I. In Focus This Week
Editor’s Note: Due to the Fourth of July holiday, electionlineWeekly will not publish next week. Enjoy the holiday.
Elections After Shelby County: Bring on the Election Geeks
By Doug Chapin
Program for Excellence in Election Administration
University of Minnesota
Tuesday’s Supreme Court opinion in Shelby County v. Holder (invalidating the Voting Rights Act’s coverage formula for preclearance and effectively ending most preclearance activity under Section 5 of the Act) is likely to reverberate across the nation for some time.
Already, states that had been blocked from enforcing election changes because of Section 5 – like Texas’ voter ID requirement – have begun to move forward as voting rights advocates consider their next moves in a landscape that has been radically changed.
I won’t pretend to provide any kind of cogent legal analysis of the Shelby County decision, which is fascinating on so many levels; for that, you should check out SCOTUSBlog, ElectionLawBlog or the coverage at the New York Times.
But I do think the decision represents a challenging opportunity for the hardy band of practitioners, academics and advocates who constitute the group I call election geeks.
Why? Because in the post-Shelby landscape, data — specifically, data about election administration — is more valuable and likely to be more influential than ever before.
Just think about all the different ways data will be necessary in the foreseeable future:
- Notwithstanding considerable pessimism, Congress (or at least some members) are taking up the Court’s call to update the coverage formula of the Act and will need data for that effort;
- Without Section 5, plaintiffs in cases of all kinds are going to need data to make the case that certain election procedures violate Section 2 of the Act;
- By the same token, defendants are going to need data to demonstrate that their laws or practices do not violate the Act – or make the case in advance of a lawsuit that litigation is unnecessary;
- Everyone concerned is going to have to use data to evaluate whether litigation is even advisable given the higher costs associated with the need to actually go to court; and
- Advocates and election officials are going to need data to reach out to legislators to identify opportunities to amend or repeal laws that might violate the Act – thus avoiding litigation.
In short, in a post-Shelby world the question isn’t whether a given law might affect voting rights; it will require proof that it does (or doesn’t) – and data (good data!) will be essential to that effort.
That’s where the election geeks come in.
The same commitment to evidence-based analysis that animates projects like Heather Gerken’s idea of a Democracy Index or Pew’s Elections Performance Index – indeed, the approach which the Shelby majority seemed to be criticizing Congress for failing to embrace in its 2006 reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act – is and has to be the way forward in assessing progress from now on.
Here’s hoping that, beginning immediately if not sooner, we as a field can commit ourselves to better collection and analysis of election data in the service of answering all of the questions raised by the Shelby County case.
Election geeks – it’s your time.
II. Election News This Week
Because there was elections news this week other than the U.S. Supreme Court ruling on the Voting Rights Act…
- Office moves are often fraught with drama, but especially in Davidson County, Tenn. where the election commission is being forced to move out of its downtown Nashville location to an office complex. The election commission recently voted to seek outside counsel who will help them determine if they should file suit to stop the relocation. The commission argues that a move will cost them more than $300,000 because they will need to send postcards to every registered voter, publicize the move in local papers and hire new staff to work at a satellite location that will remain downtown. “They have put us in an impossible situation,” Ron Buchanan, election commission chairman told The Tennessean. “Apparently they made the decision that we’re going to move, and we had no input into it.”
- A recent review of voter applications in Kansas found that nearly one-third of all applications submitted since the beginning of the year are in “suspense” because the applicants did not provide proof-of-citizenship. The review, conducted by the Lawrence Journal-World found that 11,101 people who attempted to register in the last six months were considered unqualified because of a lack of proof-of-citizenship. The large number of applications “in suspense” is being blamed on an as-yet-to-happen upgrade to the state’s Division of Vehicles computer system that stores electronic copies and birth certificates and other documents. “The large number … right now is a concern among election officers throughout the state. And that is just within a six-month time in an off-season. What does that number look like in an election season?” Douglas County Clerk Jamie Shew told the Kansas City Star.
- A report about last month’s botched election in Luzerne County, Pa. places much of the blame on Director of Elections Marisa Crispell. The report, which called the election an “embarrassment,” found that Crispell had no idea that the Hazelton Area school district stretched into small portions of two other counties. Although the Hazelton Area portion of the election was voided by two judges and will be conducted again sometime in the future, the chairman of the county’s board of elections, H. Jeremy Packard, told the Citizen Voice “The overall situation of the election was that it was basically a very good election, a well-run election.” According to the Times-Leader, this is the first known time that an elections “do-over” has been required in the Commonwealth.
