Votelaw, Edward Still's blog on law and politics: October 2008 Archives

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October 30, 2008

New Demos reports

Expanding Voter Registration for Low-Income Virginians: The Impact of the National Voter Registration Act
Press release:

Provisional Ballots: Where to Watch in 2008
Press release:

Toward an Equal Electorate: Five States' Gains Under the National Voter Registration Act
Press release:

October 29, 2008

"Republican Voter Suppression: A Guide"

TPM Muckraker reports: There are so many Republican gambits designed to make voting more difficult -- specifically for Democrats, of course -- that it can be hard to keep track of them all. So here's a handy -- and by no means comprehensive -- guide to what's happening in some of the key swing states. -- TPMMuckraker | Talking Points Memo | Republican Voter Suppression: A Guide

October 28, 2008

"Voting 2.0"

Danielle Citron writes on Concurring Opinions: A cherished right in the United States is to vote in secrecy. But what if we don't want to exercise that right in secret? What if in this age of insecure and inaccurate e-voting machines we want to record our votes and our voting experiences, say with cell phones or video cameras? According to The New York Times, many voters plan to do just that, making it likely that this election will be the "most recorded in history."

Much like the online communities that came together to expose flaws in Diebold's source code in 2003 after activist Bev Harris discovered the code on an unsecured website, Web 2.0 platforms are emerging for the sole purpose of recording voting problems. Jon Pincus's Voter Suppression Wiki will let voters collaborate to collect examples of problems with voting, from exceptionally long lines or more direct actions to intimidate voters. Allison Fine and Nancy Scola are using Twitter to monitor voting problems. YouTube has created a channel, Video Your Vote, to encourage submissions. Even The New York Times has a Polling Place Photo Project on its website. Such public participation will no doubt generate crucial information for states and the Election Assistance Commission to study and may even enhance the legitimacy of this election. -- Concurring Opinions

Note: please visit Concurring Opinions for the links in Citron's post.

Popular monitoring of popular elections

Heather Gerken writes on Balkinization: A few months ago, I blogged about a new strategy for "popular monitoring of popular elections" – Harvard professor Archon Fung's proposal for harnessing the power of the wiki to monitor election problems by creating "a real-time 'weather map' of voting conditions across the country." The site is now up and running, and I urge Balkinization readers to check it out. By enabling thousands of citizens to rate their voting experiences and identify problems, the site should be extremely helpful for election officials and campaigns trying to prevent modest glitches from developing into genuine problems, while enabling reporters to do a better job of reporting on conditions on the ground. Very few election systems in the U.S. have the capacity to engage in real-time monitoring, but could well develop into such a system.

In addition to these practical advantages, may help with the core problem in election reform -- it's tough to get reform passed. One of the main reasons election reform is hard to pass is that election problems are largely invisible to the average voter. Discarded ballots, long lines, machine breakdowns, registration problems -- these all occur routinely during the election process. But voters only become aware of these problems when a race is close enough for the problem to affect the outcome. Given that most races are not competitive, that's a bit like tracking annual rainfall by counting how often lightening strikes. Because voters learn about election administration problems in a haphazard, episodic fashion, politicians have no incentive to pay attention to them unless there's what Rick Hasen calls an "electoral meltdown."

The magic of Fung's idea is that it makes election problems visible even in the absence of an electoral meltdown. If enough people participated so that coverage is thorough and consistent -- and that’s a big “if,” as Fung recognizes -- the site would be a great way to draw people's attention to routine election problems. -- Wiki-ing our way to better elections

Our Vote

Election Protection's Our Vote site is up and running already. You can find it here.

Election Protection has added a new wrinkle -- Our Vote Live -- "the official site documenting the groundbreaking voter assistance work of the Election Protection Coalition. Here, you can review in real-time reports of voter assistance calls made to 866-OUR-VOTE, Election Protection's toll-free hotline."

Good new: plenty of work for lawyers; bad news: it's unpaid

The New York Times reports: With heavy voter turnout expected on Election Day, both parties are amassing thousands and thousands of lawyers to keep an eye on the polls.

Senator Barack Obama’s campaign is expected to send at least 5,000 lawyers to Florida alone. The first recruitment e-mail message the campaign sent out nationally received 6,000 responses from lawyers willing to volunteer. Meanwhile, Senator John McCain’s campaign has lined up “Lawyers for McCain” to spread out at polling places in closely contested states as advocates for the ticket.

Both campaigns plan to use the lawyers to protect their supporters at the polls, help untangle ballot problems and run to court should litigation be necessary. Given the heated ballot challenges in the 2000 and 2004 elections, getting legal talent on the ground on Election Day is becoming as common a tool for the campaigns as advertising and polling.

“Both sides are assembling literally thousands of lawyers at the state level,” said Kenneth Gross, a campaign finance lawyer at Skadden, Arps in Washington who represents both parties. “We’re not talking about Laurence Tribe or David Boies, but there will be no shortage of lawyers looking for any kind of imperfection in the process.” -- Both Campaigns Enlist Lawyers to Watch Polls -

California: initiative would shift to redistricting commission

The New York Times reports: Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has spent more than $2 million from his campaign coffers to support a ballot proposition that could profoundly alter the composition, and perhaps the governing style, of the California Legislature. ...

Under the proposal, the responsibility for drawing the new boundaries for legislative districts — in both the Senate and the Assembly — would shift from the Legislature to a new 14-member commission comprising five Democrats, five Republicans and four independent or minor-party voters who would draw new maps every 10 years, corresponding with the census cycle.

California’s legislative districts, which resemble little oil spills when viewed on a map, are heavily gerrymandered. Not one of the 120 seats changed party hands in the last two elections, held two and four years ago.

The initiative, which was largely written by Common Cause and the AARP, is supported by Mr. Schwarzenegger, various former state officials and the League of Women Voters. -- Plan on California Ballot for New Districting Panel -

Alabama: DOJ sues (and settles with) City of Calera for violation of VRA (court docs attached)

The Birmingham News reports: The federal government filed a lawsuit against the city of Calera in U.S. District Court, alleging the city's new voting boundaries violate the Voting Rights Act of 1965. ...

The lawsuit says Calera's new voting districts, which eliminated the city's sole mostly minority district, were not approved before the municipal elections. The Justice Department has said the new boundaries may be unfair to minorities.

The lawsuit confirms that the newly elected officials in Calera will not be able to take office on Monday, unless the districts are approved before then. The sitting mayor and council will remain in office until the lawsuit is resolved. ...

During a recent meeting, Ellis told city officials the Justice Department does not trust the population and race data submitted by Calera. The Justice Department has asked the city for more specific information. -- U.S. government sues Calera over voting districts -

The article does not explain that the City has entered into a consent decree. Both the complaint and the consent decree are attached.

October 27, 2008

Alabama: should state reinstitute early voting?

The Huntsville Times reports: Alabama could have been among the 31 states allowing early voting in the Nov. 4 general election had it not repealed a state law in 2001.

Alabama experimented in 1998 and 2000 with what it called "on-site absentee balloting." But the law was repealed because of its cost and low use by voters.

Still, the chairmen of the state's two political parties said they would favor revisiting the issue.

The 1996 law permitted voters to cast ballots on the Saturday 10 days before the election or on the Tuesday of the week before the election, according to Janice McDonald, director of the Elections Division in the Alabama secretary of state's office. -- 2001 law repeal blocked early voting in Alabama -

Georgia: Challenged ballots to be cast by questioned-citizenship voters

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports: The state of Georgia must allow persons whose citizenship has been questioned in a new voter verification system the opportunity to cast a ballot in the Nov. 4 elections, a three-judge court ruled Monday.

The court also ordered Secretary of State Karen Handel to “make diligent and immediate efforts to notify, in a uniform manner, every person whose voter registration presently remains flagged.” Those voters must be told that they can vote by a “challenged ballot,” if necessary, and that there is a discrepancy in the voters’ registration information, the court said. -- Court: ‘Flagged’ citizens may vote

The opinion and order of the Court is here.

October 26, 2008

Alaska: state law may allow Palin book but not TV show while still in office

Politico reports: If Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin does not become vice president on Nov. 4, she can look forward to a sweet payday for a memoir about her unlikely VP run should she choose to write one. But she might have to forgo hundreds of thousands of dollars in lucrative speaking fees and perhaps even millions more should she be asked to host a cable or network television show.

Palin, who is expected to serve out her term as governor, which runs through 2010, would likely be allowed to write a book about the VP race under Alaska state laws that govern outside pay of government officials. But restrictions under the Alaska Executive Branch Ethics Act could disallow her from accepting speaking fees or a salary for television appearances while she’s serving in state government.

