I. In Focus This Week
Wisconsin residents no longer need to show papers
State accepts electronic documents for same-day registration
While many elections officials across the country are concerned about the U.S. Postal Service’s ability to stay afloat because of the impact it may have on vote-by-mail and absentee voting, elections officials in Wisconsin are faced with another dilemma from the slow death of the mail.
No one mails anything anymore — including identifying documents like utility bills.
Faced with a growing number of people who receive and pay their bills exclusively online, recently, the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board ruled that residents wishing to register to vote at the polls on election day may provide a poll worker with an electronic proof-of-residency via their smartphone.
“I can’t see the difference between being shown a screen with an identifying document or being shown a piece of paper,” said Judge Thomas Cane, according to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. “I think we’ve got to bring ourselves up to date.”
Staff of the GAB recommended that the board not implement the use of electronic documents, but it wasn’t because they disagree with the practice, it was all about timing.
“The staff supported the concept because there is no difference in the information that must be presented or recorded,” explained Kevin Kennedy, director of the GAB. “However, we wanted to get enough input from local election officials before instituting the change. “
Kennedy noted that while the change was being proposed more than two months before the November election, state and local elections officials as well as the public have been faced with a multitude of new elections laws in addition to 15 recalls within the past 18 months and there were simply concerns about one more new thing to face come November 6.
“That is a lot of change to absorb in a year and a half…” Kennedy said. “We also wanted to ensure that we understood and addressed all practical aspects of such a change, including any questions that poll workers might have about the new directive and the process of reviewing and accepting electronic proof of residence.”
Ultimately what the board determined is that an elector who is required to show proof of residence to support election-day registration may provide that information by presenting the required information to a poll worker by displaying the information on a smart phone, tablet or other computer screen—voters must provide their own electronic device, polling places will not have computers/tablets they can use.
The poll worker needs to see that the document is one of the permitted types of proof of residence, is current and contains the voter’s full name and current address. The poll worker must also see and record any unique number associated with the document such as a driver’s license number, financial institution account number or utility account number.
Kennedy said the GAB is adding information to its “Back to Basics” training program developed for November. But even with the additional training, and ultimately the support of the GAB staff, some concerns remain.
“We have two primary concerns. The first is that the poll worker diligently examine the electronic format document and record the required information,” Kennedy said. “The second is that the voter be cooperative and patient to ensure the poll worker does what is required. Some clerks have also raised a concern about liability if poll worker accidentally drops a smart phone or tablet.”
In 2008, 462,392 registered to vote on Election Day in Wisconsin. There also were 115,968 voters who registered in the municipal clerk’s office after the close of registration who also had to show proof of residence—a practice that would also allow electronic documentation. With nearly 3 million people casting ballots in 2008 that essentially meant that one in five voters had to show their proof of residency to get a ballot.
That’s a lot of people and a lot of smartphones. Kennedy isn’t exactly sure of the impacts the new process will have on length of time a voter spends at the polls on Election Day, but he suspects it may slow down the process a bit.
“Our sense is it will slow the EDR process down because we are emphasizing that the poll worker follow the same steps required with a paper document, but that it will require the voter to scroll through the phone to show each of the required elements,” Kennedy said. “However it will provide the opportunity to register and vote for individuals who neglected to bring along a paper document establishing their residence.”
Eight states and the District of Columbia offer same-day registration. While some of those states — Minnesota and Montana — do accept electronic proof-of residency, most of the states contacted truthfully hadn’t even thought about it.
“We don’t specifically address electronic documents in the law,” said Julie Flynn, director of elections for the state of Maine. “It hasn’t come up so I don’t think it has been an issue, but we can add this to a list of topics to consider for future legislative action.”
The question has come up in Iowa, but as the law is currently written, accepting electronic documents for same-day registration is a no-go.
“The Secretary of State’s office has provided guidance to our county auditors in our Election Administrator’s Handbook indicating that an actual physical document is required for proof of residency purposes under Iowa Code section 48A.7A [the election day registration statute],” explained Sarah Reisetter, director of elections for Iowa. “Our law specifically uses the word ‘document’ and we have concerns about whether our precinct election officials would be able to view the screen of a smart phone or be able to actually determine what ‘document’ was being viewed on a device they may be unfamiliar with using.”
Minnesota began accepting electronic forms of proof of residency in 2010.
