I. In Focus This Week
The 2014 Voting Experience
Pew releases new issue brief on the 2014 voting experience
The Pew Charitable Trusts
Pew [this week] released a brief documenting the results of a series of surveys with voters about their expectations and practices during the 2014 midterm elections.
The survey found that many voters spend less time waiting at the polls than they expect to; change their minds about how to cast their ballots; and return mail ballots in a variety of ways, not always using the U.S. Postal Service.
Wait times: Many voters spent less time waiting at the polls than they expected to. Among those who anticipated a wait of more than an hour, 71 percent ended up in line for less than 10 minutes.
More than 90 percent of respondents who expected to wait less than 10 minutes actually did so. Only 2 percent of respondents spent more than an hour at their polling places.
Voting method: Significant variation was seen between how respondents said they planned to cast their ballots and how they eventually voted.
Among those who requested an absentee ballot in the months before Election Day, for example, 23 percent ended up voting in person, either on Election Day or at an early voting site. Another 14 percent ultimately did not vote.
Mail voting: According to this research, although “mail voting” accurately describes the way ballots are sent to voters, it is not necessarily the manner in which they are returned.
Roughly two-thirds of those who received ballots in the mail returned them by mail, and just under a third returned the ballots in person to a polling place, early voting center, or drop box.
Pew surveyed the same group of individuals in the months leading up to and immediately after the November 2014 midterm elections.
To read the complete issue brief, “The 2014 Voting Experience,” please click here.
II. Election News This Week
- Voter turnout at a Derry, New Hampshire special election on eight referendum petitions was so high this week that polling places ran out of ballots. “This is about the size of a presidential primary so I’m impressed,” Town Clerk Denise Neale told the Union Leader. Neale told the paper that by 6pm elections officials had run out of the 2,500 ballots ordered for one polling place.
- “We are small but we are many…” A group Killingly, Connecticut residents—six to be exact — marched four miles this week to protest the town’s decision close four polling places and to move the only polling place from the library to the high school. The concern stems from walkability. Many voters who used to walk to their polling place will not be able to walk to the larger, consolidated site.
- The ballots — all the ballots — are in the mail in San Mateo and Yolo counties this week. Both counties are the first two California counties to participate in an all vote-by-mail election under a pilot program authorized by the state Legislature. While more than 75 percent of San Mateo County voters already cast their ballot by mail, officials are hoping that if this election is successful it can prove to be a model for the state. “This will help the Legislature determine the nature of elections in the future,” Mark Church, chief elections officer for San Mateo County said a press conference.
- Benton County, Arkansas is planning for the future and that future includes vote centers. Vote centers became possible in Arkansas with 2013 legislation, but the move to them has been on hold while the state finalizes its decision on which voting technology to use. Once that’s complete, Benton County seems poised to be one of the first county’s to make the switch. "I see it in the future," Russ Anzalone, chair of the Benton County election commission told Arkansas Online. "There are several what-ifs we would have to iron out before we do this. But once we do we'll be able to reduce the number of polling sites. We'll be able to reduce the number of poll workers needed. It will reduce the cost of elections for the county. There are a whole lot of positives."
- Officials in Atlantic County, New Jersey are now rejecting mail-in ballots that were partially filled out by a super PAC. At first the county was accepting the ballots because someone from the super PAC signed off as an assistor, but after consulting with the county’s counsel Clerk Ed McGettigan is not rejecting the ballots.
- Personnel News: Wyoming’s longtime election director Peggy Nighswonger has retired from her role after almost 20 years of running elections for the Cowboy State. According to media reports, Nighswonger left her job due to a “differences in philosophy” with the new secretary of state. Darlene Harris has been appointed to the Schenectady County board of elections. Dale Baker, Hall County, Nebraska election commission recently received the Medallion Award from the National Association of Secretaries of State. Michelle Bolton, Pam Kelley and Sherry Cox have all been reappointed to the Chilton County, Alabama board of registrars. Christine Torno is the new Waterboro, Maine deputy town clerk. Rep. Val Hoyle has thrown her hat into the ring for the Oregon secretary of state’s position.
