I. In Focus This Week
First Person Singular: Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie
After 8 years tackling elections, Ritchie set to take on the world
Minnesota Secretary of Stat Mark Ritchie was first elected to office in 2006 and was subsequently re-elected in 2010. Although he is not term-limited he has chosen not to seek re-election this year.
Much of Ritchie’s early career was spent in the agriculture and environmental fields working for a variety of ag-based organizations that advocated on behalf of farmers and often long-term sustainability.
It was his work with these organizations that helped lead him down the path to becoming secretary of state. He founded the League of Rural Voters and lead National Voice, a coalition of non-partisan organizations that worked to find new ways for voters to be involved in elections.
During his tenure in the secretary of state’s office, Ritchie has been extremely active in national-level election administration discussions.
He has been a faculty member for election law seminars conducted by the Minnesota Institute for Legal Education, Minnesota Bar Association, University of Minnesota, and William and Mary Law School.
Ritchie served as the president of the National Association of Secretaries of State in 2011. Also in 2011 he received the Dwight David Eisenhower Excellence in Public Service Award that recognized his promotion of peace through mutual respect, understanding and cooperation.
Although he now calls Minnesota home and has represented the state for years, he was born in Georgia and raised in Iowa and graduated from Iowa State University.
You’ve been the Minnesota secretary of state for eight years and aren’t term-limited, why did you choose not to seek re-election?
It is time for me to step aside and make room for a younger leader.
What would you say has been the biggest change you have seen in elections during your tenure?
The use of technology to address barriers that have previously kept some from voting. This includes the ability to email blank ballots to those in the military and overseas; accessible voting equipment for those with physical challenges; and the opportunity to provide voters with a myriad of online tools including voter registration, absentee ballot applications, and look-ups to check the status of registration and absentee ballots.
What was the most difficult time/issue you have faced (elections wise of course) as secretary?
Like many states across the country, we in Minnesota had to combat proposals that would have made it harder for eligible voters to cast their ballots. In 2011, there was a legislative proposal that would have required voters to register using a photo ID bearing their current address. A year after the Governor vetoed this, the proponents attempted to amend Minnesota’s Constitution to embed language in this fundamental document that would have radically changed Minnesota’s best-in-the-nation election system—repealing same-day registration. Fortunately, the citizens of Minnesota rejected this attempt.
What do feel was your greatest accomplishment and why?
We had two statewide recounts in one election cycle, including a U.S. Senate recount during which the eyes of the nation were upon us. In partnership with local election officials and the Minnesota Supreme Court, we conducted these in a timely and transparent manner. State and local staff worked round the clock to ensure that both candidates’ representatives and the public had the opportunity to follow the proceedings and view images of each of the disputed ballots themselves. Minnesota’s election system was put under a microscope and shined — voters from came away with renewed confidence in Minnesota’s elections system.
Is there anything you still hope to accomplish as secretary before leaving office?
One of the key things that Minnesota has done in the last eight years to modernize election administration is integrating the use of more data to update voter registrations and cleanse the voting rolls. We use a variety of resources to update registrations, including data from the U.S. Postal Service; the courts; the Department of Corrections; the Department of Public Safety; and the Social Security Administration.
I’m looking forward to continuing in this vein when Minnesota joins the Election Registration Information Center (ERIC), which will allow us to use data from Minnesota Driver and Vehicle Services Division and other states’ voter registration information to update voter registrations. It will also give us the ability to reach out to the more than 700,000 eligible Minnesota voters who are not registered.
What will you miss most about being secretary of state?
The wide range of duties — from assisting with naturalization ceremonies to encouraging high school seniors to vote. In particular, I will miss the day-to-day contact with the incredibly dedicated local officials and my staff who have made Minnesota tops in the nation in both election administration and voter turnout. I have worked with some of the most extraordinary county, city and township leaders and I will be looking to find new ways to maintain those relationships.
As an expert in the field of elections, where do you see the administration of elections headed?
