Thomas to discuss voter registration policy and effects of President Trump's voter fraud commission, Voting Rights Act and allegations of Russian interference, challenges and reforms going forward. November, 2017.
0:00:01: Well, good afternoon everyone and welcome. My name is Barry Rabe. I'm a professor here at the Ford School and I'm the director of CLOSUP, the Center for Local, State, and Urban Policy. We're very pleased to welcome you to what is actually our fourth event of our speaker series for this academic term. Elections are easy to take for granted. And when we think of the challenges in effective administration and governance of elections, we often point to places around the world that are deeply struggling: Kenya, Spain, and the list goes on and on. And yet we need to be reminded periodically that these issues really never go away even in our own democracy, something we'll all be thinking about as we approach the next set of balloting opportunities here in Michigan very shortly. So it would seem that it's a very appropriate time for us to host this event, "The Past, Present, and Future of Elections in Michigan and Beyond." There are only two elements that we're trying to bring together today. One is that the center has just released a few hours ago, a survey about which you'll be finding a report, you'll be hearing more about this shortly from my colleague, Debra Horner, about work that the Michigan Public Policy Survey has been doing to tap into the views of local government officials across the state, both appointed and elected officials.
0:01:32: The MPPS is a remarkable tool unique to the state of Michigan and from my experience as director, since this is a project that started long before I arrived on the scene is a great example of what President Schlissel was talking about, about the university giving back through public service and significantly trying to inform discussion and debate, in this case, by really tapping into public sentiment amongst local officials to then inform the future relations between local and state, locality to locality, in a really remarkable tool. The report that we released earlier today was co-authored by Debra Horner, project manager of the Michigan Public Policy Survey and her co-author and colleague sitting in the back, Tom Ivacko, the associate director of the center, who might be sort of the architect behind the initial creation of this and has worked long on these issues, as has Deborah, with great, great impact here. In this case, we turn to elections and what Debra will be doing is providing an overview of the study that was just released a few hours ago, and going into some real depth on that.
0:02:44: We're also delighted to be joined by Christopher Thomas who brings a remarkable public service career and set of credentials to this issue, and engagement for now of more than four decades on these issues in this state, but also internationally that's meant direct leadership roles in the state of Michigan over some period of time. But also as you see from his bio, some really important service beyond the state of Michigan, nationally, different commissions and the like, and we're very, very delighted to have him here to both provide instant response to our findings, but also speak to these issues more generally going forward in this state and as noted in the title, beyond. So I've welcomed all of you, but I particularly wanna thank our colleagues, Debra Horner and Christopher Thomas, for sharing in our insights. Deborah? Thank you.
0:03:41: Hi. Thank you guys for coming this morning to talk with us about election administration on election day eve 2017. As Barry mentioned, I'm gonna start off by talking today briefly about some new findings about local elections here in Michigan based on surveys of our local officials across the state, and then I'll turn things over to Chris to talk about a little bit wider context. The information I'm gonna present to you today comes from a survey research program here at Ford School called the Michigan Public Policy Survey or the MPPS. So I'm gonna give you a brief overview of how this survey data is collected, and then we'll get to the good stuff, which is what local officials tell us about elections in our cities and townships here in Michigan, including how confident they are about their election accuracy, what problems they're having, what they think of plans to update equipment for voting, and their support or opposition to a variety of election reform proposals that are floating around out there.
0:04:37: All of this and more is created in that new report that Barry mentioned, and it's on our CLOSUP website. So it's fun to have you in the room and be among the first people to learn what we found. So, the MPPS, let me tell you about it for a second, it is a census survey. So what that means is we actually reach out to every single county, township, village, and city in the state of Michigan twice each year, in the spring and in the fall. Now in the spring, we primarily ask questions about fiscal health issues and then in the fall, we often cover special topics. But there are also often issues covered in the spring waves that may be relevant to time wise and so this past spring, we did ask about budget matters and workforce issues, but we also wanted to ask about election administration, given the experience here in Michigan and across the country of the November 16 election. Now the MPPS typically goes to the top elected and the top appointed official in each jurisdiction.
0:05:29: So for example the city mayor and the city manager will get a copy of the questionnaire or the county board chair and the county administrator. However, for this wave, because we were talking about a topic that was so specific to the Office of Clerk in cities and in townships, these are the people who actually are in charge of administering the elections, we also oversampled these local clerks. So in cases where the township supervisor or the mayor of the city has already done a survey, we still sent a shortened version of the questionnaire that just contain these questions about elections to the clerks as well. So, one of the extraordinary things about the Michigan Public Policy Survey is our response rate. Honestly, Michigan local officials are really into this program. [chuckle] We typically, a wave over wave, receive over 70% of responses from all of the jurisdictions across the state, which is really extraordinary in survey research. It's a really high rate, and we're very proud of it.
