I. In Focus This Week
Law & Order: Elections
An occasional look at some elections lawsuits and crime
By M. Mindy Moretti
From what not to wear to the polls to drug smuggling elections board members. From Native American voting rights to 86-year-old dementia patients accidentally casting a ballot twice, the elections administration world is giving Dick Wolf some excellent ideas for future episodes of Law & Order.
This week we’ll take a brief look at some elections litigation and prosecutions from around the country.
Although Shelby County, Ala.’s case against the Voting Rights Act has been getting all the media attention of late, there are numerous other elections-related lawsuits pending throughout the country at all levels of the judicial system.
The U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments on March 18 about Arizona’s proof-of-citizenship law. The law, approved by voters in 2004 has been in the courts ever since. If enacted, it would require proof-of-citizenship — passport, birth certificate, driver’s license or tribal documents — in order to register to vote. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said that federal law, which does not require proof-of-citizenship trumps the state law.
In 2010 a consortium of organizations affiliated with the tea party sued local elections officials and Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie saying their First Amendment rights were violated because they were unable to wear certain t-shirts and buttons into polling places during elections. Although the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals recently dismissed much of the suit, the court did rule that a portion of suit should have been evaluated under a different court rule and therefore the lower court will need to review it again.
This week, a U.S. appeals court heard arguments over the constitutionality of Nevada’s “none of the above” law that allows voters to cast a ballot for none of the above. Nevada is the only state to offer voters this type of protest vote. State Republicans filed suit last year saying that the “none” option could siphon votes and sway the outcome of races—“none of the above” cannot win an election even if it garners the most votes.
Three losing candidates in Sandoval County, New Mexico filed suit against former Clerk Sally Padilla claiming that she violated citizen’s voting rights by only have five polling locations open in Rio Rancho in November 2012 which led to hours long lines.
A federal judge in the U.S. Virgin Islands has dismissed a suit brought by five losing candidates seeking to throw out the 2012 general election results. Senior District Court Judge Raymond Finch said the plaintiffs failed to articulate the specific ways they were wronged.
In late February, an appellate court ruled that a lawsuit brought by a group of Native American plaintiffs against Montana Secretary of State Linda McCulloch and elections officials in several counties could go forward. The suit alleges that state and local elections officials violated portions of the Voting Rights Act when they failed to set up satellite voting sites on remote Indian reservations for the November general election. The plaintiffs include the U.S. Dept. of Justice, and the ACLU of Montana.
A district court judge in Baton Rouge nullified the November 6 election on whether or not tolls would be renewed for the Crescent City Connection in New Orleans. The judge ruled that voters were disenfranchised because more than 1,000 voters were provided provisional ballots thus preventing them from voting in the toll election.
A New Jersey Appeals Court recently heard arguments that the state’s electronic voting machines must be replaced. The case began nearly a decade ago. A lower court ruled that counties across the state may continue using electronic voting machines, but lawyers for the plaintiffs—Assemblyman Reed Gusciora (D-Mercer) and the Coalition for Peace Action—argued that the appeals court should review the science behind electronic voting machines.
The Georgia Supreme Court recently heard arguments in a case involving a sheriff’s race in Baker County. A superior court ruled that the election needed to be conducted a second time because there was evidence of vote buying.
Yes Virginia, there really is voter fraud.
Of course how widespread of a problem it is will be debated till the end of the time, but there have been several reported cases in recent months.
In Minnesota, an 86-year-old woman has been charged with voting twice in the 2012 primary election.
Margaret Schneider admits that she voted twice, once by absentee in July and again at the polls on August 14. But Schneider, who suffers from Parkinson’s disease and dementia, says that she didn’t realize at the time she was voting twice in the same election.
Under state statute the county attorney is required to prosecute, regardless of the circumstances.
Seven people in Franklin County, Ohio are currently under investigation for voter fraud. According to The Columbus Dispatch, six of the cases involve voters who voted by mail and then in-person. A spokesperson for the board of elections said that the time between when both ballots were cast is so short that investigators don’t think the ballots were cast accidentally.
