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II. Election News This Week
- Keep your laws off our elections! That was the cry from the Pierce County (Wash.) council this week when it voted 6 to 1 to in essence tell the state legislature to “butt out” of how it conducts its elections. Pierce County is the only county in the state that still relies on election-day polling places and several Pierce County legislators are once again circulating legislation that would end the tradition. The bill has already cleared several legislative hurdles and has the support of Secretary of State Sam Reed, and both the Pierce County auditor and executive. But the county council believes “poll voting is a time-honored tradition” that shouldn’t be taken away from voters. “If the Legislature would butt out of our business,” the county will take care of its own issues, Councilwoman Joyce McDonald, R-Puyallup told The News Tribune.
- Making Montana only the second all vote-by-mail state looked like an almost sure thing late last week after the Senate approved bipartisan legislation and the House gave tentative approval as well. However, the wheels came off the bus late in the day on Friday after intense debate on security and special outreach programs for Indians and students had 15 House Republicans switching their vote to oppose the legislation instead. Afterward, Secretary of State Linda McCulloch, a Democrat who put together the working group that came up with the bill, said it's time to present the issue directly to voters as a ballot initiative. She commended Rep. Pat Ingraham (R) for her hard work in moving the bill forward."Today's vote proves that fiction too easily trumps fact in the Montana Legislature," McCulloch told the Billings Gazette. "It's a sad day when elected legislators let politics and scare tactics stand in the way of doing what's right. Politics overpowered the greater good, and Montanans lost." All 57 votes against the bill were Republicans. Supporting the bill were all 32 House Democrats and 10 Republicans.
- Blizzaster 2011 didn’t just shut down about a third of the nation this week, it also intruded on several elections. In Woodbury County, Iowa, the auditor attributed low turnout to the severe weather. And even in “flinty” Chicago, early voting locations were forced to close on Wednesday due to snow and extreme temperatures. In New Mexico Bernalillo County Clerk Maggie Toulouse Oliver issued a statement the night before Tuesday’s election saying the show would go on no matter what because there are no provisions in the state law to postpone an election due to weather. Several other New Mexico counties reported low turnout due to the cold and snowy weather. Greene County, Mo. had to cancel scheduled poll worker training and may have reschedule its Feb. 8 election if another predicted storm makes its way across the country.
- Updates on Special Elections: It’s looking more like California will hold a special statewide election this year — on top of the countless special elections localities are conducting. Although the General Assembly would have to approve holding the special election, talk has already begun on whether or not to conduct it entirely by mail as a way to save money. This week, both chambers of the West Virginia legislature voted to hold a special election to fill the governor’s seat, however the House and Senate disagree on when those elections should be held. The Senate bill proposes holding the elections on June 20 and Oct. 4 and the House version on May 14 and Sept. 13. Late on Wednesday, the Senate agreed with the House on the primary date but refused to budge on a date for the general.
- Personnel News: Donald Palmer was appointed to lead the Virginia State Board of Elections this week. Most recently Palmer was director of elections with the Florida Department of State, where he helped supervise the 2008 presidential election and the 2010 midterm elections. Governor Bob McDonnell also appointed Charles E. Judd of Chesterfield County and Kimberly T. Bowers of Richmond to the three-member board. Tippi Slaughterwas appointed as the new elections chief for Butler County, Ohio. Genesee County Deputy Elections Commissioner Sharon White retired last week, but was back on the job this week on an as-needed basis because Republican Commissioner Richard Siebert will be on extended medical leave starting next month. West Virginia Secretary of State Natalie Tennant announced her plans to seek the governor’s seat in the upcoming special election. A week after being asked to step down Rutherford County Election Commissioners Doris Jones and Oscar Gardner agreed to resign at the request of state Sen. Bill Ketron.