I. In Focus This Week
New Colorado elections law brings changes
Clerks prepare for future elections, some sooner than others
By M. Mindy Moretti
From early voting to voter ID to online voter registration, Legislatures across the country went to work on election administration legislation in 2013.
While many states worked on individual pieces — or several individual pieces — of election reform legislation, the Colorado General Assembly went at it in one broad piece of legislation.
Colorado’s Voter Access and Modernized Elections Act (House Bill 13-1303) brought in sweeping changes to how voters in The Centennial State register to vote, receive elections information and cast their ballots. The major changes include:
- Election day registration — residents will be able to register and cast a ballot as late as election day;
- Vote-by-mail — in all future elections, every registered voter will receive a mail ballot;
- Vote centers — for those who don’t want to vote-by-mail each county will provide a specific number of election-day vote centers and ballot drop-off locations;
- Residency — a person is eligible to register to vote if they have established residency at least 22 days prior to the election;
- Electronic communications — other than ballots and voter information cards, county clerks are now authorized to send all other elections-related materials via email; and
- Inactive voters — previous election law placed voters on an “inactive” list if they failed to vote in one election, the new law repeals that and all voters will receive ballots.
The new law also creates a voter access and modernization elections commission, which is tasked with evaluating the implementation of the new laws and assessing the state’s voting system for making future changes.
The CCCA approached all legislators in the state late in 2012 asking to be involved in any election reform they might be considering and offered topics in state law that the organization believed needed updated.
“I was present at one of the meetings held in December 2012, and it was clear to me that the majority of legislators in our state wanted same day voter registration, the bill sponsors thankfully allowed the clerks to offer ideas to improve the system with that goal in mind,” said Sheila Reiner, Mesa County clerk.
For some counties, the new law won’t mean that many changes. In Mesa, the county has been conducting combined vote-by-mail/vote center elections since 2006.
“We began using the full service center model in the primary of 2010 along with all mail ballot delivery,” explained Reiner. “As of the general of 2012, 80 percent of votes cast were mail, 10 percent during early voting and only 10 percent of our ballots cast on Election Day. So our county has been performing the concepts of what is in this bill for years.”
Reiner said that now the county will have cleaner rolls with NCOA updates, and more frequent updates of felon and death records. She noted the impact will be cost savings and more integrity in the voter rolls.
While Mesa County’s transition to the new system is anticipated to relatively seamless, this will mean changes for many Colorado counties.
“Elections administrators in Colorado are accustomed to swift implementations with limited resources in every cycle. I think communication to voters will be key and our partnerships with the Secretary of State’s office and other local entities and commitment to voters will be very important, as always,” said Pam Anderson, clerk and Recorder for Jefferson County. Anderson is also the current present of the CCCA.
Anderson said clerks will also rely on the parties, campaigns and interest groups to communicate accurate and timely information with reliable sources.
“But when you dive into the nuts and bolts of the implementation for administrators it is really a lot of what we already do,” Anderson said. “The CCCA has been aggressively working with our members on communicating changes and working together so that we can share resources and knowledge and avoid ‘re-inventing the wheel’ in each jurisdiction.”
Not only will administrators face some changes, but so will voters. The new law will be a big change and the legislation actually addressed that by including public hearings in each county for polling center locations and the CCCA is working on an aggressive communications plan that will be accessible statewide including website, social media, civics outreach, parties and close relationships with the media.
“In Colorado, we have had many electronic access points for voters (online registration and ballot tracking) for years and this gives us a leg up,” explained Anderson.
Reiner noted that there would also need to be some process changes at the local level, but like Anderson she’s optimistic that the changes will be implemented well before the system is put to the test.
“I expect there to be some confusion between special district or municipal law with our new statutes until alignment and clean-up can be accomplished in the next legislative session,” Reiner said. “There are a few rough edges in the statutes, but overall no issues are anticipated as far as voter access and conduct of the election.”
While the CCCA and many clerk and recorders supported the legislation, not all did. El Paso County Clerk and Recorder Wayne Williams was not supportive for a variety of reasons including concerns about voter fraud, eliminating a voter’s choice and wasted tax dollars.
“Our office has estimated that HB 1303 will cost the taxpayers of El Paso County dearly. El Paso County runs on a pretty lean budget. Our tax burden is significantly lower than other large counties, and that is reflected in the Clerk and Recorder’s Election Budget,” said Ryan Parsell, public information officer for the clerk and recorder’s office.
The clerk and recorder’s office estimates that implementing HB1303 will increase the 2014 election budget by at least $695,000.
“In El Paso County, that’s money that has to come from roads, bridges, Sheriff protection, child abuse investigations, or parks. This office is not comfortable with having to pay more for a service we have been providing –without issues— to the citizens of El Paso County,” Parsell said.
While El Paso County anticipates a negative impact on its budget from the new law, Anderson said the fiscal impacts on other counties will vary. In Jefferson County the new law will actually help the county save some critical funds.
The county was set to replace its aging voting system and had budgeted $4 million for that replacement. According to Anderson, HB13-1303 reduces that cost to an estimated $2 million.
“There is no funding from the federal or state level, so our county really needed this flexibility and it is one of a few main reasons why Jeffco (including Commissioners from both parties) supported the legislation,” Anderson said.
Recall election speeds up implementation
While most elections officials in Colorado will not have to implement all of these changes until 2014, some counties, including El Paso, are on the clock now to get the new changes implemented for impending recall elections.
