I. In Focus This Week
The Friend Vote
Website means to put a little peer pressure on friends to encourage participation
Our good friends at Merriam-Webster define peer pressure as: a feeling that one must do the same things as other people of one's age and social group in order to be liked or respected by them.
Concerned about voter apathy, a group from the University of Montana created The Friend Vote website in order to allow Missoula County, Montana residents to put a little positive peer pressure on their friends, neighbors and colleagues.
The Friend Vote allows people to see how — but obviously not for who — friends have voted and is designed to help people motivate their friends to get registered and vote.
The Friend Vote allows people to search public voting records to find out if their friends are registered and regularly voting. Then, it provides tools and guidance to help people reach out to their friends with targeted messages to get them to vote, or keep them voting.
The project was lead by Sara Rinfret, associate professor of political science and public administration, Bryce Ward, health care director/associate director of the University of Montana’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research and Justin Angle from the School of Business administration.
“We wanted to work together across disciplines and better understand how to use technology to encourage participation,” said Rinfret.
The Friend Vote currently uses the voter database from Missoula County. Election Administrator Rebecca Connors was an eager participant in the project.
“Election Administrators not only want to see 100 percent voter turnout for an election to ensure we have a robust democracy, but also because as someone who conducts elections and understands the time, money, energy, and people-power to make elections happen, we want to see voters utilize the services our office offers,” Connors said. “If knowing your friend's participation rate encourages you to vote more, that's a good thing! I would love to see this app increase local election turnout as those elections are just as important as a presidential one.”
More than 700 people visited the site, but Ward said the registration page was a deterrent. Fewer than 100 registered.
Rinfert, they are working on crunching the data from the site and hope have more concrete results in early fall. Those who registered searched for 330 registered voters.
Those who registered mostly searched for high propensity voters. Seventy three percent of the registered voters whose record was viewed at least once had voted in 100 percent of eligible general elections since 2008. Only 32 of the registered voters searched were “low propensity” voters.
“We suspect this reflects high propensity voters discovering that their social networks consist of other high propensity voters. This raises an interesting issue of how to find people whose networks include more low propensity voters,” Ward said.
Ward said that anecdotally the researchers have gotten positive feedback about the site and that at least a few people used it to identify and engage low propensity voters in their social network.
“One person I know who owns a store identified that one of her workers was not regularly voting, so she made an extra effort to make sure that her worker was aware that she offered paid time off to go to the polls,” Ward said.
The website does have an opt-out option for anyone who wants to remove their information. Ward said only one person chose to opt-out.
“When the Missoulian article on The Friend Vote was published, I did receive two phone calls from voters caught off guard that their voting information was public,” Connor said. “I had to explain that we do not have record regarding how they voted, only that they voted in that election. That did not resolve their concerns, but I think the element of surprise that election information is public is what truly upset them. While the ballot is secret, voting is a very public process.”
In addition to time spent creating the concept, it took a few days to clean the data and program the website. The only costs were the cost of webhosting and a subscription to a cloud database platform.
The researchers are still considering next steps for the project.
“It seems like a tool that should be more widely available, but it needs to be targeted at people who (a) are willing to reach out to people who they know that do not vote and (b) actually know some people who do not vote regularly,” Ward said.
This is not the first time that the Missoula County elections department has partnered with the University of Montana. Back in 2016, the county and university partnered together to survey county residents on their thoughts about the elections office.
“We're fortunate to work in a university town and have a local partnership with the University of Montana. The political science department assists us with scientific research, internships and brainstorming ideas to improve election services,” Connors said. “Students offer perspectives and ideas to help us be competitive in our industry and we in return reinforce the importance of elections with an emerging voting population. It's a win-win for both of us!”
