II. Election News This Week
Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft is at odds with Gov. Eric Greitens over how much it should cost to implement the state’s new voter ID law. Greitens included $300,000 for implementation in the budget which would include $100,000 for advertising, paying for free IDs and covering the cost of getting personal records for those IDs. Ashcroft estimated that will cost between $1.1 million and $1.5 million to accomplish an effective roll out before the August elections. "We would suggest that we would need more to do the best job we can," Ashcroft told the St. Louis Dispatch.
Residents of Anchorage, Alaska are going to have a wait just a bit longer for their first all-mail election. Although the Anchorage Assembly approved legislation to move to vote-by-mail beginning in 2017, local elections officials said they still need new equipment in order to make that possible. “We recognized that this was a really challenging, big project and we anticipated that we might have setbacks along the way,” Deputy municipal clerk Amanda Moser told KTVA. “And so although we were really cautiously optimistic that we’d be able to go forward with an April 2017 vote by mail election, we are excited to move forward after that with vote by mail and we just really want to make sure that we have everything in place to have a successful election.”
Vermont has been forced to pause the roll out of automatic voter registration after problems with the implementation lead to some ineligible residents being added to the voter rolls. A release from Secretary of State Jim Condos’ office said the Department of Motor Vehicles shared more data than it was supposed to with elections officials during the first 18 days of the roll out. “We immediately pulled the plug and froze the system so that it would not accept any more, and then at the same time we canceled any pending registrations until we could clear this up,” Condos told Vermont Public Radio.
Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly indicated this week that the administration will leave the “critical” designation for the nation’s election infrastructure. “I believe we should help all of the states to make sure their systems are protected, so I would argue we should keep that in place,” Secretary John Kelly said during testimony before the House Homeland Security Committee in response to questioning from Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-La.).
Former Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander has been joined by four members of former President Barack Obama’s staff to create a new national organization called Let America Vote. According to the Kansas City Star, Kander’s new group filed with the Federal Election Commission on Monday. Kander told the paper that new laws meant to restrict voting have cropped up at state legislatures around the country since the election and that his organization “will be there to expose the motivations of those efforts.”
A new elections political action committee called Equality Rules also launched recently. The nonpartisan PAC is dedicated to protecting voting rights and will support candidates and legislation across the country that advance equal voting rights -- and oppose those who don’t.
Another county elections department has gotten the “Scandal” treatment. Back in 2012 Defiance County, Ohio was at the center of a voter fraud storyline on the popular ABC drama and this year it’s San Benito County, California, although this time there’s no voting scandal. In the episode, San Benito is the swing county in the now swing state of California. “In the first eight minutes of the first show of the season, we were mentioned 10 times,” said Assistant County Clerk-Recorder-Registrar of Voters Angela Curro told the Free Lance. The county elections department tweeted out a news release related to the show, reminding residents that it’s fictional. “This just goes to show you that even in a fictional TV show that anybody, any little county, could be the one to make the difference,” Curro told the paper. “Get out there and make a difference. Every vote counts.”
Personnel News: David Beirne is officially the new director of FVAP. He previously served as the acting director and the director of voting assistance. Highland County, Ohio poll worker and part-time election board clerk Nancy Shaffer was recently honored by Secretary of State Jon Husted. William VanNess has been appointed the Warren County, New York Republican election commissioner. DuPage County, Illinois election commission Executive Director Robert Saar is set to retire on March 14. Wes Wagner, Jefferson County, Missouri clerk since 2007 is resigning effective Feb. 28. Russel Jack has been sworn in as the St. John Parish, Louisiana registrar. He is the first registrar sworn in since voters amended the state constitution to set stricter standards for the job. Rick Knobe and Carri Crum have been appointed to the South Dakota board of elections. Ohio State Rep. Dorothy Pelanda is expected to announce her candidacy for secretary of state. Shawn Young has been sworn in as Coffee County, Alabama voter registrar.