Budgetary woes in California may limit citizen access to by-mail options to register and vote.

Electionline weekly reports that the new state budget cuts reimbursements to county clerks for these services.  At least some clerks are negotiating with their local county boards to see if they can shoulder the cost.

One twist on the story: this change may make it easier to identify the full costs of conducting elections in a “mixed” system since the costs will all be funded from a single pot.  Always looking for that silver lining …

Paul Gronke, Director of EVIC, on the changes to early voting in Ohio: 


A surprisingly balanced editorial in the Marin, CA Independent Journal lauds a vote by mail for encouraging turnout in a local school bond election. Turnout was 56%, 11% higher than the last local election held in 2009.

However, the rest of the story notes that Marin has one of the highest turnout rates in most elections, and that the campaign for this election was very well-financed, including multiple calls to registered voters encouraging them to return the by-mail ballot.   The editorial ends by once again attributing all the turnout increase to the administrative change (including a completely invalid comparison to turnout in LA County), nonetheless, overall it’s a pretty nuanced account.

If this bill currently on its way to Gov. Christie’s desk is signed into law.

Under newly proposed national standards, cursive writing will no longer being taught. Few under the age of 18 write in cursive any more, and it’s likely that we’ll have a growing proportion of the population that either types or uses block printing.

What does this mean for the signature, the main method of verifying vote by mail ballots, and which rely on unique patterns in handwriting?  Do these patterns hold up if individuals use block printing? I don’t know, but I’d love to hear from any election officials who have thought about this problem.

Stories on the end of cursive in the NY Times and Washington Post.

Early voting has begun in the Canadian general election, the BBC reports. Early turnout jumped 35% from 2008 (2 million compared to 1.5 in 2008).

As we have found in the past, the heaviest early voting days were Friday and Monday, not Saturday. Finding other information on voter turnout is a bit frustrating; I’ve been searching for the past 15 minutes to find out how many ballots are cast by mail and for historical data on voter turnout without success.

I finally found some comparative figures at the BC Elections Unit, including this very interesting spreadsheet comparing the costs of administering elections on a per-ballot basis. Not much else to speak of.  Looks like voter lists are only available to registered candidates and parties.

So reports the Columbus, IN Republic.

There is a nice report on how the municipality handled the transition here:http://www.wvpubcast.org/newsarticle.aspx?id=19760.  The change was clearly motivated by a desire to increase turnout in municipal contests. It’s not clear how they do signature verification (the implication of this story is visual, checking against printed / signed voter registration cards).

Rick Hasen blogged on a recent study out of the Pew Center on the States which examined cost savings related to and voter attitudes about electronic delivery of election information. (Click here for the Ventura County Star story.)

My first reaction was “great” but my second reaction was “wait, is there an app for that?” I am a big fan of email delivery of long paper documents which have short term utility, like mutual fund reports, shareholder statements, even some journal articles!  But I am increasingly accessing these materials through an iPad or other mobile device. I wonder if any local jurisdictions or states are thinking ahead of the curve, and contemplating not just electronic delivery via email, but electronic notification of new content that can be accessed via an RSS feed or dedicated “Elections App.” For an increasing number of users, that’s a much more flexible way to get to information, rather than using an email interface.

A colleague sent along this story out of Georgia with the commentary “It appears they (gasp) took your advice.”

I’d like to take credit for influencing this legislation, and I may have done so indirectly through my past work with Georgia election officials and scholars at University of Georgia, but I think the credit lies with Secretary Kemp and other administrators in the Peach State.

I do applaud the changes they’ve implemented.  The early voting period has been shortened to 21 days (I generally recommend 10-14); Secretary Kemp notes that 80% of early voters cast their ballots during that period.   It standardizes the early voting period, an important change in my opinion because it reduces any possibility of inequities in access to the ballot based on a county’s wealth, geographic size, or population. Finally, it allows for weekend early voting, a potential inconvenience for officials to be sure, but one which citizens will find very helpful.

Full story at The Weekly.

Changes to early voting are on the administrative and legislative calendar in many states and jurisdictions. A brief update from the mail bag:

  1. In Colorado, many counties have absentee ballot rates exceeding 70%. This was the threshold, by the way, that encouraged Oregon and Washington to move to full vote by mail. In Arapahoe County, less than 15% of the electorate is showing on up election day, and the county is contemplating a substantial reduction in precinct places, using election day vote centers instead. Officials estimate that they can reduce the number of election judges by 2/3.
  2. County clerk Kathy Neal, in Summit County IN, is proposing that all primaries and elections held in odd number years be conducted completely by mail. Neal expects this to result in a 25-30% cost savings by eliminating the need for election judges. Already , 40% of ballots come in via the mail in Sumit County.
  3. Pierce County, WA may finally have to move to full vote by mail elections, if a bill currently moving through the legislature passes and is signed by the governor. Part of the argument is fiscal: county auditor Julie Anderson estimates that the county spent $16.97 per precinct place vote (10,000 in 2010) vs. $6.88 per vote by mail ballot (135,000).