I. In Focus This Week
Sixteen things to watch in ‘16
What we’ll be watching as voters head to the polls on Nov. 8
By M. Mindy Moretti
This is it. The end is finally nigh…well at least (we hope) for the 2016 election cycle.
Although millions of voters have already cast their ballots either through early voting, absentee voting or vote-by-mail, millions more will head to the polls on November 8 and cast their ballot for the 45th president of the United States as well as countless other federal, state and local races and many ballot issues.
It’s been a tumultuous election cycle to say the least, even for election administrators who have had to deal with new laws, new voting equipment, countless lawsuits and in the waning days of the election, accusations of fraud and rigging.
There’s a lot to watch on Tuesday and electionline will be doing Election Dispatches through the day. And while we will not doubt be following everything, these are 16 things we will be paying special attention to.
Good luck and may the gods of democracy have mercy on our souls!
(Editor’s Note: Due to the high volume of daily stories, electionlineToday will publish both on Saturday November 5 and Sunday November 6, by around 10 a.m. each day).
1) Poll Watchers — much has been made about voter fraud and a rigged election with candidates urging their supporters to become poll watchers. While some have gone the official route, other groups have vowed to watch the polls. What impact will these poll watchers have on turnout? Will there be any violence?
2) Ballot Selfies — one of the hottest late-cycle topics of conversation—like it or not—was the legality of ballot selfies. Some states allow ballot selfies, some don’t Will there be issues with voters taking a ballot selfie in the states where it’s illegal? Will local law enforcement pursue the scofflaws?
3) Voter ID — voter ID is always something to watch, especially in a presidential election cycle when many people are voting for the first time in four years. The two states to keep the closest eye on are Texas and Wisconsin where lawsuits and judges’ rulings kept the rules in play until almost the very last minute.
4) Voting machines — will old and new voting machines function properly on Election Day? Will concerns about “vote flipping” that popped up during early voting spread to November 8?
5) Turnout — with many states reporting record-breaking voter registration rates, will that translate to record breaking turnout rates? Will that even translate into higher rates of turnout than in 2008 and 2012?
6) Weather — although Election Day 2016 isn’t facing the ramifications of a super storm like 2012 did, there are still weather-related issues to be mindful of. Will Election Day weather impact turnout? How will displaced voters in Louisiana, West Virginia, North Carolina and other states impacted by Hurricane Matthew fair on Election Day?
7) Polling place issues — aside from poll watchers and those watching the watchers, drama at polling places is always on tap on Election Day. Will a polling place be shut down because of a nearby gas leak or some sort of nearby violence (most likely)? Will a polling place lose power and be forced to switch to back-up generators or take the polls outside (probably)? Will a polling place open late because someone overslept or the keys to the polling site got lost (without a doubt)? Will someone create a scene because they refuse to remove campaign-related clothing to a polling place (already happened)? Guns are legal in polling places in some states, will someone bring one in (we have no doubt)? Will a car crash into a polling place somewhere in American on Election Day (inevitably)?
8) Lines — in 2012, even as President Barack Obama was giving his near-midnight acceptance speech voters will still in line in some states casting their ballots. What sort of lines will Election Day 2016 bring? Will the large early voting turnout or high vote-by-mail rate help ease those problems?
9) Result reporting — many counties and states have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to upgrade their vote-counting and vote reporting system. Will the results come in on time?
10) Ballot Issues — ballot measures dictating how elections are run are on the ballot in at least seven states. Everything from ranked choice voting to open primaries to automatic voter registration is on the ballot.
11) Secretary of state races — the top elections spot is on the ballot in eight states with five of the eight being open seats. In some states—New Mexico, Oregon and Washington—the secretary of state race has become the race to watch on Tuesday night.
12) Vote by mail — vote-by-mail has become increasingly popular not only with election administrators but also voters. It does require longer to count. Do Americans have the patience for that? They may enjoy the convenience but will they be OK without knowing the results right away? Despite assurances from the Postal Service, will all those ballots make it there by the required deadlines?
