I. In Focus This Week
Maine towns continue to count ballots by hand
State offer of free vote-counting equipment rejected by some
By M. Mindy Moretti
When you think of Maine you think of lobsters and blueberries and quaint, picturesque towns.
For years, ballot clerks in hundreds of these small towns have spent election night painstakingly hand-counting ballots. Depending on the size of the town and the size of the election, this process could last well into the morning hours.
In early 2012, there were approximately 500 towns throughout Maine still hand-counting ballots.
The Secretary of State’s Office, in an effort to speed up the process and get results to Augusta more quickly, offered the towns with more than 1,100 registered voters access to 225 vote tabulators (ES&S DS 200) free of charge under the state’s contract with the vendor.
“We are providing 225 tabulators free of charge,” explained Julie Flynn, deputy secretary of state. “The majority of the municipalities with more than 1,100 registered voters accepted the tabulators.”
Only Greenville, Litchfield and Winterport declined two offers from the state and continue to count their ballots by hand.
According to Flynn, there is nothing in state law mandating that the towns use vote tabulators.
When provided the opportunity for a free vote-counting machine in Greenville, Town Manager Gary Lamb was excited about the prospect.
He noted that having the machine count the ballots would eliminate human error and just as importantly, would speed up the process, especially for town employees who already had a long day.
“I had accepted the blasted thing and then got a call from Julie [Flynn, deputy secretary of state] saying that the board of selectmen had to sign off on it,” Lamb said. “I didn’t expect there to be any problems.”
But there were and by a 3-2 vote the board of selectmen chose to stick with the hand-counting tradition.
“I was shocked really, but I’ve only been here a couple of years,” Lamb said. “And I was disappointed too because it was a great offer.”
According to Clerk Roxanne Lizotte there are 1600 registered voters in Greenville and it can take anywhere from four to five hours to hand-count the ballots depending on the election.
“Cindy [Registrar of Voters Cynthia Hanscom] and myself, are disappointed the selectmen chose this way,” Lizotte said. “But, we work for them.”
Flynn said she heard a variety of reasons for why towns didn’t want to accept the vote tabulators.
“It was all over the place,” Flynn said.
She noted that in some towns, members of the board of selectmen — who made the final decisions about whether or not to accept the tabulators — work as ballot clerks on election night and therefore would lose the additional pay. In others it was the questions about reliability.
In Litchfield, Ryana Leibowitz, chairwoman of the board of selectmen told the local paper that one of the reasons for rejecting the machines was the loss of the social aspect of hand-counting ballots.
But Litchfield Clerk Doris Parlin, who supported accepting the vote tabulators wasn’t so sure about how social it really is.
“They [ballot clerks] come in about 10 minutes before the counting starts and once it’s started, there really isn’t much talking because everyone is counting.”
Parlin presented her board of selectmen with a list of pros and cons for accepting the machines. Among the pros she listed were saving time and money and accuracy. She couldn’t really recall, what, if anything, she put down on the cons list.
Parlin said she’s gotten a bit of feedback from Litchfield voters. Some, she said, thought the town was foolish to turn down the machines.
Neither Parlin nor Lamb anticipate the selectmen in their respective towns to change their minds any time soon and move to vote tabulators.
And even if they did, unfortunately for Litchfield, Greenville and Winterport, the state has allotted the remaining machines to smaller towns that wanted them.
For the smaller that towns that were not offered the free vote-tabulators, the state did allow those towns to piggyback on their contract with the vendor so they could get a lease rate the same as the states. Flynn said several of the towns took advantage of that offer.
One interesting wrinkle in all of this is proposed legislation that would mandate instant-runoff voting statewide races.
“That would make it really, really difficult to hand-count those votes on paper,” Flynn said.
II. Election News This Week
- According to Yahoo News, the Barack Obama administration is preparing to announce the Commission on Election Administration’s full roster some time in May. Steve Croley, deputy White House counsel said the committee will be a mix of individuals including elections officials at the state, county and local levels.
- Mississippi Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann is questioning the integrity of the municipal elections across the state. Absentee voting is underway and Hosemann said the number of absentee ballot requests is troubling. “It tells me that the integrity of the vote is at issue here,” Hosemann told WLOX. Hosemann cited one town where more than 20 percent of registered voters requested absentee ballots. He told the television station that the average number of absentee requests should be less than 5 percent statewide. The secretary of state’s office will be reviewing the absentee ballots.
