I. In Focus This Week
Exit Interview: Merle King
King retires for second time, but will it be his last?
By M. Mindy Moretti
This year will mark the second retirement for Merle King. This time around he’s retiring as an associate professor emeritus for Information Systems and the executive director for the Center for Election Systems at Kennesaw State University.
In addition to his work with the State of Georgia, King has worked with the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, the National Conference of State Legislatures and various other organizations to identify and disseminate best practices for election administration and election technology innovation.
King was the 2005 recipient of the National Association of Secretaries of State Medallion Award for his work in elections.
Why have you decided to retire at this time?
I actually retired in 2011 and have worked part-time since then. With the closing of the Center at Kennesaw State, this seemed like a good time to retire (again).
The decision to retire is agonizing but I think it’s the right thing to do, at the right time. For a decade or more I have been speaking with election officials about the importance of mentoring young people to come into this profession, then knowing when to step aside and give them space to grow and apply their knowledge and skills to the election space. Too many folks hang on too long – and I did not want to be one of those old-timers who occupy space that can be better used by a deserving, up-and-comer.
What got you into elections in the first place and what kept you around for so long?
I was an academic department chair in 2002 when my friend and mentor, Brit Williams, approached me about getting involved in the roll out of the voting system in Georgia. Brit convinced me that I would like elections – and he was right! We had a chance to do something in Georgia that had never been done before (implement a statewide voting system in four months) and I loved the challenge.
The reason I stayed so long is that I love working with election officials – local, state and federal. There is a comradery among them that is hard to describe but wonderful to embrace. Their sincerity, resilience and creativity is remarkable.
I also love working with students and the many student assistants we have employed at the Center. Some of these students have gone on to employment in the elections space and I am very proud of them and their accomplishments.
You’ve been at this a while and have seen a lot of changes, we would love to hear your views about how election officials’ attitudes toward technology have changed over the years.
Every election official is an Information Technology (IT) manager – whether they think they are or not. IT permeates every aspect of elections administration and, although not as important as the people-part of elections, is more complicated. Election officials have made enormous progress is the past decade of embracing this role and internalizing it into the work. Sometimes they have been willing students – other times kicking and screaming, but in the end they get it. Each generation of election officials learns from their predecessors and the next generation will be better prepared to meet the IT and cyber security challenges of election administration.
If you could design the perfect election system, what would it look like?
Perfection in elections is a laudable goal, but as many people have pointed out, perfection is the enemy of the good. We certainly have better election systems now than we did in 2002 when I came into the field. The next generation systems look very good and I think voters and election officials will be pleased with what they find in the voting booth in the coming decades.
Where we have made progress in the past decade is understanding that the success of the voting system is dependent upon the overall integrity of the election systems that surround and interface with the voting system. The VR systems, electronic poll books, ballot-on-demand systems, voter-information systems, etc., have to be harmonized with the voting system to ensure optimum performance of all the systems. Future systems will be flexible and robust in ways that permit the voter to vote how they wish to, with no compromise between accessibility and security requirements.
What’s next for you? I understand you and your brother are in a band, will you be hitting the road?
I am not sure what’s next for me. Certainly I will continue to play music and pursue my other hobbies such as golf and woodworking. And I will follow the work of my colleagues in the election space with great interest and provide moral and physical support when and where I can.
It has been a long, strange trip, but I could not have asked for better traveling companions than the election officials I have met along the way.
II. Federal-State Updates
According to The Washington Post, newly released documents that show that the now-defunct Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity purchased 50 million records from Texas and in the documents requests checked to box that explicitly asked that Hispanic surnames be flagged. White House and Texas officials said the state’s voter data was never delivered because a lawsuit brought by Texas voting rights advocates after the request last year temporarily stopped any data handoff.
Reps. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) and Robert Brady (D-Pa.), co-chairs of the Congressional Task Force on Election Security have sent a letter to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kristjen Nielsen seeking to clarify what the agency’s responsibilities are with regard to investigating voter fraud.
"It is unclear how the Department will carry out this charge given that the Commission never produced any findings,” they wrote, according to The Hill. “Moreover, we are concerned that directing DHS essentially to take over where the Commission left off could distract the Department from its pressing obligation to protect US election systems from foreign interference and may undermine the burgeoning relationships DHS is building with state election officials."
