I. In Focus This Week
Kevin Kennedy bids adieu
Q&A with outgoing Wisconsin GAB director
For 30 years the name Kevin Kennedy has been synonymous with Wisconsin elections.
He joined the Wisconsin State Elections Board in 1979 and became that board’s executive director in 1983. In 2007 he became director and general counsel for the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board.
This week however, Kennedy’s long career in Wisconsin elections comes to an end the the state’s Government Accountability Board is disbanded and two new boards, one to govern elections and one to govern ethics are created.
Before he hits the dusty trail (literally) we sent him some questions for an exit interview. In bocca al lupo Kevin!
I know that your retirement is perhaps bittersweet, but what are your thoughts about your time at the GAB coming to an end?
I am excited to leave in summer, which is beautiful in Wisconsin. I look forward to being able to decompress by savoring the wonderful Wisconsin outdoors. Wisconsin has a great collection of State Parks and the Ice Age Trail provides an incredible opportunity to appreciate the unique geology of Wisconsin.
From a professional standpoint, I regret not being able to complete my 10th presidential election cycle. The past 37 plus years have provided a rare perch from which to observe Wisconsin and national politics. However, I will not miss overseeing the next biennial budget or the transformation of our nonpartisan Board of decision makers into an evenly-divided group of partisan commissioners selected by the legislative leadership.
Fortunately, I leave behind an incredible staff who not only have made me look much better than I am, but continue to care passionately about serving the voters of Wisconsin to ensure accountable, fair and transparent elections.
What would you say has been the biggest change you have seen in elections during your tenure?
Two things really define the changes in elections since April 1, 1979: First, an increased scrutiny of all things related to election administration from voters queuing up in lines to the processes of how we deliver ballots and count votes; Second, the response of the election community to that scrutiny by embracing technology, accountability and transparency to ensure confidence in our electoral process.
Elections are the foundation of our society and we owe it to the voters, the candidates and the myriad of observers to provide a smoothly functioning process that engenders confidence and can be easily audited for accountability.
What was the most difficult time/issue you faced as director of the GAB?
Clearly, it was the “troubles” of 2011-2012 brought to us by the letter “R”! Nine state senate Recalls, a statewide Recount and Redistricting from the “top down” rather than the traditional “bottom up” approach in 2011 - followed by four more state senate Recalls and the Statewide Recalls of the Governor and Lt. Governor in 2012, which included a Recount of one of the senate Recall contests.
All of this was happening in a politically charged atmosphere with more than 100,000 protesters in the capitol building and on the surrounding grounds beginning in February 2011. The G.A.B. was a relatively new agency, having begun operations in January 2008. We were inundated with complaints and questions from all sides relating to campaign finance, ethics and election issues from perspectives that had not been encountered before.
What do you feel was your greatest accomplishment and why?
Successfully navigating the turbulent times of 2011 and 2012. We reviewed over 2 million recall petition signatures; successfully prevailed in all 11 lawsuits challenging our decisions; and certified, conducted and canvassed 15 recall elections while securing public acceptance of the outcome of these challenges. I heard from many, many people that our handling of the recalls and recounts inspired confidence in the integrity of the process, even if they were not happy with the results.
That being said, recruiting and retaining some of the most incredibly talented people to work at the G.A.B. was the foundation of that success.
What will you miss most about working in elections in Wisconsin?
The people! Working for a dedicated non-partisan citizen board of former judges who were trained decision-makers gave me a sounding board for the challenges the agency encountered. The committed, innovative, passionate and highly-professional staff brought inspiration to me on a daily basis and confidence that the work would be done well and timely. Our 1,926 local election partners (1,854 municipal clerks and 72 county clerks) who were on the front line of election administration in Wisconsin. The candidates, state public officials, lobbyists and media that we served brought a sense of purpose to each work day. The 4 million plus voters, three million of whom showed up for presidential elections, was the raison d’etre of working in Wisconsin elections.
As an expert in the field of elections, where do you see the administration of elections headed?
I see increased professionalism among state and local election administrators. I see innovative uses of technology to better serve the voters. I see continued funding challenges with an increasing scarcity of resources available to election administrators.
