September 11, 2014

I. In Focus This Week

Sometimes it’s the simple things
Johnson Co., Kansas finds simple solution for proof-of-citizenship

By M. Mindy Moretti

Each month, about 50 residents in the Johnson County area of Kansas become newly minted U.S. citizens.

Like naturalization ceremonies in most jurisdictions, following the speeches and the official swearing in and before they get to the punch and cake, with the help of the League of Women Voters, the new citizens are given a chance to register to vote.

However, unlike most other jurisdictions outside of Kansas (and Arizona) these newly registered voters have to show proof of citizenship, something that seemed simple enough given the occasion, but actually proved problematic.

“Even though these new citizens were being sworn in and were given a naturalization number, our law required a copy of the certificate scanned to their records,” explained Brian Newby, Johnson County election commissioner.

Trying to find a simple and inexpensive way to eliminate at least approximately 50 of the 300 or so incomplete registrations his office gets a month, Newby met with the county’s League of Women Voters (LWV) and they came up with a shockingly simple and cost-effective idea.

As part of the “iPad, iRegister” program, each month the county elections office loans the League of Women Voters an iPad to take with them to the naturalization ceremonies where the volunteers snap a photo of the naturalization certificate. The volunteers return the iPad filled with photos and the county downloads the photos and attaches them to the paper voter registration forms.

The program, which required no additional money and only a small amount of manpower to download and subsequently wipe the iPads after each use, has been widely supported and even recently received the Minute Man Award from the National Association of Elections Officials.

“…[T]he Secretary of State’s office has been very supportive and recommended that other offices consider the same approach,” Newby said.

The only advance work Newby’s office really had to do was figure out a check-out system for the iPads. They created a check-out form that is signed by the LWV volunteer who agrees to return the iPad within 48 hours and immediately report if the iPad is lost or stolen.

“None of that has been necessary, but we thought we’d create structure around this and have an iPad chain of custody,” Newby said. “We have procedures with other things related to elections, and this didn’t seem any different to us.  We want to be able to demonstrate to stakeholders that we took adequate precautions with the data.”

Since its inception the program has helped facilitate the registration process for about 600 new voters.

Of course it hasn’t always been smooth sailing. One month the naturalization ceremony was held at a different location and on that occasion an official with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) approached the LWV volunteer and told them that it was illegal for them to photograph the certificates.

After Newby blogged about it in his excellent Election Diary, someone from the USCIS office called Newby to discuss the situation.

“Their biggest concern was if we were authorizing this. They approved of the process knowing that the League was using our iPad and essentially acting as our agent,” Newby explained.

Because residents from all over Kansas are attending naturalization ceremonies, Newby’s staff is able to help out other counties with their new voters as well.

“The best thing…is that not all the new citizens at these ceremonies are in Johnson County.  Many are in Wyandotte County and others come from around the state,” Newby said. “This allows us to send the registration form and proof of citizenship to whatever county in Kansas the person lives.  So other counties don’t have to chase down documentation.”

Obviously iPad, iRegister is fairly specific to jurisdictions in Kansas and Arizona since they are the only states that currently require proof-of-citizenship for a complete voter registration, but Newby says the program demonstrates the possibilities iPads and other such tablets provide.

“It demonstrates how a tablet could be used to facilitate registration or advance voting applications,” Newby said.

 


 II. Primary Roundup

Tuesday saw the final five primaries of the 2014 election cycle and the story at the end remained the same as the story at the beginning…low turnout.

Delaware: With a predicted turnout of only 10 percent — the average primary turnout in Delaware, there were no reported problems from the First State.

There were some after-they-tally issues that still need addressing. The sheriff’s race in Georgetown was close enough that it will require a recount and a Senate race in Wilmington was up for review after the margin of victory was just 37 votes.

