti Gayle Jarrett were recently appointed to the Washington County, Tenn. election commission.

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 sgreene@pewtrusts.org

IV. Legislative Update

Colorado: Colorado’s sweeping election reform package which includes sending a mail ballot to all voters, election-day registration and a real-time statewide database has cleared the House’s State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee by 7-4 party line vote. The legislation moves next to the House Appropriations Committee.

Connecticut: By a 90-49 vote, the House of Representatives approved a resolution calling for a constitutional amendment that would allow the General Assembly to pass legislation for early voting and no-excuse absentee voting. The Senate must next approve the ballot measure before going to the voters in 2014.

Delaware: Following a 15-6 vote by the Senate, a constitutional amendment that eliminates the five-year waiting period for non-violent ex-felons to have their voting rights restored now moves to the governor’s desk for signature. Gov. Jack Markell (D) is expected to sign the legislation.

During the same session though, the Senate rejected a constitutional amendment that would have removed all qualifications to cast an absentee ballot. The measure, which would have created no-excuse absentee voting in the First State, failed by one vote.

Illinois: A measure that would allow pre-registered 17-year olds to vote in primary elections if they are 18 by the time of the general election is headed to the full House after clearing a House panel this week. The House approved the bill 95-22 on Wednesday. The legislation now moves to the Senate.

A proposal before the Senate would change who could rule on ballot challenges. According to the Chicago Tribune, instead of mayors, trustees and school board members ruling on challenges, the power would shift to a centralized county panel.

Minnesota: Following a 15-12 vote in the House Ways and Means Committee, a bill that would allow Minnesotans to vote early is headed to the full House. All Republicans on the committee opposed the measure. Gov. Mark Dayton (DFL) has said he will sign an early vote bill only if it receives bipartisan support.

Montana: The Montana House approved two bills this week that impact the state’s election system. By a 60-40 vote, the House approved Senate Bill 405 that cuts off voter registration at 5 p.m. on the Friday before an election. The House also approved, by a 58-42 vote, Senate Bill 408 that would move Montana to a top-two primary. Both bills face one more House vote this year before appearing on the 2014 ballot.

North Carolina: The war over voter ID is far from over in North Carolina, but proponents of the legislation did win a battle on Wednesday when the House Elections Committee approved House Bill 589 on a party-line vote. The bill next moves to the Finance and Appropriations Committee.

Ohio: Sen. Nina Turner (D-Cleveland) has introduced legislation that will allow 16- and 17-year-olds to pre-register to vote.
Tucked inside a package of amendments to the House’s budget plan, is a plan that would require public universities to charge students in-state tuition rates if the university issues the students and official letter or utility bill as a form of voter ID.

Pennsylvania: The Pennsylvania Senate unanimously approved legislation that would allow voters in the Commonwealth to register online to vote. The bill would allow anyone whose signature is already electronically available with a state agency would be able to register electronically.

Texas: Online voter registration is one step closer to reality in Texas when House Bill 313 and Senate Bill 315 were both approved by their respective committees. While there were some concerns about security, most witnesses testified in support of the bills.

West Virginia: Montani semper liberi now that the state Legislature has approved online voter registration. The legislation allows anyone with a driver’s license or other state-issued ID to register online. This was the third time the legislation was debated in the Legislature.

Overall, it was a good legislative session for Secretary of State Natalie Tenant because 15 of the 17 pieces of legislation she supported were approved by the state legislature. Other approved bills will allow investigators from the secretary of state’s office to carry guns and ease the process for county clerks to remove deceased voters from the rolls.

Wisconsin: Sen. Mary Lazich (R-New Berlin) is seeking co-sponsors for a bill that would require an equal number of Republicans and Democrats to do each job at each polling location.

Lazich also introduced several other bills that would reform the election process. Included in those are bills that would allow ballots to be invalidated in recounts based on voters’ election-day registration, allow ballots to be cast aside in recounts if voters failed to sign poll books; invalidate absentee ballots if the witness to the ballot didn’t include address; require state and local election officials to track which type of proof-of-address is used by each voter to register; and modify the way members of the state’s governing body are chosen.

V. Upcoming Events

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

VI. Opinion

National News: Voting process | Voting Rights Act

Alaska: Voter ID

California: Voting Rights Act | Budget proposals

Colorado: Voter access | Voting system | Election reform | Same-day registration

Connecticut: Elections | Military voting

Florida: Election reform, II

Illinois: Nonpartisan elections | Consolidated election duties

Maryland: Voting machines

Michigan: Voter ID

Missouri: Early voting | Voting adventures

Montana: Voting rights

New Jersey: Early voting

North Carolina: Voter fraud, II, III | Voter ID, II, III, IV | Election reform | Provisional ballots | Redistricting

North Dakota: Voter ID

Ohio: Vote fraud

Oregon: Voter registration, II

South Carolina: Richland County

Texas: Mail-in ballots | Voter access

Washington: Election Performance Index

Wisconsin: Absentee voting | Ballot counting | Election legislation | Nonpartisan polling places

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, Federal Voting Assistance Program, Arlington, Va. — establishes, develops, and directs the DoD Voting Assistance Program and provides policy guidance to the DoD components and partners with the components to provide training and facilitate their voting assistance programs; develops and prescribes the official Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot, including secrecy envelopes and mailing envelops for such ballot, for the use of elections for Federal Office by overseas voters; serves as the liaison to State Chief Election Officers and works closely with their professional organizations, such as the National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS) and the National Association of State Election Directors (NASED), to consult and ensure that officials are aware of the requirements of UOCAVA.  The Director also works closely with professional election organizations, such as the Election Center, and is responsible for building strong, working relationships with these organizations and their individual members; implements and administers the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 to ensure Congressional intent and compliance with the specific provisions are carried out to enable all citizens to register at armed forced recruitment offices; deals with officials in foreign governments and at all levels of federal, state, and local governments, both elected and appointed, as well as executives in major U.S. and multi-national corporations, executives of political parties, candidates for elected offices, the general public, and Service Members, their families, and all U.S. citizens residing outside of the U.S.  The political and operational sensitivities in dealing with these different and diverse constituencies vary according to the nature and complexity of the subject matter. Salary: $119,554-$179,700. Deadline: May 15, 2013. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.

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, 2013For 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.