I. In Focus This Week
ACE is the place
State revamps Accountability in Colorado Elections website
At 14,400 feet, Mount Elbert — part of the Sawatch Mountain Range — is the highest peak in Colorado. If you add up and pile up all the data the Colorado secretary of state’s office collects each election cycle, it could rival Mount Elbert for height.
The state has compiled much of that information into ACE — Accountability in Colorado Elections — a website that allows anyone to view and translate the data sets into “actionable insights.”
“We collect so much information every day,” explained Judd Choate, director of elections for the Department of State. “We just needed to figure out a way to give that information to the people who may find it interesting. This is an effort to bridge the gap between what is officially available and the ease with which you can actually see it.”
ACE first launched in 2014 by the secretary of state’s office and recently the state revamped how it is presented with slick maps and easier to digest information.
“The original homepage was kind of the last thing we designed,” Choate explained. “We worked so much on the data pages and the underlying data, the homepage and launch page was the last thing and it didn’t look really good and wasn’t user friendly.”
Choate said they could see that they were losing a lot of visitors before going to another page so they partnered with a local web design firm — for not too much money he added — to make the site look better. He said there are still improvements to be made, but the relaunched product is a markedly better.
Much of the work for ACE was done in-house, but the state did partner with InstantAtlas to do the mapping. Interactive maps cover:
- Voter registration statistics;
- Voter registration by districts;
- Voter turnout by party affiliation;
- Election cost statistics;
- Vote method and ballot statistics; and
- Legal requirements + activities, which is sort of a catchall for everything else.
The financial cost to create ACE was minimal. Choate said they spent $20,000 for the original contract with InstantAtlas. There is also a $3,000 per year maintenance fee for the mapping. For the recent web redesign consultation, the state spent about $10,000.
What was not minimal was the staff time necessary to create ACE.
“You are going to have some pretty significant dedicated staff resources,” Choat said. He added, that one staff member spent about 75 percent of their time in the past two years working on the data for ACE.
However, once the site was up and running — and revamped — there was very little day-to-day oversight that the office has of it. Most of the queries for data and information are done automatically and uploaded automatically.
Moving forward, there are still some tweaks that the office would like to make on the site and Choate said they may narrow down the Legal requirements + activities section, but by-and-large they are happy with the current product and so it would seem are the people who are using it.
Choate said the site is being used by members of the media, candidates the advocacy community and average Coloradoans. Since the redesign, the state has seen the number of hits on the site increase and they are able to see that people are diving down into the site instead of just visiting the homepage.
With all the talk of rigged elections, perhaps sites like ACE are now more important than ever for state and county elections officials.
“If you want the people to trust the work you do, give them the information that will help them generate trust and show them that you are really doing great work and you have the data to show that,” Choate said.
And Choate and his team are happy to talk any election official through the process. They recently met with officials from Iowa who are considering doing something similar.
“If you want to do something like this, call us up,” Choate said.
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III. Primary Updates
The 2016 primary season ramped back up again this week with primaries in Kansas, Michigan Missouri, and Washington heading to the polls (or ballot drop boxes) on Tuesday and in Tennessee at press time on Thursday. Overall, turnout was relatively low as were the reports of any problems or issues.
In Kansas, there were no reported issues with the state’s on-again, off-again proof-of-citizenship law, which was off-again for this primary. Secretary of State Kris Kobach said voting went smoothly across the state.
In Johnson County, there were some issues with voters reporting to the wrong polling place, which election workers blamed on voters showing up to early voting locations instead of their primary day polling place. That being said, the county’s new iPads helped quickly get those voters directed to the right location.
To save costs, Finney County combined some wards and precinct and reduced the number of voting machines, but did not experience any issues from the reduction.
Statistician Beth Clarkson, who has questioned the validity of the state’s voting machines conducted an exit poll in Sedgwick County in an effort to learn whether or not the county’s voting machines were functioning properly.
Old technology did slow the vote counting process in Ottawa County though and results weren’t published on the county’s website until 12:15 a.m. “For us, it’s a frustration with our programming limitations in this election,” Ottawa County Clerk Justin Roebuck told the Holland Sentinel, noting the county hopes to have a new system in two years.
It was relatively smooth sailing throughout the Show Me State on Tuesday, even in St. Louis County, which experienced a host of issues during April’s voting.
