III. Election News This Week
The U.S. Department of Transportation and the state of Alabama have come to an agreement to keep driver’s license branches open. Citing budget concerns, in 2015, the state closed 31 field offices in mostly black communities prompting and investigation by the DOT. Under the terms of the deal, which is good for two years and legally enforceable, the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency agreed to add more than 2,000 hours of operation to the affected counties. The agency also agreed to appoint a coordinator who will ensure compliance with federal civil rights obligations. Driver’s licenses are the main, but not only, accepted form of ID for the state’s voter ID law.
A new report from the Brennan Center calls Florida’s voting rights restoration law “radically out of step with policies around the rest of the country” and “one of the harshest laws in the nation.” According to the report, 1.6 million Floridians are denied voting rights because of the state law. Those residents represent more than 10 percent of the state’s voting-age population. A disproportionate number, nearly one-third, are black.
This week, conservative-leaning Civitas Institute, formally requested information from six North Carolina county elections boards and the state that the Associated Press reports could serve as evidence for changing voting laws at the General Assembly, or be the basis for legal action. “We need to change the way we verify voters in this state,” Civitas President Francis De Luca said in a phone interview with the AP. Also according to the AP, in the weeks after the election, Republicans lodged protests in half the state’s 100 counties that ballots by felons, dead people or those who voted in another state should be thrown out. But despite nearly three weeks of looking for evidence, Republican-led state and county elections boards dismissed virtually every complaint.
According to a new report, changes made to increase early voting opportunities in Ohio have not lead to increased voter participation. “In 2004, when we only had one day of voting and you had to have an excuse to vote absentee, we had more votes than we did in 2012 and 2016 where we had expansive early voting. In fact, the only time it (turnout) has increased was in 2008, and it was less than 1 percent,” election statistics analyst Mike Dawson told WKSU.
Maine Gov. Paul LePage (R) has said that he will ask Secretary of State Matt Dunlap to investigate this year’s election to make sure that all Maine laws were followed because LePage believes there was widespread illegal voting in Maine and throughout the country. Dunlap told WCSH the allegation made him “furious,” and said that Maine’s elections have been shown to be clean, that people who vote have met all the requirements — including photo ID for new registrants — and that there is no need to check on those who voted.
Personnel News:Marian Zumbuhl is retiring after 27 years as the Lewis County, Washington elections supervisor. Lisa P. Lyons will be the new Kent County, Michigan clerk after serving six years in the Michigan Legislature. Janet L. Rowe has been appointed the new Lynn, Massachusetts clerk. After 36 years, Becky Glazier is retiring from her job as executive assistant to the executive director of the Illinois State Board of Elections. Jacqueline Wilson has resigned as the Cutler Bay, Florida town clerk. She will temporarily be replaced by Debra E. Eastman. The Orange County [California] Register has named Orange County Registrar Neal Kelley as one of the most influential people of 2016. Juneau County, Wisconsin Clerk Kathleen Kobylski is set to retire at the end of the year after 18 years in the clerk’s office. Colleen Kidd is retiring after 38 years of service in Piatte County, Illinois clerk’s office including two terms as clerk. Roanoke, Virginia Registrar Judy Stokes is retiring after 12 years on the job. Kristine Poland is stepping down as the Bristol, Maine town administrator. Lenora Fulton is retiring after 12-years as the Apache County, Arizona recorder.
In Memoriam: Longtime Upshur County, West Virginia Clerk Debbie Thacker Wilfong died suddenly on December 22, she was 61. She was recently re-elected to her fourth six-year term as clerk. She actually began her work in the clerk’s office as deputy clerk at the age of 18 in 1973 and became the county clerk in 1993. “I started working with her in August of 1998. As a boss, she will be greatly missed. She is admired by all the guys and girls here. I will miss her experience and knowledge,” Deputy Clerk Carol Smith told The Exponent Telegram. “Under her tenure, we now have documents that are scanned, with the ability to search documents on the computers. She’s worked with getting a new voter registration system up and going. We switched to electronic voting during her reign. Vital registration records also can be viewed and issued from a computer.”