election administration

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Virginia: Lawmakers consider creating new job protections for election officials to prevent political firings | Richmond Times-Dispatch

A bill to create new job protections for the local officials who run elections is advancing in the General Assembly with the support of Virginia registrars who say their livelihoods can be threatened for political or personal reasons. House Bill 2034, patroned by Del. John McGuire, R-Henrico, would require local electoral boards to remove registrars through the court system. Currently, two of three electoral board members can decide to oust a registrar with a majority vote, a system some registrars say jeopardizes the independence of election officials who are supposed to remain above the political fray. Because registrars can be removed at will, they don’t have access to government legal resources if their jobs are on the line. If fired registrars want to challenge their terminations in court, they have to use their own money to hire a lawyer. “It’s not fair that just…. I don’t like the way you wear your jacket and you’re gone,” McGuire said. “This is America.”

Full Article: Virginia lawmakers consider creating new job protections for election officials to prevent political firings | General-assembly | richmond.com.

Florida: Judge: ousted Broward elections chief must get a hearing | Miami Herald

As signs build that Florida’s new governor may suspend Broward County’s elected sheriff from office, a federal judge has ruled that the state’s former governor overstepped when he effectively fired Broward County’s elections supervisor. In a Wednesday evening order, U.S. District Court Judge Mark Walker found that Rick Scott exceeded his authority when, on the heels of a controversial election recount, he suspended Brenda Snipes from office. Due to the timing of her removal and her plans to resign in early January, Snipes was left without the ability to challenge her ouster or contest the allegations contained in Scott’s executive order. Walker declined to reinstate Snipes, a 15-year veteran of the elections department, which she had sought in the form of a preliminary injunction. He also agreed that the Florida Senate was right to deny her a hearing that by law is typically afforded politicians who seek to challenge a suspension by the governor.

Full Article: Judge: ousted Broward elections chief must get a hearing | Miami Herald.

Florida: Rick Scott violated Broward County election supervisor’s rights with suspension | Associated Press

Former Gov. and current U.S. Sen. Rick Scott violated a former state election official’s constitutional rights when he suspended and “vilified” her without first allowing her to make her own case, a Florida federal judge ruled Wednesday. U.S. District Judge Mark Walker said newly inaugurated Gov. Ron DeSantis must grant former Broward County elections supervisor Brenda Snipes a “meaningful opportunity to be heard” regarding her suspension by March 31. Snipes came under fire during the contentious recount that followed the 2018 elections and a legally required recount in close races for governor and U.S. Senate. In the aftermath of the November election, Snipes said she would resign on Jan. 4, but Scott immediately suspended her. Snipes then attempted to rescind her resignation and challenged the governor’s suspension as “malicious” and politically motivated.

Full Article: Florida recount: Rick Scott violated Broward County election supervisor's rights with suspension.

Florida: Former elections official Snipes sues to be returned to job | The Hill

Former Broward County election chief Brenda Snipes is suing outgoing Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) over his decision last month to suspend her, arguing that it was “malicious and politically motivated.” Snipes, who filed the lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida, is seeking to be reinstated to her position.  “The suspension by Governor Scott, operating in concert with the public airing of the allegations against Snipes, deprived her of liberty and property rights without constitutionally adequate procedures,” her lawsuit reads. In addition to Scott, the lawsuit also lists Florida Senate President Bill Galvano as a defendant. 

Full Article: Former Florida elections official Snipes sues to be returned to job | TheHill.

Virginia: Court clerk: Virginia Beach recount process begins in ‘organized chaos’ | Southside Daily

The historic recount of three City Council elections began here Monday, as a medley of people packed a city conference room to commence the review of more than 170,000 ballots. The three DS-850 ballot-counting machines — the use of which three of the six candidates involved in the recount objected — lined the front of the room, as sheriff’s deputies managed traffic across the room. Circuit Court Clerk Tina Sinnen described the process — an unprecedented one that has been crafted in the public eye over the last several weeks — as “organized chaos,” illustrating the interlocking puzzle of people, process, and access required to administer the state’s first recount of multiple elections.

Full Article: Court clerk: Virginia Beach recount process begins in ‘organized chaos’ | Southside Daily.

