[Image courtesy of discoverohio]
The position of Secretary of State in Ohio gets lots of attention because it is the chief election official in one of (if not the most) politically competitive states in the nation. But one aspect of the job that many people outside the state don’t realize is the sweeping authority the Secretary possesses to issue directives to county election offices on matters not explicitly covered by state law.
The latest example of that power came recently when Secretary Jon Husted issued Directive 2014-16 which requires counties to produce election administration plans (EAPs) in advance of each election, starting with the 2014 general election.
Husted’s directive stems in part from the settlement in LWV v. Brunner, which requires the state to produce EAPs. But this directive also takes cues from the recent Presidential Commission on Election Administration (PCEA) report and asks counties for details on a wide range of topics including:
1. Precinct Election Official Recruitment, Training, and Accountability
2. Resource Allocation
3. Election Day Communication
5. Election Day Contingencies
7. Voter Registration
8. Absentee Ballots
9. Polling Places and Accessibility
10. Master Calendar
In particular, the resource allocation section specifically references the resource calculators endorsed by the PCEA and suggests to counties that they utilize them in preparing their plans. In addition, the directive cites several EAC resources, including the Quick Start Management Guide: Accessibility for use in setting up accessible polling places. While both the PCEA work and EAC materials are well-known in the field, their inclusion in the directive elevates them from “nice to have” optional materials to a greater importance and gives counties an opportunity to test them in practice.
Finally, in an exercise that is likely intended to encourage planning as well as reporting, the directive asks for detailed assessments of the time and cost involved in managing absentee ballots. For example:
8.1. Detail the amount of time it will it take you and the resources you will need to process incoming by mail absentee ballot requests (obtaining and securing mail
from USPS, extracting application from an envelope, entering/verifying data in
your VR system, producing an identification envelope, pulling the ballot, and
addressing/stuffing the carrier envelope).
8.1.1. Applying the efficiencies described in 8.1, detail your plan for processing
incoming by mail absentee ballot requests (obtaining and securing mail
from USPS, extracting application from an envelope, entering/verifying
data in your VR system, producing an identification envelope, pulling the
ballot, and addressing/stuffing the carrier envelope).
As the directive notes, “the objective is for you to understand, through a careful review of your operations and a time study if needed, how long and what resources (i.e., people, space, tools, etc.) are needed to perform the task and then the process by which the task will be completed.” Many counties are likely already doing this in some form – and I wonder if neighboring or similar (urban, rural, etc.) counties will end up sharing notes on the process.
Either way, counties will need to get started right away on their EAPs; the deadline for plans for the November general are due July 7, 2014. I’m hoping that the plans will be made publicly available – they will be crucial windows into the election administration process and valuable resources for other counties nationwide.
Ohio gets lots of attention for its political climate; this new directive is yet another reason to watch the Buckeye State for its impact on the field of election administration.