I. In Focus This Week
A thousand little cuts, but nothing life threatening
The 2014 Midterm Election comes off with a few hitches
Millions of Americans headed to the polls Tuesday for the 2014 Midterm Election and what greeted them was a mixed bag.
There were glitches, snafus, hitches, hiccups, lines, and of course some oddities, but there were no systematic or colossal problems nationwide.
While overall turnout — complete numbers obviously still pending — was better than throughout the primary season, it was still low and may potentially be a record low.
According to the Associated Press, early numbers indicate a 36.6 percent overall turnout. If, as NPR noted, that number does not exceed 38.1 percent once absentees and provisional are counted it will be the lowest turnout since midterm elections in 1942 — during World War II.
In this week’s newsletter we’ll take a brief look at how things went on Tuesday and highlight some of the problems and some of the bright spots. You can also review our Election Day Dispatches.
In the coming weeks we’ll do more of a deep-dive into some of the bigger problems and how elections officials are preparing to tackle those problems in the next two years.
There were scattered reports of voting machine problems in several states.
Probably the biggest problems were in southeastern Virginia where there were multiple reports of voting machines malfunctioning in several different precincts. In all, it seems that 32 voting machines were affected. The machines were taken out of service and state and local officials are conducting a review.
In Bexar County, Texas voters reported that gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott’s name was left off the ballot. Initially elections officials said that the complaining voter had photoshopped a photo of the ballot, but ES&S performed an analysis of the voting machine in question and confirmed that the name was omitted from the ballot.
With the legal wrangling in the days leading up to the election, a lot of attention was focused on the roll out of voter ID (or the lack thereof) in several states. While there were definitely some reported issues, at first blush it does not appear to be the problem than many feared, although as one NPR reporter noted, we’ll never know how many people didn’t show up because they didn’t have an ID.
In Arkansas, the ACLU complained that poll workers were improperly asking voters to show a photo ID.
The Center for American Progress complained about a “last minute” decision by Alabama to disallow the use of municipal housing authority IDs as one of the acceptable forms of voter ID.
This was the first statewide rollout for Virginia’s voter ID law and according to published reports there were no problems with the law.
Some poll workers in one Wisconsin town were accused of asking people for a photo ID in order to cast a ballot even though the law had been struck down for this election.
Secretary of State races
All incumbent secretary of states were re-elected on Tuesday including in Kansas and New Mexico where the races were particularly close.
Here is the list of the new secretaries of state (or chief elections official). We’ll help you get to know them more in a future newsletter.
Alabama: John Merrill (R)
Alaska: We’re still waiting
Arizona: Michele Reagan (R)
California: Alex Padilla (D)
Colorado: Wayne Williams (R)
Idaho: Lawerence Denney (R)
Iowa: Paul Pate (R)
Minnesota: Steve Simon (DFL)
Nevada: Barbara Cegavaske (R)
Rhode Island: Nellie Gorbea (D)
South Dakota: Shantel Krebs (R)
Wyoming: Ed Murray (R)
Voters gave mixed signals on elections-relate ballot initiatives.
In Connecticut and Missouri voters defeated measures that would have allowed for early voting in each state. The difference being though that the Connecticut measure had the backing of state elections officials whereas in Missouri, state and local officials opposed the ballot initiative.
Voters in Montana overwhelming voted to continue the practice of election-day registration—in fact almost 5,000 voters used it on Election Day!
For the second time, Oregon voters chose to stick with the state’s traditional primary system instead of making the move to a top-two system.
In Illinois, voters approved a state constitutional amendment that would create a voter bill of rights.
Numerous jurisdictions made the move to vote centers for their first general election and the roll-out was mixed.
In two Indiana counties, Floyd and Vigo, there were some issues. In Vigo there were long lines throughout the day. In Floyd, initially five of the county’s 11 vote centers could not open due to problems, which then created lines at the remaining six vote centers.
Polls in several states were forced to stay open due to a variety of reasons.
In Connecticut, polls in Hartford remained open for an additional hour after the registrar’s office failed to provide poll books to the polling places in time for the start of voting.
Five polling places in Lake County, Illinois were forced by court order to remain open until 9 p.m. The suit, filed by Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan alleged that Lake County Clerk Willard Helander failed to comply with state election law allowing residents to register and then vote when polls are open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Voters in one precinct in Robeson County, North Carolina got an additional 45 minutes to cast ballots because the polling place had to close for about the same amount of time earlier in the day when it ran out of ballots.
