I. In Focus This Week
Big changes coming to little Delaware
Legislation creates one, unified state board of elections
This week, the Delaware General Assembly approved broad legislation that will fundamentally change the way elections in the First State are administered, if not conducted.
Under House Bill 302 the state’s election law will be amended to consolidate the three county—Kent, New Castle and Sussex—elections boards into one 11-memember state board of elections.
Unlike most, if not all other states, currently elections staff in each of Delaware’s three counties are state employees although they report to local elections boards and not the state.
Once the new law — it is expected that Gov. Jack Markell (D) will sign it — is in place, the county elections staff will remain state employees only they will report to the newly create state elections board.
The new board would be composed of 11 members with two members from each county, two members from the City of Wilmington and two at-large members. The members will be appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Senate.
Existing county boards of elections will remain, but they “would be subject to the policies and directives of the state board of elections.”
According to Elaine Manlove, the current state election commissioner, there were no specific problems that inspired the legislation, but a desire to streamline the process in a state with approximately 683,000 registered voters.
“There was not a specific problem – the Task Force focused more on consistency,” Mannlove said. “Delaware is different than most states.”
The Task Force Manlove referenced is The Election Law Task Force, created in 2013 to review all aspects of how Delaware conducts its elections.
While there were no specific problems, Charlotte King president of the Delaware League of Women Voters noted that her organization— which supports the legislation — observed inconsistencies from county to county and hopes this new system will eliminate that.
“Our subsequent review of the process in each county has indicated that on occasion poll workers are following different procedures such as the definition and use of voter IDs,” Kin said. “This bill will allow the state board of elections to provide more effective oversight and direction to the three county election boards.”
The change does not take place until July 1, 2015 and Manlove said she will spend the next year determining how best to implement the processes.
No funding was allocated in the legislation, but Manlove said she does not anticipate any financial needs to implement the new system and even expects that ultimately there will be a cost savings through group purchases.
“I anticipate the biggest workload will be insuring that this newly created agency has four offices that are doing everything in the same way,” Manlove said. “Getting everyone on the same page will create challenges. Once we are there, it will be business as usual.
Reactions to the impending law have been mixed. Howard G. Sholl, Jr., deputy director of the Department of Elections for New Castle County didn’t really see the need for a change and isn’t sure how his county will be impacted.
“I am not sure of the impact, and won’t know until the new structure is in place. The local boards were very responsive to local issues,” Sholl said. “I would hope the state board would be as responsive.”
The legislation, which was approved 25-15 in the House and was met with some concerns by legislators, with the biggest concern being potential politicization of the process as well as the loss of independence for county boards.
However, with little debate, the Senate unanimously approved the bill. The legislation is also supported by voting rights groups in the state including the aforementioned League of Women Voters.
King added that it will certainly lead to a better utilization of the resources of the state board by increasing the administrative oversight for the local offices.
“While voter suppression is not a major problem in Delaware at this time, I feel that this bill can be seen as a pro-active response to recent Supreme Court decisions that compromised the effectiveness of the our federal Voting Rights Act,” King said. “If HB 302 becomes law, it will help Delaware maintain its excellent reputation as a State that has demonstrated a respect for the voting rights of its citizens.”
As for how the average voter thinks about all of this? Sholl doesn’t think they care so much one way or another.
“I am not sure that most people care. They want elections to be held without serious problems,” Sholl said. “As long as that happens, I don’t believe they would care how it happens.”
II. Our Say
Our Say is an occasional section giving elections officials, academics, policymakers or elections geeks a chance to have their say on election administration. If you’ve got an opinion about some element of election administration and would like to write about it, please email electionline.
By Steve Trout
Clear Ballot Group
Here we are nine years after the latest voluntary voting system guidelines were published. A lot has changed in nine years. Back then most people had VCRs not DVD players, and Blu-ray players had not been officially released. You probably had a flip phone, and iPhones had not been officially released.
Technology has improved dramatically and has made our lives better in many ways. Unfortunately we have not been able to take advantage of new technology in voting systems.
We cannot continue to certify voting systems to standards from 2005 or before. We need to change the way we certify voting systems so that we can take advantage of new technologies, greater transparency, greater security, and lower costs.
