I. In Focus This Week
Sen. Connie Lawson named new Indiana secretary of state
Lawson comes to job with plenty of elections experience
Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels has appointed state Sen. Connie Lawson to serve as the Hoosier State’s 61st secretary of state following the felony convictions of former secretary Charlie White.
Only the second woman to serve in the role of secretary, Lawson had served in the state Senate since 1996 including tenures as Majority Floor Leader and chair of the elections committee.
Before being elected to the Senate, Lawson served as the Hendricks County clerk.
"Connie's was the first name I thought of, and there was never really a rival. Look at her credentials for this job; look at her reputation for legislative integrity…,” Daniels said at a press conference announcing the appointment. “She's well regarded on both sides of the aisle. I don't know a single legislator in either party who doesn't think well of Connie."
Former Indiana Secretary State and current U.S. Representative Todd Rokita sang Lawson’s praises.
“At every turn during my eight years as secretary of state, Connie was instrumental in helping us cross the legislative hurdles so we could make solid, common-sense elections reforms like the voter ID law, statewide voter registration system, online voter registration and the vote center option we made available to Indiana counties," Rokita said in the release.
Lawson’s appointment ends a tumultuous time for the top elections job in Indiana.
Former Secretary of State Charlie White was elected in 2010 but was removed from office this year after being convicted of six felonies including voter fraud. Following his conviction, state Democrats said that Vop Osili, White’s opponent in 2010 should be named secretary of state arguing that White was never eligible to run in the first place.
The Indiana Supreme Court disagreed with that argument which led to Daniels’ appointment of Lawson.
But, despite turmoil at the top, local elections officials have been plugging away throughout the entire ordeal.
“The framework for running elections is statutory and every county continued to have access to the co-directors of the Indiana Election Division, so no, our preparations were not adversely affected by this situation,” said Beth White, Marion County clerk. “The biggest impact on election administrators this cycle will be the redistricting due to the census.”
According to the Indianapolis Star, Charlie White had been accused of being dismissive of the secretary’s elections functions saying that the elections are really run by the counties.
Marion County’s Beth White hopes Lawson will bring a different perspective to the office.
“Secretary Lawson is a former county clerk, and I hope she’ll bring that perspective to the office. I have known her in capacity as a State Senator on the Elections Committee in the Indiana General Assembly. I wish her well as she transitions into this new leadership role,” Beth White said.
Lawson already seems to be proving her elections proponents right. One of the first meetings she took as secretary of state was with the co-director of the elections division to discuss the state’s voter database.
II. Election News This Week
- Tuesday was primary day in Illinois and while by and large things went well, things went very, very wrong in 25 counties. The problem? Paper ballots that were too large to fit in the county’s optical-scan ballot tabulators. According to Rupert Borgsmiller with the Illinois State Board of elections, the problem apparently did not originate with the two companies supplying the voting systems, but with a graphics company that printed the ballots. One of the two companies, Governmental Business Systems, said it scrambled to help fix the problem, which in some cases meant trimming the ballots down to the proper size. “They were printed elsewhere, but we are accountable,” Chris Riggall, of Governmental Business Systems, which was responsible for voting systems in nine counties told the Chicago Sun-Times. The problem did not mean votes would not be counted, nor did it prevent anyone from voting — only that it might take a little longer to count some of the votes, he told the paper. Some counties were forced to use scissors to trim the ballots. In Winnebago County, instead of cutting, volunteers remade all of the ballots on paper that fits in the vote tabulators.
- Also on Tuesday, voters in East St. Louis voted in favor of keeping areas board of elections. The East St. Louis BOE, which according to the Post-Dispatch, dates back to the 19th Century has been facing a challenge by a group of residents who wanted to disband it and put the city under the same election system as St. Clair County. The initiative to eliminate the board failed 71 percent to 28 percent. East St. Louis spends about $400,000 annually to operate its election board. St. Clair County kicks in $112,000 more.
- In the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, thousands of Louisiana voters were temporarily displaced or forced to move. Legislation making its way through the Louisiana legislature would prevent displaced residents now claiming the homestead exemption in a different parish from being able to vote in their home parish. "The secretary of state and I have been trying to work out a problem with displaced voters that allows people who were claiming to be displaced even though they were claiming a homestead elsewhere," Helena Moreno (D-New Orleans) told a House committee on Wednesday. According to the Times-Picayune, the bill is intended to clarify a 2006 law that legislators passed to ensure that residents who had been displaced could continue to vote in the parish where they were originally registered. Under that law, displaced residents could continue to vote in their home parishes "unless he has either established a new domicile or has changed his registration to an address outside the voting district."
- After a fairly smooth presidential preference primary election last month, things did not go quite as well for a municipal election run by Palm Beach County, Fla. The city of Wellington held an election—conducted by the Palm Beach County supervisor of elections office—on March 13. Earlier this week, a recount showed that the elections office had declared the wrong winners in two of the three races. On Tuesday, city officials decided to scrap the election results and now everyone wants answers and one councilmember has already filed a lawsuit. “Until I hear back from my people, we’re not going to make any conclusions or any ideas of what happened,” Secretary of State Ken Detzner told the Sunshine State News. For her part, Elections Supervisor Susan Bucher said the problem was mechanical, not human. “This is not a human error. This is a computer-generated error, one that is on a computer system that is tested and certified by the state of Florida,” Bucher told reporters.