- Late Friday, North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory (R) announced that he was replacing the entire state board of elections on May 1. Three Republicans and two Democrats will replace the current board that is made up of three Democrats and two Republicans. The change comes at a time when several controversial elections administration bills are making their way through the state Legislature and just as an investigation into campaign contributions to McCrory is getting underway. A spokesperson for McCrory told the Winston Salem Journal that the timing of the board changes had nothing to do with the campaign finance investigations. During its first session, the new board voted 3-2 along party lines to replace long-time Elections Director Gary Bartlett with Kim Westbrook Strach. Bartlett had served as elections director under the past three Democratic governors.
- The U.S. Department of Justice and the City of Falls Church, Va. reached an agreement freeing the Northern Virginia town from preclearance under the Voting Rights Act. General Registrar David Bjerke said the biggest change will allow the city to go through the redistricting process without first getting DOJ approval. “As of Thursday, we no longer have to ask the DOJ for preclearance,” Bjerke told the Falls Church Patch. “We still have to adhere to the rest of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, just not the preclearance.”
- Personnel News: Eric Marshallis leaving the Lawyer’s Committee to join State Voices as the senior manager of election administration and voting rights. Sye Broussard, an attorney from Houma has been appointed to serve on the Terrebonne Parish, La. elections board. Also in Louisiana Albert Simien Sr. has been appointed to the St. Landry Parish board of elections. Steven Hall has been appointed to the Coshocton County, Ohio board of elections. Richard Barron, currently the elections administrator for Williamson County, Texas has been tapped as the top pick for the Fulton County, Ga. election director position. Margaret “Peggy” Toomey, Haverhill, Mass. clerk is retiring after nine years on the job. The Rhea County, Tenn. election commission has requested the resignation of Administrator of Elections Theresa Snyder. Cory McCray is resigning from the Baltimore County, Md. board of elections to seek a seat in the House of Delegates.
- In Memoriam: Lawrence C. “Larry” Long, chairman of the Columbia County, Ga. board of elections died Monday. He was 79. Long died following triple-bypass heart surgery. Long had served on the three-member board for 12 years. In recent months, the board had grappled with replacing its long-time elections director who was forced to retire following brain surgery and proposed legislation on how the board members are appointed. “It’s a terrible thing for us,” Board member Neal Johnson told The Augusta Chronicle. “It seems like our board has really caught it this year. … I know he was excessively worried and concerned about the board, and I’m sure that didn’t help any. Nobody can say what the cause was – only the good Lord knows that.”
- Editor’s Note: May 3 is Larimer County, Colo. Clerk and Recorder Scott Doyle’s last day on the job. When people ask how/why I got involved in writing about elections, I often “blame” Scott. What seems like a million years ago, I was writing for County News at the National Association of Counties and I did a story about the birth of vote centers. Scott was a fantastic source and super patient with my millions of questions. Best of luck to Scott in whatever the next chapter of his life may bring.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Online Lookup Tools for Voters: 2012 – Pew Charitable Trusts, April 2013: A new infographic from the Pew Charitable Trusts outlines which online election tools were made available for voters in all 50 states and the District of Columbia in the 2012 election.
Early Voting in Florida in the Aftermath of House Bill 1355 – Michael C. Herron and Daniel A. Smith, April 15, 2013: New research examines the impact of Florida’s reduction of early voting days on the 2012 general election. The authors find the decrease in early voting days had a disproportionate impact on early voting participation among minority voters, individuals registered as Democrats, and those registered with no party affiliation.
IV. Legislative Update
Alabama: The House has approved a bill that would change the voter registration deadline from 10 days before an election to 17 days before an election. The bill exempts Jefferson County from the deadline change. The bill next moves to the Senate where similar legislation is already pending.
Delaware: Legislation was filed this week that would allow voters in the First State to register and vote on election day.
Hawaii: With the session coming to an end this week, legislators killed a bill that would have allowed for same-day voter registration in Hawaii.
New York: With several recent arrests of elected officials still in the headlines, A.6161 was introduced in an effort to make recalling officials easier. Under the legislation, the recall process could be initiated by gathering signatures of 20 percent of the voters who cast a ballot in the election for the official in question.