III. Election News This Week
The State of Florida has certified an initiative for the November 6 ballot that if approved, would automatically restore the voting rights to felons who have completed their sentences including parole or probation. Convicted murders and sexual offenders would continue to be barred from voting. Floridians for Fair Democracy successfully gathered more than 799,000 certified signatures, which was about 33,000 more than necessary. According to The Orlando Sentinel, Florida is one of just three states that permanently bans ex-felons from voting unless they apply for clemency. The initiative will need 60 percent of voters casting ballots in November to vote for it in order to pass. If approved, about 1.5 million ex-felons would have their voting rights restored.
This week, the Marion County, Indiana board of elections voted to move the county — Indiana’s largest by population — to vote centers and to expand early voting. The board is made up of one Democrat, one Republican and the county clerk. According to the Indianapolis Star, county Clerk Myla Eldridge called the decision reached Wednesday morning by the three-member board "one of the most monumental bipartisan agreements achieved in the history of Marion County." The resolution approved by the board will create an Election Administration Planning Committee that will develop a plan to implement vote centers by 2019. The county of nearly 1 million people will have about 300 vote centers with many opened for early voting. Currently, there is only one early voting vote center.
The elections offices on the islands of St. Croix and St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands have resumed operations including voter registration, following the one-two punches from Hurricanes Irma and Maria. Back in December, Elections Supervisor Caroline Fawkes said the offices would be closed “until further notice.” The St. John’s elections office was able to reopen in its original location, but the St. Croix office was moved to another government building. Both offices will be open for manual voter registration.
A fire at a Marshall County, Kentucky road department building not only destroyed the building and millions of dollars worth of road equipment, it also destroyed voting machines that were stored in the facility. Marshall County Clerk Tim York told WPSD that it’s a big loss, but it will not impact the upcoming primary election, which is in May. “If this had happened two weeks before the election, I would be pulling my hair out right now,” York told the station. “The fact that this is January, and we’ve got four months, and that I’ve talked to my vendor and they said there would be no problem about getting equipment, so that makes it a lot less stressful. Otherwise, it could have been a nightmare.” Firefighters were able to save about a dozen accessible voting machines, but York said he will replace those as well.
While this is personnel news, as folks like to say, “it’s complicated.” This week, the Wisconsin Senate voted 18 to 13 in a party line voted to fire Elections Commission Administrator Michael Haas citing his past connections to the now defunct Government Accountability Board (GAB). In 2016 Attorney General Brad Schimel (R) released a report critical of the GAB and recommended disciplinary action against several former employees, although Haas was not one. Following the Tuesday vote, the Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) said the firings were effective immediately. However, on Wednesday, the bipartisan state elections commission voted to retain Haas as the state’s top elections official through April 30. What ultimately happens with the position may end up in the courts.
Personnel News: Mariann Penska has been sworn in to the Butler County, Ohio board of elections. Nathan Neblett is out as the Tarrant County, Texas elections administrator after just two weeks on the job. Brian McClendon, co-founder of Google Earth, has announced his candidacy for the Kansas secretary of state position. Linda Fahrendorf is retiring from the Bryan County, Oklahoma election board after nearly 30 years. Tracy Reams is the new Orange County, North Carolina elections director. Wyoming Secretary of State Ed Murray has announced that he will not seek a second term as secretary of state, nor will he run for governor. Oscar Villarreal has resigned as the Webb County, Texas elections administrator. Whitney Whittaker, chief deputy clerk for Lincoln County, New Mexico has announced that she will run for the clerk’s office.
IV. Legislative Updates
Alabama: The House has approved a bill that would eliminate special elections when there are vacancies in the U.S. Senate. The Republican-backed bill passed 67-31 on a party line vote. It now moves to the Senate.
Arizona: By a 6-2 vote, the Phoenix City Council took the first step to consolidating city council and mayoral elections with statewide elections.
California: By a 3-2 vote, the Nevada County board of supervisors voted against providing the $300,000 necessary to implement the Voter’s Choice Act, which would move the county all-mail ballots and vote centers.
