I. In Focus This Week
The new version of TurboVote is (almost) here!
Best practices of past will combine with different tech approach
By Kathryn Peters
Co-founder & COO, Democracy Works
There are a lot of moving parts to elections in our country. At Democracy Works, we are constantly innovating to try and make every part of those elections work better.
Many of you have probably heard of TurboVote, our flagship program that makes it easier for voters to register to vote and receive election reminders. We’re excited to tell you that TurboVote is getting smarter!
Starting early next year, we will roll out an entirely new version of TurboVote. It combines the best lessons we’ve learned from five years of helping voters to register, request absentee ballots, and remember to get out and vote. And we’re doing so using a different technological approach, one that will make it easier to remix our data and services to reach even more voters.
So what will change? Everything – and nothing.
We’re still focused on making it easier for an individual voter to navigate the elections process. But, for one example, when TurboVote first launched, only one state had online voter registration (OVR). Now, 26 states and the District of Columbia offer OVR to residents, and we’re working to improve how we integrate with those sites.
We focused on helping pass voters along to their states’ websites in as few steps as possible, and to integrate with state systems directly where we can (thanks, California!). By streamlining our workflow around OVR, we’re keeping our process as simple as possible and helping our users take advantage of improvements their state election officials are making.
We’re also focused on hyper-local elections. We’ve adopted Open Civic Division Identifiers (OCD-ID) for defining political districts and are integrating with Google’s Civic Info API, which means we can monitor and remind voters about elections that affect even a single city council ward, or a mosquito abatement district. Because local democracy deserves our love (and participation!).
Under the hood, we’re rebuilding TurboVote not as a single application, but as a series of smaller components: notifications, voter registration, election dates and deadlines, and absentee ballot requests are all defined via application programming interfaces (APIs), which allows us to make changes to TurboVote more easily, and for other applications to use our data and services. This opens up new ways for us to interact with partners, voters, and elections officials.
These less-visible improvements will make TurboVote smarter and more responsive to the growing needs of our partners, particularly in government. We view product development as a conversation – and we’ve been listening. Standalone election notifications may make it easier for local election offices to reach their voters via text messages and email. A voter-registration API can help even non-civic technology companies promote voter engagement to their users and members. And in opening up these building blocks to others, we look forward to seeing them used in ways we haven’t even imagined yet.
Even before launch, we’re busy collaborating. In addition to the Civic Info API (and the Voting Information Project), we also teamed up with the Center for Civic Design and e.thePeople for the Knight News Challenge. We’ll be coming together to add e.thePeople voter guides to TurboVote reminders starting in 2016. These voter guides will give easy-to-understand breakdowns of candidates and issues on the ballot to equip voters with the most accurate and recent information available.
We will begin seeing these improvements early next year and we’re excited to share them with you in their completed state.
For now, we’d like to give you an early preview of that simple, fast, OVR integration at work as it will look in the new version of TurboVote.
II. Election News This Week
- This week Montana Secretary of State Linda McCulloch directed counties that include Indian reservations to establish satellite elections offices. According to the Great Falls Tribune, the counties must analyze whether a satellite office is needed and tribes must request an office to have it established. “The success of these election offices on reservations will depend upon cooperation between the counties and tribes, and from my conversations with both tribal leaders and election administrators, I am confident that the collaboration will be successful and that voting access will be increased where it is needed,” she said.
- In other tribal/satellite voting news, South Dakota this week said it plans to offer more in-person absentee voting sites in 2016 in counties that include Indian reservations. Two counties hosted absentee voting centers in 2014 and the plan is to expand that in 2016. The program will be funded through HAVA grant money.
- Elections officials in Pima County, Arizona will be hand-counting ballots in three races during the November election in an effort to ensure that the county’s new ballot tabulation machines are working properly.
- The Montgomery County, Maryland Board of Elections has backed down from a plan to relocate several early voting sites to areas that many complained were less populous and more GOP-friendly. The BOE, which is now GOP-controlled, had sought to move several popular early voting sites but ran into opposition from residents, politicians and the county’s Democratic majority county council.
- In the first two weeks of the purge, Kansas has eliminated almost 6,700 voters from the suspended voters list. That’s about 18 percent of the 33,000 voters on the original list.
- This could certainly be confusing. Although the Cumberland County, New Jersey clerk’s office is responsible for mailing out the county’s vote-by-mail ballots, the clerk’s office has not been designated as a polling location for the upcoming election, therefore if voters wish to return their ballots in person, they cannot return them to the clerk’s office.
- Because there is never a dull moment in elections, this week residents in Montgomery County, Texas raised concerns about an ethically questionable, albeit legal voting practice. According to KTRK, a development wants to create a Municipal District, but do so they need voters and there are currently no voters on the property in question so the development company is installing mobile homes and having people move in and register to vote.
Personnel News: West Haven, ConnecticutDeputy Democratic Registrar of Voters Mary-Tina Peckingham has been replaced by Vyktoria Ullah. By a 3-2 vote, the North Carolina State Board of Elections has removed Malcolm Butner from his position as the Rowan County elections chairman following racist statements Butner posted on his personal social media pages. Mindy Romero, founder and director of the California Civic Engagement Project and Shasta County, California Registrar of voters Cathy Darling Allen have joined the board of the California Voter Foundation. Dennis Richardson, a former state representative is considering running for Oregon secretary of state. The Bulletin and other Oregon papers have said the upcoming secretary of state race will be the race to watch in 2016.
