Votelaw, Edward Still's blog on law and politics: November 2006 Archives

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November 30, 2006

Florida; FEC drops probe of Martinez ads

The Orlando Sentinel reports: The Federal Election Commission has dropped a long-standing investigation of Sen. Mel Martinez after finding no evidence that the Florida Republican illegally coordinated 2004 political ads with President Bush.

The decision ends a two-year inquiry into allegations that Martinez helped Bush's re-election bid by using the same advertising firm to synchronize TV and radio commercials -- a violation of election law.

But the FEC ruled the commercials were not part of a coordinated campaign to help both candidates. It also found the firm, Washington-based Stevens & Schriefer Group, adequately separated the accounts to prevent collusion.

Advertising for the two campaigns had "insufficient similarity to raise even an inference of coordination," according to agency records. The Martinez campaign was told of the ruling in mid-October; the full case file became public record this month. -- Feds drop probe of Martinez ads - Orlando Sentinel : State News Feds drop probe of Martinez ads - Orlando Sentinel : State News

FEC proposes lowered fines foe self-reported violations

AP reports: The Federal Election Commission on Thursday took steps to encourage politicians and contributors to report their own possible violations of campaign finance laws by offering them significantly reduced fines.

Commission officials said the number of self-reported violations has increased recently, prompting the need for a specific policy that spells out how the FEC will dispose of such cases. ...

Before fully adopting the policy, the commission has asked for public comment on the proposal by Jan. 29.

The proposal contains two penalty recommendations for violators who voluntarily blow the whistle on themselves. One would reduce civil penalties by 50 to 75 percent of standard fines, depending on the steps taken to report and correct the violation. Another would set the reduction at 50 percent, but give the commission leeway to lower or increase the discount based on mitigating factors. -- Feds ask: Blow the whistle on yourself - Yahoo! News

Florida: video testimony of voters in FL-13

Josh Glasstetter of People for the American Way emails: We've gone through the video of the 11/16 hearing that People For the American Way Foundation and others held in Sarasota for FL-13 voters to go public with the problems they faced with voting machines and posted some of the best testimony online.

They put a human face on the problem that led over 18,000 people in Sarasota County (and 21,000 in all of FL-13) to leave the voting booth without having their vote in the congressional race counted.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OC6zuT5VTqs
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tOtpen7zzS0
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LoFMdxuhZyU

Utah: legislative panel approves 4-district plan

The Salt Lake Tribune reports: Many Park City residents say they have more in common with Salt Lake City voters 35 miles to the west than their neighbors in Kamas, 10 miles to the east.

In recognition of that reality, legislative members of a state Redistricting Committee relaxed their dedication to mixing rural and urban Utah neighborhoods in four proposed congressional districts enough to create a purely urban district Wednesday.

Lawmakers approved a single map that links northern Salt Lake County with the Snyderville Basin and Park City in a new 2nd Congressional District. The remaining three districts will blend urban parts of the Wasatch Front with more rural communities to the north, east and south. -- Salt Lake Tribune - Final map a result of major give and take

New Hampshire: judge rules Democrats not limited in damages in phone-jamming case

The Concord Monitor reports: In a preliminary ruling on the Election Day 2002 phone-jamming lawsuit, a judge yesterday denied a request from Republicans to restrict the potential damages awarded Democrats to the dollar cost of the lost phone service.

The civil suit related to the phone-jamming is scheduled to begin Monday in Hillsborough County Superior Court in Manchester. State Democrats have asked the court to award them up to $4.1 million for the damages associated with a Republican program to block Democratic phone banks in New Hampshire to thwart the party's get-out-the-vote effort.

The defendants - a group that includes the state Republican Party, the Republican National Committee and the National Republican Senatorial Committee - filed a motion to exclude evidence beyond the phone-system damages and restrict the potential award to less than $5,000, which they calculated as the value of the lost phone lines. Republicans said they blocked 13 Democratic phone lines for 82 minutes before they called off the illegal program.

Judge Philip Mangones, who will hear the case, ruled yesterday that the Democrats may seek greater damages and present evidence to argue that the phone jamming compromised Election Day activities for which the party had spent months planning. However, he also suggested that it would be improbable for the Democrats to recover a multimillion-dollar award. -- Concord Monitor Online Article - GOP denied in phone-jam case - Your News Source - 03301

Texas: state seeks DOJ preclearance for runoff date

AP reports: Texas is asking the Justice Department to approve Dec. 12 for a congressional runoff election, a date that a Latino group opposes in part because it is an important religious day for many Hispanics.

Republican Rep. Henry Bonilla and former U.S. Rep. Ciro Rodriguez, D-San Antonio, are in a runoff for the 23rd Congressional District, which was redrawn after the U.S. Supreme Court found that the old district map discriminated against Latino voters.

Dec. 12 is the feast day of the Virgin of Guadalupe, the patron saint of Mexico and Latin America. The League of United Latin American Citizens has said the election should be set for Dec. 19. The group contends that the earlier date discriminates against Hispanics to help Bonilla, whose support among Latinos has been eroding. ...

Texas filed the request Tuesday. The state had said it did not need approval because a court had ordered it to set the runoff for the earliest time possible.

Scott Haywood, spokesman for the Texas secretary of state, said Texas has asked for an expedited decision. He said he did not think his office knew the date was the holy day. He said setting the date a week later would push the election into Hanukkah, which begins at sundown Dec. 15, and Christmas. -- State seeks federal OK for Bonilla-Rodriguez election date

Maryland: Schumer presses Gonzales over lack of probe

The Baltimore Sun reports: New York Sen. Charles E. Schumer is pressing U.S. Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales to justify his department's decision not to investigate whether Maryland Republicans purposely misled voters on Election Day by circulating voter guides listing top state GOP candidates as part of a "Democratic Sample Ballot."

"The right to vote is perhaps our most essential civil right, the wellspring of our democracy," Schumer said in a letter sent yesterday to Gonzales. "Unfortunately, the mid-term elections held on November 7, 2006, were tarnished by countless dirty tricks and ugly tactics. The ploy used in Maryland stands out for its sheer cynicism and brazenness."

Campaign committees for Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. and Lt. Gov Michael S. Steele, then a U.S. Senate candidate, jointly sponsored the sample ballots. African-Americans were bused in from Pennsylvania to distribute those fliers and others at polling locations in Prince George's County and Baltimore. First lady Kendel Ehrlich reportedly welcomed the volunteers to Maryland. -- Schumer presses for inquiry of GOP tactics - baltimoresun.com

Massachusetts: DOJ investigating lack of handicapped-accessible voting machines

The Boston Globe reports: The US Department of Justice has launched an investigation into the state's failure to ensure that equipment for disabled voters was provided at polling places across Massachusetts during this year's elections, according to three people who spoke with federal investigators this week.

Two investigators from the voting section of the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division -- trial lawyer James "Nick" Boeving and special litigation counsel Susana Lorenzo-Giguere -- are to arrive in Boston today to begin gathering documents and conducting interviews, according to one of the two people.

Boeving is planning to inquire about the state's failure to comply with the federal Help America Vote Act, which requires that every polling place have at least one machine that allows disabled people to vote privately and independently, said Brenda Wright, managing attorney at the Boston-based National Voting Rights Institute. Wright received a call from a Department of Justice lawyer Tuesday. -- US is said to probe Bay State elections - The Boston Globe

California: Monterey College considering single-member districts for trustees

The Monterey County Herald reports: Trustees of Monterey Peninsula College will revisit the issue of district elections in January after hearing Wednesday from supporters of new trustee districts.

Board members heard from local representatives of the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, who stood steadfastly behind dividing the district into five trustee areas.

One ACLU representative sent information on the trustee districts to the group's national demographer, who works on the Voting Rights Project in Atlanta. The ACLU demographer concluded that five areas would be best for the college district.

Board president Jim Tunney expressed concern that the trustees don't have enough information to determine what format would work best.

In a controversial move, trustees voted in July to switch to one trustee area in Seaside and the other four to at-large seats from the rest of the district. They rescinded their decision Nov. 4 because they said it caused confusion in the community and they want what's best for the district. -- Monterey County Herald | 11/30/2006 | Board delays trustee decision

Kentucky: proposal for restoration of felons' voting rights

The Louisville Courier-Journal reports: Felons would have their voting rights restored automatically after finishing their sentences under a constitutional amendment that lawmakers and activists proposed yesterday.

Activists backed their proposal with a new poll showing that 56 percent of Kentuckians support such a change.

The state constitution imposes a lifetime voting ban on felons; only the governor can reverse it. Gov. Ernie Fletcher changed the process by requiring applicants to write a statement and provide three references. ...

In fiscal year 2003, before Fletcher took office, voting rights were restored to 1,231 felons, according to the coalition, which said the numbers came from the Department of Corrections and the secretary of state.

In fiscal year 2006, that number fell to 227, the coalition said. -- Voting rights for felons proposed

Alabama: 1/4 of legislature being sued for failure to fille campaign reports

AP reports: The election officially ended Wednesday when state officials certified the vote. But litigation over it could go on for months and ultimately affect the ability of one-fourth of the Legislature and two appellate court judges to hold office.

Two lawsuits, naming five Democrats and 27 Republicans, have been consolidated into a single case to be heard in Montgomery.

Former Republican attorney general candidate Mark Montiel, who filed the initial suit against four Democratic senators, said he won't drop his case, even though others have expanded it to cover far more Republicans than Democrats. ...

In the Montiel case, the four senators followed a long-standing practice of not filing campaign finance reports when they had no opposition in the Democratic primary. Attorney General Troy King issued an advisory opinion in September, saying candidates should file reports when they raise and spend money in a primary election, even if they have no opposition.

But King said his advisory opinion should apply prospectively — not retroactively — because candidates had been operating under a different interpretation of state campaign finance laws that was issued by then-Attorney General Don Siegelman in 1990. -- Lawsuits over senators could have big impact

November 29, 2006

Florida: testing on Day One in FL-13

The Orlando Sentinel reports: Tuesday kicked off the state's testing of the touch-screens at the center of the dispute. But by the end of the day, few answers had materialized.

The results of the test varied from Election Day totals by five votes, but it was unclear what that meant. Jennings' camp said it suggested the machines were fallible; Buchanan's team said the differing numbers proved nothing.

Today, officials will review videotapes of the tests -- to ensure testers selected the correct candidates -- and the scripts that the testers worked from. At first blush, the five-vote variance didn't alarm state election officials.

"The machines performed as they should," said Jenny Nash, a spokeswoman for the Florida Division of Elections. Any discrepancies, she said, are likely to be "human error." -- Testers re-enact Election Day -- results differ - Orlando Sentinel : State News Testers re-enact Election Day -- results differ - Orlando Sentinel : State News

Comment: Oh, I get it: conclusion first, evidence later.

Florida: was it bad ballot design?

The Washington Post reports: Almost since the time the votes were tallied here on election night, the race for Florida's 13th Congressional District has been surrounded by a contentious mystery:

Why were there no votes for Congress recorded from more than 18,000 people who chose candidates in other races? ...

But other experts who have analyzed the ballots and the results argue that the culprit might be not the machines but rather voters confused by a poorly designed ballot.

The congressional race appeared on the same screen as the gubernatorial contest, which had a brighter banner and took up more space.

Ted Selker of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a director of the CalTech/MIT Voting Technology Project, said that tests in his lab have shown that as many as 60 percent of voters can miss races when they are displayed in such a manner.

If the missing votes were caused by ballot design, that is bad news for the challenger, because it is more difficult under Florida law to challenge an election because of ballot design or voter confusion. -- Vote Disparity Still a Mystery In Fla. Election For Congress - washingtonpost.com

Ohio: Cuyahoga County considers scrapping present voting machines

The Washington Post reports: The commissioners of the state's most populous county are considering getting rid of touch-screen voting machines and putting in a new system for the presidential election in 2008.

Cuyahoga County spent $14 million on the Nov. 7 election and cannot afford to spend that much every time voters go to the polls, especially the high volume that a presidential race generates, commissioners Tim Hagan and Jimmy Dimora said. ...

Because of concerns about a repeat of problems in the county's botched May primary, when equipment and other problems caused lengthy delays, the count spent millions more than budgeted in November to cover poll worker training, extra machines and mailing absentee voting applications to every voter to avert polling-place lines and problems.

The general election ran more smoothly, although a judge ordered 16 polling locations to stay open an extra 90 minutes because early voting machine problems caused delays.

Hagan and Dimora said they want high-speed, optical-scan machines, which read paper ballots, to replace the touch-screen machines. Hagan said the commissioners need to decide this year. -- Ohio County May Junk E-Voting Machines - washingtonpost.com

Gingrich calls for unlimited campaign contributions with immediate reporting

AP reports: Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich says First Amendment rights need to be expanded, and eliminating the McCain-Feingold law's restrictions on campaign contributions would be a start.

Gingrich, a Republican, suggested allowing people to give any amount to any candidate as long as the donation was reported online within 24 hours.

"Just as tax lawyers always succeed in out-thinking the (Internal Revenue Service) because they stay after five and the IRS goes home, the private-sector lawyers will always out-think the (Federal Election Commission) because they stay after five and the FEC goes home," Gingrich told about 400 people at the Nackey Scripps Loeb First Amendment Awards dinner Monday.

Passed in 2002, McCain-Feingold bans unrestricted donations from labor, corporations and the wealthy to the political parties. Gingrich said the reforms have failed and led only to more negative campaign ads via e-mail, television, direct mail and phone calls. -- Gingrich calls for elimination of McCain-Feingold reforms - Boston.com

November 28, 2006

Pennsylvania: Democrats win controlling seat in the House

Hotline reports: It seems good news for Democrats just keeps coming. Going into the election, the party held 94 seats out of 203 in the Pennsylvania State House. The party picked up enough seats to earn a 101-100 lead after most ballots were counted, though two seats – both previously controlled by Republicans – were close enough to require recounts.

Republican Duane Milne kept a narrow 144-vote lead after provisional, overseas and absentee ballots were all cast, creating a 101-101 tie and putting control of the chamber in the hands of the 156th House District. In that race, Republican Shannon Royer led his Democratic opponent, Barbara Smith, by just 19 votes (out of close to 30K cast) going into today’s final counts.

After all the ballots were tallied, Smith reversed the gap and emerged with a 23-vote victory, handing control of the State House to Democrats in a chamber few thought they had a chance of picking off. -- Hotline On Call: Dems Pick Up PA State House

Mississippi: Minor's re-trial delayed to January

AP reports: The second judicial bribery trial of attorney Paul S. Minor and two former judges has been postponed until January.

Minor and co-defendants former Chancery Judge Wes Teel and former Circuit Judge John Whitfield had been scheduled to stand trial on Nov. 16. A federal court granted the postponement Monday after Minor's attorneys said they were concerned about the trial occurring during the holiday season.

Minor, who will remain in custody, is accused of bribing Whitfield and Teel. Mississippi Supreme Court Justice Oliver Diaz Jr. was acquitted of bribery charges after a three-month trial last summer, but the jury was unable to reach a verdict on some charges against Minor, Teel and Whitfield. -- The Sun Herald | 11/06/2006 | Minor's judicial bribery trial now scheduled for January

Utah: legislature considers redistricting in case it gets a fourth congressional district

The Daily Herald reports: Brent Waldrop was one of two people to argue with the legislative redistricting committee at its public hearing in Provo on Monday morning. On hand were the bigwigs of Utah government; at stake was a possible fourth seat for Utah in the U.S. House of Representatives and a shake-up of who represents whom. ...

Legislators, Waldrop and Brandon Plewe of Spanish Fork debated for about an hour at the hearing, throwing out new maps and different ideas, waving population distribution graphs and debating where to put a few thousand Davis County residents, and wondering out loud where Democrat U.S. Rep. Jim Matheson lives.

The public hearing is part of a process to get Utah a fourth seat in the U.S. House of Representatives by adding two more seats, the other of which will go to Washington, D.C. Utah designs the districts, all of which need to have about 588,000 residents, the Legislature picks a map and then it goes to the House for discussion.

Ten plans have been conceived; three were on the agenda to be discussed and a fourth, plan G, was amended and added for discussion. Waldrop said he supported plan G, which creates a huge district that's largely rural, except for St. George and south Utah County, two urban districts and one with a mix of the two. ...

The public hearing is part of a process to get Utah a fourth seat in the U.S. House of Representatives by adding two more seats, the other of which will go to Washington, D.C. Utah designs the districts, all of which need to have about 588,000 residents, the Legislature picks a map and then it goes to the House for discussion. -- Daily Herald - Carving up Utah's congressional boundaries

November 27, 2006

Louisiana: residency suit against McCrery moved to federal court

The Shreveport Times reports: A lawsuit challenging U.S. Rep. Jim McCrery's residency should be heard, not in state court, but in U.S. District Court, a Caddo District judge said Monday.

The lawsuit was filed Thursday by Patti Cox, one of three candidates who lost to McCrery in the Nov. 7 election. McCrery won re-election with 57 percent of the vote.

Judge Jeanette Garrett ruled a federal court should determine the matter because McCrery won a federal election.

"This court is divested of jurisdiction of this case," Garrett said Monday morning, minutes after McCrery originally had been set to appear in her court for the suit. -- The Shreveport Times

KTBS 3 reports: U.S. Rep. Jim McCrery of Shreveport Wednesday asked a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit challenging his residency here, maintaining he is a legal resident of his district and saying Congress -- not the courts -- decides the qualifications for office. ...

McCrery, who sold his house and moved his family to Washington, D.C., in 2004, said residency is not an issue for a judge to decide. -- McCrery moves to dismiss residency challenge

Thanks to Matt Bailey for the tip.