Also in Ohio, three people in Hamilton County have been indicted by a Grand Jury for voting multiple times. Russell Glassop, 75, cast a ballot on behalf of his deceased wife who died before she could submit her absentee ballot. Sister Marguerite Kloos, 54, is accused of casting a ballot on behalf of another nun who died a month before the November election. Melowese Richardson, a poll worker in Hamilton County is accused of voting twice in November as well as voting on behalf of relatives during other elections.
A Wisconsin man has been charged with voting illegally after registering and voting while on probation for a felony charge. Michael Radtke admitted to voting, but said that he was unaware he was not permitted to do so.
Another convicted felon, but this one in Iowa, was recently charged with voter fraud after attempting to vote in the November election. Auditor Dawn Williams told the Times-Republican that this is only the second time she has seen this since she began working in the office in 1988.
Finally after two trials and one mistrial, former Troy, New York Councilman John Brown was sentenced to six months in the county following a plea agreement for voter fraud.
Wendy Rosen, a Maryland Democrat who was forced to end her bid for Congress after it was discovered she voted both in Maryland and Florida plead recently plead guilty to two counts of voting illegally. Following her guilty plea, Rosen released a statement saying that she voted in both jurisdictions as a protest vote to show support for the “millions of legitimate voters who have been illegally prevented from voting or having their votes counted.”
A Bend, Ore. man was convicted of voter fraud after the Deschutes County elections office found a Craigslist ad from Aaron Hirschman offering to pay $20 for blank ballots. According to The Oregonian, Circuit Judge A. Michael Adler rejected Hirschman’s arguments that he was only trying to cause a stir with his ad. After convicting him of a misdemeanor in a non-jury trial, Adler fined Hirschman $200 and sentenced him to 40 hours of community service.
A Florida woman recently found herself charged with submitting false voter registration information and fraud in casting a vote for registering and casting a ballot in the November 2012 election without first having her voting rights restored. The crime was discovered because she wore an “I Voted” sticker to a visit with her probation officer.
And elections crimes, or crimes that affect elections officials aren’t limited to voter fraud either.
A former employee of the Passaic County, N.J. board of elections plead guilty this week to diverting more than $384, 661 from the board’s account to her personal account. Yanira Martinez, who served as confidential secretary to the county’s superintendent of elections faces up to seven years in prison.
On the island of Guam, Chris Carillo, a Democratic member of the Guam Election Commission was charged with possession and importation of marijuana.
II. Election News This Week
- This week, the Dept. of Justice’s Inspector General Michael Horowitz, released a report that said the voting rights unit suffers from “deep ideological polarization” and a “disappointing lack of professionalism.” The review of more than 100, 000 documents and 135 witnesses exposed a deep divide within the unit that goes back to the George W. Bush administration. According to NPR, the inspector general said, the most “troubling” incidents in the report describe harassment within the voting rights unit, which spanned both the Bush and the Obama administrations.
- In other Justice Dept. news, the City of Falls Church, Va. is applying for a bailout from the Voting Rights Act. According to the Falls Church Patch, the city believes they have proven they do not discriminate against minorities at the polls and therefore no longer need federal oversight. David Bjerke, general registrar, said he has met with minority groups including the NAACP and received no notable concerns. The city applied for the bailout on Feb. 15 and DOJ has until April 16 to respond.
- After Stanislaus County declined to run the special election for the city of Riverbank to replace one of its councilmembers, the city decided to hire a private firm to do the work. Officials in the county contend that the city did not meet a deadline to call the special election. According to The Modesto Bee the cost of using the county election office had been estimated at up to $57,000, but on Monday officials said the cost could drop by as much as $20,000 with the vendor, depending in part on how many polling places are set up.
