July 11, 2013

I. In Focus This Week

News Analysis: Macon-Bibb’s on again, off again election
VRA ruling gives election a green light, but not so fast

By M. Mindy Moretti

Following the late-June decision by the U.S. Supreme Court that ruled Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act unconstitutional — and essentially gutted Section 5, the provision of the VRA which required certain states and jurisdictions to pre-clear their elections changes through the Department of Justice — many states and localities sprung into action to implement long-stalled election changes.

In the combined Macon-Bibb government in Georgia, the ruling has brought a mixed bag of issues.

About a year ago, voters in both city of Macon and Bibb County approved a referendum to consolidate the governments of the county and city.

The Georgia General Assembly had approved the move earlier in 2012. There were four previous attempts to consolidate the governments, but with more than 55 percent of the city and county voters approving the consolidation, the fifth time was the charm.

An election for voters to choose the first-ever nonpartisan consolidated government for Macon-Bibb was set for Tuesday, July 16, 2013 and plans for the election were submitted to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) for preclearance.

On May 24, less than two months before the scheduled election and with the absentee ballots about ready to go out, the DOJ sent officials in Macon-Bibb a letter requesting more information about the changes and ultimately throwing the scheduled election into chaos.

According to The Telegraph, the letter said, in part:

“Concerns have been raised that these changes will result in a retrogression in the ability of minority voters to participate in the electoral process and elect candidates of their choice and were undertaken by the local delegation despite concerns expressed by members of the affected elected bodies, including comments that the changes were proposed, at least in part, for racial reasons.” T. Christian Herren Jr., chief of the voting section signed the letter.

Following the letter from the Dept. of Justice, Elections Supervisor Jeanetta Watson began canceling preparations for the election and the county board of elections unanimously voted to postpone the election indefinitely.

 A week after DOJ’s original opinion was due, Bibb County Attorney Virgil Adams reached out to the department demanding an immediate decision on the county’s preclearance request or the county would be forced to go to court.

In addition to putting the elections office and all the plans it had made on hold, the postponement of the election also impacted the candidates in the race who were left hanging as to when to file important campaign finance reports.

Immediately following the Supreme Court’s 5-4 ruling on Shelby v. Holder, lawmakers in Bibb were of differing opinions on the impact the ruling would have on the election in question.

But, on the advice of the county attorney, the board of elections voted two days later to schedule the election for September 17. Initially county commissioners wanted the election held in November, but the BOE voted against that.

On the same day the elections board voted to set the election on September 17, one of the candidates in the election filed suit demanding that the court take over the election process.

Despite the selection of Sept. 17 as the date for the election, Mallory Jones III, who filed the suit against the county, refused to pull his lawsuit citing the numerous outstanding issues including early voting and re-qualifying candidates.

“The lawsuit is designed to bring finality,” Lee Parks, attorney for the plaintiff told The Telegraph. “The results (of the election) could be challenged if it’s decided the election was held on an illegal date. We want finality. That’s the whole point.”

In an attempt to appease the Jones and put an end to the lawsuit, the board of elections voted to tweak the election yet again this week. While the election date would remain the 17th, the qualifying dates would shift to July 22-24 instead of the previously announced August 5-7.

Then finally, on July 9, U.S. District Judge Ashley Royal signed a consent order setting the election date for September 17.