What’s next for you, besides being able to sleep in on election days?
First and foremost time off with my family, including a two-week trip to Tuscany, coinciding with our August partisan primary. I hope to observe elections abroad and in the U.S. I plan to be engaged in the continued improvement of elections as a consultant
Any parting words of advice for the new Wisconsin Elections Commission?
The voter is paramount. Numbers are essential to evaluating and measuring performance. Be accountable, fair and transparent.
II. Editor's Note
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III. Primary Updates
Voters in Colorado, New York, Oklahoma, Utah, South Carolina and a few other localities hit polling places, vote centers, mailboxes and drop boxes in primary and runoff contests this week.
While voters in New York faced none of the problems they did in the April presidential preference primary, there were pockets of issues.
In Columbia County three names were printed on the ballot for one race when only two names should have been listed.
In New York City, a fire alarm went off at one polling place and there were reports of voters being turned away as well, but the Board of Elections reported they could not look into the problems of the voters being turned away since none of them contacted the BOE. And one race remains still too close to call and will wait on absentee ballots which will be counted after the 4th of July holiday.
Several voters in Tulsa were turned away after precinct officials failed to read the instruction letter correctly which stated that voters in all parties were allowed to vote in the city’s nonpartisan municipal primary. The Tulsa County election board called every polling place to remind them of the elections rules.
Also in Tulsa, although final numbers are still being tallied and analyzed, anecdotally elections officials noted an uptick in young voters coming to the polls on Tuesday.
The Oklahoma Bureau of Investigations is investigating reports of voter registration irregularities in Murray and Garvin counties where it appears that voter registration forms were tampered with.
Voters in 20 counties cast their ballots by mail this election and while the final numbers still have not been tallied, it appears that overall turnout in Utah is up. There were also no reports of long waits for results has had been in the past.
IV. Election News This Week
- Blackman Township, Michigan was recently forced to resend absentee ballots for the August primary after the only candidate for clerk died on June 21. A new candidate was nominated by the Jackson County Democratic Party and the new ballots will include a letter explaining the situation to voters. Jackson County Elections Director Colleen Garety told Michigan Live that systems are in place to prevent any of the small number of ballots already returned from being counted twice.
- He’s no Chad Vader, but President Barak Obama is pretty disarming in a new video he starred in about voter registration. Produced by BuzzFeed and TurboVote, the video features Obama doing things — or more to the point, trying to do — that are more difficult than registering to vote. Anything in the game of Operation, untangling headphones, naming characters in Game of Thrones are just a few of the things that are more difficult than registering to vote.
- Change isn’t always easy. Recently at least five Oregon counties have switched from ballot secrecy envelopes to ballot secrecy sleeves in order to speed up the counting process. Of course, not everyone is happy about this and some voters have expressed their concerns about ballot privacy. But Tim Scott, Multnomah County director of elections said the sleeves are as private as envelopes. Interesting, the sleeves are more expensive than the envelopes, about a half cent each, but Scott said the amount of money saved in time and effort more than makes up for the additional spent on the sleeves.
- I don’t think they will fit in the recycling bin! Lackawanna County, Pennsylvania recently dropped off 525 touchscreen voting machines at the county’s recycling center. The elections office was taking advantage the recycling center’s free electronic recycling month. “I had hoped to find a buyer over the years, but I was unsuccessful,” Director of Elections Marion Medalis told commissioners according to The Times Tribune. “I did reach out to the (Pennsylvania) Department of State and also to other voting machine vendors (hoping) they would have been able to assist me, but nothing. No bites at all.” The machines were only used for three elections before they were decertified in 2007.
- Personnel News: Heather McKim has been hired as the deputy director of the Arkansas board of election commissioners. Srik Gopal has joined the Democracy Fund as vice president of strategy, learning and impact. Ron Turner will replace Kathy Dent as the Sarasota County, Florida supervisor of elections. Vicky Oakes will has been re-elected without opposition as the St. Johns County, Florida supervisor of elections. Hillsborough County, Florida Supervisor of Elections Craig Latimer drew no competition by the close of candidate filing and was essentially re-elected. Jeff Linville has been named to the Trousdale, Tennessee election commission.