Section 39.52.170 of the ethics law declares that public employees “may not render services to benefit a personal or financial interest or engage in or accept employment outside the agency which the employee serves, if the outside employment or service is incompatible or in conflict with the proper discharge of official duties.” In addition, “the head of a principal executive department of the state may not accept employment for compensation outside the agency that the executive head serves.” -- Law may preclude TV stardom for Palin

Since it is illegal for the campaign to pay for Palin's clothes, the RNC did

Newsweek reports: The disclosure that the Republican National Committee spent more than $150,000 on clothing and accessories for vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin and her family set off recriminations among GOP officials—and, more important, party donors. ...

The decision to greenlight the purchases was made after Palin arrived in Minneapolis for the Republican Party convention. Campaign aides quickly concluded that she lacked the necessary wardrobe for two months of intensive national campaigning. "She didn't have the fancy pantsuits that Hillary Clinton has," explained one staffer (who, like most others interviewed for this account, declined to be identified speaking about the episode). The problem was figuring out how to pay for new dresswear: the 2002 McCain-Feingold law, co-authored by the GOP candidate, tightened the rules to ban using campaign funds for personal clothing. While Jeff Larson, a veteran GOP consultant who headed the party's "host" committee, provided his credit card for the Palin family shopping spree, he was directed to send the bills over to the Republican National Committee (which was not covered by the clothing ban in McCain-Feingold). RNC officials were not happy about it. "We were explicitly directed by the campaign to pay these costs," said one senior RNC official who also requested anonymity. After at first declining to comment, a McCain spokeswoman said the clothes would be donated to charity after the campaign was over. -- Not The Change They Wanted

Hat-tip to TalkLeft for the link.

October 25, 2008

Virginia: Fairfax email system crashes, stopping military-ballot distribution

The Washington Post reports: Efforts by elections officials in Fairfax County and several Virginia jurisdictions to distribute absentee ballots to military members and others living overseas ground to a halt Tuesday after a group concerned about the state's voting system crashed e-mail servers with a massive letter-writing campaign.

Rokey W. Suleman II, Fairfax County's general registrar, said his office was unable to send or receive e-mail for much of the day, which could result in a crucial delay in sending absentee ballots electronically.

The mishap, which also affected several other Virginia jurisdictions including Richmond, occurred after representatives of TrueVote.US sent hundreds of e-mails to elections officials expressing concern about whether Virginia was prepared for an expected record turnout on Election Day. ...

Kevin Zeese, executive director of TrueVote.US, which advocates reform in the balloting process, said the letter-writing campaign was designed to show Virginia officials "they are being watched by citizens" wanting the Nov. 4 election to run smoothly.

"It is important for elections officials to know people are watching and for people to know they want adequate voting machines," Zeese said.

But a campaign that was designed to prevent Election Day problems instead created chaos, Suleman said. -- Massive E-Mail Campaign Freezes Absentee Ballots -

Virginia: GOP says Kaine has "assembled a felonious coalition"

The Washington Post reports: Virginia Republicans opened up two fronts in the increasingly testy battle over the voting process Thursday by accusing Gov. Timothy M. Kaine of stacking the registration rolls with felons and raising concerns that county registrars were not allowing some members of the military who are serving overseas to vote.

With polls showing the presidential race tight in Virginia, Sen. John McCain's campaign and state Republicans are going on the offensive by accusing Democrats of threatening the integrity of the balloting process.

The GOP effort mirrors the acrimony nationwide about efforts by outside groups and Democratic Sen. Barack Obama's campaign to increase voter participation.

On Thursday, the McCain campaign accused Kaine (D), a co-chairman of Obama's campaign, of restoring voting rights for almost 1,500 felons in an effort to help Obama win Virginia's 13 electoral votes.

"This is a question of judgment," said Trey Walker, McCain's mid-Atlantic regional campaign manager. "Senator Obama and Governor Kaine have assembled a felonious coalition of attempted murderers, kidnappers, rapists, armed robbers and wife beaters in order to win Virginia. This dangerous lack of judgment has no place in the White House." -- GOP Knocks Va. Democrats' Registrations -

Ohio: White House urges DOJ to investigate new voters in Ohio

The Washington Post reports: The White House has asked the Department of Justice to look into whether 200,000 new Ohio voters must reconfirm their registration information before Nov. 4, taking up an issue that Republicans and Democrats in the battleground state have been fighting over in court for weeks.

The voter names are in dispute because their registration information conflicts with other official data.

The action comes a week after the U.S. Supreme Court dismissed a case brought by the Ohio Republican Party over the same issue. Republicans have argued that the mismatched information could signal fraudulent registrations, but Democrats have countered that eligible voters could be knocked off the rolls over discrepancies as minor as a transposed number in an address or birth date.

President Bush yesterday asked Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey to review concerns over the voters raised by House Minority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio). -- White House Asks for Scrutiny -

Alabama: political parties are lawyered up

The Birmingham News reports: The polls aren't open yet, but Alabama Democrats and Republicans are preparing their legal teams to deal with any problems that might crop up on Election Day.

Voter registration surged past 2.9 million as election officials handled a flurry of last-minute applications Friday, the final day to sign up to vote in the Nov. 4 general election. With a record turnout expected, officials with Alabama political parties said they want their legal teams on guard for disenfranchisement or shenanigans on Election Day.

"We're on the precipice of a historic election," Alabama Democratic Party Chairman Joe Turnham said. "With record registrations and anticipated record voter turnout, we are anticipating that polling sites may be overwhelmed and that today's voter rolls may not reflect the true number of Alabama citizens who are legally entitled to cast a ballot."

Democratic Party attorney James Anderson said Friday that more than 200 volunteer lawyers - including a lawyer from the Democratic National Committee - will be ready to deal with any problems that come up at the polls. The party is setting up situation rooms in Birmingham and Montgomery to handle complaints. ...

Republicans have assembled their own legal team. Alabama Republican Party Chairman Mike Hubbard said a lawyer will be stationed in every county on Nov. 4. He said his major concern is preventing ballot fraud. -- Voter registration closes with record numbers, Alabama political parties to send in lawyers on Election Day -

October 24, 2008

"The Republican Disconnect"

Democracy Corps reports: With the country poised for its second wave election, Republican supporters are on a different page and disconnected from the rest of the country. That helps explain John McCain’s implausible close to the campaign and perhaps foretells difficulties Republicans will face dealing with the aftermath. In this special national survey with an enlarged sample of self-identified Republicans and independents who identify with Republicans, we asked the question, “who is to blame for John McCain’s possible defeat?” Republicans believe McCain will have lost because of a hostile mainstream media, economic events beyond their control and Democrats having more money and resources. Few have begun to examine bigger issues, though their views of the current campaign and the future suggest a party very out of touch with unfolding events.

* While a sizeable majority of voters say Republicans have lost in 2006 and 2008 because they have been “too conservative,” a sizeable plurality of Republicans say, it is because they have “not been conservative enough.”
* Over three-quarters of Republicans say Palin was good choice, while a majority of the electorate says the opposite. ...

Those responses are not surprising when you ask Republicans the cause of their defeats: 65 percent say the mainstream media favoring Obama, followed distantly by economic events outside anyone’s control (29 percent) and Obama and the Democrats having more money (25 percent). Only 12 percent thought that McCain wanting to continue Bush’s policies was the culprit, only 10 percent pointed to Palin and only 8 percent suggested the big spending and deficits were to blame.

The key issue from this special survey of Republicans is whether or not the party is connected enough to what is happening in the country to work with the new leaders of the country and to begin the process of self-examination necessary for political change. -- Democracy Corps: The Republican Disconnect

Lawyer 2 Lawyer interviews Brenda Wright and Ed Still

Description: Voter fraud, faulty equipment, voter purges, 3rd party registration problems-These are just some of the issues plaguing elections past and present. blogger and host, J. Craig Williams welcome experts, Attorney Brenda Wright, Legal Director of Demos, and Attorney Edward Still a Birmingham lawyer who specializes in voting law and founder of the blog, They will discuss legal issues surrounding voter’s rights, voter fraud, election litigation and what can and can't be done to recruit voters. -- LegalTalkNetwork, MP3 Link, and WMA Link.

Florida: long lines in early voting bode ill for Election Day

The Washington Post reports: After standing for more than an hour outside his polling place earlier this week, Dick Rosenow finally gave up when it started raining. He returned the next day, but again the line snaked around the branch library in this town south of Palm Beach. He waited an hour before he could cast his ballot.

"It's not the workers' fault," said Rosenow, a retired management consultant. "It's the technology. It's the equipment that's causing the trouble."

Early voting began this week in Florida and, as Rosenow discovered, with it came long waits, balky voting machines, complaints about too few polling places and some confusion about state election law. All of this raised fears that Nov. 4 could bring even bigger problems to a state whose history of voting difficulties includes the deadlocked 2000 election that ended up in the U.S. Supreme Court. -- Early Voters in Fla. Find Long Lines, a Bit of Muddle -

Pennsylvania: suit filed over back-up paper ballots

The New York Times reports: Concerned that voting machine breakdowns could cause long lines on Election Day, particularly in minority neighborhoods, several groups filed a lawsuit on Thursday to force Pennsylvania election officials to provide paper ballots when half the machines in a precinct have failed.

