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II. Election News This Week
- Many localities struggle with scheduling special elections, but imagine if you had to rely on the Congress of the United States to schedule your local special election? That’s the situation in the District of Columbia, which while it has Home Rule, still must go to Congress to make changes to the Home Rule Charter. Currently D.C. must hold a special election 114 days after a vacancy is declared, but under legislation introduced by Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, the city would be able to schedule special elections during a 70 to 174 day window which make it more likely the special election could be held on the same day as a previously scheduled election. The existing law made it impossible for the District to hold a special election — now scheduled for May 15 — on the same day as its April 3 primary. Holding the extra election will cost taxpayers an additional $318,000. Norton previously introduced legislation to schedule local elections, but it was held up by an anonymous hold in the Senate. The House approved Norton’s legislation on a voice vote.
- Voter ID Update: The Virginia Senate approved a voter ID law for The Old Dominion State this week. However, unlike new ID laws in many other states, this does not require a photo ID. It requires voters to present some form of government issues ID — license, social security card, voter registration card — or a utility bill before casting a ballot. Still, despite the lack of photo requirement, the battle for approval was still bitter with one Senator recalling the when he once had a to pay a $5 poll tax. The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of South Carolina asked a federal court to allow them to become involved in a lawsuit about the state’s voter ID law. Although it’s growing support from GOP lawmakers, legislation to require photo ID in Illinois appears stalled in a Senate sub-committee. And in Nebraska, debate on proposed voter ID legislation got underway this week with a planned filibuster. With the first true test of Tennessee’s new voter ID law set for Super Tuesday, a new poll conducted by Middle Tennessee State found that 4 out of 5 Tennesseans are in favor of the law.
- The best laid plans: Recently, more than 17,000 Colorado residents received voter registration forms from a third-party Washington, D.C.–based organization, the Voter Participation Center. The group is targeting unregistered single women, minorities and young adults. While the group worked with the secretary of state’s office on the forms, a printing error omitted the signature line and affidavit as required by law. To-date the secretary of state’s office has received 180 incomplete forms. The forms are being entered into the state’s voter-registration database as pending and county clerks are attempting to contact the residents. "We couldn't be more displeased," Page Gardner, president of the Voter Participation Center told The Denver Post. "But we recognize the mistake, and we're fixing the problem."
- Guns and elections don’t often go together in elections in this country, but this week on three separate occasions firearms played a staring role in election administration. On Tuesday, a Michigan voter carried a pistol into a Grand Rapids polling place (an elementary school). Twenty-five year old Nicholas Looman told police he was trying to make a point that he could carry a gun into a polling place. Looman was allowed to vote but was escorted off the property after doing so. A Lincoln County, W.Va. man is under arrest after pulling a gun on an FBI agent and an investigator with the secretary of state’s office who were questioning him about a 2010 primary election voter fraud case in Lincoln County. And in Lancaster County, Pa. supervisors in two townships are asking the county board of elections to reverse polling place changes made in part because the new locations — schools — do not allow voters to carry guns.
- Homer Simpson would not be pleased: A conservative civics group in Appleton, Wis. has filed an ethics violation against Council President Cathy Spears because she delivered doughnuts to poll workers during a recent election. “We believe that giving gifts to poll workers is an attempt to influence an election and is illegal,” wrote Perry Bovee, president of the Appleton Taxpayers United group in his complaint. “I was told it’s been a tradition to thank the poll workers at every district. Every election they get doughnuts,” Spears told the Post-Crescent. Spears was not on the ballot on the election day in question. City Clerk Cindi Hesse said that it is a tradition for aldermen to bring baked goods to poll workers on election day and that she has never received any complaints. “We’ll review the matter — it’s my understanding that it would be against the rules to accept something of value as an employee,” Hesse told the paper. “But there’s nothing in city code that says you can’t take a doughnut to a poll worker.”
- Personnel News: William Cline and Sam Ferruccio were both recently reappointed to serve another four-year term on the Stark County, Ohio, board of elections. La Puente, Calif. elections official Carol Cowley will soon be taking on new duties as the city’s clerk after the acting clerk submitted his resignation. Staff of the Graham County, Ariz. elections department recently received certificates in recognition of their completion of the state’s election certification process. Former Littleton, Colo. city attorney Suzanne Staiert has been appointed deputy secretary of state by Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler. Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted hired Meghan Gallagher as director of the Lucas County BOE after board members were unable to break a tie after five successive votes.