I. In Focus This Week
This isn’t your Founding Fathers’ elections system
What would they think?
As we prepare to celebrate the birth of our nation with hotdogs, fireworks and apple pie, we here at electionline thought we would ask elections folks one simple question about the state of elections today:
If the Founding Fathers could see American elections today, what do you think would surprise them most?
Some of the responses are below. Have a very happy and safe Fourth of July!
Technology and voting by mail. — Brenda Sorensen, auditor, Klickitat County, Washington.
As an aside, since the U.S. Postal Service was created by the Second Continental Congress in May 1775, one has to wonder what the Founding Fathers would think about the modern postal service as well!
I believe they’d be surprised by how the franchise has spread to now include those who are not landowners, people of all races, to women and to citizens as young as 18 — and also by the number of people who have the chance to vote, but don’t take the opportunity. — Wendy Underhill, National Conference of State Legislatures.
[Th]e fact that for most important elected offices a candidate’s party affiliation is listed right there on the ballot, encouraging party-based voting, when the Founders despised political parties and hoped to avoid permanently entrenched ones; thus, the fact that it’s been the same two parties competing against each other since the 1860s, I think, would surprise and disturb them more than anything else. — Edward B. Foley, director Election Law @ Mortiz and Charles W. Ebersold and Florence Whitcomb Ebersold Chair in Constitutional Law.
I think they would be surprised that even with all the improvements in technology and processes, the core event – a community coming together to voice their choice – has been maintained. They would be surprised we’ve honored their republic, and we’ve kept it. — Michael Ertel, supervisor of elections, Seminole County, Florida.
I think the Founding Fathers would be surprised at how omnipresent elections are today – how often, how everywhere – compared to how infrequent and geographically limited they were in their day. — Doug Chapin, director, Program for Excellence in Election Administration, Humphrey School of Public Affairs.
Consider these dates, July 4, 1776, September 17, 1787, July 9, 1868, August 18, 1920, August 6, 1965 and July 1, 1971. All these summer dates represent significant milestones in the forward progress of American Democracy. On July 4, 1776, the thirteen United States of America declared their independence; on September 17, 1789, the Constitution for the United States of America was signed and sent for ratification to those thirteen states; on July 9, 1869, after a brutal civil war, the 14th Amendment to the Constitution guaranteeing the civil rights of all Americans was ratified; on August 18, 1920, the 19th Amendment was ratified giving women the right to vote; on August 6, 1965, the Voting Rights Act was signed allowing African-Americans to finally realize the suffrage guaranteed by the 15th Amendment; and on July 1, 1971, suffrage was extended to every citizen over the age of 18. Would the founders be surprised? Undoubtedly, but I hope they would also be proud of the hard work we have done to include more and more diverse voices in our elections and the work we are still now doing to keep our elections free, fair and accessible to every eligible voter. — Elisabeth MacNamara, president, League of Women Voters of the United States.
By mail voting! — Steve Rawlings, Davis County, Utah clerk/auditor. Davis, like many other Utah counties has recently made the move to largely vote-by-mail elections.
I suspect that what would surprise the Founding Fathers the most is the complexity and diversity of elections around the country. I bet they’d be surprised by how many people run for office (think of the 35 people running for Mayor of Minneapolis last year, as one example). I wonder if they would be surprised by ballot measures and propositions. Not the idea that the people might make these decisions, but that they are on the ballot rather than a vote at a town meeting. But I hope they would not be surprised at all that elections have changed over the years, reflecting changes in society. — Whitney Quesenbery, Center for Civic Design.
The most true and, lesser discussed option, I think, is the amount of direct representation that occurs in elections. At the beginning of our country Madison (probably) wrote federalist 68 that advocated for the electoral college because of a perceived need for indirect representation in elections; Jefferson wrote “The Natural Aristocracy” which, although he (I believe) later recanted, advocated the idea that the average person was less fit to make political decisions than a smaller portion of better qualified individuals; and Senators were originally chosen by state legislatures not the general public. Now today we have voter referendums, senators are elected by the general public, and Bush v. Gore in Florida still causes a bit of an outrage in certain voters because of a perceived lack of direct representation. I think this would be a very interesting read. — Mark Listes, William and Mary law student interning at the National Conference of State Legislatures.
(Photo Courtesy of the Fairfax County, Virginia Office of Elections.)