There were some minor reported problems with voting machines in Jackson County, but nothing that really slowed the vote. In one instance a scanner was not properly plugged in and in another, the scanner was having difficulty reading ballots on the first go-round.
In Boone County, it wasn’t the heat, it was the humidity! According to County Clerk Wendy Noren, high humidity caused paper ballots to swell which then made it difficult for them to be scanned.
In Greene County, there was a confrontation between County Clerk Shane Schoeller and a candidate over the location of political signs.
And in the contested secretary of state’s race, Republican Jay Ashcroft defeated State Sen. Will Kraus. Ashcroft will face Democrat Robin Smith in November.
IV. Election News This Week
- According to comments made by Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, the Obama Administration may consider the nation’s voting system as “critical infrastructure”. “We should carefully consider whether our election system, our election process is critical infrastructure, like the financial sector, like the power grid,” Johnson told reporters in Washington. “There’s a vital national interest in our electoral process.”
- Saying that they “are not the police” elections officials in Pima and Maricopa counties in Arizona are refusing to enforce the state’s new ballot harvesting law. The law prohibits people from collecting and submitting other voters completed absentee ballots. “People bring early ballots to us, we’re going to process them like we always have,” Maricopa County Recorder Helen Purcell told the Arizona Daily Star.
- Three cheers to the Girl Scouts of Jemison Troop 759 for receiving the Silver Award — the highest award a Girl Scout can earn — for renovating a polling place in Douglas County, Alabama. The troupe fixed and painted windows, put up curtain rods and hung new curtains. Each girl put in a minimum of 50 hours to finish the project.
- The times they are a’changing and with that comes the end of some of our quainter traditions. For years, Alaska has hosted Election Central, an election night gathering of candidates and their supporters to come together in one location and watch the results. In addition to the rising costs of the event, technology now makes the event unnecessary. “With the Internet, our presence has kind of become obsolete for the most part, reporting those returns,” state elections director Josie Bahnke told McClatchy.
- Update: Last week we reported that 17 voting machines in Madison, Wisconsin had been destroyed by flooding brought on by recent rainstorms. Upon further review, it turns out that all 97 of the city’s 98 voting machines were destroyed. In addition, 90 other machines used to help voters with disabilities will have to be replaced. The city will rent equipment from ES&S for the Aug. 9 primary. The cost of the rental will be credited toward purchase of new machines.
- Personnel News: James Detling has been appointed to the Darke County, Ohio board of elections. Michael Anderson is the new voter registration director in Lebanon County, Pennsylvania. William Anthony, the director of the Franklin County Board of Elections who’s facing a felony indictment, is expected to retire in two weeks. Following a vote by the Lucas County, Ohio Board of Elections, Gina Kaczala will remain director of the BOE.
V. Legal Updates
Arizona: Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Hugh Hegyi has denied a request for a preliminary injunction which would have required the county and the secretary of state’s office to file their election plans with the court. The request came from the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. "Impermissibly long wait times during the upcoming elections would unquestionably constitute irreparable harm to plaintiffs and to the voters of Maricopa County," the judge wrote. "However, the burden was on the plaintiffs to convince this Court of the possibility of that irreparable harm by a preponderance of the evidence. They have failed to do so."
California: Superior Court Judge Joel Wohlfeil has ruled that San Diego did not properly audit votes from the state’s June primary. In his ruling, Wohlfeil said Registrar of Voters Michael Vu wrongly excluded provisional and some vote-by-mail ballots when completing a hand count of votes from 1 percent of the county’s precincts.
Indiana: District Judge William T. Lawrence, in the U.S. Court for the Southern District of Indiana has ruled that lawsuit filed against the secretary of state’s office by a registered sex offender may proceed. The plaintiff claimed his First and 14th Amendment rights were being violated because he could not cast an in-person ballot at his local polling place — a high school gym. “While it remains to be seen whether this restriction rises to the level of a constitutional violation, the Plaintiff has met the low threshold for pleading injury required to demonstrate that he has standing,” Lawrence wrote in denying a motion to dismiss.”
Kansas: Shawnee County Judge Larry Hendricks ruled 17,500 would be allowed to cast their ballot in the state’s primary election this week, although they had not provided proof-of-citizenship. “Losing one’s vote is an irreparable harm in my opinion,” Judge Larry Hendricks said in his bench ruling. Hendricks said that Secretary of State Kris Kobach lacked the authority to create a dual-voting system.