- Personnel News: Nebraska Secretary of State John Gale announced that he will seek re-election for a third time. Gale, 72, became secretary of state in 2000 when he was appointed to fill a vacancy. He was first elected in 2002 and won reelection in 2006 and 2010. Dan Burk, registrar of voters for Washoe County, Nev. for 14 years retired last week. He joined the registrar’s office in 1997 and was appointed registrar in 1999. Jane Kelly has been named director of the Montgomery County, Ohio BOE. Her first day on the job is July 8. Lena Gray and Vendetta Russell are both retiring from their positions of deputy registrars for the Hawkins County, Tenn. election commission. Eleanor Straight, Hancock County, W.Va. clerk is retiring after 33 years in the clerk’s office. “I’ve hit 70, so I figure it’s time to move on. Time to take a break,” she told the Herald Star. Democrat Joe Neguse, a member of the University of Colorado board of regents announced that he will run for secretary of state. Although it was previously announced, Thursday is the last official day for Linda Grist, Cabarrus County, N.C. board of elections director. Grist is retiring after 21 years on the job. The N. C. State Board of Elections appointed several new county elections boards this week including in Robeson County, Scotland County, Lee County and Watauga County.
- In Memoriam: Gordon Walberg, former Galesburg, Ill. election commissioner died recently. He was 90. Walberg served on the commission from 1983 to 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 email@example.com
IV. Legislative Update
California: The Senate will take up consideration of a bill that would allow non-citizens to serve as poll workers during elections. The bill would allow green-card holders to work at the polls and provide language assistance.
New Hampshire: Late last week, the House and Senate conferees agreed that student ID cards would be restored as a form of identification under the state’s voter ID law. However, conservatives in the Senate balked at the compromise but late on Wednesday the legislation, including the use of student IDs was approved.
New Jersey: Democrats failed to garner the necessary votes needed in order to override Gov. Chris Christie’s (R) veto of early voting legislation. Democrats needed three Republicans to cross the aisle, but none did.
The Assembly approved a two-bill package aimed at improving student safety on election day. One bill would ensure that safety plans are in place to protect students when schools are used as polling places and bill would allow local school officials to decide whether or not to hold school on election days.
The fight over when to conduct the special U.S. Senate election in New Jersey is not over yet. This week the full Assembly and a Senate committee approved legislation would combine both the special election and the general election and hold both elections on Oct. 16. The second piece of legislation would allow voters to cast their general election ballot when voting in the special election.
New York: Legislators in Albany approved legislation late Thursday night that will allow New York City to use the much beloved lever-voting machines for the upcoming mayoral race. Under the legislation—should there be a runoff—it would be moved one week to avoid conflicting with a Jewish holiday.
Under a bill approved by the legislature, the Eastchester Fire District will be allowed to move its elections to coincide with other statewide races in November.
North Carolina: This week’s Supreme Court ruling seems to have cleared the way for North Carolina’s voter ID legislation to move forward. The House approved the bill in March, but it had been stalled in the Senate Rules Committee since then.
Oregon: On the same day the U.S. Supreme Court vacated Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, legislators in Oregon approved a bill that would automatically register Oregonians to vote. By a 32-28 vote, largely, but not completely, along party lines, the House approved HB 3521 that would use driver’s license data from the state to register all those who are eligible. All registrants would receive a post card giving them an opportunity to opt-out. The legislation faces an uncertain future in the Senate.
Rhode Island: The House has delayed debate and voting on legislation that would halt new requirements under the state’s voter ID law. Early in the week, according to House spokesman Larry Berman, the bill was being reworked, but on Wednesday, House Speaker Gordon D. Fox said the legislation would have to wait until next year.
Please email upcoming event — conferences, symposiums, seminars, webinars, etc. to firstname.lastname@example.org.
NASS Summer Conference: “Towards the Frontier of Leadership and Innovation” is the theme for this year’s National Association of Secretaries of State Summer Conference. When: July 18-21. Where: Anchorage, Alaska. Registration: Click here to register.
NACo Annual Conference: The National Association of Counties 78th Annual Conference will be held in Tarrant County and provides an opportunity for all county leaders and staff to learn, network and guide the direction of the association. When: July 19-22. Where: Forth Worth, Texas. Registration: Click here to register.
NACRC Annual Conference: This year’s National Association of County Recorder, Election Officials and Clerks annual conference will be in Dallas, Texas and the theme is NACRC Partnerships Today Create Tomorrow’s Leaders. When: July 18-21. Where: Dallas, Texas. Registration: Click here to register.
NCSL’s Legislative Summit — join the National Conference of State Legislatures at their annual Legislative Summit. This year’s summit will include almost a dozen sessions on redistricting and elections. When: August 12-15. Where: Atlanta, Ga. Registration: Click here to register.