II. Election News This Week
- Congratulations, it’s an independent foundation! This week, the Omidyar Network and Democracy Fund announced that Democracy Fund will re-launch this summer as an independent foundation with The Omidyar Group.
- According to an article in the News & Observer, the decision by the North Carolina General Assembly to eliminate pre-registration for those under 18 is creating some confusion amongst elections officials and the Division of Motor Vehicles. Due to the confusion the state board of elections asked the DMV not to register anyone under 18, although some 17-year-olds are eligible to register and vote even under the law change. The confusion is expected to be one of the issues raised during a hearing next week before U.S. District Judge Thomas D. Schroeder. The NAACP and U.S. Department of Justice have challenged the state over many provisions of the 2013 election reform package.
- More time at the beach! Citing money and manpower issues, Honolulu has closed an early walk-in voting site in Windward Oahu and will mail those nearly 5,000 voters all absentee ballots instead. According to KITV, lawmakers are working with the city to find a polling place for the general election in November.
- The Hennepin County, Minnesota attorney’s office has launched a probe into possible voter fraud after it was discovered that more than 140 voters are registered to vote at a private mailbox center, some as far back as 2008. No one lives at the center, which is located in a heavily Somali area and the investigation was prompted by Rep. Phyllis Kahn who is facing an August primary versus Mohamud Noor who could become the first Somali-American elected to the state Legislature.
- According to the Virgin Island Daily News, the St. Thomas-St. John board of elections is in violation of a federal consent order mandating the board send out absentee ballots for the upcoming primary by June 17. The board apparently thought the ballots had been sent, but after the U.S. Attorney’s Office conducted an investigation, it was revealed that the ballots had not been sent. “We have a crisis,” Arturo Watlington Jr., chairman of the St. Thomas-St. John Board of Elections told the paper. “I’m really a little embarrassed. It’s a little disconcerting that we are where we are.”
- Residents of Morro Bay, California will vote whether or not to do away with the city’s June elections. By a 3-2 vote, the city council agreed to prepare ballot language for November that would do away with a 2006 ordinance creating the June elections. The council members voting in support of the ballot referendum argued that it costs the city too much money to conduct the election.
- Personnel News: Janet S. Owens, the former Anne Arundel County, Maryland county executive has joined the state board of elections. Edgardo Cortes was appointed to serve at Virginia’s new commissioner of the department of elections. Suzanne Morgan has been hired by the Sebastian County, Tennessee election commission to serve as election coordinator and also hired former election coordinator Jerry Huff to serve as a consultant through this election. Janet Munda, supervisor of elections and voter registration for Cherokee County, Georgia was terminated this week by a unanimous vote of the county elections board. Cheryl Patterson is the new secretary of the Garfield County, Oklahoma election board.
III. Legislative Update
Delaware: The Senate failed to cast a final ballot on the pending same-day voter registration legislation before the 147th General Assembly session came to an end this week. In April, the House approved the legislation, but it never came before the full Senate for a vote. It will have to be reintroduced in January.
Hawaii: Gov. Neil Abercrombie signed the Aloha State’s same-day voter registration legislation into law this week. Beginning in 2016 voters will be able to register and vote during early voting and beginning in 2018 voters will be able to register and vote on actual election day.
New York: Last week, the Legislature approved a bill that would allow village, school board, library and special election districts to continue using the state’s beloved lever-voting machines through 2015. The legislation also requires the state board of elections to review how these local elections might be conducted beginning in 2016.
IV. Tech Thursday
Recently we wrote about some of the new technologies elections offices and NGO’s are using to help keep voters informed and get them registered. Beginning this week, we’ll start a new section of the newsletter that will run whenever there is tech news to report.
Oregon: Students and professors at Portland State University have created Ballot Path, an online GIS mapping project that is designed to encourage more people to run for office. When the program launches later this summer, potential candidates can just enter their address in to the system and it provide a list of all elected positions they are eligible to for as well as the list of requirements and deadlines for each office.
“It’s crazy to me that we constantly use this metric of voter turnout to equate how healthy our democracy is,” Jim Cupples, project founder told The Oregonian. “You can have 100 percent voter turnout and one person running for the race, but that does not mean a healthy democracy.”
The project is being funded by a $10,000 grant from the Sunlight Foundation.