0:06:25: And for this portion of the 2017 survey, the part about election administration, we ended up with responses from 872 individual townships across the state, which included clerks and supervisors, 70% of them, state wide, and 88% of all Michigan cities participated in the survey. So, we have really a great base from which to look at these questions in cities and townships of all sizes, types, regions, whatever it is we're interested in in terms of their characteristics. It also, by over sampling these clerks, it gives us a chance to look and compare between types of official to see whether clerks and managers or supervisors would have some different opinions on some of these topics.
0:07:08: All right, so let's get to the good stuff and see what they told us. Clearly as citizens, we care a lot about the accuracy of elections, just basically is every vote getting counted, and other people who should be voting, voting. So one important question we asked of local officials was, "Are you confident that the elections in your jurisdiction are indeed being conducted accurately?" And the news is pretty good. The vast majority of Michigan cities and townships say, "Yes." 91% tell us that they are very confident in their accuracy of their elections.
0:07:41: Then there's 8% who say they're somewhat confident, and only 1% who are telling us that they're not very confident about the election accuracy. Therefore, depending on if you're a 90% glass full kind of person, you may see this as really good news. On the other hand, if you're more focused on the approximately 137 jurisdictions that that 9% slice represents, who tell us that they are less than very confident about their accuracy, you might have some cause for concern.
0:08:09: All right, so remember how I said, we have such a nice response rate that allows us to break down the sample in really interesting ways? Here's one way we break down the responses, which is by jurisdiction type and the official's position. So you can see from the chart on your right, in that first column, that township officials, township clerks and city clerks are even more confident in their elections than are the mayors or supervisors or managers. So there's a lot of confidence particularly among clerks. Similarly, regardless of the community size, very few local leaders across the state express particularly low confidence. So among the smallest jurisdictions, those with only 1500 or less residents, only 1% say they're not very confident in their ability to run an accurate election. And the same is true of just 4% of the largest jurisdictions where most people live.
0:09:04: All right. So great! There's a lot of confidence out there. Hurray! [chuckle] However, you may have imagined the picture is not as rosy as you might wish it to be. When we ask local officials about problems they've experienced, some areas of concern did pop up. So, most commonly cited problems state wide are ones related to recruiting poll workers. Overall, 29% of township and city officials state wide, that's among everyone, indicate they have a significant problem, or somewhat of a problem recruiting poll workers who have the necessary skills to do the job. So computer skills or just being able to follow an election protocol, something like that.
0:09:44: And then there's 27%, the next bar down, who report problems simply recruiting enough workers at all, regardless of their skill level. So this is across jurisdictions state wide. Now there's also a quarter of jurisdictions, about 25%, who report the cost of election administration is a somewhat or significant problem for their jurisdiction's budget. So cost is an issue of one of four of our jurisdictions state wide.
0:10:09: Now there's also some jurisdictions who report other problems with election equipment or failures, which are something I think we're gonna hear a little bit more about. Reliable internet service for communicating with the Secretary of State, and wait times at polls. Unfortunately the state's largest jurisdictions where most of our residents live and vote, are more likely than the smaller jurisdictions to report they've got problems. So for examples, when it comes to cities and townships of more than 30,000 residents, those who report they can't recruit enough poll workers with necessary skills is 48%. About half of our largest cities and townships say they can't recruit enough people who can work the polls.
0:10:49: And again, about 39% say they can't recruit enough people regardless of how skilled they are. Equipment failures and malfunctions, 24% of the state's largest jurisdictions report they have somewhat or significant problem with those. And long wait times for voters at polls, about 18% of our largest jurisdictions. Errors by poll workers, about 17% of our largest jurisdictions. And disturbances at polling places, about 15% of the largest jurisdictions. And at the same time, our mid-sized cities and townships. So those with between 10,000 and 30,000, are particularly likely to say they are struggling with costs. About 34% of them say the impact on their budget is somewhat a significant problem for their jurisdiction.
0:11:32: All right, so as you can see from these two charts, our townships and our city clerks are most likely to be sounding the alarm on some of these problems in their jurisdictions. So let's take recruiting poll workers with the right skills as an example. That's over here on the left. You can see that among city clerks, 52%, more than half, say that this is a problem for their city, compared with 38% of mayors and city managers.
0:12:00: So the clerks are really concerned about this recruitment problem. The mayor or city manager may or may not be as concerned. Similarly, among townships, about 31 % of township clerks say that this is a problem for their township compared with 24% of township supervisors and managers. And a similar pattern could be seen for just the general recruitment of workers overall. The people that we think know the most about election administration are ones who are really most concerned. Not a lot of these problems were seen at the local level. Back on that other slide, we saw that a sixth of our respondents, one in six jurisdictions statewide told us they have somewhat or significant problems with voting equipment failure. One out of six. And that includes one out of four, a quarter of our largest jurisdictions. At the same time, only about 36% of the people said that this is not a problem at all. So we've got a one-third glass full kind of problem here. But as it turns out, there's already a plan in the works in the state of Michigan to update voting equipment.
