I. In Focus This Week
A compromise in Connecticut
Registrars and Merrill reach consensus on reform legislation
New England is known for its many traditions and in Connecticut, one of those traditions has been having two elected registrars — one representing each of the major parties — run the elections for the cities and towns in The Nutmeg State.
Following a series of well-publicized problems during the November 2014 election including late-opening polling places and voters wishing to utilize the state’s same-day registration process waiting in hours-long lines, Secretary of State Denise Merrill proposed sweeping election reform legislation that would have eliminated the election of registrars and instead made them a hired position.
While there was support for the legislation, there was also swift backlash in other corners with registrars, some local office holders and residents opposing the shift.
Following several weeks of negotiations between Merrill and the Registrars of Voters Association of Connecticut (ROVAC), a compromise was reached, the legislation was amended and gained it’s first round of approval in the Connecticut Legislature after being approved 13-2 by the Government Administration and Elections Committee.
“After a lot of hard work, I am very grateful that we have bipartisan support for a very strong proposal that will greatly improve elections for Connecticut voters,” Merrill said in a statement.
Melissa J. Russell is the Republican registrar in the town of Bethlehem and also current president of ROVAC.
“A lot of credit for reaching this compromise goes to the GAE (Government Administration and Elections) Committee of the legislature,” Russell said. “The two chairs of the committee made sure that ROVAC had a seat at the table in all discussions, and really took the time to listen to registrars’ concerns about administering elections. In the end, all of us want the same thing: smooth and professionally run elections.”
Under Senate Bill 1051, registrars would remain elected, but would be required to go through a training and certification process and mechanisms were put in place to remove deficient registrars permanently or temporarily suspend them.
While generally positive about the compromise legislation, Russell said ROVAC does have some concerns including about Section 5 of the bill that deals with a recall provision for registrars of voters.
“As the language is currently written, anyone can make a complaint to the State’s Attorney about a registrar and the State’s Attorney starts an investigation that could lead to recall,” Russell said. “What ROVAC would like to see is a clearer path spelled out to this investigation — perhaps having a recommendation made by SEEC (State Elections Enforcement Commission) to go down the recall path.”
Russell said there are also concerns within the ROVAC membership about Section 6 of the legislation that would allow the secretary of state to suspend a registrar during the investigation process.
“Again, we would like to see more specificity and more due process for registrars,” Russell said. “We have been assured by legislators in the GAE committee that they will take a look at these items and work on adjusting the language to address our concerns.”
ROVAC and the secretary of state’s office have already been working together for more than a year on the current certification process.
“I have said from the beginning that we need more professionalism and accountability in how we run elections in Connecticut, and this bill accomplishes that,” Merrill said.
In addition the bill also addresses several big issues that Russell said have long been on ROVAC’s wish list including reforming end of election night reporting and the ability to use technology to conduct post-election audits.
“This bill…paves the way for some long-needed modernization and technological improvements to the voting process in Connecticut, something we have sought for years,” Merrill said.
While a compromise has been met, the legislation is still a work in progress so what impacts, fiscally and on workload it may have on local registrars remains to be seen.
“I do not see any major changes in workload in the Farmington office at all,” said Barbara Brenneman, Farmington registrar of voters. “Farmington will continue to have 2 Registrars, 1 Democrat and 1 Republican, who oversee all activity together and jointly train our poll workers for every voting event.”
Brenneman added that while she didn’t anticipate any major workload changes to her office and couldn’t anticipate what the fiscal impact would be, that overall she was pleased with the legislation.
“I am really looking forward to improved technology that will enhance the ‘end of night reporting’ methods that often keep us Registrars in town hall till the wee hours of the morning,” Brenneman said.
While there may be some added costs, both financially and time-wise with the certification process, Russell anticipates a positive impact on her office by lightening the election night and post- election audit workload.
“Overall, I would just like to add that I think the amended language of SB1051 creates an exciting opportunity for Connecticut’s registrars of voters to truly modernize and streamline our election administration processes, and I believe that this is a real leap forward for our state, with lasting benefits for our voters,” Russell said.
So, while New Englanders may love their traditions, they aren’t opposed to a little change now and then too.
