I. In Focus This Week
The rise of the machines
Many states, localities get new voting equipment for 2016
By M. Mindy Moretti
While issues like early voting, voter registration and voter ID have certainly grabbed the headlines of late, another elections issue will literally be in front thousands of voters in 2016 — new voting systems.
Nationwide many states and counties are moving to new voting systems for the first time in more than a decade in advance of the 2016 election cycle.
For some jurisdictions the switch to a new voting system was mandated by state legislatures that wanted to move to paper-based systems.
For others, it’s a matter of age.
Many states and counties replaced their voting machines following the 2002 election and in a world where people replace their phones every two years and personal computers almost as frequently, 10+-year old voting machines are, well, old.
Although budgeting and procurement are certainly taking center stage now, soon enough it will be training and voter education. It’s a lot to get done with an election calendar that grows shorter as more and more states jockey for position with their elections calendars.
In Maryland, which has been DRE (direct recording electronic, aka “touchscreen”) statewide since 2006, all 23 counties and Baltimore City are now moving to a paper-based optical scan system which was legislated by the General Assembly in 2007, but not funded until 2014.
The state has entered into a $28.1 million leasing agreement with ES&S that includes precinct-based scanners, ballot marking devices, high-speed scanners and personnel support.
Marylanders will see the new system for the first time at the April 26, 2016 primary.
Unlike many other states, Maryland actually moved its primary back by several weeks to avoid early voting conflicts. Even without the extra couple of week, Nikki Charlson, deputy director of the Maryland State Board of Elections said the counties and state will be ready.
“Later this summer and into the fall, extensive, hand-on training will be provided to the local election officials,” Charlson said. “SBE and the local election officials will work together to educate voters. There will be a statewide contract for public education and outreach (e.g., message development, production of materials, media buys, personnel to conduct outreach events).”
And although voters won’t see the new system until April 2016 — the current DRE machines are being warehoused should they need to be used for a special election between now and the new system’s launch — the state and local elections boards have scheduled statewide mock election for the fall.
Following the 2014 election, Montgomery County, Indiana has no back-up equipment left and the county’s machines are so old parts are no longer available. According to the Journal Review, County Clerk Jennifer Bentley was able to lobby the county council for the necessary funds to buy new equipment.
“If we don’t have something by the next county election, it could become a major problem,” Bentley told the paper.
Arkansas Secretary of State Mark Martin is considering requiring counties to purchase new voting equipment in preparation for 2016.
“The equipment, previously purchased in 2005 is nearing the end of its life cycle. It is just a time thing,” explained Chris Powell, communications manager for the secretary of state’s office. “At this time, we have two vendors in Arkansas. Three vendors submitted proposals for a new system. We are waiting for the secretary’s decision to move forward on any new system.”
Some local elections officials have expressed concerns about the timing of the system change. In a letter to Rob Hammons, state elections director from Pulaski County Elections Director Bryan Poe, Poe wrote:
“We feel that implementing such a change in 2017, during off year elections, would be a more prudent course of action that would minimize these disruptions and have the added benefit of providing both you and us with more time to plan the transition, identify issues and solicit and evaluate additional voting system vendors…”
Powell said the concerns from local elections officials will be taken into consideration by Martin during his decision-making process.
In addition, Powell noted that at this time, it is the intent for the state to cover the costs of the new equipment.
“If the state purchases a new system, then the state and vendor will be responsible for training the first year,” Powell said. “The state would also be responsible for voter education. If localities purchased their own, then they would be responsible.”
With potentially thousands, even millions of first time and “casual” voters will hit the polls in 2016 and what impact new technology will have on a smooth Election Day experience, not only for voters, but also poll workers and election officials remains to be seen.
“Although some jurisdictions will be deploying new voting systems for the first time in a decade or more, it’s useful to remember that every election brings new voters,” said Pamela Smith, president of Verified Voting. “They face a voting system they have never used before because they are new to the process, not because the equipment is new to the polling place.”
