I. In Focus This Week
Colorado voters in eight counties tested new systems
Committee to meet this week to hear feedback
Colorado Secretary of State’s Office
Here’s to the eight Colorado county clerks, their staffs and the residents in those jurisdictions who tested new voting equipment in the November election as part of a pilot program.
The aim was to help Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams figure out which system might be best for the state. Colorado currently uses a patchwork of different systems and some machines are beyond repair.
“It’s a great opportunity to try different systems and rather than just buying them, we’re trying a new kind of common-sense approach of try before you buy,” Williams said.
One large county and one mid-sized county were paired together to test machines from four different companies: Clear Ballot, Dominion Voting Systems, ES&S or Hart InterCivic. Elections officials were effusive in their praise of the voting machine firms and the support their employees provided.
A committee that has been studying the issue of new voting machines for Colorado is scheduled to meet at 9 a.m. Friday, Nov. 13, at the Colorado Secretary of State’s office. The four voting systems providers are coming in to answer questions from the Pilot Election Review Committee and make a pitch for their systems.
On hand to witness the pilot counties on Tuesday were California Secretary of State Alex Padilla, who wants to adopt portions of Colorado’s voting system, and Matthew Masterson, a commissioner with the U.S. Election Assistance Commission.
A look at the pilot counties and the company equipment that was tested:
Clear Ballot’s system was tested in Adams and Gilpin counties. In Adams County, Clerk Stan Martin and Elections Administrator and Chief Deputy Clerk Christi Coburn ran the program and in Gilpin County Clerk Colleen Stewart and Elections Administrator/Chief Deputy Gail Maxwell were in charge.
“Clear Ballot offers a offer a complete voting system,” Stewart said. “The ballot creation is easy to learn. The ADA accessible new generation touch screens were very popular with Gilpin County voters young and old. The system is affordable, easy to learn, reliable and eliminated a lot of stress during the election cycle.
“Gilpin County voters love the system and so does staff.”
Dominion Voting Systems
Denver Clerk Deb Johnson with assistance from Amber McReynolds, director of elections and Jimmy Flanagan, senior voting system analyst piloted the Dominion Voting Systems system in November as well as in May and June.
“The Dominion system is a state-of-the-art voting system that is efficient, accessible, transparent and secure for both voters and election officials,” McReynolds said. “We are proud to implement it as a pilot county so that we could provide an enhanced customer experience for our voters. The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive from Denver voters and our team members and we have seen tremendous efficiencies and cost savings that also benefit our taxpayers.”
Mesa County Clerk Shelia Reiner and Elections Director Amanda Polson ran the Dominion pilot in their county.
“The Dominion Voting System was easy to understand in programming and ballot layout, the central scanners and electronic adjudication proved to be extremely efficient,” Reiner said. “The in-person voting solution was intuitive and easy to navigate. Dominion Voting earned Mesa County’s stamp of approval!”
Jefferson County Clerk Faye Griffin and Director of Elections Carrie Kellogg were responsible for the ES&S test in their county as were Teller County Clerk Krystal Brown, Chief Deputy Stephanie Wise and Election Deputy Janice Hellman in their county.
“Overall, our election judges, staff and voters liked the equipment,” Kellogg said. “Our election judges commented on the ease of set-up, administration and operation of the ballot marking device and tabulation scanners. The feedback that we received from voters was overwhelming positive. We also received a few suggestions for improvements that will be evaluated by our staff and the vendor representatives.”
The Hart Intercivic pilot was conducted in Douglas and Garfield counties. In Douglas County, Clerk Merlin Klotz and Elections Manager Sheri Davis were in charge and in Garfield County it was Clerk Jean Alberico, Chief Deputy Edna Place, Election Supervisor Pam Bunn and Election Clerk Maria Gornick.
