I. In Focus This Week
There’s an app for that
Denver Elections Division creates app to streamline petition process
Coffee stains, bad penmanship, rips, tears and lots of folds and crinkles.
From elections office staff to candidates to campaign volunteers, anyone who has worked an election knows what a mess ballot petitions can be.
That’s why the Denver Elections Division has come up with what’s believed to be a first-in-the-nation way to gather signatures that is fast, efficient and coffee stain free.
Beginning with the qualifying process for municipal elections this May, the office is test piloting a program that allows candidates to use a tablet and stylus to gather ballot petition signatures.
“This cutting edge application has the potential to transform the petition process – providing easier access to the ballot and efficiencies never seen before in this country,” said Denver Clerk & Recorder Debra Johnson. “For years the hallmark of Denver Elections has been innovation and progress – 2015 will be no different. This bold approach has one thing in mind: our customers.”
eSign, as the office is calling new application, allows circulators to gather signatures on a tablet that is registered with the Elections Division.
“We verify every signature on every petition,” said Alton Dillard, spokesman for the Denver Elections Division. “Think of eSign as petition marking device similar to a ballot-marking device. The printed pages go through the same legally required signature verification process that paper petitions go through.”
The app allows circulators to verify the voter registration of the signer before collecting the signature and keeps a running tally of the number of signatures collected.
Tablets can be “borrowed” from the Elections Division for a $375 deposit or campaigns may register personal iPads with the Elections Division and download the app to gather signatures.
“The signatures are housed on our server so in the event a tablet is lost or stolen the signatures wouldn’t be accessible to unauthorized persons,” Dillard explained. “The voter information on the tablets that are used to confirm voter eligibility comes from a database of voter information that is public record.”
Currently about 18 campaigns are using eSign for the May election cycle and as the deadline for qualification approaches — March 11 — Dillard expects more potential candidates to get on board.
The office worked with a local vendor — 303 Software — to create the app, which cost about $60,000 to create and implement.
“We actually created eSign for the convenience of the candidates and to modernize the signature gathering process,” Dillard said. “Being able to confirm on the spot that a voter is eligible to sign a candidate petition leads to a increased acceptance rate.”
Because Denver is a Home Rule City and County, and the app is only being used for municipal elections, the elections division did not need a legislative change or go-ahead from the secretary of state’s office in order to implement the new technology.
The office did, however, promulgate its own rules for the use of the app. The app can be used for local campaigns ballot initiatives, but due to existing state law cannot be used for City Charter Amendment petitions.
The hope is that following a successful pilot, eSign can be adopted not only statewide, but also for other jurisdictions throughout the country.
“We would hope to see eSign rolled out for broader use in the future,” Dillard said. “Since eSign is a first-in-the-nation technology, we are already hearing from other municipalities about how to create a similar system.”
Editor’s Note: Is your elections office using technology in a new and unique way that saves time and money? If so, let us know because we’d love to let everyone else know!
II. Election News This Week
- Charges have been returned against Hartford, Connecticut’s three registrars that, according to The Hartford Courant, could lead to their ouster. Attorney Ross Garber has written a draft resolution that in part states that the registrars “committed the acts and omissions set forth in the…Articles of Removal, some or all of which may constitute neglect or dereliction of official duty…warranting their removal from office.” If adopted by a majority of the council, the charges would become formal, and would mark the first step in the removal process.
- Following the unexpected passing of Chicago Alderwoman JoAnn Thompson, the Chicago board of election commissioner announced that Thompson’s name will be removed from all paper and electronic ballots. According to The Chicago Sun Times, Chairman Langdon Neal told reporters that the board spent hours researching the best plan to address Thompson’s death, just two weeks before the election, saying it was unprecedented in a nonpartisan election. In a press conference, Neal said paper notices will be placed at all early voting locations and that paper ballots will be reprinted and electronic voting machines reprogrammed for Election Day.