Alabama: Sen. Means revises campaign finance report after challenge to his election

The New York Times Regional Newspapers reported on 19 November: Democratic state Sen. Larry Means of Attalla has filed amended campaign finance reports following a lawsuit seeking to nullify his Nov. 7 election win over a last-minute write-in candidate.

It’s the second lawsuit seeking to nullify the re-elections of state senators based on alleged noncompliance with Alabama campaign finance disclosure laws. ...

Means originally filed five waivers showing no campaign activity because he didn’t have primary or general election opposition.

“We did what the Secretary of State’s Office told us to do [file waivers] so we went ahead and filed," Means said. “If [the secretary of state] had told us that, that’s what we would have done." -- Senators test campaign finance laws - Tuscaloosa

November 26, 2006

"the country is still far from able to ensure that every vote counts"

The New York Times reports: After six years of technological research, more than $4 billion spent by Washington on new machinery and a widespread overhaul of the nation’s voting system, this month’s midterm election revealed that the country is still far from able to ensure that every vote counts.

Tens of thousands of voters, scattered across more than 25 states, encountered serious problems at the polls, including failures in sophisticated new voting machines and confusion over new identification rules, according to interviews with election experts and officials.

In many places, the difficulties led to shortages of substitute paper ballots and long lines that caused many voters to leave without casting ballots. Still, an association of top state election officials concluded that for the most part, voting went as smoothly as expected.

Over the last three weeks, attention has been focused on a few close races affected by voting problems, including those in Florida and Ohio where counting dragged on for days. But because most of this year’s races were not close, election experts say voting problems may actually have been wider than initially estimated, with many malfunctions simply overlooked. -- Experts Concerned as Ballot Problems Persist - New York Times

November 25, 2006

Massachusetts: governor sues to require legislature to pass anti-same-sex amendment

The New York Times reports: Gov. Mitt Romney filed a lawsuit Friday asking the state’s highest court to order the legislature to vote on a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage or to place it on the 2008 ballot if lawmakers do not take up the provision.

The legislature voted 109 to 87 on Nov. 9 to recess a constitutional convention before the measure was taken up, which appeared to kill it. The convention was recessed until Jan. 2, the last day of the legislative session.

More than 170,000 people have signed a petition asking the legislature to amend the state’s Constitution to prohibit same-sex marriage. Massachusetts is the only state that permits it. ...

Lawrence M. Friedman, a specialist on Massachusetts constitutional law at the New England School of Law, said the court must decide if the State Constitution requires the legislature to vote. Professor Friedman signed a brief supporting same-sex marriage in 2003 but has not been involved in the issue since then.

“This case is not about same-sex marriage,” he said. “This is a case, first, about what the legislature is required to do, and second, if there is anything the court can do about it.

“It’s not at all clear to me how this is something the court can remedy. It doesn’t seem likely to me the court will order the legislature to take a vote or subvert constitutional procedures and just put it on the ballot.” -- Massachusetts Governor Sues to Compel Vote on Same-Sex Marriage Amendment - New York Times

November 24, 2006

New Hampshire: how much does the GOP owe the Dems for phone-jamming?

AP reports: State Democrats says Republicans should pay them $4.1 million in damages for an illegal phone-jamming operation that disrupted get-out-the-vote operations on Election Day 2002.

That’s nearly half of what Democrats spent on their six-month effort, which was disrupted for nearly two hours the day it was supposed to pay off.

The state and national Republican parties say they should pay only $4,974 – the actual cost of the disrupted telephone service and rental costs – to $21,287. -- Nashuatelegraph.com: State/New England

November 23, 2006

Texas: LULAC objects to runoff falling on feast day of the Virgin of Guadalupe

AP reports: A Latino group is objecting to the Dec. 12 Texas congressional runoff election date set by Republican Gov. Rick Perry, saying it's a GOP attempt to "suppress" Hispanic votes by allowing too little time to mobilize and because it falls on a holy day.

A Perry spokeswoman said the governor was merely complying with a court order to set the earliest date possible in the race between Republican Rep. Henry Bonilla and Democrat Ciro Rodriguez. They're seeking the U.S. House seat in a district that was redrawn after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the congressional map violated Latinos' voting rights.

A runoff was necessary because none of the eight candidates had 50 percent of the vote in the Nov. 7 election. Bonilla won 49 percent and Rodriguez had 20 percent. ...

Dec. 12 is the feast day of the Virgin of Guadalupe. Some Latino communities in the district that stretches over a large swath of West and southwest Texas and part of San Antonio attend processions, Mass and family gatherings to honor the day celebrating the appearance of the Virgin before Indian peasant Juan Diego in Mexico in 1531. -- Star-Telegram.com | 11/22/2006 | Latino group objects to congressional runoff date

Utah: recounts in 2 legislative races

The Deseret Morning News reports: Utah House Speaker Greg Curtis, R-Sandy, will have one fewer Republican in his caucus during the 2007 Legislature, provided Curtis survives an election recount.

After counting provisional and by-mail absentee ballots and having the vote canvass approved by the Salt Lake County Council, Curtis officially defeated Democratic challenger Jay Seegmiller by 19 votes, it was learned Tuesday. That final result was closer than the tallies following Election Day, when Curtis led by 46 votes.

While Democrats likely missed a golden opportunity to take out one of the most powerful Republicans in the state, the minority party in the Legislature did keep another one of its incumbents when Rep. Carl Duckworth, D-Magna, defeated challenger Deena Ely. Duckworth had trailed by 25 votes before the additional ballots were counted but ended up winning by 33 votes, a total large enough to avoid a recount. -- deseretnews.com | Recounts on in 2 races

Nevada: judge proposes committees, not judicial candidates, raise campaign money

The Las Vegas Review-Journal reports: The Nevada Supreme Court has set a public hearing for Dec. 5 in the capital to consider a proposal by Washoe County District Judge Brent Adams to put a buffer between judges and judicial candidates and the business of raising money for their political campaigns.

Adams in July filed with the state Supreme Court a proposal to amend the Nevada Code of Judicial Conduct to prohibit the personal solicitation and acceptance of campaign contributions by judges and judicial candidates. Instead, judges and candidates would use committees to perform the task of raising and collecting money for campaigns.

The proposal is verbatim language from the Model Judicial Code of the American Bar Association passed in 1990. -- reviewjournal.com -- News - State Supreme Court sets hearing on judicial fundraising

Pennsylvania: control of state House may depend on validity of absentee ballots

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports: Control of the state House could hinge on whether a handful of Chester County voters used their middle initials when they signed their absentee ballots.

That's the kind of technicality being argued in the county over 20 ballots in two elections that are too close to call.

Republicans, who have an edge in both races after unofficial Election Night returns, want to exclude some provisional and absentee ballots from the final vote total, while Democrats want them counted.

Both sides made their cases yesterday during six hours of testimony before the county commissioners, who are acting as the Board of Elections. Testimony was expected to continue today and a decision on whether to include those ballots could come as soon as Tuesday.

Then, the challenged ballots that are deemed admissible, along with 529 other sealed absentee ballots in the two races, will be opened and counted. -- Control of state House may hinge on technicalities

Indiana: 4 election contents could shift balance in state House

AP reports: A Republican defeated in his re-election bid for a legislative seat from southern Indiana has filed a challenge to the election results that could threaten Democratic control of the Indiana House.

The challenge by Republican Billy Bright of North Vernon brings to four the number of election reviews expected in the closely divided Indiana House, which Democrats control 51-49 based on preliminary returns of the Nov. 7 election.

Those results showed Democrat Dave Cheatham, who was sworn into office Tuesday, defeating Bright 10,861 to 9,244 in District 69, but Bright is questioning the high number of absentee ballots in Jennings County.

He said 30 percent of the votes cast in Jennings County were absentee ballots, compared with the statewide average of 9 percent.

“We believe that the unbelievably high number of absentee ballots are a concern,” Bright said Tuesday. “We believe there were some real irregularities in Jennings County, and we will find the truth.” -- Journal Gazette | 11/22/2006 | Latest election challenge could split House 50-50

Michigan: Schwarz files FEC complaint over Club for Growth fundraising for Walberg's campaign

The Jackson Citizen-Patriot reports: U.S. Rep.-elect Tim Walberg illegally took more than $500,000 in his bid for Congress, a new Federal Election Commission complaint alleges.

The 16-page document and 140-page donor spreadsheet obtained by the Citizen Patriot also calls for an injunction against Club for Growth, a Washington-based lobby that helped net more than $1.1 million for Walberg, R-Tipton.

U.S. Rep. Joe Schwarz, whose campaign filed the grievance last week, met with FEC Commissioner Michael Toner in August. The FEC is suing Club for Growth for alleged fundraising violations. -- Walberg complaint filed

November 22, 2006

Florida: analysis of votes shows Democrat would have won FL-13

The Orlando Sentinel reports: The group of nearly 18,000 voters that registered no choice in Sarasota's disputed congressional election solidly backed Democratic candidates in all five of Florida's statewide races, an Orlando Sentinel analysis of ballot data shows.

Among these voters, even the weakest Democrat -- agriculture-commissioner candidate Eric Copeland -- outpaced a much-better-known Republican incumbent by 551 votes.

The trend, which continues up the ticket to the race for governor and U.S. Senate, suggests that if votes were truly cast and lost -- as Democrat Christine Jennings maintains -- they were votes that likely cost her the congressional election.

Republican Vern Buchanan's 369-vote victory was certified by state officials Monday. His camp says that, although people may have skipped the race -- intentionally or not -- there is no evidence that votes went missing. -- Analysis: Ballots favored Dems - Orlando Sentinel : State News Analysis: Ballots favored Dems - Orlando Sentinel : State News

Comment: I wonder how many of those now saying that the missing votes are deliberate undervotes also believe that the Weapons of Mass Destruction actually existed?

November 21, 2006

Florida: Buchanan wins in FL-13, but Jennings sues

CQPolitics reports: The number of Nov. 7 House general elections in which the winner has not been firmly established has dwindled to four. But at least one of these, the controversy-plagued contest for the open seat in Florida’s 13th District, is unlikely to be decided for weeks — and even has the potential to kick off the Democratic-controlled 110th Congress in January with a dispute over whether to seat the certified winner.

That candidate is Republican Vern Buchanan: The Florida secretary of state’s office yesterday certified the wealthy car dealer as the victor, by a margin of 369 votes, over Democrat Christine Jennings, a former bank president.

Jennings immediately filed a lawsuit in Leon County, which is well north of the 13th District but includes the state capital of Tallahassee. The crux of Jennings’ complaint — which demands that a new election be called — is that there were more than 18,000 “undervotes” in Sarasota County, the district’s largest jurisdiction and the source of Jennings’ greatest electoral strength.

The “undervotes” refer to ballots in which votes were registered for other offices but not for the House race between Buchanan and Jennings. -- Legal Fight in Florida's 13th Could Stretch Into 2007 - Yahoo! News

New Mexico: Dems may ask for partial recount in NM-1

CQPolitics reports: New Mexico Republican Rep. Heather A. Wilson (news, bio, voting record) has survived her toughest race of a House career that dates to 1998. Democratic challenger Patricia Madrid on Tuesday conceded the 1st District contest, in which she trailed Wilson by fewer than 900 votes.

Madrid, the state attorney general, said at an Albuquerque press conference that she did not intend to seek a full recount, even though Wilson led by just 105,916 votes to 105,037, according to the Associated Press.

That 879-vote difference produced a margin of victory of less than one-half of 1 percentage point, a threshold that in several states would have triggered an automatic recount. But New Mexico does not have such a provision, so Madrid’s campaign would have had to bear the cost of a recount unless it changed the outcome of the election. ...

Despite Madrid’s decision to pass up a full recanvass, the vote counting and numbers in the contest still are not completely finalized. New Mexico Democratic Party Executive Director Matt Farrauto told CQPolitics.com it was “reasonably likely” that party officials would request a partial recount, a possibility party Chairman John Wertheim raised in Tuesday’s news conference. -- Madrid Concedes, But New Mexico Dems Aren't Done Yet - Yahoo! News

Salon's top 10 "list of dirt" in the 2006 election

Alex Koppelman and Lauren Shell write in Salon: Before the 2006 midterm election, you couldn't escape the predictions of Election Day disaster: voting machine meltdowns, interminable lines, endless recounts. But the control of both houses of Congress was decided without interference from Diebold or hanging chads, so few (outside of Florida's 13th Congressional District) are suffering flashbacks of 2000 and 2004.

But while this year might not have included any repeats of Palm Beach County or Ohio, that doesn't mean the midterm elections were squeaky clean. This November there were some old-school dirty tricks that had nothing to do with voting machines or secretaries of state. An unscientific sample seems to show that most were the product of a party that was desperate for something, anything, that would help it protect its doomed congressional majorities. The bulk of this year's murky dealings took place in those tightly contested races -- from the battle for Virginia's Senate seat to House races in Illinois, New York and Connecticut -- that were crucial to control of Congress.

Fortunately, politicians in several states and the U.S. Senate are taking steps to criminalize some of the more heinous tricks played this year. Before any of the bad deeds from this election are forgotten, here's Salon's Cheat Sheet -- our top 10 list of dirt.

In Maryland, Republicans turn Democrat -- and truck in homeless men to spread the word ... In Virginia, voter intimidation ... The Social Security Administration gets into the act ... "Not like in Mexico, here there is no benefit to voting." ... Blood runs thicker than party affiliation ... The robot that called. And called. And called ... Push polls ... The progressive group that wasn't ... Case of the vanished polling place ... And last, but not least -- vigilantes -- The GOP's dirty deeds of 2006 | Salon News

Florida: Buchanan declared winner in FL13, Jennings sues

AP reports: State officials Monday certified that Republican Vern Buchanan won the House seat being vacated by Republican Rep. Katherine Harris, though the loser immediately sued for a new election, arguing that touch-screen voting machines had malfunctioned.

Democrat Christine Jennings contested her 369-vote loss in the 13th District, asking a judge to order a new election because of problems in Sarasota County, where more than 17,000 voters who cast ballots in other races Nov. 7 failed to vote in the congressional contest.

That rate is nearly six times higher than in the other counties in the congressional district or on Sarasota's paper absentee ballots, Jennings alleges in her legal challenge. Though she lost in the other four counties in the district, Jennings did well in Sarasota County, winning there by a margin of 6 percentage points.

Jennings' lawyer, Kendall Coffey, said there were eyewitness accounts of voting problems. -- Florida House race loser sues | Chicago Tribune

November 20, 2006

Missouri: repeal of straight-ticket voting seems not to have lead to predicted drop-off in down-ballot offices

AP reports: Until this year, Missourians had been able to vote for every Republican, Democratic or Libertarian candidate merely by checking one box at the top of the ballot, instead of placing a mark by each individual name.

But the Republican-led state Legislature, over the objection of Democrats, did away with that option in a law that took effect Aug. 28.

The generally accepted political theory was that fewer votes would be cast in contests listed lower on the ballot, as people accustomed to the timesaving straight-ticket option grew weary of having to choose between numerous individual candidates. ..

But it seems the repeal neither benefited Republicans nor resulted in fewer votes for down-ballot races. -- AP Wire | 11/19/2006 | Election bucks expectations on repeal of straight-ticket voting

Georgia: Chatham county considers complete ban on office-seeking by county employees

The Savannah Morning News reports: Chatham County commissioners had a vexing question to answer Friday: Should county employees be able to run for office, even if it is a non-partisan position they are seeking?

Thunderbolt Mayor Anna Marie Thomas and Garden City Council Member Misty Bethune - who also are county employees - hoped commissioners would answer that query.

Both left hopeful, having voiced their opposition to the idea, but without resolution.

Instead, the commission voted unanimously to table a proposal that seeks to amend the county's personnel ordinance and procedures manual to prohibit employees from seeking any political office. -- County postpones decision on employee policy proposal | SavannahNow.com

Alabama: new chief justice calls for non-partisan elections

AP reports: Sue Bell Cobb, elected Alabama’s first female chief justice after what was likely the second most expensive judicial race in American history, is determined to change more about Alabama’s courts than the gender of the top judge.

Cobb said she hopes to use her six-year term to institute nonpartisan elections for judges in Alabama. ...

Through late October, Cobb had reported raising $2.4 million and Nabers had pulled in $4 million, including his primary race. Republican Justice Tom Parker reported $311,399 in contributions in his losing primary race against Nabers.

Cobb, Nabers and Parker won’t have to report their final totals until January, but the Justice at Stake Campaign, a nonpartisan group that tracks spending in judicial races, said the race appears to be the most expensive court race in America in 2006 and the second most expensive in the nation’s history.

The record of $9.3 million was set in an Illinois contest in 2004, spokesman Jesse Rutledge said.

Cobbs call the cost of the Alabama campaign “indecent.” -- Chief justice-elect urges nonpartisan elections in state

Alabama: judge writes in favor of Missouri plan

Judge J. Scott Vowell writes in the Birmingham News: As an Alabama judge, I am embarrassed by the recent judicial elections. We must change the way we select our judges. Now, before the mud is dry, is a good time to start.

All Alabama state court judges in both the appellate and trial courts are elected for six-year terms in partisan political races. A judicial candidate must first win the nomination of one of the political parties and then win in a general election. Alabama is one of the last states to select judges in this manner.

