I. In Focus This Week
Virginia DOE releases report critical of WinVote system
State, affected localities working to find solution for upcoming elections
On April 1, the Virginia Department of Elections released an interim report citing critical, potential security concerns with the WinVote DREs, in particular with the wireless capability of the system.
Despite the date, this was no joke.
Following scattered reports of problems with voting systems in the state during the November 2014 election, Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) called for an investigation into the irregularities. The State Board of Elections began its review in late 2014, but it wasn’t until early 2015 that the extent of the problem became obvious.
“We really didn’t know until early February that there was a potential security issue with the WinVotes,” said Edgardo Cortes, commissioner of elections for the Commonwealth. “At that point we moved quickly to conduct additional testing, but it wasn’t until the preliminary test results were provided on March 26 that we knew how serious a vulnerability we were facing.”
On April 14, the SBE will meet at which time Cortes anticipates the board may decertify the system for use in Virginia.
“We know the timing of this is not great – but there is never a good time to discuss possible decertification of a voting system,” Cortes said. “I have been in elections for a long time and we would not have recommended the board consider such a serious and immediate option for a minor issue.”
Since the reports release, the SBE has been in touch with all the affected localities, especially those with upcoming primaries. The board has also surveyed the localities to identify some of their needs
The SBE has solicited information from voting system vendors about their capacity to help the jurisdictions conduct a successful June primary and all the vendor plans are available on the state’s website.
Cortes said they have also been exploring the ability of localities to share equipment with neighbors and other “creative ideas suggested by our local registrars and electoral board members.”
“This has been a cooperative process as we head towards next week’s public
hearing,” Cortes said.
While the process may have been cooperative since the release of the report, not everyone has been happy with the handling of things.
Arlington County, which is one of the 10 localities facing a June primary, is home to 52 precincts and is the third largest jurisdiction using the WinVote DREs.
According to Linda Lindberg, director of elections, the county has been using WinVote machines for nearly 12 years and has never had any significant issues with the machines. Lindberg finds the state’s report and the timing of the report troubling.
“The fundamental problem is that the State Board of Elections and Department of Elections have put us in an untenable position,” Lindberg said. “…[I]f we are able to continue using WINvote, we are tainted by the flawed stigma they have raised. And if we are forced to not use WINvote, we have to come up with the funds and rush a new system implementation. The proverbial rock and hard place.”
Cortes stressed that the report ultimately wasn’t about whether or not localities had any problems in November 2014, but that it was a proactive step to address a serious security issue his office identified before it causes problems during an election.
“I’m a former registrar from a locality that used WinVotes,” Cortes said. “While I would have been unhappy about the timing of this while I was in a locality, it is nothing compared to how I would have felt if I ended up having an equipment problem on election day and found out later that the state knew about it and didn’t address it.”
Kirk Showalter, general registrar for the City of Richmond also has issues with the state’s report. Showalter said the city — with 65 precincts — has been using the system for nearly a decade with few problems.
“We have been using the WinVote machines for a decade now and found them to be exceptionally reliable and accurate,” Showalter said. “In the 10 years in which we’ve used the machines, we’ve only had two actual mechanical failures in the precincts on election day.”
Richmond is also conducting primary elections in June and Showalter said it will be next to impossible to purchase or lease new equipment in time for the election.
“The timing of all of this is most regrettable,” Showalter said. “Our ballot proofs are due to the State Board of Elections on Friday. Yet I won’t know for certain whether or not we have to switch equipment until next week. The week after we must start absentee voting. As you know, the equipment governs the form and printing of the ballot. Thus, I will not know what equipment I will be able to use for absentee voting until only a week before it starts. In order to be ready regardless of what happens, I am working on two parallel tracks: one using my existing equipment and one using new optical scan equipment.”
Showalter said she is preparing ballot proofs for both eventualities and that her office has identified the type of equipment that they would like to use if they are required to switch equipment.