- According to a report compiled by the North Carolina State Board of Elections of the 2.9 million people who voted in November 2014, only 11 voters were rejected because they were non-citizens. According to WRAL, in the months leading up to November advocacy groups claimed approximately 10K non-citizens were registered to vote. The SBOE narrowed that down to 1,454 people in 81 counties. Of those, 89 tried to vote and only 11 were shown to be actual non-citizens, the other 78 provided the necessary documentation to prove they were U.S. citizens.
- The Boulder County DA’s office is investigating the signatures on nearly 900 November 2014 vote-by-mail ballots that don’t seem to match the signatures on file in the Clerk and Recorder’s Office. According to the Times Call, the DA’s office is in the process of trying to contact 897 voters to determine if they did actually cast their own ballot. The ballots in question were not included in the 2014 vote count.
- Seems that the Hamilton County, Ohio board of elections has been taking some lessons from Donald Trump. The county recently fired 104 poll workers who, in addition to other performance issues, failed to vote in 2013 and 2014.
- Personnel News: Vanessa Reever is the new deputy clerk in Seward County, Kansas. Michele Bennett has been appointed Aransas County, Texas elections administrator. Michele White is the new Prince William County, Virginia registrar of voters. She previously served as the Culpeper County general registrar. Denny Foster, Gene Ravenscraft and Mary Ann Rogers have joined the Columbia County, Arkansas election commission. Former Nevada Secretary of State Ross Miller has joined Fine Entertainment as the company’s vice president of business development and general counsel. Mathew Gray, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s GOP nominee to the state board of elections has bowed out of the approval process following complaint by the GOP. Rosanna Bencoach has been appointed the new general registrar of Charlottesville, Virginia. Derek Bowens has been appointed director of elections for New Hanover County, North Carolina. Andrea Eastman has been elected to serve as the new chairman of the Licking County, Ohio board of elections. Interim Richland County, South Carolina Election Director Samuel Selph has officially been given the job.
III. 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.
Survey of the Performance of American Elections – Charles Stewart III, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, February 5, 2015: A survey of more than 10,000 registered voters for the November 2014 election found:
- Approximately two out of five reported casting ballots before Election Day;
- More than 1 in 4 who received ballots by mail did not return them by mail but instead dropped them off in person; and
- Short waits to vote, with 88 percent reporting waiting less than ten minutes to cast a ballot.
Next week’s electionlineWeekly will feature a longer analysis by Charles Stewart, III.
Driving the Vote: Are States Complying With the Motor Voter Requirements of the National Voter Registration Act? – Stuart Naifeh, Demos, February 5, 2015: This report find that many states are failing to fulfill the purpose of the Motor Voter provision of the National Voter Registration Act, requiring eligible citizens be provided the opportunity to register to vote or update their voter registrations when they apply for or renew a driver’s license. From 2011-2012, data from 15 states shows that out of all drivers’ licensing transactions, 1 in 10 or less also included a voter registration application.
2014 Post-Election Survey – Overseas Vote Foundation and U.S. Vote Foundation, February 5, 2015: Results of a survey of military and overseas voters after the November 2014 election find:
- A 5.4 percent increase in respondents stating they were not able to complete all the steps in the overseas voting process compared to 2010 and 2012;
- 25 percent reported not receiving their ballot or receiving their ballot too late;
- 46 percent said they were not aware of the Federal Write-in Absentee Ballot (FWAB); and
- More than 85 percent said they did not use state voter look-up tools.
The District of Columbia Board of Elections Election Day Preparation and Administration Can Be Improved – Office of the District of Columbia Auditor, February 6, 2015: An audit of the November 2014 election in Washington D.C. found that:
- Twenty-three of 89 precincts did not have the minimum of poll workers with 168 poll workers that did not show up;
- Thirty-seven precincts were not full accessible for disabled voters; and
- Fifty-seven precincts had voting equipment problems, which the Board of Elections had adequate contingency plans in place to address these issues.
The auditors provide a number of recommendations, including the allocation of funds to purchase new voting equipment.