We want our judges to decide cases based upon the law and the facts. We do not want judges who decide disputes based on politics. Why should we select them because of their politics? Most voters have no way of knowing which judicial candidates are best qualified for the job. The curious voter can learn something about the candidates from bar association polls, attorneys' endorsements and newspaper recommendations. Some voters learn about the candidates from expensive political advertising, but many just vote a straight party ticket, regardless of the candidates' qualifications.

Alabama spends far more money on judicial elections than any other state. During this 2006 campaign alone, it was reported that Alabama Supreme Court candidates raised more than $11.5 million. These campaign funds come primarily from lawyers and special-interest groups who have an interest in the outcome of litigation that will come before these same judicial candidates when they become judges. This hardly promotes the public's confidence in the fairness of the courts. -- Want fairness?

Alabama: counting write-in votes costs counties time and expense

The Birmingham News reports: Those write-in votes eat up the time and patience of election officials and poll workers, said Kim Melton, who supervised Shelby County's general election this year because [Probate Judge] Fuhrmeister was ill.

Melton estimated that about 6,000 write-in votes were cast on the county's 49,009 ballots.

"In our office, two clerks worked on it for three days just to compile all of the write-ins from all the precincts into one report," Melton said. "It takes longer for everyone to get back on election night because the poll workers have to list write-ins that night at the precinct.

"And it definitely caused a backlog in other things that we do in this office," she said. -- Write-in votes try patience of poll workers

November 19, 2006

Maryland: DOJ won't investigate Steele-Ehrlich flyers

The Justice Department says it won't investigate misleading fliers that Republicans distributed in Maryland on Election Day.

The fliers promoted the candidacies of Governor Robert Ehrlich and Lieutenant Governor Michael Steele.

Acting Assistant Attorney General James Clinger says there's not enough legal basis to support such an investigation. -- Justice Department Won't Investigate Flier Distribution

Thanks to Talking Point Memo for the link.

Maryland: DOJ will not investigate Steele & Erlich's misleading flyers

AP reports: The Justice Department says it won't investigate misleading fliers that Republicans distributed in Maryland on Election Day.

The fliers promoted the candidacies of Governor Robert Ehrlich and Lieutenant Governor Michael Steele.

Acting Assistant Attorney General James Clinger says there's not enough legal basis to support such an investigation. -- Justice Department Won't Investigate Flier Distribution

November 17, 2006

"Testing waters" may mean never having to say who your donors are

Journal Gazette | 11/17/2006 | With toes in water, hopefuls hide funds
AP reports: It’s a tired cliche, but “testing the waters” is part of federal election law that gives would-be presidential candidates a chance to mull a White House bid without revealing early successes – or failures.

Former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani filed papers “to conduct federal ‘testing the waters’ activity,” a move that allows the Republican to raise money for an anticipated bid without having to publicly disclose donations or expenditures – effectively giving the campaign some degree of privacy.

“The advantage to limiting yourself to testing the waters is that if you decide not to run, you’re under no obligation to disclose what you raised or what you spent it on,” said Joseph Birkenstock, former chief counsel for the Democratic National Committee.

Candidates “testing the waters” can raise money to poll, travel and hire staff. Funds can pay for phone calls, office space and databases. Those funds also can pay for stationary and biographical material – all key steps in what is expected to be a crowded field of White House contenders. --

Oregon: ethics reform proposal nearing completion

The Salem Statesman Journal reports: A proposed package of government-ethics reforms will bring significant improvements to Oregon's political system but doesn't go far enough, two campaign watchdogs said Wednesday.

The critique came after members of the nonpartisan Oregon Law Commission were briefed on the ethics reform package, the all-but-final step in a $224,000, yearlong study of ethics reforms sought by the 2005 Legislature.

The law commission is "likely to pass this out substantially as proposed" when it meets again in December, said commission chairman Lane Shetterly, who also runs the state land-use agency. ...

Two political watchdogs, and some members of the Government Ethics Work Group that recommended the ethics reforms, said more must be done to assure independent funding for the state's political ethics commission and to restrict lawmaker junkets and wining and dining by lobbyists. -- State Government - StatesmanJournal.com

Big business' investment in judicial elections did not pay off this year

The National Law Journal reports: Special interest groups gave millions of dollars to judicial candidates in the month before last week's elections, but failed to defeat their opponents in some of the tightest races in the country.

In the most expensive race, various business groups were unable to win the retention of the incumbent chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court. A former appellate judge defeated the Republican candidate to become the sole Democrat on the state high court.

In Georgia, an affiliate of the National Association of Manufacturers bankrolled a series of last-ditch television ads for a state Supreme Court candidate who lost after being accused of threatening to kill his sister.

In Illinois, special interest groups sparked one of the most expensive appellate court races in U.S. history. And a Supreme Court race in Kentucky pitting an anti-abortion candidate against a self-declared impartial judge dealt a setback for judicial First Amendment advocates. -- Law.com - Special Interest Cash Hits a Wall in Judicial Elections

Kansas: "Ethics commission accuses legislator of misusing funds"

AP reports: A Johnson County legislator faces her second ethics complaint in five months, this one accusing her of misusing campaign funds.

Her attorney said Thursday her problems are more fallout from an abusive relationship.

The complaint before the Governmental Ethics Commission accuses Rep. Patricia Kilpatrick, R-Overland Park, of mingling campaign funds with personal funds, converting campaign funds to personal use, failing to report contributions and failing to keep detailed campaign finance records. She could face $120,000 in fines.

The commission has scheduled a hearing in her case for Dec. 13. In June, it fined her $4,000 after concluding that she had filed an inaccurate finance report for her 2004 campaign, and she has paid $600 of the penalty, the commission said.

In that first case, Kilpatrick said she had made mistakes in the wake of her escape as a mother of two from an abusive relationship. On Thursday, her attorney, Scott Hattrup, of Olathe, said Kilpatrick’s former fiance had gained access to her campaign accounts and had stolen money from her. -- Ethics commission accuses legislator of misusing funds | LJWorld.com

November 16, 2006

Missouri: documents in the voter I.D. suit

The Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse has documents from Weinschenk v. State of Missouri, the suit challenging the voter I.D. law.

I found this wonderful site through beSpacific.

New Hampshire: third man pleads guilty in phone-jamming case

The Manchester Union Leader reports: A third conspirator has agreed to plead guilty to federal criminal charges in connection with a Republican operation that jammed Democratic get-out-the-vote telephone lines on election day, 2002.

Shaun Hansen, whose former telemarketing firm placed the hundreds of line-jamming calls after being hired by a Republican operative, admits violating federal statutes outlawing telephone harassment and conspiracy to commit telephone harassment.

He faces maximum penalties of $250,000 and five years in prison for the harassment charge and a fine of $250,000 for the conspiracy charge. But under an agreement filed in U.S. District Court in Concord this week, federal prosecutors agreed not to oppose Hansen’s request for sentence reduction “based upon the defendant’s apparent prompt recognition and affirmative acceptance of personal responsibility for the offense.” -- Another guilty plea in 2002 phone-jam case

New Hampshire: third man pleads guilty in phone-jamming case

The Manchester Union Leader reports: A third conspirator has agreed to plead guilty to federal criminal charges in connection with a Republican operation that jammed Democratic get-out-the-vote telephone lines on election day, 2002.

Shaun Hansen, whose former telemarketing firm placed the hundreds of line-jamming calls after being hired by a Republican operative, admits violating federal statutes outlawing telephone harassment and conspiracy to commit telephone harassment.

He faces maximum penalties of $250,000 and five years in prison for the harassment charge and a fine of $250,000 for the conspiracy charge. But under an agreement filed in U.S. District Court in Concord this week, federal prosecutors agreed not to oppose Hansen’s request for sentence reduction “based upon the defendant’s apparent prompt recognition and affirmative acceptance of personal responsibility for the offense.” -- Union Leader - Another guilty plea in 2002 phone-jam case - Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2006

Mississippi: police seize absentee ballots looking for a dead man voting

AP reports: A state warrant that led to the seizure of absentee ballots in Noxubee County alleges that local Democratic Party leader Ike Brown witnessed and signed an absentee ballot vote cast by a deceased man, according to the published report Thursday.

The Commercial Dispatch newspaper of Columbus reported that agents of the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation seized the absentee ballots from the Nov. 7 election this past week. MBI spokesmen have declined comment since. -- AP Wire | 11/16/2006 | Brown's name on dead man's Noxubee Co. ballot, says state warrant

Cleaner campaigns a goal of Democrats

CAPolitics reports: The Democrats who will be senators in the 110th Congress beginning in January have spent the week after Election Day choosing their leadership team and discussing agenda items for their return to the majority.

But they also are taking a glance back at the 2006 campaign that awarded them the six-seat net gain they needed to take control — and decrying negative campaign tactics they pinned on Republican candidates. ...

Speaking on the matter with characteristic bluntness was New York Sen. Charles E. Schumer (news, bio, voting record), who spearheaded the party’s national takeover campaign as chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. Schumer accused Republicans of “despicable” tactics in the 2006 election cycle, alleging that their operatives called Democrats and lied to them about the location of their polling places. ...

Schumer said he and Illinois Rep. Rahm Emanuel (news, bio, voting record), who headed the party’s successful House takeover effort as chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, were making a list of the “abusive practices” used by Republicans, which both Reid and Schumer contended were unique to their partisan counterparts. ...

Schumer called for better campaign finance disclosure and said the party leadership would consider civil and criminal penalties and the possibility of creating a special division of the Justice Department to prosecute such infractions. -- Democrats Say They Will Push to Require Cleaner Campaigns - Yahoo! News

Texas: Democrat introduces constitutional amendment to prohibit mid-decade redistricting

The Fort Worth Star Telegram reports: Now that Tom DeLay is politically dead, an East Texas Democrat wants to kill his ghost, too.

State Rep. Allan Ritter, D-Nederland, introduced a proposed constitutional amendment Wednesday that would prohibit congressional and legislative redistricting more than once a decade unless the courts order otherwise.

House Joint Resolution 31, to be considered when lawmakers return to Austin in January, is intended to forever forbid a repeat of the maneuver engineered by DeLay in 2003 when he was the Republican leader of the U.S. House of Representatives.

DeLay insisted that the GOP-dominated Legislature scrap the congressional redistricting plan enacted by the federal courts in 2001 and replace it with one that would maximize Republican advantage in the Texas congressional delegation. The effort prompted two extended walkouts by legislative Democrats and kept lawmakers in session nearly all summer in 2003. -- Star-Telegram | 11/16/2006 | Redistricting limit proposed

Indiana: provisional ballots may decide a State House race

WISH-TV reports: The verdict is still out in the race for the seat in the State House of Representatives on the south side of Indianapolis. Democratic incumbent Ed Mahern trails Republican Jon Elrod by just five votes. However there are seven votes not in the final total that could change the outcome.

Several hundred provisional ballots in Marion County are still being sorted. There are four provisional ballots in District 97 that have not yet been counted and may not be. Those four voters did not have the proper id on Election Day. But it is not too late for those votes to be counted..

"They have until Friday at noon to bring that identification, to bring that id to the clerk's office, show it to us. If they do that we will open the ballot and get it counted," Marion County Clerk Doris Ann Sadler said.

Democrats are working to find those voters to urge them to get to the clerk's office. Those votes could potentially change the results. ...

The Democrats want the courts to get involved and open those ballots, again potentially changing the outcome of the race. Republicans say the Democrats do not have the right to ask the court to decide. -- WISH-TV - Indianapolis News and Weather - Parties Have 24 Hours to Submit Proposals on Absentee Ballots

Florida: manual recount of non-existent paper trail begins in FL-13

The Orlando Sentinel reports: As officials begin a manual recount Thursday of more than 18,000 disputed ballots in the race for the 13th Congressional District, a handful of voting-rights and ballot-reform groups seeking to force a new election have put out a call to unhappy voters.

The organizations are holding a public hearing Thursday at a downtown hotel to hear from residents who fear their votes were incorrectly recorded or who failed to choose a candidate in the race because the ballot design was confusing. ...

More than 18,000 ballots cast in Sarasota County showed no choice was made in the hotly contested congressional race between Republican Vern Buchanan and Democrat Christine Jennings. The so-called "undervote" in that race - which Buchanan now leads by 401 votes - was about 15 percent among voters who used computer touch-screen machines. That compares to undervotes of less than 3 percent in parts of the district with different voting machines.

Dozens of voters complained that they may have inadvertently missed the race because they were confused by the layout of the computer screen ballot. Others - some have sworn out affidavits - insist they made a choice, but noticed on a final review page that it had not registered. -- KRT Wire | 11/16/2006 | Florida officials begin manual recount of 18,000 ballots

Rhode Island: Democratic leader files complaint against mayor for interfering with voting

The Providence Journal reports: Ward 8 Democratic leader Wilbur W. Jennings Jr. has filed complaints with state and federal authorities, contending that Mayor David N. Cicilline threw a tantrum at a polling place on Election Day and interfered with a Cambodian couple who wanted to vote.

Jennings said the Democratic mayor infringed on his constitutional rights to freedom of speech and assembly and to the couple’s right to vote with assistance. The couple, confused about the voting experience, asked him to help them vote, and then Cicilline interfered by objecting vociferously, according to Jennings.

Cicilline then arranged to have the police force Jennings to leave the vicinity of the polling place, at the Reservoir Avenue fire house, under the threat of arrest, Jennings said.

Jennings said he has asked the Rhode Island attorney general, Rhode Island Board of Elections and the U.S. attorney’s office for Rhode Island to declare that the mayor misbehaved and to take any other action that would be appropriate to preserve the integrity of the voting process. -- Rhode Island news | projo.com | The Providence Journal | Rhode Island News | Providence

California: Vernon mayor indicted for voter fraud

The Los Angeles Times reports: Capping years of investigation, Los Angeles County prosecutors filed public corruption charges Wednesday accusing Vernon's longtime mayor of voter fraud and the former city administrator of using public funds for personal purposes.

The indictments come after decades of complaints by critics that the small, quirky industrial city a few miles south of downtown Los Angeles is operated as a fiefdom by city leaders, including Mayor Leonis Malburg, who has been in office for more than 50 years and is the grandson of Vernon's founder.

Most of the homes in Vernon are owned by Malburg, other council members and the city, and a majority of the 91 residents are city employees.

Prosecutors charge that Malburg, 77, has been fraudulently voting in Vernon elections for decades as he allegedly lives in his grandfather's former estate in Hancock Park, 20 miles away. -- Vernon mayor and ex-official are indicted - Los Angeles Times

Note: The remainder of the story reveals that the grandfather was also the mayor of Vernon and indicted (but not convicted) of similar charges in the 1920's.

November 15, 2006

Ohio: agreement reached on counting some provisional ballots

AP reports: Organizations that challenged Ohio's new voter identification law have reached an agreement with state officials on how provisional ballots from last week's election should be counted, the attorney general's office said.

The agreement was reached Tuesday after negotiations between Attorney General Jim Petro, Secretary of State Ken Blackwell and groups challenging the law, Petro spokesman Mark Anthony said.

The agreement is the latest round of legal wrangling over the law, which required voters to show photo ID at the polls, and stemmed from Election Day confusion among some poll workers about what was considered proper ID.

Because of the confusion, poll workers did not allow some voters with proper ID to cast regular ballots, instead forcing them to cast provisional ballots, which generally are not counted until a voter's eligibility is verified.

Under the agreement, approved by U.S. District Judge Algenon Marbley, provisional ballots cast in error will be counted without any additional investigation into their eligibility. -- Ohio ballot counting agreement reached - Yahoo! News

Rep. Holt calls for national paper-trail law

AP reports: Citing the disputed vote in a Florida congressional district, a Democratic lawmaker on Wednesday urged Congress to approve his measure requiring a paper trail for electronic voting.

Rep. Rush Holt (news, bio, voting record), sponsor of the bill, said the inaccuracy of electronic touch-screen voting machines "poses a direct threat to the integrity of our electoral system." The New Jersey congressman argued the Florida district, in which more than 18,000 votes have gone uncounted, has exposed the system's flaws.

Florida law requires a recount in all five southwest Florida counties in the 13th Congressional District. But scrutiny is focused on Sarasota County, where touch-screen voting machines recorded that 18,382 people — 13 percent of voters in the Nov. 7 election — did not vote for either Republican Vern Buchanan or Democrat Christine Jennings, despite casting ballots in other races on the ballot. That rate was much higher than other counties in the district.

Rep. Robert Wexler (news, bio, voting record), D-Fla., said he found it "unfathomable" that more than 18,000 people would cast votes in other races but not in the congressional race. He added there's a host of theories that could explain what happened to those votes, but without a paper trail no one knows the truth. -- House member wants e-voting paper trail - Yahoo! News

Wyoming: Cubin certified for narrow win

CQPolitics reports: Wyoming Republican Rep. Barbara Cubin (news, bio, voting record) staved off a close challenge by Democrat Gary Trauner, winning a seventh term as the state’s lone House member. Cubin was called the winner of the contest — eight days after Election Day — by the Associated Press based on the vote certified by state officials Wednesday.

It was by far the closest House race ever faced by Cubin in a state that typically is a Republican stronghold, an outcome that was testimony both to the tough political atmosphere for Republicans nationwide and some self-inflicted problems that Cubin brought on herself.

The final tally by the Wyoming Canvassing Board gave Cubin 93,336 votes (48.3 percent) to Trauner’s 92,324 votes (47.8 percent). Libertarian candidate Thomas Rankin won 7,481 votes (3.9 percent) — far greater than the difference between the two major party candidates, though there is no way of knowing whether most of his votes would have gone to Cubin or Trauner had he not been in the race.

