I. In Focus This Week
Vote centers turn 10
A decade later, jurisdictions slowly joining movement
By M. Mindy Moretti
Working with the county’s elections department and practices already in place for early voting, Doyle and company created the concept of vote centers to use in all elections.
Now, although Doyle has recently retired, his idea of consolidating voting precincts into a small number of come-one, come-all polling places is spreading to more and more counties across the country.
“The success of vote centers is largely due to their attractiveness to voters who might not otherwise vote,” said Robert Stein, political science professor at Rice University who has studied vote centers. “They afford inexperienced votes many of the benefits in-person early voting offers, in those states that allow voters to ballot before Election Day. “
Counties making the move to vote centers cite a variety of reasons for making the switch, but the biggest factor of all seems to be cost savings.
“Election Day voting is becoming very costly with fewer voters balloting on Election Day at a large number of very costly Election Day voting places,” Stein said. “States will seek ways to reduce the cost of Election Day voting places and one way is to consolidate Election Day voting places to a smaller number of larger voting places, allowing voters to vote at any location.”
Indiana was one of the first states to embrace the idea with five counties participating in a pilot program from 2007-2010. Since the completion of the pilot program — which was deemed a success — the Indiana General Assembly approved legislation in 2011 allowing all counties in the state to switch to vote centers if they wish.
In the months since the 2012 election season has come to an end, several counties throughout the Hoosier State have taken the steps necessary to make the switch to vote centers.
“We currently have seven vote center counties in Indiana and one more moving to the vote center option in 2014,” explained Valarie Kroger, communications director for Indiana Secretary of State Connie Lawson. “There are several more that are currently looking at the option.”
Kroger said she wasn’t sure how many counties would ultimately move to vote centers, but quite a few are exploring the option.
“Secretary of State Connie Lawson hosted 13 regional vote center meetings around the state to provide counties with information on the vote center model,” Kroger said. “Several counties are cash-strapped and the vote center model could provide a way to reduce local election costs.”
One of the counties moving to vote centers in 2014 is Floyd County. The county spent a year studying the concept and in October of 2012, the county council voted to make the move.
“While a benefit of using vote centers is to control costs, the biggest benefit will be voter convenience,” Linda Moeller, Floyd County clerk said in a statement. “We’ve involved the public from the beginning and compiled a study group that represented a cross-section of our voters and constituents – ensuring we had public buy-in and support.”
Of course, the switch to vote centers has not always been easy. Both Denver in 2006 and Galveston County, Texas in 2012 experienced numerous problems. But despite the problems, counties are moving forward.
Currently there are 11 Texas counties using vote centers. Five of those counties had used vote centers for several election cycles and six used them for the first time in November 2012.
“Some of our counties, such as Lubbock County, have been using vote centers for several election cycles,” said Keith Ingram, director, Elections Division, Texas Secretary of State’s Office, “Dorothy Kennedy the election administrator in Lubbock has taken on the role of mentor to election officials in newly participating counties so that they have a much greater chance of succeeding. This cross-pollination of knowledge and best practices has been quite beneficial to Texas’ overall experience with the program. “
According to Ingram, the Legislature has limited participation outside of the counties already deemed successful to six larger counties (those with more than 100,000 population) and four smaller counties. The Legislature also limits the counties participation to whether or not they use DRE voting equipment and the capacity to use e-pollbooks.
It’s unclear, at this time, if the Legislature would seek to expand the number of counties using vote centers.
Back in Colorado, where this whole thing got started, the Legislature recently approved a package of election-reform legislation — and Gov. John Hickenlooper signed into law — that would not only require local elections officials to mail a ballot to every voter, but would also require counties to establish a minimum number of vote centers for those who wish to cast their ballot on election day instead of via mail.
Is there a partisan effect on moving to vote centers? Approval by Indiana’s largely Republican General Assembly and Colorado’s Democratic-controlled General Assembly would believe one to think not, but Stein noted politics affects most everything.
“Most of the reluctance to adopt Election Day vote centers for all elections stems from partisan candidates fearing that they will be disadvantaged by the adoption of new election procedures. This is true for both Democrats and Republicans,” Stein said. “Largely the problem is the uncertainty associated with adopting a change and fear among Democrats that their base not be deterred from voting and Republicans who fear that Democratic voter turnout will be benefited from the adoption of vote centers.”
Stein said that the research to date (which is limited) does not identify any partisan advantage to the adoption of vote centers.
II. Election News This Week
- The Minneapolis City Council has made changes to how the city counts ranked-choice votes. Approved changes include allowing election night machine counts to be used in cases where the winner can be determined from a count of only the first-choice votes. Hand counts will now only occur in races in which a winner is not apparent from only the first choice votes. Voters will still only be allowed to choose their top three candidates and not top five as some councilmembers had suggested. The council had feared making more significant changes because councilmembers are candidates for office.