“The reality is that many voters and most younger voters no longer use surface mail to receive bills for utility services,” said Joseph Mansky, Ramsey County, Minn. elections manager. “Electronic billing is the reality of life for a rapidly growing proportion of the population. We need to use the documents that are commonly in use.”
Mansky said that he doesn’t see a down side to using electronic “paperwork,” in fact he said that he would like to see more of the election process go in that direction.
As with anything new in the election field, there have been concerns expressed about whether or not allowing electronic documents could lead to instances of voter fraud. Kennedy, and Mansky in Minnesota, don’t really see that as an issue.
“Some folks have raised the specter of electronic manipulation of the documents, but this could be an issue with paper documents as well,” Kennedy said. “If people can Photoshop fake electronic documents, they can just as easily print them out, just as there was always the potential for fake paper documents to be created. Proof of residence is just one component of ensuring the validity of a registration form.”
Three states — Arizona, Ohio and Virginia — require non-photo ID to cast a ballot while an additional handful of states request it, but don’t require it. Could the Wisconsin model be used for proof of identity?
“Our guidance on this issue is that a virtual copy of a utility bill or other form of ID would not suffice for satisfying the Virginia ID purposes,” explained Justin Riemer, deputy secretary of the Virginia State Board of Elections. “However, a voter that has to vote provisionally for lack of ID can email a copy of the ID to the local electoral board and have his or her ballot count.”
II. Election News This Week
- Two years after Clark County, Nev. launched it, online voter registration is now available throughout The Silver State. Douglas County was the last of the state’s 17 counties to come online late last week. The entire project cost the state $248,000 with most of the money coming from the state’s HAVA funds.
- Apparently size does matter — at least when it comes to fonts. In the latest installment of the saga of voter ID in South Carolina, the U.S. Dept. of Justice recently accused lawyers for the state of using the wrong font size — 12pt instead of 13pt — for the state’s finding of facts. The dispute arose over the weekend with lawyers for both sides exchanging emails late into Saturday night and the DOJ filing an emergency motion with the D.C. court a bit before 11pm. On Sunday, two of the three judges presiding over the case allowed the DOJ to re-file its court papers in 12pt font, but that moving forward most parties must use 13pt.
- With an almost 10-page ballot facing them in November, voters in Florida have a decision to make: Potentially longer lines at polling places as fellow voters wade through the ballots or spending up to $1.50 in postage to vote-by-mail. Elections supervisors are encouraging Floridians to vote early or by mail. “This is the longest ballot I can remember,” Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections Deborah Clark told the Miami Herald. “The voter who sees this ballot the first time may need smelling salts.”
- Former Indiana Secretary of State Charlie White, who earlier this year was removed from office after being convicted on six felony charges including for vote fraud, began the appeal process late last week in the Indiana Court of Appeals. White is appealing three of the six convictions—perjury on a marriage license application, submitting a false voter registration application and casting a fraudulent ballot.
- Personnel News: Rhine McLin and John Doll have been tapped to replace the two fired Democrats on the Montgomery County, Ohio board of elections. And on a related note, the fired Democratic board of elections members are suing Secretary of State Jon Husted in federal court charging that they were unjustly fired. Several secretaries of state are overseas this week to learn from members of the military about the struggles to cast an overseas ballot. Those getting their passports stamped include Louisiana’s Tom Schedler, Nevada’s Ross Miller and Kentucky’s Alison Lundergan Grimes. John Irish has been appointed to the Lucas County, Ohio board of elections. Carl P. Davis was appointed to the Campbell County, Va. electoral board this week.
- Award Nomination: IFES’ Joe C. Baxter Award recognizes the contribution of a professional whose skills, dedication and sacrifices to the field of election administration epitomizes the mission of IFES and embodies the spirit of former IFES Senior Adviser for Election Administration Joe C. Baxter.We encourage you to submit a nominee for the 2012 Joe C. Baxter Award. IFES looks for an individual whose work has focused on building local ownership and capacity; improving election administration procedures; and creating sustainable democratic processes. This year’s award will be presented at a special reception on Monday, November 5, in Washington, D.C.Submit a name for the 2012 Joe C. Baxter Award. The nomination period closes on September 19 at 9:00 a.m. EST.Learn more about IFES’ Baxter Award.
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.