Cubin’s 1,012-vote margin over Trauner is outside the threshold to trigger an automatic recount, but the Democrat still had 48 hours after the certification to call for a recount if his campaign were to produce the funds to pay for it, according to an aide at the Wyoming Secretary of State’s office. -- Republican Cubin Survives Close Call, Holds Wyoming Seat - Yahoo! News

Georgia: two Democratic candidates for House certified by slim margins

CQPolitics reports: Democratic Rep. John Barrow, according to Georgia’s secretary of state, has won a second term in the state’s 12th District, defeating former one-term Republican Rep. Max Burns (news, bio, voting record) by just 864 votes in the rematch of their close 2004 race.

But it is not yet clear if the state’s certification of the outcome is the last word on the race: Barrow’s winning percentage is less than the 1 percentage-point threshold below which the trailing candidate can request a recount. ...

The election board also officially certified the win by another embattled Democratic incumbent, Rep. Jim Marshall (news, bio, voting record), who won a third House term with a slim 1,752-vote edge over former six-term Republican Rep. Mac Collins in the 8th District.

In a year when Democrats retained all the House and Senate seats they held prior to the election — and most by comfortable margins — the close contests faced by Barrow and Marshall were anomalies. ...

But Barrow and Marshall faced a big new obstacle in their 2006 races, in the form of a mid-decade redistricting map — implemented by the Republican-controlled state legislature — that took away key portions of their previous constituencies and boosted the number of GOP voters. -- Count in Georgia 12 Favors Democrat, But Challenge Is Possible - Yahoo! News

Press release about Sarasota election-day problems

A coalition of voter advocacy organizations will hold a public hearing Thursday night from 6:00-9:00 p.m. at the Hyatt Sarasota to allow voters to offer public testimony on problems they encountered voting in the Nov. 7 elections, and offer ideas about how to improve the voting process.

Sarasota County saw a massive undercount of some 18,000 voters in the race for the 13th Congressional District between Christine Jennings and Vern Buchanan. The race is currently undergoing a recount, but coalition members say the recount will not address the problem of the 18,000 votes which were apparently not recorded in the Congressional race, either because of a faulty ballot design or other glitches in the voting machines.

The coalition urges voters who experienced problems voting in Sarasota County to attend the public hearing and put their experience on the record. RSVP is not required. Voters who wish to attend may contact Kristin Nabers at People For the American Way Foundation, toll free number, 1-800-326-7329 ext. 2356, for more information. (NOTE: News media, please direct press inquiries to the contact numbers listed above.)

WHO: Florida Fair Elections Coalition, Common Cause Florida, People For the American Way Foundation

WHAT: Public Hearing to gather public testimony about voter problems experienced in the13th District undercount, and collect suggestions for long-term election reform.

WHEN: 6-9 p.m. Thursday, November 16

WHERE: The Ballroom of the Hyatt Sarasota On Sarasota Bay, 1000 Boulevard Of The Arts, Sarasota, FL 34236

November 14, 2006

Florida: Dems file suit to preserve election data in CD 13 race

Paul Kiel writes on TPM Muckraker: Lawyers for Democratic House candidate Christine Jennings threw down the gauntlet yesterday, asking a state court to secure electronic voting machines and data used in the election.

The move would preserve the equipment in Florida's Sarasota County for scrutiny by Jennings' legal team. A hearing on the suit is scheduled for this afternoon.

It's just the first step of what is likely to be a litigious aftermath to a close and ugly election (thanks in part to the NRCC's rampant robo calling in the district). The state began a recount and audit of the election yesterday. Once the audit and second recount is completed and the results certified on November 20th, the Jennings campaign has ten days to contest the results of the election if they still show Jennings down. Before the recounting began, she was down 386 votes.

The fight will center around the district's Sarasota County, where the electronic machines did not register a vote in the Congressional race for 18,000 voters (13%) -- what's called an "undervote." That's compared to only 2.53% of voters who did not vote in the race via absentee ballots.

A study by the local paper, The Herald Tribune, found that one in three of Sarasota election officials "had general complaints from voters about having trouble getting votes to record" on the electronic machines for the Congressional race. Since 53% of voters in Sarasota County picked Jennings over the Republican Vern Buchanan, those missed votes would likely have put Jennings in front. -- TPMmuckraker November 14, 2006 12:56 PM

Wall Street gave slight majority of funds to Democrats

Dow Jones MarketWatch reports: Wall Street, led by Goldman Sachs Group Inc., ended a 12-year run of Republican support by giving 51% of its donations to Democrats in this year's midterm elections.

Securities and investment firms donated $24.8 million to Democrats according to data made available Oct. 10, compared to $22.5 million, or 47% of all funds, to the GOP, according to Federal Election Commission data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics, a Washington-based campaign-finance watchdog. The data are from about 18 months of contributions made through June. Final results won't be available until year-end or in early 2007.

Massie Ritsch, communications director for the center, said the securities industry was the only major industry to "flip" in the cycle from its traditional Republican support to the Democratic side. But the industry is also known to back the winners. -- Democrats take majority of Wall St. contributions - MarketWatch

Comment: As usual, the press refers to firms giving this money, but it was given by PACs or individuals employed by the firms.

More on the FEC's proposed internal financial controls for PACs

The Vorys, Sater, Seymour and Pease LLP law firm has posted an article for its clients on FEC Proposes Internal Financial Controls for PACs - Voluntary Controls Aimed at Embezzlement.

Florida: on-the-sport blogging from Sarasota recount

Googlicious has two posts on the recount (or are they still counting?): googlicious » Democracy is not a dinner party, it’s scrubbing the floors after everybody has gone home… and Kathy Dent - Sarasota Elections.

ActBlue collecting funds for not-yet-declared presidential candidates

AP reports: Political donors no longer have to wait through the coy posturing or Hamlet-like indecision of would-be presidential candidates to contribute money to their potential campaigns.

Starting this week, ActBlue, a political action committee devoted to raising money through the Internet for Democratic candidates, will become a repository for contributions to presidential candidates — from the probable to the unlikely to the yet unknown.

The Federal Election Commission, in an advisory opinion last week, ruled that ActBlue and other groups like it could collect money for would-be candidates even if they still had not declared their intentions.

The money would be publicly reported to the FEC and on ActBlue's Web site, ActBlue.com. It would be held in a bank account and released to the candidate the moment he or she filed officially for the presidential nomination. -- PAC takes money for would-be candidates - Yahoo! News

Paper trail? We don't need no paper trail!

Wired.com reports: In the wake of yet another election marred by technical glitches, critics of electronic voting machines are repeating their call to restore old-fashioned paper to the increasingly computerized election process.

But a smaller, quieter group is convinced the real solution lies in the other direction. Now is the time, they say, to make elections completely electronic, and allow voters to cast their ballots from home, over the internet.

"The technology is done," said Jim Adler, founder of election-auditing firm VoteHere. "It's really an issue now of politics and people's will."

If it seems insane to put democracy's most crucial function on wires shared by viruses and spam, consider that it's already happening. The 2000 Arizona Democratic primary was the first binding election that offered online voting, and 41 percent of voters (39,942) voted using the internet. The 2004 caucus conducted by the Democratic Party in Michigan offered internet voting and 46,000 of 163,000 votes were cast online.

Switzerland, Estonia, England and Canada all have run successful small-scale trials of internet voting. Estonia now plans to use national internet voting for its 2007 parliamentary elections; the internet will, quite literally, decide the future of its government. -- Wired News: Election '08: Vote by Tivo

Comment: Of course, those countries have national election commissions that has the authority to test election equipment and procedures in real-world situations. And we have a national election commission (the EAC) that may provide assistance and very little command.

Connecticut: still correcting human counting errors

AP reports: Democrat Joe Courtney's lead over Republican Rep. Rob Simmons grew to 109 votes Monday, after dipping to as low as 66 votes earlier in the day.

The roller-coaster recount in one of the closest congressional races in the nation has uncovered significant errors in two communities. Preliminary Election Day returns had Courtney winning by 167 votes out of nearly 250,000 ballots cast in the 2nd Congressional District.

Officials in Lebanon discovered Monday that Courtney was given an extra 100 votes over Simmons. "It was human error," said Lebanon election moderator John Bendoraitis. "It was strictly misreading one number on one machine."

In Lyme, the recount showed that Simmons was wrongly credited with 40 votes because an election worker mistakenly wrote down the wrong number. "It was just an error in hearing the number," said Marion Ewankow, the Lyme moderator. -- 'Human error' muffs vote count in Connecticut - CNN.com

Are those signs down yet?

The New York Times reports: Election Day has come and gone, and now comes the true test for candidates: how well they clean up after themselves. With a bumper crop of more than 20 million campaign signs this election season, the race has begun.

“Only shallow candidates have lots of volunteers ready to put the signs out but not enough volunteers ready to take them down,” said Steve Grubbs, a former Iowa legislator and founder of VictoryStore.com, which sold more than five million yard and roadway signs this year, double the number from 2004. “It’s a lot of signs to deal with, but they’re slackers if they can’t get them down within a week of the election.”

For some, that is too long to wait.

In the last year, county and local officials in at least nine states have imposed new restrictions on where political signs can go and how long they can be left out. -- After Vote, Public Demands Change: Take Down the Signs - New York Times

November 13, 2006

Maryland: the story of the "Democratic Sample Ballot" recommending GOP candidates

The Washington Post has a long article on the misleading sample ballot distributed by the Republicans on Election Day. --
GOP Fliers Apparently Were Part Of Strategy - washingtonpost.com

How to tell an "itch" from a "wave"

The Washington Post reports: There is no doubt that Democrats did well on Tuesday, capturing almost 30 seats in the House, six seats in the Senate and control of both chambers. But was it the Democratic "wave" that so many had believed was about to sweep the country?

Republican leaders said it was not. Rep. Thomas M. Reynolds (N.Y.), who led the GOP's House campaign committee, said it was simply "a matter of history repeating itself." On the day of the elections, Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman warned of a "six-year itch." ...

But political scientists say that assessment of Tuesday's results ignores an important change in recent years. They say Republicans have re-engineered the political map, stuffing congressional districts with supporters to make the districts reliably pro-GOP. The financial and electoral advantages of incumbency, moreover, have reached new heights.

The election results are "actually huge because of the structural advantage Republicans had going into the election. Democrats had very little low-hanging fruit," said Gary C. Jacobson, a scholar of congressional elections at the University of California at San Diego. -- How Many Wins Make Up a 'Wave'? - washingtonpost.com

Indiana: SOS says no voter I.D. problems

The Gary Post-Tribune reports: While the Indiana Secretary of State's office declared the Indiana's new voter ID law a success, at least one local lawmaker said he found problems.

Rep. Charlie Brown, D-Gary, said he was initially stopped when he produced his House of Representatives photo ID at the polls Tuesday. Poll workers at his home precinct in Gary eventually allowed him to use the state ID card, but asked him to give the last four digits of his Social Security number.

"It's outrageous. The law says any government-issued ID," Brown said.

The 2005 Indiana law was recently appealed to the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Similar laws requiring voters to present ID have been overturned in Georgia and Missouri. Secretary of State Todd Rokita has been on record as saying Indiana's law was implemented without incident in the general election Tuesday. -- POST-TRIBUNE :: News :: State ID law passes voter test

Florida: Osceola Co. Comm. holds public hearing on redistricting plan

Central Florida News 13 reports: Tonight, Osceola County Commissioners hope to get comments from people on how the board members should be elected.

A federal judge has determined that Hispanics are penalized in the county, which is in violation of the Voting Rights Act. ...

The new plan would set up single member districts and add two commissioners. -- Central Florida News 13,

Pennsylvania: many polling places in Washington Co. still inaccessible

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports: Sixty-four percent of 141 polling places in Washington County surveyed last summer by the Tri-County Patriots for Independent Living were found to be inaccessible to the disabled.

Results of the survey were given to county Elections Director Larry Spahr last month, said Bob Romero, membership director of the organization, which also is known as TRIPIL.

But on Election Day, the disabled still found inaccessible polls or poll workers inexperienced in dealing with disabled voters.

Mr. Spahr said he visited each of the county's 168 polling places and acknowledged the county's obligation under the Help America Vote Act to make a good-faith effort to find polling places for the disabled and the elderly. -- Group pushes for handicap poll access

Arnwine calls on blacks to fight for further election reform

The Wilmington Journal reports: With Tuesday’s heated election now history, activists across the nation say it will take much more than new standardized voting machines to increase the confidence of African-Americans in the electoral process.

“The number one thing that African-Americans are going to have to start doing is exercising voter vigilance,” says Barbara Arnwine, executive director of the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under the Law, the organization that founded and initiated the “Election Protection” program after the botched Election 2000. “We have to demand of the very candidate that we support, ‘What are you going to do about electoral reform? Where are you on early voting? Where are you on registration? Where are you going to be on getting rid of the ‘you gotta vote at the right precinct’ laws, knowing that that’s going to disenfranchise thousands and thousands of voters?’”

Increasing the level of activism that holds politicians accountable to the Black community will engender the confidence needed beyond Election Day to force lasting change – not only in elections – but in America’s democratic process, says Arnwine, “Since people fear our particular political dynamic so much, the only anecdote is for African-American voters being as vigilant as they can be,” she says. “We’ve got to become the number one voice in the fight for election reform.” -- The Wilmington Journal - Article - more national

November 11, 2006

Britain: Labour Party recruits Howard Dean to help

The Guardian (UK) reports: Labour has enlisted one of the engineers of this week's Democratic victory in the US midterm elections in an attempt to boost its flagging fortunes before the local elections in May.

Howard Dean, the former presidential candidate and one of the men credited with masterminding the trouncing of the Republicans, will visit the UK next month to brief party officials about his pioneering campaigning techniques.

"The Welsh, Scottish and local elections next year are our midterms," said Hazel Blears, Labour's chair. "It has to be done differently for us to carry on being successful ... We're looking at how [the Democrats] have upped their game."

Labour is particularly interested in the Democrats' style of targeting grassroots voters through low-key meetings in homes. "We want to look at their experience in campaigning, getting out the vote, holding house meetings where people can come together ... You don't want to transplant American politics, but there's a lot we can share," said Ms Blears.

Many political observers will regard the drafting in of Mr Dean as bizarre, given that the Democratic victory was largely founded on voters' anger about the war in Iraq - the very subject which has alienated many Labour supporters and on which Mr Dean has been so outspoken. -- Labour drafts in US election architect for 'our midterms' | The Guardian | Guardian Unlimited

Florida: voters pass amendment to require 60% vote on new amendments

The Orlando Sentinel reports: Amending the Florida Constitution has suddenly become a lot harder.

In fact, there is only one other state where it's any tougher, one expert says.

On Tuesday, voters approved Amendment 3, which mandates that future ballot questions gain at least 60 percent support, instead of the simple majority that had been required. ...

Wilson, however, said it's important to note that a 60 percent requirement doesn't apply just to amendments that come from the citizens, but to all amendments, including ones that originate with the state Legislature. The majority of the amendments passed since 1970 have come from the Legislature. -- New 60% rule sets bar high - Orlando Sentinel : State News New 60% rule sets bar high - Orlando Sentinel : State News

Note: This amendment received only 57.8%.

Arizona: SOS says "no complaints" about voter I.D.

AP reports: Arizona's new voter ID law is receiving high marks after its first major test in the general election.
Secretary of State Jan Brewer says she's heard no complaints about people turned away at the polls because of improper identification.
Critics of the ID law also say they've encountered relatively few problems during the election.

The 2004 law says voters must bring a government-issued picture ID or two other approved IDs to the polls. -- Arizonans had few problems with voter ID law | www.azstarnet.com ®

GOP robocalls may have made the difference in dozens of districts

Paul Kiel writes on TPM Muckraker: As we did our best to document, the National Republican Congressional Committee was responsible for repetitive, often harrassing robo calls in more than two dozen districts across the country in the runup to the election.

In at least seven of those districts, the Democrat failed to unseat the incumbent by only a couple thousand votes. The NRCC's calls may have been the difference in those races. ...

The NRCC's calls, you'll remember, began by saying something like "Hi, I'm calling with information about [the Democratic candidate]," then continued to give negative information about the candidate. They did not identify the true source of the calls until the very end, when they informed the listener (if he/she bothered to stay on the line until the end of the call), that the NRCC had paid for it. Voters reported being called again and again. A number of Democratic campaigns reported receiving complaints from voters who thought that the calls were coming from the Democrat, because of the calls' lead-in. We catalogued a number of the calls here.

Democrats have asked the FEC, FCC and Justice Department to probe the calls. DCCC spokesman Bill Burton told me that the Dems are still "committed to pursuing the issue of these calls" and are "discussing the next steps.... We are absolutely not letting this drop." -- TPMmuckraker November 10, 2006 04:39 PM

Ohio: "Confessions of an Ohio poll worker, Part 2"

"Lucy Paul" (Annie Cieslukowski) completes her on-the-scene report of being a new poll worker. -- Confessions of an Ohio poll worker, Part 2 | Salon.com

November 10, 2006

Florida: "Inverted Jenny" stamp used on absentee ballot

Reuters reports: A Florida voter may have unwittingly lost hundreds of thousands of dollars by using an extremely rare stamp to mail an absentee ballot in Tuesday's congressional election, a government official said on Friday.

The 1918 Inverted Jenny stamp, which takes its name from an image of a biplane accidentally printed upside-down, turned up on Tuesday night in Fort Lauderdale, where election officials were inspecting ballots from parts of south Florida, Broward County Commissioner John Rodstrom told Reuters.

Only 100 of the stamps have ever been found, making them one of the top prizes of all philately.

