I. In Focus This Week
News Analysis: Special elections continue to pile up
Some states and localities are looking for ways to decrease the numbers
Mid-Tuesday afternoon while much of America was either enjoying St. Patrick’s Day, Twitter suddenly blew up with the news that Illinois Congressman Aaron Schock (R-18th District) announced his resignation.
While the journalists and political gadfly’s on social media made light of the resignation or talked about its impact on politics, all electionline could think was of those poor elections administrators and volunteers in Illinois.
Now some of those elections officials are going to have conduct a special election to replace Schock on top of previously planned spring elections and for some, on top of other special elections.
“In a year when state revenues are almost certain to decrease, the increased cost of an unanticipated and unbudgeted election is particularly difficult,” Peoria County Administrator Lori Curtis Luther told the Peoria Journal Star.
This will be the third special Congressional election in Illinois in the last years.
For Peoria elections officials, the special election creates a whole different set of issues in addition to funding.
Last year, voters approved a measure to create a countywide election commission, which was supposed to have almost a full year to get up and running before its first election, now they need to scramble.
The creation of the countywide commission was delayed until after the April primaries to avoid confusion but now it’s unclear who will oversee the special election.
While special elections have been around almost for as long as elections have, there certainly seem to have been a boom of them lately and according to KQED a review of California’s state election records proves that.
Since 2009 there have been 33 special state and legislative or congressional elections, however that is more than were held in the entire previous decade. And these special elections often bring with them terrible turnout.
The cost for the one-candidate special election in San Bernardino County is likely to come in between $200,00-$300,000.
“We won’t know until all the bills are in. We are running lean, as lean as we can,” Registrar Michael J. Scarpello told the Daily Press. “It’s not a hotly contested race. We think it will be in the $200,000 to $300,000 range.”
Some areas are trying to find ways to fight back against the growing pile of special elections.
In Ohio, House Bill 240 and Senate Bill 35 were introduced during the last session of the General Assembly (2013-2014), that would have eliminated special school and municipal elections in February and August, but the legislation failed to make it out of committee.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo fought against holding a special election to replace Congressman Michael G. Grimm after he resigned, citing costs, but a court ruled that regardless of the costs, the election must be held.
On a local level in California, the Elk Grove city council is considering a measure that would move the city from an at-large election system to a district system that supporters of the measure say could save the city thousands of dollars since vacated seats could be filled through appointment instead of special election.
Across the country in Rhode Island, the North Smithfield town council is considering a charter change allowing the second-highest vote getter to fill a vacant seat on the town council when a member resigns/dies, if there is more than a year left on the term.
And in some areas, legislators are getting creative to avoid the costs of a special election. In Elburn, Illinois, the village was pondering holding a special election regarding the police pension fund, but upon learning that it would cost more than $64,000 to hold the special election, village officials decided to consider other options including increasing the sales tax — something that in Elburn doesn’t require an election.
II. Election News This Week
- Following an investigation by Secretary of State Jon Husted’s office, it was discovered that 436 noncitizens were registered to vote in Ohio and that 44 of them have voted recently, including 27 in 2014. Husted’s office has referred the 27 recent cases to the attorney general’s office for possible prosecution. “None of these affected the outcome of an election, but eventually, if we don’t solve these problems, it will,” Husted told the Columbus Dispatch, noting that the improper votes dated to the 2000 election. “This is not about immigration, this is about elections.”
- This week, Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill announced a new partnership with the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency and the Attorney General’s Office to, according to The Birmingham News, investigate and prosecute allegations of voter fraud or campaign finance irregularities. The Alabama Election Fairness Project will begin accepting complaints about elections beginning with the June 2014 primary.
- While many state legislatures are jockeying for position in next year’s primary calendar, Louisiana Secretary of State Tom Schelder said this week that the Pelican State won’t be holding a presidential primary in 2016 because Gov. Bobby Jindal (a maybe candidate) did not fund it.
