October 18, 2012

I. In Focus This Week

Off to the races
Top elections spot up for grabs in several states

By M. Mindy Moretti

In addition to election administration issues on the ballot in several states, voters in five states will cast ballots to elect the state’s top elections official.

In two states — Missouri and Washington — voters will be replacing two popular and long-term secretaries of state. And in the other three states — Montana, Oregon and West Virginia — three incumbent secretaries of state, all serving in their first terms, are facing spirited challenges.

Below is a brief look the candidates and some highlights of their campaign platforms.

Current Secretary of State Robin Carnahan (D) announced more than year ago that she would not seek a third term as the Show Me State’s top elections official leaving an opening for Rep. Shane Schoeller (R-Willard) and Jason Kander (D-Kansas City) to run for the seat.

Kander was first elected to the Missouri legislature in 2008. Before that he was a member of the Missouri Army National Guard and the U.S Army Reserves and was deployed to Afghanistan in 2006.

Photo ID has been the biggest topic of the election. Kander is opposed to a photo ID law in large part because the list of acceptable IDs does not include military IDs. Kander also support no-excuse absentee voting.

Schoeller is serving his third term in the Missouri House of Representatives and is the speaker pro tem. Prior to serving in the legislature, Schoeller served as a legislative assistant for former Congressman Roy Blunt and chief administrative aide for Secretary of State Matt Blunt.

Schoeller is a strong supporter of voter photo ID and has made it a focal point of his campaign. In July he released a television commercial in support of his campaign that focused on voter ID. Schoeller also supports reforms to the state’s initiative and referendum process.

It’s like déjà vu all over again in Montana as former Secretary of State Brad Johnson (R) takes on current Secretary of State Linda McCulloch (D) for the state’s top elections job. In 2008 McCulloch defeated Johnson by about 5,000 votes.

Johnson served as secretary of state from 2005 till 2009. While secretary of state he worked with the legislature to outlaw electronic voting machines. He also helped Montana become one of the first states to fully implement the Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA).

With regard to elections, Johnson’s campaign website lists five priorities should he be elected: Photo ID; eliminating election-day registration; modernization of signature verification for mail-in ballots; noncitizen voter purge; and expanded powers for the secretary of state to be able to investigate possible voter fraud.

McCulloch, became the first woman elected as secretary of state when she won in 2008. Prior to becoming secretary of state, McCulloch served three terms in the Montana House of Representatives and was elected superintendent of public instruction for the state of Montana in 2000.

During her four years in office, McCulloch has been a budget hawk and cut spending in the office by millions of dollars each year. Some of the ways she cut spending was to reduce travel, temporary staffing and overtime. She also reduced the amount of HAVA money that the state was spending each year. She is a proponent of all-mail voting and has seen absentee voting grow to its highest numbers during her tenure.

First-term Secretary of State Kate Brown (D) is facing three challengers in November with her strongest opposition coming from Republican Knute Buehler (R).

Brown was elected to the secretary of state’s office in 2008. Before that, she served two complete terms in the Oregon House of Representatives and was elected to the state Senate in 1996. While in the Senate, she was the first woman in Oregon history to serve as Senate majority leader.

During her tenure as secretary of state Brown implemented online voter registration and launched a first-in-the-nation program to allow voters with disablities to use iPads to help them vote.

Buehler is a practicing physician who was Oregon State University’s first Rhodes Scholar. This is Buehler’s first run for office. Buehler has raised more than $1 million for his campaign and received the endorsement of five newspapers.

Buehler has focused the elections part of his campaign on reforming the states campaign finance system.

For the first time in electionline’s existence Washington Secretary of State Sam Reed (R) will not be on the ballot for The Evergreen State’s top elections spot in November. Reed is retiring at the end of his term leaving an open spot to battle for. Battling to replace Reed are Kim Wyman (R) and Kathleen Drew (D).

Wyman is currently the Thurston County auditor, a position she was appointed to in 2001. Prior to that she spent eight years as elections manager for the county. In 2004 she was one of the first elections officials in the country to become a Certified Elections/Registration Administrator (CERA) and has served on and in numerous elections-related panels and task forces.

Drew is also from Thurston County and represented the county in the state Senate. While in the Senate she authored the state’s Ethics in Public Service Law. As part of her platform Drew pledges to implement election-day registration and allow 16- and 17-year olds to preregister to vote.

West Virginia
First-term Secretary of State Natalie Tennant (D) is being challenged by Brian Savilla (R) for the Mountain State’s top elections spot.

Savilla is a teacher and serves in the West Virginia House of Delegates. He was first elected to office in 2010. As part of his platform, Savilla has vowed to work with the legislature to ensure the passage of a voter ID law. He has also said he will work to clean up the state’s voter rolls.

