I. In Focus This Week
First Person Singular: Idaho Secretary of State Ben Ysursa
Ysursa ends lifelong career in secretary’s office
This year 12 state elections officials will move on, either because of retirement, term limits or seeking higher office.
We’ll do our best to profile all of them in the coming months and we begin with Idaho Secretary of State Ben Ysursa.
Ysura was first elected secretary of state in 2002 and has subsequently been re-elected two times. Although he’s been secretary of state for “only” 12 years, he has spent his entire adult career in the secretary of state’s office.
Following his graduation from law school Ysursa joined the secretary’s office as a deputy in 1974. He was promoted to chief deputy in 1976 and served in that role until he ran for the office himself in 2002.
During his tenure, Ysursa has been active in national organizations such as the National Association of Secretaries of State where he served as co-chair of the Company Formation Task Force. He is also on the board of the Organization Assisting The Homeless Student and Idahoans for Openness in Government.
Ysursa is a graduate of Gonzaga University and has his law degree from St. Louis University. He met his wife Penny, who also worked in the secretary of state’s office, in 1974. They have three children and two grandchildren.
You’ve been in the Idaho secretary of state’s office your whole adult life, why did you choose now to hang up your vote tabulator, so-to-speak?
After 40.5 years in the office (three terms as secretary) it was time. I did not have the “fire in the belly” to go until I was 70. You need “passion” for the job or it is unfair to the citizens.
What would you say has been the biggest change you have seen in elections during your tenure?
Addressing the technology in voter registration, voting machines, and the entire process along with the public’s expectation of instant results. Also post Bush v. Gore put more focus on the role of the secretary of state and the county election officials.
What was the most difficult time/issue you have faced (elections wise of course) as secretary?
As secretary, the 2012 May Primary, which was our first closed primary which also coincided with a new redistricting plan. Precincts were still being drawn in April. As Deputy, it was 1984, where three redistricting plans were in court during the last week of filing. The court extended the filing period one week.
What do feel was your greatest accomplishment and why?
In 1994, I sponsored and led the legislation for election day registration in Idaho. In a Republican dominated legislature the bill passed with one dissenting vote (a Democrat). This was a progressive move for more voter participation in a very “red” state.
Is there anything you still hope to accomplish as secretary before leaving office?
In the election area, to oversee and conduct a mistake-free general election – it will never happen but it is always our goal.
What will you miss most about being secretary of state?
The many relationships with good principled people trying to make a difference by doing their jobs with competence and integrity.
As an expert in the field of elections, where do you see the administration of elections headed?
Administration is headed to more and more technology to make it easier to vote, but we need to have more focus on participation. Turnout is abysmal. After 40 years I’m still looking for the answer to more participation.
What’s next for you, besides being able to sleep in on election days?
Probably some part-time consulting pertaining to state government, and a lot of golf.
Any parting words of advice for your successor?
Never forget who you work for – the people; and that transparent, fair, and efficient elections have no room for partisanship.
II. Election News This Week
- Update on the News: A day after electionlineWeekly posted a story about the herculean task faced by California elections officials to recount a statewide race, the candidate who requested the race announced the he no longer wanted a recount. The recount lasted six days and cost approximately $30,000. A campaign consultant for John Perez said that Perez decided to end the recount to avoid interfering with election officials’ mid-August deadlines to mail ballots to military and overseas voters.
- This week, the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board rejected a request to ease the state’s ban on cameras in polling places. The request was made by GOP lawmakers in the state and opposed by the NAACP that raised concerns about possible voter intimidation. The board also voted to require that poll watchers show ID at the polls.
- On Tuesday, Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted issued a directive requiring all poll workers in the state to undergo mandatory training for the upcoming election. Under state law, all poll workers are required to have training, but veteran poll workers only need to go through retraining a minimum of once every three years. This directive will require that all poll workers, new and veteran, go through training before November. The state will provide funding for the training. Each county will receive an amount based on the number of registered voters in that county. This funding will provide for the mandatory training each poll worker is required to complete under state law.
