I. In Focus This Week
First Person Singular: Tammy Patrick
Traveling the country, listening to elections folks and some music
If you’ve been to an elections meeting lately, whether in Washington, D.C. or Santa Fe, New Mexico, you’ve probably seen Tammy Patrick sitting in the room somewhere, either as a member of the audience or on a panel.
She is a voting member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers’ working group on developing standards for a universal format for election results reporting and she is also a representative on the Mailer’s Technical Advisory Committee to the U.S. Post Office and has served as co-chair of the Postal Task Force for the Election Center.
All of this is to say that Patrick knows a thing or two about elections so we decided to send her some questions to find out what she’s hearing out there on the road, not only in meetings, but on her iPod.
You’ve done a lot of traveling since the Presidential Commission on Election Administration Report was released, any idea how many states/counties you’ve visited? Miles traveled?
Since the Report came out in January of 2014 I personally have testified in half a dozen state legislatures, provided data and information to more than a dozen additional state legislators or their staff, presented at nine state association conferences, and attended dozens of other stakeholder meetings and symposiums all over the country.
While I know that we have touched election administrators in almost every state, thankfully that didn’t require a trip to each one!
Organizations such as NASS, NASED, NCSL, Election Center, IACREOT have been instrumental in the success of thePCEA effort.
With that said, I recently wore out my “lifetime guaranteed” luggage.
As you’ve traveled throughout the country meeting with state and local elections officials, has there been one common theme/concern you’ve heard from officials?
Two themes that we heard throughout the PCEA efforts have continued to resonate in the post-report work: the need for voter registration modernization and the quandary election administrators find themselves in regarding technology.
With this last legislative session we now have surpassed the tipping point of more than half the states having authorized online voter registration, more states are participating in the cross-state data sharing programs of ERIC & IVRC, and more jurisdictions are leveraging the efficiencies of the use of electronic pollbooks to manage the moving target of an accurate voter roll.
Yet, there are so many other jurisdictions who yearn to modernize and benefit but are precluded from doing so due to statutory obstacles, lack of political will, deficient resources.
Election administrators are in the proverbial bind of knowing that their registration processes, their voting equipment, is out of date and needs replacement, but more often than not they are not being provided the tools they need to be successful.
Currently you’re in New Mexico at a meeting of state legislators and elections officials about voting technology. Typically the big legislative headlines are about voter ID and other voting rights issues (early voting hours, absentee voting limitations, etc.), but what issues technology-wise do you see Legislatures needing to tackle on behalf of elections officials?
There are a couple of topics that are dependent on the legislative branch in many states.
We have heard repeatedly from Congressional staff that there will not be another HAVA appropriation to replace voting equipment. Legislatures need to consider how new voting systems will be funded, not just for this purchase, but future systems as well. Establishing a revenue stream to ensure future acquisitions will defray continued uncertainty.
Implementation of online voter registration requires an initial investment. A recent Pew study found that the average cost for a state to implement an online registration system runs around $250,000. Every state that has deployed online registration has recovered their investment in a very short period of time and quickly benefit from the more efficient system.
Shifting consumables like signature rosters and registers from paper systems to electronic pollbooks also requires an outlay of funds. However, it is a bit like that television commercial “how much does all this cost?” with the piles of three-ring binders on the conference room table. The PCEA report calls for better data to support reform, the elections offices that can determine and articulate how much they are spending on their existing status quo will be best served when asking for funding of new projects.
Many statutes preclude state and local officials from innovating due to language rooted in old technology. States may determine that they are most comfortable moving forward first with pilot programs before revisiting specific, statewide requirements.
In some instances the mandates should be revoked. Ballot format specifics enshrined in statute need to be revised. Usability science needs to be applied to the manner that ballots are laid out, instructions are provided, and voter intent captured.
What’s been your favorite thing, work-wise, since leaving local elections in Maricopa County and moving to the national stage?
