I. In Focus This Week
Editor’s Note: Due to the Thanksgiving holiday, electionlineWeekly will not publish next Thursday, November 26 and electionlineToday will not publish on November 26 and 27. Whether you’re celebrating Thanksgiving, Friendsgiving or something in between, we hope you have a safe and happy holiday weekend.
Report: Managing Polling Place Resources
Existing tools might help prepare for November 2016
Kenan Sahin Distinguished Professor of Political Science, MIT
We are now in the one-year countdown toward the 2016 presidential election. With the election in mind, the Caltech/MIT Voting Technology Project (VTP) has just released a new report about managing polling place resources, entitled “Managing Polling Place Resources.” It can be downloaded from the VTP website.
This newly issued report serves as a companion to a set of Web-based tools that the VTP developed and posted at the request of the bipartisan Presidential Commission on Election Administration (PCEA), to facilitate the recommendation that local jurisdictions “develop models and tools to assist them in effectively allocating resources across polling places.”
The new VTP report takes several new steps in the effort to spread the word about the usefulness of applying queuing theory to improve polling place practices. It contains facts about where polling place lines appeared in 2012, updating some information from the 2014 election. It then proceeds to explain how queuing theory — which is the science that addresses how to handle lines in settings like supermarkets amusement parks — can be applied to polling places. (There is also a reading list, for those who want to dive in and learn more.)
Finally, the new VTP report uses data from two actual local jurisdictions to demonstrate how the Web-based tools can be used to analyze whether the allocation of resources (such as voting booths and poll books) are adequate to meet Election Day demand.
In the process of writing this report, we have also updated two of the online tools, based on feedback from users over the past year. The updates have not only refreshed the user interfaces, they have also made it easier to analyze hundreds of precincts simultaneously.
In the coming weeks, we will also be adding some simple video tutorials to help make these tools even more useful.
With the one-year countdown to Election Day 2016 already underway, some might say that it is too late to make use of such analytical tools to make a difference in the next presidential election. However, my experience is that most election administrators are always looking for ways to improve the experience for voters; thus the publication of a report that highlights how existing tools might help them prepare for November 2016 comes at the right time for those election administrators who are looking to fine-tune their plans for next year.
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.
III. Legislative Updates
Alaska: Advocates circulating petitions to support the PFD Voter Registration ballot initiative said this week that they are halfway to the goal of getting the initiative on the 2016 ballot. The group must submit 28,545 valid signatures to get on the ballot and at this point have more than 16,000 signatures.
Maine: The secretary of state’s office has certified an citizen-lead initiative to put ranked-choice voting before the voters in 2016. If approved by the voters, the new system would be in place by 2018.
Michigan: Rep. Robert Wittenberg (D-Oak Park) has introduced a resolution calling the U.S. Congress to declare Election Day a national holiday. “I am trying to encourage people and get more people out to the polls,” Wittenberg said. “According to reports, the 2014 general election had the lowest turnout in 72 years. We have holidays that commemorate things from the past, and that is great, but voting and Election Day have a huge impact on our future, so that is important. A lot of people work multiple jobs and it is tough to get to the polls, so we want to make it easier.”
Utah: The Legislatures Government Operations Interim Committee has unanimously approved a bill that would require county clerks to provide daily updates on any votes they could between election night and official canvass, one to two weeks later.
Wisconsin: The General Assembly has approved legislation that would eliminate the state’s nonpartisan Government Accountability Board. The bill moves next to the desk of Gov. Scott Walker (R) who is expected to sign it.
IV. Legal Updates
Alabama: Alabama and the Department of Justice have entered an agreement to resolve claims that the state failed to provide voter registration opportunities when people renewed or applied for a new driver’s license. According to Alabama.com, a 15-page MOU between DOJ and the state outlines a series of actions the state will take to come into compliance with Sec. 5 of NVRA.
Arizona: The City of Tucson is expected to ask the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals to rehear a decision by a three-judge panel of the court that ruled the city’s election system as unconstitutional.
Kansas: The attorneys who filed a lawsuit against Kansas’ proof-of-citizenship law are now seek to make it a class action lawsuit.
Mississippi: The Public Interest Legal Fund has sued the Noxubee County election commission claiming that the commission has more registered voters on the county’s voter rolls than there are living residents in the county. According to Y’all Politics, the suit alleges a violation of Sec. 8 of NVRA.
Nevada: Officials in Reno, Sparks and Carson City are attempting to figure out deal with the recent decision by a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals that ruled Tucson, Arizona’s election system unconstitutional. The three Nevada cities have the same election system.
