February 14, 2013

I. In Focus This Week

U.S. Postal Service plans to eliminate Saturday delivery
Elections officials not surprised; will ramp-up voter ed

By M. Mindy Moretti

To quote the great American orator Yogi Berra, it’s like déjà vu all over again.

Just about this time almost every year in recent memory, electionlineWeekly writes a story about cuts proposed by the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) and the possible impacts those cuts could have on the administration of elections.

This year is no different after late last week USPS announced it will eliminate Saturday delivery except for packages.

And elections officials aren’t thrilled, but they aren’t exactly surprised either.

“I sit on the Mailers Technical Advisory Board (MTAC) to USPS so this has been discussed for quite some time now—it seemed to be more a question of “when”, not so much of “if,” said Tammy Patrick federal compliance officer, Maricopa County, Ariz. Elections. “The August timeline is preferable to waiting until 2014.”

While only Oregon and Washington offer exclusive vote-by-mail system, about 20 percent of all voters in the United States cast their ballot through some form of vote-by-mail. This figure has more than tripled since 1980. This is especially true in Western states like Arizona, California, Colorado and Montana where local elections officials are working with legislatures and state election officials to make voting by mail as easy as possible.

The plan, which takes effect the week of August 5, is expected to save the USPS $2 billion per year once it is fully implemented.

Although disappointed, most elections officials see this as a necessary adjustment in order to keep the cash-strapped agency afloat.

“As a vote-by-mail state, we are disappointed that the Postmaster General has announced plans to halt Saturday home mail service,” said new Washington Secretary of State Kim Wyman. “But we are making plans to deal with this, and will work to ensure that our voters are not disenfranchised.”

In a statement, Wyman said that the state would work to expand the drop-box system, which is becoming increasingly popular and would embark on a voter education campaign to remind their voters to put those ballots in the mail by Friday.

“The elimination hits at a lousy time for us. Saturday delivery will stop on Aug. 3, just three days before our primary,” said new Washington State Elections Director Lori Augino. “That said, it’s not a major issue for us. We will encourage voters to mail their ballot the Friday before every election to ensure an on-time postmark.”

In Oregon, the first state to go all vote-by-mail in the country, Secretary of State Kate Brown is concerned about the impacts the changes will have on voters and elections officials.

“Although USPS never discussed this with us, or gave us any advance notice that they would implement this, we were not surprised. This has been talked about for years. It was and remains a short-sighted idea,” Brown said.

Brown noted that the elimination of Saturday delivery will shorten the two-and-half weeks Oregon voters have to return their ballots by two days.

“That’s a concern because ballots in Oregon must be received by Election Day to be counted,” Brown said. “Unlike some states, we do not accept ballots that were postmarked by Election Day but arrive after it.”

Could Congress step in and prevent the ending of Saturday delivery? A spokesperson for USPS said the Postal Service believes it has the authority under current law to make the change and that public support for the change is at an all-time high.

“We developed this approach by working with our customers to understand their delivery needs and by identifying creative ways to generate significant cost savings,” explained Toni DeLancey, Ph.D. Senior Manager, Public Relations for the Postal Service.

DeLancey said that in market research conducted by the Postal Service and independent research by major news outlets, nearly seven out of 10 Americans supported the Postal Service switching to a five-day mail delivery schedule as a way to reduce costs.

While the elimination of Saturday mail seems popular with Americans, the popularity of vote-by-mail is also growing.

In Maricopa County, 65 percent of all registered voters are on the Permanent Early Voting List (PEVL), and Patrick noted that in the 2012 general election nearly 69 percent of the votes were cast by mail.

“We are already planning to increase our messaging to return early ballots early, that ballots have to be in our possession by the close of the polls (7 p.m. on Election Day) and will simply augment to not include Saturday in estimations of return time,” Patrick said. “Additionally, the importance of the continued work of the Election Center Postal Task Force with USPS management will be necessary to ensure that identified issues are communicated and addressed — no pun intended!”

Another spokesperson for the Postal Service said that USPS is still working on the operational plan, but expect to have more details by March.

