I. In Focus This Week
A Profile: Missouri Secretary of State Robin Carnahan
Popular two-term secretary decides not to seek re-election
By M. Mindy Moretti
A life of public service was a natural fit for Missouri’s Robin Carnahan.
She grew up watching her father, the late Senator Mel Carnahan, dedicate his life to the community of Rolla, and to all of Missouri.
She also watched how her father balanced his public life and his private life and learned from that as well.
“I watched as my father moved regularly between elective office and private life…always devoted to his family and to making a positive difference in the community,” Carnahan said when announcing her decision not to seek a third term. “Dad always thought his experience as a private citizen helped make him a more effective public servant and a better governor.”
After serving two terms as Missouri’s top elections official, Carnahan has decided not to see a third term and instead return to private life to “gather new ideas and experiences and a fresh perspective.”
While serving as secretary, Carnahan worked to implement the state’s first statewide voter registration database, created the Missouri Voting Rights Center and launched a new, user-friendly elections website.
In 2010 Carnahan was the Democratic nominee to the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by retiring Kit Bond. She was endorsed by the Kansas City Star, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and the St. Louis American. She was defeated by Republican Roy Blunt during a midterm election that saw a wave of Republican victories.
“Robin Carnahan has been a thoughtful and forceful voice on elections since becoming Missouri’s Secretary of State in 2005,” said Doug Chapin, director, Program for Excellence in Election Administration, Humphrey School of Public Affairs. “She has been a strong and consistent advocate for voters in Missouri and nationwide and I look forward to the next chapter of her already impressive career.”
After eight years in office, you chose not to seek re-election. Why did you choose not to run again?
I’ve thoroughly enjoyed serving as secretary of state. We’ve made dramatic improvements for voters, and eight years seems like long enough.
What would you say has been the biggest change you have seen in elections during your tenure?
No question, it had to be implementing the Help America Vote Act (HAVA). Replacing punch-card voting machines with precinct-based optical scanners and accessible voting equipment for people with disabilities represented a big change for local election officials, poll workers and voters.
Also, the creation of Missouri’s first statewide voter registration database took an enormous amount of work and training, but the results have been tremendous, giving Missouri the cleanest, most up-to-date voter rolls in the state’s history.
What was the most difficult time/issue you faced during your tenure?
I took office in early 2005, and, by November 2006, we were required to meet the deadline for implementing HAVA with limited resources. Our staff, local election officials and thousands of dedicated poll workers deserve a lot of credit for accomplishing so much in such a short period of time.
The most frustrating issues always involved the time and energy required to prevent partisan nonsense from overtaking commonsense, non-partisan election reforms.
What do you feel was your greatest accomplishment and why?
I think it’s giving voters confidence in the fairness of the election process. It’s the secretary of state’s job not only to ensure the integrity of elections, but also to stand up for the rights of all voters. These days, partisans on both sides try to tilt the playing field to their advantage. I’ve worked hard to strike a sensible balance based on facts, not political rhetoric. So, when members of the legislature attempted to impose a restrictive government-issued voter ID requirement that would limit the voting rights of eligible voters, I spoke out. And when anyone violated an election law, we investigated and referred them to prosecutors. Elections shouldn’t be about Democrats and Republicans, elections are about democracy and reminding people of what is important.
Is there anything specific that you still hope to accomplish as secretary of state before leaving office?
We have two more statewide elections this year, so we’re very focused on ensuring those go well. Ultimately, my goal is to leave the state of Missouri’s elections administration infrastructure much better than I found it and to completely imbed a culture of providing excellent customer service to all the Missourians we serve.
Providing excellent service isn’t just about the size of the project. If something is more convenient for voters, encourages more people to participate and is affordable, I’m for it.
For example, we have vastly expanded on-line access to voting information, whether it’s about registration, polling place locations, sample ballots or results. In fact, our election night reporting system regularly gets mentioned in national media reports as one of the best, most user-friendly in the country.
What will you miss most about being secretary of state?
It’s great to work on issues you feel passionate about. And ensuring that people have faith that their voices are being heard and that their government reflects the will of the people is something that I care deeply about. I’ll also miss simply solving problems and making government work for ordinary people. On any given day, I might help a voter with a registration problem, an entrepreneur trying to start a business or an investor who’s been scammed. As secretary of state, the issues I deal with everyday seldom involve political hot buttons; they’re more likely to be about providing good, cost-effective service to taxpayers. I’ll miss having the chance to do that.
As an expert in the field of elections, where do you see the administration of elections going in this country?
