July 5, 2012

I. In Focus This Week

Commentary: Stay Cool

By Doug Chapin

Lately, the news has been full of stories about people dealing with events that are beyond their control.

Floods in Duluth, wildfires in Colorado, and a fierce, fast thunderstorm called a derecho that cut a swath from the Midwest to the Mid-Atlantic have all tested the will – and patience – of communities across the country.

I’ve been struck throughout these stories, however, by how these communities have come together in the wake of such challenges. Residents are publicly hailing firefighters and other public safety workers for their service, and there were thousands of stories of people in the D.C. area opening their homes to one another to help neighbors cope with a potentially deadly combination of oppressive heat and power outages.

These stories seem even more significant to me lately as an “election geek” because in many ways the field is facing a similar challenge; not a natural disaster, of course, but a rising anger and frustration – almost across the board – about just about every detail of the election process.

Of course, a lot of this is tied up with the ongoing national battle about voter ID, but it also emerges in discussions about federal-state relations, voter registration and voting technology.

As temperatures rise, I’m seeing more and more of the dialogue on all of these issues – on both sides – get sharper and more personal. Indeed, the same kind of angry invective you normally see in most blog comments is beginning to crop up in Twitter exchanges and other places like reader comments on sites like Amazon.com.

Quite simply, this isn’t good; not for the field, and not for democracy overall. There are, undoubtedly, numerous important and powerful issues that are buffeting the field right now – and how those issues are resolved will certainly contribute to the experience and outcome of this November’s election.

But when these debates arise, I hope we can find a way to conduct them – and resolve the underlying problems – by turning to one another and not against.

We must always remember that the American election system has always been the mechanism through which we enable the peaceful transfer of power between groups with different views. Those of us in the field of elections cannot preserve that role if we are contributing to the storm instead of standing strong – and together – against it, even when we disagree about the best way to do so.

Yes, temperatures are rising; and yes, it’s going to get hotter and hotter as November approaches. My plea to you is simple: stay cool.

II. Election News This Week

  • An independent review by investigator Dan Hensley found that the Anchorage city clerk’s office relied on an inexperienced deputy clerk to run the troubled April 3 election. The report also found that that the clerk’s office didn’t send enough ballots to polling places and “failed to realize the depth of the problem” as the shortages began. “He hit it dead on. I think all of us became complacent over the years,” Assembly chairman Ernie Hall told the Anchorage Daily News. According to the paper, Hensley—paid $35,000 by the Anchorage Assembly to conduct the report—also found no evidence of intent by city or election workers to sway the election or influence voting results.
  • State Senator Arthenia Joyner, the ACLU and the National Council of La Raza have filed an administrative challenge to Florida’s decision to implement the state’s new election reform law in 62 of 67 counties. According to the News Service of Florida, the newest challenge to the 2011 law addresses the state’s decision to allow portions of the law to take effect in all but the five counties covered by Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act.
  • The City of Chicago and Cook County are joining forces on elections, technology and a variety of other common interests in a move that could save $33.4 million. According to The Chicago Tribune, starting this fall, 3,000 fewer election judges and polling place administrators will be hired to staff elections. In presidential election years, the cooperation is expected to save $5.6 million.
  • Personnel News: This week that Cannon County, Tenn. election commission fired Election Administrator Stan Dobson. Dobson was hired in 2009 after the Republican Party assumed control of the Legislature in 2008. Jason Varano has been named an assistant supervisor in the Ocean County, N.J. board of elections.

III. Opinions

National News: Voter registration; Voting Rights Act; U.S. voting system; New voting laws

Alaska: Anchorage election

Arizona: Early voting

Connecticut: Same-day registration

Florida: Santa Rosa County; Voter purge; Election dates

Idaho: Voter ID

Illinois: Voter ID

Iowa: Ex-felon voting rights, II, III, IV; Johnson County

Massachusetts: Vote count

Michigan: Voter ID, II

Minnesota: Voter ID, II; Same-day registration

New Hampshire: Accessible voting; Voter ID

New York: Voting machines; Vote count, II, III

North Carolina: Election funding

Pennsylvania: Voter ID

Texas: Voting Rights Act; Vote harvesting; Third-party registration

Virginia: Voter ID; Orange County

**Some sites may require registration.

IV. 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.

Rules Committee Counsel, Washington, D.C. — Senate Committee on Rules and Administration Democratic staff is seeking an attorney to handle a variety of legal responsibilities, with emphasis on administrative and election law.  A minimum of three years’ legal experience and Capitol Hill experience are mandatory.  Senate experience, knowledge of Senate rules and procedures, and/or election and campaign finance experience are highly desirable.  Responsibilities include interpreting and drafting Senate rules, procedures and regulations, evaluating contracts and claims, drafting legislation, hearing development and preparation, memoranda, statements and speeches as well as training and providing guidance to Senate offices on administrative and rules matters.  Successful applicant will have the ability to operate in a fast-paced environment, excellent research and writing skills.  Applicants should possess excellent academic credentials. Please e-mail resume and writing samples to senate_employment@saa.senate.gov indicating job referral number in the subject line.