The top election official, Secretary of the Commonwealth Pedro A. Cortés, has directed poll workers to provide paper ballots to a precinct only when all of its touch-screen voting machines are broken.

The lawsuit was filed in Philadelphia by the Pennsylvania N.A.A.C.P.; the Election Reform Network, a nonpartisan group; and a coalition of individual voters. It asks a federal judge to declare Mr. Cortés’s directive unconstitutional on the grounds that it puts an undue burden on residents who may have to wait hours to vote.

Mr. Cortés said that current safeguards should ensure an efficient election and that forcing a change could confuse poll workers who had already been trained. -- Lawsuit Is Filed Over Ballot Rule in Pennsylvania -

October 23, 2008

Q&A: Heather Gerken on Election Law

With less than two weeks to Election Day and record early voting expected, The Takeaway is talking with Yale Law School professor Heather Gerken about election law and voting rights. Professor Gerken is taking your questions about your voting problems, and we're talking about solutions...

Listen live online on Friday, October 24, 2008, at 7:45 a.m. or 9:45 a.m. (Eastern), then participate in a live Q&A with Professor Gerken at 10 a.m. (Eastern) at

Submit your questions now for a better chance to have one answered tomorrow:, 1-877-8-MY-TAKE or on our website,

Q&A: Heather Gerken on Election Law
Friday, October 24, 2008
10 a.m. (Eastern)

Ohio: hackers hit Sec/State's web site

Computerworld reports: The Web site of Ohio's secretary of state was shut down after it was hacked Monday, according to the site and local media reports. The site was later restored, but with only limited functionality.

Tuesday morning, the site devoted to Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner still displayed a terse notice of the breach. "Due to security concerns experienced by the Secretary of State's website, full functionality of the website has been suspended to protect the integrity of state records and data," the message read. "Full functionality will be restored when we are assured that all data has been protected and restored to acceptable levels of security." ...

The incident is only the most recent involving Brunner's office. Ohio's State Highway Patrol is also investigating a suspicious package that was delivered to her office last week, as well as threatening phone calls and e-mails, the newspaper reported yesterday. -- Breach cripples Ohio Secretary of State's site

"More Democrats Casting Early Ballots, Data Show"

The New York Times reports: With as many as one-third of voters expected to cast their ballots before Election Day, preliminary data from several key battleground states show more Democrats than Republicans have voted early.

While the information should hardly be considered predictive of how the election may turn, accounting for just a fraction of the vote, it does offer a window into the loyalties of this growing segment of the electorate. The early tabulations of party affiliations seem to bolster polling that shows Senator Barack Obama’s campaign on the electoral offensive in states that President Bush won in 2004.

Significantly more Democrats than Republicans have cast ballots at this early stage in Iowa, North Carolina, New Mexico and Ohio, according to data analyzed by The New York Times.

Information from counties representing more than 90 percent of Nevada’s population show Democrats also holding a commanding advantage in early voter turnout. -- More Democrats Casting Early Ballots, Data Show -

October 21, 2008

Alabama: Glasgow settles suit with Dept of Corrections on voter registration in prison

The NAACP Legal Defense Fund announces: Today, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund (LDF) settled the lawsuit it filed against the Alabama Department of Corrections in federal court earlier this month on behalf of Reverend Kenneth Glasgow. Immediately after the lawsuit was filed, the parties began settlement discussions under which Reverend Glasgow last week resumed his non-partisan ministry to eligible voters currently incarcerated in the state's correctional facilities.

The lawsuit was filed after the Alabama Department of Corrections cancelled Reverend Glasgow's ministry following the Alabama Republican Party's objection to his voter education activities.

"Now I can continue the ministry that God gave me: helping to give a voice to the voiceless by reaching out to people in Alabama's correctional facilities who are eligible to vote," said Reverend Glasgow. "The ministry is so critical because too many in Alabama's correctional facilities who are eligible to vote don't know it."

Mark Crispin Miller talks about problems voters may face at the polls

The Bill Moyers Journal on PBS reported: As election day approaches and both Democracts and Republicans warn that the other side may be planning to tamper with the results, voters may be wondering if their vote will be counted properly.

Mark Crispin Miller joins Bill Moyers on the JOURNAL to discuss challenges legitimate would-be voters face at the polls — from voter purges to electronic voting — and reforms the U.S. should make to ensure everyone's right to vote is protected and every vote is counted. -- Bill Moyers Journal

Large donors have been giving to joint-fundraising committees

The New York Times reports: Much of the attention on the record amounts of money coursing through the presidential race this year, including in Senator Barack Obama’s announcement on Sunday of his $150 million fund-raising haul in September, has focused on the explosion of small donors.

But there has been another proliferation on the national fund-raising landscape that was not fully apparent until the latest campaign finance reports were filed last week: people who have given tens of thousands of dollars at a time to help the candidates.

Enabled by the fine print in campaign finance laws, they have written checks that far exceed normal individual contribution limits to candidates, to joint fund-raising committees that benefit the candidates as well as their respective parties.

Many of these large donors come from industries with interests in Washington. A New York Times analysis of donors who wrote checks of $25,000 or more to the candidates’ main joint fund-raising committees found, for example, the biggest portion of money for both candidates came from the securities and investments industry, including executives at various firms embroiled in the recent financial crisis like Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers and AIG. -- In Fine Print, a Proliferation of Large Donors

October 20, 2008

Hebert connects the dots on Mukasey's actions and non-actions on protecting voters

Gerry Hebert, Executive Director of the Campaign Legal Center, says, "Silence about protecting the right to vote is simply not acceptable." The fact that Mukasey has not said anything about the leaked reports that the FBI is investigating ACORN says a lot to Hebert. -- The Hill Blog» Blog Archive » Campaign Justice?

Michigan: GOP admits scheme to use mortgage foreclosure lists in voter challenges

Emptywheel reports at Democrats and Republicans have settled the suit seeking to prevent Michigan Republicans from using foreclosure lists to challenge voters. The MDP statement on the settlement says:

An agreement announced today by Obama for America, the Republican National Committee, the Democratic National Committee, the Michigan Republican Party, the Michigan Democratic Party, the Macomb County Republican Party, the Macomb County Democratic Party, and plaintiffs Duane Maletski, Sharon Lopez, and Frances M. Zick protects the voting rights of foreclosure victims. The settlement acknowledges the existence of an illegal scheme by the Republicans to use mortgage foreclosure lists to deny foreclosure victims their right to vote. This settlement has the force of law behind it and ensures that Republicans cannot disenfranchise families facing foreclosure. [my emphasis]

-- MI Republicans Admit to Illegal Foreclosure Scheme, “Surrender” to Democrats

Alabama: registration nears 3 million voters

The Birmingham News reports: Alabama election officials are bracing for an Election Day rush as voter registration levels hit a record of nearly 3 million people.

The deadline to register to vote is Friday. Election officials across the state have ordered extra ballots, hired extra poll workers and are taking other steps to prepare for what is expected to be a heavy turnout.

As of last Friday afternoon, Alabama had 2,934,296 registered voters, said Ed Packard, supervisor of voter registration for the Alabama secretary of state. Many of the voters joined the rolls in the past six weeks. Between Sept. 1 and Oct. 17, 148,791 people registered to vote, Packard said. ...

There's been a surge in the registration of Hispanic, black and young voters, according to state voter registration data.

Since December 2007, the registration of black voters jumped 12 percent and Hispanic voters 45 percent, Packard said.

"The biggest surge was in the 18- to 24-year-old group," Packard said. -- Alabama voter registration levels nears 3 million as presidential vote nears -

RFK Jr: GOP "fixed" the 2004 election

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. writes in Rolling Stone: But despite the media blackout, indications continued to emerge that something deeply troubling had taken place in 2004. Nearly half of the 6 million American voters living abroad3 never received their ballots — or received them too late to vote4 — after the Pentagon unaccountably shut down a state-of-the-art Web site used to file overseas registrations5. A consulting firm called Sproul & Associates, which was hired by the Republican National Committee to register voters in six battleground states6, was discovered shredding Democratic registrations7. In New Mexico, which was decided by 5,988 votes8, malfunctioning machines mysteriously failed to properly register a presidential vote on more than 20,000 ballots9. Nationwide, according to the federal commission charged with implementing election reforms, as many as 1 million ballots were spoiled by faulty voting equipment — roughly one for every 100 cast10.

The reports were especially disturbing in Ohio, the critical battleground state that clinched Bush's victory in the electoral college. Officials there purged tens of thousands of eligible voters from the rolls, neglected to process registration cards generated by Democratic voter drives, shortchanged Democratic precincts when they allocated voting machines and illegally derailed a recount that could have given Kerry the presidency. A precinct in an evangelical church in Miami County recorded an impossibly high turnout of ninety-eight percent, while a polling place in inner-city Cleveland recorded an equally impossible turnout of only seven percent. In Warren County, GOP election officials even invented a nonexistent terrorist threat to bar the media from monitoring the official vote count11.