The level of scrutiny surrounding election administration is only going to grow. The advancement of new technology, combined with instant communication networks, means that even more people will be watching and reporting on how elections are administered in every polling place in the country. That can be both good and bad. It’s good in that it can ensure the rules are followed and the playing field remains fair. It can be troubling in that instantaneous reports are very susceptible to being inaccurate or biased, but nonetheless these reports could affect voters and the fairness of the elections. This increased scrutiny will present new challenges for local election officials and poll workers who are already under-appreciated.
Another challenge on the horizon is how to continue making elections more convenient for voters and cost effective for administrators, while still ensuring the security, access and privacy that voters rightly expect. Many states have implemented early voting and vote-by-mail, but I suspect it won’t be long before states begin to experiment more broadly with on-line voting, and once that happens, a lot of changes will follow.
What’s next for you, besides being able to sleep in on Election Day?
I’ll continue to look for ways to serve. And for now, that will be outside of holding elective office.
Editor’s Note: In April, electionlineWeekly also profiled Washington Secretary of State Sam Reed who is retiring after 12 years as the state’s top elections officials.
II. Election News This Week
- Several states held primaries this week and things didn’t go as smoothly as election officials would have hoped in two of them. In Idaho, where voters faced a variety of changes from new polling places due to redistricting and new rules for voting, the report was mixed. In Canyon County and Nez Perce County there were only minor problems, however in Twin Falls County voters had issues with both polling place location and the new primary rules. Poll workers appeared prepared though. “I thought we’d have to do a lot more explaining,” Milton Barrus told the Times-News. And even those who needed help were patient and great to work with, worker Sam Sites told the paper. Probably the most explosive issue on election day in Idaho were the bomb scares that interrupted voting. In Nebraska while there weren’t any rules dictating voting, there were new polling places — and in Douglas County fewer polling places — greeting voters and that caused some confusion. And in one instance it was a road construction crew that led to the confusion.
- This week, Ohio Governor John Kasich signed into law legislation that repealed a 2011 bill that created voting restrictions such as limited early voting. According to the Cincinnati Enquirer, the gambit, apparently the first time that Ohio legislators have ever effectively killed a referendum destined for voters, sets up a possible lawsuit over a question that could impact this fall’s election: May state legislators repeal a bill that has not yet taken effect and that is up for referendum?
- Whether it’s a shooting near a polling place or someone trying to bring a gun into a polling place, elections and firearms seem to bump heads on election day. In Wisconsin, an attorney for the Government Accountability Board recently wrote in a report that the states conceal carry permit contains a provision that allows organizers to ban concealed weapons at special events. Attorney Michael Haas concluded that elections are special events and that poll officials may order someone with a concealed weapon to leave.
- Personnel News: Former Connecticut Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz recently filed paperwork to run for the U.S. Senate. Following Tuesday’s primary, Oregon Secretary of State Kate Brown (D) will face Knute Buehler (R), an orthopedic surgeon from Bend, in the November general election for the state’s top elections job. Davidson County, Tenn. Administrator of Elections Albert Tieche was formally reprimanded this week for failing to open the polls on a Saturday during early voting for the presidential preference primary.
- Available Grant: The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) has issued a call for proposals for projects that will pursue accessible election technology research and development. ITIF will grant up to $750,000 for projects that focus on: solving specific accessibility problems identified in their design plans; solutions that can be integrated into existing voting systems; and/or focus on disabilities that received less focus in previous research, such as cognitive and age-related disabilities. Applicants may request funding up to $500,000 in total costs over a period of 6 to 18 months. ITIF expects to make between five to ten awards in the range of $20,000 to $200,000; however, ITIF may deviate from the planned number of awards and award amounts at its discretion.Preference will be given to applicants that are public or private institutions of higher education. Others, including businesses, independent researchers, non-profit organizations, and state and local government agencies, who are interested in applying for grant funds are encouraged to collaborate with a college or university as the primary recipient. Applicant organizations must be based in the United States.The deadline to submit a proposal is June 1, 2012.A direct link to the announcement (PDF) can be found here.
III. Research and Report Summaries
electionline provides brief summaries of recent research and reports in the field of election administration. Please e-mail links to research to email@example.com.
Performance Audit Bureau of Elections, Department of State – Michigan Office of the Auditor General, May 2012: An audit of the Michigan Bureau of Elections found the agency was moderately effective in providing reliable and secure information in the state’s voter list, the Qualified Voter File (QVF). The findings include:
- Forty-eight individuals with records of casting 52 ballots from Oct. 1, 2008, through June 9, 2011 while incarcerated. This was found by matching voter history files with department of corrections data using first name, last name, date of birth, and social security number.
- During this same time period, 1,375 individuals marked as with records of casting 1,381 ballots. 90 percent of these were cast as absentee ballots. This was found by matching voter history files with department of community health death records using first name, last name, middle name or initial, date of birth, and address.
