The DeKalb County election official placed on administrative leave complained about a faulty piece of equipment turned in from Tuesday’s election, according to elections director Maxine Daniels. Daniels said she suspended Leonard Piazza following a conflict he’d had with a subordinate. She declined to say if the conflict with the subordinate was related to the faulty equipment. Friday, DeKalb county officials certified the LaVista Hills cityhood vote now under investigation by the state. 11Alive news first reported the investigation into the election Wednesday. The state is investigating complaints of fraud.
The chairman of the Vermont Republican Party called for a Vermont elections worker to be sidelined Friday because of what he called “clear bias” in the official’s online comments. Secretary of State Jim Condos replied that the issue had already been resolved internally, and that he trusted the worker to perform his duties fairly. At issue are social media posts by J.P. Isabelle, an elections administrator in the Vermont Secretary of State’s Office. In one comment on the Vermont Political Observer, a liberal blog, a user called J.P. Isabelle wrote that he attended an event for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Matt Dunne and “left feeling energized.” Isabelle also commented on gubernatorial election dynamics on Twitter. Republican Party Chairman Dave Sunderland wrote to Condos about the online comments.
National: New evidence shows election officials are biased against Latino voters | The Washington Post
Voter identification laws are cropping up around the country: 31 states had a voter identification requirement in the 2014 midterms, up from 14 states in 2000. These laws vary widely in the types of identification they accept, even in whether identification is required or merely requested. And many people don’t know whether they need identification to vote, or what type of identification to bring. Opponents argue that these laws disproportionately impact minority voters, who are less likely to have required identification. Our new research in this month’s American Political Science Review shows that minorities face another hurdle: bias in the bureaucracy that implements these laws. Roughly 8,000 local officials – county or municipal clerks and election boards – manage the nation’s election system. These officials train local poll workers, provide information, and interact with constituents with little immediate oversight from state officials.
Wisconsin’s on-again, off-again voter ID law has been put on hold for the fall election, leaving local election officials to make adjustments less than a month before voters go to the polls. Election workers were being trained for the ID requirement, forms were being changed and plans were in place tell voters to bring an ID following a U.S. Court of Appeals ruling in September that validated the law. But another order, this time by the U.S. Supreme Court on Oct. 9, blocked the voter ID law from being implemented for the Nov. 4 election. “It’s a roller coaster, I’ll say that,” said St. Croix County Clerk Cindy Campbell. Plans were in place in the city of River Falls to send letters to residents telling them to bring an ID to the polls, but “luckily (they) didn’t go out before the reversal,” said City Clerk Lu Ann Hecht. Her office also had made signs informing people about the law, as had the clerk’s office in Polk County. “I printed them the day before the (Supreme Court) ruling came down,” said Polk County Clerk Carole Wondra. “So, I’m just sitting on them now.” Local clerks are now working to get out the opposite message: IDs won’t be required at the polls.
Arizona’s most populous county will try to cut down on provisional ballots and speed up election results in this year’s races, officials said. The Maricopa County Elections Department is seeking to avoid a repeat of 2012, when provisional ballots prolonged an official count by nearly two weeks. County Recorder Helen Purcell said last week many voters used provisional ballots two years ago because they didn’t vote with an early ballot, the Arizona Capitol Times reported. Voters thought the early ballots were samples and threw them out, Purcell said.
Legislators are shifting strategies to finish work on a bill to unify how county election boards are set up. Sen. Chip Campsen said proponents are looking ahead to Wednesday for a House vote on a bill giving state election officials authority to perform county functions in some cases. Campsen was one of six legislators on a conference committee that, he said, has informally agreed on new wording on a bill addressing the patchwork of boards that manage elections across 46 S.C. counties. But instead of working through the conference committee, Campsen said, legislators will consider amendments to a similar bill now awaiting action in the House.
With the first voters of the 2014 mid-term election cycle already heading to the polls; with secretaries of state garnering more national attention than ever before; and with state legislatures expanding and limiting the right to vote across the country, 24 states will elect a top election official this year. In 13 of those 24 states, the incumbent is seeking re-election, but in nine states voters are guaranteed a new top election official. Those nine states include Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Iowa, Minnesota, and Nevada. Some of the nine are term-limited or retiring, while others are seeking higher office including governor and the U.S. Senate.
