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July 23, 2013

New Alabama law allows absentee ballots for emergency workers

AL.com reports: Gov. Robert Bentley held a bill signing ceremony today for a new law aimed at allowing emergency workers to vote by absentee ballot if they are called away to work during an election. ...

The new law authorizes the Secretary of State, by emergency rule, to provide for absentee voting by those emergency workers if they are called away to work during an election. -- Read the whole story --> Gov. Robert Bentley praises new absentee ballot law for emergency workers | al.com

March 29, 2012

"Craigslist Founder Craig Newmark Jumps Into Voting Rights Fight"

TPMMuckraker reports: Craigslist founder Craig Newmark is jumping into the voting rights fight, with his group craigconnects publishing an infographic that illustrates the surge of voting restrictions that have been enacted in states around the country in recent years. ...

"I think all Americans should be concerned about these new voter restrictions," Newmark said. "Voting is our fundamental right. If the states continue to restrict who can vote, who knows where they will stop?" -- Read the whole story --> Craigslist Founder Craig Newmark Jumps Into Voting Rights Fight | TPMMuckraker

The infographic is here
.

March 13, 2012

"Military ballots may decide election"

The Montgomery Advertiser reports: If primary elections are close enough today in 29 counties, including Montgomery and Elmore, the results might not be known until near the end of the month.

More than 1,000 military and overseas absentee ballots won't be counted until later in the month, which could make some races too close to call today.

That includes the GOP presidential contest, where the winner may not become known today if the non-absentee vote totals show the race is too close to call. There are also absentee ballots, the secretary of state's office did not know how many, sent to Alabamians living elsewhere in the United States.

County officials have mailed 1,144 ballots to Alabamians living overseas or stationed in military bases in foreign countries, according to Deputy Secretary of State Emily Thompson. -- Read the whole story --> Military ballots may decide election | The Montgomery Advertiser | montgomeryadvertiser.com

March 1, 2012

"State, county officials blame each other for absentee ballot fiasco"

The Montgomery Advertiser reports: The state of Alabama filed a response Wednesday to a temporary restraining order issued over absentee ballots that were sent late to military and overseas voters.

The response filed Wednesday lists some of the precautions the secretary of state's office took and the special circumstances that led to the delays.

County and state election officials, meanwhile, sparred over where to place the blame for the delays.

The U.S. Justice Department filed a suit late Friday against Alabama and Secretary of State Beth Chapman alleging that the state failed to send absentee ballots to military and overseas voters by the required deadline for the March 13 primaries. -- Read the whole story --> State, county officials blame each other for absentee ballot fiasco | The Montgomery Advertiser | montgomeryadvertiser.com

February 25, 2012

DOJ sues Alabama over overseas absentee ballots

Justice Department Announces Lawsuit to Protect Rights of Military and Overseas Voters in Alabama: The Justice Department announced today that it has filed a lawsuit against the state of Alabama and its chief election official seeking relief to help ensure that military servicemembers, their family members and U.S. citizens living overseas have the opportunity to participate fully in Alabama's March 13, 2012, federal primary election.

The lawsuit, brought under the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA), was filed in federal district court in Montgomery, Ala. The suit alleges that the state failed to transmit absentee ballots to many of Alabama's eligible military and overseas voters for the March 13, 2012, primary election in sufficient time for those voters to receive, cast and return their ballots in time to be counted. It also alleges that state procedures are inadequate to ensure that such voters can participate fully in the state's April 24, 2012, primary run-off election, should one be necessary. The lawsuit seeks an order requiring the state to take all steps necessary to ensure that all affected UOCAVA voters are afforded a full opportunity to participate in the upcoming federal primary elections and all future federal elections.

February 11, 2012

Alabama UOCAVA ballot deadline extended

The Secretary of State has psted this notice on her site: NOTICE TO UOCAVA VOTERS

The Secretary of State has received information indicating that transmission of some UOCAVA ballots for the March 13, 2012 primary election has been delayed. Your ballot may be one of these. As a remedial action, the Secretary of State has extended the statewide deadline for receiving all UOCAVA ballots by eight (8) days to March 21, 2012, to ensure that all military and overseas voters have a full and fair opportunity to have their votes counted. Although the deadline has been extended, you are urged to return your voted ballot to your county absentee election manager as soon as possible to ensure its timely receipt. State law now allows UOCAVA ballots to be returned by U.S. mail, hand delivery, or commercial ground or air carrier. -- Secretary of State

June 12, 2011

"Shrinking the vote"

Daily Kos has a national roundup of trends that include Alabama: As the U.S population grows and the number of eligible voters continues to climb with each election cycle, a disturbing trend of limiting voter access to the polls is taking place. With 2012 on the horizon, states are already gearing up to ensure that barriers are installed across the voting process, from restrictions on voter registration to strict requirements at the polls. It's been called ?the largest legislative effort to scale back voting rights in a century.?

