Votelaw, Edward Still's blog on law and politics: November 2004 Archives

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November 30, 2004

Comparing Ukraine and Ohio

James K. Galbraith writes on Salon.com: The election was stolen. That's not in doubt. Secretary of State Colin Powell admitted it. The National Democratic Institute and the International Republican Institute both admitted it. Sen. Richard Lugar of Indiana -- a Republican -- was emphatic; there had been "a concerted and forceful program of Election Day fraud and abuse"; he "had heard" of employers telling their workers how to vote; yet he had also seen the fire of the resisting young, "not prepared to be intimidated."

In Washington, former National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski demanded that the results be set aside and a new vote taken, under the eye -- no less -- of the United Nations. In the New York Times, Steven Lee Myers decried "the use of government resources on behalf of loyal candidates and the state's control over the media" -- practices, he said, that were akin to those in "Putin's Russia."

Personally, I don't know whether the Ukrainian election was really stolen. I don't trust Lugar, Powell or the National Democratic Institute. It's obvious that U.S. foreign policy interests, rather than love of democracy for its own sake, are behind this outcry. Russia backed the other candidate in Ukraine. For Brzezinski, doing damage to Russia is a hobby.

But if the Ukraine standard were applied in Ohio -- as it should be -- then the late lamented U.S. election certainly was stolen. In Ohio, the secretary of state in charge of the elections process was co-chairman of the Bush campaign in the state. He obstructed the vote count systematically -- for instance, by demanding that provisional ballots without birth dates on their envelopes be thrown out, even though there is no requirement for that in state law. He also required that provisional ballots be cast in a voter's home precinct, ensuring that there would be no escape from long lines. Republicans fielded thousands of election challengers to Democratic precincts, mainly to try to intimidate black voters and to slow down the voting process. A recount, demanded and paid for by the Green and Libertarian parties, has been stalled in court, so that it won't possibly upset the certification of Ohio's electoral votes. -- Salon.com | Democracy inaction

November 29, 2004

Another hidden provision in the omnibus budget bill

Political Wire reports: "Without floor debate or a single hearing, Congress changed election laws last week to allow members to transfer campaign funds raised for a federal race to a run for state or local office," Roll Call reports.

"A four-paragraph provision taking up less than half a page in the 3,300-page omnibus appropriations measure struck a portion of the landmark campaign laws adopted in 2002 and once again freed Members to apply dollars raised for federal elections toward bids for governor, mayor or other offices." -- Political Wire: Congress Frees Funds

Super-redistricting?

The News You Just Can't Use: Unconfirmed Sources report new plans are in the works for nationwide redistricting. Troubled by stubbornly Democratic states one Republican congressional leader stated "Direct action is required to insure GOP hegemony." On the heels of the stunning Republican success in Texas the GOP plans to continue it's illegal redistricting campaigns on the "largest scale possible."

"The 2000 election proved that the current districting is dangerously balanced." Complained Karl Rove. Concerned that future elections may not have the same result as 2000 campaign, the GOP strategy is to break up Democratic strongholds like California.

Governor Schwartznager and Tom Delay have been working on the plan for several months. "Why would the governor preside over the destruction on his own state?" The word on the street is that he might become a regional governor with control over three or four of the new states.

The plans for California involve annexing most of its territory to neighboring states with mostly Republican populations. ...

The Democrats are taking a wait and see approach on the whole matter. -- Unconfirmed Sources

Supreme Court affirms New York redistricting

AP reports: The U.S. Supreme Court affirmed Monday a lower ruling upholding changes that New York state made to congressional and legislative districts following the 2000 census.

Plaintiffs including blacks, Hispanics and white New York voters brought lawsuits against Gov. George Pataki and the state Legislature in January 2002, charging a constitutional violation.

But the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan ruled that the redistricting maintains the equality of population, preserves the cores of existing districts and complies with the requirements of the Voting Rights Act.

One member of the high court, Justice John Paul Stevens, wanted his colleagues to hear arguments in the appeal. -- Newsday.com - AP Regional

Texas: another legislative challenge filed

AP reports: Republican state Rep. Jack Stick of Austin has become the latest House candidate to file a challenge over his Election Day defeat.

Democrat Mark Strama defeated Stick by 569 votes. Stick filed a challenge with the Texas House of Representatives through the Texas Secretary of State's Office on Thursday.

Although rare, a House election challenge is not unprecedented. However, only one in the past 40 years has resulted in the House ordering a new election, according to research by Republican House Speaker Tom Craddick's office.

Two other election challenges have been filed by House candidates, and one has been filed by a Texas Senate candidate. -- DentonRC.com | News for Denton, Texas | AP: Texas

Alabama: recounting failed amendment

AP reports: Election officials began a statewide recount Monday after a measure to remove segregation-era language from the Alabama Constitution was apparently rejected narrowly by the voters Nov. 2.

The proposed amendment would delete unenforced sections of the constitution that mandate racially segregated schools and allow poll taxes, once used to discourage blacks from voting.

The amendment failed by 1,850 votes out of 1.38 million cast - a margin of 0.13 percent. State law calls for a recount when a ballot measure fails by less than one-half of a percentage point. -- Welcome to TimesDaily.com

Puerto Rico: ballot counting resumes

The Orlando Sentinel reports: The recount in Puerto Rico's still-unsettled governor's race resumed Monday as about 20,000 protestors decried the U.S. District Court's intervention in the ongoing controversy.

The recount_stalled for six days after about 150 election workers walked off the job Nov. 23 over how disputed ballots were being handled_got under way only after officials brokered a deal to count those ballots but hold the tally aside. ...

Some 2 million Puerto Ricans cast ballots in the Nov. 2 election between Anibal Acevedo Vila of the Popular Democratic Party and Pedro Rossello of the pro-statehood New Progressive Party. When counting was suspended on election night, Acevedo Vila held a 3,880-vote lead, with some 28,000 disputed ballots remaining uncounted.

In the four weeks since, the island has been in political turmoil over what to do with the ballots, with the commonwealth's supreme court ordering them counted, and the U.S. District Court overriding that decision and requiring that the disputed ballots be set aside until the court can review them. -- KRT Wire | 11/29/2004 | Recount resumes in Puerto Rico

November 28, 2004

Trusting electronic voting won't come easily

James Fallows writes in the New York Times: When I worked briefly on a product design team at Microsoft, I was sobered to learn that fully one-fourth of the company's typical two-year "product cycle time" was devoted to testing. Programmers spend 18 months designing and debugging a system. Then testers spend the next six months finding the problems they missed. It is no secret that even then, the "final" software from Microsoft, or any other company, is far from perfect.

Today's mature systems work as well as they do only because they are exposed to nonstop, high-stakes torture testing. EBay lists nearly four million new items each day. If a problem affects even a tiny fraction of its users, eBay will be swamped with reports immediately.

Millions of data packets are being routed across the Internet every second. If servers, domain-name directories or other components cannot handle the volume, the problem will become apparent quickly. Years ago, bank or airline computers would often be "down" because of unforeseen problems. Now they're mostly "up," because they've had so long for flaws to become exposed.

The second crucial element in making reliable systems is accountability. Users can trust today's systems precisely because they don't have to take them on trust. Some important computer systems run on open-source software, like Linux, in which the code itself can be examined by outsiders. -- The New York Times > Business > Your Money > Techno Files: Electronic Voting 1.0, and No Time to Upgrade

North Carolina: protest over "partial" provisional ballots

The Raleigh News & Observer reports: A candidate for a Wake District Court judgeship has asked the N.C. Board of Elections to throw out about 1,400 votes cast in the wrong precincts.

The request is similar to one filed by a candidate for superintendent of public instruction, but in this case officials say they already know it would not change the outcome of the race.

Under the final vote count turned in to the state by the Wake Board of Elections, District Court Judge Kris Bailey lost his bid for re-election to Raleigh lawyer Debra Sasser by 322 votes.

According to the Wake County Board of Elections, if the ballots were not counted, Sasser's lead would narrow to 194 votes. ...

At issue are ballots cast by voters who showed up at the wrong polling place on election day. Under state law, those voters can cast a provisional ballot, but only races they were eligible to vote for are counted.

In his protest, Bailey argued that counting the so-called "partial ballots" violates the residency requirements spelled out in Article VI, Section 2 of the state Constitution. -- newsobserver.com | Local & State

Ohio: foundation sues for validation of provisional ballots

AP reports: A watchdog group filed a lawsuit Friday that seeks to overturn the rejection of thousands of provisional ballots in Cuyahoga County.

The county had the most provisionals in the state at 24,472, of which about 33 percent, or 8,099 ballots, were rejected, mostly because there was no voter registration record for the people who cast them.

People for the American Way Foundation wants the county board of elections to hand check the rejected provisionals against voter registration cards, instead of computerized lists compiled from the cards. ...

The lawsuit also seeks to give voters the chance to have their provisional ballots counted if they cast ballots in the wrong precinct without being directed to the correct precinct.

The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in late October that a provisional ballot cast outside a voter's home precinct isn't valid. -- AP Wire | 11/26/2004 | Lawsuit seeks re-examination of rejected Cuyahoga provisionals

Ohio: legislation may allow corporation contributions

The Toledo Blade reports: Those who have urged the General Assembly to force corporations that have anonymously bankrolled ads targeting Ohio Supreme Court candidates to come out from cover now fear they may get more than they bargained for.

State lawmakers are considering legislation that, for the first time, could write into state law the right of a corporation to directly participate in Ohio's political process, even if they have to do it in public.

"It proposes to legalize electioneering communication funded by corporations and does so in a rather radical way without limitation," said Cliff Arnebeck, attorney for Alliance for Democracy. "Ohio for nearly 100 years has prohibited corporate treasury money from influencing elections."

There is also talk of raising or eliminating contribution caps to candidates. Caps are currently $2,500 each for the primary and general elections. -- toledoblade.com

November 26, 2004

Ohio: Double voters hold the balance in a school tax election

AP reports: A couple in a neighboring county who admitted to voting twice on Election Day could be forced to reveal how they cast their ballots in the disputed, single-vote defeat of a proposed school income tax, the school district's attorney said.

"Not going to happen," replied Madison County Prosecutor Stephen Pronai on Tuesday. "I'm not going to force them to testify as to how they voted."

London City Schools, about 25 miles west of Columbus, will challenge the election results in Madison County Common Pleas Court, attorney Terrence N. O'Donnell said on Tuesday. ...

"We will argue that the Board Of Elections had a duty to certify the correct election result," O'Donnell said. "The court has broad authority to fashion a remedy."

Wilbur France, 79, and Rebecca France, 76, of London, voted by absentee ballot in October and at the polls on Nov. 2. Pronai said they had called the elections board and were told their absentee ballots were lost. Their names do not appear on the absentee list, but the board does have the envelopes in which they returned ballots, he said. -- 2 double voters hold key to school income tax's fate

Thanks to How Appealing for the link.

GOP packed in the PAC money

AP reports: The top-giving corporate political action committees did not hedge their bets in the fall elections despite the narrow division between Republicans and Democrats in Congress.

They favored Republican candidates 10 to 1.

Of 268 corporate PAC's that donated $100,000 or more to presidential and Congressional candidates from January 2003 through the middle of last month, 245 gave the majority of their contributions to Republicans, according to an analysis released Wednesday by Political Money Line, a nonpartisan campaign finance tracking service.

Twenty-three corporate PAC's made more than half their donations to Democrats, according to the study, based on the most recent campaign finance reports available. -- The New York Times > Washington > Corporate PAC's Backed Republicans 10 to 1

November 25, 2004

Maine: recounts in 3 house seats

The Portland Press Herald reports: State-supervised recounts have failed to resolve three disputed races for the [Maine] House of Representatives, forcing the House itself to decide who will represent the districts, including one in southern Maine.

The outcome is important because voters in the three affected districts still do not know who will represent them for the next two years. But the results will not alter the balance of power in the House, which will remain under Democratic control no matter who wins the three races.

Initial election results gave the Democrats a 76-73 edge over the Republicans in the 151-member House, with one independent and one Green Independent. Two of the three apparent winners in the unresolved races are Republicans, so the best the GOP can hope for is to gain one more seat, which would still leave the Republicans in the minority. -- House to resolve three disputed races

Ukraine: Supreme court stops certification of vote

Bloomberg.com reports: Ukraine's supreme court said it will investigate Nov. 21 presidential election results handing victory to Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych as supporters of his rival, Viktor Yushchenko, staged a national strike.

More than 300,000 protesters, who say the ballot-counting was fraudulent, massed for a fourth day at Independence Square in the capital Kiev, one of dozens of demonstrations across the nation. The Central Electoral Committee said it will respect the court's decision and stopped the publication of the results in official journals tomorrow, a step needed for Yanukovych to take office. -- Bloomberg.com: Europe

Imagine that: a supreme court that stops a certification rather than interfering with a recount.

November 24, 2004

At least 3 Republicans to challenge losses in Texas

The San Antonio Express-News reports: Two Republicans defeated Nov. 2 will submit paperwork today asking the GOP-majority Texas House to throw out official vote tallies and name them winners of their respective races or force new elections, advisers predicted Tuesday.

A third defeated candidate, Republican Rep. Ken Mercer of San Antonio, will decide by today whether to join the others in contesting his 498-vote loss to Democratic challenger David Leibowitz, his campaign manager said.

A recount already has been scheduled for next week for Rep. Talmadge Heflin, R-Houston, who fell by 32 votes to Houston businessman Hubert Vo.

Heflin, scheduled to hold a news conference today, has identified "hundreds" of instances in which ineligible voters cast ballots, but he will withdraw his contest from House consideration if he prevails over Vo in the recount, spokesman Craig Murphy said. -- MySA.com: Metro | State

Sberel has commented on DailyKos: Now, the San Antonio paper states that the Texas House can give the challengers the seat. They cannot. What they can do is seat the certified winner (essentially, dismiss the contestants complaint) or void the election and direct the gov to call a special election.

The citations are basically election code sec 221.012 & 241.020. -- Contest will be filed.

Florida: federal judge denies request to extend deadline for receipt of absentee ballots

The Miami Daily Business Review reports: Four years ago, the conservative majority on the U.S. Supreme Court tried to make its Bush v. Gore ruling a one-ride-only ticket. But now the high court's hugely controversial decision handing the 2000 presidential election to George W. Bush has returned to haunt Florida election law.

Ruling in Friedman v. Snipes on Nov. 10, U.S. District Judge Alan Gold invoked the Supreme Court decision in denying a request by the ACLU of Florida for Miami-Dade and Broward counties to count domestic absentee ballots postmarked by Election Day but received after the 7 p.m. deadline.

The Friedman decision shows that the justices' wish to make their hastily crafted opinion just as quickly vanish has not come to pass. It's the latest in a line of cases around the country that are deepening the application of Bush v. Gore's equal-protection analysis to election law and other legal areas.

Given the disparate rules and procedures within states and even within counties, this type of 14th Amendment analysis could pose a growing challenge for elections officials in Florida and nationally. -- law.com - Article

November 23, 2004

How did the Union carry out the 1862 and 1864 elections?

I heard an interview on All Things Considered this afternoon with Carina Perelli, Director of the Electoral Assistance Division of the United Nations, about getting ready for the elctions in Iraq. I wondered about the problems the U.S. must have had in carrying out the elections in 1862 and 1864. By the elections of those years, parts of some rebel states were under Northern control. Similarly, a few non-seceding states (Missouri and Kentucky spring to mind) had areas that might as well have been in the Confederacy. What problems did the State govenrments have in carrying out federal elections in those years?

If you know of a good book or journal article on the subject, please let me know.

GAO will investigate election problems

Government Computer News reports: The General Accountability Office will investigate irregularities in the 2004 general election, including an examination of the security and accuracy of electronic voting machines.

The decision follows requests earlier this month from Democratic congressmen that GAO look into election problems reported to their offices.

In addition to voting technologies, GAO will look into the distribution and allocation of voting machines and counting of provisional ballots. The request initially was spurred by constituent complaints and news reports of problems in California, Florida, North Carolina and Ohio in which thousands of votes were erroneously recorded, deleted or added.

In a joint statement on the GAO investigation, the representatives said, "we will provide copies of specific incident reports received in our offices, including more than 57,000 such complaints provided to the House Judiciary Committee." -- Government Computer News (GCN) daily news -- federal, state and local government technology; GAO to investigate voting irregularities

Many precincts in Maryland had e-voting problems

The Industry Standard reports: Poll observers in about 6 percent of Maryland's precincts recorded 201 problems with electronic voting machines during the Nov. 2 general election, according to a report released Tuesday by TrueVoteMD.org. Poll watchers trained by the voting integrity activist group reported 42 cases of crashed e-voting machines, 37 cases of access card or encoder problems, and 30 screen malfunctions, according to the report. More than 400 TrueVoteMD poll watchers observed the elections at 108 of the state's 1,787 voting precincts.

TrueVoteMD poll watchers saw problems that were "easily observable" and not problems that may have happened inside the electronic voting machines, said Linda Schade, co-founder of TrueVoteMD. While the problems observed in the precincts where the poll watchers were stationed may not be typical of all precincts, they were likely a "small fraction" of the actual problems with e-voting machines in Maryland, Schade said.

"One of our greatest resources is the widespread common sense of Maryland voters, and also their passion to defend our democracy from what we see is a clear threat, which is nontransparent elections, unverifiable elections using error-prone secret software with gaping security holes and with a history of election failures," Schade said at a press conference. "They are in complete agreement about one thing -- that is that blind faith has no place in the voting booth."

TrueVoteMD, along with several national groups, has called for electronic voting machines to include voter-verified paper trails, which are printouts of each voter's choices that can later be used to recount ballots. E-voting critics say independent recounts are impossible without such paper trails; when a recount is demanded, most e-voting machines will spit out the same electronically generated set of disputed numbers again and again. -- Observers find 201 e-voting problems in Maryland: Internet News: The Industry Standard

New York -- judge recused from recount

AP reports: An appeals court ruled Tuesday that the judge overseeing the recount of a state Senate race in Westchester should be replaced.

The four-judge Appellate Division panel, sitting in Brooklyn, recused Administrative Judge Francis Nicolai from the battle for the Yonkers-based 35th Senate District. Incumbent Nicholas Spano, a powerful Republican, is battling a challenge from Andrea Stewart-Cousins, a Westchester County legislator. ...

Nicolai, a Democrat, had refused Spano's request that he drop out on the grounds that his name, as a judicial candidate, was also on the ballots.

