I. In Focus This Week
Elections officials nationwide deal with voters’ calls about data request
Some just want more information, others want to unregister
The calls to the Denver Elections office began on July 5, the day after the nation celebrated the 241st anniversary of its independence. Right away the office realized the magnitude of what was happening.
Before the week was over the office had seen more than a twenty-fold increase in voters seeking to withdraw their voter registration.
“To see more people withdrawing in a day than new registrations is certainly something that I never expected to see in my over-12-years of administering elections,” Amber McReynolds, director of elections in Denver recently told NPR. [See Our Say for an op-ed by McReynolds.}
Blue state, red state, swing state, elections officials nationwide have been fielding phone calls and emails — as well as questions via social media — from voters concerned about the recent request for voter data from the President’s Advisory Commission on Election Integrity.
In Cape Girardeau County, Missouri, County Clerk Kara Clark Summers said her office has received several calls regarding the data request. She said citizens are concerned about their sensitive information being distributed and that how they voted may lead to junk mail and harassing phone calls.
“A few registered voters have inquired about being removed from the voter registration rolls,” Clark Summers said. “We are advising them of Missouri laws. We have also advised them to contact the Missouri secretary of state’s office if they have questions about what information was released by state.”
Clark Summers said that none of the people her office has spoken with chose to unregister after finding out more information.
“The calls take time away from our daily business, but it’s important to me and our staff that our voters get cored and informed information regarding their voter registration,” Clark Summers said.
King County, Washington has received a handful of calls from voters expressing concerns about their voter data being released. Kafia Hosh, spokeswoman for the county elections department said those calls are being referred to the secretary of state’s office.
“We have received a small number of requests from voters to cancel their voter registration,” Hosh said. “We normally explain the process on cancelling their registration and also let them know about what data is publically available. After this information, it’s up to the voter if they want to stay registered. We give them a better understanding of the process to allow them to make an informed decision on if they want to stay registered.”
Karen Loschiavo, spokeswoman for Maricopa County, Arizona said although they have received many inquiries about the data request, they have not seen a spike in people unregistering. Loschiavo said that once people understand what information is being released their fears seem to be allayed. She noted that most people seem concerned that who they voted for will be made public information.
Loschaivo pointed out that the office has also received some calls supporting the request.
“We have received a high volume of people reaching out about the data request. The majority have been people demanding their data remain private,” Loschiavo said. “We had just three people that I know of that asked us to comply.”
Most of the calls the elections division in Black Hawk County, Iowa has received have been more curiosity than anything else, said Amy Jensen.
“They haven’t been angry or rude, they just think it’s not right to send their personal information,” Jensen said. “One lady mentioned the information was being sent via email, so not very safe. I’m actually surprised we haven’t received more visits/phone calls.”
Jensen said one person has walked into the office to cancel their registration and another has requested information about unregistering be sent to her via the mail.
Back in Missouri, St. Louis County Democratic Director of Elections Eric Frey said they’ve received about a dozen calls, but doesn’t think that anyone has actually followed through with unregistering yet.
“Interestingly one of our county circuit judges called me and asked to be ‘taken off the list.’ After I explained everything mentioned above and that circuit judges must be registered voters in order to have their job, she backed off of that request as well,” Frey said.
A recent Marist/NPR/PBS poll found that only 35 percent of registered voters in the country feel that elections are fair. While the poll was conducted before the data request was made, some elections officials see the writing on the wall about voter confidence in the process.
“This whole debacle is causing an unnecessary politicization of elections administration which is not warranted or appropriate. Elections Officials work hard to instill voter confidence and this issue is having the opposite effect,” said Brian Corley, Pasco County, Florida supervisor of elections.
Corley’s office has received more than 50 calls/visits to their offices and emails about the data request. He said the commonality of the voter outreach has been concern, frustration, anger, et cetera over personal information being sent.
“The issue has caused an awakening among voters to just how much of their personal information is publicly available online,” Corley said.
Kevin Hall, communications director for Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate echoed that sentiment. He said the secretary’s office has received a fair amount of calls and emails, but that it appears a major part of the problem is people understanding what the commission is requesting.
“A major part of the problem is that people do not understand that a lot of the data being requested is already publicly available,” Hall said. “Many expressed concerns that information regarding who they voted for in an election would be released. Of course, we don’t have that information and would never release it if we did.”
In Florida, the number of Pasco voters who have actually unregistered has been low.
