I. In Focus This Week
Exit Interview: Boone County Clerk Wendy Noren
Noren to step down after nearly 30 years
Boone County, Missouri Clerk Wendy Noren began her career in the clerk’s office in 1978 as a deputy clerk. She was elected to her first term as county clerk in 1982. On June 23, after almost 30 years of running elections in Missouri’s seventh largest county, Noren will call it a day.
In a busy week, when she was wrapping up a nearly three-decade career, packing up her belongings and saying good-bye to colleagues, Noren took some time to answer our questions for an exit interview.
Thank you Wendy for your time for this interview and all your time over the years. You will be missed.
When you got started in this business back in 1978, did you see yourself making a lifelong career out of it? What kept you running for re-election?
While I loved the job from the first day I started I did not plan on doing it the rest of my life. My goal then was to prove to my parents I could do a “real” job so they would let me return to Europe to study art history. Each year I was in the job new challenges would arise that I felt compelled to overcome before I left. Every challenge conquered opened the path to a new one to take on. Before I knew it, I had been there over 35 years and had conducted 10 presidential elections.
You’ve seen many changes in the administration of elections, what change to the process have you appreciated most? What change have you appreciated least?
When I started all registrations were processed by typewriters and hand written changes – we had no computer. I live or die by the quality of my registration file on Election Day so the advances in technology have been what I appreciate the most. The Internet allows me to let the voter control their registration and for me to communicate quickly with thousands of voters through email and text messaging. I also appreciate the fact that election administration has become something researchers now pay attention to – that can only help our profession.
As far as the least appreciated change it is the current atmosphere of political distrust which makes it difficult for people to innovate. Innovation requires the ability to “do it wrong till you do it right”. Because no level of failure is allowed in our business it is extremely difficult for creative people to advance new programs.
What would you say was your greatest accomplishment as an elections official?
I think my constant embrace of new technology. I always tried to look at what other businesses were doing to get ideas. For example, the first time I saw a barcode used in the grocery store I knew it would help my office. Soon after I had barcodes added to our computer printed election day voter lists so we could update voter history records quickly and accurately. Most recently it was the text messages from airlines of flight status that I used as model for sending training reminders to poll workers and upcoming text messaging to voters of polling place changes.
Do you have any regrets about your time in office? Anything you wish you would have accomplished but weren’t able to?
I very much wanted to conduct an election with early voting. Unfortunately Missouri has never been able to work out legislation that is satisfactory to the state and counties. I have so many voters who work shifts that make it difficult, if not impossible, to vote on Election Day. Missouri’s very strict absentee laws make it impossible for many people to get the chance to vote – except those willing to perjure themselves on the affidavit.
What challenge/task/principle would you charge the rest of the elections community to carry on in your honor?
While this applies to all election officials it applies most to election officials in college towns. I have always believed that I am the gatekeeper to young people’s entry in the election process. A good or bad experience the first time someone votes will carry with them throughout their life. If I fail to provide a good voting experience to a first time voters they may never return to the process. That is a responsibility we must all take seriously.
What will you miss most about being the Boone County clerk?
I worry my brain will atrophy without the constant stimulation that comes from always trying to create a better way of doing my work. Or frustrated if I think of something new that I cannot implement.
What advice would you give to someone just getting started in the election administration business?
Read, read, read, read. At least once a year your state’s election code cover to cover. Take advantage of all of the research that is now being done on the administration of elections – this did not exist when I started. As often as possible check out the business sections of NY Times and Wall Street Journal to find new technologies. And of course, check Electionline every day to see what is going on with election administrators all over the country.
What’s next for you, besides sleeping in on the next election day?
Spending time with family and cherished friends – many of whom I have neglected horribly over the years.
