I. In Focus This Week
Oregon prepares to register every possible voter
Work begins to implement state’s new auto voter reg law
Oregon made history recently when newly appointed Gov. Kate Brown signed legislation into law that makes voter registration automatic for Oregonians using driver’s license records.
House Bill 2177 moved quickly through Oregon’s Democratically controlled Legislature — although similar legislation had failed in 2013. It was championed by then-Secretary of State Kate Brown as well as the Oregon Association of County Clerks (OACC). And on March 16, Brown got to sign her legislation into law.
Now comes the hard part — implementing the new law.
The secretary of state’s office is forming a committee that will include at least two county clerks to discuss implementation and is in the process of hiring a project manager.
In the initial wave of implementation, the state will go back two years through driver’s license records and provisionally register those who aren’t already signed up to vote.
Those residents will receive post cards that will give them the opportunity to move forward with the voter registration and choose a political party, or to opt-out of registration altogether.
The secretary of state’s office will undertake most of the initial work, but the counties will be involved as well.
Polk County Clerk Valerie Unger anticipates about a 12.5 percent increase in her voter rolls initially as well as an increased work load.
“Initially, my workload will increase significantly,” Under said. “But since the records will be sent electronically, we should be able to process them efficiently. I may have to hire additional temp help for the initial processing.”
Multnomah County — home to Portland and its suburbs — will see probably the largest bump in its voter rolls. According to Tim Scott, Multnomah County director of elections, the state has told him to anticipate about 50,000 new voters initially.
While Multnomah will have the biggest bump, Scott isn’t sure quite yet what the impact on his office will be.
“It is hard to say at this point because the details of implementation have yet to be defined. What has been made clear though is that the process for adding voters will be similar to the way we process registrations from the online system,” Scott said. “Processing electronic registrations is significantly faster than processing paper registrations. I believe the end result will be a more efficient way of processing voter registrations.”
Costs for the implementation of the new law will run about $753,445 according to a fiscal impact statement filed with the legislation. Among other things, those initial costs will cover postage and postcards, purchase of new software and the project manager.
“OACC and AOC [Association of Oregon Counties] made it clear that the legislature needs to fully fund the additional fiscal impact on counties that will result from the bill,” said Tassi O’Neil, Tillamook County clerk and president of the OACC. “We are hopeful the legislature will do just that.”
Kim Kean, elections supervisor in Hood River County said that for her office, there will be additional costs of time and money with the initial roll out, but anticipates that will even out in time.
“Initially there will be the large volume of data entry, determining ballot counts for ordering in the initial election following the implementation (May primary), envelope printing, insertions of additional ballots, review of signatures and returned ballots, requiring a lot more election board time, additional time counting more ballots and letter writing for challenged ballots,” Kean said. “Everything will incur more time from staff and boards and more money, after the initial insurgence it should be more stable.”
Kean said that Hood River anticipates getting about 3,000 to 6,000 new voters in the initial implementation.
Deschutes County is anticipating about an 11.8 percent increase in voter registrations in the initial wave and has budgeted $40,000 to implement the new law according to County Clerk Nancy Blankenship.
Despite the increased costs and initial workload, Blankenship said there are silver linings with the new law. She anticipates that there may be a decreased need for voter registration drives and that data entry of DMV registrations will be more efficient.
Reaction of residents to the new law has been largely positive, although as with everything, there have been some critics.
Tony Green, spokesman for the secretary of state’s office said that there has been a lot of excitement among voting rights advocates and that his office has already heard from people wanting to know how to opt-out.
He said that the greatest concerns seem to stem from people who incorrectly believe that being registered to vote means they will get called for jury duty.
Some clerks also said they have heard from a few folks pre-emptively, but largely the response has been positive.
“The vast majority of the feedback that I have received from Multnomah County residents has been positive,” Scott said. “They are looking forward to the efficiency of only having to change their address with DMV when they move and being confident that their ballot will follow them to their new address without any effort on their part.”
