April 25, 2013

I. In Focus This Week

More than a decade after HAVA, it’s time to go shopping
Counties and states begin purchasing new voting equipment

By M. Mindy Moretti

It’s been more than a decade since the implementation of the Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA), which required states and counties to update their elections systems.

The law, which was in response to the disastrous 2000 election in Florida, gave states until 2006 to comply with the voting system requirement. Although some weren’t happy about it and still remain opposed to the new DRE or optical-scan systems, all states were finally compliant by the 2010 mid-term elections.

Now, with some of those post-HAVA voting systems starting to show their age, and other jurisdictions wishing to make the switch from DRE to optical-scan, counties and states are back in the market for new voting equipment.

Pittslyvania County, Va., which has been using Unilect Patriot DRE machines since 2005, is shopping for new equipment in advance of the 2014 mid-term elections.

“They are aging, [we had] problems in the field on Election Day and we have had problems with people either saying they didn’t get a certain ballot or it was not there,” explained Jenny Lee Sanders, general registrar. “The terms of lease/purchase agreements are very good at this particular time.”

When shopping for new voting equipment, Sanders said that she was looking for ease of use for voters and simple preparation for the registrar and staff.

Sanders anticipates spending $355-400,000 dollars on the new voting system. Although the money is not currently in the budget for 2013, it is in the budget for FY2014 and Sanders will make the purchase after the new fiscal year begins this summer.

The county is moving to ES&S 200 machines that it is currently using in one precinct for the June Primary. Sanders said so far voters have been very approving of the news system.

In Maryland, all jurisdictions in the state have been using (Diebold/Premier AccuVote TS), which were phased in beginning in 2002 and fully in place by 2006.

Ross Goldstein, deputy administrator for the Maryland State Board of Elections, said the decision to implement a new system was primarily motivated by the desire to have a voter-verifiable paper record as part of the voting process.

While HAVA requires all states to use voting systems that provide a way for voters to verify their vote, some states have gone further to dictate specifics. Maryland state law now mandates an optical-scan voting system.

“Maryland law is very specific about the type of equipment that must be procured.  As such, there is no choice regarding the type of system for either the state or local boards of election,” Goldstein said.

Goldstein noted that although the state dictates the decision, the counties will be involved in the procurement process and in all aspects of the planning and implementation of the new system.

The law requiring Maryland to move to the optical-scan system was approved in 2007, but funding was not made available until this year. Goldstein said the board has received initial funding to begin planning for the procurement. It is estimated that the purchase to the equipment and necessary supplies will cost $35 million.

Voters are not always that open or comfortable with change and that’s why Goldstein says voter education about the new optical-scan system will be so important.

“We definitely view voter education as a critical component of implementing a new system and plan to conduct as large of a education program that our budget will permit,” Goldstein said.

Hamilton County, Tenn. was HAVA compliant before HAVA even existed when it purchased the Diebold Accu-Vote system back in 1998. But being so far ahead of the curve means that the voting machines in Hamilton have seen better days.

Elections Administrator Charlotte Mullis said that fifteen years after the initial purchase, the machines are simply wearing out.

Being an early adopter has helped the county in another way. HAVA provided federal funds for states and counties to purchase new voting systems and become compliant with other aspects of the legislation.

To date, many of those states and counties have used all that federal funding and now must find money elsewhere to cover the cost of new equipment.

Since Hamilton County purchased HAVA-compliant equipment before the funds were available, the county will be able to use those funds for this purchase.

The new system will be very expensive, but HAVA money hopefully will take care of buying new equipment,” Mullis said.

Although no decisions have been made yet about what systems to purchase, Mullis said the county is looking for a similar system so that voters will be able to adapt quickly and comfortably.

“We always put the voter first and foremost,” Mullis said.

The county hopes to have the new system in place by this fall.

