I. In Focus This Week
Surveying the situation
Orange County, Calif. uses series of surveys to assess the process
Research is formalized curiosity. It is poking and prying with a purpose — Zora Neale Hurston
Orange County, California Registrar of Voters Neal Kelley was used to hearing lots of great anecdotal evidence about the elections process in his county, but he was always curious about the hard facts of the process so in 2009 he decided to formalize that curiosity with a series of elections surveys.
“…[E]verything we were hearing from poll workers and/or voters was anecdotal – so I wanted some concrete ways to measure results and provide a solid base to capture some ways to monitor metrics,” said Kelley.
The county has been conducting Election Day surveys for more than five years now and runs the program for all elections — including special elections. The county released its 120-page report on the June 3, 2014 primary in September and the November 2014 report will be available shortly.
“When we first started we quickly identified areas where we could improve immediately and were able to pivot pretty quickly between the first two elections where we began conducting the surveys,” Kelley said.
Kelley said the early results did surprise him a bit. There were areas where he felt his office was doing well — poll worker training, poll worker materials, voter phone wait times, etc. but the survey results told him otherwise.
“It would be easy to sit back and say nothing surprised me but that’s not true – we all need to be self effacing and prepared to confront areas where we can improve – and we have done that as we move forward, the survey results show this,” Kelley said.
The office also monitors the data during weekly planning meetings and management meetings to make adjustments on the fly – not just post election. That, Kelley said, is where the real time data becomes so valuable.
Currently there are 11 different surveys that are distributed:
- Poll Worker Survey asks poll workers to assess the various components of their volunteer experience;
- Training Survey is distributed at the end of election night and pertains to how well the office prepared poll workers for Election Day;
- Delivery Survey asks polling place hosts to assess the delivery company that was tasked with delivering election supplies and equipment to their location;
- Polling Place Survey asks polling place hosts about their experiences receiving, storing and returning equipment and supplies;
- Election Supply Distribution Survey is provided to inspectors when they picked up their precinct-specific supplies for Election Day;
- Phone Bank Survey is taken by members of the public who call the Public Phone Bank and poll workers who call the Poll Worker Phone Bank;
- Coordinator Survey is distributed to the coordinators in order to rate their experiences lead up to and on Election Day;
- A-Team Member Survey is provided to A-Team members (back-up poll workers) as they are deployed to a polling place on the morning of the election;
- Recruitment Survey was developed and implemented in 2010 as a means to measure the level of customer service provided by staff members who actively recruit volunteers;
- Collection Center Survey was utilized for the first time in June 2014 and asks Collection Center Workers for their feedback on the quality of training and preparation; and
- Candidate Filing Survey is provided to candidates who completed filing in the registrar’s office or online.
Kelley said they didn’t have target number of surveys, 11 was the number of areas his office felt that needed to be measured.
Since 2009, using the data from the surveys the county has retooled its polling place manual from start to finish, completely redesigned the provisional process and envelopes, adjusted resources on phone banks, improved training materials and changed the way it packages elections supplies, to name a few.
“I could go on – the survey program has made us a much better operation,” Kelley said.
The office also surveys voters by capturing data on any voter that interfaces with the office in the last 120 days prior to an election, including Election Day. What they don’t have at the moment is a polling place survey for voters, but Kelley said they are working on that.
Kelley said he hopes to have the polling place survey as well as a survey for vote-by-mail voters in place by 2016.
The surveys are a team effort among the divisions in the department, Kelley explained.
“Each was tasked with identifying the questions that would be needed to monitor the key metrics — customer service, equipment delivery, service times, etc.,” Kelley said. “We have not worked with consultants – we have some very bright folks on staff who have statistics backgrounds, which has certainly helped.”
The cost of conducting and producing the survey is built into the office’s budget. Internal staff members are used to prepare, publish, collect and monitor the data. The county auditor is occasionally used to verify the data since it is an internal program.
Kelley said he believes conducting election surveys is something every government organization can afford and benefit from no matter the size of the agency because of the importance of listening to stakeholders.
“…[E]ven basic survey collection tools can help,” Kelley said. “And there are so many free data collection tools that can be used online. We offer printed and online options, but simple online tools are available – they don’t have to be coded from the ground up.”