- An inquiry for more information has put the July elections in Macon-Bibb County on hold. According to county attorney Virgil Adams, a letter from the U.S. Department of Justice received by his office will make it all but impossible to prepare for the elections in a timely manner. Election changes in Macon-Bibb are subject to preclearance from DOJ and the department has yet to approve the move to the newly merged Macon-Bibb nonpartisan elections. “I don’t see how we can respond in a manner that’s going to be within the time constraints the board of elections has,” Adams told The Telegraph. The county election board will meet on Friday to officially cancel the July 16 election. As for when the election will be rescheduled, Jeanetta Watson, elections supervisor, told the paper that remains unclear. “The ball is in DOJ’s hands,” Watson said. Adams told the paper that he anticipates the election being delayed until November.
- Virginia Gov. Robert McDonnell (R) announced this week that he will waive the waiting period and automatically restore the voting rights for non-violent felons who have completed the terms of their sentence. “When someone commits a crime, they must be justly punished,” McDonnell said when announcing the waiver. “However, once these individuals have served their time and fully paid for the offenses they committed, they should be afforded a clear and fair opportunity to resume their lives as productive members of our society.”
- Vote Fraud: The Alaska elections division has forwarded a case to the state’s Department of Law for investigation of voter fraud. According to an investigation by the elections division, it appears that a voter registered in Alaska and another state voted in both states in 2012. “At this point in time, it appears to be the same person,” Gail Fenumiai, elections division director told The Associated Press. “Signatures look the same. Other information matches. And I believe it’s the same person.” She declined to identify the other state. Fenumiai said if the charges are substantiated, this would be the first case she has encountered in 15 years of working in elections. In Ohio, the secretary of state’s office and county boards of election referred 135 cases — out of 5.36 million votes cast — of potential voter fraud to county and state authorities for further investigation. “Voter fraud does exist, but it’s not an epidemic,” Husted upon releasing his report. Also in Ohio, a poll worker accused of voting illegally for at least three elections pled no contest to four of the eight charges against her.
- Personnel News: Erin Burridge, Craven County, N.C. elections director since 2009 has submitted her resignation, effective June 18. Paul Luther was recently elected to serve as the town clerk for Bernardston, Mass. David Ratliff, has resigned from the Athens County, Ohio board of elections. Nicole Williams, Clatsop County, Ore. clerk announced her resignation effective June 28. Joseph Gloria has been named to replace Larry Lomax as the top elections official in Clark County, Nev. Gloria has worked in the county elections department for 18 years including as the top administrator responsible for election day logistics. Kay Eastes has been appointed to serve as the temporary elections administrator for Williamson County, Texas. Eastes has been in the elections office for 12 years and served as deputy administrator for six. Thomas Alexander, long time Southgate, Mich. clerk recently announced his intention to retire and move to Florida.
- 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
IV. Legislative Update
California: Several election-administration related bills passed the Assembly late last week including AB817 which would allow immigrants who are permanent U.S. residents, but not citizens to serve as poll workers. Also approved was AB1038 that would prohibit paying someone to register voters on behalf of political parties and AB141 that sets a minimum number of voters a primary write-in candidate must receive to qualify for the general election. All the bills now move to the Senate.
Connecticut: A bill unanimously approved by the Senate would permit the expansion of absentee voting methods for members of the military and their families stationed overseas. The legislation requires the secretary of state’s office to determine a method and use that method for the October 1 elections and the report back to the legislature.
Illinois: A package of election-related legislation was introduced in Springfield this week including allowing Illinois residents to register online to vote and removing the power of elections from the Lake County clerk and instead creating a five-member elections board.
Louisiana: Rep. Patricia Haynes (District 67) has introduced a resolution to get proper officials on board to support and make recommendations so those awaiting trial behind bars are given the right to vote.
Nevada: Along a party-line vote, the Senate has approved legislation that would extend the voter registration deadline through the early voting period to the Friday before an election. It is believed that Gov. Brian Sandoval will veto the legislation.
New Hampshire: Along party lines, the Senate approved legislation that changes which types of state-issued ID is acceptable to cast a ballot. The legislation removes a clear statutory reference to student IDs as an acceptable form of ID.
Rhode Island: Legislation that will guarantee any voter in line at 8 p.m. when the polls close may cast their ballot is headed toward the governor’s desk. Currently law requires that the voter must be in the building, not just in line.
Wisconsin: Legislation making its way through the General Assembly would make several changes to Wisconsin election laws and campaign finance laws including shortening the time for in-person absentee voting and requiring a photo ID to vote.
Wyoming: A group of lawmakers studying the feasibility of proposing legislation to require voter photo ID decided not to pursue the matter.
V. Upcoming Events
Please email upcoming event — conferences, symposiums, seminars, webinars, etc. to email@example.com.
Protecting the Right to Vote: Trends in Electoral Integrity, Webinar — Election administrators and other stakeholders in the election process have important roles to play in ensuring a credible vote. When elections are poorly planed or riddled with fraud however, the results can be dire. In this IFES panel, speakers will consider new approaches for supporting the integrity of elections and combating fraud. Where: Online. When: June 5, 2013; 11 a.m. EDT. Registration.
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.
National News: Voting Rights Act
Arizona: Election legislation
Colorado: Recall elections
Florida: Election legislation
Georgia: Elections lawsuit
New Hampshire: Voter ID
Pennsylvania: Election system
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).