I. In Focus This Week
What to watch Election Day 2017
Officials use ‘off’ year to test and fine tune
By M. Mindy Moretti
While the focus of many Americans seems to still be on last year’s election and on the election that is still more than year away, elections officials across the country are gearing up for state and local elections next week on November 7.
Just because this isn’t the big show 2018 will be doesn’t mean that there isn’t plenty to keep an eye on as voters in more than half of the states will head to the polls in some capacity on Tuesday.
Officials that are conducting elections in 2017 are using this “off” year election cycle to test out new voting machines and poll books and fine tune policies and procedures.
We’ve been watching the news in the months leading up to November 3 and these are some of the stories we think are worth watching.
New voting machines
Like the first day of school where the smell of new books and fresh paper hangs heavy in the air, Election Day 2017 will bring the smell of new voting machines and fresh paper ballots to polling places in quite a few local jurisdictions, especially in Michigan and Virginia.
In Michigan it’s expected that cities in 50 of the state’s 83 counties will have new voting equipment in place for the general election. Some localities, like Detroit, were able to have it in place by the primary.
Elections officials from the secretary of state’s office to local township clerks have been busy showing the public the new voting machines as well as training poll workers on the new systems.
“The equipment isn't going to change the way Election Day is run, it's just going to make it move along faster,” Huron County Clerk Lori Neal-Wonsowicz told the Huron Daily Tribune.
With just less than two months to go until a gubernatorial election, the Virginia State Board of Elections voted to scrap any remaining touchscreen voting machines and replace them with paper-based systems.
At the time of the decision, DRE machines were still in use in 22 localities. While some counties were planning on making the switch in future fiscal years, others had to scramble to find the money to pay for the new machines, get the machines in place, train poll workers and inform the public about the new system.
Although some Ohio counties got to test run their new e-poll books during the primary, the November 2017 election will be the first “big” test of the technology. Poll workers have spent the past few weeks learning the new technology.
Belmont County board of elections director Bill Shubat told WTOV that in addition to speeding up the process for voters, he’s looking forward to how it will make the job easier for poll workers.
“It's going to help in a number of ways for our poll workers to make sure that they've got the right number, got the right ballot," Shubat told the station. "We're looking for a good response, a positive response out of these machines."
Utah counties making the move to vote-by-mail will get another go at testing out the new-to-them system and iron out kinks that arose during the primary process.
While some of the kinks from the primary may have been ironed out, the biggest challenge facing clerks now is that with just days to go before the election some counties, including Salt Lake County are reporting lower than expected turnout at early voting sites and in returned mail ballots.
According to the Salt Lake Tribune, as of Monday, only 277 people had cast early ballots and only about 82,000 of the more than 446,000 mail ballots had been returned.
“That makes me concerned about Election Day,” County Clerk Sherrie Swenson told the paper — particularly if voters “show up and flood our polling places that are not meant for traditional polling.”
In 2016 the county’s election day voting centers were overwhelmed by the turnout and voters waited in lines for hours.
Ranked choice voting
Ranked choice voting will make its third appearance in the City of Minneapolis and this year there have been some rule changes to hopefully help speed up the process.
“We are going to have batch eliminations, which we didn’t have in 2013, and that means we can eliminate more candidates in a single round, which expedites our tabulation and we can report results faster,” Minneapolis City Clerk Casey Carl told WCCO.
Some voters told the Spokesman-Recorder that they are still unaware of the ranked-choice voting system. Carl told the paper that her office spent much of the summer doing outreach, not only English, but also Spanish, Somali and Hmong.
“We made the effort, but the question is did people get it. We called newspapers and put out press releases. We put it on our web site. We went to neighborhood groups and did presentations. We had a voter outreach team that went out to the community all summer long to [talk] about Ranked Choice Voting (RCV),” he told the paper.
Mother Nature always has a potential to play a role on Election Day, but it’s weather that happened before Election Day that will for sure be impacting this year’s contests.
In Houston, the clerk’s office has encouraged as many people to vote early as possible and to vote-by-mail because it is unclear how many traditional polling places will be available following the catastrophic flooding from Hurricane Irma.
Wildfires that raged through Northern California’s wine country are also having an impact on November elections. In Sonoma County, the county will conduct an all vote-by-mail election due to damage to polling places.
While there are quite a few county clerk races on the ballot next week, the two “big ticket” races are the Detroit clerk’s race and the New Jersey lieutenant governor’s race.
