I. In Focus This Week
Polling place security
Keeping voters and poll staff safe in a changing world
By M. Mindy Moretti
The San Bernardino County, California Elections Office has a set of basic safety procedures in place for polling places, early voting sites and the office. The procedures instruct employees what to do when there is a fire, earthquake, power outage, medical emergency or terrorism.
Sadly, following the murder of 14 county employees last week at a holiday party, those basic procedures are about to change.
“We are planning on working with our county sheriff to review and significantly modify those procedures,” said Michael Scarpello, registrar of voters.
Scarpello said the county had already planned to modify some of their safety procedures, but last week’s tragic events have made those changes an even higher priority.
Regardless of the reason, polling place security has always been a priority for elections officials, however in light of the recent events in San Bernardino County and in Sandy Hook nearly three years ago, how they go about that has taken on new meaning and in some respects new urgency.
Following Sandy Hook, many school districts worked to have polling places removed from school buildings for the safety of students and staff.
Tammy Patrick who served on the Presidential Commission on Election Administration (PCEA)said the Commission repeatedly heard about schools no longer wanting to serve as polling places and so the PCEA recommended that while schools should still be used as polling places, that Election Day should be a school holiday or in-service day for teachers.
The PCEA didn’t really address broader safety issues.
“Safety at the polls itself was not within the purview of the President's Executive Order and really wasn't within our scope,” Patrick said.
However, when she was an elections official in Arizona, Patrick said poll workers dealt with everything from being robbed to being threatened with a gun.
“It is critical that poll workers understand how to handle situations that may arise, but that we don't paint a picture of this being a common occurrence,” Patrick said. “The worse thing that we could do as a profession is create an environment that buys into the notion that we must be fearful in exercising the franchise.”
Wendy Weiser with the Brennan Center for Justice agreed with Patrick that it’s important to secure the polls without disenfranchising anyone.
“We certainly agree that it is a laudable goal to work to improve polling place safety, but in taking steps to do so, it is critical that election officials not inadvertently discourage voting or create procedures that can lead to long lines at the polls. I am confident that a thoughtful effort--that consults best practices on line and polling place management (such as those referenced in the 2014 report of the Presidential Commission on Election Administration) and avoids known practices that can discourage participation (such as visible police patrols or racial profiling)--can lead to improved security without hindering the voting process,” Wiser said. “But it is critical that these considerations be addressed before any new security measures are put in place.”
Patrick said that in preparing for Election Day it is important that election officials have contingency plans in place that consider interruption of voting for a variety of reasons.
“I would recommend that election officials ensure that they are well versed in the statutes that govern ability to carry firearms into the polls, that election officials have communication lines established with law enforcement, have protocols for reaction to potentially volatile situations, and ensure that poll workers are provided with the tools that they need to maintain a safe polling place,” Patrick said.
For the 2012 presidential election, Fairfax County, Virginia provided all poll workers with an extensive polling place operations booklet that provided a good guide for how to deal with just about any situation.
“…[A]ll safety procedures were all done in house by the excellent Fairfax elections staff. Some, such as the alternative polling places, and some of the EO training materials, went back at least to the year following the sniper attacks in D.C.; some, such as the EDay move into the alternative emergency operations center, and the backup location for that, were done for 2012, just in recognition that being in the DC area, something could occur on EDay and we probably wouldn't have time to plan everything on the fly,” said Cameron Quinn, former director of elections for Fairfax County.
Quinn added that in some cases, other Fairfax County staff such as emergency operations and police assisted in planning, drafting or reviewing staff-prepared materials
"EAC is working to update its poll worker recruitment and training information as well as polling place management best practices, that will certainly be a topic for us to address with these updates," said EAC Commissioner Mathew Masterson.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has an incredible amount of information available on its website for how to prepare for an active shooter-type situation. While all the information on the page wouldn’t necessarily apply to elections/polling places, the department’s Active Shooter Preparedness page is worth a look for elections officials. There is information about training programs, an independent study course, a webinar and a series of resource materials.