II. Election News This Week
- The Virginia Department of Elections released a report this week that cites “serious security concerns” with certain types of voting equipment used in the state. The report was the result of reports of widespread problems on Election Day in November 2014. According to WAVY, the DOE’s report says the security concerns have to do with the wireless capability of WinVote voting equipment — basically that it is vulnerable to a local or remote cyberattack. Electionline will have more on this late-breaking report next week.
- Members of the House Oversight Committee are calling for a review of the Federal Voting Assistance Program. According to The Hill, Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), an Iraq War veteran, spearheaded the letter to Comptroller General Gene Dodaro asking the Government Accountability Office to conduct an investigation about the program’s effectiveness. “Public reports indicate that veterans and their families have had a hard time casting their absentee ballots in various states,” the letter said. “The Department of Defense’s Federal Voting Assistance Program was created to ensure that our service members fighting abroad to protect the rights of all Americans don’t lose their opportunity to vote in federal elections at home.”
- The Minnehaha County, South Dakota Election Review Committee released its final report and recommendations on how Auditor Bob Litz could get votes counted faster. Some of the more than a dozen recommendations included tabulating absentee ballots before polls close on election day, providing more space for election workers and reprogramming ballot-counting machines. According to the Argus Leader, the committee cleared Litz of any wrong doing with the county’s slow vote count. The committee’s findings will be presented to the South Dakota BOE.
- When your state is spread out over a series of islands, sometimes it’s a bit difficult for residents to attend meetings. In an effort to alleviate some of those concerns, next week the Hawaii Elections Commission will hold a meeting in Honolulu, but broadcast it via videoconference on Hawaii, Maui and Kauai, giving residents there the opportunity to see what’s happening.
- A picture may be worth a thousand words, but how much is the cost of one? One provision in New Hampshire’s new voter ID law, requires local elections officials to use a cellphone or digital camera to take a headshot of a voter who failed to present a valid photo ID, immediately print the photo as a 2-inch square and attach it to the voter’s affidavit and ballot. The 2012 voter ID legislation included about $137,000 to equip towns with cameras and printers, but the budget approved by the House Finance Committee cut the money for the cameras.
- People are such funny creatures of habit, so funny in fact that Madison City Clerk Maribeth Witzel-Behl found it necessary to issue an advisory that pens distributed to mark ballots in the April 7 election will have blue ink instead of the traditional black markers. In the past, the city’s voting machines required black ink, but with the new machines, blue ink is just fine and Witzel-Behl wants to make sure everyone knows. “It’s saving us some money, and now we’re certain we’re not sending dried-out markers to the polling places,” Witzel-Behl told The Capital Times.
- Cheers to Concord, Massachusetts Clerk Anita Tekle who decided to poke a little fun in light of what was anticipated to be a very low turnout election this week. With all the races on the ballot uncontested Tekle came up with a Top 10 list of reasons for why people should still come out and vote.
- Personnel News: Bryan A. Caskey has joined the Kansas secretary of state’s office as the director of elections. He replaces Brad Bryant who retired earlier this year. Lisa Wise is the new El Paso County, Texas elections administrator. Philadelphia elections commissioner Stephanie Singer fell four signatures short of the required 1,000 in order to make the ballot for the upcoming primaries. A Common Pleas Court judge has given Singer time to file last-minute motions. Former Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie has joined the board of the nonprofit Jefferson Center. Current Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill will honor former Secretary of State Glen Browder for the work he did while in office in the 1980s. M. Claire French has served her final day as the Monmouth County, New Jersey clerk.
III. Legislative Updates
Federal Legislation: Rep. Susan Davis (D-California) re-introduced two election reform bills to Congress. The Universal Right to Vote By Mail would end restrictions on absentee voting in the 21 states that currently require an excuse to vote absentee. The Federal Election Integrity Act would prohibit a chief election official from serving on federal campaign committees or participating in political campaigns at the federal level.
Alabama: The House has approved a bill that would allow voters over the age of 70, or those with disabilities to move to the front of the line at polling places. The bill now moves to the Senate.
Also this week, the House Constitutions and Elections Committee moved legislation that would require voters to show a photo ID when requesting an absentee ballot. Under Alabama’s current voter ID law, voters must already provide a copy of their photo ID when casting an absentee ballot.