In Henrico County, which has 800 WinVotes for 92 polling places, Registrar Mark Coakley seems resigned to his fate.
“If our DRE’s are decertified on April 14, a plan is in place for voting equipment replacement,” Coakley said. “I have basically put all county administration departments on standby for quick action if needed.”
Coakley said a plan was already in place for the county to purchase new voting machines in the upcoming fiscal year and that if the need to purchase new equipment arises sooner, he said he would leave that up to the county accountants to get the necessary funding before the July 1 start to the fiscal year.
While Henrico uses the most WinVotes, Coakley said the one saving grace if the machines are decertified before the upcoming election would be the predicted low turnout.
“Sadly, as most election officials know, turnout for primary elections is not as high as we would like it to be,” Coakley said. “With DRE equipment or new optical scan equipment we plan on ‘skeleton’ staffing at the polls. Training however will be intensive and efficient. For June, all election officers working the Primary will be trained using county facilities for Saturday and daily classes. Election staff is prepared for as much overtime as our budget can handle.”
Even counties that don’t have an upcoming primary are concerned about the timing of the report because, as Randy Wertz, general registrar in Montgomery County explained, he has already submitted his budget for the upcoming fiscal year and that did not include needing to replace all the county’s WinVote machines.
“…[W]e have already submitted our budget request for the upcoming fiscal year and we had planned on using our WinVote machines for voters with disabilities,” Wertz said. “This machine was designed specifically for this and is perfect for outside the polls (curbside) voting. We have 115 of these machines and they would have lasted for several years in this capacity. Thus saving county money.”
If forced to go with another voting system for future elections, Wertz said he would have to go to the county board of supervisors for additional funds and that the board would be blindsided by the request.
“Thousands of dollars they had not planned on expending – another unfunded mandate from the Commonwealth of Virginia,” Wertz said.
Like Montgomery County, Arlington had already planned to replace its voting machines, but that money — about $700,000 as Lindberg estimates — is not in the budget until FY17. Lindberg said Arlington has been able to work with a neighboring county to borrow machines for the June primary.
While there is no doubt that the elections officials in the affected localities have their concerns with the process, if not the machines themselves, what about the voters?
Cortes said that because of the state’s rigorous certification process, which relies heavily on the U.S. Election Assistance Commission’s certification process, voters should be confident in the election process and that the public should actually take this report as an example of how the election community moves quickly to address a problem and maintain confidence in the system.
Still, some of the officials like Showalter are worried about the impacts this switch may have on voters.
“Voter education is my biggest and gravest concern,” Showalter said. “Unfortunately, the timing and manner in which this issue has been handled has created a no win situation for us. If we use our WinVotes for the June primary, there will be questions about the results. Conversely, if we move to a new system, will the unfamiliarity of it cause something to go awry?”
Showalter noted that the last time Richmond changed voting systems the city had extensive voter outreach over the course of several months. If forced to change for June, she said she will work with candidates and political parties to get the word out and will have elections officers in the precinct ready to educate voters.
With regard to questions about the security of the systems, Showalter said she will take them as she gets them.
“As to the allegations raised about the security of the WinVotes, all I can do is respond to them with what I know to be the truth and answer any questions raised,” Showalter said. “We are and remain fully confident in their security and accuracy.”
Despite conerns, Arlington’s, Lindberg is prepared to put a positive spin on things.
“I am frankly not overly concerned about training or voter education, because I think we can put a positive spin on things, not by condemning the WINvote but by emphasizing this switch was in the plan all along, and we’ve simply decided to accelerate the change,” Lindberg said.
II. Election News This Week
- Tuesday was primary day in many places cities and towns across the country including in Alaska, Illinois, Kansas, Massachusetts, Missouri, Nevada and Wisconsin:
- In Anchorage, none of the candidates seeking to replace former Mayor Dan Sullivan got 45 percent of the vote so the city will have to hold a runoff election on May 5.
