I. In Focus This Week
News Analysis: Voter registration numbers soar
Social media helps break registration records
By M. Mindy Moretti
With the 2016 general election about a month way and the first voter registration deadlines just around the corner, it’s been a record-breaking voter registration week for states and counties across the country.
On September 23 Washington State saw a record one-day registration spike of 14,824 new registrants with nearly 13,000 of those via the state’s online portal MyVote — which was the second most for a single day since the portal launched.
The spike follows a prompt from Facebook which urged Washington residents aged 18 and older to register to vote and included a link to connect people to the state’s online voter registration system.
Dave Ammons, spokesman for the Washington Secretary of State’s office said that the previous single-day registration record was 13,109 on March 18, was also prompted by Facebook.
“Going back to 2008, we’ve been reminding people on Facebook to vote on Election Day and directing them to information on where to vote. This is the natural next step. We want people to have a voice in the process, and getting registered means that there’s one less hurdle for them,” said Samidh Chakrabarti, Facebook’s Product Manager for civic engagement.
In Indiana, following the Facebook prompt, 30,000 residents registered to vote between September 23 and September 26.
“Since Facebook launched its online campaign to remind Hoosiers to register to vote, we have seen substantially higher than normal online registrations,” Secretary of State Connie Lawson said in a statement. “Friday was the third highest daily total ever for online registrations. I appreciate Facebook’s willingness to use its platform to encourage everyone to vote and hope Hoosiers continue to do so.”
Minnesota is also seeing record-breaking voter registration numbers. In one week, the state saw nearly 47,000 new voter registrations with almost 27,000 of those coming on Friday the 23 which was the largest single-day number of online voter registrations the state has seen.
“I’m challenging the people of Minnesota to return our state back to number one in voter turnout in the country, and these historic online voter registration numbers are a positive sign that Minnesotans are preparing to step up to the challenge,” Secretary of State Steve Simon said in a statement.
While not quite record-breaking nearly 10,000 Nebraskans also registered to vote between Sept. 23-26 and state officials are giving credit to Facebook. On Sept. 23, about 6,800 people registered to vote using the state’s online voter registration system. The day before, only 378 people registered to vote.
“Compared to the previous day, voter registrations on NEReg2Vote jumped by 1,707 percent on Friday, September 23,” Secretary of State John Gale said in a statement. “That’s a tremendous hit…”
In addition to the Facebook push, the Google Doodle on Monday was about registering to vote. In Washington, that resulted in 3,910 logins to MyVote, 1692 percent higher than the daily average of 242 hits from google.com, Ammons said.
In California, data from Google Trends reveals that California’s searches for information related to voter registration in the state has grown over 230% compared to 2012.
Of course social media isn’t the only thing driving voter registration.
Mesa County, Colorado Clerk and Recorder Shelia Reiner said voter registration in the county is at all-time high and she attributes some of that spike to ballot questions.
“We’ve got some heavy issues to consider, from the Colorado Care, the healthcare question, to marijuana questions that are in the local jurisdiction of Palisade,” Reiner told WesternSlopeNow.
And in New Mexico the secretary of state’s office recently sent out 460,000 postcards to all eligible unregistered voters letting them know about the state’s online voter registration system.
Following the mailing, the secretary’s office saw a nearly eight-fold increase in weekly online voter registration and updates. Elections Director Kari Fresquez told the Las Cruces Sun-News online registrations and updates increased to 8,778 last week from 1,189 the previous week.
Will all the newly registered residents equal actual voters come Election Day? We asked the Washington Secretary of State’s office and their response is most likely.
Stuart Holmes, voting system information manager for the secretary’s office took a look at numbers from 2012 and while typically the longer a person is registered, the more likely they are to vote, the numbers also seem to show those who registered in August, September and October 2012 turned out at a higher rate than those who had registered earlier in the year.
So the turnout out Magic 8-ball says “signs point to yes” but only time — about 39 days depending on when you’re reading this — will tell.
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III. Election News This Week
- This week, when testifying before Congress, FBI Director James Comey testified that hackers have attempted to breach more state voter registration databases. “There have been a variety of scanning activities, which is a preamble for potential intrusion activities, as well as some attempted intrusions at voter registration databases beyond those we knew about in July and August,” he told the House Judiciary Committee. “There’s no doubt that some bad actors have been poking around.” During his testimony, Comey emphasized that voter registration databases — not the voting system itself — are being targeted by hackers.
