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June 13, 2014

GOP claims to have evidence of voter fraud

Reuters reports: Alabama Republicans, who offered a $1,000 reward for substantiated reports of voter fraud in this month's primary elections, said on Thursday they plan to forward credible evidence of wrongdoing to state prosecutors.

Republicans argue that voter fraud is a central problem in U.S. elections. Democrats say Republican complaints about voter fraud are a smokescreen for Republican efforts to put in place measures like strict voter identification laws intended to make it unduly difficult for voters who tend to vote Democratic like minorities, young people and the elderly to cast ballots. ...

The allegations collected by Alabama Republicans include a candidate improperly offering to assist voters in filling out their ballots, a woman who was wrongly told she had signed up to vote absentee and could only cast a provisional ballot in person and cases in which voters were told they could only vote for Democratic candidates, Armistead said. -- Alabama Republicans say voter fraud found after offering reward | Reuters

(And none of those would be prevented by voter ID.)

How does Mississippi have a runoff election faster than Alabama?

Note: Alabama and Mississippi held their primaries on the same day, 3 June. Mississippi will hold its runoff on 24 June, but Alabama has to wait till 15 July. Why the difference? Short answer: UOCAVA.

The Mississippi Business Journal reports: The Secretary of State's Office has been notified by the U.S. Department of Justice that current state law conflicts with federal military and overseas voting laws.

Recent changes to the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA) require states to send absentee ballots to military and overseas voters who request them at least 45 days before an election for federal office. State law provides only 21 days between a primary election and a primary run-off election. ...

"Rather than be sued by the federal government for failing to comply with federal law, the State Board of Election Commissioners have decided to provide military voters with both their primary and primary run-off ballot when electronically transmitting overseas absentee ballots," said Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann. "Mississippi is a leading state in allowing electronic voting for the military, and I intend to keep it that way."

Military and overseas voters will rank the candidates of their choice for the primary run-off ballot, in a so-called "ranked choice" ballot. When the primary run-off ballot is returned to the Circuit Clerk's Office with the primary election ballot, it will be placed in a separate absentee ballot envelope in the event there is a primary run-off election. -- Justice: State's military, overseas voting law conflicts with UOCAVA » Mississippi Business Journal

April 30, 2013

2012 Evergreen election to be held on June 18

AL.com reports: A federal judge this afternoon postponed a long-delayed municipal election in Evergreen, pushing the voting back to June 18 after conducting a telephone conference with lawyers in a voting-rights lawsuit.

Attorneys for the Conecuh County seat requested the postponement, citing a need for more time by a special master appointed to oversee the balloting. U.S. District Judge Ginny Granade agreed, ordering the June 18 vote, with a runoff on July 30 if needed.

John Tanner, an attorney for three black residents who sued the city over the way it redrew council districts after the 2010 census, said the delay is the result of city officials? failure to include the plaintiffs' representative in discussions with the special master. But he said another postponement probably could not be avoided. ...

The plaintiffs alleged that the city illegally gerrymandered the five districts in order to maintain a white majority on the council despite the fact that Evergreen’s population now is 62 percent black. Granade in March ordered a new political map based largely on the one that the plaintiffs had proposed. It creates three districts with large black majorities. -- Read the whole story --> Judge postpones Evergreen election again; voting with redrawn political map set for June | al.com

February 11, 2013

Alabama at the bottom in new Election Performance Indix

The Pew Charitable Trusts has released a report: The Elections Performance Index is a project that, for the first time ever, examines election administration performance across all 50 states and the District of Columbia. ...

A state’s performance is based on 17 measurable indicators such as polling location wait times, availability of voting information tools online, the number of rejected voter registrations, the percentage of voters with registration or absentee ballot problems, how many military and overseas ballots were rejected, voter turnout, and the accuracy of voting technology.

This new tool will make data easily accessible to election officials and policymakers to help them benchmark their performance over time, as well as assess which policies are working effectively.

The data featured in this report cover the 2008 and 2010 elections and will be updated when official 2012 data becomes available in late 2013. -- Click here to review Alabama's performance compared to other states -->States Vary in Overall Election Performance - The Pew Charitable Trusts

November 6, 2012

Alabama shows its xenophobia again

The Tuscaloosa News reports: Two European election observers will be in Alabama today and their presence is causing a stir.

Election observers from the Office of Security and Co-operation in Europe/Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights have conducted limited election observation missions in the United States since 2002, just as U.S. election observers have been doing in foreign countries.

The United States is a member of the Office of Security and Co-operation in Europe, which had been incorrectly identified as a United Nations affiliate. That initial link to the U.N. caused state officials in Texas and Alabama to warn against election intrusion.

Alabama Secretary of State Beth Chapman's office recently issued a statement that "anyone in any polling place who is approached by or observing anyone from the OSCE" should call her election hot line. -- Read the whole story -->European election observers cause stir in Alabama | TuscaloosaNews.com

Comment: First of all, the O in OSCE stands for Organization.

Five years ago I was an election observer in the Scottish elections. Everyone in my group (organized by FairVote) was given a credential by the national election authority in Britain so that we were allowed to go into polling places, counting facilities, and the like. We were not allowed to campaign, interfere with voters, or interfere with polling officials. Pretty much like the rules for poll watchers in Alabama.

Our group was in Britain (London and then Scotlan) for a week, so we observed a lot more than just voting on election day. We got briefings from election officials, civil servants, and on election night many in our group met candidates and officials of political parties who had turned out for the count.

On election day, I went to two polling places (one in the anteroom of a mosque, the other in a classroom of a Roman Catholic school). In each place, I introduced myself and showed my credentials to the chief polling officer. As voters were leaving the polling site, I introduced myself and asked a few questions about their views on their election system.

It was a great experience for all in the group. I wish Alabama could be as gracious as the English and Scots were to us.

October 23, 2012

Sec of State will seek higher penalties for election fraud

The Montgomery Advertiser reports: Secretary of State Beth Chapman said Monday that she will pursue legislation to increase the punishment for fraud in next year's legislative session.

Chapman said at a news conference on voter fraud that she was concerned with the high volume of absentee voting in some rural counties, which frequently outstrip state averages. ...

Sen. Bryan Taylor, R-Prattville, who will sponsor the measure, said the bill will raise the penalty for voter fraud from a Class C misdemeanor to a Class C felony. That would increase the punishment for voter fraud from up to three months in jail and a $500 fine to up to 10 years in prison and a $15,000 fine. -- Read the whole story --> Alabama to seek stiffer voter fraud penalties | The Montgomery Advertiser | montgomeryadvertiser.com

October 21, 2012

True the Vote trying to "clear up" Alabama's voter rolls

AL.com reports: A volunteer network started by Tea Party members in Texas has taken steps to verify the addresses of college students in Huntsville, prompting local Democrats to cry foul.

True the Vote last month sent a fax to Oakwood University, a historically black Seventh-day Adventist college in Huntsville, to verify the addresses of more than 120 students who are registered voters. The list included names alongside dates of birth.

"I'm outraged about this," said Clete Wetli, chairman of the Madison County Democratic party. Wetli on Friday said True the Vote is "aligned with the far right and Tea Party activists" and is using "fear and suppression" to attempt to influence elections.

Judy Parsons, the Hartselle volunteer who contacted Oakwood University, said she is one of 130 volunteers attempting to clear up Alabama voter rolls and the student names were provided by True the Vote. She contends the group is non-partisan. -- Read the whole story --> Tea Party offshoot working to clear names from Alabama voter rolls | al.com

September 7, 2012

Once again, Alabama officials turn to the big, bad federal government for help

Strange asks U.S. attorney to investigate voter fraud allegations | TuscaloosaNews.com
The Tuscaloosa News reports: Attorney General Luther Strange on Thursday asked U.S. Attorney Joyce Vance in Birmingham to use her newly created civil rights unit to investigate allegations of voter fraud.

Strange is the second state official to ask the Justice Department to probe voter fraud allegations in Alabama.

"Voting is a precious civil right that many paid the ultimate sacrifice to preserve," Strange said in a statement. "This seems to me to be the type of allegations the civil rights enforcement unit in the northern district of Alabama should look into. I hope they will join with us in this effort."

September 1, 2012

Uniontown had too many voters, Republicans claim

Agriculture commissioner seeks federal involvement in Uniontown voting | GadsdenTimes.com
The Gadsden Times reports: State agriculture Commissioner John McMillan on Friday upped the ante in the Uniontown voting numbers case by calling for U.S. Department of Justice voting monitors who were just in Alabama last week to return to the state.

The state agriculture commissioner, governor and state auditor each get to appoint one member of the three-member county boards of voting registrars, except in Jefferson County.

Eyebrows were raised after Tuesday's election when it was learned that 130 percent of the town's 2010 population of 1,775 people were registered to vote. A total of 1,431 people voted for mayor and slightly less in the council races, 570 by absentee ballot. ...

Total votes cast represented 125 percent of the 1,140 people in the town who were 18 and older on Census day. -- Read the whole story -->

August 31, 2012

Uniontown has more voters than residents

The Montgomery Advertiser reports: Top lawmakers in the Alabama Legislature said Thursday that more people voting in the Uniontown municipal election than there are voting age people is a prime example of why the state needs to fight voter fraud.

House Speaker Mike Hubbard, Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh and Senate Majority Leader Jabo Waggoner said the voting pattern in Uniontown, with a population of 1,775 according to the latest census, was suspicious. The town has 2,587 registered voters, according to a report in the Tuscaloosa News. ...

Secretary of State Beth Chapman, the state’s chief election official, has been vocal about the need to confront voter fraud and said she supports photo voter ID, but said the issue in Uniontown is more about absentee ballots and voter rolls. ...

Local and state election officials told the News there could be a number of reasons why those registration numbers are so high, including the possibility that the census numbers indicating the population in the west Alabama town are wrong, that voter registrars have strict guidelines for removing people from the rolls, and that people in the town have post office boxes since there is no door-to-door mail delivery. -- Read the whole story --> Alabama state GOP leaders: 'Voter fraud alive and well' | The Montgomery Advertiser | montgomeryadvertiser.com

August 27, 2012

Two south Alabama cities have delayed elections for two weeks because of T.S. Isaac

Gulf Shores postpones Tuesday election, issuing voluntary evacuation Monday (Updated) | al.com

The city has postponed Tuesday's election to Sept. 11, and will issue a voluntary evacuation for residents living in low-lying areas starting Monday morning in anticipation of Tropical Storm Isaac's arrival on Tuesday afternoon. ...

Orange Beach Mayor Tony Kennon said Sunday afternoon that the City Council would meet on Monday morning to declare a local state of emergency which allows the city to issue a voluntary evacuation order. The city also plans to postpone the Tuesday election until Sept. 11. The cost to reschedule the election should be minimal, Kennon said. Most of the costs will involve the paperwork used in the election, he said.

July 17, 2012

Ala AG opinion requires Probate Judge to use registration address, not post office information

The Mobile Press Register (al.com) reports: A probate judge cannot block a voter from casting a regular ballot when the address on his voter registration conflicts with information provided by the U.S. Postal Service, according to an attorney general's opinion.

Mobile County Probate Judge Don Davis and the Mobile County Board of Registrars both asked for the opinion from the Alabama Attorney General's Office after the registrars disputed his handling of the matter during this year's primary.

Davis said this afternoon that he has reviewed the response from the Attorney General's staff has asked for a supplemental opinion. "We find aspects of it confusing," he said. -- Read the whole story and opinion --> Mobile County election procedures challenged in Alabama attorney general opinion | al.com

March 25, 2012

$3 million for a one-office statewide runoff

The Montgomery Advertiser reports: Twinkle Andress Cavanaugh was close to becoming the Republican nominee for president of the Public Service Commission in the March 13 primary, but she was shy of obtaining the majority of votes needed to move forward without a runoff.

Now, that runoff could cost the state more than $3 million during dire financial times. And, the turnout likely will be low with no other statewide office on the ballot, although there will be some local races.

In a comparable election four years ago, when Cavanaugh was vying for the same position and failed to secure a majority of the votes in the primary, only .04 percent of voters turned out, according to the secretary of state's office. -- Read the whole story --> PSC runoff could be costly | The Montgomery Advertiser | montgomeryadvertiser.com

January 17, 2012

What is Jefferson County cannot prepare for election because of budget cuts?

The Birmingham News reports: Jefferson County risks violating federal and state laws if an additional $40 million is cut from its fiscal 2012 budget, county officials said.

County departments perform federal, state or locally required functions, such as elections and road maintenance, that could be jeopardized by continued reductions to the general fund budget, County Manager Tony Petelos said.

Those violations could lead to fines and costly lawsuits, he said.

"If we have a disaster on election day and we're not doing the elections properly; if there are a lot of problems, delays and people didn't get to vote and there is a close election, there will be lawsuits filed," Petelos said. -- Read the whole story --> Additional Jefferson County budget cuts could violate state, federal laws, officials warn | al.com

December 8, 2011

ACLU interviews Birmingham's Rev. Scott Douglas re voter suppression

The ACLU's Blog of Rights begins several days of a series on voter suppression with this: "The right to vote freely for the candidate of one's choice is of the essence of a democratic society, and any restrictions on that right strike at the heart of representative government." -- Chief Justice Earl Warren in Reynolds v. Sims

This Saturday, December 10, the American Civil Liberties Union, along with our friends at the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and many others, will march in the streets of New York City in support of our most fundamental American right of all -- the right to vote. And next week, Attorney General Eric Holder will address the nation from President Lyndon B. Johnson's library in Austin, Texas about the sanctity of voting rights in America. -- Read the whole blog post and see the video of Scott Douglas --> Don’t Shrink Our Democracy » Blog of Rights: Official Blog of the American Civil Liberties Union

December 4, 2011

Alabama ranked low on survey of election websites

The William & Mary Election Law Society reports: The Internet has increasingly become the main source of information for many Americans. Indeed, many errands we once accomplishedwith a car or a postage stamp are now done simply with a few clicks of the mouse. As Americans have grown more dependent upon sites such as Amazon and Netflix, it stands to reason that they are also increasingly more likely to seek out information regarding their civic duties using the Internet. ...

This study examines each state’s main elections webpage to determine its usefulness to the average voter. The goal is to determine the ease or difficulty with which that voter could find vital information on his or her state’s elections website. It is important to distinguish certain characteristics of a state’s voting system from the state’s website. This study does not seek to analyze a state’s use of online voting or vote by mail (among others). Rather, the goal is to determine how easily voters can get the information they need. For the most part, the study uses quantitative measures—namely, how many clicks of the mouse it takes to find important information. Along with these measurements is a more qualitative measurement used sparingly to examine whether that process is intuitive. (You might be able to come across voter registration information in two clicks, but often only providentially). -- Read the whole posting --> All States (election websites): A look at election websites state by state : State of Elections

NOTE: Alabama is tied for 37th place.

November 16, 2011

Jefferson County does not have enough workres to run an election

The Birmingham News reports: Probate Judge Alan King today told the Jefferson County Commission that staffing the upcoming primary elections may be difficult because not enough workers are on staff to do the work.

"With the shortage of staffing in general services, Jefferson County at present will not be able to conduct the March 13 election or, if needed, the April 24 runoff," King said. "With the layoffs in the county, and particularly in general services, it is apparent that we must implement a new election support staffing model. ... Otherwise, we will not have the capability to properly conduct the Jefferson County elections." -- Read the whole article --> Jefferson County can't run primary elections with current staffing, probate judge tells County Commission | al.com

May 17, 2011

Alabama letter-writer complains about National Popular Vote

S. Matthew Jones writes a letter to the Birmingham News: The National Popular Vote bill introduced by Dial upends our current system, placing national interests over Alabama interests by forcing Alabama's electoral votes to be cast for the presidential candidate receiving the collective national majority -- ignoring the majority vote of Alabama. Thus, for example, even if the majority of Alabamians overwhelmingly vote one way, if the national majority votes the other way, Alabama's electoral votes must, by law, go the other way. -- Read the whole letter --> YOUR VIEW: 'Popular vote' bill would abrogate Alabama's rights | al.com

December 1, 2010

A report from Election Protection

Below is a rundown of some of the issues Election Protection volunteers dealt with on Election Day:

OHIO

Election Protection volunteers and legal experts on the ground in Cleveland reported massive crowds, long lines and improper enforcement of voting policies in the final hours of voting in Ohio. Even after being contacted by the Board of Elections, poll workers in Cuyahoga County precincts continued to feed voters misinformation about how to fill out their ballot. Additionally, voters reported they were not given enough time in the voting booth to complete their ballots.

ARIZONA

There were multiple reports of voter intimidation in Arizona. Election Protection volunteers reported that an assigned Republican poll watcher within the 75-foot polling place perimeter, who was also observed videotaping voters, became confrontational with both an Election Protection volunteer and a volunteer for the Raul Grijalva campaign waiting outside of the perimeter. Election Protection alerted the Tucson Police Department and the volunteer was removed by order of the Arizona Secretary of State. The first reports of the poll watcher came in at approximately 10:30am and he was removed at approximately 2:00pm PST.

CALIFORNIA

Californians reported major problems at poll locations across the state including registered voters not appearing on voter rosters, polls running out of ballots, polls running out of provisional ballots, polls opening late, polls closing early and many polls not opening at all. Election Protection legal volunteers worked to resolve these issues quickly to ensure that no one left their polling location without effectively casting a ballot.

ILLINOIS

Voters in Chicago precincts reported receiving misinformation from poll workers about casting provisional ballots. It was reported that Election judges were not properly trained on the voting process for individuals placed on the suspended voting list and therefore instructed poll workers to give these voters provisional ballots. In fact, under Chicago Election law, suspended voters are entitled to cast a regular ballot if able to provide two valid forms of identification. After receiving calls from legal experts on the ground in Chicago, Election Protection notified the proper election officials who followed up with the appropriate polling places to rectify the problem.

MARYLAND

Before polls closed, voters in Baltimore and Prince George’s County reported receiving robocalls stating, “Governor O’Malley and President Obama have been successful. Our goals have been met. The polls were correct…and we’re ok. Relax, everything is fine. The only thing left is to watch on TV tonight. Congratulations and thank you.” The calls were shared with Election Protection and were reported towards the end of the day.

MICHIGAN

In Ann Arbor, University of Michigan several students reported that they faced a problem with voting at their current residence. When they turned 21, the state automatically reverted their driver’s licenses to their original address as opposed to their current school addresses. They either had to vote at their parents’ residence or cast a provisional ballot.

November 16, 2010

Madison Co: returning polling places to schools

The Huntsville Times reports: The Madison County Commission wants voters to return to schools to cast their ballots in future elections when students are not in class.

The commission this morning approved a resolution asking that local school systems starting with the 2012 elections either make election days a holiday or teacher work day and allow school buildings to be used as voting places.

The action comes nine months after the commission adopted a new voting location lineup that merged several polling places and vacated all voting places in schools but one. ...

The resolution notes that school buildings are owned by taxpayers, located in neighborhoods and usually have adequate parking and space to conduct elections. It also recognizes that voting at schools with students present raises security, congestion and parking issues. -- Read the whole story --> Madison County Commission wants to send voters back to school | al.com

October 26, 2010

Mobile: 6000 voters will hae to go to two polling places

Voters in Mobile's District 6 may have to go to two polling sites | al.com
The Mobile Press Register reports: About 6,000 voters in Mobile City Council District 6 will have to go to two different polling places on Nov. 2 to cast ballots for a vacant council seat as well as for governor, sheriff, state legislator and a slate of other public officials.

This is the first time that a special election for the City Council has been held on the same day as the state and national elections, said City Clerk Lisa Lambert, so voters may not be expecting to have to travel to two precincts. ...

Even those who are able to vote in both elections at the same location will receive two separate ballots and submit them to separate machines. -- Read the whole story -->

July 18, 2010

Alabama: election-reporting system tested in runoff, to be ready for general election

The Mobile Press Register reports: Elections officials have announced plans to launch a rapid new online vote reporting-system statewide for November's elections, following a largely successful test during Tuesday's primary runoffs.

The Election Night Reporting system is billed by the Secretary of State's Office as a way to bring Alabama elections "into the 21st century." It is expected to offer voting results, turnout information and possibly precinct-by-precinct data, all online and updated regularly through the night after polls close. ...

On Tuesday, election officials sought to test the system in Alabama's four largest counties: Mobile, Montgomery, Jefferson and Madison.

Apparently, the night's biggest difficulty came from the county in which the Secretary of State's Office is located. "Unfortunately, we weren't able to participate," said Trey Granger, director of elections for Montgomery County. "Our Internet went down." -- Read the entire story --> New Alabama election system to show statewide results online | al.com

July 16, 2010

Autauga Co: DA finds no multiple voting occurred

The Montgomery Advertiser reports: District At­torney Randall Houston has for­warded his report about poten­tial voting irregularities during Autauga County's June 1 prima­ry elections to the secretary of state's office.

The issue came to light when a voter's name appeared on the list of those having cast absen­tee ballots when the person did not vote absentee. The Autauga County board of registrars made a complaint to the district attor­ney's office, alleging that voter had cast three votes in the pri­mary, Houston said.

"My office has determined that there was no indication of voter fraud in Autauga County, and there was only one vote cast by the person who was alleged to have voted several times," Houston wrote in a letter accom­panying the report. "However, it appears there was an error with the computer system which monitors absentee voting. There are three possible scenar­ios as to what might have oc­curred in the Autauga County primary and they include: un­lawful human intervention, simple human error, or a mal­function in the computer soft­ware."

Houston wrote that the secre­tary of state's office is best equipped to determine if any problems with the computer system exist. -- Read the whole story --> Autauga County report on voting irregularities sent to secretary of state's office | montgomeryadvertiser.com | Montgomery Advertiser

July 2, 2010

Alabama: legislator will appeal election contest loss

The Montgomery Advertiser reports: After a subcommittee of the Alabama Democratic Party ruled against putting state Rep. James Thomas into a runoff with the man who beat him in the primary, the legislator's at­torney filed an appeal with the party. ...

Thomas, D-Selma, currently represents District 69, which includes all or part of Autauga, Dallas, Lowndes and Wilcox counties. He was elected in 1982.

Political newcomer David Colston won the June 1 prima­ry by 120 votes with 51 percent of the vote, enough to avoid a runoff. Thomas finished with 32 percent.

Thomas and his attorney ex­pressed concerns about the number of absentee ballots and about one precinct in which voters were supposed to re­ceive different ballots depend­ing on their district, according to Sabel, but 302 people in one precinct did not receive the bal­lot that should have included District 69. Read the whole story --> Legislator to appeal Democrats' decision to deny runoff in District 69 | montgomeryadvertiser.com | Montgomery Advertiser

June 11, 2010

Alabama: Johnny Ford alleges voter fraud in Democratic primary

The Opelika-Auburn News reports: Ten days after the Democratic primary, former Tuskegee Mayor Johnny Ford remains unsatisfied with the outcome. Ford has filed a complaint with the Alabama Secretary of State's office, citing "voting irregularities" in the Senate District 28 primary and is calling for an investigation.

Clayton pharmacist Billy Beasley, who represents the 84th District in the Alabama House (Barbour, Bullock and Russell counties), ran away with the contest, taking 48 percent of the votes (10,340), compared to Ford?s 5,976. ...

Ford charged that his name was temporarily left off of the ballot at the Jeter Street polling place in Opelika; that ballot boxes were seized by the Russell County Sheriff?s Department before they were counted last Tuesday by County Coordinator Arthur Sumbry; that 290 absentee ballots were not counted in Russell County; and that "a gross misuse of absentee ballots" occurred in Bullock County.
Read the whole story -->Ford alleges voter fraud in Democratic primary | Opelika-Auburn News

May 25, 2010

Alabama: Secretary of State investigating voter fraud charges

The Montgomery Advertiser reports:
With the primary just eight days away, Secretary of State Beth Chapman is investigating allegations of voter fraud in at least four Black Belt counties.

Chapman's office announced Monday that it has received complaints of alleged voter fraud in Greene, Macon, Perry and Wilcox counties. ...

Chapman did not specify in her release how many com­plaints she's received, but her chief of staff, Emily Thompson, said in some counties there have been multiple complaints.

Thompson said the secretary of state's voter fraud unit has contacted the U.S. Department of Justice about the allegations and is working with the state to stop voter fraud statewide. Read the whole story --> Chapman: We will continue to fight voter fraud | montgomeryadvertiser.com | Montgomery Advertiser

May 6, 2010

Britain: voting problems

The BBC is reporting:
# Hundreds of people have been turned away from polling stations and police have been called at some counts.
# The Electoral Commission says it will be undertaking a "thorough review" of what happened in constituencies where people were unable to vote. -- BBC News - Election 2010 - Live coverage - General Election 2010

January 26, 2010

Alabama: Autauga Co. registrars fighting each other

The Prattville Progress reports: Three high-ranking members of Alabama Secretary of State Beth Chapman's office arrived in Prattville Thursday morning to conduct a basic training session for members of the Autauga County Board of Registrars. ...

Jean Brown, Chapman's chief legal advisor; Ed Packard, her supervisor of voter registration, and Adam Thompson, the secretary of state's director for the federal Help America Vote Act, remained calm as accusations flew back and forth between registrars Bobby Wise, Joan Hamburger and Keith Kuzma, the board's chair.

The major bone of contention was a growing stack of voter application forms that have not been processed, and the inability of Wise and Hamburger to gain access to the office's street files, which dictate in which geographic district each voter is to be registered.

Kuzma, who was appointed by the county commission in October 2008 as manager of the street files, filed last week an "informal complaint" against his fellow registrars for their refusal to process applications until they were granted access to the information for which Kuzma was ultimately responsible. -- Read the whole story --> montgomeryadvertiser.com :: Accusations fly during training session

December 23, 2009

ACORN has not broken federal laws, House Judiciary Committee says

Politico reports: A Congressional Research Service report commissioned by the House Judiciary Committee says ACORN hasn?t violated any federal regulations the last five years.

The report, released by Judiciary Chairman John Conyers? (D-Mich.) staff Tuesday evening, also reports that the undercover filmmakers that allegedly caught employees of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now breaking the law may have violated state law in their filming operation.

Separately Tuesday, a New York federal judge rejected a motion from the Justice Department to reconsider a decision that ruled a bill that stopped funding for ACORN as an unconstitutional bill of attainder.

The CRS report is part of a slew of government inquests into the group, which was swept up in a number of embarrassing situations in the last several months. The Government Accountability Office recently opened its own report and Republican Reps. Darrell Issa of California and Steve King of Iowa have led the charge in demanding more investigations and hearings into the group. -- Read the whole report --> CRS report: ACORN didn't break law - - POLITICO.com

November 27, 2009

Birmingham: was the city council election held at the correct time?

The Birmingham News reports: A Birmingham neighborhood president and former council member who unsuccessfully ran for city council this year said he filed a lawsuit this morning against the city because he wanted to bring it to the attention of the courts that the election was illegal.

"It's not about me or the seat," said Leroy Bandy, president of the Central Pratt neighborhood. "I just want it done right."

Bandy and another former District 9 council candidate, David Russell, filed the suit in Jefferson County Circuit Court this morning, minutes before the swearing-in ceremony began for the new council. In the suit, they contend the city should have gotten the state legislature to amend the Mayor-Council Act before changing election dates.

A hearing has been set for Dec. 3 in the case, Bandy said. -- Read the whole story --> Former city council candidate says he filed suit over election because 'I just want it done right' | Breaking News from The Birmingham News - al.com

November 15, 2009

Alabama: Packard proposes amendments to election laws

Ed Packard, supervisor of voter registration for the State of Alabama, suggests several amendments to the State's election laws regarding emergency balloting procedures, changed voter ID procedures for absentee voters, and confidentiality of voter information. -- Read the whole piece --> It's time to amend voting laws | Birmingham News Commentary - al.com

October 29, 2009

Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act signed

President Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2010 yesterday (28 October 2009). One part of the act is the Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act, reproduced below.

Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act

September 2, 2009

Alabama: Evergreen to appeal portion of election contest ruling

The Mobile Press-Register reports: City attorney Terry Davis recommended the city appeal part of a judge's decision in the ongoing challenge of last October's mayoral vote, a move one councilman called "bull crap."

Davis said an order issued a week ago by specially appointed retired Mobile County Circuit Judge Edward McDermott declared challenger Pete Wolff III winner of the election, but incumbent Mayor Larry Fluker was "in the process of appealing" the ruling. ...

Davis said part of the order "changed the way Evergreen has been doing elections since time began" and that the city should appeal that portion of the ruling.

"It said that instead of using the voting list we have used and the process we have used for a number of years, we should have been using the secretary of state's voter list," Davis said. "The court directed in this order the city must use a process we have never used before, and we raised an objection in court that he did not rule on."

Davis said the secretary of state and the league of municipalities agreed with the way the city conducted the election, and he believed the judge was wrong. He said it would cost the city money to change the process. -- Read the whole story --> Evergreen city attorney advises appeal of judge's ruling in mayoral election challenge - al.com

June 22, 2009

Alabama: Birmingham gets preclearance for earlier election

The Birmingham News reports that the City of Birmingham finally received preclearance for its earlier election date. For earlier stories on this, see here, here, and here.

June 16, 2009

Alabama: Birmingham's election date still up in the air

The Birmingham News reports: Just a week remains before Birmingham city officials must either set early August city elections or revert to the original fall date. Candidates, city officials and city attorneys still don't know when the election will take place.

Federal approval is needed to change the election to Aug. 25, which the council voted to do to meet a new federal rule that requires six weeks between the election and any runoffs. But to have the election that day, the city would have to receive the OK from the Department of Justice by June 26.

Department of Justice officials recently interviewed council members, the city attorney and officials in Mayor Larry Langford's office about the proposed change. Justice Department approval would have to be received 60 days before the proposed new election date. Otherwise, the City Council and school board elections will be Oct. 13. Read the whole story --> Birmingham city election date still unsettled, week remains until early date possibility dies - al.com

May 11, 2009

Alabama: Birmingham's slow preclearance request for election-date change has potential candidates and council worried

The Birmingham News reports: The city last week filed its formal request with federal officials to move up the City Council and school board elections - more than two months after the City Council voted for the change. ...

However, the delay in filing the request has some asking when the actual election will be held, when qualifying will open and when the real campaign season will begin.

Council and school board elections were set for Oct. 13, but the council in February voted to move the elections to Aug. 25. Cooper had said the change was needed because of provisions in the federal Help America to Vote Act that requires six weeks between the election and any runoffs. That provision was mandated to allow absentee and overseas ballots to be counted.

Under Birmingham's schedule, there have been only three weeks between the general election and runoffs. -- Birmingham, Alabama, files request with U.S. to shift election date months after council voted for change - al.com

March 24, 2009

Vote to ask Pres. Obama, "Why Tuesday?"

Jacob Soboroff, Executive Director, Why Tuesday? wrote me:

Unbelievable! Because of you all, our question for President Obama about fixing America's broken voting system has shot onto the Ask The President front page in just half a day! We now need ONLY 750 votes to make it to the TOP SPOT so President Obama will be asked about election reform TONIGHT during his prime-time news conference!

Click here to give our question a thumbs-up so that President Obama will be asked about election reform TONIGHT!

If all of you vote, President Obama just might address how to fix America's broken voting system TONIGHT! You have the power!

March 8, 2009

Alabama: Montgomery Co. election director pushes for more voters, turnout

The Montgomery Advertiser reports: About 75 percent of Montgom­ery County's registered voters cast their ballots in the presi­dential election, but director of elections Trey Granger thinks there still is work to be done.

He continues looking to make improvements that will get more people out to vote, bring the community together and ed­ucate voters. ...

It's been four years since he took the position as director of elections, and he said the Mont­gomery Election Center finally is beginning to brand itself as a valuable community resource. ...