- Once used for everything from storing nuts and screws to keeping fishing worms, coffee cans are slowly going the way of the dodo. But you can still one hard at work in Philadelphia where for more than 40 years it has served as the dispensary for the numbered balls used to determine ballot order. “The balls have changed over the years, but the can has stayed true,” City Councilman Bill Greenlee told WHYY. “Sometimes they used coat-check tags, sometimes they used different kinds of balls.” When it’s not in use, the Horn and Hardart’s coffee can is stored in a safe in City Hall.
- Personnel News: Say it ain’t so! Zach Markovits is leaving Pew. He is accepting an opportunity as the Director of City Programs for a new initiative in New York City working with cities to improve their use of data and evidence to drive policy and management decisions. He will be missed by many of us in the elections field. On a positive note, he will never again have to complain about the bagels in D.C. [although Zach would like to refute that by saying how much he likes Bullfrog Bagels]. Adam Shassemi, a former television reporter, has been hired as the new spokesman for the Tennessee secretary of state’s office. Democracy Works has added several new staff members including Brady Kriss, Partner Success Lead; Mike Ward, TurboVote Outreach Lead and Brandon Naylor, director of communications. Chris Davis is the new election administrator in Williamson County, Texas. Lynchburg, Virginia Registrar Carolyn Sherayko announced that she will retire when her term ends on June 30. Andrew Roberto has been selected to represent the Democrats on the Knox County, Tennessee election commission. Carol Gurney has resigned as deputy director of the Medina County, Ohio board of elections. Remi Garza has been appointed interim elections chief for Cameron County, Texas. Libby Breeding, Blount County, Tennessee elections administrator for nine years, has retired.
III. In Memoriam
Curtis Gans, founder the Center for the Study of the American Electorate at The American University died of lung cancer on Sunday. He was 77. According to The New York Times, Gans was considered an expert resource for scholars and journalists and a determined advocate for greater voter participation. Before becoming an expert on turnout, Gans was known for his participation in the Dump Johnson Movement, a movement that sought to encourage President Lyndon B. Johnson from seeking re-election as president. Following news of is passing, Michael McDonald Tweeted: “No secret Curtis Gans and I were rivals on voting issues. I will miss our exchanges as I learned much from them.” Journalist John Harwood Tweeted: “RIP Curtis Gans. Thanks for your scholarship and service to the cause of making America’s elections more representative of all its people.”
Dennis Harris, an employee of the New York City Board of Elections died suddenly on March 10. He was 36. “Dennis was always willing to roll up his sleeves to help his co-workers both professionally and personally,” Executive Director Michael J, Ryan said. “I can personally attest to the fact that [he] will be greatly missed and his absence will leave a void that cannot be filled.”
Nita Cohen, former Democratic registrar of voters in Westport, Connecticut died March10. She was 88. Cohen served as registrar from 1993 until she retired in 2010. In addition to elections, Cohen was passionate about many things including eclipses. She had traveled the world to view them and was planning to leave on a trip to Norway to do just that when she died.
IV. Research and Report Summaries
electionline provides brief summaries of recent research and reports in the field of election administration. The summaries are courtesy of the research staff of The Pew Charitable Trusts Elections Initiatives. Please email links to research to Sean Greene at Pew.
Estimating Voter Registration Deadline Effects with Web Search Data – Alex Street, Thomas A. Murray, John Blitzer, Rajan S. Patel, Political Analysis, March 2015: The researchers, using web search data, found that many Americans looked for information about voter registration after deadlines in their states had passed prior to the 2012 presidential election. They estimate an additional 3–4 million Americans would have registered if deadlines had been extended to Election Day.
V. Legisltaive Updates
Federal Legislation: Members of Congress introduced the Democracy Restoration Act this week that would restore the voting rights of ex-felons in order to cast a ballot in federal elections.
Arkansas: The House State Agencies and Governmental Affairs Committee vote to recommend a proposed constitutional amendment that would reinstate voter ID. The voter ID amendment was recommended along with four other constitutional amendments and now the House must decide which three, if any, will go on the November 2016 ballot.
California: This week, San Francisco Supervisor John Avalos introduced a measure that will allow 16- and 17-year olds to vote in local elections in San Francisco. Avalos is proposing a city charger amendment that would require the votes of six of the city’s 11 supervisors in order to put the measure on the ballot.
