I. In Focus This Week
Legislation round-up, part two
A very early look at federal-level election admin legislation
Just like he did on election night, President Obama (D) invoked the need to correct issues faced by some voters on Election Day during his Inaugural address this week.
Last week (and this) we took a look at what state legislatures are doing with regard to election administration legislation. This week we’ll see what the U.S. Congress is doing.
While a lot of the state-level legislation at this point deals with a variety of election administration issues, much of the federal legislation is directed specifically toward the idea of decreasing lines on Election Day and improving voter access.
It’s still very early in the 113th Congress’ term so expect to see even more legislation as time goes by, but this is a quick look of some of the legislation introduced so far (some of it is so new the text of the legislation is not yet on Thomas.gov). Several of these pieces of legislation were introduced very late in the 112th Congress and are now being reintroduced.
The LINE Act
This week, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) introduced S. 58 that was then referred to the Senate Rules and Administration Committee. Boxer introduced this legislation in the waning days of the 112th Congress, but no action was taken before the end of the session.
The LINE Act (The Lines Interfere with National Elections Act) would require the U.S. Attorney general, working with the Election Assistance Commission, to issue new national standards for federal elections by Jan. 1, 2014. The standards would include minimums for numbers of voting machines, poll workers and other elections resources.
SIMPLE Voting Act of 2013
Rep. George Miller (D. Calif.) reintroduced (H.R. 50) his attempt to fix some of the problems faced on Election Day that focuses on early voting and sufficient resources.
Miller’s legislation, The Streamlining and Improving Methods at Polling Locations and Early (SIMPLE) Voting Act, would, among other things, require all states to provide a minimum of 15 days of early voting in federal elections, require states to ensure the resources are available to keep wait times to an hour or less, and require states to have contingency plans should lines appear.
FAST Voting Act
Also reintroducing election administration legislation (H.R. 97) in the 113th was Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.).
Connolly’s Fair, Accurate, Secure and Timely (FAST) Voting Act would in essence create a “Race to the Top” program for elections that would reward states that aggressively pursue election reform.
While Connolly had previously introduced this legislation, he and Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) held a listening session in mid-January to hear from residents in the District, Maryland and Virginia about the problems they faced on Election Day.
Voter Access Protection Act of 2013
Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) introduced H.R. 281, a bill that would prohibit states from requesting photo ID for federal elections.
The legislation would also prevent local elections officials from requiring a photo ID at the time of voter registration.
Same Day Registration Act of 2013
Modeling the legislation off a same-day registration law in his home state of Minnesota, Ellison reintroduced H.R. 280 in the 113th.
The bill would amend the Help America Vote Act to allow voters in all states to register and vote on the same day for any federal election, either during early voting or on the day of the election.
Rep. James P. Moran (D-Va.) introduced the Value Our Time Elections (VOTE) Act. This bill is similar to legislation Moran introduced late in the 112th albeit with a different name.
Moran’s legislation (H.R. 289) addresses a host of issues from online voter registration and ability to update voter registration online, automatic voter registration, minimum requirements for voting machines and poll workers in order to decrease wait times at polling places and a minimum number of days (seven) for early voting.
Voter Empowerment Act
On Wednesday Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) along with Reps. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), James Clyburn (D- S.C.), John Conyers (D-Mich.) and Robert Brady (D-Pa.) along with Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) introduced H. R. 12, a bill to “modernize voter registration, promote access to the ability of individuals to exercise the right to vote in elections for Federal office, and for other purposes.”
Like several of the other bills introduced, the Voter Empowerment Act would allow for online voter registration nationwide, allow for same-day voter registration and set minimum standards for election-day resources including poll workers.
The legislation also would create a national voter hotline and reauthorize the U.S. Election Assistance commission.
II. Election News This Week
- Using data compiled by the Orlando Sentinel, The Ohio State University Professor Theodore Allen estimated that at 201,000 Florida voters likely gave up while waiting in line to vote and did not end up casting a ballot. According to the paper, Allen’s preliminary conclusion was based on the Sentinel’s analysis of voter patterns and precinct closing times in the state’s 25 largest counties. "My gut is telling me that the real number [of voters] deterred is likely higher," Allen told the paper. "You make people wait longer, they are less likely to vote."
- This week, a Colorado district judge ruled that state laws allows county clerks to send ballots to inactive voters in mail-only elections. Judge Edward D. Bronfin ruled in favor of Denver County Clerk and Recorder Debra Johnson say that her interpretation of the law is correct and that clerks are indeed allowed to send ballots in inactive voters. "I am glad the court ruled in our favor," Johnson said in a statement to The Denver Post. "We have always disagreed with the Secretary's interpretation of which voters can be mailed ballots in coordinated elections."
- In more post-election data analysis, it appears that four out of five provisional ballots in Tennessee were not counted. According to The Tennessean, only 1,623 — 23 percent — of the 7,097 provisional ballots cast on November 6 were ruled legitimate. Elections officials pointed out that the data also shows that only two-tenths of 1 percent of the 2.4 million voters who cast ballots encountered problems. “I’d like to get to the point where it’s even lower,” said Mark Goins, Tennessee’s coordinator of elections told The Tennessean, “but I’ll take this number when you look at the full scale of things.”