Right now, the Election Cen­ter is sending people out to com­munity centers, civic clubs and church groups throughout the county, Granger said.

"They don't know where they are supposed to vote, or who is on the ballot -- all those sorts of things that people put off until as late as the day of an election," Granger said. "Anything we can do proactively to help people be­gin to do that is something that is a priority for us." -- Granger: Election system still needs work | montgomeryadvertiser.com | Montgomery Advertiser

March 5, 2009

11 Senators introduce anti-caging bill

TPM Muckraker reports: Eleven Democratic senators led by Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island today introduced a bill designed to make GOP operatives think twice about launching indiscriminate challenges on people's right to vote. The bill would outlaw challenges to voting eligibility that are based on unreliable information.

The bill appears targeted at the GOP's "caging" tactic -- in one manifestation of which, Republicans in Michigan and other states considered challenging the eligibility of voters who were on a list of people whose homes were subject to foreclosure.

It would also appear to cover the GOP effort we reported on in New Mexico last fall, in which the state party publicly announced its intention to challenge 28 mostly Hispanic voters, based on a grab-bag of suspicions. All of those voters were later shown to be valid. ...

[From the press release:] The Caging Prohibition Act would mandate that anyone who challenges the right of another citizen to vote must set forth the specific grounds for that voter's alleged ineligibility and describe the evidence to support that conclusion, under penalty of perjury. Following allegations in 2008 that Republican Party officials in Michigan, Florida, Indiana, and Ohio were considering challenging the eligibility of voters who were on a list of people whose homes were subject to foreclosure, the sponsors updated last year's version of the Caging Prohibition Act to explicitly prohibit challenges based on the foreclosure status of a voter's residence. -- TPMMuckraker | Talking Points Memo | Dem Bill Would Crack Down On Voter Caging

Note: This year's bill is not on Thomas yet, but last year's bill is.

February 25, 2009

Alabama: Birmingham moves date of city election to comply with UOCAVA

The Birmingham News reports: In other business, the council in Tuesday's 7˝-hour meeting unanimously approved moving the city and school elections to August. City attorney Lawrence Cooper said the city is violating federal voting rules because there were only three weeks between the general election and any runoffs. Federal law now requires six weeks between the election and runoffs, to allow absentee and overseas ballots to be counted.

City Council and school board elections originally were set for Oct. 13, but now will be held Aug. 25. -- The Birmingham City Council rejected three plans proposed by Mayor Larry Langford - al.com

November 2, 2008

Evidence? We don't need no stinkin' evidence

Politico reports: For weeks, Republican leaders have warned that widely reported problems with fake voter registrations could result in a flood of phony votes in pivotal states.

But Ronald Michaelson, a veteran election administrator and member of the McCain-Palin Honest and Open Election Committee, said in an interview that he could not name a single instance in which this had occurred.

“Do we have a documented instance of voting fraud that resulted from a phony registration form? No, I can’t cite one, chapter and verse,” he said. ...

Republican elected officials and lawyers for state Republican parties have made similar claims in court and in statements to the press. So far, however, they have failed to provide significant supporting evidence.

A review of prosecutors’ statements and documents filed by Republicans in the most serious new cases alleging voter fraud shows that none offer an example in which a fraudulently registered person managed to cast a valid vote. While several cases argue that such frauds are possible, none sketched a scenario for how massive numbers of people could fake registrations and then vote. -- GOP offers scant proof of voter fraud

"How to protect your vote and spot dirty tricks"

The Obama-Biden campaign has produced videos for Colorado, Florida, Indiana, Missouri, Nevada, New Mexico, Ohio, and Virginia. The state videos at short and mention the polling hours and some forms of acceptable ID.

There is also a national video entitled "How to prtect your vote and spot dirty tricks." Topics covered on the national video are the (1) myth of voter fraud, (2) voter caging, (3) misinformation,and (4) intimidation.

All videos suggest going to VoteForChange.com for more information. That site not only gives the address of a polling place, but a map showing the shortest route to the polling place (although the one for my polling place does not seem to know that College Ave. is one-way during certain hours of the day). -- Barack Obama and Joe Biden: The Change We Need | State Election Protection Videos

November 1, 2008

A collection of voting problems

ProPublica's VoteWatch culls breaking news on voting issues from around the web, focusing in particular on key swing states where problems (ranging from voter registration to machine malfunction to alleged fraud or suppression) are anticipated. -- ProPublica VoteWatch - ProPublica

Election-day observers from DOJ

The Washington Post's Trail blog reports: The Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice will send 800 federal observers and justice department staff to 59 jurisdictions in 23 states on Election Day to monitor polling places and elections.

Jurisdictions will include Chesterfield County, Va., which had ballot shortages and delays during the presidential primary that received nationwide attention during Congressional hearings earlier this fall, when voters said the problems cost them a chance to cast ballots.

In 2004, 1,090 observers traveled to 25 states for Election Day. During the deadlocked 2000 election, there were 317 observers watching for problems.

The department is required to monitor polling places covered by the Voting Rights Act or related court orders. In addition, its Civil Rights Section will send watchers to counties in several battleground states.

In September, in response to concerns about voter intimidation raised by numerous civil rights and voting rights groups, the department agreed not to use criminal prosecutors as elections observers, as had been done in the past with observers from U.S. Attorneys' offices. -- Justice Dept. Will Send 800 Monitors to Polls | The Trail | washingtonpost.com

Note: the story has a list of counties with federal monitors.

Twitter Vote Report

NPR announces: If you have any voting problems, NPR wants to hear about them. As part of Twitter Vote Report – a project born out of a collaboration of volunteer software developers, bloggers and the NPR social media desk – we'll be monitoring voting irregularities, everything from long waits and broken voting machines to polling places with insufficient ballots.

An interactive map will track election problems reported by voters. The map will display eyewitness reports as they come in, so most of them will not be verified by NPR. As reporters look into some of them, you'll find stories on our voting problems page.

Here's how to participate:

Text: Send a text message to 66937. Begin the message with the phrase #votereport, include your ZIP code and a very brief description of the problem.

Twitter: Send a tweet with the phrase #votereport making sure to include your zip code and a description of the problem.

iPhone and Google phone: Download the iPhone app from the education section of the iPhone app store. For the Google phone, go to the Android Market and search for "votereport."

YouTube: In conjunction with PBS and YouTube's Video Your Vote project, you can upload a video to report any problems you experience.

Also, if you need more detailed instructions, visit Twitter's help page and the project's home page, where you will find a short video tutorial and lengthier explanation of how these tools are being used.

Tags For Your Submissions

#zip code to indicate the zip code where you're voting, for example, "#20002"

L:address or city to drill down your exact location. Example: "L:1600 Pennsylvania Ave. D.C."

#machine for machine problems, Example: "#machine broken, using prov. ballot"

#reg for registration troubles. Ex.: "#reg I wasn't on the rolls"

#wait:minutes for long lines. Example: "#wait:120 and I'm coming back later"

#early if you're voting before Nov. 4

#good or #bad to give a quick sense of your overall experience -- Vote Report: Help NPR Identify Voting Problems

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 myfairelection.com could well develop into such a system.

In addition to these practical advantages, myfairelection.com 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."

October 24, 2008

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. Law.com 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, Votelaw.com. 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.

October 23, 2008

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

October 21, 2008

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

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?

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

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

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: 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 - al.com

September 18, 2008

Predictions of "an election day mess"

A Washington Post story begins: Faced with a surge in voter registrations leading up to Nov. 4, election officials across the country are bracing for long lines, equipment failures and confusion over polling procedures that could cost thousands the chance to cast a ballot.

The crush of voters will strain a system already in the midst of transformation, with jurisdictions introducing new machines and rules to avoid the catastrophe of the deadlocked 2000 election and the lingering controversy over the 2004 outcome. Even within the past few months, cities and counties have revamped their processes: Nine million voters, including many in the battleground states of Ohio, Florida and Colorado, will use equipment that has changed since March.

But the widespread changes meant to reassure the public have also increased the potential for trouble.

"You change systems and throw in lots of new voters, and you can plan to be up the proverbial creek," said Kimball Brace, president of Election Data Services, a consulting firm that has tracked the voting changes. -- High Turnout, New Procedures May Mean an Election Day Mess

September 4, 2008

Alabama: a few problems in municipal elections

A post on Doc's Political Parlor begins: Most of the municipal elections Alabama this year have gone smoothly however, some still remain in doubt

In Hodges, one vote seperates the two candidates and a petition for a recount has been filed. There are also concerns that election procedures were not followed. Related story at the Times Daily.

In Centre, a lawsuit has been filed by three candidates over possible mishandling of absentee ballots. -- Election contests and small town Alabama

September 1, 2008

Louisiana: Gustav delays primary

The Hill reports: Hurricane Gustav is disrupting the GOP convention and a hotly contested Republican primary in Louisiana.

GOP candidates hoping to succeed retiring Rep. Jim McCrery (R) have suspended their campaigns, and their primary, set for Sept. 6, may be postponed because of the storm.

State officials are drafting contingency plans for potentially delaying the election one week, to Sept. 13, or further if necessary.

Jacques Berry, a spokesman for the Louisiana Secretary of State’s office, said in a telephone interview that setting the date any later than the 13th would cause the state to also move the primary runoff, which is set for Oct. 4. -- TheHill.com - Hurricane puts La. primaries on hold

August 19, 2008

Alabama: Jefferson Co. probate judge asks for AG opinion on holding sewer referendum

A Birmingham News report begins: A Jefferson County probate court judge on Monday asked Attorney General Troy King whether the county can hold a nonbinding advisory election to consider solutions to the sewer debt crisis.

The Office of the Attorney General has issued previous opinions that counties don't have the authority to include an advisory referendum on a ballot.

The county is asking residents to vote Nov. 4 whether they prefer filing the largest municipal bankruptcy on record or taking other measures to avoid defaulting on the county's $3.2 billion sewer debt.

Judge Alan King sent a one-page letter to the attorney general's office asking:

"Does Jefferson County have the legal authority to include an advisory referendum on the general election ballot absent specific legislative authority, or otherwise."

"If Jefferson County has the legal authority, does Jefferson County have the authority to pay additional costs, if any, such as the printing of ballots, that are associated with the referendum?" -- Judge asks Attorney General King if Jefferson County can hold sewer debt vote - al.com

August 13, 2008

CLC to prepare generic legal docs for election-protection groups

From the Campaign Legal Center: The Campaign Legal Center today launched the Voters’ Rights Protection Project, to provide generic drafts of potential court filings to individuals, organizations, and political parties who must resort to the courts to protect the fundamental rights of citizens to vote. In a letter today to both major parties and copies to the respective presidential campaigns (full text below), the Legal Center announced the project and said it would make the legal templates publicly available. Information announcing the project is also being sent to national, state, and local party committees, as well as third party organizations and numerous community and grassroots organizations from coast to coast.

“The legal documents being drafted by the Legal Center will facilitate and expedite the process of securing court orders against those state or local election officials or others who take actions harmful to the electorate,” said J. Gerald Hebert, Executive Director and Director of Litigation for the Campaign Legal Center

The use of such legal templates, will allow individuals, as well as advocacy groups, political parties, and candidates to obtain pre-election or Election Day relief for a host of problems, including extension of polling hours, insufficient ballots, and prevention of voter harassment or intimidation. -- Election Day Voter Protection Initiative Launched

August 9, 2008

"The right to vote"

A New York Times editorial begins: Much about the presidential election is up in the air, but one thing is certain: voters will have trouble casting ballots on Election Day. In a perfect world, states and localities would handle voting so well that the public could relax and worry about other things. But elections are so mismanaged — and so many eligible voters are disenfranchised — that ordinary citizens have to get involved.

Since the meltdown in Florida in 2000, a large, nonpartisan coalition called Election Protection — made up of civil rights groups, good-government organizations and major law firms — has been doing critical work in standing up for voters. It is an effort that anyone who cares about democracy should get behind.

The civic books say that any eligible voter who registers in time can cast a ballot on Election Day. The reality is not so simple. People file registration forms that are not properly processed, or their names are wrongly purged from the voter rolls. They are required to present photo ID even when the law does not require it. They arrive at polling places and find machines that do not work properly or lines that take hours to get through. -- The Right to Vote

August 6, 2008

NAACP Legal Defense Fund unveils "Prepared to Vote" site

From a press release: Today the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (LDF) unveiled its new comprehensive non-partisan voter awareness program "Prepared to Vote."

"Prepared to Vote is a program designed to raise every voter s awareness of the many obstacles in the electoral process that could affect their right to vote in the 2008 election. Through Prepared to Vote we hope to ensure that every eligible voter cases a vote that counts " said John Payton LDF President and Director-Counsel.

Inspired by the Freedom School Model from the Civil Rights Movement, the Prepared to Vote Campaign seeks to empower communities of color by providing essential information prior to Election Day. Program components include community-based workshops, the dissemination of user-friendly materials, meetings with election officials, and a dynamic educational website preparedtovote.org.

The Prepared to Vote program will help reveal and address voting barriers, such as voter ID requirements, voter purges, faulty voter rolls, poorly trained elections officials, felon disfranchisement statutes and a host of other potential obstacles. -- NAACP Legal Defense Fund -- Issues

August 1, 2008

"Stealing America"

Andrew O'Hehir writes on his Beyond the Multiplex blog: I don't mind that Dorothy Fadiman's film "Stealing America: Vote by Vote" raises once again the massively vexed question of whether the 2004 presidential election was fixed. That spectral possibility lingers in many people's minds, retains at least a general outline of plausibility and, thanks to the electronic voting systems in use in so much of the country, can never be conclusively proven or disproven. I do mind, though, that "Stealing America" is a clumsy if well-intentioned work of recycled propaganda, a mixture of hard evidence, random anecdote and far-flung inference that may convince some viewers that a clear verdict can be rendered on that impossibly murky event.

To those who've been following the work of investigative journalist Greg Palast, New York University professor Mark Crispin Miller and activist attorney Robert F. Kennedy Jr. over the last four years, there's not much that's new in "Stealing America." (Palast and Kennedy appear in the film, and Miller is listed as a consultant.) Fadiman has compiled a greatest-hits collection of problems, anecdotes, rumors and theories about what happened in 2004, with only the briefest lip service paid to the crucial information that hardly any of that year's problems were new, even the ones that appeared to be unique. -- The stolen election of 2004: Chapter 53 - Beyond the Multiplex - Salon.com

July 24, 2008

House Judiciary Committee hearing on "lessons learned from the 2004 presidential election"

The House Judiciary Committee is holding a hearing today on Hearing on Lessons Learned from the 2004 Presidential Election. J. Gerald Hebert will be testifying. I have an advance copy of his testimony here.

July 21, 2008

Are election officials ready for this fall?

The New York Times reports: With millions of new voters heading to the polls this November and many states introducing new voting technologies, election officials and voting monitors say they fear the combination is likely to create long lines, stressed-out poll workers and late tallies on Election Day.

At least 11 states will use new voting equipment as the nation shifts away from touch-screen machines and to the paper ballots of optical scanners, which will be used by more than 55 percent of voters.

About half of all voters will use machines unlike the ones they used in the last presidential election, experts say, and more than half of the states will use new statewide databases to verify voter registration.

With Senator Barack Obama’s candidacy expected to attract many people who have never encountered a voting machine, voting experts and election officials say they are worried that the system may buckle under the increased strain. -- Influx of Voters Expected to Test New Technology - NYTimes.com

July 7, 2008

"Popular monitoring of popular elections"

Heather Gerken writes on Balkinization: Archon Fung, one of the most interesting thinkers at Harvard's Kennedy School, has just come up with an intriguing idea for monitoring elections: a teched-up, wiki-based system for reporting problems on election day. It's modeled on the award-winning British site, fixmystreet.com, where people report maintenance problems (graffiti, potholes, broken street lights), locating the problem on a map and often attaching photographs to the entry. The site is interactive; it reports when a problem has been fixed and maps where current problems are so that you can figure out how things are working in your neighborhood. As you'll see from his introductory site, Fung envisions a much bigger version of this idea -- a national "weather map of election conditions" that would show you where the biggest problems are occurring based on real-time entries by trained election monitors and everyday citizens. You could then drill down into the map, figuring out exactly where problems were occurring in your state, city . . . even your polling place. The visuals would look something like this map of gas prices. ...

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. Indeed, I suspect that the site would be highly addictive. Like many others, I spent an inordinate amount of time reading the updates on election problems that Talking Points Memo and Ben Smith's Politico blog provided during the primaries. Those blogs, however, could provide only piecemeal information to their readers. By harnessing the power of the wiki, Fung's "myfairelection" site could provide coverage that is both more systemic (giving you a sense of the big picture) and yet more personalized (letting you see what's going on in your own neighborhood). -- Popular Monitoring of Popular Elections


July 1, 2008

Alabama: city elections just got more expensive

The Birmingham News reports: With qualifying beginning today for municipal elections, cities are finding out they have an unexpected expense - at least $50 a day for city clerks to handle absentee ballots.

In 2006, the Alabama Legislature passed a bill stating absentee election managers - which in most cases are city clerks - are entitled to receive the pay for 45 days prior to the election. The pay is for duties such as processing ballots, updating voter lists and verifying the identification of voters. By law, clerks can decline the pay.

Some cities say they just found out about the expense a few days ago, which has left them scrambling to set up provisions to pay the unbudgeted expense. -- Cities finding out they have an unexpected expense - at least $50 a day for city clerks to handle absentee ballots- al.com

May 26, 2008

UK: Electoral Commission member calls for election-law overhaul

The Herald reports: Electoral law needs a major overhaul, clearer accountability to voters, with more flexible investigation powers and penalties to take on illegal fundraising, according to Scotland s chief elections adviser.

John McCormick, the member of the Electoral Commission with a special remit for Scotland, has spoken out about the confusion over responsibility when elections go wrong and votes are not properly counted.

His comments come in advance of a major report by the UK-wide commission setting out which lessons have to be learned for the whole of Britain s electoral system from the ballot paper and counting fiasco at last year s Scottish elections. Having recently taken on the commissioner role, the former controller of BBC Scotland told The Herald that election law is currently too fragmented, with 19th- century legislation being used to meet 21st-century technology and voter expectations. -- Election Law Needs To Be Overhauled Says Adviser from The Herald

February 22, 2008

Alabama: schedule set for challenge to special election for Jefferson County commission

The Birmingham News reports: A Jefferson County judge said Thursday he wanted to resolve by April a legal dispute over this month s District 1 Jefferson County commission special election.

Until then, certification of William Bell as winner of the Feb. 5 special election will remain on hold and George Bowman, Gov. Bob Riley s appointee to the post, will remain in the District 1 seat.

Three voters filed suit in Circuit Court in late January saying the Feb. 5 election date was illegal. They contend it should be held during the statewide primary vote on June 3. Qualifying for Jefferson County offices in that race begins in April.

Last week, the Alabama Supreme Court blocked the county s election commission from certifying Bell as winner of the Feb. 5 election.

On Wednesday, the state s high court ordered Circuit Judge Scott Vowell to make a ruling on whether the lawsuit has any legal merit.

Since the case was filed, Bell has been added as a defendant and another candidate, Fred Plump, has joined the case to argue that the Feb. 5 election date was legal. -- Jefferson County judge sets April deadline for ruling on William Bell commission seat dispute- al.com

Disclosure: Jim Blacksher and I represent Mr. Plump.

February 14, 2008

Alabama: renewed challenge to special election for Jefferson County Commission

The Birmingham News reports: Jefferson County voters challenging the Feb. 5 County Commission special election have renewed their call for a judge to declare the vote illegal before William Bell is certified Friday as the winner.

Court documents filed Tuesday and Wednesday in Jefferson County Circuit Court and the Alabama Supreme Court say certifying the election would cause irreparable harm to voters.

Circuit Judge Scott Vowell said Wednesday he does not plan to change an earlier ruling that he lacks the legal authority to hear the case. The state's high court did not respond Wednesday.

Bell, a Birmingham city councilman, won the special election for the District 1 seat after five other candidates failed to force a runoff.

Under Alabama law, Bell will be declared the official winner Friday at noon if a court does not intervene. -- Challenge of William Bell's Jefferson County Commission election renewed- al.com

A copy of the supplemental memo filed by the plaintiffs in Working v. Jefferson County Election Commission is here.

February 13, 2008

Maryland: judge extends polling hours by 90 minutes because of weather problems

The Washington Post reports: As icy weather descended on the region late yesterday, Maryland gave voters an extra 90 minutes to reach the polls, while Virginia and the District shut down on time. ...

In Maryland, after receiving complaints about road conditions for several hours, the State Board of Elections obtained a court order at 7 p.m., an hour before that state's closing time, to extend voting hours.

Judge Ronald A. Silkworth wrote that he extended the hours "to provide a remedy that is in the public interest and protects the integrity of the electoral process."

Only provisional ballots were cast after 8 p.m., and they will not be counted for a week. Even so, the margins of victory for Obama and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) appeared so decisive that uncounted ballots were unlikely to change the outcome. Some local contests, however, might yet hinge on those ballots. -- Voters Persevere Despite Ballot Shortages, Lines - washingtonpost.com

February 12, 2008

Washington State: GOP resume counting, McCain still ahead

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports: John McCain is still narrowly winning Saturday's Republican presidential caucuses, state GOP Chairman Luke Esser said late Monday.

The overall numbers shifted little in the latest count with 96 percent of precincts reporting, although Esser said party officials had to make adjustments to initial tallies because of incorrect reporting from Snohomish, Benton, Grant and Jefferson counties. ...

Esser's declaration Saturday night that Arizona Sen. McCain had won the precinct caucuses, based on reports from 87 percent of precincts statewide, infuriated the campaign of the announced runner-up, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee. ...

With 96 percent of results in, Esser said McCain had 3,191 precinct delegates (25.6 percent) to Mike Huckabee's 2,898 (23.3 percent) -- a difference of just 293.

Texas Rep. Ron Paul won 21 percent of Washington's precinct delegates, and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who dropped out of the race this past week, got 15 percent, according to the latest numbers from the GOP. -- Errors surface in initial GOP results

February 11, 2008

Washington State: Huckabee wants all the votes counted

Fox News reports: Mike Huckabee is challenging the results of the Washington state Republican caucuses, his campaign announced Sunday, after accusing the state party chairman of calling the election for John McCain before all the votes were counted.

The campaign will be pursuing a full investigation, including sending in lawyers to join those already on the scene in the state, officials told FOX News.

Washington State Republican Party Chairman Luke Esser announced late Saturday that McCain had won the 2008 Republican caucuses in the state with 87.2 percent of precincts reporting. McCain had 25.5 percent over Huckabee’s 23.7 percent in that race.

Esser issued a statement congratulating McCain on a “hard-fought win,” and Huckabee on a “strong second-place finish.”

Ed Rollins, Huckabee campaign chairman, directly challenged Esser’s move, saying the count was incomplete because the other 12.8 percent of precincts could tip the scales since McCain was beating Huckabee by only a couple hundred votes. -- Huckabee Challenges Washington Caucus Results

Note: The Seattle Post-Intelligencer just called me for a quote. They are working on a story that Esser has now announced he will count all the votes.

February 2, 2008

Alabama: updated article on Jefferson County ruling

The Birmingham News reports: A Jefferson County judge declined to act Friday on an emergency request to block officials from certifying the votes in Tuesday's special election for the Jefferson County District 1 commission seat.

In a four-page order, Circuit Judge Scott Vowell said he did not have jurisdiction in the case because plaintiffs Patricia Working and Rick Erdemir did not serve the state attorney general's office or candidates seeking the commission seat.

Vowell's ruling stemmed from a request filed Thursday evening on behalf of the two District 1 residents who sued the Jefferson County Election Commission and Probate Judge Alan King, Sheriff Mike Hale, Circuit Clerk Anne-Marie Adams, and the commission members. Vowell heard arguments Friday morning.

The commission set the election to fill the seat left vacant after Larry Langford became Birmingham's mayor. -- Judge does not rule in emergency bid to keep Jeffco officials from certifying District 1 commission vote results- al.com

February 1, 2008

Alabama: state judge refuses request to stop special commission election [court docs attached]

The Birmingham News website reports: A Jefferson County judge Friday afternoon did not decide on an emergency request to block officials from canvassing the votes in Tuesday's special election for the Jefferson County District 1 commission seat.

In a four-page order, Circuit Judge Scott Vowell said he did not have jurisdiction in the case because the plaintiffs did not serve the state attorney general's office or candidates seeking the commission seat. The judge put the case on hold.

Vowell's ruling stemmed from a request filed Thursday evening on behalf of two Jefferson County voters, Patricia Working and Rick Erdemir, who filed suited against the Jefferson County Election Commission.

Vowell heard arguments this morning. -- Judge decides he has no jurisdiction in Jeffco commission case - Breaking News from The Birmingham News - al.com

Disclosure: I represent Fred Plump, one of the candidates in the special election.

Download the complaint and the order here.

Human Rights Watch criticizes Western governments for allowing show elections by other counties

The New York Times reports: The advocacy group Human Rights Watch on Thursday said that the Bush administration was giving lip service to the promotion of democracy around the world by endorsing suspect elections while allowing human rights violations in those countries to go unchecked.

In a scathing report, the organization blamed the United States and Europe for undermining human rights by allowing autocrats to pretend they are democratic. The report cited Bahrain, Jordan, Nigeria, Russia and Thailand as acting “as if simply holding a vote is enough to prove a nation democratic, and Washington, Brussels and European capitals played along.”

Russia, Jordan and “even China,” the group said, have “gotten into the game” of merely using the word democracy to claim real democratic credentials. -- Rights Group Says U.S. Is Too Eager to Endorse Suspect Elections

January 10, 2008

Mississppi: Governor responds to AG's lawsuit re Senatorial election

Alan Lange writes on Y'all Politics (and provides copies of the relevant pleadings): On January 9, Governor Barbour's legal team unleashed a load of legal documents and answers in Hinds County Circuit Court for the lawsuit that Attorney General Jim Hood has filed over the election to replace former Senator Trent Lott. Jim Hood's office has gone against the advice of both Governor Barbour and outgoing Secretary of State Eric Clark, who both believe that a November 2008 special election is the appropriate measure for replacement. Of course, Governor Barbour has appointed former Representative Roger Wicker to the post. The Democratic Party and Hood have both claimed that a special election must be held within 90 days (approximately March) to satisfy the requirements of Mississippi Code. The political ramifications are substantial as the Democratic Party and its two main candidates, former Governor Ronnie Musgrove and former US Rep. Ronnie Shows, do not relish a long and expensive fight against a sitting US Senator. Plus with the litany of charges in the trial lawyer community, stalwart donors for Democratic candidates may not answer fundraising calls from Democratic candidates. -- Yall Politics

Hat tip to Old Southwest for the link.

January 7, 2008

Scotland: Scottish Parliament begins debate on Gould report

The Scotsman reports: SNP ministers hope a majority of MSPs will back plans this week to transfer responsibility for Scottish elections to Holyrood.

Parliament will debate the issue on Thursday as part of the long inquest into last year's voting fiasco which resulted in more than 140,000 spoiled ballot papers.

Ron Gould, the Canadian expert brought in to review the chaos, concluded that responsibility for elections should be handed over to the Scottish Parliament.

This is something the SNP is keen to secure as it would allow MSPs to change the voting system for Holyrood and make the Scottish Parliament more autonomous.

The Gould Report will be debated by MSPs this week and Scottish Government sources made clear last night that they wanted to send a message to the UK government that Holyrood wants control of its own elections. -- Holyrood hopes for remit to run Scots elections - The Scotsman

December 8, 2007

Marshall Islands: opposition leader claims illegal vote counting

Pacific Magazine reports: Opposition leaders in the Marshall Islands accused the government of illegally counting hundreds of ballots 10 days after all other domestic votes had been tabulated, erasing victories of four opposition candidates in closely fought races, with the incumbent ruling party candidates winning. ...

But adding to the confusion over who has won and lost, nearly three weeks after the election, the governmentąs Electoral Administration has not issued a final unofficial result, and the governmentąs official Web site has not updated since incomplete preliminary results were posted November 27, although all votes have now reportedly been counted.

Poor management of the election on November 19 and tabulation delays and lack of timely release of voting data to the public have marred the national election, the eighth since constitutional government began in 1979.

Opposition Aelon Kein Ad (Our Islands) party officials said they still had the required 17 senators-elect to form a government when Parliament meets in early January, and will also file court challenges to what they say was improper ballot counting nearly three weeks after the vote. -- Pacific Magazine: Marshalls Election Mess Gets Worse

October 25, 2007

Scotland: Gould clarifies report

The Herald reports: Douglas Alexander, the minister criticised over the Scottish election fiasco, last night demanded an apology from those politicians who had "impugned his integrity".

After the publication of a critical report into the voting shambles earlier this week the former Scotland Secretary, who is now at the International Development Department and Gordon Brown's General Election co-ordinator, was accused by MPs of "having his finger in the till" and of "attempted gerrymandering".

But yesterday Ron Gould, the Canadian election expert who wrote the report, said in a letter to the Electorial Commission that he had never suggested specific actions were taken by ministers to advance their own party's interests.

n the light of Mr Gould's comments Mr Alexander now wants an apology from politicians including Tory leader David Cameron, shadow Scotland Secretary David Mundell, First Minister Alex Salmond and Scottish LibDem MP Alistair Carmichael. -- The Herald : Politics: MAIN POLITICS

October 22, 2007

Scotland: Gould report makes recommendations for changing election administration

The Herald reports: Scotland needs to have a national returning officer and one layer of government controlling elections, according to a hard-hitting review of the fiasco that hit the May 3 ballots this year. It is understood that Ron Gould, the Canadian elections expert who has led a five-month review of what went wrong at the Holyrood and council votes, will report this morning that the fractured nature of elections in Scotland needs to be confronted.

Instead of 32 returning officers, each having autonomy over their own count, he is thought to conclude that there should be a streamlined, national system with one person overseeing the process.

The report is understood to be critical of the division between the Scotland Office in Whitehall having responsibility for Holyrood elections, while the Scottish Government in Edinburgh oversees council elections.

Moving to a single tier taking control would be likely to mean a significant devolution of power from Westminster to Holyrood.

It could open the door to a change of voting system for the Scottish Parliament, as there is probably a majority in favour of moving to the electoral system used for the first time for local authorities this year, meaning preferential votes for multi-member constituencies. The Gould report is also thought to confront the controversial question of how parties can describe themselves on the ballot form, after the SNP used "Alex Salmond for First Minister" to gain a prominent position on the form. -- The Herald : Politics: MAIN POLITICS

The report is here (but none of the links work as of this posting).

Alabama: 2002 vote fraud by Siegelman camp

The Birmingham News has a strange "something happened but we don't have the details" story: A congressional committee's attention turns this week to November 2002, which is when a Rainsville lawyer contends she heard a telephone call that included claims Republicans were plotting to prosecute former Democratic Gov. Don Siegelman.

Jill Simpson's May affidavit describing the call caught the attention of the U.S. House Judiciary Committee, which has scheduled a hearing Tuesday on the Siegelman case. But another affidavit, sworn in the middle of the 2002 election recount that is the focus of Simpson's allegations, has received little notice.

During the recount challenging Republican Bob Riley's tiny edge over Siegelman, Rob Riley, the governor's son, was pursuing claims made in a sworn affidavit that accused Siegelman supporters of possible voter fraud. ...

Rob Riley in November 2002 showed The Birmingham News a copy of the affidavit signed and sworn by Eddie Spivey, who had worked with a consulting group on Siegelman's 2002 campaign. Spivey claimed in the one-page sworn statement that Siegelman supporters were manipulating votes in ballot boxes.

"The concern was there was some type of irregularities going on, some stuffing of ballots out there," Toby Roth, who was the 2002 Riley campaign director, said in an interview last week. -- Vote fraud claim pursued by Riley camp in 2002 recount- al.com

And, it was so important that, even though the News had the evidence in 2002, it did not report on it.