So what are we trying to achieve through certification? That is a question I have been asking over the past couple years. The answer I receive from election administrators more than 90 percent of the time is they want certification to provide them with confidence that the voting system is accurate, secure, and does what the vendor advertises it to do.
When I follow up with the question of what they want to see to ensure those three objectives I hear that they want to have an independent party review the source code to make sure the system is secure and that there are no trap doors or malicious code. Then the election administrators want to conduct a logic and accuracy test of the machines. Some want a large test size, while others desire a small test size. Finally, they want to make sure that the system will work in real election conditions their jurisdiction operates under.
So in Oregon, we would want to test that the system can tally folded ballots that come through the mail.
This seems to be a simple framework to bring certification into the 21st Century that builds upon the benefits certification brought us under previous standards. Election officials want and need new systems. The public demands faster and more transparent elections. Policymakers demand more cost effective systems. The only way to meet these needs is to come up with a new certification process that is faster, more adaptable to changing technology, and more transparent.
Without a change in the certification process, innovation is stifled, election officials are left with limited and outdated options and the public questions the accuracy of election results because voting system technology is so far behind the technology they use in their everyday lives.
Election officials, technology experts, and voting system vendors need to come up with a path forward to change the certification process to allow new state of the art voting systems to come forward.
Election officials have made it clear that what they are looking for from certification is that the systems are accurate, secure, and they do what they are advertised to do. This seems like a much simpler process with just as much protection as what we have today under the 2002 and 2005 standards.
Let’s get all the stakeholders together and work together to create a new certification process that will allow and encourage new voting systems to be developed and provide election administrators and the public what they demand and deserve. We have talked about this for too long, it is time to act.
Steve Trout is the Director of Election Innovation at Clear Ballot and has 15 years election experience at the state and county level.
III. Primary Roundup
Voters in five more states headed to the polls this week and two states — Mississippi and South Carolina — finished up their primary season with runoffs.
At this point in the 2014 primary season 31 states and the District of Columbia have gone to the polls. The rest will head to the polls in August and September (there are no primaries in July).
Like the many of the previous primaries held this year, low turnout was the rule of the day, even in Colorado and Utah that implemented widespread vote-by-mail and vote center processes.
Colorado: Colorado conducted its first statewide mail/vote center election with few problems. Although official turnout numbers were not yet available, around 5pm, KVNF reported that more than half a million voters had returned their ballots, or approximately 16 percent of registered voters.
The secretary of state’s office adopted an emergency rule to force the Larimer County clerk and recorders office to count special election ballots for a Loveland special election that may have been returned in the county primary ballot envelope.
Speaking of the secretary of state’s office, current Secretary of State Scott Gessler failed in his bid for the GOP nomination for governor. “The cause is worthy of sacrifice. I have no regrets,” Gessler said of his decision to run for governor instead of seeking another term as secretary of state.
Maryland: Like most everywhere else, low turnout was the news of the day in Maryland. In Anne Arundel County there were some early morning delays that mostly stemmed from inexperienced elections judges. In Cecil County, a police were called to a polling place after a scuffle between candidates and supporters resulted in one candidate allegedly being bitten on the nose (no Luis Suarez is not a Maryland voter). The biggest problems occurred in Montgomery County were e-poll books in nine precincts failed to work meaning elections judges had to resort to using back-up poll books.
Mississippi (Runoff): Voters headed back to the polls in Mississippi on Tuesday, but before they could get there, state elections officials had to clarify where poll watchers were allow to be located and with a variety of groups saying that they were coming in to watch the poll watchers.
Once voters actually got the polls on Tuesday, there were only a few reports of minor problems. Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann’s office said it received some calls about problems, with most stemming from questions about cross-over voting. In Harrison County, several voting machines malfunctioned and at one of the county’s largest polling sites, there was no key for the ballot bin so ballots had to be placed in manila envelopes. There were reports of voter harassment and poll worker intimidation in Madison County.
New York: While many eyes were on the winners and losers in New York, unlike the last time some of these seats were contested, there was very little administration news. The only real reported problem was in Oneida County where concerns were expressed over a lack of poll workers. And while they are still finishing up the ballot counting, officials in St. Lawrence County were able to count up the dollars and determine it cost the county about $30,000 to hold the primary.
