I. In Focus This Week
Stamp of approval
Turnout increases under King Co. pre-paid return postage pilot
If you build it they will come, but if you put a stamp on it will they vote?
Signs point to yes, at least as was discovered during a recent pilot in King County, Washington where voter turnout was higher than expected for a special election that featured pre-paid return postage on mail ballots.
Based on previous turnouts, the county predicted about a 30 percent turnout for each of the two jurisdictions participating in the special election, however turnout was 37 percent in one jurisdiction and 40 percent in the other.
“I’m excited to see increased participation,” Julie Wise, King County elections director said in a statement. “When I was elected, one of my commitments was to remove barriers to voting. As we increase access with pre-paid postage and ballot drop boxes, we’re beginning to see a real impact.”
The special election was chosen because it provided small, discrete sample populations.
“Ideally with more than one jurisdiction participating, we also wanted to gain an understanding of whether or not there are significant differences between jurisdictions,” explained Kafia Hosh, communications specialist for the county.
Pre-paid postage can be done two different ways either through Business Reply Mail in which the county only pays for the ballots that are actually returned or with pre-paid postage where the sufficient postage is attached to all ballots and the county pays whether the ballots are returned or not.
King County chose the Business Replay Mail route and postage for the test cost King County $10,140. There were some additional one-time tasks to set up a new business reply mail account, design updated envelope artwork and establish a few new data collection procedures. There were no added steps to the actual processing of ballots.
The elections department used money already in its budget for the postage.
Tammy Patrick with the Bipartisan Policy Center said there are several advantages to pre-paid return postage for ballots.
“Postage can vary from one election to the next depending on the length of the ballot, how many ballot cards are used, the number of inserts, etc.,” Patrick said. “One benefit to prepaying is that the appropriate postage is affixed. Jurisdictions not paying for the return postage are required to notify the voter what the postage will be for each election unless they have an overage account to pay for any ballots lacking sufficient postage.”
Secretary of State Kim Wyman said her office is supportive of any effort to engage the electorate, but there are some reservations about only one county using pre-paid postage because the secretary of state’s office prefers all counties to be consistent in their policies and procedures to avoid voter confusion. Still she was encouraged by the King County pilot.
“There are logistical questions about how the USPS will process pre-paid return ballot envelopes that need to be answered and the King County pilot was instructive about that process,” Wyman said. “Our staff is also working directly with the USPS to better understand how the logistics would work, as well as with U.S. Representative Denny Heck’s office to explore possible federal solutions that might help us implement pre-paid return ballot envelopes statewide. The King County pilot was helpful and we will be closely monitoring their second pilot on this issue in April.”
Because the King County is diverse, both in terms of constituents and geography, Hosh said the April test will be important to show what pre-paid postage looks like in a variety of situations.
“We want to study the outcomes in different elections before making any decisions about permanently implementing pre-paid postage,” Hosh said. “We would also need to work with the King County Council and our local jurisdictions to figure out if this is something we want to fund on an on-going basis.”
If legislation currently being considered is successful pre-paid postage could go statewide. Under SB-5019-2017-18 the state would reimburse counties for the cost of pre-paid postage.
“Our testimony was supportive with the request that the bill be amended to include all elections,” Wyman said. “The bill was subsequently amended to include all elections and we support the language of the substitute bill.”
II. Election News This Week
Montgomery County, North Carolina’s board of elections needs to find a new polling location after the state board of elections told the county it could no longer use the Uwharrie Fire Department because the department flies a Confederate flag above the station. Since the county has no authority to have the flag removed they will need to find a new polling place. According to the Courier-Tribune, the flag became an issue during the 2016 general election when a poll worker declined to work at the Uwharrie Fire Department because she was offended by the flag over the polling place. In the past, the fire department would take the flag down on voting days, but refused to continue that practice. “We are researching other options for the Uwharrie precinct and will have this resolved for voters by the next election,” Amy Robert, director of elections said. “We respect their right to do as they wish on their property, but we cannot have a polling place there. A new place to vote is our only concern now.”