II. Election News This Week
The Senate Intelligence Committee and the House Intelligence Committee held dueling hearings this week on role Russia played in the 2016 election. According to The Washington Post, Samuel Liles, the Department of Homeland Security’s acting director of the Office of Intelligence and Analysis Cyber Division, told the Senate committee that vote-tallying mechanisms were unaffected and that the hackers appeared to be scanning for vulnerabilities — which Liles likened to walking down the street and looking at homes to see who might be inside. But hackers successfully exploited a “small number” of networks, Liles said, likening the act to making it through a home’s front door. Over on the House side, former DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson testified that Russia’s meddling, directed by President Vladimir Putin, was “unprecedented, the scale and the scope of what we saw them doing.” Wisconsin Elections Commission Administrator Mike Haas, Illinois Board of Elections Director Steve Sandvoss and Indiana Secretary of State Connie Lawson (R) testified before the Senate committee.
While much has been made recently about the impacts Texas’ voter ID law had on the 2016 election a study of provisional ballots in Travis County found that it wasn’t just ID impacting a voter’s ability to cast a ballot. A total of 477,588 overall ballots were cast in the November election. Nearly 6,000 of those votes were provisional ballots, and over 4,300 of those were rejected. According to the Travis County Elections Division, of the 4,358 provisional ballots that were rejected in the November election, 44 rejected ballots were due to photo ID issues and 15 were because the voter was out of their assigned jurisdiction. The remaining 4,299 provisional ballots were rejected because a voter was not registered to vote in Travis County. “When in doubt check yourself out,” Michael Winn, director of elections for Travis County told Community Impact Newspaper.
We feel a bit like Oprah with this post. You get a vote center. You get a vote center. Everybody gets a vote center! Maricopa County, Arizona is gearing up for its first major election with a vote-by-mail/vote center system. Maricopa will join Yavapai, Yuma, Cochise, Graham and Santa Cruz which typically employee this hybrid system to conduct elections. Putnam County, Indiana is joining a growing list of Hoosier counties to move to the vote center system. While the county is still working on the details, the plan is to have them ready to go in 2018. The Texas secretary of state has approved Gregg County’s application to move a to a vote center process beginning in November 2017. And although they aren’t quite there yet, Sebastian County, Arkansas is on its way to moving to the vote center model. This week the county election commission approved the vote center proposal it will be submitted to the Quorum Court.
The Durham County, North Carolina Public Schools Board of Education is considering a new policy that will encourage high schools to register eligible students to vote. According to the Herald Sun, under the proposed policy, the superintendent would create a committee of high school social studies teachers and other appropriate school personnel to collaborate with the Durham County Board of Elections to facilitate and encourage voter registration at high schools. The policy also reminds school of the state law requiring high schools to keep registration forms on hand and make them available to students or anyone else who is eligible to register to vote. “It really puts into policy some of the practices that we already have in place,” Kelvin Bullock, the school district’s executive director for equity affairs told the paper.
Speaking of voter registration! The Miami Dolphins are looking to make history off the field by making sure that every player on the roster is registered to vote by National Voter Registration Day. According to ESPN, if they accomplish this feat, they will be the first professional sports team to do so. “The Dolphins are well on their way to being the first professional ball team in American history to have a roster of fully registered voters, and this is just the beginning,” Bill Wachtel of the Drum Major Institute told ESPN.
Personnel News: Sandy Cherry, Cheatham County, Tennessee elections administrator has announced her resignation effective July 28. Cook County Recorder of Deeds Karen Yarbrough said she plans to run for clerk. Congratulations to Donna Maldonado who was recognized by the Floyd County, Georgia board of commissioners for 19 years as an elections technician with the county’s board of elections and registration. New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver has announced that she will seek a full four-year term as secretary of state in 2018. Art Auer, the Boone County, Missouri director of elections has been appointed interim clerk. Wayne Bena, Sarpy County, Nebraska election commissioner has been hired to serve as the new deputy secretary of state for elections. Longtime Cook County, Illinois Clerk David Orr announced this week that he will not seek re-election for an eighth term [Don’t worry, we’ll be sure to sit him down for an exit interview before his term ends]. Ian K. Linnabury has been appointed to the Illinois State Board of Elections.
