I. In Focus This Week
Helping to build a voting time estimator
New tool will estimate how long it will take to vote a ballot
Center for Technology and Civic Life
Everyone in the election field knows how important it is to minimize waits at the polls, and in recent years, we’ve seen big advances in using data to help predict and avoid polling place stress.
But while there’s a lot of research on overall wait times, there’s little data out there that addresses one critical piece of the puzzle: the amount of time it takes to vote a ballot.
For that reason, the Center for Technology and Civic Life is working with software developer Mark Pelczarski to build a tool that will estimate how long it will take voters to mark a ballot based on its contents. Once it’s ready, the tool will be available for free in the Election Toolkit.
As we move forward with the project, election officials have an important role to play in helping it come together.
Working toward a goal
“We know that when voters experience long wait times at the polling place, it can discourage participation,” says Whitney May, Director of Government Services at the Center. “This project is about collecting data to discover a clearer connection between ballots and voting times. Ultimately, we want to give election officials a free tool they can use to make resource allocation decisions that minimize wait times for voters.”
These are issues that have been on Mark’s mind for a long time.
A few years ago, Mark wrote and refined a software program (often called the Line Optimization Tool) that uses data inputs to predict polling place capacity. It’s a highly useful program, but it’s dependent on a few key pieces of data -- in particular, the predicted average minutes to vote.
“Those who have used the tool can readily see how critical a difference a minute or so in that average time can be; it can easily change a smoothly-functioning polling place into one with long lines and hours-long waits,” explains Mark.
Unfortunately, he says, this highly sensitive “minutes to vote” has often been the product of guesswork instead of real data, meaning that officials end up making important decisions based on unreliable information.
Part of the reason that determining voting times has been such a stubborn challenge is needing to account for all of the possible variations in ballots. But Mark has a plan for tackling this challenge, and his work will yield incredibly valuable information for election administrators.
“We’re using computational and mathematical analysis,” Mark explains, “to correlate differences in ballots with differences in completion times. For example, how much time does each additional contested race add to the time needed to vote? How much for each referendum? Is there a measurable time difference between electronic and paper voting? These are among over a dozen variables we're analyzing.”
Mark is refining the math and programming stages of the project, but the most important step is collecting data -- lots of it. This is where we need the help of election officials who care about these questions.
Collecting ballot time data
Although we have a good start with data contributed by Charles Stewart III of MIT, we need more to be able to create a reliable estimator.
“We’d like to collect as much actual timing data as possible with a wide variety of different ballots,” Mark describes. “Ideally, we’d like 50 or more voters timed with each ballot and minimally at least 30, so that we have reliable averages and ranges for the mathematical portion of our work.”
This may sound like a lot, but data collection doesn’t need to be a major undertaking. Although we’d like to have election officials oversee several timers working at several polling places, a single timer working at just 1 polling place could collect voting times for over 50 voters in an hour or two.
If you’re an election official who already has data on voting times, we hope you’ll volunteer to contribute to this project by sharing your data.
If you don’t have data, we’d love to have you collect some during an upcoming election, and we’re ready with technology and support to help you.
On the technology front, Mark has developed a simple tool to streamline the data collection process.
Using the Voting Timer App he created, you can time 4 booths simultaneously, and it automatically uploads your results, so you don’t need to do any data entry. It’s a lot easier than using a stopwatch and a pencil.
In terms of support, CTCL is offering training and assistance at no cost.
“If you’re interested in collecting ballot time data,” Whitney explains, “CTCL can train you and your team to use the Voting Timer App to collect voting times at your polling places. We want to make it as easy as possible for election officials to contribute data, so all that’ll be required from your office is a few staff members and their time.”
We hope you’ll consider contributing to this project. By helping us build this tool, you’ll also be helping the countless election officials around the country who will benefit from it.
II. Federal-State Updates
Late last week, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security contacted the 21 states it said the Russians had tempted to infiltrate during the 2016 election cycle. The contact comes three months after DHS had originally announced the attempted hacks but did not release the list of states.
“We heard feedback from the secretaries of state that this was an important piece of information,” Bob Kolasky, acting deputy undersecretary for DHS’s National Protection and Programs Directorate told The Washington Post. “We agreed that this information would help election officials make security decisions.”