Report Concerning Recommendations and Guidance for the Administration of Elections by Villages, School Districts, Fire Districts, Library Districts and Other Municipal Corporations Required to Hold Elections in New York State – New York State Board of Elections, February 6, 2015: This report, approved by all four commissioners of the New York State Board of Elections, reviews how special districts should be required to end the use of lever voting machines to comply with state law adopted in 2005.
IV. Legislative Updates
Federal Legislation: With the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act fast approaching, members of the House are considering legislation that would update the VRA and address some of the provisions struck down by the Supreme Court last year.
Alaska: Several pieces of legislation are pending in The Frontier State that are aimed at making voting equal for those in urban and rural areas. There are proposals concerning early voting, same-day registration and online voter registration.
Arizona: Under bill HB 2427, which has been approved by the House Elections Committee, counties will be required to maintain daily updated lists of those who have turned in early ballots and must provide those lists to the state or county party chairpersons if requested.
The House Elections Committee also approved legislation that would create a new lieutenant governor position. Currently, if the governor steps down, the secretary of state becomes the governor.
HB2536, introduced by Rep. Paul Boyer (R-Phoenix) would decriminalize selfies. Currently, it is against the law to post a photo of your completed ballot on social media. Boyer’s legislation would only cover absentee/vote-by-mail ballots because another existing law prohibits the use of cameras in polling places.
Arkansas: Sen. Bryan King (R-Green Forest) has filed a constitutional amendment that would, if approved by voters, reinstate Arkansas’ voter photo ID law.
California: Sen. Bob Hertzberg (D-Van Nuys) has introduced bill that would send a vote-by-mail ballot to every registered voter. Under the legislation voters would still have the option of voting at a polling place on Election Day.
Georgia: A bill that would limit early voting to 12 days prior to an election was approved 9-5 by the House Governmental Affairs Committee. The original legislation required voting on one Sunday, but that provision was removed.
Guam: Several pieces of legislation have been introduced by Sen. Mary Camacho Torres (R-Santa Rita) that she hopes will help increase voter turnout. The bills include legislation to remove a proof-of-citizenship provision, online voter registration, allowing 16- and 17-year olds to preregister, and expanding motor voter provisions
Hawaii: The Aloha State has one of the lowest voter participation rates in the country and one lawmaker is considering a monetary fine for those who don’t cast a ballot. Under the proposed legislation a voter would be fined $100 if they don’t vote.
Indiana: The Senate Elections Committee voted 5-4 to advance legislation that would require the use of voter ID numbers for mail-in absentee ballots.
This week, the House Elections Committee voted 8-4 to advance legislation that would eliminate straight-ticket voting.
Iowa: Senate File 10, proposed by Sen. Bran Zaun (R-Urbandale) cleared its first hurdle in the Senate last week. Under the bill, Iowa voters would be allowed to choose party nominees for elected office in a runoff election if the results of a party primary are inconclusive.
While Secretary of State Paul Pate’s plan to offer online voter registration is moving forward, legislation has been introduced that would allow Iowans without a valid driver’s license to also register online to vote.
Kentucky: This week, a House committee approved legislation that would automatically restore the voting rights to most ex-felons once they have completed the terms of their service.
Michigan: Democrats are once again pushing legislation that would allow voters to cast an absentee ballot without an excuse.
Missouri: A bill requiring voters in the Show Me State to show some photo ID in order to cast a ballot was voted out of committee 9-3 and now moves to the full House.
Nebraska: Secretary of State John Gale testified in support of legislation that would allow rural precincts in the Cornhusker State to go to vote-by-mail. “It definitely improves the voter turnout because the ranchers and the farmers and small businessmen in those rural precincts are able to cast their ballot by mailing it back,” said Gale, a Republican. “It’s been very well-received by the citizens who are in those precincts.”
New Mexico: House Majority Leader Nate Gentry (R-Albuquerque) has introduced legislation to shift the state’s primary date from the beginning of June to the third Tuesday in March.
