I. In Focus This Week
Exit Interview: John Lindback
From Alaska to Oregon to the private sector, Lindback has seen a lot
One other “giant” in the elections world also retired in June and that was John Lindback. John was the first executive director of ERIC. He also was a senior officer for Elections Initiatives at The Pew Charitable Trusts where he worked as the lead on Pew’s work to upgrade voter registration.
He served as director of elections in the Oregon secretary of state’s office for eight years and was the chief of staff for the Alaska lieutenant governor which included six years with administrative oversight of the Alaska Division of Elections.
John has seen a lot during his tenure in the world of elections administration and has seen it from both sides of the spectrum—the day-to-day work and the advocacy side, which is why we did not want to miss the opportunity to sit down with him (so-to-speak) for one of our exit interviews.
You are leaving the field at an interesting time, to say the least, why now?
A year ago I decided that I didn’t want to work full-time anymore. My wife and I would like to travel the world for up to three months a year if we can afford it. It’s time to start living that dream.
In your career you’ve had the opportunity to work day-to-day in elections as well as on the advocacy side, did you prefer one over the other and if so, why? [I know, it's like choosing a favorite child, but every parent has one!]
I can’t say I liked one more than the other. I can say, though, that I was very glad I had served as an administrator of elections before I went to work for the Pew Charitable Trusts.
Elections administrators frequently work with charitable foundations, civic tech groups, academics, and advocacy organizations on improving US elections. Administrators tend to trust advocates who have a background in running elections. It’s offensive when advocates and academics who don’t know the difference between a spoiled ballot and a provisional ballot or the difference between active and inactive voters walk in the door and start telling seasoned administrators how to do their jobs.
Is there anything you wished you had accomplished while working in elections that you weren’t able to?
Yes, about a thousand things. There are too many to mention. But I worked hard every day to make progress. Making changes in how elections are conducted takes extreme patience and tons of time. Nothing happens quickly because most worthwhile changes require legislative action and requests for more money. Partisan politics can get in the way. I just kept my head down and kept plugging away. I got as far as I could.
Talk to us about duct tape. We understand it's played a key role in your career.
I’ve been looking forward to the day when I don’t have to worry that what I say could threaten my job. The day is here.
Elections administrators in this country for far too long have held together aging elections systems and voter registration systems with the proverbial duct tape and paper clips. It’s ridiculous that state legislatures and county commissioners have strangled elections budgets to the point where the foundation of our Democracy is threatened.
In my home state of Oregon, the University of Oregon athletic department is swimming in money and palatial facilities. Yet counties can’t afford to replace aging voting equipment.
It’s time for elections officials to shed the “I’ll keep it together with duct tape” mentality and the fear of speaking out. Elections officials, and those of us who support them, all must demand that appropriators make elections a priority rather than an afterthought.
In an increasingly partisan world, what advice would you give to up-and-coming elections officials to deal with that?
When I stepped into the world of elections administration I thought it was important to put away my “partisan past” and stay out of political activities. The public and political campaigns, including the political parties, expect elections administrators to run elections on a level playing field. I stopped affiliating with a political party. I avoided all political activities. I don’t put bumper stickers on my car. I don’t tell my friends how to vote on Facebook. I just tell them to vote. My family and close friends know my political leanings. But that’s it. It worked well for me. I encourage up-and-coming elections officials to do the same.
What do you feel was your greatest accomplishment and why?
Personally: Serving as a strong role model to three sons.
Professionally: Expanding ERIC to 20 states and the District of Columbia and getting it up as a fully functioning, efficient organization. It was the hardest job I’ve ever done and the most rewarding job of my life. And I’ve had some great jobs.
If you could create the perfect elections system, what would it look like?
I’m not sure what the perfect elections system looks like. But if I could wave a magic wand and change things I’d make the following happen:
- Require all states and territories to participate in ERIC.
- Implement automatic voter registration in all 50 states and the territories.
- Provide adequate funding for resources and first-rate training of elections officials on how to keep their voting systems and voter registration databases secure.
- Make the federal government pay its share of expenses for federal elections.
- Prohibit Secretaries of State and Lt. Governors from running for another office at the same time as they have jurisdiction over elections in their state.
- Require all states to give access to international observers for federal general elections.
What will you miss most about working in the elections field?
I’ll miss that sense that what I’m doing every day is important to American Democracy. And I’ll miss talking every day to all the wonderful friends I’ve made in the elections community. Doug Lewis tells me I can join him and Chris Thomas and others in the Has Been Club. Gladly.
What’s next for you, after your fabulous Scandinavian excursion that is?