Colorado: The Senate Veterans Affairs Committee voted unanimously to advance legislation that would extend to cities the absentee voter system currently in place for military overseas voters who want to vote in state and federal elections.
Florida: The Senate Ethics and Elections Committee has approved legislation that would create an online voter registration system in the Sunshine state albeit after 2016. The legislation, which was amended so it would go into effect Oct. 1, 2017, was approve 7-2 and now heads to the full Senate.
Maryland: The Maryland Senate approved legislation that will allow ex-felons to regain their voting rights as soon as they are released from incarceration, even if they remain on parole or probation. The bill now moves to the House.
Michigan: A bill that would have permitted the consolidation of local voter precincts in time for the May 5 election failed in the Senate by a 30-40 vote.
Minnesota: A bipartisan push is on in the House of Representatives to move the state’s primary from August to sometime in March or June.
A bill that would restore voting rights to felony offenders as soon as they’re released from custody is in jeopardy of stalling out in the Minnesota House of Representatives. The bill has yet to receive a hearing in the House Public Safety Committee and must do so by Friday in order for the legislation to advance.
Nevada: A recently introduced bill would eliminate Nevada’s February caucuses and instead create a January primary.
New Jersey: Citing the state’s “embarrassing” 32 percent turnout in the November 2014 general election, Sen. Raymond Lesniak (D-Union) introduced legislation that would allow the Garden State to offer election day registration.
New Mexico: The House Judiciary Committee approved legislation that would require voters to show a photo ID in order to cast a ballot. Following a three-hour debate on the House floor, the legislation as approved 37-29. The Senate must approve the bill by Saturday.
North Carolina: Rep. Larry Hall (D-Durham) has introduced two new pieces of election reform legislation. H239 restores early voting days that were cut under 2013 legislation and H240 would allow college IDs to serve as an acceptable form of ID in order to cast a ballot.
Oklahoma: The Oklahoma Senate has approved three bills designed to increase/improve voter turnout. Senate Bill 312, approved unanimously, consolidates all local candidate elections to on cycle in the spring or fall, Senate Bill 313, approved 37-2 allows for online voter registration and Senate Bill 315, approved 38-7 allows Oklahomans to be placed on permanent absentee voter lists.
Oregon: Gov. Kate Brown has signed her own legislation into law. This week, Brown made automatic voter registration the official law of the land in Oregon.
VI. Legal Updates
California: The ACLU of Southern California and Asian Americans Advancing Justice sued the city of Fullerton this week saying the town’s at-large voting system shuts out Asian Americans. According to The Los Angeles Times, in their suit, the groups allege that the city’s system for electing council members violates the California Voting Rights Act and blocks large segments of the community from having a voice.
New Jersey: Following nine days of reviewing 355 ballots, Monmouth County Judge Dennis O’Brien confirmed John Moor as the winner of the Asbury Park mayoral election. Moor’s opponent, Remond Palmer had argued in his lawsuit that enough ballots were improperly rejected that the outcome of the election could have changed.
Also in New Jersey, Atlantic City Councilman Marty Smalls said that he will appeal the dismissal of his lawsuit alleging that the state’s attorney general’s office maliciously prosecuted him for voter fraud.
Ohio: District Judge Michael Watson ruled that changes made to the state’s ballot access laws in 2013 were not overly burdensome toward minority parties forming or electors casting votes fro their candidates. The 2013 changes required that minor parties collect and submit almost 30,000 signatures from registered voters in support of their party being recognized. “It is rational for the state of Ohio to limit minor parties’ participation in primary elections because minor party primaries are typically uncontested, voter turnout is low, and the additional costs of adding uncontested minor party candidates to a primary ballot is unwarranted,” Watson wrote.
Pennsylvania: A former employee of the Warren County board of elections has sued the county after losing her job. In her lawsuit, Kimberly Peckman alleges she was fired after complaining about people being illegally removed from the voter rolls and voting machines that were improperly tested. The suit names the county elections board and Election Administrator William Duffy as defendants.