Oklahoma: There were no reports of any real problems The Sooner State on Tuesday.
South Carolina (runoff): South Carolina finished up their primary this week with a small handful of runoffs. There were few reports, if any, in the counties conducting runoffs. In Florence County, a 4.5 percent voter turnout made for fast and efficient counting on election night. Even in Richland County, which has had a history of electoral woes, things went relatively well. “It’s been a long, slow day,” Interim Elections Director Stephen Selph told The State.
Some questions did arise prior to election day in Richland County when voters had questions about the ballots they received in the mail. Instead of printing new ballots for this week’s runoff election, the county repurposed ballots from the earlier primary and using a marker crossed off races that have already been decided and removed candidates not eligible for the runoff. According to the state board of elections, other South Carolina counties have been doing this for years.
Utah: Many Utah counties conducted primaries by mail with supplemental vote centers and logistically, things seemed to go well. Officials in San Juan County were pleased with the new mail-in process and said things went smoothly.
In Davis County, there were seven vote centers open for voter to cast or return ballots. Poll workers told the Davis Clipper that they were impressed with the numbers of people casting or returning ballots. “We had a fairly good turnout,” Brian McKenzie, director of elections, told the paper, “especially when you consider the dynamics of the election.”
IV. Election News This Week
- The American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas has asked Pulaski County Circuit Judge Time Fox to lift his stay on the state’s voter ID law arguing that more than 1,000 people were disenfranchised during the May primary. Fox ruled in May that the law was unconstitutional, but issued a stay for the primary and runoff. Now the ACLU wants assurances that the stay will be lifted before the November general election.
- In more voter ID news, the Virginia State Board of Elections is being questioned about the recent statewide implementation of the new voter ID law. Six days before the election, the SBOE determined that expired, but otherwise valid forms of ID, would be accepted. Sen. Mark Obenshain (R-Harrisonburg), the author of the original legislation said that move violates the intent of the law. The SBOE announced that it plans to re-evaluate the definition of valid ID.
- The case of Toyukuk v. Treadwell began federal court in Alaska this week. The case, which was brought by two Alaska Native voters along with two tribal councils, argues that the state does not do enough serve voters who speak Native languages. An attorney for the plaintiffs told Alaska Public Media that the state does more for voters who speak English, Spanish and Tagalog than Native speakers. The state argues that it has followed the law as written.
- Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted declined to appoint to Republican nominees to the troubled Lucas County board of elections. In his denial, Husted said the candidates were not qualified because they “perpetuated or contributed to the board’s problems.”
- Backers of an initiative to move Oregon to a top-two primary system turned in 140,000 petition signatures this week. The Every Oregon Voter Counts Petition Committee submitted the signatures in just over five weeks. Under the ballot initiative language, the candidates would be allowed to list their party affiliation, but primaries would essentially be nonpartisan. According to The Oregonian, voters in Oregon rejected a similar initiative in 2008. The secretary of state’s office will now review a sample of the signatures to ensure the initiative has the 87,213 signatures necessary.
- Personnel News: Kelly Bensman, Ben Roberts and Brenda Hillhave been appointed by their respective parties to replace the ousted Lucas County, Ohio board of elections members. Shantel Krebs has been nominated to represent the GOP ticket for South Dakota secretary of state. Ray Sexton has joined the Stewart County, Tennessee election commission. Debbie George has been named the Macon County, North Carolina director of elections. Kelly Penizul has been appointed as Steuben County, Ohio’s new Democratic elections commissioner. Melba Blakely has stepped down from the Spartanburg County, South Carolina election commission after 44 years of service. Robin Lumb, a Jacksonville, Florida councilman announced this week that he will run for the Duval County supervisor of elections job. Angelina Schultz announced that she will run on the Democratic ticket for the South Dakota secretary of state seat. The Parker County, Texas elections commission voted 4 to 1 to appoint Don Markum to the post of elections administrator. Retired Army 1st Sgt. Matthew L. Selph was hired by the Kentucky secretary of state’s office to oversee a new online voter registration system for military and overseas voters.
V. Legislative Update
Federal Legislation: U.S. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ken.) plans to introduce legislation that will restore voting rights to nonviolent felons in federal elections.
