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III. Election News This Week
- Fallout from the botched primary April 5 continued this week when the St. Louis County board of election commissioners suspended Democratic director Eric Fey for two weeks without pay. According to St. Louis Public Radio, the commission also suspended Elections Coordinator Laura Goebel, but did not sanction Republican director Gary Furh. “The employees who work here are very dedicated,” Commissioner John Maupin told KWMU. “And they are trying to do the best job they can. So whatever we do is only to try to enhance their ability to do their jobs. And the only job they have to make sure people can vote.”
- It’s not quite the Hatfields and McCoys, but there is definitely trouble brewing in Wild and Wonderful West Virginia. Recently, we reported that of the state’s 55 counties, only two, Kanawha and Cabell were refusing to allow new voters to register using the state’s new online voter registration system. Secretary of State Natalie Tennant said the clerks in those counties were uniformed about how the system works. Now, the clerks are fighting back and they’ve got the support of the West Virginia County Clerk’s Association. The Clerk’s Association sent Tennant a letter accusing her of making “antagonistic and incorrect” statements. According to the Register Herald, Donald Evans, president of the association and Monroe County clerk said clerks were only give one afternoon to test the new OVR system and provide feedback. "We are not anti-change, but we want to be included in the process of change and its implementation," Evans wrote in his letter. Tennant responded to the letter in part by saying: "I am befuddled by the assertions in the letter that there was no communication with or inclusion of the county clerks when specifically talking about the implementation of the Online Voter Registration (OVR) system. I value the collective knowledge and experience that the County Clerks have to offer. And I have a record of asking for clerks to share it."
- Same-day voter registration has been controversial in Illinois, but numbers from Will County prove that despite the controversy — clerks are unhappy about the costs and added lines it creates — it’s wildly popular with residents. According to the Chicago Tribune, 5,778 residents in Will County took advantage of same day registration during the March primary. The recent primary was the first time the county offered same day registration at all 300 of its precincts. Same day registration "is a good thing, but we don't want anyone to be turned away (by the long wait)," Judy Wiedmeyer, Will County's chief deputy clerk told the paper. "At least we didn't run out of ballots, like some other counties."
- A recent investigation by the Los Angeles Times found that as many as 73 percent of California voters registered for the American Independent Party actually thought they were registered as independents. Some advocates and elections officials are blaming the design of the state’s voter registration forms. According to the paper, the analysis of registration records from AIP members finds a higher percentage of forms that were mailed in rather than completed at a state or local office. "When they use the word 'independent,' I want to clarify it," Cathy Darling Allen, Shasta County's registrar of voters told the paper. She and elections officials in other counties said voters routinely ask in-person questions about how to navigate the various choices. But for those who fill the cards out on their own, there's no help.
- She didn’t win a new car, or a trip to a tropical island, but 18-year-old Katarina Gruber from Pierce County, Washington is getting a lot of attention for being Washington’s 4 millionth registered voter. Although she registered back in March, shortly after her birthday, she was recently recognized by state and county leaders. “In the elections community, this is a pretty big deal,” Secretary of State Kim Wyman said at the event. Gruber told The News Tribune that registering shortly after her birthday was a no-brainer. "Growing up, you have your parents, and they’re involved in voting and they’re talking about it, and you hear it on the news all the time. So honestly, in my point of view, I couldn’t really ignore it,” Gruber told the paper.
- Go Chad go! Dane County, Wisconsin’s delightful Chad Vader video explaining the state’s new voter ID law is in the running for best municipal public service announcement. Engaging Local Government Leaders, an organization with the mission of connecting, communicating and educating people about important topics in local government, is hosting a contest for the most creative short video made by a local government. This is one time electionline can get behind the old adage…vote early, vote often!
- Personnel News: Tina Gardner, Wilton, Connecticut’s Republican registrar of voters for almost 20 years announced that she will not seek re-election. Vermont Secretary of State Jim Condos announced that he will seek re-election as secretary of state. Mark Thomsen has been appointed to the new Wisconsin elections board, which will replace the existing Government Accountability Board. Thomsen serves as president of the board of Citizen Action of Wisconsin and is the former president of the Wisconsin Association for Justice. Joseph Shea, Quincy, Massachusetts city clerk for 24 years retired last week. Kyle Jensson, Black Hawk County, Iowa election manager since 1987 will retire this week. Clara T. Harelik has been appointed to the Union County, New Jersey board of elections. Hats off to Walt Latham, York County, Virginia director of elections who was recently awarded the 2016 Jensen-Hager Best Practices Award by the Virginia Electoral Board. And good luck to Brevard County, Florida Supervisor of Elections Lori Scott who will participate in a charity fundraiser called Dancing for the Space Coast. Scott, who has been dancing since high school is well-known for her community service and outreach.