I. In Focus This Week
Miss Vermont shows with a bit of girl power, anything is possible
Levassuer worked to give 17-year olds the right to vote in Vermont
When Katie Levassuer was a senior in high school she did what a lot of civic-minded young people do in this country. She interned in the Vermont Statehouse.
However, what sets Levassuer and two of her fellow interns apart from most other interns and pages is that they made a lasting difference on the lives of young people in the state of Vermont.
While interning in the Statehouse in 2008 as part of the Girls Rock the Capitol internship program, Levassuer was frustrated that she couldn’t vote in the 2008 election year so she set out to do something about it.
It seems only fitting that as we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Girl Scouts (the organization that supports the internship program) that it took a little girl power to give 17-year-olds in the state of Vermont the right to vote in the primary if they will be 18 on or before the general election.
“As a seventeen year-old learning about election laws, I quickly found out that I was unable to vote in the upcoming presidential primary election,” Levassuer said. “Two other interns and I put our heads together and came up with the idea to change Vermont's election laws.”
Levassuer said that she’s always been interested in elections on some level, recalling going into the voting booth with her mother when she was a young child, taking an Advanced Placement government class in high school and of course the internship program.
Today, Levassuer is completing her reign as the 2011 Miss Vermont and getting ready to finish her Bachelor’s degree at the University of Vermont.
But before she got to that point and before 17-year olds got to vote in Vermont, a lot of work had to be done.
Levassuer, Ellie Beckett and Courtney Mattison took their idea to their Statehouse mentor and then began a long process of testifying and repeatedly lobbying senators and representatives on behalf of Proposition 5.
In Vermont, in order for an amendment to be successful it must be approved by the House and Senate in consecutive biennium and then be approved as a ballot measure.
“To me, not having the right to vote in the presidential primary election to show my support for my candidate was extraordinarily disappointing,” Levassuer said. “I was frustrated with the election laws and thought we could do a better job supporting positive voting habits in our youth. Turns out, a little bit of teenage frustration can turn into a very positive result with a little bit of hard work, and the support and encouragement of those around you!”
Despite opposition from some clerks who were concerned that the amendment wasn’t more clearly defined, 80 percent of the state’s voters supported the constitutional amendment in 2010.
In December of that year outgoing Secretary of State Deborah Markowitz honored Levassuer and the other interns with Enduring Democracy Awards for their work on the constitutional amendment.
Levassuer was also able to help promote the new law through her duties as Miss Vermont.
“Most of my speaking engagements center around my platform, which gives me ample opportunity to speak about voting and civic service,” Levassuer said. “It's been a phenomenal year for me to be Miss Vermont, as I've had countless opportunities to speak to community groups such as rotaries, schools, Girl Scout troops, and many others. What better year to have an opportunity to promote this than the first year the amendment is in effect?”
Last week, the first group of 17-year olds got to cast their ballot in Vermont’s Super Tuesday contest.
“We will not have any hard data, but anecdotally based on emails and news reports, it appears that a fair number of high schools conducted voter registration drives so that a good number of 17 year olds voted,” said Kathleen Scheele, director of elections and campaign finance in the Vermont secretary of state’s office.
Scheele said the secretary of state’s office has a part-time employee that focused on outreach with high school teachers and Secretary Jim Condos issued a series of press releases and did media interviews to spread the word.
As for Levassuer, after she cast her first presidential primary ballot on Tuesday, she stuck around to chat with other first-time voters.
“Most of the young voters I was able to speak with were so excited for the opportunity to vote a little earlier. Many had learned about the opportunity fairly recently and had been planning to cast their vote in November anyway,” Levassuer said. “The opportunity to vote in their party's primary election sent them a message of positive support from their elected officials. They all plan to continue voting in the future.”
Levassuer will finish up her Bachelor’s degree at the University of Vermont after she completes her year as Miss Vermont. Then it’s on to graduate school, then work, and maybe, possibly, a future Vermont secretary of state?
“I intend to pursue a master's degree in public policy or political administration. I'd like to work as a public policy analyst either for an organization or individual. As far as my political career...I'm keeping my options open,” Levassuer said with a smile.