The State Board of Elections on Friday ousted a member of the Beaufort County Board of Elections after ruling that he violated state law by openly supporting Republican U.S. Senate candidate Greg Brannon at a local tea party meeting in October. In doing so, the five-member, Republican-controlled state board made it clear that it wouldn’t take it lightly when county board members publicly practice partisan politics. Bob Hall, executive director of the election reform group Democracy North Carolina, lauded the decision, saying he believed the state board members were taking seriously their responsibility to monitor the political activities of local board members, who are charged with overseeing elections. “By their action, they’re sending a signal to the local board members that they need to obey the law, and the law is quite clear about not publicly endorsing or advocating for candidates,” Hall said.
Venezuela’s automated electoral system has been improved significantly, as votes can be easily audited and verified, the nation’s top election official said Tuesday. In an interview aired on state-owned Venezolana de Television (VTV), Venezuela’s National Electoral Council (NEC) President Tibisay Lucena said: “In Venezuela we defeated electoral fraud … with an automated system and with technology.” Some of the most significant recent changes to the electoral system, she said, include upgrading the Voter Registry to include some 20 percent of Venezuelans over 18 who were not included, and improving the allocation of the voting centers.
Voting Blogs: Maybe It’s Time to Ditch the “Election Official’s Prayer” | Alysoun McLaughlin/Election Academy
Election after election, it’s the same story, different county. Somewhere, a high-profile election is too close to call. The outcome seems to hang on the tiniest of margins. With absentee and provisional ballots yet to be counted, disappointed television viewers go to bed at night not knowing who “won”. Discrepancies in the election night numbers come to light that election administrators are accustomed to addressing as part of the canvass process, but voters don’t typically see. Reporters struggle to come up with a sensible narrative to explain what’s going on, and start speculating on air about ballots that have been ‘lost’ or ‘found’. The election administrator tries to explain that the process is working as intended, but eventually throws in the towel and issues a statement pledging to do better next time. In a close election, there has to be a win scenario where the people counting the ballots don’t inevitably look like morons. We’ve all heard the dubious Election Officials’ Prayer: “Lord, I don’t care who wins, but please let it be a landslide.” If we are going to get past the pervasive sense, as a profession, that we are all just one too-close-to-call election away from a career-ending media frenzy, we need to quit doing the same thing and expecting a different result. We need to package our process more understandably.
Nepal: Maoist party demands stop in vote counting after trailing behind rival parties | The Washington Post
The leader of Nepal’s Maoist party, who appears to have lost in this week’s national election, demanded Thursday that the vote counting be stopped because of what he called massive irregularities. The irregularities occurred during transporting of ballot boxes and also during the counting, said Pushpa Kamal Dahal, leader of the United Communist Party of Nepal Maoists. “We are demanding an immediate stop to the vote counting and an independent probe into the allegations,” Dahal said, adding his party could boycott the Constituent Assembly if its demands are not addressed. He said the party has reports of ballots boxes being hidden for hours, and of ballot boxes being switched while being transported to counting centers, and that several boxes had gone missing.
Ebony Wright, a 37-year-old paralegal from Suffolk, has voted in the past three Virginia general elections and in two Democratic primaries. Yet on Sept. 27, Suffolk Registrar Susan Saunders sent Wright a letter saying her name had been stricken from the voting rolls because she’d moved to another state. Wright’s was one of 57,293 names on a list sent by the state Board of Elections to voter registrars across Virginia 10 weeks before the Nov. 5 election for governor, House of Delegates and city offices. State officials told registrars that simply being on the list was sufficient grounds for removal from the voting rolls. But they added that as a safeguard, registrars should carefully examine voting history and other information to make sure that the voter in question hadn’t returned to Virginia. In a lawsuit filed last week, the Virginia Democratic Party claims that the list is riddled with errors – that thousands of people on it live in Virginia and are legally entitled to vote here. The party also claims that the state failed to set uniform standards for how to handle people on the list, so local election officials are using widely different practices in deciding who to remove and what to do if they show up at the polls in November. The party holds up Wright as a prime example of the problem.