- Also this week on the hacking front, the National Association of Secretaries of State has sent an open letter to Congress calling on the legislature to avoid using political rhetoric or propose legislation that may damage confidence in the election system.
- For the first time, Salt Lake County, Utah will not be using any schools as polling places. “We have eliminated the usage of schools,” Salt Lake County Clerk Sherrie Swensen told the Deseret News. “I was concerned about the fact that on Election Day we were letting anyone into a school.” With the approval of vote-by-mail Swensen was able to consolidate precincts into more centralized locations such as libraries, senior centers and fire stations. “I really feel a lot better about not having polling places in schools,” she told the paper. “It gives me more peace of mind.”
- In the wake of last month’s historic flooding in East Baton Rouge, Louisiana, the East Baton Rouge Metro Council has approved temporary voting location changes for the November election. More than 34,000 East Baton Rouge Parish voters will be affected by the change. The East Baton Rouge Parish Registrar of Voters told WBRZ workers with the Clerk of Court’s office will be on hand to assist residents at the combined polling locations. Each location will have two lines to ensure that residents are voting in the correct precincts.
- Given recent news, it’s somewhat ironic that a U.S. elections official would travel to Russia to observe their elections, but that’s exactly what Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill did when he served as an international observer for Russia’s recent parliamentary elections. Merrill observed the elections process in the Russian city of Volgograd. “We had unfiltered, unbridled access and could walk in unannounced. There were no incidents I saw where people were heavily influenced to support one party or candidate over another,” Merrill told Alabama Newscenter. Merrill said he observed various precincts, and watched later that night at a central location where votes were tallied. One polling location “was a two-room schoolhouse with no running water and no indoor toilets,” Merrill said.
- Personnel News: Dana Moeller has been appointed interim elections administrator for Bandera County, Texas. Patrick Gannon, former editor and columnist for The Insider State Government News Service has joined the North Carolina State Board of Elections as the board’s new spokesman.
IV. Research and Report Summaries
electionline provides brief summaries of recent research and reports in the field of election administration. The summaries are courtesy of Sean Greene, project management specialist with the U.S. Election Assistance Commission.
Overseas Citizen Population Analysis – Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP), September 2016: This new report from FVAP provides a detailed analysis of American voters overseas, including estimates of who is eligible to vote, who votes, and through a survey of registered overseas voters provides details on the experiences and characteristics of these voters.
V. Legislative Updates
California: Gov. Jerry Brown (D) has signed legislation that will allow convicted felons serving time in county jails to vote in California elections. “I wrote AB 2466 because I want to send a message to the nation that California will not stand for discrimination in voting,” Shirley Weber (D-San Diego) told The Los Angeles Times. The law takes effect January 1, 2017
Pennsylvania: Under House Bill 29, poll watchers would be allowed to observe anywhere in the state and not just the county where they are registered to vote. Rep. Rick Saccone (R-Allegheny) introduced the bill back in 2014, long before poll watchers became an issue in the 2016 election. The bill unanimously passed the House State Government Committee in June. The full House could take it up this week or this fall. Should it pass the House, it would move to the Senate, where its future is uncertain. The legislative session ends Nov. 30 and if it is not approved, the bill will die.
In other poll watching legislation news, Rep. David Maloney (R-130) said that he plans to introduce House Bill 148 which would make interfering with the elective franchise of a voter a serious offense that would merit a criminal penalty. “When an individual uses intimidation or duress to persuade a voter to cast his or her ballot in a certain way or to refrain from voting, such action affects one of the fundamental rights and privilege accorded to citizens of this nation – the right and privilege of casting a vote for the candidate or candidates of one’s choice,” Maloney told the Pocono Record.
Utah: According to the Salt Lake Tribune, lawmakers are showing little enthusiasm for changing the deadline for posting by-mail ballots, even though confusion prevented counting 70 ballots in the House District 53 GOP primary race that was decided by just nine votes. Government Operations Interim Committee Co-Chairman Jack Draxler, R-North Logan, polled members to see how many would like to pursue changing deadlines and found the vast majority opposed it.
VI. Legal Updates
Federal Litigation: According to The Washington Post, a U.S. appeals court panel that barred Kansas, Alabama and Georgia from adding a proof-of-citizenship requirement to a federal voter registration form wrote Monday that federal law leaves it to a federal elections agency — not the states — to determine whether such a change is necessary. The 2-to-1 written opinion follows a Sept. 9 order from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.