October 12, 2007

California: Arnold vetoes 5 voting rights bills

AP reports: Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed a series of right-to-vote bills Thursday, including a measure that would have suspended the voter registration deadline for people who become citizens just before an election.

The Republican governor, an Austrian immigrant who became a U.S. citizen in 1983, said the measure, created “both logistical and security concerns.” It would have allowed recently sworn-in citizens to register, and then vote, on Election Day.

“Voter registration deadlines are in place to provide elections officials a reasonable opportunity to verify registration information,” he said in a veto message.

The California Association of Clerks and Elections Officials supported the bill by Sen. Jenny Oropeza, D-Long Beach, saying there were enough protections in the measure to prevent fraud. -- Governor turns down right-to-vote bills

September 30, 2007

UK: quick election "will cause chaos"

Scotland on Sunday reports: THOUSANDS of votes could be lost amid widespread ballot box chaos if Gordon Brown calls a snap Westminster poll, the UK's leading election official warned last night.

As election fever continued to mount, disturbing new details emerged from the Association of Electoral Administrators of delays in printing and distributing postal ballots, an out-of-date electoral roll and loopholes in anti-fraud laws. ...

Concerns centre on the problematic postal voting system, which continues to place election officers under a huge burden. The AEA has called on the Government to change the law to extend the time limit between the dissolution of parliament and an election by at least another five working days to 22 days.

However, if he goes ahead with an early election, Brown looks set to restrict the time limit to the current 17 days.

Turner said: "The small number of specialist, commercial printers who produce the ballot packs will have significant problems in dealing with the additional volumes within the limited time available."

The AEA is also warning that some people will be unable to vote or to receive a postal vote because the new electoral roll is not published until December 1. -- Scotland on Sunday - Politics - Snap election 'will cause chaos'

August 22, 2007

Alabama: decision expected by Friday on Montgomery city election

The Montgomery Advertiser reports: Montgomery officials will know by Friday whether the city elections will be held Aug. 28 or at a later date, according to attorney Edward Still, who argued on behalf of a City Council member and two mayoral candidates in a telephone conference with the U.S. Department of Justice on Tuesday.

District 3 council member Janet May and mayoral candidates William Boyd and Jon Dow filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court last week claiming a city ordinance that moved the election from October to August was a violation of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

The lawsuit contends the date change will confuse potential voters, including as many as 3,000 in May's district. On June 5, the City Council voted 9-0 to change the election date. ...

The city argues its date change was pre-cleared in a June 14 letter from the U.S. Department of Justice. However, the Justice department followed that letter with another saying that new information led it to believe that the city had not carried out its burden of proof, Still said.

"The city wants to ignore that and say the Justice department does not have the authority or that they did not say it in the right way or that the time for them to say anything has passed," he said. -- Printer-friendly article page

August 21, 2007

Alabama: Montgomery faces suit over election date

The Montgomery Advertiser reports: A Montgomery city councilwoman and two mayoral candidates are suing the city and Mayor Bobby Bright to cancel the Aug. 28 municipal election.

Councilwoman Janet May, who is seeking re-election, and Bright challengers Jon Dow and William Boyd have filed a civil lawsuit in U.S. District Court, claiming a city ordinance that moved the election from October to August was a violation of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

The lawsuit contends the date change will confuse potential voters, as many as 3,000 in May's District 3. The councilwoman did not return calls for comment. -- montgomeryadvertiser.com :: Election prompts lawsuit

Disclosure: As noted previously, I am one of the counsel for the plaintiffs.

The complaint is here.

August 18, 2007

Alabama: suit filed to stop city election

Three Montgomery voters have filed suit in federal court to stop the city of Montgomery from moving its election from October to 28 August because the change has not been precleared by the Justice Department. The suit also charges a violation of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act and the invalidity of the city ordinance (for inconsistency with state law).

Cecil Gardner, Sam Heldman (both of the The Gardner Firm), and I are the attorneys for the plaintiffs.

I will post some of the pleadings when I get some computer problems worked out.

June 16, 2007

Getting from "here to there" -- the undiscussed problem with reform proposals

Heather Gerkin writes on Balkinization: About a month ago, I posted about what I called the "here to there" problem in the field of election law. The problem is that we spend a great deal of time thinking about what an ideal election system ought to look like, but almost no time figuring out how to get from here to there: how reform actually takes root. Although we purport to study the political process, remarkably little scholarship is devoted to remedying the crucial problem within election law -- it is extraordinarily difficult for reform proposals to get traction in this country. We thus rarely write about the type of institutional fixes and wedge strategies that would help reform proposals (of whatever sort) get adopted. The dearth of scholarship on these topics is particularly interesting given that election law scholars tend to eschew pie-in-the-sky reform and pride themselves on their pragmatism. ...

Although reformers are more aware than anyone of how difficult it is to get reform passed, they may be least equipped to address the "here to there" problem. First, reformers are beholden to funders. And funders tend to favor big over small, end goals over interim solutions, silver bullets over wedge strategies, substantive proposals over procedural fixes. As one of my friends put it, "process is not sexy." Second, the reformer's job is to lobby elected officials. It is one thing to have a conversation with elected officials about the end goals of reform. It is another to have a conversation about what, precisely, prevents us from reaching those goals. The foremost obstacle to reform is self-interested politicians. That is an awkward subject to raise with people on whose good will your work depends. Finally, while reformers spend lots of time thinking about the "here to there" problem at what Justin Levitt of the Brennan Center calls the "micro-level" (the tactics required to build support for a particular policy proposal), they lack the resources to think systematically about the "here to there" problem at the macro-level. -- Setting the Agenda for Scholarship on Election Reform

Comment: As I said to the Election Law class last week, "Most politicians believe that the system that got them elected is the best one."

I look forward to Heather's continued comments on this problem.

May 29, 2007

New York: a package of election reforms proposed by Gov. Spitzer

The Gotham Gazette reports: Governor Eliot Spitzer has announced a package of reform proposals that could fundamentally change many aspects of elections in New York State. But despite its sweeping nature, the plan, coming in a flurry of activity in the closing days of April, received little if any fanfare.

The election changes include proposals for Election Day voter registration, altering the state’s redistricting process, uniform poll site hours, less burdensome signature requirements for candidates seeking office, and reform of the system for selecting candidates for judgeships. In announcing reforms, Spitzer said, “This package will effectively end the gerrymandering that has led New York to the highest incumbency rate in the country and preserved a status quo that for years has been counterproductive to the public interest. It will break down the barriers to voter registration and employ simple and effective methods to improve voter turnout and access to the polls.” -- Election Reform: Big Changes, Little Notice

May 24, 2007

Scotland: views of an American observer

Rob Richie's article on observing the Scottish election begins:
On May 3rd, Scotland held groundbreaking elections for its regional parliament and for local government, using two different proportional voting methods. As a result of these new, fairer methods, the Scottish National Party (SNP) ousted the Labor Party from power in the parliamentary vote and with other opposition parties gained major ground in local elections. At the same time, however, a sharp rise in invalid ballots and delays in the count caused a storm of controversy.

I was part of a 25-member delegation of civic leaders, city councilors and election officials organized by FairVote and the British Electoral Reform Society that observed the elections and attended pre-election and post-election briefings on redistricting and election administration in Britain. We need more such delegations, as there is much we can learn from the experiences of other advanced democracies as they work to reform their election practices. -- IN THE NEWS » Blog Archive » Election Observers Abroad

May 17, 2007

EAC Standards Board considering "best practices" for voter materials and ballots

The Election Assistance Commission announces: The EAC Standards Board will review and provide comment on a draft EAC report that was developed by Design for Democracy. The draft report contains best practices suggestions on the design of voter information, optical scan ballots and direct recording electronic (DRE) ballots based on legislative guidelines, information design principles and user centered research. The EAC Standards Board Virtual Public Meeting Room was established to enable the Standards Board to review and discuss draft documents in a public forum when it is not feasible for an in-person board meeting. The Standards Board will not take any votes or propose any resolutions during this 5-day forum. Members of the Standards Board will post comments about the draft best practices suggestions for the design of voter information and ballot.

Activity Open to Public. The public may view the proceedings of this special forum at any time between Thursday, May 17, 2007, 7:00 a.m. EDT and Tuesday, May 22, 2007, 7:00 a.m. EDT. The public also may view the draft report of suggested best practices for voter information and ballot designs. The public also may file written statements to the EAC Standards Board. Data on EAC's website is accessible to visitors with disabilities and meets the requirements of section 508 of the rehabilitation act.

For Public Viewing - Click Here to Enter the EAC Standards Board Virtual Public Meeting Room

Click on any one of the eight (8) links to view each section of the draft report and comments posted by Standards Board Members about that section. You may also download the sections of the report. Written statements to the Standards Board may be filed at standardsboard@eac.gov. Any problems encountered when visiting this site may be emailed or you can call EAC at 1-866-747-1471 and ask for Liria Figueroa-Berrios.

May 15, 2007

Wisconsin: Madison considers banning party and campaign officials from being poll workers or election officials

The Wisconsin State Journal reports: Madison election workers would be banned from certain political activities under an ordinance to be introduced at tonight's City Council meeting.

The ethics code amendment, proposed by Ald. Zach Brandon, 7th District, would affect officers or directors of campaigns, political parties, political action committees and other political organizations as well as candidates.

They would be barred from being poll workers or from handling election material -- such as nomination papers or finance reports -- in the city clerk's office if they held the political role within a year before an election. Candidates and their campaign officers would not be barred from working at polls outside their district.

Brandon said he's "trying to prevent someone who is the head of an organization which has the sole mission of influencing the outcome of an election from having direct oversight of that election."

The proposal follows an ethics complaint Brandon filed against Mike Quieto, who worked as an election official and also filled out campaign finance reports for the Teaching Assistants' Association Political Action Committee. The city's Ethics Board is scheduled May 29 to decide if Quieto violated rules that prohibit employees from using their office to benefit an organization with which they are affiliated. -- Wisconsin State Journal

April 25, 2007

Tennessee -- Nashville election commission wants its own lawyer to respond to religious-discrimination suit

The Nashville City Paper reports: The Davidson County Election Commission is trying to shake itself of some city lawyers.

Davidson County Administrator of Elections Ray Barrett, requested a temporary restraining order against Metro Tuesday in federal court to force the Metro Legal Department to drop its attempt to intervene, on his behalf in the lawsuit that two Jewish voters filed against Metro earlier this month.

The voters are attempting to force a rescheduling of this year’s mayoral run-off vote from the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah, which falls this year on Sept. 13.

Reacting to the lawsuit, the Election Commission voted last week to reschedule the potential run-off to Sept. 11. The commission then hired local attorney Dewey Branstetter to see the rest of the lawsuit through.

But three days later, on April 19, the Metro Legal Department filed pleadings arguing that rescheduling the run-off could not legally happen because of a Metro Charter provision requiring a runoff election be held the second Thursday in September — Rosh Hashanah this year. -- City, Election Commission tussle over elections chief

April 17, 2007

EAC asks inspector general to investigate its research reports

From an EAC press release: U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) Chair Donetta Davidson today issued a formal request to the commission's inspector general to conduct a review of the commission's contracting procedures, including a review of two recent projects focusing on voter identification and vote fraud and voter intimidation. ...

"The actions taken by the commission regarding these research projects have been challenged, and the commissioners and I agree that it is appropriate and necessary to ask the inspector general to review this matter," said EAC Chair Davidson.

Chair Davidson has requested that the inspector general specifically review the circumstances surrounding the issuance and management of the voter identification research project and the vote fraud and voter intimidation research project. -- 2007- 13 ( 4-16-07 ) EAC Requests Review of Voter ID, Fraud & Intimidation Research Projects.pdf (application/pdf Object)

April 12, 2007

Little evidence of voter fraud found by DOJ

The New York Times reports: Five years after the Bush administration began a crackdown on voter fraud, the Justice Department has turned up virtually no evidence of any organized effort to skew federal elections, according to court records and interviews.

Although Republican activists have repeatedly said fraud is so widespread that it has corrupted the political process and, possibly, cost the party election victories, about 120 people have been charged and 86 convicted as of last year.

Most of those charged have been Democrats, voting records show. Many of those charged by the Justice Department appear to have mistakenly filled out registration forms or misunderstood eligibility rules, a review of court records and interviews with prosecutors and defense lawyers show. ...

Mistakes and lapses in enforcing voting and registration rules routinely occur in elections, allowing thousands of ineligible voters to go to the polls. But the federal cases provide little evidence of widespread, organized fraud, prosecutors and election law experts said. -- In 5-Year Effort, Scant Evidence of Voter Fraud - New York Times

April 11, 2007

EAC changed expert report on voter fraud

The New York Times reports: A federal panel responsible for conducting election research played down the findings of experts who concluded last year that there was little voter fraud around the nation, according to a review of the original report obtained by The New York Times.

Instead, the panel, the Election Assistance Commission, issued a report that said the pervasiveness of fraud was open to debate.

The revised version echoes complaints made by Republican politicians, who have long suggested that voter fraud is widespread and justifies the voter identification laws that have been passed in at least two dozen states.

Democrats say the threat is overstated and have opposed voter identification laws, which they say disenfranchise the poor, members of minority groups and the elderly, who are less likely to have photo IDs and are more likely to be Democrats. -- Panel Said to Alter Finding on Voter Fraud - New York Times

April 10, 2007

Rove's obsession with "election fraud"

Paul Kiel writes on TPMmuckraker: We already know that Karl Rove passed along complaints to Alberto Gonzales about certain U.S. attorneys' performance on voter fraud prosecutions. And in the case of New Mexico's David Iglesias, that complaint likely contributed to his firing.

But it's clear this is something of an obsession to Rove.

One year ago, April 7, 2006, he gave a speech to the Republican National Lawyers Association, in which he covered a number of topics of interest to his audience (i.e. tort reform), but one topic seemed to hold the audience's attention in particular: voter fraud. To quote an audience member: "The Democrats seem to want to make this year an election about integrity, and we know that their party rests on the base of election fraud."

Rove had clearly spent a lot of time on it -- rattling off statistics and referring to problem counties in far-flung states with familiarity. He also showed no shyness at over-hyping the issue: "We are, in some parts of the country, I'm afraid to say, beginning to look like we have elections like those run in countries where they guys in charge are, you know, colonels in mirrored sunglasses." -- TPMmuckraker April 10, 2007 06:32 PM

April 9, 2007

Massachusetts: Boston election department is understaff and underfunded, consultant says

The Boston Globe reports: A consultant's audit of the Boston Election Department has found that years of understaffing and underfunding have left the department incapable of consistently conducting elections properly.

Even as the demands on election workers increased because of federal voting rights legislation, the city continued to cut the department's budget, forcing it to operate with a skeleton staff and outdated tools, according to the audit conducted by David King, an elections specialist at Harvard University.

The city will not be able to run elections effectively unless it overhauls the department, reclassifying jobs to create clear areas of responsibility and committing to a "sustained investment in personnel and training" that would increase the size of the department's staff by more than a third, King said in a 12-page draft of his conclusions released to the Globe. -- Audit says cuts left Election Dept. unfit - The Boston Globe

March 29, 2007

"The Truth About Fraud"

The Brennan Center for Justice has opened a new website, The Truth About Fraud, explaining: Allegations of widespread fraud by malevolent voters are easy to make, but often prove to be inflated or inaccurate. Crying “wolf” when the claims are unsubstantiated distracts attention from real problems that need real solutions. Moreover, these claims are frequently used to justify policies – including restrictive photo identification rules – that could not solve the alleged wrongs, but that could well disenfranchise legitimate voters.

On a related note, the Washington Post publishes today an op-ed by Michael Waldman and Justin Levitt of the Brennan Center collecting the evidence for the tie-in between the firing of the Gonzales-8 and charges of "voter fraud."

March 21, 2007

Scotland: the upcoming election

I will be traveling to Scotland in a little over 5 weeks to observe the 3 May parliamentary and local elections. As a part of my self-study course in preparation for the trip, I thought I would post on what I learn. Over the next several weeks, I will be posting what I learn here.

Let's begin with Wikipedia: The Scottish Parliament election, 2007, will be the third general election[1] to the devolved Scottish Parliament since it was created in 1999. Polling will take place on Thursday May 3 unless two-thirds of MSPs vote to dissolve Parliament before then. The election falls two days after the tricentenary of the political union of Scotland and England.

Jack McConnell, as First Minister, will go into the election commanding a small majority consisting of a Labour and Liberal Democrat coalition. The coalition has been in power, with three different First Ministers, since the first Scottish Parliament election in 1999. Opinion polls suggest its majority could be lost in 2007, due to falling support for the Labour Party and rising support for other parties. No single party is likely to acquire an overall majority. Nor is there an obvious alternative coalition ready to form a new Executive. -- Scottish Parliament election, 2007 - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (go to Wilipedia for the links)

Unfortunately, Wikipedia does not have much an explanation of the method of election (note to self: correct that omission), but you can find it on the votescotland.com site. After you read the technical explanation, go to this page of the site to vote in fun practice session.

March 20, 2007

Missouri: Secretary of State finds no voter impersonation cases

Missouri Secretary of State Robyn Carnahan' s report on the 2006 election was issued about a month ago. Here's

an excerpt from the executive summary:

It is particularly noteworthy that the type of voter fraud allegedly prevented by photo ID — voter impersonation at the polls — was not reported as a problem in Missouri. At the time of this report, no such cases from anywhere in the state had been reported to the Secretary of State’s office. Although there were no reports of voter impersonation or voting fraud, there were isolated incidents of alleged registration fraud that were reported in advance of the 2006 general election. Allegations of fraudulent voter registration cards surfaced and were investigated in St. Louis and Kansas City, and three individuals were indicted in Kansas City for alleged registration fraud, one of whom pleaded guilty. Such examples of investigation and prosecution of voter registration fraud are evidence that the safeguards in place in Missouri are working.

Finally, this report identifies two significant dangers to the democratic process in Missouri: long lines or delays at polling places, and the intimidation or misinforming of voters. The incidents of long lines at the polls function as a deterrent to voting. Cases of voters being intimidated or misinformed on or before Election Day were also reported and are described in this report.

You can download the news release or the report.

Thanks to Michael Slater, Deputy Director, Project Vote, for sending these links.

March 14, 2007

Gonzalez 8: voter-fraud cases may be a key

The Washington Post reports: White House officials, in providing new explanations of how and why several U.S. attorneys were fired in December, have said that President Bush mentioned to Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales in October that he had heard complaints from Congress that some federal prosecutors were lax in pursuing voter fraud.

In attributing the firings at least partly to an inattentiveness to voter fraud, the White House is invoking a contention that has gained prominence in Republican circles starting with the 2000 presidential election, as both political parties have become aggressive in trying to leverage election law into Election Day victories.

The GOP allegation, repeated in several swing states where voting margins have been narrow, is that Democrats have illegally ratcheted up their tallies by permitting ballots to be cast by felons, by residents without proper identification, or by people who forged signatures on absentee ballots.

Democratic-leaning groups reject that allegation and counter by accusing Republicans of blocking fair elections by suppressing the votes of some eligible citizens.

Glimpses of the role those charges and countercharges have played in firings of at least some of the U.S. attorneys have begun to emerge in recent days. Yesterday, Dan Bartlett, counselor to the president, told reporters accompanying Bush in Mexico that "over the course of several years, we have received complaints about U.S. attorneys, particularly when it comes to election-fraud cases." Bartlett said those complaints have stemmed from New Mexico, where U.S. Attorney David C. Iglesias was fired, as well as Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. -- White House Cites Lax Voter-Fraud Investigations in U.S. Attorneys' Firings - washingtonpost.com

Gonzalez 8: "loyalty" and voting cases may have shped the hit list

The New York Times reports: Late in the afternoon on Dec. 4, a deputy to Harriet E. Miers, then the White House counsel and one of President Bush’s most trusted aides, sent a two-line e-mail message to a top Justice Department aide. “We’re a go,” it said, approving a long-brewing plan to remove seven federal prosecutors considered weak or not team players. ...

The White House said Monday that Mr. Bush and Mr. Rove had raised concerns about lax voter fraud prosecutions with the Justice Department. And several of the fired attorneys told Congress last week that some lawmakers had questioned them about corruption investigations, inquiries the prosecutors considered inappropriate. The documents do not specifically mention either topic.

While the target list of prosecutors was shaped and shifted, officials at the Justice Department and the White House, members of Congress and even an important Republican lawyer and lobbyist in New Mexico were raising various concerns. ...

The focus on Mr. Iglesias intensified in June 2006, when Mickey Barnett, a Republican Party activist in New Mexico, requested “a meeting with someone at DOJ to discuss the USATTY situation there.”

The e-mail message alerting Justice Department officials, sent by a senior official in the White House Office of Political Affairs, noted that Mr. Barnett is “the president’s nominee for the US Postal Board of Governors. He was heavily involved in the president’s campaign’s legal team.” The next day, Mr. Barnett and Patrick Rogers, a New Mexico lawyer who has led a campaign against voter fraud, met with Justice Department officials. Conservatives often worry that Democrats will inflate their vote count with fraudulent or illegal immigrant voters. -- ‘Loyalty’ to Bush and Gonzales Was Factor in Prosecutors’ Firings, E-Mail Shows

March 7, 2007

Pennsylvania: Tullytown gets protests over barring councilmember from phoning in from Afghanistan

AP reports: Dozens of veterans gathered outside the Tullytown Municipal Building with an American flag to protest a decision not to allow a borough councilman serving in Afghanistan to vote on borough matters.

Councilman Joe Shellenberger, a 46-year-old Air Force reservist, was sent to Afghanistan in January. Councilman Ed Czyzyk made a motion at the Feb. 6 council meeting to allow Shellenberger to vote while overseas, but the motion died for lack of a second. Czyzyk argued that Shellenberger should have a right to vote because, "He's over there defending our right to vote here."

During public discussion on the matter Tuesday night, many argued that Shellenberger was staying informed and should be allowed to vote via Internet or phone. He has been receiving borough documents through his wife and borough staff. -- AP Wire | 03/07/2007 | Veterans protest barring councilman from voting while on duty

February 28, 2007

The National Primary

The Hill reports: Pressure from the leading presidential candidates has set the stage for a Feb. 5 national primary that will likely include 20 states, possibly more.

Working behind the scenes and mostly through surrogates, Democratic Sens. Barack Obama (Ill.) and Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.), and Republicans Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), former Gov. Mitt Romney (Mass.) and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani have fueled a rush of states to hold primary elections on Feb. 5 next year, or earlier. As many as 23 states are in the frame to hold primary elections on that date.

Delaware, Missouri, New Mexico and Oklahoma in 2004 held their nominating contests on the first Tuesday of February, and are likely be joined this time by such big states as California, Illinois, Michigan, New Jersey, New York and Texas. They may be joined also by smaller states including Tennessee, Arkansas, Arizona, Alabama, Georgia, North Dakota, Utah, Kansas, Colorado and (for the GOP only) West Virginia and Nevada. The legislatures of Pennsylvania and North Carolina are holding hearings on the issue but the outcomes of these are uncertain.

Allies of candidates who expect to do well in these states are taking lead roles in moving primaries there to early February. By holding primaries soon after the Iowa caucuses, the first contest of the year, such states will have a bigger impact than before on who becomes the Republican and Democratic presidential nominees. -- Feb. 5 national primary

Thanks to Political Insider for the link.

February 23, 2007

Pennsylvania: 5th February is getting crowded

The Centre Daily reports: State Sen. Jake Corman said Thursday that he will convene a joint hearing in three weeks on whether Pennsylvania should move up its 2008 presidential primary election to early February.

If such a move were to be made, the most likely date would be Feb. 5, the date that other big states -- California, Michigan, Illinois and Florida -- are considering for their 2008 primaries.

"I'm open to hearing more about it," Corman said in an interview Thursday. "I think there's some logistical problems, but it would be good for our economy to have that campaign in Pennsylvania. If it can be done, we should try it."

Corman, R-Benner Township, is Senate majority policy chairman, a Senate Republican leadership position. He asked his Democratic Party counterpart, state Sen. Richard A. Kasunic, of Fayette County, to make it a joint hearing. Kasunic aide Will Dando said that Kasunic agreed. -- Centre Daily Times | 02/23/2007 | Pennsylvania eyes moving up primary

February 22, 2007

California: moving primary date will cost candidates more

Marketplace reports (audio report): A California Assembly committee today voted to move up next year's presidential primary from June to February. If approved, candidates' campaign costs will rise considerably. -- Marketplace: Golden State raises ante for 2008 campaign

February 14, 2007

Voter turnout in mid-term elections

My old friend George Pillsbury at the Nonprofit Voter Engagement Network has emailed me about a new report NVEN has published.

America Goes to the Polls is a comprehensive report on voter turnout in the 2006 elections. It charts voter turnout in midterm elections over the last 30 years, ranking the states by 2006 turnout and their turnout growth over 2002. America Goes the Polls also discusses election reform ideas that could improve voter participation as well as the challenge to voter mobilization of reaching today’s diverse electorate of over 200 million voters.

Scroll down a little further on their home page to get the "Ohio Voter Participation Notebook" and "Nonprofits, Voting and Elections."

January 25, 2007

Big states frontloading the primaries

The New York Times reports:
As many as four big states — California, Florida, Illinois and New Jersey — are likely to move up their 2008 presidential primaries to early next February, further upending an already unsettled nominating process and forcing candidates of both parties to rethink their campaign strategies, party officials said Wednesday.

The changes, which seem all but certain to be enacted by state legislatures, mean that the presidential candidates face the prospect of going immediately from an ordered series of early contests in relatively small states in January to a single-day, coast-to-coast battlefield in February, encompassing some of the most expensive advertising markets in the nation.

The changes would appear to benefit well-financed and already familiar candidates and diminish the prospects of those with less money and name recognition going into such a highly compressed series of contests early next year.

Associates of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, the New York Democrat, and Senator John McCain, the Arizona Republican, said that should either of them stumble early on, the respective party primaries in California and New Jersey — two states that would seem particularly hospitable to them — could offer an expensive but welcome firewall. -- Big States’ Push for Earlier Vote Scrambles Race - New York Times

January 23, 2007

"Federal Election Integrity Act" introduced

TalkLeft.com reports: Congresswoman Susan Davis (D-CA) has introduced the Federal Election Integrity Act (H.R. 101.) It would prohibit chief state election officials from engaging in political activity on behalf of federal candidates over whose elections the officials have supervisory authority. -- Election Integrity Bill Introduced in Congress

December 7, 2006

Alabama: Eunola has never held an election

WTVY News 4 reports: It has been nearly a half-century since a small Wiregrass town was reinstated. Since 1957 an election has never been held in the town of Eunola. But some residents want that changed.

A group of Eunola residents say they've never been given the right to vote for their mayor and five-member council and essentially, that's against the U.S. Constitution of having free elections.

Geneva attorney, Jeffrey Hatcher, represents a group of citizens asking for the forfeiture of Eunola's charter.

Hatcher says Eunola has never held a municipal election contrary to its 1957 charter.

Over the last five-decades, members of the council have appointed others to fill vacancies on the board that includes the mayor's post. -- WTVY | Election Has Never Been Held in the Town of Eunola

Texas: DOJ approves runoff date

AP reports: The Department of Justice is allowing Texas to go forward with the Dec. 12 date for a congressional runoff after federal judges ruled early voting could be extended because the election falls on an important religious day for Catholic Hispanics.

The decision to hold the runoff Tuesday has angered some Hispanic groups who have said it is an attempt to suppress the Latino vote to boost election chances for Republican Rep. Henry Bonilla.

Bonilla faces Democrat Ciro Rodriguez, a former congressman, in the runoff because no candidate got more than 50 percent of the vote in the Nov. 7 election.

Dec. 12 is the Feast of the Virgin of Guadalupe, the day many Hispanics mark the appearance of the Virgin Mary before Indian peasant Juan Diego in Mexico in 1531. Many Hispanics attend Mass, hold processions and gather with family and friends. -- Dallas Cars & Trucks | DallasNews.com | Dallas Morning News | Texas/Southwest

November 21, 2006

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

November 11, 2006

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

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

October 27, 2006

"Of Challengers and Challenges"

Jason Conn emails: I thought that as the election nears and many attorneys sign up to serve as election monitors, there might be some interest in an article I published in the Toledo Law Review ( 37 U. Tol. L. Rev. 1021), entitled "Of Challengers and Challenges." As far as I know, it is the only academic article to look at the role poll watching and poll challenging play in our electoral process. In the article, I examine the ethical and constitutional issues that arise from lawyers' roles on Election Day.

October 25, 2006

"Report Warns of Potential Voting Problems in 10 States"

The Washington Post reports: Two weeks before the midterm elections, at least 10 states, including Maryland, remain ripe for voting problems, according to a study released yesterday by a nonpartisan clearinghouse that tracks electoral reforms across the United States.

The report by Electionline.org says those states, and possibly others, could encounter trouble on Election Day because they have a combustible mix of fledgling voting-machine technology, confusion over voting procedures or recent litigation over election rules -- and close races.

The report cautions that the Nov. 7 elections, which will determine which political party controls the House and Senate, promise "to bring more of what voters have come to expect since the 2000 elections -- a divided body politic, an election system in flux and the possibility -- if not certainty -- of problems at polls nationwide."

In a state-by-state canvass, the 75-page report singles out places, such as Indiana and Arizona, where courts have upheld stringent new laws requiring voters to show poll workers specific forms of identification. It cites states such as Ohio and Pennsylvania, which have switched to electronic voting machines whose accuracy has been challenged. And it points to states such as Colorado and Washington, which have departed from the tradition of polling sites in neighborhood precincts. -- Report Warns of Potential Voting Problems in 10 States - washingtonpost.com

Note: The Electionline.org report is here.

October 24, 2006

Florida: judge throws out the anti-exit-poll law

AP reports: A federal judge on Tuesday threw out a Florida law that prohibits exit polling within 100 feet of a voting place, finding there was no evidence that such surveys were disruptive or threatened access to voting. ...

U.S. District Judge Paul C. Huck said Florida's law was unconstitutional and ordered state officials not to enforce it in the Nov. 7 election. He left intact the 100-foot limit for other activities such as distributing campaign material or peddling.

The ruling came on a lawsuit brought by The Associated Press and five television networks that want to conduct exit polls at about 40 Florida polling places next month.

The 2005 law, the judge concluded, violates the First Amendment's free speech and freedom of the press protections. The judge also said the law was too broad. -- Judge rules on exit polls in Florida - Yahoo! News

Illinois: Chicago election board web site vulnerable to hackers

Chicago Voter Info Vulnerable to Hackers
AP reports: The city is investigating a security glitch in its elections Web site that hackers could have used to swipe Social Security numbers and the personal information of about 1.3 million voters, officials said.

It wasn't immediately clear if anyone actually stole or misused any of the information, Chicago Board of Elections spokesman Tom Leach said.

He said the problem had been fixed and a forensic computer expert would be brought in to examine the site's logs for any signs of illegal access. ...

A watchdog group, the Illinois Ballot Integrity Project, exposed the vulnerability and alerted officials last week, Leach said.

October 23, 2006

"No Umbrella: Election Day in the City"

"No Umbrella - Election Day In The City," director Laura Paglin’s documentary chronicling 2004 Election Day troubles in one of Cleveland’s poorest neighborhoods, makes its television debut Thursday, November 9th, 7:30 PM (EST)/ 10:30PM (PST) on the Cinemax cable network. The half-hour film, which stars Cleveland Councilwoman Fannie Lewis and captures the chaos and frustration faced by inner city voters, was acquired by HBO Documentary Films after premiering at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival and taking an Audience Award at the Sydney International Film Festival. For your own copy, go to www.noumbrella.org.