“As always however,” said Patricia Licata, senior public relations representative. “The U.S. Postal Service will continue its ongoing outreach to election mail officials to assure them the timely deliver of election mail, including completed ballots. We’ll work with elections officials to identify mitigating solutions for the weekend in advance of state and national elections.”

Back in Oregon, Brown noted that voters want an elections system designed for them and that vote by mail is a proven solution that can fix many of the current problems in election administration.

“All of the proposals being discussed at the national level operate under the assumption that voters need to get to the ballot box rather than the ballot box coming to them,” Brown said. “Each of the proposed solutions to long lines and disenfranchised voters can be remedied most effectively by fully implementing a vote-by-mail system.

II. Election News This Week

  • During his Tuesday night State of the Union address, President Barack Obama (D) announced the creation of a voting commission to look into solutions for the long lines some voters faced on Election Day. According to a release from The White House, the Presidential Commission on Election Administration will develop recommendations for state and local election officials to “reduce waiting times at the polls and improve all citizens’ voting experience.” The commission will be co-chaired by Bob Bauer, who served as general counsel for Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign and Ben Ginsberg who served as national counsel for Gov. Mitt Romney’s (R) 2012 presidential campaign.
  • New Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander has created an early voting commission to look into the possibility of voters in the Show Me state to cast a ballot early. Several county clerks, and current and former elected officials have been named to the 11-member panel, along with representatives of military interests including John Comerford, former chairman of the Missouri Veterans Commission. The first meeting of the commission was this week.
  • A Bend, Ore. man has been convicted of voter fraud after the Deschutes County elections office found a Craigslist ad from Aaron Hirschman offering to pay $20 for blank ballots. According to The Oregonian, Circuit Judge A. Michael Adler rejected Hirschman’s arguments that he was only trying to cause a stir with his ad. After convicting him of a misdemeanor in a non-jury trial, Adler fined Hirschman $200 and sentenced him to 40 hours of community service.
  • Finally, electionline can write about two if it’s favorite topics: Elections and sports, specifically football! The Miami Dolphins are bidding to host Super Bowl 50, but that would require a $400 million renovation of Sun Life Stadium and the team is pushing for a special election to vote on a referendum authorizing the money. The special election would cost the county $5 million partially because of the urgency to hold the election before the NFL’s May 22 announcement for the awarding of Super Bowl 50. There is a possibility that the Dolphins would pay the county for the election like the racetracks did in 2005 for a special election.
  • Personnel News: Marcy C. Cooney has been appointed to serve on the Fulton County, Ga. board of registrations and elections. Helmut Baxter has been named to the Cherokee County, Ga. board of elections and registration. Anticipating referendums dealing with the Lackawanna County Home Rule Charter, the county’s commissioners, who also serve as the election board, stepped aside this week and were replaced by three Common Pleas Court judges for the 2013 election year. Randy Rolston a businessman from Johnson County, Kan. has announced that he will seek the Democratic nomination for secretary of state. Jerry Feaser is the new Dauphine County, Pa. director of elections and voter registration. Dodie Hanby was recently recognized by the Washington secretary of state’s office for her 45 years of service working in the elections office in Island County. Wyoming Secretary of State Max Maxfield succeeded in his legal attempts to be able to seek a third term. The Wyoming Supreme Court ruled that term limits for certain state offices are unconstitutional. A special prosecutor in Indiana says former Secretary of State Charlie White should begin serving his sentences because he is no longer appealing the convictions. Sarah A. Seymour has been promoted to serve as director of elections for Blair County, Pa. following the death of Ingrid Healy-Tucker. Justin Clay has been hired as the new director of the Arkansas Board of Election Commissioners. Clay previously served as the board’s educational services manager. Former California Assemblyman Joe Canciamilla has been appointed by the Contra Costa County board of supervisors to serve as the county’s new clerk-recorder and registrar of voters. Susan Moran, Weston, Conn. Republican registrar since 2009 is stepping down.
  • In Memoriam: Former Kentucky Secretary of State Bremer Ehrler died this week. He was 98. Ehrler was elected Jefferson County clerk three times and served from 1973 to 1984. He was president of the Kentucky County Clerks Association and elected to the position of secretary of state in 1987 when he was 73.

III. Research and Report Summaries

electionline provides brief summaries of recent research and reports in the field of election administration. Please e-mail links to research to sgreene@pewtrusts.org.

