I. In Focus This Week
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Kansas county works to make sure everyone may vote
County will produce its own voter ID cards for eligible resident
There was no “ah-ha” moment that led Douglas County, Kan. Clerk Jaime Shew to his decision to begin offering county-produced photo IDs for residents, but more of a culmination of a series of events that gave Shew pause about his constituents’ ability to legally cast a ballot.
This year, Kansas joins a growing list of states requiring voters to show an officially sanctioned form of photo ID in order to vote. And while number and types of acceptable forms of ID is always increasing, Shew said he was still hearing from residents about the difficulty in obtaining the required ID.
Initially there were concerns about limited hours at the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) as well as long lines, then there were concerns from nursing homes and other group living situations, and then there were concerns about accommodating residents without a home.
When the secretary of state’s office announced it would be producing an ID in their office for residents born out of state and unable to meet the DMV guidelines without purchasing a birth certificate, Shew said this further enhanced his pursuit of this project.
Shew began to research how other states, like Georgia, implemented their law and to see what his office could do to help make getting a voter ID more mobile while still staying within the spirit of the law.
“Our intention was not to replace the state free ID but to provide another point of contact and an additional level of service for our citizens above what was currently being offered,” Shew said. “Our office was able to come up with something mobile with additional hours and weekend availability. Basically, in short we realized there a number of concerns and asked the question, how can serve the needs of our citizens while staying in compliance with the law?”
Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach has been a staunch supporter of voter ID, not only in The Sunflower State but throughout the country as well. Kobach has not come down in support of Shew’s program yet, nor has he opposed it either at this time.
“The Secretary of State’s Office is making every effort to make sure all Kansans have access to photographic identification in advance of the upcoming elections,” Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach said in a statement. “The Douglas County Clerk’s Office is engaged in a similar effort. We will continue to work with Douglas County to ensure that photographic identification documents are issued in a responsible manner with the proper verification of identity.”
After his non-“ah-ha” moment, Shew said the first thing he did was work with county attorneys to ensure that the county-issued IDs would not open the county up to a legal challenge. Following that he worked with stakeholders to ensure what his office planned to do would actually help.
Then Shew and his team began thinking about what the IDs would look like and ultimately how much it would cost.
“It was very important for me these cards are secure and professional,” Shew said. “We worked with the ID vendor for the county to choose the right product and card. The card has multiple layers of security both visible and invisible to the carrier. The cards also include a statement on the back with makes it clear they are only to be used for voting and have no legal authority for any other function; i.e. buying alcohol, boarding a plane, etc.”
The cost per ID is .82 cents per card. Shew chose to use a card with additional security features including UV printing which added to the cost per card. Without the security features, the cards would have been about .67 cents per card.
Although the office could have used existing ID printers available in the county, Shew chose to purchase a new printer so that it could be housed in the clerk’s office.
Finally, Shew began to consider the process itself.
“We did not just want to start taking pictures and handing out ID’s there needed to be a secure, rigid, professional process in place,” Shew said. “As a local government there are sometimes assumptions that we do not know how to implement a policy or are not professional in our approach, I wanted to show this process was well planned and implemented.”
To-date the county has produced two of the voter ID cards, but Shew expects the program to expand rapidly once staff start going mobile.
“By being mobile, we will be able to take pictures and collect applications at an informational fairs that we would possible attend,” Shew said.
Even opponents of voter support the effort that Shew is making at the local level to ensure that everyone has the proper ID.
“Assuming the county IDs will in fact be accepted for voting in Kansas, I see only an upside to this plan,” said Wendy Weiser, director Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice. “No matter what your views are on voter ID, we can all agree that where ID requirements are in place, we should be doing everything we can to make sure that eligible citizens can get the IDs they need to vote. Ideally, states would take on this responsibility. But since they have not, voters would be well-served by local governments following Douglas County’s lead in states that accept county IDs.”
