I. In Focus This Week
San Francisco’s voter guide is one for the books
At 500+ pages, guide will cost almost $2M to produce and send
By M. Mindy Moretti
It certainly doesn’t stack up to David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest, Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged or Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace, but this fall’s voter’s guide in San Francisco will certainly help prop open just about any door.
The voter’s guide for the 2013 fall election will clock in at more than 500 pages.
The phonebook-sized guide is courtesy of a city law that requires the full text of a referendum, as it was presented during the signature drive, to appear in the voter’s guide.
The legal text for the referendum — regarding the height of a condo project — includes numerous pages of text from the city’s planning commission, board of supervisor meeting testimony and environmental studies.
“If printed with the referendum, this would be San Francisco’s largest voter guide,” explained Jon Arntz, director of elections for San Francisco.
At the heart of all of this, as is the case with most conflicts, is politics.
When the petition circulators working to collect signatures for the referendum, they were required to carry around a 550-page booklet explaining the project and referendum.
The board of supervisors could have voted the slim down the booklet, which included about 500 pages of an environmental impact statement, but the amendment was not approved.
One of the supervisors opposing the amendment has now proposed an ordinance that would decrease the size of this voter’s guide and future voter guides. The proposed ordinance would limit legal text for proposed referendums to 20 pages with the rest appearing online.
Board of Supervisors President David Chiu — who supports the referendum against the development — has introduced a competing proposal that would limit legal text for proposed referendums to 100 pages.
While the politicians bicker, Arntz is moving ahead with likely possibility that the voter’s guide, will indeed, be more than 500 pages long.
Unfortunately, there isn’t a whole lot that can be done to decrease the size of the guide.
“We already use newsprint for our voter guides so the paper weight cannot be reduced. If anything we would try to expand the margins to increase the amount of content per page,” Arntz said. “Yet, the referendum is comprised mostly of documents from the city’s Planning Commission which means that squeezing more content on a page is mostly not possible.”
It will cost the city approximately $1.7 million to produce and mail. That’s $700,000 more than a typical voter’s guide. Arntz said the elections office budget does not currently include the additional money and that they will most likely have to seek a supplemental appropriation from the city’s general fund.
Although this year’s guide could be the largest ever, the guides aren’t typically all that small either.
“This is an issue we face with many elections since our voter guides tend to be large,” Arntz said. “Still, we meet with the USPS [U.S. Postal Service] representatives before each election and explain to them what they can expect. We will also do outreach to the voters indicating that their voter guides were mailed.”
In all of this, there are two saving graces: 1) While all the information must be printed in the voter’s guide, it does not need to be on the ballot on election day; and 2) voters have the option of opting out of receiving the guide.
II. Election News This Week
- This week, President Barack Obama announced the members of the Presidential Commission on Election Administration. “As I said in my State of the Union Address, when any American, no matter where they live or what their party, is denied that right [to vote] simply because too many obstacles stand in their way, we are betraying our ideals,” Obama said in a statement. “We have an obligation to ensure that all eligible voters have the opportunity to cast their ballots without unwarranted obstructions or unnecessary delay.” Anyone who has been around elections for five minutes will recognize some of the names: Former Kentucky Secretary of State Trey Grayson, Larry Lomax, Clark County, Nev. registrar, Tammy Patrick, federal compliance officer for Maricopa County, Ariz. elections department, Christopher Thomas, Michigan’s director of elections and Ann McGeehan, former director of elections for Texas. Congratulations everyone and good luck!
- Interestingly enough, the day before the president announced the members of his commission, the Pew Research Center released an analysis of several of its polls that found there was no racial gap in reports of voting difficulties.
- A review by The Washington Times found that as many as 13,000 Maryland residents who are registered to vote in Prince George’s County remain registered to vote in the District of Columbia and some of those people, or someone using their names has been casting ballots in District elections. The D.C. Board of Elections has conducted a preliminary review and confirmed that at least three instances of voter fraud occurred.
