I. In Focus This Week
Get them any way you can
Colorado ballot delivery system offers voters almost every option possible
By M. Mindy Moretti
From vote centers to vote-by-mail and everything in between elections officials nationwide are always on the hunt for new ways to lower costs and make voting as convenient as possible.
But only one state — Colorado — offers voters pretty much every available option of casting a ballot, short of online (shhh….).
The “Colorado model” as it’s been dubbed was created through sweeping election reform legislation in 2013.
Although elements of the system — vote-by-mail, vote centers, etc. — had been in place in Colorado for decades, the 2013 legislation formalized the system and brought them all together.
Under this model every single registered voter receives a ballot in the mail and then they are able to cast that ballot through a variety of was — mail, in-person at vote centers, or in drop boxes.
“The new model is consistent from election to election and from county to county,” said Amber McReynolds, director of elections for the city and county of Denver. “It is also less confusing to the voters and we have seen a significant decrease in call volume from voters.”
By all accounts, the system has proved successful and popular, not only with elections officials, but also with voters.
Georgie Aguirre-Sacasa, who recently moved to Colorado, really likes the new system better than the neighborhood-based polling places she was used to growing up on the East Coast.
Denver locates drop-boxes wherever the voters may be such as libraries, light rail statins, bus stops, recreation centers, parks and police stations. The county also provides drive-thru ballot drop-off at the most of the voting centers.
“There is a unique level of excitement when you receive your ballot in the mail,” Aguirre-Sacasa said. “There are many ways to return your ballot…Denver County has set up drive through drop off centers where you can take your ballot and never leave your car. There really is no excuse on not voting!”
And that’s what elections officials like to hear, voters enthusiastic about the process.
McReynolds said the new system has helped her office see a substantial cost savings, especially in terms of personnel.
Tiffany Lee Parker, the La Plata County clerk/recorder and president of the Colorado County Clerks Association, is very enthusiastic about the new ballot model. She said that voters are very positive and that her office has seen about a 50 percent reduction in costs since implementing the new system.
In Pitkin County, Janice Vos, clerk and recorder said there has been a significant decrease in the need for provisional ballots under the new system, which has in turn decreased the post-election work hours.
And the cost savings don’t just end with personnel.
“In comparing like election years, Pitkin County incurred a cost savings of 60 percent when assessing 2014 to 2010 Gubernatorial election expenses,” Vos said. “Pitkin County incurred a cost savings of 17 percent in 2014 from the previous year – 2013 election, both implemented using the same Colorado Model.”
One additional bonus for Denver voters is the city/county’s Ballot TRACE system that was created in 2009 that allows voters to track their ballot as easy as if it were a package from Amazon.
“With so many Coloradans choosing mail ballots even before the 2013 modernization, we wanted a way to proactively communicate the status of a mail ballot to the voters,” McReynolds said. “We also wanted to create a system that would add accountability on the administrative side with the post office. Thus, Ballot TRACE provides a multi-dimensional solution.
It hasn’t always been smooth sailing of course. McReynolds noted that during the 2014 General Election there were some technical issues with the Colorado Secretary of State’s voter registration system, but she believes once those issues are addressed, jurisdictions should be ready for 2016.
“Additionally we have been working on ways to streamline data transfers from the motor vehicle database which will increase the accuracy of voter addresses which is a critical component with a ballot delivery model,” McReynolds said.
Of course, even with change, there are still some tried- and true things that voters just like about Election Day.
Pitkin County is small enough to have just one drop-off location that is located in the clerk’s office in Aspen. In 2014, approximately 46 percent of the ballots cast were dropped off a the clerk’s office.
“Individuals in our community usually drop their ballot off at our office,” Vos said. “We prefer to believe people like to stop by and see the staff and say Hi!
Denver shows off its process to other elections officials
Earlier this month Denver invited elections officials from all over the country to view the system at work during the city/county election.
“We continue to have interest among election officials and since we were piloting a new voting system during the May Municipal Election, we thought it would be good to invite others to see the entire system,” Mc Reynolds explained.
More than 170 guests attended, representing 55 different election offices and groups.
During the two-day visit officials attended a presentation about the new voting model, the new voting system and all of Denver’s other innovations including Ballot TRACE, mobile app and eSign. The observers also received a complete tour of the ballot process areas and were able to observe the voter centers in action.
McReynolds said reactions from visitors were overwhelmingly positive.
“We have received a lot of great feedback and many officials indicated that they were going to utilize some of our processes to improve their own,” McReynolds said. “We also have received many follow up questions and complimentary feedback about the observation. Our goal was to present what is possible in terms of improving the voter’s experience and it was highly successful.”
One of those enthusiastic officials was new California Secretary of State Alex Padilla.
While Californians have been turning more and more to their mailbox to cast a ballot, the state still struggles with low voter turnout. In 2014 that turnout was about 30 percent.
Padilla was enthusiastic about what he saw at work in Colorado and how it could help his state, and no doubt many others.
