I. In Focus This Week
Social media opens avenues of communication
Twitter, Facebook other social media easily scalable for elections officials
By M. Mindy Moretti
Nearly two-thirds of all Americans are on one form of social media or another — Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.
According to the Pew Research Center, a majority of Americans say they get their news from social media and half of the public used these sites to learn about the 2016 presidential election.
Love it or hate it — and there are definitely both camps — social media is a part of our everyday lives and can be an effective and perhaps most importantly inexpensive, way for elections officials to reach out to voters.
“Social media is great for organizations and election offices because it’s so easily scalable and allows two-way communication,” said Matthew Morse wit Intesa Communications Group and formerly with Pew’s Election Initiatives. “For the first time ever, one person sitting in an election office can broadcast information to hundreds, even thousands of users with ease, then answer questions and have a public conversation in real time.”
Morse said it’s important for elections officials to be active and communication using the tools their constituents already use.
“Despite common stereotypes about who uses social media, there is, in fact, a hugely diverse community using these platforms, which spans across age, race, gender, and wealth distributions,” Morse said.
One Twitter account that caught electionline’s eye is that of Harford County, Maryland [and I’m not just saying that because my parents have been happy HarCo voters for more than 50 years]. The account, which is run by Sarah Mohan, program manager - Media and Outreach for the Harford County Board of Elections, is timely, informative and can be pretty funny too.
“Each morning I check what the national day or week is. I will base a few tweets off of that. I also check what is trending for that day. I usually try to connect it to something election related,” Mohan explained. “I have also found that giving the voters of Harford County a glimpse into our office and the faces behind the election gets great feedback. I started #FunFactFriday when I initially took over the social media a little over a year ago. I try to keep the sites fun but informative. Election related but also not too dry. It keeps the voters engaged.”
Mohan noted that she’s fortunate that her directory and deputy director give her creative freedom with the board’s social media posts.
“As an office we stay non-partisan and our posts are no exception. If there is something going on in the world or a post that I think could come across as something that doesn’t reflect our mission, approval is necessary,” Mohan said. “I also make sure to watch what we like, retweet and share.”
Mohan said for those elections officials who are just getting started in social media, it’s important to make sure they get the correct information to the voters, but also in an engaging way — fun but appropriate. She also noted that liking, sharing and retweeting are your best friend.
“The more you help other social media accounts, the more they help you,” Mohan said. “It’s networking for the technological age. Also, pictures and GIFs will get you places. Everyone loves a relatable GIF and pictures are more appealing than a few words. Branding your own hashtag is great too (#HarfordVotes) it helps other uses get the big picture of what you’re all about.”
While Harford County’s site is run by their media outreach coordinator, elections offices don’t necessarily need to rely on a communications staffer/department to run their accounts. In Minneapolis, Mitch Kampf who runs the city’s social media accounts actually started as a temporary worker in absentee voting.
“…[O]nce we learned of his background with films and photography, we quickly shifted his time with us toward creating videos and building our social media presence—work that he maintained through the 2016 election and into 2017,” explained Tim Schwartz, election administrator for the City of Minneapolis. “He was able to make create pieces that were informative while being entertaining. His stuff just looks good!”
In addition to running the social media accounts, Kampf has created several YouTube videos for the city including spots about vote-by-mail, early voting and a behind the scenes video of Minneapolis elections.
Like Mohan, Kampf keeps a pretty close eye on current events and the elections calendar to curate his social media post, but he also doesn’t have a plan so-to-speak.
“Honestly, it’s pretty fast and free-flowing,” Kampf said. “I keep track of major elections milestones to post like National Voter Registration Day, the MN pre-registration deadline, the start of early voting, etc. I find it best to work without a formal calendar because social media is about starting or engaging in a conversation. We don’t plan out our everyday conversations weeks ahead of time, we react as events happen or new information comes to light.”
Kampf said it’s important not to take social media too seriously. He noted that lots of brands or agencies have started treating social media in too official of a capacity. For content creation, he likes to think there are three pilliars: Inform, Education, Entertain.
“Most people get the first tow, but being able to entertain and captivate an audience is really what matters most,” Kampf said. “The average person has no interest in following accounts that throw dates and numbers at them constantly. Sure, that information is important to give, especially for elections-related accounts but allowing yourself the creative space to be weird or irreverent, in my own experience, ends up spreading your overall message much better.”
Cameron Sasnett, general registrar in Fairfax County, Virginia has found Facebook Live to be a useful tool. The Office of Elections uses Facebook Live to provide information about early voting and other elections announcements, but Sasnett also uses it on his personal Facebook page which is followed by many Virginia elections officials.