Voting Blogs: Reflections of a Prodigal Election Administrator | Election Administration Theories and Praxis
After nearly two months back in California and back in the society of Election Officials, I have made many observations about the art and profession of administering elections. Most of these observations are not new but I am seeing them anew and from a slightly different perspective of a scholar and a returning “prodigal”. I know that after a few more months, I will probably re-assimilate and will lose the perspectives I presently enjoy. I am always struck and am somewhat in awe of the dedication and hard work of election staffs which are repeatedly demonstrated and which have become central features of a powerful professional culture. The ability, and even the willingness, to do more of the impossible with even less is the hallmark of dedicated election officials. Hard work, long hours and working weekends never discourage election officials; in fact, they are a badge of honor of sorts. As a result of the enormity of the work, the intense public scrutiny and the under-appreciation of their efforts, election officials celebrate their underdog status. It is understandable if, during this celebration of their resilience and ability to perform the impossible, a sense of fatalism, victimhood and martyrdom creep into the way the business of elections is conceived, planned and conducted.
National: Election Officials Biased Against Latinos, Says Harvard University Study | The Latin Times
A Latino-sounding name could be detrimental to voters seeking election information. Harvard University political science graduates Julie Faller, Noah Nathan and Ariel White found in a study that election officials are less likely to give accurate, friendly information to Latinos as opposed to those who sound white, the Huffington Post reported Wednesday. The students conducted the study by ” . . . [contacting] every local official or election commission responsible for overseeing elections for each county or municipality at which elections are administered in 48 states.” Minnesota, Alaska, Maine and Virginia were dropped from the study due to irregularities that prevented gathering accurate data.
Voting Blogs: Who’s The Boss? Arkansas, Florida Debate State Power to Discipline Local Election Officials | Election Academy
In recent weeks, two states have engaged in fierce debates over whether or not state election officials can engage in oversight and/or discipline of local election officials:
+ In Arkansas, Gov. Mike Beebe (D) has vetoed a series of bills that would have consolidated authority at the state level, including giving the State Board of Election Commissioners the power”to remove a county election commissioner if not qualified or for failure to perform duties.”
+ In Florida, an election reform bill that just passed the Senate on a party-line vote includes a provision that would allow the Secretary of State to put a county election supervisor on “noncompliant status” under state law. That status would allow the state to dock a supervisor’s pay for problems associated with the election process.
Albania’s parliament sacked an election official on Monday despite warnings from the country’s international partners that the move could damage domestic and overseas confidence in June parliamentary elections. The fresh political row came after Prime Minister Sali Berisha saw his main coalition ally jump ship to join the opposition ahead of the June 23 elections, but its representative in the seven-member Central Election Commission (CEC) stay put.
Republicans and Democrats don’t agree on much in South Carolina, but the leaders of both parties said this year’s elections were a mess. More than 200 candidates were kicked off the June primary ballot because of paperwork problems. Voters waited four hours or more to vote Tuesday in one of the state’s largest counties, and there was an unprecedented seizure of votes. The way people are elected was in the news more than the politicians themselves. “Both parties have spent more money, more time and more effort in court than we have on the political side. It’s been exasperating,” said South Carolina Democratic Party Chairman Dick Harpootlian.
Some local election officials are resisting Secretary of State Ruth Johnson’s demand voting applications in the Nov. 6 general election that ask voters to affirm their U.S. citizenship. Clerks in Macomb County and Lansing plan to defy Johnson’s instructions and remove the question from ballot applications, and the Washtenaw County Election Commission voted Thursday to leave it off the forms after the county clerk planned to give townships and cities the option to ask about citizenship. “It seems like it doesn’t really add anything positive to the process. People have already affirmed their citizenship when they register to vote,” Lansing City Clerk Chris Swope told The Detroit News.
In a move one veteran state election official called unprecedented, the Hawai`i County Elections Division office in Hilo was closed today. A sign on the front door said the office was “closed for auditing.” The notice signed by County Clerk Jamae Kawauchi said the office would reopen on Tuesday. The sign said telephone calls were being routed to the Kona elections office at 323-4400. Walk-ins were directed to the Council Services office across the hall. It was not immediately clear who was conducting the audit or why, or if it is related to the primary election 19 days away. Staff at the Council Services office said they did not know. That office has pamphlets and other elections information on the counter to hand out to anyone seeking basic information, but its staff was taking down names and telephone numbers of anyone with other questions to be answered tomorrow. Staff there also said Kawauchi, who heads the county’s Election Division, was not immediately available for comment, but would return queries after 4:30 p.m.
