III. Election News This Week
An analysis by The Washington Post found that thousands of Virginia voters may be registered in the wrong state House district. In a statewide analysis, The Washington Post found addresses of about 6,000 registered voters that appear to lie outside a map of the assigned House district. If their turnout tracked the state average, more than 2,800 mistaken state House votes could have been cast in November. Six of the 100 delegate races were decided by fewer than 500 votes. The paper said the problem comes from the “state’s labor-intensive voter registration system that allows incorrect details to be recorded.”
Native American advocates have spent the last few months gathering stories from throughout Indian Country about difficulties tribal members face when casting a ballot and the advocates hope these stories will help tribal members wield more influence in elections. “Some of the problems they were facing actually were issues we thought we’d taken care of long ago,” said OJ Semans, a Rosebud Sioux tribal member and executive director of Four Directions. “If you don’t keep your eye open and the communication open, things will reverse.” The groups have already held a hearing on the issues in Washington and have plans to hold other hearing in Arizona, Oregon, California, New Mexico and Oklahoma. “What we’re trying to show is people don’t have equal opportunities to vote, to register to vote and to participate in Indian Country than you would see in maybe a more urban setting,” James Tucker, a pro-bono attorney for the Native American Rights Fund said at the Washington hearing.
Using the latest data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the state of California has added six new languages to the 2018 election-language assistance requirements. The new languages include Panjabi, Hmong, Syriac, Armenian, Persian and Arabic. That brings the total number of languages covered by Election Code Section 14201 to 13. The existing languages include English, Spanish, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Tagalog and Vietnamese.
Elections offices may still be closed in parts of the U.S. Virgin Islands, but that has not stopped the work of the board of elections. This week the board voted not to provide funding for a primary election. The board voted unanimously to reprogram the $150,000 budgeted for the 2018 primary to the general fund. In making their decision the board cited their objections to including Democratic party races as part of the primary process.
The International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) has produced a free to download white paper on how electoral institutions can deal with the growing problem of hate speech. Although IFES’ focus is largely international, given the current climate we thought elections officials in the United States might be interested in Countering Hate Speech in Elections: Strategies for Electoral Management. According to IFES, the white paper aims to help electoral management bodies better understand the range of issues surrounding hate speech during the electoral cycle, the regulatory and non-regulatory options that may be brought to bear, and how to build partnerships with stakeholders to ensure that elections are free, fair, inclusive and safe.
We’re not sure that this would be possible everywhere, but we love that when the Taylor County, West Virginia commission received some negative feedback about relocating polling places, the commission decided to survey all registered voters in the affected precincts. The commission reviewed the survey responses — about 40 percent were returned — at a recent meeting and decided to go with the will of the people which sent the voters back to their original polling places. “I think we should let the votes stand for themselves,” Commission President Orville Wright said at the meeting according to the Mountain Statesman. “They people have decided, and we should go with their decision.”
Personnel News: Phyllis Thompson, who has served as the Brentwood, New Hampshire clerk for 37 years has retired. Kimberly Riskovitch has been hired as the Republican member of the St. Joseph County, Indiana board of voter registration. Danny Mateo is not retiring as the Maui County, Hawaii clerk. Michelle Wright is retiring as the Manistee, Michigan clerk after 15 years on the job. Rich Chrismer, elections director of St. Charles County, Missouri has announced that he will not seek another term. Cerro Gordo County, Iowa auditor Ken Kline has been named the state’s deputy commissioner of elections. County Treasurer Pat Wright will serve as interim-auditor until a successor is named. Marie Wicks, city clerk in East Lansing, Michigan for 12 years is stepping down. She is moving on to a new job with the State of Michigan Bureau of Elections. Will Gardner, a realtor and businessman has announced that he will run for North Dakota secretary of state.
In Memoriam: Laura L. Bennett, former deputy and Democratic commissioner in the Cattaraugus County, New York board of elections died January 2. She was 94. In addition to serving on the board of elections, Bennett also served as a county legislator and an election clerk in the town of South Valley. “Laura worked at the Board of Elections and at that time the Democrat Party was strictly grass roots,” County Clerk James Griffith told the Salamanca Press. “Laura ran a print shop at the old Democratic Headquarters on Main Street in Salamanca. Her car could be seen there until the wee hours as she printed flyers, scratch pads and posters. She always had ink on her somewhere,” he added.