Any election, of course, will have anomalies. America's voting system is a messy patchwork of polling rules run mostly by county and city officials. "We didn't have one election for president in 2004," says Robert Pastor, who directs the Center for Democracy and Election Management at American University. "We didn't have fifty elections. We actually had 13,000 elections run by 13,000 independent, quasi-sovereign counties and municipalities."

But what is most anomalous about the irregularities in 2004 was their decidedly partisan bent: Almost without exception they hurt John Kerry and benefited George Bush. After carefully examining the evidence, I've become convinced that the president's party mounted a massive, coordinated campaign to subvert the will of the people in 2004. Across the country, Republican election officials and party stalwarts employed a wide range of illegal and unethical tactics to fix the election. A review of the available data reveals that in Ohio alone, at least 357,000 voters, the overwhelming majority of them Democratic, were prevented from casting ballots or did not have their votes counted in 200412 — more than enough to shift the results of an election decided by 118,601 votes13. -- Was the 2004 Election Stolen?

October 17, 2008

Alabama: Loser in Monroeville complains of poll worker reading ballots

The Monroe Journal reports: Jack Botta has filed an official protest against poll worker Deloise Dailey in last Tuesday’s Runoff Election in Frisco City.

“The difference in the vote totals was so great that this may not have been a significant factor in the outcome; however, the principle of a private, secret ballot was violated,” Botta said in his protest letter.

In the Oct.7 election, Sue Starr defeated Botta in the mayoral race by 79 votes, 262-183. ...

“The actual voting machine was placed in a position next to the poll workers and Deloise Dailey situated herself on a high stool near the voting machine which allowed her to read the ballots as they were entered into the machine,” Botta said. -- Botta accuses poll worker of intimidating voters

Colorado: early voting forces campaigns into a marathon of GOTV

The New York Times reports: The presidential debate had barely ended Wednesday night when Kristin Marshall had her ballot on her lap, pen in hand, ready to vote. Three friends, all supporters of Senator Barack Obama, the Democratic nominee, had their ballots, too. ...

With Election Day less than three weeks away, the number of people voting by mail has exploded in Colorado, a closely divided state up for grabs in November. Nearly half of the state’s registered voters have requested ballots by mail, compelling the Obama and McCain campaigns to kick-start their get-out-the-vote efforts — and devise new and imaginative ones.

All across the state, the traditional Election Day sprint by campaign workers has changed into a nearly monthlong marathon, made all the more pressing by the tightness of the race. ...

Mail-in voting has put down its deepest roots in Oregon, Washington and California, but election experts say the significance of Colorado’s mail-in voting this year has been amplified because the state is one of the few tossups left on the electoral map.

Previously, voting by mail in Colorado has been most common in rural areas, where distances make a trip to the polls problematic and Republican voters usually dominate. But the clerk and recorder for Weld County, Steve Moreno, said the Obama campaign, in particular, had embraced the idea of voting-by-mail this year and met with him about how to expand the numbers. -- Rise in Voting by Mail Transforms Race in Colorado - Series -

FBI investigates the ACORN voter registration drives

AP reports: The FBI is investigating whether the community activist group ACORN helped foster voter registration fraud around the nation before the presidential election. A senior law enforcement official confirmed the investigation to The Associated Press on Thursday.

A second senior law enforcement official says the FBI was looking at results of recent raids on ACORN offices in several states for any evidence of a coordinated national scam.

Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity because Justice Department regulations forbid discussing ongoing investigations particularly so close to an election. -- The Associated Press: Officials: FBI investigates ACORN for voter fraud

As Josh Marshall points out: Let's note a few points. DC Republicans have been aggressively lobbying the DOJ to open an investigation into ACORN in advance of the election. And leaking word of such an investigation (possibly starting the investigation at all) most likely violates DOJ guidelines about DOJ/FBI actions which can end up interfering with or manipulating an election.

But, remember, this is right out of the book of the Bush Justice Department's efforts to assist in GOP voter suppression efforts in the 2004 and 2006 elections (part and parcel of the US Attorney firing story). This is the same scam US Attorney firing player Bradley Schlozman got in trouble for pulling with ACORN just before the 2006 election. And before he got canned, Gonzales helped revise and soften the departmental prohibition on DOJ announcements, thus making it easier to play these kinds of games. -- Returning to the Scene of the Crime

Alabama: "Feds threaten to sue state for unreported military voting stats"

The Birmingham News reports: The U.S. Department of Justice is threatening to sue the state of Alabama for not reporting military voting statistics in 2004 and 2006.

In an Oct. 6 letter to Secretary of State Beth Chapman, the Justice Department said a lawsuit had been authorized and offered her the opportunity to enter into a consent decree to resolve the matter without litigation.

Chapman said her predecessor in office did not file the reports and there was no information for her to use when she took office in 2007. In a letter sent to the Justice Department on Oct. 16, she said she refused to enter into any consent decree because she had done nothing wrong. ...

Chapman said her office will file the report as required after the Nov. 4 election.

The Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act requires states to report statistics on the number of absentee ballots requested and returned by Americans serving out of the country. The reports must be filed within 90 days after each federal general election. -- Feds threaten to sue state for unreported military voting stats -

Alabama: more voters than adults in six counties

The Birmingham News: Six Alabama counties have more people on their voting rolls than they do people of voting age, according to voter registration numbers and U.S. Census Bureau estimates.

The curious statistic could be the result of a surge in new registrations added to voter rolls that have not been purged of people who moved, said local election officials. But the state's top elections chief said Thursday she's concerned that bloated rolls could leave opportunity for Election Day fraud. ...

The counties that have more people on the voting rolls than they do voting-age residents, according to a News analysis, were Conecuh, Greene, Lowndes, Perry, Washington and Wilcox.

The highest percentages were in Greene and Perry counties. Both had more people on the voting rolls than voting-age residents, even when only the active voter list was taken into account, and not the inactive list. Under state law, people who don't vote for four years are moved to an inactive voter list. Inactive voters are removed from the rolls if they don't vote in two consecutive federal elections and don't respond to attempts to contact them by mail. -- Six Alabama counties have more enrolled voters than people of voting age -

October 16, 2008

"Voter fraud" allegations are not just for Halloween, but have a sinister purpose reports: Warnings about voter fraud prior to a U.S. presidential election are nothing new. But to listen to conservative Republicans lately, you might expect Nov. 4 to bring a voting catastrophe of epic proportions. Writing in the New York Post in early October, Ken Blackwell -- yes, the former Ohio secretary of state of 2004 election infamy -- warned about "the kind of chaos you expect from a category-five hurricane -- with radical groups sending the nation into a protracted legal battle even worse than the mess back in 2000."

"To prevent it," Blackwell urged, "we must act now." Many Republicans, including operatives from the McCain campaign, have indeed been raising the specter of voter fraud across battleground states, from Nevada to Michigan to Pennsylvania, and pushing for action by government authorities.

But according to Lori Minnite, a professor of political science at Barnard College, who has spent the last eight years studying the role of fraud in U.S. elections, the Republican crusade against voter fraud is a strategic ruse. Rather than protecting the election process from voter fraud -- a problem that barely exists -- Minnite says the true aim of Republican efforts appears to be voter suppression across the partisan divide. According to Minnite, investigating voter fraud has become a Republican cottage industry over the last 20 years because it justifies questioning the eligibility of thousands of would-be voters -- often targeting poor and minority citizens in urban areas that lean Democratic. Playing the role of vigilant watchdog gives GOP bureaucrats a pretext for obstructing the path of marginalized and first-time voters headed for the polls. -- Behind the GOP's voter fraud hysteria | Salon News

October 15, 2008

House Oversight Committee says Bush White House used government resources to aid election of allies

The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform states in a newly issued report: This report examines the operations of the White House Office of Political Affairs during the Bush Administration. It finds that the White House used the political affairs office to orchestrate an aggressive strategy to use taxpayer-funded trips to help elect Republican candidates for public office. From January 1, 2006, until the mid-term elections on November 7, 2006, cabinet secretaries and other senior officials traveled to over 300 events recommended by the political affairs office. All of these events were held with Republican candidates, and in most cases, the travel costs were paid for with federal funds.

President Bush’s first director of the political affairs office was Ken Mehlman. In an interview with the Committee, he stated that “a big part” of his job was to “help elect allies of the President.” He also said it was his view that “one legally could have, in the Office of Political Affairs, focused entirely on simply promoting … the President’s allies.” He told the Committee that he consulted closely about “nearly all aspects of what I was doing” with the Office of White House Counsel under Alberto Gonzales.