II. Federal/State Update
In a 35-page ruling, U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly allowed the White House’s election integrity commission to move forward with seeking the voter data from all 50 states and the District. Kollar-Kotelly ruled that the advisory panel is exempt from federal privacy review requirements, regardless of the additional risk it may pose to Americans’ information. “Neither the Commission or the Director of White House Information Technology — who is currently charged with collecting voter roll information on behalf of the Commission — are ‘agencies’ ” of the federal government subject to the court’s review in this matter, Kollar-Kotelly wrote. “To the extent the factual circumstances change, however — for example, if the . . . powers of the Commission expand beyond those of a purely advisory body — this determination may need to be revisited.”
III. Election News This Week
Ten years after being approved by voters, Memphis, Tennessee is preparing to implement ranked choice voting in the 2019 city council elections. By moving to ranked choice voting, the city will be able to eliminate costly runoff elections which can run as high as $24 per vote. As part of the preparation to roll out RCV, the county will organize a large-scale, internal mock election to work out any kinks in the system and the city council will need to approve ordinances surrounding policy questions. “We're going to have to spend a lot of money on voter education," Shelby County Administrator of Elections Linda Phillips told The Commercial Appeal.
Officials in Mercer County, New Jersey are investigating why more than 100 mail-in ballot arrived a month after the June primary. According to New Jersey.com, Joanne Palmucci, chairwoman for the Mercer County Board of Elections, said the office was blindsided when it received about 130 mail-in ballots on July 6, a month after the state primary. All of the ballots were postmarked by the deadline. There were some from every municipality and both parties. Palmucci said the ballots were not misplaced at the county elections office, but by the U.S. Postal Service. "Somebody messed up, but it wasn't the county," Palmucci said. "It's unfortunate, but there's nothing we can do about it." The USPS has said it is investigating the situation.
The Navy has announced the elimination of seven shipboard collateral duties including Voting Officer. Voting Officers ensure that members of the Navy understand their voting rights and how to register and vote absentee. According to the Navy News Service, the removal of these officers is part of a larger objective to remove unnecessary burdens and distractions from sailors. "It's not just about removing collateral duties," said Moran. "It's about taking a hard look at all the demands we put on our ships, squadrons and our Sailors, and refocusing our efforts on eliminating the unnecessary tasks that ultimately distract our Sailors from their primary duties."
A lot of thought goes into the choosing the perfect location for a polling site and the Washington County, Maryland Board of Elections has decided to relocate one of its early voting sites which is currently in a building near the county detention center. The Board’s Attorney Roger Schlossberg told county commissioners that female voters are subject to verbal harassment from inmates in the yard and that voters will have to make their way through those using the day-reporting center.
Personnel News:Tabitha Lehman has been reappointed to another four-year term as the Sedgwick County, Kansas election commissioner. Will County, Illinois Clerk Nancy Schultz Voots has announced that she will not seek re-election in 2018. She first began working in the office as a high school student in 1975. Derek J. Oestreicher has left his position as director of elections of the state of Montana.
In Memoriam: We’d like to ask for your slight indulgence on this one. On July 22, legendary Washington, D.C. news anchor Jim Vance died. He was 75. Vance, as everyone referred to him, started at NBC4 in Washington, D.C. in 1969 and became anchor in 1972. He was charismatic and smart and a huge part of life for those of us that call D.C. home. He was on the air through every major event in the nation’s capital. Most of us do not remember a time when he was not on our televisions at the dinner hour. He was also very outspoken on many issues and that’s what we’d like to share with you here. This is a clip of Vance’s View from November 2016. In it, Vance reads the riot act to those who were choosing to sit out the 2016 election. It’s good stuff, no matter what side of the aisle you’re on.
IV. Legislative Updates
Federal Legislation: Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Maryland) has introduced the Democracy Restoration Act of 2017 that would restore voting rights to individuals after they have completed the terms of their sentence and returned to their communities.
Arkansas: The executive subcommittee of the Arkansas Legislation Council approved the state Board of Election Commissioners emergency rule enforcing the state’s new voter, photo ID law.
