I. In Focus This Week
Wisconsin counties prep for recall elections
New voter ID law partially in effect
While most Americans celebrated the birth of our nation with parades, cookouts and fireworks, clerks throughout Wisconsin spent part or all of their holiday weekend preparing for a series of recall elections set to begin on July 12.
For only the fifth time since 1933 there will be nine recall elections in the coming two weeks for state senators from across the Badger State.
“We can have anywhere from 10 to 20 recall elections at the local level, but those are on a very small scale,” explained Kevin Kennedy, director and general counsel for the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board (GAB). “This is fairly unprecedented.”
While the recall elections are prepared for and conducted in the same general fashion as all other elections in Wisconsin, the timing of these elections have presented a few logistical problems including finding enough poll workers during the summer months — months that don’t typically have elections — and scheduling staff and other projects around the recalls.
New election laws in place
In addition to the added financial burden placed on counties and towns for the recall elections, several new Wisconsin election administration laws will be in effect.
The state’s new voter photo ID law will be in effect for the recall elections — sort of. There will be an “ask but don’t show” policy in place that will have poll workers asking voters to show their photo ID, but voters will not yet be required to actually show an ID. For those that do not show a photo ID, they will be given an informational hand-out explaining the law for future reference.
To help the clerks train the poll workers for the new ID procedures for the upcoming elections, Kennedy and his staff met with the county clerks during their annual summer meeting last week and have set up conference calls for two days this week where clerks may call in and ask questions about the new law.
“The questions that we’ve gotten so far have been amazing,” Kennedy said. “We really have tried to focus on the procedures for the recall elections, but so many of the clerks are concerned about what happens in February when the law is actually enforced.”
Although the state still has same-day registration a new law requires that those registering to vote on election day must be residents of the jurisdiction where they are registering for at least 28 days. This will require poll workers to seek some sort of verification — lease, utility bill, etc. — that in the past they did not need to ask for.
Another new procedure in place for these elections will be requiring voters to sign a poll list. The GAB had to redesign the poll books so they were oriented in a way that the poll worker could read the poll book and the voter could sign it without having to move the book.
Costs add up
While there has been a lot of discussion and training over the new election procedures in place, probably the hottest topic of conversation and the cause of the greatest concern for the state officials as well as the county election officials is the cost of the recalls.
According to Kennedy, the GAB has spent about $100,000 unbudgeted dollars on the recalls so far. The GAB has asked the state assembly to refund that money, but the legislative body has yet to ask on that request.
The cost to local elections offices varies depending on the size of the jurisdiction.
“At this time no cost is available and it wouldn’t be prudent to speculate on the cost of the three upcoming elections at this time,” explained Darlene Marcelle, Brown County clerk. “I would suffice to say that the county clerk’s office does not have the funds for the recall elections in my budget and I will have to request funds through the County Board of Supervisors.”
In Marinette County, Clerk Kathy Brandt anticipates that it will cost her office an additional $8,000 to conduct the recall elections. This is money that she does not have in her budget and Brandt said she will most likely have to seek money from the county’s contingency fund.
The recall election will cost Fond du Lac County at least $15,000 according to Lisa Freiberg, county clerk.
“I do not have the money in my budget,” Freiberg said. “I did have money left over from the 2010 budget, but I will need to get more for the general election from the county general fund.”
And this most likely is not the last Wisconsin election administrators have seen of recall elections. Kennedy said there is a movement afoot in the Badger state to recall Gov. Scott Walker (R). Anyone elected to statewide office in 2010 would be eligible for a recall in 2012 — they must be in office for a full year before a recall can occur—so those seeking a recall could begin circulating petitions as early as November of 2011.
“You can’t go anywhere in this state without seeing a sign to recall the governor,” Kennedy said. “It’s brewing, but whether or not we’ll get beer, I don’t know.”
II. Election News This Week
- Over the holiday weekend, Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln D. Chafee (I) signed a bill into law making the Ocean State the latest to require a voter to show a photo ID in order to cast a ballot. However, unlike other governor’s—some who signed their forms of voter ID legislation in elaborate ceremonies with rock music—Chafee signed the bill and did not comment on his decision to sign it until four days later when his office released a statement. "Having reflected a great deal on the issue, I believe that requiring identification at the polling place is a reasonable request to ensure the accuracy and integrity of our elections," Chafee said in the statement. According to The Providence Journal, under the legislation, poll workers will ask voters to show a photo ID beginning in 2012. If they do not have a photo ID, voters can use a variety of non-photo identification including a Medicare card or Social Security card. Beginning in 2014, voters will be required to show photo ID, including a Rhode Island driver's license, military ID, college ID, or U.S. passport.