Arizona: Helen Purcell
Florida: Sarasota County
Georgia: Voting Rights Act
Indiana: Prisoner voting
Minnesota: Absentee voting
New York: Election rules
North Carolina: Voter ID
North Dakota: Voter ID
Ohio: Early voting
Oklahoma: Vote centers
Pennsylvania: Polling places
Tennessee: Monitoring election officials
Virginia: Voter ID
Wisconsin: Voter ID
VI. Upcoming Events
Please email upcoming event — conferences, symposiums, seminars, webinars, etc. to email@example.com.
National Association of Counties Annual Conference and Exposition: NACo’s 79th Annual Conference and Exposition provides an opportunity for all county leaders and staff to learn, network and guide the direction of the association. This year, the conference will be held in Orleans Parish, (New Orleans) Louisiana. The Annual Conference provides county officials with a great opportunity to vote on NACo’s policies related to federal legislation and regulation; elect officers; network with colleagues; learn about innovative county programs; find out about issues impacting counties across the country; and view products and services from participating companies and exhibitors. Where: New Orleans. When: July 11-14. For more information and to register, click here.
National Association of Secretaries of State Summer Conference: NASS is celebrating a Star Spangled Summer at this year’s annual conference in Baltimore. Members will exchange ideas, share lessons learned and highlight best practices in policy making and programming for state member offices. Agenda programming will include: Expert speakers who will inspire new ways of thinking about state agency leadership; Real-world lessons & success stories from state peers; Topical workshops focused on communications & professional skills advancement; Networking opportunities with public and private-sector attendees; and Excursions to explore Baltimore & learn more about culture and state government. Where: Baltimore. When: July 13-16. For more information and to register, click here.
International Association of Clerks, Recorders, Election Officials and Treasurers’ (IACREOT) Annual Conference: IACREOT will hold its annual conference this summer in Bonita Springs, Fla. The agenda will include seminars, training sessions, a delegate awards luncheon, IACREOTs elections and board meeting as well other opportunities for networking. Where: Bonita Springs, Fla. When: July 19-24, 2014. For complete information and to register, click here.
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.
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.
Election Management Advisor, D.C. Board of Elections, Washington, D.C. — serves as a key member of the management and advisory staff, and participates in recommending and formulating policies and strategies on operations and planning, human resources, management, information technology, budgeting and finance, contracting and procurement, election operations, voter registration and outreach services, public information, external relations, poll worker management, and all administrative support activities. Provides technical advice on the automation and cleansing of the voter roll, website enhancements and technological solutions for current manual and automated applications. Salary: $95,000-$125,000. Deadline: July 7. Application: To apply, send resume and cover letter to email@example.com.
Election Systems Manager, Seminole County, Florida — the Election Systems Manager is an administrative position that reports to the Chief Deputy Election Systems. This position is responsible for providing services derived from election office systems used in conducting and preparing for elections. Responsibilities include: programming and operating election office voting systems and voter registration systems; hardware and software configuration and problem diagnosis; training and assisting elections office staff in the use of systems; providing information to customers in electronic and printed form through analysis and query. With direction from the Chief Deputy Election Systems, the Election Systems Manager is responsible for the management of workflow and daily guidance of the Election Systems Technician, as well as working in concert on projects with the Senior Election Systems Technician. Essential Job Functions: Prepares election office systems for elections through analysis and programming; programs voting system to produce ballots for elections; performs diagnostics, testing, and configuration of precinct voting devices; creates query-based reports from registration system for internal administrative use; develops and produces specified voter information in electronic and printed form for candidates and the public; sets up and configures new and existing hardware and software; acquires and enlists technical support from vendors as required; provides assistance and training to election office staff in use of systems; supports voter education efforts as required. Coordinates and prints voter notifications and election related materials as required; and handles special projects and other duties as assigned by the Chief Deputy Election Systems and Supervisor of Elections. Minimum Qualifications: Associate’s Degree in Computer Science or a related field; four years experience in computer systems administration and technical support; comprehensive knowledge of Microsoft Windows operating systems and Novell and Microsoft Networks; proficient in all Microsoft Office applications, SQL, and skilled in applying complex programming logic; demonstrated communication, interpersonal, organizational, and problem solving skills; ability to install, configure, and troubleshoot Personal Computers and peripheral equipment; ability to accurately perform highly detailed work; ability to lift objects weighing approximately 25 pounds; must possess and maintain a valid Florida Driver’s License; must be a registered voter in the State of Florida prior to appointment. Salary: $37,148.00 – $52,000.00 /Year. Deadline: Open until filled. Application: Send letter and resume to: Elections@VoteSeminole.org.
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.