I. In Focus This Week
Lifelong passion for process leads to elections job
At 21, William Nesbitt takes charge of Danville, Ill. elections
While most college seniors are busy making plans for spring break first and graduation and life after college second, University of Illinois, Springfield senior William Nesbitt has his mind on other things.
Nesbitt is planning to conduct his first election as the director of elections for Danville, Illinois.
Nesbitt, 21, officially started on January 20 and has been busy at work since day one.
“I got so excited last week when we first got our ballots,” Nesbitt said. “I like that am I able to see the progress towards each election from start to finish. Being the executive director of the Danville Election Commission is a very unique type of public service.”
Nesbitt may not be the youngest ever, or even currently the youngest chief election official in the country, but for him, applying for the Danville job wasn’t about being the youngest, it was about working in his community and doing a job he knew he could.
“The main reason I applied for the job was because I felt like I had the qualifications to do the job,” Nesbitt said. “I am also from the Danville area and I wanted to be able to stay in the community. I love this community and I thought this would be a perfect fit for me.”
Nesbitt wasn’t even sure if he was going to get the job or not when he applied, but in addition to a passion for the process, he knew he had at least one thing going for him.
“I previously worked in the Illinois House of Representatives and was able to get two letters of recommendation, one from a Republican and one from a Democrat,” Nesbitt said. “That showed that I have the ability to work with anyone.”
The commissioners that hired Nesbitt are confident in his ability to get the job done.
“This is a pretty complex job, and this is a person who is ready for that,” Commissioner Bar Bailey told The News Gazette. “He’s a young man with lots of energy and lots of enthusiasm. I think it’s going to work well.”
So far, other than the delicate balance of juggling 17 credit hours of college coursework and a 40+-hour per week job, Nesbitt said things are going well.
He said he’s spent a lot time learning the election code and about all the various equipment that the elections office uses. He said he was genuinely surprised about the vast array of technology that the office uses. He noted that working in the elections office is different every day and that keeps him excited about coming to work each morning.
And he’s enjoyed getting to know his colleagues.
“The best part, so far, has been working with the staff in the office,” Nesbitt said. “There are two other employees in the office and they have been wonderful to work with. We are a great team together and I think we will provide the best service to the voters of Danville.”
While he is busy learning the established system and practices and policies in the elections office he’s already thinking ahead to future including purchasing new voting machines — like many jurisdictions the city’s machines are about 10 years old — purchasing more e-pollbooks and making voter-friendly advances to the elections website.
He’s also looking forward to engaging more of his peers in the process. Millennials have a reputation of not voting and Nesbitt his hoping to change that.
“Sometimes, voters my age do not think about how government affects them personally. I have been going to local high schools and our local community college to educate them about the electoral process,” Nesbitt said. “I think interaction is a great way to get voters my age involved.”
As for Nesbitt, he has always had a passion for the elections process.
“It [registering to vote] was the first thing I did when I turned 18. I have grown up in a household that has always stressed the importance of being educated about elections and who is running,” Nesbitt said.
He fondly recalls going to the polls with his father when he was a child and his dad showing him the ballot and talking to him about candidates.
It was also his dad who made his first voting experience extra special.
“The first time I voted was in March of 2012 and my father, Chuck Nesbitt, was actually on the ballot running for the Vermilion County Board,” Nesbitt said. “So, my very first voting experience is very memorable for me because I was able to vote for my dad and he ended up winning the election.”
II. Knight News Challenge
The Knight Foundation, Democracy Fund, Hewlett Foundation and Rita Allen Foundation are collaborating on the latest Knight News Challenge to answer this question: How might we better inform voters and increase civic participation before, during and after elections.
For this challenge, Knight is looking for ideas and projects that better inform and inspire voters, as well as make the election process more fun and accessible for individuals.
There are no specific projects in mind, and the contest is open to anyone, from journalists, students, civic technologists, and academics, to news organizations, businesses, nonprofits, governments and individuals.
However, the challenge will not fund projects involving voter registration, lobbying or advocating for specific parties, initiatives or candidates.
