I. In Focus This Week
Stuck on you
Voters approve of “I Voted” stickers
Whether Democrat, Republican, Green or Independent, male or female, young or old, for or against a proposition, one thing for which most voters seem to have a common affection is the “I Voted” sticker they receive after casting a ballot.
Although not nearly as iconic as a purple stained finger, “I Voted” stickers invoke a certain passion in voters; though where this passion for a temporary piece of paper comes from is a bit hard to pinpoint.
“My best guess -- and it is only a guess -- is that it relates to civic duty. Voting is considered a civic duty even by some of those who do not vote. The census reports on voter turnout caution their numbers may be high because a significant number of non-voters say they voted rather than admit they neglected their duty. So my best answer is that some voters want to let the world know that they performed their duty,” explained Dr. Richard Smolka, professor emeritus at The American University and founder of Election Administration Reports.
The history of the “I Voted” sticker is a bit hazy, but some elections historians point to the 1980s as the possible timeline for their introduction and one company online claims that they created the original “I Voted” stickers in 1986.
According to Alex Keyssar, the Mathew W. Stirling, Jr. professor of history and social policy at the Harvard Kennedy School, as far back as the 19th Century people used to stay in the polling places for hours after they had already voted—thus proving to everyone that they had cast their ballot.
And “I Voted” stickers aren’t just used to let the world know that a voter has cast their ballot. In some places the stickers are a gateway to lots of free stuff. Many businesses give away free food and drink to voters sporting an “I Voted” sticker on election-day.
The Ohio secretary of state’s office recently held a contest to design a new “I Voted” sticker to be distributed to the state’s 88 counties. Nearly 60,000 Buckeyes cast their ballot for their sticker of choice and the winning sticker was a play on “I Love Voting” with an outline of the state of Ohio replacing the traditional heart.
“While voting is serious business, selecting our state’s next “I Voted Today” sticker provided an outreach opportunity to get both younger and older Ohioans excited about the voting process,” Secretary of State Jon Husted said in a statement when the results were announced.. “The Election Day sticker is worn as a badge of honor by many and I wanted Ohioans to have the chance to voice their opinion and help pick our new design.”
The stickers will first be distributed for the November 2011 election. According to the secretary of state’s office, for the 2010 general election, the state issued 4.2 million stickers at a cost of approximately $29,000. The secretary of state’s office has looked at ways to bring down the overall printing costs for the office, but determined that it would continue to provide the voting stickers because “it’s a tradition that promotes civic engagement at a relatively small price.”
“Why are people excited about getting their “I Voted Today” sticker? It’s funny, I’ve talked to some board of elections members and poll workers who have said it would make their job harder if we didn’t have the sticker,” said Maggie Ostrowski a spokesperson for the secretary of state’s office. “Voters in Ohio definitely ask for them when they finish voting. They wear them as a badge of honor on Election Day that they exercised their right to vote and participated in our democracy. It’s a small gesture, but it means a lot to them to wear it proudly and see fellow citizens wearing them too.”
While the state of Ohio is spending creating contests and spending money on stickers, for some localities with tight budgets cutting the “I Voted” stickers seems like the first logical step.
Morris County, NJ recently eliminated the distribution of “I Voted” stickers in an effort to save the county approximately $800 per year.
“We thought it was a nice thing to do, so people would feel good about voting. But we can’t afford them,” John Sette, chairman of the county’s board of elections told The Star-Ledger. The county had been distributing the stickers for about five years.
While some counties may be cutting “I Voted” stickers, others are going out of their way to provide them to voters — even if those voters cast their ballot by mail.
Pierce County, Wash., which fought becoming a vote-by-mail county till the bitter end, will still provide “I Voted” stickers to county voters. In the official Pierce County voter’s guide, Pierce County Auditor Julie Anderson wrote:
“We know you love the “I Voted” sticker. Thousands wear it proudly, as a reminder to others. Well, we’ve found a way to include the stickers in your Voters’ Pamphlet. And this way, you can wear “I Voted” at any time during the election period. In fact, we hope you will. Pierce County voter participation is the lowest in the state. Help us remind everyone of this important civic duty”
Reporter’s Note: During the recent special election in Washington, D.C. my polling place did not have any “I Voted” stickers so I visited another polling location, explained the situation to the very nice poll worker who was more than willing to part with a sticker. Why did I want one badly enough to visit another polling place in search of one? Like so much in life, it’s complicated. For one, I was working with a candidate and wanted to put the “I Voted” sticker on my bag next to the campaign sticker. For another I wanted to show my fellow Washingtonians that I’d made the effort to get out and vote in the low-turnout special election. And for another it’s just something that I felt I needed to do, whether I worked for electionline or not.
