April 23, 2015

I. In Focus This Week

Online voter registration numbers grow
At least a dozen states consider OVR legislation in 2015

By M. Mindy Moretti

This week, with the deadline to register to vote in the May Parliamentary elections looming, more than 400,000 Britons used the country’s online voter registration system to register…in one day.

Britain launched their online voter registration system in June 2014 and since then, more than 7.1 million people have used it to register online or update their existing registrations.

Even though the British system differs from voter registration here in the United States because it’s a national system, states throughout U.S. that provide online voter registration (OVR) can regale you with significant numbers of people using the online systems to register or update their voter registration.

Currently 20 states offer online voter registration with an additional six states and the District of Columbia working to implement systems mandated by law.

While voter ID legislation might grab the bigger headlines, 2015 is proving to be a banner year for OVR legislation with varying degrees of success. To-date at least a dozen states including Texas and Florida have introduced OVR.

Most recently New Mexico and Oklahoma joined the growing list of legislatures approving OVR. In both of these states the legislation had the support of the chief elections official and was approved with little to no debate.

In New Mexico the Legislature approved Senate Bill 643 without a single dissenting vote. The legislation was signed into law on April 17.

OVR was also approved in Oklahoma with little fanfare. Senate Bill 313 was approved 37-2 in the Senate and 61-29 in the House. Gov. Mary Fallin signed the legislation into law on April 17.

The debate in Florida has been far from quiet.

With the support of the Florida State Association of Supervisor of Elections, House Bill 7143 and Senate Bill 228 both appear to be headed to final approval despite the best efforts of Secretary of State Ken Detzner and Gov. Rick Scott.

When testifying before a Senate committee last week, Detzner warned of fraud by “forces of evil” and said implementing the system could be a “train wreck.” Senators weren’t having any of it with one of them even referring to Detzner’s testimony as BS.

On April 16, FSASE President Jerry Holland, Duval County supervisor of elections sent a letter to Scott emphasizing the organizations support.

“In examining online voter registration, we have found there to be only positive gains from the concept: lower costs, more security and greater accuracy,” Holland wrote in his letter.

Both Florida bills would require implementation of the system by October 2017 and the House bill appropriates $1.8 million to implement the statewide system.

In Texas, there are currently five pieces of legislation—House Bills 444, 446, 76 and 953 as well as Senate bill 385 — all in various states of debate that would support OVR in the Lone Star State.

All the bills under consideration would require the potential voters to have a current Texas ID or driver’s license and use the Texas Department of Public Safety or secretary of state’s office websites.

County commissions throughout the state, at the urging of local election administrators, have been passing resolutions in support of the pending legislation.

In addition, the Texas Association of Election Administrators and the County and District Clerks’ Association of Texas both support online voter registration.

According to Bexar County Elections Administrator Jacquelyn Callanen about 60 counties have taken measures to urge the Legislature to pass OVR.

Callanen has showed lawmakers what she calls her box of shame — a box with voter registration forms that are hand written and illegible. She said that it costs her office a lot of angst when they can’t read a form and therefore can’t help someone register, something that would be largely, although not completely eliminated with OVR.

Callanen is hopeful for the passage of OVR, but noted that time is running out in this year’s session to get it done.

Other states considering online voter registration are Ohio (SB 63), Pennsylvania where Secretary of State Pedro Cortes testified before a House committee that he believes his office does not need legislative action to move forward with OVR and just last week with the support of newly elected Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea, an OVR bill was introduced to the Rhode Island Legislature.

Even Guam is getting in on the act. In February several bills were introduced that would support implementing OVR on the U.S. territory. The Guam Election Commission is studying the possibilities.

Officials in Iowa are going about things a bit differently. In January, the Iowa Voter Registration Commission voted unanimously to establish OVR.

Under this proposal, residents would be able to register online by accessing a voter registration application through the state’s Department of Transportation website.

Because it would limit those applying online only to residents who have a signature already on file with the DOT Sen. Jeff Danielson (D-Cedar Falls) has introduced legislation that would expand who may register online.

The Senate approved Senate File 331 26-20 and moves now to the House, although Danielson has expressed his concerns about its future because the bill may get wrapped up in other election-related legislation.

Of course OVR legislation has not proved successful in every state where it’s been introduced.

HB 48, which would have created an online voter registration system in Montana and was supported by Secretary of State Linda McCulloch, was tabled in committee.

McCulloch did not take the failure lightly and has been outspoken in her frustration of the Legislatures failure to act.