Arizona: The House has given preliminary approval to Senate Bill 1339 that would make “ballot harvesting” a Class 6 felony. The bill did make exceptions to the limits (two ballots per person) for caregivers and candidates.
Arkansas: The Senate State Agencies and Governmental Affairs Committee gave a “do pass” recommendation to legislation that would require the sponsor of a statewide initiative or referendum to obtain background checks of all paid canvassers.
Guam: Gov. Eddie Calvo signed several bills into law this week including Bill 23 that would allow anyone with a Guam driver’s license to register to vote online and Bill 24 that allows people as young as 16 to pre-register to vote.
Illinois: State Rep. Bill Mitchell has introduced legislation that within two weeks of an election, local election authorities must report who has voted by mail, voted early or received a provisional ballot.
Iowa: The so-called Safe at Home legislation that will allow victims of domestic violence to shield their personal information on government records, including voter registration rolls, was approved 100-0 by the House and has now moved to the Senate.
Nevada: Lawmakers are discussing several pieces of election reform legislation that would make it easier for Nevadans to register and vote. SB237 would allow for election day registration, SB203 would allow people to vote at any polling place on election day and SB331 allows the Department of Motor Vehicles to electronically forward voter registration applications instead of sending them on paper.
Another bill under consideration is Senate bill 421 that would scrap the state’s presidential caucus system and instead move to a presidential preference primary.
New Hampshire: While New Hampshire has same-day voter registration, under a bill passed by the Senate, a resident would be required to live in the state for 30 days prior to an election in order to cast a ballot.
North Dakota: North Dakota is the only state that does not have voter registration, but perhaps not for long. The Senate has approved a bill that will require legislative management to study the possibility of implementing voter registration.
Ohio: Gov. John Kasich used his line-item-veto to veto a portion of the state’s transportation budget that would have required anyone registering to vote to also register their vehicle with the state. The provision was seen as a way to prevent out-of-state college students from registering to vote in Ohio.
Vermont: While the Senate gave a measure to allow election day registration preliminary approval last week, the final vote, which had been scheduled for Friday put off that vote after an amendment was introduced that would require holding off implementation of the bill until after the 2016 election. Another amendment would have required a photo ID to vote. The Senate rejected the photo ID amendment and approved the implementation amendment.
Virginia: Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) vetoed six pieces of redistricting legislation. SB 1237, SB 1084, SB 986, HB 1699 HB 1417 and HB 1332 were all vetoed because as McAuliffe said in a statement, “Legally there is some question of the bills’ constitutionality…”
West Virginia: The Clarksburg city council voted recently to remove party affiliation requirements for poll workers. Previously all polling locations were required to have an equal amount of poll workers from both party affiliations. Mayor Cathy Goins supported the move saying it would encourage more people to volunteer.
IV. Legal Updates
Arizona: A Cochise County recall election will proceed as scheduled after Superior Court Judge James Conlogue dismissed a claim that two candidates were on the ballot illegally.
Kansas: Beth Clarkson, chief statistician for Wichita State University’s National Institute for Aviation Research has filed an open records lawsuit in District Court. The suit seeks paper tapes from electronic voting machines. According to The Associated Press, the suit hopes to explain statistical anomalies favoring Republicans in counts coming from large precincts.
New York: Attorneys for Albany County announced that they will not appeal a federal court order striking down the county’s 2011 redistricting map, which the court had ruled violated minority voting rights.
Virginia: The United States Supreme Court returned a case to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia without comment to take another look at the lower court’s decision that lawmakers improperly packed minority voters into one Congressional district.
V. Opinions This Week
Alaska: Family tradition
Georgia: Early voting
Illinois: Unfunded mandates
Iowa: Felon disenfranchisement
Louisiana: Automatic voter registration
Massachusetts: Early voting
New Mexico: Proof of citizenship
Pennsylvania: Voter ID
South Carolina: Paper ballots
VI. Available Funding
Grants for new ERIC members
For states considering membership in the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC), The Pew Charitable Trusts offers the opportunity to apply for financial assistance to facilitate their participation.