- Although this wasn’t the big Facebook announcement that everyone was expecting this week, the Montana commissioner of political practices’ office announced this week that it is not a violation of Montana’s election laws for a candidate to post a photograph of a marked absentee ballot on the social networking site. Former state GOP executive director Jake Eaton and tea party activist Jennifer Olsen had filed separate complaints against state Sen. Kendall Van Dyk after the Billings Democrat posted absentee ballots on his Facebook page showing that he had voted for himself in the 2010 primary and general elections. Eaton and Olsen alleged he broke state law that requires elections be held by secret ballot. Deputy Commissioner Dolores Colburg ruled that absentee voting procedures do not prohibit an elector from disclosing an absentee ballot before turning it in.
- San Francisco has long been on the cutting-edge of election procedures — i.e. instant runoff voting — and now the city is joining a small number of localities that will limit the number of paper voter guides printed for elections. Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi introduced legislation that would allow people to receive voter pamphlets by email only if they request them. The proposed local law is allowed after the governor signed Assembly Bill 1717, which amended the California Elections Code to allow local election officials to implement a program to allow people to opt out of receiving hard copies of the pamphlets. How much this could save the city would depend on the cost of the pamphlets and how many opt out. In the November 2010 election, a voter pamphlet cost 74 cents to print and 19 cents to mail.
- Special Election Update: The special election to replace New York Rep. Anthony Weiner has been set for Tuesday Sept. 13. The Nevada Supreme Court ruled this week that the two major political parties can choose one candidate each to run for the state's open 2nd Congressional District seat, putting an end to Secretary of State Ross Miller's vision of a "ballot royale."
- Personnel News: Earl Lennard announced this week that he would not seek another term as the Hillsborough County, Fla. supervisor of elections. Lennard was appointed to the seat in 2009 after the death of then-supervisor Phyllis Busansky. Cary Bond has been elected to serve as the chair of the Rockdale County, Ga. Board of elections. Beginning Aug. 1, Maeve Kennedy Grimes will be the new clerk in Clatsop County, Ore. Kennedy Grimes replaces Kathie Garber who left to be the assistant elections supervisor in Clark County, Wash. Ralph Reagan has been appointed to the Cumberland County, N.C. board of elections. Lake County, Ohio’s elections board director Janet Clair was recently named the Republican Party’s Ohio elections official of the year. Following the ouster of Registrar Sharon Persinger, the only two full-time employees in the Stafford County, Va. registrar's office — Anna Ott and Jennifer Janis — resigned. Passaic County, N.J. Superintendent of Elections Laura Freytes abruptly resigned at the end of June.
III. Research and Report Summaries
From Registration to Recounts Revisited: Developments in the Election Ecosystems of Five Midwestern States - By Steven F. Huefner, Nathan A. Cemenska, Daniel P. Tokaji, & Edward B. Foley, A Project of Election law @ Moritz at The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law, July 2011: This book updates 2007 research focusing on how election administration has changed (or not) in five Midwestern states - Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin - since the publication of the original study.
Election Law Journal: Rules, Politics, and Policy – Volume 10, Number 2, June 2011: Articles in the current issue, “Time Shifting the Vote: The Quiet Revolution in American Elections,” examine the rise of pre-election day voting in the US, including:
Changing Election Methods: How Does Mandated Vote-By-Mail Affect Individual Registrants? - Elizabeth Bergman, Philip A. Yates;
Voter Opinions about Election Reform: Do They Support Making Voting More Convenient? - R. Michael Alvarez, Thad E. Hall, Ines Levin, Charles Stewart III; and
Early Voting and Election Day Registration in the Trenches: Local Officials' Perceptions of Election Reform - Barry C. Burden, David T. Canon, Kenneth R. Mayer, Donald P. Moynihan
Alabama: Helping people vote
Georgia: Voter ID
Illinois: Election commission
Maine: Same-day registration
New Hampshire: Voter ID
New Mexico: Voter fraud investigation
New York: Special election
Oklahoma: Voter ID
Pennsylvania: Voter ID
V. Job Openings