I. In Focus This Week
Meet the new boss
New secretaries take over in several states
With secretaries of state taking a more public role on the national stage regarding how we conduct our elections, three new faces are joining the fray.
New Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes began her work for the voters of Kentucky long before she was sworn into office as the state’s only female Constitutional Officer earlier this month.
During her campaign Grimes promoted the grassroots work she did in her early years to make sure that all citizens had access to vote. She served as a precinct officer and was a member of the 2008 DNC Rules Committee.
Grimes defeated incumbent Secretary of State Elaine Walker in the Democratic primary and then went on to defeat Republican challenger Bill Johnson. Grimes won more votes than any other Democrat on the ballot.
According to the Herald-Leader, Grimes' goals as secretary of state include updating election laws, increasing voting access for veterans and protecting the identity of domestic-violence victims in registration records.
Before becoming secretary of state, Grimes, an attorney, worked for the National Kidney Foundation and in a private firm practicing business law.
Grimes is a native of Maysville Kentucky, received her Bachelor of Arts in political science from Rhodes College and her law degree from American Univeristy.
Although current Secretary of State Kurt Browning will stay in office to oversee Florida’s Jan. 31 primary, this week Gov. Rick Scott appointed Ken Detzner to take over the reins once the dust settles from the primary.
“I’m excited. This is one of the most exciting jobs in state government,” Detzner told the paper.
Although he had previously served as a lobbyist, Detzner didn’t have to lobby for this job.
According to a press statement at the time of the appointment announcement, Detzner was in already in the governor’s office on other business when Scott’s staff asked him if he would be interested in the job.
“I said, 'Give me 24 hours.' I was very excited just to be asked," Detzner said. "I'm excited. This is one of the most fun jobs in state government."
This will not be Detzner’s first time as the state’s top elections official. In 2003 he temporarily served as the state’s interim secretary of state under then-Governor Jeb. Bush.
According to the Miami Herald although his previous tenure as secretary of state was brief, it wasn’t without controversy albeit not about elections.
Detzner has also worked for the state’s attorney general, served as a lobbyist for the state’s beer wholesalers association and served as chief of staff to former Secretary of State Jim Smith.
The new boss in Louisiana is the same as the old boss. When former Secretary of State Jay Dardenne stepped down to seek higher office, former first assistant J. Thomas “Tom” Schedler was appointed secretary in November 2010.
Dardenne’s ascension to lieutenant governor was formally delayed to allow Schedler to be appointed to the post instead of holding a special election — an issue the state of Louisiana has struggled with.
Schedler then won a full-term as secretary of state in October 2011 in a hotly contested battle with Jim Tucker, the outgoing state Speaker of the House.
During his campaign, Schedler said that the state’s election-day hours should be shortened (currently the hours are 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.), but that more should be done to increase the number of early voting sites. Schedler also advocated reducing the number of elections Louisiana holds each year.
Before being appointed secretary of state, Schedler was appointed first assistant secretary of state in 2007 by Dardenne. Prior to that he served three terms in the Louisiana State Senate. In 2000, Schedler was named Legislator of the Year by the Alliance for Good Government.
Schedler is a native of New Orleans and graduated from the University of Louisiana, Lafayette.
II. Election News This Week
- Connecticut Governor Dannel P. Malloy and Secretary of State Denise W. Merrill joined forces this week to announce a list of initiatives that would make registering to vote in the Nutmeg State easier. Under the proposal, voters would be able to register and vote on election day, voters with Connecticut driver’s licenses could register online and absentee voting would be expanded. "We need to reflect how our people live," Malloy told the Connecticut Post.. "There is no reason to maintain archaic laws any longer. It's time to reflect the technologies available to us." The initiatives will be presented to the General Assembly in February.
- Summit County, Colo. reversed course this week and decided to conduct the 2012 elections at regular polling places on election day instead of by mail. “I think elections are important enough that we should pick the process that is best for the people in the county in terms of getting them access to the ballot box,” County Commissioner Thomas Davidson told the Summit Daily News. County commissioners decided to make the switch back to polling places to keep from confusing voters on how the election would work.