0:12:57: Beginning this year, it started and it's going to full replacement completed by August of next year. According to this replacement plan, county clerks are gonna choose the equipment to be used commonly among all jurisdictions in the county. And these are chosen from three vendors that were selected by the State Administrative Board. And the state has pledged to cover most of the upfront cost of these new machines with individual cities and townships having to cover the rest of the cost if there's any there's any [0:13:25] ____ outlying. And then come after five years, they have to pay for the costs of maintenance and upkeep of the equipment. Even though this plan that's out there is requiring locals to dip into their own budgets, there's a lot of support for it. As you might imagine, two-thirds, 60%, 70% of our local officials overall, say they somewhat or strongly support the state initiative for changing the equipment. By contrast only 8% somewhat oppose it and only 3% strongly oppose it. It might be because we haven't seen an update in our voting equipment in about a decade so I think a lot of our local officials think it's due.
0:14:00: And as you might imagine, clerks express significantly stronger support for the state initiative than do mayors or supervisors and managers. Among township clerks, 81% say they support this plan for updating equipment and 84% of city clerks support it. However, even among the non-clerk officials, so even among the mayors and the managers who may be more sensitive to local budget and cost issues, there's very little outright opposition to the plan. This is one of the things that we've seen a lot of support among our local officials for getting this update happen. We also asked local officials about a range of reforms related to election administration in the state. And by far, the strongest support is for changing our absentee voting rules. And that's the top bar where the blue represents support, strong and somewhat support. You'll notice into my graphs because we're at the University of Michigan, blue is always on the good side.
0:14:57: Currently, Michigan requires those who want to submit an absentee ballot to meet some criteria. You're old, you're disabled, you're gonna be out of the state for the election, you have to have a reason to submit that absentee ballot, which is different from a lot of other states which allow you to have a no-excuse absentee ballot and just submit it if that's gonna be the most convenient way for you to vote. When we asked local officials whether they would support moving toward a no-excuse ballot here in the state of Michigan, there was widespread support, 2/3%, 66% said yes including 43% who said they strongly support this kind of move. And only about 19% said they oppose this move to a change, to a no-excuse balloting. And this particular reform proposal has bipartisan support. A majority of officials who identify themselves on the survey as Republican, 61% said yes they would like to go to no-excuse absentee ballots and among Democrats, it was 73% who support it.
0:15:56: So there was quite a wide base of support among different kinds of local officials for this. There's also some support you can see kind of moving down the slide among people who are interested in synchronizing voting lists between states. About 50% of our officials say yes, they'd support that. Stricter regulation of voting registration drives and stricter voting ID requirements. And there's mixed feelings among local officials about other possible election reforms such as pre-registering our 16-year-olds when they go get a driver's license or providing people with time off to vote on election day, which many of our schools are gonna do tomorrow.
0:16:32: Meanwhile, on the opposition slide, the bottom three, our local government officials or city and township officials do not think much of the idea of having counties run elections for those local governments who don't want to do it anymore. When we asked them whether they think they would... Not so much that they would want the county to take over their elections, but whether the counties should be allowed to take on election duties. 57% oppose this and 42% oppose it strongly. They want the counties to stay out of the election business. Now, Michigan officials also opposed pretty widespread opposition to some reforms. We've seen some other states adopt that we're interested in such as on-site early voting prior to election day, about 50% of officials really opposed that possible reform, and they opposed same-day voter registration on election day. Two-thirds of local officials opposed that idea and only about 17% support it.
0:17:30: All right, if we wanna get a snapshot about what local city and township officials in the state say is happening right now in terms of election administration, essentially, there's this vast majority out there who are very confident that their elections are accurate, but there are a few jurisdictions that do have doubts. And when it comes to problems that that they're having with their elections, a substantial number say they are having problems recently, and those problems tend to be most prevalent in our largest jurisdictions. And while there's some support for change, particularly among getting new machines, even if they have to pay for them.
0:18:00: And then also to this absentee voting rule, there's also a lot of resistance out there for some of the other reforms like consolidating elections at the county level or early voting or onsite registration. Alright, so let me turn it over to Chris who's gonna help us decipher some of how we got here. And also where we're headed next. Thanks.
0:18:33: Thank you, Debra. Can you all hear me okay? Yup, okay. All right. We haven't put a clock where I can see it, so. I see, I got it. Okay, okay. I'll stay within my timeframe. And if I get outside of it, please give me a wave. I wanna thank CLOSUP for the invitation to come down here today. And I must say that I am most impressed with the survey and obviously with the response rates. When I was working, we never had these kind of surveys. It would have been great, and I've already talked to Debra about setting up a meeting with the Secretory of State, Bureau of Elections to actually get an explanation of this because I think it will assist them in their priorities in terms of working with the local election officials.
0:19:34: So, when I received the call, I was fully retired. I retired in June of this past year. I was 40 years with Secretary of State's Office, 36 as the director, and I worked for four different Secretaries of State. So Richard Austin was the first, he was a Democrat. He was in office from 1971 through early 1995. Then Candice Miller for eight years, then Terri Lynn Land for eight years. And now Ruth Johnson for seven of her years. The last three were all Republicans. As director of elections, I was a civil servant, which is rather unique in the United States. In the United States, most directors are political appointees, at-will appointments. I guess I am biased. It allowed me to stay in my job for 40 years, but I also think it allowed Michigan to build continuity in their administration of elections.
