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II. Election News This Week
- Texas held the country’s first primary elections of 2014 as well as the state’s first major election with the new voter ID law in place and minus the weather, there were relatively few problems. Secretary of state Nandita Berry said that overall she was very pleased with how things went on Tuesday. The biggest problem was the icy spring weather that forced polls in Travis County to open at 11 a.m. In Jefferson County, early voting ballots had to be retabulated. Howard County results were delayed when a poll worker did not properly close a voting machine. In Cameron County, a voter who joked about having a gun and lack of security put the school on lockdown. A power outage at one Victoria County had elections workers directing voters to another nearby firehouse where voting was also taking place. A polling place in Smith County had to be closed due to a gas leak. Voters were sent to the county elections office to cast their ballots. Following the request from a candidate, the state sent an elections inspector to Upton County. And elections websites in Dallas and Denton counties went down for a while early in the morning with the problem being blamed on heavy traffic. In Titus County, elections officials had to hand-count ballots after a typo on the ballot caused scanner errors. And last but not least, Brown County Elections Administrator Suzy Young and her staff provided inmate road crews with a barbecue thank-you lunch for helping transport elections equipment.
- Texas wasn’t the only place hampered by weather this week. The town of Middletown, Del. had to postpone its election to fill three seats on the town council until March 24. “We had talked in advance about what we were going to do, so if we did get a snowstorm, we could react quickly and responsibly,” David Rich, who serves on the town election board told the Middletown Transcript. “With the forecast where it was Sunday night, we felt like postponing the election was the best and safest decision for voters in Middletown.”
- KPBS has a fascinating story about the history of vote-by-mail and how a special election in San Diego in 1981 got the mail ballot ball rolling. According to the report, Norma Paulus, the Oregon secretary of state at the time, studied the San Diego special election to craft Oregon’s vote-by-mail system.
- The Multnomah County, Ore. elections division is re-sending approximately 3,200 voter registration cards after incorrect addresses were printed on the cards. According to The Oregonian, Tim Scott, elections director characterized the mix-up as a data-processing mistake on the cards and that the information in the county database is correct.
- A recent study by psychology professors at Rice University says that voters who cast ballots via their smartphone made fewer errors than when voting by traditional methods in a mock election. According to the Houston Chronicle, the study involved 84 participants, 48 of whom had smartphones. The research tested three voting methods: by smartphone, electronic voting machine and paper ballots. Their results, the paper said, show there were no consistent differences between the smartphone-based system and other voting methods in efficiency and perceived usability. "More important, though, smartphone owners committed fewer errors on the mobile voting system than on the traditional voting systems," the authors stated in their report.
- Last year, Illinois approved legislation allowing 17-year olds to pre-register and vote in primary elections if they will be 18 by the general. Following a recent registration push, more than 9,000 17-year-olds in Chicago and the surrounding suburbs registered in time to cast a ballot in the March 18 primary.
- Personnel News: After 30 years in the elections business, Al Davidson, uniform voting systems program manager in the Colorado secretary of state’s office is retiring. Davidson started out as a county clerk in Marion County, Ore. in 1984 and has also worked in the private sector and in several Colorado counties. Former Oregon Elections Director Steve Trout has joined Clear Ballot as the director of election innovation. Former State Sen. Mitch Toryanski has announced that he will run for Idaho secretary of state. William Sherer has joined the Stark County, Ohio board of elections. Ron Rothenbuhler and Jon Stainbrook have joined the Lucas County, Ohio board of elections. Also in Lucas County, the board voted to remove Meghan Gallagher as the director and replace her with Gina Kaczala. Karen Vincent and Charles Klein were sworn in to the Muskingum County, Ohio board of elections. Amanda H. Duncan has been named the new Catawba County, N.C. director of elections. Joshua Meduna, assistant director of elections for Worcester, Mass. is stepping down to take a position in the Foreign Service. Yakima Mayor Micah Cawley announced that he will seek the county auditor’s seat. Kelly Gillis is the new chairman of the Miami County, Ohio board of elections.