III. Legislative Updates
Alabama: According to a report in the Birmingham News, Gov. Robert Bentley is seeking legislatives support for a plan that would reopen 31 closed driver’s license offices. Under the plan a bridge loan from the governor’s emergency fund would pay to reopen the offices.
California: Gov. Jerry Brown (D) has signed AB1461 into law. Under the California Motor Voter law, any eligible resident doing business with the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles will be automatically registered to vote.
Brown also signed AB1504 into law that will allowMonterey and Sacramento counties to participate in an all vote-by-mail pilot program which is scheduled to sunset in 2018.
Florida: The City of Palm Beach council has agreed to allow the county to run the city’s elections in 2016 which means the city elections will move from Feb. 2, 2016 to March 15 when the statewide primaries are held.
Illinois: Rep. Mark Batinick R-Plainfield is proposing scaling back the state’s same-day registration law. Under his proposal, voters who wished to register on election day would only be allowed to do so at set locations instead of at the polls.
Also in Illinois, a hearing was held on proposed legislation that would automatically register people to vote when they apply for a driver’s license. Proponents of the bill say it will increase registration numbers and ultimately be a cost savings whereas those opposed, cited voter fraud and the costs of updating the driver’s license computer to system.
Minnesota: While the final decision is up to the voters this November, the mayor and members of the Duluth city council are speaking out in opposition to a ballot initiative that would move the city to ranked choice voting. "Quite frankly, in the city of Duluth with our nonpartisan elections, we don't have a problem. We have good voter participation," Mayor Don Ness said at a rally against the initiative this week.
Wisconsin: Legislation has been introduced that would allow for online voter registration however the bill, which initially had bipartisan support, has run into some trouble after several Democrats have withdrawn their support citing concerns including that it limits registration options for certain voters such as college students, the elderly and low-income residents.
Also in Wisconsin this week, lawmakers heard testimony about the proposed legislation that would restructure the state’s Government Accountability Board and according to many media reports, emotions ran high during the lengthy hearing. The Joint Committee on Campaigns and Elections didn’t take action on the legislation at this time.
IV. Legal Updates
U.S. Supreme Court: The court is scheduled to hear for two elections-related cases on December 8. One case involves Arizona’s Independent Redistricting Commission and the other is Texas’ one person, one vote case.
In other SCOTUS news, the high court has rejected a challenge from minor political parities in California that claim they are excluded from general election ballots because of the state’s top-two primary system.
Indiana: In a hearing this week, U.S. District Judge Sarah Evans Baker appeared critical of the state’s new law that prevents ballot selfies. According to the Indianapolis Star, Baker said one problem with the law is that it justifies impinging on free speech rights by relying on a “whole lot of hypotheticals” and that there isn’t empirical data showing voter fraud is an ongoing problem in Indiana.
Kansas: Under the first cases brought since a new law gave him prosecutorial powers, Secretary of State Kris Kobach is charging two men and one woman with voting-related crimes. The charges include voting without being a lawfully registered Kansas voter. Some are misdemeanors and others felonies.
New Jersey: Hudson County Superior County Judge Peter F. Bariso has ruled that changes to ballot language in a non-binding referendum asking voters if Jersey City elections should move from May to November may be made, if those seeking the changes can afford to pay the $2,500 necessary to make the changes.
V. Tech Thursday
California: Los Angeles County Registrar Dean Logan presented the county’s new voting system at South by Southwest Eco this week. The conference is an offshoot of the South by Southwest Music Festival. "South by Southwest was a great platform for us to come and share this specifically from a design element," Logan told KPCC. "We felt like it was very well-received."
Colorado: Colorado officials are set to test four different voting systems during next month’s general election and Secretary of State Wayne Williams will certify one to be used by all counties beginning in 2016. Each of the four systems will be used in a large and small county. "We're looking at a phased-in approach, so that if a county has a system in place that is working for them, they won't have to replace them," Williams told The Denver Post.
