I. In Focus This Week
First Person Singular: Angie Rogers
Reflecting on the first post-Katrina election in Orleans Parish
By Angie Rogers
Louisiana Commissioner of Elections
April 22, 2006, almost eight months exactly after Hurricane Katrina hit on August 29, 2005; we conducted the first election in Orleans Parish for all local offices such as Mayor, Sheriff and Councilman, to name a few.
And it was the hardest, yet most rewarding, work and accomplishment of my legal/elections career over the past 27 years.
But as the old saying goes, there is no “I” in “Team” and although I was tasked with the duty of organizing and administering the election as the Commissioner of Elections, the team that we put together at the Secretary of State’s office was the reason behind our success!
Secretary of State at the time, Al Ater, suggested we start a “war room” where we could meet and brainstorm and bring in staff to delegate and assist. He reminded us that we had to make decisions and if we made 10 decisions, maybe one would not be the best, but it had to be done.
“Analysis paralysis” was one of his mottos and time was not on our side to delay decision-making.
We put together an emergency election plan and swiftly passed it through our legislature in a special session and we began our work in the war room planning and making decisions.
I reflect back today and will never forget the images of destruction and despair of 10 years ago, but I will also never forget the war room of teamwork, camaraderie, sweat and tears that we all shared in putting together and implementing the emergency plan, strategizing and learning great lessons along the way, not necessarily always about elections but about life and all the things that we normally take for granted.
Eight months following the hurricane and we imported almost everything into the City of New Orleans – water, food, flashlights, pens, computers, lunch boxes, ice chests, over 1,000 signs, sand bags, fax machines, copiers, disposable trash cans, fans, mini air-conditioning units, buses and vans, on-call drivers, lights, extension cords, cables, tables, chairs, portable restrooms, cell phones, two-way radios, maps to polling locations, security officers, voting machine technicians from around the state, polling place commissioners from neighboring parishes, and over 22,000 early voting ballots from around the state.
Eight months and we were navigating through a city of darkness but through a city of great resolve and determination to come back and to come back stronger and better than ever and we got to play a part in that by allowing the voters of New Orleans to express their choice in the people that would lead them home.
It wasn’t just about conducting the election; it was about providing hope and an opportunity and being able to be a part of it all!
Editor’s Note: Ten years ago, two friends from D.C. wanted to help those affected by Hurricane Katrina so they headed to St. Bernard Parish and ended up creating the St. Bernard Project which to-date has built almost 900 homes in Louisiana, Joplin, Missouri and parts of New York and New Jersey affected by Superstorm Sandy. There are many worthy organizations still hard at work on the Gulf Coast, but if you are looking for a way to give back either by volunteering or donating, please consider the St. Bernard Project.
II. Election News This Week
- The nonpartisan Legislative Audit Bureau released an audit of the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board late last week that found no major problems with the nonpartisan board that oversees the state’s elections. According to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, the audit had two recommendations: that the board consistently resolve complaints in a timely manner and that staff consistently provide the board with the names of three people who can be hired to work as special investigators. “It puts to rest any questions as to whether the six board members exercise independent judgment when they make decisions about complaints, investigations and penalties,” Director Kevin Kennedy told the paper.
- The U.S. Election Assistance Commission has ruled that states are free to use HAVA grant funds to pay for criminal investigations of potential voter fraud. According to The Associated Press, the 3-0 decision, that wasn’t discussed in public, was delivered on August 13 in response to former Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz’s decision to use the federal funds to pay for a staff member to investigate potential voter fraud.
- In a letter released this week Richmond Commonwealth’s Attorney Michael Herring said that he will not seek charges against former Botetourt County Voter Registrar Phyllis Booze. According to The Roanoke Times, Herring wrote that while Booze may have violated state law by living outside of the county, she lacked criminal intent.
- According to The Associated Press, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf and Secretary of State Pedro Cortes plan to announce the launch of online voter registration in the Commonwealth on Thursday, August 27. The launch would make Pennsylvania the 23rd state with an active OVR system. Despite protests from some lawmakers, officials in the Wolf administration said legislative approval to create and launch an OVR system is not necessary.
- While the debate rages in the op-ed pages, Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon has gone on the record to point out that under Minnesota law, ballot selfies are in fact legal—though showing anyone a ballot to someone else in the place is not. “It’s a fascinating debate,” Simon told the Pioneer Press. “You really better have a good reason before you clamp down on political speech.” Simon said he isn’t worried about vote-buying because the state’s law prohibiting it are pretty ironclad. “That’s probably the better approach than to risk encroaching on people’s free speech rights.”
- Personnel News: Lonzie White is the new Dougherty County, Georgia elections board chairman. Pinki Jackel has been named the Apalachicola County, Florida supervisor of elections. Martin County, Florida Supervisor of Elections Vicki Davis has filed paperwork to seek a fourth term in the office. Ogle County, Illinois Clerk Rebecca Huntley announced that she will retire following the 2016 primary in March.
III. Legislative Updates
California: Senate Bill 49 was approved by the Assembly Elections and Redistricting Committee this week and heads next to the Appropriations Committee. Under the proposed legislation, the governor would be given discretion to cancel special elections when only one candidate qualifies for the ballot.
Louisiana: A legislative study into the state’s registrars is ongoing. “We’re off to a really good start,” Rep. Mike Danahay, D-Sulphur told WAFB. Lawmakers are considering changes to how registrars receive pay raises, evaluate themselves and how they are appointed in the first place. Recommendations approved by the committee will be used to draft legislation for the 2016 session.
