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II. Election News This Week
- Benton County, Arkansas has been given the final OK to move to 46 vote centers in 2016 instead of the 68 traditional polling places the county used in 2014. The plan was approved by the secretary of state’s office in less than two hours. "In a way I am surprised," John Brown Jr., a member of the county Election Commission told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. "I thought there'd be some questions about various and sundry things. But I think the election staff in Little Rock believes we have the ability to make this work." Washington County will also be using vote centers for the March primary.
- In other vote center news, one of Texas’ largest voting jurisdictions — Harris County — is considering making the move to vote centers in the coming years. According to the Houston Chronicle, four of the five members of the county’s commissioners court support the idea. Hopkins County, has applied to the state to make vote centers a permanent part of the county’s election protocol. County Clerk Debbie Shirley said the county was successfully able to move from 21 precinct-based polling places to 14 vote centers. And Lee County is set to hold a public hearing to discuss becoming part of the state’s pilot program.
- Outgoing Democratic Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear has signed an executive order restoring the voting rights to thousands of non-violent offenders who have served their sentences. According to The Associated Press, the new order automatically restores voting rights to convicted felons who meet certain criteria upon their release. Those who have already been released can fill out a form on the state Department of Corrections' website.
- Cities and towns throughout Massachusetts will be splitting about $2.76 million to help cover the cost of early voting in 2016. Next year will be the first year that local elections offices are required to provide early voting before the presidential and state primaries as well as the November general election.
- The U.S. Postal Service in Ohio has agreed to develop a policy for postmarking absentee ballots after about 900 ballots were discounted due to the lack of a postmark. “We will be talking to the Ohio Secretary of State to reach a mutual understanding of acceptable postmarks for absentee ballots and develop a uniform policy addressing all concerns to help prevent this from happening again,” a postal spokesman said in a statement.
- According to El Paso County, Colorado Chief Deputy Clerk Ryan Parsell, a clerical error lead to accused Planned Parenthood shooting suspect Robert Lewis Dean, Jr. to be listed as female instead of male on his voter registration. "The Clerk and Recorder's Office processes over 500,000 transactions a year," Parsell told The Gazette. "Mistakes are going to be made, and it is a reminder to us of the important job that we do to see that a mistake made by us has had national implications."
- Congratulations to the Escambia County, Florida supervisor of elections office for receiving Recognition for Outstanding Achievement from the International Centre for Parliamentary Studies for the office’s work with the Gulf Coast Citizen Diplomacy Council and its international visitors.
- Personnel News: Bill Kresse as been appointed to the Chicago Board of Elections as an elections commissioner. Citing health reasons, Josh Howard, chair of the North Carolina board of elections announced that he is stepping down after 2 1/2 years in the role. Luke Eggers is resigning as the Watauga County, North Carolina board of elections chair because his aunt is running for a seat as a judge. Rhea County, Tennessee Elections Administrator Tom Davis will serve as the grand marshal for the annual holiday parade. Bill Cochran is the new registrar and elections superintendent for Stephens County, Georgia.