II. Election News This Week
- This week, the U.S. Dept. of Justice approved 76 provisions of Florida’s controversial new election-reform law. However, the agency failed to pre-clear four additional provisions in the law, provisions that many consider the most controversial including reducing the number of days voters will have for early voting and new restrictions on third-party voter registration groups. Anticipating that DOJ may not pre-clear all pieces of the legislation, last month Kurt Browning, secretary of state, asked a federal court to approves those changes arguing that he didn’t think they would get a “fair hearing” from the agency. In a statement, Browning said the Justice Department decision "confirms what we already know, that Florida's new election laws are fair and not discriminatory. I expect the federal district court will also agree that the new laws are fair when it reviews the remaining provisions." The sections of the Florida law that are now before the court require third-party registration groups to submit voter registration cards within 48 hours or suffer large fines; largely discontinue name or registration changes at the polls; limit the number of days for early voting; and make it harder to verify voter signatures on petitions.
- Riverside County's new elections chief is facing an ironic twist. Kari Verjil took over as registrar of voters in February after serving as the top elections official in San Bernardino County. Now, she is eyeing ways to improve the county's vote-counting operations, which came under criticism last year amid the slow posting of results. Part of that effort is finding additional ballot-counting machines. The county currently has six Sequoia Optech 400C scanners to count paper ballots. By comparison, two other counties, which use the same machines, both have 14. Sequoia no longer regularly manufactures the Optech 400C scanners. The county was leasing two extra machines for the November 2010 election to help speed vote-counting efforts but the county cannot purchase those because they were bought by another county. "They went to San Bernardino when I was there," Verjil told The Press Enterprise. "I was ramping up operations in San Bernardino before I knew I was coming here."So those machines were bought by that registrar that used to be there," Verjil said she and her successor in San Bernardino County, Michael Scarpello, have joked about the situation, which she describes as odd.
- Many county and state election officials often lament of low voter turnout, but Surry County, Va. is anticipating 100 percent voter turnout for an upcoming Republican Primary — or a zero percent turnout. A quirk in redistricting means that the county will have to open a polling place for one voter for the upcoming primary. It will cost the county approximately $2,000 to open the polling place for the day and even if the lone voter shows up in the early moments of election day, the county must keep the location open till polls officially close across the state. Registrar Lucille Epps said she contacted the Virginia Board of Elections to ask if the lone voter could be sent to the next closest precinct but was told that was not possible.
- Moving on Up: Elections offices across the country are busting at the seams with staff, equipment and piles of paperwork. In Davidson County, N.C. the board of elections is making plans to move to a new government-owned building in the next couple of months. The new space will provide additional room for storage and parking. In Sequoyah County, Okla., the board of elections now shares a 6,400-sq. foot space with the county’s 911 operations. The board used to share a small space with the county commission, but now is enjoying a space that includes: a kitchen/break area, a large meeting/training room, separate storage, a small conference room, an office area behind the public service counter and a public reception.
- Personnel News: The D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics took another hit this week with the announcement that board chairman Togo West would be stepping down. This follows the resignation last month of DCBOEE Executive Director Rokey Suleman. The board has also been without a minor party member for more than year. After 42 years of serving the voters of St. Johns County, Fla., long-time Elections Supervisor Penny Halyburton announced that she will retire as of the end of August.
- In Memoriam: Former Oregon Secretary of State Mark Hatfield died this week at the age of 89. In addition to serving as secretary of state, Hatfield served in the state legislator, was governor from 1958 to 1966 and served in the U.S. Senate for almost 30 years. Former Maine Secretary of State Dan Gwadosky died this week after a long battle with pancreatic cancer, he was 57. Gwadosky served as secretary of state from 1997 to 2005. He also served in the state legislature after first being elected at the age of 23. Former Hamilton County, Tenn. elections administrator Steve Conrad passed away this week. He was 87.