The Republicans appealed and asked the Appellate Division to also consider that Nicolai had donated $200 to Stewart-Cousins' campaign. The panel did not disclose its reasoning, saying only that "recusal of Justice Nicolai is warranted." -- Newsday.com - AP Regional

Ohio: judge says "too early" to recount suit

AP reports: A federal judge denied a request by third-party presidential candidates who want to force a "recount" of Ohio ballots even before the official count is finished.

US District Judge James G. Carr in Toledo ruled that the candidates have a right under Ohio law to a recount. But Carr says they have not shown "that they will be harmed irreparably if the recount is not completed by the time Ohio's electors to the Electoral College must be certified." -- ONN. Ohio News Now: Judge Denies 3rd Party Recount Request

Washington State -- GOP must wait a week for federal court hearing

AP reports: Republicans who filed a lawsuit in an attempt to keep some ballots out of the recount of the governor's race must wait a week to make their arguments in court.

U.S. District Judge Ricardo S. Martinez scheduled a hearing for Nov. 30, two days before the state is set to certify results of a recount triggered by Republican Dino Rossi's razor-thin victory margin.

Election officials say the ballots in question, which machines couldn't read, are being tracked and could be subtracted if Martinez rules in Republicans' favor. ...

The state Republican party filed a lawsuit Saturday, arguing that ballots rejected by machines should be excluded from the recount because they must be checked by hand -- a process the GOP contended doesn’t happen in counties that use punchcard ballots. -- TheNewsTribune.com | Tacoma, WA | Local

Puerto Rico -- don't count on the recount soon

AP reports: The State Elections Commission suspended until Monday the vote recount pending the resolution of the judicial process in federal court about the mixed votes.

The director of the vote review for the SEC, Benicio Carmona, announced through spokespeople that the work would remain suspended until Monday, causing cheers and applause from the election of fficals of the Popular Democratic Party and the Puerto Rican Independence Party, who have stayed at the SEC Election Operations Center.

The officials from the NPP table had abandoned their work in the morning per instructions from their election commissioner Thomas Rivera Schatz to not count mixed ballots, contrary to the order from the Supreme Court to do the review and the recount simultaneously and not adjudicate the controversial mixed votes. -- Recount is suspended until Monday

What happens when a newspaper owns part of the company it is reporting on?

CJR Daily reports: On Nov. 4, The Lincoln Journal Star ran a story about Nebraska Democrats calling for a ballot recount in Lancaster County. Voting machines there had broken down on election night, prompting the county election commissioner to stop counting until technicians from Election Systems & Software (ES&S), the Omaha-based company that provided the machines, could be brought in to fix them.

The election commissioner and deputy secretary of state determined that, despite the problems, an accurate tally had been recorded. But the Democrats were skeptical. The Journal Star ran the story on the front of its local section, and followed up with another a few days later.

The Journal Star isn't the biggest paper in Nebraska. That distinction belongs to the Omaha World-Herald, which has a daily circulation of roughly 200,000, nearly three times that of the Journal Star. While the World-Herald made a passing mention of the problems in Lancaster County as part of an election roundup, it didn't run a stand-alone story. "There are always conflicts and controversies over elections," says Larry King, editor of the World-Herald. "A two-hour delay with voting machines is a pretty minor story."

What isn’t minor, however, is the fact that the World-Herald owns part of ES&S, an arrangement that thrusts the objectivity of all its voting machine coverage into the spotlight. -- CJR Campaign Desk: Archives

Texas: Heflin asks for recount in Texas House

Josh Marshall reports: On election day, one of the most powerful legislators in the Texas House of Representatives, House Appropriations Committee Chairman Talmadge Heflin (R-Houston) got beat by a Vietnamese American businessman named Hubert Vo (D).

It was awfully close -- 32 votes. And it was also the first Democratic gain in the Texas state House in 32 years. (They've had a string of rough decades.)

With such a narrow margin, Heflin is understandably calling for a manual recount, which he's just officially requested.

But more than that seems to be afoot. -- Talking Points Memo: by Joshua Micah Marshall: November 21, 2004 - November 27, 2004 Archives

I had overlooked this story. My thanks to Josh Marshall for getting it. There's lots more on this in his blog.

DemFromCT quotes an "involved friend from Texas:" Texas law dictates that a contest of a legislative election is heard not in court, but in the House of Representatives (87 Republicans to 62 Democrats). No election has ever been overturned by the House out of 8 contests in 150 years because everyone knows that voters in their districts wouldn't stand for it. This one is being set up to be the first. -- TX - State Rep Seat Won By Dem May Be Overturned (Or Recounted, Or...)

November 22, 2004

DeLay appears to have escaped indictment

CBSnews.com reports: House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, appears to have dodged a bullet.

The powerful GOP chieftain is unlikely to be indicted by a state grand jury probing alleged campaign finance violations in Texas, according to an official involved in the investigation.

"No, no, I really don't think DeLay will be indicted," the official told CBSNews.com. "And to be quite honest, [DeLay's] lawyers know that."
...

Nevertheless, the official familiar with investigation said investigators would have to establish that DeLay "acted to promote" the illegal activity, and that such evidence had not been forthcoming.

"To indict and prosecute someone, we have to be able to show not just that they were aware of something," the official explained. "We have to show that they engaged in enough conduct to make them party to the offense."

There were also jurisdictional hurdles, the official said.

"For a penal code offense [such as money laundering] we would have to find something done in Travis County, Texas, to be able to indict," the officials said. "And [DeLay] wasn’t here very often." -- CBS News | DeLay Appears To Be Off The Hook | November 22, 2004 11:01:19

North Carolina -- voting problems

The News and Observer rounds up the election glitches in North Carolina: Statewide races for agriculture commissioner and superintendent of public instruction are still unresolved, in part because of 4,400 lost ballots in Carteret County. Republican Steve Troxler leads incumbent Democrat Britt Cobb by fewer than 2,300 votes. Both have filed election protests based on the foul-up. Bill Fletcher, the Republican candidate for superintendent of public instruction, wants the state courts to throw out votes -- known as provisional ballots -- in state and local races cast by about 10,000 voters who went to the wrong precincts.

Carteret County lost 4,438 votes during the early-voting period leading up to Election Day because a computer didn't record them. Three candidates for state offices have filed protests that cite the lost votes.

Cleveland County lost 120 ballots on the night of Election Day when workers retrieved a provisional ballot that had been fed by error into an optical scan machine. The ballots did not make it back to election headquarters. Local elections officials say they were left behind at the polling station and thrown away the next day. -- newsobserver.com | Local & State

November 21, 2004

Civil rights panel hears Ohio citizens' stories

The Akron Beacon Journal reports: More than a dozen people shared stories Friday night with a panel investigating alleged actions that may have suppressed votes in Ohio on Nov. 2.

Catherine Cunningham, a college student from the Cleveland suburb of Pepper Pike, said that although she has been a registered voter since 2000, she was told by a poll worker Nov. 2 that her name was not on the official poll roster and that she would not be allowed to vote.

``I told them I was registered,'' Cunningham said. She said the poll worker also informed her that because she was a student and not living in her parents' home full time, she wouldn't be allowed to vote by provisional ballot. ...

Those and other stories of alleged Election Day irregularities were aired during a four-hour public hearing conducted by the People For the American Way Foundation, the NAACP, the Cleveland AFL-CIO, and a coalition of other organizations gathering testimony on the handling of the election in Ohio. -- Beacon Journal | 11/21/2004 | Citizens tell panel of voting troubles

The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports: Stephen Hodus voted for the first time Nov. 2, but he said it was not a good experience.

Hodus, 20, of Broadview Heights, went to his polling place twice - before and after work - before he could cast his ballot. When he did, he made a mistake in one race and asked for a new ballot, a voter's right.

But judges at the polling place in the Broadview Heights Community Center took his ballot and dropped it into the ballot box, Hodus said, denying him a chance to file a corrected ballot. --
Voting-rights groups gather evidence of problems on Election Day

Puerto Rico -- P.R. supreme court and federal court order immediate recount

AP reports: A federal court and Puerto Rico's Supreme Court both ordered election authorities Saturday to begin an immediate vote-by-vote recount of the extremely tight Nov. 2 gubernatorial elections.

Federal Judge Daniel Dominguez decided in favor of pro-statehood candidate Pedro Rossello's lawsuit to force an immediate recount of preliminary election results, which showed him narrowly losing to Anibal Acevedo Vila, who supports Puerto Rico's U.S. commonwealth status. ...

The courts ordered the State Elections Commission to start recounting ballots immediately rather than wait for the outcome of a review of sheets containing the tally of votes in more than 7,000 precincts.

Election authorities had been reviewing the tally sheets to confirm that the margin was less than 0.5 percent, which would require a vote-by-vote recount. The courts decided officials should conduct the tally sheet check and the recount simultaneously.

Preliminary results showed Acevedo, of the Popular Democratic party, received 48.38 percent of the votes while Rossello, a former governor, got 48.18 percent. -- Herald.com | 11/21/2004 | Governor's race to go to recount, court says

Washington State -- federal judge refuses GOP suit to stop hand counting of ballots

AP reports: A federal judge Sunday denied the state Republican Party's bid to force Washington's most populous county to stop counting some ballots in the recount of the governor's race.

In a conference call with lawyers, U.S. District Judge Marsha Pechman denied the GOP's request for a temporary restraining order barring the hand-counting of ballots in King County that were rejected because they could not be read electronically. ...

Republicans sued Secretary of State Sam Reed and the King County Division of Elections on Saturday, arguing that ballots that could not be counted electronically should be excluded from the recount because they would have to be checked by hand.

The lawsuit said the recount would be inconsistent because hand-counting was not an option in other counties where punch card ballots were used instead of optical scanners. -- Judge Denies GOP Recount Request in Wash. (washingtonpost.com)

November 20, 2004

Ohio -- Group of lawyers will challenge election

AP reports: Lawyers who have been documenting Election Day problems in Ohio say they'll challenge the results of the presidential election as soon as the vote is official.

The lawyers say documented cases of long lines, a shortage of machines and a pattern of problems in predominantly black neighborhoods are enough evidence to bring such a challenge.

``The objective is to get to the truth,'' said Cliff Arnebeck, a lawyer who said he'll represent voters who cast ballots Nov. 2. Arnebeck said the effort is bipartisan. ...

Ohio Republican Party chairman Bob Bennett said it was a joke that the effort was being billed as bipartisan.

``This is nothing but an absurd attempt by a handful of radical front groups to cast doubt on the legitimacy of the Bush presidency. The election is over, the Democrats have conceded and the outcome will not change,'' Bennett said in a statement. -- Beacon Journal | 11/20/2004 | Ohio election to be challenged

The Onion: GOP wants to privatize elections

The Onion reports (?): Citing the "extreme inefficiency" of this month's U.S. presidential election, key Republicans called for future elections to be conducted by the private sector.

"When the average citizen hears the phrase 'presidential election,' he thinks of long lines at polling places and agonizing waits as election results are tallied," U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) told reporters Monday. "Putting the election of our public officials into the hands of private industry would motivate election officials to be more efficient."

"There's too much talk about the accuracy and fairness of our national elections, and not enough about their proficiency and profitability," Santorum added. "Who bears the brunt of bureaucratic waste? Taxpayers."

U.S. Sen. Conrad Burns (R-MT) called for an end to "big government overseeing the election of big government." -- The Onion | Republicans Call For Privatization Of Next Election

Legal opinion: Congress has power to grant DC representation in Congress

The Washington Post reports: A former senior Justice Department official in the Bush administration has concluded that a constitutional amendment is not needed to grant the District voting representation in the House.

The 25-page opinion by Viet D. Dinh, a former assistant U.S. attorney general, was commissioned by Rep. Thomas M. Davis III (R-Va.) as part of his effort to grant the District a vote in the House. ...

The Davis bill would temporarily expand the House to 437 seats by adding one member from the District and another member from Utah, which has three. The House would revert to 435 after reapportionment for the 2012 election; the District would retain its seat. ...

Opponents have said the Constitution explicitly reserves congressional representation to the states. A 1978 proposed amendment to give the District a vote in the House and two votes in the Senate fell far short of ratification.

Dinh, a law professor at Georgetown University, concluded that the Constitution grants Congress "ample power" under the so-called District clause to legislate representation for citizens within its borders. Dinh noted that Congress allowed exactly that between 1790 and 1800, when Virginia and Maryland ceded the territory that became the District and when the federal government formally created the capital. -- Opinion Backs Davis's Effort To Grant D.C. Vote in House (washingtonpost.com)

November 19, 2004

Ontario to appoint citizens assembly on election reform

FairVote Canada's website posts this notice: ONTARIO ANNOUNCES CITIZENS' ASSEMBLY ON ELECTORAL REFORM (November 18, 2004)

Premier Dalton McGuinty announced that Ontario will become the second province to have an independent citizens' assembly on electoral reform. The assembly will assess the current voting system and alternatives. If the assembly recommends a new voting system, that recommendation will be taken to voters in a referendum to be held before or in conjunction with the next provincial election.

Fair Vote Ontario campaign volunteers had lobbied cabinet ministers and MPPs over the past two months for such an assembly. While awaiting details on how the assembly will be structured, Fair Vote Ontario commended Premier McGuinty for "placing this process right where it belongs -- in the hands of citizens."

Fair Vote Ontario will now begin rallying citizens of all political stripes to learn how various proportional representation systems can be adopted to the Canadian and Ontario political environment, so the best approach can be identified and adopted. -- Fair Vote Canada - Home

Thanks to J. Paul Johnston for the link.

Bell rebuked; DeLay claims vindication

The New York Times reports: The House ethics committee has ruled that a Democratic lawmaker exaggerated in the accusations he brought in June against the majority leader, Representative Tom DeLay.

Mr. DeLay invoked the finding to claim vindication Friday despite having been admonished by the committee after its inquiry into the complaint.

In a letter issued Thursday night, the two leaders of the bipartisan ethics panel told the accuser, Representative Chris Bell, like Mr. DeLay a Texan, that his charges violated a committee rule that prohibits "innuendo, speculative assertions or conclusory statements'' in accusations against a colleague.

"This is a serious matter,'' the senior members told Mr. Bell, who lost his seat in a March primary as a result of a redistricting plan that Mr. DeLay helped devise. They said that "the fact that the committee ultimately determined to issue a letter of admonition to Representative DeLay'' did not lessen Mr. Bell's violation.

In his complaint, Mr. Bell made a number of broad accusations, including bribery and use of government resources for partisan purposes. But the letter said that the facts "did not even come close to supporting this extremely serious claim'' of bribery and that other allegations had turned out to be unsupported as well. -- The New York Times > Washington > Foe of DeLay Rebuked by House Ethics Panel

The committee's letter is here.

Puerto Rico -- how to count improperly marked ballots

The Sun-Sentinel reports: Pro-statehood candidate Pedro Rosselló asked a federal court Thursday to toss out 28,000 ballots from the Nov. 2 election, a move that could return the controversial former governor to the island's top office with a decisive victory.

At issue is whether voters who split their ballots, most favoring the pro-commonwealth candidate for governor, followed instructions. Arguments surrounding the ballots dominated the first day of discussions during a U.S. District Court hearing that may determine the outcome of the island's tight gubernatorial race.

"The votes are clearly spoiled," William Sherman, an attorney for Rosselló, argued before Judge Daniel Dominguez. "The instructions clearly say there can only be two markings on the ballot, not three."

But lawyers for Puerto Rico's Elections Commission said ballots exactly like the ones in dispute have been counted for more than 16 years without question. -- Puerto Rican candidate asks court to reject 28,000 ballots: South Florida Sun-Sentinel

Carlos Romero Barcelo writes in the Puerto Rico Herald: However, the instructions to the voters, as approved by unanimous consent of all three commissioners and the president, are clear on what a mixed vote (voto mixto) should be. The ballot instructions say how to vote mixed (votar mixto). "To vote mixed, you make an X under the insignia of the party of your preference and then another X next to another candidate under a column different from that of your party.... Keep in mind that you can only vote for one (1) candidate for governor and one (1) candidate for resident commissioner." (My translation.) In other words, the instructions to the voters are that if they vote under the insignia of a party, they can then vote only for a governor or resident commissioner of another party, not for both. -- Coup d’etat

Romero Barcelo is former president of the pro-statehood party (the New Progressive Party), former governor, and former resident commissioner.

The complete law (in Spanish) is here. It appears to me from looking at the offices to be filled (keep in mind that I don't speak or read Spanish), that a straight ticket vote would be for governor, resident commissioner, senator, and representative (the last two from districts). I welcome the assistance of Spanish speakers in translating this law.

Washington State -- 2 (count'em 2) recounts looming

AP reports: Election officials are preparing to recount 2.8 million ballots by next Wednesday in the closest governor's race in Washington state history.

But we still might not know who the next governor is for sure by Thanksgiving. Try Christmas.

State Democratic Party Chairman Paul Berendt already is talking about ordering a second, hand recount of the votes. ``We see this as a two-recount process,'' he said.

Buckle up - it's going to be a long, bumpy ride. -- Washington governor's race heading for two recounts - The Register-Guard, Eugene, Oregon, USA

November 17, 2004

Puerto Rico -- recount likely in governor's race

The New York Times reports:
If Florida's five-week recount after the 2000 presidential election seemed endless, pity Puerto Rico.

A recount is all but certain in the race for governor here, after the Election Night tally gave Anibal Acevedo Vilá, the candidate who favors keeping the island's commonwealth status, a margin of just 3,880 votes. But the process will not start until December, and come Christmas - even New Year's, some predict - Puerto Ricans may still be guessing who their next governor will be.

Blame Puerto Rican election law, which requires an "escrutinio," or review of vote summaries from each precinct, before an official recount of the roughly two million paper ballots cast on Nov. 2. Hundreds of officials from the island's election commission and its three major parties are submerged in that task, while Mr. Acevedo Vilá forges ahead as the presumed victor and Pedro Rosselló, the pro-statehood candidate, protests. The officials are also checking the validity of about 30,000 ballots that did not make the initial count, a slow process that sometimes involves determining voter intent.

Mr. Rosselló, a former two-term governor whom polls showed leading throughout the race, sued in federal court last week, protesting Mr. Acevedo Vilá's appointment of a transition team and demanding an immediate recount. A hearing is scheduled for Thursday, but Mr. Acevedo Vilá's confidence appears unshaken. His family toured the governor's mansion on Monday, and his wife said her children were choosing bedrooms. -- The New York Times > National > Governor's Race Keeps Puerto Rico in Suspense **

Thanks to How Appealling for the link.

