I. In Focus This Week
Legislation round up
An early look at state-level elections admin. legislation
While some legislatures are addressing the problems of voting efficiency that caused long lines in a handful of states in November 2012, others are addressing voter ID, pre-registration, voting rights and a host of other issues.
This is just a snapshot of some of the legislation that is currently being debated or has been pre-filed. We’ll take another look in the coming months to see what else has been introduced and what has passed or failed.
Although Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) had threatened to introduce legislation to repeal same-day registration in the Badger state, he eventually pulled back on that proposal although some legislators still seem eager to move that direction.
Legislation has been introduced in Montana to repeal that state’s same-day registration law. The bill, which would end voter registration at 5 p.m. on the Friday before an election, has drawn widespread opposition. At a recent hearing on House Bill 30, 20 people testified in opposition to the bill while only two testified in support.
State Rep. Eric Johnson (D-Dallas) has introduced a bill in the Texas Legislature that would allow voters in the Lone Star state to register to vote on election day. HB 464 was introduced on the first day of the session and Johnson said it is just one tool to help enfranchise voters.
The second bill filed in the Arkansas Senate (SB 2) this session would require all voters to show a valid government photo ID. The bill would also require those voting by mail to enclose a copy of their government ID with their completed ballot. A similar bill was approved in the House in 2011, but failed in the Senate. Senator Bryan King (R-District 5) who filed SB 2 also filed a bill that would put the issue of voter photo ID to the voters as a constitutional amendment.
When the Nevada Legislature returns to work on Feb. 4, Secretary of State Ross Miller (D) will introduce SB 63 that is sort of a photo ID lite. Under the proposal, using electronic poll books, voters would no longer be verified by their signature, but with the photo they have on record with the Dept. of Motor Vehicles and other government agencies.
Although the North Carolina Legislature is not in session until Jan. 30 you can expect that one of the first items on the GOP-controlled legislatures agenda will be undoing former Gov. Bev Perdue’s (D) veto of photo ID legislation.
Even though legislators in West Virginia don’t get back to work until Feb. 13, the state GOP delegation has already made it clear that voter photo ID legislation will be one of the first items on their agenda. Legislation introduced in 2012 failed in committee.
A proposal by the Frederick County legislative delegation to use the county as a pilot for voter photo ID won’t see the light of day in the Maryland General Assembly after the delegation decided not to introduce the bill. Although the county commission supports voter ID for the county that serves as an exurb for both Washington, D.C. and Baltimore, the state legislators felt the support would not be at there on the state level.
On Jan. 9, Sen. Patrick M. Gallivan (R-59th) introduced SB100 in the New York State Assembly that would require voters to show a photo ID in order to vote. The legislation allows for a variety of government-issued IDs, but does not allow a voter to cast a provisional ballot if they do not have the proper ID with them at the polls.
Under current law, Montana voters may provide a variety of forms of ID to vote—anything that essentially shows the voter’s name and address—but under legislation recently introduced (HB108) voters would have to show a current Montana or tribal ID card only.
Virginia Delegate Mark Cole (R-88th District) introduced legislation that would limit the type of ID that is acceptable. Currently Virginia law requires voters to prove their identity through a variety of means including photo ID or utility bills. Under the proposal (HB 1337), items such as bank statements, utility bills and paychecks would not be acceptable, but social security cards and voter registration cards would remain acceptable.
Although she had previously said she would not introduce voter ID legislation this session, New Mexico Rep. Cathrynn Brown (R-Carlsbad) has had a change of heart and now says she will introduce a bill requiring photo ID to vote.
Late in 2012, legislation was introduced in the New Hampshire legislature that would repeal the state’s voter photo ID law.
And even though voters in Texas have yet to cast a ballot under the state’s new voter ID law (it’s hung up in litigation), some Democratic legislators are trying to get rid of it. On the first day of the session HB 465 was introduced that would prevent the implementation of the 2011 law regardless of what the court system does.
