I. In Focus This Week
Thousands of Americans use same-day registration this year
Illinois latest state on verge of making same-day registration permanent
You’ve all heard the story.
The young couple in Chicago waiting hours to use the city’s new same-day registration system to register to vote and then finally casting their ballot just after 3 a.m. on November 5.
What you most likely haven’t heard about are the thousands of Americans in other parts of Illinois, Connecticut, Colorado and nine other states and the District of Columbia that utilized same-day registration with little to no problem on November 4.
While same-day registration took some well-publicized legislative and legal hits in Ohio and North Carolina recently, it is working and by many accounts working well in other jurisdictions.
In fact, it’s working so well in Montana that the residents overwhelmingly defeated a referendum this November that would have eliminated that state’s election day registration.
During the November 4, election, in Suburban Cook County 3,604 residents used same-day registration during the pilot program this election and according to Clerk David Orr, there were no serious problems.
“It worked quite well and certainly proved the need,” said Orr who has long been a champion of same-day registration.
Orr said that the numbers for the state’s pilot of same-day registration were better than he expected and think that may have helped encourage lawmakers to move on legislation this week that makes same-day registration permanent statewide [You can read more about the legislation on the Election Academy’s blog today].
“I think it’s a good thing,” Orr said. “It’s always an adjustment for those of us who run elections, and I know some of my colleagues are worried, but I think it will save money and other than during presidential years, won’t require additional people working at the polls.”
Orr noted that other changes the legislation will bring with it when finally signed into law will actually make the need for same day registration less pressing.
You don’t want to have a lot of same day people,” Orr said. “We believe we’re going to dramatically improve our process which means that there will be far fewer people that need to do this and it will be much easier for the clerks.”
As one of a series of election day changes, Colorado implemented election-day registration for the first time this November. According to the secretary of state’s office, 4,695 people registered and voted on November 4.
Because of the sweeping changes instituted with HB 13-1303, elections officials were faced with a lack of technology to accommodate it all so the secretary of state’s IT staff developed technology in-house.
The new technology required constant Internet access, even to the most rural areas and according to Gary Zimmerman, chief of staff for the secretary of state’s office, unfortunately there were some issues with the Internet service that caused a strain on they system and authentication process.
In addition there was heavier than expected walk-up traffic in Metro Denver in the afternoon of November 4 that created some lines.
“Overall and with the exception of occasional slowness created by the snowballed effects of the Internet outage, county administrators were highly-complimentary of the performance of the new VSPC and Electronic Pollbook performance,” Zimmerman said.
Zimmerman noted that the office has initiated an after-action review involving election administrators, IT professionals and others to identify issues and opportunities for improvement.
“A report will be released in early February,” Zimmerman said. “The Colorado Secretary of State’s office built the nation’s first statewide electronic pollbook in less than a year and it worked very well.”
While things didn’t go smoothly throughout Connecticut on Election Day, the Nutmeg state had relatively few problems with same-day registration with approximately 14,000 residents registering and casting a ballot.
SDR was first implemented at the municipal level in 2013.
“Election Day Registration was very successful overall in Connecticut in 2014,” said Secretary of State Denise Merrill. “My office put special emphasis – including hiring additional staff – on making sure municipalities in Connecticut were prepared to deal with the larger crowds of EDR voters this year as compared to last year when we first implemented it for the municipal elections.”
There were a few places where there were large EDR voters who all showed up later in the day that created lines and unfortunately some potential voters were not able to complete the registration process by 8 p.m. and therefore unable to vote.
“Some people were frustrated by this, but that is to be expected with a last minute rush of people,” Merrill said. “But clearly, for a first time in a statewide election with Election Day Registration, there are always things to learn and ways we can improve what we are doing.”
Merrill said her office did not hear of any instances in which municipalities were not prepared for the EDR crowds of voters. She noted that there will be a de-briefing on how EDR worked that will include members of her staff as well as local elections officials. She said that based on feedback from localities, there could be tweaks to the system.
