I. In Focus This Week
Five rules for a successful recount
Although not common, recounts serve as teaching moments for officials
By James Witkowski, elections support technician
David Levine, elections director
Ada County, Idaho
Elections are often close — sometimes the difference can be one or two votes, and in rare instances (as happened in a 2017 Virginia House race and a southeast Idaho City Council race) an election can even end in a tie.
In these close races, sometimes automatic recounts are triggered and other times a request for a recount is made by the losing candidate. Recounts ensure that all legal votes are properly counted, improperly cast votes are not counted, and appropriate procedures were followed.
Recounts are designed to ensure election results are correct, reinforcing public confidence in the fairness and accuracy of our elections.
When recounts do happen they are matchless “teaching moments” for election administrators, candidates, and the public.
In Ada County, Idaho, were part of a city council election recount in 2017 that was at times stressful and unnerving, but preparation and planning made what could have been a difficult situation much easier.
Here are five rules for a successful recount — meaning an anti-climactic event for all involved with accepted results in the end.
1) Prepare for inquisitive candidates, members of the public and of course the media. Election administrators care about elections because it’s what we do. Candidates care about them because this is how they are “hired” by the electorate – their livelihoods and months (sometimes years) of work are on the line. Candidates, their campaign staff, and the public and media must understand what happened and what will happen when ballots are recounted. Allowing room for speculation only invites problems. Have clear, easily understood printouts of election night results, counting procedures and Logic and Accuracy (L&A) outcomes on hand for all interested parties and be prepared to explain each of the documents, patiently several times.
2) Ensure that your election office’s processes comply with relevant recount laws and administrative guidance. The level of scrutiny is always higher when there’s a recount, so be methodical. For the city council election recount, our office reviewed relevant statutes and regulations and updated our procedures to comply with them; prepared answers to the obvious technical questions before they were asked so that our team could function properly and proceed toward completion without getting side-tracked; and received advance approval from the people overseeing the recount before taking crucial steps. We also conducted mock recount elections to test our procedures and try to poke holes in them. We wanted to be prepared to stop for any reason, and to resume when permitted to do so.
3) Expect pressure and scrutiny, and deal with the resulting anxiety by maintaining your equipment, training your people, rehearsing the steps of a recount beforehand, being transparent, and keeping your cool. Murphy’s Law often rears its head during recounts — equipment failures, human errors, and other hiccups can mar the recount process, but if you are prepared you can quickly right the ship and, as importantly, explain what happened and why it won’t happen again. Address problems/concerns honestly and fully as they arise and carry on with professionalism and transparency.
4) Know your mission is honesty and accuracy — a recount that treats all parties fairly (especially the loser and therefore the public) and goes above and beyond to be transparent is key to building trust. Don’t forget a key secondary mission – discovering and fixing any faults in your counting procedure. If you encounter a problem, recall (and act on) the Chinese proverb – “If we don’t change direction, we are likely to end up where we are headed.”
5) Prepare a post mortem following your recount that you can use as a roadmap for the next time. You will feel depleted and (hopefully) relieved, but don’t wait before memorializing and acting on lessons learned from the experience.
Recounts don’t happen often, for which election administrators can be eternally grateful. When they do occur, good administrators depend on transparency, preparation, a level head and a resolve to implement any lessons learned to get the most from the experience.
II. Federal-State Updates
The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law has sued the U.S. Department of Justice and Department of Homeland Security for failing to release information connected to the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity. According to The Associated Press, the group is seeking emails, calendars and other records of communications between the agencies and members and staff of PACEI.
“This administration may choose to ignore reasonable requests for information about its work, but it cannot ignore a court order that mandates the production of records on matters that impact the voting rights of millions of Americans,” said Kristen Clarke, president and director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “Through our lawsuit, we seek to expose the ways in which other federal agencies may be working to carry forth the commission’s unlawful activities.”
According to Politico, Democrats are pressuring House Oversight Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-South Carolina) to subpoena the Trump administration in a months-long standoff over information about the 21 states that Russian hackers are believed to have targeted during the 2016 election cycle.
