I. In Focus This Week
NOTE: Our friends and colleagues at the Pew Center on the States have launched a new monthly newsletter that summarizes the latest work and research of the Election Initiatives team. You can see the inaugural issue here, which highlights Pew’s work on voter registration and looks back at recent Election Data Dispatches focusing on provisional ballots and the cost of elections. You can subscribe at the bottom of the page to get this information monthly. Check it out! – Doug Chapin, Director
News Analysis: Gloves come off as general election approaches
State and local election officials butt heads over variety of issues
With only 75 days until the November 6, 2012 General Election, more and more news stories are focusing on the increasingly contentious nature of the administration of that election — especially between state and local officials.
From voter purges to early voting to a general lack of confidence, state election officials seem to be clashing with local elections administrators on a more frequent basis as summer turns to fall.
Interestingly enough — or not — most of these state/local clashes have occurred in swing states.
One of the more high profile instances has been in Florida, where Gov. Rick Scott recently threated to remove from office Monroe County Supervisor of Elections Harry Sawyer for Sawyer’s failure to agree with the state’s early voting law.
Scott and several elections supervisor butted heads over the state’s plans to review information from the U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security and purge voter rolls of potential non-citizens, but it never reached the height that it has over early voting.
The administration is attempting to get all counties, including five covered by the Voting Rights Act to offer eight, 12-hour days of early voting. Four of the counties agreed to the change in early voting, but Monroe did not.
“What I told them is that the days are more important than the hours,” Sawyer, who has held the post for 24 years, told The Miami Herald.
According to the paper, in every election in the Keys, Sawyer said, early voting participation has increased. “It’s working for us,” he said. “I told them, if it’s not broke, don’t fix it.”
In a statement released by his office, Scott said he is willing to ““take all necessary and appropriate action to ensure that the laws are faithfully executed, that supervisors are fulfilling their duties, and that the voters of this state have free and fair elections.”
“He is trying to intimidate me. There’s no doubt about it,” Sawyer told the Herald/Times. “As of right now, this law (mandating eight days of early voting) has not been pre-cleared (in Monroe). He is going to have to wait just like the rest of us. His statement is inappropriate at this point.”
On Wednesday, the state’s Democrat Party accused Scott of bullying Sawyer—a Republican.
“At this point, the only person doing precisely what he’s supposed to do is the Monroe County supervisor of elections,” State Senator Dan Gelber told the News-Press.
Early voting is at the heart of the battle in Ohio as well where late last week Secretary of State Jon Husted suspended two Democrats from the Montgomery County board of elections for failing to comply with his directive make uniform early voting hours throughout the state.
After Democrats Thomas Ritchie Sr. and Dennis Lieberman voted to extend early voting hours beyond the state mandate, Husted, a Republican, sent the Democrats a letter saying in part:
“You therefore leave me no choice but to begin the process necessary to remove you as members of the Montgomery County Board of Elections.”
Ritchie and Lieberman appeared at a hearing on Monday in attempt to stop their firing.
“To have board members in the context of a forced meeting that would violate the Sunshine Law, and requiring the board members to do essentially something that is unlawful, and penalizing them because they didn’t do what you wanted them to do in this unlawful meeting is something that just doesn’t seem to smell right,” attorney Don McTigue argued before hearing officer Jon Allison.
Allison said he hopes to make his recommendation by the end of this week.
In Colorado, Secretary of State Scott Gessler recently issued a report giving Teller County Clerk JJ Jamison a “no confidence” evaluation. In response to his report, Gessler assigned former Arapahoe County Deputy Clerk of Elections Al Davidson to assist Jamison and her staff.
According to the Colorado Springs Gazette, Gessler’s spokesperson said the secretary decided Jamison “needs additional help from a seasoned elections administrator.”
“Al (Davidson) is there on our behalf,” Rich Coolidge told the paper. “The secretary has mandated that he be our official election observer.”
Arkansas clerks are fighting mad over comments made by Secretary of State Mark Martin’s spokesman Alex Reed who, according to the El Dorado News-Times told a partisan group in Union County that he believes illegal immigrants are able to register and vote in part because of apathetic county clerks.
Reed, who said he was speaking to the group on his own time and not in an official capacity, is active in the state’s GOP politics and a party delegate.
Following Reed’s comments, the Arkansas Association of County Clerks (AACC) polled its members and found no problems with undocumented immigrants registering and voting in The Natural State.
“[R]ather than simply reacting in the heat of the moment to these comments, we thought it would be in the best interest of Arkansas taxpayers to have a conversation statewide among county clerks,” Rhonda Cole, AACC president and Clark County clerk said in a statement from the group. “In doing so, we found no evidence of illegal immigrants registering to vote.”
“I think that an apology is probably due to all of my employees, to all of the people that work so hard to make this process work, to all of the election officials that are part of it,” Crane told Arkansas Matters.