“What’s clear is that Election Day Registration was very popular and successful in 2014, and that cuts across party lines and geographical areas,” Merrill said. “It helps include more Connecticut citizens in democracy, and that is a good thing for our state. It helps every one of us have a more responsive government. So it is in all of our interests to make sure EDR is as successful as it can be.”
II. Election News This Week
- In a special election scheduled for later this month, voters in Hobbs, New Mexico will decide whether or not to amend the city’s charter to require photo ID in order to vote. According to The Associated Press, organizers behind the initiative said they are just part of a larger movement nationwide. The group is planning pushes in other New Mexico cities. Albuquerque and Rio Rancho already require photo ID to vote in local elections.
- Officials in the South are hoping to combine efforts in consolidated March 1, 2016 regional primary. Known as the SEC Primary, Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi and Tennessee, as well as possibly Alabama and Louisiana would all hold their presidential primary on the same day. Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp is leading the effort. “As someone who went to the University of Georgia and lives in Athens and understands how powerful the Southeastern Conference is in football today, that is exactly what we want to be when it comes to presidential politics,” Kemp told The Associated Press.
- Nearly 800 Virginians were forced to cast provisional ballots because of the new state’s voter ID law, according to state election officials. “Localities are still entering provisional ballot information into the system, but so far, about half of these ballots were accepted and half rejected,” Edgardo Cortés, commissioner of the Virginia Department of Elections, said last week.
- According to an analysis by Tulsa World, hundreds of provisional ballots cast in Oklahoma on Election Day were not counted. The paper’s investigation found that many weren’t counted for valid reasons, but some were not counted election worker error. About 1,600 provisional ballots were cast with 699 cast because of failure to show a proper ID, all but 34 of those were valid ballots and counted. Of the other 878 provisional ballots cast only 138 of those were cast and most were due to a missing name on a voter registry. One potentially bright spot is that in 2012, 16 percent of provisional ballots cast were due to lack of proper ID whereas in 2014 it was only 5 percent.
- Turnout for the November 4 election was historically low nationwide, but New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman wants to find out why it was so bad in New York—less than 30 percent. Schneiderman said he will conduct an investigation to see what, if any impediments kept people from voting. “We don’t have voter ID laws, and yet we are always on the bottom of the list in terms of voter participation,” Schneiderman, a Democrat, said on public radio’s “The Capitol Pressroom.”
- A Union County, North Carolina woman has been charged with voter fraud after filling out her dead husband’s absentee ballot in 2012. According to WSOC, Verna Roehm pleaded guilty to misdemeanor voter fraud after submitting her husband’s absentee ballot, something she claimed was his dying wish.
- If at first you don’t succeed…The Washington Secretary of State’s office has successfully lobbied Ballotpedia to get a higher grade — an A — on the state’s voter guide. To get an A, Ballotpedia requires a voter guide to include six features. The Washington guide did, but still got a B. After pointing this out to Ballotpedia, the website upped the grade. Washington now joins Alaska, California and Nevada as state’s with As.
- Don Quixote would be proud. Tim Utz, a member of the Minnesota Constitution Party who lost his race by 44 points — percentage points, not votes — has asked for a recount in the race and said he has the funds necessary to pay for it, about $2,100.
- Personnel News: Doug Lewis, executive director of the Election Center is set to retire sometime in early 2015. We’ll have more from Doug closer to his departure. Paddy McGuire is resigning from FVAP effective December and 18 and making the leap to the private sector at Democracy Live. Joyce Reno is retiring as Chafee County, Colorado clerk and recorder. Reno has worked in the office for 41 years and served as clerk for 16. Jordan Karp has been approved as the new Democratic election commissioner in Oneida County, New York. Marilyn Jacobik has been named to serve on the Lorain County, Ohio board of elections. Jacobik is the former county BOE director. Doug Sorrells, member of the Forsyth County, Georgia board of voter registrations and elections announced that due to health reasons he will be stepping down in the New Year. Maine Secretary of State Mathew Dunlap has been elected to a fifth term by the state legislature. Aldo Tesi will step down as CEO of Election Systems & Software on January 1. Tesi will be replace by Tom Burt, the company’s current president and COO.