V. Legislative Updates
Federal Legislation: According to USA Today, Democrats and civil rights groups are calling on Congress to act on legislation to restore a key provision of the Voting Rights Act. This will be the first presidential election without the pre-clearance provision, which was removed by the Supreme Court in Shelby v Holder and Rep. Terri Sewell D-Alabama has introduced legislation that would restore the provision.
California: SB 450 is sponsored by Secretary of State Alex Padilla and authored by Senators Ben Allen (D-Santa Monica) and Bob Hertzberg (D-Van Nuys) has been approved by the State Assembly Elections and Redistricting Committee. The bill would move California to the Colorado model of elections which mails a ballot to every voter and limits election day voting to vote centers and include countywide ballot drop boxes.
New Jersey: This week, the Senate approved legislation that will allow 17-year-olds, who will be 18 by the time of the general election, to vote in primaries. The bill was approved 31-8. It now heads to the desk of Gov. Chris Christie.
Also in New Jersey, legislation is also headed to Christie’s desk that would automatically register voters who apply for a new or renew their driver’s license.
Wisconsin: The Dane County board of supervisors has approved a resolution to help homeless residents obtain the necessary documents in order to vote. The resolution clarifies what the Job Center—where many of the county’s approximately 3,000 homeless people receive their mail—may accept (packages that include license plates and driver’s licenses). The resolution will also allow residents to list the Jobs Center as their permanent address.
VI. Legal Updates
National: U.S. District Judge Richard J. Leon has rejected a request that would have blocked Alabama, Georgia and Kansas from requesting proof-of-citizenship from those who are using the federal voter registration form. According to The Washington Post, Leon said the civil rights groups failed to establish that they would be “irreparably harmed” by the changes. He said the changes, “although an inconvenience,” in no way preclude “the organizational plaintiffs and their members from conducting their core activities of encouraging civic participation in both state and federal elections.”
Arizona: The Arizona Green Party has sued the state arguing that state law unconstitutionally requires political parties to file their presidential nominating papers more than 90 days before a primary election. Arizona is one of two states that requires parties to submit their nominees by Aug. 1 which is sometimes before party conventions.
Indiana: This week, the Indiana Supreme Court suspended the law license of former secretary of state Charlie White for a period of at least two years. In February 2012, White was convicted of six felony charges including voter fraud. While three of those charges were eventually thrown out, the other three remained.
Nevada: Six losing Republican candidates have filed a legal action in Clark County District Court claiming that there were possible issues with the county’s voting machines during the June 14 primary. According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, the “statements of contest” seek a judicial order requiring that the electronic vote tallies in their races be compared with the back up paper records.
North Carolina: This week, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to review whether Republican lawmakers relied too heavily on race when they redrew the state’s congressional districts. The case will be heard in the fall.
Ohio: Secretary of State Jon Husted has filed an opening brief as part of the state’s appeal of the reinstatement of the “Golden Week” of early voting. In the brief, Husted said that Ohio’s early voting period is one of the most generous in the nation. “Ohio is a national leader in making voting easy. It permits absentee voting beginning 29 days before an election. This is the tenth longest period in the country…Thirteen States, including New York, Michigan, and Kentucky, require voters to vote only on Election Day,” Husted said. “Absentee voting has always been ‘a privilege.’…Only if the State ‘absolutely prohibits’ a voter from voting on Election Day could an absentee-ballot denial burden protected rights…Yet the Democratic Parties did not identify a single person whom Ohio absolutely prohibits from voting.”
Also in Ohio, U.S. District Judge George C. Smith said the state’s process of purging voter rolls of inactive voters is consistent with the Registration Act because voters are never removed from the rolls solely for failure to vote. The ACLU had sued the state saying that Husted was too aggressive in his efforts to clean up voters rolls.
Texas: During a hearing this week, District Judge Ricardo Hinojosa said that while the American Civil Rights Union probably has a right to sue over Starr County’s voter rolls, he indicated that he doesn’t believe the county’s elections administrator is the right person to be named in the suit.