13) Early voting — many states and counties reported record-breaking early voting numbers. Will those numbers affect overall turnout? Will the counting of those ballots help speed up the overall process of release of results?
14) Provisional ballots — although they haven’t received quite as much attention as in previous years, what impact will provisional ballots have on the 2016 race?
15) There’s an app for that — 2016 has seen countless voter assistance apps pop up. How will those apps help voters? Are they reliable? In addition, what sort of impacts will social media — not always known as the paragon of truth — have on Election Day?
16) The unknown unknowns—and then there are the unknown unknowns. Things that no one can see or saw coming. Something seems to happen every election year, what will it be in 2016?
II. Electionline Underwriting
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III. Early Voting Updates
Early voting continued at what will most likely end up being a record-setting pace this week. There were reports of long lines from sea to shinning sea (and everywhere in between) throughout the whole week.
This is just a brief look at some of the issues that popped up during the week with some of them clearly serving as a pre-curser to Tuesday.
Georgia — Georgia elections officials continued to look into reports of voting machines “flipping” votes although they could find no evidence that there were technical issues with any of the state’s voting machines.
Florida — in Florida, where more than 4 million people have already voted, at least five voters in Seminole County have voted even though they didn’t cast their ballot. Someone stole the ballots and forged the signatures before returning the completed ballots.
Iowa — a voter in Des Moines was arrest and charged with voter fraud after purposefully casting two ballots because she was afraid the election was rigged and wanted to make sure that at least one of her ballots counted.
Maryland — in Howard County, a volunteer at the county’s early voting site filed a complaint about voter intimidation claiming that a campaign co-chair was intimidating volunteers.
Ohio — early voting was relatively smooth in the Buckeye State this week although a squirrel (!) did knock out the power to the Miamis County Board of Elections office where early voting was taking place and officials in Hamilton County has to dispel rumors that dogs were being used to dissuade African American voters.
Texas — early voting continued at a record-breaking pace throughout much of the state. Although the complaints about “vote-flipping” seemed to die down this week compared to last, there were still some issues. Probably the biggest issue this week was complaints about voter ID rules not being properly conveyed to voters. Also, one voter was arrested when he refused to take off campaign ware before entering the voting site. And in Dallas County, a man who was removing an illegal election sign was cut by razor blades that were attached to the sign.
IV. Election News This Week
An analysis by the Providence Journal found that Rhode Island has a 32 percent more people registered to vote than are eligible to vote based on U.S. Census Bureau numbers — the highest rate in New England. In a statement this week, Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea said state is on its way to rectifying that situation with participation in ERIC and the new online voter registration program. Since Gorbea took office, Rhode Island has removed 32,000 voters, 46 percent of whom had died. Another 54,192 have been marked inactive, meaning they will be removed if the miss two consecutive federal elections.
Following a court ruling in October, more than 150 college students in Greenville County, South Carolina have registered to vote at their campus address instead of their home address. Previously the county had barred those students from doing so. Most of the registrations came from Bob Jones University with 91, followed by Greenville Technical College with 24, North Greenville University with 22 and Furman University with 15, said Conway Belangia, director of voter registration and elections for the county.
While Massachusetts is enjoying quite a bit of success with its first year of early voting, it’s causing headaches from some clerks in New Hampshire. It’s gotten so bad that the Plaistown town clerk had to send out an email blast reminding residents that New Hampshire does not offer early voting. One clerk told the Eagle Tribune that she has had to field more calls than she can count about early voting.
With everyone and their Russian cousin focused on whether or not the 2016 election will be hacked, about 55,000 Duluth, Minnesota residents will be getting letters in the coming days letting them know that voter registration lists and other personal information may have been exposed as the result of a phishing attack. “It was just an email account. It wasn’t our core files. So this wasn’t a cyber hack. This was an email phishing scam apparently by someone from Ghana,” David Montgomery, Duluth’s chief administrative officer told the Pioneer Press.
