I. In Focus This Week
First Person Singular: Nevada Secretary of State Ross Miller
Nevada’s youngest secretary of state looks to the future
In 2012, outgoing Nevada Secretary of State Ross Miller made headlines nationwide, but it wasn’t because of a botched election or some sort of political scandal.
It was something way cooler…
In his first sanctioned mixed martial arts fight at the World Championship of Fighting he won his bout in a second round knockout.
Now that he's knocked out his two terms of service as secretary of state, Miller, who when sworn-in in January 2007, became the youngest secretary of state in Nevada’s history, is on to his next adventure.
Before he was secretary of state, Miller served as a deputy district attorney in Clark County. He has a law degree and MBA from Loyola Marymount University and a Bachelor’s from Stanford.
As Nevada’s secretary of state, Miller created the multi-jurisdictional Elections Integrity Task Force that has been identified as a national model by the U.S. Department of Justice and the FBI.
Miller served as the president of the National Association of Secretaries of State and in 2013 Governing magazine named him as one of the top state officials to watch.
And in addition to that whole MMA thing, Miller is apparently also a baller. While attending the Monterrey Technical Institute in Monterrey, Mexico, he played on a basketball team that won the Collegiate Mexican National Basketball championship.
Obviously you are term-limited and could not seek re-election as secretary of state, how do you feel about your time in office coming to an end?
It’s never easy to leave a job that you find rewarding. My two terms as Nevada secretary of state have resulted in accomplishments that could have come only with public help and supports, so I finish those two terms knowing that together Nevadans and I have made the Silver State a better place. I take great pride in performing my duties in a bipartisan manner and expanding the scope of services available. I first campaigned for secretary of state with the promises of greater transparency and accessibility, and for nearly eight years I have led my staff with those promises in mind.
What would you say has been the biggest change you have seen in elections during your tenure?
Without a doubt, the biggest change during my eight years as secretary of state is the advances in technology that my office has implemented across various platforms to make information and voter registration more accessible to Nevadans. My office became the sole filing officer for contribution & expense reports and financial disclosure statements in 2012, so we created a new database to make it easier to both file and view information. We implemented online voter registration in Nevada’s largest county in 2010 and expanded it statewide within two years. And Nevada became the first state in the nation to provide an electronic balloting system for its military and overseas citizens.
What was the most difficult time/issue you have faced (elections wise of course) as secretary?
When I first took office in 2008, I not only faced a steep learning curve as secretary of state, but Nevada had also instituted term limits the same year, making my role even more challenging. Multiple lawsuits had been filed in different counties, and it was my job to sort through it all and make clear, firm rulings.
What do feel was your greatest accomplishment and why?
I am proud of so many things that this office has accomplished that it’s tough to narrow it down to one. I’m proud of expanding early voting; creating the multi-jurisidictional Election Integrity Task Force, which the U.S. Department of Justice named a best-practices model for maintaining the integrity and security of the elections process; building an election night results reporting website that is efficient and easy to use; implementing electronic balloting for Nevada’s military and overseas voters; and having the biggest increase in voter turnout in the nation from the 2008 to 2012 elections. The PEW Charitable Trusts even ranked Nevada fifth nationally for our 2012 election performance, jumping from 22nd in 2008.
However, I would have to say that my greatest accomplishment is implementing online voter registration statewide. It makes it so easy, fast, and accessible for all Nevadans to register to vote or update their registration information. They no longer have to make a special trip to their county clerk’s office or mail in an application. With the increasing accessibility of the internet, they can simply use a computer or any smart device to get the job done in a mere five minutes. When online voter registration expanded statewide in 2012, more than 41,000 Nevadans registered to vote online between the primary election and general election deadlines. At the close of registration for the 2012 general election, Nevada had a record number of active registered voters at more than 1.25 million.
Is there anything you still hope to accomplish as secretary before leaving office?
With the little time I have left in office, I want to ensure that ongoing projects and issues are being handled in a way where I can be proud to leave a good legacy for my successor and ease her transition into this office.
What will you miss most about being secretary of state?
I will miss the ability to exact change on a wide, sweeping scale and be in charge of delivering public services so important to Nevadans.
As an expert in the field of elections, where do you see the administration of elections headed?
I see many states that are embracing advances in technology and incorporating changes in their elections administration. Seeing what a difference technology has made in Nevada’s elections leads me to believe that elections will become more accessible and inclusive to eligible voters.
What’s next for you, besides being able to sleep in on election days? Any more MMA fights?!