Illinois: At press time, there was confusion as to whether or not Gov. Bruce Ruaner will sign the automatic voter registration bill approved by the Legislature. According to NBC5, the governor had planned to sign the bill during the Rainbow PUSH Coalition Convention, but then did not.
New Mexico: By a 6-2 vote, the Santa Fe city council has once again voted to postpone the implementation of ranked choice voting.
New York: Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) issued an executive order this week requiring all state agencies to mail or provide voter registration forms to any member of the public whose contact information is on file. Previously only the DMV and certain social agencies provided voter registration forms.
Texas: A bill that would increase the penalties for some offenses related to illegally assisting an elderly person with voting or illegally handling or harvesting a ballot has been approved by the Senate during the Legislature’s special session.
Utah: Sen. Karen Mayne (D-West Valley) is introducing new legislation to review voter privacy measures during the next session of the Legislature. Mayne’s legislation would make sure that birthdates are automatically exempt from all open records requests. “I think we need to protect or look into how we can protect those voter rights, especially the date of birth — and the month and the day — is concerning to me,” she told KUER. “So we’re going to venture there.”
V. Legal Updates
Alabama: The Campaign Legal enter is suing Alabama to get the state to automatically enroll more than 60,000 convicted felons to the state’s voter roll who are now eligible to vote under a new law.
Arkansas: A lawsuit has been filed against two members of the Jefferson County board of election commissioners alleging that the members are refusing to work with Will Fox, who had been appointed election coordinator by County Judge Henry “Hank” Williams IV in advance of a recent special election. The suit says that refusal “resulted in anomalies in the election. Mr. Fox has attempted to assist in the election process that has occurred this year but Mr. Soffer has threatened Mr. Fox and attempted to have him removed from public meetings.”
California: Activists have filed suit in an effort to upend a new law that revises the rules for California recall elections. The Legislature approve a provision, added to the state budget, that extends the amount of time between a recall petition effort and an actual election. The new law gives voters the opportunity to remove their signatures from petitions.
Florida: A trial began this week in the lawsuit filed by the American Civil Rights Union against Broward County alleging that the county’s voter rolls are filled with ineligible voters.
Kansas: U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson denied Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s request to reconsider a magistrate judge’s sanctions. In her ruling, Robinson chided Kobach for habitually making misleading statements.
Massachusetts: The Suffolk Superior Court has ruled that the statewide practice of setting a 20-day voter registration deadline is unconstitutional, arbitrary and has needlessly prevent thousands of residents from voting. "The court concludes that the Commonwealth has shown no real reason, grounded in data, facts or expert opinion, why election officials need to close registration almost 3 weeks before the election to do their job," Associate Justice Douglas H. Wilkins wrote in his ruling. "Instead, the plaintiffs have shown that there is no compelling reason for a 20-day deadline that deprives individuals of their right to vote." Secretary of State William Galvin has said he will appeal the ruling.
Minnesota: An effort to put even-year city elections on the November ballot seems to be short of the required 7,011 valid signatures. Instead of submitting an additional 1,100 signatures, the petitioner has filed a lawsuit against the city of St. Paul, City Clerk Shari Moore and Ramsey County Elections Manager Joseph Mansky.
North Carolina: The State Supreme Court announced that Gov. Roy Cooper isn’t required to appoint members of the state elections and ethics enforcement board created by a Republican-lead Legislature pending arguments before the high court scheduled for August 28.
Utah: U.S. District Court Judge Robert Shelby has ruled that boundaries for election districts in San Juan County are unconstitutional and violate the voting rights of Native Americans. The county was force to redraw the maps in 2016, but Shelby recently determined that the new maps are still unconstitutional.
VI. Tech Thursday
National Tech: This week, Facebook announced that it will provide funding to Defending Digital Democracy, a Harvard-based nonprofit that seeks to curb cyberattacks aimed at political groups and election systems.
