November 20, 2014

I. In Focus This Week

‘Vote shaming’ grows in popularity for GOTV
Some turned off by what they see is invasion of privacy

By M. Mindy Moretti

In the days leading up to the 2014 Midterm Election, our former colleague Dan Seligson became part of a growing trend.

In his mailbox was an official-looking document detailing his voting history and comparing his voting history to his neighbors’.

While the details about his voting history weren’t correct, Seligson, like many others, was none-too-pleased about the attempt to “vote shame” him.

“…[F]rankly, it wasn’t an incentive to vote. It made me lash out at the organization that thought this was a good idea,” Seligson said. “I was motivated alright, motivated to tell them how much they insulted me.”

Seligson isn’t alone. Since 2008, “vote shaming” or social pressure as academics and others prefer to call it has become an increasingly popular tool in the GOTV toolbox.

During the 2014 election cycle, there were news reports — typically about angry voters — from Alaska to Maine to Florida and lots of places in between about voters receiving “vote shaming” materials.

According to Christopher Mann, director,  of the Academy of Applied Politics and Assistant Professor of Political Communication; J. Patrick Gebhart Professorship at Louisiana State University, campaign professionals began using social treatments back in 2008 after research began to circulate about its effectiveness, but it has taken a while for the use to spread.

Mann said it’s taken a while to catch on because political and civic groups were initially cautious about backlash against the organization sending this kind of mailing. In recent years, organizations have become more willing to take this risk – or learned that the risk is minimal. 

Access to a voter’s history is a by-product of the Help America Vote Act of 2002 which required states to create statewide voter registration databases making it easier for campaigns and others to gain access to voter information in one database instead of reaching out to each jurisdiction within a state.

“I choose to vote in everything. But I have the right not to vote,” Seligson said. “To me it’s a duty. But to remind people that whether or not you vote is public record raises a lot of privacy issues. Do they know for whom I voted? I know that they don’t but it might confuse others. “

According to Gail Fenumiai, director of the Alaska Division of Elections, two voters were so frustrated with the mailers they received that they requested their voter registration be cancelled.

“We did receive complaints from voters. We let them know the mailing did not come from the division and that the division does not endorse the use the statewide list in this matter,” Fenumiai said. “However, according to state law, it is not illegal. We also let them know that the organization responsible for the emails or mail they received was in no way affiliated with the State of Alaska, Division of Elections.”

Fenumiai said the mailings voters in Alaska received were extremely deceptive because the outside envelope had a red arrow with IMPORTANT TAX PAYER INFORMATION ENCLOSED written in red.

Like Seligson, some voters were bothered with what they perceived as incorrect information about their voting histories. The mailers fail to take into account if someone is a new citizen and voting in their first election, or if someone has moved recently.

“I got one out of four bars, when, honestly, I’m super voter. I vote in regional, local, national, any election you hold, I’ll vote in it,” Seligson said. “Because I moved in 2011, my federal election records indicate that, in Arlington, Mass., I voted in the November 2012 election and that’s it. but that’s completely wrong. I voted in every federal election since 1990…”

Despite voters’ displeasure with the practice and elections administrator’s frustration, Mann said there is evidence that social pressure does work to increase turnout.

“Social pressure voter mobilization treatments increase turnout consistently in field experiments using randomized controlled trial designs to measure their effect. It is difficult to compare experiments about different tactics done in different places and/or elections, but the academic research is nonetheless clear that social pressure tactics are one of the most effective ways to increase voter turnout – perhaps the most effective tactic,” Mann said. “Moreover, there is evidence the mobilization effect persists beyond the election in which the treatment is delivered.”

While it may encourage turnout, could there be enough backlash to social pressure (social pressure on social pressure?!) that legislators may consider altering what information is publicly available in state voter registration databases?

According to Wendy Underhill at the National Conference of State Legislatures, there doesn’t appear to be any existing law or pending legislation exempting a voter’s voting history from the public realm.

Mann doesn’t think that we are likely to see any successful legislation at the state or federal level making vote history private.

“Vote history information is the most valuable data provided by election administrators to campaigns,” Mann said. “Members of Congress and state legislators would be heavily lobbied by their campaign advisors to oppose restricting access to this information. And the pressure would be bi-partisan: neither party’s campaign professionals want to lose access to this information.”

