I. In Focus This Week
California polling places: Coming to a campus near you?
Local elections officials express concern about proposed legislation
Conflicts between colleges and the towns where they are located — referred to as town and gown conflicts — have existed for as long as there have been institutions of higher learning.
Often those conflicts center around the usual annoyances of day-to-day life like parking and traffic and noise and drinking. But one of the more volatile town and gown arguments is college student participation in elections.
While some localities fight against college student participation in local elections or putting polling places on college campuses, most state-run institutions of higher education in California already host polling places and two pieces of legislation currently pending in the General Assembly would mandate that.
“We face a huge challenge in California when it comes to college students and voting,” said Kim Alexander, president and founder of the California Voter Foundation. “Many students are confused about voting-by-mail and, if they are living on campus are unsure of whether to register at their campus address or request a vote-by-mail ballot for their home address. We need to do a better job of educating students about vote-by-mail procedures.”
Sen. Leland Yee (D-8th District) introduced Senate Bill 240. Yee, who has introduced several pieces of election administration legislation through the years announced earlier that he is running for secretary of state in the 2014 race. A piece of legislation similar to SB240 is Senate Bill 267, which was introduced by Sen. Fran Pavley (D-27th District).
Currently the law leaves the location of polling sites — whether on college campuses or not — to the discretion of local elections officials. But under Yee and Pavley’s bills, local elections officials would be required to locate a polling site on the campuses of every California State University (CSU) and University of California (UC) campus. Pavley’s bill would also require community colleges to serve as polling places where Yee’s would not.
“As a former civics teacher, I know that engaging students in the democratic system of government is critically important.” Pavley said in a statement. “SB 267 is all about making sure that students have access to the ballot box. With same-day voter registration becoming a reality in 2014, my bill will give students convenient access to register and vote in future elections.”
According to officials with the CSU system, in November 2012 16 of the systems 23 campuses had polling sites located on campus. Only one of the 10 UC campuses failed to host a polling site in 2012.
More than 650,000 students attend one of the CSU or UC institutions.
“In most cases there is a polling place for every one thousand voters in California, however there are tens of thousands of students on our college campuses who often do not have such easy access to vote,” Yee said in a statement when the bill was introduced. “SB 240 will help encourage our young people to vote and provide them the same access to our democracy as voters who live outside of campus.”
According to a spokesperson, the California secretary of state’s office has not taken a position on either piece of legislation, but local elections officials have expressed concern about the possibility of a new mandate.
“I believe that the county elections officials, with input from local community groups, are the best people to decide where polling places are to be located in their county,” said Gail L. Pellerin, Santa Cruz County clerk and who serves on several committees of the California Association of Clerks and Election Officials (CACEO). “Not all CSUs and UCs are the same. Many have very few voters who reside on campus.”
Pellerin noted that her county, home to UC Santa Cruz with an undergraduate enrollment of 15,945 located five polling places on campus in November 2012 and launched an aggressive voter education campaign to make sure students knew that it was best to vote at the polling place where they are assigned and if they are registered in another county and are voting by mail, that ballot has to be mailed to their county of residence a week prior to the election.
But, Pellerin noted previously, not all college campuses are the same not only in population, but also in situation.
“In addition to voter confusion and voter disenfranchisement, other issues that make this proposal not perfect for every campus is that not all campuses have sufficient parking, are accessible and compliant with ADA and Title 24, or have facilities that they are willing to let us use,” Pellerin said.
Jill LaVine, registrar of voters in Sacramento County pointed to the challenges some counties face when they locate a polling place on a college campus.
“Sacramento County was requested to set up a polling place on USCS for the 2012 election,” LaVine said. “Since very few students live on campus this polling place had a very low turnout. In June there were only 3 voters all day. In November 370 students voted provisionally, but 250 were not counted. The students were not registered at the campus, but at their home addresses if at all. This was a very costly polling place for both elections."
According to university officials, UC-Riverside was the only campus not to host a polling site for the November 2012 general election, although the campus did serve as an early voting site for the election.
Kari Vergil, registrar of voters for Riverside County said the decision not to site a polling place on campus was a practical one.
“One of the reasons for not selecting the college as a polling place was due to the high number of commuter students. Commuter college students who live in a different county or city are required to cast a provisional ballot,” Vergil said. “Parking issues for voters who do not attend the college was also a concern. Utilizing UC Riverside as an early voting site provided an opportunity for students to learn about the election laws for casting a ballot at their correct voting location.”
Vergil said if the legislation is approved, it will be vitally important to expand the voter education to college campuses so students are aware that in order to vote on their campus, they must be registered there.
“I believe the bill can be successful if it is combined with a college student voter education component,” Vergil said. “College students often commute to UC Riverside from other cities and counties so it is important for students to understand the laws that govern voter registration and the proper location to vote.”