- Turnout was a mixed bag in Illinois with turnout for the Chicago mayoral runoff being higher — albeit during early voting than on election day — than what it was during the original primary. Several issues slowed down the vote count in LaSalle County. Five polling locations in Chicago had to stay open until 8 p.m. because they opened late. In Jackson County, a power outage temporarily stalled voting at one location. Officials in Adams County had to scramble after a fire the night before the election destroyed one of the county’s polling places. The Kane County State’s Attorney’s Office fielded several complaint calls during the day but found no violations at polling places. A ballot error in Ogle County was discovered at about 8 a.m. and staff was able to make the changes to the ballots after only about 10 people had voted. Voters in suburban Cook County were pleased with the new “I Voted” stickers they received on Tuesday, while voters in Lake County once again went stickerless.
- Bad weather created some problems for Saint Louis, Missouri- area voters on Tuesday. Also in Saint Louis, some voters and an official with the St. Louis Board of Elections reported problems at a polling place where a special tax election was being conducted. Voters claimed that they were turned away because of confusion over who could vote for what in the property tax increase vote. In Greene County, more voters turned out than expected — 23 percent.
- And in Nevada reports of a man with a gun near a polling place, which temporarily shut down voting, proved to be unfounded.
- After some wrangling — isn’t there always wrangling when money is involved? — poll workers in Vanderburgh County, Indiana will be seeing pay raise during the next election cycle. While the county election board had sought $14,000 additional dollars to raise the “volunteers” pay, the county council approved $8,000. Inspectors will now make $155, lead judges $125 and clerks $105.
- The Mississippi Board of Elections is considering whether or not the lone candidate in a special election meets all the requirements to serve in the state House. If the candidate does, state law allows for the cancellation of the May 5 special election.
- A review by the Athens-Clarke County, Georgia board of elections found that approximately 20 voters are registered a local UPS Store. The problem was discovered when staff were conducting a routine “street audit.” According to the Athens Banner-Herald, the assumption by elections officials is that the voters in questions are using mailbox services at the store for their mail and listed that address instead of their home address. The elections office will now attempt to contact the voters registered at the store. This is not the first time something like this has happened. Not long ago Minnesota discovered that multiple voters were registered at a local mailbox store.
- It’s the little things really. Due to a clerical error, some voters in Saginaw, Michigan will have to refold their absentee ballots because the ballots were sent from the clerks office improperly folded—potentially revealing how someone voted. About half of the 690 requested absentee ballots have been sent out and will require the voter to refold them.
- Personnel News: Joan C. Rossis stepping down as Putnam County, Tennessee election commission chair after six years. Georgia Elections Director Linda Ford, who had served in the position since 2010 resigned following a “technical” error which inappropriately removed about 8,000 Georgia voters from the rolls. Longtime Chicago Election Board Chairman Langdon Neal is resigning following the mayoral runoff. Neal, who has been on the job for 18 years will be replaced by Marisel Hernandez. Dana Mulligan has been named the new chair of the Salem County, New Jersey board of elections. Matt Snyder is the new head of elections for Watauga County, North Carolina. Melba Isom has announced her retirement from the Dickson County, Tennessee election commission. Donetta Davidson is stepping down as the head of the Colorado County Clerks Association effective June 30. Davidson joined CCCA in 2010 after having served as Colorado’s secretary of state and on the U.S. Election Assistance Commission. Dave Collins has been appointed to the Rowan County, North Carolina board of elections. Joyce Simon has joined the Hawkins County, Tennessee elections commission.
III. Legislative Updates
Alabama: There’s nothing like a good, old-fashioned filibuster and that’s what House Democrats did for about four hours this week while discussing a bill that would move the state’s voter registration deadline from 15 days prior to an election to 30 days. While it’s not clear yet whether the legislation will be defeated it did at least halt the conversation on the legislation for this week.
Alaska: Sen. Lesil McGuire (R-Anchorage) has introduced legislation that would allow Alaskans to register and vote on the same-day. A companion bill has also been introduced in the House. The bills also call for online voter registration. The bills would also change how early voting locations are referred to and would eliminate the term “absentee in-person” and change it to early voting.
