Bad news and good news in ‘The Silly Season’
Way back in July I wrote a commentary here at electionlineWeekly that pleaded with everyone involved in the field of elections to stay cool in the face of rising political temperatures across the country:
We must always remember that the American election system has always been the mechanism through which we enable the peaceful transfer of power between groups with different views. Those of us in the field of elections cannot preserve that role if we are contributing to the storm instead of standing strong – and together – against it, even when we disagree about the best way to do so.
Three months later, it’s pretty clear most people weren’t listening.
Indeed, we are now in what the old electionline crew used to call the “silly season” — that period when Election Day gets close enough for people to start saying and doing things that simply boggle the mind.
The bad news, of course, is that most of these “silly” things end up on the front page.
Take, for example, Ohio’s battle over early voting. After Ohio Secretary of Jon Husted issued a directive eliminating weekend early voting, Franklin County (Columbus) GOP chair and election board member Doug Preisse sent an email(!) to the Columbus Dispatch in which he said “I guess I really actually feel we shouldn’t contort the voting process to accommodate the urban — read African-American — voter-turnout machine … Let’s be fair and reasonable.” That just confirmed the worst fears of Democrats, who cited Preisse’s remarks – at full volume - as proof that the GOP sought to return the nation to Jim Crow days.
Take remarks like those – and the controversy they create – and it’s easy to see why observers like Rick Hasen say the nation’s election system is in the hands of the “partisan and incompetent”.
Unfortunately, that pattern has been repeated again and again across the country as battles over voter ID, voter list maintenance, early voting and other policies rage on and on: hard feelings lead to hard words, which generate big headlines leading to more hard feelings etc. It’s a vicious and – if you read the headlines every day like we do at electionline — depressing cycle.
But here’s the good news: Virtually none of those headlines involve remarks by people who can truly be called election officials. Indeed, most of the cringe-worthy comments you see or hear are by people whose job it is to be partisan: candidates, party officials and advocates. Sometimes, like Preisse, they have a nominal role in elections – but really, they’re just part of the noise with which the real election officials must cope as Election Day approaches.
Now, I’m under no illusion that election administrators don’t have problems of their own (occasionally self-inflicted) but contributing to the “silly season” isn’t usually one of them.
Real election officials — the ones printing ballots, staffing/equipping polling places and getting ready to run Election Day — are simply too busy to pop off in the press. These women and men catch far too many grenades in the run-up to Election Day to even think about throwing any of their own.
Keep that in mind the next time somebody contributes another doozy to the silly season.
Assessment of the Federal Voting Assistance Program Office Implementation of the Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment (MOVE) Act – Inspector General, United States Department of Defense, August 31, 2012: This report evaluates the work of the Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP) and how it has implemented the federal MOVE Act, passed in 2009. It finds that the MOVE requirement for Military Services to establish an installation voting assistance office (IVAO) on every installation under their control is not being met. The Department of Defense (DoD) tried to contact all installations identified on FVAP’s website and failed about half of the time. One of the reasons this requirement is not being met is due to lack of funding.
The DoD is also concerned that IVAOs are not the most effective way to reach military personnel. Recommendations include developing legislation that would request relief from this requirement and focusing on ways to optimize assistance to military and overseas voters.
The report also finds that assertions about active duty personnel in FVAP’s 2010 Post Election Survey Report to Congress would be more credible if the response rate to the survey had been greater than 15 percent. Recommendations include improving the survey design to increase response rates.
The Cost of the Proposed Elections Amendment - Kathy Bonnifield, Citizens for Election Integrity Minnesota, and David A. Schultz, Hamline University, September 2012: This study examines what it might cost to implement a photo identification requirement at the polls in Minnesota and finds it would potentially:
The report states these estimates have large ranges because of unknowns in how voter ID requirements would be implemented.