Massachusetts: Voters in The Bay State hit the polls in the same low numbers that voters in other states did. Those low numbers made the test run of poll place consolidation in Gloucester go relatively well. The power went out at two Andover polling places after a transformer blew in the late afternoon. Voters were able to continue voting thanks to generators and that afternoon sun.

New Hampshire: Just like everywhere else, turnout was incredibly low in New Hampshire. There were no reports of real problems in the Granite State even with the state’s relatively new voter ID law in place.

New York: The Empire State may have finally (well, almost finally) eliminated use of the beloved but illegal lever-voting machines, they are still using paper poll books and those poll books caused some problems at Bronx polling places when it was discovered that two pages were missing from voter registration books.

In an only-in-New York sorta way, the police were called to one Upper West Side polling place — by the elections staff — after the principal at the school that was hosting the polling place tried to allow the students to eat lunch in the cafeteria where voting was taking place.

A Hazmat crew had to respond to Spring Valley High School in Rockland County due to a suspicious baggie of white powder, but voting was not interrupted.

On Staten Island there were some issues with poll workers being confused about who was supposed to get what ballot but elections officials sent staff to the polling places to monitor the situation.

Rhode Island: Tuesday marked what state board of elections officials called “one of [their] best elections,” with minimal reports of problems statewide.

Although there were concerns in the lead up to Tuesday’s primary, there were no reports of any problems with the state’s voter ID law.

Things were quiet and smooth at the Juanita Sanchez Education Complex polling place in Providence on Tuesday, which is in stark contrast to 2012 where voters waited in line for up to three hours to cast their ballot.

In Warren, there were some issues with sample ballots that seemed to be endorsed and left on a table in a polling place.

Gas leaks are the new cars. For a while it seemed like not an election went by where someone, somewhere drove a car into a polling place. Lately we’ve seen fewer reports of cars into polling places and more reports of gas leaks interrupting voting. This time a polling site in Central Falls had to be shut down for about 30 minutes while the fire department dealt with the report of a potential gas leak.

And in the race to replace Ralph Mollis who is seeking higher office, former Deputy Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea won the Democratic nod for the secretary of state’s office. Gorbea worked in the secretary of state’s office from 2003 to 2007. Gorbea will face Republican John Carlevale, a television producer in November. If elected, Gorbea would become the first Latina elected to a statewide race in the North East.


III. Election News This Week

  • According to Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett, only 21 people used the state’s dual-voting system, which is necessary because the state requires physical proof-of-citizenship to register to vote while the federal government does not. According to The Associated Press, of the 21 voters who used the special ballot, eight were in Maricopa County, seven in Pima, five in Yavapai and one in Yuma.
  • Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp has launched an investigation into alleged voter registration forgeries. A subpoena has been sent to the New Georgia Project demanding all documents regarding their voter registration drive be turned over to the state’s election board.
  • This week Mississippi Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann convened a 51-person panel that plans to examine possible changes to the state’s voting and elections practices. First on the panel’s agenda this week was the state’s primary runoff process.
  • While the status of the state’s voter ID law is still pending, officials in Wisconsin announced this week that they have come up with a process to verify birth information for people seeking to obtain ID cards but who lack birth certificates. According to the Star Tribune, under the process, ID card applicants who lack birth certificates must present some sort of proof of identity as well as proof of residency. They then fill out a petition with their name, sex, date-of-birth and place of birth as well as a statement testifying to their identity. The agency will then forward the information to the records office, which will search state records nationwide for their birth certificates for free. If the applicant was born in another country, the office will contact the U.S. State Department to verify the information.
  • The Brennan Center recently released the 2014 Student Voting Guide, an interactive tool to help young voters navigate new state voting rules and find out how to register and vote in their area. “Young people make up nearly a quarter of the electorate, but are grossly underrepresented in elections,” Erik Opsal, communications manager for Brennan said. “By equipping students and young people with the most up-to-date information, you can help ensure they are able to make their voices heard at the ballot box.” The guide explains the basic residency, registration, identification, absentee, and early voting requirements for students in each of the 50 states and Washington, D.C. 
  • And their hearts grew three sizes that day. The Forsyth County board of elections and organizers of the annual Holly Jolly Craft Fair have reached an agreement on how early voting and the fair can continue at a Winston-Salem community center. Initially the county had wanted the site for early voting and said the craft fair would have to go. After complaints from many people and the state threatening to step into the fray, the county BOE and the craft reached an agreement that will allow the fair to use the main building at the community center and early voting to happen in an auxiliary building.
  • Personnel News: Karen Lawrence has been recommended by the Polk County, North Carolina board of elections to serve as the new director. On Saturday, the Los Angeles Times reported that California Secretary of State Debra Bowen is suffering from “debilitating” flare-up of depression she has battled for many years. Despite this Bowen has vowed to complete her term. “I feel great today,” Bowen told the Sacramento Bee. “I’ll continue to make sure that all the big projects are where they should be. No major decision gets made without my input.”