San Diego -- another lawsuit expected in Mayor's race

SignOnSanDiego.com reports: City Councilwoman Donna Frye held onto a plurality of votes Wednesday but Mayor Dick Murphy, more tortoise than hare, is cutting deeply into the lead of her write-in campaign to unseat him.

"Write-in" had 154,531 votes, or 34.6 percent, according to tallies released Wednesday morning by the San Diego County Registrar of Voters Office. Of those, 151,287 have been verified for Frye.

Murphy had 153,645 votes, or 34.4 percent while Supervisor Ron Roberts had 138,478 votes, or 31 percent, county officials said. ...

The [League of Women Voters] is expected to file a lawsuit today in Superior Court to force election officials to count all write-in ballots cast for Frye – including those on which voters did not fill in the bubble next to where they wrote her name.

The lawsuit is likely to note that instructions for absentee voting sent by the registrar's office did not explicitly tell voters they needed to fill in the oval if voting for a write-in candidate.

As Murphy called on Frye to repudiate the lawsuit last night, his aides handed out materials saying the registrar made a point of letting the public know last month that a write-in bubble needed to be filled in for the vote to count. -- SignOnSanDiego.com > News > Politics -- Murphy narrowing gap in mayor's race

Canada -- Alberta tries for a Triple E Senate

The Airdrie Echo reports: Next Monday, Albertans will choose not only their MLAs, but their senators-in-waiting, as well.

Of Alberta's six seats in the 105-seat Canadian Senate, three are vacant and 10 Albertans -- some representing political parties and some not -- have put their names forward in hopes of being elected to fill one of those seats. The Nov. 22 ballot will ask voters to choose four senators-in-waiting -- one more than the number of vacant seats -- but the road doesn't end there. If elected, Alberta's senators-in-waiting will do just that unless appointed to the Senate by Prime Minister Paul Martin.

"Appointing Alberta's elected Senate nominees to fill our province’s vacant Senate seats would be a meaningful first step the prime minister could take to address Albertans' concerns about their role in the federal decision-making process," said Halvar Johnson, minister of international and intergovernmental relations. "In our federal system, the Senate was designed to represent the interests of the provinces in Parliament. Because the current Senate lacks a democratic foundation, it is not performing this function. ...

According to a survey conducted this year by Canada West Foundation, 87 per cent of Albertans agree that the Canadian Senate should be equal, elected and effective. -- Airdrie Echo, Airdrie, AB

The CBC explains: Along with a ballot to elect an MLA, each voter will receive a second ballot with the names of Senate candidates. Voters can select up to four names.

The four candidates with the most votes will be the province's senators-in-waiting for a six-year term. However, appointments to the upper chamber are made by the prime minister, and Paul Martin doesn't have to choose any of those elected. -- Senate Election

Colorado -- about 80% of provisional ballots accepted

The Rocky Mountain News reports: Eighty percent of the provisional ballots cast in Denver on Election Day will be counted, officials estimated Tuesday.

That percentage falls in line with other metro counties, which had provisional-ballot acceptance rates ranging from 76 percent to 85 percent, county clerks reported. ...

In Colorado, voters can fill out a provisional ballot if they forgot their identification, if they requested an absentee ballot but didn't fill it out, if they are voting in the wrong precinct, or if they registered through a voter registration drive that failed to turn their registration in by the Oct. 4 deadline. -- Rocky Mountain News: Election

"The only sure thing seems to be a recount"

AP reports: The race to become Washington’s next governor came down to the very last few votes Wednesday -- the deadline for counties to finish tallying the ballots in the state’s closest statewide election ever.

At noon, Republican real estate agent Dino Rossi held a mere 156-vote lead over Democratic Attorney General Christine Gregoire out of 2.8 million ballots cast.

The only sure thing seems to be a recount, which state law requires if the margin of victory is less than 2,000 votes. That means Washington voters might have to wait until Thanksgiving to find out who their next governor is -- a stunning scenario considering the experts never thought it would be this close. ...

Washington is one of two states (the other is Alaska) that allow voters to mail ballots on Election Day, so votes have trickled in at an agonizingly slow pace. At one point Wednesday morning, the two candidates were separated by just 19 votes. -- TheNewsTribune.com | Tacoma, WA | Local

November 16, 2004

Indiana-9 to have a recount

The Indianapolis Star reports: A recount will begin Nov. 29 to determine the winner in the 9th Congressional District race.

The Indiana Democratic Party sought the recount, as well as a contest of the election results, after the Nov. 2 election showed Republican Mike Sodrel defeated Democratic incumbent Baron Hill by 1,485 votes. ...

Democrats sought the recount, which will begin in Dubois County, because of a voting machine glitch in Franklin County that wrongly tabulated straight-ticket Democratic votes as Libertarian votes. Although that county is not in the 9th District, the same kind of voting machines also were used in three counties in the 9th -- Ripley, Scott and Switzerland.

Today, Jim Bopp, a Terre Haute attorney representing Sodrel, filed a motion contesting the results in Monroe County and alleged that voter fraud may have occurred there.

Bopp said 12,000 new voters were registered in Monroe County and that about 4,000 mailings by the county's Republican Party to those voters were returned as undeliverable by the U.S. Postal Service. -- Recount approved for 9th District race

Young voters surveyed

The Chicago Tribune reports: Young people who voted on Election Day were more Democratic, less religious, less likely to be white and trusted faux news anchor Jon Stewart more than two of the Big Three network news anchors, according to post-election surveys released Tuesday.

The portrait drawn of young voters - from the Emerging Electorate Survey and the Declare Yourself 2004 Campaign Evaluation Survey - suggests that 18-to-29-year-olds, who voted in record numbers Nov. 2, are more politically engaged than critics complain and history would indicate.

After aggressive voter registration efforts, about 21 million people younger than 30 voted, an increase of about 4.6 million from 2000. Turnout among registered voters in that age group was 51.6 percent, up more than 9 percentage points from 42.3 percent in the last presidential election. ...

In a potentially ominous sign for traditional news media, young voters were much more inclined to learn about the candidates and the issues from the Internet, which the authors said is emerging as a counterbalance to cable television and talk radio.

Young people who listened to at least four hours of talk radio a week narrowly preferred President Bush over Sen. John Kerry. Those who cited the Internet as their primary source backed Kerry over Bush, 62 percent to 36 percent. -- KRT Wire | 11/16/2004 | Survey reveals young voters more politically engaged than thought

Candidate asks for dismissal of federal criminal charges

The Detroit News reports: Attorneys representing Macomb County Prosecutor Carl Marlinga believe federal prosecutors overstepped their bounds in charges that accuse their client of swapping legal favors for campaign contributions.

The indictment charges Marlinga with "both implicitly and explicitly" agreeing to be influenced by campaign contributions. In four motions filed Monday, his attorneys argue that implicit agreement is beyond the scope of what is punishable by law. His lawyers also argued that there is no evidence of an explicit agreement.

The indictment "implicates conduct which is not legally punishable, since only explicit agreements to provide a quid pro quo in exchange for campaign contributions may be prosecuted," attorneys argued in their motions. ...

Federal prosecutors believe Marlinga accepted campaign contributions through his co-defendants in exchange for re-opening one Macomb County rape case and intervening in another. -- Marlinga lawyers say fed charges are a reach - 11/16/04

UCLA opens database of all state campaign finance disclosure laws

A UCLA press release says: A first-of-its-kind database that will make it easy to compare and contrast the campaign finance disclosure statutes and regulations of all 50 states, the District of Columbia and the federal government was released by the UCLA School of Law as part of the Campaign Disclosure Project.

The database was designed to be useful to legislators, public interest groups, media representatives, scholars and the public. It is divided into 25 categories that reflect the most important campaign finance practices, such as filing deadlines, contributor information, loans to campaigns, electronic filing, enforcement rules and independent expenditures. The database is further divided into 105 subcategories and can be used to answer questions on topics such as whether the occupation of a contributor must be reported, or whether the state requires the disclosure of late independent expenditures.

"Many of the existing state disclosure laws originally were written in the 1970s during the post-Watergate crisis," said Daniel Lowenstein, professor of law at UCLA and a national authority on election law. "Since then, some states have done an excellent job of amending their laws to reflect the public's desire to know more about who is financing elections. Other states have been less active in this regard. The database will allow people who care about these issues to compare the laws of their own state with states that are doing a better or worse job." ...

The Campaign Disclosure Law Database is available on the Web at disclosure.law.ucla.edu/. -- UCLA News

House GOP eases its rules for DeLay

AP reports: Supporters of House Majority Leader Tom DeLay proposed a Republican rules change Tuesday that would protect the Texan's leadership position if he were to be indicted by a Texas grand jury that already charged three of his associates.

House Republicans are likely to approve Wednesday the change in the rule that would force him to step aside if indicted. The show of support would be an endorsement of DeLay's position that the Travis County investigation is a partisan attack.

Currently, rules of the House Republican Conference, which comprises all House GOP members, requires leaders to step aside from the party post if they are indicted for a felony punishable by two or more years in jail. The proposed change would eliminate the step-aside requirement for nonfederal indictments. -- AP Wire | 11/16/2004 | DeLay Supporters Move to Protect His Spot

UPDATE: DailyKOS and Talking Points Memo make pretty much the same point about this rule change:

In the modern GOP, power trumps the rule of law. The ends justify the (illegal) means. -- House GOP prepares for DeLay indictment

House Republicans embrace new pro-crime agenda! -- Talking Points Memo

November 15, 2004

Ohio will (or will not) allow corporate and union money in campaigns

AP reports: Voter advocacy groups say a century-old ban on corporate and union contributions to political candidates would be lifted under a bill before House lawmakers.

The groups say the latest version of proposed changes to Ohio's campaign finance laws improperly equates these groups with "persons" in a manner that would give them further political influence. ...

Rep. Kevin DeWine, lead sponsor of the measure in the House, said the bill has been misunderstood and would not eliminate the ban on corporate giving. But he's working to rewrite the bill to make that absolutely clear.

Dewine said the bill's main goal is to require full disclosure of all contributions to independent groups running TV ads that don't specifically call for the election of a candidate. -- AP Wire | 11/15/2004 | Lawmakers debate expanding corporate giving in campaigns

RGA seeks to overturn fine and Election Board ruling

AP reports: The Republican Governors Association wants a judge to declare unconstitutional a State Board of Elections decision that blocked it from running a pre-election ad supporting GOP gubernatorial candidate Patrick Ballantine.

The request filed Monday with the Office of Administrative Hearings also seeks to block a fine of nearly $200,000 assessed by the board, which found the association had violated state campaign financing laws.

The board levied the fine in September, saying the ad advocated expressly for Ballantine's election. It also ordered the RGA to register as a political action committee, meaning it would have to abide by strict financing rules on campaign ads. -- Winston-Salem Journal | RGA asks court to bar Elections Board ruling, state fine

Several organizations call for a recount in Ohio

A press release by National Voting Rights Institute, DEMOS, People For the American Way Foundation, Common Cause, and the Fannie Lou Hamer Project says: As organizations deeply committed to full participation and the quality of American democracy, we support the decision by presidential candidates David Cobb and Michael Badnarik to request a recount of all votes cast in Ohio for president of the United States. It is not our expectation that a recount will change the outcome of the presidential election, nor is that the intent of this effort. We believe it is imperative that, in a democracy, every citizen's vote be counted.

Moreover, we urge citizens and candidates to request recounts of any elections where doubt has been cast about the integrity of the counting, and we urge election officials in every state to preserve, protect, and maintain all ballots from the election, whether cast on machine, by absentee, or by provisional ballot. We further ask that they maintain all voter registration files, including all applications accepted and rejected, all records of resource allocation among precincts during the election, and all internal guidelines for evaluating all types of ballots. -- People For the American Way - Statement in Support of the Ohio Recount and for Conserving Ballots and Examining Procedures Nationwide

"Nonprofits Came Out in Force This Election Season"

OMB Watch says on its website: Nonprofits across the spectrum came out this election season to help voters have a voice. As a result, the United States had a voter turnout of almost 60 percent, the highest since 1968. This election proved nonprofits can "help America vote."

When students at the State University College at Oswego encountered resistance from local boards of elections when they tried to register to vote, they were not surprised. In response, a number of students founded SUNY Rock the Vote Challenge, a voter registration drive involving 20 of the 64 SUNY campuses, with help from the New York Public Interest Research Group and other nonprofits.

This is one example of how nonprofits came out in force this election season, ranging from progressive election protection groups to evangelical churches. Nonprofits succeeded in getting people registered and out to vote, and serving as poll monitors. This election season nonprofits enabled people to give a voice to their beliefs. Many nonprofits offered resources to help other groups get involved. For examples see the NPAction website.

Electionprotection.org, a diverse coalition of nonprofits, gathered an unprecedented 25,000 volunteers who worked together to document thousands of voting problems around the nation and rectify many of them on election day. It remains to be seen how many of the flaws in the Nov. 2 vote were corrected in time to save legal votes, but there is no question that our election system is more robust due to the hard work and diligence of volunteers to not only "rock the vote," but to protect the vote. -- OMB Watch - Nonprofits Came Out in Force This Election Season

The count goes on in San Diego mayor's race

AP reports: A judge on Monday refused to halt the vote count in the San Diego mayor's race, a victory for a maverick city councilwoman who has mounted a surprisingly strong write-in campaign.

The decision came as the vote tally showed the race tightening between Councilwoman Donna Frye, a 52-year-old surf shop owner, and Mayor Dick Murphy.

Monday's ruling is in response to a lawsuit filed by Frye's opponents on the grounds that the election must be a runoff between the top two finishers in the primary – in this case, Murphy and county Supervisor Ron Roberts. The challenge was brought six days after the election.

Retired Judge Charles Jones stopped short of dismissing the lawsuit, but said that Frye's opponents had waited too long to challenge her campaign. When Frye entered the race five weeks before the Nov. 2 election, there were "no protests, no cries of illegality, no lawsuits." -- SignOnSanDiego.com > News > Politics -- Judge refuses to halt vote count in San Diego mayor's race

Both parties calling voters in Washington -- the election is not over

AP reports: Democratic and Republican activists [in Washington State] spent a lot of time on the phone over the weekend, calling voters who cast provisional ballots that are in dispute.

People on each side of the governor's race are hoping that getting every last vote counted will help their candidate win.

Republican Dino Rossi has a lead of 1,920 votes over Democrat Christine Gregoire. About 42,000 ballots still have to be counted -- roughly 11,000 of them in King County.

Election results will be certified Wednesday. A recount is automatic if the margin of victory is less than 2,000 votes. -- .: Corvallis Gazette-Times :. News

November 14, 2004

Complaints about IRV from Chinese Americans

The Sacremento Bee reports: A group that represents the Chinese American community here said the city's new "ranked-choice voting" system may have left many Chinese language voters confused and unable to fully exercise their voting rights.

David Lee, executive director of the Chinese American Voter Education Committee, said city efforts to educate voters on the system may not have sufficiently reached Chinese voters, many of whom are newly registered.

About 18 percent of San Francisco's voters are Asian Americans, the majority of whom are of Chinese ancestry.

To back up his claim, Lee unveiled the results of pre-election surveys of absentee voters and Election Day exit polls, which found that white voters liked the new system but a majority of minority voters, particularly Chinese voters, either disliked or had no opinion of it.

The polls, though, also found that voters across ethnic lines found the system easy to use. -- sacbee.com -- Politics -- Inequities alleged in S.F. vote

Minnesota -- problems with registering at the DMV

AP reports: Maybe she made a mistake when she registered to vote while renewing her driver's license in 2002, but 25-year-old Alissa Doth doesn't think so.

When she went to vote in 2002, she wasn't on the roster. She had problems in 2003 and again this year. ...

Kiffmeyer said she's heard from some voters who had similar problems with Minnesota's Motor Voter registration system - run by Driver and Vehicle Services - but she couldn't quantify the problem.

Kiffmeyer said there were also a few unexplained reports of voters being dropped from the roster. That's what happened to Ryan Kucera, who lives in St. Paul. Two years ago, he voted in his precinct, but he wasn't on the list this year. -- Grand Forks Herald | 11/13/2004 | MINNESOTA: Some voters still question why they weren't registered

Greg Palast on Ohio

Greg Palast writes in In These Times: This past February, Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell told the president of the State Senate, "The possibility of a close election with punch cards as the state's primary voting device invites a Florida-like calamity." Blackwell, co-chair of Bush-Cheney reelection campaign, wasn't warning his fellow Republican of disaster; he was boasting of an opportunity to deliver Ohio for Team Bush no matter what the voters wanted. And this past Election Day most voters in Ohio wanted JFK, not GWB. But their choice won't count because their votes won't be counted.

The ballots that add up to a majority for John Kerry in Ohio are locked up in two Republican hidey-holes: "spoiled" and "provisional." -- The Ballots at the Back of the Bus: Most voters in Ohio chose Kerry; here's how the votes vanished. -- In These Times

Montana House election decided by 2 votes

The Great Falls Tribune reports: The counting of six "provisional" votes Monday in a Lake County legislative race appears to give Republicans a 50-49 edge in the Montana House — but the vote-counting and legal wrangling in this pivotal district is just beginning.

The provisional votes in House District 12 maintained the victory of Constitution Party candidate Rick Jore of Ronan, increasing his margin over Democrat Jeanne Windham of Polson from one vote to two votes.

But the saga of HD12 took another bizarre twist Monday, as Lake County election officials decided to exclude two provisional votes cast by a pair of HD12 residents who were told by election judges last Tuesday to vote in the wrong House district.

Jore defeated Windham in last Tuesday's count 1,556 to 1,555, while Republican Jack Cross of Polson had 1,107 votes. The six provisional votes counted Monday gave three more votes to Jore, two more to Windham and one more for Cross.

State Democratic Party officials said Windham will ask for a recount, which state law doesn't allow until after statewide results are certified Nov. 22. -- Local News - Great Falls Tribune - www.greatfallstribune.com

November 13, 2004

North Carolina may see suit over provisional ballots

The Charlotte Observer reports: The elections team from Durham County was ahead of the vote counting curve -- or crash, depending on your perspective.

Durham elections director Mike Ashe remembers listening as one of his board members, Carol Anderson, spoke up among several hundred elections officials from across the state in a UNC Law School lecture room in Chapel Hill last summer. Anderson worried aloud about a looming explosion in "provisional" ballots, prompted by a 2-year-old federal law.