The view that White House officials could legally promote the election of Republican congressional candidates led to an extensive effort prior to the 2006 elections. From January 1 to November 7, 2006, Bush Administration officials participated in 326 events with Republican candidates suggested by the political affairs office, more than one per day. Cabinet officials and agency heads personally attended 306 of these events. Of these 326 events, 303 required travel outside of Washington, D.C. Thirty-two officials from 12 cabinet agencies and three independent offices journeyed to 35 states to make appearances with 99 Republicans running for election in 2006. Even offices with statutory provisions prohibiting political activity, like the Office of National Drug Control Policy, were enlisted in the election effort. -- The Activities of the White House Office of Political Affairs

Alabama: Sec/State says there is no misuse of SSNs

A Montgomery Advertiser blog post reports: Secretary of State Beth Chapman says Alabamians are not being removed or hindered from voting because of any problems with their Social Security Numbers.

The Social Security Administration sent out a press release claiming a number of states had more requests to check social security numbers for voter registration purposes than usual.

Since that time, there have been questions about checking the social security numbers for voter registration purposes and whether individuals were being removed from the voter list if there was a problem with a social security number. ...

Chapman said she accounts for the large number of checks on social security numbers due to a major increase in voter registration applications being processed by the Boards of Registrars.

“One county has registered over 35,000 voters in less than three months,” Chapman said. “We are all working over and above what we have seen in prior elections. I can sympathize with the Social Security Administration’s abundance of work, because we all have an abundance of important work to do at this time. -- Chapman: \"Alabama Voters Not Removed for Social Security Numbers | | Montgomery Advertiser

North Carolina: SCOTUS hears arguments in Bartlett v. Strickland

The New York Times reports: The Supreme Court returned Tuesday to the question of how to take account of race in drawing election districts, hearing arguments in a case that is likely to resolve a question the court has left open five times: Must a minority group constitute a majority in a given district before an important protection of the federal Voting Rights Act kicks in?

Christopher G. Browning Jr., North Carolina’s solicitor general, defended the decision of officials there to violate a state law in order to create a district that included about 39 percent of the black voting-age population, saying the Voting Rights Act required the creation of the district to prevent the dilution of the minority group’s ability to elect a representative of its choice.

The fact that the district did not include a majority of black voters was a virtue, Mr. Browning said. True, he said, minority voters would be able to elect a representative of their choice only with the aid of voters from other groups. “Coalition districts help us in reaching the point where race will no longer matter,” Mr. Browning said. -- Justices Weigh Race in North Carolina Case -

The Washington Post also reports on the case: The court's decision will affect the redrawing of political lines after the 2010 census and is of particular concern to civil rights leaders and the Congressional Black Caucus. Nearly half of the caucus's members were elected from coalition districts, and some worry that redistricting could threaten them or future black candidates if states do not fear lawsuits over reapportionment decisions.

If yesterday's oral argument is any indication, the court may be moving in a different direction. Several conservative justices indicated support for maintaining the "50 percent rule" supported by most lower courts -- that vote-dilution lawsuits can be filed only when minorities can show that they would constitute more than half the population if the district in question were redrawn again.

Justice Antonin Scalia said North Carolina's position would lead to more litigation and "inject" the courts "into this very political game much more frequently than we now are."

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. said the success of coalition districts in electing black candidates "would be evidence that the Voting Rights Act has succeeded, rather than evidence that you need to apply it more broadly."

Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, often the deciding vote when the court splits along ideological lines, sarcastically referred to coalition districts as a "brave new world" where "race is the key factor" in drawing political lines. -- Justices Hear Voting Rights Case

October 14, 2008

New Hampshire: Tobin indicted for lying to FBI

TPM Muckraker reports: Former Republican operative James Tobin has been indicted for making false statements to the FBI in connection with the bureau's investigation of a phone-jamming scheme in New Hampshire in 2002, according to court filings examined by TPMmuckraker.

... Here's the indictment. It contains two counts, both related to making false statements to the FBI during its investigation into the New Hampshire GOP's effort to jam the phones of the Democratic Party on Election Day 2002.

It charges, in part:

"Tobin stated that when he first called Allen Raymond to discuss the phone-jamming scheme, Raymond and Charles McGee had already spoken with each other about the plans. In fact, as Tobin well knew, Tobin spoke with Raymond before Raymond was contacted by McGee, and Tobin requested that Raymond assist McGee with the plan."

McGee, the former executive director of the New Hampshire GOP, and Raymond, a GOP consultant, both were convicted and served jail time in connection with the scheme.

But Tobin's own 2005 conviction relating to the scheme was thrown out on appeal in 2007, and he was acquitted. -- TPMMuckraker | Talking Points Memo | Ex-GOP Operative in New Hampshire Indicted

October 11, 2008

John Lewis speaks truth to power

John Lewis writes on Politico: As one who was a victim of violence and hate during the height of the Civil Rights Movement, I am deeply disturbed by the negative tone of the McCain-Palin campaign. What I am seeing reminds me too much of another destructive period in American history. Sen. McCain and Gov. Palin are sowing the seeds of hatred and division, and there is no need for this hostility in our political discourse.

During another period, in the not too distant past, there was a governor of the state of Alabama named George Wallace who also became a presidential candidate.

George Wallace never threw a bomb. He never fired a gun, but he created the climate and the conditions that encouraged vicious attacks against innocent Americans who were simply trying to exercise their constitutional rights. Because of this atmosphere of hate, four little girls were killed on Sunday morning when a church was bombed in Birmingham, Alabama.

As public figures with the power to influence and persuade, Sen. McCain and Gov. Palin are playing with fire, and if they are not careful, that fire will consume us all. They are playing a very dangerous game that disregards the value of the political process and cheapens our entire democracy. We can do better. The American people deserve better. -- The Arena - Politico's daily debate with policymakers and opinion shapers |

By the way, compare John Lewis to the comments of David Gergen on The Colbert Report.

Alabama: suit over 'moral turpitude' dismissed

AP reports: A Montgomery judge on Friday dismissed a lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union to clarify which ex-felons in Alabama can register to vote, in a decision that means the issue won’t be resolved before the Nov. 4 election.

Circuit Judge Tracy McCooey said the ACLU’s clients lacked legal standing to sue because they had not taken steps necessary to do so. Two had not tried to register to vote. The third client had attempted to register, but had not exhausted possible appeals in probate court before going to the circuit court.

Because of that, “this court lacks jurisdiction to even decide the merits of the case,” McCooey wrote.

ACLU attorney Bobby Segall said Friday it’s very likely his clients will appeal to the Alabama Supreme Court, but even if the court expedited the case, there would be no way to obtain a ruling before an Oct. 24 deadline for new voters to qualify for the ballot.

If the issue can’t be resolved before the election Nov. 4, Segall wants to get a court ruling before 2010, when many major state offices will be on the ballot. -- Felon voting suit by ACLU dismissed

October 10, 2008

"Fictitious Donors Found in Obama Finance Records"

The New York Times reports: Last December, someone using the name “Test Person,” from “Some Place, UT,” made a series of contributions, the largest being $764, to Senator Barack Obama’s presidential campaign totaling $2,410.07.

Someone identifying himself as “Jockim Alberton,” from 1581 Leroy Avenue in Wilmington, Del., began giving to Mr. Obama last November, contributing $10 and $25 at a time for a total of $445 through the end of February.

The only problem? There is no Leroy Avenue in Wilmington. And Jockim Alberton, who listed his employer and occupation as “Fdsa Fdsa,” does not show up in a search of public records.

An analysis of campaign finance records by The New York Times this week found nearly 3,000 donations to Mr. Obama, the Democratic nominee, from more than a dozen people with apparently fictitious donor information. The contributions represent a tiny fraction of the record $450 million Mr. Obama has raised. But the questionable donations — some donors were listed simply with gibberish for their names — raise concerns about whether the Obama campaign is adequately vetting its unprecedented flood of donors. -- Fictitious Donors Found in Obama Finance Records

Colorado: Governor calls out Sec/State for mistake about voter registration forms

The Aspen Times reports: Arguing that recent voter registration missteps have threatened to disenfranchise many Colorado voters, Gov. Bill Ritter on Thursday called on Secretary of State Mike Coffman to correct errors and mend Colorado voter confidence.

Ritter’s primary concern was a letter prepared by the Secretary of State’s Office and mailed by many county clerks, including Janice K. Vos Caudill, the Pitkin County Clerk and Recorder. The letter incorrectly told more than 4,000 registrants with incomplete applications that any deficiencies had to be rectified by Monday, Oct. 6. In fact, voters have until Election Day to fix deficiencies in their applications.

In the letter, provided to The Aspen Times by Caudill, the incorrect date is underlined for emphasis.