North Carolina: Bladen County counted early votes too soon | Charlotte Observer

Bladen County election workers tallied the results of early voting before Election Day in violation of state rules and are accused of allowing outsiders to view them, a precinct worker wrote in an affidavit released by state Democrats. The allegations raise new questions about missteps in an election fraud case in North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District race that has garnered national attention and held up certification of the U.S. House contest. The report showing totals from Bladen County’s only early voting location was run on Saturday, Nov. 3, 2018 from 1:44 p.m. to 1:46 p.m., according to a copy released by the State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement, which is investigating voting irregularities among mail-in absentee ballots in Bladen and Robeson counties. Due to the investigation, the board has refused to certify the results of the election between Republican Mark Harris and Democrat Dan McCready. The board plans to hold an evidentiary hearing before Dec. 21, but no date or location has been announced.

Full Article: NC 9th district: Bladen County counted early votes too soon | Charlotte Observer.

National: ‘Election Night’ Is an Outdated and Dangerous Relic of the Past | New York Magazine

Traditionally, for people involved in electoral politics, Election Day is Judgment Day, when all those strenuous efforts to win (or in the case of media and academic folk, to report on or analyze) public office come to an end as the last poll closes. Election Night, accordingly, is in all but a few rare cases the time when the judgment of the people is discerned. Political people are wired from an early age to think of Election Day and Election Night as the key moments of drama in their often tedious profession. But the old dramatic cycle is making less sense every day. With the advent of early voting, Election Day often stretches over weeks. And with slow counts caused by mail and provisional ballots becoming more prevalent, Election Night isn’t always what it used to be, either.

Full Article: Are ‘Election Day’ and ‘Election Night’ Archaic?.

North Carolina: GOP Trying Again To Cement Control Of Local Elections Boards During Election Years | TPM

Even after a court called such a scheme unconstitutional, the GOP-controlled North Carolina legislature will try again to design county election boards to guarantee that Republicans have the chair in election years. The provision is included in election legislation released Monday evening that walked back some of the power-grabbing moves the legislature attempted in 2016, after Democrat Roy Cooper (pictured above) won the governorship. The legislature, however, is holding on to a provision that set up a rotation system for county boards that would guarantee that Republicans controlled the county boards in years with statewide elections. The new legislation would, in odd-numbered years, make the chair a board member who is from “the political party with the highest number of registered affiliates,” which are the Democrats in North Carolina. In even years, when statewide elections are held, the chair would be a board member who is from “political party with the second highest number of registered affiliates,” i.e. the GOP, under the legislation.

Full Article: NC GOP Trying Again To Cement Control Of Local Elections Boards During Election Years – Talking Points Memo.

Indiana: Late absentee ballots, early voting errors and lack of staff among red flags preceding ‘chaos’ of Porter County election | Chicago Tribune

Sundae Schoon, the Republican director in Porter County’s voter registration office, started worrying about how the county’s midterm general election was being handled in late September. “There was such an influx of (requests for) absentee ballots coming in,” she said, adding there were only two people in Clerk Karen Martin’s office to handle them. By the Saturday before the Nov. 6 election, her concerns grew deeper, because the suitcases for precinct inspectors weren’t ready to be picked up. Many inspectors pick up the supplies that day if they can’t get them the day before the election. She began to wonder. “If that’s not ready, what else isn’t?” she said, adding she called David Bengs, president of the election board, about the suitcases and he directed her to do whatever needed to be done to get them ready.

Full Article: Late absentee ballots, early voting errors and lack of staff among red flags preceding 'chaos' of Porter County election - Post-Tribune.

Florida: Embattled Broward County elections supervisor will fight suspension | Associated Press

The fallout over Florida’s turbulent recount is escalating after the state’s outgoing Republican governor decided to oust a South Florida elections official. Gov. Rick Scott late Friday suspended embattled Broward County Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes even though Snipes had already agreed to step down from her post in early January. Scott replaced Snipes with his former general counsel even though Peter Antonacci has no elections experience. Snipes responded by rescinding her previous resignation – and will now be “fighting this to the very end,” her attorney said during a Saturday news conference. “We believe these actions are malicious,” said Burnadette Norris-Weeks, who said that Broward County voters should be concerned about what Scott is trying to do in the Democratic stronghold by putting in an ally who could oversee the office into the 2020 elections.

Full Article: Embattled Broward elections supervisor will fight suspension.