The New York General Assembly approved early voting this week. If signed into law, the bill would allow for early voting from the Thursday three weeks before the election through the Thursday directly preceeding the election.
Oklahoma: Gov. Mary Fallin signed Senate Bill 276 into law this week. The new law will allow an incapacitated voter to send a representative on their behalf to a county elections board to apply for an absentee ballot.
Oregon: A bill introduced this week would require the state to provide voting materials in multiple languages in counties where either 5 percent of the population or 10,000 people speak a primary language other than English.
South Carolina: Despite opposition from Democrats, the S.C. House approved a bill that would open early-voting centers in every county during a nine-day window before elections. Democrats, who are typically supportive of early voting, argued that this legislation would limit absentee voting. The Senate has previously approved legislation this session that will allow for early voting without altering absentee voting.
Texas: The House has tentatively approved legislation that would make it a Class A misdemeanor for someone to collect and deposit 10 or more mail-in ballots during an election. HB148 would prevent what some refer to as “ballot harvesting.”
V. Upcoming Events
Please email upcoming events — conferences, symposiums, seminars, webinars, etc. to email@example.com.
Nonprofit VOTE Voter Registration Modernization Webinar — Over the last few years, a number of states have enacted laws and policies to update their voter registration systems–including innovations online registration, Election Day Registration, and portable registration. This move toward voter registration modernization, supported by both voters and elections officials, has gained momentum and a number of states have already proposed new legislation in 2013. Join us for a review of voter registration updates and other important voter registration reforms.Featured Presenter: Myrna Pérez is Senior Counsel at the Brennan Center for Justice. Where: Online. To register, click here. When: Thursday May 16 at 2 p.m. Eastern.
IACREOT 42nd Annual Conference and Trade Show — The excitement is building; the crowds are restless; the speakers are at the gate raring to go! And, we’re off to the IACREOT Annual Conference in beautiful Louisville, KY, home of world famous Churchill Downs. IACREOT has a stimulating, educational and yes, exciting conference planned for you. Timely seminars conducted by experts in your field, professional classes on best practices and nationally known speakers will bring you the latest developments in your division. Scroll through the Call to Conference for an in-depth calendar of classes, activities and speakers. Add a world-class Trade Show with vendors who conduct business in a variety of counties, parishes, states and countries and can demonstrate their products in front of your eyes. Mix an entertaining venue and you have all the ingredients for a successful conference. We just need you! So pack your bags, bring your Derby bonnet and let’s go! There also will be pre and post conference public administration courses taught by the faculty of George Washington University, our partner in the Certified Public Leadership Program. Where: Louisville, Ky. When: June 28-July 2, 2013.
Alabama: Voter registration
Arizona: Early voting
Missouri: Voter ID
New York: Election watchdog
Ohio: Student voters
Pennsylvania: Online voter registration
Tennessee: Davidson County
Virginia: Polling places
Washington: Primary elections
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Job postings must be received by 5pm on Wednesday in order to appear in the Thursday newsletter. Listings will run for three weeks or till the deadline listed in the posting.