Caudill said she has received “stacks” of incomplete applications this year. She explained that many would-be voters have incompletely filled out a section of the application that requires a driver’s license or Department of Revenue (DOR) identification number. The form allows voters to provide a Social Security number only if they don’t have a license or DOR number. However, many voters misunderstand the instructions and believe they can provide either number, said Caudill. -- Voter registration gaffes have officials scrambling

North Carolina: State will stop using SSN to verify voters

The News & Observer reports: After this election, North Carolina will stop using Social Security numbers to verify the identities of many new voters after questions arose this week about the legality of its registration practices.

On Thursday, The New York Times named North Carolina as one of several states that are checking the Social Security numbers of hundreds of thousands of new voters, despite federal laws requiring that the numbers be checked only if no state-issued identification is available. The Social Security database is plagued with errors, which could force some qualified voters to provide additional identification -- adding an unnecessary barrier to voting.

The need for more identification could cause confusion Nov. 4, an Election Day expected to bring unprecedented numbers to the polls. State officials say that, by Election Day, they expect to have registered more than 800,000 new North Carolina voters this year. About 218,000 were also taken off the rolls this year -- either because they died, moved or were convicted of felonies -- so the net gain would be about 600,000 voters.

State Board of Elections Director Gary Bartlett said he did not have numbers available Thursday of how many new voters might have been flagged for the November election because their Social Security numbers didn't match federal records. Since last October, 400,000 numbers have been checked, and Bartlett said that typically more than 40 percent are kicked back because they don't match the federal database. -- | N.C. to change the way it vets its new voters

Alabama: State Bar denounces push poll in Supreme Court race

The Huntsville Times reports: The Alabama State Bar on Thursday condemned "swift boat" tactics that are being used against the Democratic nominee for the state Supreme Court.

The state bar said a telephone "push poll" is being used to "spread misinformation and disinformation about one of the candidates running for a seat on the state Supreme Court."

Some voters are getting "push poll" telephone calls claiming the state bar has conducted a judicial evaluation that gave Deborah Bell Paseur an "F" grade and that the bar's membership is primarily affiliated with the Democratic Party.

A push poll is a dirty tricks campaign technique in which an organization tries to influence a voter under the guise of conducting a poll. Instead, it's a form of telemarketing-based propaganda. -- State bar condemns push poll attack on Paseur -

Ohio: Sec/State Bruner must verifiy new resgistrations

AP reports: A federal judge on Thursday ordered Ohio's top elections official to verify the identity of newly registered voters by matching them with other government documents.

U.S. District Judge George C. Smith in Columbus ruled that Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner must perform verification required by the Help America Vote Act. That includes matching new registrants' information against information in databases maintained by the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles or the Social Security Administration.

The order was the result of a lawsuit the Ohio Republican Party filed against Brunner, a Democrat. ...

Brunner also was ordered to establish a process by which Ohio's 88 county election boards can access information generated by the checks. -- Ohio Secretary Of State Must Verify Registrations -

October 9, 2008

Money makes the world go around -- or at least national politics

Ellen Miller writes on the Sunlight Foundation blog: Wonder just how Wall Street has become so influential on Capitol Hill that it can command the attention of the federal government from the President on down? The answer isn’t only in how gyrations in the stock market may affect the real economy. The answer is revealed by the fact that the finance, insurance and real estate (FIRE) industries that collectively are at the center of the current crisis are the single largest sector–by far–of all the major economic and interest groupings that give campaign contributions to federal politicians.

Our friends at the Center for Responsive Politics have been keeping track since 1990, and their data tells a compelling story. What you see is a new way of actually picturing the role of FIRE in relation to all these other sectors, and also in terms of how money from FIRE has tilted to one political party and then the other. You can click on the chart, which was built using Google’s Motion Chart tool, layered on top of a simple spreadsheet, and mouse over the colored circle to drill down on the data. First, we recommend you watch this explanatory screencast by our very own Larry Makinson.

-- Finance Industry Giving Visualized

After you watch the blurry video, follow the link above to play with the chart yourself.

Hat tip to Concurring Opinions for the link (and some pretty interesting commentary).

Ohio: more voting machine problems

Computerworld reports: Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner will be under the national spotlight next month, overseeing what's expected to be the state's largest-ever turnout for a presidential election. It will also be her first as the state's chief election official.

The stakes will be just as high as they were for her Republican predecessor, J. Kenneth Blackwell, four years ago, when the narrowly decided state election was marred by charges of questionable results and complaints that some residents, largely in minority areas, were forced to wait hours to cast their votes.

This year, denizens of the Buckeye State who mistrust touch-screen systems will be allowed to vote on a paper ballot if they prefer. The directive to allow "paper or plastic" came in the wake of Brunner's landmark 2007 "Evaluation & Validation of Election-Related Equipment, Standards & Testing" analysis, otherwise known as EVEREST, in which "critical security failures" were found in every system tested by several teams of both corporate and academic computer scientists and security experts.

Ohio officials discovered in March that some voting systems manufactured by Premier Elections Solutions Inc., a subsidiary of Diebold Inc., dropped votes as they were being uploaded to a main server. Because the problem is in the tabulator system, it affects votes cast on both Diebold's direct recording electronic (DRE) systems, which are usually touch screen, and paper ballot optical-scan systems. The same central tabulators will be used in more than 30 states next month. -- Q&A: E-voting security results 'awful,' says Ohio secretary of state

Virginia: student registration roadblocks

The New Republic reports: For the first time since 1964, Democrats actually have a chance of winning Virginia's 13 electoral votes. Barack Obama is up 4.8% according to the Real Clear Politics average, and according to Nate Silver, Virginia could be one of this election's decisive swing states. And, in a state with 161 colleges and 483,159 students, the predominantly Democratic youth vote could play a huge role in tipping the election Obama's way.

But there's a hold-up: Virginia's local laws make it exceedingly difficult for students to register in their college towns. Indeed, though other states like Idaho and Tennessee also make student registration so difficult as to border on disenfranchisement, the barriers to student voter registration in Virginia are, some experts say, some of the most problematic in the country.

At Virginia Polytechnic Institute in Blacksburg, for instance, students who visited their local registration office last month were met with dire warnings from the Montgomery County registrar, Randall Wertz. Wertz issued official releases telling students that, by registering, "you have declared your independence from your parents and can no longer be claimed as a dependent on their income tax filings. ... If you have a scholarship attached to your former residence, you could lose this funding." Juanita Pitchford, the registrar for Fredericksburg, where the University of Mary Washington is located, requires that all students interview with her before registering so she can decide on a case-by-case basis whether they can vote. "The student must prove that it is their intent to be considered living in Fredericksburg," said Pitchford (who, in 2004, denied applications from all on-campus students), speaking to The Free Lance-Star. Recently, Pitchford said, "I speak to every student ... and I explain the full ramifications" of registering, including telling students that registering in Fredericksburg can jeopardize scholarships and tax dependency on their parents. -- Silencing the Students

"States’ Actions to Block Voters Appear Illegal"

The New York Times reports: Tens of thousands of eligible voters in at least six swing states have been removed from the rolls or have been blocked from registering in ways that appear to violate federal law, according to a review of state records and Social Security data by The New York Times. ...

Still, because Democrats have been more aggressive at registering new voters this year, according to state election officials, any heightened screening of new applications may affect their party’s supporters disproportionately. The screening or trimming of voter registration lists in the six states — Colorado, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, Nevada and North Carolina — could also result in problems at the polls on Election Day: people who have been removed from the rolls are likely to show up only to be challenged by political party officials or election workers, resulting in confusion, long lines and heated tempers. ...

The six swing states seem to be in violation of federal law in two ways. Michigan and Colorado are removing voters from the rolls within 90 days of a federal election, which is not allowed except when voters die, notify the authorities that they have moved out of state, or have been declared unfit to vote.

Indiana, Nevada, North Carolina and Ohio seem to be improperly using Social Security data to verify registration applications for new voters.

In addition to the six swing states, three more states appear to be violating federal law. Alabama and Georgia seem to be improperly using Social Security information to screen registration applications from new voters. And Louisiana appears to have removed thousands of voters after the federal deadline for taking such action. -- States’ Actions to Block Voters Appear Illegal

Alabama: another judge, another year, and another way to dodge having to decide what a "crime involving moral turpitude" is

AP reports: Voter registrars could have to wait awhile longer to learn which felons can vote — and just what constitutes "moral turpitude" — because a judge said Wednesday she may dismiss a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union over the issue.

With voter registration at record levels, county voter registrars have been struggling to figure out which ex-felons can sign up and which can't.

During a hearing Wednesday, Montgomery Circuit Judge Tracy McCooey told ACLU attorneys she is troubled that the ACLU's three plaintiffs filed suit before they filled out voter registration forms and were officially rejected by county voter registrars. ...

The ACLU filed the lawsuit in July on behalf of three ex-felons who want to vote in the Nov. 4 presidential election. One of the three had actually tried to register in Jefferson County, but was never given a form because a registrar told her she couldn't vote. -- Judge may dismiss Ala. lawsuit over felon voting

October 8, 2008

Alabama: Supreme Court dismiss Riley's appeal

The Birmingham News reports: The picture of who will represent District 1 on the Jefferson County Commission became crystal clear for the first time in a year following a U.S. Supreme Court ruling this week in the last lawsuit over the issue.