North Carolina: The North Carolina NAACP filed court papers late last week that they plan to seek a preliminary injunction against the state’s voter ID law. This will be the second time that the organization has sought an injunction against the law.
Ohio: This week lawyers for the state’s Democrats argued before a federal judge that he should strike down recent changes made to the state’s voter laws because they burden voters. Lawyers for the state argue that the changes are minor and that the state provides voters may opportunities to cast a ballot.
Virginia: The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear arguments over whether Virginia’s Legislature unlawfully considered race when drawing congressional districts. The case claims black voters were packed into one Democratic-held district.
V. Tech Thursday
Colorado: A special shout out to the Denver Elections Division for receiving the International Electoral Award from the International Centre for Parliamentary Studies for BallotTrace, a ballot-tracking system. The office was also recognized for Outstanding Achievement in Accessibility for iApp that allows voters in nursing homes to use accessible tablets as ballot-marking devices.
Maryland: According to The Washington Post, technology officials in the state have expressed their concerns over the state’s ability to implement the new paper-based voting system for the 2016 election cycle. A Department of Information Technology memo listed seven areas of concern with implementing the new system including incomplete testing, lack of security verification, problems with both hardware and software and an inability to tabulate votes.
Also in Maryland, a Baltimore entrepreneur has created an app — BmoreVot.es — to give employers the information they need to help employees register to vote, remind them of key deadlines and election dates, learn about the candidates and issues and how Baltimore’s primary works.
VI. Opinions This Week
Alaska: PFD initiative
Georgia: Voting process
Indiana: Elkhart County
Kentucky: Young voters
Michigan: No-excuse absentee voting
Minnesota: Ranked choice voting
New York: Niagara County
Texas: Homeless voters
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. Upcoming Events
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.
Foundation Center Webinar: Eric Marshall, executive director at Funders’ Committee for Civic Participation, Janet Camarena, director of transparency initiatives at Foundation Center and Nina Sporer, manager of strategic philanthropy at Foundation Center will discuss how Foundation Funding for U.S. Democracy can support you in your work. During the webinar—aimed at funders and grantseeking nonprofits—you’ll learn how to broaden your knowledge of the funding landscape, identify additional funding sources, and understand where your philanthropic dollars can have the most impact using this tool. When: Wednesday, Dec. 2 1pm-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.
IX. Job Postings This Week
Elections Manager, Placer County, California — the County ofPlacer, California is seeking a highly skilled professional for the position of Recording-Elections Manager (Elections Manager). The position serves the citizens of Placer County through active supervision of the county’s elections needs and interacts with elected officials, school and special district personnel, county department heads and managers, the media and the public. The manager provides the necessary day-to-day management and administration of the division in an efficient and transparent manner, focused on customer service and in compliance with all applicable laws, codes and regulations. The Elections Manager recommends priorities for division resources, serves as a member of the department’s management team, exercises direct supervision over supervisory, professional, technical, clerical and temporary personnel and reports directly to the Assistant Recorder-Registrar of Voters. This position has management responsibility for planning, organizing and directing the day-to-day operations of all elections program areas, including voter registration and outreach, candidate and campaign services, polls and precincts coordination and vote-by-mail processing. Salary: $42.13-$51.21/hourly. Deadline: Open until filled. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Project Coordinator (Temporary), Future of California Elections, Los Angeles — The Future of California Elections (FoCE), a project of Community Partners, seeks a temporary full-time Project Coordinator to serve as a California-based staff person responsible for administration and program support of all the activities of the Future of California collaboration, a coalition of election officials, civil rights organizations and reform advocates dedicated to an open, transparent and well-functioning system of democracy in California. The position is based in Los Angeles from January 11, 2016 – March 4, 2016. The project coordinator will accomplish the following duties: 2016 conference planning, project management/member relations, policy and other duties as specified. Salary: $14-$17/hourly based on experience. 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.
Software Engineer, Center for Technology and Civic Life, Chicago or Washington, D.C. — We’re looking for a Software Engineer with a passion for civic engagement to help us continue to provide relevant, local civic data to people across the country. The Software Engineer will be the technical lead on the execution of CTCL’s civic data programs. The Software Engineer will, in collaboration with the Director of Civic Data, be responsible for the maintenance and expansion of CTCL’s existing codebase that standardizes and publishes the datasets created by the Civic Data team. Additionally, the Software Engineer will be responsible the technical implementation for new civic datasets, from database construction to publication.In addition, the Software Engineer may be asked to consult on or assist with the creation of technical assets for CTCL’s programs more broadly, with the understanding that any such responsibilities will be of secondary priority to the execution of civic data work. This position reports to the Director of Civic Data. Salary: $65,000-$70,000. 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.