“This bill had the bipartisan support of so many across Montana,” McCulloch told the Flathead Newsgroup. “It’s a shame that legislators ignored the tremendous support for the bill and chose to vote solely on party lines.”

 II. Election News This Week

  • Update on the News: Ohio lawmakers have seen the light and decided to include $1.25 million on the 2016 budget so the secretary of state’s office can mail an absentee ballot application to every registered voter in the state. “We want to give Ohioans as much opportunity to vote as possible, and this amendment will help accomplish that,” Speaker Cliff Rosenberger (R-Clarksville) said in a news release.
  • Also in Ohio, a poll worker in Franklin County contracted bacterial meningitis while in training for the upcoming spring elections. Representatives from the Columbus Health Department told county elections officials that it was still safe for employees and poll workers to be in the building.
  • The Weirton, West Virginia city council has created an elections oversight board that will oversee the work of the city’s clerk office during upcoming elections. According to WTOV, creation of the board comes after a number of “human errors” errors in April 7 primary caused confusion for voters as well as issues with provisional ballots. The board will include the city manager, two election commissioners and one member of the city council. “Their job is to advise city clerk as to what issues there are,” Councilman Fred Marsh told the station. “What help do you need? Can we help you find poll workers? Let’s talk about their training. It’s a second set of eyes to help her run this election the way it should be.”
  • Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill is working with the state Legislature to make sure that every possible eligible Alabaman is registered to vote and has the proper ID. Merrill has asked each legislator to provide his office with three dates and times as well as venue information for when his office could hold voter registration drives and issue free photo IDs. “With your help, I intend to organize special drives wholly dedicated to voter registration and voter photo ID distribution. And I hope during these events, every eligible individual will have the opportunity to become a registered voter and obtain a voter photo ID card, if necessary,” Merrill said in a letter to legislators.
  • With only 110 people turning out to cast a ballot an uncontested special election in Arkansas cost about $130 per vote — $15,000. Earlier this year, lawmakers voted to refer a proposed constitutional amendment to voters that would allow localities to eliminate uncontested special elections.
  • Personnel News: Ed Kuncitishas been named the Sevier County, Tennessee administrator of elections. Broward County, Florida Elections Supervisor Brenda Snipes has announced that she will seek re-election. Matt Snyder is the new Watauga County, North Carolina elections director. Steven Paxton has been reappointed as administrator of elections for Trousdale County, Tennessee. Joyce Simon is the newest election commissioner in Hawkins County, Tennessee.
  • In MemoriamLarry Kunkel, a long-time employee of the Fairfax County Board of Elections died this week. He was 79. After serving in the military for 31 years, Kunkle retired and in 1988 joined the Fairfax County BOE.

 III. Legislative Updates

Alabama: The House has approved legislation that defines which felons may and may not vote. Under current law, felons who have committed crimes of “moral turpitude” may not vote, but it’s a gray area. Under the new legislation there are 38 defined offenses including rape, murder, terrorism and bigamy convictions that would prevent a felon from voting.

Two other pieces of elections legislation were put off until a later date including one bill that would require a photo ID in order to apply for an absentee ballot and one bill that would push the state’s voter registration date to 30 days prior to an election.

California: The Senate Elections and Constitutional Amendments Committee has approved SB 505 that would ensure that the California Voter Bill of Rights and other elections materials be provide to voters in “plain, accessible and easily understandable language.” The legislation next moves to the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Delaware: Several lawmakers joined forces this week to introduce legislation that would allow voters to apply for an absentee ballot without need an excuse. The legislation is in the form of a constitutional amendment that means it must be approved by a two-thirds majority during successive General Assemblies.

Florida: Despite protests from Secretary of State Ken Detzner, the Florida Senate approved legislation that would require the state to provide online voter registration by 2017.

The Orlando city council voted 5 to 1 to approve moving the city’s municipal elections to November. Currently elections are scheduled for April 5, three weeks after the state’s presidential primary. According to the Orlando Sentinel, Orange County Elections Supervisor Bill Cowles urged the city to move the elections to avoid confusion

Michigan: Under legislation approved by the House, Michigan would eliminate February elections and would limit local and statewide elections to three dates a year. Although the state doesn’t expect to see any cost savings from the measure, localities will.

North Carolina: The House Elections Committee has approved House Bill 402 that would create a study of moving municipal elections to even-numbered years. The study will look at turnout data and potential cost savings.

The House approved House Bill 457 that would move the state’s presidential primary to March 8. State primary elections would remain in May.