III. Legislative Updates
Arizona: Under a bill proposed by Rep. Bob Thorpe (R-Flagstaff) college students would be prohibited from registering and voting where they attend college. The bill would impact not only students who live on-campus, but also those who have apartments or houses off-campus. A similar proposal by Thorpe introduced earlier this year died when state Rep. Doug Coleman, R-Apache Junction, refused to give it a hearing in the House Government Committee which he chairs.
California: Assembly Bill 668, the Voting Modernization Bond Act of 2018 would allow the state to sell $450 million in bonds to pay for new voting equipment. The bill was sent to the Senate Governance and Finance Committee and Standing Committee on Elections and Constitutional Amendment after passing out of the Assembly at the end of May.
Illinois: House Bill 539 has been approved with bipartisan support. Under the bill, counties would have the ability to reduce the number of elections judges during primary elections. The bill awaits the governor’s signature.
Maine: The House has approved a resolution that would make it more difficult to put a referendum question on a ballot. The resolution would mandate that signatures be obtained from 10 percent of the voters in each of Maine’s two congressional districts.
Also in Maine, the Senate tabled legislation that would have repealed a citizen-led initiative which created a ranked choice voting system. The Senate then voted to give initial approval to a bill that would amend the state Constitution to resolve issues with the new law that the state’s Supreme Judicial Court found.
Nevada: Included in the 41 vetoes by Gov. Brian Sandoval (R) was a veto of Assembly Bill 272 which would have allowed counties to create vote centers. In his veto message, Sandoval said the current system works and because he’s heard no complaints he didn’t see the need to make any changes.
Ohio: The House has approved House Bill 41 would eliminate a requirement that absentee voters complete identification envelopes to submit ballots.
Texas: Gov. Greg Abbott (R) vetoed 50 bills this week including House Bill 2410 that would have allowed certain small counties to conduct runoff elections by mail. Abbott cited concerns about fraud as his reason for the veto.
Washington: The Seattle city council voted 6-0 to require landlords to provide new tenants with voter registration information.
Wisconsin: The Assembly has approved a bill dictating who can/cannot request a recount. Under the legislation, only candidates within 1 percent of the winner’s vote total in an election with at least 4,000 votes would be eligible to request a recount. If an election includes fewer than 4,000 votes, the requesting candidate must be within 40 votes.
IV. Legal Updates
Michigan: Macomb County’s clerk is facing another lawsuit, this time for secretly videotaping a resident. Diane Zontini is suing Clerk Karen Spranger alleging that an associate of the clerk’s secretly filmed Zontini while she was conducting private business in the clerk’s office.
New York: The U.S. Department of Justice has reached an agreement with the state to settle a lawsuit over voter registration opportunities through state motor vehicle offices. Under a settlement agreement, New York will make sure a voter registration opportunity will be included with all applications for driver’s licenses and renewals.
North Carolina: The North Carolina Court of Appeals rejected Gov. Roy Cooper’s request to put on hold the law creating the State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement. The lawsuit argues the change in the elections board violates the constitutional separation of powers.
Ohio: The U.S. Supreme Court has refused to hear an appeal of the decision by the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals that found a pair of homeless organizations lacked standing as private entities to challenge enforcement of a law requiring voters to provide certain personal identifying information with ballots.
Virginia: Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) has agreed to turn over a list of the 206,000 convicted felons whose voting rights were restored under a now-defunct executive order from 2016. The release of the information is part of a settlement with the Loudoun County Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office which had sued to gain access to the list.
Also in Virginia, Andrew J. Spieles, 21 of Harrisonburg, pleaded guilty to a “one-count Information” for knowingly submitting fraudulent voter registration forms.