Rodstrom, a member of the county's Canvassing Board, said he spotted the red and blue Inverted Jenny on a large envelope with two stamps from the 1930s and another dating to World War Two.

The nominal value of the four vintage U.S. Post Office stamps was 87 cents, he said. -- Absentee Florida ballot sent with precious stamp - Yahoo! News

Comment: As a former stamp collector, I felt a little sick when I read this.

ActBlue will set up pages for "Draft X for President"

Hotline reports: The Democratic online fundraising giant [ActBlue] met with the FEC this week to get their latest project approved: Setting up fundraising accounts for potential 2008 presidential candidates. ... If he [the potential candidate] doesn't get in the race by the DNC Convention, all of the raised funds go straight to the DNC. -- Hotline
On Call: On The Download: ActBlue Can't Wait For '08

District of Columbia: Pelosi will support more voting power for Delegate Norton

The Washington Post reports:
U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi said yesterday that she hopes to swiftly bring the District a step closer to full voting rights in the House, a measure D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton called a move in the right direction.

Pelosi (D-Calif.), who is poised to become the speaker of the House in January, said she wants to change House rules Jan. 3, the first day of the new session, so that Norton can vote on proposed changes to legislation on the House floor. Under the planned move, she would not be able to vote on final passage. ...

Norton, just elected to a ninth term, currently can vote in committee but not on the floor.

Beyond the proposed rule changes, Pelosi supports full voting rights in the House for the District. But she opposes pending legislation introduced last spring by Norton and U.S. Rep. Thomas M. Davis III (R-Va.) that would achieve that goal because of a trade-off provision supported by Republicans. That provision would give Utah, a Republican stronghold, another seat in the House. -- Pelosi May Move D.C. Closer to Voting Rights - washingtonpost.com

Illinois: supreme court stays count of late votes in Kane County

The Courier News reports: The Illinois Supreme Court on Thursday afternoon ruled that any votes cast in Kane County after 7 p.m. Tuesday don't count yet.

The court issued a stay of 16th Circuit Court Judge Keith Brown's order that kept polls in all 223 of Kane County's precincts open until 8:30 p.m. on Election Day. The stay affects 1,124 votes, which should not change the outcome of any countywide or local races.

Brown made the ruling Tuesday afternoon at the request of the Kane County State's Attorney's Office on behalf of County Clerk John Cunningham because some precincts had trouble with the eSlate voting machines, causing those polling places to open late.

Although the late openings took place in only 62 precincts, Brown ordered that all precincts be kept open later because it would be hard to know as of Tuesday afternoon exactly where all voters were turned away during the morning. -- The Courier News :: News :: Court: Kane's late ballots do not count yet

Ohio: Franklin county election office gets its priorities straight

The Columbus Dispatch reports: The outcome of one of the nation’s tightest congressional races will wait until after one of its hottest college football games is played, Franklin County elections officials said yesterday.

Elections workers will delay their final, official tally of Tuesday’s ballots — a total that could add more than 38,000 votes to unofficial results in some races — until Nov. 19, the day after state law lets them begin counting provisional ballots.

They said they don’t plan to open for business on Nov. 18, a Saturday, when Ohio State plays Michigan at Ohio Stadium. But they’ll issue final election results by Nov. 21, a week before the state requires them.

They could count nearly 18,000 absentee ballots now, but they said they’ll wait to avoid more unofficial numbers. -- The Columbus Dispatch - Local/State

Florida: voting machines may not have recorded votes in Orlando Congressional race

In Florida, Echoes of 2000 as Vote Questions Emerge - New York Times
The New York Times reports: A Democrat who narrowly lost the Congressional race here is seeking a recount after dozens of people reported problems using Sarasota County’s touch-screen voting machines and a significant number of ballots had no recorded votes in the high-profile race.

The Democrat, Christine Jennings, lost to her Republican opponent, Vern Buchanan, by just 373 votes out of a total 237,861 cast — one of the closest House races in the nation. More than 18,000 voters in Sarasota County, or 13 percent of those who went to the polls Tuesday, did not seem to vote in the Congressional race when they cast ballots, a discrepancy that Kathy Dent, the county elections supervisor, said she could not explain.

In comparison, only 2 percent of voters in one neighboring county within the same House district and 5 percent in another skipped the Congressional race, according to The Herald-Tribune of Sarasota. And many of those who did not seem to cast a vote in the House race did vote in more obscure races, like for the hospital board.

More than 100 voters have told the Jennings campaign that their votes for her did not show up on the summary screen at the end of the touch-screen voting process, and that they had to re-enter them. The candidate’s lawyers said they feared that not everyone had noticed the problem or realized that they could re-enter the vote. --

November 9, 2006

Arizona: judge again rules that IRC did not draw a competitive legislative plan

AP reports: Attorneys said Wednesday they expect a state commission will appeal the latest court ruling that again overturns as unconstitutional the district map used to pick state lawmakers since 2002.

The Independent Redistricting Commission plans to consider appealing Tuesday's ruling by Judge Kenneth Fields of Maricopa County Superior Court when it meets later this month. Fields found that the commission did not put required emphasis on creating districts winnable by both Democrats and Republicans when it drew the lines. -- Appeal likely for latest ruling tossing legislative district map

Florida: 18,000-vote rolloff on House race?

AP reports: The touch-screen voting machines Katherine Harris championed as secretary of state after the 2000 presidential recount may have botched this year's election to replace her in the U.S. House, and it's likely going to mean another Florida recount.

More than 18,000 Sarasota County voters who marked other races didn't have their vote register in the House race, a rate much higher than the rest of the district, elections results show.

Sarasota County Elections Supervisor Kathy Dent defended her staff and the voting machines, arguing that the thousands of voters must have either overlooked the race -- which was pushed to a second screen by a glut of minor U.S. Senate candidates on the ballot -- or simply decided not to vote for either candidate in a race marked by mudslinging. ...

Florida law requires a machine recount if the difference between the top candidates is less than half a percent. If the machine tallies find a margin of less than a quarter percent, a manual recount is conducted.

To do a manual recount for touch-screens, officials go back over the images of the electronic ballots where the machine didn't register a choice. But state rules essentially say that if the machine doesn't show that a voter chose a candidate, the voter is assumed to have meant to skip the race -- it would be tough to prove otherwise. -- Florida deja vu: Race to replace Harris could go to recount - CNN.com

Montana: Burns concedes to Tester

AP reports: Sen. Conrad Burns conceded the Montana U.S. Senate race to Democrat Jon Tester on Thursday, catching Tester on the phone as he headed for a barber shop to get his famous flattop hair trimmed. -- Sen. Burns Concedes Montana Race - washingtonpost.com

Virginia: Allen concedes

Reuters reports: Virginia Republican George Allen on Thursday conceded defeat in his tight Senate race against James Webb, giving Democrats a majority in the U.S. Congress for the first time in 12 years. ...

Allen trailed Webb by nearly 9,000 votes of the 2.4 million cast, according to state electoral figures. -- Allen concedes Senate loss | Politics News | Reuters.com

Wyoming: Trauner will not seek recount after narrow loss to Cubin

AP reports: Democrat Gary Trauner said Thursday he had no immediate plans to seek a recount in his close race to unseat incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Barbara Cubin (news, bio, voting record).

Trauner, a businessman from Wilson, said he wants to let the process of certifying Tuesday's election results play out and, unless something unusual occurs, will accept those results. -- Wyo. Democrat not planning on recount - Yahoo! News

Maryland: flyers falsely claiming black Democrats' support for GOP ticket may have violated law

The Washington Post reports: The misleading fliers distributed on Election Day by poor, out-of-state workers suggesting that top Republican candidates had the backing of key black Democrats do not appear to be illegal but could have a lasting impact on the Republican Party's efforts to attract African American voters, political experts said yesterday.

The fliers included a "Democratic Sample Ballot" suggesting that voters back Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. and Senate candidate Michael S. Steele, both Republicans. Entitled "Ehrlich-Steele Democrats," it pictured three influential Democrats -- Wayne K. Curry, Prince George's County Executive Jack B. Johnson and Kweisi Mfume -- and said at the bottom, "These are OUR choices." Curry had endorsed Steele but not Ehrlich, and neither Johnson nor Mfume had endorsed either candidate. ...

State law does not generally prohibit making misleading claims on campaign literature, several experts said yesterday, but election law might have been violated if the workers who distributed the fliers were hired by a political committee that is not registered to engage in campaign finance activity.

A spokeswoman for the campaign, Shareese DeLeaver, said Tuesday that the group "Democrats for Ehrlich" had arranged for the distribution of the fliers. But according to the State Board of Elections, the only registered organization that has used a similar name is "Democrats for (Robert) Ehrlich," an Ehrlich campaign committee that was disbanded nearly four years ago. -- Misleading Fliers May Hurt GOP Among Black Voters - washingtonpost.com

Missouri: Carnahan says St. Louis Co. improperly asked voters for I.D.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports: The Missouri secretary of state says St. Louis County election officials may have confused voters — even intimidated them — by asking for identification that went beyond what is required.

Secretary of State Robin Carnahan's office notified the county as early as last week about her concerns and alerted the U.S. attorney's office, which handles voter obstruction cases.

The state Supreme Court last month threw out a law stating that a voter needed a photo identification to cast a ballot. But some county election workers still were asking voters on Tuesday whether they had a photo or signature ID.

County Election Board Chairman John Diehl Jr. says asking voters for identification is a standard county practice. It's something the board has been doing since Carnahan's father, Mel Carnahan, was elected governor more than 10 years ago, Diehl said. -- STLtoday - News - Story

California: federal court blocks enforcement of sex-offender initiative

The Los Angeles Times reports: Hours after California voters approved a ballot measure authorizing a crackdown on sex offenders, a federal judge Wednesday blocked enforcement of a controversial provision limiting where ex-offenders may live.

The order by U.S. District Judge Susan Illston in San Francisco means that implementation of a key portion of Proposition 83, which captured 70% of the vote, will be on hold until its constitutionality is resolved by the courts. A hearing is scheduled later this month.

The initiative prohibits registered sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of a school or park. In a lawsuit Wednesday, attorneys said that constitutes a new penalty imposed on ex-convicts years after they have been punished for their crime. The measure also is unconstitutional on due process grounds, the lawyers argue, because it would force offenders from their homes without notice. ...

In granting the temporary restraining order, the judge said "John Doe" has been "a law-abiding and productive member of his community" since his conviction and would suffer "irreparable harm" if forced to comply with Proposition 83. His lawyers, Illston said, probably will prevail in challenging the initiative as unconstitutional. -- U.S. judge blocks portion of new sex offender measure - Los Angeles Times

California: "Deep pockets carry the day"

The Los Angeles Times reports: Money didn't just talk in Tuesday's election. It screamed.

The year's biggest spenders — and biggest winners — were the oil and tobacco industries. In almost every contest, candidates and issues with the most money trumped the side with less, even if the losers raised bags full.

Although final numbers won't be known until January, contributors spent a record sum on California campaigns in 2006, more than $600 million. The record was about $500 million, in 1998.

By comparison, the cost of this year's federal campaigns is expected to be $2.6 billion, the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics estimates. And Ed Bender, executive director of the Institute on Money in State Politics in Helena, Mont., predicts that once the money is calculated sometime next year, all state campaigns nationwide will have cost about $2.4 billion. -- Deep pockets carry the day - Los Angeles Times

Virginia: recount law

AP reports: A recount in the Senate race in Virginia, where control of the Senate tilted from the Republicans to the Democrats on James Webb's victory over incumbent George Allen, would take time -- lots of time.

There are no automatic recounts in Virginia, but state law allows a candidate who finishes within a half-percentage point to request a recount paid for by state and local governments. With a margin greater than that, but less than 1 percentage point, the trailing candidate can still seek a recount but must pay the costs if the results are unchanged.

Either way, a recount could not begin until after the State Board of Elections certifies the results on Nov. 27. The losing candidate has 10 days after that to request a recount. How long a recount would take is unclear.

An Associated Press count Wednesday night showed Webb with 1,172,538 votes and Allen with 1,165,302, a difference of 7,236, or less than one-third of 1 percent. -- Virginia recount would be time-consuming - Yahoo! News

November 8, 2006

Virginia: election irregulaties in Virginia could decide the Senate race

Spencer Overton writes on blackprof.com: If Democrats squeak by in Montana, election irregularities and suppressive voting rules in Virginia could determine which party controls the U.S. Senate. With 99% of the votes tallied, Webb led by about 7,800 (of 2.3 million) -- less than three-tenths of a percent. ...

Virginians faced a variety of issues, including

*voter deception

*restrictive state voting laws

Virginia and Montana: The effect of spoilers

Sandy Levinson writes at Balkinization: I note that both Virginia and Montana have third party candidates for the Senate who have won enough votes possibly to affect the election. A so-called "Green" candidate in Virginia (not actually affiliated with the national Green Party) has won about 25,000 votes, more than the margin between Webb and Allen. There's no particularly way of knowing how her votes would break were she not in the race: she's a former Pentagon analyst who apparently ran on a platform of fiscal responsibility and a high-speed transportation network for northern Virginia. In Montana, the Libertarian candidate got 2.1% of the vote, far more than the margin between Treaster and Burns. I assume that most of those votes would have gone to Burns had it been a forced choice. And, of course, everyone remembers the fiasco of 2000. Might this not be a propitious moment for a bipartisan coalition to propose the Alternative Transferrable Vote as a way of 1) eliminating the role of "spoilers" and b) at the very same time, encouraging third party critics of the ossified two party system to run their races and make their pitches. The ATV allows voters to rank order their favorites. If their #1 choice comes in last (in a three-person race, for ease of analysis), then the #2 choice is counted. This results in a winner who has the most plausible claim to being the genuine choice of the majority, unlike the First Past the Post System, which guarantees the frustration of majority will with some regularity. -- Balkinization

Note: Levinson calls it ATV, but nearly everyone else is calling the system Instant Runoff Voting. For more information, see FairVote's IRV page.

Virginia: Hotline says GOP will pressure Allen to concede

The Hotline reports: Top Republicans in Washington will give Sen. George Allen a few days to take stock of his legal and political options before beginning to pressure him to concede to James Webb. Senior Republican officials and White House aides believe that Webb won the race. -- Hotline On Call: Republicans Will Pressure Allen... Soon

Comment: If I were Allen's lawyer, I would say, "wait a few days till we can find out if all the votes are in. Don't pull a John Kerry by cutting and running away from a possible legal challenge too quickly."

Update: TPMCafe explains why Allen is unlikely to demand a recount.

Update 2:
AP reports: An Allen adviser, speaking on condition of anonymity because his boss has not formally decided to end the campaign, said the Republican likely will not request a recount if a statewide canvass of votes doesn't show significant changes.

Allen wanted to wait until most canvassing was completed before announcing his decision, possibly as early as Thursday evening, the adviser said.

Local officials must complete their canvass by Tuesday. -- Virginia win gives Democrats the Senate

Colorado and South Dakota: anti-judiciary initiatives defeated

The ABA Journal reports: In the nation’s marquee battle over judicial independence, South Dakota voters rejected the Judicial Accountability Initiative Law, aka “JAIL 4 Judges”—which would have created a constitutional amendment abolishing judicial immunity—by a resounding 90-10 margin.

Jesse Rutledge, who monitors judicial elections and judicial independence issues for the Washington, D.C.-based Justice At Stake Campaign, characterized the vote as “a devastating defeat.” ...

In Colorado, voters responded to a full-court press by the bar, business groups and current and former governors against Amendment 40, which would have imposed term limits on appellate court judges. About 57 percent of voters opposed the amendment. -- ABA Journal

Colorado: auditor calls for resignation of election officials because of election snafus

The Denver Post reports: Denver woke up today with a bad hangover, after embarrassing computer glitches prevented thousands of residents from voting, piles of absentee ballots still to be counted and a call for heads to roll.

Denver Auditor Dennis Gallagher today asked that Denver's two elected voting commissioners - Susan Roger and Sandy Adams - resign and that the mayor fire Clerk and Recorder Wayne Vaden as well as the entire senior staff of the election commission, including executive director John Gaydeski.

Gallagher promised by the end of the week that he would push a previously rejected charter change to overhaul the structure of the commission, discarding Denver-s three-commissioner system for a single, elected clerk and recorder. -- DenverPost.com - Gallagher: Fire election officials

An earlier story said: A broken ballot scanner will prevent Denver from counting all its absentee ballots for days, adding to a series of Election Day problems that erupted during the city's first general election with vote centers.

Frustrated voters stood in lines as long as three hours at several of the more concentrated centers. By 10 p.m., long after media outlets had declared Bill Ritter the winner of the governor's race, problems in Denver and Douglas counties left voters stuck in lines still waiting to cast their ballots.

About half of the 55 centers in Denver had long lines because of problems with the centralized registration system, which stalled under an overload during in the morning and then went off line in the middle of the day. -- Voting problems overwhelm city

Conyers and Dingle call for investigation of GOP's robocalls

AP reports: Two Democratic members of Congress from Michigan are seeking an investigation into automated telephone calls to voters placed by the National Republican Congressional Committee in dozens of House races nationwide.

In a letter sent late Monday to the U.S. Department of Justice, the Federal Communications Commission and the Federal Election Commission, Reps. John Conyers and John Dingell said the calls are unethical and could be illegal.

"These misleading calls are made late in the evening, or during the night, in an effort to generate anger at the Democratic candidate, who is in no way associated with this harassment. In fact, the calls are being funded by the National Republican Campaign Committee, which has reportedly provided $600,000 to fund this deception," the letter said.