In considering what I leave behind as my two terms come to a close, I can’t overlook the fact that any legacy is a shared one. My legacy has been made possible by the voters of Nevada, and by the relationship we forged while I’ve been in office. I will always value that shared experienced. While I do not, at this point, know specifically what the future holds, I am fairly certain that there will always be a component of public service in my life. It is a commitment that runs deeply in my family.
As for MMA, I said I was one and done, but since it is still a great passion of mine, I can’t make any promises that you won’t see me in a bout or two in the future.
Any parting words of advice for your successor?
Never forget who you’re here to serve. You’ll always come under fire from detractors, but follow your instincts and make choices that will benefit all Nevadans.
Editor’s Note: Electionline reached out to all outgoing secretaries of state for an exit interview. Some declined our offer and we never heard from a few others (there’s still time so fingers crossed). Read our other exit interviews with Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler, Idaho Secretary of State Ben Ysursa, Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie and Wyoming Secretary of State Max Maxfield.
II. Election News This Week
- The mystery of the 21 ballots in a Maine Senate race has been solved and it turns out that they weren’t so mysterious after all, they were simply counted twice, by mistake. Deputy Secretary of State Julie Flynn said it was likely that the 21 ballots mistakenly had been put into another bundle of ballot after having already been counted in the first bundle. “I believe (the error) happened in the recount, and I’m chagrined to say so,” Flynn said during five hours of testimony before a specially appointed task force reviewing the recount. “I’d eat my hat if I had one.”
- Residents of the town of Hobbs, New Mexico went to the polls this week and voted to require residents to show photo ID in order to vote in future elections. According to The Associated Press, about 78 percent of those casting ballots in the special election voted to amend the city’s charter. Several other cities and towns in New Mexico — including Albuquerque — already require voters to show photo ID in local elections.
- The Montana political practices commissioner dismissed a complaint that Secretary of State Linda McCulloch improperly used public resources to solicit opposition to a ballot issue. According to the Ravalli Republic, Commissioner Jonathan Motl found insufficient evidence to justify a civil or criminal prosecution. The complaint was brought by Senate President Jeff Essman (R-Billings) argued that McCulloch used her summer newsletter to improperly advocate against Referendum 126 that would have repealed the state’s election-day registration law. Voters rejected the referendum 57 percent to 43 percent.
- With people demonstrating against police brutality nationwide, returning citizens and faith leaders staged a silent sit-in this week at the Florida State Capitol in support of voting rights for ex-offenders. The protestors want a constitutional amendment on the 2016 ballot that would automatically restore the voting rights of ex-offenders once their sentences are complete.
- Elections that end in ties are more common than what most people think. However, what’s probably not as common are two races ending in ties with the exact same vote count! That’s what happened this week following recounts of two Advisory Neighborhood Commission races in Washington, D.C. Following manual recounts of each race, both were tied with 204 votes for each candidate. The D.C. Board of Elections will conduct a tiebreaker (names out of a hat) for both races next week.
- One hundred and forty five years ago this week Wyoming became the first state to give women the right to vote. According to KOTA when the law took effect there were only about 6,000 men and 1,000 women in Wyoming. Today, a little over half of the registered voters in Wyoming are women.
- A lot goes into the planning and timing of special elections and that is no different for Fargo, North Dakota which is facing a springtime special election to replace it’s long term mayor who died unexpectedly last week. The earliest the city can legally hold the election is mid-March, but logistically they may need to move it to April that would put the election right in the middle of flood season in the city nestled on the banks of the flood-prone Red River.
- Personnel News: Jake Spano has been appointed to serve as incoming Secretary of State Steve Simon’s chief of staff. Spano is currently the marketing director for the mayor of St. Paul. Sue Buitenhuis, Grand Haven Township, Michigan clerk submitted her resignation this week. Incoming South Dakota Secretary of State Shantel Krebs has hired Kea Warne to serve as her deputy in charge of elections. Warne previously worked in the secretary’s office from 1993 to 2010 with the last eight as elections chief. Debra Nickoloff has resigned from the Erie County, Ohio board of elections.
III. Research and Report Summaries
The Battle to Protect the Vote: Voter Suppression Efforts in Five States and Their Effect on the 2014 Midterm Elections – Center for American Progress, Ben Jealous and Ryan P. Haygood, December 2014: This report focuses on the impact of recent changes to voting laws in five states – Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, Texas, and Virginia and the November 2014 election.
