I. In Focus This Week
North Carolina counties try to go it alone to require photo ID
Legal questions surface before legislation
Earlier this year, North Carolina Governor Bev Perdue vetoed voter photo ID legislation bucking a nationwide trend that has seen voter photo ID laws grow this year.
The General Assembly failed to override the veto and is again currently in special session with that on the agenda, but according to media reports the prospects of overturning the veto appear slim.
While debate continues at the state level, some counties in North Carolina are taking matters into their own hands. Recently several counties approved resolutions asking their state representatives to introduce legislation that would allow them to require voter photo ID at the county level.
Local election administrators are taking a wait and see approach about how the legislation — if enacted — would impact them, although many admitted that the first time they heard about the resolutions was through the local media.
“My office was not consulted or made aware of any pending voter ID resolution before it was approved by the Gaston County Commission,” explained Adam Ragan, director of elections for Gaston County. “I first heard about the resolution after it was passed by reading about it in our local newspaper.”
Erin Burridge, director of the Craven County Board of Elections said that while she was aware of the resolution before the county voted to approve it, her office was not consulted about it prior to the vote.
Ragan said without seeing any actual legislation he was unclear of the impacts it could have on the workload or budget of the county board.
“There will be some impact on our office workload but I won’t know for sure until any legislation is passed by the General Assembly,” Ragan said.
Like Ragan, Burridge said that she could not even begin to speculate the impacts such a law would have on her office, but she does expect there would be some.
While counties are hoping the General Assembly will take up their cause, the state’s Department of Justice is urging caution.
In a letter issued on November 23, Chief Deputy Attorney General Grayson G. Kelly wrote that uneven local election laws raise equal protection questions under both the state and U.S. constitutions.
“…it appears likely our courts would conclude that voter identification requirements, if otherwise constitutional, must be enacted through general laws applicable statewide to all voters in a class,” Grayson wrote. “Legislation which enacts such requirements through multiple local acts would therefore be deemed impermissible under the Constitution.”
Grayson concluded his letter by saying, “It is therefore our opinion that the enactment of local bills requiring photo voter identification in certain counties would likely be held unconstitutional by the courts.”
Gary O. Bartlett, executive director of the North Carolina State Board of Elections said that other than directives issued by court order, there are no other county-by-county election laws in the state.
Because this process is still very much in the early stages, Bartlett is unsure of the impacts any new law would have on the state board.
“Until the particulars of the enacted bill are known, I can only provide general comment,” Bartlett said. “The state board has oversight of all elections in North Carolina, thus at the least, we would have to manage different laws and policies instead of uniform application of election laws.”
Bartlett said this could lead to confusion of the voter and administrator, especially living in a mobile society where people frequently move.
And not all counties have jumped onboard the movement.
In the same week Craven and Gaston counties overwhelmingly voted yes, commissioners in Columbus County voted unanimously against a resolution saying they were in favor of the bill.
“We spend all this time and energy trying to encourage young people and seniors to go vote and I can see this being an obstacle to prevent them from voting,” Commissioner Amon McKenzie told WECT.
II. Election News This Week
- This week, the Aspen Election Commission voted 3-0 to take “no further action” on the request by former candidate Marilyn Marks to review the ballots cast during her election. Recently the courts had ruled that Marks’ and others must be given access to the ballots and the city is challenging that court ruling. Commissioner Ward Hauenstein told The Aspen Times, that while he favors an open and transparent government, he received outside advice from a Denver attorney who said the election commission could not rule on the matter because it isn't the custodian of election records.
- The Florida League of Women Voters and the National Council of La Raza have subpoenaed 11 members of the Florida legislature in the federal lawsuit over the state’s new election reform law. According to the Miami-Herald, the subpoenas order the lawmakers to produce “all documents” related to the election law changes at issue in the suit. Rep. Dennis Baxley, House sponsor of the elections bill (HB 1355) has consistently said the law was necessary to reduce chances of voter fraud and improve public confidence in elections. “I think we appropriately conducted ourselves to protect the elections process from mischief and mishap and make it credible to the public as to its results,” Baxley told the paper.
- The Occupy movement hasn’t made too much news on the election administration front until this week. In San Diego, an activist was arrested on Tuesday when he set up a voter registration table on the city’s Civic Center Plaza without a permit. In Michigan, Occupy Detroiters, who were recently removed from their encampment, plan on spending the upcoming weekend registering voters at the city’s large holiday celebration. But whether or not the Occupy movement’s participation in elections continues remains to be seen. A recent report by NPR highlighted the conflicts within the movement about the groups’ participation in the democratic process.
- Polling place location (or lack thereof) can be a passionate topic and recently in Reading, Penn. the president of the county’s library board of trustees resigned over the issue. In October, the board voted not to allow the county to use the library as a polling place, but when the county failed to relocate the polling site, President Ronald Hatt and others vowed to keep the county out, but the county contacted the city who actually owns the building and the site was used as a polling place in November. Hatt and others had expressed security concerns over using the library as a polling place.