II. Election News This Week
- Through a Freedom of Information Act request, The Topeka Captial-Journal has gained access to an analysis of Kansas’ suspended voter registration list. Secretary of State Kris Kobach has touted the analysis — conducted by True the Vote — as proof of the need for Kansas’ proof-of-citizenship law, but his office has failed to release the information, even to lawmakers. While the analysis purports that 1 percent of the 25,000 people on the list are in fact non-citizens questions continue to swirl about how the data was reviewed and even the secretary’s office has said it is continuing to review the list and the analysis. Rep. John Carmichael, D-Wichita told the paper that even if the list contains some noncitizens, thousands of legal Kansans are being denied the right to vote.
- Maine’s possible move to ranked choice voting in local elections is on hold until at least 2016. The Committee for Ranked-Choice Voting, which had been gathering signatures to force a 2015 referendum on the matter has now said that it needs more time to educate voters and will work to get the measure on the 2016 ballot.
- Although the November 4 election is long certified and newly elected and re-elected officials are sworn in and hard at work, questions are swirling around the outcome of the Mineral County, Nevada election. According to a report first published in the Mineral County Independent News, 172 votes may not have been counted and the electronic cartridge and paper record containing those early votes are now locked in vault in the clerk’s office. The district attorney’s office is now investigating. “Was this an error or was this intentional?” Mineral County District Attorney Sean Rowe told KOLO-TV. “If there is any intentionality obviously this becomes a criminal matter.” Regardless of whether an accident or intentional, with the election long-since certified by the elections office, canvassing board and county commission, there are many questions to how it got to this point with no one questioning the results.
- Perhaps we’ve watched The Departed one time too many, but when we think of things found floating in a Massachusetts river, elections documents aren’t one of them, but that’s exactly what happened. Recently, check-in sheets used by poll workers in 2012 were found floating in the Salisbury River and on its banks. “Somebody took our trash for whatever reason, and it ended up with a couch and some other trash in the river,” John McGarry, executive director of the Brockton election commission told The Enterprise. McGarry said no sensitive information was on the check-in sheets, but his office will still look into how it happened.
- Vote-by-mail is growing in popularity nationwide this story has to give some elections officials heartburn. An Oregon postal worker recently plead guilty to misdemeanor mail obstruction charges after failing to deliver two bins of mail including 27 ballots for a special election in May. Former postal worker Alex Douma told investigators that there was no malice in his failure to deliver the mail, he “just got lazy.”
- Yikes! The Niagara County, New York Sheriff’s Department is investigating a possible bullet hole found in the wall of the Niagara County board of elections storage building. Employee Lisa Gianquinto told The Buffalo News that the hole was definitely not in wall in November. A second hole was found in the interiors of the building and it was determined the bullet is still lodged in the wall.
- Personnel News: Freddie Harris has joined the Pope County, Arkansas election commission. Kentucky Secretary of State Allison Lundergan Grimes has announced that she will seek re-election instead of pursuing higher office. At this time, only one candidate — Steve Knipper — has filed as a GOP candidate. Hans Odde is the new deputy clerk in Park County, Wyoming. Tom Wiktorek and Miller Wilson have joined the Mississippi County, Arkansas election commission. Katrina Holbrook is the newest member of the Dawson, Georgia board of elections and voter registration. She replaces Charlie Vincent. Former Cass County, Missouri Clerk Janet Burlingame is the new city clerk in Peculiar. Grace Cherrington will replace Steve Harrington (see below) on the Licking County, Ohio board of elections. Bruce Coleman is the new chairman of the Crawford County, Arkansas election commission. Logan County Clerk and Recorder Pam Bacon has been named vice president of the Colorado County Clerks Association. Matthew Ward has been named Lucas County board of elections warehouse supervisor.
- In Memoriam: Former Licking County, Ohio board of elections member Steve Harrington died last week following a short illness. Harrington served on the board of elections for 11 years including as chairman. He resigned from the board on January 14 citing health reasons. “He certainly was a go-to person when they needed help at a polling place,” Licking County Clerk Marcia Phelps told the Newark Advocate. “He valued the integrity of the election process.”
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.
Voting Before Election day: A Policy Paper on the Benefits and Challenges of Expanded Early Voting in Virginia — Prepared by the William & Mary Election Law Program for The League of Women Voters of Virginia Education Fund, January 2015: This paper focuses on the history of absentee voting in Virginia and discusses the challenges and opportunities for the state to allow no-excuse absentee voting as well as in-person early voting.