Some states are moving to make it harder for some citizens to vote, while other states are removing barriers. It is not clear how the citizens will come to view this over time, but for now we will see a widening gap in terms of turnout of eligible voters in the country — and that is not going to serve our country as a whole.
The other trend is in a focus on security of election systems. After a decade or two of experimenting with computer-based voting by some states, many of those jurisdictions that moved in this direction have returned to voting on ballots that can be re-counted in ways that the public can observe and therefore gain greater confidence in the process of settling close elections.
What’s next for you, besides being able to sleep in on election days?
I am looking forward to cheering on the young leader who takes my place as secretary of state and finding new ways to serve my community, state and nation. One thing t I will be doing is helping the local committee that is working to bring the World’s Fair to Minnesota in 2023. We are planning on 10-15 million visitors and I will be working to make sure we’re well-prepared to warmly welcome them all.
II. Primary Roundup
The only item of real note—at least what electionline.org has been able to find — is that the close lieutenant governor’s race will not trigger an automatic recount.
It is assumed that because of the storm absentee voting was up 12 percent in Hawaii.
The biggest impacts of the storm seemed to happen before the primary as elections officials scrambled to set up polling places with foul weather looming.
In Kahala elections officials and voters had to deal with a paper jam in a voting machine with about 50 people waiting in line to cast ballots.
Early-morning voters in Honolulu failed to read the instructions correctly and spoiled their ballots.
The polls were closed in two Big Island polling places on Saturday and on Monday state elections officials announced that the 6,800 voters who had yet to cast a ballot in these precincts would have the opportunity to do so on Friday, Aug. 15.
The candidates and some voters are not happy though about the plan to head to the polls on the 15th and U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa whose seat is on the line pending the votes from these two precincts has asked a court to delay the election until residents have had a chance to recover from the storm.
Minnesota: The only major story out of Minnesota on Tuesday—other than the single-digit turnout—was the increased security at four Minneapolis polling places where a contentious race for the state house was being conducted.
Tennessee: Tennesseans headed to the polls on Thursday August 7 for their primary. Record-numbers of voters had turned out for early voting at the urging of state and local officials who were concerned about the impact lengthy ballots could have on primary-day wait times.
On election day itself, the turnout was a bit slower than what some poll workers expected after the high turnout for early voting.
The elections office in Williamson County was kept busy not only answer questions all day about the primary ballot, but also counting the lengthy ballots after the polls closed.
In Sumner County about 24 people were still in line to vote when the polls closed, but all were eventually able to cast their ballots.
Wisconsin: Although there were some concerns before primary day over the confusion that may be caused by the numerous court rulings surrounding the state’s voter ID law, electionline could find no reports of problems.
There was some confusion in Milwaukee though over ballot design.
Not to be outdone (?) by their neighbors and frequent sporting rivals in Minnesota voter turnout was able to hit double digits — but just barely — with 10 percent turnout.
While things went smoothly both at the polls and during the counting process, the tally was so close in at least three primaries that there will be recounts.
III. Election News This Week
- A federal judge in North Carolina rejected an effort, supported by the U.S. Dept. of Justice, by civil rights groups to block the application of a new state law curtailing early voting and other elections changes.
- Back when MTV was still showing music, Rock The Vote launched as a way to get young people off their couches and into the voting booth. The group has morphed into voting rights organization that now has its eyes set on voter ID. Following the North Carolina decision, the group formed a coalition of numerous musical acts and voting rights organizations to speak out against voter ID laws.
- Following a review of the state’s voter rolls, it appears that there are about 696,000 Hoosiers registered to vote in Indiana, but listed as inactive. The Indiana Secretary of State’s Office originally mailed 4.4 million postcards to all active registered voters in an effort to scrub the voter file of duplicate or inaccurate voters. But about 16 percent of those were returned as undeliverable – causing the need for the second mailing. A second mailing was sent in June to 755,000 people, asking voters to update their registrations.