- Personnel News: The Merced County, Calif. board of supervisors has removed the county’s registrar of voters Karen Adams, after an independent investigation detailed inappropriate workplace language and behavior. Director Robin Burden and Deputy Director Megan Hilliard of the Champaign County board of elections are both stepping down from their duties to pursue other opportunities. Although only a year into his new term, William “B.J.” Livesay has announced that he will step down as the Greenbrier, W.Va. clerk. Livesay was appointed to the position in 2001 and re-elected in 2004 and 2010. Garfield County, Okla. election board secretary Lue Ann Root is retiring at the first of the year. Bend, Ore. City Recorder Patty Stell is retiring. Stell has been with the county for 30 years.
III. Research and Report Summaries
The Cavass—National Conference of State Legislatures, November/December 2011: This month’s issue looks at the presidential nomination process, electronic poll books and minority language requirements.
A Reversal in Progress: Restricting Voting Rights for Electoral Gain – Voting Rights Institute, Democratic National Committee, November 2011: A new report by the Democratic National Committee focuses on recent state legislation related to voter registration drives, Election Day Registration, early voting, and requirements for photo identification at the polls.
Arizona: Tucson’s election system
Illinois: Precinct cuts
Mississippi: Voter ID
North Carolina: Voter ID
Ohio: Coin toss
Virginia: Election judges
V. Job Openings
Assistant City Clerk, Minneapolis — direct, manage, organize, coordinate, plan and conduct accurate, timely and efficient local state and federal elections within the corporate boundaries of the City of Minneapolis. Supervise all elections staff, seasonal/temporary personnel, election judges, interns and others, and all related activities, and participate in voter outreach and engagement strategies to inform citizens of the election process and encourage registration and participation in elections; negotiate, draft, and finalize comprehensive election contracts; serve as authorized media representative and spokesperson on election related matters; supervise and participate in voter outreach and engagement strategies to inform citizens of the election process and to encourage registration and participation in elections; create, improve, and maintain standard operating procedures and training; ensuring adherence to relevant election laws, regulations, and policies; ensure timely hiring and training of all election judges, poll workers, and temporary staff; serve as a Municipal candidate filing officer; foster cooperation and coordination, as appropriate, with the Office of Secretary of State, Hennepin
County, and other local, county, and state agencies and officials to achieve common goals and to support shared interests, particularly with respect to assigned responsibilities; serve as School District Clerk for Special School District No. I Qualifications: A Bachelor’s Degree in Public Administration, Political Science (or equivalent field of study) and four years of experience in a public setting performing related duties, including elections management with a minimum of two years of management experience that demonstrates administrative capabilities. Salary: $73,783-81,550. Application: Click here. Deadline: Dec. 2.
Associate, Election Initiatives, Pew Center on the States, Washington, D.C. — reporting to a project manager in Election Initiatives and in support of the project team and other colleagues across PCS, the associate will: aid project staff in workings towards VIP's goal of expanding information available from states in preparation for the 2012 Election Cycle; contribute to dissemination efforts, including involvement in development of new software applications, and recruitment of media and other information outlets; assist in VIP partnership outreach and coordination, including contract implementation and management, and managing the project’s presence online; assist project staff by developing and processing contracts, vendor agreements and subgrants to effectively achieve the Election Initiatives’ project goals; draft reports, briefs, memos, and communication materials that are relevant to project goals and easily understood by the target audiences including the public, media, and policy makers as well as internal audiences. Edit and proof draft documents for accuracy. Qualifications: Bachelor's degree required; advanced degree preferred; one to three years of relevant professional experience, including demonstrated research, administrative and writing skills. Experience in public policy in general and election administration, technology policy, and open government in particular preferred. Application: Click here.
Executive Director & General Counsel – Connecticut State Elections Enforcement Commission. Need considerable knowledge of and ability to apply management principles and techniques; knowledge of and ability to apply state campaign financing and election laws; knowledge of criminal, constitutional, and administrative law and rules of evidence; knowledge of legislative process; considerable interpersonal skills; considerable oral and written communication skills; considerable ability in advocacy and negotiation techniques; considerable ability to interpret complex legislation. Preferred Knowledge, Skills and Ability: Excellent management skills and ability to function effectively in nonpartisan capacity. Strong ability to lead management team. Excellent decision making skills, management of elections and/or campaign finance agency desirable. Some IT knowledge desirable. Considerable public speaking and media skills. Knowledge of election law and public financing program preferred. General Experience: Five (5) years experience in the practice of law including some experience with the legislative process, administrative law and state election laws. Special Experience: Two (2) years of the General Experience must have been in a managerial capacity. Must be admitted to practice law in the State of Connecticut or be lawfully engaged in the practice of law as a principal means of livelihood for five out of the last seven years in a reciprocal jurisdiction in accordance with Section 2‐13 of the Connecticut Practice Book and obtain membership in the Connecticut Bar within one year of appointment. Salary: $103,539.00 to $132,804.00. Deadline: Dec. 15.