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III. Election News This Week
- And then there were five. This week Connecticut Secretary of State Denise Merrill announced that work to streamline the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles will also allow the DMV to automatically register people to vote. It will take two years to fully implement, but will not require legislation, which can be a lengthy process. "This is a monumental event enhancing voting rights and opportunity in Connecticut, and a continuation of our rigorous efforts to bring new voters onto the rolls,” Merrill said in a statement. “This agreement also puts Connecticut alongside a vanguard of states that are leading the nation in the movement to register every eligible citizen. This is a proud day for our state, and I wish to thank Commissioner Bzdyra and his staff for their commitment." Needless to say, there is grumbling in the Legislature.
- Montana Secretary of State Linda McCulloch announced that 13 early voting offices have been established on Indian reservations in nine counties in advance of the June 7 primary. “For many rural and low-income tribal members, the distance for such a visit can be expensive and a serious burden,” McCulloch told the Great Falls Tribune. “These voting offices help solve this problem.”
- New Mexico Auditor Tim Keller has released a report saying that the secretary of state’s office has chronically under-budgeted for elections for a decade. In his report, Keller said that under-budgeting has led to the need for $25 million in emergency loans, grants and special appropriations. Current Secretary of State Brad Winter told the Albuquerque Journal that the problem is not under-budgeting, but that the office is underfunded.
- Finding a large, secure and most importantly dry location to store voting equipment isn’t always easy and things have gotten downright testy in Wicomico County, Maryland where the county executive and the public library board are bickering over the storage of the county’s voting machines. According to the Salisbury Independent, County Executive Bob Culver wants to store the county’s 34 voting machines in the library’s basement, but a portion of that area is used for programming for an entrepreneurial center. “He can take us to court. We will continue to refuse,” Rick Keenan, who heads the library’s board, told the paper. “This is just an unconscionable appropriation of space.”
- In the ongoing battle over online voter registration in two West Virginia counties, this week the American Civil Liberties Union filed a FOIA request asking the clerks of Kanawha and Cabell counties to provide, among other things, all policies and procedures or internal communications regarding the number of voters who tried to vote but were unable to cast a ballot on May 10 or during early voting; information regarding the number of voters who tried to register online to vote and information regarding how many provisional ballots were cast for the primary election.
- I scream! You scream! We all scream for…voting rights ice cream? This week, Ben & Jerry’s co-founders Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield were in North Carolina to unveil a new flavor of ice cream—Empower Mint. The flavor is part of the company’s Democracy is in your Hands campaign that includes scoop shops across the country installing voter registration kiosks. Cohen and Greenfield chose North Carolina as the launching point for the ice cream because of the changes to the state’s voting laws. "Since our country's inception, many brave Americans have battled to expand voting rights and voter access for African-Americans, for women and young people, but the recent passage of restrictive policies in North Carolina takes our country backwards," Cohen said in a statement.
- Personnel News: Anne Marie Bausch has resigned from her position as the director of elections and general registrar for the City of Manassas, Virginia. She will be replaced by Susan Reed, currently the deputy registrar. Mike Haas, current administrator of the elections division of the Government Accountability Board in Wisconsin will be the first administrator of the new Elections Commission pending confirmation by the state Legislaure. Tom Wilson, Clark County, Ohio board of elections deputy director has resigned after just two months on the job. Ryan Ronco is the new Placer County, California clerk-recorder-registrar of voters.