Winners — there will be more than one — will split more than $3 million.
The challenge opens February 25 and submissions must be received by 5 p.m. on March 19. Winners will be announced in June.
III. Election News This Week
- This week, Connecticut Secretary of State Denise Merrill proposed eliminating the state’s elected registrars and instead replacing them with one appointed registrar in each of the state’s 169 municipalities. “We have now had two elections in the last four years where Connecticut has made national news for problems on Election Day, and enough is enough,” Merrill said at a press conference. On more positive news for registrars in Connecticut, last week Merrill recognized the registrars in New Haven who processed the most same-day registrationson Election Day — more than 600.
- This week, the U.S. Election Assistance Commission held it’s first meeting in four years with a quorum. The EAC addressed a variety of issues including selecting a chair and vice chair, accreditation of a new voting system test lab, consideration of possible updates to the standards used to test voting systems and updates to the EAC’s voting system testing program manuals. For a complete rundown and to watch it, visit the EAC’s website.
- While several jurisdictions are now allowing 16- and 17-year olds to vote in local elections, Littleton, Colorado isn’t one of them. Which is why it came as a surprise to about 165 underage voters who inadvertently received mail ballots for an upcoming special election. The young people are all pre-registered to vote, just not yet eligible to cast a ballot. Littleton elections officials sent letters to the affected teenagers and the city’s acting clerk Colleen Norton told The Denver Post that her office is ready to intercept any of the 165 ballots should they be returned.
- Citing tradition, the Sunset City, Utah city council voted 3 to 1 to conduct the 2015 elections the old fashioned way — at the polls instead of by mail — as many Davis County jurisdictions have moved to. “I’m a traditionalist. I don’t think it improved our numbers (voter turnout percentages) enough to go all by-mail,” said Councilman Ryan Furniss. “I’m not a fan of the vote by-mail.”
- Village elections in Chautauqua County, New York will take place on a Wednesday this year. What? Yup, because St. Patrick’s Day falls on Tuesday the 17th and a quirk in New York State law prohibits elections from being conducted on St. Patrick’s Day in order to “honor Irish heritage.” Since 1998, when the law was first enacted, St. Patrick’s Day has only fallen on a Tuesday once, in 2009.
- The Rhode Island Legislature is currently debating a bill whether or not to allow bake sales at polling places on Election Day and the state Board of Elections is trying to decide whether to weigh in or not. During a meeting last week the SBOE debated the pros and cons of cookies at the polls. Commissioner Stephen Erickson made a motion to support the legislation, but Executive Director Robert Kando said approving the legislation could have unforeseen circumstances. “May I point out to the board that if this were to become law … that there will be a group in your precincts over which the Board of Elections will have no authority?” Kando said according to The Providence Journal. It makes electionline sad that there is so much angst over baked goods.
- Personnel News: Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander has announced his plans run for U.S. Senate. This will leave the secretary’s seat open and candidates are already lining up including Jay Ashcroft, a St. Louis lawyer who is the son of former Attorney General John Ashcroft. Roberta “Bobby” Yaw has resigned as Pine Township, Michigan clerk. Mike Boerman temporarily replaced Yaw, but he was forced to step down and now Barbara Kaaikala is the new township clerk. Carlos Cascos is set to take the oath of office as the new Texas Secretary of State on March 7. Stanley R. Ott, Lois E. Murphy and Richard P. Haaz, all judges, will fill the three vacant seats on the Montgomery County, Pennsylvania board of elections. Mississippi Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann has announced that he will seek a third term in office. Joseph Fleckenstein, Allison McCord and Victoria Seitzinger have been appointed to the Harford County, Maryland board of elections. Marisa Crispell has resigned as the Luzerne County, Pennsylvania election director.
IV. 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.
Community Voices: Improving Access to Voting for California’s Limited-English Proficiency Communities – Joshua Alegado, Zainab Badi, and Michelle Romero, The Greenlining Institute, Feb. 18, 2015: This report notes that approximately 11 percent of eligible California voters speaks only limited English, and that there is a gap in the outreach to these voters but there are also ways to improve the system, such as writing ballot information in plain language and clearly publicizing the availability of bilingual poll workers.