0:20:48: And one thing I'll point out is that I did serve on President Obama's Presidential Commission on Election Administration, and I would recommend that to all of you. Now you can find it on the Election Assistance Commission's front page because the White House removed it very quickly beginning in 2017 from their website. But in the introduction to that, which was written by Nate Persily, who is a professor of political science and law at Stanford, and was the academic director for the Commission points out that the United States is not the model for the world in terms of how elections are run.
0:21:38: You will go to other countries and you will not find elected officials, as the election official. You will not find an elected Secretary of State, county clerk, township clerk, city clerk also running elections and elections in which they are on the ballot. It just doesn't happen. And we are unique in that. And it raises its own specter of problems and challenges that must be overcome. And I think that's easier in my view to one everybody knows their place in the world. So, I was not the policymaker while I was consultant on policy. The Secretary of State was the elected official, and he or she is the one that made the calls. My job was primarily implementation. And they asked for my comments on policy as well. So, the structure of how elections are run are critical, one to perception and two, to the types of checks and balances that need to be built in to any system.
0:22:56: So I'm retired as I said. So it's little scary at first when you'd retired, and many of you in this room probably don't think a lot about retirement. I'll just remind you to make sure you open your Roth IRA.
0:23:11: A couple of dollars a month starting out is fine. It will pay off grandly in the end. But everybody gives one advice about retiring and while terribly can be and whatnot. So it always reminds me of Woody Allen's comment about death. He said, "I'm not afraid of it. I just don't wanna be there when it happens."
0:23:37: So that's been my view of retirement. I retired for about two months and then I've gone back to work on a very 20% level with a Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington, DC. They've received grants from the democracy fund to go out and more or less pedal the recommendations from the Presidential Commission on Election Administration, and I'll talk about some of those things as we go through it. I'm on a couple of advisory boards. One's with MIT. Charles Stewart has started the MIT data, election data and science lab, which really is bringing the academic community and the election community together with some, I think, very good studies. It will be coming out on how to address many of the issues. My work, I guess I consider myself involved, but not really in the game, which is a great place to be. I am enjoying retirement immensely. One other thing I'd recommend is, wait until three months before you retire, before you get married.
0:25:00: And it will present a whole other series of challenges during your retirement, and they will keep you focused. Let me tell you, it will keep you very focused. I'm married to an artist, and she is very focused on her work and keeps me focused on my work, and taking care of business.
0:25:23: Last June when I was doing my swan songs with various associations, I spoke before the municipal clerks, and I kinda clumsily came up with a statement that we really can't take for granted, that the world we grow into will only get better. You really can't do that, and I was fortunate that really, in most of my career, it did. I started working in the mid '70s. So by the time I got into the business, and I started in campaign finance, is that the laws had come in to take care of many of the campaign finance issues. The Voting Rights Act had passed. In Michigan, we dealt with the purge issue on getting rid of two-year and four-year purges, and basically ended up with almost 10 years of no activity before you could be removed. Students were able to vote in college towns, a few of you may remember what an issue that was. You could not vote in a college town unless you went through a very comprehensive residency test to make sure that you really lived in the town. They loved your money, but they really didn't want you voting there. The courts and the legislatures really were protecting voting rights. And to some extent, that is no longer the case. And every game is really hard fought.
0:27:00: Today, I wanna look back on voting rights of African-Americans. I think this is a critical thing to keep in the forefront of our minds historically. I'd like to discuss Michigan's electoral system, and how it fits into the national scenes and what we've contributed nationally. And then finally, I'll go through sort of the list of horribles or challenges or whatever you would like to call them. They're really on the plate, and on the horizon, that we're all gonna be dealing with over the next several years. So, let me start with some history, if you will. And I'll be real honest with you. I didn't learn any of this in school. I learned this when I started teaching law school in 2001. That was my gift from the debacle in the Florida election as the Cooley Law School called me up and say, "Hey, you wanna teach election law?" "Yeah, sure, okay." And I ended up with a great textbook, "The Law of Democracy." That book is so rich in history of elections, that I would recommend it to anybody who really wants to take a deep dive. Like most textbooks, particularly law textbooks, it costs a lot of money. But the nice thing was they always send 'em free to professors. That was a great thing. So, they tackled this issue of really some parts of the courts and obviously the constitution that are not widely known and accepted in this country.
0:28:51: So looking at the voting rights of African-Americans, that's really a rich election, in elections and participation. It is really not finally nuance. It's pretty blunt on how things worked out. So in the beginning of our nation with the constitution, the drafters were not really giving the voters a lot of credit. They did not put a lot of faith in the ability of the electorate to select the leaders. So the President was elected by the electoral college, which was selected by state legislatures. The US Senate was governed by senators that were elected by state legislatures. The only direct democracy was for the US House of Representatives. And you will not find the declaratory statement in the Constitution of the United States about who is eligible to vote in a federal election.
