I. In Focus This Week
If you provide it, they still might not come
Marin County, Calif. surveys disabled voters about voting preferences
Marin County, Calif.’s Registrar of Voters Elaine Ginnold was faced with a vexing problem.
Since installing accessible ballot-marking devices in each precinct in 2006 in the Bay Area county, on average no more than seven disabled voters used the machines per election.
The machines were there to make voting easier, but why weren’t voters using them?
Ginnold had heard of no problems with the machines themselves and only anecdotally heard about voting preferences of some disabled voters.
“We wondered why more voters weren’t using the accessible ballot marking machine at the polls, which are required by the Help America Vote Act [HAVA],” Ginnold said. “We wondered if we needed to do more outreach to encourage voters to use them. We also wondered if there could be accessibility issues we didn’t know about.”
So using more than $13,000 in HAVA funds, Ginnold’s office partnered with Elizabeth Bergman an assistant professor in political science at Cal State, East Bay to survey the county’s disabled voters to find out how they preferred to vote.
Ginnold said her office decided conducting the survey was important because it is a common assumption that voters with disabilities prefer to vote at the polls on accessible voting equipment.
“I think that academic surveys like this test common assumptions about voter behavior and lead to more informed and cost effective voter outreach efforts,” Ginnold said.
What they found had nothing to do with the availability of accessible voting machines, and everything to do with the availability of a stamp and mailbox:
- Marin voters with disabilities prefer voting by mail by an overwhelming margin and, furthermore, that the mode of voting has a greater impact on the turnout of voters with disabilities than the availability of accessible voting machines at the polls;
- A higher percentage (82 percent) of people with disabilities prefer to vote by mail than people without disabilities (73.3 percent); and
- There is no correlation between disability and voting on an accessible voting device. A supermajority (76.4 percent) of the respondents said they had never voted on an accessible voting machine. The lack of use is not due to lack of availability since there is one accessible voting device in every polling place in the county and voters get information about it in the sample ballot mailed to them before every election.
“This is the first academic survey to ask individuals what functional limitations they have that interfere with voting and about their preferred mode of voting,” Ginnold said. “It’s findings shed new light on the causes of low voter turnout…and challenge the assumption that people with disabilities prefer to vote at the polls on accessible voting equipment.”
To get to these answers, the registrar’s office worked with the county’s Health and Human Services Department as well as numerous service organizations in the county that work with people with disabilities.
The county sent out 8,400 surveys that were both on paper and online. Five thousand paper surveys were mailed to voters 80 years and older. Another 2,000 were handed out directly to individuals in person and 1,400 email invitations with a link to the survey were sent out by organizations directly to their members.
According to Ginnold, the final sample was 1,300, which is a 15 percent response rate.
She said that the three greatest challenges faced while conducting the survey were reaching the target population, designing the survey questions and finally the best way to deploy the survey in the field.
So now that Ginnold has her answers, will that change anything in how Marin conducts its elections? She noted that the survey helps shape the county’s outreach efforts and that while the machines are important to have at the polls, it is important to continue to promote vote-by-mail.
“Current public election policy is very polling place-centric and pays little attention to other voting options that are more accessible to all voters, including people with disabilities,” Ginnold said. “Surveys like this one can inform other jurisdictions about ways to improve accessibility and turnout for all voters.”
II. Election News This Week
- Without a doubt, this is the top election news story of the week. Thank you Rick Hasen and Doug Chapin for bringing it to our attention and thank you Dane County, Wis. Clerk Scott McDonnell for having a sense of humor and sharing your vision with us. The video is a project of the clerk’s office and Blame Society Productions.
- Another big news story this week was the ruling by U.S. District Judge Eric Melgren, which ordered the U.S. Election Assistance Commission to immediately modify the National Voter Registration Form to add special instructions for Arizona and Kansas residents to provide proof-of-citizenship when using the form.
- The U.S. Department of Justice announced, via 2015 budget documents sent to Congress last week, that it plans to proactively search the country for voting rights violations. “The voting section’s work will shift to greater affirmative efforts to detect and investigate voting practices that violate federal law, to more affirmative litigation to enjoin such practices, and to additional monitoring of elections throughout the country each year,” the documents say.
- Illinois became the second state to hold it’s 2014 mid-term primaries this week and by and large things went well despite the historic-low turnout. There were however a few issues including three polling places in Chicago that opened late requiring a court order to keep them open late. In St. Clair County a number of problems cropped up including the state’s Attorney General reviewing whether or not absentee ballots were counted too soon. However, there was some good news too. The test of electronic poll books in Chicago was a success according to the local election board. And, for the first time, 17-year-olds were allowed to vote in the primary. In Edgar County, a jam was the likely cause of a voting machine glitch that delayed results by about an hour. In Will County, just as the clerk’s office was counting the final votes, a malfunction in the voting machine changed the results. The glitch was fixed and the results were posted about two hours later.
- The voting machines and other materials used in Hidalgo County, Texas during the recent primary were impounded this week under court order. The District Attorney’s office filed an application alleging possible criminal vote tampering. According to The Monitor, the application states: “Upon review of information received by the Hidalgo County District Attorney’s Office, regarding the forenamed election, criminal conduct may have occurred in connection with said election, therefore requiring impoundment of all the election returns, voted ballots, signature roster and other election records and equipment for an investigation and ultimately a determination of whether or not criminal conduct occurred.”