V. Tech Thursday
National: VR Systems, the Florida-based voter registration software company that NSA suggests was hacked by the Russians said the company’s systems were never compromised. “We have no indication that they got anywhere close to our systems,” Ben Martin, the company’s CEO told Florida elections officials. “They never got into our systems.”
Illinois: The DuPage County election commission is looking to buy new technology to present election results on its website. The decision comes after the county’s election website slowed dramatically during the recent April primary. “It will take the data and display it in a way that’s easy to access and view,” Joseph Sobecki, the commission’s executive director told the Daily Herald. “So we’ll be able to put up election results by precinct and enable the users to filter and see the races better.” Most importantly, the website shouldn’t slow down like it did on April 4, when 369,728 visitors checked it for the outcome of local races and referendum questions.
Oregon: Five Cedars Group, which provides downloadable HTML ballots for the blind and disabled voters in Oregon is currently undergoing certification in California and considering expansion to other states. The group’s ballots use definition files from counties across Oregon to create downloadable HTML ballots that work with multiple screen readers including Job Access With Speech (JAWS). Blind and vision-impaired voters can navigate the ballot using the tab and spacebar keys, receive instructions audibly using screen readers, and submit names for write-in candidates.
Wisconsin: The Wisconsin Elections Commission has voted unanimously to have staff develop e-poll book software and offer it to local elections officials on a pilot basis beginning in February of 2018 with a plan to go statewide by August 2018. The project is expected to cost $124,865 in staff time.
VI. Opinions This Week
Alabama: Voting Rights Act
California: Recall rules
Florida: Ex-felon voting rights
Georgia: Karen Handel
Indiana: Voter registration fraud
Massachusetts: Russian hacking
New York: Election reforms
North Carolina: Elections board
Ohio: Election security
Pennsylvania: Voting systems
Texas: Voter ID
Vermont: Early voting
West Virginia: Young voters
VII. VIP Update
Request for Applications Signals Next Step in Voting Information Project Transition
Today, that transition takes another major step with the release of a request for applications (RFA) by The Pew Charitable Trusts. The RFA encourages entities to indicate their interest in and qualifications for taking on VIP’s work serving voters across the nation.
Applicants will have an opportunity to demonstrate how they will:
- Adhere to the key VIP principles set out by a group of stakeholders from the fields of election administration, technology (including civic technology), and academia.
- Manage the current and future technical challenges of aggregating official election data in the VIP form and ensuring the success of voter-facing tools established by VIP and its collaborative partners.
- Maintain and nurture the strong relationships with state and local election officials that are instrumental to VIP’s success.
At the end of the RFA process, Pew hopes to identify a new home for VIP, which will assume responsibility in early 2018 and commit to its long-term success.
Expressions of interest are due Tuesday, July 11, 2017, and full responses are due Monday, Aug. 21. Pew and VIP will host an informational conference Tuesday, July 18, to further explain the RFA process and answer any questions that prospective applicants may have.
All of us associated with VIP are excited about this next stage and look forward to thoughtful and skilled responses from a variety of leaders in the field.
Alexis Schuler is a senior director at The Pew Charitable Trusts.
VIII. Upcoming Events
IaoGO 2017 Annual Conference — The iGO Annual Conference is packed with over 24 hours of education specifically for government officials with sessions for election officials, clerks, recorders and treasurers. Get knowledge and concrete learning you can bring back to your office. Visit the iGO website for full info and register by June 23 for the lowest rates. When: July 6-13, 2017. Where: Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin.
NASS 2017 Summer Conference — Mark your calendars now and stay tuned for more information and registration details on the National Association of Secretaries of State 2017 Summer Conference. When: July 7-10, 2017. Where: Indianapolis, Indiana.
National Association of Election Officials Professional Education Program — Program includes Course I (Introduction to Election and Voter Registration Systems Administration); Course II (Management and Leadership Concepts in Election and Voter Registration Administration); Course III (Planning and Budgeting for Elections and Voter Registration); Course IV (Election and Voter Registration Information Management and Technology); Course V (Ethics in Elections and Voter Registration Administration). Where: Sanibel Harbour Hotel, Fort Meyers, Florida. When: July 8-15.