Legislators justify the vast majority of this legislation by claiming they are merely attempting to prevent widespread voter fraud. The Brennan Center for Justice conducted the most extensive analysis of voter fraud allegations and concluded that proponents of voter ID laws could not find "a proven example of a single vote cast at the polls in someone else?s name that could be stopped by a pollsite photo ID rule."

Combating "voter fraud" is a red herring. It doesn't take more than a passing glance at the 2008 results map to understand why Republicans have been working so diligently to decrease the vote, especially in states where President Obama won by a slim margin. -- Read the whole post --> Daily Kos: Shrinking The Vote: Using Election Reform To Decrease Turnout

October 29, 2010

Sumter Co., AL: high number of absentee-ballot requests

The Tuscaloosa News reports: West Alabama's absentee ballot hot spot may have shifted from Greene and Hale counties to Sumter County this year and Sumter County Circuit Clerk Edmond Bell wants something done about it.

“There have been a lot of obvious irregularities and there have been things pointed out to me,” Bell said. “It’s undermining the one man, one vote principle. You’ve got people controlling multiple ballots when they go out and solicit people to vote absentee.”

As of Thursday morning, the Sumter County Circuit Clerk’s office had received 730 absentee ballot applications with about 100 more waiting to be processed and possibly 100 more to come in by the end of the day. The county has about 10,000 registered voters.

That means between 7 and 8 percent of the registered voters in the county are requesting absentee ballots. The state average is 3 percent of registered voters. -- Read the whole story --> Sumter sees rise in voting absentee | TuscaloosaNews.com

October 27, 2010

Pike Co, Ala: suspended sentence for election fraud

The Troy Messenger reports: Former Pike County Commissioner Karen Berry?s plea arrangement netted her a sentence without jail time for a felony conviction of absentee ballot fraud and first-degree perjury.

In a sentence handed down Tuesday by Judge Thomas Head, Berry was given two-year concurrent suspended sentences on each charge and two years? probation. She also must pay court costs and $100 in Alabama Crime Victims Compensation Commission Assessment, said District Attorney Gary McAliley.

Both of Berry's crimes were class C felonies, which are punishable by up to 10 years in prison and $10,000 for each crime. Other than these two felony convictions, McAliley said Berry's record was clean, which helped her case, McAliley said. ...

In the November 2008 general election, Berry submitted or authorized the submission of ballots she knew were improperly signed and not witnessed by a notary, according to court documents. She won the seat for County Commission against her opponent, Oren Fannin, by just six ballots. -- Read the whole story --> Berry gets suspended sentence | The Troy Messenger

October 21, 2010

Pike Co., Ala: former commissioner arrested for absentee-ballot fraud

The Troy Messenger reports: Former County Commissioner Karen Berry has been charged with voter fraud and perjury in connection with her 2008 bid for office.

Berry turned herself in to the Pike County Jail Tuesday on charges of absentee ballot fraud and first-degree perjury. According to information from the District Attorney, she has reached a plea agreement on the charges, although the agreement has yet to be presented to a judge. ...

According to information from the police report, Berry submitted or authorized the submission of ballots she knew were improperly signed and not witnessed by a notary in the November 2008 general election.

In April 2009, Berry lied in court while under oath regarding the obtaining, submitting, signing and witnessing of the ballots, the report states. -- Read the whole article --> Berry charged with vote fraud, perjury | The Troy Messenger

October 7, 2010

Bessemer, Ala: mayor fires city clerk over absentee ballots

The Birmingham News reports: Bessemer's city clerk, who is the city's election official, said today he was fired by Bessemer Mayor Ed May Monday night -- the night before today's election -- because he refused to go to a site outside of city hall to pick up some absentee ballots.

City Clerk Travis Brooks said May told him Monday to go with a police officer to pick up some absentee ballots at an off-site location, but he refused because voters are required to mail absentee ballots or hand-deliver them to city hall. Thursday was the deadline for absentee ballots to be submitted.

When Brooks refused to go off-site, the mayor fired him about 5:30 p.m., forced him to turn over his keys to the mayor and had a police officer escort him out of Bessemer city hall, Brooks said. The absentee ballots for today's election were locked in the city clerk's office, and Brooks said the mayor, who is a candidate in today's election, had the key to the office.

May, when asked this morning whether he had fired Brooks, said that was not true and that Brooks is still employed with the city. -- Read the whole article --> Bessemer city clerk claims he was fired by Mayor Ed May the night before the election | al.com

June 19, 2010

Alabama: absentee voter fraud investigated

The Montgomery Advertiser reports: District Attorney Randall Houston is investigating possible voting improprieties in Autauga County after someone allegedly gained improper access to the circuit clerk's computer.

At issue is a vote cast in the name of a Prattville man. His name wasn't on the list of final absentee voters Circuit Clerk Whit Moncrief produced the night before the primary election. After the election, the man's name was on the list as having voted absentee.