III. Election News This Week
Voters in Texas and Puerto Rico are still feeling the effects of Hurricanes Harvey and Maria. In Harris County, Texas, frustrated voters have reached out to local television station airing their concerns about being placed on a suspended voter list after voter registration confirmation post cards were returned to the elections office. “I want to make it very clear: if you are on the suspended list you are still eligible to vote,” Mike Lykes, voter registration office chief of staff told KHOU. Lykes said the office simply needs to know where displaced voters live. That means they need to turn in signed paperwork either in person or by mail. And in Connecticut, Secretary of State Denise Merrill said that her office is working with local governments and community groups to identify and register as many hurricane-displaced Puerto Ricans as possible. Although advocacy groups are busy registering residents, Merrill said at a press conference that she felt it was important that her office be involved. It’s estimated about 4,000 Puerto Ricans have relocated to Connecticut.
The top elections official’s job is on the ballot in 24 states this year and iVote, a “left-leaning ballot access group” plans to spend at least $5 million across swing states to elect Democratic secretaries of state according to The Washington Post. “Republicans have understood the importance of the office,” said iVote president and founder, Ellen Kurz. “There isn’t a single Democratic swing state secretary of state. And dozens of states have taken away opportunities to vote, purged voter rolls and disenfranchised certain voters every year.” According to the AP, the group will focus their attention on Arizona, Colorado, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico and Ohio.
Although we don’t talk about the candidate-side of elections too often, we thought this partnership between the Kentucky and West Virginia secretaries of state was a good idea given the times we live in. Secretary of State Allison Lundergan Grimes (D-Kentucky) and Mac Warner (R-West Virginia) are both distributing the Cybersecurity Campaign Playbook to all candidates seeking office in 2018. According to the Huntington News Net, the Playbook was created by Defending Digital Democracy (DDD), the bipartisan initiative at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard Kennedy School. The document was originally released in print and online formats in November 2017 with the goal of providing political campaigns, candidates and their staff with the basic information to prevent digital attacks. “Election officials are constantly on guard to protect our election infrastructures from those who seek to undermine our democratic process. And campaigns and political organizations are targets, too,” Grimes said in a statement. “I’m proud to partner with Secretary Warner to provide candidates in our states with the Cybersecurity Campaign Playbook. It is a fundamental resource to help them defend their campaigns in an environment of unprecedented cyber risks.”
Throwback Thursday: We’re going to participate in a bit of throwback Thursday and take you all back to a gentler time, all the way back to 2013 when the biggest concerns about a hacked election came from a fictional TV show!
Personnel News: Rebecca Little is the new Crawford County, Pennsylvania director of elections and voter services. Tiana McCall has been appointed clerk of Winnebago County, Illinois. Chris Piper has been appointed commissioner of the Virginia Department of Elections. Piper is the former executive director of the Virginia Conflict of Interest and Ethics Advisory Council and more recently served as deputy director of the Virginia Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission. Danda Parker is stepping down as the Navarro County, Texas elections officer. Dayna Causby is the new Missoula County, Montana elections administrator. Causby was formerly the Cleveland County, North Carolina board of elections director. Attorney Jose Slavador Tellez has been appointed interim elections administrator in Webb County, Texas. North Dakota Secretary of State Al Jaeger (R) officially announced that he is seeking re-election. Joe Bridgman is the new Livingston County, Michigan elections coordinator. George Wolfe, professor emeritus at Ball State University has announced that he is running for Indiana secretary of state. Vermont Secretary of State Jim Condos has joined the executive committee of the Council of State Governments. Rep. Josh Boschee (D) has announced his candidacy for North Dakota secretary of state. Spencer Danner, a former City of Omaha department head has announced his candidacy for secretary of state. Mark Snell, is out as chief of staff in the Iowa secretary of state’s office. Susan Chapman, a former first selectman, is running for Connecticut secretary of state.
IV. Legislative Updates
Florida: By a 6-3 vote, a measure that would move Florida to a top-two primary system was approved by the Constitution Revision Commission’s Ethics and Elections committee.
In other Constitution Review Commission news, with a citizen’s initiative to restore voting rights to ex-felons set for the November ballot, members of the commission have dropped their efforts to place a similar measure on the ballot.
Georgia: Under Senate Resolution 587, English would be the official language of the state and would mean that unless required by the federal government, counties would not have to provide election materials in any language other than English.
Guam: Bill 234-34, which has bipartisan support, would automatically register citizens to vote when obtaining or renewing their driver’s license. Residents would have an opportunity to opt out if they didn’t want to be registered.