V. Legislative Updates
Delaware: Rep. Earl Jacques has introduced House Bill 20 that would allow for no-excuse absentee voting in the First State. If approved, the legislation would need to pass both houses again in two years because it constitutes an amendment to the state’s constitution. Similar legislation was defeated in 2013.
Florida: Sen. Garrett Richter (R) is drafting legislation to move the Sunshine State’s primary to March 15.
Kansas: The Senate has given first-round approval to Senate Bill 34 that would empower the secretary of state to prosecute election crimes.
Kentucky: The House has approved legislation that would allow residents to register online to vote. Currently only deployed soldiers and residents living overseas may register to vote online.
Maine: Sen. Ron Collins (R-Wells) has introduced legislation that would require Maine voters to show a photo ID when casting a ballot. Similar legislation failed to advance in 2011.
Maryland: Del. Cory V. McCray (D-Baltimore City) has introduced legislation that would restore the voting rights to approximately 40,000 ex-offenders in Maryland. Under the proposed legislation, which has 51 cosponsors, offenders would be eligible to vote once they are no longer incarcerated, but may still be serving probation or other terms of their sentence.
The House Ways and Means Committee is considering legislation that would move the primary seven days later if the original date falls on certain religious holidays.
Michigan: The Senate has approved legislation that would move the state’s primary to March 8. The House has already approved the legislation and it now heads to the desk of Gov. Rick Scott.
The Senate Committee on Elections and Government Reform is reviewing legislation that would allow first-time voters to vote absentee or by mail. Currently, unless the voter is disabled, first-time voters are required to vote in person.
Minnesota: A Senate subcommittee has approved legislation that will allow people to begin voting 15 days before an election. Right now, the state has no-excuse absentee voting, but not early voting.
The Senate Judiciary Committee has approved legislation that would reinstate the voting rights to ex-felons on probation or parole. Ex-felons in Minnesota currently have the right to vote once they have completed all the terms of their service and are “off papers.”
Sen. Brandon Peterson has introduced legislation that would require a “none of the above” choice on all ballots.
Missouri: The Senate approved a bill, 26-8, which would set the deadline to change ballot measures about two weeks before an election, which is two weeks earlier than under current law. Supporters argued that the deadline change would have thousands of dollars in reprinting ballots.
Nevada: Assemblyman Ira Hansen has introduced Assembly Bill 94 that would allow voters to receive sample ballots via email.
New Mexico: The House Government, Elections and Indian Affairs Committee voted 6-5 along party lines to advance House Bill 61 that would require voters to verify their ID, but would allow for a wide range of IDs including expired licenses and tribal-issued paperwork that does not include a photo. A more stringent piece of legislation that would have required a current photo ID was defeated 8-3.
North Dakota: On an 18-29 vote, the Senate voted down a provision that would have allowed North Dakota voters to cast a provisional ballot if they did not have the required form of ID in order to vote.
Oregon: The Oregon House has approved House Bill 2177 that would automatically register Oregonians to vote when they obtain a new or update an existing driver’s license. The legislation was approved 35-24 along party lines. It moves next to the Senate.
Utah: Senate Bill 54 — legislation aimed at delaying a compromise to Count My Vote — was killed by the Senate on a 9-19 vote.
Virginia: The General Assembly has approved legislation that will allow Montgomery County to make changes to its voting precincts, essentially eliminating split precincts, which according to those involved, should make it easier to administer elections.
VI. Legal Updates
Florida: Gov. Rick Scott (R) has dropped his appeal of a federal court order that said the state’s efforts to purge the voter rolls of suspected noncitizens violated federal law. “Florida is in an excellent position to conduct fair elections,” Scott said in a statement. “I am confident that the 2016 presidential election cycle will put Florida’s election system in a positive light thanks to the improvements made by our supervisors of elections, the Legislature and the Department of State.” According to the Tampa Bay Times, cost-savings led, in part, to Scott’s decision.