North Dakota: By a 66-24 vote, the House has approved legislation that will require voters to show a photo ID when casting a ballot. Under the legislation, voters without a photo ID would be allowed to use a bill, bank statement or USPS change-of-address form dated 30 days before the election.
Utah: A House committee advanced two bills this week designed to boost turnout. HB219 clarifies the rules for postal time stamps on ballots and HB220 would allow voters to register and vote during early voting as well as on Election Day.
Virginia: The House has approved legislation that would require voters submitted absentee ballots to include a copy of their photo ID with the ballot. The bill was approved 62-34 and now heads to the Senate.
V. Legal Updates
Colorado: Senior Judge Robert Hyatt has dismissed a lawsuit that sought to nullify the November 2014 election in Adams County. The suit claimed a printing error could have tied a ballot to a particular voter, but in his decision Hyatt says the suit never alleged that “ballot were traced or identities disclosed.” According to The Denver Post, Hyatt wrote that there was no evidence that voters “refused to vote or refrained from voting their conscience as a result of the error.”
Missouri: The state’s Supreme Court ruled this week that the Legislature cannot enact a law invalidating an initiative petition before voters get a chance to weigh in on the initiative.
Wisconsin: In the latest brief filed by the state in Frank v. Walker, the state argues that its voter ID law is an “eminently reasonable” regulation that the U.S. Supreme Court should stop blocking. According to Courthouse News Service, Wisconsin AG Brad Schimel wrote that, “While voter photo ID laws are controversial, they should not be. In Wisconsin, as elsewhere, the overwhelming majority of voters already have qualifying ID. For those who lack ID, obtaining one and bringing it to the polling place is general no more of a burden than the process of voting itself.”
VI. Opinions This Week
Indiana: Vote centers
Iowa: Election Day
Minnesota: Ex-felon voting rights
Montana: Open primaries
Nebraska: Voter ID
New York: Election notifications
Oklahoma: Election legislation
West Virginia: Electoral College
VII. Upcoming Events
Please email upcoming events — conferences, symposiums, seminars, webinars, etc. to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Working Together for a More Inclusive Democracy— The Future of California Elections is hosting a conference that reflects the successes and innovations that have resulted from the collaborations in the field of elections in California and across the nation. The conference program focuses on the needs of California’s diverse voters and the importance of working in partnerships to ensure all voters can participate in California’s democracy Additionally, the conference provides opportunities to learn about the best practices for relaying voter information. Participants of the conference should expect to listen to dynamic panel discussions, engage with their peers in the election field, as well as meet other election stakeholders that are working toward the collective effort of modernizing elections and expanding participation in California’s democracy. Where: Sacramento, California. When: February 18-19. For more information and to register, click here.
Policy & Elections Technology: A Legislative Perspective— NCSL is hosting a national meeting to bring together legislators, legislative staff, election officials, voting technology and computer security experts, legal experts, advocates, federal agency staff and other interested parties to discuss the future of elections technology. Sessions will cover voting technology 101; a report on NCSL’s Elections Technology Project; recommendations from the Presidential Commission on Election Administration; the impact of legislation on voting system design; alternative voting methods and implications for technology; testing and certifying voting systems; the use of technology for post-election audits, recounts and resolving disputes; and what is pushing change in the way ballots are cast. Where: Santa Fe, New Mexico When: June 3 – 5. Contact: Katy Owens Hubler, email@example.com, 303-856-1656. For more information and to register, click here.
IACREOT Annual Conference — The International Association of Clerks, Recorders, Elections Officials and Treasurers will hold its annual conference in Vail, Colorado this year in June and July. Planning is still in the early stages, but be sure to mark your calendar. Where: Vail, Colorado. When: June 27-July 2. For more information and to register, click here.
NASS 2015 Summer Conference — The National Association of Secretaries of State Annual Summer Conference is set for July this year. Planning is still in the early stages, but be sure to mark your calendar. Where: Portland, Maine. When: July 9-12. For more information and to register, click here.
