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II. Election News This Week
- There was a legislative do-over in Ohio this week when the Senate voted to overturn parts of an election reform legislation bill it had approved just two weeks ago. Republican lawmakers, who control both the House and Senate, eliminated an online voter registration database and requirements that voters provide all nine digits of their Social Security number when used for identification purposes. Voters instead would have to provide only the last four digits of their Social Security number. According to The Cleveland Plain Dealer, Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted, who advocated for the provisions lawmakers repealed, was particularly disappointed that the online voter registration tool was eliminated. "We were trying to make Ohio a more forward-thinking state," Husted said Wednesday in a statement. "This action is a setback for Ohio, but it will not stop my efforts to modernize our election system."
- Wisconsin held its first election this week since the passage of several pieces of election-reform legislation. The reaction to the new laws was mixed. The state’s new voter ID law was only partially in effect. Poll workers asked voters to show ID, but if the voter did not have it, they were permitted to vote as previously and were given an informational hand-out about the new law. "I love it," Wisconsin voter Todd Kimball told a local television station. "I love it. I think that it clarifies everything and it makes the process more clean." Some voters protested the new ID law by making a point of not showing their ID even if they had it with them. The law also requires voters to sign a poll book. That requirement took effect Tuesday and caught many voters off guard, county clerk Karen Peters told The Wisconsin State Journal. Peters said things went smoothly, but she predicted long lines and delays for voters next year when poll workers will have to check photo IDs. “It’s going to be horrendous,” Peters said.
- The U.S. Justice Department filed suit in federal court in Baton Rouge, saying that the state of Louisiana and some of its agencies and officials violated the National Voter Registration Act through their treatment of disabled residents and people on public assistance. According to the suit, the state broke the law by failing to provide voter registration services at offices administering to residents on public assistance or state-funded programs serving people with disabilities. The law requires states to “identify and designate” these offices as voter registration agencies, the U.S. said. The department is seeking a court order requiring the state and its agencies to comply with the voter registration law. The U.S. names as defendants the state, Louisiana Secretary of State J. Thomas Schedler, the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals and others.
- Several jurisdictions took action this week to expand the use of vote centers while another decided that the cost of implementing vote centers was too much. In Indiana, now that all counties are able to utilize the vote center concept, several are taking steps to make it a reality. At the northern end of the state, White and Carroll counties are considering the switch and in the southern part of the state Vanderburgh County commissioners have signed-off on a plan to adopt vote centers. Rutherford County, Tenn. election commissioners are set to discuss the possibility of Murfreesboro using less expensive "convenient voter centers" instead of precincts for its next city election. Despite the move to vote centers in some areas, Maricopa County — the largest jurisdiction in Arizona — made the decision this week not to adopt the concept because it would be too costly.
- Personnel News: Long-time Dyer County, Texas Elections Administrator Jane Heathcott is set to step down after 40 years as administrator and 41 years on the county’s election commission. Cocke County, Tenn. Election Commissioner Dan Ford was charged this week with vehicular homicide and drunken driving. Long-time Jefferson County, Ky. Elections Center official Susan Clark will become the new city clerk of St. Matthews. Alabama Secretary of State Beth Chapman was sworn in this week as the president of the National Association of Secretaries of State.