Vermont: Online voter registration is now live in the Granite State. This week the state became the 25th state (and the District of Columbia) to offer online registration to residents. According to Secretary of State Jim Condos, there are about 50,000 Vermonters who are eligible, but not registered. The system will cost the state about $2.7 million over 10 years. In addition to online voter registration, the site can be personalized to provide sample ballots, request absentee ballots and help voters locate their polling place.
Virginia: The Virginia Dept. of Elections has launched its new Citizen Portal that will allow residents of the Commonwealth to apply for absentee ballots online.
VI. Opinions This Week
Alaska: PFD initiative
Arizona: Voter registration
Florida: Election workers
Idaho: Mail delays
Iowa: Ex-felon voting rights
Louisiana: Early voting
Missouri: Voter ID
Montana: Gallatin County
Pennsylvania: Online voter registration
Texas: Voting culture
Washington: King County
Wisconsin: Government Accountability Board
VII. Available Funding/Partnerships
Erase the Line
The Foundation Center
The Democracy Fund and seven other foundations have formed a partnership to create a data visualization platform that maps out how foundations support democracy and political reform in the U.S. The tool, hosted by The Foundation Center, is the only known source of information on how foundations are supporting U.S. democracy and provides direct access to available funding data. The tool enables nonprofits to:
- Identify additional funding sources that are an appropriate fit for their work;
- Learn what funders and peers are doing;
- Better understand the priorities and practices of specific funders; and
- Build effective collaborations.
U.S. Election Assistance Commission Grants
EAC Grants Management Division is responsible for distributing, monitoring, providing technical assistance to states and grantees on the use of funds, and reporting on requirements payments and discretionary grants to improve administration of elections for federal office. The office also negotiates indirect cost rates with grantees and resolves audit findings on the use of HAVA funds.
VIII. Available RFPs/RFIs
Request for Information — E poll books
The Rhode Island Department of Administration/Division of Purchases, on behalf of the Rhode Island Office of the Secretary of State is soliciting responses from qualified vendors to offer electronic poll books for the State of Rhode Island. The Department of State is interested in acquiring electronic poll books for use in the 2016 election cycle beginning with the April 26, 2016 Presidential Preference Primary in order to achieve the following goals:
- Accurate and up-to-date voter rolls on Election Day
- Shorter wait times at polling places on Election Day
- User-friendly check-in process for both voters and poll workers
- Reduced provisional voting
- Reduced printing costs
- An overall more modern check-in system at polling places on Election Day
For the complete Request For Information, please click here.
Request for Proposals — Voting Equipment System
The Rhode Island Department of Administration/Division of Purchases has issued a Request for Proposals/Bid for a voting equipment system. The bid package and information concerning the bid is available here. The Closing Date & Time for this bid is October 30, 2015 at 10 a.m. (Eastern).
IX. Upcoming Events
NACRC Webinar: “Elections officials, meet ERIC, your state voter database’s new best friend!” presented by David Becker, Elections Initiatives division of The Pew Charitable Trusts. ERIC is a sophisticated, secure, multistate data-matching tool that improves the accuracy and efficiency of state voter registration systems. "Born" in 2012, ERIC is owned, managed, and funded by participating states, with assistance from The Pew Charitable Trusts. 11 states and the District of Columbia are currently participating, with more states joining soon. Find out how ERIC helps proactively clean and maintain voter databases, resulting in less returned postage, fewer frustrated voters, and squeaky-clean voter databases. Earn one credit hour for your Certified Public Official certification by attending this webinar. When: Wednesday, Nov. 18, 3pm Eastern. For more information and to register, click here.
NACRC Webinar: “Vote-by-mail is growing. Are you ready?” presented by Neal Kelley, registrar of voters for Orange County, California. In this webinar, we will address the growing vote-by-mail trend and the challenges facing election officials. You'll have the opportunity to hear from your peers and industry experts on best practices that support monitoring, reporting, tracking and auditing the end-to-end vote-by-mail processes. Whether your vote by mail volumes are large or small, every vote counts and integrity, accuracy, and perception are vital. Earn one credit hour for your Certified Public Official certification by attending this webinar. When: Wednesday, Dec. 2 at 2pm Eastern. For more information and to register, click here.