II. Election News This Week

  • The Meigs County, Ohio board of elections recently held a ceremonial opening a package wrapped in brown paper and tied with twine that contained ballots of Civil War soldiers from Meigs County cast in 1864. Jane Frymeyer, former elections director, found the ballots in a storage room at the board of elections. They were then transferred, unopened, to the county museum. With numerous 150-remembrances happening, the Historical Society decided it was time to open the package. Inside there were 697 absentee ballots cast by soldiers serving in numerous states and D.C. The final tally in the election that pitted incumbent Abraham Lincoln against Democrat George B. McClellan: Lincoln 639, McClellan 58. The ballots will be preserved and put on display in the county museum.
  • Well, they weren’t 150 years old, but just last week, the New York City board of elections finally got around to counting 1,600 ballots from the November 2012 election. During an April audit, the board realized there was an issue with matching the tally to ballots cast. The board was able to trace the problem to two optical scan machines in Brooklyn where the data from the machines was never uploaded to the board of elections.
  • Following a complaint from the ACLU of Iowa, the secretary of state’s office is rewriting the state’s voter registration form. The ACLU argued that the new form gives the “mistaken impression that registrants must provide a state driver’s license or ID card number and their social security number in order to register.” According to the Des Moines Register, Charlie Smithson, legal counsel for the secretary of state’s office agreed with the ACLU and therefore the form will be rewritten.
  • Residency issues crop up more often than not in elections. Does a candidate live where they say they do? Should homeless people be allowed to register at local homeless shelters? And most recently in Hamilton County, Ohio, should residents of a motor home association be allowed to register there? Of the 1,400 people registered at the motor home association, 22 of them are registered to vote and 13 cast ballots in November 2012. Following a citizen challenge of the 22 registered voters, the board of elections is seeking more information from the association.
  • News Update: As we reported back in April, heavy rains forced the collapse of the roof on the garage where the voting machines for Stark County, Ohio were stored. Now, almost three months later and after further inspection, the county has determined that only 10 of the 1,393 machines are salvageable. In May, we wrote a story about San Francisco’s 500+ page voter’s guide and hinted to the possibility of the book increasing in size even more if an additional ballot measure was added. On Monday, supporters of the proposed development turned in petitions to place a competing measure on the ballot. At press time, it was unknown whether the proponents had met the signature threshold and, how many more potential pages the voters’ guide will include.
  • Personnel News: Neal Johnson, a member of the Columbia County, Ga. BOE is retiring after 16 years on the board. Kevin M. White, Sr. has been appointed to serve as the GOP registrar of voters in Westport, Conn. The North Carolina State Board of Elections has appointed new elections boards in Polk County and Davidson County. Maeve Kennedy Grimes, who previously served t the Clatsop County, Ore. clerk from 2011-2012 will return to that job effective Aug. 1. Alabama Secretary of State Beth Chapman announced that she will resign effective July 31 to take a job in the private sector. Chapman had previously announced that she would not seek re-election in 2014. Former Secretary of State Jim Bennett has been appointed to fulfill Chapman’s term. Bennett previously served from 1993 through 2002. First-term Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes announced that she will seek the U.S. Senate seat in a challenge to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. Ohio State Sen. Nina Turner (D-Cleveland) officially announced her candidacy for secretary of state. Calif. Secretary of State Debra Bowen honored Victoria Gribaudo for serving as a poll worker in San Joaquin County for more than 50 years. Diana Hartsough, Elbert County, Colo. clerk announced that she is resigning for health reasons and Election Manager Blake Hepburn will not return from medical leave. A park bench in East Haven, Conn. was recently dedicated in honor of Joseph Buonome who served as the Democratic registrar of voters. Laura Dees, Hamilton County, Fla. supervisor of elections has been cleared of four allegations that she misused her position. Elaine Hewitt has been appointed to serve on the Rowan County, N.C. board of elections. George Foley, deputy clerk of Hancock County, W.Va. has been appointed to the position of clerk following the retirement of Eleanor Straight. Kevin White has been appointed to serve as Republican registrar of voters in Westport, Conn. Former Michigan Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land has thrown her hat in the ring to run for the U.S. Senate. Former Minnesota state Rep. Jeremy Kalin (DFL) has joined the growing ranks of those seeking to replace Secretary of State Mark Ritchie. Lucy Johnson, Austin, Minn. city clerk is set to retire on July 31 after 32 years on the job. Michelle Wilcox is the new director of the Auglaize County, Ohio board of elections. Caroline Fawkes has been appointed as the new supervisor of elections for the U.S Virgin Islands.
  • In Memoriam: Joyce Lee Wright, Kent County, Del. director of elections died on July 4. She was 67. Wright served as the county’s elections director for almost 20 years. Prior to that she was a judge on the Industrial Accident Board. Outside of the office she was a member of Delaware Sheep and Wool Association and was a sheep exhibitor at the Delaware State Fair.

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.

2012 Election Administration and Voting Survey Draft Data – Election Assistance Commission, June 2013: Draft data from the 2012 Election Administration and Voting Survey Draft Data is now available.

The Impact of the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 on the Administration of Elections for Federal Office 2011–2012Election Assistance Commission, June 30 2013: This Congressionally-mandated report provides data and assesses the impact of the National Voter Registration Act on elections from 2011-2012.

IV. Legislative Update

California: The Senate elections committee has approved a bill that would require each county to open an early voting location on the Saturday prior to an election.

The Senate also approved legislation that will allow non-citizens to serve as poll workers to help those with limited English-language skills.

New Jersey: The Senate, with bipartisan support, approved a bill that would force the consolidation of the upcoming special Senate election. Gov. Chris Cristie (R) has said he will veto the bill.

New York: Both chambers of the Legislature have approved a bill that will modernize how New York City counts votes on election night. The bill allows the city to use portable memory drives to tally unofficial results instead of using a paper print out.

North Carolina: A House committee voted to commission a study on the use of paper ballots statewide. Currently North Carolina counties have the option of using electronic voting machines or optical scan machines.

Oregon: The Senate has approved House Bill 2199 that requires county clerks to document how many unused ballots they have on hand after an election. While an existing law requires clerks to destroy the ballots as soon as possible, other statutes require the ballots to be used for duplicate ballots that are unreadable by tallying machines. The legislation provides stricter guidelines to account for the ballots, but gives clerks broader discretion when to destroy the ballots.

The Senate failed to approve legislation that would create universal registration. The measure failed by one vote when Democrat Betsy Johnson (D-Scappoose) joined all 14 Republicans in opposition. Secretary of state Kate Brown had promoted House Bill 3521 as a way to increase voter participation.

V. Conferences

Please email upcoming event — conferences, symposiums, seminars, webinars, etc. to mmoretti@electionline.org.