When we were writing the PCEA report I don’t think we envisioned the life that it would live after it left our pens. Here we are more than a year later and you would be hard pressed to attend a single election conference where the PCEA is not cited—sometimes in every presentation.
During coffee breaks and at dinner it is still a topic of conversation. Hearing from legislators who have used it to inspire legislation, from Secretaries of State and State Elections Directors who have used it to support their efforts, from locals who have taken some of the administrative practices and tried them in their own hometowns to better the services being provided and, ultimately, their voter’s experience is unbelievably gratifying.
If you had one piece of wisdom to share with anyone interested in election administration, what would it be?
Too often we focus on the big ticket items, the reforms that can take a large consensus (and time) to approve and implement. But there are incremental changes that can be done at the local level that will impact voters immediately. We included in the PCEA report things that local administrators can do in their offices for the next election without statutory change or administrative rule permissions:
- Instructing pollworkers that when they are talking to the facility about getting the door unlocked election morning to ask if there would be any extra chairs that could be borrowed should a line form, this will help voters;
- To make sure that all polling places meet accessibility requirements, this will help voters;
- Create a diagram specific to each polling location mapping out placement of equipment, tables, outlets, etc. to ensure proper traffic flow through the polling place, this will help voters; and
- Utilize the resource allocation tools on the www.supportthevoter.gov website for distribution ratios for check-in stations, voting booths/DREs, and the necessary pollworkers to staff each site, this will help voters.
There are many others listed in the report and I would encourage review of the recommendations.
Additionally it goes without saying (but I’ll say it anyway) that this can be a very difficult, albeit rewarding, profession. Stay focused on the voter. Stay passionate about what you do…and breathe deeply.
What’s your favorite traveling playlist?
Sure, save the hardest question for last! I love pretty much any style of music that doesn’t make my ears bleed, so my list is rather eclectic. Standards have to include Billie Holiday, Dylan, Lucinda Williams, Bessie Smith, Wilco, the Gourds, all Delta Blues—really ALL of it, Johnny Cash, Hank (I & III, but never II), Patsy Cline, Decemberists, Neal Young, John Prine, John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Nina Simone…seriously the list gets pretty long.
Since moving to Maryland I have also been listening to a lot to a local songwriter that we have met, Dave Norris and in anticipation of the upcoming Fare Thee Well Grateful Dead shows in Chicago, the old bootlegs are in the rotation.
But the one that’s getting the most play right now is the demo of my upcoming fifth album as we are figuring out the instrumentation and song arrangements.
Listening and creating music is how I decompress and prepare…cuz that’s what I wanna be when I grow up.
II. Election News This Week
- Following two public meetings, a citizen’s advisory committee has said that it wants more time before the Macon-Bibb Board of Elections considers closing polling places. The committee has asked until June 9th to make its recommendation to the BOE. Also in Georgia, the Chandler County commission voted to consolidate the county’s two voting precincts into one.
- In a speech to be delivered at press time, presidential candidate Hillary Clinton was expected to call for 20 days of early voting nationwide for the 2016 presidential election.
- Broward County, Florida Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes is looking into the possibility of providing return postage with absentee ballots as a way to boost turnout. Snipes told the county commissioners that she would rework her budget in order to try and find the approximately $1.46 per ballot for return postage.
- According to KSDK, Illinois State’s Attorney Brendan Kelly is conducting an investigation into absentee ballots in the April mayoral election in East St. Louis. In addition to the official investigation, the Bellville News-Democrat hired a forensic document examiner who has said that handwriting on absentee ballots appears very similar.
- It’s happened again, this time in Lucas County, Ohio. The county elections board is drying out 30 to 40 electronic voting machines after torrential rains leaked through the warehouse roof over the weekend. The board has repeatedly complained about the warehouse where the county’s 1,900 voting machines are stored and according to the Toledo Blade this only added fuel to the fire. Although the machines are stored with protective covers, the BOE is allowing them to sit for a period of time before attempting to turn them on to see if any actual damage occurred. A bit more than two years ago, voting equipment in Stark County suffered a similar fate.