II. Election News This Week
- The Chicago Board of Elections found out this week what happens when you come between a person and their iPhone (iPad, Android, etc.). Signs posted at early voting locations state “No personal electrical items to be used inside the early voting polling place,” which took some people by surprise, especially because several apps were created by different groups to help voters review information about their choices. “We’re concerned that people might photograph their votes and that creates the problem of selling votes,” Board of Elections spokesman Jim Allen told the Chicago Sun Times. “Millions of people have cell phones that have photo capacity. We don’t want people taking calls and having conversations while they’re voting.” However, after the initial story ran in the Sun-Times, the board relented following complaints from voters and the Chicago Bar Association. In a follow-up article, the paper reported that elections officials now say “limited use of electronic gear will be allowed.”
- Voter ID Update: It was another busy week in the world of voter ID with several laws being struck down, some moving further along the legislative process and the AFL-CIO getting involved.
- On Monday the U.S. Dept. of Justice blocked Texas’ new photo ID law saying that it could disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of registered Hispanics. The Justice Department conveyed its objection in a letter to Texas officials that was also filed in the U.S. District Court case in Washington between Texas and the department. Judges say they will rule before Election Day. And on Wednesday, attorneys for the state asked the panel of judges to allow it to challenge the constitutionality of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act.
- Also on Monday a second Dane County, Wis. judge ruled that Wisconsin’s new voter ID law is unconstitutional. Dane County Circuit Judge Richard Niess’ eight-page rulinggoes further than the one issued by another judge last week because it permanently invalidates the law for violating the state constitution. Tuesday's order by Dane County Judge David Flanagan halted the law for the April 3 presidential primary and local elections, but not beyond that.
- The fate of Pennsylvania’s voter photo ID bill was up in the air for a while this week. Although the bill had been approved by the Senate and Gov. Tom Corbett stood at the ready to sign it, the House spent at least three days debating the legislation. Finally on Wednesday afternoon the House approved the photo ID legislation largely along partisan lines. The governor signed the bill Wednesday night.
- A bill asking Minnesotans to amend the state constitution so voters would be required to show a photo ID cleared another House committee Tuesday. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Mary Kiffmeyer, former secretary of state, was passed 18-12 in the Ways and Means committee and now heads to Rules and Legislative Administration. Kiffmeyer told the Pioneer Press she hopes the bill will make it to the House floor soon.
- Although 62 percent of voters in Mississippi approved photo ID to vote in November, the state is still awaiting approval from the Justice Department. While awaiting the ruling, the Mississippi House approved legislation that would permit a broad range of photo IDs to be used from passports to Medicaid cards.
- And finally in Tennessee, which recently held its first election under the state’s voter, photo ID law, a House panel advanced a proposal to repeal it. The House State and Local Government subcommittee voted 5-3 on party lines in favor of a measure.
- In December 2011, electionlineWeekly printed its annual list of what’s in and what’s out for the coming year. One of the items we listed was Out: New York’s lever voting machines (finally!) In: Confusion andthousands miscast ballots on New York’s optical scan ballots. Clearly we were wrong. Recently the New York Senate approved a bill allowing school districts, villages and special districts to continue using the same voting machines they’ve been using since the Eisenhower Administration. But not everyone is happy about this move. The Chautauqua County board of elections recently blasted the Senate for its decision. According to The Observer, election commissioners assert that contrary to statements made by members of the state Senate, the new optical scan system is actually cheaper or at least comparable to the cost of an election using lever machine technology.
- In other voting machine news, St. Charles County, Mo. Executive Steve Ehlmann vetoed spending nearly $1.2 million on new voting machines. Ehlmann said that the county should wait until the state certifies more than just one voting machine manufacturer. Elections Director Rich Chrismer told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch he would urge the council to override the veto. He said it could take two or three years for other companies to obtain certification. He said using the county’s existing six-year-old machines could cause problems this year, with the August primary and November presidential election on tap. He said replacement parts could be expensive. "He wants to put voters in St. Charles County in jeopardy by waiting," Chrismer told the paper.
- After nine weeks of trial and 40 hours of deliberation a Troy, N.Y. jury deadlocked on whether to convict Board of Elections Commissioner Ed McDonough and former Councilman Michael LoPorto of voter fraud. The deadlock forced Judge George Pulver to declare a mistrial. According to The Saratogian, it is now up to the special prosecutor to decide what, if any charges he wants to bring against the two. McDonough was charged with 38 counts of forgery and 36 counts of possession of a forged instrument for his actions during the 2009 Working Families Party primary.