“Colorado offers new ideas for us to consider as we seek to increase California voter participation in a cost-effective manner,” Padilla said in a statement. “The reforms in Colorado focus on voter participation and convenience, and they are undeniably working.”
II. Election News This Week
- The Athens-Clarke, Georgia board of elections will send letters to the 20 voters “living” at a local UPS store to remind the voters that they must register to vote at their residential address. The board will give the voters 30 days to respond before moving forward with a legal challenge.
- Democracy North Carolina claims in a new report that more than 2,000 ballots were not counted in 2014 due to changes in the state’s election law in 2013. According to WRAL, the report says that the elimination of same-day voter registration and out-of-precinct voting required elections officials to eliminate more than 2,300 ballots.
- According to The Telegraph, about 700 voters in New Hampshire failed to validate their ID in order for their vote to be counted in 2014. That’s about 0.1 percent of the total votes cast. The paper reports that number is about half the number of unverified identities as in 2012.
- Also in New Hampshire, selectmen in Swanzey are on the hunt for a new polling place after the received a “strongly worded letter” from the Freedom From Religion Foundation to move the town’s polling place from the Christian Life Fellowship Church, a site that has been used for the past decade because of space, parking and accessibility reasons. The letter follows a complaint from a voter about plainly visible religious objects in the polling place.
- This is a new one to us. For the upcoming June 2 primary election in Morris County, New Jersey, K9 units from the county’s sheriff’s department will check the bags carrying the ballot cartridges as they enter the courthouse for county. Ann Grossi, county clerk expressed fears that the building’s metal detectors could affect the cartridges so the dogs will be used instead.
- Personnel News: Dee Lopez, director of Voter Registration for Travis County, TX, will retire at the end of May after serving as director for 24 years. After working for the city-parish for more tan 40 years including 13 as registrar, Elaine Lamb will retire from East Baton Rouge Parish, Louisiana at the end of the month. Longtime Janesville Clerk Jean Wulf has retired after 35 years working for the city. Wyoming State Election Director Peggy Nighswonger has been appointed to one of the nine leadership roles on the U.S. Election Assistance Commission Standards Board. Citing health and personal reasons, Sherril Huff has announced that she will not seek a second full term as the King County, Washington elections director. Dwayne M. Carter has replaced Hugh Campbell on the Surry County, North Carolina board of elections.
III. Research and Report Summaries
Online Voter Registration: Trends in development and implementation – By the Pew Charitable Trusts, May 2015: A recent survey by The Pew Charitable Trusts identifies growing trends and emerging issues in online voter registration, including:
- Expanded options for citizens without a driver’s license or state-issued ID;
- Optimization for use by voters on their mobile devices;
- Building effective relationships between motor vehicles agencies and election offices; and
- Collecting and tracking performance data, such as measuring usage trends over time.
IV. Legislative Updates
Kansas: By a 22-13 vote, the Senate approves House Bill 2104 which would move local elections, make it more difficult for a candidate to remove themselves from the ballot and eliminate the state’s presidential primary. Local elections will now be held in August with runoffs in November. City and school board elections will be on odd years and federal, state and county elections in even-numbered years.
Louisiana: Legislation that would have ended the practice of “life-time” appointments for registrars of voters has been shelved for this legislative session. State Rep. Patricia Smith withdrew the legislation and instead replaced with a proposal to study the possibility of revamping the voter registrar system.
Maryland: Gov. Larry Hogan signed 350 bills into law this week including one that will move the state’s presidential primary to April 26 in 2016.
Not among the bills was legislation that would restore voting rights to ex-felons as soon as they are released from prison, but before they may have fulfilled the complete terms of their service. Hogan has time set aside next week to potentially sign more bills, but it is unclear if this will be one of them.
Minnesota: The Senate has approved legislation that would bring a variety of changes to elections in Minnesota including the expansion of early voting, allowing 16- and 17-year olds to preregister, automatically register eligible voters when they apply for a driver’s license and restore the voting rights of ex-felons as soon are released from incarceration.
Missouri: With the end of the legislative session looming this week, Senate Majority Leader Ron Richard announced plans to bring forward voter ID legislation before the Legislature adjourns on the 15th.
New Hampshire: SB 179 has gained the support of Secretary of State Bill Gardner. The bill would require a 30-day residency before someone is allowed to vote in New Hampshire. Gardner told WMUR he likes the new proposal, particularly a House amendment that makes it clear that “working on political campaigns is not sufficient evidence” to make someone eligible to vote in New Hampshire.
New Jersey: Sen. James Beach (D-Camden) plans to introduce legislation that will create a pilot program in Camden County to automatically register residents to vote when they get a driver’s license.
Ohio: Secretary of State Jon Husted is seeking the help of local elections officials to put a fire under the state’s Legislature to approve online voter registration. Husted is soliciting letters from county commissioners across the state to support the legislation.