- The Department of State responded by noting in every case where local records were available and it appeared that an incarcerated or deceased person voted, a clerical error was established as the actual reason. No cases of ineligible voters casting ballots were found.
Georgia: Voting Rights Act
Idaho: Primary election
Indiana: Vote centers
Iowa: Ease in voting
New Jersey: Trouble-free voting
New York: Voting machines
North Carolina: Polling places
North Dakota: Polling places
Virginia: Voter ID
Wisconsin: Poll workers
**Some sites may require registration.
V. Job Openings
electionlineWeekly publishes election administration job postings each week as a free service to our readers. To have your job listed in the newsletter, please send a copy of the job description, including a web link to firstname.lastname@example.org. Job postings must be received by 5pm on Wednesday in order to appear in the Thursday newsletter. Listings will run for three weeks or till the deadline listed in the posting.
Elections Supervisor, Marion County, Salem, Ore. — administers and directs all functions relating to elections including: Voter registration; candidacy filings; ballot preparation; voting; vote tally; jurisdictional mapping; petition management; publications; reporting statistics to the Secretary of State; community outreach; community education; customer service; and budgeting. This position reports to the Marion County Clerk and is responsible for the supervision of all employees within the Elections division, including regular clerical and technical personnel, temporary employees, and Election Board members. Supervisory duties include hiring; training; planning, assigning and reviewing work; conducting performance evaluations; and responding to disciplinary issues. Salary: $4,194.67 – $5,622.93 Monthly. For job announcement and online application, click here. Deadline: This recruitment will remain open until filled. Applicants are encouraged to apply as soon as possible as this recruitment may close at any time, without further notice.
Communications Manager, Election Initiatives, Pew Center on the States, Washington, D.C. – position offers a unique opportunity for an individual to contribute to exciting, high-profile initiatives. This position, based in Pew’s Washington, D.C. office, reports to the Pew Center on the States’ Senior Officer, Communications and is part of the staff of Pew’s communications department. The communications manager is responsible for developing and executing a comprehensive and robust communications program to increase the visibility and impact of Pew’s experts, research, initiatives and events with target audiences. This position will also work with other communications colleagues to plan and execute integrated strategies, campaigns and outreach and other duties as assigned. Requirements: Bachelor’s degree required including skills associated with completion of an undergraduate degree program in communications, journalism or related major, such as an understanding of media operations, news organizations and new media technologies. Graduate degree in public affairs, public policy or journalism desirable; at least eight years of direct experience in position with communications/PR responsibilities, with considerable experience as a media relations professional – knowledge of pitching, media strategies – required. Experience in public policy preferred; superior oral and written communications skills. Proven experience drafting media materials and other public documents including press releases, fact sheets, speeches and op-eds; ability to synthesize and summarize large amounts of information and to focus quickly on the essence of an issue, as well as to identify, understand and address different policy perspectives. Confident in presenting one’s own ideas and diplomatically persuading others as appropriate; and strong interest and/or experience in state policy required. For the complete job posting and information on how to apply, click here.
Information Technology Manager [GEMS], Lucas County Board of Elections, Ohio — Prepares current Election Database from Master GEMS Database; Prepares Audio Ballot for each Election; Prepares and programs Ballot on Demand for every Election; Assists in preparing ballot layout and design of ballot language in GEMS System for voting equipment; Through cross training assists in maintaining the DIMS-Net Voter Registration System including testing, applying new updates, communicating with the vendor concerning any issues and notifying the Director/Deputy Director of the same; With the assistance of the Election Technology Manager, conducts a full investigation of every Annexation, Reprecincting, Polling Location change, Local Option activity, an examination of the “Blue Book” and a confirmatory call to the Lucas County Prosecutor’s Office to determine the accuracy of the proposed Election Database before setting the GEMS Server for Election; Maintains a current inventory of all Board of Elections computer hardware and software to ensure proper licensing; Monitors computer backup of Board of Elections Systems; Assists the Election Technology Manager in developing office staff computer/education programs to enhance Board of Elections’ job performance; Develops periodic GEMS training classes for upper level management; Attends monthly Data Processing Board meetings on behalf of the Board of Elections; Develops/implements software requests, including, but not limited to, new development and/or enhancements of the GEMS System; Ensures that the Board of Elections website is current and updated in a timely manner and that it contains all statutorily mandated information; Meets all statutory deadlines regarding voter records; Evaluates office procedures involving information technology and designs and implements new procedures where needed; Produces all reports and data files pertaining to election results; Prepares and posts J-Results; Prepares and posts all Election results reports as required by the Ohio Secretary of State on Election night; Assesses new technologies for possible application; Maintains confidentiality and business integrity; Cross trains in DIMS-Net Voter Registration Software; Demonstrates the ability to maintain/administer DIMS-NeT program and to instruct staff on the proper usage of the same; Demonstrates the ability to construct a recount database in GEMS; Demonstrates the ability to successfully manually enter Election Data into the GEMS Server; Demonstrates the ability to successfully upload Election Memory Cards into the GEMS Server on Election night. Performs all other duties as assigned, by the Director/Deputy Director, the Board of Elections, and/or as prescribed by law. The applicant must be a registered Democrat in Ohio. Salary: $59,934.42 plus benefits. Application: Interested candidates should forward a cover letter, resume and references to:Lucas County Board of Elections; 1 Government Center Suite 300;Toledo Ohio 43604-2250; or email to: email@example.com