Mann said it would take much higher levels of public concern about social pressure treatments than we have seen so far to persuade legislator-candidates to restrict access to vote history.

“We may see proposals to do so, but I’d bet on any such bills being buried in committees or other legislative procedural dead-ends,” Mann said.

Editor’s Note: Due to the Thanksgiving holiday, there will be no eletionlineWeekly on November 27 and no electionlineToday on November 27 and 28. We hope you have a very Happy Thanksgiving with friends and family and we hope everyone gets a well-deserved break after the election.

 II. Election News This Week

  • With the State Elections Enforcement Commission beginning an investigation into the breakdowns in Hartford, Connecticut on Election Day, the city is continuing to face struggles related to the November 4 election. On Tuesday, the secretary of state’s office denied Hartford officials a 30-day extension to submit final results from November 4. The registrars asked for the extension because of “discrepancies” in the numbers and then turned in numbers showing 100 more absentee ballots than had previously been reported. “We have no explanation for their numbers. You would need to ask Hartford,” secretary of the state spokesman Av Harris told The Hartford Courant. “Certainly, absentee ballots can be rejected, but you would need to get that explanation from them.”
  • Add the entire state of Florida to the growing list of jurisdictions concerned about its aging voting machines. Secretary of State Ken Detzner told Florida media that he would meet supervisors of elections next month to determine which counties are most in need of new equipment before the 2016 election season. “It’s kind of one of those things that you don’t think about until something happens,” Detzner said. “We know we need to do something.” Detzner anticipates about 30 counties will need new equipment.
  • Mississippi law requires counties to order enough ballots to accommodate a 75 percent voter turnout. Since the law went into effect in 2013, Hinds County election commission chairwoman Connie Cochran has never ordered that many ballots and it’s never been a problem till this November. Cochran is now under fire for not ordering enough ballots that lead to long lines on Election Day. “You’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t,” Cochran told The Clarion-Ledger. “We have never ordered 75 percent for any of those four elections.” The county board of supervisor passed a resolution asking the state’s attorney general and secretary of state to impose sanctions on Cochran and also asked the county attorney to conduct an investigation. Hinds County has a runoff election on November 25 and Cochran told the paper she has ordered the required 75 percent of ballots. The state’s chapter of the NAACP has called for Cochran’s resignation.
  • With Santa Clara County, California still counting ballots from the November 4 general election, there is now at least some clarity on what happened with the county’s IT director who abruptly quit the day before the election. Joe Le spoke with the San Jose Mercury News and told that paper that he left the job due to stress and frustrations. Le had been in the registrar’s office for 15 years and said he resigned after working a long stretch of hours. “I had just kind of had it,” he told the paper.
  • There was another type of vote shaming at work in New York, and the State Board of Elections Commissioners wants it to stop. The SBE received complaints from voters in Nassau County, that when they undervoted a certain race, an alert went off in the ballot scanning machine and poll workers would come to offer advice and possible see the voters ballot. Peterson said that poll workers should be trained about not requiring a voter to cast a vote in a given race. “If you undervote, you undervote,” he said at the end of the SBE’s recent meeting.
  • Personnel News: It’s finally official, Byron Mallott is the new lieutenant governor of Alaska and therefore the state’s new chief elections official. Ken Cochran and Ann Jones will represent the GOP when the new Hall County, Georgia elections board is sworn in on January 1. For the Democrats it will be Gabe Shippy and Kim Copeland. Marvin McFadyen, the New Hanover County, North Carolina elections director has been arrested and charged with assault. Jason Barnett, Williamson County, Texas election administrator has resigned. The Rockwall County, Texas commissioners voted 4-1 to dismiss Elections Administrator Glenda Denton effective November 30. Danville, Illinois Election Commission Director Barbara Dreher announced this week that she will retire effective December 1. Dreher has come under fire from the local GOP recently for counting absentee ballots early. Dreher noted that the election was extremely stressful with changes to voting times, policies and procedures. “I don’t need this,” Dreher told The News-Gazette.
  • In Memoriam: Lorain County, Ohio Board of Elections Chairman Robert G. Rousseau died suddenly on Monday. He was 64. Rousseau had served had on the board since 1984. “It’s a great loss to all of us, whether it’s politically among us Republicans, or at the board of elections. It’s a very personal loss, a good friend,” Helen Hurst, chairwoman of the Lorain County GOP told the Morning Journal. Rousseau also served as chair of the county’s GOP. Rousseau is survived by his wife, Carol; three sons; three grandchildren; his mother; and other family members.