Pew is offering limited financial assistance to states to help defray the expense, such as bulk mail service provider charges and postage, of the initial outreach to eligible but unregistered citizens by mail. Pew aims to maximize the effect of this funding by assisting multiple states.
Applications must be received by 5 p.m. EDT on May 31.
U.S. Election Assistance Commission Grants
EAC Grants Management Division is responsible for distributing, monitoring, providing technical assistance to states and grantees on the use of funds, and reporting on requirements payments and discretionary grants to improve administration of elections for federal office. The office also negotiates indirect cost rates with grantees and resolves audit findings on the use of HAVA funds.
VII. Upcoming Events
Please email upcoming events — conferences, symposiums, seminars, webinars, etc. to email@example.com.
Policy & Elections Technology: A Legislative Perspective— NCSL is hosting a national meeting to bring together legislators, legislative staff, election officials, voting technology and computer security experts, legal experts, advocates, federal agency staff and other interested parties to discuss the future of elections technology. Sessions will cover voting technology 101; a report on NCSL’s Elections Technology Project; recommendations from the Presidential Commission on Election Administration; the impact of legislation on voting system design; alternative voting methods and implications for technology; testing and certifying voting systems; the use of technology for post-election audits, recounts and resolving disputes; and what is pushing change in the way ballots are cast. Where: Santa Fe, New Mexico When: June 3 – 5. Contact: Katy Owens Hubler, firstname.lastname@example.org, 303-856-1656. For more information and to register, click here.
Maryland Association of Election Officials Annual Conference— The Maryland Association of Election Officials will hold its annual conference and meeting in Ocean City this year. The agenda is filled with presentations from the State Board on the new elections system, MAEO’s annual membership meeting and lots of opportunities to mingle and network. When: June 9-12. Where: Ocean City, Maryland. For more information and to register, click here.
NASED Summer Meeting— The National Association of State Election Directors will hold it’s 2015 summer meeting in Cleveland, Ohio this year. Registration will open soon. Where: Cleveland, Ohio. When: June 23-25. For more information and to register, click here.
IACREOT Annual Conference — The International Association of Clerks, Recorders, Elections Officials and Treasurers will hold its annual conference in Vail, Colorado this year in June and July. Planning is still in the early stages, but be sure to mark your calendar. Where: Vail, Colorado. When: June 27-July 2. For more information and to register, click here.
NASS 2015 Summer Conference — The National Association of Secretaries of State Annual Summer Conference is set for July this year. Planning is still in the early stages, but be sure to mark your calendar. Where: Portland, Maine. When: July 9-12. For more information and to register, click here.
NACo Annual Conference and Exposition— The 80th Annual Conference and Exposition of the National Association of Counties will be in Mecklenburg County (Charlotte), North Carolina. Registration opens February 9th. Where: Charlotte, North Carolina. When: July 10-13. For more information and to register, click here.
NCSL Legislative Summit 2015 — The National Conference of State Legislators will hold their 2015 Legislative Summit in August. Planning is still in the early stages, but be sure to mark your calendar. Where: Seattle. When: August 3-6. For more information when it becomes available and to register, click here.
Election Center 31st Annual Conference— The Election Center hold its 31st Annual Conference in Houston in August. Planning is still in the early stages, but be sure to mark your calendars now. Where: Houston, Texas. When: August 18-22. For more information and to register, click here.
NACRC Annual Conference— The Annual Conference of the National Association of County Recorders, Election Officials and Clerks is set for Houston in August. Planning is still in the early stages, but be sure to mark your calendar. Where: Houston, Texas. When: August 21-25. For more information and to register, click here.
VIII. Job Postings This Week
electionlineWeekly publishes election administration job postings each week as a free service to our readers. To have your job listed in the newsletter, please send a copy of the job description, including a web link to email@example.com. Job postings must be received by 5pm on Wednesday in order to appear in the Thursday newsletter. Listings will run for three weeks or till the deadline listed in the posting.