Smith said, good plain-language instructions can help, as well as a video walk-through of the process posted at the elections website and on social media. She cited Orange County, California’s Facebook page as a good example of a good way to use social media.
In Virginia, some voters got an unexpected early peek at new voting systems this week when some localities were forced to move to new equipment after the state decertified the WinVote system.
Based on news reports — or more importantly the lack thereof — and according to Edgardo Cortes, director of the Virginia State Board of Elections, things went well with the limited roll out of the new system.
“Everything went incredibly smooth on Tuesday. All polling places opened on time and without incident. The Department did not receive any voter complaints about equipment issues this Tuesday,” Cortes said. “In addition to the 10 localities that previously had WinVote machines, Virginia Beach also used new equipment for the first time this past Tuesday. Election officers around the state were pleased with the ease of use of the new equipment and the greatly reduced amount of time that closing the precincts took at the end of the night. The last precinct was reported to us by 9:45pm.”
While there is not statewide mandate to move to new voting systems before 2016, Cortes said the state is encouraging all localities, especially those that use DRE machines to transition to new equipment in advance of next year.
New voting equipment won’t just be in the front-of-the-house so-to-speak either. Some states and counties are purchasing new equipment that speeds up the voting process back at the elections office.
The South Dakota State Board of Elections recently approved the use of new equipment for upcoming elections that some local elections officials are eager to see put into use.
Minnehaha County Auditor Bob Litz told the Black Hills Pioneer that his office is interested in using newly approved equipment for counting absentee ballots. He told the paper the new equipment could help eliminate human error.
And it wouldn’t be a story about voting machines and presidential elections without mentioning Florida. Several jurisdictions in the Sunshine state are updating their voting systems this year including Hernando County.
Voters will still fill in bubbles on paper ballots, but the county has entered into a new contract with Dominion Voting Systems to move to a universal vote tabulator.
According to the Hernando Sun, precinct clerks that have seen the new equipment seem pleased. The equipment is schedule for delivery this fall with mock elections planned to test it before the March 15 primary.
II. Election News This Week
- Despite concerns from local clerks and a request to delay implementation, same-day voter registration will be in place in Illinois for the upcoming special election to replace disgraced former Congressman Aaron Schock. “Of course no one expected this bill to apply; no one knew about the special election. I’m not surprised, and I’m really disappointed that our legislators didn’t take the time to amend this,” McClean County Clerk Kathy Michael told North Public Radio.
- According to Davidson County, Tennessee Election Commissioner Tricia Herzfeld, early voting for the upcoming mayoral election in Nashville is “currently in chaos.” Herzfeld’s comments came after the election commission voted 3-2 to cut all early voting sites except one if the city does not provide additional funding. According to WKRN, the Republican election commissioners were unhappy with the budget cuts made by the mayor.
- A tale of two cities. Officials in the city of Fairbanks, Alaska have expressed concerns over the Fairbanks North Star Borough moving to all vote-by-mail in municipal elections. The city piggybacks on borough elections and officials are concerned the move would increase costs. Meanwhile, in Orem, Utah, the city council has vote 6 to 1 to join a growing list of Utah cities and towns to move to a vote-by-mail system.
- After numerous public meetings and months of debate, the Macon-Bibb, Georgia board of elections has settled on 33 voting precincts for upcoming elections. The BOE had initially proposed reducing the number — currently 40 — to 26, but following numerous meetings and concerns expressed by voters the county settled on 33.
- Richmond County, Georgia has honored the county’s first-ever elections director Linda W. Beazley who served for more than 20 years beginning in 1973 by naming a room after her in the Augusta Municipal Building. The Linda W. Beazley Community Room was dedicated earlier this week. “She could take those Democrats and Republicans and charm the pants off of them,” said former Secretary of State Cathy Cox who spoke at the dedication ceremony. “The legislators loved her because they trusted her.” Beazley passed away in 2011.
