I. In Focus This Week
Voter registration cards provide info, but are they necessary?
Are the pocket-sized pieces of paper the wisdom teeth of elections administration?
By M. Mindy Moretti
The phone calls and office visits trickled in at first, but soon enough there was a flood of phone calls and visits from concerned Guadalupe County, Texas voters fearful that their voter registration had expired.
According to Elections Administrator Sue Basham a perfect storm of issues created the confusion for voters.
Texas requires that voter cards expire on odd-numbered years, so all the cards in Guadalupe County had a Dec. 31, 2011 expiration date on them. With Basham and other elections administrators waiting for the state to complete redistricting before they can send new voter cards, voters still don’t have new cards in-hand.
Add to all of that an enterprising email hoaxster who began a chain email telling voters that not only were their cards expired, but that their registration had expired as well, and you get a lot of confused voters.
Basham said her office had to help dozens of voters understand that their registration had not expired. When similar situations arose in counties across Texas, the secretary of state’s office got in on the act and put out a press release.
“Although it took time to explain to the voters that they were still registered to vote and the reason for the confusion, our main concern was the fact that the voters were worried that we had cancelled their registration and they had never had to reregister before,” Basham said. “With all the changes that are occurring now with redistricting and a huge election year ahead, we were more concerned for the voter and the unnecessary worry it had placed upon them.”
The National Voter Registration Act requires states to send out acknowledgement notices when someone newly registers, updates their registration or reactivates an inactive registration. But after that, it’s up to individual states and localities to determine when they send out voter cards and in what format.
With the more and more people relying on the Internet for their information and with elections budgets straining from coast to coast could voter registration cards issued outside of the scope of NVRA become a thing of the past?
Although we’re not there yet, Basham does envision a time when the cards would no longer be necessary.
“I can see a time where the state will have a secure website where voters will be able to make changes online and will have an option to print information on voting precincts and districts for their information,” Basham said. “While I can imagine a time where most of this will become automated, there will always be circumstances where voters will still need help in making changes, but it would certainly cut down on costs for counties and the state as a whole.”
Peter Levine, director of CIRCLE at Tufts University said that although his group has no solid research about whether or not young voters rely on, let alone even keep their voter registration cards, he does agree that young people are more used to being online and that they may be particularly resistant to having to produce a paper card.
A completely unscientific survey of voters under the age of 25 in the Washington, D.C. area found that most of the young people asked — all of whom are registered voters — wasn’t even sure what the voter registration card was, let alone having one in their wallets.
Scott Doyle, Larimer County, Colo. clerk and father of the vote center said that his voters still rely on their voter cards even though voters can vote at any of the counties vote centers.
“Our voters do still rely on voter cards and carry them in their wallets and pull them out handily while voting/changing registration or whenever they think they may be of use,” Doyle said. “I tell you that with this caveat; voters that usually have cards/mailers with them are of an age in their 40/50’s on up. The younger generation(s) here in Colorado State University town hate the paper and I suspect that it would be very difficult to find any of them with the paper on their person.”
Doyle noted that not all 40/50’s and up voters carry them but he said it is sort of surprising how many they see from that age group.
This year, following redistricting and to save money, Doyle said that instead of sending out multiple elections mailers, the county will only be sending out one mailer near the June primary.
For vote-by-mail states, the states are still required by the NVRA to send out the cards initially, but some states, like Washington are considering making changes to when they send out voter cards in other instances.
“A bill currently pending in the Legislature would eliminate the requirement to send out notices when the jurisdictions change, such as due to an annexation or merger of jurisdictions, or due to redistricting,” explained Katie Blinn, director of elections for the state of Washington. “In our state, the voter registration notice is not notifying the voter of his/her poll site, only notifying him/her that she is registered and which jurisdictions represent that residential address.”
And in the District of Columbia, which recently sent out new voter registration cards to all voters, it wasn’t an issue with late arriving cards or expiration dates, or whether or not people got cards at all, it was with the quality of the paper for the card.
“I was annoyed at the flimsiness of the new card, the need to cut it out and fold it, and the likelihood that the print will come off on the plastic sleeve in my wallet,” said Keith Ivey, a District voter who Tweeted his displeasure with the new cards to the District Board of Elections and Ethics.