Fuzzy Math: Wrong Way Reforms for Allocating Electoral Votes — Claire Daviss and Rob Richie, FairVote, January 2015: This new report examines two alternatives to allocating Electoral College votes, the whole number proportional system and the congressional district system. The authors find that both of these options could lead to results that might jeopardize majority rule and decrease the competitiveness of elections.
IV. Legislative Updates
Arizona: Rep. J.D. Mesnard (R-Chandler) is promoting a resolution that would create a lieutenant governor’s position in Arizona. Currently, if something happens and the governor steps down, the seat is filled by the secretary of state. Former secretaries of state Ken Bennett and Jan Brewer support Mesnard’s proposal. “Performing the duties of secretary of state alone would not prepare someone to take on the responsibilities of the levels of the governor,” Bennett told The Associated Press.
Arkansas: By a vote of 90-1 the House has approved legislation that requires write-in candidates to notify state and local elections officials 90 days in advance if they plan to run for office. County elections officials are not required to include lines for write-ins unless a write-in candidate has filed with the county.
California: Assemblyman Luis A. Alejo (D-Salinas) has introduced a bill that will “allow challenges to a district-based election that is being imposed or applied in a manner that impairs the ability of a protected class of voters to elect candidates of their choice.” Essentially, if approved, the bill would expand the reach of California’s Voting Rights Act.
Colorado: The House State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee killed a bill that would have allowed voters to show others their completed ballot without penalty.
Connecticut: Hartford’s legislative delegation is expected to introduce legislation allowing the city council to appoint one, nonpartisan leader for the registrar of voters office, whether or not the city is able to remove the existing, partisan registrars.
Illinois: Rep. Dwight Kay (R-Glen Carbon) is co-sponsoring legislation that would eliminate the East St. Louis elections board and pass the elections duties on to the St. Clair County clerk’s office. While the board has been beleaguered for a variety of issues, Kay cites finances as the reason for want to eliminate it. He anticipates consolidating the board would save the city more than $400,000 per year.
Maine: Gov. Paul LePage’s office is drafting legislation that would eliminate the state’s secretary of state position and replace it with a lieutenant governor. The proposed changes would require an amendment to Maine’s Constitution. Under the legislation, the governor and lieutenant governor would run on a slate.
Maryland: It’s official! Hyattsville has become only the second jurisdiction in the nation to allow 16-year-olds to cast a ballot in local elections. The city council voted unanimously to approve the charter amendment.
Michigan: Citing the desire to boost youth participation in elections, Sen. Steve Bieda has introduced legislation that will allow 16- and 17-year olds to pre-register to vote.
Minnesota: Under a bill sponsored by Sen. Dave Senjem (R-Rochester) and approved this week by a Senate committee, elections judges serving in the same precinct would be able to find out the party affiliation of their fellow election judges.
Missouri: It’s like déjà vu all over again. Once again this year, the Mississippi General Assembly is tackling the topic of voter ID. State Rep. Tony Dugger (R-Hartville) has introduced legislation that would require voters to show a current U.S. or Missouri government issued ID.
Montana: Secretary of State Linda McCulloch has asked Rep. Geraldine Custer (R-Forsyth) to pull a bill that would have moved Montana to all vote-by-mail. “In polling Democrats and Republicans, I couldn’t see that there was enough support for the bill,” McCulloch told the Montana Standard. “I’m a real believer that you shouldn’t waste a Legislature’s time and money if a bill is not going anywhere.”
While vote-by-mail met an early death in this year’s session, McCulloch and local elections officials are putting their efforts behind legislation to allow online voter registration.
Nebraska: Late last week the Legislature’s Government, Military and Veteran Affairs Committee conducted a heated debate on LB111, legislation that would require voters to show government-issued photo ID in order to cast a ballot. Witnesses included members of the NAACP as well as Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach.
New Hampshire: A proposal has been introduced that would codify a list of factors for what constitutes a domicile for voting purposes. The list would include what address a person uses on a tax return, or where they keep their most valuable possessions.
New Jersey: Assemblyman Timothy Eustace (D-Maywood) has introduced legislation that would allow voters to vote-by-mail in primary elections. Eustace’s legislation would allow any county to conduct primary elections by mail if approved by the county’s authorities.
New Mexico: Senate Minority Whip William Payne has introduced a proposal that calls for the secretary of state’s office to study the feasibility of bringing biometrics to the voter ID mix. Under the proposal, the secretary’s office would be required to study whether finger prints or retinal scans could be used as proof of ID in order to cast a ballot.
