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electionlineWeekly--August 18, 2011

Table of Contents

II. Election News This Week

  • Former Colorado Secretary of State and current U.S. Representative Mike Coffman announced plans this week to introduce legislation that would repeal a section of the 1973 Voting Rights Act that requires jurisdictions with large populations of nonproficient English speakers to print ballots in more than one language. Coffman asserts that Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act is an unnecessary and unfunded federal mandate that can be a financial hardship for some jurisdictions because of the increased cost of translating and printing election materials and mailing larger ballots. "Since proficiency in English is already a requirement for U.S. citizenship, forcing cash-strapped local governments to provide ballots in a language other than English makes no sense at all," Coffman said. About 16 Colorado counties are awaiting word from the U.S. Dept. of Justice. Currently eight counties must provide bilingual ballots either in Spanish or in two Native American languages.
  • Special elections are adding to the overall high cost of elections across the country and in Nevada, state and local officials are looking at a bill of more than half a million dollars to cover the upcoming special election to replace Rep. Dean Heller. This week, a board lead by Gov. Brian Sandoval, voted to ask the Legislature to cover the $539,137 cost of the special election. Instead of requiring counties to cover election costs, the state Board of Examiners wants the Legislature to reimburse counties out of its $12 million interim contingency fund. Secretary of State Ross Miller initially had put the cost of the special election at $1.3 million. Miller said he already has spent $150,000 in federal Help America Vote Act funds for the special election, the first House special election in the state's history.
  • Polling Place News: The Vanderburgh County, Ind. board of elections gave final approval this week to switch to vote centers in time for the upcoming November elections. In Pierce County, Wash., even though the county was forced to move to a vote-by-mail system, six vote centers were open this week for residents to cast their ballots in the county primary. Flagler County, Fla. Supervisor of Elections Kimberle Weeks sent a letter to voters saying that three of the counties outlying polling places would be closed for an upcoming special election because of a lack of funding. The Jefferson County, Ala. board of elections voted this week to move a polling place from an elementary school to a community center due to problems with traffic and accessibility. The Will County, Ill. Clerk Nancy Schultz Voots said this week that the county could save nearly a quarter of a million dollars each election if it would consolidate precincts.
  • Personnel News: The U.S. Virgin Islands Joint Board of Elections voted late last week to extend the tenure of current Elections Supervisor John Abramson, Jr. for another eight years. Long-time Rockford, Ill. Director of Elections Nancy Strain will retire on Sept. 9. Strain began her career with the office in 1979 as a systems operator. She was named assistant executive director in 1991 and became director in 1997.