October 17, 2006

California: US wants some HAVA money back

AP reports: Federal elections officials told California on Monday to repay nearly $3 million in Help America Vote Act funds, saying the money was mismanaged under former Secretary of State Kevin Shelley.

The tab made final the U.S. Election Assistance Commission's finding from May that the state would have to pay back federal election funds that either were misspent during Shelley's tenure or lacked adequate documentation.

Shelley's successor said the state should sue to try to force Shelley to repay the money. ...

Shelley, a Democrat, resigned in February 2005 amid allegations that he mishandled the federal money designed to upgrade voting equipment and procedures, bent state hiring rules to reward political allies and accepted questionable campaign contributions. -- Monterey County Herald | 10/17/2006 | U.S. wants voting money repaid

September 18, 2006

Washington State: King County without an Elections Director

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports: Just when it looked like the King County Elections Department might be out of the woods, stuff happened.

After surviving the horror show of the 2004 governor's election and leading the beleaguered department back to respectability, Elections Director Dean Logan decamped for Los Angeles in July, in the middle of a year with a high-profile U.S. Senate race on the fall ballot in Washington state. A permanent successor has not been hired and likely won't be until after the November voting.

Plus, for the primary Tuesday, the department will be deploying touch-screen voting machines for the first time countywide. The electronic machines, required under federal law to improve access for disabled voters, will supplement paper fill-in-the-bubble ballots at each of the county's 508 polling places.

But department managers say they're confident heading into the primary. -- Election 2006: All-new touch screens and no one at the top

September 5, 2006

"Just Try Voting Here: 11 of America's worst places to cast a ballot (or try)"

Sasha Abramsky writes in Mother Jones: We used to think the voting system was something like the traffic laws -- a set of rules clear to everyone, enforced everywhere, with penalties for transgressions; we used to think, in other words, that we had a national election system. How wrong a notion this was has become painfully apparent since 2000: As it turns out, except for a rudimentary federal framework (which determines the voting age, channels money to states and counties, and enforces protections for minorities and the disabled), U.S. elections are shaped by a dizzying mélange of inconsistently enforced laws, conflicting court rulings, local traditions, various technology choices, and partisan trickery. In some places voters still fill in paper ballots or pull the levers of vintage machines; elsewhere, they touch screens or tap keys, with or without paper trails. Some states encourage voter registration; others go out of their way to limit it. Some allow prisoners to vote; others permanently bar ex-felons, no matter how long they've stayed clean. Who can vote, where people cast ballots, and how and whether their votes are counted all depends, to a large extent, on policies set in place by secretaries of state and county elections supervisors -- officials who can be as partisan, as dubiously qualified, and as nakedly ambitious as people anywhere else in politics. Here is a list -- partial, but emblematic -- of American democracy's more glaring weak spots. -- Just Try Voting Here: 11 of America's worst places to cast a ballot (or try)

September 1, 2006

Ohio: groups files suit against Blackwell and asks for special master to run elections

The Columbus Dispatch reports: A coalition of critics of the 2004 election is insisting it has uncovered new evidence of ballot tampering in Ohio that caused a number of John Kerry’s votes to get tossed out.

The group filed a federal civilrights lawsuit yesterday, asking U.S. District Judge Algenon L. Marbley to declare that Ohioans’ voting rights were violated in 2004 and to appoint a special master to ensure fairness in the 2006 election.

The lawsuit alleges that Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell and others conspired to deprive Ohioans of their right to vote. Prior election-related lawsuits by those affiliated with the coalition have been dismissed by various judges.

Richard Hayes Phillips, a Canton, N.Y., resident working with groups such as the Ohio Honest Elections Campaign, said he has examined thousands of punch-card ballots cast in heavily Democratic inner-city precincts that were tossed out because of over- or under-voting in the presidential race. ...

Someone, he said, punched the slot for an independent candidate beforehand, so a vote for Bush or Kerry was invalid. The problem, he said, impacted Kerry far more. -- The Columbus Dispatch - Local/State

Alabama: Secretary of State has no attorneys on staff now

AP reports:
Four attorneys have left the secretary of state's office in the last couple of years -- two of them dismissed by Secretary of State Nancy Worley -- leaving the office for now without a lawyer to answer questions from county voting officials as the Nov. 7 election draws near. ...

Worley was left without an attorney this week when she dismissed Adam Bourne, who was working in the election office and was answering many of the voter registration questions. Staff attorney Hope Ayers also resigned from the office this week to take another job.

Bourne, who had been working in the office for about a year, said Thursday he believes he was dismissed because he turned over a campaign finance complaint against state Sen. Jim Preuitt, D-Talladega, to the attorney general's office.

"As far as I can tell, that's what happened," Bourne said. "She read in the paper I had turned a complaint over to the attorney general's office. She asked me to resign."

Bourne said he refused to resign and was informed he had been removed from the payroll. -- montgomeryadvertiser.com :: Secretary of state's office without attorney

August 31, 2006

Ohio: state delays destruction of 2004 ballots

The New York Times reports: With paper ballots from the 2004 presidential election in Ohio scheduled to be destroyed next week, the secretary of state in Columbus, under pressure from critics, said yesterday that he would move to delay the destruction at least for several months.

ince the election, questions have been raised about how votes were tallied in Ohio, a battleground state that helped deliver the election to President Bush over Senator John Kerry.

The critics, including an independent candidate for governor and a team of statisticians and lawyers, say preliminary results from their ballot inspections show signs of more widespread irregularities than previously known.

The critics say the ballots should be saved pending an investigation. They also say the secretary of state’s proposal to delay the destruction does not go far enough, and they intend to sue to preserve the ballots. -- Ohio to Delay Destruction of Presidential Ballots - New York Times

August 26, 2006

Maryland: high court nixes early-voting plan

The Washington Post reports: Maryland's highest court yesterday ... rejected the state's early voting law 11 days before it was to go into effect for the first time, dealing a blow to Democrats who had hoped the extra polling days would bring out more of the party faithful in the fall.

That decision affirmed a ruling made two weeks ago by an Anne Arundel Circuit Court that said the state constitution does not authorize voting on any day other than Election Day. ...

The court ruling, he said in a statement, shows that "the General Assembly's early voting scheme was flawed, irresponsible and a blatant overreach of its authority."

Democrats assailed the decision.

"The Republicans may have gotten what they wanted out of this, but this is not a good day for Maryland or for democracy," said David Paulson, communications director for the Maryland Democratic Party. -- Court Rejects Perez Bid, Early Voting Law in Md.

Texas: now that we know the candidates, will the Governor actually call a special election?

The Galveston County Daily News reports: The plaque outside Tom DeLay’s old office identifies it as the Texas 22 congressional office. Staff members answer the phone, “Office of the Texas 22.”

In a high-profile race, three candidates are vying to have their name on that door when the next session of Congress begins in January.

But with all eyes on the November election, overlooked is the fact that the Constitution states that the governor shall call a special election to fill DeLay’s unexpired term.

Despite previously declaring he would call a special election, Gov. Rick Perry has yet to do so. His office is now leaving open the possibility he may decide against calling one.

The deadline for calling a special election is Tuesday, said Scott Haywood, a spokesman for the secretary of state’s office, which oversees elections in Texas. -- Tuesday deadline to call Dist. 22 election

August 19, 2006

Democrats adopt new primary/caucus calendar

AP reports: Democrats shook up tradition on Saturday by vaulting Nevada and South Carolina into the first wave of 2008 presidential contests along with Iowa and New Hampshire -- a move intended to add racial and geographic diversity to the early voting.

The decision by the Democratic National Committee leaves Iowa as the nation's first presidential caucus and New Hampshire as the first primary, but wedges Nevada's caucuses before New Hampshire and South Carolina's primary soon afterward.

The move also packs all four state contests into a politically saturated two weeks in January. The change means a potentially huge cast of Democratic presidential candidates could winnow quickly by the beginning of February.

Party officials embraced the change, though New Hampshire Democrats joined several likely presidential candidates and former
President Clinton in opposing the move. -- Dems shake up nominating calendar - Yahoo! News

July 24, 2006

Ohio: Blackwell's role in elections causes criticism

The Cincinnati Enquirer reports: Lingering debate over the 2004 presidential election, continues to haunt Secretary of State Ken Blackwell in his campaign to become governor.

Those who blame the Cincinnati Republican for long lines and rulings leading up to the 2004 election predict even more chaos during the upcoming Nov. 7. election.

That's when a new law requiring identification for voters at the polls takes effect statewide for the first time.

Add to that a federal requirement that 68 of Ohio's 88 counties replace punch card ballots with electronic voting machines, and politicians and voting experts worry that the stage is set for another difficult election. -- The Enquirer - Blackwell's dual role criticized

July 7, 2006

"Improving Voter Participation"

The Century Foundation has published "Improving Voter Participation": Despite much attention to election reform efforts, voter registration, and get out the vote efforts during the hotly contested presidential election of 2004, only slightly more than half of eligible voters went to the polls. As we enter another crucial election season, TCF Democracy Fellow Tova Andrea Wang examines the reasons for perennially low turn-out numbers and presents a set of common-sense proposals to boost participation.

Proposals reviewed in the brief include:

* Voters should be allowed to register up until and on Election Day.
* Election Day should be a national holiday.
* As long as a voter appears at any precinct within the county in which the voter resides, the provisional ballot cast by the voter should be counted for all countywide, statewide and presidential races.
* States should not have restrictive voter identification requirements.
* Social service agencies and departments of motor vehicles must comply with the National Voter Registration Act and provide citizens with an effective opportunity to register to vote.
* Take the partisan politics out of redistricting.
* Extend free media time to candidates.
* Parties and candidates should do more to personally engage voters. -- Improving Voter Participation

June 28, 2006

Alabama: doesn't anybody read these bills?

AP reports: When the Alabama Legislature tried to make Alabama a player in presidential politics, it inadvertently moved the state's entire primary election — not just the presidential preference primary — from June to February in 2008.

Some state officials first learned of the mistake Wednesday, making it the second foul-up of lawmakers trying to make Alabama an early state for presidential candidates to court votes. Election officials already were worried that the new primary date, Feb. 5, 2008, happens to be Mardi Gras Day, a major holiday and tourist event in Mobile, where businesses shut down as tens of thousands jam streets for Carnival parades.

Alabama primaries for state and county offices traditionally have been held in June or September, never so early as February. -- al.com: NewsFlash - AP Newsbreak: Alabama moved entire 2008 primary to February

June 20, 2006

Episcopal reject call for ban on gay bishops

AP reports: Episcopal clergy and lay delegates Tuesday rejected a demand from fellow Anglicans that they temporarily stop electing gay bishops, leaving little chance the proposal could be revived at a national church meeting.

Anglican leaders, angered by the 2003 consecration of an openly gay Episcopal bishop, had asked the Episcopalians pass a moratorium _ at least for now _ on homosexuals leading dioceses.

But in a complex balloting system, a majority of the Episcopal House of Deputies voted against a measure that would have urged dioceses to refrain from electing homosexuals to lead them. Conservatives said the measure stopped short of a moratorium, but supporters argued it would have at least signaled that the American church understood the concerns of Anglican leaders. -- Episcopalians Reject Ban on Gay Bishops

My comment: Notice the third paragraph's reference to a "complex system." This is a newspaper code word for "it is not like the way we vote in the good old US of A, but we don't want to explain it right now." Well, I will explain it to you.

The House of Delegates has four lay delegates and four clergy delegates from each diocese. Some states have one diocese, some more, and a few are shared between states. (Alabama for instance has the Diocese of Alabama and the Diocese of the Gulf Coast which also includes West Florida.) As you can see in these Rules of Order (page 16 of the PDF), the vote may be taken "by Dioceses and Orders." The "Orders" are the lay and the clergy.

By the way, the vote at the U.S. Constitutional Convention was taken by States, so the vote there could be "aye," "no," or "divided" -- just as provided in the Episcopal Church rules.

Here endeth the Lesson.

June 18, 2006

Episcopal Church has elected Bishop Schori as Presiding Bishop

Reuters reports: The U.S. Episcopal Church chose Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori on Sunday as its first woman leader, a move unprecedented in the Anglican church and one likely to produce more turmoil in a faith divided over the ordination of an openly gay bishop.

Her election came 30 years after the 2.3 million-member Episcopal Church, the U.S. branch of the worldwide Anglican Communion, approved the ordination of women to the priesthood.

The selection seemed likely to provoke controversy, since most other Anglican communities, including the Church of England, do not allow women bishops. -- First woman named to head US Episcopal Church | Reuters.com

Bishop Schori was the leader (or tied) on all each of the five ballots, followed closely by the Rt. Rev. Henry Parsley of the Diocese of Alabama. Under the rules of the Episcopal Church [see pages 17 of this PDF], the House of Bishops first decides among the candidates and then asks for the concurrence of the House of Delegates (made up of 4 lay delegates and 4 clerical delegates from each diocese) [see this diagram for a simplified explanation of the way we Episcopalians run our church].

June 11, 2006

Alabama: preliminary relief in HAVA case

The federal court in the Middle District of Alabama has issued a preliminary injunction in the United States' HAVA case against the State. Basically the injuction requires the state to file a compliance plan by 29 June. The court will hold a hearing on any objections of the United States on 20 July. The complaint is here.

May 18, 2006

New York: civil rights groups sue NY for HAVA non-compliance

A press release dated yesterday: Today in Albany, a group of voter-eligible citizens -- which includes individuals with various disabilities and limited-English-proficient Asian American voters – joined a broad coalition of disability, civic and civil rights organizations in filing a motion to intervene in the lawsuit brought by the Department of Justice against New York State and its election officials. These individuals and organizations seek an injunction requiring the State to comply with the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) and interrelated New York law, to submit an effective compliance plan with the court, and to ensure a legal implementation process that will vindicate the rights of all eligible voters, including those with disabilities and limited English proficiency. -- Download file

May 5, 2006

Alabama: Secretary Worley's voter-education ad campaign delayed by legislative committee

AP reports: Secretary of State Nancy Worley's plans for a voter education advertising campaign before the June 6 primary, where she's a candidate, got blocked Thursday by the Legislature's Contract Review Committee.

Rep. Blaine Galliher, R-Gadsden, called the radio and TV campaign a waste of public funds. At his request, the committee delayed the contract proposal for 45 days, which is the maximum action the committee can take.

Adam Bourne, attorney for the secretary of state's office, said the 45-day delay would block the ad campaign for the primary election.

Worley, a former Decatur High School teacher, did not attend the committee's meeting. But, in an interview later in the day, the Democratic officeholder said "partisan political reasons" were behind the committee's action. Worley said she is required by law to do voter education, and she will look for other methods to carry out that duty. -- Worley's ad campaign scuttled

April 20, 2006

Alabama: oops, presidential primary set for Mardi Gras

The Mobile Press-Register editorializes: ALABAMA LEGISLATORS gave new meaning to the term "Mardi Gras madness" when they passed a bill setting the 2008 presidential primary on Fat Tuesday.

Fortunately, they can come back next year and fix this folly.

Legislators had the right idea in moving the state's presidential primary to a date that matters. Problem is, in 2008 the first Tuesday in February, the 5th, is absolutely the wrong date. Mobile County Probate Judge Don Davis correctly describes the situation as "awful."

As south Alabamians well know, people are parading and partying downtown all day and into the night on Mardi Gras. Traffic is a mess, and it would be difficult even to get to Government Plaza to count the votes. Indeed, local government offices are closed for Mardi Gras, for good reason. -- Right idea for primary, wrong date for Mobile

Maybe this will be the opportunity to roll out large-scale mail-in balloting.

April 18, 2006

Alabama: some passed, and some did not

The Birmingham News reports on the just-ended Legislative session: Here's a look at some of the higher-profile bills the Legislature passed or killed this spring. ...

Passed, awaiting governor's signature:

Presidential primary: Move Alabama's presidential primary from June to February starting in 2008. ...

Killed : ...

Term limits: Would have banned legislators from serving more than 12 years in the Senate and 12 years in the House of Representatives.

PAC transfers: Would have banned political action committees from transferring money among themselves, which can hide a candidate's sources of money.

Constitution: Would have let state voters decide whether to call a convention of elected delegates who could have proposed a new state constitution. ...

Citizen initiatives: Would have let citizens propose amendments to the state constitution and propose regular laws, which voters could have approved or rejected without the Legislature's approval. -- Bills passed or killed

April 12, 2006

Alabama: state set to move presidential primary to February

The Birmingham News reports: Alabama voters would pick their presidential primary favorites on Feb. 5 instead of June 3 in 2008 under a bill poised to pass the Legislature on Monday.

Alabamians with an earlier primary could help decide the Democratic and Republican nominees, said Gov. Bob Riley and other supporters.

Alabamians have been shut out of the selection process in recent elections, they said, because voters in states with earlier primaries and caucuses had already chosen the party nominees before Alabamians voted in June. -- Bill would set earlier presidential primary

April 8, 2006

Democracy at Large

Democracy at Large - Volume 2, No. 2 from IFES just arrived in my mailbox. For those to whom the word "mailbox" means the email system, let me remind you of the metal receptable with the red flag that sits beside the street. That's where my Democracy at Large arrived. (And only one story per issue is available on the website, but you can subscribe for only $15.00 per year.)

The main story in the latest issue is "Rules do Matter." The article deals with the rules of the Palestinian and Iraqi elections and how they affected the outcome.

If you have an interest in elections, subscribe to this publication.

April 6, 2006

Alabama: state will delay runoff

AP reports: The Alabama Legislature is ready to move Alabama's primary runoff from June 27 to July 18 to give military serving overseas adequate time to cast absentee ballots and end a lawsuit by the U.S. Justice Department.

The House voted 92-3 Wednesday for legislation delaying the runoff three weeks for state and municipal elections. The revised bill, sponsored by Sen. Wendell Mitchell, D-Luverne, got approved by the Senate 22-0 late Wednesday night. It now goes to Gov. Bob Riley, who plans to sign it into law, spokesman David Ford said.

Republican Attorney General Troy King and Democratic Secretary of State Nancy Worley recommended the three-week delay after the Justice Department sued Alabama, saying there is not enough time between the primary election June 6 and the runoff June 27 for military overseas, particularly those in Iraq and Afghanistan, to receive and cast absentee ballots.

Supporters said the Legislature had the choice of negating the suit by delaying the runoff or fighting the Justice Department. -- Welcome to TimesDaily.com

March 28, 2006

Louisiana: judge refuses to stop New Orleans election

The New York Times reports: The battle among candidates for city office has begun, but running alongside it is a fight over the election itself.

Seven months after Hurricane Katrina, thousands of voters, particularly black ones, have yet to return to the city.

In their absence, community groups and activists have repeatedly challenged the legitimacy of the election, on April 22, for mayor, City Council and a host of lesser offices.

On Monday, a federal judge turned away their arguments, suggesting that the need to vote trumped all.

But even as he did so, the judge, Ivan L. R. Lemelle of Federal District Court in New Orleans, told his own history of displacement and loss, acknowledging that the election, with its shifting and destroyed polling places, its thousands of absentee ballots not yet mailed and its participants scattered throughout the country, would be far from perfect. -- Judge Orders New Orleans to Proceed With Election - New York Times

March 17, 2006

Conference announcement: "Making Every Vote Count: A Colloquium on Election Reform Legislation"

On behalf of the Policy Research Institute for the Region at Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law and the Fels Institute for Government at the University of Pennsylvania, we would like to invite you to attend a conference on election reform that we are hosting this spring. The conference, titled "Making Every Vote Count: A Colloquium on Election Reform Legislation" will take place at Princeton on April 6th and 7th, and will bring leading figures in the scholarly, policy, and advocacy communities together to consider the myriad urgent yet delicate questions currently confronting the nation's electoral systems. For attorneys, the conference will also count as CLE credit. There is no charge to attend.

"Making Every Vote Count," will focus on three particularly important federal laws -- the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA, or McCain-Feingold), the Voting Rights Act (VRA), and the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) – with a special emphasis on the implications of these acts for practice and policy in the New York/New Jersey/Pennsylvania region. Among the questions we hope to address are:

• “How has the McCain-Feingold Act both limited and driven policymaking at the state level;”

• “In what ways does HAVA challenge common definitions of voting equity, and what are the implications of those challenges for the future of policymaking;"

• "How might the Voting Rights Act best reflect minority voters’ concerns, in the renewal process and beyond;"

• “What are some important goals in election reform that both HAVA and the VRA fail to address?”

Several pieces of specially commissioned research will provide the foundation for the event. Authors who will be presenting their work include Ned Foley of Ohio State’s Moritz College of Law, Richard Pildes of New York University School of Law, Richard Briffault of Columbia Law School, and Guy Charles of the University of Minnesota Law School. Along with panels based on these papers, there will be roundtable discussions with critical regional election officials, as well as keynote addresses by leading figures in the election reform movement, including former EAC Chair DeForest Soaries.

For more information, please contact Andy Rachlin at arachlin@princeton.edu or (609)258-9531. To register, please go to http://region.princeton.edu/conference_20.html or contact Georgette Harrison at gharriso@princeton.edu or (609)258-9065. Please register online if at all possible, as it makes it easier for us to provide updates on the conference as the date nears. Note that the conference will begin at 9:15 a.m. each day and continue until mid-afternoon.

We hope you will be able to join us for what is sure to be a timely and provocative event.

March 2, 2006

Washington State: House moves primary one month earlier

The Seattle Times reports: The state's primary election will be a month earlier next year.

The state House on Wednesday voted 94-3 to move the primary from the third Tuesday in September to the third Tuesday in August starting in 2007. The legislation had cleared the Senate. Gov. Christine Gregoire has said she'll sign it.

Lawmakers have debated moving the primary for years, but the idea gained momentum after the tumultuous 2004 gubernatorial contest between Democrat Gregoire and Republican Dino Rossi.

The Republican Party alleged, among other things, that election officials were too slow in mailing military absentee ballots. Moving the primary to a month earlier will give election workers more time to get out absentee and overseas ballots to voters for the general election.

"We had real problems of how tight that timetable was. There were only 19 days between the time the primary was certified and the time the ballots had to be in the mail," Secretary of State Sam Reed said. -- The Seattle Times: Local News: House agrees to bump primary to August

February 24, 2006

Louisana: federal judge refuses to delay NOLA election

AP reports: A federal judge Friday refuse to postpone the April 22 mayoral election in New Orleans, turning back arguments that too many black residents scattered by Hurricane Katrina will be unable to take part.

The decision was issued by U.S. District Judge Ivan Lemelle, who had earlier pressured state officials to make sure the election was held by the end of April.

"We're extremely disappointed," said Tracie Washington, one of the lawyers working with hurricane victim advocates who wanted to either delay the election or force the state to set up "satellite" voting operations out of state.

Mayor Ray Nagin, who has been criticized in some quarters for his response to the hurricane, is running for re-election in New Orleans, which was a mostly black city of nearly half a million people before Katrina reduced it to well under 200,000 inhabitants. The city has not had a white mayor since 1978. -- Nola.com: NewsFlash - U.S. judge: No New Orleans election delay

February 18, 2006

New Hampshire: legislature tries to lock up its #1 primary position

The Manchester Union Leader reports: In a move to protect New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation Presidential primary, the House yesterday passed a bill that lets the Secretary of State change filing deadlines any time he thinks it necessary.

In the second of a two-day session, the House passed the bill on a nearly unanimous voice vote.

The Democratic National Committee is studying the issue of front-loading, in which too many primaries are held too early in the process. But a DNC study commission has shifted its focus toward diversity issues, and many on the commission say New Hampshire is not diverse enough to warrant its first primary status. It has proposed adding caucuses or primaries early in the process to dilute New Hampshire’s power.

Rep. James Splaine, D-Portsmouth, who sponsored HB 1125, said the bill “will make it very clear to the national parties, but more importantly to other states that we are ready to do what we need to do.” -- House passes bill to protect first-in-the-nation tradition

Thanks to Political Wire for the link.

February 15, 2006

"Steal this Vote"

AlterNet has an excerpt from Andrew Gumbel's "Steal This Vote": A few days before the November 2004 election, Jimmy Carter was asked what would happen if, instead of flying to Zambia or Venezuela or East Timor, his widely respected international election monitoring team was invited to turn its attention to the United States. His answer was stunningly blunt. Not only would the voting system be regarded as a failure, he said, but the shortcomings were so egregious the Carter Center would never agree to monitor an election there in the first place. "We wouldn't think of it," the former president told a radio interviewer. "The American political system wouldn't measure up to any sort of international standards, for several reasons."

What, after all, was to be done with a country whose newest voting machines, unlike Venezuela's, couldn't even perform recounts? A country where candidates, in contrast to the more promising emerging democracies of the Caucasus or the Balkans, were denied equal, unpaid access to the media? There were a number of reasons, in the sharply partisan atmosphere surrounding the Bush-Kerry race, to wonder whether campaign conditions didn't smack more of the Third World than the First. Every day, newspapers recounted stories of registration forms being found in garbage cans, or of voter rolls padded with the names of noncitizens, fictional characters, household pets, and the dearly departed. The Chicago Tribune, a paper that knows its voter fraud, having won a Pulitzer for its work on the infamous Daley machine, found 181,000 dead people on the registration lists of six key battleground states. -- AlterNet: Excerpt: How to Steal an Election

January 27, 2006

New Jersey: Gov. can't call special election for Menendez seat

AP reports: The U.S. House seat vacated when Robert Menendez was appointed to the U.S. Senate would remain open until it can be filled through the November election, under an opinion issued by a state agency.

The non-partisan arm of the state Legislature, the Office of Legislative Services, has determined that Governor Corzine does not have the authority to call an early special election for a House vacancy, according to an opinion made public Thursday by Assembly Democrats. -- North Jersey Media Group providing local news, sports & classifieds for Northern New Jersey!

January 25, 2006

Louisiana: New Orleans elections set for 22 April

The Baton Rouge Advocate reports: Under pressure from a federal judge, Gov. Kathleen Blanco set an April 22 date for New Orleans elections, postponed after Hurricane Katrina scattered thousands of city residents and destroyed hundreds of voting precincts.

Though Blanco solidified the election date Tuesday with her executive order, the state doesn’t have all the approvals it needs to proceed with April elections in New Orleans for mayor, city council, sheriff and tax assessors.

The Legislature and the U.S. Justice Department need to approve Secretary of State Al Ater’s emergency election plan for the city, which includes beefed-up absentee balloting and the creation of “mega-polling” sites to replace those damaged by the hurricane.
Meanwhile, state Attorney General Charles Foti is trying to find out whether it’s OK to release information to elected officials and prospective candidates on where hurricane-displaced residents are residing. -- April 22 firm date set for N.O. election

January 19, 2006

Louisiana: federal judge gives state until Tuesday to set date for New Orleans elections

AP reports: Louisiana’s top election official assured a federal judge Wednesday that hurricane-delayed elections can be held in New Orleans by late April, and the judge gave the state a week to set the dates.

U.S. District Judge Ivan Lemelle stopped short of saying he would order elections himself if the state fails to do so by Tuesday, but said he would take steps to make sure voters are not disenfranchised. “I feel like a bull in a China closet if you throw the elections in my hands,” Lemelle told attorneys.

Lemelle scheduled a status conference on the case for Jan. 25.

Gov. Kathleen Blanco postponed the Feb. 4 elections for mayor, sheriff, tax assessors and City Council members after Secretary of State Al Ater said it was impossible to ready the devastated city and track down voters so soon after Hurricane Katrina. -- Judge wants dates for N.O. elections set by Tuesday

January 13, 2006

New Hampshire: fighting back against the Democratic primary schedule plan

The Union Leader reports: Gov. John Lynch yesterday backed legislation designed to help the state’s top election official ward off challenges to the state’s leadoff Presidential primary from the national political parties and other states.

Portsmouth Democratic Rep. Jim Splaine’s bill allowing the Secretary of State to schedule the filing period for the Presidential primary whenever he considers appropriate will provide him “with an extra measure of flexibility, enhancing his ability to schedule the New Hampshire primary in accordance with state law,” Lynch said in a letter of the House Election Law Committee.

Lynch called efforts to protect the primary, now under siege by some national Democrats, a “critical issue.” -- Lynch backs bill to bolster protection for NH primary

December 28, 2005

Louisiana: judge denies request for quick elections in N.O. (but urges them)

AP reports: A federal judge on Tuesday urged state officials to quickly set a date for postponed elections that would decide the next mayor for this hurricane-battered city.

The destruction of polling stations, dispersal of election day workers and the difficulties of contacting tens of thousands of evacuees prompted state and local elections officials to call off a mayoral primary set for Feb. 4.

At a hearing on a lawsuit challenging the decision to postpone the elections, U.S. District Judge Ivan Lemelle said voting is an essential part of democracy and that elections would give New Orleanians "a sense of normalcy." ...

But the judge denied a plaintiffs motion to get Lemelle to set an election date. Lemelle said he wanted to let the process unfold rather than stepping in. But he held up his index finger and thumb close together and said: "I came that close to doing that (taking over the election process) today." -- Judge: Set date for N.O. elections - The Clarion-Ledger

December 27, 2005

"The Worst and Best in Election Reform, 2005"

Tova Andrea Wang, of The Century Foundation, describes "The Worst and Best in Election Reform, 2005 (Because There Was More Bad than Good)": So many grinches this year, Who-ville is more worried than ever about its democracy. The Georgia state legislature. The Department of Justice. Tom Delay. It was enough to make us believers in voting rights think we would be left with nothing under the tree. But despite a commitment to reform two sizes too small in so many quarters, there were at least some indications that 2006 might bring progress on elections after all. -- The Worst and Best in Election Reform, 2005 (Because There Was More Bad than Good)

The good/bad news for me is that Alabama is not on either list.

December 13, 2005

Louisiana: Governor delays N.O. elections indefinitely

BayouBuzz.com reports: On Monday, Governor Kathleen Blanco took the extraordinary step and signed an executive order delaying the qualifying period and the February 4 and March 4, 2006 elections in Orleans Parish due to the collapse of the electoral process in New Orleans.

Governor Blanco did not provide a replacement date for qualifying nor an election date.

There are many people on both sides of this issue and a lawsuit has been filed against the governor for her position.

The most important question is whether the people who would want to vote would have had the ability to cast their ballot and whether their decisions would have been based on availability of information. -- BayouBuzz.com - Louisiana Politics and News

December 6, 2005

U.N. election chief fired, will appeal

AP reports: The U.N.'s electoral chief vowed Tuesday to fight her dismissal, saying charges that she sexually harassed her staff and abused her authority were false. Carina Perelli said she would appeal her firing through the U.N. system and did not rule out taking further legal action outside the United Nations.

She expressed hope that her firing would not affect upcoming elections in Iraq, Congo, the Palestinian territories and Haiti.

Perelli, 48, of Uruguay, won wide praise for her work in helping organize elections in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Palestinian territories and had been considered one of the young rising stars at the United Nations. In August, the U.N. formally accused her of harassing her staff after a four-month review into the claims of an abusive and sexually offensive environment in her division. -- U.N. Electoral Chief to Fight Dismissal

Wisconsin: only isolated cases of vote fraud in 2004

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports: The nearly yearlong investigation into voter fraud in 2004 has yielded no evidence of a broad conspiracy to try to steal an election, U.S. Attorney Steve Biskupic said Monday.

He predicted that perhaps "a couple of dozen" isolated cases of suspected fraud might be charged, and he said that sloppy recordkeeping by election officials was a key impediment to proving such cases.

Nothing in the cases that his office has examined has shown a plot to try to tip an election, Biskupic said during a meeting with Journal Sentinel editors and reporters.

Critics had raised such fears of partisan voter fraud schemes in the election aftermath. But Biskupic said, "I wouldn't say that at all."