Houston said he is confident the veracity of the countywide vote tally hasn't been compromised. Autauga County is a strong Republican county, and news of the recount of the GOP nomination for governor has been front page news for the past two weeks. Local elections officials completed their recount in the governor's race Tuesday. Read the whole story --> Officials investigate possible voter fraud in Autauga County | montgomeryadvertiser.com | Montgomery Advertiser

May 28, 2010

Alabama: Worries about absentee-ballot fraud in Hale Co.

The Tuscaloosa News reports: Local election officials are questioning absentee ballots for Tuesday's primary in Hale County, and the state's chief election officer has requested federal help in monitoring the voting on Election Day across West Alabama. ...

Faye Cochran, head of the Hale County Board of Registrars, said many of those casting absentee ballots got help from a man convicted of voter fraud in 1998 and a woman now awaiting trial on voter fraud charges.

Absentee ballots are commonly implicated in election fraud across rural Black Belt counties like Hale. Unlike on Election Day, absentee votes are not cast under the watchful eyes of officials. It is not unusual for the rate of absentee ballots here to be several times higher than the state average. Read the whole article --> Hale officials worry voter fraud is back | TuscaloosaNews.com

February 17, 2010

Alabama: soon to be easier for overseas voters to vote

The Montgomery Advertiser reports: A new law that would expand voting options for military members and citizens living or working overseas is moving through the Alabama Legisla­ture.

The bill, HB 30, has been unanimously approved by the Senate Constitution, Campaign Finance, Ethics and Elections Committee and read for the sec­ond time in the Senate.

The bill is now pending a third reading and final passage in the Senate. The bill cleared the House in January with a 96-0 vote. ...

The bill would allow service members to file requests for ab­sentee ballots by e-mail or fax. Currently, the requests must be made by U.S. Postal Service. It also would allow for the ballots to be sent to the service mem­bers by e-mail or fax, as well as U.S. Postal Service. -- Read the whole story --> New bill would expand absentee voting options | montgomeryadvertiser.com | Montgomery Advertiser

January 13, 2010

Alabama House committee reviews 4 election bills today

Four bills are up for hearing today in the Alabama House Committee on Constitution and Elections:

HB 30 -- Elections, overseas absentee voting, Electronic Overseas Voting Advisory Committee, established to advise whether secure electronic means of voting available, duties of absentee election manager, overseas voter certificate required, Secretary of State to implement rules

HB 85 -- Campaign contributions, PAC to PAC transfers, prohibited, Sec. 17-5-15 am'd.

HB 129 -- Electioneering communications and paid political advertising, disclosure of source of funding required, exceptions, contributions by political committees further provided for, Secs. 17-5-2, 17-5-8, 17-5-12 am'd.; Act 2009-751, 2009 Reg. Sess. am'd.

HB 145 -- Elections, write-in candidates, registration with judge of probate or Secretary of State prior to election required, compliance with Fair Campaign Practices Act and State Ethics Law required, Sec. 17-6-28 am'd

Note -- to view the Alison system, you must be using Internet Explorer or the IE Tab add-on to Firefox.

December 1, 2009

GAO study on voting in long-term care facilties

The Government Accountability Office has issued a report entitled, "ELDERLY VOTERS: Information on Promising Practices Could Strengthen the Integrity of the Voting Process in Long-term Care Facilities." The summary includes the following:

Localities also used a variety of actions to facilitate voting for long-term care facility residents, including some that may decrease the likelihood of fraud and undue influence. In our survey, 78 of the 92 localities reported taking actions to facilitate voting for long-term care facility residents. The most common actions included supporting facility staff in assisting residents with the absentee or early voting process, including providing staff with early and absentee voting information or guidance. Localities also reported providing services directly to residents. For example, close to one-half of localities we surveyed brought election officials to facilities to assist with the voting process. The seven localities we visited prior to the November 2008 federal election used a range of strategies to facilitate voting for long-term care facility residents, including coordination with facility staff and other stakeholders; the deployment of election teams to facilities; and implementation of procedures to protect and ensure voting integrity, such as requiring bipartisan voting assistance and signed affidavits to document voting assistance.

For the whole report, go to d106.pdf (application/pdf Object)

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 2, 2009

Alabama: Pike County Commission contest overturns winner

The Troy Messenger reports: After nearly a year in office, Pike County Commissioner Karen Berry has been ordered to vacate her seat.

Berry was declared the winner of the District 6 spot in the November 2008 election, victorious by just a six-vote margin.

But, her opponent Oren Fannin filed suit in December 2008, alleging her win came with illegal votes. After a long battle, Fannin received his desired verdict Thursday. ...

Judge Joel Holley, who presided over the case, ruled Thursday declaring Fannin the winner of the 2008 election, ordering him to take office and Berry to vacate her seat. His ruling said 10 votes were cast illegally for Berry in the election. -- Read the whole story --> Troy Messenger | Fannin declared District 6 winner

September 15, 2009

Alabama: 2 plead guilty to absentee voter fraud

The Tuscaloosa News reports: Valada Paige Banks on Monday became the second woman charged with felony voter fraud in Hale County to plead guilty to a misdemeanor.