I’m looking forward to a life where I get to travel every year and then come and work on small elections projects. I’d like to work on short-term projects that have a clear goal. If I can work part-time and still make a difference I’ll be a happy man.
II. Federal-State Update
Late last week, the Presidential Commission on Election Integrity issued a new letter to all 50 states and the District seeking the voting data of every registered voter.
In the letter, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R), who is vice chair of the commission, emphasized the importance of privacy of the voter data.
“Individuals’ voter registration records will be kept confidential and secure throughout the duration of the commission’s existence,” Kobach wrote in the letters to state officials. “Once the commission’s analysis is complete, the commission will dispose of the data as permitted by federal law.”
In the letter, Kobach also said that the only information the commission would make public are “statistical conclusions drawn from the data” and other general observations.
States have responded to the new request in a variety of ways.
This week, U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth denied an emergency motion by Common Cause to stop the collection of data. The suit alleged that the request for certain data—voting history and party affiliation—violates a law that prohibits the government from gathering information about how Americans exercise their first amendment rights.
Also this week, Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Dianne Feinstein (D-California) and Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) have written a letter to the White House counsel asking whether the Trump Administration will pay for or provide credit monitoring services for the citizens whose personal information was divulged when the White House released 112 pages of emails about the election commission.
Idaho: The Idaho Democratic Party has said that it will not sue the state in order to stop the release of voter data. The party had sued Secretary of State Lawerence Denney following the first request for data seeking to keep the information private.
New Hampshire: A legal challenge brought by the American Civil Liberties Union of New Hampshire against Secretary of State Bill Gardner to stop the release of the state’s voter data to the presidential commission will have an August 7 hearing.
Oregon: Oregon Secretary of State Dennis Richards has issued a revised, more limited policy on public disclosure of information from voter rolls. Under the new policy, the secretary of state’s office will not release voters’ dates of birth or phone number, something the office had previously done. “The Legislature has enacted laws that require statewide voter lists to be publicly available, and this serves the critical public policy interest of ensuring transparency and accountability in the conduct of elections,” Richardson said in a statement. “I encourage the Legislature to comprehensively review the statutes governing publicly available voter information in the 2018 session; this new private information policy will serve as a stopgap until the legislature decides to update the law.”
Utah: On behalf of groups of concerned voters, the League of United Latin American Citizens of Utah (LULAC) and the League of Women Voters of Utah (LWV) have filed suit against Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox in an effort to prevent the release of voter data to the election commission. According to the Salt Lake Tribune, the lawsuit argues that if the database were made public, the elections chief would be unable to guarantee that the information would be used legally because someone could request the information directly from the commission rather than from the state. Therefore, private firms could use the information however they saw fit, the lawsuit states.
Washington: The State of Washington has responded to the U.S. Department of Justice’s inquiry as to how the state purges the rolls of “ineligible voters”. In her four-page response to the DOJ, Director of Elections Lori Augino says the state routinely compares its voter registration database to lists of deaths and felony convictions. And the state looks for duplicates every night. Augino said the bottom line is Washington has “an outstanding and consistent track record of maintaining an accurate list of registered voters while simultaneously ensuring that valid voters are not improperly purged from this list.”
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.
IV. Research and Report Summaries
Automatic Voter Registration in Oregon- Sean McElwee, Brian Schaffner, and Jesse Rhodes, Demos, July 2017: Recent research about automatic voter registration (AVR) in Oregon, in place since January 2016, found 44 percent of those who were automatically registered voted in the November 2016 election.
In the state’s system, eligible but unregistered voters found through the Department of Motor Vehicles databases are notified by mail they will be added to the voter rolls. They can either decline registration within 21 days by returning a postcard to the state’s election authorities, choose a party, or they are automatically registered as Non-Affiliated.
- 8 percent of enrollees opted out of registration;
- 11 percent chose a party; and
- 78 percent were automatically registered as Non-Affiliated.
The report also assesses the impact of AVR on the diversity of the state’s electorate in 2016.
V. Legislative Updates
Federal Legislations: By a 14-1 vote, the Senate Intelligence Committee moved a bill that would ensure the intelligence community is well-positioned to detect cyberattacks, strengthen information-sharing with states to protect voting systems and “send a message to Moscow that we will not accept their aggressive actions.”
Also on Capitol Hill, Sen. Mark Warner (D-Virginia) has submitted an amendment to the Senate’s National Defense Authorization Act. If approved, the amendment would add cyberattacks on federal state and local elections to a policy that declares the US should “employ all instruments of national power, including the use of offensive cyber capabilities” to respond to such cyber threats.