The YMCA of the USA is offering free child care at some of its locations on November 8 to allow parents an opportunity to vote. “Election Day is arguably one of the most important days in the U.S. this year — the ultimate opportunity for Americans to make their voices heard through the democratic process,” YMCA of the USA President and CEO Kevin Washington said in a statement. “Unfortunately, many people who want to vote find it challenging because they have to take children with them. The Y’s hope is that Zoe’s Kids Day Out initiative enables those parents and caregivers to exercise their right to vote, and ensures children can spend their time in a safe, nurturing environment.”
Personnel News: Darren Redmond has been appointed to the Terrebonne Parish, Louisiana board of elections. Washington County, West Virginia Board of Elections Director Tara Hupp has been charged with felony theft. She admitted to stealing about $40,000 from a booster club she works with.
V. Research and Report Summaries
Overseas Voting: Strategies for Engaging Every Voter - The Council of State Governments Overseas Voting Initiative Policy Working Group, November 2016: This report provides detailed recommendations to improve the voting experience for military and overseas voters, in areas including:
- Voter communication, such as letting these voters know when their ballot application is accepted and providing them information about what is on the ballot;
- Voter registration, including treating the Federal Post Card Application, or FPCA, as a permanent request for voter registration; and
- Engaging with the U.S. military community by establishing partnerships between state and local election officials and local military installations.
VI. Legislative Updates
District of Columbia: By a unanimous vote of the Council of the District of Columbia, DC became the sixth “state” this week to approve automatic voter registration. Although Mayor Muriel Bowser has not indicated whether she will sign it or not, the D.C. Board of Elections did testify in favor of the legislation back in January.
New York: New York City Councilman Ruben Wills (D-Queens) sponsored a bill that would require the city’s jail system to provide absentee ballots to inmates awaiting trial. The bill was approved 50-1. Wills pointed out that the ballots would be given only to those convicted of misdemeanors or awaiting trial, not convicted felons who are not eligible to vote while behind bars.
Also in New York, Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal and Senator Brady Holyman announced plans to introduce the #IVoted Bill, which if approved, would legalize ballot selfies.
Pennsylvania: Legislators are considering bill that would allow for 15 days of early voting in the Commonwealth. Under the bill early voting would be available at select polling places in each county and polls would be open 8 hours per day on the weekdays and at least 8 hours total on the weekends.
Texas: Senator Lois Kolkhorst is considering re-introducing legislation she introduced in 2007 when she was a member of the House of Representatives that would require the state to add printers to all of the state’s voting machines.
VII. Legal Updates
Federal Lawsuits: U.S. District Court Judge John Vazques has ruled that the Republican National Committee must explain any agreements it has made with the campaign of Donald J. Trump in an attempt to ensure “ballot security”.
Arizona: U.S. District Judge Steven Logan is considering a request from the state Democratic Party to allow about 2,000 people who missed the voter registration deadline because of the Columbus Day holiday to vote on November. On Monday he ordered Secretary of State Michele Reagan to explain comments she made in a news release that seem to contradict her official position.
Also in Arizona, in a 2-1 opinion, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has rejected a challenge that would have required elections officials to count ballots cast out-of-precinct. "We find that the precinct vote rule, as administered by Arizona, probably does not impermissibly burden minority voters by giving them less opportunity than non-minorities to participate in the political process," Circuit Court Judge Carlos Bea wrote. "Similarly, the district court correctly found that the constitutional violation claims failed because the precinct vote rule, when considered together with other options available to Arizona voters, imposes only a minimal burden upon minority and majority voters." Chief Appeals Court Judge Sidney Thomas dissented
In other Appeals Court news, the 9th U.S. Circuity Court of Appeals voted to reconsider a ruling by a 3-judge panel kept in place the new state law banning ballot harvesting.
