I. In Focus This Week
Seven Habits of effective election administrators
Telling your story
By Dave Ammons
I retired on New Year’s Day after having a front row seat for 46 years as an Associated Press political writer, public television host, and communications director and policy adviser for the Washington Secretary of State.
A common thread for me during those enjoyable, challenging, dynamic years was the task of relating the drama of campaigns and elections, the mysterious world of politics, and my personal mission of promoting civility, civics education, and connecting people with their government.
Much has been written about voters’ disconnect with government and politics, the incivility and coarseness of our time, and distrust in our leaders and the process by which we elect them. Restoring that faith and confidence, and re-engaging people in self-government will certainly be no easy task. The time to begin is now.
Some thoughts for a kickstarter:
1. Tell your story. For all too many election professionals, having an effective communications strategy is often an afterthought, if that. Public understanding of what you do –and the values and professionalism you hold dear – are a mystery to many. My recommendation is to engage the public early and often, and not just in the heat of the fray or controversy du jour – the media, editorial pages, opinion leaders, state and local legislators and executives, and regular voters. Take a reporter or ed board director to coffee, even when you don’t need something! Most don’t bite. Answer media calls quickly and strategically. Have a crisis communications plan ready as part of your COOP plan.
2. Civics education needs to be your middle name. Work with the schools, promote registration events like the National Voter Registration Day. Be cool with social media. Give lunch TED talks to your local service club or chamber. Do outreach and listening tours. Invite folks to the Capitol or county courthouse – from scout troops to senior citizens. (Test drive some of your messaging!).
3. Explain your setup. In Washington, state and county election departments invite state legislators and staff, commissioners and regular folks to watch initiative signature checks, ballot preparation, tabulation, etc. It’s cool for people to see with their own eyes, and effectively shows cybersecurity and checks-and- balances at work. Some counties even have a live ballot cam online so people can watch ballot processing! Won’t win in the ratings, but, boy, it’s great transparency!
4. Follow the headlines and seize on opportunities to present your side. Yes, I’m remembering “rigging’ and “Russian hackers” of just a few short months ago, and people in both parties ragging on the fundamentals. Voter confidence in our election process went all wobbly. But I did see some great op-eds and smart radio, VTV and print comments from our Secretaries of State and election officials. It was no time to hunker down! Yes, the election came off “without a hitch” for most of us. Teachable moment: public education has to be an every year, every day thing. Sorry, no rest!
5. Anticipate. A corollary to previous point. Good recent example: After the presidential returns were in, it became clear that the popular winner, Hillary Clinton, was not elected, but rather the Electoral College winner, Donald Trump. People were like “Whaaa? That doesn’t sound right. What’s the Electoral College?” Many of us quickly swung into SuperEducator mode, tweeting links to the National Archives’ excellent resources, etc. In Washington, we also reminded people that our state was one of the members of the National Popular Vote compact. Our state, BTW, had over a thousand people attend the Electoral College gathering, and the nation’s largest number of “faithless” electors refused to vote for Clinton and Kaine. It lead the news cycle. We were ready. People were educated, if not happy.
6. Use every sensible communications platform at your disposal to reach your voters and media where they get their information. Flood the zone with useful, fun, sassy info, attaching full statements, background, etc., and always using attention-grabbing art. My favorite is Twitter, so immediate and dynamic!
7. Innovate and never stop improving. And don’t forget to toot your own horn when you do. (Examples are registration reforms, modernization, and the cool federal-state- local partnership to make it easier for military and overseas voters). The world is moving at warp speed and people’s expectations are through the roof! Many of our American institutions are sclerotic and some of the public’s disdain is warranted. Innovation is an antidote. Finding new and better equipment, more welcoming and inclusive attitudes, new strategies for engagement and re-engagement. Is D.C. broken? The magic is that states are the “laboratories of democracy” and local election administrators are “on the ground” where progress happens when yesterday’s solutions simply aren’t good enough. It’s in the election geek’s DNA.
There’s a future to be met, and a great story to tell. So tell it!