He said, "We don't see a massive conspiracy to alter the election in Milwaukee, one way or another." -- JS Online: No vote fraud plot found

December 3, 2005

New Orleans: governor delays city elections

AP reports: Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco agreed Friday to postpone New Orleans' Feb. 4 elections for mayor and City Council for as long as eight months because of the damage and dislocation caused by Hurricane Katrina.

Blanco's decision came hours after Louisiana's top elections official recommended the delay, saying polling places had not been rebuilt and hundreds of thousands of voters remained scattered across the country. -- New Orleans Votes Delayed - Los Angeles Times

November 14, 2005

Louisiana: elections commissioner recommends delay in New Orleans election

AP reports: A top state official recommended Monday that elections scheduled for February in New Orleans be delayed because of Hurricane Katrina, which displaced thousands of residents and demolished polling places.

Elections Commissioner Angie LaPlace told a legislative committee that she believes the Feb. 4 mayoral primary - which would also include city council races and referendums - should be postponed.

"It would be too problematic. We're not ready," LaPlace said.

LaPlace did not specify how long the primary should be delayed or say how her recommendation might affect the March 4 general election in which Mayor Ray Nagin has indicated he will seek a second term.

She has made the recommendation to Secretary of State Al Ater. If Ater agrees with her, the governor would have to decide whether to delay the election. -- AP Wire | 11/14/2005 | State official says delay New Orleans vote

November 4, 2005

Should Election Day Be A National Holiday?

An email from Brookings Institution Press: A new book proposes making Election Day a national holiday to reverse the low rate of American voter turnout. “Democracy at Risk: How Political Choices Undermine Citizen Participation and What We Can Do About It” (Brookings Institution Press) by Stephen Macedo and a team of leading political scientists explores why Americans have lost interest in public affairs. One of their solutions: declare Election Day a holiday or move elections to the weekend to increase participation.

According to the authors, citizens are not entirely to blame. The political system itself is responsible for making participation difficult – long presidential primaries, uncompetitive congressional elections, and excessively nasty and ideological partisan politics combine to turn people away. The system itself blocks possibilities for greater involvement, sharpens economic disparities, and discourages attention to campaigns and important political issues.

Continue reading "Should Election Day Be A National Holiday?" »

November 2, 2005

New Orleans: Secretary of State pushes for changes in elections

AP reports: New Orleans is scrambling to hold credible elections next year though hundreds of thousands of voters have been displaced by Hurricane Katrina, Louisiana's secretary of state said Tuesday. ...

"This is probably the most important election in the history of New Orleans because whoever is the leadership in this election is basically going to be charged with rebuilding that city," Ater said at a forum in Washington sponsored by the Center for American Progress and American Constitution Society. "That is not a small test."

Ater is leading a state push to change some of the election laws before many state residents simply register elsewhere, forfeiting their right to vote in New Orleans even if they plan to eventually return.

For example, he is asking the Legislature to change the state's purge laws, which assume voters have moved elsewhere when they miss an election and a notification card sent to their home is returned as undeliverable. If such cards were sent now, the post office has said almost all registered voters in New Orleans would qualify to be purged, Ater said. -- AP Wire | 11/01/2005 | Post-Katrina elections present problems

October 30, 2005

Democrats consider new primary & caucus calendar

The Washington Post reports: A plan to shuffle the 2008 Democratic presidential calendar -- placing several states between the traditional Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary -- is gaining momentum on a commission studying the party's nominating process.

A consensus is developing to recommend scheduling nominating contests in two or possibly three states in the days between Iowa and New Hampshire, according to some members of a Democratic National Committee panel looking at ways to revamp the nominating schedule. ....

If such a recommendation were adopted, it likely would diminish the influence of two small states that for decades have enjoyed outsized influence in picking presidential nominees, and would cause aspiring presidential candidates to rethink their strategies about travel and spending, and potentially even their campaign messages, in pursuit of the nomination.

Some proponents of a new calendar say adding caucuses rather than primaries in states voting immediately after Iowa would be consistent with a New Hampshire state law that mandates the Granite State's primary be held at least one week before any "similar" nominating election. This would allow both Iowa and New Hampshire to claim that each preserved elements of their coveted first-in-the-nation status, while also bowing to critics who have long complained that the traditional calendar is unfair to other states. -- Deal Near on Democratic Presidential Schedule

October 19, 2005

Iraq: where were the international election monitors

The American Prospect reports: It's too early to know whether early reports of implausibly high numbers of "yes" voters in Saturday's referendum in Iraq will cast doubt on the legitimacy of the country's new constitution. While there's still hope for a clean victory, sufficient doubts have been cast on the results to open a door for those who would wish to cry foul. Whether whiffs of ballot-stuffing or fraud are validated, the absence of a large-scale international observer contingent on hand to monitor this high-stakes election was a glaring gap in the planning for this pivotal event.

The presence of international observers has become a mainstay of election planning in transitional societies, as their presence deters would-be spoilers from planning shenanigans. Observers can watch balloting, oversee the collection and storage of votes, and monitor counting. Tasks range from reporting on improper campaign activities at polling stations, to preventing people from voting more than once, to imposing fair and transparent methods for tallying votes. International monitors have played essential roles in recent elections in the Palestinian territories, Afghanistan, and Ukraine. -- Ballot Botch

October 13, 2005

Democratic bills to ensure right to vote for Katrina evacuees are advancing

Roll Call reports: A Democratic-led effort to ensure voting privileges for the displaced residents of the Gulf Coast region appears to be picking up steam in Congress, with legislation now filed in the House and Senate that would provide Hurricane Katrina refugees with the same voting privileges granted to other absentee residents.

The Displaced Citizens Voter Protection Act of 2005 was introduced in the House by Rep. Artur Davis (D-Ala.) one month ago and Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) dropped a similar version in the Senate last week. Davis and Feingold are planning to hold a news conference on Capitol Hill next week to highlight the legislation.

The bill would grant residents of hurricane-ravaged areas who have temporarily relocated to other addresses the ability to vote absentee - the same way college students, military personnel and overseas voters do - in the 2006 federal elections.

"There's no question in my opinion that displaced voters, if they choose, should be able to participate in federal races in Louisiana and Mississippi if they intend to return to those states," Davis said in an interview Wednesday.

The legislation specifies that voters would have to sign an affidavit certifying that they are qualified to vote in their original place of residence and that they plan to return to that residence in the near future. -- "Democrats Advance Effort to Secure Voting Privileges for Hurricane Victims," Oct. 12, 2005. [Sorry, no link]


September 19, 2005

Carter-Baker Commission Report

The report of the Commission on Federal Election Reform can be downloaded from this site.

Comment on the Carter-Baker report

Tova Andrea Wang of The Century Foundation writes: It is truly shocking how, given all the problems in the voting system and continued disenfranchisement, the terms of the debate have shifted to that of so-called "ballot integrity." It is reminiscent of how conservatives have misappropriated the concept of patriotism and the American flag, and used the power of language and messaging to distort the discussion, by using terms such as "partial birth abortion" or "death tax." The latest example of this is the just released report of the commission on election reform co-chaired by Jimmy Carter and James Baker.

The 2001 bi-partisan commission co-chaired by former President Carter and Gerald Ford, which The Century Foundation co-sponsored and I was on the staff of (and which had an entirely different membership), had a very different approach. There were differences about how best to implement the recommendations of the report. However, while we were concerned with accuracy and preventing fraud, we did not see that as a goal that was in conflict with ensuring the right to vote.

It was the 2001 commission that promoted the idea of statewide voter registration databases, so that we could both prevent fraud and ensure every registered voter was on the voting list the list and able to vote. We proposed the idea that any voter who comes to the polls and does not appear on the list be given a provisional ballot. We stated that when a felon completes his sentence, he should get his voting rights back. We enumerated several ways to ensure that "no individual, group or community [holds] a justified belief that the electoral process works less well for some than for others." We even recommended an election day holiday!

This stands in stark contrast to the entire tenor of the Carter-Baker report, which presumes that fraud committed by voters is the biggest problem confronting our election system. There is simply no strong evidence of this, and some of the remedies proposed will take us backwards in the fight to increase voter participation. -- Carter-Baker Report: Some Bad Fixes for the Wrong Problems

87 Ways to Leave a Lover (oops, wrong song ... to reform elections)

AP reports: Electronic voting machines should leave a paper trail of ballots cast and the government should provide free photo IDs to nondrivers to help check voting eligibility, a commission on election reform recommends.

The private commission, created to suggest ways to improve the electoral process, also favors four regional primaries to be held after the Iowa caucus and New Hampshire primary.

Also, states should develop registration systems that allow easy checks of voters from one state to another, according to the report by the bipartisan panel led by former President Carter and former Secretary of State James Baker. ...

The Commission on Federal Election Reform had to balance concerns about better access for voters and worries about preventing voter fraud. -- Newsday.com: Panel Recommends Ways to Improve Elections

September 16, 2005

announcement: Election Reform Conference

On October 7-8, the Center for Policy Alternatives, Demos and Common Cause will host an Election Reform Conference. This conference is designed to provide policy content, leadership development and networking opportunities for state legislators to advance an election reform agenda in their states. This conference, targeted to state legislators in the Midwest, has three strategic objectives:

* Raise the awareness of state policymakers of the electoral problems that need repair within their states while providing proposals and best practices that provide solutions to these challenges.
* Develop leadership capacity among policymakers and apply that capacity to effect change within their states.
* Connect these legislators to electoral policy experts, reform advocates and citizen organizers and facilitate the creation of action plans to move a reform agenda forward in their states.

This combination of strategic objectives - leadership, education and networks - has been successfully used to reform public policy and enrich democracy in America. -- CPA: Events: Election Reform Conference

September 11, 2005

Louisiana: the political effects of Katrina

The Los Angeles Times reports: Government officials and legal experts have begun wrestling with an intriguing question posed by the evacuation of New Orleans: What happens to the politics of a region when a significant part of the electorate suddenly disappears?

The migration of hundreds of thousands of people from this urban center, many of them low-income and black, could have a dramatic effect on the political makeup of a state delicately balanced between the two major parties. If most of the evacuees choose not to return, Katrina's political legacy could be that it made Louisiana a more Republican state. -- Political Landscape May Shift on Displaced Voters - Los Angeles Times

The article also quotes me:

But political upheaval is already the second wave of Katrina's destruction. Rep. William J. Jefferson (D-La.), whose district, which includes New Orleans, was virtually leveled by the hurricane and floods, now has constituents living in other states.

"If Orleans Parish completely empties out and a lot of people don't move back — poor people especially — then the population of his district will go down, and [there will be] a disproportionate loss of black population," said Edward Still, a lawyer in Birmingham, Ala., who specializes in voting rights. "Poor people who don't own any property are less likely to come back. If every person who left and didn't come back was black, he could lose 230,000 from his district."

In Jefferson's 2nd District, which is more than 60% black, that would represent a loss of about one-third of the population.

Such a drop in black voters could inspire a challenge from a white candidate, Still said.

August 23, 2005

Texas: DOJ settles with Ector County

From a Justice Department press release: The Justice Department announced today that it filed a lawsuit against Ector County, Texas, alleging violations of the rights of minority- language voters under the Voting Rights Act. The Department simultaneously filed a consent decree resolving the lawsuit against the county.

Section 4(f)(4) of the Voting Rights Act requires that certain jurisdictions with a substantial minority-language voter population must provide all voting materials and assistance in the minority language as well as in English. The complaint, which was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, alleges that the county failed to meet its legal responsibilities under section 4(f)(4) to provide effective assistance to Spanish-speaking voters at the polls. -- U.S. Newswire : Releases :

August 2, 2005

California: Legislative Counsel says governor can cancel special election

AP reports: Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has the authority to cancel the November special election and can do so anytime before voting begins, according to an analysis released Tuesday by the nonpartisan California legislative counsel.

The ruling, which was drafted at the request of state Sen. Debra Bowen, D-Redondo Beach, came as another Democratic lawmaker announced he would introduce legislation calling on Schwarzenegger to scrap the election.

The developments were the latest in a series of skirmishes over the fate of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's embattled government reform agenda. But as Schwarzenegger expressed hope for a compromise with legislators over his ballot initiatives, his campaign team vowed to press ahead with a full-fledged campaign.

According to Deputy Legislative Counsel Christopher Dawson, the governor has the sole authority to rescind a proclamation calling for a special election. That contradicted an opinion by Secretary of State Bruce McPherson, who had suggested lawmakers could approve legislation by a two-thirds vote that would call off the election. -- AP Wire | 08/02/2005 | Governor can cancel special election, legislative counsel rules

July 29, 2005

Common Cause launches Election Bill Tracker

Election Bill Tracker - Common Cause: The Common Cause Election Reform Team announces the implementation of a new Election Bill Tracker. This interactive database allows you to search for election-related bills in a particular state legislature, link to the bills' web sites for their exact language, and also find out the current status of the bills. Or, if you are interested in a particular election issue, you can find out about bills focusing on that issue all across the country, again with links to the bill's web sites and information about their current status.

Thanks to Daniel Levitas for the link.

July 25, 2005

Impeachment charges against Pres. Arroyo

AP reports: Philippine opposition lawmakers filed an impeachment complaint today against President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, accusing her of vote-rigging and other wrongdoing.

The filing against Arroyo, a staunch U.S. ally, claims she "stole, cheated and lied" to obtain power and hold it. Her aides have moved to block the complaint on a legal technicality.

A summary of the complaint seen by the Associated Press accuses Arroyo of 10 major crimes including election fraud and corruption. It claims she can be impeached on at least four grounds.

Arroyo has denied manipulating the May 2004 ballot by discussing vote counting with an election official before she was declared the winner. She has said she is ready to face an impeachment trial to clear her name and has announced a "truth commission" also will probe the accusations. -- Philippines leader faces more charges

May 19, 2005

Alabama: several election-related bills died in the regular session

AP reports: Some bills that died on final day of 2005 session of Legislature would have:

-Banned the transfer of campaign contributions from one political action committee to another. ...

-Moved Alabama's presidential preference primary from June to the first Saturday after the New Hampshire primary. ...

-Required nonprofit organizations to disclose their source of funding for buying advertising to influence the vote on a referendum. ...

-Given Alabama a new official insect by replacing the monarch butterfly with the queen honey bee. -- Welcome to TimesDaily.com

The last one was just to see if you were paying attention.

May 15, 2005

Democrats debate primary schedule

AP reports: Democrats, looking to reverse their fortunes after two straight White House defeats, met yesterday to hear competing proposals to revamp the election calendar used to choose a presidential nominee every four years.

The three major proposals would focus on regional primaries. Two of those proposals would allow Iowa and New Hampshire to retain their leadoff roles in the candidate selection process.

A third plan, offered by Michigan Democrats, would create a rotating series of six regional primaries. A different region would launch each presidential nominating season.

That plan would allow single-state contests to begin the process, but those states would be rotated. -- Democrats debate plans to revamp primaries

Meanwhile, the elbowing continues. Alabama's legislature will vote tomorrow on a bill to move the Alabama presidential primary to the Saturday after New Hampshire's primary. South Carolina vows to move its primary to an even earlier date.

May 6, 2005

"10 Steps to Better Elections"

Steven Hill writes on the FairVote.org website: THE U.S. ELECTORAL SYSTEM is our nation's crazy aunt in the attic. Every few years she pops out and creates a scene, and everyone swears that something must be done. But as soon as election day passes, we're happy to ignore her again — at least until the next time she frustrates the will of the people.

Under a fair, equitable, and democratic system of voting, Al Gore would have been elected president in 2000, and George W. Bush would still be whacking weeds in Crawford. In 2004, even though Bush won the popular vote by some 3 million ballots, the election was still tarnished. Florida replayed its 2000 debacle with attempts to purge African-American voters from the rolls, and voters who requested absentee ballots but never received them were barred from voting in person. ...

Here are a few of Steven's suggestions:

3] DEVELOP "PUBLIC INTEREST" VOTING EQUIPMENT. The voting-equipment industry is dominated by three companies: Sequoia Voting Systems, Election Systems and Software (ES&S), and Diebold Election Systems. These companies develop their own private software and hardware that is then certified by state authorities, although the rigor of the certification procedures varies widely from state to state. Laxness is encouraged by the revolving door between state officials and the industry.

6] GIVE THIRD PARTIES A CHANCE. Our current plurality (that is, "highest vote-getter wins") method of electing political representatives hobbles our choices by casting third-party candidates as potential spoilers. Last year's furious battles over Ralph Nader's candidacy demonstrated that our system is not designed to accommodate more than two choices, yet important policy areas can be completely ignored by major-party candidates.

9] MAKE VOTING A RIGHT. As American voters
discovered in 2000, we have no legal right to vote directly for president. In Bush v. Gore, the Supreme Court reaffirmed that, under the Constitution, voting for president is reserved for state legislatures, who decide whether they wish to delegate it to the voters. A constitutional amendment spelling out our right to vote could guarantee the franchise to all citizens. -- F A I R V O T E -- the Center for Voting and Democracy

Thanks to Donkey Rising blog for the link.

April 19, 2005

Carter-Baker Commission hears testimony

The Washington Post reports: It did not feature much in the way of butterfly ballots, hanging chads or protracted Supreme Court fights. But the first hearing yesterday of the Commission on Federal Election Reform made it clear that the 2004 election was not without problems.

Former president Jimmy Carter and ex-secretary of state James A. Baker III, who co-chair the commission, invited a dozen experts to American University to recommend ways to improve the nation's voting system. The commission will consider those suggestions, along with others expected at a second hearing in June, and submit its own recommendations to Congress.

Those recommendations are not expected until September, which is a good thing because the academics, advocacy group leaders and politicians invited to testify yesterday provided a dizzying list of electoral problems that might make some wonder how any ballots were counted in November. ...

Much of the testimony was anecdotal, with many bemoaning the lack of hard evidence that would indicate how widespread the problems are. Many disagreed on what ought to be done. But nearly all said the system can and should be improved before the next election. -- Defects In 2004 Balloting Described (washingtonpost.com)

April 12, 2005

New Mexico: governor signs election reform package

Government Technology reports: Last week, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson signed a comprehensive election reform package incorporating several bills that initiate sweeping changes in New Mexico's election process. The new law creates uniform standards for voter identification, ballot counting, voting machine records, and the training of election judges and poll workers. ...

Voter ID: Voters will be required to state their name and give the last four digits of their social security number, or show some form of physical identification prior to voting. The list of acceptable ID includes any photo ID, a utility bill, a bank statement, a government check or a paycheck. Any tribal government document is acceptable as well. ...

A voter friendly process: The bill also makes New Mexico more voter friendly by requiring maps to be posted at all polling places directing voters to their proper precincts. Voters will also be able to drop off absentee ballots at their polling location on election day, and will provide funding to re-design ballots and election materials to make them easier to understand and complete them correctly. Speaker of the House Ben Lujan will chair an interim committee to tackle additional questions that must be addressed, such as same-day registration, prepaid postage for absentee ballots, and greater uniformity in voting machines. -- New Mexico Gov. Signs Election Reform Package

I have excerpted only the most interesting of the provisions. Note the "or" in the Voter ID provision.

Indiana: voter ID bill passes

AP reports: A bill that would require most voters to show government-issued photo identification before casting a ballot is on its way to Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels for consideration after winning final approval in the General Assembly on today.

Daniels has said he would likely sign the bill, which has been strongly opposed by Democrats who say it would disenfranchise voters to the GOP's benefit and be the most restrictive voter ID law in the nation.

The Republican-ruled Senate voted today 33-17 along party lines to agree to slight changes to the bill made in the GOP-controlled House. -- General Assembly passes voter ID bill

April 2, 2005

The election of the next pope

AP reports: From every corner of the world, the red-robed "princes" of the Roman Catholic Church headed toward the Vatican on Saturday to prepare for the secret duty they were appointed to carry out: gathering in the Sistine Chapel to elect the successor for the late Pope John Paul II. ...

Asians, Africans and Latin Americans account for 44 of the cardinals under 80 years old — the condition for participating in the conclave and voting for the pope — compared with 58 from Europe. The United States, which could play an important swing role, has 11 cardinals among the 117 papal electors — the largest group that will ever decide on the next pontiff when the conclave begin later this month.

It's almost certain the next pope will be among them: although technically the cardinals can select any baptized male Roman Catholic, the last time they looked outside their elite group was 1378. ...

Initially, a two-thirds majority is needed. But John Paul amended the rules to allow for a simple majority after a three rounds of balloting and pauses. -- Nola.com: NewsFlash - Cardinals head to Vatican for conclave

Georgia: governor will sign voter ID bill

Voter ID bill likely to be law | ajc.com
The Atlanta Journal Constitution reports: Gov. Sonny Perdue indicated Friday he's likely to sign a bill that would require voters to show a photo ID at the polls, but he has problems with legislation that would ban smoking in many public places. ...

Perdue said he has no qualms about signing into law one of the most controversial pieces of legislation passed this year, a requirement that voters produce a photo ID at the polls. The bill eliminates nearly a dozen permissible forms of ID currently allowed at Georgia polls, including birth certificates and utility bills.

Republican sponsors argued photo IDs are needed to cut down on voter fraud. Critics, especially African-American legislators, said it is unnecessary and discriminates against minorities and the elderly. Some critics predict the measure will be rejected by the U.S. Justice Department, which must review the measure for compliance with the Voting Rights Act.

"I think it's appropriate," Perdue said of the bill. "I believe in the integrity of the voting process. And I don't think it's disenfranchising whatsoever to require that."

The governor estimated that about 300,000 Georgians 18 or older don't have a driver's license, one of the pieces of photo ID that would be allowed at polls. About 50,000 of those people are incarcerated, he said.

Washington State: house committee modifies election-reform bills

The Seattle Times reports: A House committee, racing to meet a deadline yesterday, passed a modified version of the Senate's extensive election-reform package over the objections of Republicans, some of whom stormed out of the meeting before the votes were complete.

Of the five bills passed, the most contentious were measures to enhance voter-registration record-keeping and an omnibus bill that standardizes election procedures. Both passed on 5-4 votes along party lines.

More than a dozen GOP amendments to the two main bills, including one that would require photo identification at the polls, were defeated by the Democratic majority on the House State Government, Operations & Accountability Committee. ...

Democrats removed identification requirements at the polls, something that Gov. Christine Gregoire and Secretary of State Sam Reed supported and the original Senate bill required, either in the form of photo ID or a voter-registration card. -- The Seattle Times: Local News: Some Republicans storm out as panel OKs election reforms

Arizona: governor vetos voter ID bill

The Arizona Daily Sun reports: Gov. Janet Napolitano vetoed legislation Friday to bar some people who show up at the polls without identification from voting.

Napolitano said the measure, SB 1118, is illegal because it violates the federal Help America Vote Act. She said that "could result in properly registered Arizona citizens being denied the right to vote."

But Secretary of State Jan Brewer said Napolitano is wrong.

She said nothing in federal law requires anyone who shows up at any poll without any ID to be given a ballot. She said the governor was making a political rather than a legal claim. -- Arizona Daily Sun-

Perhaps Gov. Napolitano was thinking of this provision of the Help America Vote Act:

§ 15482. Provisional voting and voting information requirements

(a) Provisional voting requirements. If an individual declares that such individual is a registered voter in the jurisdiction in which the individual desires to vote and that the individual is eligible to vote in an election for Federal office, but the name of the individual does not appear on the official list of eligible voters for the polling place or an election official asserts that the individual is not eligible to vote, such individual shall be permitted to cast a provisional ballot as follows: ...

March 28, 2005

Improving state election laws

From a press release by The Century Foundation: In an effort to improve future elections, The Century Foundation has created a Post-2004 Working Group on Election Reform. This bipartisan group of prominent election law and voting reform experts will produce concrete policy options states can follow in order to improve the voting process.

The members of the working group are: Tova Wang, senior program officer and democracy fellow, The Century Foundation (executive director); Doug Chapin, director, Electionline.org; Norm Ornstein, resident scholar, American Enterprise Institute; Guy-Uriel E. Charles, associate professor of law, University of Minnesota Law School; Edward B. Foley, professor of law and director, Election Law@Moritz, Moritz College of Law, Ohio State University; Samuel Isacharoff, visiting professor at NYU School of Law and Harold R. Medina Professor in Procedural Jurisprudence, Columbia University School of Law; Martha Kropf, assistant professor of political science, University of Missouri, Kansas City; Roy Schotland, professor of law, Georgetown University Law Center; and Dan Tokaji, assistant professor of law and associate director, Election Law@Moritz, Moritz College of Law, Ohio State University.

The 2004 presidential election was the first big test of the 2002 Help America Vote Act (HAVA). Enacted in the wake of the deeply flawed 2000 election, the law was passed in an effort to both improve the voting process and to increase voter access. However, the results on Election Day were mixed at best. While there were improvements in the voting process in a number of jurisdictions, the ways in which many states carried out the law’s mandates produced a number of unintended consequences, resulting in allegations of fraud and voter disenfranchisement.

The working group’s mission is to promote an election system that balances ballot integrity with voting rights and accessibility. The group will assess the key provisions of HAVA, analyze the ways in which they were implemented in 2004, and provide guidelines for how they ought to be implemented by the states in the future. In addition, the working group will analyze how states are preparing to comply with HAVA requirements that have implementation deadlines at the end of this year. They plan to provide the best policy options for states to meet these mandates in a report scheduled for release in late spring. more…

"While the goals of HAVA were generally positive, the law turned out to be deficient in many areas and implementation by the states was flawed," said Tova Wang, executive director of the working group. She noted that a variety of lawsuits have been filed throughout the country about the implementation of HAVA, and advocates and government officials continue to spar over interpretations of the law’s requirements and flaws in the voting process. "The disputes almost universally revolve around one core principle: the competing values of ensuring ballot integrity while maintaining wide voting accessibility. We will take a very practical approach to solving the problems that HAVA may have inadvertently created and provide realistic approaches the states can take in order to fulfill the promise that HAVA originally intended," she added.

The Century Foundation has been at the forefront of efforts to reform the voting system since the issue achieved national prominence following the 2000 presidential contest. In 2001, the foundation cosponsored The National Commission on Election Reform, cochaired by former Presidents Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter. The final report of that commission served as the model for important measures in the Help America Vote Act. Information on issues related to election reform is available at www.tcf.org.

For more information about the Working Group or election reform issues, contact Christy Hicks at hicks@tcf.org or (212) 452-7723.

March 26, 2005

A new blog on early voting

Prof. Paul Gronke of Reed College has started a new blog on early voting. Here is his description: This blog disseminates information about early voting (voting before election day, at non-precinct locations), an increasingly common form of voting in the United States, and worldwide. The blog is intended to be a resource to the election administration, reform, and research community. -- earlyvote


March 25, 2005

Pres. Carter to head election reform commission

Reuters reports: Former President Jimmy Carter will lead a bipartisan commission to examine problems with the U.S. election system, American University's Center for Democracy and Election Management said on Thursday.

Carter, a Democrat whose Carter Center has monitored more than 50 elections around the world, will co-chair the private commission with Republican James Baker, who served as Secretary of State under President George H. W. Bush. ...

The Center for Democracy and Election Management, which will organize the work of Carter's commission, said the group would hold two public hearings -- the first on April 18 at American University in Washington and the second at Houston's Rice University in June.

The Commission on Federal Election Reform aims to produce a report to Congress on its findings by September. -- Politics News Article | Reuters.com

Roundup on voter ID bills

MALDEF has produced a chart of the bills pending in state legislatures regarding voter I.D. and proof of citizenship. You may download the file here.

MALDEF's testimony on three of those bills is available
here.

Thanks to Nina Perales for providing these to me.

March 19, 2005

Georgia: bill would have tightest restrictions on voter ID

The Macon Telegraph reports: A bill to require voters to present photo identification at the polls before casting a vote would give Georgia the country's most restrictive voter ID law.

Senate Bill 84 and sections of House Bill 244 differ slightly, but both require voters to present certain forms of approved voter ID before casting a ballot. Voters who showed up at the polls without such ID would not be allowed to vote.

The Senate bill would only allow the following forms of ID: a driver's license or state-issued ID card, a government employee ID with photo, a U.S. passport or a military ID.

Tim Storey, a senior fellow with the National Council of State Legislatures, said five states currently require voters to present voter ID at the polls: South Carolina, Florida, South Dakota, Arizona and Louisiana. All of them have some form of contingency ballot if a voter doesn't have the proper paperwork.

"There is no state now where you would be turned away completely without an ID," Storey said. -- Macon Telegraph | 03/19/2005 | ID bill could make Georgia unique in turning away voters

Alabama also has a voter ID law.

March 14, 2005

Democratic primary calendar

DailyKos reports and opines: The DNC commission looking into the primary calendar (and whether IA and NH should maintain their unfairly exhalted role) happened last week, and it looks like nothing much happened.

The less happens, the better for IA and NH. They need nothing to happen to keep the gravy train flowing. For all the high-minded talk of maintaing "retail politics", Iowa and New Hampshire couldn't give two shits about "retail politcs", otherwise they'd be happy to share the wealth with a rotating calendar.

There are other small states in which "retail politics" could take place. But NH and IA has a cottage industry of consultants who make a killing off presidential campaigns. In Iowa, party bosses are wined and dined around the clock, without letup, by candidates seeking their support. The local economy gets a jolt every four years from traveling campaigns and media -- hotels, car rentals, dining establishments, etc.

And aside from money -- the local political establishments fancy themselves presidential kingmakers. That sort of power is hard to surrender. -- Daily Kos :: Dem commission looks into primary calendar

February 16, 2005

SEnate GOP lays out its plan to improve elections

Steven Duffield of the Senate Republican Policy Committee emails: The Senate Republican Policy Committee has released a new Policy Paper, "Putting an End to Voter Fraud: the Need for New Federal Reforms." It argues for voter identification requirements at the polls, adjustments to the “Motor Voter” law so that states can protect against fraudulent and duplicate voter registrations, more protections to ensure that only Americans vote in American elections, and greater examination of fraud risks in early and absentee voting.

The executive summary of the plan contains the following points:

First, Congress should require that voters at the polls show photo identification.

Second, Congress should examine the integrity of the voter registration process and the ongoing failures of states to maintain accurate voter lists.

Third, Congress should examine the extent to which early and absentee voting increases the likelihood of fraudulent votes being cast.

No election-related legislation should proceed in this Congress unless these issues receive a thorough examination.

Don't say you were not warned.

February 5, 2005

California: Secretary of State Shelley resigns

The San Francisco Chronicle reports: Kevin Shelley resigned as California's secretary of state Friday, admitting that the growing scrutiny over his questionable campaign fund- raising, alleged misuse of federal voting funds and admittedly volcanic temper left him unable to do the job he assumed two years ago. ...

he intense scrutiny of Shelley began in August when The Chronicle reported that $125,000 from a state grant appeared to have been illegally diverted into his 2002 campaign account. Since then, state investigations have concluded that he mismanaged federal voting act funds and that Shelley's explosive temper created a hostile work environment for subordinates. ...

Though his mercurial temper and abusive treatment of subordinates had brought criticism in the past, the real downturn in his political fortunes began last summer, when The Chronicle reported that a state grant for a San Francisco nonprofit group apparently had been diverted to his 2002 campaign account. Shelley had helped secure the grant while serving in the Assembly.

By September, eight federal, state and local agencies were looking into questionable campaign contributions linked to Julie Lee, the San Francisco community activist and Shelley fund-raiser who co-founded the San Francisco Neighbors Resource Center. With Shelley's help, the nonprofit organization received a $500,000 state grant for construction of a community center. The center was never built, and some of the money appeared to have been funneled to Shelley's campaign account. -- SHELLEY QUITS / Secretary of state says controversies over fund raising, use of federal money and his volatile temper damaged his office's 'ability to function effectively'

February 3, 2005

Florida: fewer uncounted ballots in 2004

The Miami Herald reports: More people in South Florida cast ballots that weren't counted in the presidential election than in any other part of the state, but voting accuracy improved statewide over 2000, according to a report released Tuesday by the Florida Division of Elections.