II. Election News This Week

  • La Plata County, Colo. Clerk Tiffany Lee Parker and Mesa County Clerk Sheila Reiner are two of many Colorado clerks advocating for a sweeping elections overhaul bill and their support of that legislation found them on the other end of an attack mailer. A mailer, from a group called Citizens for Free and Fair Elections with a return address that matches the address of Secretary of State Scott Gessler’s former law firm, tries to tie Parker and Reiner, both Republicans, to President Barack Obama and several other left-leaning pieces of legislation like Colorado’s newly passed gun control legislation. Parker told the Durango Herald that she was shocked when she got the mailer in her own mailbox, but that to-date she’s gotten nothing but supportive feedback from residents in La Plata.
  • The Walsh County, N.D. 2012 election is finally over and finally official. The county’s canvassing board certified the results this week. Initially county elections workers thought there was a 310-ballot discrepancy between the number of votes cast and the number of votes counted. Following a review by the canvassing board, it was determined that the discrepancy resulted from hand-counting about 300 ballots. The ballots were hand-counted because the polling place where they came from had run out of ballots and a blank ballot was photocopied and given to voters. The county’s vote tabulators could not count the photocopied ballots.
  • The New York City Department of Investigation (DOI) has created a team to look for corruption and waste at the city’s board of elections. Earlier this month the DOI found that the BOE had wasted $2.4 million in city funds by over staffing polling places during the off-year elections in 2011. According to The New York Times, the six-person unit will have an annual budget of $824,000 and will be up and running by September. The investigations team has been given subpoena power.
  • Congratulations to South Fork High School in Martin County, Fla. which won this year’s “Pledge to Vote” voter registration competition. The high school registered 375 students to vote beating its next closest competitor, Jensen Beach High School, by 186 registered voters.
  • Police Blotter: Michael Harper, clerk of the Hudson County, N.J. board of elections was charged with drunk driving. Michael P. Carney, with the Tonawanda County, Ohio board of elections was charged with DWI. Deanna Swenson, a former Clackamas County, Ore. elections worker plans to plead guilty to vote tampering and will serve a 90-day jail sentence.
  • Personnel News: Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted was honored by the Association of the United States Army for his efforts to ease the voting process for military and overseas voters. Anthony DeGidio, a Republican member of the Lucas County, Ohio board of elections has lost his law license for up to two years. Carolyn Campbell, director of the Auglaize County, Ohio board of elections will retire effective August 1. Joseph R. Passarella, Montgomery County, Pa. election chief was unexpectedly fired late last week. Passarell had been director of voter services since 1994. Marie Fossie is stepping down from the Dickson County, Tenn. election commission after eight years on the job. Clifford Rodgers was reappointed as the Knox County, Tenn. election commission. Pete Peterson, executive director of Pepperdine University’s Davenport Institute for Public Engagement and Civic Leadership, announced his candidacy for California secretary of state. And a special shout-out to Indiana Secretary of State Connie Lawson who collected more than 150 women’s suits for the Dress for Success suit drive. Lawson encouraged other statewide offices and the General Assembly to participate in the event. The suits will go to low-income women seeking job opportunities.

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

Alabama: A bill in the Alabama Legislature would force fire departments in Baldwin County to serve as polling places during elections. House Bill 406 would mandate that fire stations, which get a portion of their funding from the ad valorem tax, be required to serve as polling sites.

Arizona: A bill that would have revamped the state’s recall process was killed in a Senate committee late last week. The bill would have required both a primary and a general election in the event of a recall.

Arkansas: Gov. Mike Beebe (D) vetoed three elections-related bills this week. SB719 would have created an investigation unit in the secretary of state’s office, a power that already lies in the state board of election commissioners. SB 720 would have authorized the state BOE to remove a county election commissioner if not qualified or for failure to perform duties. And SB721 would have abolished the current BOE and given the appointments in such a way that the board would have had majority Republican control.

California: Assembly Bill 149, which recently passed the Public Safety Committee by a 5-2 vote would require state and local law enforcement to inform those released from parole or probation that they can vote. Officials would also be required to provide them with a voter registration form. The bill now moves to the Elections and Redistrict Committee.

Colorado: A sweeping elections overhaul bill received initial approval last week after six hours of debate. The bill would allow for same-day registration, require all voters be sent mail-in ballots and implement a real-time voter database. The bill was approved 3-2 by the Senate State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee on Wednesday. The bill next moves to the Appropriations Committee followed by the full Senate.

Florida: An amendment to the Omnibus Elections Reform Bill (HB 7013 and SB 600) would limit any volunteer from helping more than 10 voters during any election. The amendment also says the volunteer must be known to the voter and not someone the voter met that day.

Late Wednesday, the Senate approved the elections overhaul bill by a 26-13 party line vote. The bill would allow more early voting days, hours and locations than in 2012.

Montana: Gov. Steve Bullock (D) vetoed a bill that would have eliminated same-day voter registration in Montana. The bill, as approved by the House and Senate, would have required voter registration to end on the Friday before an election.

North Carolina: Voter ID legislation is inching closer to reality again in North Carolina. Late last week the House Finance Committee approved the bill on a party-line vote. On Tuesday, the House budget committee approved the legislation. And finally on Wednesday, the full House approved the legislation that now moves to the Senate.

Texas: This week, the Texas Senate approved legislation that would make Texas the 18th state to offer online voter registration. The bill next moves to the House.

V. Upcoming Events

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

The Role of Media in Elections: A Cornerstone of Democracy As World Press Freedom Day is celebrated around the world, join the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) in a panel discussion on the role of media in elections. Among the topics that will be addressed are: international assistance in the training of local journalists on election coverage; the importance of media centers during elections; how a free press strengthens civil society; and the role of social media in disseminating information or serving as a listening tool. Where: Washington, D.C., and there will also be a webcast. When: May 2, 2013 12pm. Registration.