Virginia: Attorney General Mark R. Herring has asked the state Supreme Court to dismiss a lawsuit over Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s restoration of voting rights to 206,000 felons. According to The Richmond Times-Dispatch, in the 51-page dismissal request, the AG’s office said potential error in the rights restoration is not a legal argument against the order.
VII. Tech Thursday
Arizona: According to the Arizona Republic, parts of the Arizona secretary of state’s website are down for “unspecified security-related maintenance.” In addition to campaign finance portions of the site being down, so is the voter registration system, although a spokesman for the secretary’s office said anyone attempting to use the online registration system would have their information queued until the system is up and working again.
Florida: Elections officials in Florida are relying more and more on social media to get the word out to all voters, but specifically the Millennials. "Millennials don't really do anything that is not on their phone," Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher told the Sun Sentinel. "We want to make sure we are targeting all the individuals who need access. ... It is their future and they should participate." The county has recently launched a new Facebook page and posted videos on YouTube.
Georgia: The Floyd County board of elections and voter registration has been revamping the county’s elections website by placing more elections-related content online including campaign finance information, polling locations, election dates and election results.
Washington: Democracy Live — a Snoqualmie-based elections company — was recently invited to demonstrate the company’s web-based voting system to the United Nations. The company was specifically asked to demonstrate how its equipment could enfranchise disabled voters in relation to the UN’s Disability Treaty.
VIII. Opinions This Week
Colorado: Voting adventure
Florida: Young voters
Maine: Ranked choice voting
Maryland: Voting assistance officer
Missouri: Secretary of state race
Nebraska: Ex-felon voting rights
North Dakota: Voter registration
Rhode Island: Elections chief
Virginia: Ex-felon voting rights
West Virginia: Voter ID
Wisconsin: Young voters
IX. Available Funding/Awards
2016 Baxter Award for Election Practitioner
The International Foundation for Electoral Systems' (IFES) Joe C. Baxter Award recognizes the contribution of a professional whose skills, dedication and sacrifices to the field of election administration epitomize the mission of IFES and embody the spirit of former IFES Senior Adviser for Election Administration Joe C. Baxter. Baxter had a firm commitment to the principles of local ownership, transparency and sustainability of electoral administration.
The Baxter Award honors an election practitioner with a proven track record of exceptional dedication to empowering people to have a say in the way they are governed. IFES presents the Baxter Award annually to one individual at a ceremony typically held in concurrence with IFES' U.S. Election Program or Chief of Party Conference.
The recipient of the Baxter Award must agree to receive the award personally at IFES' ceremony.
X. Upcoming Events
National Association of Secretaries of State Summer Conference — NASS will hold its annual summer meeting in Nashville this year. Agenda programming will include: policy discussions on important issues facing secretaries of state, idea-sharing panels highlighting best practices in state programming, sessions designed for professional development and networking, induction of national officers for the 2016-2017 cycle and excursions to explore Tennessee and learn more about the culture and state government. When: July 14-17. Where: Nashville, Tennessee. For more information and to register, click here.
National Association of State Election Directors Summer Conference — the 2016 NASED summer conference will be held in Nashville, Tennessee. Details about the event are still being hammered out, so be sure to check the website often. When: July 14-17. Where: Nashville, Tennessee. For more information, click here.
National Association of Counties Annual Conference — NACo’s Annual Conference and Exposition provides an opportunity for all county leaders and staff to learn, network and guide the direction of the association. The 2016 Annual Conference is hosted by Los Angeles County. The conference will be held at the Long Beach Convention Center. Attending the Annual Conference provides member county officials with the opportunity to vote on NACo’s policies related to federal legislation and regulation; elect officers; network with colleagues; learn about innovative county programs; learn more about issues impacting counties across the country; and view products and services from participating companies and exhibitors. When: July 22-25. Where: Long Beach, California. For more information and to register, click here.
National Conference of State Legislators Summer Meeting — the 2016 Legislative Summit will be held in Chicago. The elections portion will include: Politics 2016: State Election Preview, Evaluating Elections, What to Do If You’ve Got a Disputed Election, Technology: Improving Elections One Bit or Byte at a Time? And Helping our Military Vote. When: Aug. 8-11. Where: Chicago. For more information and to register, click here.