A group of Democratic senators are asking the U.S. Election Assistance Commission for a “full account” of its work to secure the 2016 election from Russian hackers. According to The Hill, the senators, lead by Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) also want the EAC to detail cybersecurity challenges facing state and local officials as they look to safeguard future elections. Twenty-six senators, including Independents Angus King (Maine) and Bernie Sanders (Vt.), signed onto the letter.
An investigation by the Ohio secretary of state’s office found that 385 non-U.S. citizens are registered to vote in the Buckeye State and 82 of them have cast an illegal ballot in at least one election in 2016. Secretary of State Jon Husted said those 82 voters will be referred to law enforcement for further investigation and possible prosecution. “In light of the national discussion about illegal voting it is important to inform our discussions with facts. The fact is voter fraud happens, it is rare and when it happens, we hold people accountable,” Husted said. According to NBC4i, the 303 registered voters identified as non-citizens who have not cast a ballot will be sent letters both informing them that non-citizens are not eligible to vote and requesting that they cancel their registration. A follow-up letter will be sent to any individuals that still remain on the rolls after 30 days.
Proposed language for the Humboldt County, California voter’s guide doesn’t pass the smell test according to Kelly Sanders, registrar of voters. A con-statement for a special election measure included a fart joke and Sanders objected to sending voters a packed with the joke. According to the North Coast Journal, because the writer of the con statement refuses to withdraw or amend his irreverent statement, and because state law doesn't give elections officials discretion to censor ballot arguments, Sanders has decided to seek a court order to delete the offending words.
Personnel News: Matthew Masterson has been elected to serve as the chairman of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission. Constance L. Tyler has been appointed the new general registrar and director of elections for Chesterfield County, Virginia. Fleming El-Amin has stepped down from the Forsyth County, North Carolina board of elections. James Baker has resigned from the Cumberland County, North Carolina board of elections. Ken Hugoniot has resigned as the elections supervisor in Clallam County, Washington. Hugoniot resigned after 125 unopened, uncounted ballot were discovered in a courthouse parking lot ballot box. Kevin Kennedy, former director of the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board has joined the board of directors of U.S. Vote Foundation. Also at US Vote, Josh Greenbaum has been named the new chief technology officer. Michael Calcagno, director of communications in the Oregon secretary of state’s office, has submitted his resignation, effective March 15. Tom Ferrell has been named to the Erie County, Ohio board of elections. Randy Wertz has retired as the Montgomery County, Virginia director of elections and general registrar. It’s official, after 36 years, Chris Thomas is retiring as the Michigan elections director effective in June. Pandora Paschal has been appointed to serve as the Chatham County, North Carolina board of elections director. Parker Holland is the new Lee County, North Carolina elections director.
III. Legislative Updates
Arizona: The House has given initial approval to proposals that will ask voters to repeal or revise a 1998 law that keeps lawmakers from repealing or changing voter-approved laws.
Arkansas: The Arkansas House has passed a resolution that, if approved by voters, would require residents to present photo ID in order to vote.
Also in Arkansas, under a bill approved by a Senate committee, the state board of election commissioners would be shifted to the secretary of state’s office. Under bill 368, the board would be under the direction of the secretary of state but would exercise its powers, duties and functions independently. With dozens of senators not voting, the bill failed 7-15.
Georgia: A House committee has approved legislation that would require the phrase “ineligible voter” to be printed on driver’s licenses issued to people who are not U.S. citizens.
Idaho: The Senate is set to take up a House-approved bill that would put limits on early voting. If approved, the early voting window in Idaho could take place any time from three weeks prior to the election to one week before. Currently clerks have the choice to begin early voting on or before the third week from an election.
Indiana: House Bill 1472 would allow more counties to eliminate precinct polling places with vote centers. The measure would also eliminate an existing requirement that county election boards unanimously approve vote centers. The bill now moves to the Senate.
Iowa: Plans to amend Secretary of State Paul Pate's election intergity bill to limit early voting and alter polling place hours have been scrapped although an amendment to eliminate straight-ticket voting remains. The amendment means that two different versions of the bill are moving through the House and Senate.
Kentucky: The House Election, Constitutional Amendments and Intergovernmental Affairs Committee has approved a bill that would reduce the number of special elections. The bill would move local referendums to primary or general election dates.