Election Center’s 29th Annual Conference: The annual conference of the National Association of Election Officials will be in Savannah this year and will feature numerous sessions and coursework ranging from comparative democracies to the history of voter registration. When: August 13-17. Where: Savannah, Ga. Registration: Click here to register.
Supreme Court: Arizona v. Inter Tribal Council, II | Shelby County v. Holder, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII, IX, X, XI, XII, XIII, XIV, XV, XVI, XVII, XVIII, XIX, XX, XXI, XXII, XXIII, XXIV, XXV, XXVI
Georgia: Federal database
Hawaii: Open primary
Illinois: Online voter registration
Louisiana: Cost of elections
Maine: Runoff elections
Maryland: Early voting
Massachusetts: Voter turnout
Minnesota: Ranked-choice voting
Mississippi: Hattiesburg election
Missouri: Early voting/vote-by-mail
New Jersey: Special election
Ohio: Voter suppression
Oregon: Voter registration
Texas: Voter registration
West Virginia: Turnout
VII. 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 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.
Director of Elections, Craven County, N.C. — Plans and supervises daily operations, ensuring accuracy and efficiency in voter registration. Receives, reviews and approves registration applications. Processes completed registrations in master file, precinct file and precinct registration book. Supervises and assigns work to subordinate office personnel and ensures accuracy and efficiency. Receives candidates’ registration for county offices and others designated by the State Board of Elections [SBE]. Sends requested absentee ballots, submits applications for Board approval, and mails ballots for all approved applications. Maintains current registration files; maintains timetable of Board duties; notifies Board members of all deadlines and meetings. Prepares all reports required by the SBE according to General Statutes. Maintains current statistics of all registered voters by precinct and party affiliation. Contacts news media and publicizes voter registration laws. Supervises and instructs precinct Judges in preparation for elections. Prepares all voting equipment and supervises the storage, maintenance and delivery of such to the polls. Prepares budget proposal for Board approval. Monitors expenditures and administers approved budget. Interviews and recommends personnel to Board of Elections on new hires and terminations. Performs various related functions in connection with the administration of State and County Election laws and regulations. Qualifications: Graduation from high school supplemented by college-level course work in management, business or a related field and three to five years of experience in office management involving public contact, preferably in a Board of Elections office. Graduation from a four-year college or university preferred. Applicants must have certification from the State Board of Elections, or the ability to obtain within three years of employment. Thorough knowledge of electoral procedures and policies as set forth in general statues and regulations of the State Board of Elections is preferred. Computer skills and the ability to use general office equipment are required. Deadline: July 3, 2013. Application: Please submit letter and resume to: Employment Security Commission, 2836 Neuse Blvd., New Bern, N.C. 28560 or click here.
Election Programmer, Jefferson County, Texas — codes each election as prescribed by The Texas Election Code in compliance with the federal, state, county, political subdivisions and political party requirements. Coordinate and code all ballot information including precinct, office, candidate, and polling location data; and provide English, Spanish and audio coding; coordinate the accuracy of the paper and iVotronic ballot; responsible for loading election data on Ivotronic touchscreens, Personal Electronic Ballots, and flash cards; responsible for performing operational testing; responsible for overseeing the logic and accuracy testing of ballots; responsible for the printing or outsourcing of paper ballots; program and make ready all EA tablets which contains the voter registration database; create and maintain election equipment inventory database; must assist field technicians during early voting and help desk representative to technicians on Election Day; responsible for backing up all audit data and election files; report election results to Secretary of State of Texas. Minimum Qualifications: Education and experience equivalent to an Associate’s degree from an accredited college or university in computer science, electronics or in a job related field of study. One (1) year of work related experience. Experience in election programming preferred. Must possess a valid Texas Driver’s License with a good driving record. Experience with computer programming, Access database management, electronics, hand tools and skilled in the use of standard software applications. Restrictions exist on the ability to be a candidate for a public office or an office of a political party, hold a public office, or hold an office of or position in a political party. Special rules apply to political contributions. Salary: $43,094-$58,858. Deadline: Open until filled. Application: For the complete job posting and to apply, click here.