Director, Federal Voting Assistance Program, Arlington, Va. — establishes, develops, and directs the DoD Voting Assistance Program and provides policy guidance to the DoD components and partners with the components to provide training and facilitate their voting assistance programs; develops and prescribes the official Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot, including secrecy envelopes and mailing envelops for such ballot, for the use of elections for Federal Office by overseas voters; serves as the liaison to State Chief Election Officers and works closely with their professional organizations, such as the National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS) and the National Association of State Election Directors (NASED), to consult and ensure that officials are aware of the requirements of UOCAVA. The Director also works closely with professional election organizations, such as the Election Center, and is responsible for building strong, working relationships with these organizations and their individual members; implements and administers the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 to ensure Congressional intent and compliance with the specific provisions are carried out to enable all citizens to register at armed forced recruitment offices; deals with officials in foreign governments and at all levels of federal, state, and local governments, both elected and appointed, as well as executives in major U.S. and multi-national corporations, executives of political parties, candidates for elected offices, the general public, and Service Members, their families, and all U.S. citizens residing outside of the U.S. The political and operational sensitivities in dealing with these different and diverse constituencies vary according to the nature and complexity of the subject matter. Salary: $119,554-$179,700. Deadline: May 15, 2013. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Elections Specialist—GIS Assignment, Pierce County, Wash. — responsible for planning, organizing, directing, and evaluating the activities of an assigned election area. This is a working specialist position. Work involves planning, distributing, assigning work to accommodate work fluctuations and changes; monitoring work compiled taking corrective action to maintain acceptable quality standards; and training extra; hires and volunteers assigned to work in their particular areas. Specialist perform day-to-day assignments specific to their assigned area. Activities are governed by established policies, rules, and procedures that must be understood and interpreted in the specialty area assigned. Employees perform work in all election areas as assigned. Qualifications: Four or more years of progressive responsible office/clerical experience which include a minimum of two years experience in elections. A minimum of two years GIS experience with ESRI ArcGIS and intermediate to advanced skill level in Microsoft Office products especially Excel and Access is required. Incumbents in this job class require strong computer and customer service skills including proficiency using Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint. Previous work experience in a lead or supervisory capacity is desired. Additional education or related experience may substitute for the recruiting requirements. A valid Washington State driver’s license may be required when travel is required of the position. Union membership is required within 30 days of employment. Special Note: May require certification as an Election Administrator under the Washington State Administrative Code (WAC) and Revised Code of Washington (RCW) regulations. Employees in this class may be limited as to vacation during the primary and general election season and will be required to work extended hours or alternate hours during an election cycle. Salary: $26.16 to $33.09 per hour. Deadline: May 3, 2013. Application: For the complete job posting and to apply, click here.
Project/Election Coordinator, Burleigh County, ND —under the supervision of the County Auditor/Treasurer, performs a wide variety of professional level administrative duties and responsibilities that normally include responsibility for management of programs and projects. Coordinate the activities associated with election functions including recruitment and training of election workers, absentee voting, early voting, coordination and setting up of polling locations. Perform duties requiring analytical and administrative skills necessary to provide professional-level coordination, interpretation, communication, and research in completing tasks. Plan and coordinate activities related to new technologies and their application in departmental operations. Maintain accurate records, with respect to real estate tax assessments and collections, and prepare necessary documentation to create real property assessment rolls, tax lists and property tax statements. Assist department head in supervisory role, identify and analyze problems that require action and recommend solutions. Minimum Qualifications:Requires five (5) years of work experience in high-level administrative support duties that includes participation in the development, or modification of major projects or procedures. College-level coursework in computer science, business or public administration, or related field with coursework reflecting the required abilities may be substituted for the required work experience on a year-for-year basis. Requires knowledge of administrative processes, procedures, or methods, and work experience with considerable knowledge, skill, and ability in duties similar in type and complexity to those performed at this level. Must be proficient with word processing, and spreadsheet software, such as MSWord and Excel and have extensive knowledge of mainframe and microprocessor computer systems. Starting Salary: $45,760 – $51,459. Deadline: May 15, 2013. For the complete job listing and to apply,click here.
Registrar, Prince William Co., Va. — provides leadership and management in the Office of Elections in Prince William County, Virginia. Prince William County has a diverse and growing population (currently 413,500) and is located in Northern Virginia. There are over 250,000 registered to vote in the County. In 2012, Prince William County was “bailed out” of the U.S. Department of Justice Preclearance requirement, after demonstrating decades of fair electoral practices. The General Registrar’s responsibilities are directed by the Code of Virginia as it relates to registering eligible voters and maintaining accurate lists. Additionally, the General Registrar is responsible to the Electoral Board in the conduct of fair and accurate elections. The General Registrar must maintain impartiality in the discharge of duties. The General Registrar is the Department Head for the Office of Elections, and is expected to interact with other agencies and the general public. As Department Head, the General Registrar must manage an office of 10 employees, manage hundreds of volunteer Election Officers on Election Days, and manage the office budget of approximately $2 million. Education and Experience: Education and experience equivalent to a Bachelor’s Degree in Public/Business Administration or a related field; 3-5 years of progressively responsible work in a registrar’s office to include management and budgeting experience; 2-3 years of experience at a supervisory level. Relevant experience in election law/administration, voter registration, as an election officer, or political experience may be considered toward required experience. Deadline: May 25, 2013. For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.