- Nebraskans for Civic Reform has filed a complaint against Douglas County Election Commissioner Dave Phipps alleging that voters at certain precincts in the county were asked to provide a voter identification number before receiving a provisional ballot. Adam Morfeld, executive director of Nebraskans for Civic Reform told KHAS that voters need only claim they are registered and in the correct precinct. The hearing officer in the secretary of state’s office who heard the complaint has 90 days to issue a report.
- Personnel News: Amy Hyatt has been appointed to serve as the elections supervisor of the new Troup County, Ga. board of elections. Hyatt has served as the county’s chief registrar for three years. Mary Norwood, a former mayoral candidate, has been appointed by the Fulton County, Ga. Republican Party to serve on the county’s election board. Bob Reiling, president of the Tippecanoe County, Ind. board of elections is stepping down after almost three decades in the role. Tracey Winbush was nominated by the Mahoning County, Ohio Republican Party to serve as that party’s representative on the county board of elections. Former Cameron County, Texas Elections Administrator Roger Ortiz has been hired by the county to serve as an elections consultant. Mary Hall, Pierce County, Wash. elections supervisor has announced that she will seek the auditor’s position in Thurston County. The Cuyahoga County board of elections hired Pat McDonald to serve as its new director. McDonald spent five years as deputy director under Jane Platten who resigned to take a job with the county prosecutor’s office.
III. Research and Report Summaries
The Case for Voter Registration Modernization - Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law, January 2013: This new report discusses problems with the current voter registration system and proposes voter registration modernization as a solution, which would include: automated voter registration; portable registration; online registration; and fail-safes for any voters who fall through the cracks. The authors support related federal legislation and further federal investment supporting these changes to state voter registration systems.
Marin County Voter Survey, June Primary Election Analysis - Professor Elizabeth Bergman, Cal State East Bay, September 2012: In the June 2012 primary in Marin County, California, just over 50 percent of registered voters did not cast ballots. This survey asked these people why they did not vote and found:
- 54 percent said it was “inconvenient to my schedule;”
- 42 percent were “not interested” in the election;
- 37 percent forgot to vote; and
- 64 percent didn’t care what friends and family thought about their non-voting.
IV. Legislative Update
California: Senate Bill 113 would allow 15-year olds to pre-register to vote. Under the legislation teens would be able to pre-register when getting learner’s permits as well as through the state’s online voter registration system.
Assemblyman Das Williams (D-Santa Barbara) introduced legislation that would streamline the state’s voter registration process for local elections officials. Currently California is just one of a handful of states that requires a voter to enter a place of birth on their voter registration form. Under the proposed legislation (AB 131), officials would be able to process registrations even if that box is not completed.
Delaware: Three Democrats have introduced a constitutional amendment legislation (HB 20) that would create no-excuse absentee voting. Under current law, voters must provide an excuse for they physically cannot make it to the polls on election day. Because this is a constitutional amendment, it must clear the General Assembly this session as well as during the 2015 session.
Montana: In an effort to reduce the costs of elections and increase turnout out, Sen. Art Wittich (R-Bozeman) introduced SB 140 that would combine primary elections with school elections.
Legislation (SB 68) introduced this week in the Montana Senate would require local election administrators to label absentee ballot envelopes with the exact amount of necessary return postage. During November’s election, while the required postage was listed on the instruction sheet, it was not posted on the envelope and some voters found that confusing.
Missouri: This week the Missouri House passed a bill that would require most statewide offices that are vacated be filled through special election instead of appointment. It is unclear if the governor will veto the legislation or not.
Nebraska: Sen. Charlie Janssen (District 15) introduced LB381 that would require voters to present a government-issued photo ID in order to cast a ballot. The legislation is similar to a bill that was introduced and ultimately failed during the 2012 session.
New Jersey: In the wake of the school shooting in Newtown, Conn. New Jersey Assemblyman John Wisniewski (D-Middlesex) has introduced legislation (AB1548) that require written security plans for counties using schools as polling places.
New Mexico: Senate GOP Whip William Payne (R-Albuquerque) has introduced legislation (SB209) that would require the secretary of state’s office to conduct periodic reviews of the state’s voter rolls to ensure that noncitizens are not registered to vote.
North Carolina: Although he has not introduced specific legislation, State Rep. Elmer Floyd (D-District 43) has signaled that he will introduce a bill that would eliminate the state’s primary runoff system. During last year’s primary runoff, less than a quarter of a million voters cast ballots that resulted in an approximate cost of $31.50 per ballot cast.
South Carolina: Under legislation currently being considered, statewide oversight of elections would return to the purview of a secretary of state instead of the current state election commission. This week the bill (H 3197) survived a subcommittee vote and is now headed to the full House Judiciary Committee.