California: Riverside County District Attorney Michael Hestrin announced that hackers successfully infiltrated the state’s online voter registration system in 2016 which lead to confusion and heated exchanges between voters, polls workers and poll watchers during the June primary. Twenty formal complaints were filed by voters turned away by poll workers, leaving them unable to vote in their party’s primary. Hestrin told KQED he believes — from anecdotal accounts — that many, many more people were turned away but did not complain, opting instead to forgo voting or to vote by provisional ballot. “I have no idea who they are, or why they did this,” Hestrin said. “Not sure who did it, not sure why, just know it was happening across a broad section.”
Also in California, staff from the Los Angeles County Registrar of Voters office are headed to Defcon, one of the world’s largest hacking conventions, to hope they can learn what they need to worry about as they work to create a new voting system for the county. “There is a past history in the election community ... to kind of resist this kind of event,” Registrar of Voters Dean Logan told the Los Angeles Times. “But we need to embrace this. We need to know what the threats are.”
VII. Opinions This Week
Connecticut: Legal fees
Iowa: Voter suppression
Louisiana: Voter data
Maine: Ranked choice voting
Massachusetts: Automatic voter registration
Michigan: Power of your vote
Montana: Secretary of state
New Jersey: Voting machines
New Mexico: Ranked choice voting
Oregon: Presidential election commission
Pennsylvania: Voting machines
Tennessee: Voting security
VIII. Upcoming Events
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.
NCSL Capitol Forum 2017— the NCSL Capitol Forum is the meeting where NCSL Standing Committees meet to discuss policy and set the agenda for the states. The NCSL Standing Committees are composed of legislators and legislative staff who are appointed by the leadership of the legislatures. The committees are the main organizational mechanism for serving NCSL members. There are nine committees that deal with both state and state-federal issues. The jurisdictions of the standing committees are similar to those of committees in the state legislatures. When: December 10-13. Where: San Diego.
iGO Mid-Winter Conference 2018 — Mark your calendars now and stay tuned for more information and registration details on iGO’s mid-winter conference. When: Jan. 5-10, 2018. Where: San Diego.
NASED 2018 Winter Meeting — Mark your calendars now and stay tuned for more information and registration details on NASED’s 2018 winter meeting. When: February 16-19. Where: Washington, D.C.
NASS 2018 Winter Conference — Mark your calendars now and stay tuned for more information and registration details on NASS’s 2018 winter meeting When: February 16-19. Where: Washington, D.C.
IX. 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.
Director of Policy Development and Programming, The American Constitution Society for Law & Policy, Washington, D.C. — the American Constitution Society for Law and Policy (ACS), one of the nation's leading progressive legal organizations, seeks an experienced, creative, and detail-oriented Director of Policy Development and Programming based in Washington, D.C. to lead ACS’s “Democracy and Voting” and “Equality and Liberty” efforts. The first portfolio focuses on developing a comprehensive vision of the right to vote and to participate in our political process. The second addresses means of combating inequality resulting from race, color, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, disability, age and other factors. The Director plays a central role in coordinating and facilitating ACS's substantive legal and public policy work in the areas described above and will: Work closely with constitutional scholars, practitioners, advocates, public officials and law students to formulate and advance a progressive vision of the law that is intellectually sound, practically relevant, and faithful to our constitutional values and heritage; Develop and oversee execution of conferences, symposia and other live programming; and Work with authors to publish ACS Issue Briefs and other publications. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Election Processing Supervisor, Contra Costa County, California — election processing supervisors are responsible for overseeing and monitoring election services clerical and technical support staff, systems and programs in one of the major functional units of the Elections Division: Candidate and Voter Services; Voter Registration/Absentee Services and File Maintenance; Precinct/Poll Worker/Mapping Services; Warehouse and Equipment Services and Ballot/Tally/Reporting Systems and Services. The Ideal candidates must possess knowledge and understanding of the entire election process cycle and the relationship between each unit of the Elections Division. Salary: $57,566-$69,972. Deadline: August 4. 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.