Tennant was first elected to the secretary of state’s office in 2008. Prior to that worked at several West Virginia television stations. Tennant first made headlines while a student at West Virginia University when she became the first woman to serve as the university’s mascot. During her tenure, Tennant has introduced online voting for military members serving overseas and has overseen several highly publicized vote fraud investigations.

II. Election News This Week

  • A day after Duke University refused to provide a list of students living on-campus to the Durham County board of elections, the county and university have come to an agreement for how students living on campus can verify their residency for same-day registration. Instead of providing the county with a list, the university registrar will send an email to all on-campus students that attests to their address which the student may then show a poll worker for proof-of-residency. In addition to sending the email, the university will set up a “print station” outside the on-campus early voting site so students can print their verification emails. The university had cited privacy concerns as their reason not to provide the county with the list.
  • When Californians called a state voter information hotline on Monday they were told that voter registration for the Nov. 6 general election was already closed. Problem is, voter registration doesn’t close until Oct. 22. According to Shannan Velayas, the incorrect information, which was removed, was only on the rollover line.
  • But officials in California shouldn’t feel alone. The Maricopa County, Ariz. elections department listed the incorrect date for the upcoming general election on voter ID cards. The date is listed correctly — November 6 — in English, but incorrectly — November 8—in Spanish. The problem was traced to voter ID cards that were distributed from the elections office and not those that were mailed. According to a local television station, the county believes that only about 50 people received the incorrect information.
  • And then there’s this. As we previously reported, there were some issues during New York City’s September primary, many of them stemming from redistricted voters turning up at the wrong polling place. The New York City Board of Elections took a lot of heat for this (among other things), but it turns out they may not have been entirely at fault. During testimony before the city council, which has introduced several pieces of legislation to help prevent future problems, Dawn Sandow, deputy director of the BOE said that following an investigation 186 poll site change notices were found stashed in the locker of a U.S. Postal Service employee.
  • Personnel News: On her 86th birthday, after almost 30 years in the Kansas secretary of state’s office, Madeline Cowell dotted her last i and crossed her last t as a part-time proofreader in the office. Ron Clevenger has joined Hart InterCivic as a vice president of sales.
  • Get Well: Electionline wishes a speedy recovery to Washoe County, Nev. Registrar Dan Burk who is recovering from surgery. According to KTVN, Burk is scheduled to be back on the job in about two weeks, just in time for the election. In the mean time, Luanne Cutler, assistant to the registrar, is serving as senior deputy registrar.
  • In Memoriam: Texas State Sen. Mario Gallegos Jr. died this week while recovering from a liver transplant. He was 62. Although not an elections administrator, many may remember Gallegos who famously had his hospital bed moved into the Texas Statehouse in 2007 so that he could vote against a Republican-backed voter ID law.

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 sgreene@pewtrusts.org.

Voting: What’s Changed, What Hasn’t and What Needs Improvement – CalTech/MIT Voting Technology Project (VTP), October 2012: This report follows up the VTP’s 2001 report What Is, What Could Be, issued in the aftermath of the 2000 elections. The authors both look back at the past decade in election administration as well as look forward and continue to provide scientific analysis regarding voting technology and election administration.

National Primary Turnout Hits New Record Low – Curtis Gans, Bipartisan Policy Center, October 10, 2012:Voter turnout in the 2012 statewide primaries – for president, governor and U.S. Senate – hit a new record low at 17.3 percent of eligible citizens. Fifteen of 41 states in which both parties held primaries saw record low turnout.

Election Fraud and Electoral Integrity – edited by Ines Levin and R. Michael Alvarez, Political Analysis, 2012: This set of papers focuses on both statistical approaches to detecting electoral fraud and developing methods that study electoral data and polling closely.

The Voting Rights Act of 1965: Where Do We Go From Here? – Rutgers Law Review, Volume 64, Summer 2012, Issue 4: This volume focuses on the effect of the Voting Rights Act almost fifty years after its passage.

IV. Opinions

National News: Contested election; Voter ID; Elections officials; Voter registration; Voting changes

Arizona: Top-two primary, II; Non-citizen voting; Proof-of-citizenship

California: Elections work

Florida: Palm Beach County; Absentee ballots

Florida Election Supervisor Endorsements: Manatee County, II; Hernando County, II; Pinellas County, II; Hillsborough County, II; St. Lucie County

Indiana: Voter ID; Vote centers, II; Marion County

Louisiana: Voter ID

Massachusetts: Worcester polls

Michigan: Citizenship question

Minnesota: Voter ID, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII; Voting age

Nevada: Ross Miller; Vote fraud

New Jersey: Voter ID

New York: Voter registration

North Carolina: Student voters

Ohio: Voter intimidation

Oregon: Secretary of state race

Pennsylvania: Voter ID

South Carolina: Voter ID, II, III, IV, V

Tennessee: Davidson County

Texas: ‘Dead’ voters; Overseas voters

Virginia: Absentee voting

Wisconsin: Voting complexities

**Some sites may require registration.

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 mmoretti@electionline.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.