NCSL Capitol Forum — The 2015 Capitol Forum and Meeting of Standing Committees is designed to o help craft the States’ Agenda and be a voice for the states on Lobby Day on Capitol Hill. The Capitol Forum features sessions on important state-federal issues, special tours and briefings for legislative staff, and opportunities to connect with legislative colleagues from across the nation. When: Dec. 8-11. Where: Marriot Wardman Hotel, Washington, D.C. For more information and to register, click here.
NASS Winter Conference: The National Association of Secretaries of State will hold its 2016 Winter Conference at the JW Marriott in Washington, D.C. February 10-13, 2016. This event will bring together government and industry leaders to showcase Secretary of State initiatives and highlight all the latest developments in state and federal policymaking circles. NASS President Kate Brown and other speakers will focus on many important topics and leadership opportunities for members, including a special new member orientation session for newly-elected or appointed Secretaries of State! Where: JW Marriott, Washington, D.C. When: Feb. 10-13, 2016. For more information and to register, click here.
NACo Legislative Conference: The NACo Legislative Conference is held on an annual basis in Washington, DC. This meeting brings over 2,000 elected and appointed county officials from across the country to focus on legislative issues facing county government. Attendees hear from key Administration officials and members of Congress and are offered a myriad of additional educational opportunities addressing current and hot topic issues. A day of lobbying on Capitol Hill the last day rounds out an information-packed conference. Where: Washington, D.C. When: Feb. 20-24, 2016. For more information and to register, click here.
X. Job Postings This Week
Researcher, CIRCLE, Medford, Massachusetts — seeking a full-time Researcher to conduct research and to help manage some of CIRCLE’s research and evaluation projects. Reporting to the Director of CIRCLE and based on the Medford/Somerville Tufts University Campus, the Researcher will work as part of the CIRCLE team on CIRCLE products and activities. The Researcher will also interact with a larger group of colleagues at Tisch College, and will be expected to participate in various college-wide initiatives such as college-wide events and assistance with student program evaluations. For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Senior Associate, Election Initiatives, Pew Trusts, Washington, D.C. — Pew Charitable Trusts is seeking to hire a Senior Associate to work on the Voting Information Project (VIP) initiative. The Senior Associate will be expected to contribute at multiple levels, such as implementing VIP’s state assistance strategies, managing technology vendors, and leading outreach to state partners. This position will require autonomous work and creative thinking in managing relationships with our state partners. The position will be based in Pew’s Washington, DC office and will report to the Election Initiatives Project Director. It is expected that this position is for a term period through June 30, 2017, with the possibility of an extension pending the success of the program, funding sources and board decisions on continued support. Deadline: Open until filled. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Senior Program Analyst, Clark County, Nevada — provides lead direction, training and work review to a programming project team; organized and assigns work, sets priorities, and follows-up and controls project status to ensure coordination and completion of assigned work. Provides input into selection, evaluation, disciplinary and other personnel matters. Gathers and analyzes information regarding customer systems and requirements and develops or modifies automated systems to fulfill these needs. Conducts feasibility studies and develops system, time, equipment and cost requirements. Using computer generated techniques, simulates hardware and software problems, tests and evaluates alternative solutions, and recommends and implements appropriate applications design. Develops program logic and processing steps; codes programs in varied languages. Plans and develops test data to validate new or modified programs; designs input and output forms and documents. Troubleshoots hardware and software problems, as needed, for customers, other agencies and information systems personnel. Writes program documentation and customer procedures and instructions and assists user departments and staff in implementing new or modified programs and applications; tracks and evaluates project and systems progress. Writes utility programs to support and validate adopted systems and programs. Confers with customer department staff regarding assigned functional program areas. Maintains records and prepares periodic and special reports of work performed. Maintains current knowledge of technology and new computer customer applications. Contributes to the efficiency and effectiveness of the unit's service to its customers by offering suggestions and directing or participating as an active member of a work team. Uses standard office equipment in the course of the work; may drive a personal or County motor vehicle or be able to arrange for appropriate transportation in order to travel between various job sites depending upon departments and/or projects assigned. Salary: $58,760-$91,104 annually. Deadline: Open until filled. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.