That anxiety turned into reality in some counties, including Mecklenburg, over the past two weeks when a glut of provisional ballots gummed up the vote counting, contributing to delays and confusion in getting a final tally.

Bill Fletcher, the Republican candidate for superintendent of public instruction, said he will decide by or on Wednesday whether to file a lawsuit over the handling of provisional ballots. Fletcher lost by such a narrow margin that the race is being recounted. The recount is scheduled to be done by Wednesday. -- Charlotte Observer | 11/13/2004 | Provisional ballots solve, create hassles

Voting reform groups meet in Ohio to gather information

The Los Angeles Times reports: Although there appears to be virtually no chance that the results of the presidential race in Ohio will change, groups there continue to express dismay about how the election was conducted. They are taking actions to keep the state's troubled voting mechanisms in the public spotlight and hopefully generate reforms by 2006.

Today, a coalition including the Ohio Citizens Alliance for Secure Elections, the League of Young Voters and the People for the American Way Foundation has scheduled the first of two public hearings "to investigate voter irregularities and voter suppression," according to Susan Truitt of Columbus, co-founder of the citizens alliance.

In addition, the Green and Libertarian parties announced on Thursday that they planned to file a formal demand for a recount of presidential ballots cast in Ohio. The Greens and the Libertarians, as well as Common Cause of Ohio and Massachusetts-based Alliance for Democracy, said they had launched a campaign to raise the $114,000 it would cost to conduct the recount. -- Looking for Voter Reform, Groups Keep Eyes on Ohio

Washington State -- outcome of gubernatorial race depends on provisional ballots

The Seattle Times reports; As Dino Rossi clung to a 1,920-vote lead over Christine Gregoire in the governor's race last night, Gregoire's allies won a court victory that could help them eke out a few hundred more votes in a race that still appears too close to call.

With about 40,000 ballots left to count nearly two weeks after Election Day, the situation remains unpredictable because Gregoire's percentage of the vote has been improving in the latest counts in some counties, including King. ...

King County Superior Court Judge Dean Lum ordered the county's elections division to give the state Democratic Party a list of 929 provisional-ballot voters whose ballots were rejected because of missing or mismatched signatures.

The party aims to use the list to contact voters over the weekend and try to resolve the signature problems so their ballots can be counted. Provisional ballots are used when voters cast ballots outside their regular polling place or when there are uncertainties about someone's eligibility to vote. They also include voters who requested absentee ballots but didn't receive them, so had to vote at the polls. -- The Seattle Times: Local News: Rossi leading; Gregoire allies win in court

Coolidge on campaign finance

The Daily Hampshire Gazette reprints an item from 100 years ago today: Calvin Coolidge, chairman of the Republican city committee, gave the members of the Edwards church Sunday noon club, a good talk Sunday on the subject, ''What becomes of the money raised for campaign purposes?'' -- GazetteNET.com | Entertainment » A LOOK BACK

Thanks to Jeff Wice for the link.

Instant Runoff Austin

Sarah Looney emails: Instant Runoff Austin is a grassroots coalition of people here in Austin are planning to pursue instant runoff voting legislation during the next Texas legislative session.

Based on an opinion issued by the Texas Office of the Attorney General on March 4, 2003, it is our understanding that minor changes to state law are needed before IRV can be implemented in any Texas municipality. The necessary legislation was introduced during the last session but never made it out of committee. We'd like to try to build energy around IRV this session and give it another try.

Our blog is available at: http://instantrunoffaustin.blogspot.com/

The site has lots of good links to other IRV-related resources.

November 11, 2004

Kerry's lawyers trying to "quell doubts" about Bush victory in Ohio (?)

AP reports: Lawyers with John Kerry's presidential campaign are in Ohio on what they describe as a "fact-finding mission" following the Democrat's election loss to President Bush last week.

Dan Hoffheimer, the statewide counsel for the Kerry campaign, said they are not trying to challenge the election but are only carrying out Kerry's vow to make sure that all the votes in Ohio are counted.

"We want to help him live up to that promise in Ohio," Hoffheimer said Thursday.

Every voter concern will be checked out "for the purpose of reassuring the public that the election was accurate," he said.

In unofficial returns, Bush beat Kerry by 136,000 votes in Ohio.

Hoffheimer said the goal is to identify any voting problems and quell doubts about the legitimacy of the Ohio election being raised on the Internet. So far, no widespread mistakes or fraud has been uncovered, or was it expected, he said. -- AP Wire | 11/11/2004 | Kerry campaign lawyers checking Ohio vote

A day in the life ... in Minneapolis

Rhiannon writes in the Pulse of the Twin Cities: While my fellow election judges and I milled about in jeans, skirts and blazers, our work-a-day casual, a tall blonde woman with a black professionally tailored suit introduced herself to our chair election judge as a poll watcher. She positioned herself to stand behind me and the three other judges working to register new voters.

It quickly became clear that she wasn't a quiet poll watcher. She constantly second-guessed our knowledge of the legality of certain documents as we attempted to work quickly and efficiently through the long line of new voters. The woman to my left was overwhelmed, having started with this year's primary; the two women to my right were both veterans in their golden years, well-meaning but easily flustered by challenges from the poll watcher. I'd worked the registration table during the Ventura election, a baptism of fire as an election judge, but still found myself frustrated by her self-assured manner and accusatory tone.

By 10:30 the morning rush had slowed to the point that we could take breakfast and bathroom breaks and observe the shenanigans of Ms. Poll Watcher as she challenged the requests of our chair election judge.

Asked to remain at least six feet from the registration table, not look over our shoulders at new voters' personal information and challenge only with good reason, she clicked around us in her heels, huffing into her cell phone. A lawyer was contacted; she spoke with her/him outside. A uniformed police officer came. Another poll watcher from her party arrived and they talked in hushed tones as they paced the narrow hall. The roving election judge who solves such problems drove over to speak with them both. -- Pulse of the Twin Cities - Locally Grown Alternative Newspaper

How often does a newspaper file a complaint about illegal campaign ads?

AP reports: The Eureka Times-Standard has filed a complaint with the California Fair Political Practices Commission alleging that a political group that produced campaign mailers and television advertisements about a city councilman should have to identify the people behind it.

The newspaper contends that the Eureka Coalition for Jobs violated the Political Reform Act by failing to register as a campaign committee with the secretary of state, which would require it to disclose its leaders and file campaign finance reports.

A Sacramento lobbyist who represents the coalition, Wayne Ordos, maintained the group is not required to register as a campaign committee because the ads it placed about Councilman Chris Kerrigan were "issue-based" and didn't advocate for or against any candidate.

The Times-Standard disputed that, saying the ads were clearly designed to thwart Kerrigan's re-election chances by portraying him in a negative light. Kerrigan nevertheless wound up winning his race. -- AP Wire | 11/11/2004 | Eureka Times-Standard files fair political practices complaint

Brennan Center -- new publication on Civil War Amendments

The Brennan Center is delighted to announce its latest publication: A New Birth of Freedom: The Forgotten History of the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments. This paper offers a critical analysis of recent Supreme Court "federalism" jurisprudence, which purports to justify rollbacks of civil rights by appeal to the original intent of the Constitution. The authors demonstrate that the Court's "states' rights" agenda is inconsistent with the extensive federal power exercised in the pre-Civil-War era and would be unrecognizable to the Framers of the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments, who sought to harness that power to effectuate Lincoln's promise of a "new birth of freedom." Hard copies of the paper may be obtained by e-mailing mary.lapas@nyu.edu with your address and the number of copies you would like.

Redistricting -- again? -- suggested for California

The Sacremento Bee reports: A chamber of commerce official who served on Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's transition team and is legal counsel to the governor's wife is launching a campaign to take redistricting powers away from the Democratic-controlled Legislature.

George Kieffer, chairman of the board of directors for the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, said the change could reduce polarization, improve California's business climate and better serve mainstream voters.

He said he will ask his board when it meets today to adopt a resolution supporting the idea.

That could lay the groundwork for a ballot initiative campaign in 2006 - or earlier, if Schwarzenegger calls a special election to put before voters any of a variety of changes he is considering to the structure of state government and operations of the Legislature. ...

Schwarzenegger for weeks has floated the idea of a midcensus redistricting to be done by a nonpartisan panel of retired judges.

He says the current system creates a polarized Legislature because "safe" seats are locked in through deals by both parties' leaders. In those seats, races are decided in partisan primaries, leaving voters in the minority party disenfranchised and giving special-interest groups with partisan ties even more power to make or break candidates. -- sacbee.com -- Politics -- Fight brews over redistricting

November 10, 2004

Daschle drops suit against GOP intimidation

AP reports: A lawsuit filed by Sen. Tom Daschle that sought to prevent Republican poll watchers from intimidating American Indian voters will be dropped, a spokesman for Daschle said Monday.

''Now that Election Day has come and gone, the issue is moot,'' said Dan Pfeiffer, deputy campaign manager for Daschle, who lost his bid for a fourth U.S. Senate term last week. ...

The Daschle campaign alleged that Republican poll watchers had intimidated Indian voters in Lake Andes, an area that votes heavily Democratic.

After a hearing that lasted into the early morning on Election Day, U.S. District Judge Lawrence Piersol of Sioux Falls partially granted Daschle's request to limit the activities of Republican poll watchers.

The temporary restraining order, issued about five hours before polls opened, prohibited GOP poll watchers in Charles Mix County from following Indian voters out of polling places. It also barred them from taking down the license numbers of vehicles that delivered Indian voters to polling places. -- American News | 11/09/2004 | Lawsuit to be dropped on alleged voter intimidation

San Francisco -- complete results from Instant Runoff Voting

The San Francisco Chronicle reportsL The new voting system, also known as instant runoff voting, was adopted by voters in 2002 and put into use for the first time in Tuesday's election, but it got bogged down Wednesday when the computer program written to tabulate votes choked on the unanticipated large number of ballots.

That worried supporters of the new system -- which is generally backed by the city's left-leaning progressives.

On Friday, they were breathing sighs of relief.

"I think it's good for the city; it's good for California," said Supervisor-elect Mirkarimi. He added that he didn't think the last-minute software snafu detracted from the system's credibility. "If this is as bad as RCV gets, we should be adopting it throughout California," he said. ...

David Lee, executive director of the Chinese American Voters Education Committee, said his group would be analyzing exit polls to see whether non- English speakers were disenfranchised by the process.

From what he had seen, a number of Chinese voters had chosen only one candidate for supervisor, when they could have ranked two more to participate in the process fully.

"If (ranked-choice voting) consistently shows this under-voting, there may be a voting rights case," he said, noting that all four contested districts are home to a large number of black, Chinese and Latino communities. -- SAN FRANCISCO / Preliminary winners in 4 disputed districts / Sandoval, Elsbernd, McGoldrick, Mirkarimi get nod

Florida -- Most provisional ballots rejected

The Palm Beach Post reports: The vast majority of provisional ballots -- voters' last chance to have their voices heard -- were rejected, a review of the presidential election results from across the state found.

While most elections officials on Tuesday were still analyzing the reasons thousands of ballots ended up in the waste bin, they said the majority of rejected ballots were cast by people who simply were not registered to vote.

Other reasons ballots ended up in the trash: voting in the wrong precinct, signatures that didn't match those on file at the elections office and lapsed registrations because voters hadn't responded to address-verification requests and hadn't voted in at least four years.

Those who unsuccessfully filed lawsuits to give voters greater flexibility in casting provisional ballots said the high number of rejections signals a need to change Florida law. -- Most provisional ballots rejected; voters often in wrong precinct

A day in the life ... Twin Cities

G.R. Anderson Jr. writes in the [Twin Cities] City Pages: Then, at the end of October, a little-noticed scuffle ensued that again originated with a [Minnesota Secretary of State] Kiffmeyer measure. During the final hours of the 2004 legislative session, a bill had been passed that was described as a "housekeeping" measure from the secretary's office. But the law, which required journalists to get a letter of approval to enter a polling place and limited the amount of time they could be present to 15 minutes, was widely believed to be one of the most restrictive such laws in the country. Local media organizations protested, and on October 27 Attorney General Mike Hatch's office issued an opinion saying that county auditors could grant countywide or "blanket" access to reporters covering the election from polling places. Even so, most county auditors declined to do so.

While many precincts sailed through November 2 without any hassles, there were plenty of polling places where conflicts arose. Many of them involved complaints against volunteers from the MoveOn PAC (see "The Battle of Kenwood Hill"). The most striking difference at many polling places this year was a newfound hostility toward scrutiny--by the press or other observers--on the part of some election officials and partisan challengers, particularly in Republican-friendly enclaves around the Twin Cities metro.

Election officials in charge of the state's polling places were more cautious than ever. At one church in Woodbury, CP staffer Paul Demko was allowed inside the polling place for a strictly monitored 15 minutes, but the election judge forced him to stand in a corner so that he would follow the letter of the law--at least six feet away from any voter or election official. When his allotted time was up, he was asked to conduct his interviews in the street, considerably farther than 100 feet from the voters' entry.

In Shorewood, I was told by the city clerk that because the polling place was on public property--at Shorewood City Hall--I couldn't be there at all. Eventually, after asking to review the law in question with the clerk, I was allowed to conduct interviews in the parking lot. At another polling place, in a north Minneapolis church, a GOP challenger summoned the election judge from the basement to complain that a CP photographer and I had come in briefly from the rain to check our notes. In the parking lot outside Deephaven City Hall, I was accused by one suspicious voter of writing down license plate numbers (I wasn't). -- City Pages: Election Day's Checkpoint Charlies

Florida -- Federal judge rejects suit on tardy absentee ballots

AP reports: Election officials will not be forced to count absentee ballots delivered after 7 p.m. on Election Day, regardless of what problems caused late mailings, a federal judge ruled Tuesday in a lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union.

The civil liberties group had asked for an emergency order requiring Miami-Dade and Broward election officials to count ballots received after last week's election-night cutoff. The absentees, counted or not, would not affect final statewide tallies that counties must submit to the state by Saturday.

"Voters have failed to show the defendants arbitrarily or deliberately delayed in sending" the absentee ballots, U.S. District Judge Alan Gold wrote in a 48-page order. He noted the three voters named in the suit could have requested ballots earlier than "just days before the election." ...

After receiving complaints about undelivered ballots, Broward County dropped off 9,000 absentee ballots at a U.S. Postal Service distribution center on the Saturday before Election Day, which meant they would not be delivered until the eve of the election. Voters were told they could return ballots by overnight mail at county expense. -- Judge Rejects Suit Over Uncounted Absentee Ballots | theledger.com

Diebold and California settle

AP reports: Diebold Inc. agreed Wednesday to pay $2.6 million to settle a lawsuit filed by California alleging that the electronic voting company sold the state and several counties shoddy voting equipment.

Although critics characterized the settlement as a slap on the wrist, Diebold also agreed to pay an undisclosed sum to partially reimburse Alameda, San Diego and other counties for the cost of paper backup ballots, ink and other supplies in last week's election. California's secretary of state banned the use of one type of Diebold machine in May, after problems with the machines disenfranchised an unknown number of voters in the March primary.

Faulty equipment forced at least 6,000 of 316,000 voters in Alameda County, just east of San Francisco, to use backup paper ballots instead of the paperless voting terminals. In San Diego County, a power surge resulted in hundreds of touch-screens that wouldn't start when the polls opened, forcing election officials to turn voters away from the polls.

According to the settlement, the North Canton, Ohio-based company must also upgrade ballot tabulation software that Los Angeles County and others used Nov. 2. Diebold must also strengthen the security of its paperless voting machines and computer servers and promise never to connect voting systems to outside networks. -- SignOnSanDiego.com > News > Politics -- Calif. settles electronic voting suit against Diebold

Right to work group asks for investigation of SEIU

AP reports: An anti-union group is urging the Federal Election Commission to investigate one of the largest unions in the country, claiming the Service Employees International Union unlawfully spent workers' dues to elect Democrats in last week's election.

The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation said Wednesday that SEIU gave millions of dollars from members' dues to a partisan political group, America Coming Together, which in turn spent the money illegally to finance political campaigns through the Democratic National Committee.

The foundation complained that dues are required as a condition of union membership and cannot be spent on political campaigns. -- Boston.com / News / Washington / Group wants FEC to investigate union election spending

How many ballots went missing?

TalkLeft asks: But what about the absentee ballots that never arrived? The TL kid's roomate received his Ohio absentee ballot in New York today...November 10....it was postmarked Columbus October 3.

The TL kid received his absentee ballot November 3. As John Kerry was conceding on tv. So he didn't get to vote either. He had called Colorado's election office for weeks complaining his ballot hadn't arrived. They just kept telling him it had been mailed.

They have many friends who also didn't receive absentee ballots in time to vote. Is there any counting being done of the number of these disenfranchised absentee voters (as opposed to provisional voters)? -- TalkLeft: The Politics of Crime

Nader asks fr recount in New Hampshire

The Washington Post reports: Independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader, who lost by about 335,000 votes in New Hampshire, has asked the state for a recount.

No, the longtime consumer advocate is not hoping to change last week's outcome in the Granite State, where Democrat John F. Kerry was the winner. Rather, he said, he is concerned about the veracity of the results.

"We have received reports of irregularities in the vote reported on the AccuVote Diebold Machines in comparison to exit polls and trends in voting in New Hampshire," Nader wrote Secretary of State William M. Gardner. "These irregularities favor President George W. Bush by 5% to 15% over what was expected."

New Hampshire uses Diebold machines at 132 polling places. Gardner's office received Nader's fax at 4:59 p.m. Friday, one minute before the deadline. Under state law, if a candidate requesting a recount finished more than three percentage points behind, he must pay for the process. Gardner said that if the Nader campaign sends a check for $2,000 and promises to pay any additional charges, he will round up the ballots and initiate a hand count. -- Losing by 335,000 in N.H., Nader Demands a Recount (washingtonpost.com)

November 9, 2004

11 would-be voters sue ACORN for damages

The Sun-Sentinel reports: A South Florida attorney is suing a voter registration group, saying he has 11 clients who were denied the right to vote and thinks there may be hundreds more.

Stuart Rosenfeldt represents 11 people in Miami-Dade and Orange County who learned too late that they were never registered to vote after they signed up with the voter-registration group Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, or ACORN.

ACORN is under investigation for not turning in all the paperwork. The group conducted voter registration drives across the state.

Attorneys are looking for more victims to push for a class action lawsuit.