Idaho: Legislation has been introduced that would lower the age of potential poll workers from 17 to 16. “In our smaller counties, we oftentimes run into a very limited amount of individuals who are able to, or want to work in our poll locations,” Kelli Brassfield of the Idaho Association of Counties said, according to the Idaho County Free Press. “And so this legislation would reduce the age from 17 to 16 to broaden the base — allowing more workers in our poll locations and also allowing our students to get more experience working at elections.”
Massachusetts: Secretary of State William Galvin is proposing a bill that would allow residents of the commonwealth to register and vote on the same day. A spokeswoman for Galvin said the secretary had presented his legislation to Election Laws Committee chairs Sen. Anne Gobi and Rep. John Mahoney and is “encouraging them to incorporate the language into” related bills that have already been filed.
New Hampshire: Under House Bill 1772, the state would study and implement online voter registration. Similar bills failed in 2016 and 2017, however this time around, the bill has the support of the secretary of state’s office.
South Carolina: The South Carolina Election Commission is seeking $250,000 from the state Legislature so they can make any needed changes to the state’s voter registration system and network if voter information is compromised. “Security has always been important to us,” spokesman Chris Whitmire told The State. “But, certainly, things changed in 2016 with the emerging threats that were out there.” The $250,000 is in addition to $24.7 million already requested.
South Dakota: By a 32-0 vote, the Senate has approved HB 1011. Under the bill, now on its way to the governor’s desk, the rules about how county auditors confirm registered voters has changed. The new steps include mailing a national change of address notice to every active registered voter and to send confirmation mailing notices to all voters as well.
Also in South Dakota, the Senate State Affairs Committee has approved a bill that will allow voters with tribal ID cards to use those cards as an acceptable form of voter ID.
Virginia: Republican leaders from both chambers announced last week that they will create joint subcommittee to study voting issues in Virginia and craft a comprehensive response for the 2019 session. The subcommittee will review issues that came up in 2017 such as recounts, ballot problems and tiebreakers.
The Senate has approved a bill that would link the state database of driver’s license photos to e-poll books. The bill was approved 21-19 on a party line vote.
V. Legal Updates
Connecticut: Perhaps the third time will be the charm. The Connecticut Supreme Court has ordered the city of Bridgeport to hold a third primary for a city council seat. The high court agreed with a lower court ruling that the previous two elections should be tossed because they were skewed by political corruption.
Louisiana: The American Probation and Parole Association has filed an amicus brief in a case before the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals that is seeking to reverse a Louisiana law that prohibits felons on probation and parole from voting. The Association argues that restoring the right to vote to ex-offenders is of critical importance to better integrate offenders back into society.
North Carolina: In a 4-3 vote, along party lines, the North Carolina Supreme Court ruled that the General Assembly overstepped its authority in 2017 when it overhauled the state elections board. According to WRAL, the positions on the new Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement have been vacant for months, as Gov. Roy Cooper (D) declined to appoint any members until the lawsuit was resolved – a decision backed by the courts. It is unclear when such appointments will be made.
In other legal news, a three-judge panel refused Republican lawmakers’ request to block the use of new legislative district maps the judges had previously approved for the 2018 election cycle. According to the Winston-Salem Journal, even with the unanimous denial by the federal judges, GOP lawmakers have a similar request pending at the U.S. Supreme Court. Chief Justice John Roberts wants a brief from the voters who’ve successfully sued over state House and Senate districts by late next week. Candidate filing begins Feb. 12, with primaries to be held in May.
Ohio: Eric Morgan, former Miami County deputy elections director has sued the board of elections and a former member of the board claiming that the board violated open meeting laws and that the member defamed Morgan.
Tennessee: The trial of Brian “Wormy” Hodge, who is accused of buying votes in the 2014 Monroe County sheriff’s race has been moved. The new start date is April 10.
Texas: A Republican candidate for Dallas County commission has dropped his lawsuit seeking to have Election Administrator Toni Pippins-Poole removed from office. According to The Dallas Morning News, the candidate said he had little choice but to drop his suit because the judge on the case said it could only move forward if District Attorney Faith Johnson joined the suit, which she declined to do. Johnson wrote to the judge saying she “cannot join the proceeding,” because only the Dallas County Elections Commission and the Dallas County Commissioners Court have the authority to suspend or fire the elections head.