- Voters went to the polls throughout New Jersey on Tuesday and while it was a relatively low turnout, quiet election, it wasn’t without incident. In East Orange, police were investigating several incidents they believe were tied to the election including an alleged assault near a polling place and people attempting to film voters coming and going from polling places. And in Mount Laurel, the report of an armed man inside an elementary school that was also serving as a polling place halted voting for about 90 minutes.
- According to WBBH, the Lee County, Florida supervisor of elections office purchased about $700,000 in iPads to be used as electronic poll books, the only problem is that the iPads aren’t compatible with computers in the office and therefore cannot be used. Although she was unavailable to speak to the television station, Supervisor of Elections Sharon Harrington has said she hopes to have the problem solved by speaking with other officials at an upcoming conference.
- Personnel News: Massachusetts State Rep. Shawn Dooley has been appointed to a statewide task force that is studying changes to state election law. Brown County, Texas Elections Administrator Suzy Young has resigned. Five new members have been appointed to the Wicomico County, Maryland board of elections. The new members are Brad Bellacicco, Joe Collins, Cathy Keim, Jim Doyle and Katrina Purnell. Susan Cochran has completed her two-year term as president of the Maryland League of Women Voters. Jennifer Campbell is the new Lynchburg, Virginia voter registrar. After 22 years on the job, Menomonie, Wisconsin City Clerk JoAnn Kadinger has retired. Pedro Cortes won official approval from the Pennsylvania Senate this week and will once again serve as the Commonwealth’s secretary of state. Derek N. Lyall has been appointed to serve as the Washington County, Virginia registrar effective July 1. Lyall replaces Mary Ann Compton who will retire June 30 after 35 years on the job. David Bjerke has been reappointed as the Falls Church City, Virginia registrar for another four years.
III. Legislative Updates
Alabama: Rep. Reed Ingram (R-Montgomery) has said that a bill he sponsored which would require voters to submit a copy of their photo ID when requesting an absentee ballot is dead due to confusion over what the legislation is actually requiring.
Arkansas: By a 67-16 vote, the House sent legislation to Gov. Asa Hutchinson that will move Arkansas’ 2016 primary from May to March. The state would become part of the SEC primary.
California: The Assembly has approved two pieces of legislation aimed at boosting turnout. One bill would require the DMV to full comply with Motor Voter—something the bill’s sponsor Marc Levine (D-San Rafael) says it has only partially been doing. The second piece of legislation, which was approved on a 45-25 vote, would move California to automatic voter registration.
Assembly Bill 278 — a bill that would require larger cities to use voting districts to elect council members — recently passed the Appropriations Committee.
Connecticut: The House and Senate have both approved legislation that will reform the voter registrar system in The Nutmeg State. Under the legislation, Secretary of State Denise Merrill will create a new training and certification program for the state’s 339 registrars. In addition, if the secretary of state believes a local registrar has engaged in misconduct or is incompetent, there is now a process in place to remove those registrars.
Nebraska: Under a new law in Nebraska special elections and recalls may now be conducting solely by mail. Previously only economic issues such as school bonds were eligible for all-mail voting.
New Hampshire: The House approved legislation that requires a potential voter to be a resident of New Hampshire for 30 days before registering to vote. The Senate approved similar legislation earlier this year, but the House bill further defines what factors contribute to a person’s domicile.
Pennsylvania: Rep. Ryan A. Bizzarro has introduced HB 13 that would allow for same day registration in the Keystone State. The bill has been referred to the House State Government Committee.
Vermont: Despite opposition from town clerks, Gov. Peter Shumlin signed legislation into law that will allow Vermont residents to register and vote on the same day beginning in 2017.
IV. Legal Updates
Indiana: This week the Indiana Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on whether or not the Republican-controlled General Assembly illegally targeted Lake County in 2014 by passing a law requiring officials to study whether to consolidate small election precincts with less than 500 active voters.