However, by Wednesday, DHS was backtracking a bit. While Russians had attempted to breach statewide systems in California and Wisconsin in the run-up to the election, the systems that they attempted to breach were not elections-related.
In Presidential Election Commission news, The Hill reports that the Lawyers’ Committee For Civil Rights Under the Law is calling on members of the Senate Judiciary Committee to question Attorney General Jeff Sessions about the Department of Justice’s connection to the president’s election commission.
“With significant evidence of politicization at the Department and within the Civil Rights Division in particular, it is critical the Senate Judiciary Committee fulfills its oversight role,” Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee said.
Georgia: Georgia has become the most recent state to provide limited voter data to the election commission after the commission agreed to pay the state $250.
III. Election News This Week
A study by University of Wisconsin-Madison political scientist Ken Mayer and funded by Dane County Clerk Scott McDonnell found that 16,800 to 23,250 voters in two counties did not vote because of the state’s voter ID law. According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, key portions of those surveyed said they did not vote because they did not have ID that would allow them to or did not believe the IDs they had could be used under the voting law. The study found the ID law disproportionately affected African-Americans and low-income people.
An audit of Utah’s 3rd Congressional District special election has pointed out some mistakes in the process and offered recommendations for avoiding similar mistakes. Auditor John Dougall recommended that poll workers strengthen protections to ballot secrecy and that elections officials send out correct ballots in a timely manner to prevent initial ballot errors.
A group called RISE to Vote and lead by Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross is working to get every professional athlete registered to vote. The organizations said it is concentrating first on NFL and NBA teams, but has plans to eventually hold events for MLB, NHL, WNBA and other professional sports teams. “We’re about amplifying athletes’ voices,” RISE CEO Jocelyn Benson told The Washington Post. “We’re not about telling an athlete how to do that or what to say.”
Cuyahoga County, Ohio Executive Armond Budish announced this week that the county will be hiring a voting rights coordinator. "The right to vote is critical to our democracy," County Executive Armond Budish said in a statement. "At a time when some are trying to make it harder to vote, we need to do more to help people get registered. Cuyahoga County is dedicated to making voting as accessible as possible for all of our residents." The county will hire a voting-rights coordinator, who will work with other county agencies to improve civic engagement opportunities. The coordinator will also promote voter registration efforts.
Seriously, we could have told you this would not end well. This week Boston council candidate Pat Payaso — which is Spanish for clown — thought it would be a good idea to dress up as a clown and visit a few polling locations. Needless to say that didn’t float with voters who called the police and notified them that there was a “creepy clown” hanging around.
We’ll take all three. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) has launched a competition to select the state’s new “I Voted” stickers. The three choices all celebrate a woman’s right to vote which was gained in New York 100 years ago, three years before it was gained nationally. This year’s election in New York falls one day after the anniversary.
Personnel News: Jennifer DiSomma has left the Suffolk County, New York board of elections.
In Memoriam: Greg Haws, former Weber County, Utah clerk-auditor-treasurer died Sept. 14. He was 65. “He was the kind of person who was willing to put everything on the line to move things forward. That takes a special kind of person,” Joan Hellstrom, who was a Weber County commissioner when Haws was Weber County clerk-auditor-treasurer told The Standard.
IV. Legislative Updates
California: Gov. Jerry Brown (D) has signed a bill into law that will move the state’s presidential primary from June to early March.
Indiana: Hoosier lawmakers are planning to file bills for same-day voter registration and vote-by-mail.
Iowa: Secretary of State Paul Pate (R) told The Des Moines Register this week that he plans to ask the 2018 Legislature for additional money for technology upgrades to the state’s election system.
Pennsylvania: The House has approved a bill that would allow a registered voter from anywhere in the state to be appointed as a poll watcher in any election district. The vote was 106-91 with all Democrats and 13 Republicans voting against it.
Wisconsin: Reps. Eric Genrich (D-Green Bay) and Terese Berceau (D-Madison) have introduced legislation that would automatically register Wisconsinites to vote.
V. Legal Updates
Louisiana: Documents have been filed in a state appeals court seeking to overturn the law that prohibits Louisiana voters on parole from casting a ballot. The current law prohibits approximately 71,000 felons on probation from voting.