NACo Annual Conference and Exposition— The 80th Annual Conference and Exposition of the National Association of Counties will be in Mecklenburg County (Charlotte), North Carolina. Registration opens February 9th. Where: Charlotte, North Carolina. When: July 10-13. For more information and to register, click here.
NCSL Legislative Summit 2015 — The National Conference of State Legislators will hold their 2015 Legislative Summit in August. Planning is still in the early stages, but be sure to mark your calendar. Where: Seattle. When: August 3-6. For more information when it becomes available and to register, click here.
Election Center 31st Annual Conference— The National Association of State Election Directors will hold its 31st Annual Conference in Houston in August. Planning is still in the early stages, but be sure to mark your calendars now. Where: Houston, Texas. When: August 18-22. For more information and to register, click here.
NACRC Annual Conference— The Annual Conference of the National Association of County Recorders, Election Officials and Clerks is set for Houston in August. Planning is still in the early stages, but be sure to mark your calendar. Where: Houston, Texas. When: August 21-25. For more information and to register, click here.
VIII. 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.
Communications Director, FairVote, Takoma Park, Maryland — position will entail translating FairVote’s rigorous and detailed research into compelling messages and identifying and executing effective strategies for communicating our reform proposals. The Communications Director will be responsible for strategic communications with our supporters, our coalition partners and the media. Overseeing a team of dedicated staff, the Communications Director will ensure that all written and online materials fit within our communications strategy and are held to high standards. Initial responsibilities will focus on fulfilling the requirements of recent grants involving communications and electoral system reform. Our ideal candidate will be ready to join FairVote for the long haul and play a central role in projects designed to achieve our core electoral reform goals over the coming decade. We expect to hear from applicants who are happy in their current work, but ready to embrace this unique opportunity to transform American democracy. Salary: Salary will be commensurate with experience and is expected to start at a minimum of $85,000. We also provide benefits for health care, commuting and retirement. Deadline: Open until filled. For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Elections Administrator, Grays Harbor County, Washington — the Election Administrator is responsible for all aspects of elections, voter registration, and supervision of other election workers for federal, state, and local elections occurring within Grays Harbor County. Salary: $3,761-$4,560. Deadline: Open until filled. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply click here. For questions or additional information, contact Vern Spatz, auditor.
Election Specialist Lead, King County, Washington — Distribute work load among other employees, including short term temporary election workers; update or create training curriculum and conduct training for permanent and temporary staff; provide direction and monitor the quality and completion of work. May also provide input on the performance of co-workers and participate in employee selection process. Research and interpret election laws, policies, procedures, and guidelines as outlined in RCW 29A and WAC 434. Explain established policies, procedures, codes, and regulations to internal and/or external customers over the telephone, in writing and/or in person. Provide or coordinate additional training as needed to ensure all current or new policies and procedures are understood. Train and lead up to 45 staff responsible for answering incoming calls to main elections phone line. Answer inquiries or questions, resolve problems, and provide written, in-person, or over-the-phone customer service to staff, citizens, and stakeholders. Employee in this high-profile position may deal with sensitive and/or potentially volatile situations. Develop spreadsheets, word documents, and reports; review documents for proper formatting and accuracy. Demonstrated skill in operating a personal computer including but not limited to utilizing a broad scope of office data processing and email functions with proficiency in Excel, Word and MS Outlook or Exchange. Improve work processes, address quality control issues, and document procedures. Provide oversight and quality assurance for the state and local voter registration databases. Fulfill general duties that involve typing, filing, data entry, answering telephones, developing and preparing reports, forms, and documents utilizing a variety of computer programs as required. Salary: $21.51-$27.27 hourly. Deadline: February 20. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