Our Broken Voting System and How to Repair it – Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, February 2013: This report describes problems during last year’s presidential election including voter registration errors, malfunctioning voting machines, understaffed and undertrained poll workers, and ineffective planning. Modernizing voter registration and passing stronger state and federal laws to combat voter intimidation are among some of the recommendations suggested to address these issues.  

IV. Legislative Update

Arizona: A bill pending in the Arizona Senate would prevent the secretary of state from serving on a candidate committee. Under the terms of Senate Bill 1335, the Arizona secretary of state could not serve as an officer of any candidate’s campaign committee if that candidate is running in an election the secretary of state would oversee.

Sen. Bob Worsley (R-Mesa) has introduced legislation that would create a pilot program for online voting. SB 1387 would create program to begin before the 2014 primary and would require at least one county and one city, town or local jurisdiction to participate and allow their voters to cast ballots via the Internet.

Under Senate Bill 1003 outside groups would not be allowed to turn in early/absentee ballots on behalf of voters. The bill, introduced by Sen. Michele Reagan (R-District 8) would allow a voter’s family member or roommate to turn in another voter’s ballot, but would block members of civic groups, political parties or other organizations from doing it.

California: Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley) isn’t waiting around for disaster to strike California’s elections. Skinner has introduces AB 214 which calls on the secretary of state’s office to establish rules and procedures for how an election would be conducted in the wake of a natural disaster. If approved, the secretary’s office would have until the end of 2014 to come up with a plan.

Senate Bill 240 would require at least one polling place on each University of California and California State University campus. Although some college campuses already host polling sites, the decision is currently up to the county registrar. This bill, if approved, would require the local election official to locate at least one on each college campus in the state system.

Georgia: This week, the House of Representatives approved nonpartisan elections for several local offices including new consolidated Macon-Bibb County governments, the Bibb County Board of Elections and the Macon Water Authority. The Senate approved the legislation two weeks ago. It now heads to the governor’s desk.

Idaho: Satellite voting centers could be making a comeback in some Idaho counties under legislation introduced by Rep. Holli Wooding (D-Boise) in the house and Sen. Elliot Werk (D-Boise) in the Senate. Counties with more than 100,000 people would be required to provide at least three early voting satellite sites during the general elections.

Illinois: Although legislation has yet to be introduced, Gov. Pat Quinn is proposing that Illinois join a growing list of states allowing voters to register online to vote. Following Quinn’s announcement during his state-of-the-state address, lawmakers began discussing the possibility and falling into typical partisan patterns with Democrats supporting the idea and Republican lawmakers either outright opposing the notion, or showing only lukewarm response.

Kentucky: Sen. Chris McDaniel (R-Taylor Mill) has introduced a proposed constitutional amendment that would move the next statewide election of constitutional officers from 2015 to 2016 with the elections continuing on even years from there on out. McDaniel argues that if approved the bill could save $4 to $5 million dollars.

Maine: Legislation requiring the use of instant-runoff voting for all statewide offices is picking up steam and co-sponsors. Sen. Dick Woodbury (U-Yarmouth) said the impending governor’s race is peaking people’s interest in the legislation.

Montana: Montanans are one step closer to be able to register online to vote. Senate Bill 206 won committee approval late last week.

Utah: Lawmakers and Utah are taking steps to ensure that not matter what Mother Nature throws at them, elections in The Beehive State will carry on. The House voted 70-0 to approve House Bill 82 that would allow the lieutenant governor and local election officials to alter normal places and times of voting during declared emergencies.

Washington: House Bill 1279, which will allow 16 and 17-year olds to pre-register to vote when they apply for a driver’s license, narrowly passed out of committee this week.

V. Conferences

The Election Assistance Commission and NIST will host a symposium to explore emerging trends in voting system technology. The symposium will provide an environment for interactive discussions among the attendees including election officials, voting system manufacturers, voting system test laboratories, standard developers, academics, and Federal, State, and local government officials. The symposium will encourage attendee participation through panel discussions with limited presentations to frame the topics to be explored. When: Feb. 26-28. Where: NIST Administration Building, Gaithersburg, Md. Registration: For more information or to register, click here.