Alabama: Greater Birmingham Ministries and several disenfranchised Alabama ex-felons filed a federal lawsuit this week challenging the state’s practice of stripping a convicted felon of their voting rights. Lawyers for the plaintiffs said the restriction disenfranchises more than 130,000 black citizens.
Arizona: U.S. District Court Judge Douglas Rayes rejected an attempt by state and national Democrats to suspend Arizona’s new ballot-harvesting law that prevents individuals from turning in cast ballots on behalf of others. The plaintiffs said they will appeal to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
Illinois: U.S. District Judge Samuel Der-Yeghiayan blocked Election Day voter registration at polling places in Illinois, declaring a state law allowing the practice unconstitutional because it created one set of rules for cities and another for rural areas. Voters will still be able to register Nov. 8 and cast a ballot for president but only at a limited number of sites, including the county clerk’s office, according to the Illinois State Board of Elections.
Kansas: On Monday, U.S. District Court Judge Julie Robison ordered Secretary of State Kris Kobach to appear in court on Friday and explain why he shouldn’t be held in contempt of court. The plaintiffs contend Kobach has failed to register individuals applying at Division of Motor Vehicle offices who haven’t shown proof of citizenship — despite a federal order. Robinson directs Kobach to appear at the Friday hearing, and says he may file a written reply by the end of business Thursday.
Also in Kansas, Shawnee Co. Judge Larry Hendricks amended his original order allowing people who registered to vote at the DMV, but failed to provide proof-of-citizenship to vote in the primary to include the upcoming November general election.
Missouri: This week, the St. Louis Board of Elections asked an appeals court to modify a previous ruling on absentee voting and allow the county to use touch-screen voting machines for voters with disabilities. “The Board respectfully suggests the following sentence: ‘This Opinion does not bar the use of touch-screen absentee ballot voting without the use of envelopes for persons who appear in person to vote absentee and who demonstrate that a disability prevents them from voting using a paper ballot but would be able to vote using a touch-screen voting machine.’”
New Hampshire: Get your duck face ready! This week the First U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rule that New Hampshire authorities provided no evidence that ballot selfies encouraged vote buying or voter coercion. “The ballot-selfie prohibition is like ‘burn[ing down] the house to roast the pig,’” wrote Judge Sandra Lynch. The secretary of state’s office is reviewing the decision and considering legal options, including asking the U.S. Supreme Court to review the case.
Ohio: The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found that Ohio’s process of removing inactive voters from the voter rolls violates federal law. One judge on the court’s three-judge panel concurred in part, and dissented in part. The decision sends the case back to the lower court, which must establish a process for either restoring purged voters to the rolls or allowing them to vote provisionally and having all those votes count.
Also in Ohio a group that includes the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless and Ohio Democratic Party wants the full 15-judge 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to consider a law that allows election officials to throw out absentee ballots if the voter legibly signs his or her name in the space that calls for the name to be printed.
South Carolina: Students at Furman University in South Carolina have sued Greenville County challenging the county’s handling of voter registration. The students’ suit asserts that the students should be allowed to register at their school address instead of their home address. According to Greenville Online, the students claim a longstanding policy created by Greenville County Board of Voter Registration and Elections goes beyond state election law and has thwarted efforts of Furman University students for years who want to register to vote in the location where they live for much of the year.
Texas: Attorney General Ken Paxton has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to reinstate the state’s voter ID law. According to The Statesman, the appeal could take months and will not affect rules adopted for the upcoming general election.
Virginia: Last week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit heard arguments involving Virginia’s voter ID law. During the hearing, the justices repeatedly asked plaintiffs and defendants if the Virginia law resembled the North Carolina law the 4th Circuit recently overturned.
VII. Tech Thursday
National Tech: This week Google, which is pushing to get more Americans registered to vote, expanded its voter information guide in Google Search by including Spanish-language search terms. According to Tech Crunch, Google Search users who query things like “inscribirse para votar” or “como votar,” for example, will also see the same information, translated into Spanish. This includes the customized information for your state, as determined by your device’s location when searching. That means you’ll see things like registration guidelines for your state, and when your polls open and close, rather than more general voter information.
California: This week, California Secretary of State Alex Padilla certified VoteCal, the state’s new statewide voter registration database. The certification comes almost seven months after the technical work on the database was complete. It clears the way for laws like election-day registration and pre-registration for 17-year-olds to finally go into effect.