Kentucky: Circuit Judge David Preston has thrown out the November election for Magoffin County judge-executive saying that there were so many violations of election rules. According to the Lexington Herald-Leader, the judge cited “a raft of improprieties” including a lack of required information on applications for absentee ballots; precinct officers failing to document how they identified voters and improperly helping people vote; and residents casting early ballots at the county clerk’s office when there was no Republican election commissioner present as required.
VII. Opinions This Week
Arizona: Primary date
Colorado: Homeless voting
Georgia: Early voting
Idaho: Primary date
Illinois: Poll worker training
Indiana: Vote centers
Kentucky: Ex-offenders voting rights
New York: Ballot privacy
North Carolina: Forsyth County
Oregon: Voter registration
South Carolina: Noncitizen voting
Tennessee: Knoxville election commission
Utah: Election legislation
Wisconsin: Voter ID
VIII. Upcoming Events
Please email upcoming events — conferences, symposiums, seminars, webinars, etc. to email@example.com.
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, firstname.lastname@example.org, 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: Cleveland, Ohio. 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.
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.
Chief Deputy Clerk & Recorder/Elections, Adams County, Colorado — in collaboration with and oversight from the Clerk and Recorder, the Chief Deputy will plan and oversee the credible conduct of elections, ensure the integrity of the process and the accuracy of operational tasks based on applicable federal and state laws, Secretary of State (SOS) Rules and organizational policies. The successful candidate will participate in the preparation and execution of the department’s strategic and tactical plans, annual budgets, and asset management; be responsible for the day-to-day management of the elections division; and perform a variety of public relation functions. This position reports directly to the Clerk & Recorder. Requirements: Five years election related experience or any equivalent combination of education and work experience that satisfy the requirements of the job; high school diploma or GED is required; college coursework in Business Management or Bachelors degree is preferred. Salary: $72,540-$101,544. Deadline: March 5, 4:30pm Mountain. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
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.
Division Manager, Los Angeles County Registrar — position reports directly to the Department Head and directs the Governmental and Legislative Affairs (GLA) Division of the Department of Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk (RR/CC). The incumbent exercises a high level of independence and discretion in advising the Executive Management on governmental and legislative affairs, and providing strategic media and communication strategies to enhance public awareness of departmental operations and services. Incumbent must possess highly effective oral and written communication skills to successfully work with the Board of Supervisors Executive Office, County departments, federal and state officials, special interest groups, stakeholders, public, and representatives of the media. Additionally, possession of extensive knowledge in the principles and techniques of mass communication, media relations and social marketing is required to perform the duties of this position. Salary: $8026-$12,149/monthly. 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.
Executive Assistant, Los Angeles County Registrar — performs special assignment and liaison work for the Department Head. The one position allocated to this class in a department typically reports to a Department Head of a medium to large-sized County department or a department that provides direct services to the Board of Supervisors. The position is responsible for providing a wide range of staff support services on the more complex departmental management issues and operational needs, including conducting special administrative and research studies affecting departmental operations and acting as liaison and coordinator for the director within the department and between the various commissions, boards, committees and public and private entities. Incumbents must possess a thorough knowledge of departmental operations sufficient to analyze, evaluate, and develop procedures and methods affecting the commitment of departmental resources; effective communicating skills, including written and oral; and the ability to deal effectively with various officials of other agencies, County departments, and Board Offices who work with the department. Salary: $7,185-$9,425/monthly. Deadline: Open until filled. 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.
Policy Specialist, National Conference of State Legislatures, Denver — policy specialist will work on NCSL’s elections team, a part of NCSL’s Legislative Management program. A policy specialist requires skills in research, analysis, and program planning gained through progressively more complex and more in-depth work over several years. The work is performed independently within established program guidelines or project specifications; major work products are reviewed by more senior professionals or program managers/directors for quality, policy considerations, form, and substance. The policy specialist will develop expertise on elections-related technology and election administration. The work includes research, writing, speaking, maintaining internal and external documents and resources, developing connections with state legislators and legislative staff as well as meeting planning. Travel will be minimal. Salary: $4,033+/month DOE. Deadline: March 12. For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.