Michigan: Attorneys for Macomb County have filed a counter-complaint to the county clerk’s suit from earlier this year in which she alleged she was not permitted to fire employees. In the counter suit the county alleges that Karen Spranger is not a county resident and lied on her candidate form.
New Mexico: The New Mexico Supreme Court has denied an emergency petition seeking to have the court compel the Santa Fe City Council and mayor to implement ranked choice voting for the 2018 election cycle.
Ohio: Dozens of amicus briefs have been filed before the U.S. Supreme Court challenging the state’s system of purging voters. The briefs come from 27 black congressional representatives, 17 former Justice Department officials; 36 current and former county elections officials and U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D).
Pennsylvania: The U.S. 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld a lower court’s decision to dismiss a lawsuit against a Philadelphia city commissioner that tried to force the city to purge convicted felons from the city’s voter rolls. “Contrary to the ACRU’s assertions,” judge Theodore McKee wrote for the court, the NVRA “places no affirmative obligations on states (or voting commissions) to remove voters from the rolls. As its text makes clear, NVRA was intended as a shield to protect the right to vote, not as a sword to pierce it.”
Texas: The U.S. Attorney’s Office and Hidalgo County have reached a settlement on access to the polls for voters with disabilities. “Under the terms of the settlement, accessibility will be a major criterion in the county’s selection of polling places,” a release read. “To make that assessment, the county will use an evaluation form for each prospective polling place based on ADA architectural standards. The county has agreed either to relocate inaccessible polling places to accessible facilities or to use temporary measures such as portable ramps, signs, traffic cones and remote signaling devices where appropriate to ensure accessibility on Election Day.”
VI. Tech Thursday
Florida: In an email to the state’s election supervisors, Maria Matthews, director of Florida’s Division of Elections said that the state’s online voter registration system will go live in October.
Kansas: In partnership with Democracy Works, voters in Douglas County can now sign up to receive text or email information about upcoming elections, including deadlines to turn in ballots and polling information. “Our office shares information using direct mail and traditional media, we were also one of the first election offices to use social media to reach voters," Shew said in a news release. "This project will expand our efforts to inform voters by directly communicating with them via email or text.”
New Jersey: The Union County Votes app has been fully updated and redesigned. “Mobile technology has revolutionized the way people obtain election information, so we re-designed Union County Votes to assist people with an inclusive menu, from registering to vote to filing a candidate’s petition and everything in between,” Union County Clerk, Joanne Rajoppi told The Patch. Union County was the first New Jersey county to offer such an app.
VII. Opinions This Week
Idaho: Voter fraud
Louisiana: Voter myths
Minnesota: Election dates
Montana: Voter fraud
New York: Election laws
North Carolina: Voting rights
Oklahoma: National Voter Registration Day
Oregon: Voter registration
Vermont: Voter fraud
VIII. Available RFPs
Ballot Delivery Services for UOCAVA Voters
The Colorado Department of State (CDOS) is soliciting proposals to select a Contractor to provide a web-based ballot delivery system for Colorado military and overseas voters secure and reliable online access to their full precinct-specific ballot which they can use to vote. To view the full RFP, click here. Deadline to submit is 11 a.m. Mountain Time on October 27.
IX. Available Awards
The U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) is seeking entry submissions for its second-annual national competition for best practices in election administration. This year the commission will present three awards in the categories of best practices related to voting accessibility, outstanding innovations in elections, and recruiting, training and retaining election workers. All entries must be received by October 6, 2017.
“These awards celebrate the very best in election practices across the nation,” said EAC Chairman Matthew Masterson. “As we travel throughout the country, our commission sees first-hand the innovation and commitment to excellence that election officials and their partners bring to their work. These awards acknowledge that work and highlight best practices that other election administrations can emulate.”
This year’s awards come in conjunction with the 15th anniversary of the Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA), legislation that established the EAC. This year’s categories, especially the award for best practices in accessibility, celebrate the advancements made since the passage of HAVA. For example, the new accessibility category reflects landmark HAVA provisions guaranteeing private and independent voting for people with disabilities.