Florida: A panel of the Florida Constitution Revision Commission has approved two measures that would automatically restore voting rights to ex-felons. Proposal 7 would automatically restore voting rights who have served their prison time and completed any probation or parole requirements. Felons convicted of murder or sexual offenses would be excluded. Proposal 21 would also automatically restore ex-felons rights, but the list of those excluded from automatic restoration is longer including carjacking and burglary.
Georgia: House Bill 680 would eliminate the use of electronic voting machines and move to paper ballots statewide.
Idaho: Legislation under consideration by the House State Affairs Committee would remove the box for gender on voter registration forms. Tim Hurst, secretary of state chief deputy, testified on behalf of the bill. “It’s creating problems with society now, we would just like for that to be removed from the voter registration card,” Hurst said during his testimony.
Indiana: A Senate committee has approved Senate Bill 327 which now moves to the Appropriations Committee. The bill requires that counties make sure their voting systems follow new security procedures and allows county elections boards to apply to the secretary of state for full or partial compensation.
Kansas: Lawmakers are debating a bill that would eliminate the requirement that voters with disabilities sign their advance ballots. The bill is supported by election officials such as those in Sedgwick County that had to toss 23 ballots last fall.
Kentucky: Legislators have proposed SB 4 and HB 2 that, if successful, would change the constitution so voters would vote on constitutional offices such as governor and attorney general, in presidential election years instead of off-years. Kentucky currently has three statewide elections each four year-cycle. Two of those elections follow the national cycle of congressional and presidential races in even years and in between those is the statewide race for state government leaders.
New Jersey: According to New Jersey.com, a voting rights bill that was vetoed by former Gov. Chris Christie (R) is expected to see new life now that Gov. Phil Murphy (D) is in office. The Legislature is expected to revisit the Democracy Act, a bill that would expand early voting, allow for online voter registration and automatic voter registration, require ballots be printed in more languages and curb the governor’s power to fill vacancies.
New Mexico: Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto (D-Albuquerque) has introduced Senate Joint Resolution 5 that would amend the state constitution to allow for automatic voter registration.
Oregon: Under Senate Bill 1512, Oregon would join 10 other states and the District of Columbia as part of the National Popular Vote pact.
South Dakota: By a vote of 59-0, the House has approved HB 1013 which repeals direct electronic recording from state law. Although the state does not use DRE machines, the state board of elections, which brought the measure forward, said they wanted the language repealed so someone in the future doesn’t decide to move the state to DRE.
Virginia: Under House Bill 1581, if an election ends in a tie, a runoff election would be held instead of using the drawing of lots to determine the winner. The tiebreaker rule would not apply to elections for governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general, because the state Constitution spells out that ties for executive-branch contests are broken by a General Assembly vote.
Washington: The Senate has approved SB 6021 which allows for same-day voter registration.
By a 29-19 vote, the Senate also approved Senate Bill 6002, the Washington Voting Rights Act. In previous years, the measure had passed the Democratic-controlled House, but died in the Senate, which was controlled by Republicans for five years. Democrats regained control of the Senate in November.
V. Legal Updates
Guam/Puerto Rico/U.S. Virgin Islands: The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that residents of Guam, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands have no right to vote absentee in their former state of residence. “Absent a constitutional amendment, only residents of the 50 states have the right to vote in federal elections,” U.S. Circuit Judge Daniel Manion wrote for a three-judge panel. “The plaintiffs have no special right simply because they used to live in a state.” (Emphasis in original.)
Michigan: In a 42-page opinion, U.S. District Judge Gershwin Drain has given the go-ahead for a springtime trial in the fight over straight-ticket voting in The Great Lakes State. Secretary of State Ruth Johnson had sought the dismissal of the suit, but Drain, who did not rule on the merits of the case, said “a reasonable person” could conclude the law violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Minnesota: In February, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear a challenge to Minnesota’s polling place dress code. State law provides that “political badge, political button, or other political insignia may not be worn at or about the polling place on primary or election day.” However, the plaintiff in the case argues the ban violates his First Amendment rights.
North Carolina: The Supreme Court of the United States has temporarily blocked a trial court’s order requiring lawmakers to create a revised congressional voting map. The trial court had found that Republican legislators violated the state constitution when drawing the map.
Ohio: Eric Morgan, the former deputy director of the Miami County board of elections, who was fired in January of last year, is suing the BOE claiming violations of open meeting laws and defamation.