0:30:00: It does not exist. You go to state constitutions, and it will tell you who is eligible to vote. The Federal Constitution says that those citizens who are eligible to vote for the state legislature are then eligible to vote for the US House of Representatives. So they left it to each state to make that decision, not the federal government. It didn't look so bad in the early days, if you were a white male. 50 to 75% of the white males in the late 1700s were eligible to vote and that compared favorably to England, where was only 20 to 25%. There's a lot of property ownership. Most of that was attached to the ownership of property. There is no guarantee and what you'll find in the various amendments to the constitutions are prohibitions. You cannot stop someone from voting because of race, religion, 18 years old, but it doesn't have that declaratory sentence in it. While the election of president certainly didn't last very long at the state level, after the fourth election, more than half the states were directly electing the electors and that certainly moved on the last day to do so, where the state legislature did, it was South Carolina in 1860. With African-Americans, it was not easy and stark.
0:31:45: Not only could they not vote, they were not citizens and they're only counted as three-fifths of a person for the purposes of getting a population count to divvy up the number of seats that each state got in the House of Representatives. There was no change until the reconstruction X in era began in 1865. Unfortunately, by 1876, the old guard had really kind of restarted to reassert itself, and in the Southern states, they call this the redemption period. And this is where the Democratic Party in the South basically reinstalled the Jim Crow conditions. Then, it basically got rid of most of the voters. I'll give you an example. Each state between 1890 and 1910, in the South, wrote a new constitution, and in each of those constitutions were various devices that were designed to discourage and eliminate voting by African-Americans. In 1888, Louisiana had 127,000 African-Americans registered to vote. In that same year, they had 126,000 white Americans registered to vote. By 1910, there were 730 African-Americans registered to vote. So you can see that it was a concerted state effort, and this followed through in state after state after state, in the Southern tier of this country.
0:33:34: In 1903, a US Supreme Court opinion, authored by Oliver Wendell Holmes, called Giles v. Harris, a very little reported case, upheld Alabama's constitutional provision and basically, at that point, removed the federal court system from any jurisdiction over really looking at any of these state constitutions. He created, in his opinion, a Catch 22. He said, "You are here asking me to take over the Alabama Registration System. At the same time, you're arguing that Alabama Registration System is unconstitutional. So, even if I had the power to take it over, how could I take over and run an unconstitutional registration system?" That, basically, removed the Supreme Court and green light was given to all of these constitutional provisions. For most intents and purposes, they remained with us until 1965. But in the interim, there were a number of other things that popped up.
0:35:00: The Australian ballot, the secret ballot that we all hold to be so sacred was also a device that was used to disenfranchise voters, not only African-Americans, but poor whites and working class people without education prior to that time. I'll talk about this when we get to the selfies that everybody would like to take in the polling place. In the olden days, if you will, each party, the state did not print ballots. The parties printed the ballots and you walked into the polling place with one, and they distribute those ballots. You held it up high, so your employer could see which ballot you were sticking in the box. That had its own set of problems. But once they came up with the Australian ballot, where now you had to be able to read and you had education systems that really didn't teach people much or anything at all for those that didn't go, it became a real deterrent.
0:36:07: There's a whole series of the white primaries. So when the South really reinstituted the Jim Crow, the Democratic Party was king. Republican Party, which had passed the reconstruction acts, which had ensured that the registration of African-Americans took place in the late 1860s, many states in those early, late '60s, early '70s had over 80% of the African-Americans registered to vote. The Democratic Party, which was the Jim Crow party of the South, they basically selected their candidates in the primary, right? The Republicans had no chance to win in the general election. At that time, primaries were considered private. And so, even if any African-American, were registered to vote, and as we moved into the 1920s and '30s, some became registered. They were able to keep 'em out. So there are a whole series of cases that ran all the way from 1924 through 1954. They finally held their primaries are part and parcel of the electoral process of the state. And in fact, no discrimination could be employed.
0:37:36: So you can see the difficulty it takes when you go through the court process. Each case is five to seven years. And then they change the law, and they start all over again. There were no civil rights bills between the reconstruction period in 1957. The voting rights section, the Civil Rights Division was actually established in the Justice Department in 1957. And up until that time, Congress had refused to do any enforcement under the 14th or 15th amendments, both of which protected voting rights. As the 1960s approached, they really were not many appreciable games. In 1958, in Alabama... Between 1958 and 1964, the registration of African-Americans in Alabama went from 5.2% to 19.4%. In Mississippi, during that same period, it went from 4.4% to 6.4%. So you can see that the Voting Rights Act was a necessity.
0:38:49: I think there's a Lyndon Johnson movie that's just come out, which I've not seen yet. I think Woody Harrelson's playing Lyndon Johnson. The focus is quite a bit on the fact of what it took to get the Voting Rights Act passed in 1965. It contained two critical provisions. One is section two, which applies to everybody. It says you can't have devices that discriminate. And then secondly, the more known is the pre-clearance provision. And so if you meet a formula and the way the formula initially worked that covered the Southern part of the United States, any change in your election process had to be pre-cleared by the US Department of Justice. And the reason for that was, as I've just indicated, that the white primary cases took from 1924 to 1954. So when a law and estate was challenged, and it went to Supreme Court and was overturned, the state would turn around and just modify the law. And then the court case would start all over again. So this said, "All right. We're done with that. What will happen now is you will pre-clear it here before it goes into effect."