Banks, 46, received a 12-month suspended sentence after admitting to third-degree criminal possession of a forged instrument.

She will not have to spend any time in jail, but was placed on probation for two years by retired Chambers County Circuit Judge Howard Bryan, who was appointed to hear the case. She also was assessed $400 in court costs.

Rosie Lyles, 68, pleaded guilty to the same charge on Aug. 31 and received a similar sentence. Both women were indicted in August 2007 on multiple felony counts of promoting illegal absentee voting during special elections in Hale County in 2004 and 2005. -- Read the whole story --> Hale County voter fraud defendant pleads guilty | TuscaloosaNews.com | The Tuscaloosa News | Tuscaloosa, AL

July 21, 2009

On the House calendar today: the Absentee Ballot Track, Receive, and Confirm Act

Absentee Ballot Track, Receive, and Confirm Act (Reported in House)

HR 2510 RH

Union Calendar No. 85

111th CONGRESS

1st Session

H. R. 2510

[Report No. 111-169]

To amend the Help America Vote Act of 2002 to reimburse States for the costs incurred in establishing a program to track and confirm the receipt of voted absentee ballots in elections for Federal office and make information on the receipt of such ballots available by means of online access, and for other purposes.

IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

May 20, 2009

Mrs. DAVIS of California (for herself and Mr. MCCARTHY of California) introduced the following bill; which was referred to the Committee on House Administration

June 19, 2009

Additional sponsors: Mr. MCGOVERN, Mr. HOLT, and Mr. SESTAK

June 19, 2009

Committed to the Committee of the Whole House on the State of the Union and ordered to be printed

A BILL

To amend the Help America Vote Act of 2002 to reimburse States for the costs incurred in establishing a program to track and confirm the receipt of voted absentee ballots in elections for Federal office and make information on the receipt of such ballots available by means of online access, and for other purposes.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.

This Act may be cited as the `Absentee Ballot Track, Receive, and Confirm Act'.

SEC. 2. REIMBURSEMENT FOR COSTS INCURRED IN ESTABLISHING PROGRAM TO TRACK AND CONFIRM RECEIPT OF ABSENTEE BALLOTS.

(a) Reimbursement- Subtitle D of title II of the Help America Vote Act of 2002 (42 U.S.C. 15401 et seq.) is amended by adding at the end the following new part:

`PART 7--PAYMENTS TO REIMBURSE STATES FOR COSTS INCURRED IN ESTABLISHING PROGRAM TO TRACK AND CONFIRM RECEIPT OF ABSENTEE BALLOTS

`SEC. 297. PAYMENTS TO STATES.

`(a) Payments For Costs of Establishing Program- In accordance with this section, the Commission shall make a payment to a State to reimburse the State for the costs incurred in establishing, if the State so chooses to establish, an absentee ballot tracking program with respect to elections for Federal office held in the State (including costs incurred prior to the date of the enactment of this part).

`(b) Absentee Ballot Tracking Program Described-

`(1) PROGRAM DESCRIBED-

`(A) IN GENERAL- In this part, an `absentee ballot tracking program' is a program to track and confirm the receipt of absentee ballots in an election for Federal office under which the State or local election official responsible for the receipt of voted absentee ballots in the election carries out procedures to track and confirm the receipt of such ballots, and makes information on the receipt of such ballots available to the individual who cast the ballot, by means of online access using the Internet site of the official's office.

`(B) INFORMATION ON WHETHER VOTE WAS COUNTED- The information referred to under subparagraph (A) with respect to the receipt of an absentee ballot shall include information regarding whether the vote cast on the ballot was counted, and, in the case of a vote which was not counted, the reasons therefor.

`(2) USE OF TOLL-FREE TELEPHONE NUMBER BY OFFICIALS WITHOUT INTERNET SITE- A program established by a State or local election official whose office does not have an Internet site may meet the description of a program under paragraph (1) if the official has established a toll-free telephone number that may be used by an individual who cast an absentee ballot to obtain the information on the receipt of the voted absentee ballot as provided under such paragraph.

`(c) Certification of Compliance and Costs-

`(1) CERTIFICATION REQUIRED- In order to receive a payment under this section, a State shall submit to the Commission a statement containing--

`(A) a certification that the State has established an absentee ballot tracking program with respect to elections for Federal office held in the State; and

`(B) a statement of the costs incurred by the State in establishing the program.

`(2) AMOUNT OF PAYMENT- The amount of a payment made to a State under this section shall be equal to the costs incurred by the State in establishing the absentee ballot tracking program, as set forth in the statement submitted under paragraph (1), except that such amount may not exceed the product of--

`(A) the number of jurisdictions in the State which are responsible for operating the program; and

`(B) $3,000.

`(3) LIMIT ON NUMBER OF PAYMENTS RECEIVED- A State may not receive more than one payment under this part.