- Even as some localities are willingly moving to vote centers, community leaders and voting rights groups in Douglas County, Neb. are not happy about Election Commissioner Dave Phipps’ decision to reduce the number of precincts. Phipps, who was appointed by the governor in 2005 and 2008, said the move will save about $115,000 in most elections. It makes sense to close polling stations when almost a third of Douglas County voters vote early, he told the Omaha World-Herald. “This has been nothing but an economic issue,” Phipps said. Although Phipps added four more early ballot drop boxes following the complaints, activists are still not happy and have threatened to sue.
- Elections officials in Arcadia, Calif. ran into a bit of trouble with their Chinese-language translations last week when the city’s nearly 29,000 voters were sent ballots with a critical error that ultimately invalidated all the ballots. The mail-in ballots included instructions in four languages, but directed voters in Chinese to choose up to three instead of two City Council candidates in the race for two open seats. "It was wrong for every single registered voter in their ballot and their sample ballot," Chief Deputy City Clerk Lisa Mussenden told the Pasadena Star-News. "It's just something that happened and we're doing everything we can to make sure we get the word out." It will cost the city between $7,000 and $10,000 to replace the ballots.
- Personnel News: After starting as a temporary elections clerk in 1972, Sonoma County Registrar of Voters Janice Atkinson plans to step down at the end of the summer. She will be 19 months into her second term in the elected Clerk-Recorder-Assessor’s office. Jada Woods Williams, the suspended Madison County, Fla. supervisor of elections is seeking re-election despite facing 17 charges of voter fraud.
III. Research and Report Summaries
Lessons Learned from the Voter ID Experience in Georgia – Hans von Spakovsky, The Heritage Foundation, March 19, 2012: New research finds increases in the total number of Hispanic and black voters in Georgia in the 2008 and 2010 general elections relative to the 2004 and 2006 general elections. These increases occurred after the state started requiring photo ID at the polls in 2007.
Analyzing Voter Turnout After Voter ID – Keesha Gaksins, Brennan Center for Justice, March 15, 2012: An analysis of Hispanic turnout in Georgia finds that the percentage of Hispanic voters (calculated as a percentage of registered voters) casting ballots in 2008 and 2010 decreased relative to turnout rates in 2004 and 2006.
Increasing Youth Participation: The Case for a National Voter Pre-Registration Law - Ceridwen Cherry, University of Michigan Journal of Law Reform, Volume 45 Issue 2 - Winter 2012: A federal law allowing sixteen year olds to pre-register to vote is proposed. Data are cited that show the percentage of young people who are registered to vote actually cast ballots at high rates. The author suggests, therefore, that the challenge is not getting young people who are registered to cast ballots, but rather improving the voter registration process for young people.
Alabama: Voter fraud
Alaska: Election process
Kentucky: Felon voting rights
Maryland: Election schedule
Michigan: Voting reforms
Montana: Number of elections
New York: Voting machines
Ohio: Voter registration
Oregon: Postal Service
South Carolina: Auditing voting process
Vermont: Voter fraud
Wisconsin: Voter ID
**Some sites may require registration.
V. Job Openings
Administrator, Bureau of Elections, Bernalillo County, N.M.-- Under the assigned supervisor, responsible for the election operations section of the Bureau of Elections, manages the voting machine warehouse and directs the functional operation of the voter registration section. Supervises training of personnel in related areas. Responsibilities include: Direct the functions and activities related to the conduct of elections under the jurisdiction of the County Clerk; review the State Election Code and Federal Voting Rights Compliance Act to ensure proper procedures are followed by the County; assist in preparing instructions on the conduct of elections for election officials; responsible for polling locations and ensure election personnel are sufficient in number and well trained; oversee the preparation of lists of registered voters, absentee voters, election officials, polling places, and voter signature rosters; responsible for the purchase and distribution of election supplies and equipment prescribed by the State Election Code and other legislative mandates. Maintain a perpetual inventory of all election supplies, voting machines, parts and accessories; assure that voting machine technicians are trained in the programming and maintenance of the various types of voting machines used by the County. Coordinate an on-going maintenance program of all machines. Minimum Qualifications include: Bachelor Degree in Business, Public Administration, Government, Political Science or other or related field plus seven (7) years experience in a professional administrative/management capacity; knowledge of the New Mexico Election Code and Federal Voting Rights Compliance Act and principles, practices and procedures of election administration; advanced computer technology experience and skills. Application: For more information and how to apply, click here. Deadline: March 30, 2012.