Alabama: Voter fraud
Alaska: Voting Rights Act
Colorado: Secretary of state
Georgia: Voter confusion
Guam: Electronic voting
Illinois: Voter ID
Indiana: Early voting
Missouri: Early primary
Montana: Voter fraud
New Jersey: Young voters
New York: Accessible voting
North Carolina: Voter registration
Oregon: Secretary of state race
Vermont: Vote count
Virginia: Election ready
**Some sites may require registration.
Elections Division Manager, Santa Barbara County, Calif. - Under administrative direction, directs, manages, supervises, and coordinates the activities and operations of the Election Division within the County Clerk, Recorder & Assessor's Office in a manner consistent with applicable federal and state legislation and administrative procedures; assist in the establishment and evaluation of County elections policies and procedures; provides highly responsible and complex administrative support to the Chief Deputy Registrar of Voters; and may oversee programs and special projects for the County Clerk, Recorder and Assessor's Department in periods where an election is not scheduled. A Division Manager is also responsible for the development, administration, and control of associated budgets. Ideal candidate will have: Experience in performing duties directly related to the preparation and conduct of elections; knowledge of the California Elections, Government and Education codes, and applicable laws, rules, procedures, court cases, regulations and ordinances that affect the preparation and conduct of elections; the ability to promote teamwork among groups with differing priorities; a proven track record of successfully overcoming obstacles to achieve results; analyzing problems and identifying solutions; and applying election laws and procedures. Salary: $70-106,443 DOQ. Deadline: September 6, 2012. For complete job posting and how to apply, click here.
Manager, Elections Initiatives, Pew Center on the States, Washington, D.C. — Manager will serve as the lead manager across all the Election Initiatives. The Manager reports to the Director, Election Initiatives, who is based in Washington, DC, and will be part of a project staff including: a director, a senior officer, two managers, three senior associates, an associate, an administrative assistant and a research fellow. This position is funded through June 20, 2013. Qualifications Include: Eight + years of professional experience in public policy in general and election administration, technology policy, and open government in particular; undergraduate degree required; Masters or other advanced degree in a relevant area preferred; experience working with election officials, academics, technology experts, voting technology vendors, and other relevant stakeholders; proven programming skills in multiple languages including XML and strong system skills in Microsoft Office products required. Familiarity with HTML, mapping, geographic information systems, voting technology vendors’ proprietary software, open source formats, and data management tools (Google Maps, Bing Maps, ArcGIS) and their prospects for use in elections technology preferred; demonstrated strong analytical, qualitative, and quantitative skills applied to public policy issues, including an ability to synthesize and summarize large amounts of information and to focus quickly on the essence of an issue; and a strong familiarity with statistical analysis software (e.g. SPSS, Stata, SAS). For complete listing and application, click here.
Manager, Communications, Elections Initiatives, Pew Center on the States, Washington, D.C. — offers a unique opportunity for an individual to contribute to exciting, high-profile initiatives. Reports to the Pew Center on the States’ Senior Officer, Communications and is part of the staff of Pew’s communications department. The communications manager is responsible for developing and executing a comprehensive and robust communications program to increase the visibility and impact of Pew’s experts, research, initiatives and events with target audiences. This position will also work with other communications colleagues to plan and execute integrated strategies, campaigns and outreach and other duties as assigned. Qualifications Include: Bachelor's degree required including skills associated with completion of an undergraduate degree program in communications, journalism or related major; graduate degree in public affairs, public policy or journalism desirable; at least eight years of direct experience in position with communications/PR responsibilities, with considerable experience as a media relations professional – knowledge of pitching, media strategies – required. Experience in public policy preferred; superior oral and written communications skills. Proven experience drafting media materials and other public documents including press releases, fact sheets, speeches and op-eds; ability to manage and ensure professional development of junior staff; able to build and leverage relationships within and external to Pew to assemble networks that facilitate positive outcomes. For more information and to apply, click here.
Public Affairs Specialist, District of Columbia Board of Elections — conducts the public affairs program for the board with responsibility for developing and providing direction for all public information, internal information and community relations activities. Identifies communication needs and develops informational materials that inform voters of the agency’s policies, programs, services and activities; and plans, executes and evaluates the effectiveness of information and communication programs. Coordinates media. Works with the media in a proactive manner to identify news opportunities and to ensure positive news stories about the BOE relations, event planning and community outreach activities. It is desirable that the applicant be a graduate from an accredited college or university with a Bachelor’s degree in public administration, legislative or regulatory affairs, journalism, communication, marketing or a related field, plus three (3) to four (4) years of work-related knowledge or experience within functional areas such as communication marketing, public relations, legislative affairs or journalism. Interested persons can apply to the D.C. Dept. of Human Resources Job Center 441 4th St., NW; Washington, D.C. 20001. To apply online, got to http://dcop.dc.gov and click Employment Opportunities. Inquiries should be directed to HR Answers at 202.422.9700.