- The Simpson Voting House in Derry Township, Pa. was open this week for the Commonwealth’s spring elections. The Voting House, which was first used as a polling place in 1891, had not been used for the past 10 years because it did not meet state and federal access guidelines. Following the relocation of the building and some upgrades, it welcomed its first voter on Tuesday.
- Personnel News: Erie County, Pa. Supervisor of Elections Sharon Drayer oversaw her last election this week after 30 years in the elections department and 20 as supervisor.
- Available Grant: The Federal Voting Assistance Program strives to be a data-driven organization. We design and redesign our program based upon what we learn from our surveys and other data. The 2011 EASE grant program was created to better understand the different challenges that military and overseas voters face at every step of the voting process. The EASE grant program funded 35 programs that included online ballot delivery, online voter registration, automated ballot duplication, online ballot requests and online ballot tracking. With the research that we receive from this program, FVAP will be able to focus efforts on the necessary portion of the voting process to ensure that military and overseas voters are more successful. As we move forward to the next grant program, FVAP will narrow the scope of its research and address two of the most critical aspects of the electoral process for military and overseas voters: ballot transit time and voter confusion. The Effective Absentee System for Elections 2 grant program will focus in two specific areas: the development of online ballot delivery tools and the establishment of single points of contact (single POC) in State election offices. It is vital that we have a significant statistical sample in order to validate the effectiveness of these programs. In order for this to occur, we want to focus on statewide solutions in areas that have a great number of voters covered by UOCAVA. Closing Date: June 24. For the complete posting and to apply, click 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Differences among Latina/o, Asian American, and White Online Registrants in California – By Lisa García Bedolla and Verónica N. Vélez, University of California, Berkeley, March 2013: Recent research focusing on Alameda and San Diego Counties, California found that majorities of those who used the state’s online voter registration system were from low and middle income parts of each county. While there was some concern the system would be used more by more affluent voters when it was implemented, lower-income Latino and white voters in both counties took advantage of the system prior to last November’s election.
What Do I Need to Vote? Bias in Information Provision by Local Election Officials – Julie K. Faller, Noah L. Nathan and Ariel R. White, Department of Government, Harvard University, preliminary draft, May 10, 2013: Research undertaken before the November 2012 election found that emails sent to local election officials with questions about voter ID were less likely to get a response if they came from people with Latino-sounding names. Additionally those with Latino-sounding names who did receive responses were less likely to receive accurate information.
IV. Legislative Update
California: By a 30-7 vote, the Senate approved SB 362. The bill would allow the governor and secretary of state to establish alternative means for emergency personnel responding to emergencies outside of California to obtain their absentee ballots.
Florida: Gov. Rick Scott (R) signed into law sweeping election reform legislation designed to eliminate the lines and problems some voters saw on Election Day 2012 and rolling back many of the laws put in place in 2012.
Illinois: The Illinois House, by a vote of 95-22, has approved legislation that will allow 17-year-olds, who will be 18 by the time of the general election, to cast a ballot in the primary. The Senate approved the bill 43-9; it next heads to Gov. Pat Quinn.
Maine: By a vote of 90-50, the House approved a measure that would allow residents to cast an early ballot rather than just absentee balloting. During future votes, LD156 must receive at least two-thirds support in future House and Senate votes in order to put it on the ballot before voters.
Minnesota: The Legislature sent Gov. Mark Dayton a bill that will allow no-excuse absentee voting.
Nevada: A bill that would extend voter registration through the early voting period cleared a Senate committee late last week. The voter registration deadline under AB440 would be the Friday before an election.
Ohio: The Senate has removed a provision in the House-approved budget that would have required state colleges and universities to provide in-state tuition to any students registered to vote in Ohio.
Texas: On Tuesday, the Senate approved a bill that would allow members of the military serving abroad to cast their ballot electronically. Under House Bill 1129, a county would be chosen to serve as a pilot program until September 2015 and members of the military working in combat zones who are registered to vote in the chosen county will be able to cast their ballots using secure email addresses.