IV. Legislative Update

Ohio: House Democrats are drafting a bill that would permanently restore the “Golden Week” to early voting and codify early voting hours.


V. Legal Update
With so much election litigation out there, this week we’ll begin an occasional section highlighting what’s going on where.

Arizona: The problem-plagued Peoria city council primary in Arizona is now officially scheduled to coincide with the November 4 general election. A federal judge ruled that the primary will take place that day and if necessary, a March 10, 2015 runoff. None of the previously cast ballots will count.

Maryland: A federal judge in Baltimore ruled that Maryland must adopt an online ballot-marking tool for voters with disabilities who are casting an absentee ballot. Under the ruling, the tool will only be available for the November general election. No word on an appeal.

Mississippi: This week the state’s high court released a schedule for the appeal by State Sen. Chris McDaniel in his challenge of the primary Senate runoff. According to The Associated Press McDaniel has until September 12 to file legal arguments to his appeal and the defendant’s side has until September 24.

North Carolina: The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals set a September 25 hearing date to consider the challenge to North Carolina’s 2013 elections overhaul legislation that limits early voting and requires a photo ID.

Ohio: In Ohio, a federal judge temporarily blocked the state’s new early voting law that had scaled back early voting hours. Secretary of State Jon Husted has said the state will appeal. On Wednesday U.S. District Judge Peter C. Economus denied a request to stay his ruling while the appeal is pending.

Pennsylvania: Eight years after a suit was filed in Commonwealth Court on behalf of two dozen voters over the commonwealth’s use of DRE voting machines, the case made it’s way to the state Supreme Court this week. Plaintiffs argue that 23,500 DRE machines in 50 counties do no create a paper record of votes cast. The latest ruling in the case was in 2012 when a seven-judge panel rejected the plaintiff’s claims.

Tennessee: Nine losing candidates in Shelby County have filed suit in the County Chancery Court contesting the election. According to the Memphis Daily News, the seeks a vote recount and/or setting aside of the election results as they are “individually affected and a declaration declaring them to have won the election.”

Texas: Attorneys in the Lone Star State continued their arguments before U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales this week about the legality of the state’s voter ID law. This week the state presented their case which according to the Austin American-Statesman relied, in part, on written testimony provided by Republican lawmakers. Closing arguments are expected on September 22.

Utah: Utah, the state’s highest court has struck down a lower court’s ruling that Millard County conduct a new primary. The justices ruled that without a clear winner in the county commission race, the Republican Party should get to pick its candidate.


VI. Tech Thursday

California: This week Democracy Works announced that all California residents are now able to use TurboVote’s online system to register to vote. According to a post from Democracy Works, the process is possible because California’s system allows TurboVote to automatically forward users’ data to the state’s online voter registration site.

