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II. Election News This Week
- With the dawn of 2013, South Carolina officially joined the growing ranks of states that require a photo ID to cast a ballot. The first test of the state’s new voter ID law came this week when residents of the small town of Branchville cast ballots in a council election. Representatives from the U.S. Dept. of Justice were on hand to observe the election. According to reports, there were few, if any, problems with the election. Most people showed their IDs with little prompting although a few did have to go home to retrieve appropriate identification. There were no reports of provisional ballot usage.
- In a report released this week, Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted announced that a record number of absentee ballots — 1.86 million — were cast in Buckeye State in this year’s presidential election. In addition to a record number of absentees, a record number of provisional ballots — 208,087 — were also cast. According to The Cleveland Plain Dealer, 17 percent of the provisional ballots were ultimately rejected. Of that 17 percent, nearly 60 percent were rejected because the voter was not registered in the state of Ohio. “Thanks to improvements we made to Ohio’s provisional ballot process and our election system overall, more provisional ballots were counted this year,” Husted said in a statement.
- Delaware and Virginia both took steps this week to increase the voting rights for ex-felons. In the First State, a proposed constitutional amendment has been introduced in the state legislature that would eliminate the five-year waiting period for eligible felons once they have completed their sentences. The amendment must pass in two consecutive sessions of the legislature and was approved for the first time last year. Down Interstate 95 a couple of hours Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell called for the automatic restoration of ex-felons voting rights during his final State of the Commonwealth speech as governor.
- The Louisiana State Board of Elections Supervisor made several recommendations this week that would help protect voter’s personal information. Among the recommendations would be to make it a felony to copy or reproduce a completed voter registration application and a requirement that poll workers sign affidavits that information contained in poll books will not be disclosed. In addition, voter’s phone numbers — which are provided so they can receive election updates — will be kept in the secretary of state’s office instead of at the local level.
- Personnel News: Embattle Richland County, S.C. Elections Director Lillian McBride will be stepping down, effective Jan. 12. McBride will remain employed in the county’s election and voter registration office, but it was unclear at press time in what capacity. Jasper Salmond, a former elementary school principal will serve at the interim elections director until a new director can be found. After more than 30 years in the Highland County, Fla. supervisor of elections office, Joe Campbell is retiring this week. Tappie Villane was sworn in as the new Santa Rosa County, Fla. supervisor of elections late last week. Villane has worked in the office since 2005 and is replacing Ann Bodenstein who is retiring. In Hillsborough County, Fla. Craig Latimer was sworn-in on Monday as supervisor of elections. Latimer has been with the office since 2009 as chief of staff. After more than 36 years as Johnson County, Iowa’s auditor Tom Slockett is leaving the office after being defeated in the June 2012 primary. Slockett told the Iowa City Press-Citizen, “When I look back on it, the best decisions I made were controversial.” In 1974 Eileen Garbagni was working in a restaurant and happened to do such a great job busing a table where the then-Sandoval County, N.M. clerk was sitting, she got hired on the spot to work in the clerk’s office. Today after more than three decades working on and off in the office, Garbagni is the new county clerk, taking over for the retiring Sally Padilla. Sissie Furguson has joined the DeSoto County, Tenn. election commission. Bessie Ann Morefield has retired from the Spotsylvania County, Va. voter registration office twice, but this time, at age 83, she swears it’s her last. After 15 years of service, Clarence R. Smith is retiring from the Mahoning County, Ohio board of elections. Also in Ohio, Andrew Higgins is the new Miami County board of elections director. Mike Bennett was sworn in as the new Manatee County, Fla. supervisor of elections this week. Bennett is replacing Bob Sweatt who retired after 28 years in office. Juan Verdu was sworn in as the Democratic registrar of voters in New Britain, Conn. this week. Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett was elected to a second, four-year term by the state legislature. William Riley, one of two Republican appointees to the Fulton County, Ga. elections board, resigned this week citing a busy schedule.