In Detroit, longtime City Clerk Janice Winfrey is being challenged by new comer Garlin Gilchrist, a University of Michigan-educated computer science engineer who previously worked in the mayor’s office helping to build better efficiency and accountability systems for the city government as the city’s first Director of Innovation & Emerging Technology.
In the most recent poll from the Detroit Free Press, Winfrey holds a 42 percent to 35 percent lead over Gilchrist with 23 percent of the voters still undecided. Gilchrist has earned the endorsement of several newspapers in Detroit.
In New Jersey current Lt. Governor Kim Guandagno (R) is running against Democrat Phil Murphy who is a former ambassador. Guandango’s running make is Woodcliff Lake Mayor Carlos Rendo. Murphy’s running mate is Former State Assembly Speaker Shelia Oliver.
II. Federal-State Updates
The Government Accountability Office confirmed that it will launch an investigation into the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity. According to Politico, GAO said it would investigate the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity in response to a letter last week from Sens. Michael Bennet (D-Colorado), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota) and Cory Booker (D-New Jersey). In a response letter, the agency accepted the request "as work that is within the scope of its authority." The investigation should begin in about five months when the GAO has staff to dedicate to it.
New Hampshire Secretary of State William Gardner (D), a member of the presidential commission said last week that he has not heard from commission staff since a September 12 meeting.
“They’re dealing with a number of lawsuits,” Gardner told New Hampshire Primary Source. “The Justice Department and the staff down there have asked us to send them anything we have, even notes.”
III. Election News This Week
This week, the Alaska Division of elections sent out a mailer to 75,000 Alaskans asking whether they want to opt-out of the state’s new automatic voter registration program. Unlike other AVR states, Alaskans are automatically registered if they receive payments from the Permanent Fund Dividend. The state compares the voter registration database to the PFD database and then registers people or updates addresses. Residents have 30 days to respond to the mailers. Director of the Division of Elections Josie Bahnke said about 25,000 people have been added to the voter rolls and the information for 50,000 has been updated.
A new study from Yale University published in Political Behavior confirms prior research that those who vote are less likely to be convicted of crimes than non-voters, but it also shows that voting alone does not directly reduce criminality. "While voting is a worthy activity, it does not appear to prevent people from committing crimes or set them on a virtuous path toward good citizenship," said Gregory A. Huber, professor of political science at Yale University and a co-author of the study. "This does not mean that participatory democracy has no positive transformative effects on people, but it suggests that scholars should reconsider whether the simple act of voting or other civic engagement is sufficient to promote other pro-social behaviors." Overall, study subjects who voted in November 2010 were 55 percent less likely to be under state supervision -- incarceration, parole, or probation -- two years after the election than those who did not vote.
In 2016, the California Secretary of State’s office and the University of California system signed a memorandum of understanding with the university system committing to working to make it easier for students to register and vote. UC Student Regent Paul Monge told the Daily Bruin several student groups, are working with the university to implement the recommendations by the 2018 congressional elections. Some elements of the plan include creating an online voter registration portal that will automatically populate voter registration forms with student information, centralized polling places on campus and one university office that will be responsible for student voter engagement. “With the 2018 elections coming up, we want to have strong systems in place and we should have confidence in people getting registered and engaged,” Devon Graves, UC student regent-designate told the paper. “This is an important piece of a much bigger picture.”
Former Boone County, Missouri Clerk Wendy Noren was recently honored by the Boone County Democratic Party which recently dedicated the Wendy Noren Room at the group’s headquarters in her honor.
Our good friend Jamal was famous for saying that the same things that make you laugh will make you cry so we were happy to see that the folks in the Colorado secretary of state’s office were able to find some humor in an issue many of us have been “crying” about. According to 9 News, on Halloween staff member Steve Boueyput on a Russian hat and an elections security badge, and then walked around the office with a SOS voting systems book. Thanks for the laugh Steve. Wish we had thought of this one!
A Happy Belated Birthday (or Anniversary) to the Help America Vote Act of 2002. What a long, strange trip it has been indeed.
Personnel News: Rebecca Connors, Missoula County, Montana elections administrator, has announced that she will be stepping down to move to Helena. Efrem Elliot has been appointed Jefferson County, Arkansas election coordinator. Justin Lee has been appointed the new state elections officer in Utah.
