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Eagleton Institute of Politics 2003 Seminar Series

The Challenge of Implementing the Help America Vote Act:
Selected Key Points from the Seminars

In the fall of 2003, the Eagleton Institute of Politics presented a series of three seminars designed to give New Jersey an opportunity to gain perspectives from six states – New Mexico, Maryland, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Georgia and California – on election reform and implementation of the new federal Help America Vote Act. Each seminar featured speakers from two states where election administration initiatives are underway who addressed one of three areas – state administration, statewide voter registration lists, or communication and education. The programs also included an extensive discussion periods with individuals from New Jersey’s state and county governments, from academic institutions and from non-profit organizations interested in election reform. The seminars were supported in part by a grant from the Fund for New Jersey.

The Seminars

   Thursday, September 25
State administration of elections and plans for implementing HAVA
The speakers focused on how states are working with counties to provide state-coordinated management practices
  Presentations by:  Rebecca Vigil-Giron
New Mexico Secretary of State, and
President-elect of the Association of Secretaries of State
    Linda Lamone
State Administrator of the Maryland State Board of Elections
   
Tuesday, October 28
Panel on HAVA requirements to create a statewide voter registration list
Speakers discussed state initiatives for addressing a key provision of HAVA which involves application of information technology and new approaches to inter-governmental relations.
  Presentations by: Christopher Thomas
Director of the Bureau of Elections in the Michigan Department of State. He has headed his state's efforts to create a statewide voter data base that began in the mid 1990's before HAVA.
    Ted Koval
Project manager for the Statewide Uniform Registry of Electors (SURE) in the Pennsylvania Department of State. He leads the development of his state's registration list in the post-HAVA period.
   
Thursday, November 20
Panel on the HAVA requirement to provide voter information and education
Speakers presented examples of communications approaches reaching different audiences through diverse media.
  Presentations by: Alison Bracewell McCullick
Statewide Voter Education Coordinator, Georgia Department of State. She oversees 12 voter education coordinators around the state.
    Conny G. McCormack
County Clerk, Los Angeles County. She has responsibility for conducting elections with over 4 million voters and 5,000 voting places.

Selected Key Points

Seminar 1: State Administration of Elections and Plans for Implementing HAVA
  New Mexico 
   1.  Elected Secretary of State is chief election officer. Has a staff of 40 of whom 15 work on elections. Includes special section on information technology. Supervises election activities of 33 county election staffs.
  2.  State organizes training for election staff and poll workers. Provides technicians maintaining voting machines. Voting machine standards set by state; counties select from three vendors.
  3.  State provides $10 million fund for borrowing at no interest for the purchase of new voting machines.
  4.  First priority under HAVA is creation of statewide voter data base. Social security number has been used for identifying voter since 1986. Centralized voter management began in 2000 with quarterly reports to counties. Now immediate transmission is made of changes to voter list. Second priority is access for to voting procedures for the disabled.
  5.  Voter registration deadline is 28 days before election. Voting takes place 17 days before election day in 8 alternative sites. State is bi-lingual by constitution. In addition to Spanish, election materials are provided in four languages spoken in 19 Indian pueblos. Strong emphasis on voter education.
  More information: www.sos.state.nm.us.
   
Maryland
  1.  Elections are responsibility of State Board of Elections which appoints a State administrator. Change from loose structure of county administration came in mid-90's after a close election raised concerns about lack of uniformity and cohesive policies.
  2.  First state to complete HAVA plan. Worked with counties and interest groups. Used a change-management approach. State purchased new voting systems and provided half of funding for equipment. Security issues were raised and addressed by special study.
  3.  Instituted uniform standards for registration, voter lists, poll worker manual, recount procedures and post-election audit. Launched statewide voter list.
  4.  Counties work with State through a committee of county election directors. Because of state efforts, salaries were increased for county election directors. Addressed need for poll workers by permitting state employees to take administrative leave on election day.
  5.  Provisional ballots are used for registration which is facilitated by statewide list.
  More information: www.elections.state.md.us.
     
Seminar 2: State Administration of Elections and Plans for Implementing HAVA
  Michigan* 
   1.  
Department of Elections and Motor Vehicle Division both report to an elected Secretary of State. Director of Elections is a civil service position.
  2. 