“On election night in 2016, I was down on the loading dock at my office watching the election materials return and decided to turn on my own personal Facebook Live to show off the tremendous work and coordination of my team and the logistics involved in the process,” Sasnett said. Since then, I’ve done my own Facebook live posts to give more of a “behind the scenes” insights of Election Day and night in my office.”
With a gubernatorial election fast-approaching, Sasnett said he plans to utilize Facebook Live again.
“Currently plans are similar to last year. We’ll do a number of OPA Facebook Live updates towards Election Day, reminding people of Absentee Voting deadlines and locations. We will also most likely have a Facebook Live with information about Election Day,” Sasnett said. We may perhaps even have a Facebook Live during the post election canvass to give the public insight as to how the results are reviewed and certified locally.”
Many elections officials have Facebook and Twitter accounts and some, like Mohan in Harford County, have ventured into other platforms such as Instagram with varying degrees of success.
“Facebook and Twitter are the bread and butter of social media, and these should be a first and necessary step,” Morse said. “Other platforms are great too, but always remember the rule of quantity over quality. It’s better to have a great communications plan for two platforms than a poor execution across half a dozen.”
Additionally, Morse said, it’s important to view social media as a tool, not a panacea. It’s also important to have a plan for traditional media, alongside an on-the-ground strategy for meeting voters’ needs.
II. Federal-State Update
Top elections officials from around the country met this week to formalize the Government Coordinating Council that will formally communication with the Department of Homeland Security. According to the Washington Examiner, the move marks the first major step in the coming together between the National Association of Secretaries of State and DHS.
"The other importance of the coordinating council actually being formed, is that there is so much activity on the federal level regarding legislation, I think this will give us, hopefully, a venue to help us inform members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives that states are taking an active role and we are doing a lot to prepare ourselves for the 2018 elections and beyond," said NASS President and Indiana Secretary of State Connie Lawson.
Sen. Amy Klochubar (D-Minnesota) sent a letter to acting Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke expressing her concerns about cybersecurity vendor Kaspersky Lab and its connection to voting system. "The potential threat posed to our election infrastructure by the use of Kaspersky software appears to be significant and it is essential to ensure that future elections are safeguarded from foreign interference," Klochubar wrote according to FCW.
Klochubar, along Sens. Corey Booker (D-New Jersey) and Michael Bennet (D- Colorado), has also written to the U.S. Government Accountability Office asking the agency to examine the spending of the presidential election commission.
“We fear that the manner in which the (commission) is conducting its work will prevent the public from a full and transparent understanding of the commission’s conclusions and unnecessarily diminish confidence in our democratic process,” wrote the three lawmakers according to The Denver Post.
In other election commission news, Ronald Williams II, 37 of Suitland, Maryland was arrested after authorities found child pornography on his phone. Williams was a researcher for the presidential election commission. Williams was on assignment to the commission from the Office of the Special Counsel, an independent federal investigative and prosecutorial agency. He has since been terminated.
Maine: Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap, one of the Democrats serving on the presidential election commission old MSNBC that he has heard nothing from staff or anyone else on the commission in almost a month.
Texas: The League of Women Voters of Texas and the Texas NAACP, with the backing of the Brennan Center for Justice have filed a lawsuit against Secretary of State Rolando Pablos. The lawsuit was filed out of concern that Pablos’ releasing of Texas voter registration information to the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity could potentially be harmful to voters.
III. Election News This Week
Commissioners in McLennan County, Texas approved $17,000 to bring a local church into compliance with the American with Disabilities Act in order for it to continue serving as a vote center. The cost is $6,000 more than originally planned and under an agreement reached with the church, the church will have to serve as a vote center through 2024 or refund the money to the county. The county had to stop using some churches as vote centers because the cost to bring them into compliance with the ADA was too high, as much as $70,000 in one chase The county is complying this a settlement agreement it reached with the Department of Justice after the DOJ identified hundreds of ADA violations in 2011.
Lewis County, Washington has added eight new ballot drop boxes bringing the county’s total up to 14. According to The Chronicle, the drop boxes are the result of a new state law that requires a minimum of one drop box per 15,000 registered voters. While the county met the numbers threshold, the law also requires each city, town and census-designated area in the county to have a drop box. The drop boxes cost anywhere from $3,200 to $4,5000 to install. “The cooperation of the cities, fire districts and school district was key in making this happen prior to the upcoming general election,” Auditor Larry Grove told the paper. “Lewis County facilities crew worked diligently to ensure that all site prep work and installation was completed in a timely manner.”