Denver: The Denver Elections Division recently launched “Denver Votes” a smartphone app that allows residents to register to vote, view recent election results, review candidates and find out key voting dates. “The DenverVotes app will put a variety of useful information right at the voter’s fingertips,” Denver Clerk and Recorder Debra Johnson told The Denver Post.

Michigan: The Michigan Democratic Party launched an app that will make it easier for voters to get absentee ballots. The online tool will allow voters to complete the application on their smartphone, sign the screen with their finger and submit. A fax will then be sent to the local clerk who will mail the absentee ballot. The app had a trial run in Detroit during the primary where about 150 voters used the app. According to The Associated Press though, the state elections bureau issued a warning to local election administrators about the app and citing concerns about duplicate applications, applications without signatures and signatures that don’t match.

Ohio: This week the secretary of state’s office certified tablet computers provided by software company Election Administrators, LLC that will begin to replace the state’s bulky paper voting rolls at polling places. Unlike many other e-poll books, these poll books run off an Android operation system.

 


 VII. Opinions

National Opinions: Voter fraud | Voting age | Military voting

Alaska: Voting rights

Arkansas: Nonpartisan primaries

California: Debra Bowen, II

Connecticut: Early voting

District of Columbia: Election schedule

Florida: Hernando County

Hawaii: Vote-by-mail

Massachusetts: Turnout

Michigan: Recount

Minnesota: Student voters

Mississippi: Voter ID

New York: Turnout

North Carolina: Youth vote

Ohio: Early voting, II, III, IV | Voter ID

Oregon: Top-two primary

Pennsylvania: Voting machines

South Carolina: Richland County

Texas: Voter ID | Discouraging voters

Wisconsin: Recount

Wyoming: Laramie County


VIII. Upcoming Events

Please email upcoming events — conferences, symposiums, seminars, webinars, etc. to mmoretti@electionline.org.

Expanding The Right To Vote — 2014 has seen a range of new developments in voting and elections, like the expansion of online voter registration, Election Day Registration, and pre-registration for 16- and 17-year-olds, as well as improvements in election administration. In this webinar, we’ll discuss recent trends in voting and election law, as well as how to ensure that voters are aware of and prepared for any voter registration and Election Day changes in their jurisdiction. Where: Webinar. When: Thursday, September 18 2 p.m. For more information and to register, click here.

National Voter Registration Day — The 3rd annual National Voter Registration Day is scheduled for September 23. In its first two years, more than 1,000 groups and 10,000 volunteers registered over 360,000 people to vote. When: September 23. For more information, click here.

EVOTE2014: Verifying the Vote — The Competence Center for Electronic Voting and Participation is hosting a 6th annual conference on electronic voting. This conference is one of the leading international events for e-voting experts from all over the world. One of its major objectives is provide a forum for interdisciplinary and open discussion of all issues relating to electronic voting. The format of the conference is a three-day meeting that deals with the topics from a both a theoretical perspective and a practical one. Practical papers should use case studies. No parallel sessions will be held, and sufficient space will be given for informal communication. Where: Lochau/Bregenz, Austria. When: October 29-31, 2014. For more information, click here.

National Student/Parent Mock Election — Now in it’s 34th year, the National Student/Parent Mock Election invites you to join the world’s largest national mock election and nation’s larges civic education project. Since 1980, students have learned what it means to be informed voters, casting votes for Presidential, U.S. Congressional and gubernatorial candidates. What’s more, students continue to demonstrate the value of civic engagement – from organizing their own debates and campaign activities to holding student rallies. When: October 30, 2014. For more information and to register, please click here.

National Conference of State Legislatures Forum— Mark your calendars now for NCSL’s fall forum. More information will be available in September, but make sure to get this in ink on your calendar now. Where: Washington, D.C. When: December 9-12.