Dingell and Conyers said the calls, some of which start by saying, "I'm calling with information about" the Democratic candidate, violate an FCC rule that says all taped calls must, "at the beginning of the message, state clearly the identity of the business, individual, or other entity that is responsible for initiating the call." -- Portsmouth Herald Local News: Dems seek inquiry of GOP taped calls

Montana and Virginia: "legal issues behind the potential recounts"

Slate reports: The Democrats will seize control of the U.S. Senate if their candidates end up victorious in two very tight races. As of early Wednesday afternoon, Democrat Jon Tester was ahead of Republican Conrad Burns in the Montana race by around 3,000 votes. (The Associated Press has called the election for Tester. Burns has, so far, refused to concede.) In Virginia, Democrat Jim Webb led Republican Sen. George Allen by a little more than 7,000 votes—about one-third of 1 percent. How do you contest an election in these two states?

First, ask for a recount. The basic rules are very similar in the two states. In Montana, the losing candidate has five days to petition the state government for a recount, starting as soon as a state "board of canvassers" certifies the initial results. (The certification must occur within 20 days.) He's only allowed to ask for the recount if he came within 0.5 percent of winning the election. If a candidate in Montana came within 0.25 percent, the state automatically pays the costs of the recount; otherwise, he'll have to put up the money himself and will get reimbursed only if he turns out the victor.

Virginia election law gives the loser the right to petition a panel of judges for a recount within 10 days of certification if he came within 1 percent in the popular vote. The state pays for the recount if the margin is less than 0.5 percent or if the petitioner ends up on top. -- What happens next in Montana and Virginia? - By Daniel Engber - Slate Magazine

"Voting glitches in at least a dozen states"

The Washington Post reports: Voting glitches in at least a dozen states marred yesterday's election, including difficulties getting voting machines to work, confusion about voters' eligibility and sporadic accusations of vote fraud or intimidation.

The troubles delayed the opening of polling sites and created long lines in some precincts of nearly every region of the country. They prompted courts in eight states on the East Coast and in the Midwest to extend polling hours last evening, and caused election officials elsewhere to give out provisional ballots.

Still, no catastrophic problem had emerged by late last night to imperil the validity of any race, according to nonpartisan election experts and polling observers across the ideological spectrum. ...

Election specialists cautioned that even small problems could influence the outcome of especially close contests. A complete portrait of how the voting went will not become clear until today or later, when election boards evaluate what could be a record number of absentee ballots, as well as the provisional ballots. -- Courts Weigh In After Voting Difficulties Emerge at the Polls - washingtonpost.com

"Predictions of disaster turned out wrong"

AP reports: There were occasional hiccups Tuesday in the nation's all-too-human voting systems -- long lines in Denver, slow election machines in Ohio, a longshot Texas candidate who briefly, and incorrectly, enjoyed a big lead -- but no major breakdowns.

"Overall, it looks like all the predictions of disaster turned out wrong," said Doug Lewis, executive director of Election Center, a nonpartisan organization of state election officials.

Experts cautioned against complacency as states continue to adjust to their new electronic voting equipment, however. Several states are still likely to face recounts, including two tight races that could determine control of the U.S. Senate. -- E-Commerce News: Technology: E-Voting Systems Worked Despite a Few Hitches

Washington State: IRV ahead in Pierce County

The Tacoma News Tribune reports: Proposed amendment No. 3 would make 10 Pierce County positions – executive, the seven-member council, auditor and assessor-treasurer – decided by instant runoff voting. Instead of having a primary to nominate candidates and a general election to decide between finalists, voters would pick one candidate, regardless of party, in a single election. They would have the option of also selecting second- and third-choice candidates.

Passage of the amendment – which was ahead late Tuesday – would make Pierce County a model for other Washington counties, and be a first step toward the end of the disliked pick-a-party elections, said Kelly Haughton, a charter review commission member and proponent of the amendment. -- Elected-sheriff amendment easily passes | TheNewsTribune.com | Tacoma, WA

California: Oakland adopts instant-runoff voting

The San Francisco Chronicle reports: Bay Area voters took up an array of local measures Tuesday - ranging from the offbeat, only-here issue of whether to call for the impeachment of President Bush to practical matters such as improving libraries and paying for more police officers. ...

Oakland's Measure O would mean the adoption of ranked-choice voting -- also known as instant runoff voting -- in the city. Under the system, already in use in San Francisco, voters rank their three top choices so a winner can be declared even if he or she doesn't garner a majority of first-place votes.

Sixty-seven percent of voters backed the measure, and 33 percent were opposed. -- Offbeat and practical issues taken up around Bay Area

Minnesota: Minneapolis voters adopt instant-runoff voting

The Star Tribune reports: Voters in Minneapolis tossed out years of tradition by adopting a new voting system for local elections, a historic change that supporters said would increase voter participation.

With more than 93 percent of the precincts reporting, city voters approved by nearly a 2-to-1 ratio a charter amendment for instant-runoff voting, a system used in San Francisco and two other U.S. cities.

"It clearly shows that Minneapolis is ready to take the next step toward democracy," said Jeanne Massey, lead coordinator for the Minneapolis Better Ballot Campaign.

The election system eliminates primary elections for most municipal contests and allows voters to rank their choices for office, instead of choosing a single candidate. -- Measure to overhaul municipal races passes

Alabama: Montiel appeals to Alabama Supreme Court

AP reports: A Republican attorney who tried to kick four powerful Democratic state senators off of Tuesday's ballot said he will keep pursuing his lawsuit after the election.

Mark Montiel, a former Republican candidate for attorney general, filed a suit in Autauga County before the general election that sought to remove Senate President Pro Tem Lowell Barron of Fyffe, Senate Majority Leader Zeb Little of Cullman, and Senate budget committee Chairmen Hank Sanders of Selma and Roger Bedford of Russellville. -- Four senators' case appealed to Alabama Supreme Court | TimesDaily.com | Times Daily | Florence, AL

Comment: There was a story on Friday saying that Montiel would appeal.

Disclosure: I am working with the Democratic Party attorneys in opposing this suit.

November 7, 2006

District of Columbia: group pushes for DC congressional representation bill

The Washington Post reports: A prominent group of D.C. politicians and business leaders is making a new push for approval this year of a bipartisan bill in Congress that would give District residents full voting rights in the House for the first time.

The initiative comes six months after Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) and U.S. Rep. Thomas M. Davis III (R-Va.) introduced a bill in the House of Representatives that includes a provision for D.C. voting rights. The advocates are calling on Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. (R-Wis.), chairman of the Judiciary Committee, to move the bill to a floor vote in Congress before the session adjourns. ...

Passage depends on a bipartisan trade-off expanding the House from 435 to 437 members. One seat would go to the District and the other to Utah, which would make it a statewide position. Because more than three-quarters of registered voters in the District are Democrats and Utah is a Republican stronghold, the compromise would likely keep a balance between the parties. -- Power Elite Lean on Congress to Approve Bill - washingtonpost.com

GOP's robocalls are infuriating Democrats

The Washington Post reports: This year's heavy volume of automated political phone calls has infuriated countless voters and triggered sharp complaints from Democrats, who say the Republican Party has crossed the line in bombarding households with recorded attacks on candidates in tight House races nationwide. ...

Democrats cited federal records indicating that the NRCC recently spent about $600,000 in at least 45 contested House districts for robo-calls, which are among the least expensive campaign tools. The brief calls typically begin with a speaker offering "some information" about the Democratic nominee and then immediately accusing the nominee of seeking to raise taxes, among other perceived wrongs.

Many voters hang up as soon as a robo-call begins -- without waiting for the criticisms or the NRCC sign-off at the end -- so they think it was placed by the Democratic candidate named at the start, said Sarah Feinberg, spokeswoman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. "Our candidates are inundated with phone calls from furious Democrats and independents saying . . . 'I'm outraged and I'm not going to vote for you anymore,' " she said.

Feinberg said some voters have received robo-calls late at night, despite federal rules barring such calls after 9 p.m. NRCC spokesman Carl Forti said his organization ends all calls by 9 nightly.

Democrats also cited Federal Communications Commission guidelines saying the originators of automated calls must identify themselves at the beginning of each call. Republican Party lawyers, however, said the requirement does not apply to political nonprofit organizations. They rebuffed a "cease and desist" letter sent yesterday by the DCCC. -- It's a Candidate Calling. Again. - washingtonpost.com

Virginia and Maryland: last minute problems in elections

The Washington Post reports: As Maryland and Virginia voters prepared to decide tight races that could hinge on turnout, unusual attention was being paid yesterday to how the votes will be cast and counted, particularly in Maryland, where September's primary was marred by mechanical and human errors.

In both states, record numbers of voters were continuing to cast absentee ballots. In Maryland, a last-minute fight broke out over the deadline for mailing those ballots. Elections officials across the state delivered electronic voting machines, performed final training for election judges and vowed that the primary problems would not be repeated. ...

On Sunday in Maryland, a group of top Democratic lawmakers joined a coalition of civil rights groups in calling for the deadline for absentee ballots to be moved from yesterday to today. The groups cited delays in delivery of the ballots -- some were mailed to voters as late as Saturday -- because of the unprecedented number requested this election. They said voters who don't get their ballots on time could be disenfranchised. ...

Yesterday, the Election Protection Coalition, a group of civil rights groups, filed a lawsuit in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court on behalf of two voters who they said had not received the absentee ballots they requested and can't get to the polls today to vote. One requested the ballot in mid-August and cannot not get to her polling place today because she is away at college. The other lives in a nursing home and doesn't have a way to get to the polls. Judge Joseph P. Manck said in denying the petition: "What you're asking me to do is a situation that can cause more damage to the entire election than just those who you're saying may be disenfranchised." -- Primary Bugs, New Glitches Fueling Jitters In Md. and Va. - washingtonpost.com

Congresswoman Jean Schmidt's voting problem


November 6, 2006

Ohio: Blackwell pulls another fast one

AP reports: Lawyers and judges scrambled Monday to wrap up key election lawsuits that pertained to Tuesday's election.

Some succeeded, some failed.

With time expired, for example, a long-standing attempt by backers of Issue 1 had failed to force a signature recount that might have gotten the workers' compensation overhaul certified for the ballot. As a result, votes cast on the issue will not be counted.

The Ohio Democratic Party, by contrast, prevailed Monday in its lawsuit seeking to place 300 additional election observers around the state - though there was a twist.

In a brief ruling, Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge Timothy E. McMonagle provided the wording for Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, the Republican governor candidate, to use in informing the state's 88 county election boards that observers can freely be added, deleted or substituted.

Blackwell's office, however, interpreted the order to only apply in Cuyahoga County - where it was filed and where the judge's court resides - and said so in a directive it eventually released. McMonagle had also given Democrats an extra two hours to put in observer requests, and the state said that also only applied in Cuyahoga County. -- AP Wire | 11/06/2006 | Legal challenges live, die on eve of Ohio election

Missouri: despite state supreme court ruling, polling officials asking for voter I.D.

AP reports: Secretary of State Robin Carnahan raised concerns about potential voter confusion in Tuesday's elections, citing her own experience casting an absentee ballot as an indication that some poll workers may wrongly be asking voters for a photo identification.

Carnahan told The Associated Press on Monday that a worker at the St. Louis Election Board asked her three times to show a photo identification when she voted absentee last Friday - despite a Missouri Supreme Court ruling striking down the photo requirement.

The poll worker apparently did not recognize that Carnahan was Missouri's chief elections official when Carnahan showed a paper voter card mailed out by the local election authority. The card does not have a picture but is an acceptable form of identification under Missouri law.

Carnahan said she tried to explain a photo ID was not necessary, but the election worker replied that she was instructed to ask for one anyway. Carnahan said she eventually was allowed to vote without displaying a photo identification. -- AP Wire | 11/06/2006 | AP Exclusive: Election chief concerned about voter confusion

Ten things you won't learn from the polls

FairVote (the Center for Voting and Democracy) has posted "Ten Stories About Election 2006: What You Won't Learn From The Polls."

Pundits predict a Democratic sweep on November 7, 2006. But that's only the the tip of the iceberg...

1. What Do Votes Have To Do With It? Why a Democratic vote majority might not mean a Congressional majority
2. Monopoly Politics. FairVote's seminal prediction model and how, on November 9, we'll predict nearly all House winners... for 2008
3. The Untouchables. The growing list of House members on total cruise control
4. The Gerrymander & Money Myths. The real roots of non-competition and GOP advantage
5. The Republican Turnout Machine Myth. If not real in 2004, why would it be now?
6. The 50-State Question. Measuring Dean's gamble in 2006... and 2016
7. Downballot GOP Blues. What a Democratic wave could mean for state legislatures
8. Of Spoilers & Minority Rule. Where split votes could swing seats - and already have
9. The Democrats' Paradox. Why a win could shake up House leaders and the presidential race
10. Slouching Toward Diversity. Who's to gain when a few more white men lose? -- FairVote - SPECIAL REPORT: 10 Stories About Election 2006

New Hampshire: GOP to stop robocalls in state

AP reports: The National Republican Congressional Committee agreed to stop placing automated telephone calls to New Hampshire residents on the federal do-not-call list, a state official said.

The committee voluntarily agreed Sunday to stop calling homes on the registry after a citizen complained to the state attorney general's office, which then spoke with the GOP group's lawyer in Washington.

Under state statute, political campaigns are allowed to contact people on the do-not-call list, but cannot use automated recordings.

Deputy Attorney General Bud Fitch said households that are not on the registry may continue to receive the calls, which criticize Democratic congressional challenger Paul Hodes in the tight race with Republican Rep. Charles Bass. ...

One of the calls features a woman who opens by saying "Hello. I'm calling with information about Paul Hodes." She goes on to criticize his position on taxes and ends by saying the call was paid for by the National Republican Congressional Committee, according to a tape recording released by the state Democratic Party.

According to the Federal Communications Commission Web site, automated calls must state the identity of the business, individual, or other entity making the call at the beginning of the message. Burgos said the messages comply with all federal laws, but declined to comment specifically on the placement of the sponsor message.-- N.H. makes GOP stop some automated calls - Yahoo! News

Comment: I found the following on the FCC site:

Calls using artificial or prerecorded voice messages - including those that do not use autodialers - may not be made to residential telephone numbers except in the following cases:

* emergency calls needed to ensure the consumer's health and safety;
* calls for which you have given prior consent;
* non-commercial calls;
* calls which don't include or introduce any unsolicited advertisements or constitute telephone solicitations;
* calls by, or on behalf of, tax-exempt non-profit organizations;or
* calls from entities with which you have an established business relationship.

Wouldn't a call from a political group be "non-commercial"?

Maryland: groups demand 24-hour extension in absentee mailing time

AP reports: A coalition of attorneys' groups and civil rights organizations will consider going to court Monday if the state Board of Elections denies a request to extend the deadline for voters to mail absentee ballots.

More than 188,000 Maryland residents had requested absentee ballots as of Friday, according to elections officials. But some voters still have not received them, and without an extension, ballots postmarked later than Monday would not be counted for Tuesday's election.

The Maryland Election Protection Coalition has asked the elections board to extend the deadline by 24 hours. ...

Deputy Elections Administrator Ross Goldstein said Saturday that the board has not formally acted on the request, although Goldstein said two of five board members told him they are not inclined to make the change. -- Court threatened over absentee ballots - Yahoo! News

South Dakota: the man behind Amendment E

CNN reports: Ron Branson's crusade is launched daily from his garage in a nondescript house in California's San Fernando Valley.

Branson, his wife, Barbie, and attorney Gary Zerman, have waged a years-long, low-budget fight against judges and -- Branson says -- "a judicial system that just doesn't work."

Branson's weapons are his computer, where he publicizes his crusade through his Web site jail4judges.org, and the ballot box. His idea for a "judicial accountability" initiative will be voted on Tuesday in South Dakota.

Known as Amendment E, the measure would create a special grand jury to indict state judges if there are allegations they have violated their duties. It also would strip them of their immunity from civil lawsuits. Civil and criminal sanctions could follow.

It is believed to be the first proposal of its kind in the United States and is among several judicial initiatives on ballots around the country next week. -- State ballot measures challenge judges' power - CNN.com

GOP using sophisticated robo-calls

The New York Times reports: An automated voice at the other end of the telephone line asks whether you believe that judges who “push homosexual marriage and create new rights like abortion and sodomy” should be controlled. If your reply is “yes,” the voice lets you know that the Democratic candidate in the Senate race in Montana, Jon Tester, is not your man.

In Maryland, a similar question-and-answer sequence suggests that only the Republican Senate candidate would keep the words “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance. In Tennessee, another paints the Democrat as wanting to give foreign terrorists “the same legal rights and privileges” as Americans.

Using a telemarketing tactic that is best known for steering consumers to buy products, the organizers of the political telephone calls say they have reached hundreds of thousands of homes in five states over the last several weeks in a push to win votes for Republicans. Democrats say the calls present a distorted picture.

The Ohio-based conservatives behind the new campaign, who include current and former Procter & Gamble managers, say the automated system can reach vast numbers of people at a fraction of the cost of traditional volunteer phone banks and is the most ambitious political use of the telemarketing technology ever undertaken. -- New Telemarketing Ploy Steers Voters on Republican Path - New York Times

Blawg Review #82

Here we are a day before the election and you deserve a break from the campaigning. Ha, if you think this will be the lull before the storm, you don't know Votelaw. Nevertheless, let's see what our fellow blawgers have to say about law, life, and politics.

