I. In Focus This Week
Are schools still a good polling place?
Some counties consider relocation from schools
My first memory of voting was heading to my elementary school on a day off and standing inside the voting booth with the pretty red, white and blue curtain while my mom pulled the levels with a resounding clunk.
And I am not alone in that memory.
For as long as people have been voting in this country, schools have served as one of the most popular polling places for local elections officials. They are free for use, most were ADA-compliant long before they had to be, they often have ample parking and their gyms/cafeterias/multi-purpose rooms provide plenty of space for voting machines and elections officials.
While schools make great polling places, in recent years elections officials and local governments have begun reconsidering their usage for the safety of the children. The tragic events in Newtown, Conn. have only upped the ante with on state — New Jersey — considering legislation to move polling places out of schools.
But long before the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut, when the young victims were still just toddlers, Franklin County, Mo. clerk Debbie Door was considering moving the county’s polling places out of local schools.
“About 5 years ago, I felt there may be an issue with school security on Election Day, so I independently met with a security company and spoke with school officials about having armed security officers outside the schools on Election Day,” Door said. “All of the schools were happy with the decision at that time.”
Door noted that over the past few years the county’s population has grown and what was once a benefit — ample, free parking — was now a concern because of the increase in voter with many arriving during the busy time of day when students are coming and going.
“Having three grandchildren in school, my thoughts are always about the safety of the children as well as the voters,” Door said.
She said that some clerks in Missouri have relocated the polls from schools and others have worked with jurisdictions to ensure that election day is a school holiday, at least for the students.
The National School Safety and Security Services is an Ohio-based school safety- consulting firm that does not support schools remaining as polling places.
“We strongly support efforts to remove polling places from schools,” the National School Safety and Security Services says on its website. “While doing so will obviously require additional administrative work of finding new election sites and providing notice to voters, the additional work is unquestionably worth the added benefits toward creating safer schools.”
Although the organization does not support the use of schools of polling places, it does realize that they are used and so it provides a variety of ways to keep students and voters safe on election day.
Some jurisdictions are making the move from school polling places because of what happened in Newtown. Recently officials in Baraboo, Wis. decided to move their polling places and the elections director in Cumberland County, Pa. approached the county council in an effort to move the polling places from the schools.
Legislation is being considered in New Jersey that would move the polling places out of all schools in the Garden State. Elections officials are mixed in their reactions.
“I am certainly in favor of using the schools. Consider the following: There are over 900 voting machines that need to be situated in locations familiar to the voters. Many voting districts are in residential areas with no commercial or large buildings. They need public parking and good lighting for evening voters. They need a large meeting room to accommodate large numbers of people,” said M. Claire French, clerk of Monmouth County, N.J. “Most importantly, what better example could children have than watching their parents have a voice in choosing our leaders at all levels of government?”
Maria Sardo-Lopes, chief clerk of the Monmouth County Board of Elections said that the Board is aware of the pending legislation but that is has not yet done any research as to the effect of the proposed legislation because, according to Sardo-Lopes, it is unclear at this point whether it will actually be signed into law.
And what about in Connecticut? According to Av Harris, a spokesman for Connecticut Secretary of State Denise Merrill, the decision to locate polling places is done at the town level and he has not heard of any towns planning on relocating their polling places.
Harris said that he is also not aware of any pending legislation that might move the polls from the schools.
“Obviously the safety of the children attending school is of paramount concern to everyone in government, especially in the wake of the tragedy in Newtown last December,” Harris said. “Our office encourages local elections officials to communicate regularly with school superintendents to develop effective plans for safely using schools as polling places. During training sessions and registrar conferences we encourage such communication, and we are available as a resource to local governments as needed.”
According to Harris, many cities and towns in Connecticut make election day a school holiday with some towns basing the decision on the type of election — closed for high turnout elections like a presidential election, but in session during a lower-turnout municipal election.
Although there is a movement afoot to move polling places in some areas, factors other than just safety are at play in decreasing the use of schools. The increased popularity of vote-by-mail, either by mandate or absentee and the increasing popularity of vote centers have some elections officials questioning how long we’ll be using polling places at all to cast ballots.
“I don't know that we are on the verge of a mass exodus of polling places from schools…,” wrote Doug Chapin, director of the Program for Excellence in Election Administration at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs. “But the desire to protect children is strong enough that the issue is likely to re-emerge in other communities, continuing the dialogue about how to balance school safety with the needs of democracy.”
