I. In Focus This Week
A Profile: Alabama Secretary of State Beth Chapman
Term-limited Chapman stepping down early to join private sector
By M. Mindy Moretti
Alabama Secretary of State Beth Chapman has been on the frontlines of some major changes to elections in the Yellowhammer State since she came to office more than six years ago — large-scale expansion of the state’s voter rolls, a landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling, the state’s largest election turnout ever — but now she’s ready to watch the administration of elections from the sidelines.
Secretary Chapman, who was term-limited, announced earlier this month that she would be stepping down effective July 31 to join the private sector.
She was the first woman in Alabama history to serve as a cabinet member when she served as the appointments secretary for former Gov. Fob James. She also served as press secretary for former Lt. Gov. Steve Windom. After resigning from Windom’s staff, she ran for state auditor in 2002. She served as auditor from 2003 to 2007.
In 2006 she ran for secretary of state defeating incumbent Nancy Worley by more than 10 percent.
During her tenure as secretary of state, Secretary Chapman was very involved in a variety of issues on the national level, especially ensuring the right to vote for military and overseas voters.
“Secretary Chapman has been a true champion for military and overseas voters. Her dedication, expertise, sense of humor, and willingness to work across party lines to fix problems in our election system will be sorely missed by myself and her colleagues in the elections community,” said David Becker, director of Elections Initiatives for the Pew Center on the States.
She served on the executive board of the Standards Board of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission and served as president of the National Association of Secretaries of State.
Following her last day in the secretary’s office, Secretary Chapman will join the Alabama Famers Federation as a political consultant.
On an interesting note, because British kids are making headlines this week, Secretary Chapman’s sons Winston Taylor Chapman and William Thatcher Chapman are named for former British Prime Ministers Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher.
Her husband of 23 years, James Chapman, died suddenly in 2011 at the age of 50.
During her last few days in office, Secretary Chapman took some time out of her busy schedule to answer some questions about her tenure as secretary of state.
After six years in office, you’ve chosen not to seek re-election and are in fact stepping down before your term is complete. Why did you choose not to run again and why step down early?
The death of my husband two years ago turned my world upside down and caused me to reprioritize. I have two sons and a grandson I want to put through college. I recently received a business opportunity in the private sector that was too good to pass by, so I didn’t. God opened too many doors for me to ignore. I had to walk through them.
What would you say has been the biggest change you have seen in elections during your tenure?
The recent Supreme Court decision, Shelby County v. Holder has been the biggest change I have seen in elections in my tenure.
What was the most difficult time/issue you faced during your tenure?
The most difficult time during my term of office was the death of my husband. He always told me to take care of the state and he would take care of our home. All of a sudden I had to take care of both. It has been difficult.
As an Alabamian and secretary of state, what are your thoughts about the Supreme Court ruling in Shelby County v. Holder?
I am proud of the decision of the Supreme Court. Alabama has changed in the past 50 years and our laws should reflect that change.
What do you feel was your greatest accomplishment and why?
The greatest accomplishment my staff and I have made is the help we have been able to provide the military and their voting process – making it easier for them to cast their ballots and ensuring that every one of them counted.
What will you miss most about being secretary of state?
I will miss serving the people of my state. I have always said that the calling to public service is the second highest calling to the call of God. It has been a great honor to serve the people of my state and to fulfill God’s calling on my life in that arena for the past decade.
What will you miss least?
I will miss the personal attacks that often come with being a public servant.
As an expert in the field of elections, where do you see the administration of elections going in this country?
There is an incredible need for greater use of technology in the administration of elections, but it must be managed by an even greater safe and secure means.
What’s next for you, besides being able to sleep in on election day?
I will be working in political and public relations consulting with major corporations and candidates. I will be public speaking and helping as many charities as I can. And yes, I will be sleeping in on Election Day.
We at Electionline.org wish Secretary Chapman well in all her future endeavors.
II. Election News This Week
- Manatee County, Fla. will use three municipal elections this fall to test out a new system of checks to guard against absentee ballot fraud. According to the Bradenton Herald, the new system, which involves some software and coding for ballots, has evolved in the months since the news broke about absentee ballot fraud in Miami-Dade. “What we did in Manatee County following the situation in Miami-Dade is that we started to verify the Internet Protocol addresses from our online ballot requests to make sure they were not duplicated,” Michael Bennett, supervisor of elections, told the paper. “Also, in Manatee, each ballot is coded. We now have a system in place to help us make sure the person who requested the ballot is the person who voted with it.”
