III. Election News This Week
The Georgia Secretary of State’s office has decided to move all of its elections work in-house, ending a decade-long partnership with Kennesaw State University. “Today my office and Kennesaw State University executed what will be the final contract between our two entities related to the Center for Election Systems,” Secretary of State Brian Kemp said in a statement to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “The Secretary of State’s office is equipped, trained and tested to handle these operations in-house. I am confident that this move will ensure Georgia continues to have secure, accessible and fair elections for years to come.”
Robby Mook who managed Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign and Matt Rhoades who managed Mitt Romney’s 2012 campaign have joined forces to create a new initiative called Defending Digital Democracy in the hopes of preventing any future Russian interference in U.S. elections. According to The Washington Post, the bipartisan project aims to develop ways to share key threat information with political campaigns and state and local election offices; create “playbooks” for election officials to improve cybersecurity; and forge strategies for the United States to deter adversaries from engaging in hacks and information operations, among other things.
The war of words continued in Montana this week between the secretary of state’s office and county elections officials. Corey Stapleton (R), who took office in January has focused his attention on investigating and eliminating voter fraud, which according to the Helena Independent Record, is the first such crack down in memory. “Some of the questions I’ve asked or points I’ve raised, nobody has ever bothered to discuss,” Stapleton told the paper. “We have not convicted anyone of voter fraud in Montana this century… If you question it like I am, it’s almost heresy. They take it as an affront to the job they’re doing.” Regina Plettenberg, president of the Montana Association of Clerk and Recorders, said members of her organization were caught off guard by Stapleton’s press release critical of Missoula County, wishing he would have first talked to the professional organization about what he thought had been done wrong. “If Missoula’s doing it wrong then we’re all doing it wrong,'' Plettenberg told the paper. "Maybe there is a change of direction that his office wants us to take. “I’m hopeful he’ll get some solutions and bring that to our group and train our group on how he’d like to see us to proceed in future elections.”
Lately, the news in election administration can seem a bit overwhelming so that’s why we love this story even more because it shows how awesome local elections officials are. This week, in order to show off the county’s new $560,000 voting and to hopefully allay some fears about election security Flagler County, Florida Supervisor of Elections Kaiti Lenhart conducted a mock election. “Most people don’t know what happens behind the scenes, so that’s really the whole point is to bring you guys in, and for the transparency, which is so important, especially in light of recent news, negative news items, which undermine the trust in democracy,” Lenhart explained. About 129 people took part in the mock election and although Lenhart’s goal was to provide transparency and trust in the system, the mock election was not without controversy. Voters got to choose their favorite way of preparing potatoes — the county’s lead crop — and the shocking winner was baked potatoes, with mashed coming in second and fried third. Seems a bit half-baked to us.
Personnel News: Pam Frejosky is the new Cheatham County, Tennessee elections administrator. Gayle Trotter has been appointed the Malheur County, Oregon clerk. William J. Cadigan has been named the chairman of the Illinois State Board of Elections. Melinda Luedecke is the new Bell County, Tennessee election administrator. Valerie Crafard has retired as the Clatsop County, Oregon clerk. Victor Wonk has stepped down as the Ulster County, New York Democratic elections commissioner. Tina Edwards has resigned as the Glynn County, Georgia supervisor of elections and registration. And lastly, but most importantly, a very hearty congratulations to Washington Secretary of State Kim Wyman who announced this week that she is cancer-free.