A ballot mix-up in the city of Woodburn, Indiana is forcing Allen County to seek a judge’s court order to redo the election. According to WANE, confusion over the primary ballots for mayor has made it impossible to determine who won the primary since some Republicans were allowed to vote in the Democratic primary. The election was challenged and both candidates agreed to the redo, but a court must still give the official go-ahead. It should cost the city about $2,000-$3,000 to redo the election.
North Carolina: Twenty-seven plaintiffs have filed a second federal lawsuit charging that race was improperly used to determine new legislative districts in 2011.
Also in North Carolina, in a letter to the state Board of Elections, a coalition of advocacy groups have said they are prepared to sue the state Department of Motor Vehicles for a failure to ensure that those applying for a license or ID card are also given the option to register to vote.
Texas: Dallas Judge Jill Willis threw out a challenge to a city council race saying that there was no evidence that any votes had been cast improperly.
Wisconsin: A coalition of voting rights advocates including six individuals and One Wisconsin Institute and Citizen Action of Wisconsin Education Fund has sued the Government Accountability Board in federal court for implementing elections laws approved by the state Legislature. According to The Capital Times, the suit names more than dozen policies including restrictions one early voting, changes to voter registration and absentee voting, abolishing straight-ticket voting and voter ID as changes to state election law that have worked to disenfranchise voters — especially minority voters.
V. Opinions This Week
Maryland: Ex-felon voting rights
Missouri: Voter ID
New Jersey: Online voter registration
New Mexico: Standardized elections
Ohio: Voter apathy
Oregon: Secretary of state race
Rhode Island: Election laws
South Carolina: Voting system
Wisconsin: Election technology
VI. Available Funding
U.S. Election Assistance Commission Grants
EAC Grants Management Division is responsible for distributing, monitoring, providing technical assistance to states and grantees on the use of funds, and reporting on requirements payments and discretionary grants to improve administration of elections for federal office. The office also negotiates indirect cost rates with grantees and resolves audit findings on the use of HAVA funds.
VII. Upcoming Events
Please email upcoming events — conferences, symposiums, seminars, webinars, etc. to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Maryland Association of Election Officials Annual Conference— The Maryland Association of Election Officials will hold its annual conference and meeting in Ocean City this year. The agenda is filled with presentations from the State Board on the new elections system, MAEO’s annual membership meeting and lots of opportunities to mingle and network. When: June 9-12. Where: Ocean City, Maryland. For more information and to register, click here.
NASED Summer Meeting— The National Association of State Election Directors will hold it’s 2015 summer meeting in Cleveland, Ohio this year. Registration will open soon. Where: Cleveland, Ohio. When: June 23-25. For more information and to register, click here.
IACREOT Annual Conference — The International Association of Clerks, Recorders, Elections Officials and Treasurers will hold its annual conference in Vail, Colorado this year in June and July. Planning is still in the early stages, but be sure to mark your calendar. Where: Vail, Colorado. When: June 27-July 2. For more information and to register, click here.
Continuing Legal Education — Need CLE? Late breaking news!With support from the Bipartisan Policy Center, IACREOT is developing 7 hours of continuing legal education (CLE) on Saturday, June 27 in conjunction with the IACREOT annual conference in Vail, CO. In addition to 2 hours of ethics, the CLE will include an overview of federal election law, and also cover current hot topics in voter access and voting integrity, legal implications regarding the 2014 Presidential Commission on Election Administration (PCEA) report, and ballot access. While the current schedule and faculty is not yet final, confirmed speakers include nationally renowned ethics expert, Tom Spahn, EAC Commissioners McCormick and Masterson, John Fortier and Don Palmer from the Bipartisan Policy Center, Doug Chapin of Election Academy blog, Wendy Underhill from NCSL, Colorado SOS Wayne Williams, and IACREOT’s long time General Counsel, Tony Sirvello. While IACREOT members will get a discount, the CLE is open to non-IACREOT members, as well, so please share this with the lawyer(s) who work in or support your office so they can be better prepared to legally assist you. Where: Aspen, Colorado. When: June 27. Registration: Separate registration is required; the form and further information is on the IACREOT conference website.
