I. In Focus This Week
Candidates aren’t only ones talking about money
Local officials work to fund upcoming election
While the economy has been one of the major topics of Election 2012, the candidates running for office aren’t the only ones concerned about money.
Ask any seasoned election official and they will tell you, having enough funds to make ends meet during elections season is never easy. However, with states and local governments still struggling in the current economy pulling off this year’s elections on budget has been exceedingly difficult.
Things like increased requests for absentee ballots, and longer ballots which require more printing and more postage are making demands on elections offices that can’t always be anticipated at budget time.
Of course, the show must go on and so the local elections administration officials find a way, whether it’s tapping into reserves, seeking out additional funding, finding ways to cut costs in areas other than Election Day, or coming up with creative ways to save money.
“There’s a good chance that Black Hawk County will go over budget with this election,” explained Grant Veeder, Black Hawk County, Iowa auditor. “Part of it is that we have ordered more ballots than we originally anticipated due to voter registration increases, but the big factor is paying for more overtime and for more temporary staff than expected because of the big increase in absentee ballots.”
Veeder said that as of press time, Black Hawk County is about 40 percent ahead of the absentee requests than they were four years ago. Veeder also noted that a change to Iowa’s use of satellite voting has put added pressure on budgets. This year anyone, campaign or individual, can have a county open additional early voting sites if you get 100 signatures. The county has seven satellite voting sites, the Obama campaign campaigned for seven sites and the GOP petitioned for one.
“The cost for each of these varies by the number of precinct officials we staff them with, but they run about $200-400 a day each. Most of them are single day satellites, but one is six days and another is three days,” Veeder explained. “Both of the latter sites we established ourselves, and one was reduced from six days (which we had four years ago) to three because it’s on the University of Northern Iowa campus, and that’s where five of the petitioned sites are.”
Veeder noted that he would not be surprised if other counties aren’t in the same over-budgeted situation as Black Hawk.
“But I would say that it is likely that in most cases this will be adjusted through budget amendments, and most counties have reserves to cover these amendments, or experience lower-than-budgeted expenditures in other areas that can pick up the overage in elections,” Veeder said.
In Illinois, the state is about $2.5 million short in its elections budget that will most likely need to be made up by the counties.
According to Sally J. Litterly, Logan County clerk and recorder, all county clerks are on a tight budget for the November election. She is also the current president of the Illinois Association of County Clerks and Recorders.
Litterly said that county elections officials have grown accustomed to working around state funding problems.
“The money will come from good fiscal management in the budgets of the county clerks,” Litterly said. “Anywhere where we are dependent upon state reimbursement for payment of a bill or salary, we know not to fully count on it.”
The county already had an expensive primary, has elections in 2013 to prepare for and reduced its precincts from 45 to 29 in a cost-cutting measure. Litterly is also working with other county departments for help in preparing for the elections such as the highway department that is helping transport the elections equipment to the polling sites.
“We never count our chickens before they are hatched,” Litterly said. “I find county government to be fiscally responsible and closer to the people, and Clerks are penny pinchers; not only because it is our duty as elected office holders with tax-payer dollars, but because we cannot count on the state to reimburse us.”
They are watching their pennies in Tooele County, Utah as well. While the county itself is currently operating with a budget deficit County Clerk Marilyn Gillette said the clerks office is still within budget, but they are “watching every penny.”
According to Gillette the clerk’s office has taken steps over the years though to prepare for the lean times.
“A few years ago we began using county employees for the bulk of early voting days, rather than hiring election workers,” Gillette said. “The county is already paying the workers and the offices are very generous to let us use their staff. We have also implemented vote centers rather than precinct locations. This makes it so we can use buildings that are more conducive to the public for access and parking (because we need fewer of them) but we also need fewer election workers.”
Printing and postage costs are always some of the biggest costs an elections office can face and Gillette said her county saved money by outsourcing the printing to a local printer instead of doing it in-house.
“We’ve also applied for a nonprofit mail permit which allows us to send ballots out at the nonprofit, rather than first class price,” Gillette said. “Previously by-mail ballots cost an average of $3.00 per ballot, we are now processing and mailing them for about $1.20.”
Like other areas, the ballot in Detroit this year is larger than normal—four pages double-sided—and the added costs for printing the ballots and mailing out the absentee ballots found the elections department in need of an additional $450,000.
And it’s not just local elections officials who are going to have fork over some additional money this election cycle. Many officials are working frantically to remind mail-in and absentee voters that they need to use additional postage on their ballots due to the length and size of this year’s ballots.