IV. Legal Update
Alaska: U.S. District Court Judge Sharon Gleason is urging the state and a groups of Alaska Native plaintiffs to see if they can reach a settlement over the plaintiffs voting rights lawsuit.According to The Associated Press, Gleason is reviewing a plan the state submitted—per her ruling—and is asking the parties to come to terms. New Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott told the news service that his desire is to settle the case.
Georgia: A voter in Douglas County as filed suit against the county and county elections officials claiming his civil rights were violated when he was asked to remove his NRA hat before entering a polling place to vote. According to The Associated Press, the lawsuit challenges what it calls a per se ban on clothing referencing the NRA at county polling places.
Indiana: Attorneys for former Secretary of State Charlie White argued their appeal before three judges of the Indiana Court of Appeals. The attorneys presented three arguments: ineffective assistance of counsel; insufficient evidence; and the jury and judge not properly applying the law. According to the Journal Gazette, a decision is expected in the next few weeks.
Kentucky: A civil suit has been filed in the recent judge executive race in Magoffin County. The suit claims that absentee ballots may have been improperly cast and that ineligible voters may have also cast ballots.
New Jersey: A judge in Hackensack ordered that the voting machines and all other materials related to the November 4 mayoral election in Bogota be preserved and presented to the state’s attorney general who is investigating reports that poll workers cast ballots on behalf of some elderly and Spanish-speaking voters.
New Mexico: On Wednesday, the New Mexico Supreme Court lifted a stay it had imposed on the recount in the race for land commissioner. The court lifted the stay and denied a petition to halt the recount by one of the candidates after state elections officials and the candidates came to an agreement on how to recount the ballots.
Oregon: Sponsors of Measure 92 — currently undergoing a statewide recount — filed an emergency lawsuit this week challenging the method used by elections officials to make sure signatures on ballot measure envelopes are not forged. According to The Associated Press, the suit seeks to force officials to count 4,600 ballots disqualified because signatures on the vote-by-mail envelopes didn’t match those on registration cards. Multnomah County Judge Henry Kantor denied the request saying that he did not find the state’s rules on matching ballot signatures to unreasonable or illegal.
U.S. Virgin Islands: The Virgin Islands Daily News has filed a petition with the V.I. Superior Court asking the court to intervene and allow the public — and media — to witness the recount process as written in the V.I. Code. The suit comes after the board of elections failed to allow the press or members of the public to witness the recount process. A second suit was also filed to halt the recount process entirely. On Monday, a judge granted a temporary restraining order and an injunction and ordered the St. Croix BOE to allow public access to the recount process.
V. Legislative Update
California: The Sacramento City Council is considering a proposal to allow the city to use only vote-by-mail in an upcoming special election for a member of the council. Currently about 56 percent of the voters registered in the affected district are signed up as permanent vote-by-mail voters.
Missouri: State Sen. Will Kraus (an announced candidate for secretary of state in 2016) has filed legislation that would set an eight-week deadline to make changes to ballot initiatives or referendum. Current law allows changes to be made at any point within 180 days of an election. Proponents of the legislation — which includes many county clerks — argue that the move would save money.
Ohio: The Ohio House has approved a bipartisan plan to change how the state draws legislative districts. Under the current system, a five-member board draws the new boundaries every 10 years. Under the new plan, two members would be added and four votes, including at least two from minority party members of the board would be required to approve a new map. The vote was 80-4.
South Carolina: Legislation that was pre-filed last week would include concealed weapon permits to count as one of the approved forms of ID for South Carolina voters to cast a ballot.
VI. Tech Thursday
National Tech: The 1622.2 2014-11-24 draft standard is now in the 1st round IEEE balloting process, in which IEEE members are able to vote and/or submit comments on the draft up until Jan 15, 2015. We are also making the draft publicly available and encouraging the public to vote/comment on it, especially those in the election official and vendor community who may not be members of the IEEE. Your comments will be considered carefully and will be greatly appreciated.
VII. Opinions This Week
Alabama: Nonpartisan elections
Colorado: Scott Gessler
Florida: Rethinking elections
Georgia: Voter suppression
Kentucky: Voting system
Maine: Mystery ballots
New Jersey: Early voting
Ohio: Mahoning County
Utah: Compromises on elections
Wisconsin: Vote fraud
VIII. Upcoming Events
IACREOT Semi-Annual Meeting— The International Association of Clerks, Recorders, Election Officials and Treasurers will hold it’s semi-annual meeting in Long Beach, California in January. Where: The Queen Mary, Long Beach, California. When: January 8-13. 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.