According to Alysoun McLaughlin with the DCBOEE, the card that Ivey received is a temporary card that is only accurate for a period of time during redistricting. New, permanent cards will be issued when redistricting is complete, but McLaughlin is not sure if those cards will be on heavier card stock or regular paper.
McLaughlin did note that the city was able to reduce the costs to about half by using the 20-lb, non-scored paper.
II. Election News This Week
- Many localities struggle with scheduling special elections, but imagine if you had to rely on the Congress of the United States to schedule your local special election? That’s the situation in the District of Columbia, which while it has Home Rule, still must go to Congress to make changes to the Home Rule Charter. Currently D.C. must hold a special election 114 days after a vacancy is declared, but under legislation introduced by Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, the city would be able to schedule special elections during a 70 to 174 day window which make it more likely the special election could be held on the same day as a previously scheduled election. The existing law made it impossible for the District to hold a special election — now scheduled for May 15 — on the same day as its April 3 primary. Holding the extra election will cost taxpayers an additional $318,000. Norton previously introduced legislation to schedule local elections, but it was held up by an anonymous hold in the Senate. The House approved Norton’s legislation on a voice vote.
- Voter ID Update: The Virginia Senate approved a voter ID law for The Old Dominion State this week. However, unlike new ID laws in many other states, this does not require a photo ID. It requires voters to present some form of government issues ID — license, social security card, voter registration card — or a utility bill before casting a ballot. Still, despite the lack of photo requirement, the battle for approval was still bitter with one Senator recalling the when he once had a to pay a $5 poll tax. The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of South Carolina asked a federal court to allow them to become involved in a lawsuit about the state’s voter ID law. Although it’s growing support from GOP lawmakers, legislation to require photo ID in Illinois appears stalled in a Senate sub-committee. And in Nebraska, debate on proposed voter ID legislation got underway this week with a planned filibuster. With the first true test of Tennessee’s new voter ID law set for Super Tuesday, a new poll conducted by Middle Tennessee State found that 4 out of 5 Tennesseans are in favor of the law.
- The best laid plans: Recently, more than 17,000 Colorado residents received voter registration forms from a third-party Washington, D.C.–based organization, the Voter Participation Center. The group is targeting unregistered single women, minorities and young adults. While the group worked with the secretary of state’s office on the forms, a printing error omitted the signature line and affidavit as required by law. To-date the secretary of state’s office has received 180 incomplete forms. The forms are being entered into the state’s voter-registration database as pending and county clerks are attempting to contact the residents. “We couldn’t be more displeased,” Page Gardner, president of the Voter Participation Center told The Denver Post. “But we recognize the mistake, and we’re fixing the problem.”
- Guns and elections don’t often go together in elections in this country, but this week on three separate occasions firearms played a staring role in election administration. On Tuesday, a Michigan voter carried a pistol into a Grand Rapids polling place (an elementary school). Twenty-five year old Nicholas Looman told police he was trying to make a point that he could carry a gun into a polling place. Looman was allowed to vote but was escorted off the property after doing so. A Lincoln County, W.Va. man is under arrest after pulling a gun on an FBI agent and an investigator with the secretary of state’s office who were questioning him about a 2010 primary election voter fraud case in Lincoln County. And in Lancaster County, Pa. supervisors in two townships are asking the county board of elections to reverse polling place changes made in part because the new locations — schools — do not allow voters to carry guns.
- Homer Simpson would not be pleased: A conservative civics group in Appleton, Wis. has filed an ethics violation against Council President Cathy Spears because she delivered doughnuts to poll workers during a recent election. “We believe that giving gifts to poll workers is an attempt to influence an election and is illegal,” wrote Perry Bovee, president of the Appleton Taxpayers United group in his complaint. “I was told it’s been a tradition to thank the poll workers at every district. Every election they get doughnuts,” Spears told the Post-Crescent. Spears was not on the ballot on the election day in question. City Clerk Cindi Hesse said that it is a tradition for aldermen to bring baked goods to poll workers on election day and that she has never received any complaints. “We’ll review the matter — it’s my understanding that it would be against the rules to accept something of value as an employee,” Hesse told the paper. “But there’s nothing in city code that says you can’t take a doughnut to a poll worker.”