Elections Specialist II, King County, Washington — position supports the Voter Services and Registration Division. In this position you will provide and/or acquire authoritative program-specific information relating to assigned specialized or technical clerical support services that require interpreting established policies, procedures, codes, regulations and other relevant sources, to internal and/or external customers over the telephone, in writing and/or in person. Employees may deal with sensitive and/or potentially volatile situations. This work is performed in a high volume fast paced working environment while still maintaining accuracy and high quality data entry. Specific assignments vary by position and may include voter registration and direct customer services. Salary: $19.46-$24.80. Deadline: April 3. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Elections Technology Specialist II, Boulder County, Colorado — position will perform a variety of complex and specialized tasks associated with elections management, elections processing systems and the statewide voter registration system. The position is responsible for the implementation and results of related processes, as well as related procedural development, training and technology support, while ensuring compliance with elections rules, laws and policies. This role requires varying degrees of process management and supervisory support of temporary employees, as well as a high level of initiative, attention to detail, collaboration, problem-solving and analytical ability. The ideal candidate must be self-motivated and collaborative with excellent communication skills, in both verbal and written form. He or she has the demonstrated ability to effectively communicate technical information to nontechnical personnel at all levels of the organization. He or she has the capacity to set clear goals, manage time efficiently, effectively work with others for completion, and take initiative with projects and team. Additionally, he or she demonstrates creativity and innovation through problem-solving and improvement identification processes. Ability to work effectively under pressure while remaining positive and flexible is also key to success. Salary: $52,572-$75,696. Deadline: April 22. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Executive Director, U.S. Election Assistance Commission, Silver Spring, Maryland — executive director in consultation with the commissioners is expected to: (1) prepare policy recommendations for commissioner approval, (2) implement policies once made, and (3) take responsibility for administrative matters. The Executive Director may carry out these responsibilities by delegating matters to staff. The incumbent serves as the senior official in a line capacity for overseeing the staff and carrying out the mission of the agency as set by the Commissioners. The Executive Director serves as the interface with other Federal agencies providing support services (i.e., GSA, NARA, SAC, etc.). The Executive Director has wide latitude to direct staff and resources in accomplishing the Commission’s goals and desired results. Reporting to this position are senior EAC staff with expertise in their areas of responsibility. Salary: $148,700. Deadline: April 20. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Statewide Elections Expert, Netrorian, Annapolis, Maryland — Netorian has an immediate opening for an Statewide Elections Expert in our Annapolis office who will guide the evaluation and implementation of new voting system technology for the State of Maryland. The Expert will support the technical and process requirement development necessary to convert the State from its current voting system to a precinct-based new voting system solution. As a senior member of the team, the Expert will support the Maryland State Board of Elections leadership in shaping the team’s perspective on the high level goals and detailed activities of the entire project. Specific duties will include these tasks: Assist and support the team in gathering and documenting the requirements, business processes, and workflows necessary to successfully convert the State of Maryland from a Direct Recording Electronic-based (DRE) voting solution to a precinct-based scanning voting solution; Provide expertise and the leadership necessary to develop and execute at least one statewide Mock Election with the selected voting system; Participate and assist in leading “Lessons Learned” sessions to improve the implementation processes of the new voting system solution and for the ongoing improvement of election processes utilizing the chosen system; Contribute to the development of effective training methodology for election official management, election support staff, other election operations staff, and poll-workers. This includes the change management components of converting to a new system at the operations level; Provide insights and guidance for unforeseen problems and issues that may arise as part of a major voting system replacement and will assist with the development and execution of voter outreach and education efforts. Deadline: Open until filled. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
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Arizona’s Yavapai County recently acquired new voting equipment, and is looking for buyers interested in purchasing equipment from their previous Diebold system. Items available for purchase include (price per each, not including shipping): TSx Packages ($50.00), Accu-Vote Precinct Packages ($35.00), Accu-Vote Central Count Packages ($175.00), Accu-Vote Central Count Scanners ($45.00), Accu-Feed Systems ($100.00), 128K Accu-Vote Memory cards ($25.00), 32K Accu-Vote Memory cards ($25.00), and TSx PCMCIA Memory cards ($25.00). Equipment is being sold as-is on a first come, first served basis until all items have been liquidated. Interested parties may send a request for more information to: email@example.com. Please be sure to include in your email: Contact Name, State, County, and phone number.