General Counsel, United States Election Assistance Commission, Silver Spring, Maryland — the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) is an independent, bipartisan federal agency created by the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) of 2002. The Commission provides national leadership to improve the administration of Federal elections, in accordance with HAVA. EAC’s primary responsibilities include establishing voluntary standards for voting equipment; certifying voting equipment and accrediting test laboratories; disbursing and overseeing HAVA funds; developing a uniform registration form for use across the U.S.; developing research-based insights for the improvement of election administration; and issuing best practices for election administration. We are currently seeking an experienced attorney to head the Office of the General Counsel (OGC). As the General Counsel, the incumbent provides real-time advice to the Commissioners and senior leadership on legal issues affecting EAC activities and operations. The successful candidate will serve as the chief legal advisor working to ensure compliance with HAVA, Federal, state and local laws and regulations that may affect the operations of the EAC. Competitive candidates will have experience and comprehensive knowledge of HAVA, National Voter Registration Act (NVRA), pertinent regulations, policies, procedures, precedents, and directives affecting election administration. Salary: $126,245 to $148,700. Deadline: February 27. For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Multimedia Officer, IFES, Washington, D.C. — support IFES’ Communications and Advocacy department through production of creative multimedia content. This individual will also maintain IFES’ social media presence. This is a mid-level role that reports directly to the Director of Communications and Advocacy. Responsibilities include: maintain photo database, produce multimedia content in various formats, manage video pre and post-production; support audio and visual needs at events; oversee annual photo contest; manage and maintain IFES’ social media presence; and manage editorial process of IFES’ monthly e-newsletter. Application: Applications will be accepted online only, through IFES’ website. To apply, visit our careers page. Then follow the instructions to upload your resume and cover letter (in a single document) and answer prescreening questions.
Outreach Director, FairVote, Takoma Park, Maryland — Overseeing a team of dedicated staff, the Outreach Director will be responsible for expanding and supporting our network of reform partners nationally and in states and cities. Nationally, we are building a reform coalition of elected officials, organizations, media outlets and influential individuals ready to support federal legislation to establish ranked choice voting for U.S. House and Senate elections and multi-winner House districts. We are working with allies in states and cities in support of advancing and implementing ranked choice voting (both in multi-winner and single-winner elections) and other fair representation voting systems, including as remedies in Voting Rights Act cases. We also provide support to those seeking to improve participation through ideas such as the National Popular Vote plan for president, 100% voter registration, and public interest voting equipment. The Outreach Director’s initial responsibilities will focus on supporting reform partners involved in state and local campaigns for ranked choice voting, launching our congressional reform plan for fair representation voting, ensuring our Policy Guide 2015 proposals reach their intended audiences, and providing guidance to colleagues working on our Promote Our Vote and Representation 2020 projects. Our ideal candidate will be ready to join FairVote for the long haul and play a central role in projects designed to achieve our core electoral reform goals over the coming decade. We expect to hear from applicants who are happy in their current work, but ready to embrace this unique opportunity to transform American democracy. Salary: Salary will be commensurate with experience and is expected to start at a minimum of $85,000. We also provide benefits for health care, commuting, retirement and moving. Deadline: Open until filled. For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Research Fellowship, Democracy Fund, Washington, D.C. — Democracy Fund is seeking a current or recent graduate student to serve as a Research Fellow, supporting our Program on Governance and Bipartisan Problem Solving. The Research Fellow will work closely with the Democracy Fund’s Governance team, gaining first-hand knowledge of how creative philanthropy can work to improve democracy in the United States. The Research Fellow will be responsible for a variety of tasks, including:Conduct research on issues related to Congressional reform and dysfunction. Some crossover work on elections, campaign finance and media policy may be included on occasion; participate in grantee meetings, policy briefings, Congressional hearings, and other events; support research and due diligence on new grantee candidates; compile press clips, write blog posts, and post to the organization’s social media accounts; help organize internal and external events; and work to support the administrative needs of the team with editing, scheduling, or other relevant administrative tasks and functions. The Research Fellowship is for a term of six months and may be renewed for an additional six-month period. Fellows will be paid on an hourly basis at a rate of $25 per hour. The fellowship is based in Washington, DC. All candidates should send a cover letter and resume to Betsy Hawkings at info (@) democracyfund (dot) org. Cover letters should include a clear description of the candidate’s available start date and longer-term availability.