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electionlineWeekly--January 13, 2011

Table of Contents

II. Election News This Week

  • A federal judge upheldWashington's primary systemagainst a challenge from the state's Republican and Democratic parties, but he struck down the way Washington runs elections for the parties' grassroots organizers. Under the new system, the top two vote-getters advance to the general election regardless of party affiliation and their party preferences are listed on the ballot. Washington's voters adopted a new primary system in 2004.According to The Associated Press the political parties don't like the new system because it means they won't necessarily have a candidate in the general election. The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the new system in 2008, but said it could create confusion depending on how the ballots were designed. The case came back to U.S. District Court in Seattle, and Judge John C. Coughenour ruled this week that the ballots make clear that the candidates listed are not necessarily endorsed by the political party they prefer - and thus, the ballots don't violate the parties' First Amendment right of association.
  • Another Tuesday in the New Year meant another election, this time in snow and ice covered Mississippi where voters were casting their ballots in three special elections. On Monday, Governor Haley Barbour issued a statement that despite the weather, the elections would proceed as planned. In Lee County, the circuit clerk’s office and other county officials worked together to make sure that election workers were able to get to their polling places on time on Tuesday. Circuit Clerk Joyce Loftin told a local television station early in the day, "We've had to assist a few poll workers in getting to their precincts this morning, but through the supervisors, election commissioners, and sheriff's department we've done that and I think everybody's up and going." Election officials and others worked this weekend and Monday to make sure the voting machines were in place, and the area immediately around polling stations was clear of any snow or ice.
  • Personnel News: Late last week, Kentucky Secretary of State Trey Grayson announced his resignation in order to take a position with the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. Governor Steve Beshear appointed Bowling Green Mayor Elaine Walker to complete Grayson’s term. Walker has already said she will run for the open seat. After 33 years with the Butler County [Ohio] Board of Elections, Director Betty McGary is resigning effective January 20. According to the Cincinnati Inquirer, McGary, who served as either deputy director or director for more than three decades, was a champion for the voting public who "really believed in the process." Also in Ohio, Johnnie Maier, a Democratic member of the Stark County Board of Elections since 2006, has resigned in order to run for office. Phillip Braithwaite was named the new president of Hart InterCivic effective January 1. Braithwaite served as senior vice president and general manager for Hart InterCivic, managing daily operations. Reno lawyer Scott F. Gilles has been named elections deputy for the Nevada secretary of state's office. Pennsylvania Gov.-elect Tom Corbett named Chester County Commissioner Carol Aichele to serve as secretary of the commonwealth. Aichele must be confirmed by the state Senate. And in a “where are they now” moment, former Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner is returning to the law firm she helped create in 1988 to focus on election law; and Chris Nelson, former South Dakota secretary of state was recently sworn in as the newest member of the state’s public utilities commission.