Scott said he did receive one call from someone who wanted to make sure there was an opt-out process and when he explained to them that they would have 21 days to opt out by returning a postcard, they seemed satisfied with that option.
While Oregon is still working on implementation, other states are starting to look at the prospects of automatic voter registration. California Secretary of State Alex Padilla recently said that automatic voter registration would be one of his top priorities and legislation is currently pending in Pennsylvania.
II. Election News This Week
- Following a court-ordered review of New York City polling places, the city board of elections is requesting about $10 million additional dollars in order to make polling places ADA compliant. NYC BOE Executive Director Michael Ryan said advocates requested the BOE use Evan Perry Associates to survey poll sites, which the board did not oppose, and the court approved the request. The firm has surveyed about 200 of the 1,200 poll sites across the city, but Ryan said the BOE had not yet finalized the terms or cost of the contract.
- Special election follow up: Last week we reported on issues involving the growing number of special elections nationwide and this week we’d like to add to more. In Salida, Colorado, the city council passed a resolution calling a special election for March 24 — when City Clerk Betty Schwitzer was scheduled to be out of town on a previously approved and paid for vacation. Virginia Del. Joe Morrissey is hoping to run for Sen. Rosalyn Dance’s seat. Problem is, this would create a vacancy for Morrissey’s current seat, which he won in a special election after he was forced to resign. Yes, that’s right. Morrissey, held the seat, was forced to resign and ran for and won the special election to replace himself. Now if he’s successful in his bid for Senate, his House seat will have to be filled again…through another special election.
- Sometimes sanity does prevail. While many jurisdictions are required to hold elections, whether there are actual contests or not, Vincennes, Indiana has canceled it’s May primary because there are no contested races on the ballot. Cancelling the election will save the city about $20,000.
- Congratulations to Love Communications that was hired by the State of Utah to produce commercials feature the Lt. Gov. Spence Cox encouraging residents to vote. The Salt Lake City-based firm won five “Pollies” from the American Association of Political Consultants for the ad campaign. Following the launch of the ad campaign, more than 40,000 Utahns registered to vote and almost half a million used the state’s website before the 2014 elections.
- Oops! During Tuesday’s Jacksonville, Florida election, voter Shirley Johnson almost didn’t get to vote because despite that fact that she had been registered since 1992 and have voted in almost every election, Duval County voter registration records showed her as deceased. Johnson was eventually able to vote before the polls closed, but it took poll workers almost 30 minutes to sort the problem out…one that they aren’t sure how it occurred in the first place.
- Personnel News: West Virginia Secretary of State Natalie Tenant has filed paperwork to seek re-election. Joelle Nolan, Mount Desert, Maine clerk will retire in December after 13 years on the job. Claire Woolfolk will replace her. Russ Towers is stepping down at the Lamar County, Texas election administrator to take a job as the county clerk. Manatee County, Florida Supervisor of Elections Mike Bennett has filed to run for re-election in 2016. Susan Hughes has been named the new Blount County, Tennessee election administrator. Former Alabama Secretary of state Jim Bennett was honored recently for being the longest serving secretary of state in the state’s history. Mike McCurry (no, not that guy) has been appointed the new Harrison County, Texas elections administrator. Mike Hogan is the new supervisor of elections in Duval County, Florida. Stephanie Pack has been hired by Polk County, North Carolina to serve as an election specialist. Wyoming Deputy Secretary of State Pat Arp has resigned to accept a job in the treasurer’s office.
III. Legislative Updates
Federal Legislation: More than 170 House Democrats introduced a new voting rights bill that would, among other things, allow people to register online or via the telephone to vote. “The Voter Empowerment Act removes unnecessary barriers between voters and the ballot box and utilizes modern technology to bring our elections into the 21st Century,” said Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-New Orleans). “The right to vote is the single most essential element to maintaining our democracy. I will continue to be a strong voice in Congress as we fight to safeguard the right to vote for every American.”