This year’s entries will be judged using the following criteria:
- Outreach efforts
X. Upcoming Events
Inclusion & Integrity in Election Administration — join Auburn University and the Election Center for their 2nd Biennial Symposium. The Symposium will feature the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, the EAVS and data-driven conversations and invited panelists including election officials, vendors, researchers, academics and advocates. Discussion will include use of the EAVS data, voter participation, language access and support, accessibility, performance measurement and technology acquisition and security. Where: Auburn, Alabama. When: October 15-17.
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.
Joint Election Officials Liaison Committee — Mark your calendars now and stay tuned for more information and registration details on the Joint Election Officials Liaison Committee meeting. When: Jan. 11-12, 2018. Where: Ritz Carlton Hotel, Arlington, Virginia.
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.
XI. Job Postings This Week
Chief Deputy Registrar, Sonoma County, California — the Chief Deputy Registrar of Voters plans, directs, manages, coordinates, and supervises the operations of the Registrar of Voters, a division of the Clerk-Recorder-Assessor Office. It is the Chief Deputy Registrar of Voters' responsibility to represent the Division before official bodies; to control and direct budget preparation, personnel matters, and the management and technical functions of the Division; to respond to media and voter questions and concerns; to administer voter outreach and education programs; and to act in the absence of the Registrar of Voters as needed. The Chief Deputy Registrar of Voters stays abreast of proposed state and federal legislation, anticipates policy trends, and identifies strategies and develops plans to integrate new laws and regulations into existing procedures. Policy direction is provided by the elected Clerk-Recorder-Assessor/Registrar of Voters, with significant discretion left to the Chief Deputy Registrar of Voters to interpret and apply that direction. Salary: $113,560- $138,042. Deadline: October 5. Application: For the complete job listing, click here.
Deputy Director (Democrat), Sandusky County, Ohio— Candidate must, to the satisfaction of a majority of the board, have the experience and capability to manage the day-to-day operations of the Sandusky County Board of Elections. The candidate must possess: Previous elections administration experience preferred but not required; Strong organizational skills and attention to detail; Effective written and interpersonal communication abilities; Familiarity with the handling of budgets and preparation of budgets; Ability to perform duties assigned by law, the county board of election, and/or the Secretary of State; Ability to multitask; Ability to convey or exchange information, including giving and managing assignments or direction to board personnel; Ability to adapt and to perform in a professional manner under stressful or emergency situations; Ability to comprehend a variety of informational documents quickly and efficiently; and Ability to conduct self at all times in a professional and courteous manner. All applicants are subject to a criminal background check. A job description and evaluation criteria may be obtained at the Sandusky County Board of Elections, 2020 Countryside Dr., Fremont, Ohio 43420. Deadline: Oct. 6, 4 pm Eastern. Application: Interested candidates should submit a cover letter and resume to: Sandusky County Board of Elections; Attn: Chairwoman Sandra Wise; 2020 Countryside Dr.; Fremont, Ohio 43420.
Elections Services Specialist, Contra Costa County, California—the Elections Services Specialist is a lead technical position assigned to one of the functional units of the Elections Division: Candidate Services, Voter Services, Precinct/Mapping Services; Poll Operations; Warehouse Operations; and IT Operations. This position performs the most complex and technical support activities associated with the preparation for and conducts of elections; performs database management in one or more database systems; and has lead responsibility over the Elections Services Technicians and unit clerical and temporary staff. Salary: $4,188-$5,091 monthly. Deadline: Oct. 13. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Election Services, Technology Certification and Security Manager, Virginia State Board of Elections — manage the Election Services Division of the agency including managing election administration staff, policy analysis, campaign finance analysts, and voting system certification specialists. Manages and sets direction for policy analysts in the review of introduced legislation, interpretation of statutes and regulations, and effectively communication policy interpretation to agency leadership. Manage the work associated with the legislative session; ensuring the accuracy of and timely submission of analysis/documents, and the implementation of enacted legislation. Manages and set direction of campaign finance staff in the processing of campaign finance reports, addressing campaign finance violations and managing records in accordance with statute and regulations. Plans, designs and manages the election technology certification programs to ensure the security, integrity and accuracy of elections in Virginia. Implements policies, standards and procedures relating to voting systems, performance, security and auditing. Analyzes and documents election administration processes and data, identifying efficiencies and opportunities to improve performance. Possess the knowledge, skills and abilities to provide analytical reports of election administration processes throughout the Commonwealth. Works closely with our vendors, developers and business analysts for successful election administration management. This position supervises the work of the team responsible for administering elections in the Commonwealth, training of local election officials and provides guidance to the agency to determine best practices in voting equipment management, evaluation trends in election administration, and acting as a liaison with system vendors, federal certification entities and election administrators in other states. Manages training staff to ensure compliance with relevant statute and develop a culture of continuous learning among election officials across the state. Salary: $70,000 to $105,000. Deadline: Open until filled. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Hardware Engineer III, Dominion Voting Systems — Dominion Voting Systems is seeking an accomplished and passionate Hardware Engineer III to be join our team in Toronto! This position will be responsible for provision of electronics, software and mechanical engineering support to new product development, manufacturing and field support teams. Deadline: Open until filled. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Payroll & AP Administrator, Dominion Voting Systems — Dominion Voting Systems is seeking an experienced Payroll & AP Administrator to be join our team in Denver, CO! This position will be responsible for managing and organizing of all functions related to payroll administration and accounts payable, including, but not limited to: recording, processing and obtaining approvals; and Processing all matters in a timely and accurate fashion, including following up on items related to the various accounts payable, payroll and month-end deadlines. Deadline: Open until filled. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
President, Verified Voting — Verified Voting Foundation (a 501(c)(3) organization) and VerifiedVoting.org (a 501(c)(4) organization) are nonprofit, nonpartisan organizations founded over a decade ago by election security experts. We strive to guarantee the accuracy, transparency, and verifiability of elections, so that citizens rightly can trust election outcomes. We are the only national organization with the exclusive mission of protecting the security of elections in the digital age. This is is an exciting time to be Verified Voting President. Citizens and policy makers are finally becoming aware of major security vulnerabilities of our election systems. The President of Verified Voting, who is the Chief Executive Officer of both organizations, will have a platform that can have significant national impact. We are in the initial stages of launching an ambitious nationwide campaign to promote the adoption of paper ballots and routine manual audits throughout the U.S. Deadline: Open until filled. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Product Specialist, Dominion Voting Systems — Dominion Voting Systems is seeking two experienced and passionate Product Specialist. One of the positions will be in our Denver, CO office and the other will be in our San Leandro, CA office! These positions are will be accountable for the readiness of Dominion’s voting systems to perform properly in assigned jurisdictions; which includes defining the functionality of the D-Suite system, monitoring the development of the system in accordance with the required functionality, and managing its testing and preparation for delivery to the market; this position also provides significant input to the system release visions, diagnoses and resolves obstacles and challenges as they arise. 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.
Senior Researcher, Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning & Engagement (CIRCLE), Tisch College — CIRCLE is seeking a Senior Researcher with a background in quantitative research methodologies and varied experience in planning and executing research projects. Responsibilities include serving as the lead quantitative researcher on a range of research projects that may include secondary data-analysis, large dataset creation/analysis, literature reviews, field experiments, and original surveys. The Senior Researcher's tasks include producing analytic plans, methodology documentations, datasets, reports, fact sheets, formal and informal research briefs and press releases on timely and relevant topics, often in close collaboration with CIRCLE colleagues. The Senior Researcher will assist with research grant proposals writing especially with the methodology sections. They will occasionally represent CIRCLE research conferences, practitioner forums, and press events. The Senior Researcher will work alongside colleagues, including a current Senior Researcher, Director of Impact, and Researcher, and provide inputs and peer training to other CIRCLE staff who produce research (quantitative and qualitative). All CIRCLE staff report directly to Director of CIRCLE, who reports to Associate Dean of Research at Tisch College. 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.
State Certification Manager, Clear Ballot, Boston, Massachusetts— Certification Manager’s primary duty is to manage, coordinate, and represent Clear Ballot when finding compliance to all regulations and mandates of the federal and state election certification boards. The successful candidate has all or some combination of experience with voting systems certification campaigns, VVSG requirements, project management techniques and tools, and the ability to describe to technical staff how to comply with the statute, rule and other written and unwritten system requirements. This position reports to the Vice President, Product. 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.
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