With the support of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D), two bills have been introduced into the state Assembly that would allow for early voting. A689 and S01461 would allow voters to cast their ballots one week in advance of a primary or special election and two weeks in advance of a general election.
Although Minnesota’s legislature just got back to work this week, chairman of the House Elections Committee Steve Simon (DFL-St. Louis Park) told Minnesota Public Radio to expect the committee to take up legislation providing Minnesotans with the opportunity to cast a ballot in advance of election day.
In some states, early voting hours vary from county to county, but in Texas they can vary even within a county. However, under a recently introduced bill (HB 467), early voting hours would have to be uniform at all early voting locations, whether it is the main early voting location or a “branch” early voting site.
Two Florida lawmakers — Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla (R) and Sen. Gwen Margolis (D) — filed legislation that would reinstate early voting on the Sunday before Election Day. Diaz de la Portilla’s bill (SB 176) would also increase the number of early voting hours per day from 12 to 14. The Margolis (SB 82) legislation would increase the number of early voting days from eight to 14 and would increase the number of early voting sites.
While some states are considering instituting or expanding early voting, one piece of legislation in Nebraska would actually decrease the amount of time to early vote. LB 271 would decrease the number of early voting days from 35 to 25. Secretary of State John Gale suggested the legislation.
Outgoing Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) made restoring the voting rights for ex-felons one of the main talking points of his final State of the Commonwealth speech at the beginning of 2013.
Del. Greg Habeeb (R-Salem) introduced HJ 539, a constitutional amendment that would restore the voting rights to ex-felons once they have fulfilled all aspects of their sentence.
Although the legislation had the support of McDonnell and Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (R), a House panel rejected it and eight other pieces of legislation that would help restore voting rights. The Senate legislation survived a Senate committee vote essentially moving forward with no recommendation because the committee vote was 3-3.
A plan to expand voting rights to ex-felons in Delaware is underway. The constitutional amendment, which is required to pass in two consecutive legislative sessions, would eliminate the five-year waiting period for eligible ex-felons to have their rights restored. House Bill 10 was introduced by Rep. Helene Kelley (D-Wilmington) and is identical to the legislation approved in 2012.
Nebraska State Sen. Amanda McGill (District 26) worked with students from Omaha-area high schools to draft LB 127 that would give 16-year-old Cornhuskers the ability to pre-register to vote.
Also in Nebraska, legislation introduced this week would give state lawmakers the authority to confirm election commissioners appointed by the governor in the state’s three largest counties—Douglas, Sarpy and Lancaster. State Sen. Russ Karpisek (District 32) introduced LB 188 and LB 183 that would take the appointment process out of the hands of the governor and place it in the hands of the local county boards in charge.
Virginia Sen. Chap Peterson (D-Fairfax) — in an attempt to deal with the lines many Virginians faced on Election Day — has introduced SB739. The bill would require that there be at least one voting machine for each 500 registered voters. The current standard is one machine per 750 voters.
Two other bills introduced in Virginia would extend voting hours till 8 p.m. and allow for no-excuse absentee voting. With only 45-days in their session legislators got right to work on the no-excuse absentee voting legislation and the measure was killed — along party lines — in committee in both the House and Senate.
An additional bill in the Virginia General Assembly would dictate the timing and scheduling of special elections. Introduced by Del. Bob Brink (D-48th), the bill would require special elections for the General Assembly to be held concurrently with the November general election if the seat is vacated 50 to 180 days before the general election.
Senate Bill 1 in the Kentucky Legislature was introduced by Sen. Robert Stivers (R) on the first day of the session and would make it easier for military and overseas voters to cast an absentee ballot. Under the proposed legislation service members and their spouses would be able to cast their ballots electronically.
Two Maine legislators—Rep. Janice Cooper (D-Yarmouth) and Sen. Dick Woodbury (U-Yarmouth)—have submitted draft legislation that would bring ranked-choice voting to the entire state. Currently the city of Portland uses ranked-choice voting for it’s mayoral elections.