- Another South Carolina county held its first election since the state’s photo ID law went into place at the beginning of January and according to media reports, there were few problems. According to the Herald Journal, the photo ID requirement allowed for corrections to the voter rolls including the correction of voter’s name that had been misspelled since 1967. “It slows things down just a little bit, but there haven’t been any problems,” Poll Clerk Jim Pierce told the paper. “So far nobody’s fussed about it. They’ve been compliant and everyone’s been prepared.”
- While some New York Senators may be trying to legislate the return of lever-voting machines (see legislation round-up), the New York City board of elections is putting them back into modified use. John Naudus, the board’s director of electronic voting systems, recently showed off a $10,000 kiosk prototype, which uses the hull of an old lever voting machine, with the lever removed and replaced by a 72-inch touch screen monitor, camera and printer. The kiosks won’t be used for actual voting, but as an information center for voters and a way for poll workers to post election results without relying on the police for transport.
- And electionlineWeekly just couldn’t let this issue go by without posting this photo that came to us via Facebook
- Personnel News: Que lastima, Ken Spruce, the Hamilton County, Ohio BOE employee reprimanded for using county time and resources to search dating sites, has been fired. Janet F. Clair, former director and Diane Henderson were both hired by the Lake County, Ohio BOE to serve as clerical workers. Cora Bour recently announced her retirement from the Seneca County, Ohio board of elections. Rep. Steve Montenegro (R-Ariz.) is exploring a run for Arizona secretary of state. Beth Rakestraw, is leaving the Howard County, Ind. voter registration office following allegations of misconduct during the 2012 election. Patsy Fragasse, a temporary employee with the Tuscarawas County board of elections has been hired full-time to serve in the role of registration clerk. Lawmakers in Davidson County, Tenn. voted this week to remove long-time Election Commissioner Eddie Bryan. Attorney Tricia Herzfeld will fill the role. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) recently appointed Arthur Blomkvest (R) to serve on the Cape May County board of elections and Democrat John Feely was reappointed. Campbell County, Ky. Clerk Jack Snodgrass has announced that he will retire at the end of his term in 2014, if not sooner.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
America Goes to the Polls 2012: A Report on Voter Turnout in the 2012 Election – Nonprofit VOTE, March 2013: Looking back at the November 2012 election, the report finds:
- 58.7 percent of eligible Americans voted.
- Minnesota had the highest turnout in 2012 at 76.1 percent and Hawaii had the lowest at 44.5 percent.
- Five of the 10 states with the highest turnout (Iowa, Maine, Minnesota, New Hampshire, and Wisconsin) have some form of Election Day registration.
- Five of the 10 states with the highest turnout (Colorado, Iowa, New Hampshire, Virginia, and Wisconsin) were swing states.
OVF and US Vote 2012 Post-Election Survey Report – Overseas Vote Foundation, January 2013: In its fifth post-election survey of military and overseas voters, the Overseas Vote Foundation found:
- The number of voters who received their ballot electronically increased significantly: 52 percent of respondents in 2012 compared with 22 percent in 2010.
- Fifteen percent of respondents returned ballots electronically—either by fax, email, or uploading their ballot onto their state’s official election website.
- By October 15, slightly more than 40 percent of respondents had returned their ballots.
IV. Legislative Update
Arkansas: Attorney General Dustin McDaniel recently unveiled a legislative package aimed at reforming the state’s elections process. Among the reforms would be tougher penalties for fraudulently gathering signatures for ballot access, more disclosure from the people working on ballot measures and criminal background checks for candidates.
On a party-line vote, the House approved a bill requiring photo ID to vote. The bill now returns to the Senate.
California: Currently most California counties purchase their voting equipment from one of a handful of voting system vendors, but under legislation pending in the General Assembly, counties would be allowed to create their own voting systems.
Delaware: On a 32-9 vote, the House approved a proposed constitutional amendment that would eliminate the 5-year waiting period before eligible ex-felons can have their voting rights restored. The bill now heads to the Senate. As required by law, this is the second consecutive legislative session the bill has been up for vote.
Another constitutional amendment is just beginning its journey in the Delaware legislature. A bill that would allow for no-excuse absentee voting has cleared a House committee and heads next to the full House. If approved by both chambers, it must be considered again in 2015.