“I have no doubt that our expert elections staff will be as ready as possible by the time the Senate District 11 Recall Election takes place,” Parsell said. “However… [n]o amount of preparation will help us catch fraud easier with a flawed same-day voter registration law. No amount of preparation will keep SCORE running when it hasn’t been updated as promised by the proponents of this law.”
Just this week, the El Paso County commission gave Williams broad authority to seek whatever legal action is necessary to “…protect the rights of citizens of El Paso County with regards to the recall election.”
II. Election News This Week
- This week, U.S. District Judge Algenon L. Marbley made permanent an earlier order that Ohio must count provisional ballots cast in the right polling place, but wrong precinct—the so-called right church, wrong pew ballots. According to the Sun News, with this permanent injunction, provisional ballots cast in the wrong precinct will be counted unless a poll worker has determined the voter’s correct precinct and directed the voter there, but the voter disregards that information and votes in the wrong precinct anyway, according to the ruling.
- Following up on citizen complaints, the San Gabriel, Calif. city council commissioned a secret investigation into poll worker misconduct. According to the Pasadena Star-News, citing an ongoing investigation, officials have released little information about the complaints other than that they had to do with translation services offered by poll workers in at least two polling locations.
- Bexar County, Texas has been chosen to pilot a new program that will allow members of the military serving in combat zones to vote by email. The program was approved during the most recent legislative session. “Up until this program, every absentee ballot cast by members of the military had to be mailed back to us,” Bexar County Elections Administrator Jacquelyn Callanen told KSAT. “We’ll send the ballot to them – they will vote it and email it back to us.”
- On Monday, Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) outlined his plans to restore voting rights to thousands of Virginians. Because the state lacks a database of all ex-felons, the biggest hurdle to restoring voting rights will be making contact with all individuals who deserve restoration. The state has added a form to its website that can be submitted electronically (as of August 1), the state Board of Elections will undergo a technology upgrade and up to two new staff members will be hired to help process the paperwork for restoration.
- Citing the recent Supreme Court ruling on the Voting Rights Act, the administration of Florida Gov. Rick Scott is seeking to have a federal lawsuit dismissed preventing the state from scrubbing non-citizens from the voter rolls. In February the judge had postponed any further action in the case pending the Supreme Court ruling.
- A review of special elections for non-candidate issues in Nebraska show that those conducted exclusively by mail had higher turnout than those conducted at polling places. “The results for these years continue to confirm what we’ve been seeing for the past several years – that the all-mail in ballot method is becoming more popular for special elections and it’s consistently generating higher turnouts,” Secretary of State John Gale said.
- Finally some good news out of New York City! Beginning with the September primary, for the first time, those who cast a ballot in New York City will receive an “I Voted!” sticker courtesy of the Campaign Finance Board. “When we were out working on the last election, a lot of people said, ‘Well, where’s the sticker?’ ” Amy M. Loprest, executive director of the city Campaign Finance Board told the New York Times. “People want this sticker.” The board is even allowing residents to vote on one of four designs for what the new stickers will look like. “Government agencies are not generally known for being fun,” Loprest told the paper. “But we’re trying to do something fun.”
- Personnel News: The Cumberland County, N.C. board of elections got three new members — James Baker, Jonathan Wright and Harvey Raynor. Steve Moreno, Weld County, Colo. clerk and recorder announced that he will seek an at-large seat on the county commission in 2014. Duane Gilbert has been appointed to serve on the Bradley County, Tenn. election commission. Jason Barnett has been selected to serve as the new Williamson County, Texas elections administrator. Barnett is currently the Denton County deputy elections administrator. Mark Rhodes, Wood County, W.Va. deputy clerk will replace outgoing clerk Jamie Six effective Aug. 1. Garland Whited has been elected to serve as chairman of the Alamance County, N.C. BOE. Sue Verdon has been appointed to serve as the chairman of the Carteret County, N.C. BOE. Kate McGuckin has been appointed to the Athens County, Ohio board of elections. David Bjerke, general registrar of voters for the City of Falls Church, Va. has become a Certified Elections/Registration Administrator.
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 email@example.com
Impediments Faced by Elderly Voters and Voters with Disabilities – State of Wisconsin Government Accountability Board (GAB), June 2013: To assess polling places accessibility in Wisconsin, the GAB used a survey to independently audit polling sites. Polling places were audited in 921 of the state’s 1,852 municipalities and the results included:
- 3,786 findings considered high severity, meaning these problems would likely to prevent a voter with a disability from entering a polling place and casting a ballot privately and independently.
- 2,855 medium severity issues and 3,847 low severity issues, meaning these locations have extra burdens to voting not faced by voters without disabilities.
IV. Legislative Update
No updates at this time.
V. Conferences and Upcoming Events
Please email upcoming events — conferences, symposiums, seminars, webinars, etc. to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Divergent Trends: E-Voting in the U.S. and the World— join the International Foundation for Electoral Systems in a Google Hangout to discuss the latest electronic and Internet voting technologies; the challenges they pose and how these can be overcome; and prospects for their growth in the U.S. Featured speakers include Benjamin Goldsmith, IFES’ senior electoral adviser and Thad Hall, associate professor on political science at the University of Utah. When: Tuesday July 30, 10:30 a.m. EDT. Where: Click here.
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.
Florida: Vote fraud
Illinois: Election reform
Indiana: Vote centers
Michigan: Detroit clerk
Texas: Voter suppression
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 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.
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.