Florida Sen. Jeff Clemens (D-Lake Worth) filed a bill that would in essence create automatic registration for the Sunshine State. SB 234 would require the state, using DMV records, to automatically register residents to vote upon their 18th birthday.
Clemens also introduced SJR 254, a constitutional amendment that would limit to three the number of amendments the Legislature could put on a ballot in any one election. Many voters and elections supervisors cited ballot length as the cause for the lengthy lines on Election Day.
Minnesota legislators will also consider changes to their election law on how constitutional amendments make the ballot. Sen. Tom Bakk (D-Iron Range) decried the “sign war” that marked the 2012 election when both marriage equality and voter ID amendments were on the ballot.
Oklahoma Sen Randy Bass (D-Lawton) introduced three bills this week aimed at making the voting process easier for voters and elections workers. SB 279 would expand the period of in-person absentee voting for counties with more than 50,000 people, SB276 would allow a representative of an incapacitated voter to apply for an absentee ballot for the voter and SB277 would widen the pool of people who can work on election day.
II. Election News This Week
- Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp was forced to make a rare use of his subpoena powers this week when the Fulton County board of elections refused to turn over requested documents. Fulton was plagued with problems during the 2012 election season and Kemp is trying to get to the bottom of what happened. Specifically, Kemp is trying to find out whether 19 people received requested absentee ballots and, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, whether the county ever notified voters who were forced to use paper ballots if their votes got counted. An attorney for the county said that it’s working to comply, but that Kemp is fast-tracking the review with a hearing set for Jan. 31.
- Although Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut did not serve as a polling place for the community, Pettis County, Mo. is consolidating polling places and moving them out of the county schools citing practical, logistic and public safety concerns. “Brad [Pollitt, assistant school superintendent] contacted me after I was elected and raised some concerns, so we have actually been working on this for a while,” Nick La Strada county clerk told the Sedalia Democrat. “After the shootings, we looked at the safety of our children along with some of the other issues like parking, and it just seemed like the right move to make.” Pollitt told the paper that the move was regrettable, but necessary. “We were happy to host when we could. I wish times were such we could still do that, but in this day and time it is probably better to get polling stations out of our schools. I am sad things turned out the way they have turned, but we have to keep up with the times,” Pollitt said.
- The Minnesota secretary of state’s office will be honored by Independent Lifestyles at it’s annual meeting this week for the office’s work on providing accessible polling places. Independent Lifestyles is a center for independent living. “We’ll recognize our staff and board and community partners but especially the Secretary of State’s Office because they have been influential in getting accessible voting places and helped us train hundreds of people to be comfortable with the process of voting,” Independent Lifestyles Executive Director Cara Ruff told the St. Cloud Times.
- In other accessibility news, several New York counties have recently come to agreements with the law enforcement officials to make voting more accessible to all New Yorkers. In Allegany County, the county has agreed to work to ensure that polling places are ADA complaint. And in Dutchess and Putnam counties, elections officials have agreed to ensure that ballots and all voting materials are accessible in both English and in Spanish.