- Officials in Tennessee are scrambling to fix an oversight in the state’s new voter ID law that if not remedied could prevent thousands of residents from voting in the state’s March primary. Currently residents aged 60 and over do not have to have a photo on their driver’s license, but the problem is voters cannot request a no-excuse absentee ballot until age 65. Sen. Bill Ketron and Rep. Debra Maggart are pushing a bill that would allow Tennessee voters to qualify for automatic absentee ballots at 60.
- Personnel News: Brandi Orth has been named the new Fresno County, Calif. clerk following the unexpected retirement of former clerk Victor Salazar. Orth has been a long-time county employee and also previously served as the county’s elections coordinator. Longtime Monroe County, Conn. Registrar Jeannette Benson is retiring after more than 15 years on the job. Mike Oatney and Allan Reid were both nominated by their parties this week to serve on the Fairfield County, Ohio board of elections. Former Election Assistance Commissioner and Colorado Secretary of State Donetta Davidson will serve as the Colorado County Clerks Association’s first executive director. Escambia County, Fla. Supervisor of Elections David Stafford has filed to seek a third term as the county’s elections official. Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp has been installed at the National Association of Secretaries of State’s Southern Region Vice President. Drew Turiano recently dropped his bid for governor in Montana and instead plans to enter the race for secretary of state. Late last week an arbitrator found that the city of Holland, Mich. had the right to fire City Clerk Jennifer French in 2006. French was fired after officials alleged she lied about her principal residence on a number of forms including voter registration form. David Deininger has been appointed chairman of the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board.
- In Memoriam: Berkeley, Calif. City Clerk Deanna Despain died on January 7 from a fall in her home. She was 37. Despain was praised by city officials for bringing Berkeley “into the 21st Century.” Despain successfully implemented the city’s first ranked-choice voting system in November 2010. She is survived by her husband Andrew Dickson and their 10-month old baby Adele. Betty F. Carter, former Orange County, Fla. supervisor of elections died last week from complications of Alzheimer’s. She was 81. Carter won her first term as elections supervisor in 1980 and immediately set out to make the voting and ballot count more efficient. “She was always a forward thinker and she was always trying to improve the process and see how things could be more technologically advanced,” current Elections Supervisor Bill Cowles told the Orlando Sentinel. Carter served the voters of Orange County for 16 years. She is survived by five children, six grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.
III. Research and Report Summaries
Evidence-Based Elections – P.B. Stark and D.A. Wagner, Submitted to IEEE Security and Privacy, Special Issue on Electronic Voting, 2012: The authors propose that putting more emphasis on detecting and correcting errors after an election by using software-independent voting systems, compliance audits, and risk-limiting audits and less emphasis on certification of voting systems is a more effective approach to ensuring election integrity and more economical as well.
Contemporary Developments in Presidential Elections – Kevin Coleman, R. Sam Garrett, Thomas H. Neale, Congressional Research Service (CRS), Jan. 9, 2012: The CRS examines recent developments in presidential elections including changes or proposed changes to the nominating process, campaign finance, and the Electoral College.
Views on Implementing Federal Elections on a Weekend - United States Government Accountability Office (GAO), January 2012: A new report from the GAO examines alternatives to voting on Tuesday already in use for the November 2010 general election, interviews election officials on their views of the impact of shifting voting to a weekend, and summarizes on the possible effects on turnout of weekend voting.