- No one tried to bring a gun into a polling place during last week’s Washington primary, but questions did arise in Clark County when an elections observer showed up to watch the vote tally sporting a .45 caliber semi-automatic pistol. While the observer was permitted to carry the weapon and no one approached him about it, according to The Columbian, some elections workers expressed concerns after the fact. “We’re going to discuss this with the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office and see what our options might be,” Auditor Greg Kimsey told the paper.
- With limited funds available, registrars in Virginia are trying to figure out how to replace their aging voting machines before problems arise and to fulfill a state mandate. Registrars are not able to repair existing touch-screen machines and must instead replace them with a paper-based system. “I’m a huge fan of touch screens, but if a machine fails, you can’t get another,” Botetourt County Registrar Phyllis Booze told the Roanoke Times. “The biggest question for all of us is the cost of democracy. Do we want to take a chance? Basically those [touch-screen] vendors were legislated out of business. There are no software updates. We’re just sitting and waiting. What might happen and what kind of risk do we want to take?”
- Personnel News: Chris Piper of the Virginia State Election Board is leaving the SBE to become the executive director of the Virginia Ethics and Conflict of Interests Advisory Council. Nora Madru, the Ross County, Ohio board of elections director for more than 20 years is planning to retire at the end of this year.
IV. 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.
Voter Error in Top Two Primary Can Be Far Higher than in RCV Races – by Rob Richie and Eli Hanson-Metayer, FairVote, August 12, 2014: Recent research finds that voters in Bay Area cities made up to nineteen times more errors in Top Two primary elections than in local races where they used ranked choice voting (RCV).
V. Legislative Updates
Federal legislation: Congressman John Delaney (D-Md.) introduced the Open Our Democracy Act that calls for a single primary to election members of the House that would be open to all registered voters regardless of party affiliation.
California: Assemblyman Kevin Mullin (D-South San Francisco) recently introduced legislation to create a process for an automatic statewide recount process. Assembly Bill 2194 would require an automatic recount of all statewide races, even ballot measures, if the difference is less than one-tenth of one percent.
The Senate approved SB-1365 that strengthens the state’s voting rights act and prevents school boards, cities and counties from gerrymandering boundaries in a way that could weaken minority strength.
New York: Advocacy groups are calling on Gov. Andrew Cuomo to veto, for a second time, legislation that would allow communities to use the states outdated, but much beloved lever-voting machines for local and school board elections.
U.S. Virgin Islands: The St. Croix District Board of Elections is forwarding recommendations to the Senate and governor that proposed changes to pending early voting legislation.
Arizona: Ballot mistake
Connecticut: Primary date
Montana: Voter suppression
Nevada: Secretary of state race
New Mexico: Open primaries
North Carolina: Election law changes
Tennessee: Ballot mistakes
Wyoming: Secretary of state race
VI. Upcoming Events
Please email upcoming event — conferences, symposiums, seminars, webinars, etc. to email@example.com.
National Conference of State Legislatures Legislative Summit: Bring home 1,000 ideas from the land of 10,000 lakes this summer. For 40 years, the Legislative Summit is where legislators and staff come together across the aisle to tackle critical problems and find solutions that work. With more than 100 sessions, the time to dig deep into issues you care about, and opportunities to make new friendships and connections. Where: Minneapolis. When: August 19-22, 2014. For more information and to register, click here.
Elections Center 30th Annual National Conference: More information will be forthcoming, but mark your calendars now for the annual conference. Courses offered at the annual conference will include Course 5 (Ethics in Elections); Course 6 (Communications in Election Administration); Renewal Course 20 (Federal Impact on Elections-1960s to present); and New Renewal Course 27. Where: San Francisco. When: August 19-23, 2014. For more information and to register, click here.
National Association of County Recorders, Elections Officials and Clerks: More information will be forthcoming, but mark your calendars now for the annual conference. Where: Long Beach, Calif. When: August 22-25, 2014. For more information and to register, click here.
National Association of State Election Directors: More information will be forthcoming, but mark your calendars now for the annual conference. Where: San Francisco. When: August 22-24, 2014. For more information and to register, click here.