According to AL.com, elections officials across Alabama remain confused over which felons may vote and those that may not after the state changed the law earlier this year. Registrars told the AL.com they were not entirely clear about the intricacies of the law how it applies to their duties. Secretary of State John Merrill told AL.com that he spoke with nearly 150 registrars at a June meeting outlining the new law and that there have been several smaller workshops held throughout the state. Mary Ann Swann, chairwoman of the Henry County Board of Registrars, said her board's members have continued to use their own discretion to decide what crimes are considered of moral turpitude. "We're just now beginning to get into the system where we don't make that determination. We're going to be leaving that decision up to [the Alabama Board of] Pardons and Paroles," Swann said. "We've made that decision in the past month - whether or not [a felony is of] moral turpitude."
Personnel News: Maria Boileau has resigned as the Clinton County, Pennsylvania director of voter registration and elections. Ruth Munzel is stepping down from the Livingston County, Michigan board of canvassers. Jocelyn Benson, former dean of the Wayne State University Law School announced that she will seek the Democratic nomination for Michigan secretary of state. Mark Thomas, the Utah director of elections is leaving the office to become the Utah Senate’s chief of staff. Ben Decker has been appointed to the Sandusky County, Ohio board of elections.
IV. Legislative Updates
Alabama: Sen. Rusty Glover (R-Semmes) is proposing amending the state’s constitution so that if a vacancy for public office occurs in the last two years of term, the governor will appoint someone rather than having the state conduct a costly special election.
California: Gov. Jerry Brown (D) has signed legislation into law that allows San Diego to change its charter and move county elections to a top two primary, even if one candidate clearly wins the majority of votes.
Brown also signed Assembly Bill 918 into law which will require local elections officials to provide more voting materials in the languages of the community’s voters, including sample ballots. The new law will require more copies of non-English sample ballots in specific precincts, and more signs in these polling places notifying voters with limited English skills of these election materials. The new law also requires more help for these voters who cast ballots by mail, and more information to be posted on local election websites about getting a copy of a “facsimile ballot.”
Illinois: A group of citizens are collecting signatures to put a referendum on the March 18, 2018 primary ballot that, if approved, would eliminate the Aurora Election Commission.
Iowa: Secretary of State Paul Pate (R) held a hearing this week to discuss the rules that will govern the implementation of the state’s voter ID law. "The bill is the law now," Daniel Zeno with the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa said at the hearing according to The Des Moines Register. "The goal of the rules, we believe, should be to make sure it's crystal clear so that voter registration organizations, same-day registrants, pre-registered voters all know what the rules are and that we're protecting the voting rights of all Iowans."
Maine: During a special session of the Legislature, the Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee held a public meeting on a proposal that would implement parts of the voter-approved initiation to move Maine to ranked choice voting. According to Maine Public Radio, some lawmakers want to delay implementation of the law, or repeal it altogether.
V. Legal Updates
California: The Project on Fair Representation, a Virginia-based nonprofit, is asking a federal judge to overturn California’s Voting Rights Act.
Georgia: A federal judge has ruled that Georgia must keep its voter registration deadline open for any federal election, including runoffs, for at least 30 days before the election.
Massachusetts: U.S. District Court Judge William Young denied the city of Lowell’s attempts to dismiss a voting-rights lawsuit that alleges the city’s at-large election system has shut out minority candidates.
Nevada: A federal lawsuit which names Nevada Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske and Clark County Registrar of Voters Joe Garcia as defendant has been filed in an attempt to halt recall efforts aimed at three sitting state senators. According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, the complaint claims the recall election would put a burden on the plaintiffs’ right to vote, and that the recalls would “undermine a republican form of government by threatening to upend the undisputed results of legitimate and regularly scheduled election.”
North Carolina: A Wake County Superior Court judge has ruled that the student union at Appalachian State may serve as an early voting site for Watauga County.
Rhode Island: Former Board of Elections executive director Robert Kando has filed another lawsuit against the state BOE. In this suit, Kando is accusing the board of violating his due process rights, the state Whistleblower’s Act and the Opening Meetings act by firing him in August 2016.
Texas: Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) has filed a brief with the U.S. Court of Appeals calling on the judges to end a challenge to the state’s voter ID law. According to the Houston Chronicle, in his 101-page document, the Republican argued that because the state has already added new exceptions to the law to allow people who have a reasonable-impediment to getting an ID to still vote, the case should be officially concluded.
Wisconsin: Jonathan Brown, 22, was sentenced to 54 years in prison for three counts of second degree sexual assault/use of force. One of Brown’s victims was a poll worker on her way to serve at a polling place on November 8.