Sen. Kristen Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) announced this week that she will introduce federal legislation to force the 23 states and the District of Columbia, that do not have online voter registration, to establish it.
California: The “Let California Troops Vote” bill would allow ballots from service members to be counted if they are postmarked on or before election day, but received up to three days late. The bill is currently being heard in the Senate Elections Committee.
North Carolina: By a vote of 115-0, the House approved House Bill 1267 that amends existing law to allow a valid ballot cast early by a voter, either by mail or in person, remains valid if that voter dies before election day.
Another bill approved by the House (Senate Bill 403) made numerous technical changes to the state’s campaign finance laws as well as other election laws.
VI. Research and Report Summaries
electionline provides brief summaries of recent research and reports in the field of election administration. The summaries are courtesy of the research staff of The Pew Charitable Trusts Elections Initiatives. Please email links to research to Sean Greene at Pew.
Governing in a Polarized America: A Bipartisan Blueprint to Strengthen our Democracy – The Bipartisan Policy Center, June 2014: The center’s Commission on Political Reform issued this report recommending changes to improve the electoral system, the workings of Congress, and civic engagement. Their recommendations for electoral system reform include:
State sharing of voter registration databases and other government lists among states to create more comprehensive and accurate voter lists;
- Online voter registration;
- Automating the motor voter registration process;
- A seven to ten day period of early voting;
- Reduced usage of provisional ballots; and
- Improved elections data collection by states and localities.
Shelby County: One Year Later – Tomas Lopez. The Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law, June 24, 2014: This brief examines the impact of last year’s decision ruling part of the Voting Rights Act unconstitutional. The report describes the effect in three major areas; removing a deterrent against harmful election law changes, the greater difficulty and expense in challenging discriminatory voting laws, and the lack of accountability of voting law changes.
Alabama: Voter ID
Alaska: Voter registration
Indiana: Voter ID
Kansas: Voter registration
Louisiana: Voting changes
Maine: Ranked choice voting
Massachusetts: Voting rights
Missouri: Early voting
New Mexico: Open primaries
New York: Storage costs
North Carolina: Student voters
South Carolina: Poll workers
VIII. 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.
IX. 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.
Director of Elections, Duplin County, N.C. — position is department head appointed by the Duplin County Board of Elections. This position requires ability to supervise and train employees, the ability to interpret and apply elections laws, ability to establish and maintain a good relationship with County Board of Elections and staff, precinct officials, media and county manager. Director attends County Board of Election meetings and records minutes. Deal courteously with general public; prepares election ballots for the Board’s approval, organizes and arranges distribution for all materials and delivery of equipment and sets-up leases for each precinct Polling Place. Prepare an elections budget proposal for Board and County Commissioners approval. Work closely with the State Board of Election, State Executive Director and Staff for legal opinions and regulations. Qualifications: Honest and strong positive attitude – Graduation from four year college or university in public administration, business or related field and two or more years computer experience or an equivalent combination of education, training and experience. Salary: $39,818-$53,588 annually. Deadline: Position open until filled. Application: For more information and to apply, click here.
Director of Training, Champaign County Clerk, Urbana, Illinois — will develop and conduct training programs for employees, Deputy Registrars, Election Judges and other election workers. The Director of Training will provide effective and meaningful training services to insure accurate and efficient delivery of election, vital records, and property tax services to the residents and agencies throughout Champaign County. Duties: trains or supervises the training of new and current employees in the elections, property tax, county board and vital records functions of the County Clerk’s Office; formulates teaching outlines and determines instructional methods such as individual training, group instruction, lectures, demonstrations, meetings and workshops; develops and administers tests of trainees to measure progress and to evaluate effectiveness of training; and provides input and technical support necessary for the development and maintenance of Champaign County Election Day pollbook software and voter registration software. Qualifications: Bachelor’s Degree in Business, Education or related field with a minimum of three years of training experience; excellent computer, software, and writing skills and good interpersonal communication skills; experience speaking to and training groups; experience with online and/or technology based training preferred; ability to manage time to meet deadlines; ability to work independently and as a member of a team; and excellent organizational, analytical, verbal and written skills. Salary: $41,730. Deadline: June 30, 2014. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
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.