Maine: A large crowd recently showed up before the Legislature’s Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee to testify about a proposed voter ID law. While some were there in support of the bill, according to The Free Press, most of those in attendance were there to speak out in opposition to the bill.
Maryland: A bill that would require voters in the Old Line State to show a photo ID in order to cast a ballot was incorrectly reported by the Department of Legislative Services and listed Baltimore Sen. Nathaniel Oaks (D) on the bill. The bill has been introduced in the House of Delegates by Del. Neil Parrott (R-Washington County).
Mississippi: Legislation that would allow early voting and create online voter registration for Mississippi has died in the Senate without a vote. "They didn't even take them up in committee," Denny, R-Jackson, who also authored both bills told The Clarion-Ledger. "The Senate Elections chairwoman had said they were DOA. To me that's almost insulting, to have our committee in the House pass these out two years in a row, then have them pass the full House with no more than two to four dissenting votes, and then the Senate committee not even discuss them, to announce that they are DOA before they even get them."
Nebraska: The Government, Military and Veteran’s Affairs committee voted 5 to 1 to support legislation that would restore ex-felons’ voting rights as soon as the complete the terms of service instead of waiting for two years after that as current law states.
Nevada: The Senate Committee on Legislative Operations and Elections is considering a bill that would leave it up to the state central committees to request that a secret-ballot primary be held in February in presidential election years.
New Hampshire: Sen. Regina Birdsell (R-Hampstead) has introduced Senate Bill 3 that would require anyone who registers to vote within 30 days of an election, present definitive proof-of-residency in the state.
New Mexico: By a 5-2 vote, a bill that would have allowed voters to be automatically registered to vote when applying for a new or renewing their driver’s license, was killed in committee. Two Democrats joined with Republicans to vote against the bill.
In other legislative news, the full House has approved House Bill 174 by a 38-29 vote. The bill, if approved by the Senate would consolidate most local elections, including those for cities and school districts.
The Senate Rules Committee has forward a bill — without recommendation — to the Judiciary Committee that, if approved, would open New Mexico’s primaries.
By a 19-11 vote, the Senate has approved a bill that would allow residents to register to vote up until 3 days before an election.
North Carolina: Under Senate Bill 60, clerks of the court would be required to report to the state board of elections the reasons some people have been excused from jury duty. The Senate Judiciary Committee debated the bill but has yet to vote on it.
Oregon: Sen. Rod Monroe (D-Portland) plans to introduce legislation that would push Oregon’s voter registration deadline to the day before an election.
Pennsylvania: According to Sen. Lisa Boscola, Senate leaders are drafting a voter’s bill of rights that would include no-excuse absentee voting, same-day registration and pre-registration.
Tennessee: Rep. Micah Van Huss (R-Jonesborough) and Sen. Mae Beavers (R-Mt. Juliet) have introduced a bill that would impose an additional $5,000 fine on those convicted of voter fraud and offer a $5,000 reward for reports leading to a voter fraud conviction.
Utah: After being held back twice, a bill to provide privacy protections to voter-registration records cleared committee on a 7-2 vote and is headed to the House floor. Before committee approval, HB348 was changed to allow all who are part of the political process to have access to the records, including the voter's date of birth. In addition to political parties, candidates and persons affiliated with political action committees or political issues, as well as some nonprofits will still be eligible to receive voter records. The news media also is allowed access to the records to verify the identity of an individual.
By a 67-0 vote, the House approved legislation that will require county clerks to come up with plans, to be reviewed by the lieutenant governor’s office, on how to keep election lines under 30 minutes long. The bill was approved 27-0 by the Senate.
Virginia: Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) has vetoed a bill that he said would require local election officials to investigate voters without a clear standard for how and when such investigations should be undertaken. The bill would have required local electoral boards to investigate the list of registered voters when the number of registered voters in a county or city exceeds the population of those old enough to vote.
Washington: The Senate has approved legislation by 49-0 that would increase the number of ballot drop boxes statewide by almost 400. The bill requires at least one ballot drop box for every 15,000 residents.