Utah: Attorneys representing the Navajo Nation in a successful lawsuit against vote-by-mail in San Juan County are seeking more than $3 million in legal fees from the county.
VI. Tech Thursday
Kansas: Following a report in Gizmodo, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach has removed certain public records from the state’s website after the website discovered that the records revealed partial Social Security numbers of state officials.
Kentucky: According to Gizmodo, Kentucky quietly pulled out of the Interstate Crosscheck System back in June of 2017. A source with direct knowledge of the decision told Gizmodo that Kentucky never used the data that it received from Crosscheck for the purpose of purging voter rolls because the data was “unreliable.”
Minnesota: Secretary of State Steve Simon has announced $7 million in grant funding for counties to purchase new election equipment. The grants will cover half the costs of mandatory equipment such as ballot counters and 75 percent of the cost of e-poll books.
Mississippi: Congratulations to the secretary of state’s office for receiving a Silver W³ Award for Y’all Vote. The W³ Awards honor creative excellence on the web and recognize the people behind award-winning sites, marketing programs, social content, mobile site/apps, and onlinevideo. The W³ Awards are sponsored and judged by the Academy of Interactive and Visual Arts (AIVA), top-tier media, interactive, advertising, and marketing professionals.
VII. Opinions This Week
California: Secretary of state
Connecticut: Honest elections
Georgia: Paper ballots
Mississippi: Precinct changes
Missouri: Election oversight
North Carolina: Electoral chaos
Rhode Island: Board of elections
Texas: Young voters
VIII. Available RFP
Voting System Development
Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk (RR/CC) Dean C. Logan released a Request for Proposals (RFP) for the Los Angeles County Voting Solutions for All People (VSAP). The RFP seeks proposals from pre-qualified vendors to support the development and implementation of the County’s new voting systems. Vendors were pre-qualified during the initial Phase of this RFP in November 2017.
The VSAP is an innovative project launched by Los Angeles County to develop a completely new voting experience for Los Angeles County voters; an experience that focuses on the needs and preferences of the voters themselves – and, that is publicly owned and operated. The proposed new voting experience was designed using a human-centered approach that engaged over 3,500 voters in the design process to result in an experience that is secure, accessible and convenient.
Pre-qualified vendors have until Friday, March 2, 2018 at 2PM to respond. Individuals desiring more information on the RFP are advised to visit the VSAP website at VSAP: Request for Proposals.
Additional information and updates are available online at vsap.lavote.net.
IX. Upcoming Events
NASED 2018 Winter Meeting — The National Association of State Election Directors’ winter meeting will feature panels with the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, regional DHS reps, Senate Rules staff and House Administration staff as well as discussion on ERIC and VVSG 2.0. When: February 16-19. Where: Washington, D.C.
NASS 2018 Winter Conference — This event will bring together government and industry leaders to showcase secretary of state initiatives and highlight all the latest developments in state and federal policy-making circles. NASS President Connie Lawson and other speakers will focus on many important topics including election cybersecurity and remote notarizations. When: February 16-19. Where: Washington, D.C.
Election Center Special Workshop — The Election Center’s special workshop will include courses on election and voter registration systems administration and management and leadership concepts in elections and voter registration administration as well as workshops on procurement and contraction, new voting models, IT security, election resources and costs, USPS initiatives and data dangers. When: Feb. 28-March 4. Where: San Antonio, Texas.