Texas: The 5th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals has ruled that the state of Texas does not have to pay more than $300,000 in legal fees to plaintiffs in a civil rights suit over voting.
Virginia: A hearing is scheduled for Friday in the lawsuit over whether a primary election should be held for the board of supervisors chairman and three GOP colleagues after the local party missed the deadline to request that a primary be held.
Washington: According to the Yakima Herald, the Yakima City Council will ask a federal judge to reconsider his decision in the city’s voting rights case with the American Civil Liberties Union, a move that will reset the clock on an appeal and give members more time to weigh their options.
VII. Opinions This Week
Alabama: Voter registration
Colorado: All-mail elections
Iowa: Voter rules
New Jersey: Election day registration
North Carolina: Election law changes
Oklahoma: Election legislation
Utah: Voter registration
VIII. Available Funding
Knight News Challenge
The Knight Foundation, Democracy Fund, Hewlett Foundation and Rita Allen Foundation are collaborating on the latest Knight News Challenge to answer this question: How might we better inform voters and increase civic participation before, during and after elections.
For this challenge, Knight is looking for ideas and projects that better inform and inspire voters, as well as make the election process more fun and accessible for individuals.
There are no specific projects in mind, and the contest is open to anyone, from journalists, students, civic technologists, and academics, to news organizations, businesses, nonprofits, governments and individuals.
However, the challenge will not fund projects involving voter registration, lobbying or advocating for specific parties, initiatives or candidates.
Winners — there will be more than one — will split more than $3 million.
Submissions must be received by 5 p.m. on March 19. Winners will be announced in June.
Grants for new ERIC members
For states considering membership in the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC), The Pew Charitable Trusts offers the opportunity to apply for financial assistance to facilitate their participation.
Pew is offering limited financial assistance to states to help defray the expense, such as bulk mail service provider charges and postage, of the initial outreach to eligible but unregistered citizens by mail. Pew aims to maximize the effect of this funding by assisting multiple states.
Applications must be received by 5 p.m. EDT on May 31.
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.
IX. Upcoming Events
Please email upcoming events — conferences, symposiums, seminars, webinars, etc. to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Policy & Elections Technology: A Legislative Perspective— NCSL is hosting a national meeting to bring together legislators, legislative staff, election officials, voting technology and computer security experts, legal experts, advocates, federal agency staff and other interested parties to discuss the future of elections technology. Sessions will cover voting technology 101; a report on NCSL’s Elections Technology Project; recommendations from the Presidential Commission on Election Administration; the impact of legislation on voting system design; alternative voting methods and implications for technology; testing and certifying voting systems; the use of technology for post-election audits, recounts and resolving disputes; and what is pushing change in the way ballots are cast. Where: Santa Fe, New Mexico When: June 3 – 5. Contact: Katy Owens Hubler, email@example.com, 303-856-1656. 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.
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.
X. Job Postings This Week
electionlineWeekly publishes election administration job postings each week as a free service to our readers. To have your job listed in the newsletter, please send a copy of the job description, including a web link to firstname.lastname@example.org. Job postings must be received by 5pm on Wednesday in order to appear in the Thursday newsletter. Listings will run for three weeks or till the deadline listed in the posting.