NASS 2015 Summer Conference — The National Association of Secretaries of State Annual Summer Conference is set for July this year. Planning is still in the early stages, but be sure to mark your calendar. Where: Portland, Maine. When: July 9-12. For more information and to register, click here.
NACo Annual Conference and Exposition— The 80th Annual Conference and Exposition of the National Association of Counties will be in Mecklenburg County (Charlotte), North Carolina. Registration opens February 9th. Where: Charlotte, North Carolina. When: July 10-13. For more information and to register, click here.
NCSL Legislative Summit 2015 — The National Conference of State Legislators will hold their 2015 Legislative Summit in August. Planning is still in the early stages, but be sure to mark your calendar. Where: Seattle. When: August 3-6. For more information when it becomes available and to register, click here.
Election Center 31st Annual Conference— The Election Center hold its 31st Annual Conference in Houston in August. Planning is still in the early stages, but be sure to mark your calendars now. Where: Houston, Texas. When: August 18-22. For more information and to register, click here.
NACRC Annual Conference— The Annual Conference of the National Association of County Recorders, Election Officials and Clerks is set for Houston in August. Planning is still in the early stages, but be sure to mark your calendar. Where: Houston, Texas. When: August 21-25. For more information and to register, click here.
MEOC Conference — The Midwest Election Officials Conference is back! Following a several-year hiatus, Brian Newby, Johnson County, Kansas election commissioner is bringing back the regional conference for elections officials. There are still a lot of details to work out, but if you’re an elections official in the Midwest, mark your calendars now! Where: Kansas City area. When: September 30-October 2. For more information, stay tuned to electionline and Brian Newby’s Election Diary.
VIII. Job Postings This Week
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Associate, Elections Initiatives, The Pew Charitable Trusts, Washington, D.C. — will report to the project director of Election Initiatives and will be part of a project staff including a director, a project director, a manager, two officers, three senior associates, two associates and an administrative assistant. The associate’s primary responsibilities involve supporting the activities and goals of the portfolio of Pew’s Election Initiatives work which includes the Elections Performance Index, Upgrading Voter Registration, the Voting Information Project, as well as other projects aimed at improving the research portfolio of the elections team. The associate will be an integral part of all these projects, spending much of his or her time researching and drafting data dispatches, reports, memos, policy briefs, 50-state scans and other research products that are highly relevant to policy deliberations. This individual will need to analyze and translate large amounts of data and research related to election administration into written products that policymakers and the public can easily understand. Additionally the associate will be part of team collecting, cleaning and coding data as well as communicating with states and counties when conducting research. Consequently, the associate must be able to think creatively about how to collect, use and report elections information from state and local officials. This individual will be required to coordinate and sustain our inquiries and relationships as well as manage research consultants we work with. The project and position are approved through June 30, 2017, with the possibility of renewal depending on the initiative’s progress, board approval and continued funding. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Elections Services Manager, Contra Costa County, California — management position reports to the Assistant Registrar in the Elections Division of the Clerk-Recorder’s Office and acts in the place of the Assistant Registrar during his/her absence. This position is responsible for assisting the Assistant Registrar in planning, organizing and directing the day to day activities of the Elections Division; the development, establishment, implementation and evaluation of County elections policies and procedures according to Election and Government Codes, applicable laws, rules, procedures, court cases, regulations and ordinances that affect the preparation and conduct of elections and registration of voters. The ideal candidate will possess knowledge and understanding of the election process, cycle and Election law as well as knowledge and understanding of the interrelationships of each unit of the Election Department. This classification will supervise Elections Division administrative, technical and supervisory staff. Strong management and administrative skills are required as the incumbent will have primary responsibility for day-to-day direction and coordination of the Election Division activities. Excellent Interpersonal skills are required, as the incumbent will interface with staff on all levels as well as county officials, news media, and the public. Salary: $75,260.28 – $91,479.36. Deadline: June 26, 11:59pm Pacific. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
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