- Personnel News: Joseph Masich has been named director of the Summit County, Ohio board of elections. Samuel P. Westmoreland is the new Fulton County director of registration and elections. When Westmoreland joined the Fulton County Board of Registration and Elections eight years ago, one of his goals was to bring new technologies and procedures to the county’s voting system. He has twice held the position of vice-chair. Karen Defore filed for re-election as the Cowley County, Kan. clerk. If successful, this would be her third term. Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted had to step in and break a tie vote on the Butler County board of elections and named Lynn Edward Kinkaid as the board’s new director.
- In Memoriam: Former Wagoner County, Okla. Election Board Secretary Richard Jason Rouselot died last week, he was 50. “You can ask him any question and he could answer it right there,” Sue Seabolt, administrative assistant for the Wagoner County Election Board told the Muskogee Phoenix. Rousselot was born in Taipei, Taiwan, and was a Marine Corps veteran. He was a platoon commander during Operation Desert Storm.
III. Research and Report Summaries
Election Law Journal: Rules, Politics and Policy – Vol. 11, No. 1, March 2012: This issue looks at post-election auditing and hosts a forum on voter identification and other election reform laws.
The Canvass - National Conference of State Legislatures, March 2012: This edition of The Canvass examines voter registration and MOVE Act waivers.
Legislative Action Bulletin - National Conference of State Legislatures, March 7, 2012: State legislation about voter ID, proof of citizenship when registering to vote, online voter registration, the National Popular Vote, and felon voting rights is summarized.
Alabama: Election day
Alaska: Voting Rights Act
Connecticut: Election reform
Florida: Election reform
Idaho: Vote fraud
Kansas: Kris Kobach
Missouri: Voter registration
Nebraska: Voter ID
New Hampshire: Voter ID
Oklahoma: Voter ID;
Tennessee: Voter ID
**Some sites may require registration.
V. Job Openings
Administrator, Bureau of Elections, Bernalillo County, N.M.-- Under the assigned supervisor, responsible for the election operations section of the Bureau of Elections, manages the voting machine warehouse and directs the functional operation of the voter registration section. Supervises training of personnel in related areas. Responsibilities include: Direct the functions and activities related to the conduct of elections under the jurisdiction of the County Clerk; review the State Election Code and Federal Voting Rights Compliance Act to ensure proper procedures are followed by the County; assist in preparing instructions on the conduct of elections for election officials; responsible for polling locations and ensure election personnel are sufficient in number and well trained; oversee the preparation of lists of registered voters, absentee voters, election officials, polling places, and voter signature rosters; responsible for the purchase and distribution of election supplies and equipment prescribed by the State Election Code and other legislative mandates. Maintain a perpetual inventory of all election supplies, voting machines, parts and accessories; assure that voting machine technicians are trained in the programming and maintenance of the various types of voting machines used by the County. Coordinate an on-going maintenance program of all machines. Minimum Qualifications include: Bachelor Degree in Business, Public Administration, Government, Political Science or other or related field plus seven (7) years experience in a professional administrative/management capacity; knowledge of the New Mexico Election Code and Federal Voting Rights Compliance Act and principles, practices and procedures of election administration; advanced computer technology experience and skills. Application: For more information and how to apply, click here. Deadline: March 30, 2012.
Computer Engineer, U.S. Election Assistance Commission, Washington, D.C. — incumbent will assist with and consult on technical reviews, and is directly responsible for assisting with and consulting on technical reviews of documentation submitted by manufacturers and test labs during the testing of voting systems applying for EAC certification. This includes review of (1) Technical Data Packages, (2) Test Plans, and (3) Test Reports. In addition, the EAC will work with the laboratories as they develop test methods and specific test cases for manufacturer specific electronic voting systems. Reviews shall ensure that a plan was in place to properly test each voting system to the applicable voting system standards, that these test were properly performed and documented, and that the test results demonstrate conformance with applicable voting system standards. As the employee develops expertise in this area, he/she may also be tasked with serving as the EAC program manager for specific voting system test engagements. Experience in: computer architecture, testing methodologies and network principles; technical standards and standards sett; voting system testing and/or election administration practices. Salary: $59,383-$91,801. Application: For the complete job listing and how to apply, click here. Deadline: April 30, 2012.