In Memoriam: For this week’s In Memoriam, we hope you’ll indulge us just a bit as we say good-bye to Lulu the Wonderdoodle. Lulu was Doug Chapin’s 12-year-old golden doodle who passed away suddenly this week. Although she was never an office dog, Lulu was as much a part of the fabric of electionline as any of the two-legged members of the staff. She was by Doug’s side (well, snoozing on the nearby sofa) on many election days as Doug fielded phone calls from reporters and followed the news from around the country. She was always waiting for him when he returned home from the University of Minnesota or one of his many elections-related trips. She had to suffer through more of Doug’s puns than any of us ever did and no doubt did it with good humor. Run free Lulu.
IV. Legislative Updates
Federal Legislation: Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Martin Heinrich (D-New Mexico) have introduced bipartisan legislation aimed at protecting the nation’s election security. The Security America’s Voting Equipment (SAVE) Act, would codify the Department of Homeland Security’s critical infrastructure designation and provide optional resources for states.
Florida: A House panel has approved a bill that will allow Florida to join an interstate voter registration database. The bill also prohibits the state from joining any program operated by the federal government or on its behalf.
Guam: Bill 45-34 that would eliminate primary elections on Guam has been sent back to committee in order to resolve issues that were raised by the full Legislature.
Michigan: The House Elections and Ethics Committee has approved a bill that would require “aggrieved candidates” to show that they could have won the election if not for voter fraud or error, otherwise they would not be able to initiate a recount.
Montana: The Missoula Board of County Commissioners voted 3 to 0 to keep the county’s elections administrator as an appointed position. The decision comes three years after the board decided to create the elections administrator position, breaking elections away from the clerk’s duties.
New Hampshire: Under proposed legislation, the secretary of state will have the authority to postpone and reschedule elections under extreme weather conditions.
New Jersey: Lawmakers in New Jersey held a hearing last week about the security of the state’s 11,000 voting machines. According to WHYY, lawmakers are considering legislation that would require new voting machines have a paper record of each vote cast that would be preserved for use in any audits of election results. They haven’t determined whether the legislation would require all of the voting machines to be replaced by a certain date, be purchased when counties need replacements, or whether the state will provide the funding.
Pennsylvania: State Sen. Pat Stefano (R-Fayette County) has sponsored a bill that would allow members of the military and state residents who are overseas to cast their absentee ballots electronically. The bill was approved by the Senate State Government Committee and now goes to the full Senate.
South Dakota: The state board of elections has endorsed draft legislation for 2018 that would remove references to electronic voting machines from state law. Although the state has not used DRE machines in years, the Legislature is taking a “very proactive approach,” Secretary of State Shantel Krebs told the Associated Press.
V. Legal Updates
Arkansas: An investigation into the 2016 wet-dry vote in Shady Grove has ended with no charges filed. The investigation centered around allegations that camp trailers with no basic utilities, were used as places of residence by people who registered to vote.
Florida: Judge Rosa Rodriquez has denied a candidate’s attempt to force the city halt distribution of ballots and reprint them with her name listed first. According to The Miami Herald, Denise Galvez Turros had sought to place her name first on the ballot ahead of Manuel “Manolo” Reyes and Ralph Rosado. In a complaint filed this month after absentee ballots began to go out, she argued that the supervisor of elections and Miami city clerk had wrongly considered her surname to be Turros, resulting in her third-ranked placement on the ballot due to alphabetical ordering.
Georgia: A computer server involved in a lawsuit against elections officials in Georgia was destroyed on July 7 by technicians at the Center for Elections Systems at Kennesaw State University. The lawsuit was filed July 3. The state attorney general will no longer be litigating the case, instead that will be done by a law firm run by former Gov. Roy Barnes.
Indiana: Common Cause Indiana has filed a suit against Secretary of State Connie Lawson (R) seeking an injunction against Lawson alleging her office unlawfully removes voters from the rolls using the Crosscheck system. The suit alleges this violates the NVRA.
Kansas: In a deposition recently made public in the ACLU’s lawsuit challenging Kansas’ proof-of-citizenship law, Secretary of State Kris Kobach testified that he wants to change federal election law so states would have an incentive to require proof-of-citizenship in order to register to vote.
Louisiana: Six words — “while under an order of imprisonment”— are at the center of a fight to have voting rights restored to about 70,000 Louisiana formerly incarcerated people. The plaintiffs, the Advancement Project, argue that the words mean a person’s rights should be restored when released from incarceration even if the all the terms of their sentence has not been fulfilled. Secretary of State Tom Schedler, for the defense said the wording does not solely refer to physical imprisonment, but to those still under legal “custody” of the Department of Corrections.