X. 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 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.
Chief Security Officer (Denver) – Dominion Voting Systems — Dominion Voting Systems is seeking a senior executive Chief Security Officer to join our team in Denver, Colorado! The CSO will be accountable for the development, implementation, and management of enterprise-wide strategies, policies, and programs intended for the mitigation and reduction of operational, financial and reputational risk relating to the security of our products, data, personnel, customers, and facilities globally. Salary: Negotiable base + bonus & benefits. Deadline: Open until filled. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Customer Relations Manager (Toronto) – Dominion Voting Systems — Dominion Voting Systems is seeking a customer focused and passionate Customer Relations Manager to join our team in Toronto! This position is responsible for providing world-class customer service to our customers in order to achieve our core purpose of delivering solutions for the advancement of fair, accessible, and secure elections! Salary: Negotiable base + bonus & benefits. Deadline: Open until filled. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Customer Relations Manager (Phoenix, AZ) – Dominion Voting Systems — Dominion Voting Systems is seeking a customer focused and passionate Customer Relations Manager to join our team in Phoenix, AZ! This position is responsible for effectively and proactively managing the day-to-day relationship, administration and technical/product support of one or more assigned customer accounts. Additionally, the CRM will serve as project manager for specialized projects such as pre- and post-election day support, new product implementations, and/or product upgrades/updates. Salary: Negotiable base + bonus & benefits. Deadline: Open until filled. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Elections Operation Manager, Douglas County, Colorado — this position performs a variety of complex supervisory and project management responsibilities This is a highly technical and supervisory position that, in collaboration with the Elections Manager, plans and conducts all functions associated with the operation of the department including: documentation of policies and procedures; mentoring and support for all subordinate staff; creating and enforcing policies that comply with statutory mandates and directives; participate in the creation and execution of strategic and tactical plans for operating successful elections within the County; provide assistance to other entities participating in a County or conducting their own election; managing election assets; ensuring accurate and unbiased collection and reporting of votes; cash management associated with revenues and fees as required by law. Coordinates with and assists other Clerk & Recorder Divisions as needed. Salary: $4,6230-$5,778, monthly. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Government Outreach Lead, Democracy Works — as the Government Outreach Lead, you will be responsible for growing our government program and expanding use of our tools. You’ll be joining a team of nationally respected experts in election administration with deep connections among election officials and technologists at the federal, state, and local level. In 2018, we’re focusing on establishing new relationships and formal partnerships with a variety of offices, all with varying priorities, funding constraints, and power structures. In this role, you will need to immerse yourself in the world of election administration, build relationships with keystakeholders, and think creatively in order to generate revenue opportunities for Democracy Works products and services. Salary: $76,000-$120,000. Deadline: Target start date is Feb. 15. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Payroll & AP Administrator, Dominion Voting Systems — Dominion Voting Systems is seeking an experienced Payroll & AP Administrator to be join our team in Denver, CO! This position will be responsible for managing and organizing of all functions related to payroll administration and accounts payable, including, but not limited to: recording, processing and obtaining approvals; and Processing all matters in a timely and accurate fashion, including following up on items related to the various accounts payable, payroll and month-end deadlines. Deadline: Open until filled. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Product Manager, TurboVote — as Product Manager for TurboVote, you will be acting as a product owner and project manager, working from end-to-end— from sitting with our executive leadership to make strategic choices AND down in the details of planning sprints and onboarding partners. In doing so, you’ll be supported by a constellation of software developers; a researcher who brings extensive knowledge of election administration; a partner support team with significant experience implementing across higher education, nonprofit, and corporate environments; and a COO dedicated to corralling the external resources you need to succeed. Deadline: Open until filled. Salary: $90,000 to $120,000 per year. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Product & System Specialist (Jamestown, NY) – Dominion Voting Systems — Dominion Voting Systems is seeking tech-savvy and passionate Product & System Specialist to join our team in Jamestown, NY! This position is responsible for delivering internal and external technical support services related to the implementation, operation, repair, maintenance and upgrades of Dominion’s hardware and software technologies and products. Salary: Negotiable base + bonus & benefits. Deadline: Open until filled. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Regional Sales Manager (West), Dominion Voting Systems — Dominion Voting Systems is seeking is highly-motivated and accomplished Regional Sales Manager to work remotely and be based in the Western United States; preferably California. The Regional Sales Manager is responsible for long term sales (3-5 years) of the company’s election products and services in a specified geographic region to governmental agencies. This position uses technical, organizational and customer knowledge to influence customers and assist them in applying the products and services to their needs, resulting in revenue generation. In addition, the position provides input and participates in the marketing, planning and development of products and services. Salary: Negotiable base + commission & benefits. Deadline: Open until filled. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Senior Manager, Technical Product Support (Denver, CO) – Dominion Voting Systems — Dominion Voting Systems is seeking a tech-savvy, passionate Senior Manager, Technical Product Support to join our team in Denver, CO! This position is responsible for strategically leading and developing a multi-state team of election technology software and hardware Product Specialists through a number of critical projects throughout the Western United States. Salary: Negotiable base + bonus & benefits. Deadline: Open until filled. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
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