Arkansas: Faulkner County Circuit Judge David Clark said he doesn’t want his court to have an impact on voter turnout so he ruled that the election commission should count votes for both candidates in the county clerk’s race but not certify the election.
Also in Arkansas, a member of the Jefferson County Elections Commission has been sued by a voter accusing Stu Soffer of voter intimidation. In addition to being an election commissioner, Soffer is also a registered poll watcher. The voter alleges that Soffer told him to “shut up and go home.”
California: According to the Siskiyou Daily, the county has asked filed a motion to have a voting rights lawsuit against it dismissed. Plaintiffs sued earlier this year claiming that the county targeted Siskiyou residents of Hmong descent to prevent them from voting. The defendants have countered that their constitutional right to freedom of speech is imperiled by the lawsuit, as detailed in a motion to strike the plaintiffs’ complaint.
Also in California, a tentative legal ruling says that San Diego County must manually count a full one percent of vote-by-mail ballots when verifying the accuracy of the full tally, but it does not have to likewise include provisional ballots.
And in even more California (and ballot selfie) legal news, the American Civil Liberties Union filed suit this week seeking to have the state’s outgoing law on the ban on ballot selfies overturned. The General Assembly already approved new legislation legalizing the practice, but that does not go into effect until January 1. U.S. District Court Judge William Alsup ruled that the ban will remain in place for the November election.
Florida: A Florida judge has ruled that Broward County Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes has taken the necessary measures to ensure that those receiving ballots with a missing amendment question will be able to vote on the question.
Illinois: Judge Joan B. Gottschall rejected the argument that the Illinois Military Overseas Voter Empowerment Act violates the equal protection clause by treating former Illinois voters differently depending on their current residence. Illinois’ MOVE Act bars former state residents living in Puerto Rico, Guam or the U.S. Virgin Islands from voting by Illinois absentee ballot in federal elections, but allows their counterparts in American Samoa and the Northern Mariana Islands to do so.
Massachusetts: The American Civil Liberties Union has sued the state over the state’s voter registration deadline. State law bars citizens from voting unless they register at least 20 days before an election and the ACLU challenges that it should be closer to the election. The hearing is set for Monday.
Michigan: By a 2 to 1 decision, the 6th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals struck down a lower court ruling and ballot selfies are once again illegal in Michigan. The justices cited timing as the reason for their decision. "Timing is everything," the Friday, Oct. 28, order authored by Jeffrey S. Sutton and joined by Ralph B. Guy Jr. states. "Crookston's motion and complaint raise interesting First Amendment issues, and he will have an opportunity to litigate them in full—after this election." "With just ten days before the November 2016 election, however, we will not accept his invitation to suddenly alter Michigan's venerable voting protocols, especially when he could have filed this lawsuit long ago," the order states. An attorney for the plaintiff has filed an emergency motion seeking a re-hearing.
Minnesota: Two election judges — one from Ramsey County and one from St. Louis County — have sued the secretary of state claiming his office is allowing ineligible felons, wards and noncitizens to self-proclaim that they are eligible to vote on Election Day. In the 18-page petitions, both judges claim state officials are requiring them to provide a ballot to ineligible felons, wards and noncitizens who "self-certify." A ward is someone placed under the protection of a legal guardian, like a child or an incapacitated person. They claim that under the guidelines, election judges cross out "challenged felony" if the ineligible registered voter self-certifies. They say this allows ineligible registered voters to cast a ballot in Minnesota. The case will be heard today.
New York: Add New York to the growing list of states being sued by voters and other organizations so voters can have the right to take a ballot selfie on Election Day. The suit, filed by three New York City voters claims that ballot selfies have become a common manner of political expression. The defendants include the state, the New York City Board of Elections and the district attorneys of Manhattan and Brooklyn.