Because polls opened about an hour late in Shannon County, South Dakota, they were held open for an additional hour because state law requires that polls be open for 12 days.
While there were certainly scattered problems nationwide on Tuesday, no state seemed to suffer quite as much as Illinois.
The problems began in the morning when Chicago had to rely on about 250 back-up election judges because many judges failed to show up after receiving a “malicious” robocall over the weekend.
In several jurisdictions in Illinois voters waited in long lines, some for up to nine hours, in order to take advantage of the state’s new same-day registration law. In Chicago, the very last vote was cast at 3 a.m.
While there were definitely some reports of lines — other than just in states offering same-day registration — there was nothing like the situations that occurred two years ago during the presidential election. Whether that was because of the overall low turnout or because of the change in procedures and policies since 2012, remains to be seen.
In what we’ll tongue-in-check label a first world problem, several state and local elections websites went down for a period of time on Tuesday.
Eighteen government sites designed by Florida company SOE Software crashed on Tuesday due to higher than expected traffic, according to a spokeswoman.
In North Carolina, the State Board of Elections is investigating why the state’s website was down for a period of time on Tuesday.
Some Minnesota localities rolled out e-pollbooks on Tuesday and election judges seemed pleased with the new technology.
You can’t blame the lava! Polling places on the Big Island were able to remain open on Tuesday because the lava flow threatening local communities had stalled. However, even though all of the state’s polling places were open and there were only a few reports of problems, Hawaii recorded its lowest turnout ever.
Polling place issues
And now, in what is always our favorite part of the Election Day roundup, the hodge-podge of random issues that affected polling places on Tuesday.
In Tucson, Arizona a gas leak closed one polling place. Los Angeles County, California voters were evacuated from a polling place after a bomb threat. In Brentwood, Pennsylvania, a small fire in a polling place caused a bit of a scare that closed the polls for about 40 minutes. And in Volusia County, Florida there was a report of an attempted abduction outside of a polling place.
An Orange County, California a teen pollworker was removed from her job after it was discovered she was sending out obscene tweets. Police had to be called to on Oakland County, Michigan polling place after poll workers complained that observers were intimidating voters. Voters ducked for cover in Dorchester, Massachusetts when a shooting occurred outside their polling place. A mentally ill man serving as a poll worker in Green Bay, Wisconsin was caused disruptions at two polling places, state and federal authorities were called.
And although we’ve found no reports of cars crashing into polling places this election, there were at least two incidents where car crashes affected voting. In Ohio and Pennsylvania, cars that crashed into a power poll cut the power to several polling places for a while.
II.Election News This Week
- Republicans in Kentucky are exploring the possibility of switching the state’s GOP primary to a caucus instead so Sen. Rand Paul could pursue the White House while retaining his Senate seat. Democrats, who retain control of Kentucky’s legislature have vowed to fight any attempt to change the process.
- The Suffolk County, New York board of elections will now do criminal background checks on all of its potential hires. New job applications will require candidates to divulge their criminal history and the county will run a background check to confirm.
- During a meeting with Washington County seniors, Oregon Secretary of State Kate Brown said she expects the Beaver State to ready for online voting by 2020. Brown was meeting with the seniors and reporters to show off the state’s tablets that are designed to help seniors and the disabled vote—a first of it’s kind. During the meeting Brown acknowledged some concerns about security with online voting, but hopes those concerns will be solved soon.
- Residents in the U.S. Virgin Islands take open meetings laws very seriously. Over the weekend police were called to a Joint Elections Board meeting when the public refused to leave for what they cited was an illegally-called executive session. When the board provided the V.I. Police with a copy of the V.I. code showing that they did have the authority to move to executive session, the police slowly cleared the room. No arrests were made.
- Personnel News:Jason Latimer has been appointed communications director for the Pinellas County, Florida supervisor of elections office. Joe Steffen Jr. has been sworn in as the Chatham County, Georgia elections board chairman. Jessica Holloway has been hired to serve as out reach manager for the Harris County, Texas tax assessor-collector’s office.