“For the voters who will personally speak to me, I've convinced all but one to remain an active voter, which is ironically enough rewarding but also saddening to have make such a plea!” Corley said.
While no one can predict what impact the data request may have on registration numbers and turnout in 2018, Corley does see at least one upside to the request in Florida.
“Being an eternal optimist, I'm pleased to relay that an upside to the myriad of concerned voters contacting me has led to a chance to speak to the merits of ERIC & this can only help our legislative endeavors next session,” he said.
II. Our Say
Regarding the request to states for voter info
Amber F. McReynolds
Director of Elections for the City and City and County of Denver
I have administered elections in the City and County of Denver for over 12 years and our team has made it our mission to improve the voting experience for all eligible citizens by creating innovative solutions to better serve customers and improve operations. We come to work every day excited about the responsibility and opportunity to serve as election officials. For us, it is about administering one of the most sacred and essential rights we have as Americans.
We have tirelessly worked to make voter registration more efficient and convenient to encourage civic engagement.
I never expected to come to work and see such a sudden increase in voter registration withdrawals. I never expected to see more withdrawals in a day than new registrations.
The impact on voters is real. The impact on civic engagement is real. The impact on election offices is real. Colorado has the highest registration rate as a percentage of population and if this week’s trend continues that could quickly change. Here is the breakdown in Denver since Monday July 3rd, ironically the day before our nation celebrated its independence: (the percentage increase compares the same types of voter transactions over the same number of days during the week of June 26.)
- 2,150 percent increase in voter registration withdrawals.
- 1,833 percent increase in walk-in transactions with voters.
- 790 percent increase email communications from voters.
- 247 percent increase in phone calls from voters.
Here is a sampling of voter comments:
“It seems like an assault on our personal freedoms – of speech and privacy first and foremost.”
“I have concerns that my individually-identifiable information would be misused for illegitimate purposes. I sincerely hope that the Denver Elections Division does not support, or respond to, any such requests involving private information in the future.”
“I am sending this email to state my objection to providing any private information to the commission, should the Denver Elections Division (or the Colorado Secretary of State) be pressured in the future to provide such information.”
“Again, thank you for your efforts in protecting our voting integrity. What we are also gravely concerned about is the follow-up letter coming from the DOJ. Their demand seems very ominous. Will our confidential forms protect us from their demands? It appears that the DOJ may have more clout against the states who want to protect voting rights.”
“I am officially requesting that you DO NOT release my name to the federal government, in terms of my act of voting, or my voting record, or any information at all. Voting should remain a citizen’s private duty, and there is no need to do this. “
“Due to the decision to have my information given without my permission, I would like to have the form sent to me that allows me to unregister as a voter. Please send ASAP.”
“I’m afraid to withdraw my voter registration because some law or rule may change in the interim that won’t allow me to register again.”
“I appreciate that you are handling this matter thoughtfully and with the best interest of Colorado voters in mind.”
According to a recent Pew Research Center study, the top three rights that Americans view as essential to their freedom are the freedom of speech, the right to vote, and the right to privacy. It is understandable that Americans are concerned about this situation.
The Denver Elections Division has fought to modernize election processes and conduct fair, accurate, secure, transparent, efficient elections for our voters. As this issue plays out, it is imperative that the voices of voters and the professionals who are responsible for the day-to-day conduct of elections are heard.
III. Election News This Week
The National Association of Secretaries of State met in Indianapolis earlier this week and while the White House’s request for voter data was a major topic of conversation, so too was cybersecurity. According to the Chicago Tribune, secretaries of state voiced their frustration by the lack of information from federal intelligence officials on allegations of Russian interference with the 2016 election. "Over 20 states have been hampered with in some fashion, but no one seems to know what states they are, which means the Department of Homeland Security has not shared that information," says Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate. "We're still a little frustrated on that count."
Ten percent of the North Carolina county boards of elections cannot conduct business because they lack the required number of members. The 3-member boards have had someone step down and that person cannot be replaced because the governor is currently locked in a legal battle over how county boards of elections are chosen. Boards of elections are doing the best they can to prepare for upcoming elections. “This is all behind the scenes, it's not going to affect the voters. It's just headaches for those of us in the office,” Dave Davis, Pitt County elections director told The Reflector. “Voters are going to be able to vote.” “The boards with two members cannot hold meetings because they cannot make quorum,” said Patrick Gannon, a spokesman with the State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement. “Counties without three members are directed to follow their usual business practices as to all matters that do not require a direct vote of the board.”