II. Election News This Week
- The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania was back in court this week, only this time it was over allegations that the state had been shirking its duties under 1993’s National Voter Registration Act. Two federal judges approved an agreement between The Keystone State and activists who had sued the state over its failure to provide voter registration opportunities to low-income residents. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, requires the departments of Public Welfare and Health to make voter materials available whenever clients apply for or renew benefits or change their address, in person or off-site.
- Guam is partnering with the Republic of Palau to help the tiny Pacific Island nation save a bit of money when it prints its ballots. If an agreement is reached between the U.S. territory and the associated state, the Guam Election Commission will print Palau’s general election ballots. “It is a way to share costs with Guam,” Palau Election Commission Vice President Greg Decherong told the Pacific News Center. “Its a very small number of ballots, having to order it separately is costing us quite a bit.” Palau has approximately 21,000 residents. Although a sovereign nation, Palau is an associated state with United States with the U.S. providing defense, funding and access to social services.
- This week in language accessibility news, a bill approved by the California Assembly (SB1233) would require petition circulators in 28 counties to keep up to nine language translations of initiative and referendum summaries available at all times to show potential signers. According to the Associated Press, supporters said the bill allows minorities to fully participate in the initiative process. And across the country in New York, the state’s attorney general sent letters to 10 counties advising them to accommodate Spanish-speaking voters from Puerto Rico as required by federal law. According to the Associated Press, the letters noted that counties without effective plans could face civil liability. Several had lacked Spanish translations on their websites.
- Personnel News: H. Maxine Daniels, DeKalb County, Ga. elections director recently received her certification as a Certified Elections/Registration Administrator (CERA). Former Dyer, Ind. councilmember Dennis M. Hawrot has been appointed as a Democratic member of the Lake County board of elections. Nevada Secretary of State Ross Miller made his debut in MMA this week, won his fight and promptly retired from fighting. “I’m one and done,” Miller told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “Competing in an Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) event was on my bucket list. Now that I’ve got done it I’ve got a day job and an important election coming up.” A jury in Monroe County, Tenn. convicted Jessica Kennedy of the facilitation of felony murder, facilitation of aggravated robbery, facilitation of arson and facilitation of the abuse of a corpse in the 2010 death of Monroe County election commission Chairman Jim Miller. Longtime Shawnee County Election Commissioner Elizabeth Ensley Deiter was recently appointed as a magistrate judge and must therefore step down from the post she’s held since 1992. Following her retirement at the end of the year, long-time Sonoma County, Calif. clerk-recorder-assessor and elections chief Janice Atkinson will be replace by the county’s deputy assessor Bill Rousseau. Rousseau lost to Atkinson in the 2006 election or the seat.
- In Memoriam: Hoyt Clifton, known as New Mexico’s “Mister Elections” after working for decades as the director of the state Elections Bureau, died Tuesday, Aug. 14. He was 82. Clifton served under six secretaries of state before retiring in 1994. “He was totally fair, totally honest, totally nonpartisan, just a very decent man,” current Elections Director Denise Lamb told the Santa Fe New Mexican. Lamb worked with Clifton for nine years and took his place after he retired. “Those were big boots to fill,” said Lamb. Clifton began is public service career working in the Quay County road department before moving to Santa Fe in 1969 to oversea the states voting machines.
- Award Nomination: IFES’ Joe C. Baxter Award recognizes the contribution of a professional whose skills, dedication and sacrifices to the field of election administration epitomizes the mission of IFES and embodies the spirit of former IFES Senior Adviser for Election Administration Joe C. Baxter.We encourage you to submit a nominee for the 2012 Joe C. Baxter Award. IFES looks for an individual whose work has focused on building local ownership and capacity; improving election administration procedures; and creating sustainable democratic processes. This year’s award will be presented at a special reception on Monday, November 5, in Washington, D.C.Submit a name for the 2012 Joe C. Baxter Award. The nomination period closes on September 19 at 9:00 a.m. EST.Learn more about IFES’ Baxter Award.
Hawaii: Absentee voting
Maine: Voter ID
New Hampshire: Voter ID
New Mexico: Voter purge
Oregon: Secretary of state
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V. 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.
Deputy Commissioner for Communications, Philadelphia Election Commission — maintains effective relationships with state government, the press, and various government departments of the City of Philadelphia. Qualifications include: Dedication to the mission of Commissioner Singer’s office: free, fair elections, informed, engaged electorate, and a fair, respectful workplace; significant experience with elections and civic engagement; familiarity with Philadelphia neighborhoods and political traditions; second language fluency (Spanish or another major Philadelphia language); and advanced data analysis skills (e.g., MySQL, php). Salary: $50K-$64K. Deadline: Immediate opening, available until filled. Application: Please submit (hard copy to Room 130, City Hall, Philadelphia, 19107 AND electronic copy to email@example.com): Resume, list of references with contact information, persuasive writing sample (e.g., press release), analytical writing sample, and work product of which you are particularly proud (optional). For the complete job posting, click here.