Deputy Election Director, Board of Elections, Montgomery County, Md. —employee will be directly responsible to and supervised by the Election Director. The employee must have in-depth knowledge of the conduct of elections and Federal and State election laws and provide high quality services to the approximately 600,000 registered Montgomery County voters. Duties include: exhibit and attain a comprehensive knowledge base of election administration; collaborate with and support the Election Director, Board and all sections on election matters; provide substantive input on upper-level policy issues, decisions and operational decisions; collaborate on resolutions of complex problems; function in a highly visible environment; coordinate, initiate and implement the selection process for all appointments and the procurement, production and deliveries of State mandated sample ballots; coordinate precinct redistricting resulting from boundary changes; provide senior level collaboration on county, state and federal legislative issues; coordinate county resources to aid in the conduct of elections; approve purchases; research and respond to public inquiries and reporting of agency performance measures. Other duties include using the operative computer systems, e.g., the statewide election management system for voter registration, absentee data and campaign finance; evaluate election procedures and propose improvements; use Microsoft Office and Oracle databases; cooperate and collaborate with county and state election employees in the administration of elections; handle complex details with high accuracy, including proofing and editing voter information; handle extended periods of stress and multiple task workloads with changing priorities and tight deadlines under minimal supervision. The employee will also supervise the Election Operation Manager and other employees in a secure environment; handle sensitive equipment, software, data and related security; contact and present information to other local, state, national election officials, contractors of related products/services, agencies; share and collect information; follow officially prescribed and recognized election procedures; ensure the integrity of the entire election process, including voting days, post-election audits and assessments. Experience: Five years of progressively responsible professional experience in conducting, planning, and/or managing the conduct of federal, state and/or local government elections. Education: Graduation from an accredited college or university with a Bachelor's Degree. Salary: $63,411 - $115,901. Application: To view the entire job announcement and to apply, click here. Deadline: March 30, 2012.
Researcher, CIRCLE, Tufts University, Medford, Mass. —seeking a researcher to conduct research, perform data analysis, participate in program evaluations, help with project administration, and help communicate our findings to audiences that include academics, educators, policymakers, and the press. Responsibilities include conducting quantitative research for CIRCLE’s in-house research program; drafting fact sheets, web pages, and other research products for various audiences; participating in research and evaluation projects that may use a mix of methods, including qualitative research and field experiments; and answering queries from the general public, reporters, policy makers and academics. Basic Requirements: Bachelor’s degree; three (3) years of related experience; excellent computer skills and knowledge of at least one statistical package, such as STATA, SASS, or SPSS; strong quantitative research (social science methods) and writing skills required. Familiarity with analyzing large public datasets such as those provided by the US Census. Preferred Qualifications: Master’s degree in a social science field. Knowledge of youth civic engagement programs (such as service-learning, youth media-production, or youth voting) is desirable. Application: Click here. Deadline: April 13, 2012.
Senior Researcher, CIRCLE, Tufts University, Medford Mass.—seeking a senior researcher to conduct research and to help to lead some of CIRCLE’s research or evaluation projects. Responsibilities include: serving as a researcher on a range of research projects that may include secondary data-analysis, literature reviews, field experiments, program evaluations and original surveys; producing reports, fact sheets and press releases on timely and relevant topics, often in close collaboration with CIRCLE colleagues; providing guidance to other CIRCLE staff and students who produce research (quantitative and qualitative); contributing to research grant proposals; representing CIRCLE at a wide range of events including research conferences, practitioner forums, press events and other public events; and answering queries from reporters about CIRCLE research. Basic Requirements: Master’s degree; five (5) years of related experience; experience with statistical software packages, databases, and Microsoft Office; strong research skills, including a good working knowledge of at least one statistical package, such as STATA, SAS, or SPSS, and some experience using large public datasets. Experience with multivariate statistical techniques or qualitative methods and evaluation methods; ability to communicate effectively with practitioners, reporters, scholars, and young people through writing, speech, and graphs; ability to produce reliable, accurate, and readable evaluations and research products on short deadlines; ability to work collaboratively with CIRCLE colleagues from varied backgrounds and to interact with practitioners; ability to teach research methods to colleagues and student/workers. Preferred Qualifications: PhD in a social science discipline. Enthusiasm for youth civic engagement desired; however, prior research in this specific area is not required. Application: Click here. Deadline: April 13, 2012.