`SEC. 297A. AUTHORIZATION OF APPROPRIATIONS.

`(a) Authorization- There are authorized to be appropriated to the Commission for fiscal year 2010 and each succeeding fiscal year such sums as may be necessary for payments under this part.

`(b) Continuing Availability of Funds- Any amounts appropriated pursuant to the authorization under this section shall remain available until expended.'.

(b) Clerical Amendment- The table of contents of such Act is amended by adding at the end of the items relating to subtitle D of title II the following:

`Part 7--Payments To Reimburse States for Costs Incurred in Establishing Program To Track and Confirm Receipt of Absentee Ballots

`Sec. 297. Payments to States.

`Sec. 297A. Authorization of appropriations.'.

Union Calendar No. 85

111th CONGRESS

1st Session

H. R. 2510

[Report No. 111-169]

A BILL

To amend the Help America Vote Act of 2002 to reimburse States for the costs incurred in establishing a program to track and confirm the receipt of voted absentee ballots in elections for Federal office and make information on the receipt of such ballots available by means of online access, and for other purposes.

June 19, 2009

Committed to the Committee of the Whole House on the State of the Union and ordered to be printed

May 31, 2009

Alabama: military-voting bill keeps Alabama at the back of the pack

The Montgomery Advertiser reports: A bill that would have made voting easier for Alabama's mil­itary members died in the last days of the legislative session.

Both houses passed a version of the bill that had little opposi­tion this year and was expected to pass.

Championed by Secretary of State Beth Chapman and her staff, it failed after a campaign finance amendment was added to it. ...

According to Department of Defense figures, as of Aug. 31, 2008, there were 38,657 active, Guard and Reserve members from all service branches, in­cluding the Coast Guard, who listed Alabama as their home. ...

In January, the Pew Center on the States released a report that found Alabama, the District of Columbia and 16 other states, including Georgia and Tennes­see, don't provide enough time for military members abroad to vote.

Alabama topped the list in the time it takes to complete the vot­ing process -- it can take some military voters 88 days from start to finish, the report found. Part of the reason is because Alabama is one of three states -- New York and Wyoming are the other two -- that require every­thing to be sent via the U.S. Post­al Service. --> Read the whole article at Military voting bill likely won't apply to 2010 elections | montgomeryadvertiser.com | Montgomery Advertiser

April 2, 2009

New York-20: 25 votes apart with 6000 absentee ballots uncounted

Michael Barone writes on USNews.com: What's going to happen when the absentee and military ballots are counted in the New York 20th district, where Democrat Scott Murphy currently has a lead of 25 votes out of 154,409 cast on election day
. Still to be counted are absentee and military votes. How are they likely to go? ...

Thus this absentee electorate could be a little more Democratic than the voters who voted on election day. However, it's also possible that an effective Republican absentee voter drive targeted those registered Republicans who also indicate that they are behavioral Republicans; if I were setting up an absentee voter drive that's what I'd aim at doing. So this absentee electorate could be a little more Republican than the electorate as a whole. There's no real way to know until the votes are counted. -- Analyzing the Absentee Ballots in the New York 20 Special House Election - Michael Barone (usnews.com)

Is that clear?

February 25, 2009

Vermont: DOJ drops UOCAVA suit after state files reports

From a Justice Department press release: The Justice Department announced today the resolution of the lawsuit filed by the United States against the state of Vermont to enforce the reporting requirements of the Uniformed Overseas Citizen Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA). UOCAVA is designed to ensure that members of the uniformed services and overseas citizens may effectively participate in federal elections.

The state of Vermont and the Vermont Secretary of State, Deborah L. Markowitz, are responsible for collecting and reporting the number of absentee ballots that are sent to uniformed service voters and overseas citizens. The United States filed a lawsuit against the state of Vermont and its Secretary of State, on Oct. 10, 2008, because Vermont had failed to comply with UOCAVA's reporting obligations after both the 2004 and 2006 general elections. Today, the United States voluntarily dismissed the lawsuit because Vermont brought its UOCAVA reporting into compliance. ...

The UOCAVA specifically mandates that all states and local governments report to the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) no later than 90 days after the date of each regularly scheduled general election for federal office the combined number of absentee ballots that are sent to absent uniformed services voters and overseas voters for the election and the combined number of such ballots that were returned by these voters and cast in the election. The EAC publishes a report every two years and provides data concerning UOCAVA ballots for every state and jurisdiction in the United States. -- Justice Department Resolves Lawsuit With State of Vermont Regarding Reporting Requirements of Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act - MarketWatch

February 6, 2009

Alabama: no-reason absentee voting approved by committee

The Birmingham News reports: The House Constitution and Elections Committee approved a bill Thursday that would authorize early voting in Alabama by allowing anyone to cast an absentee ballot.

"It will give us an opportunity to vote 40 days out," said bill sponsor Oliver Robinson, D-Birmingham.