The House of Representatives has approved the Washington Voting Rights Act. This if the fifth time the House has approved voting rights legislation. None of the earlier versions were approved by the Senate. The bill, HB 1800, initially modeled after the Federal Voting Rights Act, would allow communities who are systemically disenfranchised in local government elections to challenge the process in state court, after a six-month cooling off and negotiating period. Unlike the Federal Voting Rights Act, this new state process would be quicker and less costly.
IV. Legal Updates
Massachusetts: A lawsuit challenging Massachusetts’ 20-day voter registration cutoff deadline is working its way through the courts with a goal of finding a final resolution ahead of next year’s elections.
Rhode Island: The Cranston, Rhode Island police department is investigating eight voting irregularities in the November 2016 general election. Mayor Allan W. Fung told The Providence Journal the irregularities cropped up during a customary audit of the election by the board of canvassers.
New York: According to Newsday, attorneys for the Nassau County board of elections must file briefs by the end of February for a voter registration list lawsuit. The plaintiffs, four candidates for the upcoming municipal elections on March 21, allege that the voter rolls are bloated with those who have died or moved.
North Carolina: Last week the governor and attorney general ask the U.S. Supreme Court to halt its review of North Carolina’s voter ID and now legislators angry over that decision have filed a court document seeking to be added to the ID case.
Tennessee: Federal prosecutors in Tennessee have accused two residents of buying votes in the 2017 U.S. Senate primary election. The 14-count federal indictment alleges that 13 people were paid to vote in the 2014 Senate primary.
Texas: On February 24 a federal judge denied a request from the U.S. Department of Justice and Texas AG Ken Paxton to delay a March hearing on the state’s voter ID law. Then on Monday February 27 the DOJ withdrew its appeal.
Also in Texas, Crystal Mason, 41, has been indicted on a charge of illegally voting in the 2016 election. Mason cast a ballot even though she was still on supervised release for a conviction. Mason claims she did not know she could not vote.
Utah: The state’s Republican Party has had a change of heart and is reversing its decision to drop a legal challenge to the Count My Vote law that allows candidates a pathway to a primary ballot by gathering signatures. The party voted to see through its appeal.
Wisconsin: A three-judge panel of the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals recently heard arguments over claims that Republicans in Wisconsin had deliberately made it harder for minorities to vote by limiting early voting. According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the judges seemed skeptical.
Also in Wisconsin, a recently released felon on parole cast a ballot for Donald Trump in the November 2016 election and now he’s facing additional charges because he had not yet regained his voting rights because he was still on parole.
V. Tech Thursday
National Tech: The U.S. Election Assistance Commission has certified ES&S’ most recent voting suite EVS 5400, which certifies the ExpressVote as a tabulator. The new tabulator mode allows voters to make all of their selections using the ExpressVote’s easy to read touchscreen. It can be configured to either return marked vote summary cards to the voter for manual review before re-inserting into the unit for tabulation or allow the voter to automatically cast their vote hands-free, after on-screen review with AutoCast®. Fully compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the ExpressVote can be used by every voter, regardless of abilities.
Michigan: The secretary of state’s office has finalized $82 million in contracts with Dominion Voting Systems, ES&S and Hart InterCivic to bring new voting equipment to the state by the 2018 election cycle.
New Hampshire: Selectmen in the town of Exeter have agreed to purchase accessible election equipment although it may not be in place for the upcoming town election. Two voters were fundraising to purchase the voting equipment, but the selectmen agreed to foot the bill.
VI. Opinions This Week
California: Nevada County
Kansas: Voter fraud
Minnesota: Voting equipment
Nebraska: Ex-felon voting rights
Nevada: Voter ID
Ohio: Voter rolls
Pennsylvania: Fair elections
Utah: Same day registration
Washington: Voting Rights Act
West Virginia: Secretary of state
Wisconsin: Voter ID
VII. Upcoming Events
The Changing Trends in Elections — a special workshop from the Election Center where you will hear from colleagues and stakeholders in the election process covering issues such as the Electoral College debate, voter registration and litigation update, modernization of the voter registration process, media review of the 2016 election and polls and media projections impact on election administrators, changes and trends with vote-by-mail and other USPS issues, the 2015 American Community Survey, polling place accessibility and much more. Where: Columbus, Ohio. When: April 26-28.