St. Louis conducted its first election under the state’s new voter photo ID law this week and according to published reports, while there was some confusion, there were no major problems stemming from the new law. Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft happened to be visiting a polling place when a voter arrived without ID and according to the St. Louis Post Dispatch, he informed the voter about the provisional ballot process. Some voters told the Post-Dispatch they were confused or nervous as they waited to cast their ballots, unsure if the identification they brought was sufficient. Ashcroft had high praise for poll workers and elections officials. Advocates had tried to block the implementation of the law before the election weren’t successful. “We weren’t throwing stones at Ashcroft. He didn’t have the money to do it,” Denise Lieberman of the Advancement Project told the paper. “But inadequate education and inadequate worker training leaves people in a state of confusion. What happens when voters get confused is they stay home.”
Officials in Missoula County, Montana are at odds with the secretary of state’s office over assertions by Secretary Corey Stapleton that voter fraud is a problem in the county. Of the 47,000 ballots cast in Missoula County during the recent special election, 91 were rejected as fraudulent but only one was incorrectly counted. The miscounted ballot was ultimately found and voided. The county reported that one case, not all 91 to the Missoula Police Department and the secretary of state’s office. “That’s where things got somewhat bizarre,” County Attorney Matt Jennings told the Missoulian. “We didn’t know the magnitude that the Secretary of State was treating this with until we received a press release saying they were treating this as fraud.” A heated email exchange ensued with the county questioning why it was being singled out when other counties had hundreds of rejected ballots. County commissioners has sent a letter to the secretary defending their elections office and seeking an explanation for the office’s assertions.
Personnel News: Phillip Warren, the Wilson County, Tennessee administrator of elections was recently elected president of the Tennessee Association of County Election Officials. State Sen. Josh McKoon has announced that he is running for secretary of state in Georgia. Pam Frejosky is the new Cheatham County, Tennessee administrator of elections. Indiana Secretary of State Connie Lawson is the new president of the National Association of Secretaries of State. Katie Harding is the new Lake County, Montana elections administrator. Twila Jones of the Pender County, North Carolina board of elections has been awarded with the Order of the Long Leaf Pine for being one of the longest-serving members of a county board of elections in the state. She has been on the board for 28 years. Alabama Probate Judge Alan King (D) has been appointed to the presidential election commission. Jena Griswold (D), an attorney with federal and state government experience has announced her campaign for Colorado secretary of state.
IV. Fed-State Update
With several lawsuits pending, this week the President’s Advisory Commission on Election Integrity put on hold its request for voter data from all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The White House said it would delete the information provided by Arkansas—the only state to so far submit the requested data.
Although the request is currently on hold, there is still a lot of news about it this week, here is a look at just some of it.
On Capitol Hill, Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Virginia) has written a letter to Vice President Mike Pence asking him to quash the commission’s request for voter data.
"This extensive order risks compromising the privacy of millions of Americans' personal information, potentially violates several federal statutes, paves the way for illegal purging of voter rolls, and is based on false claims made by President Trump and members of his administration," Connolly wrote according to The Hill.
Also on Capitol Hill, Democrats in both the House and Senate have introduced the Anti-Voter Suppression Act that would block federal funding for the president’s election commission.
“It would be highly irresponsible for senators or congressional members to remain silent,’’ Sen. Cory Booker (D-New Jersey) said at the bills unveiling. “It is just and right that at a time when we see, I think, efforts to undermine the most basic Constitutional rights, which is the right to vote and participate in this democracy, that no Senator, that no House member should be silent.”
Three separate federal lawsuits have been filed against the election commission’s request for data. The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, The American Civil Liberties Union and Public Citizen have all filed suit.
In addition, the Electronic Privacy Information Center filed suit last week.
District of Columbia
The Council of the District of Columbia has voted unanimously to reject the White House’s request for voter data. The bill makes it illegal for the D.C. Board of Elections to provide the presidential commission with information about voters other than what is already publicly available.
In last week’s update, Hawaii was the only state with no information about how it would handle the voter data request. This week we have learned that, according to state elections officials, it will be up each of Hawaii’s county governments to determine what voter data to send, if any at all.