Arizona: A House committee voted 3-3 on House Bill 2305 and thus ended another attempt to make it a felony for anyone but a family member or candidate to collect early ballots. However, the measure was added to another, unrelated bill and approved 9-5 by the House Appropriations Committee.
Arkansas: The Arkansas Legislature agreed that it would not refer any proposed constitutional amendments for the 2016 ballot because they could not come to consensus on which to put before the voters including one that would have required a voter to show a photo ID.
California: Citing low turnout, Assemblyman Roger Hernandez has introduced AB 254 that would move all city elections to June or November of even years when counties are conducting presidential or statewide contests.
Hawaii: The Senate Judiciary Committee has advanced legislation that would move the Aloha State a vote-by-mail system. The proposal, which is mean to boost Hawaii’s notoriously low voter turnout would gradually phase in mailing absentee ballots to all voters.
Iowa: The Senate voted 26-20 that would allow residents to register to vote online through the secretary of state’s website as long as they have a state-issued driver’s license or ID card or a Social Security number.
Also in the Senate, the State Government subcommittee approved a bill that would move the absentee ballot deadline. The bill, which has already been approved by the House, would require that absentee ballots be received by a county auditor’s office before polls close.
Kansas: The Senate has approved legislation that would prohibit city and county officials from interfering with placement or number of campaign signs.
The Senate has also advanced legislation that would restrict candidate withdrawals from general election ballots to candidates who die, suffer a medical hardship or move to another state.
Another bill advanced by the Senate would stop the state from scheduling presidential primaries. Although the state has not held a primary since 1992, the bill repeals a law that sets the primary the first Tuesday in April every four years.
Nevada: A bill has been introduced into the Senate that would create a modified blanket primary system for partisan offices.
New Hampshire: The House of Representatives has asked the state’s Supreme Court to review a bill requiring people registering to vote to also register their cars and obtain a New Hampshire driver’s license. The House voted 190-148 to seek the advisory opinion.
New York: The New York City Council is drafting legislation that would allow legal noncitizens to vote in Gotham’s municipal elections. A previous version of the bill failed in 2013. If approved, New York would be come only the eighth — but certainly the largest — jurisdiction to allow noncitizens to vote.
Oregon: House Majority Leader Val Hoyle (D-Eugene) has introduced legislation that will open Oregon’s primaries and allow the more than half a million unaffiliated voters to cast a ballot in the primaries.
Utah: Gov. Gary Herbert has signed legislation into law that will make ballot selfies legal. While it would be a misdemeanor to photograph someone else’s ballot, it will now be perfectly legal to snap a selfie with your ballot. No word on if (preferably when) selfie sticks will be banned.
Vermont: The Senate is considering legislation that would allow residents to register and vote on the same day. The bill was amended to postpone its implementation until 2017 if approved. The Senate Government Operations Committee previously approved the bill 3-2.
IV. Legal Updates
Alabama: The U.S. Supreme Court has said a lower court must review whether Alabama’s legislature relied too heavily on race when it redistricted. The justices split 5-4.
Arizona: Arizona and Kansas have filed paperwork asking the U.S. Supreme Court to force federal elections officials to require residents of their states to prove their U.S. citizenship before registering to vote. According to the Associated Press, the U.S. Election Assistance Commission has until April 23 to respond.
Florida: Former Eatonville Mayor Bruce Mount has filed a civil complaint against the Orange County canvassing board challenging the results of town’s February election. In his suit, Mount is questioning the validity of 196 absentee votes.
Illinois: Emeka Jackson-Hicks, candidate for mayor in East St. Louis, has asked the Illinois Supreme Court to forbid the East St. Louis election board from mailing revised absentee ballots to anyone who had already received a ballot for the April 7 primary.
Kansas: Kansas and Arizona have filed paperwork asking the U.S. Supreme Court to force federal elections officials to require residents of their states to prove their U.S. citizenship before registering to vote. According to the Associated Press, the U.S. Election Assistance Commission has until April 23 to respond.
