I. In Focus This Week
Section 203 covered jurisdictions often struggle to comply
Stanford Law Review note offers potential solutions for compliance
Among them is Section 203, which requires certain jurisdictions to conduct bilingual elections to accommodate voters whose first language is not English.
One of the most recent Section 203 cases was in Alaska where the state was sued by a group of Native speakers — Yup’ik and Gwich’in. The plaintiffs argued, and a federal judge agreed, that the state didn’t do enough to help voters with limited English proficiency gain access to information.
Many jurisdictions that fall under Section 203 have struggled to comply with the law.
Matthew Higgins a JD candidate at the Stanford Law School (2015) has written a note for the Stanford Law Review focusing on how reporting requirements could be a potential solution to the compliance gap with Section 203.
What follows is Higgins’ abstract on his Note as well as a links to the Note itself:
Certain voters with limited English proficiency (LEP) are afforded affirmative accommodations under Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA).
Section 203’s provisions, however, are often critically misunderstood and only partially implemented.
The law’s substantial compliance gap stems largely from its complex and fact-specific mandates as well as its requirement that election jurisdictions themselves determine the extent of their own affirmative duties.
In an effort to partially close Section 203’s compliance gap and promote universal enforcement of federal election laws, this Note adapts a recent proposal requiring the advance disclosure of federal voting changes to the language assistance context.
In response to the Supreme Court’s decision inShelby County v. Holder, academics and members of Congress have proposed a requirement that all election jurisdictions report to the local media and the government certain changes to their election laws before those changes take effect.
This Note modifies and applies this general framework to address the low compliance rates of the VRA’s language assistance provisions.
This proposal requires all covered language jurisdictions to publicly present a section 203 compliance plan six months before an election.
It represents a cost-effective way to inform election officials of their particularized legal obligations and to more efficiently leverage third-party resources to ensure that the language assistance provisions are consistently and properly enforced.
To read Higgins’ complete note, click here.
II. Election News This Week
- With the May primary just six days away, elections officials in Porter County, Indiana got some bad news this week when the county council voted 6 to 1 to deny a request to transfer $40K from its budget to cover the first part of a lease on new e-pollbooks. The county had planned on using the new e-pollbooks, which they already have on hand for the May 5 primary.
- File this one under really? Under New Mexico law state employees are allowed up to two hours of paid leave on Election Day in order to vote. Following an audit of voter rolls, Gov. Susana Martinez’s office is sending out letter to more than 200 employees who took the leave but didn’t cast a ballot. According to Albuquerque Journal, the state personnel office matched the Social Security numbers of employees who the leave with Social Security numbers from the state voter rolls and found that 42 of the employees who took leave aren’t even registered and 201 didn’t vote.
- Early voting began in several locations throughout Texas on Monday morning, except in Grimes County where it had to be delayed by several hours after many early voting locations reported no power due to strong storms the night before. The sites were able to gradually reopen during the day once power was restored.
- In other Mother Nature news, a portion of the Pittsburg County, Oklahoma courthouse was flooded this week and the county election board offices were inundated with water with about 15 of the county’s voting machines suffering some water damage. “The entire election board is flooded,” Board Secretary Cathy Thornton told the McAlester News-Capital. “There is standing water in parts of it.” Thornton said the machines will be tested, but if they need to be replaced that will be about $3K per machine.
- For those elections offices that rely on social media, just some food for thought. The American Press Institute has come out with research that shows false information on Twitter overpowers efforts to correct it by a ratio of 3 to 1. While this research shows that Americans are “confident” in their misperceptions, a second study found that those misperceptions can be corrected.
- Personnel News: Loretta Lynchhas been sworn in as the new U.S. Attorney General. Cliff Rodgers has been reappointed elections administrator for Knox County, Tennessee. Philadelphia Commissioner Stephanie Singer failed to make the ballot for the upcoming election. Kristen Ross has been appointed to serve as deputy director of the Coshocton County, Ohio board of elections. Former Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schulz will lead Sen. Ted Cruz’s Iowa campaign. Longtime Long Beach City Clerk Larry Herrera-Cabrera is retiring today! Herrera-Cabrera has been on the job in Long Beach for 12 years and told the Press-Telegram that although he’s only 62-years-young this was a good time to retire. “We’ve got a new mayor, we’ve got a new city council,” said Herrera-Cabrera. “I really believe this: I think it’s good to pass the torch to a new generation of leadership.”
III. Research and Report Summaries
electionline provides brief summaries of recent research and reports in the field of election administration. The summaries are courtesy of the research staff of The Pew Charitable Trusts Elections Initiatives. Please email links to research to Sean Greene at Pew.