IACREOT 42nd Annual Conference and Trade Show The excitement is building; the crowds are restless; the speakers are at the gate raring to go! And, we’re off to the IACREOT Annual Conference in beautiful Louisville, KY, home of world famous Churchill Downs. IACREOT has a stimulating, educational and yes, exciting conference planned for you. Timely seminars conducted by experts in your field, professional classes on best practices and nationally known speakers will bring you the latest developments in your division. Scroll through the Call to Conference for an in-depth calendar of classes, activities and speakers. Add a world-class Trade Show with vendors who conduct business in a variety of counties, parishes, states and countries and can demonstrate their products in front of your eyes. Mix an entertaining venue and you have all the ingredients for a successful conference. We just need you! So pack your bags, bring your Derby bonnet and let’s go! There also will be pre and post conference public administration courses taught by the faculty of George Washington University, our partner in the Certified Public Leadership Program. Where: Louisville, Ky. When: June 28-July 2, 2013. Registration.

VI. Opinion

National News: Voting system | Voting Rights Act

Alabama: Voter registration

California: Online voter registration

Colorado: Election-overhaul bill, II, III

District of Columbia: Instant runoff-voting

Florida: Election-reform legislation, II, III | Voter emails, II

Louisiana: New Orleans election dates

Maine: Election proposals

New Jersey: Early voting

New Mexico: Same-day voter registration

New York: State board of elections

North Carolina: Voter ID, II, III, IV, V, VI | Election legislation | Ex-felon voting rights

Ohio: Election laws

Oregon: Voter registration

Pennsylvania: Online voter registration

Rhode Island: Early voting

Texas: Civic duty

Virginia: Ex-felon voting rights

Washington: Top-two primary

Wisconsin: Partisan polling places

Wyoming: Voting standards

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.

Elections Specialist—GIS Assignment, Pierce County, Wash. — responsible for planning, organizing, directing, and evaluating the activities of an assigned election area. This is a working specialist position. Work involves planning, distributing, assigning work to accommodate work fluctuations and changes; monitoring work compiled taking corrective action to maintain acceptable quality standards; and training extra; hires and volunteers assigned to work in their particular areas. Specialist perform day-to-day assignments specific to their assigned area. Activities are governed by established policies, rules, and procedures that must be understood and interpreted in the specialty area assigned. Employees perform work in all election areas as assigned. Qualifications: Four or more years of progressive responsible office/clerical experience which include a minimum of two years experience in elections. A minimum of two years GIS experience with ESRI ArcGIS and intermediate to advanced skill level in Microsoft Office products especially Excel and Access is required. Incumbents in this job class require strong computer and customer service skills including proficiency using Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint. Previous work experience in a lead or supervisory capacity is desired. Additional education or related experience may substitute for the recruiting requirements. A valid Washington State driver’s license may be required when travel is required of the position. Union membership is required within 30 days of employment. Special Note: May require certification as an Election Administrator under the Washington State Administrative Code (WAC) and Revised Code of Washington (RCW) regulations. Employees in this class may be limited as to vacation during the primary and general election season and will be required to work extended hours or alternate hours during an election cycle. Salary: $26.16 to $33.09 per hour. Deadline: May 3, 2013. Application: For the complete job posting 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.

Registrar, Prince William Co., Va. — provides leadership and management in the Office of Elections in Prince William County, Virginia. Prince William County has a diverse and growing population (currently 413,500) and is located in Northern Virginia. There are over 250,000 registered to vote in the County. In 2012, Prince William County was “bailed out” of the U.S. Department of Justice Preclearance requirement, after demonstrating decades of fair electoral practices. The General Registrar’s responsibilities are directed by the Code of Virginia as it relates to registering eligible voters and maintaining accurate lists. Additionally, the General Registrar is responsible to the Electoral Board in the conduct of fair and accurate elections. The General Registrar must maintain impartiality in the discharge of duties. The General Registrar is the Department Head for the Office of Elections, and is expected to interact with other agencies and the general public. As Department Head, the General Registrar must manage an office of 10 employees, manage hundreds of volunteer Election Officers on Election Days, and manage the office budget of approximately $2 million. Education and Experience: Education and experience equivalent to a Bachelor’s Degree in Public/Business Administration or a related field; 3-5 years of progressively responsible work in a registrar’s office to include management and budgeting experience; 2-3 years of experience at a supervisory level. Relevant experience in election law/administration, voter registration, as an election officer, or political experience may be considered toward required experience. Deadline: May 25, 2013. For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.