Massachusetts: Four students from MIT have created Votemate, a web app that simplifies and modernizes the voter registration process. “With Votemate, we wanted to ensure that our peers and anyone else new to the political process could engage in a familiar way. Our web app lowers the barriers to register, and, we hope, vote,” Caroline Mak told MIT News.
Rhode Island: This week, Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea introduced www.rivotes.org a mobile-optimized website aimed at increasing voter participation among Rhode Island Millennials. The peer-driven initiative answers common reasons Millennials typically give for not voting. The website’s simple navigation walks users through a series of questions about their intention and readiness to vote. The site gives important information on voting procedures and how to register to vote online in Rhode Island. If users are unsure about voting, they are directed to several peer videos explaining how easy it is to be a voter and why voting matters.
Texas: A study by the League of Women Voters of Texas found that many county elections website are lacking. According to Houston Public Media, all but 12 of the state’s 254 counties have websites with election information, but only about two-thirds of them make it easy to find voting information.
VIII. Opinions This Week
California: Early voting
Colorado: Automatic voter registration
Indiana: Proof reading
Kansas: Court rulings
Mississippi: Election legislation
Oregon: National Voter Registration Day
Vermont: Secretary of state
Virginia: Ex-felon voting rights
West Virginia: Cybersecurity
AAPD Paul G. Hearne Leadership Awards
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X. Upcoming Events
NSCL StateVote Post-Election Briefing —Join the National Conference of State Legislature elections analysts and national political experts for a post-election discussion about what the outcome will mean for the states. The briefing will feature sessions on: State Election Analysis: Trends and Outcomes; 2016 Elections in Perspective; The State Agenda for 2017; Changes on the Hill: What it Means for States; and The U.S. Supreme Court: Outlook and Analysis. This event is being presented in cooperation with The Hill. When: November 14 1-5 p.m. Where: National Press Club, Washington, D.C. For more information and to register, click here.
2016 NCSL Capitol Forum — Find out what the outcome of the election will mean for the states at the NCSL Capitol Forum. Be a voice for the states on Lobby Day on Capitol Hill, learn the latest on pressing state-federal issues, and connect with legislative colleagues from around the country. When: December 6-9. Where: Washington, D.C. For more information and to register, click here.
IaoGO 2017 Mid-Winter Conference —join the International Association of Government Officials at their mid-winter conference with the theme of Success Through Education. A tentative agenda can be found here. When: January 8-11, 2017. Where: Tucson, Arizona. For more information and to register, click here.
NASS 2017 Winter Conference — Mark your calendars now and stay tuned for more information and registration details on the National Association of Secretaries of State 2017 Winter Conference. When: February 15-18, 2017. Where: Washington, D.C.
NASED 2017 Winter Meeting — Mark your calendars now and stay tuned for more information and registration details on the National Association of State Election Directors 2017 Winter Meeting. When: February 15-18, 2017. Where: Washington, D.C.
IaoGO 2017 Annual Conference — Mark your calendars now and stay tuned for more information and registration details on the International Association of Government Officials 2017 Annual Conference. When: July 6-13, 2017. Where: Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin.
NASS 2017 Summer Conference — Mark your calendars now and stay tuned for more information and registration details on the National Association of Secretaries of State 2017 Summer Conference. When: July 7-10, 2017. Where: Indianapolis, Indiana.
NASED 2017 Summer Meeting— Mark your calendars now and stay tuned for more information and registration details on the National Association of State Election Directors 2017 Summer Meeting. When: August 22-25, 2017. Where: Anaheim, California.
XI. Job Postings This Week
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 email@example.com. 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.
Ballot Production Services Consultant, Hart InterCivic — BPS Consultants at Hart work with our customers to design ballots and to provide printed ballots and voting media for customers. This is a customer-service position, and applicants must have exceptional customer service skills. This is a part-time hourly positon with opportunities for overtime pay during peak periods. This is not a replacement position, but a net new position at Hart. This is an ideal position for someone who wants to work varying hours, depending on the calendar. Preference is for this position to be Austin-based, but that is open to negotiation. Deadline: Open until filled. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, please click here.