Vote-by-Mail Practices More Than Double Since 2000 — Kyle Ueyama and Sean Greene, The Pew Charitable Trusts: With more ballots than ever being sent to voters by mail, recent data shows that in some states a significant number of these ballots are not being returned by mail but instead are dropped off by hand.
IV. Legislative Updates
Federal Legislation: New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand has introduced legislation that would require all 50 states and the District of Columbia to provide online voter registration.
California: Legislation that would automatically register residents to vote was approved by the Assembly Transportation Committee and moves next to the Committee on Appropriations. From there it would head to the full Assembly, Senate and obviously, ultimately, the governor’s office. If ultimately approved as many as 6.7 million eligible Californians could be registered to vote.
Florida: The Florida House and Senate have both approved online voter registration with veto-proof numbers. The legislation provides funding to implement the system and delays its implementation until 2017, which were two of the public sticking points for Gov. Rick Scott who has opposed the legislation. It remains unclear if Scott will sign the legislation into law or not.
Maine: The Maine Senate has approved legislation that would require voters to show a photo ID in order to cast a ballot. LD 197, which was approved 18-17, would allow voters without the required photo ID to cast a provisional ballot. The Bangor Daily News said the legislation faces an uphill battle in the Democratically-controlled House.
Minnesota: The Senate has approved legislation that would restore voting rights to most ex-felons as soon as they are released from incarceration. The legislation would impact about 47,000 ex-offenders. The legislation has yet to receive a hearing in the House.
Missouri: Rep. Pat Conway (D-St. Joseph) has introduced legislation that would eliminate the need for a voter to provide a valid excuse in order to cast an absentee ballot.
The Senate gave final approval to a bill this week that would allow military and overseas voters until the Friday before an election to return to the United States to register to vote in order to participate in local and statewide elections.
Nevada: The Senate Legislative Operations and Elections Committee held a hearing this week on AB462 which would require a voter to provide a photo ID if the signature a voter uses on Election Day to sign in doesn’t match the signature on file. Currently poll workers may ask personal questions to establish identity if there are questions about the signature.
Ohio: Rep. Kathleen Clyde (D-Kent) and Sen. Kenny Yuko (D-Cleveland) plan on introducing complimentary legislation in their respective chambers that would automatically register voters seeking driver’s licenses or interacting with state agencies, would allow online voter registration and would automatically register graduating high school students.
Rep. Andrew Brenner (R-Delaware County) has said that he other conservative House members will introduce legislation that would require Ohio voters to show a photo ID in order to cast a ballot. Under the proposed legislation, voters would be required to show a driver’s license, state ID card, passport or military ID.
Washington: Gov. Jay Inslee has signed House Bill 1919 into law. The new law shortens the certification time for spring elections from 14 days to 10 days and eliminates the overlap with candidate filing which will ultimately provide elections administrators more time to update voter registration databases, allow for more time for voter pamphlet preparation and more time to prepare military and overseas voting materials.
V. Legal Updates
Arizona: The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld a lower court’s ruling that Arizona voter registration forms requiring voters to write in the name of a minor party they wish to register with instead of the names of those minor parties being automatically listed on the form. The court ruled that the burden on the voter was de minimus.
Kentucky: The U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court’s ruling that Kentucky’s new electioneering law banning campaign signs within 300 feet of a polling place is unconstitutional. According to the Cincinnati Enquirer, the Sixth Circuit held that the statute is unconstitutional because it is too broad and does contain a private property exception.
Texas: The U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans heard arguments this week that Texas’ voter ID law discriminates against minorities and places an unconstitutional burden on those voters. The three-judge panel did not indicate when they would rule.
VI. Opinions This Week
Illinois: Rock County
Indiana: Poll workers
Kansas: Election fraud
VII. 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.
VIII. Upcoming Events
Please email upcoming events — conferences, symposiums, seminars, webinars, etc. to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Future of Voting Conference — The Future of Voting interactive presentation and workshop event has been designed to engage local and state election officials and legislators in a discussion about verifiable Internet voting. The event is part of a 4-city tour by the technical and project managers of the End-to-End Verifiable Internet Voting: Specification and Feasibility Study (E2E VIV Project). The project was funded by a grant from the Democracy Fund in support of a research-based approach to the unanswered question of whether remote absentee voting can be conducted securely online. Specifically, it was designed to examine a form of remote voting that enables a so-called “end-to-end verifiability” (E2E) property. This technology is of particular interest in the continued aim toward improved overseas, military and disabled voter solutions. When/Where: Washington, D.C. May 28; Seattle, Washington May 29; Portland, Oregon June 1; Santa Fe, New Mexico June 3. For additional information and questions, please contact Susan Dzieduszycka-Suinat, (202) 470 2480.
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, email@example.com, 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.
IX. 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 firstname.lastname@example.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.
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