Shew seems to think that many counties could offer their own voter IDs as long as it complies with state law
“If another county considers this, I encourage them to make a list of potential criticisms of their process and build it to address those concerns,” Shew said. “Finally, have your plan in place before announcement and include multiple stakeholders, including other county offices, to help you think of any possible challenges you have overlooked.”
II. Election News This Week
- Controversy continued to swirl this week on the Big Island of Hawai’i about recent questions on the county clerk’s handling of a voter roll review. Last week the elections office in Kona in Hawaii County for “auditing” yet no one at the state level knew exactly what was going on with the audit. On Monday, there were reports that the FBI had become involved into an investigation of voter fraud allegations on the Big Island. However, on Tuesday, Hawaii County Clerk Jamae Kawauchi met with the media and said the office was closed to give her staff “quiet time” to review the county’s yellow voter registration cards. According to KITV, the review found that about half of the registration cards were returned because of incorrect addresses or clerical errors. Honolulu Elections Administrator Glen Takahashi defended Kawauchi saying the relatively small amount of discrepancies found by Kawauchi and her staff are typical in an election year, and it appears she overreacted by shutting down the Hilo office. Something that Kawauchi admitted herself. According to the television station, Kawauchi said she is new to the job, and admitted she made mistakes, including poor communication with the elections office, and possibly overreacting to the registration errors. All four of the state’s county clerks met with Chief Elections Officer Scott Nago and following the meeting Nago said he feels the issues on the Big Island have been addressed.
- Following months of protests and confusion, Nebraska Secretary of State John Gale has approved a plan by Douglas County Election Commissioner Dave Phipps for the number and locations of polling places open for the November 6 general election. The plan will include opening 28 new polling places throughout the county. “It is my opinion that Commissioner Phipps and his staff have submitted a commendable and thoughtful proposal,” Gale said in a statement Tuesday.
- The U.S. Dept. of Justice sued the state of Michigan over the 70 of the state’s jurisdictions failing to send out military and overseas absentee ballots in time. The suit seeks an order requiring that the hundreds of military and overseas voters be given more time for their votes to be counted. According to Michigan Live, federal attorneys also are seeking to make sure all absentee votes are counted for the Sept. 5 special primary election.
- Personnel News: Gonzales County, Texas will eliminate it’s election administrator position — currently held by Suzi Twomey — effective August 11. Following the termination of the office, elections will be handled by the county clerk’s office. Dr. Gisela Salas, director of the Florida Division of Elections resigned this week. John Boynton, deputy secretary of state will oversee the operations of the division — including the upcoming primary — in the interim.
Colorado: Scott Gessler
Georgia: Fulton County
Illinois: Voting system
Kansas: Douglas County
Louisiana: Voting integrity
Massachusetts: Vote count
Michigan: Computer system
North Carolina: Vote-by-mail;
Virginia: Ex-felon voting rights
Washington: Voting rights
Wisconsin: Poll workers
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IV. Job Openings
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Elections Director, Rock the Vote, Washington, D.C. — Director will oversee its national 2012 voter registration, education and get-out-the-vote campaign. This senior level position is critical to our organization’s success in 2012 and beyond. The ideal candidate is an experienced leader and manager, who is comfortable working with online technologies and grassroots communities, and has a passion for the work. Oh, and is creative, smart, and pro-active too. The position will work closely with and report directly to Rock the Vote’s President. Qualifications: 7-10 years experience working in political and/or grassroots organizations; 3-5 years experience managing staff and volunteers; proven and highly effective organizational skills (in other words, extremely detailed oriented).Proven and highly effective written and oral communication skills; ability to multitask and shift priorities; aptitude for working under tight deadlines in a fast-paced environment; commitment to the organizational mission; ability to work very closely with other members of the team, but also to manage your own work independently; a sense of humor. Salary: Salary is competitive and benefits include health & dental insurance. Application: Email resume and cover letter, plus three references with phone and email, to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include “Elections Director” in the subject line. Deadline: Position will be filled as soon as possible. For more information and the complete job posting, click here.