Pellerin wonders, if either piece of legislation is approved, what sort of slippery slope it would create.
“Imagine if we treated businesses the same way we are proposing to treat UC and CSUs,” Pellerin said. “If we put a polling place at Apple HQ in Cuperintino because it has 13,000 employees... yet those employees live all over and have very different ballot types depending on where they live. Not a good idea!”
Similar legislation was introduced in 2012 (AB 346) but failed to get out of the Senate Elections Committee. Pellerin said CACEO wrote a letter of concern about the legislation.
II. Election News This Week
- Tuesday was primary day in Los Angeles and while it was relatively a quiet day with few problems, there was one major issue when a poll worker was shot several times at a polling place in Watts. According to reports, the shooting was not random and the poll worker knew his attacker.
- In the same week the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments for and against the elimination of Section 5 of the Voting Rights, a three-judge panel ruled that the state of New Hampshire deserves a bailout from the VRA. New Hampshire originally became a Section 5 jurisdiction in the 1960s when the state had a literacy test on the books and 10 communities were singled out because of supposedly low voter registration and turnout. According to the Union Leader, in its ruling, the court noted that a “significant” percentage of the voting-age population in the covered towns participate in elections. "Finally, we're done with this," Secretary of State William Gardner told the paper.
- In other Voting Rights Act news, Massachusetts Secretary of State William Galvin blasted comments made by Chief Justice John Roberts during the Supreme Court arguments on Section 5. During arguments, Roberts said Massachusetts has the worst ratio of white voter turnout to black voter turnout of any state in the U.S. Roberts also said Massachusetts has the worst disparity between whites and blacks in voter registration. Galvin told WBUR that neither statement is correct. “I’m a lawyer, he’s a lawyer – lawyers are not supposed to provide disinformation in the course of a case. It’s supposed to be based on truth. What’s really distressing is the deeper we looked into the facts, the more of a distortion his comments are,” Galvin told the station.
- One Hamilton County, Ohio board of elections employee was looking for love in all the wrong places and now it’s going to cost him. Employee Ken Spruce had been warned about searching the dating website Match.com while at work, but when he failed to comply, he lost his Internet privilege at work and a day’s pay.
- Also in Ohio, Pumpkin the cat has taken up residence at the Athens County board of elections. Director Debby Quivey (R) and Deputy Director Penny Brooks (D) rescued the cat about year ago and after getting Pumpkin some much-needed medical attention he’s become the talk of the elections office. “I honestly noticed a difference in stress in the office during the general election,” Quivey told the Athens Messenger. “We spend five minutes with the cat and we’re chilled out,” Brooks told the paper. Maybe Congress needs a cat.
- Personnel News: Chris Carillo, a member of the Guam Election Commission was recently charged with possession and importation of 522 grams of marijuana. Former Indiana Secretary of State Charlie White has until March 15 to file court documents explaining why he thinks he should get a new trial on voter fraud and theft charges. Betty L. Youngberg, deputy director of the Lake County, Ohio board of elections was fired after a year on the job. After being unanimously confirmed by the Senate on Feb. 20, new Texas Secretary of State John Thomas Steen, Jr. is now officially on the job. Nancy Gay has been promoted to serve as Columbia County, Ga.’s elections director. Gay previously served as the county’s voter registration coordinator.
- In Memoriam: Marette Fair, former Twiggs County, Ga. election supervisor died last week. She was 70. “She was an outstanding lady and brought a high degree of respect and professionalism to the elections office. She was there until December when she resigned,” Ray Bennett, a former County Commissioner told The Telegraph. “I know that her friends and family will sorely miss her, and the community’s sore for losing her.”
III. Research and Report Summaries
IV. Legislative Update
Florida: According to the Naples News Daily there are currently 16 pieces of election reform legislation pending in the Sunshine State. The legislation addresses everything third-party registration to word count limits on ballot summaries to the number of early voting sites and days. On the first day of the session, the House approved HB7013 which will give elections supervisors the ability to choose between eight and 14 days of early voting for eight to 12 hours per day; expand the types/locations for early voting sites and limit the number of words on ballot amendments.
Georgia: The House has approved HB 347 that would have state legislators choose Fulton County’s election board chairman instead of the county’s commissioners.
Hawaii: Two elections-related bills were approved by the Hawaii House and are now making their way through the Senate. HB198 requires that absentee ballots for those requesting permanent absentee status be mailed to the voter’s address in their most recently completed affidavit and HB321 allows for election-day registration.
Illinois: Rep. Jack Franks (D-Marengo) has introduced legislation that would remove polling places from schools throughout the state.
