III. Election News This Week
The 2017-2018 flu season has been particularly deadly and although it’s winding down doesn’t mean that elections officials are resting on their laurels. In Potter County, Texas the county has a protocol to keep new voting equipment as safe and as clean as possible. "We have never worried about this before, but with the flu season being so intense this year it was just one of those topics. One of the thoughts we had is if all of our workers got sick during early voting we would have problems opening on election day," Elections Administrator Melynn Huntley, told KAMR. The county will be making hand sanitizer available to all voters and poll workers will be wiping down the voting equipment and tables multiple times throughout the day.
After disability rights advocates threatened to sue the Texas Workforce Commission for violating the 1993 National Voter Registration Act, the Commission has agreed to offer voter registration help to Texans with disabilities who receive job training from the Commission. According to the Austin American-Statesman, registration aid was no longer offered when job training duties were moved from the state Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services, to the workforce commission. In a letter signed by Texas Secretary of State Rolando Pablos and Larry Temple, executive director of the workforce commission, the officials said work had begun toward offering voter-registration services as part of the agency’s job-training mission.
One Ohio county is taking democracy to the next level. Franklin County will use two mock elections today and on March 8 to help the county decide which new voting system to drop a coll $30 million on. The mock elections — each from 3 to 7 p.m. — will give elections workers a chance to evaluate each system to see, for example, if they are easy to set up for poll workers and if the machines' software works correctly as votes are cast. "This is so (voters) can touch it, feel it, see how it works," elections spokesman Aaron Sellers told The Columbus Dispatch. "The purpose of this is to try to get feedback from the general public ... so we can evaluate." The county last purchased new voting equipment in 2005.
Late last week, Reuters broke news that House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) is passing over U.S. Election Assistance Commissioner Matthew Masterson for a second four-year term. “The appointment expired in December and we are going in a different direction for our nomination. We nominate people for a variety of positions and generally speaking choose our own folks,” AshLee Strong, a spokeswoman for Ryan, told Reuters. Masterson had been appointed by former House Speaker John Boehner. Reaction from throughout the election community was swift. “This is insanity,” Joseph Lorenzo Hall, an election security expert who is the chief technologist at the Center for Democracy & Technology told Politico. “Matt is extremely capable and has been a champion of more secure and better elections the entire time he's been on the EAC.”’
Wisconsin Elections Commission Administrator Michael Haas announced this week that he will not continue in the role as the state’s election administrator. According to the Wisconsin State Journal, Haas, in a statement Tuesday, said he plans to keep working temporarily at the commission as an attorney, but intends to eventually leave to pursue other opportunities. “It is time for this foolishness to end,” Haas wrote to the commission. “The agency cannot afford to be distracted by my status and must focus on moving forward.” Haas decision brings to an end an ongoing battle between the bipartisan elections commission and state lawmakers who wanted Haas removed.
Personnel News: Congratulations to Conway Belangia, the Greenville County, South Carolina director of Voter Registration and Elections, who has been awarded the prestigious Moore Award by the South Carolina Association of Registration and Election Officials. Tina Ramos has stepped down from the Suffolk County, New York board of elections. Anthony D’Esposito has been hired by the Nassau County, New York board of elections as an administrative assistant.
In Memoriam: William J. Toerpe Jr. a former member the DuPage County, Illinois Election Commission died on January 13. He was 86. Toerpe spent nearly 24 years on the election commission including almost five as chairman. “He was a big reason that jurisdictions across the country looked to DuPage to see what they were doing in many instances,” Pat Bond, the panel’s general counsel during Toerpe’s final three years as chairman told the Chicago Tribune. “He was keen on making sure that we were one of the leaders in security for voting and one of the leaders in technology.”