(Editor’s Note: To follow up on what Dave said, help us help you! We’d love to tell your story here at electionline. If you’ve got a new, innovative program, let us know about it. If you’ve got an employee who goes the extra mile to help people get registered and vote, let us know. We want to tell your story!)
II. Election News This Week
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has designated the nation’s election systems as critical infrastructure. The move will provide more federal help for state and local governments, but what that help is remains unclear. According to NewsHour, the determination came after months of review. Elections officials across the country were skeptical. Ohio’s Jon Husted said that the move was unnecessary and was an “unprecedented federal overstep.” The National Association of Secretaries of State released a statement Monday saying the announcement raised many questions and concerns for states and other entities, including why the “critical infrastructure” classification is needed to combat threats.
Klamath County has approved an amendment to its budget that will add $200,000 to the county clerk’s office to cover the multitude of new voters registered through automatic voter registration. The county now averages 20 new registrations per day which has increased the cost of printing and mailing ballots as well as counting them. The county will also use some of the money for new ballot boxes that can contain larger volumes of ballots.
A subcommittee of the Portsmouth, New Hampshire school board is recommending that all schools close on all election days due to safety concerns that include firearms being allowed at the polls. According to SeacoastOnline, Assistant City Attorney Kathleen Dwyer, who represents the School Board, said the school closures recommendation is related to a ruling issued by the New Hampshire secretary of state’s office, prior to the November presidential election, noting that legally armed voters cannot be turned away from polls, even at schools. Dwyer said because of the secretary of state’s ruling, the committee is recommending the closure of all city schools, when they are used as election polling locations including for federal and state elections, as well as primaries and municipal elections.
Lynchburg, Virginia held a special election this week and it was plagued with problems both man made and from Mother Nature. Before the election, the area was hit with a snowstorm and so elections officials had to scramble to make sure that parking lots and sidewalks around polling places were all free of snow. Then on Election Day, several polling places ran out of ballots. According to The News & Advance, Lynchburg Registrar Karen Patterson ordered 1,350 ballots—about 5 percent of the city’s registered voters. Pat Bower, chair of the Lynchburg Electoral Board, described the lack of available ballots as a miscalculation by both the board and the registrar and said they take responsibility for the issue. “I do really apologize for that and the inconvenience that many voters had,” Bower told the paper. She added the turnout was “grossly underestimated.”
Personnel News: Carol Smith, a long-time deputy clerk has been tapped to replace Upshur County, West Virginia Clerk Debbie Thacker Wilfong who recently passed away. Rolando Pablos has been sworn-in as the new Texas secretary of state. Dr. Bruce Saferin has been chosen to serve on the Lucas Co., Ohio board of elections. Don Merriman has retired as the longtime Saline County, Kansas clerk. Scott Bates will be appointed deputy secretary of state in Connecticut. Jay Ashcroft has officially taken the helm of the Missouri secretary of state’s office. Lisa Thomas has been reappointed the Marlborough, Massachusetts city clerk. George Kotch has been confirmed to lead the Burlington County, New Jersey elections office. Brian Mead is the new Licking County, Ohio elections director.
III. Legislative Updates
California: Assemblyman Kevin Mullin (D-South San Francisco) has introduced legislation that would move California’s primary from June to March. “Super Tuesday is really the first national test of a candidate’s strength and California ought to be included in that national test; we ought to be given the fact we’re the sixth largest economy in the world and that one out of every eight Americans calls themselves a Californian,” Mullin told The Daily Journal.
Iowa: Secretary of State Paul Pate has unveiled an election integrity proposal that would require all Iowans to show an ID in order to vote. Acceptable IDs would include driver’s licenses, passports, military IDs and new, free IDs available to eligible voters. College IDs would not be acceptable. Also under the plan, all precincts would be required to use e-poll books, absentee ballots would require an ID number and the law would also establish post-election audits.
Kansas: Rep. John Carmichael (D-Wichita) has filed a bill that would strip Secretary of State Kris Kobach of his authority to prosecute elections crimes. “Given the secretary of state’s incompetent prosecutorial abilities, I thought it was appropriate to return those responsibilities to professional prosecutors,” Carmichael told the Kansas City Star.