- Personnel News: William Cline and Sam Ferruccio were both recently reappointed to serve another four-year term on the Stark County, Ohio, board of elections. La Puente, Calif. elections official Carol Cowley will soon be taking on new duties as the city’s clerk after the acting clerk submitted his resignation. Staff of the Graham County, Ariz. elections department recently received certificates in recognition of their completion of the state’s election certification process. Former Littleton, Colo. city attorney Suzanne Staiert has been appointed deputy secretary of state by Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler. Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted hired Meghan Gallagher as director of the Lucas County BOE after board members were unable to break a tie after five successive votes.
Iowa: Voter ID
Kansas: Citizenship law
Michigan: Obstacles for voters
New Mexico: Sunland Park
Pennsylvania: Voter registration
**Some sites may require registration.
V. Job Openings
electionlineWeekly publishes election administration job postings each week as a free service to our readers. To have your job listed in the newsletter, please send a copy of the job description, including a web link to 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.
Administrator, Bureau of Elections, Bernalillo County, N.M.– Under the assigned supervisor, responsible for the election operations section of the Bureau of Elections, manages the voting machine warehouse and directs the functional operation of the voter registration section. Supervises training of personnel in related areas. Responsibilities include: Direct the functions and activities related to the conduct of elections under the jurisdiction of the County Clerk; review the State Election Code and Federal Voting Rights Compliance Act to ensure proper procedures are followed by the County; assist in preparing instructions on the conduct of elections for election officials; responsible for polling locations and ensure election personnel are sufficient in number and well trained; oversee the preparation of lists of registered voters, absentee voters, election officials, polling places, and voter signature rosters; responsible for the purchase and distribution of election supplies and equipment prescribed by the State Election Code and other legislative mandates. Maintain a perpetual inventory of all election supplies, voting machines, parts and accessories; assure that voting machine technicians are trained in the programming and maintenance of the various types of voting machines used by the County. Coordinate an on-going maintenance program of all machines. Minimum Qualifications include: Bachelor Degree in Business, Public Administration, Government, Political Science or other or related field plus seven (7) years experience in a professional administrative/management capacity; knowledge of the New Mexico Election Code and Federal Voting Rights Compliance Act and principles, practices and procedures of election administration; advanced computer technology experience and skills. Application: For more information and how to apply, click here. Deadline: March 30, 2012.
Computer Engineer, U.S. Election Assistance Commission, Washington, D.C. — incumbent will assist with and consult on technical reviews, and is directly responsible for assisting with and consulting on technical reviews of documentation submitted by manufacturers and test labs during the testing of voting systems applying for EAC certification. This includes review of (1) Technical Data Packages, (2) Test Plans, and (3) Test Reports. In addition, the EAC will work with the laboratories as they develop test methods and specific test cases for manufacturer specific electronic voting systems. Reviews shall ensure that a plan was in place to properly test each voting system to the applicable voting system standards, that these test were properly performed and documented, and that the test results demonstrate conformance with applicable voting system standards. As the employee develops expertise in this area, he/she may also be tasked with serving as the EAC program manager for specific voting system test engagements. Experience in: computer architecture, testing methodologies and network principles; technical standards and standards sett; voting system testing and/or election administration practices. Salary: $59,383-$91,801. Application: For the complete job listing and how to apply, click here. Deadline: April 30, 2012.
Deputy Election Director, Board of Elections, Montgomery County, Md. —employee will be directly responsible to and supervised by the Election Director. The employee must have in-depth knowledge of the conduct of elections and Federal and State election laws and provide high quality services to the approximately 600,000 registered Montgomery County voters. Duties include: exhibit and attain a comprehensive knowledge base of election administration; collaborate with and support the Election Director, Board and all sections on election matters; provide substantive input on upper-level policy issues, decisions and operational decisions; collaborate on resolutions of complex problems; function in a highly visible environment; coordinate, initiate and implement the selection process for all appointments and the procurement, production and deliveries of State mandated sample ballots; coordinate precinct redistricting resulting from boundary changes; provide senior level collaboration on county, state and federal legislative issues; coordinate county resources to aid in the conduct of elections; approve purchases; research and respond to public inquiries and reporting of agency performance measures. Other duties include using the operative computer systems, e.g., the statewide election management system for voter registration, absentee data and campaign finance; evaluate election procedures and propose improvements; use Microsoft Office and Oracle databases; cooperate and collaborate with county and state election employees in the administration of elections; handle complex details with high accuracy, including proofing and editing voter information; handle extended periods of stress and multiple task workloads with changing priorities and tight deadlines under minimal supervision. The employee will also supervise the Election Operation Manager and other employees in a secure environment; handle sensitive equipment, software, data and related security; contact and present information to other local, state, national election officials, contractors of related products/services, agencies; share and collect information; follow officially prescribed and recognized election procedures; ensure the integrity of the entire election process, including voting days, post-election audits and assessments. Experience: Five years of progressively responsible professional experience in conducting, planning, and/or managing the conduct of federal, state and/or local government elections. Education: Graduation from an accredited college or university with a Bachelor’s Degree. Salary: $63,411 – $115,901. Application: To view the entire job announcement and to apply, click here. Deadline: March 30, 2012.