Michigan: McCotter’s resignation timing difficult for Michigan election officials | Detroit Free Press
Local election officials are anxiously awaiting word from Gov. Rick Snyder on whether a special election will be held to fill the remaining time of U.S. Rep. Thad McCotter’s term of office in Congress. The timing of McCotter’s resignation on Friday, following a petition signature scandal that erupted on Memorial Day weekend, couldn’t be much worse. It’s too late to include a special election during the Aug. 7 primary election because absentee ballots already have been mailed to thousands of voters. And the resignation comes as thousands of voters already are confronted with the prospect of new congressional representation because of redrawn districts, dictated by population shifts that are reported every 10 years by the U.S. Census.
Some feedback on a couple recent blogs showed that I didn’t do such a great job on defining how our OVR work creates public benefit. So let me try again, with thanks to a canny reader who pointed out the subtlety involved. But first, let me restate what our OVR work is: online voter registration assistance technology for NGOs like RockTheVote and government organizations like state and local boards of election. Through our work with RockTheVote, a large and expanding number of good government groups and other NGOs can quickly get an OVR system of their own, without deploying software or operating computers; and some can take advantage of options to largely re-work the appearance of the OVR web application, and/or integrate with mobile clients and social media. We’re also helping drive registrants to the government organizations as well, for those states with a strong online voter registration systems, who have requested that the Rocky OVR system give users the option of registering with the state board of elections. Then, out at the bleeding edge, it is even possible for local or state election officials to piggyback on the OVR system to have their own 100% election-official-managed online voter registration assistance system, with the same look and feel as other county or state web sites, and all without any procurement or deployment.
For years, county elections supervisor jobs were viewed as mundane administrative posts with so little public policy work that most politicians did not even consider running for them. Now, along Florida’s west coast, seasoned political players are looking to parlay their years of experience in partisan battles into an advantage in becoming elections overseers.
• In Sarasota County, three-term county commissioner Jon Thaxton, a Republican, is challenging supervisor Kathy Dent.
• In Manatee County, state Sen. Mike Bennett, a Bradenton developer known for antagonizing Democrats in Tallahassee, is banking that his decade of name recognition will help him succeed retiring supervisor of elections Bob Sweat.
• In Charlotte County, former four-term county commissioner Adam Cummings is looking to unseat first-term incumbent Paul Stamoulis.
• In Hillsborough County, former state Rep. Rich Gloriso, a Republican, passed up an opportunity to run for the state Senate to instead run for supervisor of elections.
It’s part of a trend term limits created in Florida politics, said University of South Florida political science professor Susan MacManus. Limits on how long state legislators and local officials can serve have forced politicians to seek new avenues to remain in public office.
Weeks before the Florida Department of State publicly announced its non-citizen voter purge, proclaiming it was cleaning up the voter rolls, local supervisor of elections were already warning state election officials that the department’s data were bad. In late March, the state elections office alerted local supervisors that it was sending them a list of 2,600 voters who had been identified as non-citizens based on drivers’ license records from the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. Right away, according to emails obtained by the South Florida Sun Sentinel and the Orlando Sentinel, there was concern from election supervisors. On April 2, Seminole County Election Supervisor Mike Ertel emailed Gisela Salas, director of the Florida Division of Elections, that some of the five people on Ertel’s list were non-citizens when they obtained a driver’s license but had subsequently become citizens. In fact, he said, some had registered to vote at their naturalization ceremony. “I hate having these new citizens’ first experience with our process be one that frustrates,” Ertel wrote, following it with a smiley face.
Connecticut: Veto irks elections officials; law would have allowed fewer polling places | Record Journal
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s veto of legislation that would allow municipalities to reduce the number of polling places for primary elections has drawn criticism from some local election officials. Senate Bill 218 would have allowed local registrars of voters to limit the number of polling sites for a primary election. Election officials said the move was necessary to cut costs for primaries, when fewer voters turn out. Connecticut has closed primaries, so only registered Republicans or Democrats can vote in the elections. Current state law requires that all polling places be open for all elections, but the issue came to the forefront during the April 24 Republican presidential primary. With just one party voting in a race that was all but wrapped up at that point, turnout was very low.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy vetoed a bill Wednesday that would have given local election officials discretion in deciding how many polling locations to open for a party primary. The measure also would have helped cities and towns save money. In his veto message Malloy said he understands it may have saved municipalities money, but it has the “potential for undermining the right to vote.” That’s largely what made the bill “unacceptable” to him. He said there’s a high probability of voters going to the wrong polling place and some may have difficulty reaching the alternative one or get frustrated and go home upon learning their regular polling place is closed. The bill gave local election officials 60 days to announce polling place consolidation efforts.
