I. In Focus This Week
Working group examines future of California elections
"Roadmap” highlights opportunities for policymaking, partnership and innovation
Late last year, a working group of California election officials, advocates and experts came together to talk about the future of elections in the Golden State. The shared goal was to step back from the day-to-day, election-to-election concerns that often consume the debate and take a long view on behalf of the state’s current and future voters.
Convened with the support of the James Irvine Foundation through its California Democracy Program, the group met in person in Los Angeles, Mountain View and Sacramento to share ideas about the current state of elections in California, to identify needed reforms and opportunities for growth, and commit to working toward concrete solutions in various areas of the voting and election process. [Disclosure: I served as a consultant to the Working Group, serving as facilitator.]
In December 2011, the Working Group released a Roadmap for the Future of California Elections. While acknowledging that the Roadmap does not necessarily “reflect all conceivable solutions, all priorities of each participant or the endorsement of every participant” the Working Group did unanimously set forth 10 “guiding principles” for reform:
The policies and practices that govern California’s elections — and the institutions and individuals responsible for administering them — should:
- Encourage full participation by all eligible citizens;
- Ensure and protect equal access to participation regardless of age, race, language, income, education, disability or location;
- Ensure that every eligible citizen can easily register to vote and that voter registration rolls are accurate and up-to-date;
- Provide citizens with information about registration and voting — including information on candidates, ballot issues and voting instructions — in a variety of formats, including disability accessible formats, and languages — so that every voter can make informed voting choices and cast a meaningful and valid ballot;
- Provide each voter with flexibility regarding options for casting a ballot;
- Protect voters from intimidation and deception and ensure enforcement and compliance with all applicable laws protecting voters’ rights and the integrity of the voting process;
- Reflect the highest standards of transparency, accuracy and security and provide all citizens with justifiable confidence in election systems — including voting technology — and their outcomes;
- Provide outreach and education to California’s youth about the electoral process and the value of civic participation in order to foster a spirit of lifelong participation in all voters;
- Guarantee that state and local governments provide resources in proportion to election administration requirements while holding election officials accountable for efficient and effective use of those funds; and
- Commit to seeking improvements of all kinds — from small fixes to big and fundamental changes — that make California’s elections work for the voters of today and tomorrow.
These principles are followed by more concrete policy goals in four general areas: voter registration and education, voting technology, voting options and election administration.
Participants were enthusiastic both about the process and the outcome.
On the Verified Voting blog, Pam Smith said, ”it turned out to be an extraordinary conversation and a process which could very well serve as a model for other states as well … The participants included a diverse range of representatives with a concern for voters and not-yet voters, for elections and how they function, and for California’s democracy.”
Using these goals as a backdrop, the Working Group will continue its activities in 2012 and will be engaging public, private and non-profit sector partners to work toward the goals set forth in the Roadmap.
The full Roadmap can be found online here.
II. Election News This Week
- Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted has reversed course — sort of — on the state’s new elections law that shortened early voting in the Buckeye State. This week Husted said an expected fall campaign over the law would only confuse voters and he is asking the Legislature to come up with a new proposal after the November 2012 elections. "We don't need the confusion that will come by debating a referendum at the same time we're trying to inform people how to vote," Husted told local election officials at a conference in Columbus according to The Associated Press. A consortium of grassroots activists and Democrats gathered enough signatures in 2011 to put the new law on the November 2012 ballot as a referendum.
- Following the Jan. 21 GOP primary in South Carolina, the state’s attorney general asked the U.S. Department of Justice for an investigation into voter fraud. AG Alan Wilson said in a letter to DOJ that analysis found 953 ballots cost by voters listed as dead. Director of the South Carolina Election Commission Marci Andio disputes the claims and testified before a state House panel this week. “In many cases, these are people that our (county election officials) know, and these people are very much alive,” Andino said in her testimony. Andino said it is not unusual to find a certain number of dead people and clerical errors on the voting list. She testified that her office is not able to take anyone off the voter list without verification that a voter has died, moved out of state, or become mentally incapacitated or incarcerated.
- Voter ID Update: There was a lot of action this week across the country on the voter ID front. In Texas, the state sued the U.S. Department of Justice seeking swift enforcement of the state’s voter ID law, which the department is currently reviewing. “The U.S. Supreme Court has already ruled that voter identification laws are constitutional,” Abbott told the Amarillo Globe-News. “Texas should be allowed the same authority other states have to protect the integrity of elections.” Maine lawmakers signaled this week that they would gut the current proposed voter ID legislation and replace the language with a resolve directing the Secretary of State’s Office to propose voter reform legislation in 2013. A New Hampshire Senate committee heard testimony this week on a new bill that would require photo ID to vote. The bill would allow voters to show a variety of forms of ID including a driver’s license, state-issued ID card, Armed Services identification, a U.S. passport, a valid student ID card, or any other local, state, or federal identification that contained a name and photo. And in Missouri, legislators are once again pushing a bill that would require resident of the Show Me State to show some ID. The legislation, which would require voters to show any one of a variety of government-issued IDs to vote was approved by a House committee.
- This week, voters in Saguache County, Colo. voted overwhelmingly to recall Clerk Melinda Myers. Unofficial tallies show that 68 percent of voters chose to recall Myers. Carla Gomez, the Republican candidate who ran against Myers in 2010. Will replace her. Myers had been under fire since the 2010 election when she was accused of bungling the election so badly that a grand jury was convened to investigate the election. According to the Denver Post, although a lawsuit filed by Secretary of State Gessler and the grand jury report ultimately found no criminal wrongdoing and that the election had been accurate, residents still gathered signatures for a recall. The recall was conducted by the El Paso County clerk’s office.
- Personnel News: Andrea Eastman will serve another term on the Licking County, Ohio board of elections. Charles Knight will serve another term on the Seneca County, Ohio board of elections. Brandi Orth was sworn in this week as the new Fresno County, Calif. elections clerk. Kelia Cosme was appointed to the Lucas County, Ohio board of elections. She is replacing Jim Ruvolo who is stepping down after just three months on the board.
- In Memoriam: Jay C. Bennett, Jr., Kane County, Ill.’s chief deputy clerk died this week. He was 59. Bennett had been in the clerk’s office since 2006 and was in charge of running the county’s elections. “He was very highly thought of in the election community. He was a great asset to our office,” County Clerk Jack Cunningham told the Daily Herald. Bennett served as CEO of the Fidlar Election Co. in Rock Island, Ill., for 25 years.
Arizona: Mail center closures
Idaho: Primary date
Kentucky: Felon voting rights
Maryland: Baltimore elections
Michigan: Voter ID
New Hampshire: Voter ID
New York: Paper ballots
North Carolina: Voting rights
Virginia: Voter ID
Washington: Election savings
West Virginia: Felon voting rights
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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.