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II. Election News This Week
- An ongoing investigation into elections practices in Fulton County, Ga. found that someone altered voter records, after managers at least two precincts had signed off on the documents and submitted them to the county’s main elections office. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, a red pen was used to add names to tally sheets of voters using paper ballots and then marking that their votes had counted. The paper noted that it’s unclear what significance the altered documents may have. Interim-Elections Director Sharon Mitchell argues that her staff didn’t tamper with polling records, but was merely fixing mistakes.
- The East Lansing, Mich. city council this week passed an ordinance that would require landlords to provide new tenants a voter registration form and voter information sheet. According to Michigan Live, under the ordinance, landlords will be required to distribute voting information to all new tenants. The cost of printing all materials will be incurred by the city. A landlord's consequence for not complying with the ordinance will be a civil infraction charge, amended from the original misdemeanor punishment at the meeting after many protests. Michigan State University is located in East Lansing. Madison, Wis. approved a similar ordinance in 2012.
- Last fall, Minnesota Republican lawmakers filed an inquiry into Secretary of State Mark Ritchie alleging that he used public funds to oppose the voter ID constitutional amendment that appeared on November’s ballot. This week, Legislative Auditor James Nobles concluded that the state does not have a clear standard for which to assess Ritchie’s actions. According to Minnesota Public Radio, in the letter, Nobles noted that state law only goes so far on prohibiting certain political activity by public officials and employees. "It does not establish a clear standard for determining whether it would be legal (or illegal) for a state official or employee to use public money or other public resources to support or oppose a proposed amendment to the constitution," Nobles wrote.
- A nonpartisan state commission, The Commission to Study the Conduct of Elections in Maine, recommended that the state not attempt to implement a voter ID law saying that there was “little or no history in Maine of voter impersonation or identification fraud.” The report also recommended that the state implement early voting, which would require an amendment to the state constitution.
- In other voter ID news, the Tennessee Supreme Court was asked to decide whether the state’s voter ID law deprives people of the right to vote or if it is necessary because it safeguards against election fraud. As part of the review the Supreme Court will also consider whether county-issued library cards with photos on them may be used as ID to vote. According to the Associated Press, the Tennessee Court of Appeals has upheld the voter ID law, but also allowed Memphis residents to use library cards as voter ID.
- Personnel News: Santa Clara, Calif. Registrar of Voters Barry Garner was fired after only 14 months on the job. Garner said the firing was due to a misunderstanding with a co-worker. Before coming to Santa Clara, Garner was fired from his job as director of registration and elections in Fulton County, Ga. for sexual harassment. Holyoke, Mass. Clerk Susan M. Egan will retire effective March 1 after 43 years on the job. Roger Sierer has been appointed to the Paulding County, Ohio BOE. Tracey Winbush has been appointed by the secretary of state to serve on the Mahoning County, Ohio, board of elections. Pearlie Jo Valadez, the first and to-date only elections administrator for Jim Well County, Texas is retiring. Valadez became the elections administrator in 2007 when the position was created.
- In Memoriam: Ingrid Healy-Tucker, Blair County, Pa. director of elections died this week. She was 54. Healy-Tucker was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2011 and although she suffered some pain, she was on the job for the November 2012 general election from early voting through the post-election wrap-up. "She wanted to do it, and she mustered up the energy," her husband told the Altoona Mirror. "It was something she had to do."