I. In Focus This Week
Summit addresses military and overseas voters
Despite progress, challenges remain
Pew Center on the States
Washington DC – The Overseas Vote Foundation (OVF) hosted its Sixth Annual UOCAVA Summit last week, where participants highlighted progress made and noted the challenges that still remain in ensuring that military and overseas voters can successfully cast their absentee ballots.
A new report from the Pew Center on the States noted in the past two years, 47 states and the District of Columbia enacted laws to protect the voting rights of military and overseas citizens. This year’s election will be the first presidential election since many of these changes went into effect.
The report, Democracy from Afar, found that many states have implemented changes to their laws or administrative codes to allow for:
- Enough time to vote: Thirty-eight states and the District have laws or rules meeting or exceeding federal requirements to send ballots to military and overseas voters at least 45 days before an election. Eight additional states changed their primary dates to accommodate the requirement;
- Electronic transmission of unvoted ballots: All states and the District allow military and overseas voters to receive blank ballots by e-mail, fax or on the Web;
- Eliminating requirements for notarization or witnesses: Forty-six states and the District do not call for either for military and overseas voters; and
- Expanded use of Federal Write-in Absentee Ballots (FWABs): Thirty-four states and the District mandate FWABs be used as a backup ballot for all elections, including state and local.
And now one more state can be added to the list of those changing primary dates. Last Friday a federal judge ordered that New York change its Congressional primary from September 11 to June 26 to be able to send out ballots to military and overseas voters at least 45 days before an election.
The summit also saw OVF announce the creation of the U.S. Vote Foundation, a new domestic voter engagement initiative which will provide U.S. citizens with access to innovative voter registration tools and services.
“It’s time to provide U.S.-based voters with the same breadth and quality of online voter services that we have been providing to overseas and military voters for more than five years,” said OVF President and CEO Susan Dzieduszycka-Suinat in a press release.
And in an attempt to establish a reliable count of Americans living outside the United States, initial research was presented by the Federal Voting Assistance Program about its Overseas Citizens Count Project.
Other participants focused on the difficulties faced in increasing military voter participation and what data can best be used to monitor how states serve military and overseas voters. And Kim Alexander of the California Voter Foundation (CVF) presented new data showing room for improvement when it comes to the information state election websites provide military and overseas voters.
With the progress and changes that have been made in the states, and new technology available for military an overseas voters, Dzieduszycka-Suinat pointed out the important role military and overseas voters will play in 2012.
“Our overseas and military voters can have an impact on this Presidential election. We need to assure they have timely access to absentee ballots and can exercise their right to vote.”
II. Election News This Week
- The old adage that no news is good news certainly seemed to play out in Florida this week. The Sunshine state conducted it’s GOP primary on Jan. 31 and there were relatively few issues. In Palm Beach County, which has been a ground zero of voting problems since 2000 there were no reported problems at the polls and the elections office was able to post the county’s results by 11:30 pm. Bucher called the swift tabulation "historic," saying it was the result of a new remote reporting system. That system, coupled with modems scheduled to be added to all of the county's ballot scanners later this year, should end years of slow ballot counting that at times has been the worst in the state. "We have never been able to do this before," Bucher told The Palm Beach Post. "We gave it everything we had. It is very gratifying." Collier County and the Treasure Coast also reported few, if any problems. One glitch in Orange County had voters casting paper ballots from their cars after a pastor forgot to unlock the doors to a church polling place.
- With a decision in the redistricting court case at least a month away, Texas has begun to consider the possibility of holding two primaries this year. If there is a need to split the primaries, the first would include presidential primary, statewide races and board of education races. The second primary would feature other local, state and federal offices that are dependent on redistricting. This delay is leaving local elections officials in limbo, although as Cherokee County Elections Coordinator Shannon Cornelius pointed out, she’s not stressed—yet. “I don't have any concerns,” Cornelius told the Daily Progress. “I'm sure all my stressing will start when they let me know when the elections are going to be, but it is something you have to deal with and move on.” Cornelius told the paper programing election equipment is not normally a big deal, but if the court doesn't reach a decision soon, she envisions more work ahead.
- The vote fraud trail against Indiana Secretary of State Charlie White got underway this week. The entire trial is expected to take about two weeks. A jury was seated on Monday and opening remarks began Tuesday. Prosecutors presented testimony and documents attacking White’s claim that he was not living in the townhome he bought with his new wife, but actually sleeping on the couch in his ex-wife’s home before the primary. The trial ended early on Wednesday while waiting for a representative from Sprint to arrive with phone records which the prosecution hopes will show that White was in fact living out the district at the time he was a candidate for office.
- Personnel News: Longtime McPherson County, Kan. Clerk Susan Henson Meng will retire after 23 years. Shirley Forslof retired at the end of 2011 as the Whatcom County, Wash.
III. Research and Report Summaries
New State Voting Laws II: Protecting the Right to Vote in the Sunshine State - Michael C. Herron, Ph.D., Daniel A. Smith, Ph.D., Testimony before the United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary, Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights, Jan. 27, 2012: New research examines early voting in Florida during the 2008 presidential election by race, age, and what day people cast their ballots. Using these data the researchers then describe the potential impact of the state’s 2011 legislation shortening the early voting period on the 2012 election.
Alabama: Electoral College
Alaska: National Popular Voter
Colorado: Ballot privacy
Connecticut: Election reforms
Indiana: Vote centers
Iowa: Voter ID
Missouri: Voter ID
New Hampshire: Electoral College
New York: Election integrity
Texas: Voter ID
Virginia: Vote fraud
West Virginia: Lincoln County
Wisconsin: Poll workers
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 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.