June 21, 2012

I. In Focus This Week

The vote goes on in Larimer County, Colo. despite fire
Clerk works to make sure all who want to vote can

By M. Mindy Moretti

When Tom and Sonia Koetting step out of the back of their Fort Collins Colo. home they hold their breath and keep a wary eye on distant sky where orange flames from the High Park Fire are eating up acre upon acre of Larimer County (pictured below, photo courtesy of Tom Koetting).colofire

Despite the flames and the smoke and acting as a refuge for displaced family members, Sonia Koetting said not voting in Tuesday’s upcoming Colorado primary never crossed her mind.

“We live in the suburbs, so while we watch the smoke and offer refuge to my sister and her crew who are displaced, I would not miss voting because of the fire,” said Koetting who is also the PR coordinator for the League of Women Voters of Larimer County and soon to be the communications director for the League of Women Voters of Colorado. “However, if I were one of the displaced, it would be the furthest from my mind.”

But for Larimer County Clerk Scott Doyle, making sure all registered voters in the county affected by the fire has the opportunity to cast a ballot — whether they are thinking about it or not — has been a top priority since the fire broke out several weeks ago.

“If fire survivors want to vote I will do whatever is necessary to get them a ballot prior to the 26th – and I mean anything!” Doyle said. “I must say that this is not a very exciting election but for anyone who desires to vote they will be given a way to do so.  I will even mobilize a bi-partisan team to deliver ballots to those in need if necessary. “ 

Doyle said that residents evacuated are given information at Red Cross centers about how to get a replacement ballot. His office has released information to the press about voter options since many displaced residents may not be in relief centers, but staying with family and friends.

Fortunately this primary election in Larimer is an all-vote-by-mail election so Doyle had no need to worry about relocating polling sites, replacing poll workers or any of the other typical issues surrounding a polling place-based election.

Even though this may be a low-interest, vote-by-mail election, Doyle is quick to explain that there are impacts on his work and staff.

“I suspect that it is hard for you to understand what is happening here.  I think the best way to explain it is that it is apocalyptic in nature and magnitude,” Doyle said. “We will do our best for anyone wanting to vote but options and opportunities are clearly limited at this point.”

When asked if there was anything else he wanted to add about the upcoming election and the fire, Doyle simply said, “Please pray for us, please pray for safety, and rain…”

In addition to the High Park Fire, the Springer Fire is burning in parts of Park County. Clerk and Recorder Debra A. Green said that super vote center in Lake George is not impacted by the fire. She said that she has been in touch with her election judges and the county’s fire chief and the county will not need to go to a back-up plan for Tuesday.

Although the secretary of state’s office is monitoring the situation in Larimer and other affected counties, a spokesman for the secretary noted that all the counties have rock-solid contingency plans and would only step in if asked.

“From our office’s perspective we delegate a lot of that to the counties and we see some incredible thought devoted to their emergency preparedness plans,” explained Richard Coolidge, director of communications for the secretary of state’s office.

Coolidge said that due to the delicate, political nature of elections, the secretary of state’s office would only step in to reschedule an election in the most rare of occasions.

In other Colorado primary news, the secretary of state’s office is stepping in with two staff members to help Teller County oversee the upcoming election. According to The Gazette, the decision to send the staff came after calls from concerned voters and candidates came into the secretary’s office.

“I lost my main election staff person and wasn’t fast enough to run after that ball and when I got to the bottom of the hill, I wasn’t strong enough to hold it,” Clerk and Recorder J.J. Jamison told The Gazette. “I just couldn’t work fast enough.”

Jamison said the state staffers are “directing me. They’re helping me gather up those balls.”


II. Election News This Week

  • The Allegheny County, Pa. board of elections voted this week to file a lawsuit challenging the state’s new voter ID law. The vote was along party lines with the board’s two Democrats voting to sue and the board’s lone Republican voting against the lawsuit. “We should be making it easier to vote,” County Executive Rich Fitzgerald told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “This legislation [the Voter ID law] is trying to deny that right and make it more difficult for people to vote.” It is expected the lawsuit likely will be brought on behalf of both the election board and the county. According to the paper, the heart of the county’s argument would be that the state constitution sets just four requirements for voting eligibility: minimum age, U.S. citizenship, residence in Pennsylvania and a specific election district.
  • The City of St. Paul, Minn. has filed an amicus brief in the suit against that state’s proposed constitutional amendment requiring voters to show photo ID at the polls. According to the Pioneer Press, the brief questions the accuracy of the language voters will read if the amendment reaches the ballot. “The so-called ‘photo ID’ question is not authorized by law and should not be placed on the ballot,” St. Paul City Attorney Sara Grewing said in a statement. “The Minnesota Supreme Court should order that this bill be sent back to the Legislature for a veto override or further legislative clarification.”
  • The Senate Elections and Constitutional Amendments Committee of the California General Assembly voted—along party lines—to approve a bill that would allow same-day voter registration as soon as the state’s new computerized database is operational.
  • A report from New York City’s Independent Budget Office said that the cost of 2012’s four elections could cost the city as much as $80 million.
  • Voting in Virginia is going to the dogs…and apparently the cats as well. This week a dog in Bedford County received a voter registration form as did a cat in Virginia Beach. The forms were sent from the Voter Participation Center. While Mozart the dog won’t be able to register to vote because he passed away two years ago, Scampers the cat is considering how he’ll register, as a Repulicat or a Democat.
  • Personnel News: Dianne Hill, Saline City, Mich. Clerk has been named City Clerk of the Year by the Michigan Association of Municipal Clerks. Hill started her work with the city as a high school co-op student in 1971 and promoted to deputy clerk in 1974 and then city clerk in 1988.

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 sgreene@pewtrusts.org

The Canvass – National Conference of State Legislatures, June 2012: This issue examines the market for voting technology and the challenges facing Internet voting.


IV. Opinions

National News: Secret ballots

Alabama: Voter turnout

California: Voter habits;

Florida: Volusia County; Voter rolls, II; Voter registration; Voter purge

Georgia: Access to voting

Iowa: Latino voters; Voting machines

Maine: Charlie Summers

Massachusetts: Hacking the vote

Michigan: Absentee ballots; Ballot length; Voter suppression; Confusing ballot

Minnesota: Voter ID, II

Mississippi: Voter ID

New York: Local election boards; Polling places

North Dakota: Election workers

Ohio: Ballot postage; Absentee ballots

Oklahoma: Electoral College

South Carolina: Election fatigue

Tennessee: Voting machines; Voter purge

Texas: Voter purge

Wisconsin: Voter ID; Voting irregularities

**Some sites may require registration.


V. 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.

Statistician, U.S. Dept. of Justice — primary responsibility of the statistician is to provide technical guidance and statistical analyses used by the Voting Section to determine whether states and local jurisdictions are in compliance with the Voting Rights Act and other federal voting laws the Section enforces. Qualifications: degree that included 15 semester hours in statistic and 9 additional semester hours in one or more of the following: physical or biological sciences, medicine, education, or engineering; or in the social sciences. Combination of education and experience: courses as shown in A above, plus appropriate experience or additional education.  The experience should have included a full range of professional statistical work such as (a) sampling, (b) collecting, computing, and analyzing statistical data, and (c) applying statistical techniques such as measurement of central tendency, dispersion, skewness, sampling error, simple and multiple correlation, analysis of variance, and tests of significance. Application: Please submit your application via fax at 202-514-6603 or by email to crd.vacancies@usdoj.gov. Deadline: June 29, 2012. For more information and the complete listing, please click here or here (two openings).