- Personnel News: Edith King was recently sworn in as the Democratic registrar of voters in Litchfield, Conn. Brad Anderson, who directed President Barack Obama’s campaign in Iowa has announced that he will run for secretary of state. Roderick Edmond, chairman of the Fulton County, Ga. registration and elections board resigned late last week. Scott A. Krahling, former Dona Ana County, N.M. commissioner has been named the new supervisor of elections for the county. Also in New Mexico, Secretary of State Dianna Duran has appointed former state Senator Rod Adair to oversee the elections in the state. Adair is not replacing the current director of elections, but will head a newly created division within the secretary’s office. After 25 years on the job, Guilford County, N.C. Elections Director George Gilbert is set to retire on March 1. Mahoning County, Ohio’s Elections Director Joyce Kale-Pesta has been named the Democratic Ohio Election Official of the Year by the secretary of state’s office. Juneau, Alaska resident Dr. Carolyn V. Brown has been elected to the League of Women Voter’s national board. Doylene Cunningham has been appointed as the secretary of the Garvin County, Okla. election board. U.S. Virgin Islands Elections Supervisor John Abramson, Jr. recently announced that he will retire effective at the end of May. Abramson has run the territory’s elections for almost 20 years and in 2011 had his contract renewed for another eight years. Also in the Virgin Islands, the recently formed St. Croix District BOE nominated Adelbert Bryan to serve as the group’s new chairman. Tim Vocke, a retired judge, has been selected to serve as the chair of the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board. Craig Manseau, the top election official in the city of Newton, Mass. is retiring. Before running the elections in Newton, Manseau was the executive director of the Worcester election commission. Derinda Sherman was not reappointed by the Essex County, N.Y. GOP to serve as a county election commissioner. Tracy Walters will be the new director for the Polk County, N.C. board of elections effective March 1. She is replacing Dale Edwards who will retire on February 28. Debbie Quivey, director of the Athens County, Ohio board of elections, was named Republican Volunteer of the Year by the Ohio Association of Election Officials.
- ElectionlineWeekly is sad to report the retirement of Columbia County, Ga.’s Elections Director Deborah Marshall. Marshall had been recovering from surgery to remove a malignant brain tumor and unfortunately was not able to return to work. “It’s unfortunate,” Board of Elections Chairman Larry Long told The Augusta Chronicle. “She’s loved by everyone. It’s been tough. It’s been tough for everyone. She was a mainstay in this county. She was a good friend to a lot of folks, a good friend of mine. It’s just sad.” We wish her well in her continued recovery.
III. Research and Report Summaries
Voter Information in the Digital Age: Grading State Election Websites - Ava Alexandar, Robert M. Stern, and Tracy Westen, Center for Governmental Studies, December 2012: The authors find that most state election websites performed poorly in providing voters the information they needed make informed decisions when casting ballots during the November 2012 election.
Specifically the report examined whether these sites provided substantive information in three key areas: (1) candidates, (2) ballot measures and; (3) general information about both candidates and ballot measures including whether websites provide precinct level sample ballots and online voter pamphlets for example.
Two states - Alaska and California - received an A grade, one state a B, one a C, five Ds, and the vast majority – 42 – received Fs.
The authors offer recommendations on best practices to help states provide more comprehensive information about candidates and ballot measures.
IV. ConferencesSeventh Annual Summit brought to you by the Overseas Vote Foundation and the U.S. Vote Foundation. Now addressing domestic voting issues as well as overseas and military - Summit 2013 will feature an outstanding line-up of keynote speakers, the release of OVF and US Vote's 2012 Post Election Research results including the first review of the MOVE Act's full implementation. Lively, in-depth roundtable discussions on open data technology, military voting, and absentee balloting policies and procedures. When: Thursday, January 24, 2013. Where: George Washington University, Washington, D.C. Registration: Click here to register.
V. OpinionNational: Teamwork
Alabama: Voting Rights Act
Alaska: Voter ID
California: Special election cost
Florida: Election reform, II, III
Georgia: Special elections
Iowa: Voter rules; Tom Slockett; School elections
Louisiana: Voting hours
Montana: Same-day voter registration, II
Nevada: Voter ID, II; Ross Miller; Voter registration
New York: Vote fraud; Early voting; NYC BOE
North Carolina: Voter ID, II, III, IV, V
Ohio: Absentee voting; Trumbull County
Oregon: Clackamas County
South Carolina: Richland County, II; Voter ID, II
Tennessee: Voting rights play
Utah: Ballot integrity
Virginia: Ex-felon voting rights, II, III; Easy voting; Vote centers
Wisconsin: Same-day voter registration, II
**Some sites may require registration.
VI. Job Openings