III. Legislative Update
Federal Legislation: Hakeem Jeffries (D-New York) has introduced legislation that will give released prisoners who have served their time the right to vote.
Indiana: A request for more than $234,000 in additional funding to purchase voting machines for the 2016 election cycle in Vigo County did not move forward because it did not receive a second at a council committee meeting.
Maine: Advocates hoping to put a ballot initiative on the 2016 ballot that would move Maine to a ranked choice voting system turned in almost 70,000 signatures this week.
Wisconsin: The Assembly approved legislation that would disband the state’s nonpartisan elections board and replace it with two boards, both partisan, that would oversee campaign finance and election administration separately. The bill next moves to the Senate although according to The Associated Press, the Republicans who control the House do not have the votes necessary for the legislation to pass the Senate.
IV. Legal Update
Colorado: Yuma County District Attorney Brittny Lewton has said her office will not pursue charges against a man who first voted in Colorado and then several days later voted in Kansas. Kansas has filed 10 criminal charges against the voter.
Florida: A grand jury has been called to investigate claims that Eatonville Mayor Anthony Grant rigged an election. Former Mayor Bruce Mount claims that Grant bribed people to vote for him with their absentee ballots.
Georgia: Fayette County and the NAACP have entered mediation in an attempt to settle a voting rights lawsuit dating to 2011. The national, state and county chapters of the NAACP sued the Fayette Board of Commissioners and Board of Education. They allege Fayette's at-large voting method is racially discriminatory and that district voting would be more equitable.
Indiana: A federal judge has barred Indiana from enforcing its new ballot selfie law. According to the Associated Press, U.S. District Judge Sarah Evans Baker issues a preliminary injunction against the state. In her 20-page ruling, Barker invoked U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis’ 1928 warning that “the greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well-meaning but without understanding.”
Kansas: District Judge Douglas Roth has set a trial date for March 22 in the suit between Local Certified Quality Engineer Beth Clarkson and Sedgwick County. Clarkson is suing the county over how it tabulates ballots and is seeking to determine if there is election fraud in the county or if there is something with the county’s electronic voting machines.
Wisconsin: This week, Federal District Judge Lynn Adelman rejected the American Civil Liberties Union’s lawsuit to expand the types of photo IDs Wisconsin residents are allowed to show at the polls. “To be sure, Wisconsin probably could have included veteran’s ID on the list … without significantly increasing its administrative burden,” Adelman said in his opinion. “However … the state had to draw the line between acceptable and unacceptable forms of ID somewhere.”
V. Tech Thursday
North Carolina: Early voters in Cleveland County are getting the opportunity to test the county’s new ballot-on-demand system, Balotar. The county is hoping that the test—only during early voting this year—will prove successful and help the county save money in elections to come. “Typically, we order ballots, and we have to order 100 percent of the ballots,” Clifton Philbeck, deputy director of the county BOE told the Shelby Star. “With a low turnout, that’s a lot of waste. It wastes a lot of paper.”
Oregon: This week, Harney County joined a growing list of counties signing up with Clear Ballot for the company’s ClearVote next generation voting system.Clear Ballot technology is designed to bring a new class of tools to election officials with greater accuracy and transparency. Clear Ballot also provides smaller jurisdictions like Harney County a scalable and affordable solution, a solution that has been lacking in the industry prior to Clear Ballot.Dag Robinson, Harney County Clerk said, “Before seeing Clear Ballot, I was seriously considering reverting back to hand counting ballots. There simply wasn’t an affordable option available for small jurisdictions.”
West Virginia: In a meeting before the State Elections Commission, Secretary of State Natalie Tennant said that the state’s three-week old online voter registration system has been “quite successful” and glitch-free since it launched.
VI. Opinions This Week
Arizona: Election dates
Florida: Ex-felon voting rights
Indiana: Ballot selfie
Maryland: Early voting
New Jersey: Democracy Act
North Carolina: Voter fraud
Wyoming: Secretary of state
VII. Available RFIs/RFPs
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).
VIII. 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.
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
Election Systems & Database Manager, Alaska Division of Elections, Juneau — position is responsible for the oversight and analysis of various systems, system components and programs necessary to support a statewide voter registration system and other systems supporting election management activities. This position has primary responsibility for serving as the technical resource for statewide implementation of various systems and programs and will perform a full range of activities required to support the division’s various databases, systems and system software used for voter registration and election management. Salary: $6,431 per month. Deadline: October 26. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
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.
Registrar of Voters, Yavapai County, Arizona— Provide professional level project planning in all functions related to the conduct of voting activities for the County. Sound judgment is required in this position to ensure the County's compliance with all applicable laws that govern voter registration. Ability to perform administrative work of considerable difficulty in the management and strategic planning of the operations of the Voter Registration Department while interpreting and complying with state and federal laws. This position works 40 hours/week except during the early voting and post-election periods, during which extensive UNPAID additional hours will be necessary including weekends and holidays. Salary: $51,289-$69,822. Deadline: November 3. Application: 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.
State Certification Manager, ES&S, Omaha, Nebraska — primary responsibility to manage all certification related activities for assigned states. Work directly with state election officials and ES&S internal organizations including: Sales, Compliance Management, Product Management, Development, Quality Assurance, and Operations and Legal departments. Ensure ES&S’s election system products and services comply with each state’s respective regulatory policy. Deadline: November 6. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.