National Voter Registration Day — The 3rd annual National Voter Registration Day is scheduled for September 23. In its first two years, more than 1,000 groups and 10,000 volunteers registered over 360,000 people to vote. When: September 23. For more information, click here.
EVOTE2014: Verifying the Vote — The Competence Center for Electronic Voting and Participation is hosting a 6th annual conference on electronic voting. This conference is one of the leading international event for e-voting experts from all over the world. One of its major objectives is provide a forum for interdisciplinary and open discussion of all issues relating to electronic voting. The format of the conference is a three-day meeting that deals with the topics from a both a theoretical perspective and a practical one. Practical papers should use case studies. No parallel sessions will be held, and sufficient space will be given for informal communication. Where: Lochau/Bregenz, Austria. When: October 29-31, 2014. For more information, click here.
National Student/Parent Mock Election — Now in it’s 34th year, the National Student/Parent Mock Election invites you to join the world’s largest national mock election and nation’s larges civic education project. Since 1980, students have learned what it means to be informed voters, casting votes for Presidential, U.S. Congressional and gubernatorial candidates. What’s more, students continue to demonstrate the value of civic engagement – from organizing their own debates and campaign activities to holding student rallies. When: October 30, 2014. For more information and to register, please click here.
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 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.
Director or Deputy Director, Wayne County, Ohio — pursuant to Directive 2012-23 from the Ohio Secretary of State, notice is given that the Wayne County Board of Elections is currently accepting applications for the position of Director or Deputy Director. A candidate for Director or Deputy Director will be required to lead the fulfillment of the following minimum duties: Prepare and conduct all primary, general and special elections held in the county; process, evaluate and report election results; recruit and train precinct election officials; supervise the processing of voter records; keep a full and true record of the proceedings of the board and all moneys received and expended; file and preserve in the board office all orders, records, and reports pertaining to the administration of voter registrations and elections; prepare the minutes of board meetings; audit campaign finance reports; calculate charge backs to political subdivisions; receive and have custody of all books, papers, and property belonging to the board; perform such other duties in connection with the office of director and the proper conduct of elections as the Secretary of State and Board determine; review all Directives, Advisories, Memoranda, correspondence and materials issued by the Secretary of State and take action as required by those communications; supervise and instruct board employees, assign work, coordinate activities, make recommendations concerning hiring, responsibilities, compensation, discipline, and discharge of board employees; and develop a proposed annual budget to be submitted to the county commissioners, upon approval of the board of elections, and monitor the board’s budget and payroll relative to current year appropriations. Qualifications: A candidate for Director or Deputy Director of a board of must have a baseline understanding of the rules, processes, procedures and equipment used in local election administration, including: operating voting machines used in the county and other automated office equipment; managing a successful and efficient database; using, understanding and applying election law terminology; knowing the basics of Ohio’s “sunshine laws” governing open meetings and public records; and receiving and implementing assignments and instructions from board members and Secretary of State’s office. Candidate must, to the satisfaction of the board, have the experience and capability to manage the day-to-day operations of that county’s board of election. To this end, the candidate must possess: effective written and interpersonal communication abilities; strong organizational skills and attention to detail; familiarity with relevant state and federal human resources policies and practices; familiarity with the handling of budgets and public appropriation of funds; ability to perform duties as assigned by the law, the county board of election, and/or the Secretary of State; ability to convey or exchange information, including giving and managing assignments or direction to board personnel; ability to be adept and to perform in a professional manner under stressful or emergency situations; ability to comprehend a variety of informational documents; and ability to conduct self at all times in a professional and courteous manner. Education: must have a high school diploma or have attained the equivalency of a high school diploma (GED). College level education is desired. Deadline: September 4. Application: Candidates should submit a cover letter and current resume confidentially to: Attention: B. Jean Mohr, Chair; Wayne County Board of Elections; 200 Vanover St., Suite #1; Wooster, OH 44691.