III. Election News This Week
The Virginia Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission has approved a resolution instructing its staff to conduct an review of the state’s board of elections after several technical issues raised questions about the reliability of the SBOE’s software. According to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Sen. Mark D. Obershain (R-Rockingham) requested the audit as a way to find out if the existing system can be fixed with more money or if it’s “fundamentally broken.” Elections Commissioner Edgardo Cortés told the paper his agency is already working to improve performance by adding server capacity and making other tweaks after gaining the ability to modify the system’s code in-house. The last audit was conducted about 20 years ago.
Kansas conducted municipal elections this week and turnout was low in many places. Some are attributing that to the fact that apparently the secretary of state’s office does not appear to have conducted any public outreach about the change in election cycles. “We tried to get what word out that we could,” Douglas County Clerk Jamie Shew told the Lawrence Journal . “I think there was an anticipation that there would be kind of a statewide push getting information out. We’ll kind of evaluate it for us, how we increase that push locally.” Legislation approved in 2015 to change the election cycle included language requiring the secretary of state conduct a public information campaign, but according to the LJ, as of the afternoon on primary day, there was no information on the secretary of state’s homepage and no record could be found of any advertising or public service announcements.
Utah County, Utah, conducting its first-ever vote-by-mail election, inadvertently sent 68,000 Republican ballots for the 3rd Congressional special election to unaffiliated voters. According to The Desert News, the error will cost the county an additional $15,000 to $20,000 to inform voters of the error. "We cross-checked, triple-checked, but in this particular case it did not get the appropriate level of scrutiny it should have," County Clerk/Auditor Bryan Thompson told the paper. "We're all human, mistakes happen, but that being said it's still something that needs an additional level of oversight to review and keep this particular mistake from ever happening again." Utah County was not alone though. Wasatch County reportedly sent about 1,400 GOP ballots to unaffiliated voters. "I like the vote by mail, but this has made it a little more confusing," County Clerk Brent Titcomb told the paper. He said sending out notices to the voters who received the wrong ballots will cost about $700.
About a dozen candidates running for office in three of the New York City boroughs protested outside of the Brooklyn Board of Elections this week calling for election reform. The candidates, who are backed by the New York Bernie Sanders Committee for Changes, which is demanding an investigation into the 2016 primary, said the purge of hundreds of thousands of voters before the election was not a mistake. “The whole Board of Elections is appointed by the party leaders,” Michale Blecher, president of Politics Reborn told the Brooklyn Eagle. “We’re disappointed that to this day there has been no criminal investigation of what happened at the purge, and no real reform has actually been passed, to make sure something like this doesn’t happen again.”
Personnel News: The Rev. Tom Smiley has been appointed chairman of the Hall County, Georgia board of elections. Ashley Dittus has been nominated to serve as the Ulster County Democratic election commissioner. Thomas Wheeler has stepped down as the head of the Justice Department’s civil rights unit. Nevada Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske has confirmed that she will see re-election in 2018. Taylor Burks has been sworn in as the new Boone County, Missouri clerk. Burks replaces long-time Clerk Wendy Noren. “I have big shoes to fill,” Burks told the Missourian. “The first few weeks will be spent getting the lay of the land and continuing the exceptional work Wendy did.” Gabriel McArthur, an entrepreneur, has announced that he’s running for secretary of state in Colorado. Susan Inman has announced her candidacy for Arkansas secretary of state. She served as director of elections for former Secretary of State Sharon Priest and was the Pulaski County election director for 13 years. She has also served as both a county election commissioner and a state election commissioner. Rhea County, Tennessee election commissioner Frank Snyder has been elected vice president of the Tennessee Association of County Election Officials. Dan Harness has been sworn in as a new member of the Boone County election commission. Coles County, Illinois Clerk Sue Rennels announced that she will not seek re-election in 2018.