II. Election News This Week
- Elections officials in Kansas and Illinois battled the elements this week as a winter storm slammed into the Midwest just as voters were preparing to cast ballots in local elections. In Kansas, several counties consolidated polling places and elections workers spent the night before the election at the polling place. Poll workers had to be driven to their locations by sheriff’s deputies and in at least on instance, a voter arrived at the polling place on skis. Turnout was low throughout both states. In one Illinois polling place only 13 voters had cast ballots by mid-morning and four of those votes were of the election judges working the polls. Two polling places in Illinois experienced problems when the heat went out and it was too hot in another polling place which had to be relocated due to a fire.
- Late last week, the 9th U.S. District Court of Appeals ruled that a lawsuit filed in Montana seeking satellite voting offices on three reservations can proceed. Defendants, including Secretary of State Linda Mcculloch had sought to have the appeal dismissed for lack of jurisdiction. The plaintiffs are appealing an earlier ruling in which District Judge Richard Cebull denied a request to require state and county officials to set up satellite offices for early voting and late registration.
- Oy! The city of Albuquerque, N.M. is conducting a special election on whether or not to change the City Charter’s requirements for runoff elections. This is the first all-mail election for the city and needless to say there have been some bumps. Approximately 11 percent — 3,670 — of the ballots returned have not included the required signature of the voter. Voters are also complaining about postage, thin envelopes that may allow election workers to see a voter’s choice and lack of voter education. The $550,000 election was the result of a petition drive. ElectionlineWeekly would like to use this space as a public service announcement to remind people that while we love “I Voted” stickers, if you’ve committed voter fraud, you may not want to wear one thus advertising your crime. That was the case recently in Florida when a Pompano Beach woman, a convicted felon whose rights had not been restored, showed up for a meeting with her probation officer wearing an “I voted early” sticker. Onakia Lanet Griffin was charged with submitting false voter registration information, false swearing (swearing that the information on the voter registration was true when it wasn’t) and fraud in casting a vote. She is awaiting trial.
- Personnel News: Dale Edwards, Polk County, S.C. board of elections director for 31 years, will retire on Feb. 28. Deametrious St. John is joining the Stark County, Ohio board of elections. He will be the first black member in the board’s history. Hans von Spakovsky was not re-appointed to the Fairfax County, Va. board of elections
III. Research and Report Summaries
Limited Election Observation Mission Report, United States General Elections November 6 2012 - OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, February 13, 2013: This observation report of last November’s US election by the OSCE found that the elections were professionally run and had broad public confidence. The report also found room for improvement in areas such as the accuracy of voting lists and recount procedures.
The Canvass – National Conference of State Legislatures, February 2013: The current issue of the Canvass issue examines Internet voting as well as state legislation related to voting online.
IV. Legislative Update
Alabama: County registrars are supporting a bill that would move the voter registration deadline in all counties except Jefferson from 10 days before an election to 17 days.
Arizona: Under legislation approved by a Senate committee, The Citizen’s Clean Election Commission would be consolidated with the secretary of state’s office and take on additional responsibilities for overseeing election law violations. The commission would still work independently.
Arkansas: After being approved by the Senate last week, a proposed voter photo ID bill began making its way through the Arkansas House this week with the first stop at the House State Agencies and Governmental Affairs Committee. Although the bill is up for discussion, the committee agreed not to vote on it until a fiscal impact statement could be completed.
Florida: While her name may not immediately come to mind, pretty much everyone in the country now knows that Desiline Victor is the 102-year old Haitian immigrant who waited on line on Election Day in Florida for more than four hours. One Florida Senator is making sure you don’t forget Victor’s name by introducing Senate Bill 888 — Desiline’s Free and Fair Democracy Act.
Hawaii: This week a House judiciary committee approved a bill that would allow election-day registration in the Aloha State.
The House Judiciary Committee also approved a proposal that would prevent unions, candidates or employers from helping voters complete their absentee ballots and would require absentee voters to pledge that they cast their ballot in secret.
Kentucky: Don’t break out the bourbon just yet, but the Kentucky General Assembly is prepared to lift a ban on alcohol purchases on election day. The bill was unanimously approved by a House committee and now goes to the full House. The bill affects only “wet” areas of the state. If approved, South Carolina would remain the only state that prohibits alcohol sales on election day.
Maine: Maine is one of only two states that allows felons to vote while incarcerated and for the sixth time since 1999, legislation has been introduced in an effort to restrict those voting rights. Under the bill introduced by Rep. Gary Knight (R-Livermore Falls) said the bill would restrict the voting rights of those convicted of a Class A crime—murder, manslaughter, and gross sexual assault.
Under legislation introduced by Rep. Joe Brooks (U-Winterport) the secretary of state’s office would be required to provide candidates with a free copy of the list of registered voters in the district in which they are running. Currently the state sells the lists at a variety of pricing levels topping out at $2200 for a statewide list. The secretary of state’s office is opposed to the legislation.