0:40:08: It was later expanded to include a number of foreign languages, particularly Spanish-speaking. Many Asian languages, as well. Michigan, in fact, had two pre-clearance jurisdictions, Buena Vista township in Saginaw and Clyde township in Allegan County. Two very small jurisdictions. So what did pre-clearance mean to decision-makers?
0:40:36: What pre-clearance meant was that you knew as a legislator or a governor, that whatever you're gonna do is gonna be looked at by their department of justice. And as the years went on, you could get a feel for what they were gonna pre clear and what they would refuse to pre clear. And so you trimmed your sale to meet that requirement. The Voting Rights Act was always set on a time. It always expired, and it had to be reenacted. And it was reenacted almost unanimously each time. It will serve a third rail. Folks didn't really wanna step on that rail, so they didn't. So what you ended up with was in 2009, in an obscure area, Northwest Austin Municipal Utility District No. 1 challenged a pre-clearance mandate by the justice department claiming that it was really out of date. So the formula that was used that resulted in the South being covered and then later the languages hadn't been changed since 1975.
0:42:02: And so there were really two interesting questions. Well, I'll wait for the next one. What the Supreme Court did in that case, they didn't overturn pre-clearance, they warned the Congress that you need to do something about this formula, you need to update it because things have changed since 1975. Congress didn't, they went and re-upped the Voting Rights Act again, they did not change the formula. Then we had Shelby County out of Alabama versus Holder, and they did what they essentially threatened they were going to do, and that was, found it to be unconstitutional because of the standard. So there were two questions to be asked, the dissent which were basically a liberal edge of the Supreme Court, they basically said the question is, "Is there still discrimination within these pre-clearance states?" The majority of the Court, the more conservative element says: Is anything different between these pre-clearance states and the rest of the states in the country? And that was a question that they answered, and said no and immediately the case stood for the proposition of undoing the pre-clearance, which was a powerful tool. It was a tool that made states really think twice before they jumped.
0:43:42: And so what did we see after then? Texas, North Carolina, Arizona, they jumped into the breach immediately with bills and laws that were passed that never would've been pre-cleared by the Department of Justice. And so here we are, the litigation game is on again. So yes, section two survives. It does prevent all of this, but again it's gonna be on a case-by-case basis. So I bring this to you only because I think that it's critical to the understanding that one, voting rights can be given, they can be taken away, and they can be encroached upon. All of those things are possibilities, and it requires a vigilance, not only reelection administrators, but all citizens to stay in tune with what is going on. Now I'll just briefly outline Michigan's election system and then I'll get into that great list. We're an odd state in many respects. Most states do not run their elections at the city and township level, they run them at the county level. And they do just fine. Democracy's alive and well in those states.
0:45:19: Wisconsin and Michigan, Northwest Territory states have left the actual running of our elections in the hands of city and township Clerks. My colleague over in Wisconsin has me beat. He's got 1800, I only have 1500 of 'em. So I had talked to him, that's a race I'd gladly lose. It's a real challenge when you have that many election officials with the expectation that they are all gonna be up to the same level of competence to run elections. The beauty is, except for a handful of jurisdictions, if one of them screws up, it really doesn't matter. It does, but it's not going to make a huge bounce on the returns. So out of our 1520 cities and townships, about 900 of them are one or two precinct jurisdictions. They generally will not have a paid clerk, not a full-time clerk, that personal work at the hardware store, on the farm, his or her deputy is usually their spouse. If you wanna find them to register to vote, you know where they live, you stop by. The township halls are open for luncheons, bingo and probably a monthly meeting. I'll tell you that, they're generally padlocked. So it is hard, so many of the data points up here reflect some of that. Our role at the state level, I say our, it's not mine anymore, thankfully. I will let go of that maybe by the time I'm done with this talk.
0:47:13: The state level's uniformity, that's the whole deal the states supposed to do, is make sure that these elections are run the same way in Detroit as they are in the Western UP. And that's what really occupies most of our time, and that is basically done through education. I'm happy to see that it's not all in person education any longer, but is a good deal of it is online. Then there's a very robust online training system that a lot of local clerks complain about, which is good, because I know they've used it if they're complaining about it. So there's been changes. We only had three elections in Michigan every year.
0:48:00: We used to be any day of the year. It could have been an election day in the past. Special elections could be called quite rapidly, and people were getting very tired of them. They considered them stealth elections to do millage increases and whatnot. So around 2003, the consolidation effort began, and it's ended very interestingly. So one, it reduced the number to four, it's now moved down to only three election dates. Two, it removes school officials. There goes 500 people that ran elections, thankfully out of the business. It took village clerks out of the business, there's another couple hundred. So I thought that was a win-win. We had like 700 people running elections that are no longer running 'em, and left them with city and township and county clerks. And our county clerks do have a role in elections. They print ballots, they collect the returns election night, they handle the canvass, they do the recounts. So they do have a role, but not the actual day-to-day role.