Securing the polling places is just one aspect of Election Day preparedness though. Assuring voters that the polls are safe place to visit is another. Patrick said that while it’s always important to be cognizant of your surroundings and be watchful, voters shouldn’t let fear govern their actions. That being said, they should be aware of their voting options if they are concerned.
Scarpello and his staff are hard at work both ensuring the safety of the polls and assuring voters of their safety.
“We will do everything in our power to make voting safe at the polls on Election Day,” Scarpello said. “However, if a voter is uncomfortable coming to the polls on that day, I would encourage them to consider voting early at one of our early voting sites, or to request a mail ballot and vote from home.”
One of those killed during the San Bernardino County terrorist attack was Aurora Godoy, 26. Before working for the county Department of Environmental Health, Godoy worked intermittently for the Elections Office as a temporary staff member from early 2012 through the end of 2014.
According to Scarpello, during her tenure Godoy was assigned to work on a variety of tasks in several different departments, but her favorite activity was assisting candidates with candidate filing and campaign finance documents.
“Those that worked with Aurora remember her for her smile, enthusiasm and friendliness.” Scarpello said. “She was always the first to offer a helping hand in any area. Aurora made many friends at the Elections Office and will be greatly missed.”
Godoy is survived by her husband James and her almost two-year-old son Alexander.
(Editor’s Note from Michael Scarpello, registrar of voters for San Bernardino County, California: Since the tragic events that took place here in San Bernardino last week, our office has received many messages from colleagues from around the State and around the country expressing their concerns for our County employees. All of us here in San Bernardino appreciate those thoughts and prayers and would like to thank those colleagues for thinking of us during these trying times.)
II. Election News This Week
- Officials with the U.S. Department of Transportation will investigate whether or not Alabama violated civil rights laws when the state cut back motor vehicle services in predominantly black counties. According to USA Today, DOT officials wrote to the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency, citing concerns over the reduction in services. The agency’s Civil Rights Department said it will investigate whether the change violates Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which bans discrimination based on race, color and national origin in programs that receive federal funds.
- New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner plans to replicate the font used on the ballots that were used in the first primary 100 years ago. “We’ll have a font that looks similar, if not the same,” Deputy Secretary of State David Scanlan told the Union Leader. “The ballot will have a special look to it.” The state plans to print 765,000 ballots. The Legislature and governor authorized Gardner to place a special heading on the ballot to commemorate the centennial.
- Wyoming Secretary of State Ed Murray found himself on the hot seat this week when members of the Joint Appropriations Committee questioned why Murray wanted to spend $135, 000 for salary and benefits to hire a full-time, at-will contract employee to deal with the office’s communications. In his testimony, Murray cited that many other secretary of states have spokes people dealing with the press and the office’s online presence. “When I go to these conferences, entire sessions are set aside for the public communications, media relations aspect,” he testified.
- Oy vey! New York Assemblyman Dov Hikind sent a letter to the board of elections urging the board to include voter registration materials in Yiddish. In his letter, Hikind described the lack of Yiddish materials as “a shanda—a disgrace—and totally unacceptable.”
- This week, a nonpartisan group called Generation Citizen launched an initiative called Vote16USA — an effort to lower the voting age to 16 for local contests to, according to The New York Times, spur civic engagement by younger Americans. “Given the general malaise that faces this country’s political process right now, this is a way to get young people actually excited,” Scott Warren, executive director of Generation Citizen told the paper. Generation Citizen hopes to raise $1 million in 2016 to finance its efforts. The group has already received $230,000.
- Personnel News: Manitowoc County Clerk Jamie Aulik has announced his resignation, effective Jan. 1, 2016. Aulik was elected clerk in 2007. Kimble Medley, former deputy elections supervisor has filed to run for Flagler County, Florida supervisor of elections. Dionna Lews and Andrew Richardson have been appointed to the D.C. Board of Elections and Stephen Danzansky has been reappointed. Freddie Oakley, chief deputy clerk/recorder for more than 30 years is stepping down to join the campaign of Hillary Clinton. Oakley and Clinton attended Yale together. Jackie Hyland, a former television anchor is the new public information officer for the North Carolina State Board of Elections. Shelby County, Tennessee Election Administrator Richard Holden is resigning at the end of December. Tony Wobler has stepped down from the Putnam County, Ohio board of elections in order to run for office.