Virginia: This week, the Senate backed a bill that would allow Virginians age 65 and older to cast an absentee ballot without needing to provide an excuse. Last week the Senate killed a bill that would have allowed all voters to cast an absentee ballot without an excuse.
The Senate also defeated several bills aimed at decreasing the lines voters across the Commonwealth found on Election Day. SB964 that would have kept polling places open until 8p.m. statewide and SB1150 that would require local elections officials to develop plans to prevent lines were both defeated.
Legislation has been introduced in both the House (HB1599) and Senate (SB906) that would create a vote center pilot program for primaries in Virginia. The Virginia Electoral Board Association and the Voter Registrars Association of Virginia both support the legislation.
The Privileges and Elections Committee voted 10-5 to support legislation calling for a constitutional amendment that would give the General Assembly the authority to determine which nonviolent offenses would be eligible for automatic voting rights restoration.
Washington: Although many praise Washington’s vote-by-mail system for its simplicity, some don’t like the fact that the resulting vote count can be a bit slow. To speed things up, Rep. Kevin van de Wege (D-Sequim) has introduced legislation (H1102) that would require elections workers to count ballots as late as midnight on election night unless there are no ballots to count.
V. Upcoming EventsThe Election Assistance Commission and NIST will host a symposium to explore emerging trends in voting system technology. The symposium will provide an environment for interactive discussions among the attendees including election officials, voting system manufacturers, voting system test laboratories, standard developers, academics, and Federal, State, and local government officials. The symposium will encourage attendee participation through panel discussions with limited presentations to frame the topics to be explored. When: Feb. 26-28. Where: NIST Administration Building, Gaithersburg, Md. Registration: For more information or to register, click here.
VI. OpinionNational: Voting Rights Act; Voting rights; Voter ID; Election reform, II
Arkansas: Voter ID
California: Instant-runoff voting
Colorado: Inactive voters; Ballot integrity
Connecticut: Early voting
Florida: Election reform, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII; Early voting, II; St. Lucie County; Miami-Dade County; Ballot length
Kansas: Election schedule
Kentucky: Ex-felon voting rights
Maine: Instant-runoff voting
Maryland: Election reform
Massachusetts: Absentee ballots
Missouri: Polling places
Montana: Election legislation, II; Voter registration
New York: New York City BOE
Pennsylvania: Election reform
South Carolina: Court costs; Early voting
Tennessee: Voter ID
Virginia: Voter access, II; Voter ID, II; Ex-felon voting rights
**Some sites may require registration.
VII. Job Openings
Assistant County Registrar, Contra Costa County, Calif. — under direction of the County Clerk-Recorder, the incumbent in this single position, division head classification is responsible for the day-to-day operation of the Elections Division; including division administration; budget development and adherence; personnel selection, development, management and supervision. Division Heads are responsible for maximizing the use of department financial, technical and personnel resources to perform their division’s operations. Qualifications: The ideal candidate should be a dynamic, energetic and confident professional with an actively engaged management style, excellent interpersonal skills and the ability to communicate with, relate to and adjust to a variety of situations and personalities. The ability to communicate with all levels of staff, management, members of the public, press and/or other agencies is essential. This person should be politically astute and sensitive to the issues that accompany service under an elected public official in a department that conducts elections for the County, State and Federal governments. The preferred candidate must be an excellent problem solver, be able to deal with multiple issues at the same time and work in a fast-paced office environment. The ideal candidate should be detail-oriented and have excellent organizational skills. This person will have demonstrated technical and managerial knowledge and skills and be able to dedicate this capacity to develop staff and procedures to continually strive toward department excellence. Education: Possession of a baccalaureate degree from an accredited college or university with a major in business, public administration or a related field. Experience: Five (5) years of full-time, or its equivalent, increasingly responsible experience in business administration, public administration or elections work. At least two (2) years of experience must have included supervisory or administrative responsibility. Salary: $95,296-$115,833. Deadline: February 13. Application: For more information and to apply, click here.
Registrar of Voters, Clark County, Nev. — develops and directs the implementation of long-and short-term goals, objectives, policies, procedures and work standards for the department; directs the preparation and administration of the department's budget. Plans, organizes, administers, reviews and evaluates the activities of professional, technical and office support staff through subordinate managers and supervisors. Contributes to the overall quality of the department's service provision by developing and coordinating work teams and by reviewing, recommending and implementing improved policies and procedures. Works with the Board of Commissioners, state legislative bodies, appointed and elected officials, political parties, citizen groups and county management to formulate policies and plans related to voter registration and elections operations. Prepares and directs the preparation of a variety of written correspondence, reports, procedures and other written materials. Monitors and interprets changes in laws and regulations related to voter registration and election operations; evaluates their impact upon County activities, and develops and implements policy and procedural changes as required; drafts changes to laws and ordinances and lobbies the legislature and provides supporting testimony as required. Education: Bachelor’s degree in business or public administration, government, political science or a field related to the work and six years full-time senior level management experience in voter registration and election operations. Salary: $104,208-$161,553.60. Application: For the complete job posting and to apply, click here. Deadline: Feb. 25, 2013