Nonprofit VOTE is hosting a webinar “Get Started with Nonprofit Voter Engagement” that will provide an overview of nonpartisan dos and don’ts, as well as effective tactics for voter registration, voter education, ballot measure advocacy, candidate engagement, and get-out-the-vote efforts. We’ll focus on ways to help you integrate outreach into services you already provide. When: Feb. 21 at 2p.m. Where: Online. Registration: For more information or to register, click here.

VI. Opinion

National News: Lena Dunham | Voting Rights Act, II, III, IV | Voter fraud | Voter disenfranchisement | Vote-by-mail, II, III | Voter empowerment | Election reform, II, III | Voting rights | Voting commission, II

Arizona: Early voting

California: Voting Rights Act

Colorado: Vote-by-mail | Scott Gessler

Florida: Election reform | Ballot length | Election supervisors | Early voting

Indiana: Student voters, II

Iowa: Straight-ticket voting

Louisiana: Recount

Maine: Voter ID | Voter fraud | Elections report | Early voting | Runoff elections

Mississippi: Voting Rights Act

Missouri: Voter ID | Polling places

Nebraska: Election reform

New Jersey: Election dates

New Mexico: Voting process | Voting issues

New York: Voting lines | New York City primaries | New York City BOE

North Carolina: Voter ID

North Dakota: Voter ID

Ohio: Election reform | Voting barriers

Pennsylvania: Polling places

Tennessee: State voting laws

Virginia: Voter ID, II | Mail ballots | Election reform

Washington: Voting Rights Act | Voting system

Wisconsin: Performance index | Election reform | Poll workers

**Some sites may require registration.

VII. 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 mmoretti@electionline.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.

Director, Information Technology, Collier County, Fla. — develops strategic work plan; evaluates major business processes, infrastructure/equipment and services; organizes structure and work assignments. Reviews and evaluates department operations, work products, methods, procedures and performance outcomes; and identifies opportunities to improve overall department performance. Oversees systems operations. Ensures subordinate staff provides responsive, quality and effective technical support for systems development, implementation and operations. Monitors overall systems operations; develops technology driven policies and procedures; and re-engineers business and workflow processes within the SOE through IT. Performs project management work for information system installations, enhancements, and modifications; develops plans, cost estimates, projected deadlines, operational sequences, and security and backup provisions. Areas of responsibility include: Network Infrastructure, Technology Related Hardware, Database Administration, Software Support, Ballot Design, Ballot Tabulation, Voting Equipment and Related Technologies, and Geographic Information Systems. In regards to database administration and programming, provides support and software solutions for assigned SOE information system programs and applications, which may include Web applications, business applications developed in-house, and/or applications purchased from vendors. Designs, writes and tests new software applications and/or modifications/upgrades that meet identified needs. Prepares and maintains system/program documentation. Tests prototype applications and works through operational problems. Installs and configures software/applications. Establishes user access levels, system security protocols. Qualifications: Bachelor’s degree in Management of Information Systems or a closely related field; supplemented by six years of progressively responsible information technology work; or any equivalent combination of education, training, and experience which provides the requisite knowledge, skills, and abilities for this job. Salary: $67-78,000. Application: For the complete job listing and information to apply, click here. Deadline: Open until filled.

DIMS Manager, Lucas County, Ohio Board of Elections —responsible for maintaining the voter registration database using DIMS-Net. Responsible for Board of Elections computer software and hardware, maintaining network peripherals such as printers, scanners, routers, hubs and switches.  Oversees document-scanning projects using Alchemy Captaris software. Knowledge of Windows Server 2003 and 2008, Novel networks, Novel GroupWise, SQL Server, Microsoft Office Suite. Position requires the candidates to have excellent leadership and communication skills. Salary: $59,934.42 plus benefits. Application: Interested candidates should send resume and cover letter to Lucas County Board of Elections, One Government Center Suite 300, Toledo, Ohio 43604. Include party affiliation in your response. For more information and the complete job listing, click here.