0:49:05: And then really the final piece, which is really fascinating. I still look back at it, and marvel that they pulled it off, is that they have moved most of the offices elected in this state to the even-year general election. So schools used to be in May. Cities used to use odd years, either in the spring or in the fall. They have now put all the school elections on the even-year general election. So when you vote for President, you do get to choose that school board member. They moved villages, which used to be February and April, they moved them to the even year. They decided the villages didn't need primaries, they could be non-partisan, and so they made them non-partisan and you just file a petition that takes you directly there. And now they've allowed the cities that were originally locked into the odd year general to now move to the even year, and they figure that's a free election that they won't have to any longer pay for. So at some point, we're gonna end up with a whole kit and caboodle done on one election day every two years, which makes for a very, very long ballot, probably the longest ballot in the United States. We've got about 7.3 million registered voters, and on election day, we have probably the largest part-time work force. Over 30,000 people are out there working in the precincts, 4800 different precincts.
0:50:42: I'm gonna jump right to the list here because we're gonna get a little short on time. So what do you figure, it's 12:30 now, another 10 minutes? Okay. I'm gonna run through this list. Absentee voting and online voter registration are both issues before the legislature. The secure AV that Secretary Johnson is pushing is not the AV that these officials all love dearly. The AV, absentee voting, excuse me for the lingo, provision that they all support here at the 70-some percentile is no reason, by mail, you can get a ballot. I think over 38 states, maybe more of that have either no reason AV, early voting, or both. Michigan has neither. So we have the reasons, as Debra indicated. The biggest reason is if you're 60 or over, you can vote AV. So for all you seniors that hit that 60 mark, it's a great day. The other big use is, "I expect to be out of town on election day." Some communities you would think nobody would be there election day with all these expectations.
0:52:11: So Ruth Johnson's come up with, I think, the only viable proposal that's gonna get through this Michigan Legislature. And that is, kind of a secured AV. You go to the Clerk's office. You do not need a reason, you will show ID, and you'll be given a ballot. So there's still a trip involved. The mailman is not gonna get in the way here. That is, hopefully, will be enacted this year or next. Almost was enacted last year. We'll see. Online voter registration, again Michigan is behind the curve on that. 38 states have online registration. We are working with folks in Lansing to see if we can bring that on. It's very secure, need a drivers license, you go through the DMV to get it. You're gonna have to give your Social Security number, or your last four digits, your date of birth, your driver's license number, and most importantly, your eye color. You'll have to answer all those correctly in order to get into the system to register to vote. We have that now, and I point out to the student population here, that with a Michigan driver's license, if you are already a registered voter, any time you move, you can go online and change your address. That will change both your driver's license and your voter registration, one trip. No second trip to the Clerk's office or any of that. So keep that in mind. Out-of-state moves, synchronization would be wonderful. There's two programs that are in play now. Once is ERIC, and one is Crosscheck.
0:54:00: It's involved in all these fraud discussions. They both provide a way for clerks to check on people who moved to other states. Alliance, the presidential election or Commission on Election Administration, that was a big thing. President Obama on election night in 2012 says, "What's with these lines? We need to do something about it." He put together a bipartisan commission on like the one that is currently in operation. The co-chairs by Bauer was Obama's campaign attorney. Ben Ginsberg was Mitt Romney's campaign attorney. It was a bipartisanly run commission, and Ben Ginsberg had a lot of veto power over what did or didn't get in. It was decided from the beginning there would be one report, would not do a Republican and a Democratic report.
0:54:57: And it came out with a whole series of things on how to make election day a better place for Americans. And Alliance is one of 'em. No person should be required to wait more than a half hour to vote. We've done a lot with Alliance here. They've gone down, but as these slides show, I thought the most interesting one where the people that says, "Not much of a problem." Clerks hate to admit they have lines. This is like they just hate this, it's like they don't like it. Particularly elective clerks hate to admit it. Appointed clerks are pretty good, they'll raise their hand. When all the others, the strong, or... Those were very minute, but there were large numbers. 34% for townships and 40 for cities say not much of a problem, which means you have a problem, right? Somewhere in that city you've got a problem that needs to be addressed. The state continues to work with them, and so do we at the Bipartisan Policy Center.
0:56:01: Recounts. Recounts, we all remember the recount of last year. I remembered it at least. It was interesting. It told us a lot about problems. You get back to getting skilled election workers on election day. If they're not skilled enough to do the math that's necessary, you end up with unbalanced, the number of voters, the number of ballots don't add up, the precinct is not re-countable. People get very angry about that. The election night return stand, nobody gets to see what really went on in their precinct, that's a critical thing. There is legislation moving in Michigan to try to remedy some of that.