- In Memoriam: Dale Bolt passed away on the evening of November 3, 2014. Dale served as registrar of Prince Edward County, Virginia for the past 14 years. Dale was beloved by the Virginia elections community and was always willing to help other local election officials. In addition to serving as general registrar, Dale was the Clerk of Session and pianist at Appomattox PE Presbyterian Church and a long-time member and chair of the Sessions Records Committee of the Presbytery of the Peaks. Dale was 59 and is survived by his wife, Judy, and two children. His family honored Dale in the midst of their grief by going together to vote on Election Day, the day after he died. The State Board of Elections called their morning meeting to order in his honor and held a moment of silence. The funeral service will be held Friday, November 7, at 2:00 p.m. at the Appomattox PE Presbyterian Church. Burial in the church cemetery will follow the service. Dale was an important part of the Virginia elections community and everyone will miss him. — Edgardo Cortes, Virginia State Board of Elections.
- On Tuesday, longtime Atlantic County, New Jersey Board of Elections Chairwoman Paula Dunn died. According to The Press of Atlantic City, Dunn had been sick for much of the past year. "She was a tireless worker and dedicated advocate for the Democratic Party, the people of Atlantic County and South Jersey," Senate President Steve Sweeney told the paper. "She had a big heart and was always there for those in need. She will be remembered with fondness and admiration.”
III. Legal Update
California: A Los Angeles County judge initiated contempt proceedings against four Palmdale city officials. The judge gave the officials 21-days to show the court why they shouldn’t be held in contempt for violating the court’s ruling on violations of the California Voting Rights Act.
Hawaii: Losing GOP candidate John P. Roco has sued the governor, the state Democratic Party, Lt. Gov. Brian Schatz and the Hawaii elections board asking for a do-over of the August 9 primary. According to Courthouse News Service Roco claims that Hawaii Revised Statute 17-1, on how to fill a Senate vacancy, is unconstitutional because it contradicts the 17th Amendment, which established the system of direct election of U.S. senators.
Illinois: Associate Whiteside County Judge Bill McNeal denied a late-Monday request from the Rock Island County GOP to recalibrate voting machines tested before polls opened on Election Day. McNeal noted that there were multiple chances for voters to confirm and correct their ballot before casting it.
Maryland: A lawsuit was filed late last week against the State Board of Elections and the Frederick County Board of Elections alleging that non-U.S. citizens were being allowed to vote. According to WHAG, plaintiffs claim that Frederick residents sent a juror qualification form answered and "no" when asked if they are a U.S. citizen should not be registered voters and plaintiffs they allege that those residents are still listed as registered voters.
Also in Maryland, state prosecutors have dismissed an assault case against a Cecil County candidate who allegedly placed his nose so close to his opposition’s mouth during an argument on the day of the June primary, that the rival bit the man out of fear of his life.
New York: A State Supreme Court judge denied a candidate’s request to have voting machines impounded immediately following the close of polls on Tuesday.
Ohio: The Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless, Columbus Coalition for the Homeless and the Ohio Democratic Party filed a federal lawsuit challenging Senate Bill 216 that requires voters to provide their address and date of birth when casting an absentee ballot. The suit also challenged Senate Bill 205 that requires election workers to reject absentee and provisional ballots for errors made on identification statements.
IV. Legislative Update
Federal: Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) plans to introduce federal legislation that would ensure voters in states that require photo ID to vote have easy access to acceptable forms of ID. According to KPIX, Boxer’s legislation would require states to provide ID cards for free or allow voters to sign affidavits saying they are eligible.
California: The Los Angeles City council voted 14 to 1 to shift city elections from odd-numbered to even-numbered years beginning in 2020. According to the Los Angeles Daily News the proposal is an attempt to boost voter turnout.
V. Tech Thursday
National Tech: The U.S. Election Assistance Commission has a new online search feature for its Certified Voting Systems Map to see where state and local jurisdictions are using EAC-certified voting systems and system components in federal elections. The map allows users to quickly access key information that includes the counties/municipalities in which they are used, test plans and test reports, and other information about the systems. Categories on the map differentiate between: (1) jurisdictions using EAC certified voting systems, and (2) jurisdictions using multiple components from an EAC certified system. For more information see the updated map with search feature and Voting Systems Map FAQs.