Computer Engineer, U.S. Election Assistance Commission, Washington, D.C. — incumbent will assist with and consult on technical reviews, and is directly responsible for assisting with and consulting on technical reviews of documentation submitted by manufacturers and test labs during the testing of voting systems applying for EAC certification. This includes review of (1) Technical Data Packages, (2) Test Plans, and (3) Test Reports. In addition, the EAC will work with the laboratories as they develop test methods and specific test cases for manufacturer specific electronic voting systems. Reviews shall ensure that a plan was in place to properly test each voting system to the applicable voting system standards, that these test were properly performed and documented, and that the test results demonstrate conformance with applicable voting system standards. As the employee develops expertise in this area, he/she may also be tasked with serving as the EAC program manager for specific voting system test engagements. Experience in: computer architecture, testing methodologies and network principles; technical standards and standards sett; voting system testing and/or election administration practices. Salary: $59,383-$91,801. Application: For the complete job listing and how to apply, click here. Deadline: April 30, 2012.
Deputy Election Director, Board of Elections, Montgomery County, Md. —employee will be directly responsible to and supervised by the Election Director. The employee must have in-depth knowledge of the conduct of elections and Federal and State election laws and provide high quality services to the approximately 600,000 registered Montgomery County voters. Duties include: exhibit and attain a comprehensive knowledge base of election administration; collaborate with and support the Election Director, Board and all sections on election matters; provide substantive input on upper-level policy issues, decisions and operational decisions; collaborate on resolutions of complex problems; function in a highly visible environment; coordinate, initiate and implement the selection process for all appointments and the procurement, production and deliveries of State mandated sample ballots; coordinate precinct redistricting resulting from boundary changes; provide senior level collaboration on county, state and federal legislative issues; coordinate county resources to aid in the conduct of elections; approve purchases; research and respond to public inquiries and reporting of agency performance measures. Other duties include using the operative computer systems, e.g., the statewide election management system for voter registration, absentee data and campaign finance; evaluate election procedures and propose improvements; use Microsoft Office and Oracle databases; cooperate and collaborate with county and state election employees in the administration of elections; handle complex details with high accuracy, including proofing and editing voter information; handle extended periods of stress and multiple task workloads with changing priorities and tight deadlines under minimal supervision. The employee will also supervise the Election Operation Manager and other employees in a secure environment; handle sensitive equipment, software, data and related security; contact and present information to other local, state, national election officials, contractors of related products/services, agencies; share and collect information; follow officially prescribed and recognized election procedures; ensure the integrity of the entire election process, including voting days, post-election audits and assessments. Experience: Five years of progressively responsible professional experience in conducting, planning, and/or managing the conduct of federal, state and/or local government elections. Education: Graduation from an accredited college or university with a Bachelor's Degree. Salary: $63,411 - $115,901. Application: To view the entire job announcement and to apply, click here. Deadline: March 30, 2012.
Researcher, CIRCLE, Tufts University, Medford, Mass. —seeking a researcher to conduct research, perform data analysis, participate in program evaluations, help with project administration, and help communicate our findings to audiences that include academics, educators, policymakers, and the press. Responsibilities include conducting quantitative research for CIRCLE’s in-house research program; drafting fact sheets, web pages, and other research products for various audiences; participating in research and evaluation projects that may use a mix of methods, including qualitative research and field experiments; and answering queries from the general public, reporters, policy makers and academics. Basic Requirements: Bachelor’s degree; three (3) years of related experience; excellent computer skills and knowledge of at least one statistical package, such as STATA, SASS, or SPSS; strong quantitative research (social science methods) and writing skills required. Familiarity with analyzing large public datasets such as those provided by the US Census. Preferred Qualifications: Master’s degree in a social science field. Knowledge of youth civic engagement programs (such as service-learning, youth media-production, or youth voting) is desirable. Application: Click here. Deadline: April 13, 2012.
Senior Researcher, CIRCLE, Tufts University, Medford Mass.—seeking a senior researcher to conduct research and to help to lead some of CIRCLE’s research or evaluation projects. Responsibilities include: serving as a researcher on a range of research projects that may include secondary data-analysis, literature reviews, field experiments, program evaluations and original surveys; producing reports, fact sheets and press releases on timely and relevant topics, often in close collaboration with CIRCLE colleagues; providing guidance to other CIRCLE staff and students who produce research (quantitative and qualitative); contributing to research grant proposals; representing CIRCLE at a wide range of events including research conferences, practitioner forums, press events and other public events; and answering queries from reporters about CIRCLE research. Basic Requirements: Master’s degree; five (5) years of related experience; experience with statistical software packages, databases, and Microsoft Office; strong research skills, including a good working knowledge of at least one statistical package, such as STATA, SAS, or SPSS, and some experience using large public datasets. Experience with multivariate statistical techniques or qualitative methods and evaluation methods; ability to communicate effectively with practitioners, reporters, scholars, and young people through writing, speech, and graphs; ability to produce reliable, accurate, and readable evaluations and research products on short deadlines; ability to work collaboratively with CIRCLE colleagues from varied backgrounds and to interact with practitioners; ability to teach research methods to colleagues and student/workers. Preferred Qualifications: PhD in a social science discipline. Enthusiasm for youth civic engagement desired; however, prior research in this specific area is not required. Application: Click here. Deadline: April 13, 2012.