Some election-related stuff

Frank Pasquale at Concurring Opinions on Political Google-Bombing

Denise Howell at Lawgarithms suggests we Contribute to the Election Day Bloggers' Legal Guide

Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit asks, WANT PRESS COVERAGE? Apparently, you have to run attack ads to get it... and offers this GOP Pre-mortem

Dan Aibel offers an hour-by-hour guide to election night 2006

Madeleine Begun Kane presents Chatty Jack posted at Mad Kane's Political Madness.

Walter Olson, Ted Frank, Jim Copland, and more presents Election Roundtable! posted at PointOfLaw Forum.

Ian Ayres and Sandy Levinson take a look at some issues relating to the upcoming elections. Ayres describes a "Liberal Manifesto" while Levinson makes some observations about what might happen next Tuesday.

Stephen Albainy-Jenei gives us the Friday Editorial: What Do the Elections Mean to Pharma?

David Giacalone asks, Is Self-Help an Issue in Judicial Elections?

Ilya Somin at Volokh Conspiracy explains Why it's (often) rational to vote.

Markos Moulitsas at DailyKos on the Explosive Army, Air Force, and Navy Times editorial (with more than 430 comments, so far).

And for those of you who don't give a damn about elections:

Nate Oman invokes William of Ockham (of "Ockham's Razor" fame) to describe an approach to understanding the UCC.

Brett Trout presents Top Ten Ways to Make Money with Your Patent posted at Blawg IT-Internet Patent, Trademark and Copyright Issues with Attorney Brett Trout.

Stephanie West Allen on Managing the blessings and burdens of thinking like a lawyer: A couple of tips

David Maister presents How to Pay Professional Employees posted at Passion, People and Principles.

Hanno Kaiser presents Greg Werden on the Ancillary Restraints Doctrine after Dagher posted at Antitrust Review.

Kenneth A. Adams presents One Space or Two? posted at AdamsDrafting. [This is the second item I have seen on this meme this week. Having thousands of forms, sample pleadings, briefs, etc. -- all with two spaces after each period -- collected in my word processing system, I will have a hard time reforming my writing style.]

Ted Frank presents More on Philip Morris v. Williams posted at PointOfLaw Forum.

Walter Olson presents Update: Stifling archaeology, the tribal way posted at Overlawyered.

Walter Olson presents "Citing stress, cop sues man whose life he saved" posted at Overlawyered. [Another example of "no good deed goes unpunished."]

Quizlaw's Seth is appalled by a multi-million dollar award to the estates of two trespassers.

Will Baude picks the big brain of Professor Bainbridge concerning such topics as free speech by corporations, his disdain for the Socratic Method, and why Los Angeles has it all over the East Coast.

Chris Borgen notes a ruling that military commissions are illegal. Unfortunately for any of Blawg Review's readers who may be detained at Guantanamo, the ruling and commissions in question were on Battlestar Galatica.

The Google-YouTube deal made big news, but only now can entrepreneur Mark Cuban tell us what the "intimate details" of the deal are.

Roger Alford and Emily Campbell had magic on their minds this week. Alford noted a paper which discusses the rule of law in Harry Potter's universe; A viewing of The Prestige caused Campbell to wonder whether trade secret law could apply to illusions.

Audra Call didn't work during her years at law school and exhorts 1Ls and 2Ls to learn from her mistake.

Lyle Denniston provided some of the best early coverage of the Phillip Morris case this week and was a one-stop shop when it came to rounding-up the comments of other blawgosphere luminaries.

Russ Krajec offers some valuable insight into how to conduct an inventor's interview during the patent application development process.

Victor Fleischer considered whether tax strategies should be patentable.

Douglas Sorocco offered an example of one patent application gone horribly (but humorously) awry.

Geoff Corn described why, although unlikely, amendment of the Uniform Code of Military Justice to include well-defined war crimes might be well-advised.

Ann Althouse noted the case of a health club patron who was tossed from the club for "grunting" during his workouts.

Justin Patten recommended and elaborated upon an article considering whether legal action could keep blogging "at bay".

Scott Henson noted the tenth exoneration in five years of a Dallas County (Texas)-prosecuted prisoner, this time based on DNA testing evidence produced by The Innocence Project.

The Mommy Blawger presents 'Speaking in Tongues' Result of Different Brain Function posted at Complementary and Alternative Medicine Law Blog.

simonne presents Bankruptcy Lawyer: When to Hire One posted at All Tips and Tricks.

Scott Johnson at the Power Line Blog on Mike Hatch's forgotten scandal.

David Lat at Above the Law writes on the Lawsuit of the Day: A Tale of Two YouTubes

Carolyn Elefant at Legal Blog Watch on Sidley Austin's Going to Trial

Dan Hull at What About Clients? on The 12 Rules of Client Service.

Eugene Volokh at Volokh Conspiracy on The Two Abortion Rights, and Therapeutic Abortions as Medical Self-Defense

Nathan Burke at lawfirmblogging.com on A Little Inspiration.

The Editor of Blawg Review writes regarding LexBlog Blawgs.

===

Blawg Review has information about next week's host, and instructions how to get your blawg posts reviewed in upcoming issues.


November 5, 2006

Florida: 4 voters have complained that voting machine will not record vote for Democratic House candidate

The Herald Tribune reports: Poll workers are to remind every voter to look out for the 13th Congressional District race on the electronic ballot after at least four people complained that their initial votes for Democrat Christine Jennings weren't recorded.

Sarasota County Supervisor of Elections Kathy Dent gave the order by e-mail, calling it "critical." She told the Herald-Tribune she believes a very small number of the 24,000 early voters overlooked the 13th Congressional District race because it "is sandwiched in between the Senate and the governor's race."

Dent said her office will review ballot design on the county's touchscreen voting machines to see if the problem can be avoided in the future, but added that more voters correctly fill out touchscreen ballots than paper ballots.

The county uses a paperless touchscreen voting system, and a number of high-profile glitches around the state and nation have added to some voters' inherent distrust of touchscreen voting. -- Voting glitch prompts warning

Thanks to Talking Points Memo for the link.

Facebook.com gives its members a political space

The Los Angeles Times reports: The 10 million members of Facebook.com — the social networking website that's a fixture on college campuses — aren't using it just to check out potential dates or keep track of old high school buddies. They're increasingly using it, and other Internet tools, to get involved in politics.

"He ain't Kinky, he's my governor" is a Facebook group in support of Kinky Friedman, the country singer running for governor of Texas. Polls show the independent candidate in fourth place, but that doesn't discourage the group's 20,000 members, most of whom are younger than 25. Messages on the group's blog urge: "Grab friends and family and take them to the poll!" and "Wear T-shirts!"

Young people, many of whom have used computers since elementary school, are considered a particularly rich target for expanded online political outreach: Every day, nearly two-thirds of all 18- to 30-year-olds check their e-mail, and one-quarter use online communication tools such as Facebook or instant messaging, according to a Young Voter Strategies Battleground Poll conducted in May.

In September, Facebook set up "Election Pulse" — a rundown of Senate, House and governors' races. "We wanted to do something to increase the political voice of the people on Facebook, a group that tends to be on the younger side of the electorate and which is often underrepresented in Washington and state capitals," said Ezra Callahan, project manager for the site's new politics initiative. -- Web could give young voters a voice - Los Angeles Times

Texas: SCOTUS refuses to overturn stay in absentee-voting assistance case

The Brownsville Herald reports: Herminia Becerra showed little concern Saturday following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to allow the Texas attorney general to prosecute those that help elderly and disabled voters cast mail-in ballots.

“All they do is bother people,” the 78-year-old politiquera said of the court and the Attorney General Greg Abbott’s prosecution of campaign workers that facilitate mail-in votes. “I am tired of them.” ...

Texas Democrats went to the high court Saturday seeking to overturn a 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Ap-peals ruling Friday that lifted an injunction they had obtained against Abbott.

Secretary of State Roger Williams and Abbott were sued by the Texas Democratic Party, which claimed that the Republican officials were using state law to suppress minority and elderly voters. The Democrats claimed that the part of the state law they were using violates federal law. -- The Brownsville Herald - Online Edition

"Democracy's dirty little secret"

The National Journal reports: Democracy's dirty little secret: Vote counting is a messy business. In nearly every election, votes that shouldn't be counted are, and votes that should be counted aren't. In the 2004 election, at least 850,000 ballots cast somewhere in the nation were never counted, the federal Election Assistance Commission estimates.

Some voters inadvertently invalidated their absentee ballots by failing to sign them. Other absentee ballots were signed but weren't counted because scanners failed to detect a signature.

But voters who showed up at a polling place didn't necessarily have better luck: Some lacked proper identification, or were directed to the wrong precinct. Others discovered that they weren't registered, that their names had been purged from voter rolls, or that someone had already voted in their name. Most of these frustrated folks were allowed to cast provisional ballots, but many of those ballots were not counted.

When a race isn't tight enough for contested ballots to matter, or when the results are not within what election experts call "the margin of litigation," election officials and the political parties' official observers generally accept the imperfections and move on. That's what happens in most races. It's quite a different matter when the vote count for an important office is very close. -- NATIONAL JOURNAL: Let The Recounts Begin (11/03/2006)

November 4, 2006

Colorado: amendment, if adopted, will impose term limits on appellate judges

The Rocky Mountain News reports: If voters approve a constitutional amendment to limit state appellate court judges to 10 years of service, the makeup of the state Supreme Court would change dramatically in January 2009.

Five of the seven justices currently on the bench would be replaced by nominees selected by the next governor. Seven of the 19 members of the appellate court also would be replaced.

All 12 of the judges who would be replaced were appointees of former Gov. Roy Romer, a Democrat.

Former state Senate President John Andrews, the lead advocate of the measure known as Amendment 40, said limiting judges to 10 years and making them stand for retention more often would hold the judicial branch more accountable. Colorado already has term limits for the legislature and governor's office. ...

But John Moye, former president of the Colorado Bar Association and one of the chairmen of Vote No 40, said removing so many judges at once would create a backlog of cases and allow the next governor to "stack the courts" with members of his political party. -- Rocky Mountain News: Elections

The proposed amendment is only page 32 of the PDF version of the Blue Book.

Alaska: voters choose paper ballots over touch-screens

The Anchorage Daily News reports: Alaska voters had little enthusiasm for new touchscreen voting machines during their shaky debut in the August primary election.

In 20 percent of the precincts, not a single voter cast a ballot on the machines, according to the state Division of Elections.

Voters may have been suspicious of the technology, unaware that touchscreen machines were an option or disappointed to find the machines out of service. In two precincts, the touchscreens arrived damaged and didn't work at all, according to the division. In others, they may have worked only part of the day.

Most Alaska voters used the familiar paper ballots that were then fed into machines that quickly tabulated results. They will probably do so again Tuesday on Election Day. -- adn.com | front : Voters favor paper ballots

Ohio: counties may start counting absentee ballots at 7 p.m. on election day

The Columbus Dispatch reports: The results of absentee balloting in Franklin County, expected to comprise one-third of the vote, could be made public immediately after the polls close Tuesday if a Cleveland judge’s ruling is applied statewide.

Matthew Damschroder, director of the Franklin County Board of Elections, said last night that he hopes to begin scanning absentee ballots at 7 a.m. Monday so the results can be posted when polls close at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday.

Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge Dan Gaul ruled yesterday that all 88 counties can start scanning absentee ballots before Election Day, specifically at 7 a.m. Monday. Gaul granted a request by Cuyahoga County officials who wanted to start scanning absentee ballots early because of an expected crush created by a new law that allows anyone to vote absentee.

Gaul made the ruling after Michael Vu, director of the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections, testified that it could take more than 22 hours for machines to scan the estimated 90,000 absentee ballots that he expects the county to receive. -- The Columbus Dispatch - Local/State

Another Defense Dept. for voting may lead to vote tampering

Stars & Stripes reports: Anyone who has worn the uniform knows the difficulties of voting overseas.

So the Defense Department’s Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP), which supervises voting for Americans overseas, shopped a program to stateside election authorities this year that would allow jurisdictions and voters to send ballots and voter information via unencrypted e-mail.

Eight states agreed to receive e-mailed ballots from overseas voters, Dr. David Chu, undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, told the Senate Armed Services Committee in September. But concerns over privacy, personal security and vote tampering have critics crying foul over the DOD-sponsored initiative, warning that voting by e-mail is an unsecure process that could lead to identity theft or vote tampering.

Bob Carey, a senior fellow with the National Defense Committee, a private group that advocates for military voting rights, said he is not surprised that most states rejected the plan. -- Stars & Stripes

McCain-Feingold did not reduce money in campaigns, or make parties irrelevant

AP reports: Wealthy Americans and legions of small donors are helping finance an onslaught of last-minute political advertising and a fierce voter turnout drive over the next three days, closing out a midterm election that is projected to cost more than $2.6 billion. ...

The influx of money has had its share of surprises.

The parties, particularly the Democrats, have adapted remarkably well to a 2002 campaign finance law that many thought would render them irrelevant. Democrats and Republicans have tapped a new vein of small donors, and have taken advantage of higher contribution limits to squeeze more money out of the ultra-rich.

Strikingly, the Democrats have used a late burst of fundraising to close a Republican cash advantage and to expand their hunt for competitive races. The rush of cash has also quieted an internal squabble over money between
Democratic National Committee Chairman
Howard Dean and the heads of the party's two campaign committees.

At the same time, challengers have raised more money, putting Republican incumbents at risk. And political action committees set up by labor, business and ideological groups have made a resurgence, raising hundreds of millions of dollars to target specific congressional races.

One thing is for sure. While the 2002 campaign finance law, known as McCain-Feingold, banned unrestricted donations from labor, corporations and the wealthy to the political parties, it did not reduce the amount of money in the political arena. -- Political system flush with cash - Yahoo! News

Scientists show how negative ads work on the brain

AP reports: The grainy black-and-white images appear on television, while ominous music plays in the background. It's another in a blizzard of negative political ads and before you consciously know it, the message takes hold of your brain. You may not want it to, but it works just about instantly.

In fact, the ad's effects on the brain "are actually shocking," says UCLA psychiatry professor Dr. Marco Iacoboni.

Iacoboni's brain imaging research from the 2004 presidential campaign revealed that viewers lost empathy for their own candidate once he was attacked.

Scientists around the country are logging the emotional and physical effects of negative political ads. Iacoboni tracked parts of the middle brain that lit up in brain scans when people watched their favorite candidates get attacked. Other scientists hooked up wires to measure frowns and smiles before the meaning of the ads' words sunk in. Mostly, researchers found that negative ads tend to polarize and make it less likely that supporters of an attacked candidate will vote. -- Scientists track effects of negative ads - Yahoo! News

Alabama: most expensive judicial races in the country

The Birmingham News reports: The two candidates for chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court spent more than $1 million each over the last 40 days, mostly on a blitz of campaign commercials in the tightly contested race, candidate disclosure reports show.

Four Supreme Court candidates have raised more than $1 million each during the entire campaign, including $4.4 million by Chief Justice Drayton Nabers Jr. and $1.9 million by his opponent, Sue Bell Cobb. ...

The $11.3 million total raised in the five state Supreme Court races - including the Place 1 seat in which Justice Champ Lyons has no opposition - is the most in the nation.

The closest state is Texas, where candidates in five races raised a combined $3.1 million by mid-October, according to Justice at Stake, a Washington group that tracks spending in judicial races.

Alabama's Supreme Court candidates have spent a total of $10.6 million, disclosure reports show.

The nation's most expensive single judicial race is Alabama's chief justice contest. Nabers and Cobb have spent a combined $5.9 million, including $3.7 million since the primary, when only Nabers had opposition. -- Nabers, Cobb blitz costs each $1 million

Being first on the ballot may give a 2% edge

Jon A. Krosnick writes in the New York Times: People who are first in line at a movie know they have the best chance of getting the seats they want. When students answer multiple-choice questions incorrectly, they usually choose one of the first options offered. When people taste-test four brands of beer, they tend to prefer the one they try first.

And so it is with voting. Candidates listed first on the ballot get about two percentage points more votes on average than they would have if they had been listed later (flipping a 49 to 51 defeat into a 51 to 49 victory). In fact, in about half the races I have studied, the advantage of first place is even bigger — certainly big enough to win some elections these days.

When do voters gravitate to the first name they see? Based on the more than 100 elections in Ohio that a colleague and I studied, it’s when voters know little or nothing about the candidates, or when the candidates’ party affiliations are not listed on the ballot, or when the incumbent (whom voters typically know at least somewhat) is not running for re-election. Thus, some voters apparently feel an obligation or desire to vote even when they have no basis for choosing a candidate and are drawn to the first name they read.

But even in well-publicized major national races, being listed first can help. Some people walk into the voting booth feeling ambivalent, and in the end just grab the name on top so they can get out of the booth. -- In the Voting Booth, Bias Starts at the Top - New York Times

Times Direct

Tom Mighell's indispensable Inter Alia carried this item yesterday: The New York Times introduced the Times Reader, a slick way to read the newspaper. It's basically a stand-alone version of the New York Times -- it's a free download, and you can configure it to check for new stories at pre-determined intervals. You can save and annotate stories, and print or e-mail them. It's a great idea, and very well done -- I just wish it included more sources than the Times. -- Inter Alia

I downloaded the application (it took 15 minutes or more for the software to download and install), but wow, it looks great. I can set it to download new stories at anytime I want, or every 15 minutes. The formatting of the stories automatically resize to fit whatever window size I have open.

Excuse me. I have to get back to reading the Times.