California: As Californians embrace vote-by-mail, number of unprocessed ballots swamp election offices | The Republic
The votes are all in for the California primary, but many remained uncounted Wednesday, leaving some contests still up in the air, notably the statewide question on whether to increase the tax on tobacco to fund cancer research. With more voters casting their ballots by mail, local election officials can’t process them all on Election Day, even one such as Tuesday that produced one of the lowest turnouts ever for a statewide primary. While tabulations show votes from all precincts across the state, many votes will remain uncounted for days or weeks afterward. No one had a precise estimate of the uncounted votes statewide, but it was at least 800,000 and perhaps a million or more as of Wednesday.
House and Senate negotiators came to an agreement today on a voter ID bill that if passed will go into effect in 15 months. According to chief House negotiator Rep. David Bates, R-Windham, concessions were made by both sides before a compromise was reached. The result, said Bates, was essentially the passing of both versions of the bill. “What’s going to happen now – in order for there to be at least in the Senate’s mind an orderly, trouble-free process – (we’re) going to use the provision of the Senate bill that accepts many, many more forms of identification,” he said. That wide identification acceptance will be used during what Bates called a “transitionary period,” which he said is really just a process to get voters used to the new requirements. Discretion will also be given to the election official, such as during instances when they know the person voting. “(Voters) will be asked for an ID, but wont be required to have one in order to vote,” Bates said in regard to the upcoming elections.
Florida’s local election supervisors on Wednesday sounded skeptical, and even distrustful, of a push by the state to remove thousands of potential non-U.S. citizens from the voting rolls just months before the critical 2012 elections. The supervisors, meeting at their annual summer conference, peppered state election officials with questions about the list of more than 2,600 people who have been identified as being in Florida legally but ineligible to vote. That list was sent to supervisors recently, but state officials have also said there may be as many as 182,000 registered voters who may not be citizens. State election officials want the state’s 67 county election offices to reach out to those on the list, determine their citizenship status and remove them from the rolls if they are not U.S. citizens. But election supervisors – including Democrats and Republicans – asked a range of questions about the level of proof that state election officials had regarding the citizenship status of voters which was culled by comparing voter registration lists to a state driver’s license database. They said they wanted more information before they purge someone from the voting rolls.
Florida’s election supervisors are rising up in opposition to Gov. Rick Scott in the wake of his push to rank them. State election officials have drawn up a list of rankings based on criteria that includes how quickly counties reported election results during the Jan. 31 presidential primary and when those counties set up early voting sites. The list was supposed to be released this week, but it has been delayed after a loud outcry by county supervisors. The rankings are being criticized because nearly all supervisors are elected, and there are fears the list is a prelude to the Republican governor asserting more control just months before the crucial 2012 elections. “I’m not a department under the governor, nor should I be,” said Ann McFall, the Republican elections supervisor from Volusia County. “He’s an elected official, I’m an elected official. He doesn’t rank me.” David Stafford, the GOP elections supervisor of Escambia County, also pointed out that voters assess them at least every four years.
After Minnesota took eight excruciating months to decide that Al Franken had beaten Norm Coleman in the 2008 U.S. Senate race, followed by the close (but not nearly as close as Coleman-Franken) 2010 gubernatorial race which resulted in a recount and raised the possibility that no winner would be sworn in on inauguration day, Minnesotans may feel a little cursed, a little shell-shocked and occasionally wondering what the rest of the country thinks is wrong with us election-wise. Those two experiences do suggest that – contrary to its national reputation as a solid blue state – Minnesota is very evenly divided politically in state races. But to those who understand the law and mechanics of elections, the two recounts also showed the Minnesota is a national model in the nuts and bolts of running elections and, when the elections are very close, running recounts that that inspire trust. At least that was the overwhelming sense of a panel of election experts that met yesterday at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School.