Election Technology Manager, Hillsborough County, Fla. — responsible for all aspects of election-related and election-specific technology, equipment and processes. This includes, but is not limited to, ballot design and assignment; election equipment maintenance, preparation and testing; tabulation; and election night reporting. Creates elections in the GEMS database and assures integration and coordination with Voter Focus. Designs ballots and assigns ballot styles. Conducts logic and accuracy testing. Responsible for tabulation, election results reporting, certification and post-election audit. Responsible for the maintenance and operation of election-specific software. Responsible for preparing, installing and on-site servicing of equipment for polling places, 
early voting sites, and SOE offices. Plans and carries out a preventative maintenance program for voting equipment; 
periodically inspects equipment and completes or secures necessary repairs. Maintains records and reports of voting equipment inventory, maintenance and repair 
activities. Supervises and trains temporary employees in the preparation of voting equipment to be 
used in all elections. During elections responsible for “trouble shooting” voting equipment. Qualifications: Bachelor’s Degree from an accredited four-year degree granting college or university. Excellent communication, leadership and collaboration skills; advanced decision-making, planning and problem solving skills; and solid project management skills. Salary: $60-$85,000. Application: For more information, or to submit a resume, contact Peg Reese. Deadline: Open until filled.

GEMS Manager, Lucas County, Ohio Board of Elections responsible for programming Elections and ballot design using GEMS software, manages Logic & Accuracy Testing and vote tabulation. Responsible for Board of Elections computer software and hardware, maintaining network peripherals such as printers, scanners, routers, hubs and switches.  Oversees document-scanning projects using Alchemy Captaris software. Knowledge of Windows Server 2003 and 2008, Novel networks, Novel GroupWise, SQL Server, Microsoft Office Suite. Position requires the candidates to have excellent leadership and communication skills. Salary: $59,934.42 plus benefits. Application: Interested candidates should send resume and cover letter to Lucas County Board of Elections, One Government Center Suite 300, Toledo, Ohio 43604. Include party affiliation in your response. For more information and the complete job listing, click here.

Registrar of Voters, Clark County, Nev. ­­— develops and directs the implementation of long-and short-term goals, objectives, policies, procedures and work standards for the department; directs the preparation and administration of the department’s budget. Plans, organizes, administers, reviews and evaluates the activities of professional, technical and office support staff through subordinate managers and supervisors. Contributes to the overall quality of the department’s service provision by developing and coordinating work teams and by reviewing, recommending and implementing improved policies and procedures. Works with the Board of Commissioners, state legislative bodies, appointed and elected officials, political parties, citizen groups and county management to formulate policies and plans related to voter registration and elections operations. Prepares and directs the preparation of a variety of written correspondence, reports, procedures and other written materials. Monitors and interprets changes in laws and regulations related to voter registration and election operations; evaluates their impact upon County activities, and develops and implements policy and procedural changes as required; drafts changes to laws and ordinances and lobbies the legislature and provides supporting testimony as required. Education: Bachelor’s degree in business or public administration, government, political science or a field related to the work and six years full-time senior level management experience in voter registration and election operations. Salary: $104,208-$161,553.60. Application: For the complete job posting and to apply, click here. Deadline: Feb. 25, 2013

Supervisory Information Technology Specialist, District of Columbia Board of Elections, Washington, DC – The incumbent will manage and provide technical support in the areas of database and applications administration, custom report development, web programming and systems administration. Duties would include: support a Database Administrator and provide for the design, implementation, maintenance and repair of the agency database applications; guide the selection, installation and maintenance of network infrastructure equipment; administer the agency’s voter registration database operations and applications and on-line voter registration software applications, ensuring accuracy and security of the systems; manage and provide enhancements to the agency web applications and oversee the technology, design and application development associated with the agency’s Internet site. Education: It is desirable that the applicant be a graduate from an accredited college or university with a Bachelor of Science degree in the field of information technology; computer science, information science, information systems management or other related field. Experience: The applicant must possess progressively responsible technical experience related to enterprise-level database and application administration. A general knowledge of and understanding of voting systems in the administration of elections is preferred.   Deadline: Open Until Filled.   Application: Interested persons can apply to the D.C. Department of Human Resources Job Center, 441 4th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20001. To apply online, go to http://dcop.dc.gov and click Employment Opportunities. Inquiries should be directed to HR Answers at 202-442-9700