- In Memoriam: Longtime Chicago Board of Election Commissioners Spokesman Tom Leach died on November 23. He was 76. Leach retired from the board of election commissioner eight years ago after a 33-year tenure. Leach was an appreciated source by local media outlets. “He was honest in a position that it was little hard to be honest,” Rose Preski, his longtime assistant told the Chicago Sun Times. “He would take no guff from anybody as far as them telling him to do anything that wasn’t right.” Leach is survived by his wife Lyn, five children, and 13 grandchildren.
III. Research and Report Summaries
Wake-Up Call: Up to 50,000 NC Voters Silenced by New Rules, Confusion, Poor Preparation at the Polls – Democracy North Carolina, Nov. 25, 2014: The watchdog group analyzes the impact of new voting laws in North Carolina on the 2014 election using reports from poll monitors and calls to a voter assistance hotline.
IV. Legal Update
Arizona: The Phoenix suburb of Goodyear has sued the state of Arizona and Secretary of State Ken Bennett arguing that the city charter trumps a state law that requires Goodyear to hold elections in even-numbered years. The suit is challenging a 2012 law forcing the city to move to even-numbered years for its elections. The city claims moving its elections to even-numbered years causes a number of conflicts.
Louisiana: Due to the Thanksgiving holiday, early voting in the runoff election is two days shorter than normal this year and State Rep. Marcus Hunter challenged the decision of Secretary of State Tom Schedler’s decision. In his suit, Hunter challenged that the election is too important to cut early voting short. The judge denied Hunter’s motion and elections offices were closed on Thanksgiving and the Friday after. Hunter has appealed the lower court ruling and will seek to add two days.
The Third Circuit Court of Appeals has ordered a new mayoral election in the town of Turkey Creek. The Appeals Court tossed out four votes that a lower court judge had ruled were bought. Tossing the four ballots left the race in a tie.
New Mexico: An incumbent land commissioner has asked the State Supreme Court to temporarily halt an automatic recount. Land Commissioner Ray Powell contends that the state canvassing board has violated state law and election code. According to the Santa Fe New Mexican, Powell contends that there have been several irregularities in process, including the vote recount order.
Pennsylvania: President Judge Debbie O’Dell Seneca has approved a plan to allow the Washington County Elections Board to reduce the number of voting precincts in the county by eight. The plan still must be approved by the Department of State.
Texas: In documents filed before the Thanksgiving holiday, plaintiffs in the Texas voter ID case want a federal appeals court to speed up consideration of the case. The paperwork notes that the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has not yet scheduled the case. The plaintiffs worry that because a hearing has not been set, the law could still be in place for the upcoming May 2015 municipal elections.
V. Legislative Update
California: Kevin Mullin (D-San Francisco) introduced legislation this week that would require a state-funded recount manual tally for any statewide office or ballot measure with a margin of victory of one-tenth of 1 percent.
A proposal that would have offered cash prizes to voters in Los Angeles who bothered to show up and vote has died in the city council. According to the Los Angeles Times, City Council President Herb Wesson said that he wants more time to consider the idea of using money or other gifts to lure voters to the polls.
District of Columbia: The Council of the District of Columbia is considering legislation that would move the city’s primary back to the first Tuesday in September while holding a presidential primary in June every four years. It’s unclear how the city would remain in compliance with the federal MOVE Act since it does election a non-voting Delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives. The legislation would also lower the number of early voting centers from eight to four and would make the deadline for absentee ballots 7 p.m. on Election Day — although polls close at 8 p.m. The legislation passed it’s first reading, but still must come back for a second.
Illinois: A House committee has approved legislation that would make same-day registration permanent in Illinois, as well as extend early voting and easing the process to vote on college campuses. The original legislation made the changes only effective for the recent November election, the new legislation would make the changes permanent and go into effect in June 2015. The House approved the legislation on Wednesday and the Senate is expected to follow suit this week. Gov. Pat Quinn is expected to sign the legislation into law.