Maryland: Following the 2012 election year that saw numerous controversial referendums, HB493 was introduced that would toughen the regulations for citizen-led referendums including requiring a signer’s name to appear on a petition exactly as it is listed in the state voter registration database.
Nevada: SB212 would eliminate Nevada’s caucus system and instead replace it with a presidential preference primary. According to Sen. James Settelmeyer (R-Minden), one of the main objectives of the bill is to allow military and overseas voters to participate in the process, something that is impossible under the caucus system. If approved, the Nevada presidential preference primary and state primary would be held on the second to last Tuesday in January.
New Jersey: The Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee voted 8-5 to approve S2364 that would allow voters to cast their ballots at designated early voting sites up to 15 days prior to the election.
Rhode Island: Legislators in The Ocean State are debating legislation that would provide Rhode Islanders with up to three weeks of early voting. Sponsors of the bill, who are Democrats say that it will give voters ample opportunity cast a ballot whereas opponents of the legislation, who are Republicans, say it opens the state up to voter fraud. Governor Lincoln Chafee has said he will sign the bill if it is approved.
Another bill introduced in Rhode Island would eliminate the state’s voter photo ID law. The law was created in 2011 and used for the first time in the November 2012 election.
Tennessee: Legislation pending in Tennessee would allow for the creation of “election centers” what most of us call vote centers which would allow local election commissioner to participate in a pilot program for vote centers. Under HB 703, counties would be allowed to have as many vote centers as they wanted as long as there was at least one for every 10,000 voters.
Another piece of legislation making it’s way through the Senate is a bill that would allow student IDs issued by a state institute of higher learning to be used as photo ID for voting. The legislation would also clear up the controversy about library cards being used.
A bill making it’s way through the Tennessee General Assembly would prohibit non-citizens from working in or even entering polling places. The legislation would also require poll watchers to be U.S. citizens and bar non-citizens from admission to voting sites.
Utah: A bill that would allow Utahans to register and vote on the same day cleared its first hurdle this week and now heads to the full House for a vote. HB 91 changes the way provisional ballots would be handled for those who have never before registered to vote in Utah and opens the door for voters to register and vote on Election Day.
Virginia: The Virginia Generally Assembly has approved legislation allowing the state to offer online voter registration. The bill was unanimously approved by the Senate and now heads to the governor’s desk.
Following up on last week’s story about polling places in schools, it should be noted that the General Assembly considered legislation that would remove polling places from schools in the Commonwealth, but the legislation essentially went nowhere.
Accessible Voting Technology Research Workshop — The Election Assistance Commission (EAC) and National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) are sponsoring a two day workshop to explore current and future research in accessible voting technology. The sponsoring organizations seek to have lively discussion on the following topics: Innovative assistive applications and techniques; new approaches to accessibility in voting; accessibility research benchmarks and results; transitioning research to industry; new and existing devices that provide accessible access to elements of the voting process and challenges in accessible voting. The workshop will provide an environment for interactive discussions among the attendees including researchers, election officials, government officials, and voting system manufacturers. The workshop will encourage attendee participation through panel discussions and breakout sessions, with trending research presentations to frame the topics to be explored. The goal of the discussions for the workshop is to foster collaborations in the testing, evaluation, and transition of accessible voting technology. Where: Gaithersburg, Md. When: April 1-2, 2013. For more information, click here.
NCSL Spring Forum — At the Spring Forum you'll meet legislators just like you from around the country, get innovative ideas on how to approach critical problems, find the NCSL staff that can give you the research you need to turn your ideas into action, and begin the work of mapping out the strategy to set the state's agenda on Capitol Hill. The issues you face can be daunting. At the NCSL Spring Forum you'll meet with colleagues from around the nation to: Find the best solutions to pressing problems; hear from national experts; participate in in-depth briefings; and discuss what states need from the federal government. Where: Denver, Colo. When: May 2-4. For more information, click here.
VI. OpinionNational: Voting Rights Act, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII, IX | Voting commission, II | Polling places | Election reform
Alabama: Voting Rights Act, II
Alaska: Voter ID
Arizona: Election data
California: Voter fatigue, II | Vote-by-mail | Election cycle
Florida: Runoff elections | Absentee ballots | Election reform
Illinois: Cook County
Indiana: Vote centers
Iowa: Early voting | Polling places
Kansas: Poll workers | Kris Kobach, II | Snow storms
Kentucky: Ex-felon voting rights
Minnesota: Instant-runoff voting
Missouri: Early voting
Nevada: Early primary, II
New Hampshire: Ballot snafu
New Jersey: Early voting
North Carolina: Voter ID
Pennsylvania: Voter ID, II, III, IV | Early voting
Texas: Voting Rights Act
Virginia: Voter ID, II
Wisconsin: State election system | Voter access | Election reform
**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.
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.