New Mexico: A bill in the House that would have required voters to show photo ID in order to vote was defeated on a 38-31 party-line vote.
During the same session, a vote that will require counties to create early voting sites for locations with a population center of more than 1,500 people if it is more than 50 miles from the nearest early voting site was approved 38-31. The legislation is in response to long lines that occurred in rural areas on Election Day in November.
North Dakota: You don’t need to be registered to vote in North Dakota, but you may soon need a photo ID to cast your ballot. House Bill 1332 was approved by a 72-21 vote.
Ohio: On Wednesday, the Senate unanimously approved a bipartisan bill that would require polling places to be ADA compliant and would require that disabled or illiterate voters will be provided help with their ballots if they request it.
Texas: A bill introduced by Rep. Cindy Burkett (R-Mesquite) would make it a state jail felony to carry more than two ballots to the mailbox in any election cycle with the exceptions for family members and employees of state licensed nursing facilities.
Another bill, SB 554 would strengthen penalties against voter fraud by classifying theft of an official ballot or carrier envelope a third degree felony.
West Virginia: Del. Ryan Ferns (D-Ohio) introduced legislation that would eliminate straight-ticket voting. Ferns said that he has the support of much of the leadership in the House of Delegates. "Straight-ticket voting encourages uneducated voting," Ferns told The Intelligencer. "We're telling people if they don't want to go through the read on a ballot, they have the option of voting for just one party. At the very least, voters should have to read the names for each candidate on the ballot."
Wisconsin: Assembly Bill 18 would alter state election law to allow municipalities to enlist poll workers who live outside of the municipality in other parts of the county. The bill is in response to municipalities finding it difficult to recruit poll workers from a limited poll for multiple elections.
VI. OpinionNational: Online voting; Voting Rights Act, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII, IX, X, XI, XIII, XIV, XV, XVI, XVII | Voting reform | Voting commission, II | Online voter registration | Instant-runoff voting | Voting access | Voting rights, II | Scandal
Alaska: Voting Rights Act, II
Arkansas: Voter ID, II, III
Colorado: Election system
Florida: Election dysfunction | Election reform
Indiana: Student voters
Iowa: Election reform
Kansas: Snow storm | Poll workers
Maine: Early voting, II
Maryland: Early voting, II
Massachusetts: Special election costs | Online voter registration
Minnesota: Access to voting | Voting procedures
Montana: Election reform
New York: New York City primary runoff | Voting Rights Act | Instant-runoff voting
aNorth Carolina: State board of elections | Primary elections | Polling places
North Dakota: Voter fraud
Ohio: Lucas County
Oregon: Clackamas County
Pennsylvania: Voter ID | Election system
Texas: Voting Rights Act
Utah: Same-day registration
Virginia: Election reform
Washington: Drop boxes
West Virginia: Voter ID
Wisconsin: Same-day registration
**Some sites may require registration.
VII. Job Openings
Deputy Director, Future of California Elections — will serve as the primary California-based staff member overseeing the activities of FOCE and its membership. Responsibilities will include project management and member relations, research, policy work, communications and outreach and development. Requirements: Bachelor's degree or equivalent experience with elections administration or policy required; Master's degree in a relevant area or equivalent experience with elections administration or policy preferred; Demonstrated strong analytical and strategic skills; A task-oriented, self-directed style, with focus on achieving clear and ambitious goals; demonstrated ability to meet multiple deadlines by maintaining a high level of organization; able to develop and move projects forward with a high degree of independence and autonomy; politically astute; able to understand the needs and motivations of different individuals and institutions and conceptualize win-win scenarios to satisfy multiple agendas and stakeholders; excellent written and oral communications skills, including an ease in briefly summarizing the essence of issues and means to address them; strong oral, presentation, facilitation and written communication skills; clear, effective writing style; a demonstrated appreciation for the diversity of California’s voting population. Salary: Salary is negotiable based on experience. Application: For more information and to apply, click here.