Massachusetts: Legislation allowing Marlborough to relocate two polling places is awaiting Gov. Charlie Baker’s signature.
IV. Legal Updates
Kansas: Secretary of State Kris Kobach has asked a Sedgwick County judge to block the release of voting machine tapes that are being sought by Wichita State University mathematician Beth Clarkson. Kobach argues that the records are not subject to Kansas open records act.
In other legal news, a Topeka judge has denied a move by Kobach to quash a lawsuit challenging the state’s two-tier voter registration system and Judge Franklin Theis said Kobach had exceeded his authority with the way he runs elections.
North Carolina: Wake County Superior Court Judge Michael Morgan heard arguments this week about whether or not changes enacted this summer to soften North Carolina’s voter ID requirements should end a lawsuit that claims the state’s voting law violates the state constitution.
Ohio: The Associated Press reports thatthe Ohio Democratic Party and two of its county organizations are seeking to join a federal lawsuit filed in May that alleges that election laws and rules disproportionately burden Democratic-leaning voters. The Ohio Organizing Collaborative brought the case. But in court filings last week, the organization’s attorneys asked Magistrate Judge Norah McCann King to let it withdraw and substitute in its place the state’s Democratic Party and Cuyahoga and Montgomery county parties.
Texas: According to The Houston Chronicle, in court filings last week, the Justice Department and civil rights organizations asked the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to allow a lower court to start working immediately on an interim remedy to the state’s voter ID law passed in 2011. The Justice Department and the civil rights groups argue that timeline might not allow for an interim solution to be put in place across the state for early voting, which starts Oct. 19. They’ve asked the 5th Circuit to allow the federal court in Corpus Christi to come up with a fix earlier.
Utah: The Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission is threatening to sue San Juan County saying that the 2014 vote-by-mail election had a negative impact on Navajo voters. Among other things, the commission contends that because the county has the responsibility to provide language assistance and the vote-by-mail system eliminates that assistance.
V. Tech Thursday
Colorado: Congratulations goes to the Denver Elections Division for winning the Democracy Award from the Election Center for it’s tablet app for candidate petition signing. Denver’s election office won the same award in 2013, for a project that rolled out the use of iPads by elderly and disabled voters to mark ballots.
VI. Opinions This Week
California: Ballot selfies
Colorado: Overseas voters
New Jersey: Turnout
South Carolina: Voting rights lawsuit
South Dakota: Jackson County
Texas: Election managers
Virginia: Voting machines
VII. Available Funding
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.
MEOC Conference — The Midwest Election Officials Conference is back! Following a several-year hiatus, Brian Newby, Johnson County, Kansas election commissioner is bringing back the regional conference for elections officials. There are still a lot of details to work out, but if you’re an elections official in the Midwest, mark your calendars now! Where: Kansas City area. When: September 30-October 2. For more information, stay tuned to electionline and Brian Newby’s Election Diary.
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 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.
Agency Information Technology Manager, Hartford, Connecticut — directs staff and operations of an agency technology system; coordinates, plans and manages division activities; formulates program goals and objectives; develops or assists in development of related policy; interprets and administers pertinent laws; evaluates staff; prepares or assists in preparation of division budget; maintains contacts with individuals both within and outside the division who might impact on program activities. Salary: $93,896. Deadline: September 11. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Elections Manager, Cowlitz County, Washington — position manages voter registration and administers all elections in Cowlitz County, Washington. The Elections Manager trains and supervises permanent and temporary staff responsible for preparing and conducting elections, voter registration maintenance and other duties needed to comply with statutes and deadlines. The Elections Manager resolves election issues, whenever they occur, to ensure elections and voter registration activities are not obstructed. Salary: $4,156. Deadline: Open unit filled. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Elections Technology Specialist III, 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. Ability to work effectively under pressure while remaining positive and flexible is also key to success. This position requires additional hours; evenings, weekends, and some county holidays as needed during election cycles. Salary: $52,572-$75,696. Deadline: Open until filled. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
IT Coordinator, Bowen Center for Public Affairs, Dept. of Political Science, Ball State University — administer and coordinate all activities related to the computer operations and databases created and maintained by the Voting system Technical Oversight Program (VSTOP) in the Bowen Center for Public Affairs; work with the co-directors and other staff of the project; provide professional and technical advice in the areas of maintaining and integrating databases and web-based interfaces; maintain responsibility for all database operations; update protocols used in the testing of voting equipment and related peripherals and provide oversight on field tests of voting equipment. Deadline: Open until filled. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Trial Attorney, U.S. Department of Justice, Washington, D.C.— trial attorneys selected for these positions will be responsible for developing investigations and litigation addressing all aspects of the Voting Section’s enforcement duties. Responsibilities include: (1) planning and conducting investigations to assess potential violations of the federal laws enforced by the Voting Section; (2) analyzing and evaluating data and evidence, including witness statements, documents, electronic databases and records, demographic and geographic data, election records, historical evidence and statistical studies; (3) researching factual and legal issues, including likely defenses and counter-arguments; (4) preparing written recommendations for further investigation and/or litigation and drafting pleadings; (5) litigating cases, including conducting pre-trial written discovery, electronic discovery and depositions, drafting motions, briefs, and other court filings, working with expert witnesses, trial preparation and conducting hearings and trials; and (6) drafting settlement proposals, preparing for and participating in settlement negotiations, and monitoring compliance with consent decrees and other settlements. In addition, trial attorneys participate in monitoring elections around the country and may conduct administrative reviews of voting changes under the Voting Rights Act. Salary: $76,378-$158,700. Deadline: September 18. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
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