Director, Elections, Pinal County, Arizona — performs work of considerable difficulty planning, directing, coordinating and controlling overall operations of the Elections Department to ensure that goals and objectives are accomplished by performing the following duties personally or through subordinate supervisors; performs related work as required or assigned. This is a Department Head/Administrative Officer position that works under policy direction. Positions at this level manage a major department of the organization. The most critical and time-consuming responsibilities include policy implementation, direction of programs / service delivery, and resources management in a major department or major functional area of the organization. The decisions made affect the goals, services, and objectives of the organization and may involve highly sensitive and political issues affecting the organization as a whole. Work is accomplished within the broadest framework of policy guidance. This position is not covered under the Pinal County Merit System. Incumbents in this position serve at the pleasure of their respective Appointing Authority. The employment relationship of incumbents in this position is “at will” the employee may be terminated at any time, for any reason, with or without cause.Salary: $78,159-$82,124. Deadline: March 20. Application. For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Division Manager, Los Angeles County Registrar — position reports directly to the Department Head and directs the Governmental and Legislative Affairs (GLA) Division of the Department of Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk (RR/CC). The incumbent exercises a high level of independence and discretion in advising the Executive Management on governmental and legislative affairs, and providing strategic media and communication strategies to enhance public awareness of departmental operations and services. Incumbent must possess highly effective oral and written communication skills to successfully work with the Board of Supervisors Executive Office, County departments, federal and state officials, special interest groups, stakeholders, public, and representatives of the media. Additionally, possession of extensive knowledge in the principles and techniques of mass communication, media relations and social marketing is required to perform the duties of this position. Salary: $8026-$12,149/monthly. Deadline: Open until filled. For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Elections Technology Specialist II, Boulder County, Colorado — position will perform a variety of complex and specialized tasks associated with elections management, elections processing systems and the statewide voter registration system. The position is responsible for the implementation and results of related processes, as well as related procedural development, training and technology support, while ensuring compliance with elections rules, laws and policies. This role requires varying degrees of process management and supervisory support of temporary employees, as well as a high level of initiative, attention to detail, collaboration, problem-solving and analytical ability. The ideal candidate must be self-motivated and collaborative with excellent communication skills, in both verbal and written form. He or she has the demonstrated ability to effectively communicate technical information to nontechnical personnel at all levels of the organization. He or she has the capacity to set clear goals, manage time efficiently, effectively work with others for completion, and take initiative with projects and team. Additionally, he or she demonstrates creativity and innovation through problem-solving and improvement identification processes. Ability to work effectively under pressure while remaining positive and flexible is also key to success. Salary: $52,572-$75,696. Deadline: April 22. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Executive Assistant, Los Angeles County Registrar — performs special assignment and liaison work for the Department Head. The one position allocated to this class in a department typically reports to a Department Head of a medium to large-sized County department or a department that provides direct services to the Board of Supervisors. The position is responsible for providing a wide range of staff support services on the more complex departmental management issues and operational needs, including conducting special administrative and research studies affecting departmental operations and acting as liaison and coordinator for the director within the department and between the various commissions, boards, committees and public and private entities. Incumbents must possess a thorough knowledge of departmental operations sufficient to analyze, evaluate, and develop procedures and methods affecting the commitment of departmental resources; effective communicating skills, including written and oral; and the ability to deal effectively with various officials of other agencies, County departments, and Board Offices who work with the department. Salary: $7,185-$9,425/monthly. Deadline: Open until filled. For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Voting Rights Coordinator, Asian Americans Advancing Justice, Los Angeles — Advancing Justice-LA seeks an independent Voting Rights Coordinator for 6 months to lead efforts to ensure that minority and limited English speaking voters have full access to voting as required by the Voting Rights Act. The Coordinator will work under the direction of a Senior Attorney to engage community members in the electoral process and monitor election sites in Los Angeles, Orange and San Diego Counties.Salary: $16-$17.50 per hour with parking, paid holidays, and vacation and sick time. Application: For the complete listing and to apply, click here.
electionline provides no guarantees as to the quality of the items being sold and the accuracy of the information provided about the sale items in the Marketplace. Ads are provided directly by sellers and are not verified by electionline. If you have an ad for Marketplace, please email it to email@example.com
Arizona’s Yavapai County recently acquired new voting equipment, and is looking for buyers interested in purchasing equipment from their previous Diebold system. Items available for purchase include (price per each, not including shipping): TSx Packages ($50.00), Accu-Vote Precinct Packages ($35.00), Accu-Vote Central Count Packages ($175.00), Accu-Vote Central Count Scanners ($45.00), Accu-Feed Systems ($100.00), 128K Accu-Vote Memory cards ($25.00), 32K Accu-Vote Memory cards ($25.00), and TSx PCMCIA Memory cards ($25.00). Equipment is being sold as-is on a first come, first served basis until all items have been liquidated. Interested parties may send a request for more information to: firstname.lastname@example.org. Please be sure to include in your email: Contact Name, State, County, and phone number.