Pennsylvania: The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has thrown out the state’s congressional map giving legislators three weeks to draw a new one. According to Reuters, in a 5-2 decision, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled the electoral map violated the state’s Constitution by manipulating the district boundaries to marginalize Democratic voters, a practice called partisan gerrymandering.
Rhode Island: In June 2016, U.S. District Court Judge John J. McConnell dismissed the unlawful termination lawsuit brought by Robert Kando, the former executive director of the Rhode Island Board of Elections. This week, a three- judge panel agreed with the McConnell’s dismissal saying, according to The Providence Journal, that Kando’s claim was “largely within the realm of conjecture,” and not supported by “sufficient facts to make his claim plausible.”
VI. Opinions This Week
Alabama: Special elections
California: Ballot signatures
Florida: Voting rights for ex-felons
Indiana: Dead voters
Massachusetts: Automatic voter registration
New Hampshire: Ranked choice voting
Ohio: Voter purges
Pennsylvania: Bucks County
Washington: Washington Voting Rights Act
West Virginia: Secretary of State
VII. Available RFP/RFI
Elections Ballot Mailing Services Solution
Ada County, Idaho has issued a Request for Information for the use of an Elections Ballot Mailing Services Solution (EBMSS) for next year. The RFI is open until January 31, 2018 (1/31/18).
The RFI will be posted on Ada Counties Bid Page at https://adacounty.id.gov/bids. Specifications will be downloadable there.
Voting System Development
Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk (RR/CC) Dean C. Logan released a Request for Proposals (RFP) for the Los Angeles County Voting Solutions for All People (VSAP). The RFP seeks proposals from pre-qualified vendors to support the development and implementation of the County’s new voting systems. Vendors were pre-qualified during the initial Phase of this RFP in November 2017.
The VSAP is an innovative project launched by Los Angeles County to develop a completely new voting experience for Los Angeles County voters; an experience that focuses on the needs and preferences of the voters themselves – and, that is publicly owned and operated. The proposed new voting experience was designed using a human-centered approach that engaged over 3,500 voters in the design process to result in an experience that is secure, accessible and convenient.
Pre-qualified vendors have until Friday, March 2, 2018 at 2PM to respond. Individuals desiring more information on the RFP are advised to visit the VSAP website at VSAP: Request for Proposals.
Additional information and updates are available online at vsap.lavote.net.
VIII. Upcoming Events
NASED 2018 Winter Meeting — The National Association of State Election Directors’ winter meeting will feature panels with the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, regional DHS reps, Senate Rules staff and House Administration staff as well as discussion on ERIC and VVSG 2.0. When: February 16-19. Where: Washington, D.C.
NASS 2018 Winter Conference — This event will bring together government and industry leaders to showcase secretary of state initiatives and highlight all the latest developments in state and federal policy-making circles. NASS President Connie Lawson and other speakers will focus on many important topics including election cybersecurity and remote notarizations. When: February 16-19. Where: Washington, D.C.
Election Center Special Workshop — The Election Center’s special workshop will include courses on election and voter registration systems administration and management and leadership concepts in elections and voter registration administration as well as workshops on procurement and contraction, new voting models, IT security, election resources and costs, USPS initiatives and data dangers. When: Feb. 28-March 4. Where: San Antonio, Texas.