Michigan: Macomb County Circuit Court Judge Matthew Switalski has ordered County Clerk Karen Spranger not to create a hostile work environment or otherwise interfere with the rights of unionized employees. Spranger has been accused of “guerilla warfare” by AFSCME.
New Hampshire: Attorney General Gordon MacDonald has issued a cease and desist order ruling that two proposed raffles to encourage voting in the upcoming municipal election are prohibited by state law. Two businesses were planning to raffle off items to anyone coming into their businesses with I Voted stickers on.
New York: A Supreme Court justice has dismissed Town Clerk Diana Quast's lawsuit against the Westchester County Board of Elections and the town of Yorktown, saying she does not have the standing to challenge the relocation of polling places.
North Carolina: The North Carolina Court of Appeals denied an appeal of a lower court decision that allowed the county Board of Elections to use the student union at Appalachian State as an early voting site. According to the Watauga Democrat, BOE member Stella Anderson had sought a decision by a Wake County Court that ruled in favor of the campus site, and BOE chair Bill Aceto filed an appeal of that decision, and a temporary stay was issued October 18th. The October 25th Court of Appeals decision denied Aceto's appeal and the stay was "dissolved."
Ohio: The Supreme Court of the United States has delayed arguments in the case over Ohio’s process for purging voters because an attorney involved with case is on medical leave. Arguments had been set for November 8, but will not likely happen after the first of the year.
Pennsylvania: Four election workers — Dolores Shaw, the Judge of Election at poll 43-7, Calvin Mattox, the minority inspector, Thurman George, the machine inspector, and Wallace Hill, a bilingual translator, have all been charged with violating state laws that regulate elections in connection with a special election in Philadelphia.
Washington: Even though backers of a recall effort in Yakima County have called off the effort stating that it wouldn’t be worth the $250,000 cost to taxpayers for the special election, the state’s Supreme Court said the recall effort against Yakima County Clerk Janelle Riddle could move forward.
Also in Washington, the Cowlitz County Sheriff's office has referred four cases of suspected voter fraud in the 2016 general election to county prosecutors. Two people admitted to voting on behalf of dead relatives and two people are suspected of voting in two states.
VI. Tech Thursday
Alabama: While many counties and states are moving to e-poll books as a way to speed up the process and implement things like vote centers, Jefferson County will buy 625 new tablets, at the cost of $785,000 as a way to prevent crossover voting.
Georgia: The Coalition for Good Government is calling on the state of Georgia to abandon the use of its voting machines. Marilyn Marks, executive director of the coalition has written an open letter to the state’s lawmakers urging them not to use Georgia’s current voting system in the November 7 election.
VII. Opinions This Week
Indiana: Voting rights
Maine: Ranked choice voting
North Carolina: Election integrity
Ohio: Voter purges
Pennsylvania: Vote centers
Texas: Voter ID
West Virginia: Voter ID
Wisconsin: Elections commission
VIII. 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.
IX. Job Postings This Week
Elections Administrator, Tarrant County, Texas — the county elections administrator, in accordance with Section 31.043, 31.044, 31.045 of the Texas Election Code, shall perform the duties and functions of the Voter Registrar; performs election-related duties that the law requires to be handled by the County Clerk in Counties where there is no Elections Administrator. Essential duties and responsibilities: With assistance from the Secretary of State, interprets and applies the Texas Election Code provisions to election process procedures to protect the voting rights of all County citizens. Serves as the custodian of election records and filing agent for Candidate and Officeholder Title 15 reports. Acts as service provider for election services contracts for political subdivisions within the County. Performs all other related duties involved in the operation of the business as required by law. Salary: Negotiable. Deadline: November 22. Application: For the complete job list and to apply, click here.
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.
GIS Specialist, Polk County, Florida — This position consists primarily of technical work using geographic information system software to create and maintain maps and street index representing political subdivisions in Polk County, Florida. Illustrative duties include: Identify voter registration addresses; Assist with creation of precincts; Maintains districts and voter addresses on maps; Research residential land parcels; Maintain accurate street index; Provide members of the public with maps and data; Assists with ballot layout and proofreading; Maintain and update website maps; and Performs related duties as required. 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.
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.