- For the first time since 1972, not one citizen-led ballot initiative will appear on the November ballot in Montana. Interestingly, Secretary of State Linda McCulloch attributed the failure by groups to qualify to one factor: absentee voting. “Absentee voting has probably changed things,” McCulloch told The Montana Standard. “Signature gatherers usually set up shop outside polling places for school and primary elections, and now there just aren’t as many people around to sign the petitions.” There will, however, be two referendums from the Legislature on the ballot.
- Voters in Tennessee began casting early ballots for the August primary this week and state and local elections officials are encouraging more voter to cast an early ballot due the length of the ballot and fears that it may cause long lines on election day. The ballot includes federal, state and local races and the state is predicting it will take each voter 5 to 8 minutes to cast their ballot.
- And finally this week, state elections officials in Utah are creating a new advisory committee to study online voting. The committee will include legislators, county clerks and technology and security specialists. It is expected to announce it’s finding by the end of the year.
III. Legislation Update
Illinois: Gov. Pat Quinned signed legislation into law encouraging local jurisdictions to make election day either a school holiday or a teacher in-service day so that more schools may be used as polling places.
IV. Tech Thursday
National Tech: This week, the U.S. Vote Foundation and the Overseas Vote Foundation launched an Election Official Directory Application Programming Interface (EOD API) that allows voters or elections organizations to utilize data in the Election Official Directory in their own application on their own website.
The Election Official Directory, created 10 years ago, facilitates overseas and military voter registration and absentee ballot request processing. It is used by more than 20 states, associations, campaigns and voter outreach organizations.
According to a release from OVF, new EOD API was inspired by a development request from Long Distance Voter, which will be the first licensee.
“With the new EOD API, voting and elections organizations will be encouraged to use the data to enhance their own voter services,” Susan Dzieduszycka-Suinat, President and CEO, OVF and US Vote said in a statement.
Connecticut: The Nutmeg State has joined a growing list of states that provides voter registration apps for smartphone users. The app is available through Google Play and Apple. “I am very excited to offer these mobile apps for voter registration so any eligible Connecticut voter with a driver’s license can register for this year’s elections from the convenience of their smartphone or tablet,” Secretary of state Denise Merrill said in a statement. “Modern features like this help to reach new eligible voters, and the more people who participate the better.”
Florida: Voters in Broward County will be able to receive their sample ballot for the upcoming August primary via email. The sample ballots will be precinct specific and sent as a PDF.
Arkansas: Voter experience
District of Columbia: Voting rights
Florida: Voting rights
Indiana: Vote centers
Kansas: Douglas County
Minnesota: Early voting
Ohio: Early voting
Oregon: Primary system
Virginia: Voter ID
Wisconsin: Voter fraud
VI. Upcoming Events
Please email upcoming event — conferences, symposiums, seminars, webinars, etc. to email@example.com.
National Conference of State Legislatures Legislative Summit: Bring home 1,000 ideas from the land of 10,000 lakes this summer. For 40 years, the Legislative Summit is where legislators and staff come together across the aisle to tackle critical problems and find solutions that work. With more than 100 sessions, the time to dig deep into issues you care about, and opportunities to make new friendships and connections. Where: Minneapolis. When: August 19-22, 2014. For more information and to register, click here.
Elections Center 30th Annual National Conference: More information will be forthcoming, but mark your calendars now for the annual conference. Courses offered at the annual conference will include Course 5 (Ethics in Elections); Course 6 (Communications in Election Administration); Renewal Course 20 (Federal Impact on Elections-1960s to present); and New Renewal Course 27. Where: San Francisco. When: August 19-23, 2014. For more information and to register, click here.
National Association of County Recorders, Elections Officials and Clerks: More information will be forthcoming, but mark your calendars now for the annual conference. Where: Long Beach, Calif. When: August 22-25, 2014. For more information and to register, click here.
National Association of State Election Directors: More information will be forthcoming, but mark your calendars now for the annual conference. Where: San Francisco. When: August 22-24, 2014. For more information and to register, click here
National Voter Registration Day — The 3rd annual National Voter Registration Day is scheduled for September 23. In its first two years, more than 1,000 groups and 10,000 volunteers registered over 360,000 people to vote. When: September 23. For more information, click here.