“Both sides are lawyering up”

The New York Times reports: A team of lawyers for the Democratic Party has been arguing with postal officials in Columbus, Ohio, trying to persuade them to process thousands of absentee ballots that have arrived with insufficient postage.

In Pennsylvania, the Republican Party has opened a “recount account” and set aside $500,000 to pay lawyers who will answer telephones on Election Day and monitor polls to see whether officials demand proper voters’ identification. In Maryland, lawyers representing candidates for senator and governor from both parties met recently and swapped cellphone numbers and e-mail addresses to smooth out the logistics of potential litigation.

Several days from what Republican and Democratic campaign strategists expect to be a close election, the legal machinery of a messy fight is shifting into high gear. ...

“Both sides are lawyering up,” said Doug Chapin, director of the nonpartisan Election Reform Information Project. “Election night is not necessarily the finish line anymore.”

Election litigation has grown since 2000, reaching 361 suits in 2004, up from 108 in 1996, according to Richard L. Hasen, a professor at the Loyola Law School in Los Angeles. -- As Vote Nears, Parties Prepare for Legal Fights - New York Times

November 3, 2006

Pennsylvania: federal court rejects DOJ motion for federal observers in Philadelphia polling places

AP reports: A federal court refused Friday to appoint observers for Tuesday's election to remedy what the Justice Department called the city's abysmal record of meeting its obligations to Spanish-speaking voters.

The three-judge panel filed a brief order Friday afternoon denying the request and said the reasoning would be explained in a decision later.

The Justice Department contends Philadelphia has failed to provide sufficient election materials in Spanish and has not recruited enough bilingual poll workers. City officials said they have hired more interpreters and argue that bringing in observers could discourage people from voting. -- Judges reject Philly election monitors - Yahoo! News

To get a photo I.D., you must have a birth certificate, which you can only get with a photo I.D.

At the end of a typical round-up article in the Washington Post (Democrats Predict Voter ID Problems - washingtonpost.com) are these two paragraphs:

Jowana Peterson, 51, of Indianapolis lost her wallet with her license inside a few weeks ago. When she went to replace it, she brought a copy of her birth certificate from Chicago, her Social Security card, her ID card from her job as a financial planner and four utility bills. "They turned me out cold," she said, telling her she needed a new birth certificate from Cook County. She has applied, but it has not yet arrived. Because she had signed up to work at the polls on Election Day, she was eligible to get an absentee ballot, but she worries about other would-be voters who cannot get one -- or do not know to ask.

Even so, she says, "I feel pretty cheated. I am an American citizen. I've paid my taxes. I feel the system kind of let me down. It shouldn't be that hard."

Just to see what I would have to do if I lost my license and could not find the sole copy of my birth certificate (kept safely in the safe deposit box), I went to the National Center for Health Statistics website for information on obtaining a Georgia birth certificate. After telling me where to write, how much money to send, etc., was this line: "The requestor must provide a photocopy of a valid photo ID."

Someday, one of us is going to end up like Charlie who must ride forever 'neath the streets of Boston because we don't have the proper I.D. to get the proper I.D.

"E-voting may be scarier than hanging chads"

The Los Angeles Times reports: After the 2000 presidential election in Florida exposed the dangers of relying on punch-card ballots and other vintage voting systems, the federal government spent more than $3 billion to help state and local authorities overhaul the way Americans record their votes. When the polls open for Tuesday's midterm election, 90% will be equipped with new high-tech systems.

But instead of bringing the accuracy, efficiency and reliability of the corner ATM, the wholesale makeover of the nation's voting system has brought a new set of concerns: the possibilities of software bugs, freeze-ups, vulnerability to hackers and new forms of human error that could bring their own chaos and controversy. ...

The six states that are considered most likely to determine which party controls the Senate all have adopted touch-screen voting systems, but they differ widely in the safeguards they require. According to the nonpartisan Election Reform Information Project, four of the states don't insist on what experts consider the most fundamental protection — a paper trail. -- E-voting may be scarier than hanging chads - Los Angeles Times

Alabama: Montiel appeals to Supreme Court

AP reports: An attorney trying to unseat four powerful Democratic state senators plans to appeal to the Alabama Supreme Court for permission to pursue his suit in Republican-leaning Autauga County.

Autauga County Circuit Judge Ben Fuller, a Republican, ruled Wednesday that Mark Montiel can't pursue his suit in the county, and he ordered it moved to Montgomery County, the seat of state government.

Montiel filed court papers Thursday asking the judge to put the move on hold while Montiel appeals to the Alabama Supreme Court. The suit seeks to disqualify Senate President Pro Tem Lowell Barron of Fyffe, Senate Majority Leader Zeb Little of Cullman, and Hank Sanders of Selma and Roger Bedford of Russellville. -- Attorney challenging senators to appeal ruling

November 2, 2006

Election Protection 2006

If you experience election-related problems, call 1-866-OUR-VOTE.

Hacking Democracy (2)

I have a distinctly uneasy feeling about our election structure after watching "Hacking Democracy" on HBO. It's a thrill a minute -- well, maybe every few minutes.

Watch dumpster-diving, video-camera-carrying citizens pull original voting-machine tabulation tapes out of trash sacks. Listen as they tell election officials that the original tapes don't match up with the totals shown on the tapes the officials ran for the citizens.

Watch a Finnish computer scientist modify a program on a Diebold memory card (which Diebold's engineer says contains only data and no executable code) so that it changes the results of an election.

If you want to watch it, there are 17 more opportunities over the next two weeks on various HBO channels. If you have a TiVo or DVR, do a search for the name and record it. It will also be on HBO OnDemand (available on many cable systems) beginning next Monday.

California (and other places?): the yellow button on Sequoia voting machines

The Broad View reports: Debra Bowen, Democratic candidate for California's Secretary of State, told us about this the other night on a blogger conference call. Brad Friedman follows up:

It seems there's a little yellow button on the back every touch-screen computer made by Sequoia Voting Systems, that allows any voter, or poll worker, or precinct inspector to set the system into "Manual Mode" allowing them to cast as many votes as they want.

Concerns about the flaw were first reported some thirty days ago to California Secretary of State Bruce McPherson's office by Ron Watt, a Tehama County, CA precinct inspector who has been a poll worker in the county for the last fifteen years. And yet, as recently as a radio interview last Tuesday, McPherson — who has been crowing about having the country's most stringent security process for voting systems — denied he was aware of any security issues with Sequoia systems...

-- The Broad View: Vote early and often — just push the little yellow button

CREW files IRS complaint against Bob Perry's 527

The CREW blog reports: Americans for Honesty on Issues (AFHOI), a 527 organization totally funded by Texan Bob Perry, is not living up to its name. Seems the group is not being quite honest with Americans. They have failed to report contributions and expenditures with the IRS as mandated by federal law. Because of this serious lapse, CREW has filed a complaint with the IRS against the organization:

As of November 2, 2006, AFHOI had not filed reports with the IRS for two reporting periods, including the 3rd quarter report, due October 16, 2006, and the pre-general election report due on October 26, 2006. Federal law requires 527s like AFHOI to disclose all contributions and expenditures to the IRS.

Any 527 that fails to report its expenditures and contributions may be assessed a tax up to 35% of the unreported totals. CREW estimates that the IRS could fine AFHOI up to $1.68 million.

-- Citizens Blogging for Responsibility and Ethics In Washington

Diebold demands HBO cancel documentary ... or post a disclaimer

Bloomberg News reports: Diebold Inc. insisted that cable network HBO cancel a documentary that questions the integrity of its voting machines, calling the program inaccurate and unfair.

The program, "Hacking Democracy," is scheduled to debut Thursday, , five days before the 2006 U.S. midterm elections. The film claims that Diebold voting machines aren't tamper-proof and can be manipulated to change voting results.

"Hacking Democracy" is "replete with material examples of inaccurate reporting," Diebold Election System President David Byrd said in a letter to HBO President and Chief Executive Chris Albrecht posted on Diebold's Web site. Short of pulling the film, Monday's letter asks for disclaimers to be aired and for HBO to post Diebold's response on its Web site. -- Diebold demands that HBO cancel documentary on voting machines

Arizona: federal judge requires count of non-voters, but denies poll-watcher request

AP reports: A federal judge on Wednesday refused to let critics of Arizona's voter identification law station observers inside polling stations during the Nov. 7 general election but ordered election officials to count how many people without identification walk away without voting.

U.S. District Judge Roslyn Silver said the Inter Tribal Council of Arizona and other challengers to the 2004 law have a legitimate pretrial interest in learning how many people are affected by the requirement that people casting ballots at polling places produce specified types of identification.

The judge ordered election officials to count instances where people who do not have required identification and leave a polling place without casting a conditional provisional ballot.

Silver said she denied the challengers' request to be allowed to station their own observers in polling places because state law permits only certain people in polling places in order to prevent interference, intimidation and harassment. -- Mohave Daily News: Top Story

Ohio: consent decree suspends voter I.D. requirement for absentee ballots

The Cincinnati Enquirer reports: Poverty and labor groups scored a partial victory Wednesday with a federal court settlement that clarifies and expands Ohio's new voter-identification standards for Election Day, and suspends ID requirements altogether for absentee ballots.

The consent decree signed late Wednesday in U.S. District Court clears up confusion in key areas and allows more citizens to vote, said Cleveland attorney Subodh Chandra, one of the lawyers challenged the law.

The lawsuit, on behalf of the Service Employees International Union and the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless, had argued that counties were violating constitutional equal protection guarantees by inconsistently applying the law. ...

The settlement expands the number of provisional ballots that will be counted and widens some of the law's definitions. It allows voters who don't have identification to use their Social Security number, a scenario which had been omitted from the law.

Under the settlement, the definition of government documents that can be used as proof of ID has been expanded to specifically include those from local and county governments, as well as state universities and public community colleges. -- The Enquirer - Voter ID dispute settled

Illinois: 2 Democratic candidates quit race because of Hatch Act

The Chicago Tribune reports: Rather than lose their jobs at the Elgin Mental Health Center, two Kane County Board candidates abandoned their Democratic candidacies this week after being warned their status as federal workers bars them from running.

The reluctant withdrawal of Michael Lowery of North Aurora and Willie Clements of Elgin on Tuesday, a week before the Nov. 7 election, will not deter the Kane County Democratic Organization from trying to defeat the Republicans running for the posts, said Chairman Mark Guethle on Wednesday. ...

They were challenging incumbent Republicans for County Board when they were alerted last week by an ethics officer with their longtime employer, the state Department of Human Services, to either quit their partisan campaigns for office or give up their jobs at the Elgin Mental Health Center.

Because the state-run center is partly funded with federal money, Lowery and Clements are precluded from running for partisan office because they technically are federal employees, Guethle said. -- 2 Democrats quit Kane races to keep jobs | Chicago Tribune

Ohio: "Confessions of an Ohio poll worker"

"Lucy Paul" writes on Salon: I had been thinking about working at a polling place on Election Day ever since 2004, when Ohio was the crucial presidential battleground state -- and the red-hot center of controversy, with voters either turned away from the polls, or exercising their rights on machines that recorded their votes incorrectly, or not being able to get to the few machines at all.

Would this year be 2004 all over again, I wondered?

Then I saw a notice in our church bulletin: "Poll Workers Wanted." It said you could help your community and make money, too. It listed the pay: $95 plus training fees as a regular judge, $105 plus training fees as a presiding judge, or $115 plus training fees as a red bag judge. Figuring I could take a paid vacation day from my job while being paid to work a polling place -- and seeing the bill from my husband's student loans -- I decided I could use an extra hundred bucks, in addition to witnessing our democracy at work. Or not. -- Confessions of an Ohio poll worker | Salon News

Note: The author will write another article on her Election-Day experiences and reveal her true identity.

"Hacking Democracy" on HBO starting tonight

Salon reports: "When people see what is really going on, there is no way we will allow this to continue," the crusading election-reform activist Bev Harris declares at the beginning of "Hacking Democracy," a documentary film about the flawed American election system that premieres on HBO on Nov. 2. It's a nice thought, one you want to believe: If only Americans could be made to understand the true, gut-sinking atrociousness of just about everything involved in U.S. elections -- from the gerrymandered districts to the undemocratic distribution of electoral power to the enormous influence wielded by partisan officials to the underfunded, overwhelmed local offices to, finally, the insanely dangerous technology we use to run the whole thing -- well, then, maybe folks would actually do something about the problem.

But it's been four years since Harris launched her campaign to expose the dangers of new voting technology -- and it's been six years since we witnessed a presidential election in which the winner actually lost, and two years since we saw one in which errors were so widespread that rational people are still arguing over whether what actually happened was historic theft or historic incompetence. Reports of voting irregularities are now a mainstay of the mainstream media, and politicians and political parties regularly vow to fix the problem. Still, in all this time, little has changed. Surveys suggest that many Americans will go to the polls on Nov. 7 feeling (justifiably) uncertain about the integrity of the vote. If you're not already among that number, watch this film. -- "Hacking Democracy" | Salon Arts & Entertainment

Alabama: suit seeking disqualification of 4 senators to be moved to Montgomery

AP reports: A lawsuit seeking to remove four powerful Democratic senators from the general election ballot must be moved from Autauga County to Montgomery County, a Republican judge ruled Wednesday.

Autauga County Circuit Judge Ben Fuller said the suit must be heard in the capital because it is the location of the secretary of state, Alabama's chief election official and the main defendant in the suit.

The move may make it difficult for the suit to be heard before the election Nov. 7, but the issues could still be argued after the election, attorneys said. ...

The suit argues that the four senators should be removed from the ballot for not filing campaign finance reports during the primary election in June, when they had no opposition. -- Judge orders venue move of lawsuit to oust senators

November 1, 2006

Hispanic voter drive registers only 1/6 of goal

AP reports: After huge immigration protests earlier this year, advocates vowed to capitalize on the energy and register 1 million new foreign-born voters, mostly Hispanics.

But rhetoric has run headlong into reality: Organizers say that, as of last week, they had signed up fewer than 150,000 people.

Advocates' experiences show that cultivating new voters is tough, plodding work, and that developing Latino power will rely not on street protests but on the group becoming more politcally engaged as it gets older. ...

First off, more than one in three of the nation's 42 million-plus Hispanics are age 17 or younger, 2005 Census data show — too young to vote. And some portion of that population, no one is sure exactly how many, includes illegal immigrants.

Plus, organizers said, many newcomers lack basic civics information. Some barely understand the nation's political system — its structure, rules and history — how and where to vote, and how to sort through political rhetoric to choose candidates. Some don't know that they can ask for election information in foreign languages, that voting is free or that the U.S. has elaborate voter protection laws. -- Hispanic voter drive falls short - Yahoo! News

Registration campaign targets unmarried women

Reuters reports: For one Hollywood actress, the first time was in a garage. Another did it when she was 18. A third researched all the positions before doing it.

And they're not talking about sex. Angie Harmon, Felicity Huffman and Regina King are starring in a political ad, recalling the first time they voted.

The public-service ad is part of an effort to motivate more women, particularly "women on their own" -- single, divorced and widowed -- to go to the polls on November 7.

"They are the fastest growing demographic group in this country," said Page Gardner, president of Women's Voices Women Vote, the group that produced the ad. -- Unmarried women targeted in election | Politics News | Reuters.com

Note: Here is the video:

(In case anyone is keeping up, this is my first time ... to run a YouTube video.)

Florida: Coulter may be prosecuted for voting in wrong precinct

AP reports: Conservative columnist Ann Coulter has refused to cooperate in an investigation into whether she voted in the wrong precinct, so the case will probably be turned over to prosecutors, Palm Beach County's elections chief said Wednesday.

Elections Supervisor Arthur Anderson said his office has been looking into the matter for nearly nine months, and he would turn over the case to the state attorney's office by Friday.

Coulter's attorney did not immediately return a call Wednesday. Nor did her publicist at her publisher, Crown Publishing.

Knowingly voting in the wrong precinct is a felony punishable by up to five years in prison. -- Columnist Coulter in hot water over voting

Comment: I am waiting for a conservative talking-head to scream, "Witch hunt."

New book: "Absentee and Early Voting"

American Enterprise Institute reports on its new book: Americans once gathered on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November to pick the nation's leaders. Election Day was a day of civic engagement when neighbors met at the polls and then cast their ballots. In the past twenty-five years, however, America has undergone a revolution in voting unlike anything it has experienced in the first 200 years of its history. We have created a system of many mini-election-days leading up to the main event.

Today nearly a quarter of Americans vote before Election Day, either by absentee ballot or at early voting places. In 1980, only one in twenty voters voted before Election Day. What has happened? Has the convenience of absentee or early voting compromised the integrity of the process and weakened a unifying civic experience?

In Absentee and Early Voting: Trends, Promises, and Perils, John Fortier documents the dramatic increase in absentee voting and, more recently, the meteoric rise in early voting. He examines the legal and historical reasons for changes in the voting system and the many differences across states. Fortier offers his thoughts about what the changes have meant for the country and where we should go from here. -- AEI - Books

Note: I received my copy of the book about a week ago, but have been too busy to read it. It looks like it will be interesting.

DOJ sending observers to 20 states

CNN reports: The Justice Department plans to dispatch more than 800 federal observers and monitors to 20 states to protect voting rights in potentially troubled polling locations, officials announced Tuesday.

That is a record number of federal officials watching polling stations in an off-year election.

"Yes, the anticipated closeness of races is one factor in our decisions about where we'll be sending people," said Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Wan Kim.

Kim said he would not identify until Monday the more than 65 cities and counties to which the observers will be sent. -- Federal observers and monitors heading to polls - CNN.com