Arizona; Legislation that would have limited who can collect early ballots finally and quietly died in the House late last week.
Arkansas: The Legislature has approved an amendment to the state’s constitution, that if approved by voters would no longer require elections officials to hold elections if they are uncontested.
Georgia: Legislation to cut early voting from 21 days to 12 days, which was approved by a House committee in February failed to move to a full House vote before the legislative session ended late last week, effectively killing the legislation.
Nevada: The Assembly Committee on Legislative Operations and Elections is considering legislation that would require a procedure to check whether noncitizens who obtain a Nevada driver authorization card show up on voter registration rolls.
North Carolina: Under House Bill 373, the timeline for counties to purchase new voting equipment would be extended. If approve, 36 counties that currently use DRE machines would have until 2020 to make the switch to paper.
North Dakota: The Senate has approved legislation that makes changes to the state’s voter ID law including changing what types of ID are acceptable. Under the amended law, essentially only a driver’s license, non-driver’s ID, a tribal government card or a long-term care certificate will be acceptable.
Tennessee: Both the Senate (33-0) and the House (75-23) have approved legislation that says “any voter using a mobile electronic or communication device … shall be prohibited from using the device for telephone conversations, recording or taking photographs or videos while inside the polling place.” Once signed, the law goes into effect January 1, 2016. So long selfies!
IV. Legal Updates
Arizona: The Arizona Supreme Court has upheld an appeals court decision — without comment — that says charter cities have a constitutional right to control their own elections, even if consolidating elections would control costs and boost turnout. The original suit stemmed from a 2012 law that forced all Arizona localities to hold their elections on even years.
California: In an 11-0 ruling, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld a California elections law that requires the sponsors of ballot initiatives to identify themselves on the petitions they circulate.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Michael M. Johnson has awarded nearly $1 million in legal fees to the attorneys who sued the City of Whittier for violating the California Voting Rights Act. Although Johnson ultimately dismissed the lawsuit against Whittier after voters approved district-based elections, he said the plaintiffs had “prevailed on a practical level” and therefore should receive the fees.
Connecticut: On Monday, a Superior Court judge in Hartford postponed ruling on whether to grant an injunction that would stop removal hearings by the Hartford council who are determining whether or not to remove the city’s three registrars. The council is permitted to proceed with the removal hearings, but may not hear testimony from witnesses until attorneys for the registrars have time to respond to a brief filed by the city.
Missouri: St. Charles County will pay almost $370,000 to settle a lawsuit brought by employees against the county director that alleged Director Rich Chrismer discriminated against them due to their sex, age or disability.
North Carolina: The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to review questions about two provisions in North Carolina election law regarding same-day registration and out-of-precinct voting. According to the News & Observer, because U.S. District Judge Thomas Schroeder has already set a trial date for July 2015, the SCOTUS decision will have little impact on the law for now.
V. Opinions This Week
National Opinions: Mandatory voting
Arizona: Ballot harvesting
Florida: Online voter registration
Minnesota: Ex-felon voting rights
Mississippi: Election reform
New York: Turnout
Ohio: Student voting
Oregon: Motor Voter
Virginia: Vote centers
Washington: Washington Voting Rights Act
Wisconsin: Voter ID
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.
National Democracy Slam 2015 — National Democracy Slam 2015 is a day-long conference that will explore 17 bold ideas for breaking partisan gridlock, ending gerrymandering, and improving America’s elections and politics. The conference will feature leading electoral reform thinkers and policy makers. The conference will also present attendees with plenty of opportunities to engage with the reforms via a live polling system that will be used throughout the day. Since the conference is being broadcast via webcast, both in-person and online attendees will have an opportunity to weigh in on each of the 17 electoral reforms that are discussed, with real-time results for each poll. When: April 22. Where: American University’s Washington College of Law. For more information and to register, click here.
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 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.