North Carolina: U.S. District Judge Loretta Biggs issued a 78-page order ruling that the state Department of Motor Vehicles failed to meet the guidelines of the National Voter Registration Act and that the state must count provisional ballots of those who tried to register at the DMV, but whose names do not appear on the voter rolls.
An emergency hearing was held this week in a suit filed by the NAACP alleging that counties are violating federal law by removing voters less than 90 days before an election. State officials say the process complements federal law and preserves due-process. Although she did not rule, U.S. District Judge Loretta Biggs said the process sounds “insane” and"This sounds like something that was put together in 1901."
Ohio: On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court dismissed a suit that would have required the state to count votes with errors. Justice Elena Kagan dismissed the matter after consulting with the other seven members of the high court, her one-sentence decision indicated. “This case has been ongoing in Ohio, taking many forms, under the administration of three secretaries of state, both Democratic and Republican, and it is time for the chaos and waste of taxpayer money to come to an end," said Secretary of State Jon Husted in a statement Monday night.
Virginia: Chesterfield Registrar Larry Haake has been sued by the Public Interest Legal Foundation. The group claims Haake refused to disclose “election records showing foreigners improperly registered to vote in Virginia.” "Under Section 8 of the National Voter Registration Act (or Motor Voter), the public has the right to physically inspect election records related to maintaining accurate voter rolls," the group says.
Wisconsin: U.S. District Judge James Paterson has ordered the state Department of Motor Vehicles to track down about 50 people who had their voting credentials returned as undeliverable. “The DMV must attempt to contact family members or associates of the petitioner using whatever contact information is available,” he wrote. “Heroic measures are not required, but the DMV must at least attempt to contact the family or friends of those petitioners who are entitled to a voting credential but have not received them.”
VIII. Tech Thursday
National Tech: ES&S has produced a nice “thank you” video for elections workers showcasing all the work that goes into running an election. And while the video—which was filmed during the 2016 primary season—certainly features ES&S’ equipment, we think it’s a nice sentiment.
California: This week, the secretary of state’s office launched the Vote California app, a free app for iPhone and Android that allows voters to access information from their smartphones. “Whether you need to look up your polling place, check your voter status or learn about what’s on the ballot, this app is another tool voters can use to get informed before the November 8 General Election,” Secretary of State Alex Padilla said in a statement.
New York: Onondagao County announced this week that it has new software for its website that should hopefully improve the election night experience. "People want instant results and they want instant data, and this is another way to show the voters of Onondaga County how their votes matter,” Dustin Czarny, the Onondaga County Elections Commissioner sold WSYR.
Oregon: The secretary of state’s office, in partnership with county elections offices has launched a new centralized website that should make it easier to track and follow results on election night. The website, which can be found at results.oregonvotes.gov, replaces the state election results website and includes individual election results pages for each county. The new election results website offers many advantages, including allowing Oregonians to track all election races in one place and displaying unified results from across Oregon’s 36 counties.
IX. Opinions This Week
Alabama: Registration numbers
Alaska: PFD registration
Connecticut: Hartford registrar
Iowa: Voter fraud
Kansas: Voting laws
Michigan: Voter fraud
New Mexico: Secretary of state race
New York: Rigged election
Rhode Island: Voter rolls
Utah: Same day registration
Vermont: Voting process
West Virginia: Secretary of state
Wisconsin: Green Bay early voting
X. Upcoming Events
NSCL StateVote Post-Election Briefing —Join the National Conference of State Legislature elections analysts and national political experts for a post-election discussion about what the outcome will mean for the states. The briefing will feature sessions on: State Election Analysis: Trends and Outcomes; 2016 Elections in Perspective; The State Agenda for 2017; Changes on the Hill: What it Means for States; and The U.S. Supreme Court: Outlook and Analysis. This event is being presented in cooperation with The Hill. When: November 14 1-5 p.m. Where: National Press Club, Washington, D.C. For more information and to register, click here.