 III. Legal Update

Florida: A group of residents of Mount Dora are seeking an injunction to stop a tied race for city council being decided by chance — drawing lots or a coin flip. The group is being represented by a former city councilmember who argued that the city’s charger states that a candidate cannot occupy a seat on the council without a majority of the votes. On Tuesday, a Lake County circuit judge granted a temporary injunction.

Georgia: Garry Hall, a candidate for Willacoochee mayor lost his election bid by one vote and is suing the Atkinson County Board of Elections claiming that staffers working for the BOE made mistakes that cost him the election. Hall had previously lost a bid for Willacoochee mayor by three votes.

Louisiana: Allen Parish District Judge Joel Davis dismissed a challenge to the results of the Turkey Creek mayor’s race. GOP candidate Heather Cloud lost to Independent Bert Campbell by four votes. Cloud filed suit claiming a Campbell campaign worker paid four people to vote for Campbell. Davis dismissed the case based on a 1998 ruling that said evidence of voters receiving compensation is not grounds to disqualify their votes in an election.

Massachusetts: According to the State House News Service, the state is close to settling a voting-rights lawsuit filed by the NAACP, Demos and other voting rights groups on behalf of welfare recipients. The suit seeks assurances that the state comply with the National Voter Registration Act.

New Jersey: A lawsuit filed by Rutgers University students will move forward after a state appeals court said the trial judge was wrong to dismiss the case in 2013. The suit argues that the state law requiring residents to register to vote at least 21 days before an election is unconstitutional. The lawsuit was dismissed in December 2013 by a Superior Court judge who, according to Gannett, said the burden caused by the rule was minimal and that college students should know how to meet deadlines. The appellate court ordered the case to be heard again.

 IV. Legislative Update

Ohio: Sen. Nina Turner, who recently lost a bid to become Ohio’s secretary of state testified this week on several pieces of election-related bills that she said would ensure that all eligible ballots are counted. Among other things, SB20 would allow for online voter registration, clarified standards on absentee/provisional ballots and a uniform number of early voting days; SB110 would allow 16- and 17-year-olds to pre-register to vote; and SB146 would call for increased training for registrations done through the state DMV.

Oklahoma: State Sen. Randy Bass (D-Lawton) plans to introduce legislation when the 2015 session kicks off to allow Oklahomans to register online to vote. Rules Committee Chairwoman Sen. A.J. Griffin, R-Guthrie, said she would need to see cost estimates and have assurances the online database was secure before she agreed to grant the bill a hearing.

 V. Opinions

National Opinions: Voter purges | Election Day holiday | Felon voting rights | Voter ID | Voting Rights Act

Alabama: Supreme Court case | Dale County | Write-ins

Arizona: State voting law

California: Ranked choice voting, II | Poll workers

Connecticut: Weston election | Registrars, II | Easton election | Hartford

Florida: Ex-felon voting | Poll worker training | Palm Beach County | Turnout | Write-in law

Indiana: Turnout, II | Voter ID

Iowa: Voter ID

Kansas: Election process

Louisiana: Voter fraud

Maine: Election reform | Early voting, II | Vote shaming | Instant runoff voting

Minnesota: Turnout

Montana: Election reporting

New York: Voting storage | Turnout

North Carolina: Noncitizen voting

North Dakota: Voter ID

Oklahoma: Ballot process | Voter fraud | Online voter registration

Rhode Island: Secretary of state, II | Ranked choice voting

South Carolina: Beaufort County

South Dakota: Poll problems

Tennessee: Montgomery County | Rutherford County

Texas: Voter ID, II | Election narrative | Freestone County | Turnout | Secretary of state | Harrison County, II | El Paso County

Washington: Ballot deadline | Election workers

Wisconsin: Poll workers | Ranked choice voting | Polling places | Government Accountability Board

 VI. Upcoming Events
Please email upcoming events — conferences, symposiums, seminars, webinars, etc. to

National Conference of State Legislatures Forum— Fifty states, one voice is the theme for this year’s forum. Attendees will have the opportunity to discuss policy with national experts working on pressing issues as part of NCSL’s standing committees, advocate for the states on Lobby Day and participate in special programming developed for legislative staff. There will be a block of sessions on elections and will cover: Motor Voter, campaign finance, redistricting, partnerships, primary systems and legal action. The elections sessions will be on December 11. Where: Washington, D.C. When: December 9-12. For more information and to register, click here.