Summer Conference on Election Science, Reform and Administration — Hosted by Reed College and Portland State University the goals of the conference are, first, to provide a forum for scholars in political science, public administration, law, computer science, statistics, and other fields who are working to develop rigorous empirical approaches to the study of how laws and administrative procedures affect the quality of elections in the United States; and, second, to build scientific capacity by identifying major questions in the field, fostering collaboration, and connecting senior and junior scholars. When: July 26-27. Where: Portland, Oregon.
National Association of Election Officials 33rd Annual Conference —This year’s Conference attendees will be inspired and energized as we share trending elections and voter registration issues including The 2016 Elections in Review, Technology Advances in Voter Registration and Elections and Polling Place Line Management, to name a few, Also, crucial information from federal agencies to local election officials sharing practical information for day to day election administration operations. This is the also the time to honor and celebrate the winners of the Election Center’s acclaimed Professional Practices Papers’ Program. You will hear the winning presentations and you will take home all of the innovative programs and ideas that were submitted by your colleagues in other jurisdictions around the country. When: August 19-23. Where: Orange County, California.
NASED 2017 Summer Meeting— Mark your calendars now and stay tuned for more information and registration details on the National Association of State Election Directors 2017 Summer Meeting. When: August 22-25, 2017. Where: Anaheim, California.
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 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.
Associate Components Engineer, Clear Ballot, Boston — our growing team has an immediate need in our Boston office for an entry-level/early career Associate Components Engineer in our Product Management organization. As an Associate Components Engineer, you will be at the center of maintaining Clear Ballot as the leader of commercial-off-the-shelf based voting systems. The list of materials in our voting systems is broad and dynamic; and you will be accountable for staying ahead of vendor product roadmaps, leading the identification and evaluation of new technologies and products from those vendors, identifying new sources of components, then managing new models and products through introduction, test, internal training and deployment. You may also perform manufacturing engineering duties and vendor surveys. The successful candidate will be managing finished goods and subassemblies such as computers, printers, and scanners- not board level components. Deadline: Open until filled. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Data Reporting Supervisor, Orange County, Florida — The Office of the Supervisor of Elections is seeking an experienced GIS Data Reporting Supervisor to join our dynamic team. With minimal supervision, this position maintains accurate street index, precinct map, municipal and district boundaries for the elections office. The position coordinates all activities related to management of census data and redistricting. The ideal candidate would have experience managing GIS data for a government agency, developing and maintaining data reporting for internal and external parties and experience working with Oracle database, forms and reports including development of SQL queries and stored procedures. Preference will be given to candidates with strong supervisory skills, project management experience and prior experience utilizing MapInfo. Employment with the Orange County Supervisor of Elections Office is contingent upon successfully passing a criminal background check, health screening and verification of work history, academic credentials, licenses and certifications, as applicable. Salary: Grade 14-Minimum $56,998, Maximum $85,486. Deadline: Open until filled. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Program Specialist 4, Washington Secretary of State’s Office — this position is the Election Review Program lead within the Election Certification and Training program. The Election Certification and Training program oversees, directs, and advises county auditors in interpretations of federal and state election law and the correct administration of voter registration and elections throughout the state. The certification and training program reviews county practices for adherence to election law and best practices, provides essential tools for election administrators through official communications and training, and acts as liaisons for the Office of the Secretary of State. This position reports to the certification and training program manager and is responsible for overseeing, reviewing and advising county auditors on the federal and state elections laws and the administration of voter registration. Salary: $4,109-$5,385. Deadline: Open until filled. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Regional Sales Manager (West), Dominion Voting Systems — Dominion Voting Systems is seeking is highly-motivated and accomplished Regional Sales Manager to work remotely and be based in the Western United States; preferably California. The Regional Sales Manager is responsible for long term sales (3-5 years) of the company’s election products and services in a specified geographic region to governmental agencies. This position uses technical, organizational and customer knowledge to influence customers and assist them in applying the products and services to their needs, resulting in revenue generation. In addition, the position provides input and participates in the marketing, planning and development of products and services. Salary: Negotiable base + commission & benefits. Deadline: Open until filled. