I. In Focus This Week
Election admin ballot measures and ranked-choice voting in spotlight
Voters in several states head to the polls on November 8 to elect a variety of offices and decide on a number of ballot measures.
While off-year elections don’t typically draw the same attention as their even-year counterparts, this election season will provide several election administration storylines worth watching.
Initiative 27, sponsored by Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann and State Sen. Joey Fillingane is appearing on the November ballot after the state senate failed to take up the matter in its last session.
If approved by the voters, the state’s Constitution would be amended to require voters to show a government issued photo ID in order to cast a ballot.
Following in the footsteps of Indiana and other states, if approved, the law would provide free identification through the state’s Department of Public Safety. It is estimated that it will cost approximately $1.5 million to provide the necessary free IDs.
Hosemann and other supporters argue that if approved, the measure will prevent voter fraud in the Magnolia State.
Opponents of the amendment disagree and contend that requiring photo ID will disenfranchise many Mississippi voters, especially minorities.
“Voter ID is one of those unnecessary barriers to the voting booth,” Nsombi Lambright, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Mississippi told The Associated Press. “We believe it’s going to represent a strong deterrent for communities of color, for the elderly and for poor folks to go to the ballot box.
According to the Commercial Appeal, Marty Wiseman, director of the John C. Stennis Institute of Government at Mississippi State University, predicted voters will approve the photo ID initiative.
Constitutional initiatives in Mississippi must be approved by at least 40 percent of the voters casting ballots in the election.
Protect Maine Votes, a political action committee gathered almost 70,000 signatures in order to get the referendum on the ballot.
As written, the referendum asks voters if they want to reject the law that “…requires new voters to register to vote at least two business days prior to an election?”
Proponents of Question 1 include the League of Women Voters, the Maine Municipal Association and the Maine Democratic State Committee. Those in opposition include current Secretary of State Charles Summers, the Maine Republican Party and Speaker of the House Robert Nutting.
The campaigns for and against Question 1 have raised more than half a million dollars with the bulk of the money coming from the pro-Question 1 groups.
Several polls that have been conducted in recent weeks show those in support of repealing the law that outlawed same-day registration—the yes to question one campaign—leading slightly.
Maine was the first state to adopt same-day registration in 1973 and although opponents of same-day registration often cite fears of voter fraud, a recent study by the secretary of state’s office found only one instance of voter fraud — a noncitizen who registered and voted in 2002.
primer on its website.
What makes this election different is that in 2007, then-Mayor Gavin Newsome had no serious challenger. This year, there are 16 candidates on the ballot and although interim-Mayor Ed Lee is the frontrunner, there are several viable challengers among the bunch.
A poll conducted earlier this year by the Chamber of Commerce found that 55 percent of respondents were unclear as to whether or not their vote counted at all if the first, second and third choice candidate had been eliminated.
“It’s clear that San Francisco voters understand ranked-choice voting about as well as they understand quantum physics,” Nathan Ballard, a Democratic strategist who was a spokesman for Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom when he was mayor told the San Francisco Chronicle when the poll was released.
A consultant who worked on the creation of the ranked-choice voting system for both San Francisco and Oakland argued that the polling numbers were inconclusive.
“Most people don’t understand how your car works, or how your computer works or how your phone works,” Steven Hill told the Chronicle. “But they know how to use it, and they’re comfortable with it.”
Complicating all of this are allegations of voter fraud and a call from multiple candidates for the U.S. Department of Justice to step in and monitor the election.
All the way across the country although only about 3,000 residents of Portland, Maine had cast their ballot so far in the city’s upcoming mayoral election (via absentee), the city clerk told a local television station that of those ballots cast voters seem to be understanding the process of ranked choice voting.
Voters that the local television spoke with noted that with 15 candidates for mayor on the ballot, the sheer number of candidates was more overwhelming than using the ranked-choice voting system.
In St. Paul, Minn. ranked-choice voting will make its debut on Tuesday with all seven city council seats up for election.
This is not the first time ranked-choice voting have been used in the Gopher State as Minneapolis used it in its city elections in 2009.
previously reported in electionlineWeekly, the chief election position is on the ballot in Kentucky and Mississippi (Louisiana held its election in October).
Voter ID has been a major issue in both races.
II. Election News This Week
- Two top House Judiciary Committee Democrats this week asked Committee Chair Lamar Smith, R-Texas to hold hearings on the many new voter ID laws across the country. According to McClatchy Newspapers, Smith is reviewing the request. “As voting rights experts have noted, the recent stream of laws passed at the state level are a reversal of policies, both federal and state, that were intended to combat voter disenfranchisement and boost voter participation,” Reps. John Conyers, D-Mich., and Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y. said in a statement. While Conyers and Nadler have formally called for hearings, that didn’t stop other members of the House from debating the issue late into the night on Tuesday.
- The unexpected October snows just didn’t put a damper on Halloween for folks in the Northeast, they also caused problems for elections officials. In Connecticut, which seemed to suffer the brunt of the storm, Secretary of State Denise Merrill and Gov. Dannel P. Malloy extended the state’s voter registration deadline for upcoming municipal elections. “The severity of the power outages and other damage from this past weekend’s snow has the potential to disenfranchise thousands of Connecticut voters who are without electricity and even unable to leave their homes,” Merrill said in a statement. Registrations had been due by 8 p.m. on Nov. 1, but the new deadline is now midnight on Monday the 7. In addition to pushing back the registration date, Merrill is working with local elections officials to make sure that polling places are open and accessible. Some towns have had to relocate polling sites.
- Personnel News: Longtime Martinsville, Va. Registrar Ercell Cowan is set to retire in mid-December after almost 24 years on the job. Cowan will be replaced by Cindy Barbour who is already busy learning all she can from Cowan. Michael Susek is the new Broomfield, Colo. elections administrator. Janet F. Clair is hanging up her elections bona fides and retiring after 28 years on the Lake County, Ohio elections board.
- In Memoriam:Longtime Richmond, Va. Registrar Alice Clarke Lynch died this week. She was 81. Lynch served the voters of Richmond from 1971 till 1995. Lynch is credited with hiring the first African-American assistant voting registrar in the city, launching the first successful campaign to bring voting registration to the people and making polling places more accessible for the handicapped. “She worked with anyone interested in getting people to vote,” her husband Robert Lynch told the Richmond Times Dispatch.