Alaska: Mystery ballot could sway control of Alaska state government | Associated Press

It’s a sign that every vote does count. A single mystery ballot found on a precinct table on Election Day but not counted then could decide a tied Alaska state House race and thwart Republican efforts to control the chamber and all of state government. The ballot arrived in Juneau last Friday in a secrecy sleeve in a bin with other ballot materials. Officials were investigating its origins and handling before deciding whether to tally it. “People kept calling it close,” Democrat candidate Kathryn Dodge said of the race for the House seat in Fairbanks. “I just didn’t know it was going to be squeaky.” A recount is scheduled for Friday after the race between Dodge and Republican Bart LeBon was previously certified as a tie, at 2,661 votes apiece. The uncounted ballot appears to be marked for Dodge.

Full Article: Mystery ballot could sway control of Alaska state government | The Seattle Times.

Florida: Can Florida Fix Its Election Problems in Time for 2020? | The Weekly Standard

When the dust settled from the 2018 Florida Senate recount, Republican Rick Scott had beaten Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson by 10,033 votes. Give or take a few hundred. Maybe more. As the New York Times put it on November 16, in what was one of the more understated headlines of the year, “Nearly 3,000 Votes Disappeared from Florida’s Recount. That’s Not Supposed to Happen.” No, it’s not. The American people are asked to have a bit of faith in our system of government, but no faith should be required when it comes to election results. Faith depends on believing in things unseen, and ballots can be seen and touched, counted and recounted. But in a few counties in Florida, election officials essentially asked the voters to close their eyes, click their heels together three times, and believe that their initial unofficial results were correct, even though hundreds or thousands of votes had gone missing during the machine recount.

Full Article: Florida Recount 2018: Can Counties Like Broward and Palm Get It Together Before 2020?.

North Carolina: State elections board refuses to certify 9th District results | Charlotte Observer

The state board of elections Tuesday refused to certify the results of the 9th Congressional District election after one board member cited what he called “unfortunate activities” in the eastern part of the district. It’s unclear what those activities involved or what the failure to certify might mean. The board discussed the matter in closed session. Republican Mark Harris defeated Democrat Dan McCready by 905 votes. Election board member Joshua Malcolm raised the issue in what was expected to be a routine certification of the results of North Carolina’s 13 congressional races. He asked the board to remove the 9th District from the list of those to be certified.

Full Article: State elections board refuses to certify 9th District results | Charlotte Observer.

Florida: Election Finally Ends, but Criticism of It Does Not | The New York Times

The Republican candidate for commissioner of agriculture in Florida conceded his loss Monday — sort of. Matt Caldwell, a Republican, lost the election by less than 7,000 votes. He was so stung by the series of blunders by Democrats elected to run the elections offices in two South Florida counties that he confessed that he remained unconvinced of the results. “Unfortunately, as a result of the abject failures in Broward and Palm Beach, it has become clear that we may never gain an understanding of what transpired in the hours and days after polls closed,” he said in a statement. His announcement came the morning after the embattled elections supervisor in Broward County, Brenda C. Snipes, told Gov. Rick Scott that she would step down from her post on Jan. 4, a decision that came in the wake of multiple ballot mishaps that plagued Broward County after the Nov. 6 election.

Full Article: Florida Election Finally Ends, but Criticism of It Does Not - The New York Times.

Florida: Charges of Vote Stealing in Florida Portend More Distrust in System for 2020 | The New York Times

The chaotic images out of Florida’s election recount last week — the brigade of Washington lawyers, the déjà vu meltdown of the tallying in Broward County, the vitriolic charges and countercharges — have prompted flashbacks among the electorate of the 2000 presidential election. Yet to the combatants in both parties fighting over impossibly tight races for governor and senate, the 2018 election was less about revisiting past political traumas than about setting the stage for the bitter 2020 campaign ahead. The legal and political skirmishing in the state, Republicans and Democrats say, has been an ominous dry run for messaging and tactics about fraud and vote-stealing that threaten to further undermine confidence in the electoral system. Florida emerged from the 2018 midterms with a fortified reputation as the nation’s most competitive battleground, a state whose political culture most closely reflects the slashing political style of its adopted son, President Trump — with candidates focused on energizing voters with visceral, at times over-the-top, messages.

Full Article: Charges of Vote Stealing in Florida Portend More Distrust in System for 2020 - The New York Times.

