I. In Focus This Week
South Dakota secretary of state’s office steps in to help
McPherson County dealing with death of longtime auditor
By M. Mindy Moretti
The residents of rural McPherson County, S.D. — where there’s a square mile of land for every three people — knew Steve Serr in a variety of ways.
Some knew him as the voice behind the Eureka Lakeside Ballpark, some knew him through the church choirs he directed and some knew him through the Long Lake Community Band that he also directed.
But where all of McPherson’s 18-and over population knew Serr from was the county’s auditor office. For almost 30 years, Serr oversaw the elections in this county of about 2,500.
Serr died unexpectedly on Saturday May 5. He was 64.
Now, not only is this small community coming to grips with losing a lifelong friend, they are also moving forward and making plans for the June 5 primary election.
“Elections were Steve’s favorite part of the auditor’s position,” said Jenny Guthmiller, who was appointed auditor following Serr’s death. “He enjoyed preparing the ballots, testing the equipment, and traveling to the different polling sites the day of the election.”
As a result of Serr’s death, the McPherson County Commission invoked South Dakota Law 12-18-41 and requested that the secretary of state’s office conduct the June primary.
“Clearly, we are only asked to take a direct hand to ensure the election takes place in an emergency, as we have the utmost confidence in the competence and professionalism of South Dakota’s county auditors,” South Dakota Secretary of State Jason Gant said. “Unfortunately, this is one of those rare situations. Mr. Serr’s passing leaves a void, and we all must pitch in and ensure that nothing impedes our ability to conduct the election.”
Senate Bill 130 was signed into law in 2011, and states “If the person charged with the conduct of an election and the governing board determine that an election cannot be conducted, the person charged with the conduct of an election shall sign a declaration of emergency and deliver it to the Secretary of State prior to the election.”
“In the recent years preceding the introduction of this law, we had instances where a county courthouse burned down, a school literally exploded from natural gas, and a county who was supervising an unorganized county’s election, indicated they might refuse to continue to do so,” Gant explained.
He said that in no case were there any provisions on how – if an election were to be held on that day – to conduct the election.
“It was a glaring error, and could serve to prevent people from voting,” Gant said.
According to Gant, this is the first time that the law has been used since going into effect.
Guthmiller, who is new to elections, said the office is continuing on with its day –to-day duties and that other county offices and the secretary of state’s office have been helpful.
“The Secretary of State has been very helpful with the election. They have been out to our site twice and have helped me get everything prepared for election day,” Guthmiller said. “They have helped me with getting poll workers lined up, election school date and time set, and everything ready for the poll workers for election day.”
But more than the secretary of state’s office, more than her colleagues in the county, there is one person who has helped Guthmiller get ready for the June 5 primary more than any other.
“Everything in McPherson County is going very good with the election, and we are well prepared for election day,” said Guthmiller. “Steve was very well prepared for the election and he had a lot of the preparation work done for the election before he passed away.”
II. Election News This Week
- One really has to wonder what Florida Gov. Rick Scott has against the state’s election supervisors. After angering them by creating a new ranking system, it now turns out that Scott is directly responsible for the move to purge thousands of noncitizen voters from the state’s rolls even though supervisors deny that thousands are actually registered. Former Secretary of State Kurt Browning told The Associated Press this week that following a conversation between Scott and Browning last year, state election officials began working to identify noncitizen voters. “He says to me – well, people lie,” Browning recalled this week. “Yes, people do. But we have always had to err on the side of the voter.” The state’s initial list – compiled by comparing driver’s licenses with voter registration data – showed that as many as 182,000 registered voters were eligible to be in the country but ineligible to vote. “We were not confident enough about the information for this secretary to hang his hat on it,” Browning told the AP.Brian Burgess, a spokesman for Scott, did not have direct knowledge of the conversation between Browning and Scott. But he said the governor wants to make sure only eligible voters cast ballots.