National Opinions: Voter ID, II, III | Election Day | Noncitizen voting, II | Voter fraud, II, III | Election conspiracy theories | Online voting, II | Voting rights, II | Voting technology | Election night | Absentee voting | Voting restrictions | Voting difficulties
Indiana: Vote centers
Iowa: Voter ID
Massachusetts: Instant-runoff voting
Michigan: Secretary of state race
Missouri: Early voting
Oregon: Top-two primary
South Carolina: Voter ID
South Dakota: Ranked-choice voting
Vermont: Voter fraud
Washington: Ballot deadline
VII. Upcoming Events
National Conference of State Legislatures Forum— Fifty states, one voice is the theme for this year’s forum. Attendees will have the opportunity to discuss policy with national experts working on pressing issues as part of NCSL’s standing committees, advocate for the states on Lobby Day and participate in special programming developed for legislative staff. There will be a block of sessions on elections and will cover: Motor Voter, campaign finance, redistricting, partnerships, primary systems and legal action. The elections sessions will be on December 11. Where: Washington, D.C. When: December 9-12. For more information and to register, click here.
VIII. Job Postings
Business Development Lead, TurboVote —as the business development lead, you will be responsible for continuing to grow our program through renewing our existing partnerships and generating new leads to set the stage for exponential growth in 2016. In this role, you will need to build relationships with key stakeholders, and think creatively in order to generate revenue opportunities across TurboVote (and potentially other Democracy Works products). You’ll become an expert in the world of higher education and cultivate a passion for promoting civic engagement. Also, you will have the persistence to navigate red tape and work with bureaucratic organizations. For the complete job posting and to apply, click here.
Director of Communications, TurboVote, — in our quest to make voting easier, we’re looking for an experienced communications expert to help us share our mission and work with a larger audience. Whether it’s helping a TurboVote partner school tell the story of how they implemented our tools so other campuses can repeat their successes, or pitching a local newspaper on the innovations their local election office is making, we want to reach more voters through effective storytelling and outreach. For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Government Outreach Lead, Turbovote — As the Government Outreach Lead, you will be responsible for growing our new government program. In 2015, you’ll be focused on establishing formal partnerships with local election offices across the country. In this role you will need to immerse yourself in the world of election administration, build relationships with key stakeholders, and think creatively in order to generate revenue opportunities for Ballot Scout and other Democracy Works products. For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning Association, Democracy Fund, Washington, D.C. — Democracy Fund seeks to hire an Associate to help assess our impact and to foster learning within our organization and among our grantees, peer funders, and the fields within which we work. We are looking for a dynamic and motivated candidate who is passionate about making our political system work better and who has significant experience working in monitoring, evaluation, research, and knowledge management. Strong candidates will have applied research skills, work well with others, and have a proven track record of being able to get things done in a complex professional environment. As a bipartisan organization, we welcome applications from Republicans, Democrats, and Independents – a willingness to work across the aisle is essential. The Associate will report to the Democracy Fund’s Manager of Learning and Impact and will be responsible for working with her to create and sustain the organization’s monitoring, evaluation, and learning systems. The position will require engagement with our grantees and with all members of the Democracy Fund team. Beyond directly working on Learning and Impact activities, the Associate’s work also may inform the organization’s grant making, strategic planning, research, and convening activities. For the complete listing and to apply, click here.
Partner Support Lead, TurboVote — As the partner support lead for TurboVote, you will strengthen relationships with each of our partners and work closely with them to ensure they are using our technology strategically. You’ll become an expert in the world of higher education and cultivate a passion for promoting civic engagement. Also, as the primary contact with most of our partners, you will be responsible for communicating their needs to our product design and software development teams, and help test and train partners on new features as we improve the platform. For more the complete job posting and to apply, click here.
Program Analyst, Federal Voting Assistance Program, Alexandria, Va. responsible for the following duties: Interpret Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA), DoD Directives, instructions and policies relating to Federal Voting Assistance Program; analyze new or proposed legislation or regulations; provide program advice and assistance to oral and written inquiries concerning complex voting policies and procedures from State and local election officials, Service and State Department election officials, voting advocacy organizations worldwide, and private citizens; translate Federal, State, and local election laws, regulations and policies into plain language that is easily understandable to voters; work effectively with other agencies, State and local elections officials to promote and educate citizens covered under UOCAVA. Salary: $75,621 to $98,305. Deadline: November 17. For the complete job listing and how to apply, click here.
Software Developers, TurboVote — In the next year we’re looking to rebuild the frontend for turbovote.org, split the Rails backend into independent Clojure services, improve our Ballot Scout webapp and services, and automate the quality-assurance process for Voting Information Project data. If any or all of these projects sound interesting to you, then you’re interesting to us. For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.