 VII. Job Postings
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.

Business Development Lead, TurboVote —as the business development lead, you will be responsible for continuing to grow our program through renewing our existing partnerships and generating new leads to set the stage for exponential growth in 2016. In this role, you will need to build relationships with key stakeholders, and think creatively in order to generate revenue opportunities across TurboVote (and potentially other Democracy Works products). You’ll become an expert in the world of higher education and cultivate a passion for promoting civic engagement. Also, you will have the persistence to navigate red tape and work with bureaucratic organizations. For the complete job posting and to apply, click here.

Director of Communications, TurboVote, — in our quest to make voting easier, we’re looking for an experienced communications expert to help us share our mission and work with a larger audience. Whether it’s helping a TurboVote partner school tell the story of how they implemented our tools so other campuses can repeat their successes, or pitching a local newspaper on the innovations their local election office is making, we want to reach more voters through effective storytelling and outreach. For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.

Government Outreach Lead, Turbovote — As the Government Outreach Lead, you will be responsible for growing our new government program. In 2015, you’ll be focused on establishing formal partnerships with local election offices across the country. In this role you will need to immerse yourself in the world of election administration, build relationships with key stakeholders, and think creatively in order to generate revenue opportunities for Ballot Scout and other Democracy Works products. For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.

Marketing Manager, VR Systems, Inc., Tallahassee, Florida — responsible for leading, managing and directing all of the marketing-related activities within VR Systems. Reporting to the Executive Vice President, the Marketing Manager is responsible for defining and implementing strategic and tactical communication plans designed to capitalize on market opportunities and generate demand. The Marketing Manager will build brand awareness, provide a steady flow of sales leads and measure the return on marketing program investments. Marketing Manager works in conjunction with Sales Manager. The ideal candidate will be self-motivated, resourceful and have excellent communication and leadership skills. For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.

Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning Association, Democracy Fund, Washington, D.C. — Democracy Fund seeks to hire an Associate to help assess our impact and to foster learning within our organization and among our grantees, peer funders, and the fields within which we work. We are looking for a dynamic and motivated candidate who is passionate about making our political system work better and who has significant experience working in monitoring, evaluation, research, and knowledge management. Strong candidates will have applied research skills, work well with others, and have a proven track record of being able to get things done in a complex professional environment. As a bipartisan organization, we welcome applications from Republicans, Democrats, and Independents – a willingness to work across the aisle is essential. The Associate will report to the Democracy Fund’s Manager of Learning and Impact and will be responsible for working with her to create and sustain the organization’s monitoring, evaluation, and learning systems. The position will require engagement with our grantees and with all members of the Democracy Fund team. Beyond directly working on Learning and Impact activities, the Associate’s work also may inform the organization’s grant making, strategic planning, research, and convening activities. For the complete listing and to apply, click here.

Partner Support Lead, TurboVote — As the partner support lead for TurboVote, you will strengthen relationships with each of our partners and work closely with them to ensure they are using our technology strategically. You’ll become an expert in the world of higher education and cultivate a passion for promoting civic engagement. Also, as the primary contact with most of our partners, you will be responsible for communicating their needs to our product design and software development teams, and help test and train partners on new features as we improve the platform. For more the complete job posting and to apply, click here.

Software Customer Support and Training, VR Systems, Tallahassee, Florida — position will include testing new company software, troubleshooting software problems; providing phone support for the customers’ software questions, and training customers on the use of the company’s software and hardware. The ideal candidate for this position is a self-motivated, goal-oriented individual with uncompromising work ethic, strong communication skills and a keen desire to interact effectively as a member of our team. Ideal candidate should be able to learn to use our software package quickly and must enjoy working in a professional team environment. For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.