Director, Information Technology, Collier County, Fla. — develops strategic work plan; evaluates major business processes, infrastructure/equipment and services; organizes structure and work assignments. Reviews and evaluates department operations, work products, methods, procedures and performance outcomes; and identifies opportunities to improve overall department performance.Oversees systems operations. Ensures subordinate staff provides responsive, quality and effective technical support for systems development, implementation and operations. Monitors overall systems operations; develops technology driven policies and procedures; and re-engineers business and workflow processes within the SOE through IT.Performs project management work for information system installations, enhancements, and modifications; develops plans, cost estimates, projected deadlines, operational sequences, and security and backup provisions. Areas of responsibility include: Network Infrastructure, Technology Related Hardware, Database Administration, Software Support, Ballot Design, Ballot Tabulation, Voting Equipment and Related Technologies, and Geographic Information Systems.In regards to database administration and programming, provides support and software solutions for assigned SOE information system programs and applications, which may include Web applications, business applications developed in-house, and/or applications purchased from vendors. Designs, writes and tests new software applications and/or modifications/upgrades that meet identified needs. Prepares and maintains system/program documentation. Tests prototype applications and works through operational problems. Installs and configures software/applications. Establishes user access levels, system security protocols.Qualifications: Bachelor’s degree in Management of Information Systems or a closely related field; supplemented by six years of progressively responsible information technology work; or any equivalent combination of education, training, and experience which provides the requisite knowledge, skills, and abilities for this job. Salary: $67-78,000. Application: For the complete job listing and information to apply, click here. Deadline: Open until filled.
DIMS Manager, Lucas County, Ohio Board of Elections —responsible for maintaining the voter registration database using DIMS-Net. Responsible for Board of Elections computer software and hardware, maintaining network peripherals such as printers, scanners, routers, hubs and switches. Oversees document-scanning projects using Alchemy Captaris software. Knowledge of Windows Server 2003 and 2008, Novel networks, Novel GroupWise, SQL Server, Microsoft Office Suite. Position requires the candidates to have excellent leadership and communication skills. Salary: $59,934.42 plus benefits. Application: Interested candidates should send resume and cover letter to Lucas County Board of Elections, One Government Center Suite 300, Toledo, Ohio 43604. Include party affiliation in your response. For more information and the complete job listing, click here.
GEMS Manager, Lucas County, Ohio Board of Elections — responsible for programming Elections and ballot design using GEMS software, manages Logic & Accuracy Testing and vote tabulation. Responsible for Board of Elections computer software and hardware, maintaining network peripherals such as printers, scanners, routers, hubs and switches. Oversees document-scanning projects using Alchemy Captaris software. Knowledge of Windows Server 2003 and 2008, Novel networks, Novel GroupWise, SQL Server, Microsoft Office Suite. Position requires the candidates to have excellent leadership and communication skills. Salary: $59,934.42 plus benefits. Application: Interested candidates should send resume and cover letter to Lucas County Board of Elections, One Government Center Suite 300, Toledo, Ohio 43604. Include party affiliation in your response. For more information and the complete job listing, click here.
Project Coordinator, Future of California Elections — a full-or part-time position and will serve as the key California-based staff member responsible for administering the group’s regular activities. Responsibilities include: project management and member relations, policy work, research, communications and outreach and development. Requirements: Bachelor’s degree or equivalent election policy or administration experience required; demonstrated ability to work with spreadsheets and budgets with a high degree of accuracy; strong analytical skills; strong oral and written communication skills, including proofreading and editing; excellent project management skills, including the ability to create and maintain files and recording systems accurately; keen attention to detail and demonstrated track record of producing accurate, high quality work; sound judgment and discretion in handling confidential information, as well as the ability to conduct oneself in a highly professional manner; demonstrated proficiency in computer technology including applications for project and data management and electronic calendars (Excel, Windows, Microsoft Word, PowerPoint and Outlook preferred); experience in conference planning and support preferred; a demonstrated appreciation for the diversity of California’s voting population. Salary: Salary is negotiable based on experience. Application: For more information and to apply, click here.
Supervisory Information Technology Specialist, District of Columbia Board of Elections, Washington, DC - The incumbent will manage and provide technical support in the areas of database and applications administration, custom report development, web programming and systems administration. Duties would include: support a Database Administrator and provide for the design, implementation, maintenance and repair of the agency database applications; guide the selection, installation and maintenance of network infrastructure equipment; administer the agency’s voter registration database operations and applications and on-line voter registration software applications, ensuring accuracy and security of the systems; manage and provide enhancements to the agency web applications and oversee the technology, design and application development associated with the agency’s Internet site. Education: It is desirable that the applicant be a graduate from an accredited college or university with a Bachelor of Science degree in the field of information technology; computer science, information science, information systems management or other related field. Experience: The applicant must possess progressively responsible technical experience related to enterprise-level database and application administration. A general knowledge of and understanding of voting systems in the administration of elections is preferred. Deadline: Open Until Filled. Application: Interested persons can apply to the D.C. Department of Human Resources Job Center, 441 4th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20001. To apply online, go to http://dcop.dc.gov and click Employment Opportunities. Inquiries should be directed to HR Answers at 202-442-9700.