NASS 2015 Winter Conference — The National Association of Secretaries of State Winter Conference will bring together government and industry leaders to showcase secretary of state initiatives and highlight all the latest developments in state and federal policymaking. The conference will include a special new member orientation session for newly-elected or appointed secretaries of state. Where: Washington, D.C. When: February 10-13. For more information and to register, click here.
NASED 2015 Winter Meeting —The National Association of State Election Directors will hold its 2015 Winter Meeting in Washington, D.C. in February. Topics at the meeting will include new voter registration systems, state election legislation, a voting system panel report, and a variety of speakers including Congressional staff and members of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission. Where: Washington, D.C. When: February 11-13. For more information and to register, click here.
IACREOT Annual Conference — The International Association of Clerks, Recorders, Elections Officials and Treasurers will hold its annual conference in Vail, Colorado this year in June and July. Planning is still in the early stages, but be sure to mark your calendar. Where: Vail, Colorado. When: June 27-July 2. For more information and to register, click here.
NASS 2015 Summer Conference — The National Association of Secretaries of State Annual Summer Conference is set for July this year. Planning is still in the early stages, but be sure to mark your calendar. Where: Portland, Maine. When: July 9-12. For more information and to register, click here.
NACo Annual Conference and Exposition— The 80th Annual Conference and Exposition of the National Association of Counties will be in Mecklenburg County (Charlotte), North Carolina. Registration opens February 9th. Where: Charlotte, North Carolina. When: July 10-13. For more information and to register, click here.
NCSL Legislative Summit 2015 — The National Conference of State Legislators will hold their 2015 Legislative Summit in August. Planning is still in the early stages, but be sure to mark your calendar. Where: Seattle. When: August 3-6. For more information when it becomes available and to register, click here.
Election Center 31st Annual Conference— The National Association of State Election Directors will hold its 31st Annual Conference in Houston in August. Planning is still in the early stages, but be sure to mark your calendars now. Where: Houston, Texas. When: August 18-22. For more information and to register, click here.
NACRC Annual Conference— The Annual Conference of the National Association of County Recorders, Election Officials and Clerks is set for Houston in August. Planning is still in the early stages, but be sure to mark your calendar. Where: Houston, Texas. When: August 21-25. For more information and to register, click here.
IX. 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.
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.
Elections Administrator, Burnett County, Texas — position performs the duties and functions of the Voter Registrar, the duties and functions placed on the County Clerk by the Texas Election Code or by statutes outside the Election Code. This position is filled by appointment of the Burnet County Elections Commission and is a full time, exempt position. The Commission consists of: the county judge, the county clerk, the county tax assessor-collector and the Democratic and Republican county chairs. Salary: $41,000-$53,000. Deadline: January 15. For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Elections Administrator, Wharton County, Texas — position is responsible for conducting all federal, state and local elections. Minimum training and experience sought is a Bachelor's degree or six years' experience in a management position involving public contact (preferably in an elections office). Salary: $35,000-$37,000. Deadline: December 31. For more information and the complete job listing, call (979) 532-2647 or 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.
Elections Administrator, Wise County, Texas — position is responsible for the conduct of all non-primary, federal, state, county and contracted elections. Other responsibilities include: Ensuring all elections are accurate; conduct adults of voter registration records; monitoring voter registration activities in compliance with state and federal laws; and supervising elections administrator’s office personnel. The elections administrator is responsible for ensuring voting processes maintain a high level of professional standards in order to earn and preserve public confidence in the election process. This position requires travel when necessary for Wise Co. business and job-related events and training. The work schedule hours are varied and dependent upon the needs of the associated elections. Salary: Up to $55,000. Deadline: December 19. For more information and to apply, click here.
General Registrar, Charlottesville, Virginia — successful candidate will be appointed to fill the unexpired term ending June 30,2015. The incumbent's performance will be evaluted prior to the end of the term. If their performance is determined to have been satisfactory or better, it is the Electoral Board's intent to reappoint the candidate selected to a full four-year term beginning July 1, 2015. General Description: Oversee operations of the office of the General Registrar under general supervision of the Electoral Board; perform difficult technical and administrative duties required to efficiently conduct and accurately ascertain the results of local, state, and federal elections held in the City of Charlottesville; and exercise supervision over Deputy Registrars, Assistant Registrars, Election Officers and volunteers. The General Registrar exercises independent judgment in carrying out the responsibilities of office and solving problems. Salary: $49,076.00 to $60,000.00. Deadline: December 30. 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.
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 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.