“The Garfield County election staff was impressed with the Hart Verity System,” Aberico said. “We have used the Hart Voting system since 2006 and the new Verity Voting System is an exponential upgrade. The entire process from building of the ballot, creating ballots, scanning ballots, resolving ballots and tabulation of results flows in a more logical and intuitive manner. The Verity Touch Writer and Verity Scan are much easier to transport, set-up, and use by both election judges and voters than the eSlates and eScans.
“The scanning of the ballots on the batch scanner went a lot quicker with far fewer stoppages and hang-ups. The in-person voters who used the Touch Writers were pleased with how simple it was to vote using that device.”
(Lynn Bartels worked as a journalist for 35 years, including 16 years at the Rocky Mountain News and six years at The Denver Post, before retiring in 2015 and going to work as the spokeswoman for the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office.)
II. Election News This Week
- Following up on a story we reported on in April 2013, commissioners in Stark County, Ohio have approved an insurance settlement that will pay to replace 1,394 voting machines that were damaged when the county board of elections’ roof collapsed during heavy rains. According to the Akron Beacon Journal, the county will get $691771.64 to cover the machines as well as other odds and ends like wages for employees who moved the damaged machines.
- Ties in elections seem to happen at least once an election cycle, but this time around seven small towns in North Carolina had races end up in ties. State law dictates that the races be decided by lot and most towns will use a coin toss to make the decision, but in Garland, tied commission candidates chose colored pens.
- The Advocate in Louisiana has an interesting story this week about pretrial inmates rarely take advantage of their voting rights — which they have until they are convicted. Correctional officials and advocates cite several factors including the transient nature of the jail population and the difficulties in registering and/or requesting an absentee ballot. “They’re not really all that focused on voting,” Rob Reardon, corrections director for the Lafayette Parish Sheriff’s Office told The Advocate. “What they really want is to get out. To go through the process of absentee voting, it’s not super complicated, but it does require a significant amount of effort.” Charlene Meaux Menard, Lafayette Parish’s registrar of voters, said she’s never counted a ballot from the parish jail in the 10 years she’s held her post. “I think they really don’t know that they’re eligible to vote,” Menard told the paper.
- The North Carolina Board of Elections is getting ready for 2016 by releasing a video explaining the state’s photo ID law. The video shows a mix of people explaining the types of IDs necessary to vote.
- The Daily Show had something to say about the American voting system and we’ll withhold commentary so you can watch for yourself, but hats off to Edgardo Cortes, commissioner of the Virginia Department of Elections; Joe Rozell, director of elections for Oakland County, Michigan and Lawrence Norden, deputy director of the Brennan Center for keeping a straight face.
- Composer Philip Glass and playwright Christopher Hampton are reviving their 2007 opera about the Civil War, but according to The New York Times, the collaborators are viewing it through the eyes of a post Shelby v. Holder world. “We were writing it [the original Appomattox] in 2005 and 6,” Glass told the Times. “But it never occurred to me that the Supreme Court would gut the Voting Rights Act.” In the rewrite, the second half of the opera is dedicated to civil and voting rights. The opera will premier at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. this weekend.
- It’s not an “I Voted” sticker, but electionline can certainly get behind the expansion of the “Honor a Vet with Your Vote” program in Iowa. Under the expanded program, any voter making a tribute to a veteran, either online or by mailing in a postcard will receive a Honor A Veteran vote lapel pin. The veteran being honored will also receive a pin.
- Personnel News: Former New Mexico Secretary of State Rebecca D. Vigil has submitted her name for consideration to fill the vacancy left by the resignation of Dianna Duran. Other applicants include Sandra Jeff and Janice Arnold-Jones, both former legislators, as we previously mentioned Bernalillo County Clerk Maggie Toulouse Oliver and former Albuquerque Clerk Amy Bailey. The Modesto City Council has issued a written reprimand and docked the pay of City Clerk Stephanie Lopez because officials say she changed the election paperwork that caused a ballot measure in the Nov. 3 election not to reach all of the voters. Effective May 31, 2016, Christina White will be the new director of the Miami-Dade County, Florida elections department. She is replacing Penny Townsley who is retiring. Teresa Apgar a former account executive at The News-Journal has joined the race for Volusia County, Florida supervisor of elections race.