Robinson's bill would allow any qualified voter to vote early by casting an absentee ballot even if he or she intended to be in town on election day. The committee approved the bill 9-2.

Alabama voters stood in long lines for the November presidential election, particularly early in the morning, Robinson said. He said he got calls from frustrated constituents who had watched national news stories about early voting in other states. -- Alabama House committee approves early voting measure - al.com

December 16, 2008

Alabama: SOS Chapman wants to copy Florida model of overseas Internet voting

The Montgomery Advertiser reports: Military members and residents overseas need a better way to cast their ballots, the state's top elections official said. ...

On Monday, Chapman and members of her task force on military and overseas voting heard a presentation by Pat Hollarn, supervisor of elections for Okaloosa County in Florida, on the Internet voting pilot program she ran this year.

The program put secure voting kiosks in three overseas locations -- England, Germany and Japan -- during the general election.

Chapman said she anticipates a bill will be introduced during Alabama's next legislative session. Similar legislation did not pass during the last session. ...

The kiosks in the pilot program used secure laptops and operated for a 10-day period. Since it was a pilot program, voting officials from Okaloosa County accompanied the kiosks to verify voters' identity and eligibility. Ballots were encrypted and transmitted to a secure server. The Okaloosa Canvassing Board validated, decrypted and tabulated the ballots. -- Task Force eyeing Florida voting model | montgomeryadvertiser.com | Montgomery Advertiser

November 20, 2008

Alabama: US sues Sec/State for failing to file absentee-vote reports (link to court doc)

AP reports: The Justice Department has sued Alabama officials for allegedly violating a law that protects absentee voters overseas, including those serving in the military.

The lawsuit filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Montgomery is against the state of Alabama and its top election official, Secretary of State Beth Chapman. State officials are accused in the suit of failing to file reports on overseas absentee ballots as required by a 2002 federal law. -- WAAYTV.com - Huntsville, Alabama - News Weather, Sports | Justice Dept. sues Alabama on overseas vote report

Note: the case is not yet available on Pacer. I will post the complaint when it is available. Perhaps one of my friends in the Department of Justice will email me a copy. The complaint is now available on the Voting Section website. Hat tip to John Tanner for the link.

November 13, 2008

Minnesota: Franken sues for information on rejected absentee ballots

AP reports: Democrat Al Franken, locked in a tight Senate race headed to a statewide recount, sued Thursday for access to data on voters who had their absentee ballots rejected.

Franken's lawsuit was filed in Ramsey County District Court, but his campaign is hoping that a ruling in their favor would be applied statewide.

Franken trails Republican incumbent Norm Coleman by 206 votes in unofficial results. The state canvassing board is due to meet Tuesday to certify the results, and the recount is scheduled to start the next day.

"We are not suing to have these in the count," said Franken's lead attorney, Marc Elias. "We are simply looking for the data so that we can identify people who were legal and lawful voters to ensure their ballots are counted." -- TPM: News Pages | Talking Points Memo |

November 12, 2008

Georgia: people liked early voting, so the GOP wants to shorten the time

AP reports: Republican lawmakers are considering proposals for next year's legislative session that would shorten Georgia's early voting season and make it more difficult for close elections to reach a runoff. ...

"Most people think it was stretched out too far," said Scott, a Tifton Republican who chairs the House committee charged with drafting electoral policy. "Maybe two weeks would be long enough."

Early voting began this year on Sept. 22 and expanded to more sites a week before the November election. More than 2 million people voted during the period, and some waited in lines as long as eight hours.

Secretary of State Karen Handel, a Republican, said the long lines proved that "voters like the flexibility of having these options" but also said a thorough conversation is needed before deciding whether to revive the policy. -- Ga. election policy could be revised | AccessNorthGa

November 5, 2008

Alabama: suit filed over illegal 1998 investigation of absentee voters (court doc attached)

The Birmingham News reports: Some black Bessemer residents who voted by absentee ballot in the contentious 1998 Jefferson County sheriff's race filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday, claiming former Sheriff Jim Woodward and others illegally investigated them in his bid to challenge election results.

The suit was filed in U.S. District Court in Birmingham on behalf of Russell Trusser, Geneva Trusser, Telly Trusser and others, contending their civil rights were violated. Lawyers are seeking class-action status for the suit.

The suit relies on allegations stemming from federal charges filed against Woodward and lawyer Albert Jordan in 2000. A jury convicted the men in January 2006 of charges they conspired to run criminal history checks on absentee ballot voters to use in Woodward's 1998 election contest against Democratic challenger Mike Hale.

Jordan and Woodward continue to maintain their innocence and appealed their convictions. A judge sentenced Woodward and Jordan each to six months probation, but said, at that sentencing, he would've found the men not guilty based on the evidence.