Information Technology Team Leader/Supervisor, Lucas County Board of Elections, Ohio —Assists in maintaining and administrating the DIMS-NeT Voter Registration System including testing, applying new updates, and communicating with the vendor concerning any issues and reporting those concerns/issues to the Director/Deputy Director; Also assists current Election Database from Master GEMS Database; Prepares Audio Ballot for each Election; Prepares and programs Ballot on Demand for every Election; Assists in preparing ballot layout and design of ballot language in GEMS System for voting equipment; Through cross training assists in maintaining the DIMS-Net Voter Registration System including testing, applying new updates, communicating with the vendor concerning any issues and notifying the IT Manager(s) of the same, conducts a full investigation of every Annexation, Reprecincting, Polling Location change, Local Option activity, an examination of the “Blue Book” and a confirmatory call to the Lucas County Prosecutor’s Office to determine the accuracy of the proposed Election Database before setting the GEMS Server for Election; Maintains a current inventory of all Board of Elections computer hardware and software to ensure proper licensing; Monitors computer backup of Board of Elections Systems; Assists the Election Technology Manager in developing office staff computer/education programs to enhance Board of Elections’ job performance; Develops periodic GEMS training classes for upper level management; Develops/implements software requests, including, but not limited to, new development and/or enhancements of the GEMS System; Ensures that the Board of Elections website is current and updated in a timely manner and that it contains all statutorily mandated information; Meets all statutory deadlines regarding voter records; Evaluates office procedures involving information technology and designs and implements new procedures where needed; Produces all reports and data files pertaining to election results; Prepares and posts J-Results; Prepares and posts all Election results reports as required by the Ohio Secretary of State on Election night; Assesses new technologies for possible application; Maintains confidentiality and business integrity. Must be able to successfully manually enter Election Data into the GEMS Server and demonstrates the ability to successfully upload Election Memory Cards into the GEMS Server on Election night. The applicant must be a registered Republican in Ohio. Salary: $39,999.96 plus benefits. Application: Interested candidates should forward a cover letter, resume and references to:Lucas County Board of Elections; 1 Government Center Suite 300;Toledo Ohio 43604-2250; or email to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Senior Associate, Elections Initiatives, Pew Center on the States, Washington, D.C. — Election Initiatives aim to foster an election system that achieves the highest standards of accuracy, convenience, efficiency and security by supporting research that examines the most pressing election problems and undertaking an array of pilot projects to address issues identified during elections. Pew’s research and experiments inform our approach to identifying efficient, cost-effective solutions – policies, practices and technologies – that address the key challenges facing the election process. Responsibilities: Draft reports, briefs, memos, and communication materials that are relevant to project goals and easily understood by the target audiences including the public, media, and policy makers as well as internal audiences. Edit and proof draft documents for accuracy; oversee Election Initiatives budget and spending priorities; assist project staff by developing and processing contracts, vendor agreements and subgrants to effectively achieve the Election Initiatives’ project goals; assist with overall strategic thinking of the Election Initiatives projects including the development and management of internal Board documents, annual plans, timelines, strategy papers, and bi-weekly team meetings; work to identify, develop, and draft new funding agreements and philanthropic partners; assist in partnership outreach and coordination for the Election Initiatives team, including contract implementation and management, and managing the project’s presence online; assist in the planning, development and smooth implementation of public forums and convenings. Requirements: Bachelor’s degree required; advanced degree preferred; 4 to 8 years of relevant professional experience, including demonstrated research, administrative and writing skills. Experience in public policy and election administration preferred; ability to write clearly and cogently for multiple audiences including policy makers, the media and public; ability to synthesize and summarize large amounts of information and to focus quickly on the essence of an issue, as well as to identify, understand and synthesize different policy perspectives; strong systems skills including Microsoft Office products required: word processing (Word); spreadsheets (Excel); presentations (PowerPoint); and workload management (Outlook); ability to work professionally and collegially within a creative, fast-paced corporate culture that emphasizes excellence and teamwork; demonstrated time- and project-management skills, including an ability to meet multiple deadlines by maintaining a high level of organization and attention to detail. Application: For more information and to apply, click here.