May 8, 2014

I. In Focus This Week

Pew reviews National Voter Registration Act
Measuring Motor Voter: Room for Improvement

Congress passed the National Voter Registration Act in 1993 “to establish procedures that will increase the number of eligible citizens who register to vote in elections for Federal office.”

This legislation is commonly referred to as the “Motor Voter” law in reference to Section 5 of the act, which includes a requirement that most states’ driver’s license agencies allow eligible citizens to register to vote when conducting a driver’s license or state identification card transaction via a single, multipurpose form.

When done well, registration at motor vehicle agencies can reduce costs to states by minimizing labor-intensive paper registration and better serving a highly mobile electorate.

When citizens experience a life event that could affect their voter registration — a move or a name change, for instance — they naturally think to update their driver’s licenses or state IDs. But they rarely update their voter registrations, or even realize they need to do so.

During the past two decades, however, the Motor Voter process has gone without a significant performance review. The availability of voter registration at public assistance agencies, which is also required by the law, has been the subject of investigations and lawsuits, but research examining the voter registration process at motor vehicle agencies has been scarce.

To assess how well state motor vehicle agencies do in registering voters, two main data points are needed: 

  • The number of all licensing/identification transactions occurring at motor vehicle offices.  
  • The total number of voter registration applications that originate in motor vehicle offices.  

Where available, this information could reveal the proportion of licensing transactions that also include voter registration transactions in every state.

A team of researchers commissioned by The Pew Charitable Trusts attempted to collect and examine these numbers.

But deep and varied problems with the data (including how and if it is collected), as well as inconsistent definitions and categories of registration transactions across states, rendered a nationwide comparative analysis impossible.

This report analyzes these data, where available, and examines the serious challenges to collecting them.

Results show that almost none of the states covered by the law can document the degree to which their motor vehicle agencies are offering citizens the opportunity to register to vote or update their registrations.

This study also provides recommendations for reviewing and evaluating how motor vehicle agencies provide voter registration services, particularly improving coordination with state election agencies and increasing the emphasis on collection and reporting of transaction data.

Immediate attention to these issues is required to standardize and increase data collection efforts within and among the states, so that implementation of the Motor Voter provisions can be assessed and, where needed, upgraded and improved.

II. Election News This Week

  • Update on the News: Last week, we wrote about two cities — Madison, Wisconsin and East Lansing, Michigan — that require landlords to provide new tenants with voter registration forms and information sheets. The Denver Post is reporting that the city of Westminster in Colorado is considering a similar ordinance. Under the proposed ordinance, landlords could be faced with a $1,000 for not providing the forms.
  • Voter ID: Late last week, a second judge found Arkansas voter ID law unconstitutional but said that there was not enough time to prevent officials from applying the law during the May 20 primary. Voters began early voting this week with the new, but unconstitutional voter ID law in place and at press time there have been few reports of problems. In Nevada, a judge heard arguments in a lawsuit challenging a ballot measure that would require voters in the Silver State to show photo ID in order to vote. Following the arguments, the judge rewrote the description for the ballot measure adding words clarifying acceptable forms of ID. The judge also tweaked other language in the description for clarity. And finally, a federal judge in Kansas refused to stay his order requiring federal officials to immediately enforce Kansas and Arizona’s proof-of-citizenship laws.
  • Primaries: Indiana, North Carolina and Ohio each conducted their mid-term elections this week.
    • For North Carolina, it was the first major election conducted since the state made sweeping changes to its election laws. There were a few reports of problems with the new law, but nothing major, which could be attributed to a low-turnout mid-term primary and the fact that the voter ID portion of the law is not in place until 2016. It wasn’t exactly smooth sailing in North Carolina though when numerous problems arose with the state’s BOE website which intermittently reported no vote totals at all or all precincts reporting within minutes of the polls closing. Other than that there were a few minor problems such as a polling place opening late, in Forsyth, Orange and Richmond counties all went according to plan. Unfortunately though, yet again, a car accident at a polling place sending three people to the hospital.
    • Indiana — known for being one of the pioneering vote center states — debuted even more vote center-only counties during this year’s primary and by-and-large, things went well and voters seemed to like the concept. In Elkhart County, there were some logistical “hiccups” and late results, but overall voters reacted positively to the concept. Vigo County was also a new vote center county and the county clerk reported few, if any problems. For the most part voters liked the new vote centers, but all in Vigo weren’t happy when lines formed. Voters in Floyd County praised the new vote centers. Clay County also debuted the vote centers and overall voters seemed pleased with the concept and there were no real problems. It wasn’t all smooth though; in White County poll workers quickly discovered a problem with the new computer system shortly after the polls opened at 3 a.m.
    • And while Ohio voters are also being confronted with major elections changes, most of those occurred during early voting which eliminated the “Golden Week.” Of course that doesn’t mean that things went swimmingly, there were some issues. Results in Lucas County were delayed till past midnight due to missing data cards and other, unspecified issues. In Franklin County, poll workers had some issues with locking the door at a polling place and the vote totals were a bit slow in coming, but that was blamed on write-in votes and absentees. A polling place in Montgomery County had to be evacuated due to a nearby gas leak, but voting continued with voters using paper ballots.
  • A coding error on ballots for the June 3 primary in Marin County, California, will cost the county $100,000. According to the Marin News, Measure A — funding for the county library — appeared on all the ballots throughout the county even those that fall outside the library district and have their own, different library funding questions. “I take full responsibility for this mistake and apologize to voters for any confusion this has caused them,” Marin County Registrar of Voters Elaine Ginnold told the paper.
  • Although Motor Voter touches a lot of people (maybe) there is still a gap and so Connecticut Secretary of State Denise Merrill has teamed up with a consortium of nonprofits to provide voter registration opportunities to reach nearly half a million people who receive services through nonprofit service providers. “I am very excited to launch this program today to sign up new voters with agencies of the Connecticut Nonprofit Human Services Cabinet,” Merrill said in a statement. “We have already started training nonprofit professionals on new elections laws such as Election Day voter registration and online voter registration.  The bottom line is: we want as many eligible Connecticut voters as possible to exercise their right to cast a ballot in every election, especially those who have historically been forgotten and not included in the electorate.”
  • Where there’s smoke…there are annoyed poll workers and voters. Early voters, and poll workers at one Wheeling, West Virginia-area polling place are complaining about the smells of smoke wafting into the voting center. While smoking is banned in the City-County building where the poll site is located, smokers are allowed to smoke at designated areas outside, one of which happens to be right near the window for the early voting site.
  • Personnel News: Kimberly Bishop has resigned as the Macon County, Georgia elections director. The state is currently conducting an embezzlement investigation in the elections office. State Rep. Dan Zwonitzer has withdrawn from the Wyoming secretary of state race. Angela Upchurch has taken over as the director of the Colleton County, South Carolina elections and voter registration office. The Maury County, Tennessee election commission voted 3-2 to censure commissioner Lynn C. Nelson and to ask state officials to remove Nelson, a Democrat, from the commission because he voted in the Republican primary. David Smith has been named the new Democratic registrar in Easton, Connecticut.

