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II. Election News This Week
- Following the final canvas, the city of Orem, Utah reported a nearly 33 percent voter turnout for the 2015 General Election, which was the first general election under the city’s new vote-by-mail system. That is a 100 percent voter increase from the last non-mayoral general election that had a 16.4 percent voter turnout.
- The Summit County, Ohio board of elections had to throw out 900 absentee ballots because when they arrived in the elections office for counting, they did not contain a postmark. The ballots account for 9 percent of the absentee ballots received which is the highest number since 2008. According to The Akron Beacon, Summit County Elections Board members think the increase in late ballots without postmarks was caused by the closure of Akron’s mail processing center earlier this year, which resulted in mail sent locally going to Cleveland before coming back to Akron. They also question whether the U.S. Postal Service is doing a good enough job of making sure absentee ballots are postmarked in a timely manner.
- Speaking of turnout, a nonpartisan coalition in Pennsylvania has launched campaign to push through a series of voting reforms aimed at increasing turnout in the Commonwealth. The reforms include vote-by-mail, early voting and same-day voter registration. The coalition is made up 30 groups including the League of Women Voters, Common Cause, and SeniorLAW Center.
- Sarasota County, Florida will purchase a new voting system from ES&S for $1.65 million. The county elected not to use a sealed-bid procurement process. While some advocates balked at the procurement process, Supervisor of Elections Kathy Dent said time was of the essence. “You do not implement a new voting system overnight,” Dent told The Observer. “We could not take a risk going into a major presidential election year not knowing how much of the equipment was going to break down.”
- Move over Ayn Rand, the residents of Lynchburg, Virginia have something to say. According to the town’s registrar office, there were 2,828 write-in votes during the recent November election. It took the elections office about 12 hours of additional work to go through all the write-ins. "The electoral board and the registrar spend an extraordinary amount of time going through every vote. Whether it's valid or invalid we have to account for all of them. We really like to ask Lynchburg voters when they vote will they vote respectfully and thoughtfully to help make our job easier," Lynchburg Registrar, Karen Patterson told WSET.
- Personnel News: Kevin Smith is no longer a member of the Lake County, Indiana elections board. Ken Ortiz, the chief of staff in the New Mexico secretary of state’s office has decided to stay on the job rather than accepting a position with the Public Regulation Commission. Longtime Quincy, Massachusetts Clerk Joe Shea will retire in early 2016 after 29 years on the job.
- In Memoriam: Jacqueline A. Berrien, former chair of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission died November 9. She was 53. In addition to heading up the EEOC, Berrien was a civil rights lawyer. She began her legal career with the Voting Rights Project of the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights. In addition to her husband of 28 years, survivors include her brother.