NASS Summer Conference: “Towards the Frontier of Leadership and Innovation” is the theme for this year’s National Association of Secretaries of State Summer Conference. When: July 18-21. Where: Anchorage, Alaska. Registration: Click here to register.

NACRC Annual Conference: This year’s National Association of County Recorder, Election Officials and Clerks annual conference will be in Dallas, Texas and the theme is NACRC Partnerships Today Create Tomorrow’s Leaders. When: July 18-21. Where: Dallas, Texas. Registration: Click here to register.

NACo Annual Conference: The National Association of Counties 78th Annual Conference will be held in Tarrant County and provides an opportunity for all county leaders and staff to learn, network and guide the direction of the association. When: July 19-22. Where: Forth Worth, Texas. Registration: Click here to register.

NCSL’s Legislative Summit — join the National Conference of State Legislatures at their annual Legislative Summit. This year’s summit will include almost a dozen sessions on redistricting and elections. When: August 12-15. Where: Atlanta, Ga. Registration: Click here to register.

Election Center’s 29th Annual Conference: The annual conference of the National Association of Election Officials will be in Savannah this year and will feature numerous sessions and coursework ranging from comparative democracies to the history of voter registration. When: August 13-17. Where: Savannah, Ga. Registration: Click here to register.

VI. Opinion

National News: Instant-runoff voting | Voter suppression; Voter ID, II | Federal voting standards | Voting rights, II


Alabama: Voter ID

Alaska: Voting Rights Act

Arizona: Election legislation, II

California: Election reform

Colorado: Election laws | Election integrity

Florida: Voting rights | Voting mess | Voter ID

Georgia: Macon-Bibb election, II, III

Iowa: Voter ID | Accessible voting, II

Kansas: Kris Kobach, II, III | Voter registration

Maryland: Early voting, II | Steamlining elections

Massachusetts: Turnout | Elections help | Cost of special election | Poll watchers

Mississippi: Voter ID

Nebraska: Voting rights

Nevada: Voting rights

New Jersey: Special election | Voting Rights Act

New Mexico: Voting Rights Act

New York: New York City voting system | Lever voting machines | Oneida County | 2013 NYC primary

Ohio: Voter ID

Oklahoma: Voting Rights Act

Pennsylvania: Philadelphia election system | Luzerne County

South Carolina: Voting Rights Act | Vote fraud | Dead voters

South Dakota: Voting procedures

Texas: Voter ID, II, III, IV | Voting Rights Act | Voter suppression

Virginia: Voting rules

Wisconsin: Voter ID

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.

Election Programmer, Jefferson County, Texas — codes each election as prescribed by The Texas Election Code in compliance with the federal, state, county, political subdivisions and political party requirements. Coordinate and code all ballot information including precinct, office, candidate, and polling location data; and provide English, Spanish and audio coding; coordinate the accuracy of the paper and iVotronic ballot; responsible for loading election data on Ivotronic touchscreens, Personal Electronic Ballots, and flash cards; responsible for performing operational testing; responsible for overseeing the logic and accuracy testing of ballots; responsible for the printing or outsourcing of paper ballots; program and make ready all EA tablets which contains the voter registration database; create and maintain election equipment inventory database; must assist field technicians during early voting and help desk representative to technicians on Election Day; responsible for backing up all audit data and election files; report election results to Secretary of State of Texas. Minimum Qualifications: Education and experience equivalent to an Associate’s degree from an accredited college or university in computer science, electronics or in a job related field of study. One (1) year of work related experience. Experience in election programming preferred. Must possess a valid Texas Driver’s License with a good driving record. Experience with computer programming, Access database management, electronics, hand tools and skilled in the use of standard software applications. Restrictions exist on the ability to be a candidate for a public office or an office of a political party, hold a public office, or hold an office of or position in a political party. Special rules apply to political contributions. Salary: $43,094-$58,858. Deadline: Open until filled. Application: For the complete job posting and to apply, click here.

Senior Director of Advocacy, Demos, New York City — we are looking for a creative thinker, excellent manager and team-builder, and brilliant strategist who can lead our growing Advocacy Team and help our organization achieve major impact on key challenges facing our nation. The Senior Director of Advocacy will report to the Vice- President for Policy and Outreach, Heather McGhee, and supervise the Advocacy Team. S/he will, in close collaboration with this high-performing team, guide and advance our strategy for advocacy and networking to affect policy change across our four core areas of work. Basic Qualifications:Eight years of issue advocacy experience (state or federal level but ideally both), including lobbying and advocacy, issue campaign development, and coalition-building; demonstrated strong personnel management skills with a track record of building effective, productive, and cohesive teams and developing staff for long-term success outstanding judgment and leadership qualities; excellent oral and written communications skills, demonstrating a strong ability to persuade and to debate; strong organizational and time management skills with ability to manage multiple tasks and projects at a time; and proficient in Word, Excel, Outlook and PowerPoint software. Deadline: Open until filled. Application: For the complete job posting and to apply, click here.