Woodward, who maintains the federal investigation against him was politically motivated, said Tuesday a lawsuit with similar allegations already has been tossed out of court. He said the allegations are too old in the current suit. Woodward said he will consult with his attorney and is considering a countersuit. -- Federal lawsuit claims former Jefferson County sheriff, others illegally targeted some absentee voters in Bessemer in 1998 - al.com

The complaint may be viewed here.

October 27, 2008

Alabama: should state reinstitute early voting?

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

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

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

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

October 25, 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

October 24, 2008

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

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

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

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

October 23, 2008

"More Democrats Casting Early Ballots, Data Show"

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

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

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

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

October 17, 2008

Colorado: early voting forces campaigns into a marathon of GOTV

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

September 30, 2008

Ohio: early voting overlaps with registration period

The Port Clinton News Herald reports: Early voting for the 2008 November election gets under way today in Ohio and runs through Monday.

The ballot casting comes on the heels of state and federal courts clearing the way for a weeklong period in which new voters can register and cast an absentee ballot on the same day in Ohio.

The voting rule has received media attention and been the target of lawsuits. The early voting window has become a partisan battle in a swing state where President Bush narrowly clinched re-election in 2004.

It was unclear if the Ohio Republican Party planned to appeal.

Ottawa County Board of Elections Director JoAnn Friar explained that voter registration ends 30 days prior to the election and that absentee voting starts 35 days prior to the election. That, she said, leaves a five-day window where voters are allowed to register to vote at the board of elections office and then cast an absentee ballot at the same time. -- Early voting starts today | portclintonnewsherald.com | Port Clinton News Herald

Arizona: scan and email ballots allowed today

AP reports: Starting Thursday, voters who are registered in Arizona but live overseas will be able to vote online through a unique Web-based system.

The Secretary of State's Military and Overseas Voting system will allow registered voters to apply for early ballots online and then submit their ballots electronically using a document scanner. Previously, Arizona elections officials allowed them to vote by faxing their ballots. ...

The system is expected to aid thousands of overseas voters for the general election. During the previous presidential election in 2004, military and overseas voters cast 7,594 ballots. ...

The Secretary of State's office developed the system itself and gained approval from the U.S. Department of Justice last week. Officials included a 128-bit encryption technology with the online ballots, giving each vote the kind of security that's used in online banking and credit card transactions. -- Arizona develops online ballots to give voters overseas a chance to cast ballots via the Web -- chicagotribune.com

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

July 13, 2008

FedEx will ship overseas ballots at steep discount

The Hill reports: Seeking to alleviate a top concern for overseas absentee voters, FedEx will team up with a voter participation group and ship ballots for free or at heavy discounts this fall, the company announced this week. ...

FedEx is partnering with Overseas Vote Foundation (OVF) for the program, which it is calling "Express Your Vote." The groups announced the initiative Wednesday.

"The number one question we get around election time is: did my ballot arrive and did it get counted?" OVF President and CEO Susan Dzieduszycka-Suinat told The Hill. Her organization has been dedicated to overseas voter registration and participation since 2005.

Overseas voters will be able to print FedEx forms and request ballot pickups on OVF’s website. FedEx will send confirmation emails when votes are delivered, and voters will have access to FedEx tracking tools via OVF's site, allowing them to monitor their ballots' voyages. -- TheHill.com - FedEx, voter group hope to ease ballot shipping woes

June 30, 2008

Alabama: State AG on Fox News about voter fraud investigations

News Hound reports and has a video: FOX News, right on schedule, has started the reports of voter fraud by the Democratic Party. Eric Shawn interviewed the Alabama Attorney General, Troy King, who claimed people have been selling their votes. When Shawn finally asked him to identify the Party responsible, King said Democratic counties were involved but stopped short at flatly blaming one party. However, the message was clear. -- News Hounds: FOX News Reports Alabama Voter Fraud by Democrats

June 24, 2008

Alabama: State AG blames DOJ over Perry election investigation

The Birmingham News reports: Alabama Attorney General Troy King said Monday that U.S. Justice Department officials have refused to help his office investigate possible election violations in Perry County.

King said federal officials, despite requests, have not sent his office a report on what federal observers saw in Perry County during the primary elections June 3. ...

Justice Department spokeswoman Jamie Hais replied in a written statement that observer reports are not released while a matter is under review by the department, "per Department practice, and in order to protect the integrity of the Department's election monitoring system and the Department's own enforcement work." -- No report yet on Perry elections- al.com

June 23, 2008

Outer space: absentee ballots via NASA

NPR's Morning Edition reports: For astronauts from Houston, who are unable to vote by absentee ballot, NASA has made it possible to cast their votes from a space shuttle or the International Space Station. NASA created special software that allows local election officials to create a ballot that is transmitted to the spacecraft. -- NASA Helps Astronauts Cast Ballots from Space : NPR

Alabama: too many absentee ballots?

The Birmingham News reports: Disproportionate numbers of absentee ballots in some counties have caught the attention of state elections and law enforcement officials, and the attorney general's office has seized voting records in Perry, Lowndes and Bullock counties. Attorney General Troy King has scheduled a press conference for this morning to discuss election fraud allegations. ...