National Student/Parent Mock Election — Now in it’s 34th year, the National Student/Parent Mock Election invites you to join the world’s largest national mock election and nation’s larges civic education project. Since 1980, students have learned what it means to be informed voters, casting votes for Presidential, U.S. Congressional and gubernatorial candidates. What’s more, students continue to demonstrate the value of civic engagement – from organizing their own debates and campaign activities to holding student rallies. When: October 30, 2014. For more information and to register, please click here.
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 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 Assistant, Ramsey County, Minnesota — postingis for a temporary, seasonal positions required to administer the 2014 state elections in Ramsey County. These positions will be filled for up to six months, depending on the needs of the elections office. Reappointment for future election years is possible. Typical duties include: processing high volume, time sensitive election materials with a high level of accuracy; preparing election equipment and supplies for shipment to and from polling places; explaining election procedures to voters in-person, on the phone and by email; entry of voter registration and absentee applications into databases; and preparing absentee ballot materials for mail and in-person voting. Qualifications: Successful applicants will be enrolled in or recent graduates from an academic program leading to a bachelor’s degree in political science, government, public administration, planning, computer science and engineering, business administration or related fields. Experience in a paid or volunteer capacity in an election-related activity is highly desirable. Hands-on experience with Microsoft Office applications is also desirable. Deadline: August 1. Applications: For the complete listing and to apply, click here.
Legal Mobilization Assistant Coordinator, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Washington, DC – The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law (“Lawyers’ Committee”) is seeking a bright, creative, qualified organizer to serve as an Assistant Coordinator for our Legal Mobilization Project (“LMP”). LMP works across and with all Lawyers’ Committee subject matter projects. The LMP staff attorneys and organizers utilize pro bono, technology, litigation, public policy advocacy, online communications, public education, non-litigation assistance and management tools to address civil rights challenges. At the core of LMP is the recognition that a comprehensive multi-dimensional approach can be incredibly effective in enforcing civil rights today. While the Legal Mobilization Project supports various initiatives and projects, the Assistant Coordinator will primarily work with the Voting Rights Project.The LMP Assistant Coordinator will provide logistical and organizing support to the Voting Rights Project team members as they organize Election Protection—the nation’s largest, non-partisan voter protection program—hearings for the National Commission on Voting Rights hearings and trainings for state and local partners. Salary: Competitive with fringe benefits package, included employer-funded health insurance. Deadline: July 25. Application: Please fill out the application form, which includes the full job description here.
Program Associates, The Democracy Fund, Washington, D.C.— Democracy Fund seeks to hire two Program Associates, each of whom will be focused on supporting one of our three initiatives and providing assistance to the other two. The three initiatives aim to create a more responsive political system, foster more informed participation, and improve the capacity of our political system to solve problems. We are looking for candidates who are passionate about making our political system work better and have significant experience working in at least one of the fields that we are engaged in, including election administration, campaign finance reform, civic and media innovation, or reducing political dysfunction. Strong candidates will be excellent writers, have strong research skills, work well with others, and have a proven track record of being able to get things done in a complex professional environment. As a bipartisan organization, we welcome applications from Republicans, Democrats, and Independents – a willingness to work across the aisle is essential. A major area of responsibility for each Program Associate will be to support our Program Directors in sourcing and evaluating grant opportunities, as well as working with our portfolio of grantee organizations to help them succeed. Additionally, Program Associates will work with the Democracy Fund team to design and implement strategies to more directly advance our goals through research, convening, and advocacy. Application: For the complete listing and to apply, click here.