Lawmakers are also considering a bill that would change the timing of special election to be held in the event of a vacancy in the 4th Congressional District. According to KMUW, Kansas law conflicts with federal law on the timing to replace members of Congress.
Nebraska: Sen. John Murante of Gretna introduced legislation to return Nebraska to a winner-take-all presidential electoral vote system and offered a proposed constitutional amendment to authorize creation of voter ID requirements in the state. The voter ID measure would be submitted to a vote of the people.
Also in Nebraska, Sen. Justin Wayne of Omaha has introduced a voting rights bill that would eliminate the two-year waiting period for ex-felons to re-establish their voting rights.
In other legislation, LB 163 would require the state’s three largest counties to each provide at least three early voting locations with extended hours.
New York: During his state of the state speech, Gov. Andrew Cuomo proposed a series of election reforms including allowing New Yorkers to vote up to 12 days before an election. He also proposed automatic voter registration.
Tennessee: State Rep. G.A. Hardaway has filed legislation to legalize ballot selfies. “The ban on selfies makes no sense,” Hardaway told the Memphis Daily News. “It causes our already overworked and underpaid election workers, those at the polls, to have to pay attention to enforcing the law that, in essence, violates the constitutional rights of our young folks who are known to live, to communicate by digital means.” No word on whether the legislation has been named in honor of Justin Timberlake.
Virginia: Sen. Mark Obenshain (R-Harrisonburg) and Sen. John Cosgrove (R-Chesapeake) have each proposed legislation that would require Virginia voters to register with one party or another and those who don’t may be ineligible to vote in primaries.
Also in Virginia, Del. Mark L. Cole (R-Spotsylvania) has proposed legislation that would require proof-of-citizenship when registering to vote. Under the proposal, anyone registering to vote after Jan. 1, 2018 would have to provide copies of a document proving their citizenship—passport, birth certificate, naturalization papers, or Bureau of Indian Affairs card.
Wyoming: Legislators will consider a bill that would automatically restore the voting rights of non-violent offenders who have completed the terms of their sentence. Currently, some non-violent offenders have to apply to have their rights reinstated.
IV. Legal Updates
California: Judge John A. Mendez has denied an attempt to toss out a lawsuit alleging that Siskiyou County officials and some state employees intimidated Hmong voters. Mendez ruled that attorneys for the county failed to show that the suit is without merit and attempts to quash free speech.
Maine: Republican lawmakers are drafting a letter to the state’s supreme court seeking an opinion as to whether or not ranked choice voting — recently approved by voters — is constitutional or not.
Michigan: The U.S. Department of Justice has sued the city of Eastpointe claiming that the city violates the Voting Rights Act by denying black residents the chance to elect their preferred candidates for city and school offices.
New Hampshire: The state Attorney General’s office has officially asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review lower court rulings striking down a New Hampshire ban on ballot selfies. The petition of writ certiorari was filed two days after Christmas.
North Carolina: This week, the Supreme Court temporarily blocked special elections this year in North Carolina legislative districts that a lower court ruled were drawn to minimize the political statewide clout of African American voters. According to WCNC, the justices delayed new elections in at least 28 House and Senate districts while they decide whether to consider the GOP’s effort to keep the districts intact, at least through 2018.
Ohio: A Columbiana County woman has pleaded guilty to 13 of 32 charges of falsely registering people to vote and one of three charges for forging someone’s signature on a voter registration form. The charges carry a maximum possible sentence of one year imprisonment on each charge.
Also in Ohio, Lorain County Common Pleas Judge Mark Betleski has asked the Loraine County prosecutor’s office to review allegations of voter fraud in a 2015 city council race.
Tennessee: Sonya Sanders, 45 of Shelby County has been arrested and accused of voting twice. According to court records, Sanders voted at one location and then drive about 16 minutes away to another voting location, filled out a change of address form and voted again. Sanders’ attorney contends that while she signed in to both polling places, she only cast one ballot. “There was no intent behind it. If there was even fraud in the first place,” Sanders’ attorney Alexander Wharton told Fox 13.