North Dakota: Sen. Ray Holmberg (R-Grand Forks) has introduced legislation that would require student IDs issued by state colleges and universities to include the students’ date of birth and address so that the IDs may then be used in order to cast a ballot.
Puerto Rico: Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla has announced plans to introduce legislation that would grant voting rights to undocumented immigrants. According to published reports there are anywhere from 200,000 to 400,000 undocumented immigrants who call the U.S. territory home.
Texas: Bills filed in both the House and Senate would allow students to use a university-issued ID as a valid form of ID to cast a ballot.
Rep. Tony Alvarado (Houston) has filed HB 953 that would create an online voter registration system in the Lone Star State. Under the legislation, those wishing to register online to vote would need to have a Texas driver’s license.
Virginia: A panel in the House of Delegates voted 13-9 to move Virginia’s primary from the second week in June to the third week. Del. Hyland F. “Buddy” Fowler, Jr. said he introduced the legislation because when he visited school-based polling places in 2014, he found that the election was interfering with school activities.
In a largely party-line vote, the Senate has killed a bill that would have allowed voter registration by party.
The Senate Privileges and Elections committee held hearings on several elections-related bills this week including one that would allow those 65 and older to be permanent absente votes and another that would create a pilot program for vote centers.
Washington: The state Voting Rights Act has returned to the legislature this session. Under the bill it would make it easier to force localities to switch to geographic district-based elections.
West Virginia: Sens. Charles Trump (R-Morgan) and Mitch Carmichael (R-Jackson) have introduced SB 340 that would require West Virginians to show a photo ID in order to cast a ballot.
Add The Mountain State to the list of states attempting to do away with straight-ticket voting this legislative session.
Wyoming: The House has approved legislation on a 57-3 vote that will streamline and speed up the process for ex-felons to regain their voting rights. Under the legislation, instead of petitioning the state’s parole board for restoration, rights would be automatically restored for some nonviolent offenders. The bill now moves to the Senate.
V. Legal Updates
U.S. Territories: We The People Project, a nonprofit organization that advocates for equal voting and citizenship rights for U.S. territories said that it plans to file a lawsuit in the coming months demanding residents in the U.S. territories be allowed to cast ballots in presidential elections. The group has encouraged citizens from Guam, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, American Samoa and other territories to visit its website and take an online survey to get support and voices behind its cause.
VI. Opinions This Week
Colorado: Election reform
Nebraska: National Popular Vote
New Mexico: Voter ID
North Carolina: Voter turnout
South Dakota: Election concerns;
Tennessee: Ex-felon voting rights
Washington: Young voters
VII. Upcoming Events
Please email upcoming events — conferences, symposiums, seminars, webinars, etc. to email@example.com.
Voting and Elections Summit— The U.S. and Overseas Vote Foundation, FairVote and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights will host the Ninth Annual Voting and Elections Summit that will examine the profound and persistent issues surrounding U.S. voter participation, engagement in our democracy and what can be done about it. Where: Washington, D.C. When: February 5-6, 2015. For more information and to register, click here.
NASS 2015 Winter Conference — The National Association of Secretaries of State Winter Conference will bring together government and industry leaders to showcase secretary of state initiatives and highlight all the latest developments in state and federal policymaking. The conference will include a special new member orientation session for newly-elected or appointed secretaries of state. Where: Washington, D.C. When: February 10-13. For more information and to register, click here.
NASED 2015 Winter Meeting —The National Association of State Election Directors will hold its 2015 Winter Meeting in Washington, D.C. in February. Topics at the meeting will include new voter registration systems, state election legislation, a voting system panel report, and a variety of speakers including Congressional staff and members of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission. Where: Washington, D.C. When: February 11-13. For more information and to register, click here.
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, 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.
Elections Division Director, Ada County, Idaho — collaborates with the clerk of the District Court and chief deputy to plan, oversee and administer elections for more than 200,000 registered voters across 145 precincts. The elections director is responsible for ensuring all of the necessary resources are acquired and in place, poll workers are well prepared, and that Ada County’s elections are conducted in an accurate, efficient and transparent manner that leaves Ada County voters with the utmost confidence in the elections process. The elections director is expected to exercise independent judgment and discretion, to manage the administration of all federal, state, county and local district elections. The director is responsible for planning, designing and carrying out programs, projects, studies or other work related to election administration within Ada County. Salary: $65,000-$75,000. Deadline: February 4. Application: 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.