III. Legislative Update

New Hampshire: The Senate’s Executive Departments and Administration Committee is considering legislation that would add unincorporated Millsfield to the list of locations allowed to open polling places at midnight for presidential primaries. The legislation would also let those three areas—Hart’s Location and Dixville in addition to Millsfield—to close polling places as soon as every registered voter has cast a ballot instead of staying open for the full day of voting.

South Carolina: A six-person legislative committee is working through competing versions of a bill that sets out how the state’s 46 election boards are appointed. According to The State, the key sticking point between the pieces of legislation is whether or not a new policy would be a blanket policy for all 46 counties.

S.4, already approved by the Senate, received the support of the House Judiciary Committee this week with some changes. The bill would establish no-excuse early voting statewide.

Vermont: Lawmakers have approved legislation that, beginning in 2016, will move the primary to the second Tuesday in August. Primaries are currently held on the fourth Tuesday in August.

IV. Upcoming Events

Please email upcoming event — conferences, symposiums, seminars, webinars, etc. to

National Association of Counties Annual Conference and Exposition: NACo’s 79th Annual Conference and Exposition provides an opportunity for all county leaders and staff to learn, network and guide the direction of the association. This year, the conference will be held in Orleans Parish, (New Orleans) Louisiana. The Annual Conference provides county officials with a great opportunity to vote on NACo’s policies related to federal legislation and regulation; elect officers; network with colleagues; learn about innovative county programs; find out about issues impacting counties across the country; and view products and services from participating companies and exhibitors. ​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Where: New Orleans. When: July 11-14. For more information and to register, click here.

National Association of Secretaries of State Summer Conference: NASS is celebrating a Star Spangled Summer at this year’s annual conference in Baltimore. Members will exchange ideas, share lessons learned and highlight best practices in policy making and programming for state member offices.  Agenda programming will include: Expert speakers who will inspire new ways of thinking about state agency leadership; Real-world lessons & success stories from state peers; Topical workshops focused on communications & professional skills advancement; Networking opportunities with public and private-sector attendees; and Excursions to explore Baltimore & learn more about culture and state government. Where: Baltimore. When: July 13-16. For more information and to register, click here.

International Association of Clerks, Recorders, Election Officials and Treasurers’ (IACREOT) Annual Conference: IACREOT will hold its annual conference this summer in Bonita Springs, Fla. The agenda will include seminars, training sessions, a delegate awards luncheon, IACREOTs elections and board meeting as well other opportunities for networking. Where: Bonita Springs, Fla. When: July 19-24, 2014. For complete information and to register, click here.