Texas: The city of Pasadena has been found in violation of the Voting Rights Act and the 14th Amendment by purposefully trying to dilute Latino voters.
Also in Texas, the state’s attorney general has ruled that records for a 2017 voter ID education effort are exempt under open record laws although he did order the release of ad spending details for a 2014 voter outreach campaign.
V. Tech Thursday
Arizona: Newly elected Maricopa County Recorder Adrian Fontes has invited computer experts to attempt to hack the county’s election system. “My first priority is to provide my fellow citizens with reliable, efficient, safe and secure elections,” Fontes told the Arizona Republic in a written statement announcing the operation.
Florida: Alan Hays, the new Lake County supervisor of elections has unveiled a new website for the elections department. Making improvements to the supervisor of elections office website was one of Hays’ campaign promises. LakeVotes.com is a “modern, user-friendly website that offers valuable information regarding the voting process in Lake County.”
VI. Opinions This Week
Alabama: Voting rights
Colorado: Presidential primaries
Georgia: Voting machines
Nevada: Early voting
New York: Election reform
North Dakota: Fargo elections
Oregon: Secretary of state
Pennsylvania: Voting system
West Virginia: Secretary of state
VII. Upcoming Events
NASS 2017 Winter Conference — Mark your calendars now and stay tuned for more information and registration details on the National Association of Secretaries of State 2017 Winter Conference. When: February 15-18, 2017. Where: Washington, D.C.
Election Center Special Workshop — the Election Center will host a special winter workshop featuring courses in facilitating voter participation (Course 7), implementation of new programs (Course 8) and resources management (Renewal Course 26). When: February 15-19. Where: Savanah, Georgia.
NASED 2017 Winter Meeting — Mark your calendars now and stay tuned for more information and registration details on the National Association of State Election Directors 2017 Winter Meeting. When: February 15-18, 2017. Where: Washington, D.C.
IaoGO 2017 Annual Conference — Mark your calendars now and stay tuned for more information and registration details on the International Association of Government Officials 2017 Annual Conference. When: July 6-13, 2017. Where: Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin.
NASS 2017 Summer Conference — Mark your calendars now and stay tuned for more information and registration details on the National Association of Secretaries of State 2017 Summer Conference. When: July 7-10, 2017. Where: Indianapolis, Indiana.
NASED 2017 Summer Meeting— Mark your calendars now and stay tuned for more information and registration details on the National Association of State Election Directors 2017 Summer Meeting. When: August 22-25, 2017. Where: Anaheim, California.
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 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.
Assistant Registrar I, City of Richmond, Virginia — under general direction, performs all forms of customer service and office procedures related to voter registration and elections. Major Duties and Responsibilities: Processing voter registration applications, voting records and verifying data entered; receives candidate’s filing papers and reports, and verifies candidates’ petitions; assists the general public with absentee voting; assists with election officer training to include preparation of training packets and, setup and testing of equipment in training; serves as department receptionist; receives and screens calls and visitors, directing them to appropriate offices; prepares, sorts, prioritizes, and distributes incoming and outgoing mail; handles return mail and researches voter applications; performs routine office functions, including document preparation, filing, sorting, copying, and faxing; provides information to the public by providing copies of public documents, answering questions and resolving complaints regarding election/VR laws and procedures; and, other job related duties as assigned. Salary: $24,108.00 – $39,076.00. Deadline: Sunday, January 22, 2017 11:59 PM EST. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Ballot Production Services Consultant, Hart InterCivic — BPS Consultants at Hart work with our customers to design ballots and to provide printed ballots and voting media for customers. This is a customer-service position, and applicants must have exceptional customer service skills. This is a part-time hourly positon with opportunities for overtime pay during peak periods. This is not a replacement position, but a net new position at Hart. This is an ideal position for someone who wants to work varying hours, depending on the calendar. Preference is for this position to be Austin-based, but that is open to negotiation. Deadline: Open until filled. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, please click here.