III. Research and Report Summaries
2011 Electronic Voting Technology Workshop/Workshop on Trustworthy Elections – Sponsored by USENIX, ACCURATE, and IAVoSS, August 8-9, 2011: This workshop, held in conjunction with the 20th USENIX Security Symposium, focused on a variety of issues related to election technology and papers were presented related to: the usability and accessibility of voting technology, instant-runoff voting, and auditing election results.
The Canvass: States and Election Reform - National Conference of State Legislature, August 2011: This month’s issue examines the use of vote centers, shorter time frames for early voting in some states, and the variations in states’ voter identification requirements where such laws have been recently enacted.
National: Voter ID
Indiana: Vote centers
Massachusetts: Inactive voters
Minnesota: Voter registration
New Mexico: Voter fraud
Ohio: John Husted
South Carolina: Richland County
Texas: Voting Rights Act
V. Job Openings
Registration Chief, Fulton County Board of Elections, Fulton County, Ga. — incumbent in this class performs duties related to planning, implementing, and managing operational activities for the Registration Division of the Registration and Elections Department, including maintenance of the State Voter Registration System, absentee voting process, and provisional ballot research and tabulations. Responsibilities include managing assigned staff, developing and implementing policies and procedures related to the laws governing the voter registration process, preparing divisional budgets, and implementing reapportionment guidelines.This is the fourth level within a four-level voter registration classification series. Registration Chief is distinguished from Registration Manager in that the former prepares annual divisional budgets and implements reapportionment functions mandated by the state legislature in addition to managing assigned staff, whereas the latter oversees daily registration operations and staff training in addition to supervising assigned staff. Incumbent in this class reports directly to the Registration and Elections, Director.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. Manages and oversees voter registration operational processes, including the absentee by mail voting and provisional ballot process and tabulations, updating and maintenance of the State Voter Registration System, and verification of petitions. Compiles and maintains voter lists from official voter registration records. Consults with Geographic Information Systems staff to resolve street index and mapping issues. Interprets and ensures adherence to all federal, state, and local laws and regulations governing voter registration and absentee voting. Implements reapportionment functions as mandated by state law. Ensures compliance with official registration and election procedures and recommends and implements changes as appropriate. Prepares and submits monthly reports on voter registration operations and activities. Plans and coordinates divisional functions and programs with assigned staff and other agencies. Prepares and submits the annual division budget. Responds to media inquiries related to registration issues. Attends and participates in Board of Registration and Elections meetings. Performs the duties of the Registration and Elections Director in his/her absence as required. Salary: $71,172-108,180. Application: For more information and an online application click here. Deadline:
Aug. 30, 2011.
Senior Information Technology Specialist, Montgomery County Board of Elections, Rockville, Md.— employee in this position is the lead permanent technology staff and directly responsible to and supervised by the Election Director. The employee is responsible for the planning and implementation of technical programming, testing and preparation of the county’s allotment of the statewide voting system, voting equipment and voter registration system in collaboration with the State of Maryland, the contract holder; is experienced and familiar with system integration, functionality and usage of the Oracle data base and preparation of Crystal reports, GIS, Word, Access, and Excel, and analyzing statistical data; supervises and works with permanent and temporary programming employees; evaluates alternative system and equipment funding sources; represents the Department and addresses election issues at election system related meetings and Board meetings; and performs technology related duties as required and necessary, maintaining a high standard of accuracy. Minimum Qualifications: Five years of experience in the information technology field in areas such as programming, systems analysis, and data/telecommunications, including proficiency with complex computer systems. Bachelor's Degree in computer science or related field from an accredited college or university and/or certifications in specific programming languages or operating systems to include programming languages include SQL, Oracle Developer 2000. An equivalent combination of education and experience may be substituted. Salary: $64,960- $108,343. Deadline: August 17. Application: Online application at: http://montgomerycountymd.gov/, click “Careers”, click “iRecruitment Visitor Homepage”, click “Search Jobs” for IRC5653 under Job Category of “Information Technology”.