II. Election News This Week
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has designated the nation’s election systems as critical infrastructure. The move will provide more federal help for state and local governments, but what that help is remains unclear. According to NewsHour, the determination came after months of review. Elections officials across the country were skeptical. Ohio’s Jon Husted said that the move was unnecessary and was an “unprecedented federal overstep.” The National Association of Secretaries of State released a statement Monday saying the announcement raised many questions and concerns for states and other entities, including why the “critical infrastructure” classification is needed to combat threats.
Klamath County has approved an amendment to its budget that will add $200,000 to the county clerk’s office to cover the multitude of new voters registered through automatic voter registration. The county now averages 20 new registrations per day which has increased the cost of printing and mailing ballots as well as counting them. The county will also use some of the money for new ballot boxes that can contain larger volumes of ballots.
A subcommittee of the Portsmouth, New Hampshire school board is recommending that all schools close on all election days due to safety concerns that include firearms being allowed at the polls. According to SeacoastOnline, Assistant City Attorney Kathleen Dwyer, who represents the School Board, said the school closures recommendation is related to a ruling issued by the New Hampshire secretary of state's office, prior to the November presidential election, noting that legally armed voters cannot be turned away from polls, even at schools. Dwyer said because of the secretary of state's ruling, the committee is recommending the closure of all city schools, when they are used as election polling locations including for federal and state elections, as well as primaries and municipal elections.
Lynchburg, Virginia held a special election this week and it was plagued with problems both man made and from Mother Nature. Before the election, the area was hit with a snowstorm and so elections officials had to scramble to make sure that parking lots and sidewalks around polling places were all free of snow. Then on Election Day, several polling places ran out of ballots. According to The News & Advance, Lynchburg Registrar Karen Patterson ordered 1,350 ballots—about 5 percent of the city’s registered voters. Pat Bower, chair of the Lynchburg Electoral Board, described the lack of available ballots as a miscalculation by both the board and the registrar and said they take responsibility for the issue. “I do really apologize for that and the inconvenience that many voters had,” Bower told the paper. She added the turnout was “grossly underestimated.”
Personnel News: Carol Smith, a long-time deputy clerk has been tapped to replace Upshur County, West Virginia Clerk Debbie Thacker Wilfong who recently passed away. Rolando Pablos has been sworn-in as the new Texas secretary of state. Dr. Bruce Saferin has been chosen to serve on the Lucas Co., Ohio board of elections. Don Merriman has retired as the longtime Saline County, Kansas clerk. Scott Bates will be appointed deputy secretary of state in Connecticut. Jay Ashcroft has officially taken the helm of the Missouri secretary of state’s office. Lisa Thomas has been reappointed the Marlborough, Massachusetts city clerk. George Kotch has been confirmed to lead the Burlington County, New Jersey elections office. Brian Mead is the new Licking County, Ohio elections director.