The report shows a decline statewide in the number of votes not counted last year compared to the 2000 election. The 2000 presidential election wasn't decided until the U.S. Supreme Court ordered Florida counties to stop a recount.

Based on information given to state officials from all 67 counties, the report showed that Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties had the highest number of voters whose ballots for president last November were not counted because of undervotes, where no votes are recorded, or overvotes, where voters select more than one candidate. The numbers didn't come close to affecting any outcome: 4,227 for Miami-Dade, 2,852 for Broward and 2,718 for Palm Beach.

Statewide, some 31,453 votes were not counted in the presidential election in which President Bush won Florida by nearly 381,000 votes over U.S. Sen. John Kerry. Bush won Florida in 2000 by 537 votes, with nearly 180,000 blank or spoiled ballots that year. -- Herald.com | 02/02/2005 | Uncounted ballots declined in 2004 vote

January 26, 2005

Iraq: Saddam can't vote for "technical" reasons

The Gulf Daily News reports: Saddam Hussein and his senior aides detained in Iraq have the right to vote in Sunday's elections but they cannot cast their ballots for technical reasons, an election official was quoted as saying yesterday. ...

However, Saddam and his aides "cannot" exercise their right to vote because the election commission does not have the time or the means to set up ballot boxes in prisons, [Abdel Hussein Al Hindawi, president of the electoral commission] added. -- Gulf Daily News

The one spot in the country that will probably have the most secure venue for polling -- and yet the commission just can't seem to get it together to get them a polling station.

January 19, 2005

New York: Westchester County settles with DOJ

AP reports: Westchester County agreed Wednesday to a long list of election requirements, settling a lawsuit in which the U.S. government alleged that the county did not provide adequate voting information to Spanish-speaking residents.

The government also claimed that election workers refused to allow some voters to cast provisional ballots in last November's election. -- New York City - State News

January 17, 2005

Washington State: working on election reform

AP reports: As Washington's endless gubernatorial election moves into the courts, Secretary of State Sam Reed and state lawmakers on Monday pledged speedy action on election reform legislation.

Ideas range from shifting the state primary, possibly to June, to better training of local election workers. Some counties may switch to all vote-by-mail and most of the rest will be using a single system — a fill-in-the-oval ballot called optical scan.

Reed, auditors and lawmakers conducted a fairly gentle post-mortem on the recent election, and generally agreed that while the system is basically sound, some obvious problems must be fixed. They plowed through a dozen or more ideas, but reached no decisions. -- OregonLive.com: NewsFlash - `Full-steam ahead' for election reform legislation

January 12, 2005

Alabama: was the 2002 gubernatorial election stolen?

James Gundlach writes in an academic paper : The 2002 Governors race in Alabama erupted into controversy when Baldwin County first reported results that suggested that the democratic incumbent, Don Siegelman, had won and subsequently reported other results that gave the election to the republican challenger, Bob Riley by a margin of 3,120 votes out of 1,364,602 cast.

In this paper I demonstrate how relatively simple statistical techniques can identify apparent systematic electronic manipulation of voting results. This paper consists of four parts. The first part is an overview of the election; the second part is an analysis of county level data that suggests that both sets of results from Baldwin County are anomalous. The third part of the paper is a set of analyses of results from voting districts that identifies and describes some clear patterns in the anomalous Baldwin County final results. The final part of the paper discusses the possibilities of electronic vote manipulation and suggests mechanisms for preventing it in the future. -- A Statistical Analysis of Possible Electronic Ballot Box Stuffing: The Case of Baldwin County Alabama Governor’s Race in 2002

Thanks to Larry Menefee for bringing this paper to my attention. Given the close election in Washington and the election controversy in Ohio, tGundlach's technique has continuing significance.

January 6, 2005

2004 election: Conyers Report

The House Judiciary Committee Democratic Staff writes: We have found numerous, serious election irregularities in the Ohio presidential election, which resulted in a significant disenfranchisement of voters. Cumulatively, these irregularities, which affected hundreds of thousand of votes and voters in Ohio, raise grave doubts regarding whether it can be said the Ohio electors selected on December 13, 2004, were chosen in a manner that conforms to Ohio law, let alone federal requirements and constitutional standards.

This report, therefore, makes three recommendations: (1) consistent with the requirements of the United States Constitution concerning the counting of electoral votes by Congress and Federal law implementing these requirements, there are ample grounds for challenging the electors from the State of Ohio; (2) Congress should engage in further hearings into the widespread irregularities reported in Ohio; we believe the problems are serious enough to warrant the appointment of a joint select Committee of the House and Senate to investigate and report back to the Members; and (3) Congress needs to enact election reform to restore our people’s trust in our democracy. These changes should include putting in place more specific federal protections for federal elections, particularly in the areas of audit capability for electronic voting machines and casting and counting of provisional ballots, as well as other needed changes to federal and state election laws. -- Preserving Democracy: What Went Wrong in Ohio

Thanks to the National Voting Rights Institute for hosting this publication.

December 29, 2004

North Carolina: a new election for agriculture commissioner

The News-Record reports: The State Board of Elections voted Wednesday morning to hold a statewide special election for the disputed Commissioner of Agriculture race.

The board's three Democrats overruled the two Republicans in ordering the larger revote, but there are questions as to whether the order will stand up to a legal challenge promised by Republicans. The board's rules typically require four votes to order a new election.

The revote comes after Browns' Summit Republican Steve Troxler led Democrat Britt Cobb by 2,342 votes in a race that saw more than 3 million votes cast during the general election on Nov. 3. But Carteret County voting machines lost more than 4,400 ballots cast electronically during early voting. Because those votes could affect the outcome, state election officials needed to find some way to fix the snafu.

The State Board of Elections voted last month to resolve the problem by ordering a special election in Carteret County. But a judge later reversed that decision and ordered the state board to find a different resolution. -- Statewide revote ordered for Agriculture race

December 15, 2004

Ohio: the "lost" voters

The Washington Post reports: Electoral problems prevented many thousands of Ohioans from voting on Nov. 2. In Columbus, bipartisan estimates say that 5,000 to 15,000 frustrated voters turned away without casting ballots. It is unlikely that such "lost" voters would have changed the election result -- Ohio tipped to President Bush by a 118,000-vote margin and cemented his electoral college majority.

But similar problems occurred across the state and fueled protest marches and demands for a recount. The foul-ups appeared particularly acute in Democratic-leaning districts, according to interviews with voters, poll workers, election observers and election board and party officials, as well as an examination of precinct voting patterns in several cities.

In Cleveland, poorly trained poll workers apparently gave faulty instructions to voters that led to the disqualification of thousands of provisional ballots and misdirected several hundred votes to third-party candidates. In Youngstown, 25 electronic machines transferred an unknown number of votes for Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) to the Bush column.

In Columbus, Cincinnati and Toledo, and on college campuses, election officials allocated far too few voting machines to busy precincts, with the result that voters stood on line as long as 10 hours -- many leaving without voting. Some longtime voters discovered their registrations had been purged. -- Several Factors Contributed to 'Lost' Voters in Ohio (washingtonpost.com)

December 13, 2004

Arizona: group circulating initiative petition for mail-only voting

KPHO in Phoenix reports: A local group called "Your Right To Vote" has launched a drive to get an initiative on the November 2006 ballot that would convert Arizona into a vote-by-mail only state. -- KPHO Phoenix - Initiative Launched to Make Ariz. Vote-By-Mail Only State

November 30, 2004

Comparing Ukraine and Ohio

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

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

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

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

November 23, 2004

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

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

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

GAO will investigate election problems

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

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

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

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

November 22, 2004

North Carolina -- voting problems

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

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

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

November 21, 2004

Civil rights panel hears Ohio citizens' stories

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

November 13, 2004

Voting reform groups meet in Ohio to gather information

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

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

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

November 11, 2004

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A day in the life ... in Minneapolis

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

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

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

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

November 10, 2004

A day in the life ... Twin Cities

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

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

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

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

November 7, 2004

A day in the life ... Tamarac, Florida

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

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

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

Saginaw -- "incompetent" poll workers

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

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

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

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

A day in the life ... Maryland

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

Thanks to beSpacific for the link.

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

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

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

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

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

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

November 6, 2004

Still problems with election administration

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

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

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

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

November 5, 2004

A day in the life ... in Detroit

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

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

[More below the fold]

Continue reading "A day in the life ... in Detroit" »

November 4, 2004

OSCE declares the election "mostly met" international standards

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

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

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

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

The OSCE report can be found here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hasen on the hassle that's coming

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

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

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

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

November 3, 2004

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

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

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

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

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

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

VoteProtect.org

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

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

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

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

National wrap-up

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

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

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

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

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

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

Election Protection call centers

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

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

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

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

November 2, 2004

International election monitors

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

October 31, 2004

More Sardonic Views about Ohio

Sardonic Views writes: Ohio Election -- Sunday, Day of Rest. Well sort of. With no decisions expected today -- and according to some reports one or two might not be decided until Tuesday morning -- there isn't much news on this front. There was one decision that came in under the radar because it wasn't filed in federal courts. Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge John O'Donnell found the Ohio Secretary of State, Ken Blackwell, directive (down near the bottom of that post) allowing as many challengers as there are precincts in a polling location to violate Ohio's law on vote challengers. Blackwell won't challenge the ruling, because he now wants to keep all challengers out of the polling locations. It is unclear whether the Ohio AG Jim Petro will appeal this for reasons of the principle of defending Ohio law. This was not a surprising move, since the Ohio law seemed rather clear that challengers were only limited to one per polling location -- it said nothing about precincts. Where I live, Eastlake, I think there are 6 precincts at the polling location in North High School. ...

The Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department sent Judge Dlott (the litigation in Cinci) a letter (PDF) expressing the view that the Ohio law is not unconstitutional. The plaintiffs and Democrats dismiss it as Bush/Ashcroft playing politics. Articles on the matter do point out something I figured, but hadn't read to confirm yet, about even successfully challenged voters:

The Justice Department said all voters will be eligible to receive a provisional ballot "even if they are unable to answer specific questions posed by election judges."

Provisional ballots, unlike regular ballots, are set aside and tallied later. However, the votes are counted only if the voter is determined to have met Ohio's requirements for residency in the precinct, for age and U.S. citizenship.

This is not a perfect solution, and there are still legitimate questions about how well the use of provisional ballots will be, but it does serve as something of a safety net. -- Ohio Election -- Sunday, Day of Rest (Sardonic Views)

The story contains much more, plus embedded links.

Manatee County elections supervisor will not honor most challenges based on felon list

The Bradenton Herald reports: The general election Tuesday is shaping up in Manatee County and across Florida unlike any other in the aftermath of the 2000 disputed presidential election, when the outcome was challenged in election offices and courts for 36 days before Florida decided the presidency.

"We're going to have some problems at the polls," Manatee County Supervisor of Elections Bob Sweat said Friday. "I'm not naive enough to think we're not." ...

Donna Hayes, chairwoman of the Manatee County Republican Executive Committee, said individual voters may become upset if their eligibility to vote is challenged Tuesday, but that is part of the process of having a fair election. ...

Hayes said Republican poll watchers in Manatee County will join others across Florida in challenging the eligibility of convicted felons based on a list prepared by the Republican Party of Florida, which was based on a list of more than 48,000 felons initially prepared by the Florida Division of Elections. The state elections agency scrapped its list after The Miami Herald discovered more than 2,000 mistakes.

Sweat said any challenge of any voter being a convicted felon will require more proof than the state's former list or a similar list of names - unless the voter admits he or she is a felon who has not had civil rights restored.

"If they challenge somebody and that is all they've got, they don't have a prayer," Sweat said. "I'm not going to honor that list. Unless the voter admits it, that is the only way that list will be valid at all." -- Manatee polls prepare for election dilemmas (Bradenton Herald)

October 30, 2004

In Ohio Blackwell calls for ban on all challengers, AG disagrees

Sardonic Views continues its in-depth coverage of the Ohio election litigation. Recent posts commented on the announcement by Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell that he was asking the Attorney General to ask the federal court to ban all challengers inside the polls and the AG's refusal to do so. Good stuff.

And read the earlier posts.

Florida GOP to use the state's abondoned database to challenge voters

The St. Petersburg Times reports: The Florida Republican Party said Thursday that more than 900 felons already have voted illegally or requested absentee ballots, triggering another controversy over the party's aggressive efforts to identify Floridians who might be unqualified to vote.

Using two controversial and flawed state databases, Republicans also said they identified an additional 13,568 felons expected to vote by Election Day, based on their participation in the 2000 or 2002 elections or their recent registration as a new voter. ...

Reporters for the St. Petersburg Times quickly found two Tampa Bay area individuals on the GOP list who say they have had their voting rights restored.

Records show Neal D. Bolinger, 57, of St. Petersburg had his rights restored in 1974, two years after his conviction for grand larceny, and has been voting ever since.

He used an absentee ballot last week to vote straight Republican. -- GOP: Florida felons already voting (St. Petersburg Times)

Thanks to Abstract Appeal for the link.

October 25, 2004

Early voting shows election problems in Arizona

The Arizona Republic reports: A series of early-voting glitches and a controversial recount during the primary have opened the door for serious legal challenges in Arizona if the results of the election for president in the state are too close to call. ...

Those problems include:

• More than 5,000 new voter registrations were invalidated because people forgot to check a newly required box verifying that they are U.S. citizens. Election officials have sent three mailings to the prospective voters asking them to check the box and have given them until Election Day to comply.

• Some voters have complained that post offices would not deliver their mail-in ballots because they did not have the proper postage, a 60-cent stamp. Osborne said post offices have been notified that ballots must be delivered whether they have the correct postage or not and that the county will pay for the difference.

• Instructions caused confusion in early ballots on whether pens or pencils should be used when voting. The ballot says to use a ballpoint pen, but an insert says pencil. Both are fine, election officials say, but voters should avoid felt-tip pens that can bleed through the paper and spoil votes in other areas.

• Elections officials have faced delays in getting early-ballot requests processed and sent back to voters within the required 48 hours. But Maricopa County officials say the delays won't be a factor as they've all but erased their backlog despite a record 522,000 early-ballot requests. Some smaller counties are still playing catch-up. -- Early-vote problems surfacing in Arizona (Arizona Republic)

October 19, 2004

Another candidate for "the next Florida" : New Mexico

The Hill reports: Unless the presidential election is a blowout, the Land of Enchantment will see lawsuits challenging the outcome, a key Republican state party official predicts.

Greg Graves, executive director of the New Mexico GOP, said: “The honest ballots counted will give President George W. Bush a narrow victory” and the state’s five electoral votes. Just a few feet from Graves’s office, Scott Jennings, executive director of New Mexico’s Bush campaign, said the president would beat Kerry “in a free, fair election.”

But Graves anticipates that, in addition to 615,000-620,000 legally cast votes, there will also be “15,000 to 20,000 fraudulent votes,” which could hand the election to Democratic nominee Sen. John Kerry.

In any case, a close election will translate into legal challenges of the outcome, Graves said. “Every time a fraudulent vote is cast, it disenfranchises those of us who obey the law,” he added. -- Lawsuits loom over New Mexico outcome (The Hill.com)

The good, the bad, and the really ugly -- electionline.org issues a report

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports: A non-partisan clearinghouse for election-reform research has singled out Missouri as one of three states with the potential for big Election Day ballot problems.

The group, electionline.org, said Tuesday it will send researchers to observe voting in Missouri, Florida and Ohio.

"(Missouri) state officials have been assuring voters that there will be no repeat of 2000," said Elizabeth Schneider, a researcher for the group. "Despite those assurances, our report found that conditions are ripe for problems on Election Day."

She said one potential trouble spot for Missouri is the large number of voters who will cast ballots on punch card systems like the ones Florida did away with after its infamous recount fraught with hanging and dimpled chads. (In Missouri, 37 of 116 jurisdictions still use punch-card systems, including urban areas with a large swath of the state's voters in the St. Louis and Kansas City metropolitan areas.) She also cited security concerns about Secretary of State Matt Blunt's plan to allow troops in combat zones to vote by e-mail. -- | 10/19/2004 | Several states face likely voter problems for elections (KRT Wire via SunHerald.com)

The electionline.org report is available here.

October 18, 2004

Election disputes in Ohio and elsewhere: a Times roundup

The New York Times reports: As the secretary of state of Ohio, J. Kenneth Blackwell, a Republican who is unabashed about his ambition to be governor, has issued a series of rulings on obscure issues like provisional ballots, voting notices to parolees and the weight of registration forms.

To Democrats, who say he has repeatedly tried to disenfranchise Democratic voters with those rulings, Mr. Blackwell is reminiscent of Katherine Harris, the Florida secretary of state who made her name in the chaotic election of 2000. On Friday they challenged him again, filing suit to block a directive they say will require election workers to reject thousands of registrations by first-time Democratic voters.

But Mr. Blackwell's aides say he has been scrupulously evenhanded in his efforts to guard the integrity of voting in this crucial swing state. Each of his directives has followed Ohio law, they say, and most have been guided by one unassailable goal: to prevent fraud. The charges against him, they say, are baseless and political.

The legal combat in Ohio over the fundamental issue of who can vote is recurring in virtually every battleground state this year, in what experts say is fast becoming, in its final weeks, the most litigious, lawyer-fraught election in history. -- Balloting: As Election Nears, Parties Begin Another Round of Legal Battles (New York Times)

October 16, 2004

Minnesota GOP sues to get election-judge lists

The St. Paul Pioneer Press reports: The Minnesota Republican Party on Friday asked the state Supreme Court to force local election officials across the state to identify the party affiliation of their election judges.

Republicans said they are concerned that the teams of election judges that oversee polling places, particularly in Minneapolis and St. Paul, would not meet the state law requiring that no more than half of the election judges in any polling place be from the same party.

The Republican petition to the court says party leaders need the party affiliation of election judges to make sure that requirement is met, and it asks the court to order local election officials to follow the law.

The unusual legal move represents a growing anxiety among the parties about possible irregularities during the Nov. 2 election.

The petition comes as Republican officials hold special Republicans-only training sessions for election judges, many of whom already have received nonpartisan instruction from city or county officials. -- | 10/16/2004 | GOP sues for election-judge data (St. Paul Pioneer Press)

GAO says DOJ is unprepared for election complaints

The Washington Post reports: The Justice Department is ill prepared to handle a large influx of complaints about voting rights violations in the Nov. 2 presidential election, according to a report released yesterday by the Government Accountability Office.

Campaign experts predict that the department's voting rights section will be flooded with calls and complaints about poll access and other irregularities in the face of a close race between President Bush and Democrat John F. Kerry and uncertainty over the effects of changes in election law and procedures. Some fear a repeat of the 2000 deadlock over the presidential election results in Florida.

The Justice Department "lacks a clear plan" to reliably document and track allegations in a manner that could allow monitors to swiftly pick up patterns of abuse and take corrective steps, according to the GAO, Congress's nonpartisan investigative arm.

"The reason it's so important to collect this information is to look for patterns in a particular county or in a particular polling place," said William O. Jenkins Jr., who prepared the report at the request of three Democratic lawmakers. "For instance, is it only Democrats or Republicans that seem to be having this problem? Were different voters told different things?" -- Voting Rights Machinery Doubted (washingtonpost.com)

October 12, 2004

Webcast of Mortiz Law School (OSU) program on election day problems

The Legacy of Election 2000: If the System Fails Again?
Noon, Thursday, October 21, Saxbe Auditorium, Drinko Hall, Ohio State University

A panel discussion looking at how Ohio government is prepared to handle election day problems.

featuring: The Honorable Bob Taft, Governor of Ohio
with: Moritz professors Steven Huefner, Peter Shane and Daniel Tokaji
co-sponsored by: Center for Law, Policy, and Social Science

For more information or to tune into the live web cast, see http://moritzlaw.osu.edu/electionlaw/events.html#1021

September 28, 2004

3rd Circuit expedites suit seeking special election to fill McGreevey's term

AP reports: The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will hear arguments that a federal judge was wrong when he dismissed a lawsuit seeking a special election to replace Gov. James E. McGreevey, lawyers who filed the suit said Tuesday.

The court will hear arguments Oct. 7 in Philadelphia. A state Superior Court judge will hold a hearing Oct. 4 on a similar lawsuit.

U.S. District Judge Garrett E. Brown Jr. rejected the argument that McGreevey had effectively created a vacancy by saying he would step down on Nov. 15.

The governor has not left office, and there is no vacancy to fill by a special election, Brown said in his Sept. 15 ruling. -- Appeal set for lawsuit seeking special election (AP via Newsday.com)

Thanks to Howard Bashman for the link to the order.

July 11, 2004

Stop the election! I want to get off

Michael Isikoff reports in Newsweek: American counterterrorism officials, citing what they call "alarming" intelligence about a possible Qaeda strike inside the United States this fall, are reviewing a proposal that could allow for the postponement of the November presidential election in the event of such an attack, NEWSWEEK has learned. ...

As a result, sources tell NEWSWEEK, Ridge's department last week asked the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel to analyze what legal steps would be needed to permit the postponement of the election were an attack to take place. Justice was specifically asked to review a recent letter to Ridge from DeForest B. Soaries Jr., chairman of the newly created U.S. Election Assistance Commission. Soaries noted that, while a primary election in New York on September 11, 2001, was quickly suspended by that state's Board of Elections after the attacks that morning, "the federal government has no agency that has the statutory authority to cancel and reschedule a federal election." -- Exclusive: Election Day Worries (Newsweek via MSNBC)

In the months leading up the 1972 election, I remember the rumors were that Nixon planned to "cancel the election" on some pretext or other. I wonder what chatter this item will cause.

July 4, 2004

Blue helmets at the polling place?

Still smarting from the 2000 Florida recount, a group of congressional Democrats led by Dallas Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson has asked the United Nations to monitor this year's presidential election.

"We are deeply concerned that the right of U.S. citizens to vote in free and fair elections is again in jeopardy," the lawmakers wrote to Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

While the request might evoke images of blue-helmeted peacekeepers outside the local library, the request won't be granted.

"Generally, the United Nations does not intervene in electoral affairs unless the request comes from a national government or an electoral authority -- not the legislative branch," said U.N. spokeswoman Marie Okabe. -- U.N. monitors sought for U.S. (DallasNews.com)

June 30, 2004

Massachusetts legislature nears passage of special election bill

The [Massachusetts] Legislature has paved the way for a special election to replace U.S. Sen. John Kerry if he wins the presidency in November, stripping Republican Gov. Mitt Romney of his power to appoint an interim senator.

Republican House members opposed to a Democratic plan that would change how vacant U.S. Senate and congressional seats are filled spent hours yesterday trying to stall the plan but failed at each turn.

By a vote of 116 to 34, the Democratic majority managed to push through the bill after more than six hours of procedural maneuvering and debate by the GOP and majority party. The controversial bill, already approved by the Senate, still needs final approval in both branches before moving to Romney for his signature. The Republican governor opposes the plan, but it's unclear whether he will veto the measure or recommend an alternative proposal.

The proposal does appear to have veto-proof support in both the House and Senate, where it passed by more than a two-thirds margin, largely along party lines. -- Legislature wins: Special election would replace Kerry (Lowell Sun)

June 27, 2004

Suit challenges South Dakota city election for exclusion of Indians

The group gathering complaints about a [South Dakota] law that asks voters to show photo identification filed a lawsuit Friday challenging the outcome of a city and school election held last week in Lake Andes.

Four Directions Committee filed suit Friday in 4th Circuit Court and cited "a shocking array of election and civil-rights violations" in a news release announcing the suit.

Four Directions, working with a group of voter activists from Lake Andes, contend that some registered American Indian voters were not allowed to vote in the June 15 city council election, that a white person who is not registered to vote in the town was given a city council ballot and claim inexplicable changes to the voter rosters, including some voters who mysteriously disappeared from the rosters and others whose registration was moved out of the correct ward.

The election in one city ward was decided by a single vote, and the other two were decided by 18 votes and 26 votes. -- Irregularities in voting spur suit (Rapid City Journal)

June 17, 2004

Canada will end blackout of elections results

On June 10, 2004, the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada announced that the British Columbia Supreme Court decision (R. v. Bryan) to lift the blackout period on the premature transmission of election results would be applied nationwide at the June 28 general election.

For more details, please consult the press release posted on the Elections Canada Web site.

Thanks to J. Paul Johnston for the link.

May 3, 2004

Louisiana may change election schedule

Local and state elections [in Louisiana] would be pushed back in certain years, if the Senate agrees to a bill that received unanimous approval Monday from the House.

The measure by Rep. Arthur Morrell, D-New Orleans, attempts to end the confusion created among Louisiana voters every two years when state and federal elections overlap.

A federal court said Louisiana could not have its congressional elections in October with a runoff in November, because with the state's unique open primary system, voters often were electing congressmen in October - before the recognized November federal election date. ...

Under Morrell's bill, state and local elections would run on the federal November-December schedule, starting in 2006 and saving the state $2.8 million. -- Elections calendar would change under House-backed bill (AP via heraldtribune.com)

Thanks to Richard Winger for the link.

May 2, 2004

UK Electoral Commission finds public confidence increased in Northern Ireland elections because of Electoral Fraud Act

The body that regulates UK elections has set out a substantive list of ways in which the vote-counting process in Northern Ireland could be improved.

The Electoral Commission said in its 200-page report, published in Belfast on Thursday, that fraud was not an issue in last autumn's assembly poll. ...

Electoral Commissioner Karamjit Singh said that the assembly election provided them with an opportunity to gauge at first hand the impact of the Electoral Fraud Act at Northern Ireland-wide elections.

"We have concluded that confidence generally in the democratic process has improved as a result of the new legislation, a view shared by most of the political parties, presiding officers and members of the public," he said.

Last November's election was the first province-wide poll to be held under the Electoral Fraud Act. ...

Overall, the report stated that more than 10,200 invalid votes were cast at the elections, the majority caused by a lack of understanding about the Single Transferable Vote system.

Seamus Magee, head of the Electoral Commission's office in Northern Ireland, said: "This is an issue which needs to be addressed, alongside others in the report including the privacy and secrecy of the ballot, access to polling stations for people with disabilities and the administration of the count." -- Report critical of voting process (BBC News)

April 14, 2004

South African election marked by huge turnout

Click on the picture accompanying this story. Reuters appararently felt it was necessary to identify Nelson Mandela as the man on the left, so we would not mix him up with the white woman on the right.

South Africa's ruling African National Congress looked headed for another landslide victory on Wednesday as polls closed on the country's third democratic elections since the end of apartheid.

Voting officially closed at 9 p.m. (1900 GMT), but the enthusiasm of South African voters seemed to have overwhelmed some polling stations and officials said hundreds of people still queuing would be allowed to vote. ...

Long queues snaked from many of the 17,000 polling stations through the day, a confirmation that the 20 million registered voters still cherish the right to vote 10 years after Nelson Mandela first swept the ANC to power in multiracial elections. ...

One Cape Town voting line meandered three km past city blocks on streets largely clear of traffic after authorities declared polling day a national holiday. -- ANC set for victory as South Africa polls close (Reuters)

If only Americans felt this much enthusiasm for voting.

March 24, 2004

Georgia redistricting plan now final

The three federal judges who relented and considered incumbency in redrawing Georgia's legislative districts refused Tuesday to make other political adjustments.

The panel rejected efforts by lawmakers who were seeking special tweaks to their districts in order to improve their chances at the polls.

The judicial panel had ruled in February that the state's House and Senate election districts are unconstitutional, after a group of Republicans filed a lawsuit a year ago.

On Tuesday, the various parties — Republicans who sued, black lawmakers, House Democrats and the state Democratic Party — asked the judges' map-drawing team to protect "communities of interest" or to separate some of the nearly 50 incumbents still placed in the same districts. ...

The judges did agree to shorten from 45 days to 30 the time that election officials have to mail out absentee ballots before the scheduled July 20 party primaries. The starting date to qualify for the primaries remained April 26. -- Judges reject more redistricting changes (Atlanta Journal Constitution)

March 23, 2004

Georgia Sec of State and federal court back up on prior statements

Georgia elections officials say they won't need to delay the July 20 primary elections _ or candidate qualifying for those races _ because of new legislative maps being drawn by a federal court this week.

As recently as last month, representatives of Secretary of State Cathy Cox _ who oversees elections _ argued it would be difficult for new maps to be drawn and voting computers reprogrammed in time for the election.

But a state attorney on Tuesday told a three-judge federal panel that merely shortening the period for absentee voting would be enough to get Georgia polls ready for the elections. ...

The special master's map, which did not consider the addresses of incumbents, put 87 representatives and senators in districts with at least one other incumbent.

After hearing formal complaints, the judges released a new map Monday freeing about two-thirds of the pairings and promising to consider more. -- Federal redistricting maps won't delay elections (AP via AccessNorthGa.com)


March 21, 2004

California primary and redistricting proposals

Moderate voters [in California] may soon be given more clout in deciding primary brawls, but Greens and Libertarians could find themselves shut out when November rolls around.

An initiative that seems certain to qualify for the November ballot would open now-closed primaries by allowing voters to choose any candidate regardless of party affiliation. Only the top two vote-getters in the primary would move on, raising the prospect of an all-Democrat general election in San Francisco or a Republican-only field in Orange County, under the measure, which is sponsored by an influential bipartisan team and backed by wealthy patrons. ...

Maverick lawmakers are crafting legislation that could end the Legislature's established means of self-preservation: the once-a-decade process of drawing new political boundary lines, or reapportionment.

Over the years, the Legislature's creative cartographers have drawn cradle-, fettuccine-, and fingertip-shaped districts, using party registration as the dominant consideration. The differences in party registration are narrower than 8 percent in only about a dozen of 120 legislative districts. As a result, critics say, most races are decided during the primary.

"If you win in the primary, you win in the general," said Assembly Republican leader Kevin McCarthy, who is carrying legislation to give an independent panel the district-drawing job. -- State initiatives push for open primaries, redistricting reform (Copley News Service)


Changes to Indiana election law

Potential voters [in Indiana] now will have to show proof of residency if their names are on an inactive voter list; county voter registration offices will be required to keep their voter registration list up to date; and an absentee ballot signature must be compared with the person's voter registration signature.

The law addresses some of the concerns the Lake County Election Board's Subcommittee on Public Integrity was forced to deal with as a result of the absentee ballot scandals that led to trials over the fraudulent use of absentee ballots in East Chicago and Schererville. ...

One important provision of Landske's bill was left on the cutting room floor of an unenlightened General Assembly. It would have required that voters show a photo ID at the polls. But opponents worried it would be an invasion of privacy.

That is ridiculous. People cannot apply for a check-cashing card at the supermarket or get on a plane without having to show a photo ID. -- One small step toward honest elections (NW Indiana Times, editorial)

Thanks to Indiana Law Blog for the link. The ILB also has links to the 118-page bill and its digest.

March 16, 2004

Harvard-led group will watch polls

A group founded by Harvard law students announced plans Tuesday to send observers to 49 states this November to help ensure voters in the fall election are not improperly turned away from the polls.

The group, called Just Democracy, plans to dispatch at least 1,000 students from across the country to polls in every state with a law school, which includes all but Alaska.

Student leaders want to help ease the bureaucratic mistakes or ignorance of the law they say were to blame for much of the confusion in the disputed 2000 presidential election.

They plan to enlist a mix of Republican, Democratic and independent volunteers to watch over polls on Nov. 2. -- Harvard Group Plans to Watch Over Polls (AP)

Harvard-led group will watch polls

A group founded by Harvard law students announced plans Tuesday to send observers to 49 states this November to help ensure voters in the fall election are not improperly turned away from the polls.