- Montgomery County, Ala. is joining Oregon in the use of iPads to help the election process. At cost of approximately $60,000, the county’s Election Center purchased 60 iPads and software that will allow election workers to access the county’s voter information on site. While Oregon uses iPads to help disabled voters cast a ballot, Montgomery will use them as electronic poll books.
- Those creative folks in Riverside County, Calif. are at it again with a new talking baby commercial, only this time he’s urging voters in the Golden State to vote early. Kari Verjil, registrar, told KCET the idea for this particular campaign came out of a brainstorming session with county staff and readily acknowledges they drew inspiration from popular commercials. “You’ll notice voting material is often on the serious side. We thought, ‘Isn’t there something we can do in a short period of time to get people to maybe spend more time looking at our website?’ So we played off some of those popular commercials,” she told the station.
- Anyone who has spent 10 minutes in Washington, D.C. in August can tell you that it’s not the heat, it’s the humidity! Well now elections officials in Illinois can get behind that. Several counties experienced problems with their paper ballots during the March 20 primary election and this week state officials are blaming the weather. “It is possible that the problem ballots were just so close to the limits of the acceptable width tolerance that the additional humidity alone was enough to put them out of tolerance,” said a report by State Board of Elections officials who investigated the matter. According to The Times, climate figures for the day show humidity levels that day ranging from the mid 60s to the upper 70s. Macon County Clerk Stephen Bean told the paper officials are lucky the problems occurred during a low-voter-turnout election. “I think the humidity did a lot to it,” he said.
- Whenever my friends are stressing about their wedding day, I always remind them that a wedding is day, but a marriage is a lifetime. Well what if the wedding is election day? That wasn’t a problem for a couple in York, Maine on a recent Saturday. Following their wedding and reception the couple walked across the street to the high school to cast ballots in a local election before heading out on their honeymoon. “We always vote, so we figured why change anything?” Katrina Morris told the York County Coast Star.
- Personnel News: Robert Blazek, a former Litchfield, Conn. selectman will take over for Democratic Registrar of Voters Marie Wallace who is stepping down after six year. Brittany Alford Beauchamp has thrown her hat in the ring to run for Gulf County, Fla. supervisor of elections. Current Leavenworth County, Kan. Clerk Janet Klasinski has filed to seek re-election. The South Carolina State Ethics Commission has filed a complaint against Hardeeville election commission chairwoman Joyce Meeks alleging that she misused her position as chairwoman to influence the election. After 18 years serving the voters of Sheboygan County, Wis. longtime Clerk Julie Glancey announced that she will retire when her current term ends this year. Longtime Anchorage, Alaska Clerk Barbara Gruenstein submitted her resignation this week. Gruenstein had been under fire after the April 3 election that saw massive ballot shortages and is under investigation by an independent investigator.
- 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 firstname.lastname@example.org
HAVA at 10 – Conference at The Ohio State University’s Moritz College of Law, May 18, 2012: This conference commemorated the passage of the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) nearly ten years ago and examined how elections have changed since then. Draft papers were presented on voter registration, the impact of the size of a jurisdiction on election administration, and the election process in North Carolina.
The Canvass – National Conference of State Legislatures, May 2012: This month’s issue examines the challenges of recruiting poll workers and the rise in recall elections.
The Federal Lawyer: Constitutional Law and Elections – June 2012: This issue of Federal Lawyer, published by the Federal Bar Association, focuses on constitutional law and elections including articles on election law disputes in federal courts, the Voting Rights Act, and campaign finance.
California: Top-two primary
Colorado: Ballot bill
Michigan: Voter ID
Minnesota: Election judges
Mississippi: Voter ID
Montana: Primary election
New Mexico: Voter ID
New York: Bilingual ballots
Tennessee: Voter ID
Washington: Voting convenience
Wisconsin: Polling place
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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 email@example.com. 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: firstname.lastname@example.org
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: email@example.com
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.