Rosenfeldt says he'll sue ACORN for punitive damages -- $100,000 per disenfranchised voter. -- S. Florida lawyer says ACORN never registered hundreds of voters: South Florida Sun-Sentinel

Thanks for the link to Matt Conigliaro at Abstract Appeal who says,"I'd just like to know what the underlying cause of action is. Hmmm."

Alabama recount law "one-sided" on constitutional amendments

AP reports: Alabama's new election recount law, which could get its first use on Amendment Two, permits a recount only when a proposed constitutional amendment is losing narrowly.

Foes of the proposed constitutional amendment couldn't get a recount if it were passing even by the narrowest of margins.

"It's one-sided," said Elbert Peters of Huntsville, former chairman of the Alabama Republican Party and an opponent of Amendment Two.

Unofficial returns from the Nov. 2 election show Amendment Two losing 690,241 to 687,747 — a margin of 2,494 votes out of more than 1.37 million cast.

After extremely tight races for governor and secretary of state in 2002, the Legislature enacted a law in 2003 that allows a candidate to get a recount if losing by one-half percent of the votes cast or less. The law also provides for a recount when a constitutional amendment loses by one-half percent, but the law makes no provision for a recount if a constitutional amendment passes by less than one-half percent. -- Amendment 2 wouldn't recount if leading

November 8, 2004

Supreme Court lets the ex-felon voting issue simmer a while longer

The New York Times reports: The Supreme Court today allowed several current and former prisoners in Washington State to challenge a law there stripping them of their right to vote, a move that could have repercussions in a number of other states.

The justices left intact a decision from the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which has jurisdiction over seven Western states and held that the convicts were at least entitled to trials in federal district courts to contest their loss of voting rights.

The Supreme Court tacitly upheld that position today, with potential implications for prisoners in some of the 47 states besides Washington that prohibit convicts from voting while behind bars. Only Maine and Vermont do not bar imprisoned felons from voting, and some convicts in the other states will almost certainly be encouraged to sue, now that Washington prisoners can do so.

But prisoners in New York, Vermont and Connecticut - which are under the jurisdiction of the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit - will not be among those allowed to file suit. At the same time as they refused to take the appeal of the Ninth Circuit ruling today, the justices also let stand an opposite ruling in a similar case from New York City. -- The New York Times > Washington > Justices Let Prisoners Sue to Regain Right to Vote

New Mexico slow in counting the ballots

The Albuquerque Journal reports: If New Mexico is leaning red, it's not because the state is any closer to declaring a presidential winner. It's because some New Mexicans are embarrassed about how long it's taking to get the votes counted. Again.

"It's embarrassing to know this state has not been able to count all it's votes," said Tom Torres of Edgewood. "It's not like this is a surprise. We saw it last election."

In the 2000 election, it took about a month for the state to determine that Al Gore had defeated President George W. Bush by 366 votes.

Election officials said they are working to count all ballots by Friday in the race between President Bush and Sen. John Kerry. In Bernalillo County, the actual counting of more than 13,000 provisional and in-lieu-of ballots might not start until Tuesday, election officials said. -- ABQjournal: N.M. Voters Red With Embarrassment Over Delayed Count

One provisional ballot may decide the Montana House's composition

The Billings Gazette reports: The provisional vote of a mentally handicapped elector who works at a sheltered workshop in Ronan could change the results of Tuesday's House District 12 race, where Constitution Party candidate Rick Jore now leads Democrat Jeanne Windham by a mere one vote.

The leadership of the House of Representatives hangs in the balance. If Windham wins, the House would be split 50-50 between Democrats and Republicans, allowing the newly elected Democratic governor to name the House speaker. If Jore wins, the House leadership will remain Republican.

Lake County election officials will meet today at 3 p.m. in the courthouse in Polson to determine which of the 33 provisional ballots cast in the HD 12 race will be counted in Tuesday's canvas of the election.

The handicapped elector's vote is likely to be one of the few provisional votes cast in the HD12 race that will be counted. At least 25 are expected to be rejected because the voters were not residents who registered to vote in Lake County.

The competency of the mentally handicapped elector was challenged by an election judge when the man went to vote. He was unable to sign the registration card legibly himself, so a sheltered workshop case manager did so for him. -- Provisional vote may swing election - billingsgazette.com

More money in this campaign, despite BCRA

The New York Times reports: The McCain-Feingold law, which did more to change how American political campaigns are financed than any legislation since the 1970's, got its first real-world test in this year's election. And now its critics are more emphatic than ever in arguing that the law has fallen short of its goals, and even some supporters are calling for revisions.

The 2002 law demolished the system that for more than a decade had allowed political parties to feed on unlimited soft-money contributions from companies, labor unions and donors. But what rose in its place remains the subject of fierce debate.

Critics say the law was undercut by a loophole that allowed advocacy groups known as 527 committees to raise hundreds of millions in soft money. Supporters say the law stands as a barrier to corruption and needs only reinforcement, and that the law was not intended as a panacea. ...

Lawyers and political operatives tested the boundaries of the new law with the Federal Election Commission, openly seeking ways to use the law to their advantage. They also adopted new strategies and creative ways to raise money and sometimes just worked harder. -- The New York Times > Washington > Even With Campaign Finance Law, Money Talks Louder Than Ever

November 7, 2004

Hey, kids, let's start our own voting machine company

DhinMI suggests on DailyKOS: Sometimes it's just an offhanded comment that contains the seed of a great idea. Like this one, where the writer joked that problems with voting wouldn't go as unnoticed if George Soros owned Diebold. It got me thinking. Why should't George Soros own Diebold?

I'm not an anti-trust attorney, so there may be some obvious problems with my idea, but in rough form, here it is: George Soros, Peter B. Lewis, John Sperling and the rest of the mega-wealthy people who care about this country and are willing to use their money to make a difference, should make hostile takeover attempts of any publicly-owned manufacturer of voting and tabulating systems. Try to buy out the owners of the privately held companies like Diebold by offering them obscene amounts of money. If that doesn't work, drive them out of the voting equipment sector or completely out of business. Use the companies purchased or new companies formed with large amounts of capital to drive down the price of the equipment, and after they achieve market dominance, put the companies in a public trust. -- Daily Kos :: Political Analysis and other daily rants on the state of the nation.

Keillor proposes denial of voting rights to those with citizenship in heaven

Garrison Keillor, as reported in the Chicago Maroon: "I am a Democrat --it's no secret. I am a museum-quality Democrat," Keillor said. "Last night I spent my time crouched in a fetal position, rolling around and moaning in the dark."

Not one to shy away from speaking his mind, Keillor proposed a solution to what he deemed a fundamental problem with U.S. elections. "I'm trying to organize support for a constitutional amendment to deny voting rights to born-again Christians," Keillor smirked. "I feel if your citizenship is in Heaven -- like a born again Christian's is -- you should give up your citizenship. Sorry, but this is my new cause. If born again Christians are allowed to vote in this country, then why not Canadians?" -- NPR star Keillor tells of home life on a prairie

New Jersey -- Students turned away from the polls

The Star-Ledger reports: On Election Day, Rutgers University sophomore Sean Thom waited patiently as a poll worker combed the voter rolls for his name at a Livingston College polling site.

Thom looked downcast as the poll worker came up empty. Though he had registered to vote in his first election in an on-campus drive last month, Thom, 19, assumed his form was not processed in time for Tuesday's election.

He was one of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of new voters at Rutgers who reluctantly filled out paper provisional ballots or walked away from the polls when their names could not be found at polling locations. ...

Rutgers and Middlesex County election officials are still trying to figure out what caused widespread confusion Tuesday on the state university's New Brunswick and Piscataway campuses.

The university joins a long list of colleges reporting similar problems. Though young voters went to the polls in record numbers this election, they also ran into a record number of obstacles, voting rights advocates said. -- Rutgers not only campus to report voting problems

A day in the life ... Tamarac, Florida

Joanne Fanizza writes in the Miami Herald: I am perplexed at the newspaper stories that claim that Tuesday's election went smoothly. I served as voting-rights attorney at Precinct 19J, the Moose Lodge in Tamarac. This large minority precinct suffered easily avoidable problems, and several voters were marginalized by not being able to use regular ballots -- or any at all -- when they were entitled.

Less than 600 people voted in that precinct that day. Why? Several voters came in and said the precinct had been moved, but they had not been notified. Their voter-registration cards still bore the old precinct address (Shaker Village). How many people didn't vote because they did not know where their precinct was located? The supervisor of elections office's failure to notify them at least 14 days prior to an election is a violation of Fla. Statute 101.71(2).

Precinct workers were poorly trained and were trying to read the manual as the polls opened. Several registered Broward voters who moved to the precinct swore out address affidavits, which entitled them to vote a regular ballot, but they were given provisional ballots. The precinct workers didn't know what to do under the circumstances and, when they attempted to call election headquarters, it took up to a half-hour to get through -- flashbacks to 2000. (In one case they simply refused to wait and marginalized the voter to a provisional ballot.) -- Herald.com | 11/07/2004 | No 'smooth sailing' at this precinct

GOP challengers in Saginaw

The Saginaw News reports on the actions of Republican challengers:

Elizabeth Coleman, also in line, suggested that the weary woman take a seat while the granddaughter held her place.

"A lady with the Republican poll challengers saw this and called out, 'I'm challenging. She can't have a substitute person in line,"' Coleman says. ...

Meanwhile, she observed another GOP challenger whom she said made an "outburst" when a poll worker opened a ballot box and shook a container of ballots in order to prevent the optical scanner from jamming. ...

"A guy came in and said his name was 'Quincy Jones,' the name of the singer. That can't be a common name, and so our poll challenger challenged him," [Republican challenger coordinator Jim] Howell said. -- GOP scrutiny spurs conflict

Saginaw -- "incompetent" poll workers

The Saginaw News reports: While partisan poll challengers tossed an occasional monkey wrench into Tuesday's vote, city workers either in too short supply or poorly trained far outweighed any meddling party operatives.

Reports of slow inspectors blanketed the city. Even at Maplewood Manor, another precinct that cleared extra space in anticipation of a record turnout, ballot-casting suffered --thanks to "incompetent" election workers, observers said.

"They weren't trained at all, as far as I could tell," said Andy Lusk, a Democratic lawyer from Lake Orion dispatched to Saginaw as part of the party's nationwide "coordinated campaign."

The conditions made for strange bedfellows, said Lusk, who found himself working in concert with a Republican poll challenger. Voters often were as confused as inspectors, he said. The wait at Maplewood topped two hours as switchbacking lines squeezed near voting booths. -- Poll planning lacking

New Hampshire -- voter registration form draws complaints

AP reports: A state representative is calling New Hampshire's same-day voter registration process too restrictive.

Democrat Charles Weed of Keene said affidavits voters can sign when registering on Election Day contain improper language.

The affidavits let voters substitute sworn testimony for the ability to otherwise prove that they are citizens or that they live at a particular address. The penalty for giving false information is up to one year in prison.

But Weed says voters also must acknowledge that they're bound by state laws in the process. That includes obligations to get a state drivers license and register vehicles in New Hampshire. Weed, who also is a political science professor at Keene State College, compared the requirement to charging a poll tax and said it's tough on college students. -- Boston.com / News / Local / Voter registration form draws fire

"Why does DMV have trouble properly registering voters?"

The San Joaquin News Service reports: When Lodi's Janis Travis, 58, moved only four blocks from School Street to Roper Avenue [in San Joaquin County, CA], she re-registered to vote through the Department of Motor Vehicles.

Travis, who has voted for at least 15 years and was a candidate for Lodi Unified School District's board of trustees in 1994, said she re-registered at the DMV for convenience.

That convenience turned into hassle on Election Day, though, when Travis said she went to vote in her new neighborhood, but found her name wasn't on the rolls. All she could do was cast a provisional ballot -- and if her registration couldn't be verified, her vote wouldn't count. ...

Unwilling to vote provisional, Travis said she returned to her old neighborhood and found she was still registered there.

Hench said Travis' dilemma isn't unique. Since the DMV started voter registration in 1995 under the federal government's Motor Voter Act, there have been numerous problems, she said, and some of them still linger. -- Lodinews.com - News

A day in the life ... Maryland

Avi Rubin writes about "My day as an election judge - take 2" on his website.

Thanks to beSpacific for the link.

Poll watcher: "I've never been treated this badly"

The Washington Post reports: John L. Zalusky has served as an international election observer in emerging democracies such as Bosnia, Serbia, Belarus and Kosovo. But he said his most trying poll-watching experience came Tuesday at Patuxent High School in Lusby.

"I've never been treated this badly," said the 70-year-old Drum Point resident.

Zalusky, a poll observer for the local Democratic Party during last week's voting, was removed from the polling site early Tuesday afternoon by two Calvert County sheriff's officers and one Maryland State Police trooper after he complained that election judges were violating the law.

The Calvert County Board of Elections had instructed poll workers not to hand out provisional ballots to people who were not listed in a state-wide database of registered voters. Zalusky, who said the policy violated the federal Help America Vote Act of 2002, instructed prospective voters who were not on the Calvert rolls that they could demand a provisional ballot if they thought they had registered.

As it turns out, Zalusky was right. -- Poll Watchers Face Challenges at Lusby Site (washingtonpost.com)

Court's redistricting maps helped the GOP in Georgia

AP reports: Sure, there was a groundswell for President Bush in Georgia last week. He received nearly three out of five votes here. And, yes, the state has been trending Republican for years.

But some look elsewhere - to a decision by three federal judges nine months ago - to explain why Democrats lost control of the House of Representatives in last week's election, leaving Republicans not only with the governorship but with majorities in both legislative chambers for the first time since Reconstruction.

The judges last February struck down legislative district maps which Democrats designed in 2001 while they still were in power, and which they freely admitted were designed to keep their party firmly in control.

New maps imposed by the judges were used in last week's elections, and the result turned the House from a Democrat majority to a Republican one. -- AP Wire | 11/07/2004 | Some credit new maps for GOP statehouse takeover

November 6, 2004

21 of 22 who spent $1 million of their own money lost

AP reports: Of the 22 candidates who each spent more than $1 million of their own money trying to win their first election to Congress, only one made it.

The lesson, say analysts, is that ready cash is less important than experience and whether voters perceive wealthy candidates as "one of them."

"Millionaires don't automatically win," said Herb Asher, a political science professor at Ohio State University. "The money just gives them instant credibility and puts them in the position to be able to run in the first place." ...

Stanley Renshon, a political psychologist at the City University of New York, said it often comes down to whether voters perceive the millionaires as one of them.

“There are millionaires of the people and then there are just millionaires,” Renshon said. “We don't mind people making money, but we don't like people who make money and think they are better than us. The secret is to be rich but not snobby.” -- News Read - TheDay.com

Still problems with election administration

The New York Times reports: Voters in Ohio delivered a second term to President Bush by a decisive margin. But the way the vote was conducted there, election law specialists say, exposed a number of weak spots in the nation's election system.

"We dodged a bullet this time, but the problems remain," said Heather K. Gerken, who teaches election law at Harvard. "We have problems with the machines, problems with the patchwork of regulations covering everything from recounts to provisional ballots, and problems with self-interested party officials deciding which votes count."

Had the electoral math been only a little different, lawyers would be examining even closer finishes in other states.

"If it was Iowa or New Mexico that held the balance," said Richard L. Hasen, who teaches election law at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, "we would be in litigation now." Mr. Bush won those states by one percentage point; he won Ohio by two. -- The New York Times > Washington > Election 2004 > Voting Problems in Ohio Set Off an Alarm

South Dakota -- another guilty plea in GOP registration drive case

AP reports: A fourth person has pleaded guilty to improperly notarizing absentee ballot applications during a Republican Party get-out-the-vote effort.

Eric Fahrendorf, 24, of Sioux Falls was fined $200 and given a suspended 30-day jail sentence after his guilty plea on Wednesday.

Six workers for the GOP Victory effort resigned last month after questions surfaced about some absentee-ballot applications collected at college campuses across the state. Officials said the workers notarized applications collected by other workers, violating a state law that requires notaries to witness documents being signed before they can give them their official seal. -- American News | 11/06/2004 | Sioux Falls man pleads guilty in ballot flap

South Carolina -- challenge to GOP absentee voter program

The Charleston Post and Courier reports: Local lawyer Armand Derfner was trying to challenge a get-out-the-vote stunt by the S.C. Republican Party.

What he got was a lot of angry comments, mostly from Charles-ton County Republicans in their senior years, and rejection by the county Board of Elections and Voter Registration.

Derfner on Friday challenged the absentee ballots of 671 Charleston County voters, saying the way the state GOP solicited absentee voters this year might be illegal.

At issue was 600,000 postcards the party sent to GOP regulars suggesting they pursue absentee ballots this year if they were not going to be around for the election. Voters were to fill out a request for a ballot via a return mail card provided by the GOP. -- Charleston.Net: Local News: Ballot dispute rejected 11/06/04

November 5, 2004

Advice from Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson wrote in 1798, after the passage of the Sedition Act: A little patience, and we shall see the reign of witches pass over, their spells dissolve, and the people, recovering their true sight, restore their government to it's true principles. It is true that in the mean time we are suffering deeply in spirit, and incurring the horrors of a war & long oppressions of enormous public debt. ... If the game runs sometimes against us at home we must have patience till luck turns, & then we shall have an opportunity of winning back the principles we have lost, for this is a game where principles are the stake. Better luck, therefore, to us all; and health, happiness, & friendly salutations to yourself. -- T. Jefferson to John Taylor, 4 June 1798

OK, patience was good enough for Jefferson, but we've got to get back out there on the field and practice our principles. We've got to win the next one for truth, justice, and the American way.

Update: I found the source of the quotation and put the ampersands back in, the way TJ wrote it.

GOP 527 groups outspent Dem groups

The Washington Post reports: In the final three weeks of the campaign, independent "527" groups backing President Bush bought nearly $30 million worth of television and radio ads, three times what their Democratic counterparts spent, according to a study by the Center for Public Integrity.

This was a reversal of the pattern during the spring and summer months when such pro-Democratic 527s as The Media Fund, MoveOn.org and organized labor spent more than $60 million, matching the Bush campaign at a time when no Republican 527 groups were on the air.

"At the end, Republican 527s reversed the trend from earlier in the year and got ahead of the Democrats, and it definitely appears to have made a difference for Bush, particularly in Ohio," said Alex Knott, political editor of the Center for Public Integrity.

In addition, two Republican 527 groups, the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth and Progress for America, ran ads that, according to surveys, made the strongest impressions on voters in key states. -- At the End, Pro-GOP '527s' Outspent Their Counterparts (washingtonpost.com)

The report is here.