California: Gov. Jerry Brown (D) has signed legislation into law that will require the state’s child welfare system to provide voter registration resources and paperwork to foster youth when they are processing into adulthood.
Also in California, Assembly Bill 765 would give city and town councils the option to hold off on special elections and move a ballot issue to the next regularly scheduled election. Municipalities could still hold a special election if the issue was time sensitive.
Delaware: Gov. John Carney (D) has signed a bill into law that will make it easier for residents from the First State to vote absentee. Under the new law, absentee requests will no longer have to be notarized.
Guam: Sen. Mary Torres (R-Santa Rita) has introduced a bill that, in an effort to save money, would move the primary to the first Saturday in August instead of the current day which is the third Saturday in August.
North Carolina: The Ward County commission voted this week to allow four precincts in the county to conduct their 2018 elections all by mail. Each of the four precincts has fewer than 300 voters.
Rhode Island: Gov. Gina Raimondo has signed automatic voter registration legislation into law. Rhode Island becomes the 9th state and the District of Columbia to automatically register residents to vote when conducting business with the Department of Motor Vehicles.
VI. Legal Updates
Alabama: Chief District Judge W. Keith Watkins has denied a request by advocacy groups for a preliminary injunction in lawsuit that seeks to have the voting rights of Alabama felons automatically restored following a change in state law that more clearly defines what felonies require someone to lose their voting rights.
California: Ray Lutz, founder of the Citizens Oversight Project has sued San Diego County seeking to personally recount votes from the 2016 presidential primary to see if the results were accurate. Lutz alleges that the difference in vote margins between early vote-by-mail ballots and votes cast at precincts on primary day was so large that likely fraud occurred. The county stands by the vote count and denies any fraud occurred.
Kansas: Secretary of State Kris Kobach has filed notice that he is appealing the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals order that he submit to a deposition by the American Civil Liberties Union in a case regarding the state’s proof-of-citizenship law. On Wednesday, the Appeals Court denied the request.
North Carolina: Two judges of a three-judge panel of the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals said recently that they are concerned that legislative leadership has taken few, if any steps to draw new election maps since the court struck those down last year. “What concerns, at least me, is the seriousness of how this is being taken by the legislature. This is serious,” Judge James A. Wynn of the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals told a lawyer for the legislative leaders at a hearing in federal court in Greensboro.
On Monday, the panel rejected the request by voters to force the state to hold special elections. The next legislative elections won’t occur until November 2018. The judges gave lawmakers until Sept. 1 to get the new boundaries draw, but did say they would extend it until Sept. 15 if the lawmakers showed that they were working.
Ohio: In a legal brief, Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted has told the Supreme Court of the United States that the Ohio’s procedure for purging voters does not violate federal prohibition against removing individuals for failing to vote. According to The Cleveland Plain Dealer, the brief said election boards ask inactive registrants to confirm their eligibility. Failure to respond to those confirmation notices, not failure to vote, is what triggers the cancelation of the voter’s registration.
Tennessee: The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments this week in a case that questions the method state officials used to count votes on an abortion amendment that was approved in 2014 by 53 percent of the vote. In the lower court ruling, U.S. District Judge Kevin Sharp wrote that the state violated due process and equal protection rights.
VII. Tech Thursdsay
National Tech: During the Voting Machine Hacking Village at the 25th annual DefCon in Las Vegas were able to hack into five different types of voting machines during the event. “The first ones were discovered within an hour and 30 minutes. And none of these vulnerabilities has ever been found before, they’ll all new,” said Harri Hursti, co- coordinator of the event told USA Today. The hackers were not able to change any votes on the machines, nor did anyone succeed in gaining access to a system wirelessly. Most of the machines used at the event were purchased off eBay.
Idaho: The voter lookup on the secretary of state’s website is temporarily down while the office moves server equipment. “The plan is to have it up in the next two weeks,” Tim Hurst, chief deputy secretary of state told the Idaho Press. Voters can still contact their local county elections offices to confirm their registration.
VIII. Opinions This Week
Alabama: Crossover voting
Arizona: Voting rights
California: Orange County
District of Columbia: Turnout
Idaho: Voter data
Illinois: Automatic voter registration
Iowa: Confidence in elections
New Hampshire: Voter data
New Jersey: Lt. governor
New York: Voting rights
North Carolina: Redistricting
North Dakota: Vote by mail
Ohio: Hamilton County
Rhode Island: Election safeguards
South Dakota: Native voting rights
Texas: Mail ballot fraud
West Virginia: Secretary of state
IX. 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.
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.
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.