Election Center Annual Conference— Conference attendees will be inspired and energized as we head into the nal stretch of the Presidential Election year. We will share substantive elections issues including crucial information from federal agencies to local election of cials sharing practical information for day to day election administration operations. This is the also the time to honor and celebrate the winners of the Election Center’s acclaimed Professional Practices Papers’ Program. You will not only hear the winning presentations but you will take home all of the innovative programs and ideas that were submitted by your colleagues in other jurisdictions around the country. When: Aug. 16-20. Where: Philadelphia. For more information and to register, click here.
XI. Job Postings This Week
Associate Director, Virginia Public Access Project, Richmond, Virginia— make a difference with a nonprofit organization that plays a high-profile role bringing transparency to Virginia politics. We’re looking for someone with a strong interest in politics, but because we’re fiercely nonpartisan, you must be willing to check your personal views at the door. This is a multi-faceted position in an organization that operates in a data-rich environment. You must be comfortable moving between communications, nonprofit fundraising and data analysis. We’re looking for someone who is bright, curious, eager to learn, analytical and motivated by a desire to make a difference. Deadline: July 8. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Customer Relations Manager, Dominion Voting Systems, San Leandro, California — Dominion Voting Systems is seeking a highly motivated and enthusiastic, Customer Relations Manager, to be based in our San Leandro, California office! This position will be responsible for supporting customers by partnering with the sales and operations teams to exceed customer needs and requirements; addressing and resolving customer concerns; and, identifying ways to implement preventive measures for continuous process improvement. Salary: Negotiable base + bonus target & benefits. Deadline: Open until filled. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Customer Relations Manager, New Jersey (Remote) — Dominion Voting Systems is seeking a highly motivated and enthusiastic Customer Relations Manager to work remotely and be based in New Jersey! This position will be responsible for supporting customers by partnering with the sales and operations teams to exceed customer needs and requirements; address and resolve customer concerns; and, identify ways to implement preventive measures for continuous process improvement. Salary: Negotiable base + bonus target & benefits. Deadline: Open until filled. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Deputy Registrar, Manassas, Virginia — conducts local, state and federal elections and performs the duties of the General Registrar in his or her absence. Executes and supervises the recruitment, appointment, oaths, official policies, training and payroll of election officials who work the polls. Processes voter registration applications and administers absentee voting both in person and by mail, email, and fax. Creates Voter Photo IDs; programs electronic poll books for precinct use and trains election officials on their operation. Produces reports and statistics as assigned; creates official advertisements for upcoming elections and registration deadlines; prepares City election results for news media and the public. Assists the General Registrar and Electoral Board in ascertaining election results. Salary: $55,574. Deadline: Open until filled. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Policy and Compliance Supervisor, Virginia Department of Elections — the Department of Elections (ELECT) is seeking a qualified individual to manage a diverse staff and projects and oversees the work of the policy analysts to ensure uniformity in the practices and proceedings and legality and purity in all elections. Serve as liaison to the State Board of Elections, ensuring Board promulgated policies and regulations are properly implemented and maintained. Coordinate the work associated with the legislative session; ensuring the accuracy of and timely submission of analysis/documents, and the implementation of enacted legislation. Salary: $42,614-$75,000. Deadline: June 30. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Product Specialist, Denver, Colorado — Dominion Voting Systems is seeking a tech-savvy and passionate, Product Specialist, to be based in our downtown Denver, Colorado office. This role is responsible for responsible for the installation, operation, repair, and maintenance of all Dominion Voting Systems elections products; providing elections support services and customer training; and interfacing directly with customers, co-workers and election officials. Salary: Negotiable base + bonus target & benefits. Deadline: Open until filled. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Program Officer, Civic Engagement and Government, Ford Foundation —program Officer will particularly inform work on expanding democratic participation—promoting increased and greater representation in elections and shape agendas to reflect the public interest. In collaboration with the Director and team members, the Program Officer will develop a body of work primarily focused on promoting voting rights and other aspects of inclusive non-partisan democratic practice in the United States, that address underlying structural drivers and rules of the game, and seek longer term, more durable change (rather than tactical gains in particular electoral cycles). Opportunities to be addressed may include promoting government’s role in registering voters, strategic litigation, increasing participation and debate in primaries, and developing pathways that connect voting with issues that people care about. The Program Officer will also contribute to CEG efforts that seek to democratize the role of money in politics; and develop, test and demonstrate models of powerful civic engagement with government that build strategic civic capability, achieve policy outcomes, help make government more responsive, and over time contribute to increased trust in government. The Program Officer will work under the direct supervision of the Director of Civic Engagement and Government, and be part of the CEG team. The Program Officer will assess the CEG field, identify key ecosystems and work with various actors and other funders to analyze challenges and opportunities, seek rigorous evidence about program effectiveness, identify levers of change, and play a leading role in shaping specific grant activities. The Program Officer will share substantive knowledge with Foundation colleagues; collaborate broadly across CEG and other thematic areas; serve as a ‘connector’ of grantees, promote thoughtful learning; and work with practitioners, government officials, scholars, NGOs, other donors and corporate sector leaders on issue of common concern to leverage positive impact toward common goals. Deadline: July 8. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Project Manager, Hart InterCivic — project managers at Hart InterCivic are highly motivated “self-starters” who are enthusiastic about providing exceptional customer service. Working with other members of the Professional Services and Operations teams, the project manager directs activity, solves problems and develops lasting and strong relationships with our customers. Hart InterCivic’s unique and industry known culture of innovation, transparency and customer-centric focus creates an environment where team members will continually grow and be challenged to develop their careers. Deadline: Open until filled. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Proposal Writer, Clear Ballot, Boston— newly created proposal writer position will be part of a dedicated team producing competitive responses to State and County government RFPs. Responsibilities and Tasks: Write engaging content about technical subjects; format final documents using the company style sheet; collaborate with a team of subject matter experts; edit proposal drafts; respond to deadlines and move quickly; contribute to a database of response text, figures and technical descriptions and benefit from professional growth opportunities. Deadline: Open until filled. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
RMA Support Consultant, Hart InterCivic — an RMA Support Consultant responds to all return material authorization requests from Hart InterCivic internal and external customers for all Hart Voting System products. The person in this position must possess the ability to communicate effectively with customers, suppliers, or employees. Essential responsibilities include: Acquires a functional level of knowledge for all Hart InterCivic products and their modules; manages and organizes information and documentation for customer issues; applies advanced knowledge of computer software tools to problem-solving situations; knowledge of standard ticket tracking software is a must; in-depth knowledge of standard inventory warehouse processes and procedures; stays informed on support methodologies; keeps up with revisions to any relevant materials (Agile ECOs and effectivity); works cooperatively with Hart InterCivic field personnel to insure customer satisfaction; complies with, and keeps up with changes in, Hart InterCivic policies, procedures and regulations; other duties as assigned. Deadline: Opening until filled. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Technical Writer, Clear Ballot, Boston — our small and growing team of technical communicators has an immediate need for a new member with intermediate-to-senior experience. Documentation is key to success in the election systems domain. Deliverables include tasks and supporting information, and, highly scrutinized specifications and plans. All products and their documentation are certified by federal or state agencies; evaluation is performed by demanding government laboratories. Once products are certified, documentation supports the work of users under pressure whose skills range the technical spectrum. Key Responsibilities: Work collaboratively with fellow communicators and the Engineering, Quality Assurance, Technical Support, Compliance/Certification, Business Development, and Executive Management functions; develop deep understanding of the federal regulations governing voting systems, and, the ability to interpret issues raised by delegated federal and state reviewers in partnership with Compliance/Certification; meet governmental standards and write appropriately for target audiences: voters, poll workers, election officials and their technical staff, and voting system test laboratories; quickly grasp complex technical concepts and make them easily understandable through prose and graphics; deal gracefully with multitasking and constant change; create and modify single-sourced, conditionalized, reusable content in MadCap Flare; adhere and contribute to working styles and standards, information architecture, and documentation production process; and respond to documentation tickets. Deadline: Open until filled. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.