Florida: Lawmakers plan to tackle election problems after state called ‘laughingstock of the world’ | Orlando Weekly

Florida lawmakers will be asked to tackle how elections are run, after the chaos of this year’s elections led to a federal judge calling the state’s process “the laughingstock of the world.” Incoming Senate President Bill Galvano, who will take the reins of the chamber on Tuesday, told reporters Friday that he expects lawmakers to review various aspects of the elections process, from the handling of vote-by-mail ballots to certification dates. Galvano, R-Bradenton, said he’s heard from a number of senators about the issue and that he wants to revisit aspects of state elections laws. He pointed to problems beyond the current election cycle, which has included troubled recounts in races for U.S. Senate, governor and agriculture commissioner and three legislative seats. The goal, he said, is to keep future elections from “judicial intervention.”

Full Article: Florida lawmakers plan to tackle election problems after state called 'laughingstock of the world' | Blogs.

Florida: What Can Florida Do To Improve Its Voting System Before 2020? | WBUR

Florida’s voting system was called into question again after several high-profile recounts in the midterm elections. Florida will undoubtedly be a battleground in the 2020 presidential election, and the state will have work to do to improve the way it handles voting. From old ballot-processing machines to high levels of partisanship exhibited by election officials, there were a slew of problems with how voting was managed in Florida this year, according to Edward Foley, director of the election law program at Ohio State University’s Moritz College of Law (@OSU_Law). What happened this year in Florida’s elections that worries Foley the most ahead of 2020, though? Overheated rhetoric.

Full Article: What Can Florida Do To Improve Its Voting System Before 2020? | Here & Now.

Georgia: Close race is over, but doubts remain about Georgia election security | WRAL

Two months before Election Day, a judge asked state officials a deceptively straightforward question: How had they repaired a data breach in Georgia’s voter-registration system? They didn’t know. This exchange, cited in court filings last week, underscored the ambiguities surrounding Georgia’s unusually close Nov. 6 election. A series of lawsuits exposed significant failings in how the state managed this year’s voting, while also casting doubt on the integrity of future elections. One judge found that “repeated inaccuracies” in registration data kept qualified voters from casting ballots. Witnesses described chaotic scenes at polling places, where voting supervisors inconsistently applied rules on provisional balloting and other matters. And the plaintiffs in one case claimed that election officials did nothing to protect against “known vulnerabilities,” such as the data breach discovered in 2017, that left their computer system open to manipulation and attack.

Full Article: Close race is over, but doubts remain about Georgia election security :: WRAL.com.

Virginia: Election officials to review issues, voter turnout for midterm election | WAVY

Virginia’s Elections Commissioner says turnout among registered voters on Nov. 6 was “slightly unprecedented” for a midterm election. “We also saw some pretty impressive absentee ballot numbers…The numbers of the return ballots and the overall turn out,” Commissioner Christopher Piper said. The State Board of Elections certified the votes for the election on Monday. The Department of Elections is still crunching the numbers, but Commissioner Piper said they roughly estimate that over 50 percent of eligible Virginians voted in the election. On Oct. 29, the Department of Elections said more than 5.6 million people had registered to vote and nearly 200,000 absentee ballots were filled out and returned the week before Election Day.

Full Article: Virginia officials to review issues, voter turnout for midterm election.

National: America’s Election Grid Remains a Patchwork of Vulnerabilities | The New York Times

County officials in Maryland miscalculated how many ballots they would need on Election Day — and quickly ran out in more than a dozen precincts. In New York City, voters were given a two-sheet ballot that jammed machines and caused delays and long lines. And in Georgia, some voters failed to provide details like a birth year, leading officials to reject hundreds of absentee ballots for “insufficient oath information” before federal judges intervened. Nearly two decades after voting problems in a handful of Florida counties paralyzed the nation, America’s election grid this month remained a crazy patchwork of inconveniences, confusion and errors, both human-made and mechanical. The lumbering system, combined with claims of voter suppression and skewed maps from redistricting, once again tested confidence in the integrity of the vote. As in 2000, no evidence emerged of widespread fraud or political interference. But just finding enough qualified poll workers to make Election Day happen was once again a challenge, as voters navigated more than 100,000 polling places, staffed by 900,000 mostly volunteer workers and administered by some 10,000 local jurisdictions. (After the 2016 election, nearly two-thirds of local elections officials nationwide reported difficulties in recruiting workers.) 

Full Article: America’s Election Grid Remains a Patchwork of Vulnerabilities - The New York Times.