Arizona: Elections risk
California: Election reform
Illinois: Voter fraud
Iowa: Voter ID
Kansas: Law implementation
Maine: Voter ID
Minnesota: League of Women Voters
Mississippi: Felon voting rights
New York: New voting machines
Tennessee: Polling place lawsuit
Virginia: Voter ID
Wisconsin: Voter ID education
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V. Job Openings
Communications Coordinator, Brennan Center, New York City — works with the Director and the Deputy Director of Communications and Brennan Center staff to maintain an energetic communications department that can speak strategically, as well as quickly and effectively, to mass audiences and members of the press. Responsibilities include: Proactive media relations; reactive media relations; producing and promoting publications; helping craft and execute communications strategies; assisting with all aspects of event planning; assist with online content generation and maintenance, including both drafting and editing web site content; assisting with administrative activities, including press list maintenance and organization and planning of public advocacy events, among other things. Qualifications: Bachelors or advanced degree; substantial work experience in communications and media relations work; strong writing skills and media savvy; enthusiasm about democracy reform and social justice; excellent inter-personal skills and tested ability to negotiate between people with different training and different approaches to problems and communication; and openness to evolving responsibilities. Salary: Commensurate with experience Application: For more information and how to apply, click here. Deadline: Open until filled.
Deputy City Clerk, City of Ann Arbor, Mich. — manages the election warehouse operations, including directing and assigning work to temporary election staff. Testing and preparing all voting equipment for use in city, state and federal elections. Serves as City FOIA Coordinator, managing the Freedom of Information Act process and preparing all responses on behalf of the City. Assisting the City Clerk with all other management duties in the City Clerk’s Office, including acting as City Clerk in his/her absence. Qualifications: Bachelor’s degree in public administration, political science, or a related field; experience in county or municipal election administration: at least four years, inclusive of administration of a national election; one year supervisory experience (preferred); an equivalent combination of education and experience will be considered. Salary: $48,000-$65,000. Application: For more information and to apply, click here.
Deputy General Registrar, City of Richmond, Va. — provides administrative assistance and management support to the general registrar. The position is responsible for budget development and monitoring, personnel, payroll, purchasing, e-pollbook management, inventory monitoring and control, staff supervision, and some training. The position works within broad policy and organizational guidelines, independently plans and implements projects; reports progress of major activities through periodic conferences and meetings. Assumes the duties of the General Registrar in the absence of the General Registrar. Qualifications: Requires, Bachelor's degree in public administration, business management, organizational development, project management or a related field; two years of experience in a public setting performing related duties; and 1 year of supervisory experience: OR, High school diploma; five years of progressively responsible administrative experience in a voter registration or election office, or closely related field; and three years of supervisory experience; or, any equivalent combination of training and experience (as approved by the department) that provides evidence that the applicant possesses the necessary Applicant traits. Prior experience in voter registration or elections preferred. Successful candidate must be a resident of the Commonwealth of Virginia and qualified to register to vote at the time of appointment. No Special License or Certification required. Salary: $43,771-$71,898. Application: For complete job listing and application, click here. Deadline: Open until filled.
Senior Associate, Election Initiatives, Pew Center on the States — senior associate’s primary responsibilities involve assisting the director and project manager with strategic planning and coordination of project activities, including public meetings and convenings, development of Board documents, internal and partner communications, and various other rapid response duties. Senior associate will be responsible for assisting the director and project manager in the team’s core functions; serving as a hub to connect the four election initiatives to ensure open communications between the projects and clear coordination, quality control and sequencing of budgets, contracts, fundraising, publications, and messaging. Responsibilities will include managing consultants, maintaining internal and external communications and writing for reports, memos, policy briefs, 50-state scans and other research products that are highly relevant to policy deliberations. The associate may also undertake special projects aimed at improving the overall operation of Election Initiatives and other projects in the PCS elections portfolio as their workload permits. The project and position are approved through March 2013 with the possibility of renewal depending on the initiative's progress, board approval and continued funding. Qualifications: Bachelor's degree required; advanced degree preferred; four to Eight years of relevant professional experience, including demonstrated research, administrative and writing skills. Experience in public policy and election administration preferred; ability to write clearly and cogently for multiple audiences including policy makers, the media and public; ability to synthesize and summarize large amounts of information and to focus quickly on the essence of an issue, as well as to identify, understand and synthesize different policy perspectives; strong systems skills including Microsoft Office products required: word processing (Word); spreadsheets (Excel); presentations (PowerPoint); and workload management (Outlook). Application: For more information and to apply for this job, click here. Deadline: Open until filled.