IX. 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.

Associate, Pew Charitable Trusts, Election Initiatives, Washington, D.C. — primary responsibilities involve supporting the activities and goals of the portfolio of Pew’s Election Initiatives work, which includes the Elections Performance Index, Upgrading Voter Registration, the Voting Information Project, as well as other projects aimed at improving the research portfolio of the elections team. The Associate will be an integral part of all these projects, spending much of his or her time researching and drafting reports, memos, policy briefs, 50-state scans and other research products that are highly relevant to policy deliberations.  This individual will need to analyze and translate large amounts of data and research related to election administration into written products that policymakers and the public can easily understand. Additionally the Associate will be part of team collecting, cleaning and coding data as well as communicating with states and counties when conducting research. Consequently, the Associate must be able to think creatively about how to collect, use and report elections information from state and local officials. This individual will be required to coordinate and sustain our inquiries and relationships as well as manage research consultants we work with. The Associate also will work closely with the senior associate in the processing of contracts and subgrants, ensuring they are complete and accurate, as well as other aspects of supporting the team’s operations such as assisting with meeting planning. It is expected that this position is for a term period through December 31, 2015, with the possibility of an extension pending the success of the program, funding sources and board decisions on continued support. Deadline: Open until filled. Application: For the complete job posting and to apply, click here.

Associate (Research), Pew Charitable Trusts, Election Initiatives, Washington, D.C. — primary responsibilities involve supporting the activities and goals of the Pew’s Elections Performance Index project. The Elections Performance Index provides election officials, policy makers and citizens the data and tools they need to assess the state of election administration in America and identify specific improvements that can be made in the way elections are conducted. At its core, the Elections Performance Index provides an empirical assessment of how well the nation’s democracy is working. This position will be an integral part of this project by overseeing its data and spearheading communication with states and counties. The associate will ensure the project meets internal and external deadlines by conducting and overseeing the data work necessary to construct the index and ensure the highest quality of reporting available. Along with this work, this individual will be required to coordinate and sustain our inquiries and relationships in the states with regards to this project. Deadline: Open until filled. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.

Election Assistant, Los Angeles County — performs one or more of a variety of assignments essential to the conduct of elections and related functions of the Department of Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk.  Positions allocable to this intermediate level class work under the supervision of an Election Assistant III or other higher level supervisor on a variety of assignments essential to the conduct of primary, general and special elections and related election functions of the Department of Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk.  Such assignments include: Supervising teams of subordinate staff processing voted ballots; troubleshooting precinct operational problems; preparing election related equipment; distributing and retrieving election materials; and developing and conducting election related training.  Some assignments may require frequent heavy lifting over 25 lbs. combined with bending and stooping.  Depending on the nature of the various assignments, incumbents may work a definite short-term basis or an indefinite longer-term basis depending on the needs of the Department. Salary: $19.56 per hour. Application: For the complete job posting and to apply, click here.

Voting Systems Manager, Colorado Secretary of State — the position manages the voting systems team to ensure certification of voting systems, county support for technical issues, and implementation of the Election Night Reporting, Uniform Voting Systems, Post-Election Audit, Risk-Limiting Audit, and Ballot on Demand programs. Responsibilities include: Supervision of the voting system team, oversees certification of voting systems and verification or reinstallation of trusted build on county systems, ensures timely reporting of election night results on statewide basis, plans and implement Uniform Voting System when approved and funded, assists counties with technical issues relating to pre-election voting system testing, coordinates statutory post-election audits and plans for and implements risk-limiting audits on statewide basis, provides assistance to counties with ballot-on-demand, ensures that county voting systems are periodically audited and used in compliance with all applicable legal requirements, assists counties and vendors in resolving technological issues related to voting systems. Qualifications: Graduation from an accredited college or university with a bachelor’s degree in Public Administration, Business Management, Information Systems, Information Technology, or Engineering and three years of professional experience in election administration, large scale project implementation, program management or supervision. Salary: $4,764.00 – $6,973.00 Monthly. Application: For complete job posting and to apply click here. Deadline: Sunday, September 14, 2014 at 11:59pm MT.