Virginia -- AG questioned about redistricting eavesdropping

The Washington Post reports: Virginia Attorney General Jerry W. Kilgore (R) was questioned Tuesday in connection with a lawsuit filed by Democratic legislators regarding political eavesdropping by top officials in the state Republican Party.

Kilgore, the likely GOP nominee for governor in 2005, was questioned for nearly two hours as the nation went to the polls to vote in the presidential election.

The lawsuit, scheduled to be heard in December, stems from eavesdropping by Republicans on two conference calls among Democrats as they planned strategy during a redistricting battle in March 2002. Kilgore's office reported the eavesdropping after his staff became aware of it.

Attorneys for Democratic lawmakers said they were interested in how and when Kilgore discovered that the Republican Party's top staff official had secretly listened to the Democrats. -- Kilgore Questioned in Snooping Case (washingtonpost.com)

Florida -- voters using provisional ballots accused of voting twice

The Sun Sentinel reports: Four Palm Beach County voters who appear to have voted twice in Tuesday's election face possible felony charges, elections officials said Thursday.

Days after the country survived one of the most contentious presidential races in history, local election officials said the State Attorney's Office would launch an investigation into why the four voted twice.

Three of the four voters are challenging that claim, blaming clerical errors at the Supervisor of Elections Office for the problem. -- 4 accused of voting two times in Palm Beach County: South Florida Sun-Sentinel

New York -- guess who claims fraudulent voters were bussed in?

The New York Times reports: Republican Party officials in Westchester County accused the Democratic Party yesterday of busing New York City residents to the polls in Westchester County on Election Day and encouraging them to vote fraudulently in a tight State Senate race.

Democratic Party officials have denied the charges and have accused the Republicans of trying to further complicate the resolution of the race between Senator Nicholas A. Spano, a Republican who is seeking a 10th term, and Andrea Stewart-Cousins, a Democratic county legislator.

Mr. Spano was leading Ms. Stewart-Cousins, 54,120 to 52,446, with 417 of the 418 districts counted, election officials said last night. All absentee and other paper ballots needed to be counted as well. Democrats had won a court order impounding the ballots after several voters complained of irregularities.

According to a police report that was distributed by Republican Party officials yesterday, Robert Mujica, a volunteer poll watcher for the party in Yonkers, told the police that a charter bus showed up at a polling station on Tuesday and dropped off several people who tried to vote without identification showing a Yonkers address. -- The New York Times > New York Region > Fraudulent Voters Bused In, Westchester Republicans Say **

Alabama -- amendment may hinge on provisional ballots

AP reports: Alabama election officials are preparing to count hundreds - maybe thousands - of ballots that have yet to be tallied from this week's vote and could sway the outcome of a controversial constitutional amendment.

In Jefferson County and elsewhere, workers plan to spend this weekend sorting through voter forms to determine which provisional ballots can be counted and included in official vote totals. The final tally will begin at noon Tuesday.

The results will be critical in determining whether voters approved or rejected Amendment Two, a statewide proposal that would delete segregation-era provisions from Alabama's Constitution but failed in the unofficial, incomplete count by only 2,494 votes out of the 1.38 million cast. ...

The key question concerns numbers: How many provisional ballots exist and how many will ultimately be counted.

If the primary vote is a guide, about half of the provisional ballots cast this week will wind up being counted. Of 977 provisional ballots in that vote, state election officials said 482 were proper and were included in the final tally.

But no one is certain how many provisional ballots are out there locked away in county courthouses. Since counties have not yet been required to determine the number of provisional ballots they had, many haven't. -- Welcome to TimesDaily.com

Amendment Two removed segregationist language from the the 1901 Constitution and repealed an amendment adopted in 1956 that removed the right to a public education. Deposed Chief Justice Roy Moore (one of the few people who was able to run to the right of a Karl Rove candidate) started the drum beat that the reinstatement of the right to a public education would allow an "activist judge" to order the state to raise taxes. Well, you might have well have said it would promote Satanism.

Arizona -- LULAC sues over provisional ballots

The Arizona Republic reports: A national Hispanic organization filed suit in federal court this week seeking to force Arizona election officials to count thousands of so-called "provisional ballots" that were cast in the wrong precinct during Tuesday's election.

LULAC, the League of Latin American Citizens, claims in a U.S. District Court complaint lodged Monday that Arizona balloting procedures violate the Help America Vote Act and the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment.

Provisional ballots are issued when voters believe they are properly registered but their names do not appear on election rolls, or when there is some other electoral question. The ballots are not reviewed until all other votes have been counted, and election officials in each county must first determine which provisional forms must be disqualified.

Steven Reyes, a LULAC attorney, said Arizona's system disenfranchises voters and is not applied uniformly throughout the state. Because Hispanics move frequently and may have language difficulties, he added, a disproportionate number of their ballots are tossed out. -- LULAC demands count of provisional ballots cast in wrong precinct

Instant Runoff advances in three wins

Rob Richie writes: I also wanted to report on three landslide wins for instant runoff voting at the ballot this November. Instant runoff voting (www.fairvote.org) is rapidly growing in popularity as a means to elect majority winners when more than two candidates contest an executive / one-winner office.

* Proposal B on Ferndale, Michigan's ballot won by a lopsided 69%-31% margin. The proposal amends Ferndale's city charter to provide for election of the mayor and City Council through the use of IRV pending the availability and purchase of compatible software and approval of the equipment by the Ferndale Election Commission. A suburb of Detroit with some 10,000 voters that are relatively balanced between Democrats and Republicans, Ferndale had a very energetic, effective campaign led by Ferndale IRV: www.firv.org

* In Vermont, voters in Burlington overwhelmingly passed an advisory referendum on whether the city charter should be amended to use IRV for the election of the mayor. Under Burlington's current charter, a candidate for mayor can win with as little as 40% of the vote (meaning 60% might consider that candidate the worst choice), and if no candidate achieves that threshold, a separate runoff election is held. These provisions offer the worst of both worlds, creating the risk of a "spoiler" scenario and also the potential cost and lower turnout typical of a separate runoff. Some 66% of voters approved the ballot item, meaning that a formal charter amendment is likely to move forward in March.

* Voters in 16 western Massachusetts towns approved a non-binding motion in support of IRV, by a margin of 11,956 to 5,568. The question directed state representative Steve Kulik to vote in favor of legislation or a constitutional amendment to require IRV for elections to statewide office (such as Governor, Treasurer, Auditor and Secretary of the Commonwealth. -- ZNet |Electoral Politics | Election 2004 by the Numbers

San Francisco -- instant runoff software runs into a limit

The San Francisco Chronicle reports: The software designed to tabulate the ranked-choice voting results of San Francisco's seven district supervisor races was overwhelmed by voter turnout, its makers said Thursday -- but it took just a minor computer programming adjustment to fix the system.

The tabulation of votes in the city's first ranked-choice election was brought to a halt Wednesday because the computer program used to carry out the calculations wasn't written with such a large turnout in mind, said Lou Dedirer, of Election Systems and Software, the Omaha, Neb., company that sold San Francisco the system.

"Think of it like having a basketball too big to go through the hoop," Dedirer said. "We're getting a bigger hoop."

On Thursday, a computer programming adjustment was submitted to the secretary of state, California's chief election official, and was expected to be approved for use by this morning. If that's the case, preliminary results of four still-contested supervisor races -- in Districts 1, 5, 7 and 11 -- could be released by the end of today. -- Turnout swamped 'ranked' software

Turnout report and other observations

The Center for the Study of the American Electorate reported today: Deep emotions about the presidency of George W. Bush, both pro and con, and unprecedentedly vigorous and expensive voter mobilization drives propelled voter turnout in the 2004 general election to its highest level since 1968, despite long lines at polling places that had some citizens waiting as much as seven hours to cast their ballots.

–When all the vote-counting is completed by early December, it is predicted that an estimated 120,200,000 citizens will have cast their votes for President in this election, a 59.6 turnout rate of eligible citizens, the highest since 1968 when 61.9 percent of eligibles voted.

–Nearly 15 million more Americans voted in 2004 than in 2000 when 105,400,000 voted, a 54.3 percent voting rate.

–The Republicans’ centralized, professional and highly targeted voter identification and get-out-the-vote campaign bested the Democrats’ decentralized but equally vigorous mobilization efforts. ...

–Turnout in battleground states increased by 6.3 percentage points, while turnout in the other states (and the District of Columbia) increased by only 3.8 percentage points.

–Democratic turnout increased by nearly three times in battleground states (up 3.6 percentage points) as compared to 1.5 percentage points in the other states, pointing to the concentration of resources the party devoted to the battlegrounds.

–On the other hand, GOP turnout increases were roughly equal (4.4 percentage points in battleground states and 3.9 in the others), speaking to the long-term and successful strategy of Presidential political advisor Karl Rove in targeting evangelical fundamentalists and rural voters as the constituencies where Republican turnout could be increased.

–Evidence for this was augmented by the six states which had record high turnout in this election, all voting for the President – Alabama (54.8 percent of eligibles), Georgia (49.6), Florida (61.8), South Carolina (50.8), Tennessee (54.5) and Virginia (58.4). The District of Columbia also recorded a new high (52.3).

–When final counting is done, only one state – Arizona – is likely to have recorded a decline in turnout. Only in South Dakota did a race for statewide office (Daschle-Thune) exceed the vote for President and that by only 3,000 votes.

–On the other hand, turnout for Kerry was lower than that for other statewide Democratic aspirants (for governor, U.S. Senate or aggregate vote for House of Representatives) in 28 states out of 37 states which had statewide contests. The President’s turnout was lower in only nine states of 37.

–Ralph Nader received less than 0.2 percent of the eligible vote and all non-major party candidates, including Nader, received 0.9 percent of the eligible vote.

–While there are no reliable figures on the much-publicized youth turnout (exit polls are notoriously and consistently unreliable on turnout questions), it is likely that college-attending youth substantially increased their turnout rate in the states in which they were targeted – the battleground states. It is also probable that college-attending youth increased their turnout much more modestly in non-battleground states. But it is likely that there were no increases in turnout of non-college-attending youth who were largely not targeted. -- CSAE press release via Center for Voting & Democracy

Note: for a different take on Kerry's ability, see this on DonkeyRising.

Welcome to the ElectionGeek

Not content to provide some of the best election-related content through Electionline.org, Doug Chapin has joined the bloggers with ElectionGeek. He says, "I wanted to establish a separate forum wherein I could express personal views on election administration reform issues du jour outside the boundaries of my 'day job.'"

As the first of the election law bloggers, I welcome Doug to the fraternity (no sisters yet blogging on election law yet).

A day in the life ... in Detroit

Russell Menyhart writes: I spent October 31 through November 2 working for Election Protection in Detroit. My experienced was a mixed one, as explained below.

1) Poll monitoring is a necessary part of our democracy, and must continue beyond this election and at election other than those at the national level. Labor unions, the NAACP, Election Protection and other groups were all very visible and helpful in aiding citizens navigate the atrocious voting process. We would present at hundreds of polling places, keeping an eye on Republican challengers who were present at every single Detroit precinct (less Democratic challengers, for obvious reasons), helping voters find their correct precincts, and instructing voters on provisional and challenged ballots.

[More below the fold]


It is shocking to think that elections used to take place without this massive poll monitoring system. I worked from our legal assistance command center, and our phone lines were swamped with requests and problem reports from 7:00 a.m. until the polls closed.

2) Poll monitoring groups must be better organized. I am concerned about the image Election Protection put forth. I worked with many excellent, dedicated people. A number of workers operated on little or no sleep, and were wonderful legal advisors and organizers. However, we were also unorganized and many volunteers were frustrated by their experience.

We wasted many hours of volunteer time Sunday and Monday taking signs to polling places and mapping out precincts instead of putting together volunteer packs and confirming legal information. I personally spent hours driving around town delivering signs to polling places, assured that the legal work was taken care of. I was then dismayed to discover that a legal information pamphlet I was photocopying Monday night contained numerous errors, partly because it was lifted from a similar pamphlet prepared for Florida. Of course, by that point it was too late to correct it.

Election Protection was a hastily organized coalition of many different groups. While its work was exemplary, and its problems due in part to the overwhelming number of volunteers, unfortunately the Detroit site was not well-run, with significant frustration expressed by many of the volunteers. We had great logistical problems handing out assignments and materials on Election Day – this MUST be done the night before. Arranging rides to polling sites was also a logistical nightmare. Most crucially, we had phone problems in the morning that prevented many volunteers at polling sites from reaching our command center. When all the work is channeled through a central office, a solid phone system must exist. The national Election Protection number (866-OURVOTE) also was so swamped with calls that it was not accepting calls for much of the morning.

3) Our voting process is still broken. Unfortunately, my overall impression of the voting system in Detroit was not a good one. While some sites ran “as smooth as butter,” as one volunteer told me, other sites had waits of between one to three hours, broken voting machines, and unprepared election officials. When machines broke down, many officials did not know the proper process for using paper ballots. Other officials demanded ID or refused to permit provisional ballots to be cast—I was required to have our volunteers call the election board headquarters (which was very helpful) and have them speak directly to the precinct chief and order them to comply with the law.

The election monitors should not have to be educating the election officials. Why aren’t sufficient public funds available to hire non-partisan attorneys to be trained and run the polling sites?

A further problem was with a disturbing number of voters not being on the state voter roll, including voters who had been on the roll for years. This problem has not yet been resolved, but hopefully groups in Michigan are working on it.

4) Our new voting laws are still too complex and discourage people from voting. Every state should permit voters who are in the wrong precinct to still vote for every office, on the federal and state level, that are the same from both his correct precinct and the precinct he is located at. Helping voters find their right precinct was what we spent most of our time doing.

Every state should keep polls open until at least 8:00 p.m. Indiana (where I live) closed its polls at 6:00 p.m., allowing working people just one hour to get there after work. If you have a half-hour commute, then go home first, you probably didn’t make it to your precinct. Unforgivable.

Every state should allow election day registration.

Every state should allow early voting, either by mail or in person.

Supreme Court conference today considers felon disfranchisement

Legal Times reports: The Supreme Court may soon decide to consider the legality of policies in effect in 48 states that disenfranchise convicted felons.

Two of the cases set for discussion at the Court's private conference today ask the Court to determine whether felon disenfranchisement laws violate §2 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. That provision bars the imposition of any requirement that results in denial of the right to vote "on account of race or color." The Court will also meet in conference on Nov. 12.

Civil rights groups cite statistics showing that more than 40 percent of the roughly 5 million people who cannot vote because of past convictions are black, and more than half are of color. Frank Askin, general counsel of the American Civil Liberties Union, describes felon disenfranchisement laws, which are most severe in the South, as "the last vestige of slavery in our country."

All states except Maine and Vermont block convicted felons from voting, although some have provisions that allow felons to regain voting privileges under certain circumstances. The Court in the 1974 case Richardson v. Ramirez said disenfranchisement laws could not be challenged under the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment, so more recent challenges have been brought under the Voting Rights Act.

The cases before the Court are Locke v. Farrakhan, No. 03-1597, from Washington state, and Muntaqim v. Coombe, No. 04-175, from New York. -- law.com - Article

November 4, 2004

Virginia -- students' voter forms never processed

The Daily Press reports: The voter registration tables were the most popular section of the graduate student orientation fair at the College of William and Mary. That day in August, dozens of students registered to vote in Williamsburg.

But when they went to precincts Tuesday, several graduate students - and other students who sent in applications on their own - learned that their names were missing from the voter list. ...

An unknown number of students' applications never made it into Andrews' system. He said he processed every form that he received and couldn't explain the missing applications. ...

Andrews said he never received any forms from the graduate fair. Because Andrews couldn't attend the event this year, the James City County Registrar's Office handled all the students' applications. That office should have sent him the Williamsburg forms to process. -- Some W&M student voter forms never entered system

See my comment below about Jimmy Buffett. But seriously, this points up a problem. Too many folks just passing voter registration forms around , but there's no accountability for when they are turned in.

OSCE declares the election "mostly met" international standards

Reuters reports: Voting in U.S. elections this week was mostly fair, but the lines were too long at some polling stations, according to an international rights group monitoring the presidential contest for first time.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said on Thursday that before the vote it had received "widespread" allegations of fraud and voter suppression, mainly among minorities, and raised concern that confidence in the system could be undermined.

However, the group said it was unable to substantiate the allegations. It also said that on election day it observed relatively few attempts to challenge a voter's eligibility, despite concerns before the vote. ...

"Significant delays at the polling station are likely to deter some voters and may restrict the right to vote. While a solution to this problem may have cost implications, it is clearly desirable that steps are taken to reduce delays in future elections," the OSCE said in a preliminary report. -- Politics News Article | Reuters.com

The OSCE report can be found here.

Iowa -- lagard absentee ballots

The Waterloo Cedar-Falls Courier reports: The election's over. But there's still a few unanswered questions about voting in Black Hawk County [Iowa]. A few thousand of them.

As of this morning there were still 2,433 absentee ballots not yet returned, county elections manager Kyle Jensson said. But they're only trickling back. Just 53 came in Wednesday.

"These will filter in late and most likely will not get here in time to be counted," Jensson said. Ballots postmarked on Election Day or earlier must be received by noon Monday to be counted. The Black Hawk County Board of Supervisors will canvass the votes at 11 a.m. Tuesday, after which the as-yet unofficial results become final.

There also were some 776 provisional ballots cast at the polls, some from voters who had originally requested absentee ballots. -- WCFCourier.com | The Waterloo Cedar-Falls Courier Online!

Indiana -- Motor Voter in the slow lane

The Times-Union reports: The Kosciusko County [Indiana] clerk's office estimates they had 75-100 phone calls from people on Election Day who registered at the Bureau of Motor Vehicles and who were not shown on the registration rolls.

Sharon Christner, county clerk, today said, "There's nothing we can do now. There's no way the BMV can verify who registered and who didn't."

When a person registers at the BMV, the BMV sends their registration card to the county clerks office. The BMV does not keep track of who registers to vote there. -- 11-04-2004 - Voters Registered At BMV Not On Registration Rolls

As Jimmy Buffett sings, "Some people claim that there's a woman to blame, but I know it's my own damn fault." When did these people register at BMV? Did they ever get a little worried when the registration card was not in the mail?

