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II. Election News This Week
- This week a bipartisan group of North Carolina election officials asked the state to release $4 million in HAVA funds. The officials said the money is necessary accommodate a large voter turnout in 2012. According to the News & Observer, the money typically covers the cost of voting machine maintenance, poll-worker training and early-voting sites, but in order for localities to get the money, the state must allocate an additional $644,00 to the state board of elections to meet federal guidelines. The paper reports that Republican lawmakers are reluctant to release the additional money. Election officials from more than 85 counties sent a letter last week to House Speaker Thom Tillis and Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger asking for them to address the situation in the Feb. 16 legislative mini-session. The signers include Republican board members from 40 counties, organizers said.
- Voter ID Update: The nationwide debate over voter ID continued this week on several fronts. In South Carolina, the state’s attorney general officially filed suit against the U.S. Department of Justice that had blocked the state’s voter ID law in late 2011. The suit argues that the law “will not disenfranchise any potential South Carolina voter…” The Missouri House has once again approved a measure to require voters in the Show Me state to show some photo ID in order to cast a ballot. It’s the seventh time in eight years that the bill has been brought up in the General Assembly. The bill received an initial approval on a party-line vote of 104-54. Like lawmakers in Missouri, lawmakers in New Mexico once again considered voter ID legislation this week. However, unlike Missouri, the New Mexico lawmakers once again voted down the measure in committee before it even made the House floor. With the state’s lieutenant governor serving as the tie-breaking vote, the Virginia Senate voted this week to approve voter ID. While the Senate bill requires some form of identification for all voters, it does not require that ID to be a photo ID. Acceptable forms of identification include a voter registration card, Social Security card, driver’s license or other government-issued ID, photo ID from a private employer, utility bills, paychecks, bank statements, government checks or a current ID from a four-year college. The House passed a similar bill last week. The Maine legislature’s Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee voted to conduct a study of the state’s election system, a move that eliminated legislation to require photo ID in Maine.
- Around 2 a.m. on Saturday Feb. 4, a Hamilton County, Ind. jury found Secretary of State Charlie White guilty of six of seven felony charges including voter fraud. Following the ruling, Gov. Mitch Daniels (R) appointed Jerry Bonnet, White’s chief deputy, to serve as interim secretary of state. Following his conviction, White indicated that he would ask the judge to reduce his felony convictions to misdemeanors which would make him eligible to keep his job as the state’s top elections official. Meanwhile, the Indiana Democratic Party is working on a court filing asking a judge to replace White with Vop Osili, the Democrat who lost to White in the 2010 election. The state’s attorney general has said he would object to any legal move and on Tuesday, the state Supreme Court denied a request by the state Democratic Party to install Osili in the office. Osili could still be installed in office if the state Supreme Court upholds a Marion County judge’s ruling that White was ineligible to be a candidate. The court has set oral arguments for Feb. 29. White’s sentencing hearing for the felony convictions has been scheduled for Feb. 23.
- Personnel News: Longtime Flint, Mich. township clerk Sheri Goyette retired at the end of 2011 after serving the residents of Flint for 25 years doing everything from creating the township’s first website to purchasing the town’s new voting equipment. Twenty-three Pinal County, Ariz. employees were awarded election officer certificates this week for completing a two-day recertification or a one-week certification class. After 18 years on the job, Mercer County, N.J. Board of Elections Chairman Dominic Magnolo retired. Magnolo was on the board for 18 years and served as chair for 16. He was one of two of the longest-serving elections officials in the state of New Jersey. Adjusting to a growing and changing population, the Monterey County, Calif. elections department added a bilingual services program manager position to the department. Melissa Semsa has been hired to fill the position.