- Houston, creo que tenemos un problema! At least that’s what one voter in the District of Columbia was saying when trying to cast his Spanish-language ballot on an electronic voting machine during early voting this week. Due to a “misinterpretation,” voters attempting to submit their ballots on DRE machines kept getting a message that in Spanish said their ballot was not complete even though it was. It’s too late to fix the translation problem on the voting machines so the Board of Elections will post the proper interpretation at the machines, provide the instructions to voters and train poll workers how to handle questions about faulty language.
- Personnel News: Riverside County, Calif. Registrar of Voters Kari Verjil is retiring and will be replaced by Rebecca A. Spencer who will serve as the interim-registrar of voters. The Salem County, N.J. board of elections has chosen David Crescenzi to serve as its chairman and Florence Butler as secretary. Wyoming Secretary of State Max Maxfield announced that he will not run for a third term. Long-time Perry County, Ill. election coordinator Mary Gerrish will retire following this week’s primary. Rebecca Hermiller has been hired by the Putnam County, Ohio board of elections to serve as the board’s deputy director. Jeffrey Sutherland was appointed to the Cape May, N.J. board of elections.
III. 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.
IV. Legislative Update
National News: Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.) has introduced the Veteran Voting Support Act. Among other things, the Act would require the Veteran’s Administration (VA) to provide voter registration forms to veterans when they enroll in the VA health system, ensure that veterans who live in VA facilities have access to absentee ballots, allow nonpartisan voter registration groups to provide voter information and registration services.
Alabama: The Legislature is considering a bill that would end a long-standing law that requires counties to publish voter rolls in local newspapers. County officials told WHNT that the law is outdated and a waste of taxpayer money. The House has already approved HB 71.
Colorado: Democrats have introduced a bill that would make it tougher to recall a public official in Colorado.
Kansas: A bill that would prohibit registered voters from switching their party affiliation in the final weeks before a primary is awaiting signature from Gov. Sam Brownback (R).
Louisiana: A House committee approved a bill that would allow 16-year-olds to preregister to vote. Currently 17-year-olds are allowed to preregister.
The House and Governmental Affairs Committee killed House Bill 203 during it’s first test this week. The bill would have allowed early voting on Sundays.
Maryland: The House unanimously approved legislation that will make it easier for the state board of elections to remove dead voters from the rolls. Under the legislation, the SBOE will be able to use data from the Social Security Administration instead of relying on notification from families or the state’s Vital Statistics Administration.
Missouri: The Senate has approved a bill that would make an exception for members of the military to the state’s current 30-day registration deadline.
New York: The Assembly has approved a bill that would allow 17-year-olds to pre-register to vote. It next heads to the Senate.
Utah: The House voted 47-21 to create a pilot project through 2016 to allow voters to register and vote on election day.
The House and Senate agreed on compromise legislation that would protect voter information. Under the legislation, only “qualified’ individuals who purchase voter lists (government officials, hospitals, financial institutions and members of the media) would have access to the voters date-of-birth in addition to the typical additional information.
V. Upcoming Events
Please email upcoming event — conferences, symposiums, seminars, webinars, etc. to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Delaware: Elections task force
Florida: Voting restrictions
Illinois: Instant runoff voting
Kansas: Secretary of state race
Maryland: Voter rolls
Minnesota: Ranked-choice voting
New York: Primary dates
Rhode Island: Voter ID
South Dakota: Voting centers
Tennessee: Poll workers
Texas: Voter ID
Virginia: Voting delays
VII. Job Openings
electionlineWeekly publishes election administration job postings each week as a free service to our readers. To have your job listed in the newsletter, please send a copy of the job description, including a web link to email@example.com. Job postings must be received by 5pm on Wednesday in order to appear in the Thursday newsletter. Listings will run for three weeks or till the deadline listed in the posting.
