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II. Election News This Week
- It’s a holiday miracle! Late in the day on Tuesday, with the final minutes of the session waning, the U.S. Senate approved three new commissioners to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission. We’ll have more on the new commissioners in the coming weeks, but in the mean time, welcome Tom Hicks, (term expires in 2017), Matthew Masterson (term expires in 2017) and Christy McCormick (term expires in 2015).
- A recent audit of the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board pointed out a variety of problems with the bipartisan board including that staff did not consistently follow a penalty schedule for enforcing campaign finance, lobbying and code of ethics laws; did not conduct 16 reviews required by law over a four-year period to identify felons who may have voted illegally; and did not put into place written procedures for considering complaints. While members of the states GOP jumped on the audit to reinforce their calls to disband the GAB, the auditors did not recommend the board be overhauled or dismantled, but did say the Legislature could increase the GAB’s authority over elections and improve its operations. At an agency meeting this week, Director Kevin Kennedy said changes are in the works to rectify problems found by the audit. "I get a little defensive when they point out that we're not adhering to the law in terms of how we're enforcing matters or tracking things," Kennedy said during the meeting. "A lot of it has more to do with how the records are organized and how reporting is getting to the board." The board voted to ask the GAB to give it a list of all 34 recommendations and report progress at the next two meetings.
- Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliff (D) is proposing spending $28 million to upgrade the state’s voting systems including voting machines, e-pollbooks and the state’s elections website. According to The Richmond Times-Dispatch, under the proposal, the state would cover the cost of purchasing new voting machines for 2,166 precincts statewide. The state would reimburse 401 precincts that have already purchased new optical scan machines. The proposal will need to be approved by the Legislature as part of the budget process.
- Three more states are considering joining Georgia, Tennessee, Texas and Florida for a so-called SEC Primary. Secretaries of state in Alabama, Arkansas and Mississippi have told Georgia’s Secretary of State Brian Kemp, who is spearheading the effort, that they will work with their respective legislatures to get the primaries moved to March 1. Kemp is also working with Louisiana and South Carolina to get them onboard as well.
- The Iowa Voter Registration Commission is working on draft rules that would allow Iowans to register online to vote, however advocacy groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union are concerned about the provision in the rules that would limit those who use the online system to just those who have a driver’s license.
- Recount Updates: The CD2 recount in Arizona is finally over with Republican challenger Martha McSally defeating incumbent Rep. Ron Barber by 167 votes. The final vote difference was only six votes different from the original tally. This was the first congressional recount in the state. A judge has ordered the Clark County, Indiana recount commission to certify a recount that flipped the original results of the race. Although questions still remain about the recount process, the winning candidate for circuit court clerk won by 43 votes.
- Personnel News: Upon recommendation from the county elections commission, he Harrison County, Texas commission voted to terminate elections administrator Becky Dotson. Vicki Olin and Kelly Penziul have been reappointed to the Steuben County, New York board of elections commissioners. Jack Snodgrass, Campbell County, Kentucky clerk is retiring after 24 years on the job. Kevin D. Harris has been appointed new clerk in Morristown, New Jersey. Florida Gov. Rick Scott has reappointed Secretary of State Ken Detzner for another four-year term.