George Bowman will remain in office until after the Nov. 4 election results are certified, lawyers in the case said Tuesday. Then William Bell will take over.

Bell, a Birmingham city councilman, is the sole candidate for the commission seat on the Nov. 4 ballot. Bell's term will end in 2010, when all five commission seats go before voters.

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court dismissed an appeal filed by Gov. Bob Riley in a lawsuit challenging his right to appoint Bowman to the commission. -- William Bell to take office after Nov. 4 -

Social Security questions "extraordinary" SSN checks by states

AP reports: Federal officials have asked election officials in six states to investigate whether social security number checks are being improperly run on people registering to vote.

Social Security Commissioner Michael Astrue sent a letter Friday to the secretaries of state of Alabama, Georgia and battleground states Indiana, Nevada, North Carolina and Ohio. The letter noted they had submitted "extraordinarily high levels" of verification requests.

"Such a volume appears to be much greater than one would expect, given that states of comparable or larger populations have a significantly lower number of verification requests," Astrue wrote in his letter to Georgia officials.

With nearly two million requests since Oct. 1, 2007, Georgia has made far more social security number verification requests than any other state, according to the Social Security Administration. Alabama was second with about one million requests. -- Feds question new voter checks in 6 states

Undecided voters breaking towards Obama

Democracy Corps reports: Barack Obama once again won tonight’s debate, and undecided voters are prepared to move toward his candidacy, according to Democracy Corps research conducted around tonight’s second presidential debate. Unlike the first debate, when Democracy Corps research showed half the voters remaining undecided and the two candidates splitting the other half, the vote following the second debate showed a decisive shift toward Senator Obama. This debate was a clear victory for Obama who made major gains not just in the vote but also on personal favorability and key attributes like ‘has what it takes to be President,’ which ultimately drove undecided voters into his column.

Democracy Corps conducted dial testing of the debate with 50 undecided voters in Henderson, Nevada, followed by focus group discussions with voters who shifted toward one of the candidates after seeing the debate. These voters were evenly split in terms of partisan identification – 26 percent Democrat, 48 percent Independent, and 26 percent Republican – but 50 percent voted for Bush in 2004, compared to 34 percent who voted for Kerry. -- Second Presidential Debate: Undecided Voters Move Decisively Toward Obama

October 7, 2008

What to wear to the polling place is not just a sartorial question

NPR's Morning Edition has this story: Millions of newly registered voters are expected to turn out for next month's presidential election. Supporters of Barack Obama have been e-mailing and text-messaging them about what not to wear. Depending on what state they live in, if voters show up at the polls with a candidate's name on a T-shirt or hat, they could be turned away.

The elections office in Horry County, S.C., bustles as people stream in on one of the last days to register to vote.

Elections manager Lynn Marlowe says if one of these new voters tries to cast a ballot wearing a political hat, button or T-shirt, he or she will be asked to take it off or cover it up. -- At Polls In S.C., Don't Wear Politics On Your Sleeve : NPR

Ticket-scalping for a political event is even more illegal

The Caucus blog of the New York Times reports: Looking for spare tickets to that joint concert on Oct. 16 by Bruce Springsteen and Billy Joel for Senator Barack Obama’s presidential campaign? Beware. ...

So is it legal to resell tickets to a political fund-raiser? It depends. If the tickets on the resale sites are from individuals — as are many of the tickets on Ticketnetwork, said its chief executive, Don Vaccaro — then in most cases it should be O.K.

But Kenneth A. Gross, a campaign finance lawyer with Skadden, Arps, said it would be a problem if a corporation, like a ticket brokerage, bought the ticket, or if one of its employees bought the ticket and was reimbursed by the company or someone else. This would be an illegal corporate donation, or a donation made in the name of someone else, which is also prohibited. -- Paying Extra to See a Show

October 6, 2008

FEC asks McCain campaign about excess contributions

The Trail blog of the Washington Post reports: The FEC sent a letter to Sen. John McCain's campaign treasurer Sept. 30 demanding the candidate turn over more information about "contributions that appear to exceed the limits."

The letter is accompanied by a nine-page list showing scores of overages from McCain's August campaign finance report, including nearly $13,000 from Texas rancher Ray R. Barrett Jr.; $9,200 from an Iraqi security consultant, H. Carter Andress; and $5,000 from Joseph F. Davolio, an executive at a major national liquor, beer and wine distributor.

"Please inform the Commission of your corrective action immediately in writing and provide photocopies of any refund checks and/or letters reattributing or redesignating the contributions in question," the letter from the FEC's senior campaign finance analyst, Leah S. Palmer, says. "The acceptance of excessive contributions is a serious problem." -- FEC Queries McCain Campaign on 'Excessive Contributions' | The Trail |

"Registration Gains Favor Democrats"

A Washington Post report begins: As the deadline for voter registration arrives today in many states, Sen. Barack Obama's campaign is poised to benefit from a wave of newcomers to the rolls in key states in numbers that far outweigh any gains made by Republicans.

In the past year, the rolls have expanded by about 4 million voters in a dozen key states -- 11 Obama targets that were carried by George W. Bush in 2004 (Ohio, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Virginia, Indiana, Missouri, Colorado, Iowa, Nevada and New Mexico) plus Pennsylvania, the largest state carried by Sen. John F. Kerry that Sen. John McCain is targeting.

In Florida, Democratic registration gains this year are more than double those made by Republicans; in Colorado and Nevada the ratio is 4 to 1, and in North Carolina it is 6 to 1. Even in states with nonpartisan registration, the trend is clear -- of the 310,000 new voters in Virginia, a disproportionate share live in Democratic strongholds.

Republicans acknowledge the challenge but say Obama still has to prove he can get the new voters to the polls. -- Registration Gains Favor Democrats -

Nebraska: one electoral vote means some attention

The Washington Post reports: With a month to go before Election Day, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, the Republican vice presidential nominee, touched down here Sunday for an unexpected rally in a state that President Bush won by 22 percentage points in 2004.

In early September, even as it was shifting resources out of other traditionally Republican states to key electoral battlegrounds, Sen. Barack Obama's campaign sent 15 paid staffers to Nebraska, a state that has backed a Democrat for president just once since 1936. ...

Both camps have their eyes on the same reward: a single electoral vote that could prove pivotal in determining the next president.

Nebraska is one of only two states that award electoral votes by congressional district, rather than on a winner-take-all basis. Obama strategists see an opportunity in the 2nd District, where disaffection with Washington and strong Democratic voter-registration efforts are narrowing the Republican advantage. -- Nebraska Becomes Unlikely Battleground -

GOP to file FEC complaint over donations

The New York Times reports: The Republican National Committee plans to file a complaint on Monday against Senator Barack Obama’s presidential campaign raising questions about the legitimacy of its small contributions and donations from overseas.

Republican officials are demanding the Federal Election Commission conduct a full audit of the Obama campaign’s donations, although it appears that no action would be taken, even if the commission found merit in the complaint, until after the November election.

The Obama campaign has been powered in large part by small-dollar contributions, with donations of $200 or less accounting for more than $220 million of the record-breaking $450 million it has collected so far.

But such donations do not have to be itemized in reporting to the election commission unless the donor’s total contributions exceed $200. The lack of information on such donors has been highlighted by watchdog groups as potentially troublesome. The groups have also praised the campaign of Senator John McCain for offering on its Web site a tool that allows a search of all of its donors, including those who gave less than $200. -- G.O.P. to File Complaint Over Donations

Tennessee: felons seeking registration

The Jackson Sun reports: An easier process and some say Barack Obama's historic nomination as the Democratic Party's candidate for president have led a larger number of felons in Tennessee to seek restoration of their voting rights this year.

As of Thursday, the state had restored voting rights to 1,131 felons this year, said Brook Thompson, Tennessee's election coordinator.

That is just more than double what the state election office processed last year and also more than twice what they had processed as of midsummer.

Kim Buckley, Madison County's election administrator, said her office does not keep track of how many requests it receives, but she estimated that her staff has been handling four to five each day in recent weeks in anticipation of today's registration deadline for the November election. -- Tennessee felons pursue restoration of voting rights | |

Alabama: "Confusion reigns in Alabama over ex-felons' ability to vote"

A Birmingham News report begins: When James Solomon went to register to vote earlier this year, he said he was told he couldn't vote because of a past conviction for cocaine possession.

That was in direct contrast to advice given by the Secretary of State's Office that drug possession is not a crime that strips someone of their voting rights. ...

Less than a month shy of a historic election expected to bring record turnout, there still is uncertainty over who is eligible to vote in Alabama. State officials have given boards of registrars conflicting lists of felony convictions that bar a person from voting.

And registrars, already swamped with new voter applications, have the difficult task of sorting out who is and who isn't eligible to vote. ...