- Personnel News: Jim Shalleckis the new head of the Montgomery County, Maryland board of elections. Chad Gray has been appointed the new Williamson County, Tennessee election administration. He will take over for Ann Beard who retires on June 30. Ryan Cowley is the new Weber County, Utah elections director. Longtime Democratic registrar of voters for Middletown, Connecticut Sandra Faraci resigned in late May due to health reasons. Remi Graza has been recommended to serve as the permanent Cameron County elections administrator after serving as the interim. Donald Sheftall, Patricia Walls and Lillian King have been removed as election commissioners in Jasper County, Georgia. Steven Rayborn has been named the new East Baton Rouge Parish, Louisiana registrar of voters. He replaces Elaine Lamb who will retire after more than 40 years in the position. Jason Baker is the new deputy director of the Clark County, Ohio board of elections.
III. Legislative Updates
Federal Legislation: Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI) has introduced “The Automatic Voter Registration Act” that would require local motor vehicle departments to forward individuals’ information to election officials who would then send the person a notification that they will be registered in 21-dyas unless they choose to opt-out in that 21-day window.
Alabama: Gov. Robert Bentley signed legislation into law that officially moves Alabama’s primary to March 1, 2016 as part of the “SEC” primary with 11 other states.
California: A charter amendment to allow 16- and 17-year olds to vote in local elections in San Francisco has been amended to push the vote on the topic to the November 2016 election. Backers of the proposed amendment wanted more time to educate the public about the proposal.
Under legislation proposed by Secretary of State Alex Padilla — and offered by Sens. Ben Allen (D-Santa Monica) and Bob Hertzberg (D-Van Nuys) — all California voters would automatically receive a ballot in the mail and then be able to return those ballots by mail, at countywide vote centers in the 10 days before an election and secure drop boxes the 14 days before an election. The legislation is modeled off of the new Colorado system for voting.
Delaware: Same-day voter registration is back before the legislature as well as a bill that would allow ex-felons to regain their voting rights even if they still have fines or court costs to pay.
Florida: On June 2, Gov. Rick Scott signed House Bill 185 into law that allows current and former service members who served after September 11, 2001 to apply for exemption from the release of public records including voter registration information.
Kansas: Gov. Sam Brownback has signed legislation into law that move the state’s municipal elections to the fall and has given Secretary of State Kris Kobach the powers to prosecute voter fraud cases.
Michigan: Gov. Rick Snyder has signed legislation into law that authorized the extension of the filing deadline for the August primary in Flint. The action was necessary following misinformation provided by the clerk’s office that essentially left the ballot empty because no candidate met the filing deadline.
North Carolina: The Senate Judiciary Committee has approved a bill that would require courts to report the reasons why potential jurors are excused to the state board of elections. According to WRAL, Many of the reasons that someone can’t serve as a juror, such as being a convicted felon who has not regained their citizenship rights, no longer living in the state or not being a citizen, also would disqualify someone from voting. “This is just another safeguard that the people who are voting are entitled to vote,” said Sen. Shirley Randleman told the station.
A bill that would allow for more options and extended time for counties to make the switch to paper ballots has been approved by a committee and now moves to the full Senate. The legislation would give counties until 2019 to implement a new paper-based system.
Ohio: According to The Columbus Dispatch, Senate Republicans plan to pass online voter registration by the June, although its fate remains uncertain in the House.
Gov. John Kasich — a potential 2016 presidential candidate — has signed legislation into law that moves Ohio’s primary date back one week to March 15, 2016.
IV. Legal Updates
Mississippi: According to the Natchez Democrat, a former mayor, a retired judge, a minister and an officer of the local branch of the NAACP have filed a federal lawsuit against the city alleging that voting districts weaken the black vote.
New Hampshire: Everyone has their own personal opinions about the ubiquitous selfie, but are they free speech? That’s what the U.S. District Court in New Hampshire is considering following a free speech lawsuit filed in federal court that alleges the state’s 2013 law banning polling place selfies a violation of a voter’s First Amendment rights.