III. Research and Report Summaries
Engaging New Voters: The Impact of Nonprofit Voter Outreach on Client and Community Turnout – Nonprofit VOTE, December 2015: This study evaluates nonprofits and community based organizations and their efforts to increase voting among their constituents in the 2014 midterm election. 28,881 individuals were tracked who registered to vote or signed a pledge to vote at 129 nonprofits in nine states. The report finds that these people turned out to vote at higher rates than other registered voters where the study was conducted, including across all demographic groups.
IV. Legislative Updates
Alaska: The Anchorage Assembly has voted to support conducting the 2017 city election by mail. Under the proposal every eligible voter would receive a ballot in the mail and then have the opportunity to return them by mail or in drop boxes located throughout the city. There would also be a handful of accessible vote centers to replace the 122 polling places.
Michigan: A proposal to eliminate straight-ticket voting is inching closer to approval after a substitute version of the bill included $5M in funding for new voting equipment and the bill was tied to HB 4724 which allows people to vote without an excuse. The bill has been approved by the full House and now moves to the Senate. The fate of the legislation is in question though because while the Senate approved an earlier version of the straight-ticket legislation, members, such as Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof (R-West Olive) are not fans of expanded absentee voting.
Missouri: Sen. Will Kraus (R-Lee’s Summit) has pre-filed legislation that would give the secretary of state’s office the authority to prosecute voter fraud and would also allow the secretary of state to write probable cause statements in potential voter fraud cases. Kraus is a 2016 candidate for secretary of state.
V. Legal Updates
U.S. Supreme Court: This week the court will hear arguments about why legislative districts in Arizona have unequal population and whether that matters legally. Plaintiffs argue that the states Independent Redistricting Commission acted illegally when it drew the lines in 2011.
Also this week, the Court will hear arguments in the Texas one person one vote case. In this case, the plaintiffs argue that Congressional districts should be based on voting-eligible population and not the total population.
Ohio: Disability Rights Ohio has filed a lawsuit against Secretary of State Jon Husted alleging that Husted has denied “individuals with disabilities an equal opportunity to vote absentee privately and independently and to access its voter services website.”
U.S. Virgin Islands: The St. Thomas-St. John election board voted to arrest anyone on the district’s 2012 board that contributed to the alleged disappearance of 3,000 ballots from the 2012 general election. “We are consistently hearing about 3,000 votes that are out there and I think that it’s time for the 2012 Board of Election members to be held accountable,” Board member Ivy Moses told the St. Croix Source. Despite the vote, Board Chairman Arturo Washington, Jr. said it is unlikely that any previous member of the board would be arrested.
VI. Opinions This Week
Alaska: Voting principles
Arkansas: Special election
Colorado: Ballot access
Florida: Election dates
Maine: Ranked choice voting
New Jersey: Turnout
North Carolina: Voter ID
Ohio: Voter purge
Tennessee: Shelby County
Texas: Instant runoff voting
VII. Available Funding/Partnerships
The Pluribus Project and New Media Ventures
The Pluribus Project - a special initiative with the Aspen Institute dedicated to building the political power of the many - and New Media Ventures - an expert in impact investing and catalyzing innovation in civic technology - are joining forces for this Open Call in order to tackle the big and urgent challenge of fixing our democracy so that our nation’s government better represents the American people. Specifically, they are seeking efforts that incentivize more genuine representation in the republic so it comes closer to truly being of the people, by the people, and for the people. Have a project we should consider? Learn more and apply now!