Massachusetts: The Commonwealth of Massachusetts has settled a portion of a voting rights lawsuit that will see state officials automatically providing welfare recipients with voter registration cards.
New Hampshire: The House of Representatives has asked the state’s Supreme Court to review a bill requiring people registering to vote to also register their cars and obtain a New Hampshire driver’s license. The House voted 190-148 to seek the advisory opinion.
New Jersey: Middlesex County Superior Court Judge Heidi Currier ordered a new election for Perth Amboy city council citing at least 13 ballots that were illegally cast. The new election must be held within 45 to 50 days.
New York: Federal Judge Lawrence Kahn has ruled that Albany County violated the 1965 Voting Rights Act when it redistricted the county’s legislative districts in 2011. Kahn said that the redistricting plan diluted the voting strength of black voters in the county.
Also in New York, it seems that the race for Bloominburg trustee will be decided to by a court. After 23 of 41 absentee ballots were opened and counted, attorneys for one candidate said the election was tainted and all parties will appear in court on Monday. Last year’s mayoral election in Bloominburg was also decided in the courts.
Texas: The Texas Second Court of Appeals has denied an appeal to lower court’s ruling over a special election over red light cameras in Arlington.
Virginia: Judge Paul Sheridan ruled that he had no authority to order the Prince William County election board to hold a primary for GOP candidates who failed to file the proper paperwork on time. The candidates seeking the primary had sued saying a clerical error prevented them from filing for the election.
Washington: U.S. District Judge Thomas Rice has denied the city of Yakima’s motion for reconsidering in its voting rights case with the ACLU. The decision came just two days after the city filed for reconsideration. Officials now have 30-days to decide whether or not to appeal the ruling.
Wisconsin: This week, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to revisit Wisconsin’s voter ID law that will now be in effect following the upcoming April 7 elections.
V. Opinions This Week
Alabama: Fair elections
Arizona: Voter fraud
Arkansas: Election reform
Hawaii: Vote by mail
Idaho: Voter registration
Illinois: Special elections
Indiana: Voter suppression
Maryland: Ex-felon voting rights
Massachusetts: Early voting
Minnesota: Instant runoff voting
Mississippi: Voter ID
Nevada: Voting rights
New Jersey: Voter registration
North Carolina: Paper ballots
North Dakota: Voter ID
Oklahoma: Online voter registration
South Carolina: Voter registration
Utah: Voting options
Washington: Voter registration
VI. Available Funding
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.
VII. Upcoming Events
Please email upcoming events — conferences, symposiums, seminars, webinars, etc. to firstname.lastname@example.org.
U.S. Election Assistance Commission Public Meeting — Commissioners will discuss and consider the approval of the following items: the proposed draft Voluntary Voting System Guidelines (VVSG 1.1); the proposed draft Certification Program Procedural Manual, Version 2.0; and the proposed draft Laboratory Accreditation Program Manual, Version 2.0. The Commission will also consider approval of advisory opinion requests related to expenditure of HAVA funds from the state and local election offices in the States of Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Montana, Washington State and California. When: March 31. Where: Silver Spring, Maryland and a live webcast. For complete information about the meeting and the webcast, click here.
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.
VIII. 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.
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 Specialist II, King County, Washington — position supports the Voter Services and Registration Division. In this position you will provide and/or acquire authoritative program-specific information relating to assigned specialized or technical clerical support services that require interpreting established policies, procedures, codes, regulations and other relevant sources, to internal and/or external customers over the telephone, in writing and/or in person. Employees may deal with sensitive and/or potentially volatile situations. This work is performed in a high volume fast paced working environment while still maintaining accuracy and high quality data entry. Specific assignments vary by position and may include voter registration and direct customer services. Salary: $19.46-$24.80. Deadline: April 3. Application: 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.
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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.