Virginia: In advance of Tuesday’s primary election, a Stafford County judge denied Susan Stimpson’s petition for an emergency injunction that would have made it more difficult for candidates to collect absentee ballot requests electronically. Stimpson was challenging incumbent House Speaker William J. Howell.
Also in Virginia, a special prosecutor has been appointed to sort out accusations over the county’s decision not reappoint the incumbent voter registrar.
V. Tech Thursday
Oregon: Oregon has certified Hart InterCivic’s Verity voting system in advance of the 2016 election cycle. According to a press release, Verity is a human-centered system designed around the values of usability, adaptability and transparency.
South Dakota: The South Dakota State Board of Elections recently approved four additional devices for voting and vote counting. According to the Rapid City Journal, the newly approved systems include a basic counting device, a high-speed tabulating device, the company’s version of an AutoMARK machine for persons with disabilities, and the company’s ExpressVote Universal Voting machine that also can be used by persons with disabilities. All newly approved systems are products of ES&S.
VI. Opinions This Week
Alabama: Voter fraud
Louisiana: Voter ID
Maryland: Ex-felon voting rights
Mississippi: Early voting
New Jersey: Polling places
North Carolina: Voter ID
Oregon: Automatic voter registration
Wisconsin: Voter registration
VII. Available Funding
U.S. Election Assistance Commission Grants
EAC Grants Management Division is responsible for distributing, monitoring, providing technical assistance to states and grantees on the use of funds, and reporting on requirements payments and discretionary grants to improve administration of elections for federal office. The office also negotiates indirect cost rates with grantees and resolves audit findings on the use of HAVA funds.
VIII. Upcoming Events
Please email upcoming events — conferences, symposiums, seminars, webinars, etc. to firstname.lastname@example.org.
NASED Summer Meeting— The National Association of State Election Directors will hold it’s 2015 summer meeting in Cleveland, Ohio this year. Registration will open soon. Where: Cleveland, Ohio. When: June 23-25. For more information and to register, click here.
IACREOT Annual Conference — The International Association of Clerks, Recorders, Elections Officials and Treasurers will hold its annual conference in Vail, Colorado this year in June and July. Planning is still in the early stages, but be sure to mark your calendar. Where: Vail, Colorado. When: June 27-July 2. For more information and to register, click here.
Continuing Legal Education — Need CLE? Late breaking news!With support from the Bipartisan Policy Center, IACREOT is developing 7 hours of continuing legal education (CLE) on Saturday, June 27 in conjunction with the IACREOT annual conference in Vail, CO. In addition to 2 hours of ethics, the CLE will include an overview of federal election law, and also cover current hot topics in voter access and voting integrity, legal implications regarding the 2014 Presidential Commission on Election Administration (PCEA) report, and ballot access. While the current schedule and faculty is not yet final, confirmed speakers include nationally renowned ethics expert, Tom Spahn, EAC Commissioners McCormick and Masterson, John Fortier and Don Palmer from the Bipartisan Policy Center, Doug Chapin of Election Academy blog, Wendy Underhill from NCSL, Colorado SOS Wayne Williams, and IACREOT’s long time General Counsel, Tony Sirvello. While IACREOT members will get a discount, the CLE is open to non-IACREOT members, as well, so please share this with the lawyer(s) who work in or support your office so they can be better prepared to legally assist you. Where: Aspen, Colorado. When: June 27. Registration: Separate registration is required; the form and further information is on the IACREOT conference website.
NASS 2015 Summer Conference — The National Association of Secretaries of State Annual Summer Conference is set for July this year. Planning is still in the early stages, but be sure to mark your calendar. Where: Portland, Maine. When: July 9-12. For more information and to register, click here.
NACo Annual Conference and Exposition— The 80th Annual Conference and Exposition of the National Association of Counties will be in Mecklenburg County (Charlotte), North Carolina. Registration opens February 9th. Where: Charlotte, North Carolina. When: July 10-13. For more information and to register, click here.