Bullies at the Ballot Box – Liz Kennedy, Stephen Spaulding, Tova Wang, Jenny Flanagan and Anthony Kammer, Demos and Common Cause, September 2012: This report analyzes and assesses laws in 10 states concerning:
- Challenging a registered voter’s right to vote both before and on Election Day;
- Poll watchers and poll watcher behavior; and
- Protections against voter intimidation
The 10 states are Colorado, Florida, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Virginia.
The Canvass – National Conference of State Legislatures, September 2012: The current issue of the Canvass issue examines post-election audits and provides a brief summary of NCSL’s summer conference including panels that focused on voter registration and voter ID.
Arizona: Vote centers
Colorado: Vote fraud
Connecticut: Election costs
Indiana: Voter fraud
Michigan: Citizenship check box
Missouri: Voter ID
Montana: Voter fraud
North Carolina: Early voting
Oklahoma: Voter ID
Vermont: Secretary of state
Washington: Secretary of state race
**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 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.
Manager, Elections Initiatives, Pew Center on the States, Washington, D.C. — Manager will serve as the lead manager across all the Election Initiatives. The Manager reports to the Director, Election Initiatives, who is based in Washington, DC, and will be part of a project staff including: a director, a senior officer, two managers, three senior associates, an associate, an administrative assistant and a research fellow. This position is funded through June 20, 2013. Qualifications Include: Eight + years of professional experience in public policy in general and election administration, technology policy, and open government in particular; undergraduate degree required; Masters or other advanced degree in a relevant area preferred; experience working with election officials, academics, technology experts, voting technology vendors, and other relevant stakeholders; proven programming skills in multiple languages including XML and strong system skills in Microsoft Office products required. Familiarity with HTML, mapping, geographic information systems, voting technology vendors’ proprietary software, open source formats, and data management tools (Google Maps, Bing Maps, ArcGIS) and their prospects for use in elections technology preferred; demonstrated strong analytical, qualitative, and quantitative skills applied to public policy issues, including an ability to synthesize and summarize large amounts of information and to focus quickly on the essence of an issue; and a strong familiarity with statistical analysis software (e.g. SPSS, Stata, SAS). For complete listing and application, click here.
Manager, Communications, Elections Initiatives, Pew Center on the States, Washington, D.C. — offers a unique opportunity for an individual to contribute to exciting, high-profile initiatives. Reports to the Pew Center on the States’ Senior Officer, Communications and is part of the staff of Pew’s communications department. The communications manager is responsible for developing and executing a comprehensive and robust communications program to increase the visibility and impact of Pew’s experts, research, initiatives and events with target audiences. This position will also work with other communications colleagues to plan and execute integrated strategies, campaigns and outreach and other duties as assigned. Qualifications Include: Bachelor’s degree required including skills associated with completion of an undergraduate degree program in communications, journalism or related major; graduate degree in public affairs, public policy or journalism desirable; at least eight years of direct experience in position with communications/PR responsibilities, with considerable experience as a media relations professional – knowledge of pitching, media strategies – required. Experience in public policy preferred; superior oral and written communications skills. Proven experience drafting media materials and other public documents including press releases, fact sheets, speeches and op-eds; ability to manage and ensure professional development of junior staff; able to build and leverage relationships within and external to Pew to assemble networks that facilitate positive outcomes. For more information and to apply, click here.
Public Affairs Specialist, District of Columbia Board of Elections — conducts the public affairs program for the board with responsibility for developing and providing direction for all public information, internal information and community relations activities. Identifies communication needs and develops informational materials that inform voters of the agency’s policies, programs, services and activities; and plans, executes and evaluates the effectiveness of information and communication programs. Coordinates media. Works with the media in a proactive manner to identify news opportunities and to ensure positive news stories about the BOE relations, event planning and community outreach activities. It is desirable that the applicant be a graduate from an accredited college or university with a Bachelor’s degree in public administration, legislative or regulatory affairs, journalism, communication, marketing or a related field, plus three (3) to four (4) years of work-related knowledge or experience within functional areas such as communication marketing, public relations, legislative affairs or journalism. Interested persons can apply to the D.C. Dept. of Human Resources Job Center 441 4th St., NW; Washington, D.C. 20001. To apply online, got to http://dcop.dc.gov and click Employment Opportunities. Inquiries should be directed to HR Answers at 202.422.9700.