- Two Yup’ik speakers and two tribal organizations filed a federal lawsuit against Alaska election officials accusing the officials of failing to provide language assistance at the polls. The lawsuit, filed U.S. District Court by the Anchorage office of the Native American Rights Fund, said the state is violating the federal Voting Rights Act by not providing ballots and voting instructions for speakers of Yup’ik and its dialect in Hooper Bay, Cup’ik. The plaintiffs contend that the failure of the state to provide language assistance appears to have suppressed voter turnout among Natives in the region.
- A lot is rightfully made about securing the vote, but very little is ever said about securing the people who secure the vote. Recently, the Ector County, Texas commissioners approved a contract to install panic buttons in the county elections office and an alarm system for the warehouse. County Elections Administrator Mitzi Scheible said there have been problems with upset voters in the past. “If someone comes up here and I can’t calm them down, we go across the hall because a (sheriff’s) deputy is right here,” she told the Odessa American. “But he can’t always be there.”
- While much has been made about the scheduling and cost of the special Senate election in New Jersey, one key element of the special election has been lost in a lot of the discussion: Keeping polling places cool. Montclair Deputy Mayor Bob Russo said the state has created an unfunded mandate by requiring municipalities to provide air-conditioning or fans for the August primary. While the state will be reimbursing localities for many costs of the special election, fans are considered equipment and therefore not covered by the state. Montclair will need to spend about $800 on fans.
- New Mexico clerks are teaming up to push the state Legislature for the elimination of special elections funded by political action committees. “There was a strong consensus among clerks that this is not a good practice in the administration of elections and we are introducing this resolution to encourage legislation to prohibit the practice,” Lincoln County Clerk Rhonda Burrows told the Ruidoso News.
- Congratulations to Louisiana Secretary of State Tom Schedler and the elections staff for winning an IDEAS award from the National Association of Secretaries of State for the Geaux Vote Mobile.
- Personnel News: Michael Morsch, a former reporter and editor at a local newspaper has been hired to head the Montgomery County, Pa.’s voter services department. Rep. Justin Pierce (R-Mesa) is considering running for the Republican nomination for Arizona secretary of state. Sherry Ratliff is the new elections supervisor for Troup County, Ga. She previously served as the Sumter County elections superintendent. Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett has been elected the new president of the National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS). In other NASS news, Vermont Secretary of State Jim Condos has been elected to serve as the group’s Eastern Region vice president and South Dakota Secretary of State Jason Gant has been elected to serve as the organization’s treasurer. Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted is seeking the removal of Martin Kuhlman and Ann Dillinger from the Putnam County BOE for 17 violations of Ohio Sunshine Law. Bob Bennett, president of the Frederick, Md. board of supervisors of elections resigned suddenly last week. Lana Phillips, Grundy County, Ill. clerk and recorder announced this week that she will not seek re-election next year. Phillips, who is in her 36th year as clerk, is the longest serving clerk in Illinois.
- In Memoriam: Patrick R. Saunders, former Huron County, Ohio board of elections member died this week. He was 65. Saunders served as chairman of the Huron County Democratic Party from 1994 to 2001 and as a member of the board of elections from 1992 to 2004.
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.
FairVote recently released three reports related to federal primary runoffs and the top two primary systems in place in Washington and California:
- Federal Primary Election Runoffs and Voter Turnout Decline, 1994 – 2012 – July 2013: The report finds from 1994 – 2012, of 171 primary runoffs in the U.S. House and Senate, 96.5 percent had fewer people voting in the second round than in the first, with an average decline in turnout of 35.3 percent.
- The Top Two System in Action: Washington State, 2008 – 2012 – Drew Spencer, July 2013: The report finds that after three election cycles of the top two primary system in Washington, voter choice has generally been limited, the system is vulnerable to “spoiler” outcomes, and there are large turnout differences between the rounds of elections.
- Fixing Top Two in California: The 2012 Elections and a Prescription for Further Reform – Drew Spencer and Rob Richie, June 18, 2013: Like in Washington, this report finds problems with the top two primary system in place since 2010 in California including major parties continuing to dominate state elections, split votes in the primary where the most popular candidate may not have made it to the general election, similar turnout distortions to Washington, and a similar lack of competition in the elections to before top two was implemented. In both Washington and California, shifting to a top four system instead of top two is recommended.