National Conference of State Legislatures Legislative Summit: Bring home 1,000 ideas from the land of 10,000 lakes this summer. For 40 years, the Legislative Summit is where legislators and staff come together across the aisle to tackle critical problems and find solutions that work. With more than 100 sessions, the time to dig deep into issues you care about, and opportunities to make new friendships and connections. Where: Minneapolis. When: August 19-22, 2014. For more information and to register, click here.

Elections Center 30th Annual National Conference: More information will be forthcoming, but mark your calendars now for the annual conference. Courses offered at the annual conference will include Course 5 (Ethics in Elections); Course 6 (Communications in Election Administration); Renewal Course 20 (Federal Impact on Elections-1960s to present); and New Renewal Course 27. Where: San Francisco. When: August 19-23, 2014. For more information and to register, click here.

National Association of County Recorders, Elections Officials and Clerks: More information will be forthcoming, but mark your calendars now for the annual conference. Where: Long Beach, Calif. When: August 22-25, 2014. For more information and to register, click here.

National Association of State Election Directors: More information will be forthcoming, but mark your calendars now for the annual conference. Where: San Francisco. When: August 22-24, 2014. For more information and to register, click here.

V. Opinion

National Opinions: Voter fraud; Voter ID, II, III | Voting Rights Act, II, III, IV, V, VI | Voting laws

Arkansas: Voter ID

California: Voter turnout | SOS race, II | Top-two primary, II

Colorado: Landlords

District of Columbia: D.C. Board of Elections

Georgia: Early voting

Idaho: SOS race, II

Indiana: Cost of elections | Voter ID | Voting hurdles | Vote centers, II

Kansas: Election performance

Kentucky: Ex-felon voting rights

Michigan: Election performance

Minnesota: Online voter registration, II

Mississippi: Voter ID, II

North Carolina: Early voting | State BOE website

Ohio: Election reform

Pennsylvania: Voter ID, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII | Voter suppression

South Carolina: Elections funding | Election fiasco

Tennessee: First election

Texas: Poll workers

Virginia: Ex-felon voting rights

Wisconsin: Voter ID, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII | Online voter registration, II, III | Voting Rights Act | Spring elections | Voter fraud

 VI. 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 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 of Communications, Democracy Fund, Washington, D.C.—seeking a creative thinker with senior-level strategic communications experience and a deep commitment to non-partisan political reform to serve as its first Director of Communications. The director will be responsible for developing the organization’s overall communications and branding strategy, as well as managing all internal and external messaging. The director will work closely with the organization’s program team to advance our strategic goals and support the needs of Democracy Fund grantees. The director will be responsible for cultivating the organization’s role as an important convener and thought leader in the field, while building a network of advisors, partners, and champions who will increase the organization’s influence and impact. Qualifications: Deep passion for strengthening American democracy; excellent written and oral communication skills required; at least 10 years of experience in communications, coalition building, organizing, policy analysis, advocacy, or public affairs; strong strategic mind set and proven ability to translate strategy into action; success in developing and maintaining institutional, political, and personal relationships; strong track record of working with Republican, Democratic, and Independent political leaders; extensive experience with social media; ability to travel periodically for project work; demonstrated experience handling multiple assignments simultaneously; flexibility and initiative to work both independently and as part of a team; familiarity with the field of democracy and political reform, as well as the organizations and leaders involved in the field. Education: BA required. Deadline: Open until filled. For the complete job posting and to apply, click here.

Elections Training Specialist, Ohio Secretary of State’s Office — under the supervision of the Deputy Elections Administrator, researches, writes, and coordinates the development of training materials published by the Secretary of State for use by boards of elections in recruiting and training precinct election officials, including, but not limited to, Precinct Election Official Training Manual and the Quick Reference Flip Chart Guide; Develops and maintains a library of training materials developed and published by boards of elections for recruiting and training precinct election materials. Reviews county materials for compliance with the minimum content standards in the Secretary of State’s materials; Develops and maintains the Secretary of State’s online poll worker training system. Assists boards of elections and users with properly accessing and utilizing the system; Develops and implements training seminars and/or meetings for board of elections personnel regarding the recruitment and training of precinct election officials, webinars for county election officials, training programs for new board members, directors, and deputy directors, participates in the planning of the Secretary of State’s summer conference for county election officials, and other topics; Writes, coordinates the development, and curates forms and other resource materials published by the Secretary of State’s office for use by county boards of elections; Liaises with the Secretary of State’s Communications Department on elections-related publications, including but not limited to the PEO recruitment resources and forms, and the Poll Worker Newsletter, and liaises with county boards of elections and other entities on all matters relating to PEO recruitment and training; Answers correspondence, e-mails and telephone calls; represents office at related meetings & conferences. Performs other duties as required. Qualifications: Completion of undergraduate core program in communications, education, public administration or any related area of study; 12 mos. experience in program development and evaluation of program initiatives; 3 mos. experience in developing and conducting trainings; 3 mos. experience in voter registration programs and/or election advocacy.Or equivalent of Minimum Qualifications noted above. Deadline: Open until filled. Application: For the complete listing and to apply, click here.