Indiana: The Indiana Court of Appeals will hear oral arguments on December 9 in former Secretary of State Charlie White’s appeal of his conviction of voter fraud.
Kansas: Lawmakers are once again set to consider the feasibility of moving local and school elections to even-numbered years in an effort to save money and resources. This will be at least the 10th time lawmakers have considered such a move in the last five years.
Michigan: During the Legislatures three-week “lame duck” session, lawmakers considered legislation to change how the state’s electoral votes are allotted. Under the proposal, the winner of the popular vote would get nine of the state’s 16 electoral votes and earn another vote for every 1.5 percent of the vote above 50 percent. The bill was tabled.
Minnesota: The City of Minneapolis is pushing lawmakers to make the necessary changes to allow for more bilingual poll workers. According to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, currently voters are permitted to bring their own interpreters with them, but clerks would like the state to make the necessary legislative changes so they can provide bilingual poll workers across the city. “Here in Minneapolis, the importance of this issue has been growing with each election,” Anissa Hollingshead, an analyst for the city clerk’s office told the council’s Intergovernmental Relations Committee. “As one of the people who has been directly involved in voter education and outreach work in the city, I can say this is both a wonderful and challenging problem.”
New Jersey: This week, the Senate approved legislation that would require each county to establish early voting locations for 15 days in advance of elections. The legislation was approved 21-15. Existing laws allows New Jersey voters to vote-by-mail, but not in-person.
Ohio: Backers of a bill to require a photo ID to vote in the Buckeye state are circulating a “discharge petition” that would pull the bill from a committee where it currently sits and send it directly to the House floor.
Wyoming: The Wyoming Legislature is set to consider legislation that would move the Cowboy State to vote centers. While some legislators are questioning the move due to the large geographic size of counties, Secretary of State-election Ed Murray is supportive, as are county clerks who argue that it’s becoming increasingly difficult to find election judges. The session begins January 13.
Arizona: Pima County
District of Columbia: Instant runoff voting
Indiana: Voter ID
Iowa: Election workers
Maryland: Election issues
Massachusetts: Thank you
Mississippi: Voter ID
Montana: Write-in rules
Nevada: Voter ID
New Jersey: Early voting
Oklahoma: Voter ID
South Dakota: Minnehaha County
West Virginia: Turnout
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.
Voting and Elections Summit— The U.S. and Overseas Vote Foundation, FairVote and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights will host the Ninth Annual Voting and Elections Summit that will examine the profound and persistent issues surrounding U.S. voter participation, engagement in our democracy and what can be done about it. Where: Washington, D.C. When: February 5-6, 2015. For more information and to register, click here.
VIII. Job Postings
Assistant County Clerk-Recorder, San Luis Obispo, California — San Luis Obispo County’s Clerk-Recorder is seeking an experienced manager to fill the position of Assistant County Clerk-Recorder! In pursuit of a well-governed community, the County Clerk-Recorder Department ensures the integrity of the election process and the records maintained by the office and provide access to these public records by complying with all applicable laws, employing technology to its fullest and wisely spending the public funds entrusted to the County, while serving its customers with courteous and well-trained staff. In this role as Assistant Clerk-Recorder, you will be involved in organizing, controlling, and directing department operations and activities, as well as providing technical information and assistance to the County Clerk-Recorder regarding department needs and issues. As a leader in the department, you will facilitate the operations, activities, and fiscal functions of the department to ensure compliance, as well as oversee the budget preparation and assist with personnel needs for the department. In this role, you will oversee the department’s primary processes, including elections and recordings, and ensure that pertinent laws and mandates are met and documentation is accurate. Qualifications: The ideal candidate will be self-motivated, possess a strong work ethic, and have proven work experience in either elections, recordings, or both disciplines. Strong management and leadership skills are desired, as are project management skills. The ability to organize, prioritize, and execute key projects and initiatives is required, as well as the ability to effectively manage staff. Well-honed communication and interpersonal skills to maintain effective working relationships and speak at public forums is a must. The ideal candidate will have a bachelor’s degree in business administration, public administration, accounting, or closely related field. In addition, four years of increasingly responsible experience performing a variety of administrative, legal, or fiscal activities including at least two years in a supervisory position. Job related experience may be substituted for required education on a year-for-year basis. Salary: $90,750.40-$110,323.20 annually. Deadline: December 24. For more information and to apply, click here.