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
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
Assistant Registrar, Richmond, Virginia— the purpose of the class is to assist citizens in registering to vote and to assist in the election process by providing clerical assistance and customer service. The class is responsible for maintaining accurate voter registration records and for providing election information and services to candidates and the general public. The class works within a general outline of work to be performed according to set procedures under direct supervision. Salary: $24,108-$39,076. Deadline: December 20. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Clerk-Recorder Services Technician, Contra Costa County, California — technical positions are assigned to one of the specialized units of the Clerk-Recorder Division: Recording, Clerk Services, Imaging/Indexing and Archive/Warehouse Services. In addition, Clerk-Recorder Services Technician positions perform technical and complex data entry and clerical support activities associated with the duties and responsibilities of the Clerk-Recorder Division; perform database management in one or more database systems; and perform related work as required. The ideal candidate will possess knowledge and understanding of the County Clerk and Recorder functions as well as how the units interrelate. Working knowledge of the principles and practices of work organization and the ability to apply them in planning, coordinating and completing work activities to meet specific deadlines, is a must. Candidate must be able to operate personal computers and peripheral equipment, and have knowledge of spreadsheet applications, word processing and database management programs; codes and laws relating to clerk and recorder functions, as well as the ability to independently apply them. Excellent interpersonal skills are required, as the incumbent will interface with staff at all levels, as well as county officials and members of the public. Perform other related work as required. Salary: $3,424-$4,162, monthly. Deadline: December 18. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
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.
Election Services Technician, Contra Costa County, California — current vacant positions will be assigned to one of the specialized units of the Elections Department: Candidate and Voter Services; Voter Registration Services and File Maintenance; Absentee Services/Training and Procedures; Polling Place/Poll Worker Recruitment/Precinct Services; G.I.S. and Mapping Services; and Warehouse and Equipment Services. This classification is responsible for performing complex and technical support activities associated with the preparation for and the conducting of elections; database management in one or more database systems; and related work as required. Elections Services Technicians have responsibility for the unit’s day-to-day activities, and are responsible to insure that proper procedures are followed during the preparation and conducting of each election. The ideal candidate shall possess strong technical and administrative skills, knowledge and understanding of the entire election process cycle, and the interrelationship within the Elections Department’s units. Candidates must have the ability to operate personal computers and peripheral equipment, including knowledge of spreadsheet, word processing and database management programs; knowledge of the Elections Code and laws relating to the conduct of elections including registration of voters, voting procedures, district boundaries and proper retention, disposition and disposal of voting materials and records and the ability to independently apply them. Excellent interpersonal skills are required, as incumbents will interface with staff at all levels as well as county officials and the general public. Salary: $3,424-$4,162. Deadline: December 18. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Hardware Engineer III, Toronto, Ontario — Dominion Voting Systems is seeking a highly motivated and enthusiastic Hardware Engineer III for our downtown Toronto office. The key responsibilities for this role will be to work as a lead member of the mechanical engineering team helping to develop new products from concept to production, as well as supporting production runs and any field requirements for existing and legacy products. Salary: $70k base + benefits (negotiable). 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.
Sales Director, Everyone Counts— Everyone Counts is transforming the $31 billion public and private sector voting/elections industry from purpose-built, antiquated hardware and error-prone manual paper processes to a Software as a Service (SaaS) model. Every democracy in the world, and every organization that has members who vote, needs Everyone Counts solutions. Support the often lengthy buying process from prospecting to closing of deals valued at $200k - $10M+. This involves education, support in developing RFPs and competently working with buyers in understanding the benefits of switching to our solution vs. competitive offerings or the status quo. Our sales are achieved through teamwork internally and externally. Build a valuable and convertible pipeline. You will expertly segment the market, qualify for relevance and size while prioritizing for timing and likelihood of winning. Your relentless drive to understand the pursuit context and details will allow us to make good decisions. Become expert at the “Election 2.0 pitch approach” at all relevant levels of a buyer’s constituencies. Adopt a modern data-driven lead generation and sales approach. You employ an effective and state-of-the-art sales methodology. Using CRM tools and working in an open and challenging team setting greases your engine to consistently meet and exceed the set targets. 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.