I. In Focus This Week
Fla. election officials frustrated with reform law’s implementation
Year after signed into law supervisors still sorting out impacts
By M. Mindy Moretti
In 2011 Florida Gov. Rick Scott signed into law sweeping election reform legislation that limits third-party registrations, decreases the length of time for early voting and creates more reasons to cast a provisional ballot.
At the time the governor signed the legislation into law, many supervisors of elections throughout the Sunshine State were concerned about the impacts the new law could have not only on their offices, but also on voters.
Now, just about a year later, some of those concerns, in the eyes of the people responsible for administering elections, seem justified.
“Several of the changes were very unpopular with supervisors of elections, but at the end of the day, barring court intervention, we must implement any new laws passed by the legislature and signed by the governor,” said David Stafford, supervisor of elections for Escambia County.
Stafford is also the current president of the Florida State Association of Supervisors of Elections.
“That said, as an association we will continue to advocate for changes to Florida’s statutes, including provisions contained in HB 1355, to improve the administration of elections in our state,” Stafford said.
Elections supervisors across the state noted that the new law has involved changing training manuals, re-training volunteers and more administrative work, on top of an already busy presidential election year.
“Any time we are faced with significant statutory changes, there is a period of adjustment in implementing the new provisions. This can be particularly challenging in a presidential election year,” Stafford said. “One of the biggest challenges was that most of the law went into effect upon enactment, unlike previous years when there was a delay between enactment and the effective date.”
The fiscal impacts of the law have varied from county to county and provision to provision. In Lee County, Supervisor of Elections Sharon Harrington said there has been an increase in costs because of the increased use of provisional ballots. There have also been other cost increases.
“One of our biggest expenses impacted by the new laws would be our poll worker training manuals,” Harrington said. “Every time they change the law, the instructions need to be rewritten and then the manuals revised and reprinted.”
Perhaps one of the most public impacts of the new law has been on third-party registration drives. Many organizations, including the League of Women Voters have refused to hold registration drives.
And there have been several high profile incidents of individuals running afoul of the law, specifically several high school teachers, including one in Volusia County, who have been threatened with fines because they have helped students register to vote.
“I have refused so far to attempt to bypass a bad law,” said Ann McFall, supervisor of elections for Volusia County. “I know there are SOE’s that swear in teachers and school administrators to be deputy SOE’s, but that seems as if the bad law is being circumvented.”
While the new law, without a doubt, has caused some headaches for election supervisors in Florida, there has been a silver lining for at least one of the supervisors.
“Many counties already had great voter outreach programs and have been working in their communities for many years,” said Vicky Oakes elections supervisor of St. Johns County. “This affected us mainly because we did not have an active voter outreach program. With the change in the law it became a great opportunity for us to begin getting out into our communities.”
Since the implementation of the law, Oakes has been sending out elections staff and volunteers to staff voter registration drives across the county
“I could staff the drives without my regular staff, but I feel it works best to have a team of an employee and a volunteer,” Oakes said. “Great team building. We get to know our volunteers and share more about the work we do. Time well spent together.”
The Florida League of Women Voters, Rock the Vote and several other voting rights groups have filed a lawsuit challenging the law. In addition, the U.S. Department of Justice announced that it is seeking a trial for its challenge to the law. With August local primaries and of course the November general election looming, the status of the law and lawsuits has supervisors concerned about voters.
“It’s not so much that I would be concerned about my office if we were required to make changes again before November. We’re used to it and pretty much roll with the punches,” said Harrington. “However, I would be extremely concerned for our voters. Constant changes in the electoral process will only serve to increase confusion for our voters, which I truly believe leads to the disenfranchisement of many citizens.”
As Stafford pointed out, “uncertainty is the enemy of election administration.”
II. Election News This Week
- This week the Oklahoma Supreme Court invalidated the April 3 special election. The seat will remain vacant until next year. The court unanimously found that it is impossible to determine who won the contest. “Therefore, the certificate of election issued by the Tulsa County Election Board is invalidated and the election is void,” Chief Justice Steven Taylor wrote in the court’s order. State Election Secretary Paul Ziriax told the Tulsa World there isn’t time for another special election, so the seat will remain vacant until after the Nov. 6 general election.
- A coalition of voting rights groups filed suit in the Commonwealth Court seeking to halt Pennsylvania’s new voter ID law. According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the lawsuit will name about 10 people who lack the documents needed to obtain an acceptable form of ID. The paper said the suit will seek an injunction against the law while the case is being decided.
- Minnehaha County is poised to become the next South Dakota county to employ the use of vote centers. “The great savings will be in the number of buildings we have to lease or pay rent to and the number of people we’ll have to pay to go manage those voting places inside these buildings,” Auditor Bob Litz told county commissioners.According to KELO, Litz says instead of the usual 75 precincts, there would only be 33 to 35 voting centers.
- It’s one thing to impersonate another voter in an attempt to vote, but it’s another thing entirely to impersonate an election official in order to potentially commit voter fraud. But that’s exactly what Laura Best of Gallivants Ferry, S.C. did in November 2011 during vacated Atlantic Beach election. Best entered a polling place claiming to be an observer sent from the Attorney General’s office. Police charged Best with impersonating a state or local official.
- Those crafty folks in Riverside County, Calif. are at it again and this time the subject of their YouTube video is an explanation of the state’s new top-two primary system. Unlike last time when the county used a baby to explain how simple voting by mail is, this time Abraham Lincoln and George Washington explain the new primary system.
- Personnel News: Debbie M. Reiter was appointed to serve as the Geauga County elections board deputy director. Johnsons County, Iowa Auditor Tom Slockett is under investigation by state ethics officials. Slockett is accused of using public time and money to aide his re-election bid. This week embattled Waukesha County, Wis. Clerk Kathy Nickolaus announced that she will not seek re-election. J.P. “Rick” Carney has resigned as chairman of the DuPage County, Ill. board of election commissioners after most of the county board called for his resignation following an independent contractors report questioning the board’s spending. After more than 30 years serving the voters of Crawford County, Ohio Joan Dilley has retired from the county elections board. She became deputy director in 1978, director in 1990 and in 2000 she joined the board.
- Get Well: Montgomery County, Ohio BOE Directory Betty Smith is on indefinite leave for medical reasons. Smith had only recently become director after serving as deputy director for six years. Electionline wishes Betty a speedy recovery.
- In Memoriam: Richard “Rick” Beebe, a candidate for supervisor of elections in Highlands County, Fla. died this week. He was 52. According to local media reports, Beebe apparently suffered a heart attack or stroke during a candidates’ forum. Beebe is survived by his wife Lucy, three children and five grandchildren.
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.
An Integrated Approach to Elections and Conflict – Lisa Kammerud, International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES), April 2012: IFES examines the links between election cycles and cycles of conflict and recommends election management strategies to cut down on election-related violence.
Alaska: Ballot issues
Arizona: Election process
Illinois: Voter ID
Missouri: Voter ID
New York: Primaries
Ohio: Election reform law
South Carolina: Atlantic Beach election
Virginia: Voter ID
Washington: Election day
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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.
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.