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II. Election News This Week
- The Pew Center on the States has named David Becker the new director of Election Initiatives, overseeing its entire portfolio of work on election administration. Since 2008, David has managed Pew’s efforts to upgrade voter registration systems. He will now also manage efforts to improve military and overseas voting, assess elections performance through data, and use technology to provide voters with information they need to cast a ballot. David brings more than a decade of experience working to strengthen America’s election system, including seven years as a senior trial attorney in the Voting Section of the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division.
- Late last week, Denver District Judge Brian Whitney denied a motion for a preliminary injunction — filed by Secretary of State Scott Gessler — to prevent Denver Clerk and Recorder Debra Johnson from mailing ballots to inactive voters. According to The Denver Post, following the decision, Johnson and Pueblo County Clerk and Recorder Gilbert Ortiz said they will proceed with plans to mail ballots to those voters — about 54,000 in Denver and 17,000 in Pueblo. While Denver, Pueblo and Pitkin counties will be mailing to inactive voters, others counties such as Garfield, Mesa, Summit and Larimer will not. Gessler told the paper that he will proceed with the lawsuit and that the decision was “merely the first salvo in a long election year to come.”
- Florida Gov. Rick Scott and Secretary of State Kurt Browning are challenging federal oversight of the state’s election laws. In an amended complaint to the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., the officials contend that federal approval of state election laws is no longer necessary because times have changed since 1972 when racial and ethnic discrimination were confirmed in five Florida counties. According to the Associated Press, Browning said in a statement that he supports most provisions of the Voting Rights Act. "But there is no constitutional basis to arbitrarily single out five Florida counties and a few other covered jurisdictions, based solely on information from decades ago, and subject them to procedures that don't apply to the rest of the country," Browning said.
- Someone’s at the door: Thanks to a computer glitch, a private home in the Ingleside neighborhood of San Francisco could be getting some unwelcome guests next month for the mayoral election. A contractor incorrectly listed the information for a polling place on 133,00 voter pamphlets. “I was not pleased when we found out about the problem Friday night, but we managed to catch about 18,000 of the pamphlets before they were mailed,” John Arntz, the city’s elections director, told the San Francisco Chronicle. “But that still means there are 115,000 we have to fix.”
- The New York Post has an interesting piece about three employees of the Queens Board of Elections being accused of snorting cocaine in the voting-machine warehouse during Sept. 13’s primary. According to the paper, the incident was reported to a supervisor and subsequently to Chief Clerk Barbara Conacchio. The paper reports that the incident, while reported to Democratic Commissioner Miguel Araujo, but not the police. The Post reports that Araujo conducted a hearing where the accused denied the accusation and the eyewitness refused to testify.
- Personnel News: Philadelphia’s long-time voter registration administrator Robert Lee, Jr. retired last week. During his tenure, Lee oversaw the city’s transition from mechanical to digital voting machines and he spearheaded the new system to keep track of voter signatures. Charlton County Election Supervisor Sheila Cason was recently chosen to serve on statewide committee designed to advise on a new electronic elections system for Georgia.
- Get Well: electionlineWeekly would like to wish a speedy recovery to Kentucky Secretary of State Elaine Walker who this week announced that she had recently been diagnosed with breast cancer. Walker said she will complete the remaining 2 ½ months of her term.
- In Memoriam: Pat Crippins, former head of the Knox County, Tenn. election office died last week. She was 64. Crippins oversaw the office from 1997 to 2003. "She was a fine woman," Greg Mackay, her successor and a former election commissioner told the News Sentinel. "She was a real sweetheart." Norwich, Conn. Republican Registrar of Voters Gerald Kortfelt died on Monday. Kortfelt served as registrar for 11 years and according to his Democratic counterpart JoAnn Merolla-Martin, Kortfelt worked right up till the end, coming into the office when he could and calling in when he couldn’t.