IX. Job Postings This Week
Chief Security Officer (Denver) - Dominion Voting Systems — Dominion Voting Systems is seeking a senior executive Chief Security Officer to join our team in Denver, Colorado! The CSO will be accountable for the development, implementation, and management of enterprise-wide strategies, policies, and programs intended for the mitigation and reduction of operational, financial and reputational risk relating to the security of our products, data, personnel, customers, and facilities globally. Salary: Negotiable base + bonus & benefits. Deadline: Open until filled. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Customer Relations Manager (Toronto) - Dominion Voting Systems — Dominion Voting Systems is seeking a customer focused and passionate Customer Relations Manager to join our team in Toronto! This position is responsible for providing world-class customer service to our customers in order to achieve our core purpose of delivering solutions for the advancement of fair, accessible, and secure elections! Salary: Negotiable base + bonus & benefits. Deadline: Open until filled. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Customer Relations Manager (Phoenix, AZ) - Dominion Voting Systems — Dominion Voting Systems is seeking a customer focused and passionate Customer Relations Manager to join our team in Phoenix, AZ! This position is responsible for effectively and proactively managing the day-to-day relationship, administration and technical/product support of one or more assigned customer accounts. Additionally, the CRM will serve as project manager for specialized projects such as pre- and post-election day support, new product implementations, and/or product upgrades/updates. Salary: Negotiable base + bonus & benefits. Deadline: Open until filled. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Government Outreach Lead, Democracy Works — as the Government Outreach Lead, you will be responsible for growing our government program and expanding use of our tools. You’ll be joining a team of nationally respected experts in election administration with deep connections among election officials and technologists at the federal, state, and local level. In 2018, we’re focusing on establishing new relationships and formal partnerships with a variety of offices, all with varying priorities, funding constraints, and power structures. In this role, you will need to immerse yourself in the world of election administration, build relationships with keystakeholders, and think creatively in order to generate revenue opportunities for Democracy Works products and services. Salary: $76,000-$120,000. Deadline: Target start date is Feb. 15. 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 Manager, TurboVote — as Product Manager for TurboVote, you will be acting as a product owner and project manager, working from end-to-end— from sitting with our executive leadership to make strategic choices AND down in the details of planning sprints and onboarding partners. In doing so, you’ll be supported by a constellation of software developers; a researcher who brings extensive knowledge of election administration; a partner support team with significant experience implementing across higher education, nonprofit, and corporate environments; and a COO dedicated to corralling the external resources you need to succeed. Deadline: Open until filled. Salary: $90,000 to $120,000 per year. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Product & System Specialist (Jamestown, NY) - Dominion Voting Systems — Dominion Voting Systems is seeking tech-savvy and passionate Product & System Specialist to join our team in Jamestown, NY! This position is responsible for delivering internal and external technical support services related to the implementation, operation, repair, maintenance and upgrades of Dominion’s hardware and software technologies and products. Salary: Negotiable base + bonus & 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.
Registrar of Voters, Sacramento County, California — working under the duties required by the Elections Code, the Registrar of Voters plans, organizes, evaluates, and directs the operations and activities of the Department of Voter Registration. This position functions as the appointing authority of the department and is responsible for all divisions within the department including administration, campaign services, precinct operations and outreach, registration, and voting systems which include technology and vote-by-mail. The Registrar of Voters reports directly to the Deputy County Executive--Administrative Services and is exempt from Civil Service. The incumbent is responsible for advising and assisting the officials of the County agencies, departments, boards and commissions with respect to matters assigned to the department. Through subordinate managers, the incumbent is responsible for developing and managing the goals, objectives, and policies of the department. Salary: $134,425.44 - $148,206.25. Deadline: Jan. 31, 2018. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Research Associate, The Center for Election Innovation & Research — the Research Associate will work both independently and alongside other CEIR staff to design research and later clean, analyze, and report on the data arising from that research. Research projects will vary in length. Some research will result in short blog posts (approximately 600-words), while other research will lend itself to lengthier reports expected from traditional studies. For this reason, a qualified Research Associate will be both a proficient researcher and writer. Deadline: Open until filled. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Senior Manager, Technical Product Support (Denver, CO) - Dominion Voting Systems — Dominion Voting Systems is seeking a tech-savvy, passionate Senior Manager, Technical Product Support to join our team in Denver, CO! This position is responsible for strategically leading and developing a multi-state team of election technology software and hardware Product Specialists through a number of critical projects throughout the Western United States. Salary: Negotiable base + bonus & benefits. Deadline: Open until filled. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
Support Specialist, Marion County, Oregon— journey level classification of the Information Services series, which applies specialized knowledge in department wide, multiple software applications; conducts training sessions; assists in design of systems and applications, and recommend policy or procedural changes to ensure effectiveness and efficiency of systems; provides technical assistance in and facilitates the use of computer hardware and software for a department; and performs related work as required. Works under the general supervision of the Elections and Recording Manager who assigns work, establishes goals, and reviews work for conformance to technical standards and compliance with department goals. Salary: $21.35.-$28.59 hourly. Deadline: Jan. 29. Application: For the complete job listing and to apply, click here.
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