Idaho: Currently, poll workers must rubber stamp every ballot to make it official, however sometimes for a variety of reasons, ballots don’t get a stamp. Under House Bill 215 ballots would come printed with watermarks on them instead of requiring a stamp.
Iowa: Under legislation introduced by Rep. Pat Grassley (R-17th District) would eliminate the requirement that high school government/social studies classes teach “voting statutes and procedures, voter registration requirements, the use of paper ballots and voting systems in the election process, and the method of acquiring and casting an absentee ballot.”
Kansas: After winning approval in the House, a bill that would give the secretary of state power to prosecute voting crimes is now being debated in the Senate. SB63 would give the secretary of state’s office the power to prosecute voters who cast two ballots.
Maryland: The Senate has approved a bill that would allow large (square miles) counties to increase the number of early voting centers.
Nevada: Secretary of State Ross Miller is expected to introduce SB63 at press time. Under the legislation, the photos in the state’s motor vehicle database would be electronically transferred to county election departments and kept in electronic poll books at polling sites.
New Hampshire: Under House Bill 119, new language will make it clear that residents of New Hampshire registering to vote do not need to have a car or license in order to register. Current law includes a notice to those registering vote must have a New Hampshire’s driver’s license and car in order to claim residency. The House approved the bill on a 190-149 vote.
New Mexico: By a vote of 24-17 the Senate approved a proposal that would restore straight-ticket voting to New Mexico.
New York: Four senators have proposed legislation that would allow the New York City Board of Elections to use the much beloved lever-voting machines in the upcoming mayoral election in September.
North Carolina: With voter ID once again being debated in North Carolina, State Rep. Ken Goodman (D-Rockingham) filed the Voter Protection and Integrity Act that would “that no registered voter is denied the right to vote at an approved polling site; and to prevent the unauthorized use of a registered voter’s voting privilege through the fraudulent misuse of a registered voter’s identity.”
Tennessee: The Senate has rejected an amendment that would allow local governments to create their own voter photo IDs.
Legislation making it a crime for United Nations representatives to observe elections in Tennessee has suffered a setback in the House while a bill banning all noncitizens from polling places has won approval in the Senate.
Washington: The House has approved legislation that will extend the online voter registration deadline from 29 days to 11 days before an election. When the legislation was introduced it included same-day registration, but that was eliminated.
The House also approved legislation that will allow 16-year-olds to pre-register to vote when applying for their driver’s licenses.
Please email upcoming event — conferences, symposiums, seminars, webinars, etc. to email@example.com.
Accessible Voting Technology Research Workshop — The Election Assistance Commission (EAC) and National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) are sponsoring a two-day workshop to explore current and future research in accessible voting technology. The sponsoring organizations seek to have lively discussion on the following topics: Innovative assistive applications and techniques; new approaches to accessibility in voting; accessibility research benchmarks and results; transitioning research to industry; new and existing devices that provide accessible access to elements of the voting process and challenges in accessible voting. The workshop will provide an environment for interactive discussions among the attendees including researchers, election officials, government officials, and voting system manufacturers. The workshop will encourage attendee participation through panel discussions and breakout sessions, with trending research presentations to frame the topics to be explored. The goal of the discussions for the workshop is to foster collaborations in the testing, evaluation, and transition of accessible voting technology. Where: Gaithersburg, Md. When: April 1-2, 2013. For more information, click here.
NCSL Spring Forum — At the Spring Forum you’ll meet legislators just like you from around the country, get innovative ideas on how to approach critical problems, find the NCSL staff that can give you the research you need to turn your ideas into action, and begin the work of mapping out the strategy to set the state’s agenda on Capitol Hill. The issues you face can be daunting. At the NCSL Spring Forum you’ll meet with colleagues from around the nation to: Find the best solutions to pressing problems; hear from national experts; participate in in-depth briefings; and discuss what states need from the federal government. Where: Denver, Colo. When: May 2-4. For more information, click here.