NCSL Legislative Summit 2015 — The National Conference of State Legislators will hold their 2015 Legislative Summit in August. Planning is still in the early stages, but be sure to mark your calendar. Where: Seattle. When: August 3-6. For more information when it becomes available and to register, click here.
Election Center 31st Annual Conference— The Election Center hold its 31st Annual Conference in Houston in August. Planning is still in the early stages, but be sure to mark your calendars now. Where: Houston, Texas. When: August 18-22. For more information and to register, click here.
NACRC Annual Conference— The Annual Conference of the National Association of County Recorders, Election Officials and Clerks is set for Houston in August. Planning is still in the early stages, but be sure to mark your calendar. Where: Houston, Texas. When: August 21-25. For more information and to register, click here.
MEOC Conference — The Midwest Election Officials Conference is back! Following a several-year hiatus, Brian Newby, Johnson County, Kansas election commissioner is bringing back the regional conference for elections officials. There are still a lot of details to work out, but if you’re an elections official in the Midwest, mark your calendars now! Where: Kansas City area. When: September 30-October 2. For more information, stay tuned to electionline and Brian Newby’s Election Diary.
IX. Job Postings This Week
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.
Associate, Elections Initiatives, The Pew Charitable Trusts, Washington, D.C. — will report to the project director of Election Initiatives and will be part of a project staff including a director, a project director, a manager, two officers, three senior associates, two associates and an administrative assistant. The associate’s primary responsibilities involve supporting the activities and goals of the portfolio of Pew’s Election Initiatives work which includes the Elections Performance Index, Upgrading Voter Registration, the Voting Information Project, as well as other projects aimed at improving the research portfolio of the elections team. The associate will be an integral part of all these projects, spending much of his or her time researching and drafting data dispatches, reports, memos, policy briefs, 50-state scans and other research products that are highly relevant to policy deliberations. This individual will need to analyze and translate large amounts of data and research related to election administration into written products that policymakers and the public can easily understand. Additionally the associate will be part of team collecting, cleaning and coding data as well as communicating with states and counties when conducting research. Consequently, the associate must be able to think creatively about how to collect, use and report elections information from state and local officials. This individual will be required to coordinate and sustain our inquiries and relationships as well as manage research consultants we work with. The project and position are approved through June 30, 2017, with the possibility of renewal depending on the initiative’s progress, board approval and continued funding. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Elections Services Manager, Contra Costa County, California — management position reports to the Assistant Registrar in the Elections Division of the Clerk-Recorder’s Office and acts in the place of the Assistant Registrar during his/her absence. This position is responsible for assisting the Assistant Registrar in planning, organizing and directing the day to day activities of the Elections Division; the development, establishment, implementation and evaluation of County elections policies and procedures according to Election and Government Codes, applicable laws, rules, procedures, court cases, regulations and ordinances that affect the preparation and conduct of elections and registration of voters. The ideal candidate will possess knowledge and understanding of the election process, cycle and Election law as well as knowledge and understanding of the interrelationships of each unit of the Election Department. This classification will supervise Elections Division administrative, technical and supervisory staff. Strong management and administrative skills are required as the incumbent will have primary responsibility for day-to-day direction and coordination of the Election Division activities. Excellent Interpersonal skills are required, as the incumbent will interface with staff on all levels as well as county officials, news media, and the public. Salary: $75,260.28 – $91,479.36. Deadline: June 26, 11:59pm Pacific. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Government Services Associate, Center for Technology and Civic Life, Chicago, Illinois — as Government Services Associate at CTCL, you will develop and lead courses that advance the digital, data, and design skills of local election officials so they can effectively communicate with the people they serve. Responsibilities: develop and maintain relationships with new and existing members of the ELECTricity network; draft tech tutorials and curriculum for our network of local election officials; conduct in-person and online trainings to help election officials build technology skills; and ensure ongoing programmatic excellence, rigorous program evaluation, and consistent quality of communication and curriculum. Salary: $45-$50,000 annually. Deadline: Rolling, but with an anticipated start date between July 13 and August 4. Application: For the complete listing and to apply, click here.
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