Elections & Special Districts Director, Cochise County, Arizona — under general direction of the County Administrator, provides professional level project planning in all functions related to the conduct of voting and election activities for the County. Under limited supervision, perform work of considerable difficulty to plan, organize, coordinate, direct and control all activities of the Elections & Special Districts Department in compliance with statutory and regulatory federal and state requirements. Prepare and manage the annual fiscal budget for the department, develop long-range plans and anticipates/identifies long-term organizational needs. Sound judgment and considerable communication and interpersonal skills are required in this position. Salary: $60,000-$90,000. Deadline: Open until filled. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Project Manager, Hart InterCivic — project managers at Hart InterCivic are highly motivated “self-starters” who are enthusiastic about providing exceptional customer service. Working with other members of the Professional Services and Operations teams, the project manager directs activity, solves problems and develops lasting and strong relationships with our customers. Hart InterCivic’s unique and industry known culture of innovation, transparency and customer-centric focus creates an environment where team members will continually grow and be challenged to develop their careers. Deadline: Open until filled. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Product Specialist, Denver, Colorado — Dominion Voting Systems is seeking a tech-savvy, passionate Product Specialist to join our team in downtown Denver! This position will be responsible for providing technical support on all Dominion Voting Systems products both on-site, via the telephone or via email; write detailed, technical documentation for distribution internally and externally; and interface directly with customers, co-workers, and election officials. Salary: Negotiable base + bonus target & benefits. Deadline: Open until filled. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Product Specialist, Toronto, Ontario — Dominion Voting Systems is seeking a tech-savvy and passionate, Product Specialist, to be based in our downtown Toronto, Ontario office. This role is responsible for responsible for the installation, operation, repair, and maintenance of all Dominion Voting Systems elections products; providing elections support services and customer training; and interfacing directly with customers, co-workers and election officials. Salary: Negotiable base + bonus target & benefits. Deadline: Open until filled. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Senior Technical Trainer, Clear Ballot, Boston, Massachusetts — our small and growing documentation and training team has an immediate need for a new member with intermediate-to-senior experience in: Instructional design, development of learning curricula, production of training materials, and hands-on, customer facing training. Generally, the training department, technical staff, and operations staff provide training at the customer’s site. We need an instructional designer and trainer who can analyze the learners and materials, and establish an appropriately targeted learning program. The opportunity exists to develop computer based training as an enhancement to our learning curriculum. Deadline: Open until filled. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Systems Engineer, Clear Ballot, Boston, Massachusetts — we are looking for a talented Systems Engineer who has both a technical and services/support background which enables them to quickly assess customer needs and offer value to Clear Ballot’s customers. The Systems Engineer will gain a deep understanding of how Clear Ballot’s products operate and their optimal configuration to build a streamlined installation process of the Clear Vote election system. The ideal candidate for this position can prioritize mission critical tasks and coordinate the implementation and expansion of our systems. They will be able to work directly with customers, display innovation, think conceptually and act tactically to build consensus around system installation and enhancement and meet deadlines. Deadline: Open until filled. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Voter Registration Specialist II, Yavapai County, Arizona — under minimal supervision, supervises temporary employees and performs all forms of customer service and office procedures. Also performs technical work of increasing difficulty in the operation of Voter Registration and specialized mailing and printing equipment. Major Duties and Responsibilities: Maintains complex voter registration database; manage all phases of printing and mailing of voter materials. Helps manage all phases of mailing and receiving ballots; purchases and maintains inventory of stock; accounts for beginning and ending inventory of ballots. Assists the Registrar of Voters in planning, organizing and preparing for upcoming Elections. Oversees day-to-day office duties; supervises and provides clerical operational support to assigned staff; maintains daily and monthly reports; monitors and performs the maintenance of voter registration records and lists. Prepares periodic and special reports including statistical reports to the Parties, statutory reports to Secretary of State’s office and audit reports to election for canvass. Provides information to the public by answering questions and resolving complaints regarding election/VR laws and procedures. Orders supplies for the Voter Registration department. Performs other job related duties as assigned. Salary: $17.18-$19.75/hour. Deadline: Open until filled. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
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