Alaska: Voting rights
Arkansas: Voter ID
District of Columbia: Election reform
Georgia: Columbia County
Hawaii: Same-day registration;
Indiana: Vote centers
Iowa: Polling places
Maine: Ex-felon voting rights
Massachusetts: Voter participation
Nevada: Voter ID
Texas: Straight-ticket voting
Washington: Voting rights
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 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.
Deputy Director, Future of California Elections — will serve as the primary California-based staff member overseeing the activities of FOCE and its membership. Responsibilities will include project management and member relations, research, policy work, communications and outreach and development. Requirements: Bachelor’s degree or equivalent experience with elections administration or policy required; Master’s degree in a relevant area or equivalent experience with elections administration or policy preferred; Demonstrated strong analytical and strategic skills; A task-oriented, self-directed style, with focus on achieving clear and ambitious goals; demonstrated ability to meet multiple deadlines by maintaining a high level of organization; able to develop and move projects forward with a high degree of independence and autonomy; politically astute; able to understand the needs and motivations of different individuals and institutions and conceptualize win-win scenarios to satisfy multiple agendas and stakeholders; excellent written and oral communications skills, including an ease in briefly summarizing the essence of issues and means to address them; strong oral, presentation, facilitation and written communication skills; clear, effective writing style; a demonstrated appreciation for the diversity of California’s voting population. Salary: Salary is negotiable based on experience. Application: For more information and to apply, click here.
DIMS Manager, Lucas County, Ohio Board of Elections —responsible for maintaining the voter registration database using DIMS-Net. Responsible for Board of Elections computer software and hardware, maintaining network peripherals such as printers, scanners, routers, hubs and switches. Oversees document-scanning projects using Alchemy Captaris software. Knowledge of Windows Server 2003 and 2008, Novel networks, Novel GroupWise, SQL Server, Microsoft Office Suite. Position requires the candidates to have excellent leadership and communication skills. Salary: $59,934.42 plus benefits. Application: Interested candidates should send resume and cover letter to Lucas County Board of Elections, One Government Center Suite 300, Toledo, Ohio 43604. Include party affiliation in your response. For more information and the complete job listing, click here.
GEMS Manager, Lucas County, Ohio Board of Elections — responsible for programming Elections and ballot design using GEMS software, manages Logic & Accuracy Testing and vote tabulation. Responsible for Board of Elections computer software and hardware, maintaining network peripherals such as printers, scanners, routers, hubs and switches. Oversees document-scanning projects using Alchemy Captaris software. Knowledge of Windows Server 2003 and 2008, Novel networks, Novel GroupWise, SQL Server, Microsoft Office Suite. Position requires the candidates to have excellent leadership and communication skills. Salary: $59,934.42 plus benefits. Application: Interested candidates should send resume and cover letter to Lucas County Board of Elections, One Government Center Suite 300, Toledo, Ohio 43604. Include party affiliation in your response. For more information and the complete job listing, click here.
Project Coordinator, Future of California Elections — a full-or part-time position and will serve as the key California-based staff member responsible for administering the group’s regular activities. Responsibilities include: project management and member relations, policy work, research, communications and outreach and development. Requirements: Bachelor’s degree or equivalent election policy or administration experience required; demonstrated ability to work with spreadsheets and budgets with a high degree of accuracy; strong analytical skills; strong oral and written communication skills, including proofreading and editing; excellent project management skills, including the ability to create and maintain files and recording systems accurately; keen attention to detail and demonstrated track record of producing accurate, high quality work; sound judgment and discretion in handling confidential information, as well as the ability to conduct oneself in a highly professional manner; demonstrated proficiency in computer technology including applications for project and data management and electronic calendars (Excel, Windows, Microsoft Word, PowerPoint and Outlook preferred); experience in conference planning and support preferred; a demonstrated appreciation for the diversity of California’s voting population. Salary: Salary is negotiable based on experience. Application: For more information and to apply, click here.