Also in North Carolina, under House Bill 373 counties still using DRE voting machines would be given until 2019 to replace those machines with a paper ballot system. This would amend 2013’s election reform law that required the switch to happen by 2018. The House approved the bill on Wednesday. It now moves to the Senate.

North Dakota: Lawmakers have approved House Bill 1333 that clarifies which forms of ID are valid in order to cast a ballot. The valid forms of ID include a current driver’s license or non-driver’s ID, an official tribal ID, a long-term care certificate prescribed by the secretary of state’s office, a military ID or passport. The bill now heads to the governor’s desk.

Texas: Rep. Greg Bonnen (R-Friendswood) has introduced legislation that would allow voters to “access information that was downloaded, recorded or created on a phone” before the voter entered a polling place. Currently state law prohibits voters from using their cell phones within 100 feet of the voting area.

 IV. Legal Updates

Connecticut: The Hartford city council has decided not to appeal a ruling by Superior Court Judge Constance Epstein that said the council did not have the power to remove the city’s three registrars. Citing costs and time constraints, the council voted unanimously not to seek an appeal. “The entire council felt that it was just in the city’s best interest to end the litigation,” Councilman Kenneth Kennedy told the Hartford Courant. “We’re still very concerned about the judge’s ruling regarding the power of the council. We believe we have that power, and we would like the legislature to clarify our power in terms of removing someone for criminal conduct or for gross negligence.”

Illinois: The U.S. Department of Justice and state elections officials have reached an agreement to ensure that military and overseas voters are able to cast a ballot in the upcoming special election to replace Rep. Aaron Shock. DOJ filed suit because state election laws for special elections conflict with UOCVA. As part of the agreement, state officials must provide a report to Justice officials no later than 43 days before the July 7 special primary election, certifying whether the absentee ballots were transmitted by 45 days before the election.

New Hampshire: The state’s highest court heard arguments this week on a 2012 law that requires people registering to vote in New Hampshire to also register their vehicles there. Lawyers for the state argued that the 2012 law is just clarifying other laws whereas plaintiffs argue that it amounts to a poll tax.

North Carolina: This week the U.S. Supreme Court threw out a lower court’s ruling that had upheld Republican-drawn electoral districts for federal and state races. According to WRAL, the justices order the state Supreme Court to consider anew whether the legislature relied too heavily on race when it redrew voting districts following the 2010 Census.

 V. Opinions This Week

National Opinions: Voter ID | Voting rights | Online voting | Voting Rights Act

Arizona: Felon disenfranchisement

Connecticut: Registrars, II | Voting system

Florida: Online voter registration, II, III, IV

Illinois: Special election, II | Early voting

Indiana: Vote of confidence

Iowa: Ex-felon voting rights

Maine: Ranked choice voting

Minnesota: Ex-felon voting rights | Voting habits

Missouri: Mail-in ballots

Nebraska: Mail ballots

New Hampshire: Voter ID, II | Voter registration

North Carolina: Election changes | Election boards | Redistricting

Ohio: Voter registration | Special elections

Texas: Online voter registration

Virginia: Voting machines, II, III | Voter ID

Washington: Yakima voting rights case

Wisconsin: Polling places

 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 mmoretti@electionline.org.

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, katy.owens.hubler@ncsl.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 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.

Summer Internships, Democracy Fund, Washington, D.C. — Democracy Fund is seeking bright, enthusiastic interns to work with us this summer. Interns will gain first-hand knowledge on how creative philanthropy can work to improve our democracy. Interns may be responsible for a variety of tasks, including: Producing original research on issues related to elections, local journalism, campaign finance, Congressional reform, and media policy; participating in grantee meetings, policy briefings, Congressional hearings, and other events; supporting research and diligence about new grantee candidates; compiling press clips, writing blog posts, and creating content for the Democracy Fund’s social media account; helping to organize internal and external events; completing and presenting a self-directed project aligned with the goals of the Democracy Fund; working to support the administrative needs of the team with editing, scheduling support, photocopying or other relevant administrative tasks and functions; and assist in preparation and copying, packing, and mailing meeting materials. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.


 IX. Marketplace
electionline provides no guarantees as to the quality of the items being sold and the accuracy of the information provided about the sale items in the Marketplace. Ads are provided directly by sellers and are not verified by electionline. If you have an ad for Marketplace, please email it to mmoretti@electionline.org

Voting equipment
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: web.elections@yavapai.us. Please be sure to include in your email: Contact Name, State, County, and phone number.