Assistant Director of Elections, Worcester, Mass. — successful candidate shall assist the Clerk in the operation and administration of all phases of local, state and federal elections and with the direction, coordination, development and supervision of the staff involved in conducting and monitoring elections, voter registration activity and the compilation of the annual street list. Responsibilities will include preparing reports, conducting research and analysis and outreach efforts and assumes the task of recruitment, training and supervision of poll workers. Will participate in outreach and training of student poll workers from the public high schools; in the acquisition and maintenance of voting equipment and supplies; assist with the preparation and presentation of the annual budget; support for the five member (5) Board of Election Commissioners as assigned; and perform other duties as requested by the City Clerk. Qualifications: successful candidate shall be a person experienced and knowledgeable in the operation of elections and shall have graduated from a four-year college or university with studies in public administration, political science, history, urban studies or similar field of concentration. The successful candidate shall be familiar with statutes and regulations of the Commonwealth regarding elections and voter registration, or, those of another state and, if from another state, commit to becoming thoroughly knowledgeable of Massachusetts law and procedures within one year of the date of hiring. Salary: $63,000 to $81,000. Deadline: March 21, 2014. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Communication and Development Director, Rock the Vote, New York City — Rock the Vote is seeking a Communications & Development Director to help raise the profile and necessary funds to support our ambitious programs in 2014 and beyond. Specifically, the Rock the Vote Communications & Development Director will oversee the communications plan, including but not limited to: developing messages, talking points, press, and fundraising materials; reaching out to press and performing press outreach. In addition, this position will manage a group of staff running our voting rights advocacy and social media programs. Rock the Vote is looking for a great writer, an effective communicator, and a detail-oriented and pro-active person to fill this position. Qualifications: A competitive candidate for this position will have: Bachelor’s degree; 6-8 years communications and/or development experience working with campaigns or nonprofits; proven and highly effective organizational skills; proven and highly effective written and oral communication skills; ability to multitask and shift priorities; aptitude for working under tight deadlines in a fast-paced environment; commitment to the organizational mission; management experience required; this individual will manage 2-5 staff. Candidates must have a demonstrated ability to work on multiple projects at one time; to set ambitious but achievable goals; to coordinate activities of the senior leadership and leverage other Rock the Vote resources in order to meet these goals; and a willingness to work long hours as necessary; experience working effectively with colleagues, junior staff and senior leaders; including members of an active board of directors/advisors; ability to work very closely with other members of the team, but also to manage your own work independently. Deadline: Open until filled. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Elections Administrator, Tarrant County, Texas — shall perform the duties and functions of the Voter Registrar; the duties and functions placed on the County Clerk by the Election Code or by statutes outside the Election Code. Provides executive strategic and tactical direction and support to directors, managers, and supervisors in the operations of their department or division. This level of support and direction is achieved by delegating and/or reviewing the management of work assignments, service delivery, resources provided, and budget required; ensuring the training, evaluation and personal development of their employees; handling difficult problems; managing the development, implementation, and oversight of applicable unit products and services; monitoring department resources; and ensuring compliance with policies and laws. Salary: $3,283.96 – $3,612.36 biweekly. Deadline: Open until filled. Application: For the complete job posting and to apply, click here.
Election Programmer, Jefferson County, Texas — coordinate and code all ballot information including precinct, office, candidate, and polling location data; and provide English, Spanish and audio coding. Coordinate the accuracy of the paper and iVotronic ballot. Responsible for loading election data on iVotronic touchscreens, personal electronic ballots, and flash cards. Responsible for performing operational testing. Responsible for overseeing the logic and accuracy testing of ballots. Program and make ready all electronic pollbook tablets which contain the voter registration database, including backup of data. Create and maintain election equipment inventory database. Must assist field technicians during early voting and on Election Day. Responsible for backing up all audit data and election files. Report election results to Secretary of State of Texas. Create and maintain computer database files utilizing various software applications to create documents. Preserve the election files as prescribed by the Secretary of State. Provide training to employees and election workers in the use of voting equipment and on pertinent election laws. Coordinate work orders to Warehouse Supervisor, to prepare, test and set up election equipment as needed. Maintain the Online Poll Worker training and election websites through website publishing, quality assurance, feedback monitoring, and performance monitoring. Assist with training scheduling and support at the Election Barn. Perform the management duties of the Elections Warehouse Technician Manager in his/her absence. Education & Experience: Education and experience equivalent to an Associate’s degree from an accredited college or university in computer science, or in a job related field of study required. One (1) year of work related experience. Experience in election programming preferred. Salary: $43,094-$58,858. Deadline: Open until filled. Application: For the complete job posting and to apply click here
Voter Registration & Voting Services Manager, Oregon Secretary of State’s Office, Salem, Ore. — successful candidate will manage and direct the daily operations of the Voter Registration and Voting Services section of the Elections Division as well as ensure Oregon’s compliance with the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) program. This is accomplished in part but not limited to: Coordinate all daily activities and employee assignments with the Voter Registration and Voting Services section; work with Elections Director to prioritize projects and to maintain adherence to overall statewide election system objectives; work in partnership with county clerks, election officials and filing officers representing special districts; train county and city elections officials on procedures and changes related to Oregon Centralized Voter Registration (OCVR), HAVA, and Nation Voter Registration Act (NVRA); coordinate with counties, United States Postal Service and partner states in developing standards and practices for maintaining an accurate and effective voter registration database; interpret laws, rules policies and procedures and explain to customers to ensure compliance with and understanding of Oregon’s compliance with HAVA; implement and administer HAVA projects and objectives under the direction of the Elections Division Director; ensure HAVA Steering Committee represents cross sections of stakeholder populations, meets regularly and the concerns of the membership are relayed in a time manner to the Elections Division Director and Agency Management. Qualifications: Six years of experience in supervision, staff-technical, or professional-level work that includes experience with voter registration and/or election administration. Two years of this experience must have included program/project leader responsibility involving one or more of the following areas: a) development of program rules and policies, b) development of long- and short-range goals and plans, c) program evaluation and/or project evaluation, or d) monitoring and controlling or preparing a budget. Salary: $4881-$7,550 per month. Deadline: March 31, 2014 at 11:59pm. Application: For the complete listing and to apply, click here.