III. Election News This Week
- Elections officials in parts of Florida are keeping their eyes on the skies in advance of next week’s primary election. Although it’s still five days away a tropical wave has formed off the coast of Puerto Rico and could become Tropical Storm Hermine. With that in mind, officials are urging voters to cast early ballots and get their mail-in ballots returned to avoid any potential weather conflicts.
- The Blackfeet Tribe has asked Secretary of State Linda McCulloch to order Pondera County to provide a satellite voting office on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation during hours that the tribe wants, not what the county has recommended. According to the Great Falls Tribune, the county, citing poor turnout in Heart Butte, has proposed a plan that would offer a satellite office for 12 hours over two days during the general election while the tribe has proposed a plan for 125 hours over 14 days.
- Following a state court ruling that voided Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s (D) executive order restoring the voting rights to 200,000+ ex-felons, this week McAuliffe restored the rights to 13,000 felons on a case-by-case basis to comply with the court order.
- Massachusetts Secretary of State William Galvin’s office is offering grant money to cities and towns throughout the commonwealth to help them prepare for early voting — the first time it’s ever been offered statewide. "With this first experience with early voting in Massachusetts, it is important that voters have the option of casting their ballot on the weekend," Galvin said in a statement. According to The Republican, towns with fewer than 5,000 voters can get $250 to be open for at least three weekend hours. Municipalities with 5,000 to 10,000 voters can get $500 to be open at least four weekend hours, with a $50 bonus for each additional two-hour increment they stay open during the weekend. Municipalities with between 10,000 and 20,000 voters can get $1,000 to be open for at least four weekend hours, with a $100 bonus for each additional two-hour increment. Cities and towns with more than 20,000 voters could get $1,500 to be open for at least four weekend hours, with a $250 bonus for each additional two-hour increment. The bonuses would be capped at eight hours per municipality.
- For the first time, King County, Washington will be providing elections materials, including ballots, in Spanish and Korean. The county partnered with the Seattle Foundation to grant $242,000 to 22 community organizations for voter education efforts. King began offering Chinese-language voting materials in 2002 and Vietnamese in 2010. The county also already offers elections materials — but not ballots — in Amharic, Punjabi and Russian.
- Cuyahoga County, Ohio received the Freedom Award from the National Association of Election Officials for realizing that bar codes applied by the postal service can also serve as a postmark for absentee ballots.
- Speaking of absentee ballots, more than 1,600 ballots arrived too late to be counted in Hawaii’s recent primary election. According to state law, all ballots must be in the clerk’s office by 6 p.m. on election day. With absentee ballots becoming more popular in Hawaii, elections officials are urging residents to return them early in order to be included in the count. "We want people to use absentee ballots, but we really encourage people to get it in sooner," Hawaii County Clerk Stewart Maeda told The Daily Progress.
- Personnel News: Sam Boelke, deputy clerk of Armada Twp., Michigan has resigned.
In Memoriam: Jim Bennett, Alabama’s longest serving secretary of state, has died. He was 76. Bennett began his career as a journalist. In 1978 he was elected to the Alabama House of Representatives and in 1983 ran for the Senate where he served for 10 years. He was appointed secretary of state in 1993 and won the seat in 1994 and served until 2003. Bennett was once again appointed secretary of state in 2013 when former Secretary of State Beth Chapman stepped down before the end of her term. “He always had a smile on his face,” Brandon Walters, a former elections analyst who worked as Bennett’s legislative liaison told the Montgomery Advertiser. “He was one who wanted you to get your job done and was not going to look over your shoulder while you were doing it.” Bennett is survived by his wife, Andrea; two children, three grandchildren and a great-granddaughter.