Customer Relations Manager, Dominion Voting Systems, Chicago, Illinois— Dominion Voting Systems is seeking a highly motivated and enthusiastic, Customer Relations Manager, based in the Chicago, Illinois area! This position will be responsible for providing world-class customer service in order to achieve our core purpose of delivering solutions for the advancement of fair, accessible, and secure elections! You will problem solve, collaborate, create and improve processes, and make our customers successful in the execution of seemingly impossible tasks. Excitement lives here!. Salary: Negotiable base + bonus target & benefits. Deadline: Open until filled. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply click here.
Director of Operations, West, Western United States — Dominion Voting Systems is looking for a talented and passionate Director of Operations, West to join our team! This position can be based in either Northern California or Nevada and will work remotely. This position will direct the day-to-day operations in the Western United States for Dominion Voting in order to meet and exceed business objectives for growth and profitability. This position will formulate and enact policies and strategies; work with leadership to set and achieve goals; forecast, set and manage budgets; hire, mentor and manage staff; and establish and maintain professional and positive business relationships with our customers. Salary: Negotiable base + bonus target & benefits. Deadline: Open until filled. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Manufacturing Engineer III, Toronto, Ontario — Dominion Voting Systems is seeking an experienced and passionate, Manufacturing Engineer III, to join our team in downtown Toronto! This position will work with Contract Manufacturer’s (CM’s) Engineering Teams to develop, implement and maintain methods, operation sequence and processes for the manufacture of parts, components, sub-assemblies and final assemblies; Interface with design engineering, estimating, determining time standards and making recommendations on product lines; Provide technical support to CM’s engineering teams; and Maintain records and reporting systems for coordination of manufacturing operations and accountable for on-site monitoring and audit of CM’s manufacturing processes to help identify and resolve issues causing defects and affecting product quality. Salary: Negotiable base + bonus target & benefits. Deadline: Open until filled. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Project Manager, Hart InterCivic — project managers at Hart InterCivic are highly motivated “self-starters” who are enthusiastic about providing exceptional customer service. Working with other members of the Professional Services and Operations teams, the project manager directs activity, solves problems and develops lasting and strong relationships with our customers. Hart InterCivic’s unique and industry known culture of innovation, transparency and customer-centric focus creates an environment where team members will continually grow and be challenged to develop their careers. Deadline: Open until filled. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Product Specialist, Toronto, Ontario — Dominion Voting Systems is seeking a tech-savvy and passionate, Product Specialist, to be based in our downtown Toronto, Ontario office. This role is responsible for responsible for the installation, operation, repair, and maintenance of all Dominion Voting Systems elections products; providing elections support services and customer training; and interfacing directly with customers, co-workers and election officials. Salary: Negotiable base + bonus target & benefits. Deadline: Open until filled. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Senior Project Manager, Denver, Colorado — Dominion Voting Systems is seeking an experienced, well-organized and passionate Senior Project Manager to join our team in downtown Denver! This position will be responsible for overseeing the successful execution of assigned projects in the State of Colorado as well as managing a team of local and remote employees. This position is critical to the success of our customers throughout the State of Colorado. Salary: Negotiable base + bonus target & benefits. Deadline: Open until filled. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Senior UI/UX Designer, Toronto, Ontario — Dominion Voting Systems is seeking a talented and passionate, Senior UI/UX Designer, to join our team in downtown Toronto! This position will be tasked with creating an easy-to-use voting experience for voters and election workers. The ideal candidate should have an eye for clean and artful design, possess superior UI skills and be able to translate high-level requirements into intuitive and functional user interfaces. Salary: Negotiable base + bonus target & benefits. Deadline: Open until filled. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Senior Software Developer, Lead, Toronto, Ontario — Dominion Voting Systems is seeking highly technical and passionate, Senior Software Developer, Lead to join our team in downtown Toronto! This position will be responsible for providing high-level technical expertise to design development, coding, testing and debugging of new voting system software and/or significant enhancements to existing software for our customers. This position will Lead a team utilizing an Agile development environment. Salary: Negotiable base + bonus target & benefits. Deadline: Open until filled. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Software Developer II, Toronto, Ontario — Dominion Voting Systems is seeking a talented and passionate, Software Developer II, to join our team in downtown Toronto! This position will be responsible for providing high-level technical expertise to design development, coding, testing and debugging of new voting system software and/or significant enhancements to existing software for our customers. This position will work on a team utilizing an Agile development environment. Salary: Negotiable base + bonus target & benefits. Deadline: Open until filled. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
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