Senior Associate, Elections Initiatives, Pew Charitable Trusts, Washington, D.C. — the Trusts is seeking to hire a senior associate to work on the Upgrading Voter Registration (UVR) initiative and report to the UVR project manager, Election Initiatives. The senior associate will be expected to contribute at multiple levels, assisting with implementation of UVR’s state assistance strategies, tracking legislation, conducting outreach to states and partners, and supporting the entire spectrum of activity under the project, including interaction with the other election initiatives, research, communications, and both state and national campaigns. The position will be based in Pew’s Washington, D.C. office. It is expected that this position is for a term period through December 31, 2015, with the possibility of an extension pending the success of the program, funding sources and board decisions on continued support. Requirements: Minimum of five years professional experience in public policy arena; working knowledge of issues around state voter registration systems and election administration preferred; Bachelor’s degree required; Masters or other advanced degree in a relevant area preferred; experience convening groups of policy makers, practitioners, stakeholders, researchers and other constituencies, and supporting their efforts to develop consensus and move toward a desired outcome. Acute political awareness and non-partisan perspective and approach; experience working with complex policy and political issues, and developing sophisticated communications and government relations strategies; demonstrated strong analytical skills applied to public policy issues, including an ability to synthesize and summarize large amounts of information and to focus quickly on the essence of an issue; ability to communicate ideas, thoughts and concepts clearly and concisely and in a compelling way, both in writing and orally and to multiple audiences including policy makers, the media, and public. Deadline: Open until filled. Application: For the complete job posting and to apply, click here.
Senior Associate, Elections Initiatives, Pew Charitable Trusts, Washington, D.C. – The Trusts is seeking to hire a senior associate to perform research and analysis across all of the Election Initiatives work; including, Upgrading Voter Registration, the Voting Information Project, and the Elections Performance Index. Reporting to the research manager, the senior associate will be expected to contribute at multiple levels, such as conducting research and writing related to all the team’s projects. The position will be based in Pew’s Washington, D.C. office. It is expected that this position is for a term period through December 31, 2015, with the possibility of an extension pending the success of the program, funding sources and board decisions on continued support. Requirements: Minimum five years of professional experience in public policy research; working knowledge of issues related election administration preferred; Bachelor’s degree required; advanced degree in a relevant area preferred; Demonstrated strong analytical, qualitative, and quantitative skills applied to public policy issues, including an ability to synthesize and summarize large amounts of information and to focus quickly on the essence of an issue. Familiarity with statistical analysis software (e.g. SPSS, Stata, SAS) preferred; Strong writing and communications skills are essential.; Experience working with public or election officials, academics, and other relevant stakeholders preferred; Acute political awareness and non-partisan perspective and approach; Ability to communicate ideas, thoughts and concepts clearly and concisely and in a compelling way, both in writing and orally and to multiple audiences including policy makers, the media, and public. A clear, effective writing and presentation style; Demonstrated time- and project-management skills, including an ability to meet multiple deadlines by maintaining a high level of organization. Ability to think strategically and creatively, adjust to changing circumstances, organize time, remain attentive to details and identify resources for projects. Ability to establish a systematic course of action to ensure project completion; Ability to fit into the creative, fast-paced and highly professional corporate culture of the Trusts, which emphasizes excellence, collegiality and teamwork. Deadline: Open until filled. Application: For the complete job posting and to apply, click here.
Senior Associate, Elections Initiatives, Pew Charitable Trusts, Washington, D.C. – The Trusts is seeking to hire a senior associate to work on the Voting Information Project (VIP) initiative and report to the VIP project manager, Election Initiatives. The senior associate will be expected to contribute at multiple levels, such as assisting with implementation of VIP’s state assistance strategies, conducting outreach to states and partners. The position will be based in Pew’s Washington, D.C. office. It is expected that this position is for a term period through December 31, 2015, with the possibility of an extension pending the success of the program, funding sources and board decisions on continued support. Requirements: Minimum five years of professional experience in public policy arena. Working knowledge of issues around election administration preferred; Undergraduate degree required; Masters or other advanced degree in a relevant area preferred; Experience convening groups of policy makers, practitioners, stakeholders, researchers and other constituencies, and supporting their efforts to develop consensus and move toward a desired outcome. Acute political awareness and non-partisan perspective and approach; Experience working with complex policy and political issues, and developing sophisticated communications and government relations strategies; Ability to understand and explain technological concepts, such as APIs and XML. Familiarity with elections technology, open data and data standardization preferred; Demonstrated strong analytical skills applied to public policy issues, including an ability to synthesize and summarize large amounts of information and to focus quickly on the essence of an issue; Ability to communicate ideas, thoughts and concepts clearly and concisely and in a compelling way, both in writing and orally and to multiple audiences including policy makers, the media, and public. A clear, effective writing and presentation style; Demonstrated time- and project-management skills, including an ability to meet multiple deadlines by maintaining a high level of organization. Ability to think strategically and creatively, adjust to changing circumstances, organize time, remain attentive to details and identify resources for projects. Ability to establish a systematic course of action to ensure project completion; Ability to fit into the creative, fast-paced and highly professional corporate culture of the Trusts, which emphasizes excellence, collegiality and teamwork. Application: For the complete job posting and to apply, click here.