Wisconsin: If approved — according to The Capital Times it seems to be on the fast track — Assembly Bill 202 would shrink the distance at which volunteer elections observers are allowed to stand from the registration and voter check-in tables. Currently observers must stand 6 to 12 feet away. Under the proposed legislation, that distance is down to five feet.
Please email upcoming event — conferences, symposiums, seminars, webinars, etc. to email@example.com.
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. Registration.
Maryland: Montgomery County
Minnesota: Instant-runoff voting
Mississippi: Voter ID
New Jersey: Early voting
New York: New York City
North Carolina: Voter ID
Pennsylvania: Ballot photos
Texas: Voting Rights Act
Virginia: Election fatigue
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.
Application Specialist, Pitkin County, Colo. — under direction of the Elections Manager, incumbent is responsible for performing complex, technical and specialized tasks associated with election management hardware and software applications. Role requires a varying degree of process management and supervisory support of election judges, and election board members. Duties include: Implements the setup, design, programming, proofing, ordering and inventory control of election ballots. Troubleshoots basic hardware, software, application and connectivity issues; assists the public in understanding the necessary flow of procedures to accomplish citizens requested goal; makes corrections, updates and maintains accuracy and compliance of paper and computer records with or without the aid of a specialized computer system; reviews and proofreads material and verifies information for accuracy and completeness, make corrections as necessary; works closely with the Secretary of State’s office (SOS) and ensures compliance of election programs and elections laws/procedures with SOS requirements; works with the user community to resolve technical problems and application performance issues; maintains the Elections office website and various other media, and assists elections staff with technical requests. Qualifications: Bachelor’s degree in related field; and, two (2) years experience working with a variety of software and hardware systems, preferably including election systems; and, four (4) years of progressively responsible work experience related to administrative management/supervisory support; or, any equivalent combination of education, training and experience which provides the required knowledge, skills, and abilities to perform the essential functions of the job; experience with job related tasks requiring adherence to and application of federal, state and local laws and regulations preferred; previous experience or course work in public administration, or related area as appropriate to the position preferred. Salary: $21.63-$25.06. Deadline: Open until filled. Application: For the complete job posting and to apply, click here.
GIS Specialist, Montgomery County, Md. — employee will report to the Operations Manager of the Board of Elections. Position will be responsible for using GIS software for planning purposes and for administering precinct boundary changes, polling place relocations, and the decennial redistricting process. Duties will include: Recommend and administer the placement of voting sites; prepare maps and detailed reports of statistical data using graphic presentations; interpret data to make recommendations based on population and voting turnout trends for the allocation of voting equipment, personnel and other resources to meet evolving county needs; prepare and administer contracts for the use of voting locations; conduct site inspections to assess compliance with legal and regulatory requirements; produce precinct and county maps as required; use computer assisted design technology to prepare site plans for the layout of voting locations; provide proofing and data analysis to ensure the accuracy of voter records, ballots and other information; make presentations to government officials and citizen organizations and answer public inquiries. The employee must have experience using ArcGIS or similar software to produce maps that illustrate complex data, have the ability to organize and maintain files and database entries, have the ability to interpret laws, regulations and agency needs relating to appropriate polling facilities, and have skill in preparing and presenting accurate and effective reports, maps and charts. Qualifications include: two (2) years of professional experience in an elections, planning, public policy, government or information technology field. Bachelor’s degree. Experience with using ArcGIS or similar software to produce maps that illustrate complex data; experience organizing and maintaining files and performing quality control (such as verifying data, proofreading and copy editing); experience interpreting laws, regulations and agency or business needs and identifying and implementing solutions/solving problems; experience providing oral communication (such as giving presentations, training, etc.) and written communication (such as preparing reports, maps and charts). Salary: $47,028-$77,756. Deadline: June 4, 2013. Application: For a complete job description and to apply, click here (and search keyword ‘GIS’ or job listing number IRC1103).
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. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.