Pennsylvania: The State Government Committee of the Senate sent Pedro Cortes’ nomination for secretary of state to the full Senate without a recommendation. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the committee was divided on the nomination and sending it to the floor without a recommendation would move the nomination along.
Rhode Island: The House has approved legislation that will make casting a ballot by mail easier for the voter and for elections officials. One bill would change the time ballots must be stored following an election; another bill would require ballot-counting sessions to be advertised on state websites and eliminates the need to preserve the privacy sleeves; and a third ballot allows mail ballot applications to serve as an affirmation for inactive voters if the application address matches where the voter originally registered.
Vermont: The House has approved legislation that would create a same-day voter registration system for Vermont beginning in 2017. The Senate approved similar legislation and no must accept the House changes or set a conference committee to settle the differences.
V. Legal Updates
North Carolina: A coalition of national and state voting-rights organizations are threatening to sue the state contending that the Department of Health and Human Services has failed to comply with legislation requiring government agencies to provide voter registration forms to eligible residents they have contact with. According to the News & Observer, the coalition gave notice to the State Board of Elections and the DHHS late last week triggering a 90-day period to comply. If DHHS fails to comply, a suit will be filed.
Ohio: The Ohio Organizing Collaborative and three individuals have filed a federal lawsuit claiming that that the state’s voting system disproportionately burdens Democratic-leaning voters. According to The Associated Press, the suit seeks relief from a host of voting rules and laws that survived a settlement agreement struck last month between GOP Secretary of State Jon Husted and the NAACP, ACLU and other civil-rights groups in a long-running early voting dispute.
VI. Tech Thursday
Montana: Secretary of State Linda McCulloch has launched a new website aimed at getting young people more civically involved. The Montana Civics Engagement website is aimed at k-12 students, teachers and parents and features a variety of information about the voting process and showcases Montanans with a history of voting rights engagement. “It’s important to me that we build a culture around our children that teaches them that their lives are directly impacted by the decisions our government makes,” McCulloch said in a statement. “Their voices matter and their voices are heard through the election process and through civic engagement.”
VII. Opinions This Week
Illinois: DuPage County
Indiana: Voting process
Maine: Voter ID
New Jersey: Voter fraud
New York: New York City BOE
North Carolina: Voter registration
Oregon: Early voting
Vermont: Same-day voter registration
Washington: Washington Voting Rights Act
Wisconsin: Ex-felon voting rights
VIII. 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.
IX. Upcoming Events
Please email upcoming events — conferences, symposiums, seminars, webinars, etc. to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Future of Voting Conference — The Future of Voting interactive presentation and workshop event has been designed to engage local and state election officials and legislators in a discussion about verifiable Internet voting. The event is part of a 4-city tour by the technical and project managers of the End-to-End Verifiable Internet Voting: Specification and Feasibility Study (E2E VIV Project). The project was funded by a grant from the Democracy Fund in support of a research-based approach to the unanswered question of whether remote absentee voting can be conducted securely online. Specifically, it was designed to examine a form of remote voting that enables a so-called “end-to-end verifiability” (E2E) property. This technology is of particular interest in the continued aim toward improved overseas, military and disabled voter solutions. When/Where: Washington, D.C. May 28; Seattle, Washington May 29; Portland, Oregon June 1; Santa Fe, New Mexico June 3. For additional information and questions, please contact Susan Dzieduszycka-Suinat, (202) 470 2480.
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.
Maryland Association of Election Officials Annual Conference— The Maryland Association of Election Officials will hold its annual conference and meeting in Ocean City this year. The agenda is filled with presentations from the State Board on the new elections system, MAEO’s annual membership meeting and lots of opportunities to mingle and network. When: June 9-12. Where: Ocean City, Maryland. 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.
MEOC Conference — The Midwest Election Officials Conference is back! Following a several-year hiatus, Brian Newby, Johnson County, Kansas election commissioner is bringing back the regional conference for elections officials. There are still a lot of details to work out, but if you’re an elections official in the Midwest, mark your calendars now! Where: Kansas City area. When: September 30-October 2. For more information, stay tuned to electionline and Brian Newby’s Election Diary.
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.
Summer Internships, Democracy Fund, Washington, D.C. — Democracy Fund is seeking bright, enthusiastic interns to work with us this summer. Interns will gain first-hand knowledge on how creative philanthropy can work to improve our democracy. Interns may be responsible for a variety of tasks, including: Producing original research on issues related to elections, local journalism, campaign finance, Congressional reform, and media policy; participating in grantee meetings, policy briefings, Congressional hearings, and other events; supporting research and diligence about new grantee candidates; compiling press clips, writing blog posts, and creating content for the Democracy Fund’s social media account; helping to organize internal and external events; completing and presenting a self-directed project aligned with the goals of the Democracy Fund; working to support the administrative needs of the team with editing, scheduling support, photocopying or other relevant administrative tasks and functions; and assist in preparation and copying, packing, and mailing meeting materials. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
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