Florida -- lawsuits attacking new constitutional amendments

Abstract Appeal reports: Well, Florida's voters had little trouble playing along in the fight between Florida's doctors and its plaintiffs' lawyers. Voters approved Proposed Constitutional Amendment No. 3, the shot across the bow fired by doctors at the plaintiffs' bar, capping attorney's fees in medical liability cases. Voters also approved the retaliatory amendments proposed by the plaintiffs' lawyers -- Proposed Amendment No. 7 and Proposed Amendment No. 8, which, respectively, make medical records relating to adverse medical incidents public and establish a "three strikes" rule for doctors. (For more on these proposals, see this prior post.)

These matters are not yet settled, though.

This story from today's St. Pete Times describes how the plaintiffs' bar is contemplating a federal constitutional challenge to No. 3 and how the medical establishment has already filed a suit relating to No. 7. -- Abstract Appeal -- by Matt Conigliaro

Conigliaro's post has links the the stories he mentions.

Florida -- everyone agrees something is wrong, but don't agree on what the "thing" is

The Miami Daily Business Review reports: Even though Tuesday's election in Florida went far smoother than the 2000 presidential election, the various problems that arose might well have led to a protracted legal battle if the contest between President Bush and Sen. John Kerry had been closer.

With that frightening possibility in mind, Republicans, Democrats and independent watchdog groups agreed Wednesday that major election reform is needed in Florida.

But, in a sign of political roadblocks ahead, critics of different stripes sharply disagreed on what the biggest problems were and how they should be solved. ...

[Stephen N. Zack, a Miami attorney who is Florida counsel for the Kerry/Edwards campaign] said the Legislature and governor need to adopt all the recommendations of Bush's bipartisan commission in 2001.

Zack noted that the Legislature implemented only 23 of 35 recommendations -- not including one that the entire state use a paper-based, optical scan voting system. -- law.com - Article

Hasen on the hassle that's coming

Richard Hasen writes in The Recorder: It will be tempting for most Americans to believe that our system for running elections worked Tuesday. After all, John Kerry conceded defeat and George W. Bush no doubt will have a second term as President. But our election administration system is badly broken, and there's good reason to believe the problems won't be fixed in time for 2008, when the next election could create yet another Florida debacle.

We came much too close for comfort this time around. If the Ohio margin had been around 36,000 votes instead of around 136,000 (a small difference in percentage terms), we would have seen a battle royal over the 130,000 provisional and absentee ballots that were yet to be processed and counted in the next week and a half. It would have been Florida all over again, only with more lawyers and controversy. ...

The fact that the election administrator's prayer was answered and the election was not close in absolute terms should not obscure the fundamental problems with our rules for running elections. No other advanced democracy uses partisan election officials to administer its elections. No other advanced democracy uses such a decentralized system with its patchwork of rules.

We dodged a bullet this time. Next time, we may not be so lucky. It is time to nationalize and depoliticize our system of election administration. The public's faith in our democratic process demands it. -- law.com - Article

November 3, 2004

BellSouth lobbyist indicted

AP reports: A lobbyist for BellSouth was charged Wednesday with campaign finance violations for allegedly charging the telephone company for a public opinion poll conducted for a U.S. Senate candidate, the U.S. Attorney's Office said.

Eliseo R. "Tito" Riera-Gomez was charged with six counts of mail fraud, two counts of wire fraud, one count of causing BellSouth to make a contribution in violation of the federal prohibition against disguised contributions made through conduits or strawmen, and one count of causing BellSouth to make a contribution in violation of the federal prohibition against corporate contributions.

If convicted of all counts, Riera-Gomez could face a maximum of 163 years in prison. -- AP Wire | 11/03/2004 | BellSouth lobbyist charged with campaign finance violations

Traffic

According to the statistics on my hosting company, Hosting Matters, I had 5333 unique visitors during the first two days of this month and used 2.31 gigabytes of bandwidth. To put that in perspective, during all of October, I had 14,661 unique visitors and bandwidth use was 6.93 gigabytes.

Thanks for coming by.

A Day in the Life ... Nassau County, New York

Jeff Wice writes: As a special counsel to the Nassau County (NY) Legislature, I was asked to serve as a "circuit" attorney traveling to polling places in minority communities. As it happened, I was first assigned to the polling places in North Valley Stream/Elmont where I grew up and voted for 23 years.

When I was in high school there in the late 1960s, I was always getting involved in civil rights efforts in this segregated community. Even though I lived farther away, I was "bussed" to a high school where African-Americans lived much closer. They were assigned to another high school even farther away.

My pre-election day assignment was short lived. After learning of my polling places, the county leaders overruled the assigning attorney who subsequently sent me to Roosevelt and Uniondale, both heavily African American and Hispanic. In Roosevelt, the state had to come in and take over the school system because things got so bad there financially. If elections are to break down anywhere in the county, Roosevelt and Uniondal were likely places. Such is life when you volunteer back home. Maybe, as Thomas Wolfe penned it, "you can't go home again." Just close.

As Election Day progressed yesterday, voting and any excitement were as slow as molasses i my communties. Steady, if somewhat low voting at my polling places. Until 7:30 PM, when everything fell apart at one precinct at Uniondale High School. One machine jammed and the elections inspectors didn;t know what to do about the 50 people who were in line to vote. The woman in the booth when the machine jammed left with the shift level left in place, and the machine jammed. She was told her vote would count (not likely). Others were told they could vote at an adjoining precinct's machine (illegal). The inspector feigned ignorance on how to use a cell phone to call for help. People began leaving. Once the machine was fixed (a little banging hehre and there) one voter was informed that the paper ballot cast could be ripped up and that a machine vote could be case (against the rules?) A call went to HQ and I was sent over to investigate and report. This was all important last night because of concerns that the congressional race in NY's 6th CD might be close (it wasn't).

I saw plenty of action during the last 30 minutes of voting. In the end, none of the local elections were close. At least I had the opportunity to help some voters overcome their frustration and to make sure that balloting proceeded despite the machine breakdown.

VoteProtect.org

Computerworld reports: Election monitors and technology experts at Verified Voting Foundation Inc. expected that their Election Incident Reporting System (EIRS) would be a popular source of information about voting mishaps as millions of U.S. citizens took to the polls in yesterday's presidential election -- but maybe not quite so popular.

Besieged by requests for access to its sophisticated database of field reports of voting irregularities from across the nation, the public face of EIRS, www.voteprotect.org, slowed to a crawl on Election Day. By yesterday afternoon, systems administrators were rushing to bring additional servers online to accommodate the crush of activity, according to Will Doherty, executive director of the Verified Voting Foundation.

EIRS was hastily created by a collection of groups including VerifiedVoting.org Inc. and Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility to help voter-protection organizations identify and respond to voting irregularities, according to the Verified Voting Web site.

The system was developed in a "code sprint" during June and July and was used for the first time for the primary election in Florida on Aug. 31. Hot-line operators at call centers in Florida and the District of Columbia recorded about 300 incidents at polls that day, according to the Web site. -- Surge in interest clogs election monitoring Web site - Computerworld

Youth vote

T. Eve Greenaway writes on Alternet: Now that some of the smoke has cleared and the data has been crunched, it's clear that 2004 was, in fact, an amazing year for young voter participation. Whereas only 42 percent of 18-29 year-olds had voted in 2000, a whopping 51 percent showed up at the polls this year, making for a 9-point increase. The catch? Everyone else came out in record numbers too.

Hans Reimer, director of Rock the Vote, describes the youth turnout as "exceeding all expectations." He points out that the percentage of youth who came out to vote this year was four points higher than in 1992, a number he says is "phenomenal."

"1992 was a similar election" Reimer continues. "There were really sharp issues; there was a candidate who reached out to young people; there was tremendous interest in voting. It was also the first year of the MTV/Rock The Vote effort. Voting was part of the social movement." -- AlterNet: WireTap: The Truth About the Youth Vote

Kentucky -- candidate residency suit

AP reports: A judge on Wednesday temporarily stopped Jefferson County [Kentucky] from certifying a disputed state Senate race while a lawsuit challenging the winning candidate's eligibility is pending.

The ruling means the results of the vote in the 37th District in Louisville will remain in limbo when the rest of the vote tallies are turned over to the Secretary of State on Friday.

Democrat Virginia Woodward filed a legal challenge over whether Republican Dana Seum Stephenson met the residency requirements to run for the office. In a lawsuit filed Monday, Woodward claimed Stephenson did not live in the district for six years before the election as required by the Kentucky Constitution.

Stephenson defeated Woodward in Tuesday's election in a heated race to replace retiring Democratic state Sen. Larry Saunders. -- AP Wire | 11/03/2004 | Judge hears challenge to winner of state Senate seat

Dahlia Lithwick: "The legal nightmare that never materialized"

Dahlia Lithwick writes on Slate.com: Like bombs that never detonated, most of the cataclysmic legal battles we'd all been anticipating are scattered inert across the country this morning, with the last among them the fight over Ohio's provisional ballots. Those potential landmines included a lawsuit in Pennsylvania over absentee ballots, last-minute suits in Florida over late-to-arrive absentee ballots, and yesterday's skirmishes in Ohio over challengers at polling places. Similarly, Colorado's looming legal crisis vaporized with the failure of Amendment 36, the effort to reapportion the state's electoral votes. Those fights are now moot or irrelevant. In the end, the 2004 election was decided by the voters, not the courts, a result that's far better for all of us in the long run.

Ohio really could have been the new Florida. The final numbers showed George W. Bush leading Kerry with a margin of approximately 135,000 votes. Depending on whom you asked this morning, the number of provisional ballots is greater than that: Ohio Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell said that as many as 150,000 of the state ballots were provisional, other elections officials have put that number over 200,000. Any way you sliced it, that's less than the "margin of litigation" and it opened up the possibility of a host of new election challenges. -- Lawyered Up - The legal nightmare that never materialized. By Dahlia Lithwick

E-voting machines

E-Commerce Times reports: Hundreds of separate instances of electronic voting problems were reported in the U.S. during yesterday's elections, enough to give critics of e-voting ammunition for their continued battle against its use, but not nearly enough to affect the outcome of the election, as some had feared.

In a press conference late yesterday, representatives from the Electronic Frontier Foundation Latest News about Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), VerifiedVoter.org and other groups that have raised concerns about e-voting said they had received more than 1,100 individual reports of e-voting problems to a toll free number it had established to monitor the e-vote.

The most common problem involved voting machines indicating that the candidate chosen was one other than that picked by the voter. In other places, e-voting machines were unavailable for stretches of time, causing delays, with machines in the supposed swing states of Florida and Pennsylvania among those that experienced glitches or slowdowns. Some activists said they witnessed voters leaving lengthy lines caused by such delays.

Cindy Cohn, a lawyer for the EFF, which has raised a host of concerns about e-voting -- from potential lost votes to possible hacking -- said it's logical to assume the problems reported are a fraction of those that occurred and that some voters might have miscast ballots without knowing it. -- E-Commerce News: Politics: E-Voting Debate Continues in Aftermath of Election

New Orleans -- provisional ballots

AP reports: A last-ditch effort by voting activists to extend polling hours in New Orleans amid allegations that voters improperly were denied access to electronic voting booths failed Tuesday evening after a judge rejected a request to keep the polls open two extra hours.

The activists had sought an emergency order that would have kept the polls open until 10 p.m. -- two hours past the standard closing time -- so voters could have time to return and cast a full ballot.

Civil District Court Judge Sidney Cates gave no reason for the denial.

Bill Quigley, a lawyer for the Louisiana Election Protection Committee, ... said that, in many instances, voters whose names appeared on the rolls but who were taking part in their first presidential election were told not to use the regular electronic voting booths. They were instructed to fill out provisional ballots, which did not include several state elections. Such ballots were only supposed to be used by those whose names could not be found on the rolls or the secretary of state's master list. -- Activists seek to extend Orleans voting hours

Hawaii -- provisional ballot

The Maui News reports: In a showdown that began at high noon, it took shouting, police officers and an hour and a half before state House candidate Cort Gallup was allowed to cast a provisional ballot in Tuesday's general election.

In a surreal ending to a unique campaign, Gallup's eligibility to vote was challenged by Kihei Community Center precinct Chairwoman Cindy Clark, a Maui GOP leader. He was initially denied a ballot.

Gallup is a Native American who was born in Canada and who had been ruled ineligible to vote by County Clerk Roy Hiraga. But his name remained on the voter lists at the Kihei precinct in which he lives, and he has appealed Hiraga's decision.

He also is a Democrat who challenged state Rep. Chris Halford for the state House 11th District (South Maui) seat. -- Maui News

Ohio -- 2 suits over provisional ballots

AP reports: The GOP sued Ohio over the ballots even before polls closed Tuesday.

The lawsuit demanded better ground rules for evaluating the ballots, and a guarantee that they could watch, alongside Democrats, as state officials prepare the provisional ballots to be counted.

Loparo said no changes in the rules are necessary. "We feel that we have clear, statewide standards for counting provisional ballots," he said.

Mark Weaver, an attorney representing Ohio Republicans, said the GOP told a federal judge that it thinks it can work with Blackwell's office on how to handle the ballots and that no court order is necessary for now.

A message seeking comment was left with Democratic party spokesman Myron Marlin.

The liberal-leaning Election Protection Coalition said its Internet and telephone hot lines logged 126 provisional-ballot complaints in Ohio involving voters not allowed to cast provisional ballots after not receiving absentee ballots, said Maria Blanco, executive director for the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area, a coalition member. After a woman sued on behalf of voters who didn't receive absentee ballots on time, all were allowed to cast provisional ballots.

Whether the provisional ballots still to be counted affect the results matters less than whether the ballots were handled properly to begin with, Jon Greenbaum, director of the Voting Rights Project for the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights, a coalition member.

"We're thinking of voters being disenfranchised," Greenbaum said. "It's something we're going to look at." -- MLive.com: NewsFlash - Kerry's concession removes urgency to count provisional ballots

Exit polls

In case you would like to see the state by state exit polls, here is a link to the Washington Post. The link below will get you to the Alabama exit poll (where I found that Kerry got only 19% of the white vote). Just cut and paste this link into your browser's address bar. To get a different state, simply change "alabama" to the other state (spell two-word state names as one word).

Untitled

Virginia constitutional amendment on redistricting passes

The Augusta Free Press reports: Virginia voters overwhelmingly approved amendments to the state Constitution that will clarify the effective date and implementation of redistricting laws and add names to the list of state leaders who could serve as acting governor in the event of a catastrophic emergency.

The proposed amendment to Article II, Section 6 of the Virginia Constitution dealing with the reapportionment of legislative seats passed on Tuesday with more than 85 percent of voters giving their endorsement.

The amendment to Article V, Section 16, which governs the line of succession to the office of governor, passed with more than 87 percent of the vote.

The amendment to Article II will require that any vacancy that would come to exist for seats in the United States House of Representatives, the Virginia Senate or the Virginia House of Delegates be filled from the district as it existed when the member who died or resigned was elected. -- Augusta Free Press : Amendments pass easily

Thanks to Jeff Wice for the link.

National wrap-up

The New York Times reports: Lines were long, tempers were short, some voting machines malfunctioned and a few polling places briefly replaced electronic wizardry with cardboard ballot boxes. But America's national election seemed to run smoothly yesterday, with no widespread reports of chaos, fraud or legal challenges that might affect the outcome. ...

And there were other serious problems. Disputes over absentee ballots arose in at least two states. Pennsylvania Republicans filed suit in federal court in Philadelphia seeking to prevent absentee ballots from being counted before Friday, when names could be compared to registration rolls. And in Florida, many Palm Beach County residents who never received absentee ballots were having a hard time casting regular ballots. They were only required to sign oaths swearing they had not yet voted, but some poll workers were insisting on checking with a supervisor whose line was constantly busy.

The Election Protection Coalition, a nonpartisan group that tracked problems in polling places, said it had received 23,000 reports of problems at the polls nationwide, including 1,100 about voting machines that malfunctioned and 8,900 incidents of voters not appearing on registration rolls. Thousands more involved problems with absentee ballots.

Some disabled Florida voters who failed to receive absentee ballots were turned away when they tried to vote in person. Elsewhere in Florida, some Hispanic voters said they were falsely told the polls had closed early, and in New Mexico some voters said callers had given them phony information about changed polling places.

In Nevada, election officials said calls had been made to some registered Democrats telling falsely of changes in the time and place of balloting. Others reported visits from strangers with ballots, which were to be filled out and handed back.

More confusion surrounded the use of provisional ballots in many states. They were being used for the first time by voters whose names did not appear on official voter rolls. Some states counted them yesterday, others said they would do so only if a recount became necessary. -- The New York Times > Washington > Election 2004 > The Balloting: Long Lines, Short Tempers, Little Chaos at Polls

Ohio suits

The New York Times reports: The United States Supreme Court declined early on Tuesday morning to accept an invitation to intervene in the 2004 presidential election.

Later on Tuesday, courts in Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania issued rulings on two of the most contested legal issues in this year's election: who, aside from voters and officials, may be present in polling places and who can vote by provisional ballot.

The Supreme Court ruling was by Justice John Paul Stevens, who is designated to hear emergency appeals from the federal appeals court in Cincinnati. Justice Stevens refused to suspend a decision issued hours before by the appeals court, the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. The appeals court ruled late on Monday night that Ohio Republicans could enter polling places to challenge voters there.

The appellate decision reversed rulings from two Ohio district judges that had barred the challengers. -- The New York Times > Washington > Election 2004 > Legal Issues: Justice Lets Ohio Ruling on Monitors at Polls Stand **

Election Protection call centers

New York Times reports: The election swept through several of the city's law firms yesterday, with lawyers wearing headsets to answer phone calls from voters across the country who had questions that ranged from the banal, like registration problems, to the bizarre, like a Satanist who refused to vote in a church.

More than 800 lawyers, law students and legal aides in New York City took part in the volunteer hot line, part of the Election Protection project, which was organized in part by the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under the Law, a nonpartisan Washington group. The aim, said a New York organizer, was to inform voters, particularly those in minority communities, and to deal with potential voter intimidation, poll worker incompetence and other problems.

"We're there to protect minority voters wherever they may be," said the organizer, Debo Adegbile, associate director of litigation for the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, which helped coordinate the call-in centers in New York City.

The project is a response to the flaws that occurred during the 2000 election when, the Lawyers' Committee said, votes in low-income, high-minority districts were more likely to be uncounted than those in affluent districts with fewer minorities. -- The New York Times > New York Region > From Manhattan, Lawyers Monitor the Nation's Polls **

November 2, 2004

"What is Voting Intimidation?"