Michigan: Attorney General Bill Schuette has filed an emergency motion asking U.S. District Court Judge Gershwin A. Drain to stay delay implementing a court order that strikes down the state’s new law banning straight-ticket-voting.
North Carolina: A unanimous decision of a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit has overturned a 2013 law that required voter ID, limited early voting and eliminated same-day registration. “The new provisions target African Americans with almost surgical precision” and “impose cures for problems that did not exist,” Judge Diana Gribbon Motz wrote for the panel. “Thus the asserted justifications cannot and do not conceal the State’s true motivation.” AG Roy Cooper has declined to appeal the ruling so Gov. Pat McCrory has said that he will do so.
North Dakota: This week, U.S. District Judge Daniel L. Hovland ruled against North Dakota’s voter ID law saying that it is unfair to Native Americans. “Although the majority of voters in North Dakota either possess a qualifying voter ID or can easily obtain one, it is clear that a safety net is needed for those voters who simply cannot obtain a qualifying voter ID with reasonable effort,” Hovland wrote. “Voter fraud in North Dakota has been virtually non-existent.”
Wisconsin: U.S. District Court Judge James Paterson has ruled that Republican lawmakers discriminated against minorities and he struck down parts of the state’s voter ID law, limits on early voting and prohibitions on allowing people to vote early at multiple sites. "The Wisconsin experience demonstrates that a preoccupation with mostly phantom election fraud leads to real incidents of disenfranchisement, which undermine rather than enhance confidence in elections, particularly in minority communities," Peterson wrote. In an interesting turn, the plaintiffs are appealing the ruling. The state is also appealing the ruling.
VI. Tech Thursday
National Tech: Homebrew CEO Hunter Walk has created a campaign targeting other tech entrepreneurs to allow their employees time off to vote on November 8. "There's sometimes an incorrect notion that the tech sector is apathetic about politics," Walk told ATTN. "I know that to be incorrect and thought we could highlight the companies and leaders who are actively encouraging their teams to take time to vote." So far about 100 companies have agreed to participate.
Georgia: Georgia has launched a pilot program that will allow voters to register to vote via text message. The program was created by Global Mobile and allows voters to check their existing registration or register for the first time by texting GA or Georgia to 2VOTE (28683)
Illinois: After being offline for nearly two weeks, Illinois’ voter registration system is once again available to the public. The system had been shut down in the wake of a cyberattack. The board said its voter database is a frequent target of hackers, but this is the first time anyone has succeeded in accessing it. Officials are confident no voter information was altered.
Rhode Island: This week, Rhode Island officially launched its new online voter registration system. Residents can now update their voter information, or register to vote on a computer or smart phone with internet connections. “When I ran for office, I pledged to Rhode Islanders that I would utilize the latest technology to modernize elections in our state," she said in a news release today. "I am pleased to make good on that promise today by launching online voter registration for eligible voters across the state. This technology makes it easier for voters to register to vote and update their voter information while improving the accuracy and integrity of Rhode Island's voter rolls.”
VII. Opinions This Week
National Opinions: Paper ballots; Election systems, II, III, IV | Voting rights, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII | Voter ID, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII | Voting laws, II | Election law | Voter suppression | Voting Rights Act | Rigged elections, II, III | Voter fraud, II
Alaska: Automatic voter registration
Arizona: Voter fraud
Arkansas: Polling sites
Connecticut: Voter registration
Iowa: Voting rights
Maine: Ranked choice voting
Massachusetts: Automatic voter registration
Michigan: Voting access
New York: Voting difficulty;
Pennsylvania: Election reform
Rhode Island: Voting laws
Tennessee: Voter ID
VIII. Upcoming Events
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 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.
IX. Job Postings This Week
Customer Relations Manager, Dominion Voting Systems, Chicago, Illinois— Dominion Voting Systems is seeking a highly motivated and enthusiastic, Customer Relations Manager, based in the Chicago, Illinois area! This position will be responsible for providing world-class customer service in order to achieve our core purpose of delivering solutions for the advancement of fair, accessible, and secure elections! You will problem solve, collaborate, create and improve processes, and make our customers successful in the execution of seemingly impossible tasks. Excitement lives here!. Salary: Negotiable base + bonus target & benefits. Deadline: Open until filled. 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.
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.
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.