VI. Tech Thursday
National Tech: The National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS) has launched a redesigned, mobile-optimized website, which will be accessible through NASS’s existing web address. The new website features include greater functionality, uncluttered design, and an updated Secretary of State roster. In addition, the new website includes NASS’s “CanIVote.org” website for easy access to voter registration in each state, along with information regarding absentee voting and polling places.
Kentucky: The State Board of Elections has launched a redesigned and streamlined website that is also mobile-friendly. The new homepage includes links to frequently sought information such as registering online to vote, election calendars and election results. Voters, potential candidates and researchers visit the State Board of Elections website thousands of times per month.
VII. Opinions This Week
Colorado: Eagle County
Connecticut: Voter suppression
Florida: Voter registration;
Iowa: Voter ID
Mississippi: Voting Rights Act
New Jersey: Voting system
New Mexico: Time off to vote
North Carolina: Municipal elections
Ohio: Voter purges
Pennsylvania: Secretary of state
Rhode Island: Protecting Rhode Island elections
South Carolina: Security voting systems
Washington: Voters’ guide
Wisconsin: Voter ID
VIII. Available RFPs
Election Modernization Project
The Office of the Secretary of State is looking for a vendor to develop a new voter registration and election management system. The secretary of state’s office and the 39 counties have collaborated to define requirements for a statewide EMS that meets or exceeds the requirements of Washington State stakeholders.
Although currently stable and secure, Washington’s system is over ten years old and needs to be modernized in order to meet the challenges that we face today. Our current system challenges include:
- Limited ability to exchange data between elections and voter registration applications;
- Limited ability to address redundancy of data;
- Limited ability to synchronize our data between all systems and our 39 counties;
- Limited ability to adapt to changes in law or needs;
- Limited capabilities of both the hardware and software;
- Limited ability to offer access to services and information online and on mobile devices
- Multiple election management solutions/systems at the local / county level; and
- Ability to set up and proof an election in multiple systems without having to enter data multiple times (WEI, EMS, online, ballot-on-demand)
Deadline: Wednesday, November 1 at 5pm Pacific.
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. Deadline to submit is 11 a.m. Mountain Time on October 27.
IX. Upcoming Events
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.
X. Job Postings This Week
Elections Services Manager, Virginia State Board of Elections — manage the Election Services Division of the agency including supervision of election administration staff, policy analysts, campaign finance specialists, and voting system certification specialists. This position supervises the work of the team responsible for election administration guidance, training of local election officials, certification of election technology, campaign finance, and election policy and legislation review. In consultation with senior agency management, sets direction for policy analysts in the review of introduced legislation, interpretation of statutes and regulations, and effectively communicate policy interpretation to agency leadership. Manage agency requirements associated with the legislative session, including ensuring the accuracy of and timely submission of analysis/documents, and tracking and coordinating 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 voting system and electronic poll book certification programs to ensure the security, integrity, and accuracy of elections in Virginia. Leads development of 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 vendors, developers and business analysts for successful election administration management. The position will assist agency senior management in determining best practices in voting equipment management, evaluation trends in election administration, and will act as a liaison with system vendors, federal certification entities, and election administrators in other states. Manages training staff to ensure compliance with relevant requirements and develop a culture of continuous learning among election officials across the state. Salary: up to $134,764. Deadline: Open until filled. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Elections Supervisor, Washington County, Oregon — do you possess an elections background or transferrable skills from a clerical or production environment along with supervisory experience and the ability to lead large projects? Do you thrive on staying current with information, technology and trends? Then consider applying for the Elections Supervisor position with Washington County's Department of Assessment and Taxation! The Elections Supervisor communicates effectively, exercises sound decision-making and demonstrates collaboration and accountability to peers, the team and to the public. Salary: $5,594.73-$6,797.40 per month. Deadline: October 22. 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.
Policy Associate/Policy Specialist, National Conference of State Legislatures — the Policy Associate/Policy Specialist will work on NCSL’s elections team. The position requires skills in research, analysis, and program planning gained through progressively more complex and more in-depth work over several years. The work is performed independently within established program guidelines or project specifications; major work products are reviewed by more senior professionals or program managers/directors for quality, policy considerations, form, and substance. The Policy Associate/Policy Specialist will develop expertise on elections policy, and to a lesser extent campaign finance and/or redistricting. The work includes research, writing, speaking, maintaining internal and external documents and resources, developing connections with state legislators and legislative staff as well as meeting planning. This position is grant-funded and is subject to reduction in percentage of time covered or elimination if grant funding becomes unavailable. Salary: $4,028-$4,428 monthly. Deadline: October 18. 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.