Elections Director, Luzerne County, Pa. — Performs work of planning, directing, coordinating and controlling overall operations of the Bureau of Elections Department to ensure that goals and objectives are accomplished by performing the following duties personally or through subordinate staff and/or supervisors; performs related work as required or assigned by the division head. Minimum Qualifications: Bachelors Degree from accredited college or university with major course work in public, business administration or closely related field; four years of proven elections management experience; two years supervisory or administrative capacity; two years management experience involving campaigns/elections; experience with electronic voting machines (programming & maintenance). Salary: $50-56,000. For complete job posting and how to apply, click here.
Elections Division Manager, Santa Barbara County, Calif. – Under administrative direction, directs, manages, supervises, and coordinates the activities and operations of the Election Division within the County Clerk, Recorder & Assessor’s Office in a manner consistent with applicable federal and state legislation and administrative procedures; assist in the establishment and evaluation of County elections policies and procedures; provides highly responsible and complex administrative support to the Chief Deputy Registrar of Voters; and may oversee programs and special projects for the County Clerk, Recorder and Assessor’s Department in periods where an election is not scheduled. A Division Manager is also responsible for the development, administration, and control of associated budgets. Ideal candidate will have: Experience in performing duties directly related to the preparation and conduct of elections; knowledge of the California Elections, Government and Education codes, and applicable laws, rules, procedures, court cases, regulations and ordinances that affect the preparation and conduct of elections; the ability to promote teamwork among groups with differing priorities; a proven track record of successfully overcoming obstacles to achieve results; analyzing problems and identifying solutions; and applying election laws and procedures. Salary: $70-106,443 DOQ. Deadline: September 6, 2012. For complete job posting and how to apply, click here.
Legal Externs, Fair Elections Legal Network, Washington, D.C. — The Fair Elections Legal Network (FELN) is seeking reliable law students with strong academic credentials for legal externships for the fall 2012 school term. Externs would be expected to commit to a minimum of 10-15 hours per week. Primary responsibilities will include supporting the work of the legal staff to identify and respond to legal and administrative obstacles to voting rights and voter participation. Duties will include performing legal research; identifying relevant legal, rulemaking, or legislative proceedings; and interacting with election reform organizations and election officials. Additional responsibilities may include assisting with outreach and organizing for a student voting project. Great opportunity for exposure to election law for someone who is a self-starter and comfortable handling significant responsibility. Must possess strong research, analytic, and written and oral communications skills. Ability to meet deadlines required. To apply please send a cover letter, resume, and writing sample to Ben Hovland at firstname.lastname@example.org
Manager, Elections Initiatives, Pew Center on the States, Washington, D.C. — Manager will serve as the lead manager across all the Election Initiatives. The Manager reports to the Director, Election Initiatives, who is based in Washington, DC, and will be part of a project staff including: a director, a senior officer, two managers, three senior associates, an associate, an administrative assistant and a research fellow. This position is funded through June 20, 2013. Qualifications Include: Eight + years of professional experience in public policy in general and election administration, technology policy, and open government in particular; undergraduate degree required; Masters or other advanced degree in a relevant area preferred; experience working with election officials, academics, technology experts, voting technology vendors, and other relevant stakeholders; proven programming skills in multiple languages including XML and strong system skills in Microsoft Office products required. Familiarity with HTML, mapping, geographic information systems, voting technology vendors’ proprietary software, open source formats, and data management tools (Google Maps, Bing Maps, ArcGIS) and their prospects for use in elections technology preferred; demonstrated strong analytical, qualitative, and quantitative skills applied to public policy issues, including an ability to synthesize and summarize large amounts of information and to focus quickly on the essence of an issue; and a strong familiarity with statistical analysis software (e.g. SPSS, Stata, SAS). For complete listing and application, click here.
Manager, Communications, Elections Initiatives, Pew Center on the States, Washington, D.C. — offers a unique opportunity for an individual to contribute to exciting, high-profile initiatives. Reports to the Pew Center on the States’ Senior Officer, Communications and is part of the staff of Pew’s communications department. The communications manager is responsible for developing and executing a comprehensive and robust communications program to increase the visibility and impact of Pew’s experts, research, initiatives and events with target audiences. This position will also work with other communications colleagues to plan and execute integrated strategies, campaigns and outreach and other duties as assigned. Qualifications Include: Bachelor’s degree required including skills associated with completion of an undergraduate degree program in communications, journalism or related major; graduate degree in public affairs, public policy or journalism desirable; at least eight years of direct experience in position with communications/PR responsibilities, with considerable experience as a media relations professional – knowledge of pitching, media strategies – required. Experience in public policy preferred; superior oral and written communications skills. Proven experience drafting media materials and other public documents including press releases, fact sheets, speeches and op-eds; ability to manage and ensure professional development of junior staff; able to build and leverage relationships within and external to Pew to assemble networks that facilitate positive outcomes. For more information and to apply, click here.