The Idaho Democratic Party has filed a lawsuit seeking a temporary restraining order preventing Secretary of State Lawerence Denney from sending any voter data to the White House commission. “No one, absolutely no one in Idaho has ever said they wished more of their private information would fall into the hands of hackers, or telemarketers, or even the federal government,” said Bert Marley, state party chairman. “While Secretary Denney has indicated that he may not send all of the information the Trump commission wants, he simply failed to offer assurances that this is even a legal request or that the information will be safeguarded and kept private.” The suit argues that the request violates the state’s public records law.
The Brennan Center for Justice, the Indiana League of Women Voters and the Indiana chapter of the NAACP have filed suit against Secretary of State Connie Lawson in an attempt to stop the release of voter data to the White House panel. The suit is based on Indiana law which allows for the release of some voter data, but prevents the recipient from sharing that information other than for political or fundraising activities. The White House commission has said it will make the voter data public.
V. Legislative Updates
District of Columbia: The Council of the District of Columbia has voted unanimously to reject the White House’s request for voter data. The bill makes it illegal for the D.C. Board of Elections to provide the presidential commission with information about voters other than what is already publicly available.
Georgia: According to media reports, legislation to require any new voting machines purchased by the state to have a paper trail has picked up bipartisan support. House Bill 641 was filed by Rep. Scott Turner (R-Holly Springs) and has received the support of Rep. Scott Holcomb (D-Atlanta) who hopes to push the bill through so new machines can be in place by 2018.
New Hampshire: Gov. Chris Sununu (R) has signed Senate Bill 3 into law. The new law requires those who register within 30 days of an election or on Election Day to show proof that they live in the communities they claim as their domiciles.
VI. Legal Updates
Colorado: Sarilu Sosa-Sanchez, 59 has been charged with six counts of voter fraud for allegedly submitting ballots on behalf of her deceased parents in multiple elections from 2009-2013.
Illinois: A member of the Rock Island County board is under investigation by the county sheriff’s department after County Clerk Karen Kinney reported the board member for photographing voting machines in a county building.
Iowa: An Iowa woman charged with voting twice in the November 2016 general election has pleaded guilty. Terri Lynn Rote, 56 of Des Moines entered a plea on June 27. Rote submitted two absentee ballots.
Michigan: Grout Township Clerk Linda Birgel has been charged with ballot tampering. She turned herself into authorities on June 29 and was released on $10,000 bond. Birgel is charged with felony disclosing and obstructing votes and absentee ballot tampering. She is also charged with a misdemeanor of failure to perform duties.
Texas: The U.S. Department of Justice has filed paperwork with U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos that the changes to Texas’ voter ID law approved by the Legislature in 2017 “eradicates any discriminatory effect or intent” of the 2011. This is a reversal from the DOJ’s previous position.
Also in Texas, Hays County has received a litigation hold to preserve documents and equipment related to the 2016 general election, including computer audit logs, incident reports, handwritten notebooks of election staff and employee files for past and present elections staff. At least 1,816 ballots have been verified as missing in that election.
In Dallas County, prosecutors have charged Miguel Hernandez, 27, of illegal voting. Hernandez is accused of collecting at least one mail-in ballot from a voter, filling in a vote for Dallas City Council and forging the voter's signature.
U.S. Virgin Island: Superior Court Judge Kathleen Mackay has ruled that the St. Thomas-St. John district board of elections must certify the April 8 special election results.
VII. Tech Thursday
Tech Companies: Clear Ballot recently announced that it has raised more than $18 million to accelerate the company’s growth and customer success. The company will use the capital to accelerate development of innovative election products and expand customer engagement and service. “These funds will be used to grow our presence nationally, to accelerate our development of innovative election products, and to expand our customer support and service team,” said Larry Moore, Clear Ballot CEO.
Kansas: According to KMUW the secretary of state’s website has conflicting information about whether or not voters must provide proof of citizenship in order to register to vote. While some parts of the state’s website have been updated to reflect the court ruling not requiring proof-of-citizenship, the FAQ section still says that voters must show proof to register.
VIII. Opinions This Week
National Opinions: Voter data request, II, III | State election bosses | Presidential election commission, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII, IX, X, XI, XII | Election integrity | Voting rights | Voter purges | Election reform | Election security | Turnout | Unregistering | Voter fraud
Alabama: Voting rights
Arkansas: Voter data
Colorado: Voter data
Guam: Voter data
Illinois; Voter data
Indiana: Voter data
Maryland: Election integrity
Missouri: Voter data
Nebraska: Voter data
New Mexico: Ranked choice voting
New York: Onondaga County
North Carolina: Voter data
North Dakota: Election hacking
Utah: Voter data
Vermont: Voter data
Virginia: Voting machines
Wisconsin: Voter data
Wyoming: Voter data
IX. Upcoming Events
Summer Conference on Election Science, Reform and Administration — Hosted by Reed College and Portland State University the goals of the conference are, first, to provide a forum for scholars in political science, public administration, law, computer science, statistics, and other fields who are working to develop rigorous empirical approaches to the study of how laws and administrative procedures affect the quality of elections in the United States; and, second, to build scientific capacity by identifying major questions in the field, fostering collaboration, and connecting senior and junior scholars. When: July 26-27. Where: Portland, Oregon.