III. Legislative Updates
Arkansas: Benton County is one step closer to moving to a vote center system. This week the Legislative Committee voted to send a proposal for vote centers to the Committee of the Whole for discussion and possible vote.
Florida: Under SB 736 and HB 523 county elections supervisors would be required to give the Florida Department of State bi-annual lists of purged voters. Under the bill, purged voters would be listed by political party.
Michigan: Legislation to allow for no-excuse absentee voting seems stalled in the Legislature. A hearing was held last month, but there has been no movement since.
Legislation to eliminate straight-ticket voting has been approved by the Senate and now moves to the House.
New Jersey: Gov. Chris Christie (R) vetoed the Democracy Act which would have expanded early voting and created automatic voter registration among other things. In vetoing the bill, Christie called it “political gamesmanship” by the state’s Democrats. Democrats have vowed to wipe out the veto.
Wisconsin: In a session that lasted into the early morning hours on Saturday, the Senate approved legislation that will dissolve the state’s nonpartisan Government Accountability Board. The Senate approved the legislation 18-14. The bill now goes back to the Assembly for final passage.
IV. Legal Updates
Arizona: In a 2-1 decision, a 3-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Tucson’s election system unconstitutionally favors Democrats. The system, a ward-only primary election and an at-large general, was described as unusual and odd by members of the court.
Kansas: Secretary of State Kris Kobach has asked a judge to dismiss the lawsuit against the state’s proof-of-citizenship law arguing that the plaintiffs no longer have grounds to sue since Kobach has approved their voter registration.
North Carolina: In new court filings, the North Carolina NAACP said that the state’s photo ID law is still discriminatory even though legislation was approved this summer to ease restrictions.
Texas: A three-judge federal district court in Texas has ruled that the state does not need to complete redistricting in advance of the 2016 election cycle. "It would be extremely difficult to implement new interim plans without tremendous interruption to the 2016 election schedule," the court wrote, according to ABC News.
U.S. Virgin Islands: Acting Attorney General Claude Walker issued a formal opinion this week telling the St. Croix board of elections that voters must be allowed to feed their own ballots into voting machines in the upcoming 2016 elections.
U.S. Territories: Six former residents of Guam, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands filed suit in federal court in Illinois this week seeking voting rights for Americans living in a U.S. territory and the District of Columbia to vote for president (D.C. already has this right) and voting representation in Congress. "One year out from the 2016 presidential election, this lawsuit highlights the injustice and absurdity that in 2015 Americans are still being disenfranchised because of where they live," said Neil Weare, president and founder of We the People.
V. Opinions This Week
Alabama: Election reform
Colorado: Logan County
Georgia: Voting irregularities
Idaho: Polling places
Illinois: Open primary
Kansas: Kris Kobach
Kentucky: Voter ID
Maine: Ranked choice voting
Minnesota: Ranked choice voting
Montana: Missoula elections
New Jersey: Voting laws
New York: Polling places
Oregon: Voter registration
VI. 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.
VII. 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.
VIII. Job Postings This Week
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.
Voter Services, Program Evaluation and Compliance Manager, Montgomery County, Maryland — the Montgomery County Board of Elections is hiring for a senior management position, responsible for overseeing voter services in one of the 50 largest election jurisdictions in the country. This position coordinates the work of subordinate managers who are responsible for providing a variety of different services to voters, including voter registration and absentee voting. This position is responsible for ensuring compliance with county, state and federal laws and regulations, conducting monthly audits required by the State of Maryland, and ensuring overall customer service quality and efficiency. This position will also be the point of contact with dataMontgomery and CountyStat. Deadline: November 28. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.