The group, called Just Democracy, plans to dispatch at least 1,000 students from across the country to polls in every state with a law school, which includes all but Alaska.

Student leaders want to help ease the bureaucratic mistakes or ignorance of the law they say were to blame for much of the confusion in the disputed 2000 presidential election.

They plan to enlist a mix of Republican, Democratic and independent volunteers to watch over polls on Nov. 2. -- Harvard Group Plans to Watch Over Polls (AP)

March 15, 2004

South African court allows prisoners to vote

Prisoners sentenced without the option of a fine will also be allowed to vote in the general election in April, the [South African] Constitutional Court ruled on Wednesday.

Last month the court heard an application by the South African Institute for Crime Prevention and the Reintegration of Offenders (Nicro) and two prisoners serving sentences without an option of a fine.

They argued that an amendment to the Electoral Act promulgated in December 2003 violated two constitutional rights of prisoners: the right to vote and the right to equality. -- Prisoners allowed to vote (SAPA)

Thanks to the Sentencing Project for alerting me to this decision. The Project has the decision and the media summary on its website.

South African court allows prisoners to vote

Prisoners sentenced without the option of a fine will also be allowed to vote in the general election in April, the [South African] Constitutional Court ruled on Wednesday.

Last month the court heard an application by the South African Institute for Crime Prevention and the Reintegration of Offenders (Nicro) and two prisoners serving sentences without an option of a fine.

They argued that an amendment to the Electoral Act promulgated in December 2003 violated two constitutional rights of prisoners: the right to vote and the right to equality. -- Prisoners allowed to vote (SAPA)

Thanks to the Sentencing Project for alerting me to this decision. The Project has the decision and the media summary on its website.

March 14, 2004

Voting news from Indiana

The Indiana Law Blog has a couple of stories about election law today:

The Indiana Supreme Court, in an order issued 3/9/04, has scheduled oral arguments in the East Chicago mayor's election vote-fraud case, Pabey v. Pastrick, for Tuesday, April 13, 2004 at 1:45 p.m. in Fort Wayne, Indiana, in the City Council Chambers of the City-County Building. [More here]

This morning I have discovered that Indianapolis WISHTV's I-Team 8 has done a number of stories on electronic voting in Indiana, all of which are posted on an excellent webpage titled "Will Your Vote count?" [More here]

Voting news from Indiana

The Indiana Law Blog has a couple of stories about election law today:

The Indiana Supreme Court, in an order issued 3/9/04, has scheduled oral arguments in the East Chicago mayor's election vote-fraud case, Pabey v. Pastrick, for Tuesday, April 13, 2004 at 1:45 p.m. in Fort Wayne, Indiana, in the City Council Chambers of the City-County Building. [More here]

This morning I have discovered that Indianapolis WISHTV's I-Team 8 has done a number of stories on electronic voting in Indiana, all of which are posted on an excellent webpage titled "Will Your Vote count?" [More here]

Bush wins Florida Democratic Primary

In spite of not being on the ballot US President "Boy" George W. Bush secured the Florida Democrat nomination votes earlier today following a surprise recount ordered by his brother, Jeb Bush, Governor of the State.

Frontrunner Democrat candidate John Kerry had initially been declared the victor in a landslide, but his victory was short-lived after "anomalies" were found in votes that had been cast using newly-installed electronic voting machines.

Martha W. Bush, the principal election scrutineer appointed by the governor to oversee the process, became suspicious while the electronic votes were tallied and the vast majority were seen to be going to Mr. Kerry. After the ballots closed she brought in Albert W. Bush, an electronics specialist from Tampa, to examine the voting machines, and it is understood that he found software glitches that he was unable to describe to the press, citing confidentiality arising from the proprietary nature of the software. He did say, however, that the glitches caused votes to be assigned to the wrong person. -- Bush sweeps Florida after recount in Democrat primary (DeadBrain)

For the humo-impaired, let me point out that DeadBrain's site is labeled "News · Satire · Spoof · Parody · Humour."

Bush wins Florida Democratic Primary

In spite of not being on the ballot US President "Boy" George W. Bush secured the Florida Democrat nomination votes earlier today following a surprise recount ordered by his brother, Jeb Bush, Governor of the State.

Frontrunner Democrat candidate John Kerry had initially been declared the victor in a landslide, but his victory was short-lived after "anomalies" were found in votes that had been cast using newly-installed electronic voting machines.

Martha W. Bush, the principal election scrutineer appointed by the governor to oversee the process, became suspicious while the electronic votes were tallied and the vast majority were seen to be going to Mr. Kerry. After the ballots closed she brought in Albert W. Bush, an electronics specialist from Tampa, to examine the voting machines, and it is understood that he found software glitches that he was unable to describe to the press, citing confidentiality arising from the proprietary nature of the software. He did say, however, that the glitches caused votes to be assigned to the wrong person. -- Bush sweeps Florida after recount in Democrat primary (DeadBrain)

For the humo-impaired, let me point out that DeadBrain's site is labeled "News · Satire · Spoof · Parody · Humour."

Shifting arguments on paper trails

Has anyone noticed that the defense of electronic voting machines seems to have moved in a new direction? We started with the "don't worry your pretty little heads" argument, implying that only paranoids and conspiracy nuts worried about twenty percent of Americans -- and more in a few key states -- voting in this year's presidential election on machines that offered no hard evidence that the votes cast were the ones counted, and that denied voters the possibility of a recount in a close election (which this one almost certainly will be). ...

Argument B: Oh, sure, it would be nice to have a paper record, but it's all too complicated. ...

Argument C: Fine. You want a paper trail, it's gonna cost you. -- Machiavelli's Prints (Body and Soul)

Body & Soul figures it ought to cost $30 per machine for a printer, in contrast to the $1000 estimate quoted by Diebold.

Shifting arguments on paper trails

Has anyone noticed that the defense of electronic voting machines seems to have moved in a new direction? We started with the "don't worry your pretty little heads" argument, implying that only paranoids and conspiracy nuts worried about twenty percent of Americans -- and more in a few key states -- voting in this year's presidential election on machines that offered no hard evidence that the votes cast were the ones counted, and that denied voters the possibility of a recount in a close election (which this one almost certainly will be). ...

Argument B: Oh, sure, it would be nice to have a paper record, but it's all too complicated. ...

Argument C: Fine. You want a paper trail, it's gonna cost you. -- Machiavelli's Prints (Body and Soul)

Body & Soul figures it ought to cost $30 per machine for a printer, in contrast to the $1000 estimate quoted by Diebold.

March 13, 2004

Registered, yes; on the ballot, no

A College of William and Mary student who won the right to vote in Williamsburg but then was denied his bid to run for City Council lost his appeal to the city's Electoral Board on Friday. ...

Assistant Registrar David Andrews ... said four of Lowe's petitions, containing a total of 28 signatures, could not be considered because the people who circulated them were not registered to vote in the city or eligible to be registered in the city as required by state law.

The signatures were collected by William and Mary students Zayd Khoury and Serene Maria Alami. Khoury is registered to vote in James City County, while Alami's bid to register to vote in Williamsburg was denied earlier this month. Alami, who also wants to run for City Council, plans to appeal the ruling to the Virginia Supreme Court. -- Electoral board denies W&M student's appeal (AP)

Registered, yes; on the ballot, no

A College of William and Mary student who won the right to vote in Williamsburg but then was denied his bid to run for City Council lost his appeal to the city's Electoral Board on Friday. ...

Assistant Registrar David Andrews ... said four of Lowe's petitions, containing a total of 28 signatures, could not be considered because the people who circulated them were not registered to vote in the city or eligible to be registered in the city as required by state law.

The signatures were collected by William and Mary students Zayd Khoury and Serene Maria Alami. Khoury is registered to vote in James City County, while Alami's bid to register to vote in Williamsburg was denied earlier this month. Alami, who also wants to run for City Council, plans to appeal the ruling to the Virginia Supreme Court. -- Electoral board denies W&M student's appeal (AP)

Can a pardon make a candidate/felon retroactively eligible?

The Indiana Court of Appeals ruled Friday that candidates cannot assume office if they have felony convictions at the time of their candidacy, even if a governor's pardon later erases the convictions.

At issue is the Madison County Council race in 2002, in which Franklin E. Patterson defeated incumbent Daniel W. Dykes. After the election, it was learned that Patterson had a 1974 felony conviction that should have barred him from running for office. The Madison Superior Court barred him from taking office and ordered Dykes to continue in the spot until the next election in 2006. -- Court rules felon ineligible for office despite pardon (Indianapolis Star)

Thanks to Marci Oddi who allerted me to this (via an early morning email) and posted excerpts from the decision on her Indiana Law Blog (2nd case summary) yesterday.

Can a pardon make a candidate/felon retroactively eligible?

The Indiana Court of Appeals ruled Friday that candidates cannot assume office if they have felony convictions at the time of their candidacy, even if a governor's pardon later erases the convictions.

At issue is the Madison County Council race in 2002, in which Franklin E. Patterson defeated incumbent Daniel W. Dykes. After the election, it was learned that Patterson had a 1974 felony conviction that should have barred him from running for office. The Madison Superior Court barred him from taking office and ordered Dykes to continue in the spot until the next election in 2006. -- Court rules felon ineligible for office despite pardon (Indianapolis Star)

Thanks to Marci Oddi who allerted me to this (via an early morning email) and posted excerpts from the decision on her Indiana Law Blog (2nd case summary) yesterday.

March 12, 2004

Prisoners of the Census

Peter Wagner an Open Society Institute Soros Justice Fellow working to quantify the impact on legislative redistricting of the Census Bureau counting urban prisoners as residents of the rural towns that host the prisons. He has emailed me, "You might be interested in my website: (http://www.prisonersofthecensus.org/index.shtml). It has more information including maps showing the impact of prisoner counts on legislative districts and a weekly fact of the week column. Model legislation and research on how this plays out in additional states is now underway." Looks like an interesting site. Check it out.

Prisoners of the Census

Peter Wagner an Open Society Institute Soros Justice Fellow working to quantify the impact on legislative redistricting of the Census Bureau counting urban prisoners as residents of the rural towns that host the prisons. He has emailed me, "You might be interested in my website: (http://www.prisonersofthecensus.org/index.shtml). It has more information including maps showing the impact of prisoner counts on legislative districts and a weekly fact of the week column. Model legislation and research on how this plays out in additional states is now underway." Looks like an interesting site. Check it out.

"Lawmakers press against touchscreens"

Two California lawmakers' call Thursday for a halt to touchscreen voting -- the nation's first such step back from e-voting -- probably comes too late.

With more than 40 percent of California voters casting ballots on touchscreen machines, electronic voting already may be too deeply rooted in the state's elections for a wholesale switch to other voting systems by November.

Local elections officials and consultants said they doubted that the voting industry could supply thousands of new optical-scanning machines for California precincts now equipped with touchscreens.

"You don't have a lot of time. To try to decertify and get something new is putting a lot of strain on the election process," said Kimball Brace, president of Election Data Services, a Washington, D.C.-based consultant on voting systems. -- Lawmakers press against touchscreens (Oakland Tribune Online)

Yes, that was the headline. I'm not making this up, as Dave Barry says.

"Lawmakers press against touchscreens"

Two California lawmakers' call Thursday for a halt to touchscreen voting -- the nation's first such step back from e-voting -- probably comes too late.

With more than 40 percent of California voters casting ballots on touchscreen machines, electronic voting already may be too deeply rooted in the state's elections for a wholesale switch to other voting systems by November.

Local elections officials and consultants said they doubted that the voting industry could supply thousands of new optical-scanning machines for California precincts now equipped with touchscreens.

"You don't have a lot of time. To try to decertify and get something new is putting a lot of strain on the election process," said Kimball Brace, president of Election Data Services, a Washington, D.C.-based consultant on voting systems. -- Lawmakers press against touchscreens (Oakland Tribune Online)

Yes, that was the headline. I'm not making this up, as Dave Barry says.

Maybe we should "offshore" the election to India

Thanks to electronic voting machines (EVMs), which are to be used countrywide [in India] in this election, invalid votes will be just about eliminated. As compared to a total 1.91% invalid votes recorded in the 1999 Lok Sabha election, 1.86% in 1998 and 2.44% in 1996 parliamentary poll, the invalid vote percentage this time may be as low as 0.01 or 0.02% of the total votes polled.

While EVM machines will make sure there are no invalid votes -- they record the first vote even if two or more buttons are pressed at a time with the help of in-built micro sensors -- the minuscule percentage of invalid votes will be on account of postal ballots to be used by diplomats and personnel on poll duty.

The success of the EVMs in eliminating invalid votes is evident from the experience in constituencies that voted electronically in the last two Lok Sabha election. Take for example, Delhi , where use of EVMs in all 7 parliamentary constituencies in 1999 recorded no invalid votes or Pondicherry which also had nil invalid votes. -- No more invalid votes (Economic Times)

Maybe we should "offshore" the election to India

Thanks to electronic voting machines (EVMs), which are to be used countrywide [in India] in this election, invalid votes will be just about eliminated. As compared to a total 1.91% invalid votes recorded in the 1999 Lok Sabha election, 1.86% in 1998 and 2.44% in 1996 parliamentary poll, the invalid vote percentage this time may be as low as 0.01 or 0.02% of the total votes polled.

While EVM machines will make sure there are no invalid votes -- they record the first vote even if two or more buttons are pressed at a time with the help of in-built micro sensors -- the minuscule percentage of invalid votes will be on account of postal ballots to be used by diplomats and personnel on poll duty.

The success of the EVMs in eliminating invalid votes is evident from the experience in constituencies that voted electronically in the last two Lok Sabha election. Take for example, Delhi , where use of EVMs in all 7 parliamentary constituencies in 1999 recorded no invalid votes or Pondicherry which also had nil invalid votes. -- No more invalid votes (Economic Times)

March 10, 2004

TalkLeft on ex-felon voting

TalkLeft has an interesting item,
Disenfranchised Felons: Fox Mentions TalkLeft.

How the Russians encourage voter registration

Speaking of great democracies, here's this item from Russia noted Monday by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

A Russian press account reported: "In order to assure a sufficiently high turnout for the 14 March presidential election, the health care directorate of the Khabarovsk Krai administration has ordered local hospitals not to admit patients who do not have certificates of voter registration from the local election commission."

Vote or die? -- At the FCC, They Ought to Be in Pictures (washingtonpost.com)

Votewatch

Votewatchis a nonprofit non-partisan organization of citizen volunteers, statisticians, lawyers, technologists, journalists and election officials who monitor public elections in the U.S.A., analyze patterns, and make their findings public prior to the certification of the election.

Votewatch seeks citizen observers and reports from voters who have problems. If you are interested, go to the web site and sign up.

March 9, 2004

Kerry to be proactive on election problems

John Kerry is determined not to lose Florida's 27 electoral votes in a swamp of recounts and recriminations this fall, vowing to mount an early legal challenge in any district that might repeat the problems that bedeviled Democratic supporters in 2000.

"Not only do we want a record level of turnout to vote, we want to guarantee that every vote is counted," the presumptive Democratic nominee told about 500 people at a town hall meeting Monday.

Kerry rarely mentions the legal battle over the 2000 election, but he did so repeatedly in the state that was the epicenter four years ago. Responding to a voter who asked, "What can you do to prevent them from stealing the election again?", Kerry, a lawyer and former Massachusetts prosecutor, said his campaign was assembling a legal team to examine districts that had problems.

"We're going to pre-check it, we're going to have the legal team in place. ... We're going to take injunctions where necessary ahead of time. We'll pre-challenge if necessary," the four-term Massachusetts senator said. -- Kerry prepared in case of Fla. problems (AP)

Pennsylvania high court voids most third-party delivery of absentee ballots

Voters who aren't disabled or ill shouldn't plan on anyone but a postal worker turning in their absentee ballots.

The [Pennsylvania] state Supreme Court has struck down a long-standing practice by election boards across the state that allowed able-bodied absentee voters to have someone else turn in their ballots if they couldn't mail them or deliver them in person.

In its ruling Monday, the Supreme Court said that a lower state court's ruling allowed the third-party delivery of votes for the disabled or people too ill to vote, but that there was no such provision for non-disabled voters.

The prohibition of the so-called third-party deliveries was needed as a safeguard against fraud, the court said. -- State's highest court bars some deliveries of absentee ballots (AP)

Prairie View students vote

Election monitors are overseeing voting in Waller County this Election Day. This comes after months of controversy over whether students at Prairie View A&M University have the right to vote.

All was quiet at Prairie View A&M Tuesday with no classes, very few students on campus because of Spring Break, but it is also election day.

And the limousines are rolling to the polls. "It was nice," says one student. "I mean, it was really nice to get a ride to come vote."

To encourage the students who are on campus to vote, the limousines were shuttling them from a barbecue to the polls, courtesy of the three African-American candidates who are running on the Republican ticket. -- After lengthy struggle Prairie View A&M students hit the polls (KHOU.com)

Votes for minors?

In California

Teenagers too young to drive would be able to vote in California -- under a proposed state constitutional amendment.

The measure would grant 16-year-olds a half vote and 14-year-olds a quarter of a vote in state elections beginning in 2006.

State Senator John Vasconcellos is one of four co-sponsors of the proposal.

The 71-year-old Democrat says the Internet, cell phones and multi-channel T-V make today's teenagers the best informed ever. -- Calif. teens could get half of a vote in state elections (AP)

In Maine

Without debate, the [Maine] Senate decided to go along with the House and approve a bill allowing 17-year-olds to vote in Maine primary elections, provided they turn 18 in time for the general election. -- Senate agrees to lower voting age in primaries (AP)

In the United Kingdom

Ministers came under cross party pressure tonight to lower the voting age from 18 to 16.

The call came in a Commons debate launched jointly by the Scottish and Welsh nationalist parties.

Opening for the SNP, Angus Robertson (Moray) described the right to vote as “the biggest outstanding issue which disconnects younger people from active democracy”. -- Lower Voting Age to 16, Say Nationalists (PA News, UK)

Arizona Secretary of State objects to court-ordered redistricting timetable

[Arizona] Secretary of State Jan Brewer wants this year's legislative elections run under last year's redistricting map -- one that gives the advantage to Republicans.

Brewer filed an affidavit Monday with Maricopa County Superior Court saying there is not enough time to finalize the proposed new districts and actually conduct the Sept. 7 primary. She said that, in a worst-case scenario, all the legal issues surrounding who can run for office would not be resolved until July 21 -- only 15 days before early voting begins.

But the move will get a fight from Democrats who successfully fought to get Judge Kenneth Fields to rule that the current district lines are illegal. Rep. Steve Gallardo, D-Phoenix, a plaintiff in that lawsuit, said the record of prior elections shows there is enough time. ...

Attorney Paul Eckstein who represented the successful challengers said Brewer and the county officials are being overly alarmist.

He pointed out that in 2002 it took until May 30 for a panel of three federal judges to approve the maps used that year and yet the election managed to come off without incident. Eckstein said the state can follow a similar procedure this time, eliminating the need for a 60-day Department of Justice Review. -- State elections chief says not enough time to use redrawn legislative map (Arizona Daily Sun)

March 8, 2004

Disability groups sue California, four counties over access to voting services

Disabled voters and three advocacy groups on Monday sued California Secretary of State Kevin Shelley and four counties, alleging they violated federal and state laws by failing to provide touchscreen services for those most in need.

Eleven disabled voters were joined by the American Association of People with Disabilities, the California Council of the Blind Inc., and California Foundation for Independent Living Centers in the lawsuit filed in federal court.

They demanded that disabled voters have access to voting services in the November election unlike the March 2 primary where they needed help from other people to cast their ballot.

"The point of this lawsuit is to remedy the violations of federal law that occurred on March 2 and make sure they don't happen again this November," attorney John McDermott said. -- SignOnSanDiego.com >Lawsuit claims Shelley, four Calif. counties denied voting rights to disabled (AP)

"And isn't a vote a bit more valuable than a sausage biscuit?"

That's the way business works these days. If a transaction takes place there's a record, and a customer gets a record of that transaction.

Currently across the nation, in many places, you don't get a record for one very important transaction: your vote. ...

Reforms could cause a lot of headaches for election officials, who only want to see a fair and accurate vote. A paper receipt could be one of those headaches. But in the end our system absolutely depends on faith, faith that a vote cast reflects the intent of the voter and is counted. If we lose that, we're going to have a lot more problems than a headache.

A paper receipt seems to be a step in the right direction.

You get them for everything else.

And isn't a vote a bit more valuable than a sausage biscuit? -- editorial, Asheville (NC) Citizen-Times

March 6, 2004

DOJ objects to partisan elections for Charleston SC school board

Charleston County School Board candidates won't have to declare a political party or run in a primary in November now that the U.S. Justice Department has determined it would be harder for minority candidates to win seats under partisan elections.

The Justice Department decision prevents the state from implementing a law passed last year making school board elections partisan. The state has the option to appeal.

School board members celebrated the decision Friday. -- Decision prevents partisan school vote (Charleston Post & Courier)

The letter of objection is here. The letter is worth reading.

One wins, one loses right to register in Williamsburg

A College of William and Mary student won the right Friday to file for the Williamsburg City Council race after a judge ruled in his favor, but a second student was rejected by the same judge.

Williamsburg-James City County Circuit Court Judge Samuel Powell ordered the city's voter registrar, R. Wythe Davis, to allow Luther Lowe to file for the May 4 election. ...

But Powell said Lowe's contract with the Virginia National Guard was evidence of his intention to stay in the area indefinitely, qualifying him to vote here. ...

The judge ruled against Serene Maria Alami, however. Alami, 20, a junior from Roanoke majoring in sociology and religion, testified that she also planned to stay in Williamsburg indefinitely and hopes to attend law school at W&M.

She conceded that she would have to move out of her dorm at the end of the semester, but said she hoped to find an internship in Williamsburg and rent an apartment. She acknowledged that she might accept an internship elsewhere.

Powell said that didn't meet the standard of intending to stay indefinitely. -- One W&M student wins vote chance; 2nd turned down (Hampton Roads Daily Press)

Voter registrations drives -- and phone calls

Republicans have stepped up their push to register three million voters this year with the help of an election-year prop -- an 18-wheel truck full of laptops, plasma TV's and multimedia equipment -- designed to help communicate the party's message.

Not to be outdone, the Democrats have also begun an effort to appeal to new voters. They say they are planning to register one million of them, and this week volunteers for a new political action committee, started calling unregistered Pennsylvania residents.

The truck, known as Reggie the Registration Rig, will travel around the Southeast from March 6 through March 13 with the goal of registering one million voters. On Friday, the truck made its first stop, at Marshall University in Huntington, W.Va. ...

Volunteers for the Democratic PAC, ReDefeatBush.com, are using a more personal and direct approach. On Tuesday night, 95 of them gathered in a cozy bar in the Adams Morgan section of Washington, using their own cellphones to reach out to nearly 1,000 unregistered voters in swing states, starting with Pennsylvania. They said they used a list of potential voters in Luzerne County — an area pinned down through the ZIP codes of those most likely to be Democrats, based on voters currently registered with the party. -- Republicans and Democrats Step Up Efforts to Register Millions of Voters (nytimes.com)

March 3, 2004

More controversy in Ireland over e-voting

In response to feedback from society members and the general public on the ICS's [Irish Computer Society] statement of 20 February regarding electronic voting, the ICS Council has appointed a panel of serving and former Council members to consider the points raised and review its position. -- Irish Computer Society calls for audit trail in e-voting system (Politics.ie)


The Fine Gael Leader, Enda Kenny T.D., today challenged the Taoiseach on the exclusion of the Ombudsman from the Commission announced to examine and report on the accuracy and secrecy of the proposed new Electronic Voting system. The Taoiseach refused to give the reasons behind the omission of the Ombudsman, despite the inclusion of other members of the Standards in Public Office Commission on the new body.

"The exclusion of the Ombudsman from this new Commission is the latest in a line of decisions by this Government that undermines rather than reinforces confidence in the new Electronic Voting system for June. At every stage of the rushed process to introduce a new voting system this Government have acted in a way that raises questions about their handling of the matter." -- E-Voting : Kenny Challenges Taoiseach on Exclusion of Ombudsman from New Voting Commission (Politics.ie)

A little translation is in order. The Taoiseach is the Prime Minister. T.D.'s are members of the lower house of parliament.

Electronic voting problems reported from Super Tuesday

Frozen screens and malfunctioning computers plagued some Super Tuesday voters who tried to cast electronic ballots, and experts predict such problems will be repeated on a national scale in November. ...

Kimball Brace, president of Washington, D.C.-based political consulting firm Election Data Services, said it's unrealistic to expect thousands of poll workers nationwide to get up to speed on complicated equipment immediately.

"Eventually, things will go smoother, but the first couple times will have bugs, no matter what system you switch to," Brace said.

In November, at least 50 million people will vote on touch screens, compared with 55 million using paper, punch cards or lever machines, according to Election Data Services. --
Snafus Aplenty in E-Voting (AP)

Who counts but cannot vote?

In the University of Pennsylvania Law Review, Rosanna Taormina describes how disenfranchisement “laws affect the constitutionality of redistricting procedures in state and federal elections” and calls on Congress or the Court to “protect law-abiding citizens from state legislatures that unfairly take advantage of the existence of a disenfranchised population.” Her article is Defying One-Person, One-Vote: Prisoners and the "Usual Residence" Principle. She argues,

At year end 2002, the Department of Justice estimated that 6.7 million people were on probation, in jail or prison, or on parole—one in every thirty-two adults.108 The Census Bureau also determined that approximately two million people resided in correctional institutions at the time of the 2000 Census.109 Although these individuals cannot vote in most states, they are nonetheless included in the population figures used to calculate the size and location of congressional districts throughout the state. The number of prisoners, in effect, inflates the population of the congressional district in which they are counted. As a result, an individual’s vote in a rural congressional district that contains a densely populated correctional institution is weighted more heavily than an individual’s vote in a prisonless district. 110 The inflation of one citizen’s voting power at the expense of another’s is precisely what the Supreme Court’s one-person, one-vote jurisprudence forbids.

Thanks to Marc Mauer of the Sentencing Project for the link.

British campaign for prisoners' voting rights

A campaign has been lauched to try to overturn a 134-year-old law which deprives prisoners of the vote.

Mark Oaten is backing the campaign
Politicians from the three major parties were joined by church leaders and prison reform groups in the call to reverse the ban.

Mark Oaten, Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman, said: "If we want people to return to their communities as law-abiding citizens, we must encourage them to play a positive part in shaping their futures by their own efforts and commitment."

He was joined in calls to restore the vote by Peter Bottomley, a former Conservative minister, and senior Labour MP David Winnick. Ex-offenders' charity Unlock and the Prison Reform Trust are also backing the campaign. -- Prisoners 'should be allowed to vote' (Telegraph)

Thanks to Marc Mauer of the Sentencing Project for the link.

March 1, 2004

"Trust no one"

More than two centuries of elections in the United States have resulted in paper-based voting systems secured by a multitude of checks and procedures. New electronic voting systems require voters to trust computers and the people who program them, a trust that computer security experts say is unwarranted.

The subject is not hypothetical. Millions of voters will cast ballots on electronic machines today in the biggest test so far of the technology. To address security concerns, researchers are proposing new ways of voting that do not require voter trust in people or software.

"A trustworthy system of elections must rest on one central principle: trust no one," said Dr. Douglas W. Jones, a professor of computer science at the University of Iowa and a member of the Iowa Board of Examiners for Voting Machines and Electronic Voting Systems. -- Did Your Vote Count? New Coded Ballots May Prove It Did (New York Times)

The article describes several proposals for electronic systems that would provide increased security for electronic voting.

More security tomorrow

With a record number of voters casting electronic ballots on Super Tuesday, election officials from California to Maryland are beefing up security to prevent problems ranging from software glitches to hackers.

In California, new security measures range from random tests of touch-screen machines by independent computer experts to a recommendation that poll workers prevent voters from carrying cell phones or other wireless devices into voting booths.

At least 10 million people in at least two dozen states are expected to cast primary ballots on machines built by Diebold, Sequoia Voting Systems, Electronic Systems & Software and other vendors.

And the electronic voting trend is accelerating: By November's presidential election, at least 50 million people will vote on touch-screens, compared with 55 million using paper, punch cards or lever machines, according to Washington-based Election Data Services. -- Security Increased for Tuesday's E-Voting (AP)

February 29, 2004

India will use electronic voting machines exclusively

Hoping ‘‘India shines in conducting its elections,’’ Chief Election Commissioner T S Krishnamurthy today set the largest democratic exercise rolling by announcing the dates for General Elections to the 14th Lok Sabha [House of the People in the Indian Parliament]. Simultaneous Assembly elections will be held in Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Orissa and Sikkim.

Votes will be cast in four phases, spread over 20 days: on April 20 and 26, May 5 and May 10. For the first time, only electronic voting machines will be used across the country. -- Election countdown begins, 50 days to go (Express News Service, India)

February 28, 2004

Can you vote on a lottery ticket?

A proven national system for printing ballots already exists and we use it every day, said Dan Sullivan, Fine Gael candidate for Artane today (Friday).

"The government is telling us that adding a printout system to ensure that the votes cast by the electorate is not possible due to reliability issues with printers. Yet each week the National Lottery handles 4 million individual transactions through its national network of machines located with 3,500 agents. ...

“I am not suggesting that Lotto machines be used to count or print out votes. These machines simply prove the point that there are existing machines that can regularly and reliably printout more than is required for a Voter Verification Audit Trail to be viable. The truth is that the government negotiated a bad deal and can’t fix it without costing the electorate even more money.” -- National Lottery system proves electronic voting with paper trail is possible (Politics.ie - The Irish Politics Website)

Irish electronic voting forgets the visually impaired

Labour Party Deputy for Dublin North, Sean Ryan, has today stated that the Government's proposals on electronic voting do absolutely nothing to improve voting facilities for the visually impaired. Deputy Ryan claimed it was clear they had totally forgotten about this section of the community only a matter of weeks after the close of the European Year of People with Disabilities. -- E-voting proposals do nothing for visually impaired - Labour (Politics.ie - The Irish Politics Website)

"It's not the voting that's democracy, it's the counting."

Adam Cohen has a column in Sunday's New York Times, Making Votes Count: Editorial Observer: The Results Are in and the Winner Is . . . or Maybe Not. It discusses the 2002 Senate races in Georgia and Nebraska and their "mythic status" among those complaining about electronic voting machines.

A healthy democracy must avoid even the appearance of corruption. The Georgia and Nebraska elections fail this test. Once voting software is certified, it should not be changed -- not eight times, not once. A backup voting method should be available, so if electronic machines fail or are compromised shortly before an election, they can be dropped.

Votes must be counted by people universally perceived as impartial. States should not buy machines from companies that have ties to political parties, and recent company executives should not be running for elections on those machines.

And every voter should see a paper receipt. This "voter-verified paper trail" should be retained, and made available for recounts -- a low-tech check on the reliability of electronic voting. Most Americans would not do business with a bank that refused to provide written statements or A.T.M. receipts. We should be no less demanding at the polls.

After all, as Tom Stoppard has observed, "It's not the voting that's democracy, it's the counting."

In Saturday's NYT, the news columns carried this story:

Millions of voters in 10 states will cast ballots on Tuesday in the single biggest test so far of new touchscreen voting machines that have been billed as one of the best answers to the Florida election debacle of 2000. But many computer security experts worry that the machines could allow democracy to be hacked.

Here in Georgia, along with Maryland and California, an estimated six million people will be using machines from Diebold Election Systems, which has been the focus of the biggest controversy.

Independent studies have found flaws in Diebold's system that researchers say might allow hackers or corrupt insiders to reprogram the touchscreens or computers that tally the votes, without leaving a trace.