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.
Communications Assistant, Democracy Fund, Washington, D.C. — will work closely with the Program and Learning teams to enhance the influence of the Fund’s grantees and program-related efforts among target audiences. In addition to having a deep passion for improving our democracy, the successful candidate will be self-motivated, highly collaborative, detail-oriented, and eager to work across a variety of communications channels on a daily basis. As a bipartisan organization, we welcome applications from Republicans, Democrats, and Independents – a willingness to work across the aisle is essential. Candidates must have exceptional writing skills and a proven track record as an avid consumer and adopter of digital and social media. The Communications Assistant’s portfolio will include social media management, digital content development, grantee support, event planning, and media outreach. The Communications Assistant will report to the Manager of Communications and Network. For the complete job listing 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.
Elections Administrator, Williamson Co., Texas — responsible for setting up, administering, and managing elections held in WilliamsonCounty, whether they are for federal, state offices and amendments, countywide races, orfor any of the 110-political jurisdictions such as school districts, community college, cities, MUDs, SUDs, road districts, etc. and primary elections.Works successfully with political parties, candidates, political jurisdictions, staff, mediaand other County departments.Responsible for managing voter registration for Williamson County that consists of over 273,000 registered voters and 88 election precincts.Provides supervision and management to staff members and poll workers.Managesfive budgets, two of which contain discretionary funds.Interprets and applies the provisions of the Texas Election Code to the County voting process. Experience: Combination of education and experience equivalent to a Bachelor’s degree in management, government, public administration or relevant field; five years of management experience; experience with developing and writing procedures, reading legal codes, working with electronic equipment and software and managing a staff of diverse duties is essential; excellent customer service; ability to work effectively with co-workers, employees and supervisors; strong organizational skills; and experience with Windows, Microsoft Word, 10-key character by touch, fax and copy machines. Salary: $3,071.54-$4,607.31 biweekly. Deadline: January 18, 2015. For more information and to apply please 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.
Marketing Manager, VR Systems, Inc., Tallahassee, Florida — responsible for leading, managing and directing all of the marketing-related activities within VR Systems. Reporting to the Executive Vice President, the Marketing Manager is responsible for defining and implementing strategic and tactical communication plans designed to capitalize on market opportunities and generate demand. The Marketing Manager will build brand awareness, provide a steady flow of sales leads and measure the return on marketing program investments. Marketing Manager works in conjunction with Sales Manager. The ideal candidate will be self-motivated, resourceful and have excellent communication and leadership skills. 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.
Software Customer Support and Training, VR Systems, Tallahassee, Florida — position will include testing new company software, troubleshooting software problems; providing phone support for the customers’ software questions, and training customers on the use of the company’s software and hardware. The ideal candidate for this position is a self-motivated, goal-oriented individual with uncompromising work ethic, strong communication skills and a keen desire to interact effectively as a member of our team. Ideal candidate should be able to learn to use our software package quickly and must enjoy working in a professional team environment. For the complete job listing and 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.
Software Support Analyst, Government Applications, NTS Data Services, Buffalo, New York — NTS Data Services is looking for a highly skilled customer support analyst to provide help and guidance to users of our voter registration and election management software. We are looking for someone with excellent knowledge of customer support principles and practices. Must have good communication, troubleshooting and people skills. Requires experience with MS Office products, especially spreadsheets, and a good understanding of computer technology. You must be self-motivated, and able to work as part of a team. Experience or knowledge of Boards of Elections’ workflow and NTS software a plus, but not required. Position is based at our Niagara Falls, NY office. For more information and to apply, click here.