The Future of Elections: Technology Policy and Funding — Join legislators, legislative staff, elections officials and election administration experts for a discussion on the future of elections technology and how to pay for it. Share ideas on updating voting infrastructure in an era of limited resources and heightened security concerns. In addition to a robust discussion on elections policy, attendees will enjoy all Colonial Williamsburg has to offer. Bring the whole family with you! When: June 14-16. Where: Williamsburg, Virginia.
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.
VIII. Job Postings This Week
Account Manager, Clear Ballot, Boston — we are looking for a talented Account Manager to play an active role in developing and maintaining long-term working relationships with Clear Ballot’s customers. This person should be able to work independently and in partnership with other team members to achieve high customer satisfaction. The account manager will have a regional assignment, with certain customers assigned to him/her. Deadline: Open until filled. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Ballot Processing Manager, Adams County, Colorado — we are seeking a manager to provide planning, leadership oversight, and supervision to the working groups within the ballot processing area and provide leadership/supervision, as well as planning and administrative support, to the Elections Operations and Logistics area during non-election cycles. The successful candidate will contribute information for budget planning; prepare and maintain records and reports; develop and administer performance standards, expectations, and evaluations to two full-time employees; administer Military and Overseas (UOCAVA) voter registration and ballot delivery program; administer all mail ballot delivery, sorting, receiving, and deconstruction; and oversee the Health Care Facility ballot delivery and Canvass process. Salary: $51,904-$72,665. Deadline: March 6 4:30pm Mountain. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Customer Service Consultant, Hart InterCivic — Hart InterCivic is seeking a Customer Service Consultant who has a strong desire to provide an outstanding customer experience for a growing company. Our Customer Service Consultant supports our customers on a daily basis by providing the following: Foster and develop positive customer relations by providing courteous, prompt and proactive customer service. Communicate with customers by phone, email or other correspondence. Respond to customer requests in a timely manner. Ensure timely Order Fulfillment through interactions with customers, other internal departments, and vendors: Create price quotations, orders, and similar requests for customers. Process purchase orders and enter purchase information into Order Management System. Verify all purchase orders and order information for accuracy. Contact customers to verify the information on purchase orders as it may be appropriate. Provide customers with assistance and information on part numbers, order status, troubleshooting their purchase orders, or other requests. Act as a liaison and coordinate with other departments through order completion and to expedite or resolve any issues or concerns. Provide follow up and respond to customer issues, inquiries, emails, correspondence, or other requests. Assist in maintaining up to date customer files. Partner with other departments to prepare documentation to process returns and credit memos. Partner with other departments to process requests for internal orders, including capital expenditure requests. Maintain a current working knowledge of product lines, prices, lead-time, and other relevant information. Deadline: Open until filled. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Product Specialist, Denver, Colorado — Dominion Voting Systems is seeking a tech-savvy, passionate Product Specialist to join our team in downtown Denver! This position will be responsible for providing technical support on all Dominion Voting Systems products both on-site, via the telephone or via email; write detailed, technical documentation for distribution internally and externally; and interface 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 Technical Trainer, Clear Ballot, Boston, Massachusetts — our small and growing documentation and training team has an immediate need for a new member with intermediate-to-senior experience in: Instructional design, development of learning curricula, production of training materials, and hands-on, customer facing training. Generally, the training department, technical staff, and operations staff provide training at the customer’s site. We need an instructional designer and trainer who can analyze the learners and materials, and establish an appropriately targeted learning program. The opportunity exists to develop computer based training as an enhancement to our learning curriculum. Deadline: Open until filled. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Systems Engineer, Clear Ballot, Boston, Massachusetts — we are looking for a talented Systems Engineer who has both a technical and services/support background which enables them to quickly assess customer needs and offer value to Clear Ballot’s customers. The Systems Engineer will gain a deep understanding of how Clear Ballot’s products operate and their optimal configuration to build a streamlined installation process of the Clear Vote election system. The ideal candidate for this position can prioritize mission critical tasks and coordinate the implementation and expansion of our systems. They will be able to work directly with customers, display innovation, think conceptually and act tactically to build consensus around system installation and enhancement and meet deadlines. Deadline: Open until filled. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
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