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Research Associate, Democracy Works — we’re seeking a researcher to help us know as much as possible about elections, and use that knowledge to inform our software design, operations, and customer service for more than 1 million voters across 50 states. You’ll: Learn the ins-and-outs of election rules across 50 states, and apply that big-picture understanding to the smallest details of how we serve individual voters; Track when every election is happening, using your wits, charm, and deft Google Alert-wrangling skills (plus the occasional temp staffer); Solve problems, answer questions, and ensure that even our most confused voter gets the information they need; and Break things, hunt bugs, and help prioritize new features for our developer team. Salary: $48,000 to $53,000. Deadline: Open until filled. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Senior Technical Trainer, Clear Ballot, Boston, Massachusetts — our small and growing documentation and training team has an immediate need for a new member with intermediate-to-senior experience in: Instructional design, development of learning curricula, production of training materials, and hands-on, customer facing training. Generally, the training department, technical staff, and operations staff provide training at the customer’s site. We need an instructional designer and trainer who can analyze the learners and materials, and establish an appropriately targeted learning program. The opportunity exists to develop computer based training as an enhancement to our learning curriculum. Deadline: Open until filled. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Systems Engineer, Clear Ballot, Boston, Massachusetts — we are looking for a talented Systems Engineer who has both a technical and services/support background which enables them to quickly assess customer needs and offer value to Clear Ballot’s customers. The Systems Engineer will gain a deep understanding of how Clear Ballot’s products operate and their optimal configuration to build a streamlined installation process of the Clear Vote election system. The ideal candidate for this position can prioritize mission critical tasks and coordinate the implementation and expansion of our systems. They will be able to work directly with customers, display innovation, think conceptually and act tactically to build consensus around system installation and enhancement and meet deadlines. Deadline: Open until filled. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
System Specialist, Dominion Voting Systems — Dominion Voting Systems is seeking tech-savvy, passionate System Specialist to be based in our Toronto office! This position will be responsible for a wide range of projects to include end-to-end election simulations, identifying new features for development, coming up with creative solutions to meet customer needs; and documenting procedures and solutions. Salary: Negotiable base + bonus target & benefits. Deadline: Open until filled. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Voting Rights Associate/Attorney, The American Civil Liberties Union, San Francisco— the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California (ACLU-NC) seeks an advocate with two to three years of relevant experience to help advance voting rights across California. The Voting Rights Associate is a critical member of the ACLU of California’s Voting Rights Project team, which works to protect and promote the voting rights of Californians by utilizing a range of advocacy strategies, including collaborative work with other advocates and election officials, legislative and administrative advocacy, strategic communications/media, and litigation. The position will be based in our San Francisco office and reports to the Voting Rights Project Manager & Attorney, who is based in the Sacramento office. Your focus will be on advancing voting rights and reforming campaign finance in California. Specifically, you will work to improve California’s compliance with the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA), a federal law that is a critical vehicle to ensure that historically disenfranchised communities, including people of color, people with disabilities, and low-income people have access to engage in our democracy. You will also focus on advancing publicly financed elections in the Bay Area to help create a more level playing field for candidates. You are responsible for evaluating existing policies and best practices, crafting recommendations, and establishing relationships with stakeholders. You may also write reports and will serve as a resource for community groups and organize local events and meetings. You will support other Voting Rights Project work, including helping to implement new reforms such as California’s new vote center model and automated registration, while seeking opportunities to improve accessibility for voters with disabilities and voters with limited English proficiency. Deadline: July 7. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
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XI. Electionline Underwriting
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