II. Election News This Week
- For a place that is without a doubt one of the most beautiful places in the world, things sure aren’t pretty in the elections department in Hawaii County. This week, the West Hawaii Today show obtained documents that show state and county officials knew that most of the Big Island’s permanent elections staff planned to call in sick on primary election day. Two days before the election, Scott Nago, the state’s chief election officer wrote to the Hawaii County clerk: “As you might surmise, the Office of Elections was understandably concerned to learn that the services of certain Hilo elections staff will not be available on election day,” the letter said. “We now understand that you anticipated months ago that some election workers might not show up this week or on election day, and as such, you developed a backup plan.” According to the Honolulu Star Advertiser, the letter was just one of 400 documents the television station obtained through a Freedom Of Information Act request.
- The National Congress of American Indians released a report this week that highlights states where new elections laws—including voter ID laws—could have an impact on Native Americans and Alaska Natives. According to the report, problems with new voter ID laws include requirements that voters provide home address, but some tribal communities have no street addresses. The report also cited the “barriers of cost, logistics and distance to obtaining required IDs.”
- Oregon made a splash earlier this year when the state employed the use of iPads to help disabled voters mark their ballots. Now the state is giving Apple’s competition a whirl by using tablets that run on Microsoft’s Windows 8 operating system. Samsung will be loaning the state 10 of its tablets for the trial. All counties in the state have at least one iPad available for accessibility use and about 200 voters used the iPads during the primary.
- California’s new online voter registration system, which went live on Sept. 19 drew more than one million users in a month including at least 380,000 voters who signed up for the first time.
- Add Ottawa County, Ohio to the list of counties that have produced elections materials with the wrong date for the general election. The county sent out about 2,200 notices with the wrong date — November 8 instead of November 6 — and the wrong polling places. Elections Director JoAnn Friar attributed the problem to a computer glitch and told The Washington Post that the county would be sending out corrected notices.
- Personnel News: Steve Quillen, Miami County, Ohio director of elections resigned late last week citing “the stress of the upcoming presidential election.” The Fulton County, Ga. board of elections has hired former Forsyth County elections supervisor Gary Smith to work with Fulton County on the Nov. 6 election. Fulton County fired former elections director Sam Westmoreland after his probation for DUI was revoked. In other consulting news, Lake County, Ohio hired former director Janet F. Chair as a consultant through Nov. 3.
- Get Well: Electionline wishes a speedy recover to Montgomery County, Ohio Elections Director Betty Smith who is on medical leave through the end of 2012. In the spring Smith missed time due to a virus that damaged her spinal cord, but had slowly resumed duties over the summer.
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 email@example.com.
Vote Fraud in the 2012 Election Cycle – The Republican Study Committee, October 19, 2012: This policy brief provides examples of vote fraud reported in the media and describes legislation related to the integrity of elections.
Language Access for Asian Americans Under The Voting Rights Act in the 2012 Elections – Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF), October 2012: For over a year starting in late 2011 the AALDEF monitored local jurisdictions’ compliance with the language assistance provisions of Section 203 of the Voting Rights Acts as well as with the Help America Vote Act. They found in some jurisdictions websites that were incorrectly translated, poorly implemented language access plans, and missing interpreters at polling places.
Colorado: Scott Gessler
Georgia: Voter fraud myth
Idaho: Voter ID
Maine: Instant-runoff voting
Maryland: Voter ID
Massachusetts: Ballot confusion
Nevada: Election reform
New Jersey: Election Day
North Carolina: Voter ID
South Dakota: Voter ID
Tennessee: Voting machines
Utah: Straight-ticket voting
Virginia: Election Day
Wisconsin: Poll modernization
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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 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.
Registration and Elections Director, Fulton County, Ga.— incumbent in this class performs duties related to directing the overall activities of the Department of Registration and Elections. Responsibilities include overseeing elections administration, voter registration, absentee balloting, voter education and outreach, and support services and establishing the department’s mission, vision, goals, and objectives. Directs overall functions and activities of the Department of Registration and Elections, including elections administration, absentee balloting, voter registration, voter education and outreach, and support services. Manages assigned staff, including establishing workloads; prioritizing work assignments; evaluating employee performance; developing, interpreting, and enforcing policies and procedures; resolving staff issues; making hiring or termination decisions/ recommendations; and administering disciplinary action as required. Oversees departmental planning, budgeting, staffing, and the accomplishment of established goals and objectives. Serves as Supervisor of Elections and Chief Administrative Officer for the Fulton County Board of Registration and Elections, including ensuring implementation of Board policies, scheduling meetings, and preparing agendas. Qualifications: Bachelor’s Degree in business or public administration, political science, organizational development, project management, social science or related field. Seven (7) years of progressively responsible management experience in government administration, business administration or a legal field including three (3) years of experience managing various voter registration and election and elections activities and five (5) years of supervisory experience. Valid State of Georgia license required. Salary: $93,489-$151,455. Application: Online application available at the county’s website, and completed Fulton County application forms will be accepted at the County Personnel Dept., 141 Pryor St., Suite 3030, Atlanta, Ga., 30303. Deadline: November 21, 2012.