Little Things Matter: A Small Stuff (cont.) Roundup

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[Image courtesy of brainblaze]

One of my favorite recurring themes in election administration (and therefore this blog) is the notion that “there is no small stuff” when it comes to elections. As the field gets more complex and the demands on election administrators get larger, even little issues can create big problems. Here’s a roundup from the weekend’s news (courtesy of electionlineToday) –

For the want of a zero: In Dodge City, KS a missing zero on a Ford County Spanish-language school bond ballot is leading some to worry about invalidating the election. The Emporia Gazette has more:

Questions have arisen after a zero was dropped in the Spanish translation on a bilingual ballot for a Dodge City school district bond issue.

The mail-in ballot, which is due back in the Ford County Clerk’s office June 25, explains that the bond amount isn’t to exceed $85.6 million… The English wording is fine, but in the Spanish translation, the amount is listed as “$85,600,00.”

Ford County is one of four in the state that must provide bilingual ballots.
“The typo in and of itself does not invalidate an election,” said Bryan Caskey, state director of elections in Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s office.

Caskey did not know of a mechanism granting the Secretary of State or any other governmental entity the authority to declare an election invalid while voting is taking place. After election results are certified, the election could be officially contested, he said.
Caskey said Ford County Clerk Sharon Seibel said the ballot was correct when it was sent to the printer. The error occurred at the printer’s, and it wasn’t caught in proofreading, Caskey was told.

Seibel talked to the Ford County attorney’s office and to school district representatives, Caskey said. He said both the school district and the county clerk’s office intend to do “public outreach” so the public knows the correct amount is $85.6 million.

Voter Phyllis Kirmer said her eyes gravitated to the numbers on the ballot that came in her mail last week.

“I think it’s influencing people,” she said of the discrepancy. “I think it needs to be an accurate figure in both paragraphs,” she said.

Expensive vacancy: In Dekalb County, AL the arrest of a local constable is generating good news and bad news. The good news is that the position of constable is largely ceremonial and has been abolished in over half of the state’s counties. The bad news is that a special election may be necessary anyway, according to WAAYTV-31:

DeKalb County officials tell WAAY 31 there is a possibility they might have to spend thousands of dollars on a special election, after Constable Kneeley Pack was arrested and forced to resign his position.

In 2010, DeKalb County passed a Constitutional Amendment, that requires county commissioners to call for the special election within two weeks of a elected office becoming vacant, if there is more than one year left of that person’s term.

County commissioners say special elections are not cheap, and now are debating if the office of a Constable is even needed.

“It would have to come out of the general fund, and it would be a minimum of probably $30,000,” County Administrator, Matt Sparks, said. “For a position that doesn’t pay anything, and has no function…”

On top of possibly spending thousands to fill a job, many feel is outdated, county leaders also worry few voters would show up at the polls.

“This one, I don’t know, you probably wouldn’t get 500 people to turn out,” Spark said …

Spark tells us he will recommend commissioners do not call for a special election, and may seek legal advise on how to abolish the positions. If that were to happen, he says the remaining three Constables will carry out their term.

Money changes everything:: In Nashville, TN a compromise on funding has cooled a looming battle between the Metro Council and the Davidson County election office. The Tennessean has more:

All 11 Nashville early voting sites are likely to be reinstated and cleared to operate next month after an apparent compromise between the Metro Council and Davidson County Election Commission has eased election officials’ concerns.

A budget spat with the mayor’s office that could have resulted in the elimination of all but one early voting site appears resolved.

Renewed optimism from election commission chairman Ron Buchanan comes after Metro Council Budget and Finance Committee Chairman Bill Pridemore has committed to an additional $283,500 in funding for the election commission as part of a substitute budget to Mayor Karl Dean’s original proposal.

Buchanan initially told The Tennessean late Thursday that this dollar-amount would not be enough to cover all 10 satellite election locations that the commission had cut. It had made those cuts after Dean’s budget proposal came in $868,000 short of their budget request.

However, Buchanan said Friday that when he made his comments he wasn’t aware of another part of the agreement — that the council would consider appropriating additional funding later in the year “upon the demonstration of the need.”

This second piece of the deal has satisfied the Republican head of the election commission.

“There is hope on the horizon,” Buchanan said.

In a move that outraged the mayor’s office, council members and others, the election commission voted 3-2 last week to operate only one early voting site ahead of the August election — the number required by state law — if the Metro Council were to approve the mayor’s recommended budget without changes.

All three of these stories remind us that even things that aren’t there – a zero, a constable or money – can create problems for local election officials. Not listed but also crucial is time; as Election Day approaches, any one or more of these kinds of problems can combine with with the rush to be ready to make little things into big things.

Stay tuned and hang in there … Happy Monday, everyone 🙂

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