Research Associate, Pew Election Initiatives, Washington, D.C. — associate’s primary responsibilities involve supporting the activities and goals of the Pew’s Elections Performance Index project. The Elections Performance Index provides election officials, policy makers and citizens the data and tools they need to assess the state of election administration in America and identify specific improvements that can be made in the way elections are conducted. At its core, the Elections Performance Index provides an empirical assessment of how well the nation’s democracy is working. This position will be an integral part of this project by overseeing its data and spearheading communication with states and counties. The associate will ensure the project meets internal and external deadlines by conducting and overseeing the data work necessary to construct the index and ensure the highest quality of reporting available. Along with this work, this individual will be required to coordinate and sustain our inquiries and relationships in the states with regards to this project. Responsibilities will include data validation, cleaning and coding; managing consultants; maintaining internal and external communications; and writing for reports, memos, policy briefs, 50-state scans and other research products that are highly relevant to policy deliberations. Additionally the elections team is exploring creating similar indices within several states. The associate will be part of the team that helps develop and manage all elements of this work and must be able to think creatively about how to collect, use, and report elections information from state and local officials. The associate may also undertake special projects aimed at improving the research portfolio of Election Initiatives and other projects in Pew’s elections portfolio as their workload permits. Deadline: Position open until filled. Application: For the complete job posting and how to apply, click here.
Technology Manager (Business Analyst IV), Fairfax County Office of Elections — Leads and manages the Office of Elections Information Technology Program with reporting or coordinating responsibility to the General Registrar’s office COO as directed. Provides direction to align technology with elections strategy, priorities, and business needs. Serves as the lead architect of business processes around complex technical systems that support the Office of Elections and elections process. Works with Chief Operating Officer and elections officials, as needed, to oversee the evaluation and redesign of information technology-related business processes to enhance business functionality and efficiency and to facilitate large-scale change. Stays abreast of technology changes. Leads efforts to seek ways of applying new and existing technology; provides expertise on technical trends and external practices; assesses available solutions, maps required processes and plans and manages approved projects. Qualifications: Advanced knowledge of methods, metrics, tools, and techniques of business process reengineering; advanced knowledge of procedures for developing technical and operational support documentation and tools for analyzing and developing test and evaluation procedures; considerable knowledge of interdepartmental and/or countywide processes, procedures, and requirements; considerable knowledge of the capabilities of information technology software, hardware, and network communication technology; considerable knowledge of effective project management methods, practices and techniques; ability to manage/administer multiple computer systems in a diverse computing environment; ability to manage both small and large long and short-term projects under project timeline and resources; ability to write effectively, including technical writing; and ability to work cooperatively with technical staff and end users and establish and maintain relationships. Employment Standards: Any combination of education, experience and training equivalent to possession of a bachelor’s degree in computer information systems, business administration, or related field; plus five years of experience in information systems and process redesign, managing and implementing all phases of the systems development life cycle, including at least one year of supervisory experience. Salary: $70,609.34 – $117,682.66. Deadline: August 1. Application: To view the complete listing and to apply, click here.
Voter Registration Division Director, Travis County, Texas — Responsible fordirecting, administering, managing, and coordinating all activities of the Voter Registration Division. Oversees division programs and functions including, but not limited to, administration of the voter registration and elections database system, geographic information and redistricting assignment system, State TEAM system, Voter web pages and content, public information requests and data release, imaging system, hardware platforms, and over 3200 member volunteer registrar program. Serves as the official Voter Registrar and subject matter expert in responding to public information requests and signing legal documents, attending legal proceedings and meetings, certifying election lists and data, and interpreting Federal, State, and local election law for 600,000+ registered voters, over 247 precincts, and over 230 election jurisdictions. Establishes and enforces plans to safeguard and ensure security of official voter documents and data, hardware and software systems, and the safety of staff and the general public Plans, organizes, implements, continuously evaluates division programs, and develops policies and procedures. Consistently seeks efficient methods for improvements to the Division by developing strategic planning activities and attending professional associations meetings and seminars. Qualifications: Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration, Business Management, Public Administration, Government, Communications, Public Relations or a directly related field and five years of increasingly responsible program development division level experience, including four years of mid- to senior level management experience. Master’s degree strongly preferred. CERA designation strongly preferred. Salary: $85,925 – $96,820. Deadline: July 31, 2014. Application: Submit the application, a cover letter, resume and current organization chart here.