A statewide computer system for the past 11 months has been noting convictions for more than 400 crimes that Gov. Bob Riley's administration deemed to be felonies of moral turpitude - even though officials with the Administrative Office of Courts said they were assured by Riley's office only a shorter list of 70 felonies developed by the attorney general's office were being checked. -- Confusion reigns in Alabama over ex-felons' ability to vote -

October 4, 2008

Alabama: Sec of State trying to undo the Governor's overinclusive disqualification list

AP reports: A list of crimes compiled by the governor's office and used to disqualify Alaba­ma voters includes hundreds of fel­onies -- such as animal cruelty and shoplifting -- not previously considered serious enough to cost convicted criminals their voting rights.

State court administrators say the list includes far too many of­fenses and has been wrongly used for months by county registrars to disqualify an undetermined num­ber of state voters ahead of the Nov. 4 presidential election.

Republican Gov. Bob Riley's of­fice said it did nothing wrong, but Democrats say the move may cost tens of thousands of qualified vot­ers their right to cast a ballot next month -- a number large enough to sway the outcome of some races.

The secretary of state's office said it is trying to determine the size of the problem and fix it before Election Day. Officials haven't been able to determine exactly how many voters may be affected because of how new the informa­tion is and the huge number of dis­qualifying crimes involved. -- Riley's list states shoplifting should disqualify voters | | Montgomery Advertiser

October 3, 2008

Pentagon running GOTV ads

The Caucus blog of the New York Times reports: If voters in swing states think they are inundated with campaign ads, they are unlikely to find refuge in the military.

The Pentagon has a spirited “Get Out the Vote” campaign going for soldiers, sailors and airmen. Whether they are in Iraq, Afghanistan, stateside or in any other foreign post, the troops would have a diffiult time avoiding one of the 40 “Get Out the Vote” television ads being broadcast over the American Forces radio and television network in 177 countries.

The ads also appear on the Pentagon’s Defenselink Web site and on the Pentagon Channel, which is broadcast at more than 400 stateside military installations. Overall, the ads are running as often as 140 times a day.

The ads are non-partisan and merely urge members of the military to register and to vote. And some of them do it with a flair. -- Military Being Urged to Vote

Alabama: Neighbor-to-Neighbor Canvassing Tool

The Alabama Democratic Party announces: This year we have an unprecedented opportunity to elect Democrats from the top of the ticket to the bottom. The political winds are at our backs and we can change America for the better, but we need your help! In order to achive our goals we are launching an online Neighbor-to-Neighbor Canvassing Tool.

This tool will allow every Democrat to:

-Sign up and create an online account
-Receive a list of registered voters in their neighborhood
-Print walk lists of the registered voters in their neighborhood
-Print flyers for various Democratic nominees
-And, most importantly, record the repsonses or "IDs" from specific survey questions

Access the Canvassing Tool here.

Florida: email rumors about voting

The Miami Herald reports: You can't wear a campaign T-shirt when you go vote. Your driver's license must exactly match your voter registration card. New voters who run afoul of Florida's new ''no-match'' law can't vote at all.

None of these voting rumors is true.

Yet Secretary of State Kurt Browning is having a tough time stopping them anyway, saying his office is spending too much staff time responding to all the falsehoods.

Browning said the volume and persistence of rumors ''may be hyped up this year'' because there's no presidential incumbent, because of the viral effect of Internet conspiracy theories and because ``Florida is still in the shadows of 2000, which just disgusts me.'' -- Mass e-mail rumors befuddle voters |

Montana: University students protest GOP vote suppression

The Missoulian reports: About 18 people, most of them University of Montana students, rallied outside the Republican Party’s Missoula office Thursday, accusing the GOP of trying to suppress their votes.

The protest, organized by Forward Montana, a nonprofit that encourages political involvement, was in response to the state Republican Party’s challenge to the eligibility of 6,000 registered voters n 3,422 of whom live in Missoula County. ...

Protesters at the rally stood on the sidewalk on Brooks Street hoisting placards with slogans such as “Suppress This” or “Is Missoula Next” superimposed over a map of Florida.

Montana GOP executive director Jacob Eaton said it is “absurd” to say his party is trying to suppress students’ votes. The party is just trying to ensure that election laws are obeyed. -- University of Montana students protest GOP challenge of voter registrations

Alabama: Secretary of State will provide copy of voter list to political parties

The Huntsville Times reports: Secretary of State Beth Chapman agreed Thursday to give the Alabama Democratic and Republican parties updated voter lists as part of a settlement reached in Montgomery County Circuit Court. ...

The Democratic Party sued Chapman after she had refused to give the party a second voter list this year, saying that she would have to charge the party 1 cent for each of the state's more than 2.94 million registered voters on the list, or more than $29,000.

Judge William Shashy said he would sign an order later to validate the agreement.

But in an agreement worked out behind closed doors, Chapman said she would give the list to both parties by 5 p.m. Thursday. And she agreed from now on to give both parties copies of the voter lists before each primary election and each general election. -- Parties will get new list of voters -

October 2, 2008

Alabama: Rev. Glasgow sues over ban on in-prison voter registration (court docs attached)

The Dothan Eagle reports: The NAACP Legal Defense Fund expects a federal court to overturn Alabama Department of Corrections Commissioner Richard Allen’s recent decision to prevent the Rev. Kenneth Glasgow’s drive to register eligible prisoners to vote.

The Legal Defense Fund filed suit in Montgomery’s U.S. District Court on Tuesday, calling Allen’s decision “arbitrary and unconstitutional,” according to Ryan P. Haygood, co-director of the fund’s Political Participation Group.

Allen’s decision came after being contacted by Alabama Republican Party Chairman Mike Hubbard, who says he will never support voting rights for prisoners, even though state law allows non-violent offenders to vote. -- Civil rights group fights for prisoners’ votes

Here are the complaint, exhibits A, B, and C.

"Voting goes to court"

The Chicago Tribune reports: In a furious, multistate campaign raging far from television cameras and cable TV chatter, scores of lawyers are arguing over the voting rights of perhaps millions of Americans who plan to cast ballots in the presidential election.

This is the courtroom campaign beneath the presidential campaign, fought in politically strategic states including Ohio, Florida, Wisconsin and others. The outcome of battles over voter registration, absentee ballots and the integrity of state voting lists could prove to be decisive in states where the margin of victory is expected to be slim.

"Voter registration is likely to be the issue of the 2008 election season," said Daniel Tokaji, an election law specialist at Ohio State University Moritz College of Law.

The legal battles come as millions of previously disinterested Americans, most of them Democrats energized by the primary contest between Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, have registered to vote in November's election. With Democrats emboldened by large gains in voter registration and Republicans relying on an effective get-out-the-vote machine, the election could turn on pre-election arguments over who is allowed to vote. -- Voting goes to court: Registration lawsuits could shape election

Alabama: Governor disfranchising thousands (document attached)

The Birmingham News reports: Eligible Alabama voters are being wrongly denied the right to cast a ballot in the coming election because of the way Gov. Bob Riley's administration defines a crime of moral turpitude, state court administrators said Wednesday.

The Administrative Office of Courts sent a memo Tuesday to county probate judges, sheriffs and circuit clerks saying that people who should be allowed to vote have been stricken from the voter rolls based on information from Riley's administration over which felony convictions bar people from voting.

AOC Director Callie Dietz and Legal Director Griffin Sikes Jr. told election officials that they hoped the memo would help them identify people who have been wrongly denied their right to vote during the past 18 months and notify them that they are eligible to vote Nov. 4. ...

The dispute centers on what felony convictions bar people from voting in Alabama. The state constitution says people convicted of felony crimes of "moral turpitude" cannot vote until they get their rights restored. However, state law does not define a crime of moral turpitude.

The position of the governor's office is that 480 of the state's 575 felony crimes are crimes of moral turpitude. Emerson said the legal staff "put in hundreds of hours into researching both case law and statutory law to come up with a comprehensive list of crimes of moral turpitude."

The AOC Legal Division takes a stricter view and lists only 70 felonies that a court, Alabama law or the state attorney general's opinion have determined should bar someone from voting. -- State courts say Alabama wrongly bars people from voting -

The memo is here.

October 1, 2008

Alabama: Rev. Kenneth Glasgow sues to get in-jail voter registration

The NAACP Legal Defense announces: The NAACP Legal Defense Fund (LDF) filed a lawsuit today in federal court on behalf of Reverend Kenneth Glasgow to allow him to resume registering eligible voters currently incarcerated in Alabama's correctional facilities.

With just 24 days remaining before voter registration closes to citizens seeking to participate in the November 4 elections, the lawsuit challenges the decision of Richard Allen, Commissioner of the Alabama Department of Corrections, to rescind Reverend Glasgow's access to incarcerated individuals who are eligible to vote under Alabama law. -- NAACP Legal Defense Fund -- Cases