Without a paper record of every vote or some other way to verify voters' choices after the fact, these experts warn, elections may lose the public's trust. -- Electronic Vote Faces Big Test of Its Security (New York Times)

Arizona Senate committee approves voter i.d. bill

A Senate committee approved a proposal Wednesday to require voters to show their driver's licenses or state-issued identifications to cast ballots at polling places.

A similar bill was approved last year by the Legislature, but Democratic Gov. Janet Napolitano vetoed it, saying it was a deterrent to voter participation.

This year's bill was approved 5-4 Wednesday by the Senate's Judiciary Committee. -- Capitol briefs (Arizona Republic)

Mississippi Senate passes voter i.d. bill

Mississippi voters would be required to show a driver's license or other identification to cast ballots in all elections, under a bill the state Senate passed Thursday.

After emotional debate, the Senate voted 30-18 for Senate Bill 2250.

While Mississippi doesn't require ID to vote in state and local elections, starting with the March 9 presidential and congressional primaries, voters will have to show ID to vote in federal elections as part of the federal Help America Vote Act.

Advocates say the Senate legislation would curb voter fraud, while critics say it would only intimidate voters, especially African Americans. -- Senate passes bill to require voter ID (Jackson Clarion-Ledger)

DA apologizes to Prairie View students

In a proposed agreement awaiting a federal judge's signature, Waller County District Attorney Oliver Kitzman reaffirms the right of Prairie View A&M University students to vote locally and promises to meet with them before the March 9 primary.

He also apologizes for what he terms "threatening" behavior toward students seeking to register to vote in local elections.

"I have come to realize," he said, "that, although it was never my intention, my actions and statements beginning with the letter I sent to Waller County Election Administrator Lela Loewe in November and continuing with my response to the Attorney General opinion earlier this month, taken in the historical context in which they occurred, have been understandably perceived by some PVAMU students as threatening.

"I want the PVAMU community to know that I apologize, and I welcome them as participants in the democratic institutions in Waller County." -- Waller County DA apologizes in vote flap (Houston Chronicle)

U of Alabama SGA Senate considers resolution against election fraud

I'm happy to see that the SGA Senate at my alma mater will consider "a resolution condemning any fraud, misrepresentation, violence and threats that may occur in March's SGA election."

The resolution, written by Culverhouse College of Commerce and Business Administration Sen. Ryan Smith, cites past incidents where misconduct tainted the UA election process.

Among the acts mentioned are the assault of 1993 SGA presidential candidate Minda Riley and the 2002 actions of a now-defunct, unregistered organization called Students for a Better SGA. ...

The resolution calls for any guilty candidates disqualified from a race to be prohibited from seeking office for the remainder of their time at the Capstone. It also asks for the orientation for prospective candidates to be extremely clear on what the Student Elections Board considers a violation. -- Senate to vote on election resolution (Crimson White, U of Alabama)

Despite my tongue in cheek attitude, this is a serious problem. Last year's election was voided by the university administration because of various chicanery. (You can search for the posts I had on the events by using the Search feature on the right side of the main page.)

"A vote count above reproach"

This little item was from the Roses & Raspberries column of the Battle Creek (Mich.) Enquirer -- in the Roses section:

To Takoma Park, Md. The city council passed a resolution urging state legislators to require a voter-verified paper audit-trail ballot for independent audits and recounts. The Center for Voting and Democracy, based in Takoma Park, also supports inclusive debates, instant-runoff voting, constitutional safeguards for voting rights and other election reforms. So it's a good birthplace for - as one local leader put it - "a nationwide movement of cities demanding a vote count that is above reproach." - John A. La Pietra, Marshall

Election tampering or just helping?

When Deborah Williams did not receive her absentee ballot, she was told by the board of elections that her ballot was being held for Jamie Gilkey, the 3rd ward Democratic leader.

As it turns out, Williams' ballot application is among at least 145 on file at the county board with instructions that they be held for Gilkey, all written in his distinctive scrawl.

It's not unusual for candidates' campaign teams to arrange for some voters who can't get to the polls to receive personal delivery of ballots, and election experts say there's no state law limiting the number that can be picked up and returned by one person.

But the apparent tampering with Williams' address -- and the designation of so many Democratic primary ballots for Gilkey's stewardship -- is raising concerns with local election officials. -- Altered ballots cast doubts (Albany, N.Y. Times Union

The headline is inaccurate -- no ballots have been altered, only absentee ballot applications.

3 more W&M students sue for registration

The Virginia chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union has filed federal lawsuits on behalf of three more students at the College of William and Mary, trying to win them the right to register to vote in Williamsburg. ...

All four students started campaigns this winter to run for three City Council seats in a May 4 election. They have run into problems meeting the residency requirements for registering to vote in the city, where only residents can run for the City Council. ...

The cases are scheduled for a hearing at 11:30 a.m. Tuesday before U.S. District Judge Raymond A. Jackson in Norfolk. Tuesday is also the deadline for council candidates to register as voters and turn in petitions necessary to be on the ballot. -- Three more William & Mary students sue for voting rights (AP)

February 27, 2004

Virginia nixes felon voting fix

Legislators rejected a proposal Friday to allow Virginians to decide whether to make it easier for nonviolent felons to get their voting rights restored.

The House Privileges and Elections Committee voted 14-8 to kill Sen. Yvonne B. Miller's legislation to place the issue on the November ballot.

The Virginia Constitution allows only the governor to restore the felons' rights after they serve their sentence. Miller, D-Norfolk, said about 400,000 Virginians have yet to have their rights restored. ...

To get a constitutional amendment on the ballot, the General Assembly must pass the proposal in two sessions with an intervening legislative election. Miller's proposal passed last year. -- Proposal on restoration of rights rejected (AP)

Sinn Fein complains of annual registration requirement in Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland's Electoral Office is carrying out an annual "shredding' of the province's voting register, Sinn Fein vice president Pat Doherty claimed tonight.

The West Tyrone MP attacked legislation brought in by the British Government in May 2002 which compelled voters in Northern Ireland to register each year, claiming it represented "the biggest gerrymander since partition."

Mr Doherty alleged: "This legislation is primarily aimed at trying to ring fence the electoral growth of Sinn Fein in the Six Counties (Northern Ireland)." --- Sinn Fein Accuses Government of 'Gerrymandering' (PA News, UK)

The effect of the annual registration requirement -- used in Northern Ireland, but nowhere else in the United Kingdom -- is shown in an official report discussed in this BBC news story from December of last year.

Measures to combat voting fraud in Northern Ireland have had a negative impact on young people and those in poorer areas, according to a report.

The study published on Tuesday was carried out by the Electoral Commission earlier this year, but its release was delayed until after the assembly election.

The need to register every year was brought in by the Electoral Fraud Act 2002.

In the past, one form was given to every household, but now everyone has to register individually.

The commission said this measure tended to have an adverse impact on disadvantaged, marginalised and hard to reach groups.

It meant young people, students, people with learning disabilities and those living in poorer areas were less likely to register, according to the government-appointed watchdog. -- Vote fraud measures criticised (BBC News)

ABA and U of Ala law students to register voters

The American Bar Association and University of Alabama law students will work together to register and educate voters under a program announced Friday.

Students will sign up new voters and distribute 40,000 cards developed by the lawyers' group to inform people of their rights and responsibilities as voters. -- Alabama, bar association to work on voter registration (AP)

February 26, 2004

W&M student sues to register

The American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia filed a lawsuit Thursday on behalf of a College of William and Mary student who was not allowed to register to vote in Williamsburg.

Seth Saunders also wants to run for a seat on City Council in the May election. To do that he must be registered himself and have collected 125 signatures in support of his candidacy by March 2.

The ACLU asked U.S. District Court in Newport News to order the Williamsburg voter registrar to permit him to register immediately.

Saunders lives in Williamsburg, but his mother lives in Tappahannock and his father lives in Hanover County. He was told to register in Hanover because his father claims him as a dependent for income tax purposes. -- William & Mary student sues for voting rights (AP)

February 25, 2004

Arguments in the South African constitutional court on prisoner voting

There is still time for the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) to register prisoners to vote for the April general election although the voters' roll has already closed, the Constitutional Court heard on Wednesday.

The court would need to provide a legal framework to allow the registration of certain categories of prisoners who were excluded from voting, said advocate Marumo Moerane, SC, who was acting for the IEC. ...

Advocate Vincent Maleka, on behalf of the applicants, conceded that as a matter of principle the legislature was entitled to limit the right to vote if there was a "demonstrable justification for the limit", but in this case argued that there was no legitimate justification.

He said the amendment to the Electoral Act promulgated in December 2003 violated two constitutional rights of prisoners: the right to vote and the right to equality.

Advocate Vas Soni, SC, representing the minister of home affairs, said prisoners should not be placed in a more favourable position than others who could not vote.

The government would be sending the wrong message if it made special arrangements for prisoners.

The argument was being heard by a full bench headed by Chief Justice Arthur Chaskalson.

Chaskalson said the issue of prisoners' right to vote seems to have split courts around the world. -- Still time to register inmates (News24.com, South Africa)

February 24, 2004

South African prisoners seek right to vote

The [South African] Constitutional Court will hear an urgent application on Wednesday for a case challenging various sections of the Electoral Act to be heard before the court. ...

The applicants will also ask for an order directing the Independent Electoral Commission and the minister of correctional services to ensure all qualifying prisoners get a reasonable opportunity to register as voters and vote in the April elections.

The applicants will be challenging an amendment to the Electoral Act promulgated in December which effectively disenfranchised people serving prison sentences without the option of a fine.

The applicants claim this violates a citizen's right to vote and the right to equality enshrined in the constitution.

They also argue that the amendment offers an arbitrary way to decide who can and cannot vote. -- Prisoners go to ConCourt (News24.com, South Africa)

February 23, 2004

How hard will getting on 51 ballots be for Nader?

I asked Richard Winger, editor of Ballot Access News, for his assessment of Nader's task in getting on the ballot in 51 jurisdictions. Here is his answer:

The big media tend to think it's harder to get on the ballot, than it really is. A Libertarian presidential candidate appeared on all 51 ballots in 2000, 1996 and 1992. And Libertarians never received any form of federal election funding.

I have seen Reform Party e-mails today, which suggest that many Reform Party people are enthusiastic about Nader. If Nader can motivate volunteers to carry out petitioning, I don't think he will have any particular trouble. Since he won't pay people to petition, though, if he doesn't have a devoted core of volunteers, he is in trouble.

Still to be ascertained is whether various state Green Parties will put him on the ballot. Also, the Natural Law Party is on in eleven states, including California, and it might nominate him. It seems very likely that the New York Independence Party will nominate him. The Peace & Freedom Party of California might nominate him. The Mountain Party of West Virginia seems likely to nominate him.

Supreme Court rips the blanket primary

The state of Washington on Monday lost an appeal to the Supreme Court to save its wide-open primary election system, an expected setback that forces state leaders to find a new way for political parties to choose candidates for office.

The high court had already ruled that so-called "blanket primaries," which had also been used in Alaska and California, are unconstitutional..

Washington, the last holdout for blanket primaries, argued its system was different and urged the court to intervene to keep it intact. Justices declined, without comment. -- Court Won't Take Primary Election Case (AP)

February 21, 2004

NAACP does not like North Carolina's primary date

The state NAACP has filed a complaint over North Carolina's delayed primary elections, saying the July 20 date will disenfranchise thousands of college students, particularly those at historically black schools.

The voting also falls in a period when many families take vacations, leaving them out as well, state NAACP President Melvin "Skip" Alston said Thursday.

"That's the worst month they could have chosen," Alston said.

He said his organization has lodged a complaint with the U.S. Justice Department. -- NAACP objects to delayed N.C. voting (AP)

Kerry in the red; Edwards in the black

John Kerry spent more than he raised from donors last month as the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination relied on a $3.5 million infusion of personal cash to keep his campaign financially afloat.

Kerry raised about $4.1 million from contributors and spent $7.1 million, according to his campaign finance report for January, which was released Saturday.

Kerry mortgaged his family's Boston home to finance campaign loans. The campaign began February with $2.1 million in the bank and $7.2 million in debts. ...

Through January, Edwards has raised $22.5 million, including $5 million in public financing.

Edwards has blended campaigning in early primary states with fund raising in profitable places such as New York and Los Angeles. He has additional fund-raisers scheduled in both places before March 2.

Edwards has spent his money as he takes it in; his campaign ended January with $501,163 in the bank and $382,666 in bills to pay. -- Personal loans kept campaign alive (AP)

Self-help paper ballots

Activists in two states launched campaigns to urge voters to cast paper absentee ballots in their March primaries, warning that the electronic, paperless voting machines used in those states are open to fraud and may not count votes accurately.

The California Voter Foundation, a nonprofit, nonpartisan voter education organization, and the Campaign for Verifiable Voting, a Maryland citizens group, cited concerns about insecurities of the electronic voting systems and the lack of paper audit trails to assure voters that their ballots are cast and counted correctly. -- E-Voting Activists: Vote Absentee (Wired News)

February 19, 2004

Injunction on touch-screen voting rejected

A Superior Court judge rejected a legal challenge Wednesday to California's March 2 primary, ruling there wasn't enough evidence that new touch-screen voting machines are vulnerable to hackers.

Judge Raymond Cadei denied a temporary restraining order sought by a group of California voters against electronic voter machine maker Diebold Election Systems. The judge said there wasn't enough proof of security threats to justify interfering in an election just 13 days away.

The plaintiffs, joined by a group of computer programmers, alleged that the voting machines being used in at least 14 counties on March 2 are insecure and could be manipulated to disrupt election results.

County officials expressed relief over the ruling. Many had predicted greater chaos from the proposed last-minute security improvements sought by the legal challenge than from risks of doing nothing. -- Judge rejects Calif. voting challenge (AP)

Surprising results in Michigan's Internet voting

More than 46,000 people took advantage of high-tech voting options for the Feb. 7 Democratic presidential caucuses in Michigan, but not necessarily the people party officials expected.

While Internet voting was thought to be a tool to attract younger voters, an early analysis of the online option shows that wasn't the case, party leaders said Tuesday.

The average age of those voting early and online was between 50 and 60, said state party Chairman Mark Brewer.

"And John Kerry won the Internet vote," he said. "That goes counter to what people previously thought." -- Web vote turnout brought surprises (Detroit Free Press)

Sharpton barred from Louisiana ballot

The Rev. Al Sharpton will remain off the ballot for Louisiana's presidential primary, after a judge Thursday upheld election officials who said Sharpton's application package was riddled with problems that were not corrected before the sign-up deadline.

"The court believes if the candidate's name is not on the ballot, it is because the candidate did not follow the statute," said State District Judge Curtis Calloway, adding that he believed elections officials did everything possible to include Sharpton in the March 9 election. ...

Elections officials said Sharpton didn't follow state law when his campaign sent in the $1,125 filing fee to sign up for the election.

Frances Sims, director of elections, said the candidacy form included only a partial address. It was missing the city, state, zip code, phone number, date of the election and name to appear on the ballot.

However, McKeithen, who didn't attend the hearing, said the major stumbling block involved the campaign check sent to pay the filing fee: it was postdated for Feb. 29, made for the wrong amount and was the wrong type of check. -- Judge refuses to add Sharpton to La. primary ballot (AP)

NYC prisoners = more power for Upstate

Criminals are among New York City's most popular exports. According to a recent study, about 44,000 state prisoners, or two-thirds of the entire state prison population, are from New York City. Yet only 3,000 of these inmates are in state-run jails that are actually located in New York City. The rest are trucked up to state-run prisons upstate. While inconvenient to their relatives, their relocation is a huge benefit, both economically and politically, to rural counties upstate -- at the expense of New York City. ...

The prisoners also supply another unique benefit to the upstate region. They allow it to have more voting power than its population would merit if prisoners were not there. Since prisoners cannot vote but are counted in redistricting, they give upstate the benefits of extra people (and cash) without the locality being obligated to address any of their needs. Legally, residency is generally determined based upon both where one is domiciled and the intent to remain there. So a prisoner taken from his home in New York City and counted in an upstate prison, which he expects to leave as soon as he can, is not really an upstate resident. The census could count such individuals where they once lived, as they do overseas military troops. -- Imprisoned In New York (Gotham Gazette. February, 2004)

February 18, 2004

Voting equipment survey

Kim Brace of Election Data Services, Inc., writes, "We've updated our study of voting equipment usage in the United States for the 2004 general election and have put a press release and related tables on our website While we didn't note it in the press release, we have subsequently calculated that 74.2% of the nation's registered voters will be using the same equipment that they used in the 2000 election. Like before, we have updated our voting equipment map and are offering a special combo price on our historical 1980-2002 poster with the 2004 map."

Felony Disfranchisement Resources

Marc Mauer of the Sentencing Project sends these links and resources:

Report on Latino Disenfranchisement
MALDEF has just released a new report, Diminished Voting Power in the Latino Community, that provides the first estimates of Latino disenfranchisement in the U.S. The report examines rates of disenfranchisement in ten states and finds that Latinos are generally disenfranchised at higher rates than their presence in the population. See the report at: http://www.sentencingproject.org/pdfs/maldef-rpt.pdf

Legal and Political Analysis
A working paper by Stanford Law Professor Pamela Karlan assesses the legal and philosophical framework of disenfranchisement laws, and proposes a legal strategy for attacking these policies. See Convictions and Doubts: Retribution, Representation, and the Debate Over Felon Disenfranchisement at: http://papers.ssrn.com/paper.taf?abstract_id=484543

Disenfranchisement Impact on African Americans
A new study published in the Virginia Journal of Social Policy and the Law finds that laws in the states with the most restrictive disenfranchisement policies produce diminished voter turnout among non-disenfranchised African Americans as well. “The Locked Ballot Box: The Impact of State Criminal Disenfranchisement Laws on African American Voting Behavior and Implications for Reform,” by Aman McLeod, Ismail White, and Amelia Gavin, appears in the Fall 2003 issue of the journal but is not available on-line.

February 17, 2004

California group sues for paper trail

Two weeks before California's March 2 primary, a group alleging widespread potential security glitches in electronic voting machines is asking a judge to make counties install new safeguards before voting begins.

Citizens from Solano, Sacramento, San Diego and Stanislaus counties filed their request for a temporary restraining order Tuesday in Sacramento County Superior Court. It asks that up to 18 counties using machines made by Ohio-based Diebold Election Systems add more safeguards to protect them against hackers.

Court officials scheduled a hearing on the issue at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, along with an accompanying lawsuit seeking to stop the state and Diebold from using "insecure" voting machinery. California counties are using three versions of Diebold systems to register votes and the company's software to tally them. -- Group wants judge to order upgrades to e-vote machines (AP)

Irish government gives a litte on electronic voting

The [Irish] Government has been forced to make significant concessions to its plans to introduce electronic voting throughout the State in June, following Opposition objections. However, Fine Gael, the Labour Party and the Greens last night jointly insisted that a paper record of each vote would have to be kept for their concerns to be met, writes Mark Hennessy, Political Correspondent

Under the changes proposed last night, an independent statutory panel will be set up to verify the security of the system in advance of the elections. In addition, it will monitor the operation of the 6,500 NEDAP/Powervote voting machines and the counting of the votes cast in all elections to come.

Despite repeated declarations that it was not necessary, new legislation will be rushed through the Oireachtas to ensure that electronic voting results cannot be challenged. -- Opposition forces changes to electronic voting plan (The Irish Times)

"Prairie View students file another voting rights suit"

Some Prairie View A&M students Tuesday filed another lawsuit over voting in local elections.
The second lawsuit, filed in federal court in Houston, is in response to a recent decision by Waller County officials.

County authorities reduced the number of days and hours for early voting at a satellite location: a community center on the Prairie View campus.

An attorney for the students says any voting change in Texas must be approved by the Justice Department to show that it doesn't worsen the position of minority voters. -- Prairie View students file another voting rights suit (AP)

Election Assistance Commission

After a drawn-out Senate confirmation process, the four-member commission came into existence last month and had a coming-out event yesterday at the National Association of Secretaries of State conference, despite the federal holiday.

Commission Chairman DeForest "Buster" Soaries Jr. told the states what they most wanted to hear: The commission has a speedy plan to distribute $2.3 billion for technology upgrades.
The 2002 Help America Vote Act required states to file plans to be published in the Federal Register before they could get their money. But without the commission, there was no one to do the publishing. Soaries said the commissioners intend to finish reading the plans by the end of February, send them for printing and have checks cut as soon as mid-May.

But the states don't just want money. They also want guidance on the thorniest problem in elections today, voting security. -- Election Panel Tells States Money Will Be Coming (washingtonpost.com)

North Carolina Democrats' caucus plan

Here is the North Carolina Democratic Party's new plan for selecting delegates using precinct caucuses and county conventions.

February 16, 2004

"English Votes on English Laws"

THERE were renewed calls last night for Scots MPs to be prevented from voting on laws that only affect England, after a study found that a majority of the British public support a ban.

A poll by YouGov on the so-called West Lothian Question found that 66 per cent of English and Welsh voters - and 78 per cent of Scots - thought Scotland’s MPs should only vote on legislation relevant to their constituents.

The issue, which has sparked repeated arguments at Westminster, has come to the fore in recent months with the passage through Parliament of a number of controversial Labour policies. -- The Scotsman

North Carolina drops presidential primary

The state Board of Elections removed the requirement for political parties to hold presidential primaries Monday, clearing the way for North Carolina Democrats to hold April caucuses.

With the state's primary election delayed until July by a battle over legislative districts, the board voted that each recognized political party - Republicans, Democrats and Libertarians - is free to do whatever it needs to select its presidential preference.

"We're getting the state out of the presidential primary," elections board chairman Larry Leake said after a unanimous vote by the five-member panel. "I think it would be within our authority to say that, within this election cycle, it would be impractical or impossible to hold a presidential primary." -- AP Wire

February 13, 2004

"Will electronic systems be more secure than what we've got now?"

Fear of change is a universal human emotion, and it often erupts when new technology comes along to alter an established and comfortable way of doing things.

This fear can sway people away from thoughtful consideration of risks and rewards, pushing them into panic reactions where new ideas are weighed down by unfair expectations.

That's happening right now with electronic voting. ...

Of course, it's essential that elections are protected from malicious interference.

Does that mean we should wait for electronic voting systems that are absolutely secure?

No. But it's the wrong question to ask.

The right question is: Will electronic systems, when implemented with a reasonable degree of caution, be more secure than what we've got now?

The answer is yes. -- Mike Langberg in Mercury News

Electronic voting coming to Ireland, but opposition parties object

The Fine Gael, Labour and Green parties have agreed the text of a motion opposing the Government's plans for the extension of electronic voting. The motion will be debated during Fine Gael's Private Members' time on Tuesday and Wednesday next week.

In recent months, the three main opposition parties have expressed concern at the failure of the Government to consult with, or seek the agreement of, the other parties in Dáil Eireann for the fundamental change in our electoral system.

The motion calls on the Government to immediately defer plans for the use of electronic voting in the European and local elections and to suspend any further related expenditure until an Independent Electoral Commission has been established and has addressed the legitimate concerns of political parties and the public on this issue. ...

The three party leaders said that they were taking this joint initiative to highlight the failure of the Government to ensure public and political confidence in the extension of electronic voting.
-- Politics.ie - The Irish Politics Website

But the Government appears to be going full steam ahead.

WATERFORD’s voters will have their chance to get up to speed on using the new electronic voting system from the beginning of next month, when 200 ballot machines will be distributed around the constituency.

Niall Rooney, Returning Officer for the Waterford Constituency, told the Waterford News & Star that he expected to receive the 200 electronic voting machines in the first week of March. ...

Environment Minister Martin Cullen, whose department is responsible for introducing the electronic voting system, said the campaign aimed to show people how voting with the new system is as easy as switching on a light or a kettle.

He said the experience of using electronic voting in a number of pilot constituencies in the last general election had shown that the system was easier, more efficient and gave improved electoral accuracy and administration. -- Waterford News & Star

February 11, 2004

Whither (whether) Internet voting?

Days before the Michigan Democratic Party announced a wildly successful primary election with the help of Internet voting this weekend, a panel of experts issued the most blunt criticism yet of the state of casting ballots online.

In a report that effectively ended the Pentagon's plan to offer online absentee ballots to more than 100,000 Americans overseas this year, the experts concluded, "There really is no good way to build such a voting system without a radical change in overall architecture of the Internet and the PC."

Avi Rubin, one of the authors of the report and an associate professor at Johns Hopkins University, said recent viruses only heighten concerns.

"Just look at all the worms spreading on the Internet all the time," he said. "Clearly Windows machines are too insecure for voting." -- Newsday.com

Maryland considers bill for paper trails

Taking up one of the most contentious election reform issues facing states around the country, a House of Delegates committee heard a bill yesterday that would force Maryland to upgrade its 16,000 new electronic voting machines to allow voters to verify that their ballots were cast accurately.

Proponents say the legislation would ensure that the $55 million voting system can be trusted when it is rolled out in nearly every precinct in the state in the Democratic presidential primary in three weeks. Opponents say it would add unnecessary expense and extra work to a cumbersome new process.

Del. Kumar P. Barve, a sponsor of the bill that requires a "voter-verified paper trail," said that as an accountant, he finds it imperative to have something tangible to prove the accuracy of votes if the computerized results should be questioned.

"So if there's any reason to doubt an election," the Montgomery County Democrat told the House Ways and Means Committee, "you have a backup." -- Baltimore Sun

BuzzFlash interview on paper trails for electronic voting

BuzzFlash has an interview with Representative Rush Holt on the bill he has introduced to require a paper trail for electronic voting machines.

Wexler's suit on paper trail dismissed

A congressman's lawsuit seeking to require electronic voting machines to produce a paper trail was dismissed Wednesday when a Palm Beach County judge ruled he did not have the standing to sue.

U.S. Rep. Robert Wexler, D-Boca Raton, filed the lawsuit against Florida Secretary of State Glenda E. Hood and Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Theresa LePore, claiming the use of machines that do not produce paper duplicates of the votes cast violates voters' rights.

Without that paper trail, a manual recount isn't possible, Wexler argued.

But Circuit Judge Karen Miller ruled Wexler did not have the standing to file the suit, since he could not prove, either as a citizen or a public official, he had been hurt by the voting system. Wexler's complaints would be better addressed through legislative remedies, her order said.

Wexler said the judge's order seemed to erase Florida voters' ability to challenge the system.

"I see this as the judge dismissing Florida's voters and ... their voting rights," he said. -- AP

February 10, 2004

"E-Vote Machines Drop More Ballots"

Wired News reports:

Six electronic voting machines used in two North Carolina counties lost 436 absentee ballot votes in the 2002 general election because of a software problem, raising increasing doubts about the accuracy and integrity of voting equipment in a presidential election year.

Election Systems & Software said problems with the firmware of its iVotronic touch-screen machines, used in a trial run, lost ballots in two North Carolina precincts during the state's early voting in 2002. ES&S, the largest U.S. maker of election equipment, is also the focus of attention into lost votes last month in Florida during a special election.

More on the North Carolina primary

Richard Winger, editor/owner/guru of Ballot Access News, emailed:

North Carolina State Board of Elections not only postponed the primary, it postponed the petition deadline for independent candidates. I verified this with a phone call to the Board's legal guy. They were smart to do that, since they didn't do it in 2002 and got sued over it.

As usual, Richard would be the one to ask, if one had only thought of the question.

February 9, 2004

North Carolina primary delayed till July

AP reports on the delay in North Carolina's primary:

North Carolina's primary election will be held July 20, the state Elections Board decided Monday, because federal judges haven't finished reviewing proposed new districts for General Assembly seats.

Larry Leake, the board's chairman, said July 20 was the latest date that the primary could be held and still meet requirements for organizing an election, such as printing ballots.

"The earliest time that we have a decent shot at getting the primary off is July," Leake said.

The board had to set a new date by Monday, the date that candidates for state and local offices in North Carolina were supposed to begin filing. The state's primary originally was scheduled for May 4.

February 8, 2004

46,000 Internet voters in Michigan primary

AP reports:

More than 46,000 people voted in Michigan's Democratic caucuses via the Internet, a showing party officials called a success.

"We're pleased not only with the number, but with the security and integrity of the Internet voting system," Mark Brewer, executive chairman of the state Democratic Party, said Saturday night.

The Democratic National Committee agreed last November to let the state party offer Internet voting, and Michigan is the only state offering that option this year. Michigan Democrats also voted in person and by mail.

People had until 4 p.m. EST Saturday to vote on the Internet, though they needed to apply to vote online a week ago.

February 7, 2004

Some confusion in Michigan caucuses

AP reports on some caucus sites being closed on short notice. The usual suspects are complaining about disenfranchisement.

Prairie View students sue

AP reports:

Civil rights groups and students at Prairie View A&M University filed a federal suit on Thursday in response to what they say were threats by the local district attorney to prevent students from voting.

The district attorney, Oliver S. Kitzman of Waller County, has said students at Prairie View, a predominantly black university, are not necessarily entitled to vote where they attend school. Students and other voters like military personnel must meet state-mandated residency standards, he said.

Hundreds of students marched last month to protest his position.

On Thursday, the state attorney general, Greg Abbott, issued an opinion that students could vote in their university towns if they designated their campus addresses as residences.

On Wednesday, Mr. Kitzman said that no discrimination had been intended and that he agreed with Mr. Abbott. He repeated that students must meet residency standards.

Yolanda Smith, executive director of the N.A.A.C.P. branch in Houston, 40 miles southeast of Prairie View, said the suit was filed because students feared that Mr. Kitzman would not adhere to the ruling and would prosecute students after they voted.

February 6, 2004

Irish Green leader calls for a paper trail on e-voting

It's not just paranoid Americans or can't-get-over-2000 Democrats who are concerned about a paper trail for electronic voting. Politics.ie - The Irish Politics Website reports:

Green Party Leader, Trevor Sargent TD, has called on the Minister for the Environment, Martin Cullen, to include safeguards to the new electronic voting system by including a paper trail.

... Mr. Sargent said that the Green Party will now consider a legal challenge to the new e voting system to ensure that a paper trail component is included to allow for a recount if requested.

Wexler sues to require paper trail

The Miami Daily Business Review reports:

Seeking to prevent a replay of the 2000 presidential election debacle, U.S. Rep. Robert Wexler is seeking a court order today to require election officials to create a paper trail for electronic voting machines.

In his politically charged Palm Beach Circuit Court suit filed last month, Wexler alleges that the paperless, touch-screen voting machines used in Palm Beach County and 14 other Florida counties are illegal because they don't produce an individual, verifiable record of each person's vote. He contends that such a paper trail is needed to allow manual recounts in close elections.

Miami-Dade and Broward counties also have machines that don't produce paper ballots. So if the judge agrees with Wexler, the suit will impact those counties and any others in Florida with touch-screen systems.

The Democratic congressman from Boca Raton claims that the absence of paper ballots leaves county elections supervisors unable to comply with state law that requires hand recounts of ballots in elections with narrow margins of victory. That, he said, poses a grave risk in the upcoming primary and general elections this year.

Circuit Judge Karen Miller is slated to rule today on the defendants' motions to summarily dismiss or transfer the case to Leon Circuit Court in Tallahassee.

But the Miami Herald reports today:

Touch-screen voting technology, on the cutting edge of election innovation just a few years ago, now is regarded with growing unease by voters who worry their choices won't be correctly counted.

Despite mounting pressure for change, Florida lawmakers are unlikely to require the paper receipts that some experts insist are the only way to ensure voting security.

Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach county leaders agreed last week to press the Legislature to let them add printers that would create a paper record of each ballot. Voters could review the record before they press the ''vote'' button on touch-screen machines.

But Gov. Jeb Bush and lawmakers who have the authority to back such legislation say they're not interested.