0:56:48: The Russians are coming, let's talk about them. They seem to be everywhere these days, you can't pick the paper up. Both at the federal and state level, there's a lot going on. And one thing I find incredibly interesting, the Election Assistance Commission came out of the Florida debacle in 2000 and assistance is their name as opposed to regulatory. They have no regulatory authority, but they do great work in terms of making sure election officials know what's going on and what they ought to be doing. For some reason, there are people in the Republican majority in the House that are intent on killing this agency. This agency has all of about 23 employees, which is not even a drop in the bucket in Washington, it doesn't even a spritzer, it's nothing. And this agency, to kill this agency in the middle of what's going on with security would be crazy, and they have backed off because now you have Homeland Security who know nothing about elections, who were going to walk in in October of last year and declare that they were in charge of various security elements of the states election systems which... Yeah, good luck. They have to rely on this Election Assistance Commission to even get up to speed on how it is they're going to go about securing and involving the federal government in the election process.
0:58:34: The states are all very much involved with looking at their own systems. But essentially, Michigan and most other states have gone to paper-based voter register election systems, not touch screen, those are slowly disappearing into the mist. So if you had a paper ballot, which is the record of how that voter voted for recount purposes, the tabulators are not connected to anything on election day. The computers at the county level that accumulate the unofficial results are not connected to the internet. The canvas that takes that electronic spreadsheet and compares it to the little slip of paper that comes out of each tabulator with the votes is audited for every single race. We have a system that would be very very difficult to on any kind of mass scale go in and change. But, clearly like anything else, systems are vulnerable and we're going to need to really get up to speed. I'll skip the selfies because it's just too much fun. We could talk for half hour about selfies, but don't do it. Please don't do it, there's good reasons not to do it.
1:00:00: All the bad things that the paper ballot did fix would come back into being with selfies. People would be asked to demonstrate how they voted, with a picture of their ballot. So let me talk briefly about the fraud and suppression. Those are the two big issues, Republican's fraud, Democrat suppression. In my humble opinion, to a large extent on both sides, they're fundraising tools. They use them to bang, bang, bang, they raise money. And if that's all turned into, I'd say "Great, go ahead." Doesn't do anybody any good, but it doesn't do the damage. The damage is when they go in and try to fix some of that stuff, when there's really nothing to fix.
1:01:00: So the Pence commission. I noted the difference between that commission and the PCEA, which one was bipartisan, this one is marginally bipartisan. It has two Democrats on it. It has four people on it that have made their careers basically on the fraud issue. They may be good witnesses, I am not sure they'd be great commissioners. And there really is no documented evidence of widespread concerted fraud in this country. You can find pockets of fraud. Yes, you will be hard pressed to find it in Michigan. You will be hard pressed to find it in most of this country. You will find, and they will find voter registration files that need a lot of work. Hence, the synchronization of files. If that's what comes out of it, is the resources necessary to fix all that, that'd be super, but it is very difficult to steal an election. It's very unlikely that any elections have been stolen.
1:02:20: We hear stuff. We've heard stuff for years about buses in Detroit traveling around with illegals that are then brought, go from polling place to polling place. Nobody has ever been able to document one of those, and both parties have had challengers on election day all over the City of Detroit, not one photograph of a bus with people getting off, and then moving to another polling place and getting off there. So neither suppression, nor fraud are pervasive.
1:02:57: And so the one last thing I leave you with in terms of an issue is ID. That is a battleground, right? That's where the election wars are. ID in Michigan works splendidly because we have an out. If you don't have an ID, you sign an affidavit saying, "I don't have an ID." You vote a regular ballot. You don't vote a provisional ballot. Your ballot counts, you don't have to come back after the election and find an ID. Your ballot counts. Splendid work, it works. It's usually a quarter percent, is the number of people that don't have their ID on election day. So there is talk in Lansing about going to hard ID, which means that the affidavit would go away. If you don't have your ID, you'd have to vote a provisional ballot, which means you gotta come back at some point after the election, usually within six days to show an ID. The history is, people don't come back after election day. They've done what they're gonna do. It's hard enough to get them there once, to get them there twice is most difficult.
1:04:12: So I'm gonna end with one quote. Yesterday I was amazed to see the New York Times. Actually had a column that was right on the money with my talk that's by Jon Grinspan with the Smithsonian Institute National Museum of American History. And the column is, "The right to vote is never safe." And he went through this period and talked about the period of 1867, which was called the "Summer of Registration." How interesting about 100 years later, the same thing was going on with people going down South, trying to register people. And that was the year that 80% were put on. And he cautions in his column that it's not just the law that bing, dabing, dabing that I went through, but it's the actually culture that's involved in all of this.
1:05:08: So he says, "The story of a small group of former slaves' first vote in 1867 offers a final wrinkle. Among them were the survivors of the Wanderer, when the last slave ships to arrive in Africa in 1858. These men went from living in what is now Angola, to American slavery, to democracy in under a decade. Many lost their votes within the following years. If any one story proves that there's no natural arc of justice in the universe, it's theirs. But that lack of guaranteed progress is motivating. It means that we cannot sit back confident that our institutions are protected by some immutable law. People have lost rights they once thought were secure and had won those, they we never thought possible. We must be proud of our first vote and mindful of our last. Thank you.