Michigan has been administering a statewide voter registration list since 2000. The list was first in use in parallel with the existing system in 1998 and maintains records of 1511 local and county jurisdictions. About 60% of registration and re-registration occur through DMV.

  3.  State contracted with outside vendor to prepare RFP and advise on selection of contractor to design the statewide vote registration system. It provided hardware and software to counties and converted county lists for use in State data base. 600,000 duplicate registrations were eliminate in the process. About 6.8 million voters are on the registration list. Voters can confirm registration on line.
  4.  State maintains an active Help Desk for local jurisdictions, and works closely with counties, providing a daily download of changes made to the list. Current system assigns voters to districts and reassigns voters to new districts based on redistricting decisions. Geographic Information System coordinates registration information with statewide street index.
  5.  Division of Elections also manages the web site, Publius, www.sospublius.org, which provides information about candidates, public questions, and when elections take place at all levels. It permits voters to view the ballot and to confirm registration.
  More information: www.michigan.gov/sos
   
Pennsylvania*
  1.   By legislation passed in 2002, Secretary of Commonwealth, who administers Department of State and oversees electoral process, established the Statewide Uniform Registry of Electors (SURE) to provide platform for the election process – from a uniform registry to assigning precincts.  
  2.  A SURE Advisory Board of six county representatives was established to provide feedback and guidance on all aspects of SURE to the project manager. SURE information is posted on web site and bi-weekly newsletters provide updates.
  3.  Implementation of SURE was staged by starting with a small group of counties and over time adding groups of counties until all 67 counties are beyond practice mode to achieve a 2004 “go-live date.”
  4.  Private vendor designed system includes state-provided hardware, software designed and tested with counties, requirements for conversion of county data, and training and continuing communication for users.
  5.  Conversion to SURE requires capturing more than 7 million records, and new connections to Department of Justice and Department of Transportation. Continuing evaluation includes collecting comments on web site dedicated to SURE activities.
  More information: www.dos.state.pa.us/sure/site.

* Summary not reviewed by speaker.
  
Seminar 3: HAVA Requirement to Provide Voter Information and Education
  Georgia
   1.  
Elected Secretary of State introduced a new statewide voting system in 2002 and initiated a communication strategy to inform election administrators and voters. System costs were $54 million and $4.5 million was allocated for voter education.
  2.  Communication effort was staffed with 12 regional coordinators and grants to county coordinators. Campaign included demonstrations, printed materials, paid public service ads in six major media markets around State, free air time on local cable access channels, and extensive outreach to weekly newspapers. Began in March for November election.
  3.  Education video was designed to reach all voters and were distributed to anyone or any place that would take them – churches, civic clubs, schools, non-profit organizations, schools, fire houses, etc. Video also was designed as loop to run in public places and commercial establishments.
  4.  Special video was designed for poll workers. Could be accessed on web as well as distributed and viewed at home.
  5.  Special web site was developed: www.georgiacounts.com. Voting machine communications effort also focused on voter registration and voter education about the election. Evaluation was done by an academic institution using independent survey of voters.
  More information: www.sos.state.ga.us.
   
California/Los Angeles County
  1.   County Clerk appointed by County Board of Supervisors and is responsible for elections and faced a critical communication issue in preparation for the 2002 election when the County would continue to use punch card voting but wanted to lower the error rate from 2000 and increase confidence in exiting system in anticipation of a new system for the 2004 election.
  2.  Poll workers receive special education efforts included explaining the law in common language, appointment packet for each poll worker, poll worker newsletter to maintain interest and motivation. Poll workers were recruited through community colleges, corporations, and county staff. Split shift assignments are permitted. Seven staff trainers organized more 350 training sessions.
  3.  A community outreach committee was established to work with community groups in the language of the group, utilizing appropriately translated materials. Materials, including posters, were designed to be similar to commercial ads. Special web site, LAvoter.net, was resource.
  4.  Public service televison and radio was utilized to reach the voters and provide information on how and where to vote. County election administration has own print shop for producing materials and a small voter information staff.
  5.  County has early voting which is used by 2% of voters. Up to 20% of voters use absentee ballots. Voter guide and sample ballot required by state legislation facilitates voting process.
  More information: LAvote.net.