National Association of Election Officials 33rd Annual Conference —This year’s Conference attendees will be inspired and energized as we share trending elections and voter registration issues including The 2016 Elections in Review, Technology Advances in Voter Registration and Elections and Polling Place Line Management, to name a few, Also, crucial information from federal agencies to local election officials sharing practical information for day to day election administration operations. This is the also the time to honor and celebrate the winners of the Election Center’s acclaimed Professional Practices Papers’ Program. You will hear the winning presentations and you will take home all of the innovative programs and ideas that were submitted by your colleagues in other jurisdictions around the country. When: August 19-23. Where: Orange County, California.
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.
X. Job Postings This Week
Associate Components Engineer, Clear Ballot, Boston — our growing team has an immediate need in our Boston office for an entry-level/early career Associate Components Engineer in our Product Management organization. As an Associate Components Engineer, you will be at the center of maintaining Clear Ballot as the leader of commercial-off-the-shelf based voting systems. The list of materials in our voting systems is broad and dynamic; and you will be accountable for staying ahead of vendor product roadmaps, leading the identification and evaluation of new technologies and products from those vendors, identifying new sources of components, then managing new models and products through introduction, test, internal training and deployment. You may also perform manufacturing engineering duties and vendor surveys. The successful candidate will be managing finished goods and subassemblies such as computers, printers, and scanners- not board level components. Deadline: Open until filled. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Elections Manager, Clackamas County, Oregon — Clackamas County Clerk’s Office Elections Division is seeking an elections manager to manage and supervise elections flawlessly and with transparency, honoring and counting every vote. The incumbent will plan, organize and manage all general, primary and special elections held in the county and ensure elections procedures and records comply with statutory requirements. Additionally the position has supervision over four technical and clerical support personnel, and during elections up to 100 temporary employees. Salary: $70,267-$94,862. Deadline: July 19. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Election Specialist, Whitman County, Washington Auditor’s Office— the Election Specialists within the Whitman County Auditor Office assist in the preparation and operation of County elections by processing voter registration applications and election ballots. This position is also tasked with maintaining voter registration files, selection and training of election extra help staff and education programs and have a significant amount of public contact requiring effective communication and service to customers. Deadline: Open until filled. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Project Manager, Dominion Voting Systems — Dominion Voting Systems is seeking an experienced and passionate Project Manager to be based in our Toronto office! This position will be responsible will be responsible for the effective project management of assigned projects throughout the Operations, North territory which includes but is not limited to, scheduling, budgeting, quality, staffing, communication, risk, supply chain, integration and customer communication. Salary: Negotiable base + bonus target & benefits. Deadline: Open until filled. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Regional Sales Manager (West), Dominion Voting Systems — Dominion Voting Systems is seeking is highly-motivated and accomplished Regional Sales Manager to work remotely and be based in the Western United States; preferably California. The Regional Sales Manager is responsible for long term sales (3-5 years) of the company’s election products and services in a specified geographic region to governmental agencies. This position uses technical, organizational and customer knowledge to influence customers and assist them in applying the products and services to their needs, resulting in revenue generation. In addition, the position provides input and participates in the marketing, planning and development of products and services. Salary: Negotiable base + commission & benefits. Deadline: Open until filled. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Research Associate, Democracy Works — we’re seeking a researcher to help us know as much as possible about elections, and use that knowledge to inform our software design, operations, and customer service for more than 1 million voters across 50 states. You’ll: Learn the ins-and-outs of election rules across 50 states, and apply that big-picture understanding to the smallest details of how we serve individual voters; Track when every election is happening, using your wits, charm, and deft Google Alert-wrangling skills (plus the occasional temp staffer); Solve problems, answer questions, and ensure that even our most confused voter gets the information they need; and Break things, hunt bugs, and help prioritize new features for our developer team. Salary: $48,000 to $53,000. 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.