III. Election News This Week
Recounts — many states and localities are conducting recounts for one race or another. The obvious three big ones are recounts of the presidential election in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, those recounts were filed by Green Party Candidate Jill Stein. In Nevada, Roque “Rocky” De La Fuente has filed for a recount of select precincts in five Nevada counties. Also, the North Carolina Board of Elections, which has been at odds with Gov. Pat McCrory since the polls closed on Nov. 8th has ordered Durham County to recount more than 94,000 ballots. Officials in Minnesota are preparing to recount the votes in the eight congressional district that was decided by just over 2,000 votes. The recount will cost about $100,000, which will be paid for by Republican challenger Stewart Mills who is seeking the recount. And in California, in Santa Clara County, 10 races will be automatically recounted because the margin of victory is so close.
Vermont recently completed an independent election audit of six communities and the secretary of state’s office reports that the tabulator machine technology used statewide is accurate. “Really accurate,” Will Senning, director of elections told NBC5. While the audit showed no unexplained disparities, Senning said it did show that voters don’t do the best job at following instructions. Though the ballots clearly instruct voters to completely fill in the oval next to the name of their preferred candidate, scores of ballots were filled with "X" marks, check marks, or circles around the entire name. "It's eye-opening to see those markings on the ballots," Senning said. Boston-based Clear Ballot conducted the audit.
St. Paul Votes Smarter is a political action committee created to repeal the city’s ranked choice voting system. Shawn Towle, a DFL political consultant told the Pioneer Press that ranked-choice voting confuses immigrants and first-time voters and has done little to increase turnout since being approved by the voters in 2009. “I believe in the fairness principle,” Towle said. “I don’t feel that one person’s vote should have more weight than another.” Towle hopes to have the system overturned by the courts arguing that it violates the constitution. If that doesn’t work, he plans to ask the city’s charger commission to do a formal review.
Two members of the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe and one member of the Walker River Paiute Tribe will be honored at an awards banquet at the Nevada governor’s mansion for bringing a voting rights lawsuit against the secretary of state’s office and Washoe and Mineral counties. Following a judge’s ruling the state and counties had to provide polling locations closer to where member of the tribe live. The three will receive the American Indian Community Leader of the Year Award from the Nevada Indian Commission.
Personnel News: Lannie Noble, Denton County, Texas elections administrator is retiring. Replacing Noble will be Frank Phillips who is leaving the top elections job in Tarrant County to return to Denton. Floyd Jones is the new Fayette County, Georgia elections supervisor. Amy Charney is retiring after 25 years as the Williams Charter Township in Michigan. Medina, Wisconsin Town Clerk Pat LeMahieu has resigned after being on the job for about 18 months. Tina Gardner is retiring from her job of 20 years as the Wilton, Connecticut Republican registrar of voters. Robert Hooks has retired as the Coffee County, Alabama voter registrar after 17 years on the job. Howard County, Texas Election Administrator Saundra Bloom is retiring after 11 years in the elections office and 26 years working for the county. It was announced this week that incoming New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver will take office on December 9. After 39 years on the job, Lynn City, Massachusetts Clerk Mary Audley is retiring in the New Year.
In Memoriam: Edgar F. “Hike” Heiskell III, who served as West Virginia’s secretary of state from 1973 to 1975 died on November 19 following a battle with cancer. He was 76. He was the first Republican to serve the role since 1928 and was passionate about fair and honest elections. While in office he served as the chairman of the Committee on Election Reform of the National Association of Secretaries of State. Heiskell was born on October 10, 1940 in Morgantown. He graduated from West Virginia University in 1963 with a bachelor’s degree in political science, then earned a Juris Doctorate from the University of Virginia School of Law in 1966. He served as a fighter pilot for the US Air Force and Air National Guard prior to going into politics. “I have had the fortune over the last couple of years to work with Secretary Heiskell on several occasions through the Secretary of State’s office, including his participation in our “Why I Vote” video series this September,” current West Virginia Secretary of State Natalie Tennant said in a statement. “I always enjoyed talking with him about the history of the state and of the Office. West Virginia has lost a true West Virginian and someone who loved the state dearly and gave of himself and his time to his state.”
Kathy Jaeger, wife of North Dakota Secretary of state Al Jaeger had died. She was 67. Kathy Jaeger was a graduate of Minnesota State University Moorhead. She and Al Jaeger married in 1986. According to Secretary Jaeger his wife was an avid quilter. In addition to her husband, Kathy Jaeger is survived by a son and two daughters. Our thoughts are with Secretary Jaeger and his family at this difficult time.