IV. Legislative Update
Federal Legislation: In the wake of a recent Supreme Court ruling, Arizona Rep. Matt Salmon (R-5) introduced a bill that would allow states to require citizenship documents from all prospective voters before they may register. The State Sovereignty in Voting Act (HR 2409) has 27 co-sponsors but has not yet been scheduled for a hearing.
Alabama: Gov. Robert Bentley (R) held a signing ceremony for HB373 this week. The bill allows qualified emergency workers to vote by absentee ballot if they are called away from home to respond to an emergency immediately before an election.
New Hampshire: Gov. Maggie Hassan signed into law voter ID legislation that will allow people to use New Hampshire student IDs as proper identification to cast a ballot.
Hassan vetoed legislation that would have given local elections officials more flexibility with the processing of absentee ballots.
North Carolina: Late last week, the Senate introduced a new voter ID bill that, unlike previous versions, removes a provision that would allow college IDs to serve as proper identification to cast a ballot. The legislation, set to debut in 2016 if approved, would allow college students to apply for free photo ID cards from the state. The Senate Committee on Rules and Operations approved the bill, which now heads to the full Senate. In addition to voter ID, the bill also, among numerous other things, eliminates same-day registration, reduces the number of early voting days from 17 to 10, eliminates straight-ticket voting, eliminates pre-registering 16- and 17-year olds, requires use of paper ballots statewide and allows anyone to access a person’s voter registration record. The full Senate tentatively approved the bill on Wednesday.
Utah: In 2011, the state Legislature approved HB 103 that made certain county offices, recorder, assessor, surveyor, and treasurer six-year terms. County clerks have expressed concerns that the legislation will increase the costs of elections because of lengthened ballot and are concerned about voter education. Legislators are reconsidering the bill and according to The Standard, it should come up for discussion in January 2014.
Also early in the 2014 session, Legislature will consider moving the state’s primary from June to possibly as late as September.
V. Conferences and Upcoming Events
Please email upcoming event — conferences, symposiums, seminars, webinars, etc. to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Impact of New Presidential Election Rules in 2016 — The rules of the electoral game have a major impact on the way elections are conducted. As we look to the 2016 presidential election, what rules are set in stone – and which ones may change. What will be the impact of changes in voting laws in key swing states? Forum speakers will include leading election analyst, reform proponents, journalists and party leaders. When: Thursday July 25 at 4 p.m. Where. Click here.
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.
Connecticut: Hartford court ruling
Iowa: Polling places
Kansas: Kris Kobach
Mississippi: Voter ID
Pennsylvania: Voter ID
South Carolina: Dead voters
Washington: All-mail voting
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.
General Registrar, Rockingham County, Va. — the General Registrar performs complex professional planning, supervision and administrative duties related to the voter registration process and the conduct of elections in accordance with Title 24.2 of the Virginia Code and as directed by the County Electoral Board. The Electoral Board of Rockingham County appoints the registrar to a four-year term by the. Minimum Qualifications: Bachelor’s degree in business administration, public administration or a related field and five (5) years of business or office management work experience, including two (2) years in a supervisory capacity (preference will be given to candidates with voter registration/election work experience); OR, any equivalent combination of experience and training which provides the required knowledge, skills and abilities. Comprehensive knowledge of national, state and local citizenship and voting registration laws and regulations, including state election laws and the procedures for maintaining and protecting voting registration lists and records. Understanding of budget preparation and maintenance. Ability to assess voter registration needs and to plan accordingly. Good office management and recordkeeping skills. Effectively supervise, train, and direct employees. Ability to establish and maintain effective relationships, including coordination of operations with County staff, government officials, the general public, and the media. Solid knowledge of and familiarity with data systems and personal computers and the ability to learn and effectively use Microsoft Office, Excel, Word and Powerpoint. Superior organizational skills and the ability to prepare accurate reports. Meets deadlines and works efficiently. Exercises sound professional judgment; demonstrates initiative; and integrity. Effective oral and written communication skills. Application: Complete a Rockingham County employment application and mail it with your resume and references to the Department of Human Resources, Rockingham County, 20 East Gay Street, Harrisonburg, VA 22802. The complete job listing and application are available by clicking here. Deadline: August 5.
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.