Researcher, CIRCLE, Tufts University, Medford, Mass. —seeking a researcher to conduct research, perform data analysis, participate in program evaluations, help with project administration, and help communicate our findings to audiences that include academics, educators, policymakers, and the press. Responsibilities include conducting quantitative research for CIRCLE’s in-house research program; drafting fact sheets, web pages, and other research products for various audiences; participating in research and evaluation projects that may use a mix of methods, including qualitative research and field experiments; and answering queries from the general public, reporters, policy makers and academics. Basic Requirements: Bachelor’s degree; three (3) years of related experience; excellent computer skills and knowledge of at least one statistical package, such as STATA, SASS, or SPSS; strong quantitative research (social science methods) and writing skills required. Familiarity with analyzing large public datasets such as those provided by the US Census. Preferred Qualifications: Master’s degree in a social science field. Knowledge of youth civic engagement programs (such as service-learning, youth media-production, or youth voting) is desirable. Application: Click here. Deadline: April 13, 2012.
Senior Researcher, CIRCLE, Tufts University, Medford Mass.—seeking a senior researcher to conduct research and to help to lead some of CIRCLE’s research or evaluation projects. Responsibilities include: serving as a researcher on a range of research projects that may include secondary data-analysis, literature reviews, field experiments, program evaluations and original surveys; producing reports, fact sheets and press releases on timely and relevant topics, often in close collaboration with CIRCLE colleagues; providing guidance to other CIRCLE staff and students who produce research (quantitative and qualitative); contributing to research grant proposals; representing CIRCLE at a wide range of events including research conferences, practitioner forums, press events and other public events; and answering queries from reporters about CIRCLE research. Basic Requirements: Master’s degree; five (5) years of related experience; experience with statistical software packages, databases, and Microsoft Office; strong research skills, including a good working knowledge of at least one statistical package, such as STATA, SAS, or SPSS, and some experience using large public datasets. Experience with multivariate statistical techniques or qualitative methods and evaluation methods; ability to communicate effectively with practitioners, reporters, scholars, and young people through writing, speech, and graphs; ability to produce reliable, accurate, and readable evaluations and research products on short deadlines; ability to work collaboratively with CIRCLE colleagues from varied backgrounds and to interact with practitioners; ability to teach research methods to colleagues and student/workers. Preferred Qualifications: PhD in a social science discipline. Enthusiasm for youth civic engagement desired; however, prior research in this specific area is not required. Application: Click here. Deadline: April 13, 2012.
Temporary Elections Assistant, Hennepin County, Minn. — assist full-time elections staff and voters, in carrying out various aspects of elections administration, including absentee voting and voter registration. Perform duties including relaying and responding to a broad range of requests for information via telephone or in person; explaining requirements, policies, and procedures regarding services to public and staff; solving customer problems; greeting and directing clients/visitors/applicants; entering and retrieving information from computerized systems. Assumes responsibility and works with minimum instruction. Required skills and abilities: Ability to learn and follow processes and procedures necessary to use the State Voter Registration System (SVRS); must be trusted to handle sensitive voter registration and election information in a private and confidential manner; ability to learn and follow election processes and procedures to correctly answer questions; attention to detail; ability to communicate and work effectively in groups; and some lifting up to 50 pounds. Salary: $12.65/hour. Deadline: Various positions will be available. Some positions will begin in early May and may continue through January 2013. Interviews will be scheduled in February and March. Application: Please email your resume to Terri Garner. No phone calls please.