Josh Levin writes on Slate.com: In response to a lawsuit by Sen. Tom Daschle, a U.S. District Judge ruled this morning that Republican poll watchers in South Dakota were intimidating Native American voters by following them out of polling places and taking down their license plate numbers. But in another decision today, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that GOP poll watchers weren't intimidating Ohio voters by checking their names against a list of registered voters. So, what exactly do the courts consider voter intimidation?

Courts consistently rule that physical violence or threats constitute voter intimidation, but, as today's conflicting rulings show, there is no judicial consensus on which nonviolent acts are legally considered intimidating. State and federal laws that ban intimidation don't offer much guidance on how courts should define it. The Ohio law, for instance, says that "no person shall … attempt by intimidation, coercion, or other unlawful means" to keep someone from voting. The most significant federal law banning intimidation is the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which states in Section 11(b) that "No person ... shall intimidate, threaten, or coerce ... any person for voting or attempting to vote." -- What Is Voter Intimidation? - Is it one thing in Ohio and another in South Dakota? By Josh Levin

E-voting problems

AP reports: Voters nationwide reported some 1,100 problems with electronic voting machines on Tuesday, including trouble choosing their intended candidates.

The e-voting glitches reported to the Election Protection Coalition, an umbrella group of volunteer poll monitors that set up a telephone hotline, included malfunctions blamed on everything from power outages to incompetent poll workers.

But there were also several dozen voters in six states - particularly Democrats in Florida - who said the wrong candidates appeared on their touch-screen machine's checkout screen, the coalition said. ...

The Election Protection Coalition received a total of 32 reports of touch-screen voters who selected one candidate only to have another show up on the summary screen, Cindy Cohn, legal director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a coalition member.

David Dill, a Stanford University computer scientist whose Verified Voting Foundation also belongs to the coalition, said he wouldn't "prejudge and say the election is going smoothly just because we have a small number of incident reports out of the total population. -- AP Wire | 11/02/2004 | Electronic Voting Machine Woes Reported

Pennsylvania -- provisional ballots

The Philadelphia Inquirer reports: Voters in the Pennsylvania suburbs - like their counterparts across the state - were turning out in huge numbers today, sometimes catching election workers off-balance.

Provisionals ballots were an issue in Montgomery County and elsewhere in the state.

Kerry's Pennsylvania campaign chief, Tony Podesta, said during the afternoon that "Allegheny, Washington and Montgomery Counties are out of provisional ballots."

He said the counties were going to print copies of provisional ballots to make up for the deficit but that the copies would not have the security envelopes required by the Help American Vote Act.

"It's possible that the HAVA requirements will not be met," he said, which could get the ballots thrown out. -- Philadelphia Inquirer | 11/02/2004 | Ballot problems go to court in Pa. suburbs

Philadelphia -- absentee voters

AP reports: A federal judge today barred Philadelphia election officials from counting more than 12,000 absentee ballots after Philadelphia's Republican Committee sued contending city election officials had failed to provide the GOP with an advance copy of approved absentee voters.

U.S. District Judge William H. Yohn Jr. issued the order when an oral agreement between GOP lawyers and the City Commissioners office fell apart after lawyers representing Philadelphia Democratic officials intervened and three hours of talks failed to yield a new pact.

Yohn set a hearing for 9:30 a.m. Wednesday in federal court during which he will hear evidence and decide whether to extend the order that prohibits election officials from opening and counting at least 12,000 - and as many as 15,000 - received since Friday.

Lawyer Bruce S. Marks filed the suit this morning for Michael Meehan, general counsel to the Republican City Committee, and the Pennsylvania Republican State Committee. The lawsuit maintained that without a court order absentee ballots will be opened and counted tonight making it impossible to later challenge the qualifications of an individual voter. -- Philadelphia Inquirer | 11/02/2004 | Judge bars absentee vote count in Philadelphia

International election monitors

NPR's Day to Day reports: NPR's Eric Weiner reports on a corps of international election observers who have been dispatched to several U.S. states to monitor voting on Election Day. -- NPR : International Election Observers Monitor U.S. Polls

Minnesota -- challengers

AP reports: Minnesota Republicans failed Tuesday in a bid to push the liberal group MoveOn.org away from polling places, as a judge refused to grant a restraining order. Elsewhere, complaints of voting problems were isolated despite immense turnout.

Six women in Duluth reported being challenged by a GOP monitor who called police after an election judge cleared the women to vote. In Red Lake, a Republican challenger was ejected by tribal police after complaints that he was approaching voters and intimidating judges.

The GOP said both challengers raised legitimate questions about voters. ...

The GOP court challenge against MoveOn came after reports that the group's activists were operating inside the 100-foot cushion around polling places, and even working inside some precincts.

But Hennepin County Judge Frank Connolly declined to intervene, saying it appeared poll judges were enforcing the law against electioneering properly. -- WCCO: Judge Rejects Restraining Order Request Against MoveOn.org

Michigan -- challengers

AP reports: Michigan Republicans filed a lawsuit Tuesday over election challengers monitoring polling precincts in the city. The NAACP, meanwhile, threatened legal action related to the same issue.

The Michigan Republican Party filed suit against the city, accusing election workers of wrongfully expelling some GOP poll challengers from precincts. It also asked the Wayne County Circuit Court to order Detroit officials to remove members of liberal interest group MoveOn.Org from polling places, executive director Greg McNeilly said.

The NAACP had said it would ask a federal judge to bar challengers from Detroit's polling places, complaining of intimidation and harassment of voters. The civil rights group also said it would ask the judge to extend polling hours past 8 p.m. EST.

But the U.S. District Court clerk in Detroit said nothing was filed. -- GOP sues over Detroit election challengers

Whew!

What a day to be tied up and not able to blog. Lots of developments. I hope you read the blogs listed in the yellow box in the right column of this blog to get all the nitty gritty.

I was working on Election Protection. More about that latter. In the meanwhile, I will start reading the newswires.

A debate on ex-felon voting

The Legal Affairs Debate Club reports on the current debate: This Tuesday, Americans go to the polls, but over four million prisoners, parolees, and ex-convicts don't have that option, even by absentee ballot. Forty-eight states prohibit their prisoners from voting--Vermont and Maine are the exceptions--and seven terminate the voting rights of ex-felons for life.

After the 2000 election, several states moved to curtail these restrictions. Some, like Delaware, shortened how long prisoners could not vote after their release. Others, like Florida, are immersed in legal battles over the topic.

By committing a felony, does someone give up his right to a ballot, or should ex-felons be allowed to vote?

Roger Clegg is general counsel of the Center for Equal Opportunity. Marc Mauer is Assistant Director of The Sentencing Project. -- Legal Affairs Debate Club - Should Ex-Felons be Allowed to Vote?

"And the dead shall rise"

Aristotle International announces: This year Halloween comes just two days before the fiercely contested election which in many jurisdictions will feature touch screen voting and no paper trail -- perfect for ghosts, goblins and ghouls. And oddly appropriate because in nearly all states there are many thousands of voters listed as eligible and poised to cast their ballots but who are in fact -- dead. Campaigns that acquired voter files early in the election year should be aware that they will need a seance to reach some voters.

This year in the spirit of an especially highly charged Halloween, Aristotle's ghost busters have put the "Deadwood Game" online. At the website (http://www.aristotle.com/) a visitor can go to the upper tab, "Voter and Contributor Lists", click on "Deadwood" to select a state, then try to correctly guess the percent of the state's voters who have joined the choir invisible, passed to the great beyond, are gone to meet their Maker, mingling with the moles: in a word, Kaput. ...

Using lists from the US government and US Postal Service, we've "undertaken" to identify and remove deceased voters and those who have moved.

We've also updated listed phone numbers for every living voter in your district. -- They're Back! Ballot Box Ghouls Haunt 2004 Election


6th Circuit allows GOP challenges in Ohio

The AP reports: A federal appeals court has cleared the way for political parties to challenge voters' eligibility at polling places throughout Ohio, ruling early Tuesday that their presence on Election Day was allowed under state law.

Overturning the orders of two federal judges from the day before, a three-judge panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 early Tuesday to grant emergency stays that will allow Republicans and Democrats one challenger per precinct each. The judges also consolidated the two appeals, which stemmed from separate lawsuits in Cincinnati and Akron.

Plaintiffs' appeals to the U.S. Supreme Court were unsuccessful. Early Tuesday, Justice John Paul Stevens, who handles appeals from Ohio, refused a request to stay the 6th Circuit decision.

Republicans say they wanted challengers in many polling places because of concerns about fraud. Democrats have accused the GOP of trying to suppress Democratic turnout. Hundreds of thousands of voters have been newly registered in a state President Bush and Sen. John Kerry both say they need to win.

The 6th Circuit judges said that while it's in the public interest that registered voters cast ballots freely, there is also "strong public interest in permitting legitimate statutory processes to operate to preclude voting by those who are not entitled to vote." They also said smooth and effective administration of the voting laws means that the rules can't be changed hours before the election. -- Federal Court Clears Way for GOP Voting Challengers (AP via washingtonpost.com)

November 1, 2004

Florida judge refuses to order updating of voter list after election officials agree to do it

AP reports: A judge Monday dismissed an attempt by Republicans to force the elections supervisor in heavily Democratic Broward County to update a list of early voters, which elections officials said would be done regardless.

"No court can micromanage an election and I have no intention of doing so," said Circuit Judge David Krathen.

Krathen, ruling in Fort Lauderdale, dismissed the Republicans' request after an attorney for county elections supervisor Brenda Snipes assured him that the list would be updated by 7 a.m. Tuesday.

Republican officials had said they were concerned that throngs of voters showing up Monday at early voting sites could vote again Election Day because the list sent to precincts contains only the names of people who voted early through Sunday. -- Yahoo! News - Judge Nixes GOP Suit Over Early Voters

Was this just a cleap publicity stunt?

My predictions for the election

No, I'm not going to predict the winners, but I will make some predictions about the legal issues for the election.

  • Despite the DNC v. RNC consent decree, the GOP will still try to challenge a voters in several swing states -- and the Democratic lawyers will fight them.
  • There will be a bunch of breakdowns in electronic machines. At least 100 machines will show zero votes even though voters have been using them all day.
  • Provisional ballots will slow the process of getting the final results so much that my advice to an apparently-losing candidate will be "don't concede." Wait for the provisional ballots, especially if you are a Democrat (since the Dems are conceded to have registered a lot more voters than the GOP). And if you are a Republican candidate, claim that the military vote should be counted before you will concede.
  • Well, that's three predictions. One based on old practices and two based on the new, improved voting technology we got since the last fiasco.

    And one final one: more litigation. (What would I write about if it were otherwise?)

    Kentucky pol convicted in election fraud case

    AP reports: A former state senator and his wife were found guilty Monday of mail fraud for submitting false campaign reports in an eastern Kentucky election fraud case.

    John Doug Hays, 60, and his wife, Brenda Hays, 47, were acquitted on a separate charge of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and buy votes stemming from the race for Pike County district judge in 2002.

    A federal jury in the monthlong trial deliberated 27 1/2 hours over four days before returning the verdict. ...

    Prosecutors claimed Hays was a key figure in the election fraud case while defense attorneys contended he was the unwitting beneficiary of a wayward political activist. -- Jury finds former state senator guilty of mail fraud in election (AP via Kentucky.com)

    4th Circuit rules judge should have abstained on RGA ads

    AP reports: Federal judges blocked a lower court order late Monday that had allowed a Republican group to keep running a television commercial critical of [North Carolina] Democratic Gov. Mike Easley.

    In a 2-1 ruling, the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals determined that U.S. District Court Judge Terrence Boyle should have abstained from ruling in a case involving the State Board of Elections.

    Still, the Republican Governors Association essentially was unharmed by the appeals court panel's decision because the ad was set to stop running Monday, the eve of Election Day. -- As RGA ad runs course, federal court sides with NC election board (AP via TheState.com)

    Don't forget the e-voting machines

    Wired News reports: In 1996, a federal testing lab responsible for evaluating voting systems in the United States examined the software for a new electronic voting machine made by I-Mark Systems of Omaha, Nebraska.

    The tester included a note in the lab's report praising the system for having the best voting software he had ever seen, particularly the security and use of encryption.

    Doug Jones, Iowa's chief examiner of voting equipment and a computer scientist at the University of Iowa, was struck by this note. Usually testers are careful to be impartial.

    But Jones was not impressed with the system. Instead, he found poor design that used an outdated encryption scheme proven to be insecure. He later wrote that such a primitive system "should never have come to market." -- Wired News: E-Voting Tests Get Failing Grade

    Federal judge in New Jersey bars GOP from challenging voters in Ohio -- wha?

    While I have been tied up today practicing law and going to the dentist, all sorts of stuff happened in Ohio. It is best summed up by rick Hasen's post, What the Heck is Going on in Ohio?. Rick cites to a Newsday article that covers the same story as this one:

    Bloomberg.com reports: A federal judge barred the Ohio Republican Party from using a list of 23,000 newly registered voters to challenge their ability to cast ballots in tomorrow's presidential election.

    U.S. District Judge Dickinson Debevoise in Newark, New Jersey, ruled that Republicans violated decrees he issued in the 1980s that barred political parties from using race or ethnicity as a factor in challenging the integrity of voter registrations.

    The ruling came after two U.S. judges in Ohio ruled in separate cases today that only poll workers, not challengers working for Republicans, could determine if the 23,000 people could vote. Debevoise said Ohio Republicans joined the Republican National Committee in unfairly targeting minority voters in trying to stamp out fraud.

    ``The effect of such activities is to deter qualified voters from voting,'' Debevoise said in issuing his ruling. ``The public interest is always served by encouraging people to vote.''

    Debevoise ordered the Republican National Committee to tell its poll challengers to forgo use of the list tomorrow. Attorneys for the national party immediately appealed to the U.S. 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia, which oversees Debevoise. -- U.S. Judge Bars Ohio Republicans From Voter Challenge (Update1) (Bloomberg.com)

    Herewith a prediction: Judge Debevoise's order has the potential of preventing all sorts of mischief, not only in Ohio but elsewhere. But if, and only IF, the Third Circuit does not overturn it. The problem will be how broadly the old New Jersey injunction -- and the new New Jersey order -- can be read. Does they prevent all challenges by the GOP or just ones that could be considered racially disparate? I had a copy of the injunction many years ago, but can't find it now.

    UPDATE: thanks to Sardonic Views for pointing to the PDF of the 1987 decree (see comments to this post). Note that Paragraph C requires the "RNC shall not engage in, and shall not assist or participate in, any ballot security program unless the program ... has been determined by this Court to comply with the provisions of Consent Order and applicable law." That's pretty all inclusive.

    So on Tuesday, if you see any GOP challengers anywhere in the country, pull out your copy of the consent decree, give them a copy, and then ask for their names so that you can report them to the Court .

    "How Appealing" to reposition blog to challenge Votelaw, Election Law Blog, Election Law @ Moritz, and others

    Howard Bashman announces on How Appealing: I'm Howard J. Bashman, and I approve this message: I've made it back home to the northwestern suburbs of Philadelphia from Lancaster, South Carolina, and beginning tomorrow "How Appealing" will provide comprehensive law-related election coverage from the casting of the first vote until the U.S. Supreme Court declares a winner. -- How Appealing

    More voter suppression tricks

    Josh Marshall reports: Same old, same old.

    Some group is South Carolina is circulating a phony letter, purporting to be from the NAACP, alerting voters that they'll be arrested at the polls if they have unpaid parking tickets or are behind in child support. -- Talking Points Memo: by Joshua Micah Marshall: October 31, 2004 - November 06, 2004 Archives

    Yet another even-handed story about charges by GOP and Dems

    The New York Times reports: In Lake County, Ohio, officials say at least a handful of voters have reported receiving a notice on phony board of elections letterhead saying that anyone who had registered through a variety of Democratic-leaning groups would not be allowed to vote this year.

    In Pennsylvania, an official of the state Republican Party said it sent out 130,000 letters congratulating newly registered voters but that 10,000 were returned, indicating that the people had died or that the address was nonexistent. Mark Pfeifle, the Republican spokesman, said the numbers showed that in their zeal to register new voters, Democratic-aligned groups had committed fraud.

    And in Michigan, Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land said she had to put out a statement in mid-October about where to send absentee ballots after voters in the Ann Arbor area received calls telling them to mail the ballots to the wrong address.

    With lawyers and poll watchers descending on battleground states and the presidential race tight enough that every vote could count, elections officials say that charges of voter intimidation and voter fraud, on the street or in courtrooms, are flying more furiously than any one can remember in recent elections. -- Washington > Campaign 2004 > Complaints: Charges of Fraud and Voter Suppression Already Flying

    Federal employees union complains of partisan remarks in VA workplace briefing

    The Washington Post reports:
    A former Bush campaign adviser who appeared in an ad by a veterans group criticizing Democrat John F. Kerry made inappropriate partisan remarks to federal employees during a September training session at a Veterans Affairs office, a federal employee union contends.

    The American Federation of Government Employees says comments by retired Air Force Col. Ken Cordier during a mandatory training session on prisoner-of-war issues violated the Hatch Act, which restricts political activity in the federal workplace. The union last week asked the Office of Special Counsel to investigate the Sept. 22 incident at the VA regional office in Waco, Tex.

    Employees were told that Cordier, a pilot and former POW in North Vietnam, would not raise partisan matters during his talk, Mark D. Roth, the union's general counsel, wrote in a letter Oct. 26 to Special Counsel Scott J. Bloch.

    But when Cordier took questions, "his comments included statements about scumbags who threw their medals over the fence, [and] that the Democratic Party was the 'peace' party, as if that were a derogatory title," Roth wrote. -- VA Talk by Kerry Foe Challenged (washingtonpost.com)

    Political site of the day

    AboutPolitics.com has named Votelaw its "Political Site of the Day." Thanks.

    politicalseal2.gif

    Ohio: federal judge blocks GOP in-precinct challenges

    I just heard on NPR hourly news that a federal judge has blocked the Ohio law that allows any voter to challenge any other voter. Can't find anything in print yet.

    Guide to Provisional Ballot and Poll Challenger Problems

    GW Law Professor Spencer Overton has compiled a five-page document that outlines the basic procedures for challenging voter qualifications and for casting and counting provisional ballots, and identifies problems that are likely to arise. You can find "How Conflicts Over Poll Challengers and Provisional Ballots May Impact the 2004 Election" on Spencer Overton's website at
    http://www.law.gwu.edu/facweb/soverton/
    .