IaoGO 2017 Mid-Winter Conference —join the International Association of Government Officials at their mid-winter conference with the theme of Success Through Education. A tentative agenda can be found here. When: January 8-11, 2017. Where: Tucson, Arizona. For more information and to register, click here.
NASS 2017 Winter Conference — Mark your calendars now and stay tuned for more information and registration details on the National Association of Secretaries of State 2017 Winter Conference. When: February 15-18, 2017. Where: Washington, D.C.
NASED 2017 Winter Meeting — Mark your calendars now and stay tuned for more information and registration details on the National Association of State Election Directors 2017 Winter Meeting. When: February 15-18, 2017. Where: Washington, D.C.
IaoGO 2017 Annual Conference — Mark your calendars now and stay tuned for more information and registration details on the International Association of Government Officials 2017 Annual Conference. When: July 6-13, 2017. Where: Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin.
NASS 2017 Summer Conference — Mark your calendars now and stay tuned for more information and registration details on the National Association of Secretaries of State 2017 Summer Conference. When: July 7-10, 2017. Where: Indianapolis, Indiana.
NASED 2017 Summer Meeting— Mark your calendars now and stay tuned for more information and registration details on the National Association of State Election Directors 2017 Summer Meeting. When: August 22-25, 2017. Where: Anaheim, California.
XI. Job Postings This Week
Ballot Production Services Consultant, Hart InterCivic — BPS Consultants at Hart work with our customers to design ballots and to provide printed ballots and voting media for customers. This is a customer-service position, and applicants must have exceptional customer service skills. This is a part-time hourly positon with opportunities for overtime pay during peak periods. This is not a replacement position, but a net new position at Hart. This is an ideal position for someone who wants to work varying hours, depending on the calendar. Preference is for this position to be Austin-based, but that is open to negotiation. Deadline: Open until filled. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, please click here.
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.
Director of Operations, West, Western United States — Dominion Voting Systems is looking for a talented and passionate Director of Operations, West to join our team! This position can be based in either Northern California or Nevada and will work remotely. This position will direct the day-to-day operations in the Western United States for Dominion Voting in order to meet and exceed business objectives for growth and profitability. This position will formulate and enact policies and strategies; work with leadership to set and achieve goals; forecast, set and manage budgets; hire, mentor and manage staff; and establish and maintain professional and positive business relationships with our customers. Salary: Negotiable base + bonus target & benefits. Deadline: Open until filled. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Elections & Special Districts Director, Cochise County, Arizona — under general direction of the County Administrator, provides professional level project planning in all functions related to the conduct of voting and election activities for the County. Under limited supervision, perform work of considerable difficulty to plan, organize, coordinate, direct and control all activities of the Elections & Special Districts Department in compliance with statutory and regulatory federal and state requirements. Prepare and manage the annual fiscal budget for the department, develop long-range plans and anticipates/identifies long-term organizational needs. Sound judgment and considerable communication and interpersonal skills are required in this position. Salary: $60,000-$90,000. 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.
Product Specialist, Toronto, Ontario — Dominion Voting Systems is seeking a tech-savvy and passionate, Product Specialist, to be based in our downtown Toronto, Ontario 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.
Senior Project Manager, Denver, Colorado — Dominion Voting Systems is seeking an experienced, well-organized and passionate Senior Project Manager to join our team in downtown Denver! This position will be responsible for overseeing the successful execution of assigned projects in the State of Colorado as well as managing a team of local and remote employees. This position is critical to the success of our customers throughout the State of Colorado. Salary: Negotiable base + bonus target & benefits. Deadline: Open until filled. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Software Developer II, Toronto, Ontario — Dominion Voting Systems is seeking a talented and passionate, Software Developer II, to join our team in downtown Toronto! This position will be responsible for providing high-level technical expertise to design development, coding, testing and debugging of new voting system software and/or significant enhancements to existing software for our customers. This position will work on a team utilizing an Agile development environment. Salary: Negotiable base + bonus target & benefits. Deadline: Open until filled. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.