Chapman said it's perfectly acceptable for candidates and campaign workers to urge people who can't get to the polls because of work, travel or illness to vote absentee.

What's crossing the line is when "vote brokers," armed with absentee ballots, try to sign up entire neighborhoods or when absentee ballots are filled out in exchange for cash or gifts. ...

In a poor, rural and isolated county such as Perry, lack of transportation to the polls can be a hindrance for people. More than one-third of people in Perry County live in poverty. Nearly 20 percent are disabled, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

That could account partly for the increased number of absentee ballots. -- Small counties' big absentee numbers raise suspicions in Alabama secretary of state's office- al.com

June 17, 2008

Alabama: absentee records seized in Lowndes County

WSFA 12 News reports: Attorney General Troy King today announced that agents from his office have served subpoenas upon Lowndes County election officials and have taken custody of records relating to the June 3 primary election. -- WSFA 12 News Montgomery, AL |Attorney General Subpoenas Lowndes County Voting Records

June 13, 2008

Alabama: another county with an absentee ballot investigation

The Daily Sentinel reports: Jackson has been added to the list of counties with reports of voter fraud allegations.

According to a press release from the Alabama Secretary of State s office, more than one week after the primary election, reports of alleged voter fraud continue to come in.

Since we first exposed alleged voter fraud in Perry County, reports of voter fraud have come out of the woodwork across the state, Secretary of State Beth Chapman said Thursday.

The press release stated that reports from Jackson County have come in with the names of people who allegedly bought and sold absentee ballots. ...

“We have exposed the deep, dark corruption of voter fraud and are glad to join hands with the Attorney General to shine light on it and end this disgraceful cycle that has gone on far too long in Alabama,” Chapman said. -- The Daily Sentinel

Notice that Chapman says "alleged" and then tells us how she really feels.

Hat-tip to John Tanner for the link.

June 11, 2008

Alabama: another investigation into high absentee voting

The Randolph Leader reports: Fifth Judicial District Attorney E. Paul Jones has confirmed he has requested an investigation of absentee ballots in last Tuesday's primary but said his letter has been mailed so recently the attorney general's office may not have received it. ...

Of the county's 15,455 registered voters, in uncertified results a total of 3,856 votes were cast or almost 25 percent in a light turnout for a primarily local election. There will be no Democratic runoffs July 15; only two statewide Republican races will be decided. -- The Randolph Leader: News

June 10, 2008

Alabama: complaints about absentee voting in Bullock County

The Montgomery Advertiser reports: Two unsuccessful candidates for seats on the Bullock County Commission claim widespread absentee vote irregularities in the June 3 election and want a state investigation.

Clarence "Bubba" Blue and Terry Jackson said Monday that hundreds of absentee ballots were cast for their commission opponents and those votes made the difference in their losing campaigns.

"It's worse here than in Perry County, and we want the attorney general to seize the absentee ballots to see how many were illegal," said Blue, who lost to incumbent Commissioner Johnny Adams Jr.

Blue defeated Adams by 271 total votes in the district's 16 precincts, but was overwhelmed by Adams in the absentee box. Adams received 736 absentee votes to 76 for Blue. It gave Adams a 389 vote victory.

Alonzo Ellis Jr. won the District 4 nomination, defeating Jackson by 77 votes. Jackson held a 311 vote edge at the precinct level, but Ellis far outnumbered him in the absentee box -- 592 to 204.

Blue said Adams and members of his family "actively solicited" absentee ballots before the June 3 election.

Adams admitted he and relatives "helped" Bullock County residents apply for absentee ballots, but said it was not done to "break any laws." -- montgomeryadvertiser.com | Montgomery Advertiser

June 6, 2008

Alabama: AG seizes voting records in Perry Co.

The Birmingham News reports: The Alabama attorney general s office has seized Perry County voting records related to Tuesday s election.

Attorney General Troy King said in a press release that the action was taken because of allegations of improprieties in Tuesday s election.

Subpoenas served on Circuit Clerk Mary Cosby Moore, Sheriff James Hood and Probate Judge Eldora Anderson sought any and all records regarding: June 3, 2008 election, including, but not limited to, applications for absentee ballots, poll list, identification accompanying absentee ballots, affidavits accompanying absentee ballots, record of elections, ballot accounting sheets, sign in sheet from each polling place, and clerk s book for each polling place. -- State AG s office seizes Perry voting records- al.com

May 29, 2008

Texas: AG and Dems settle suit over voter-fraud charges

The Dallas Morning News reports: The Texas Democratic Party has settled a federal lawsuit against the state, with Attorney General Greg Abbott agreeing not to target people who collect legitimate mail-in ballots as part of his voter-fraud campaign.

Both sides claimed victory in the case, which was settled just before the U.S. District Court trial was set to begin Wednesday. ...

In most cases, the voters were eligible and votes weren't changed, but the people who collected the ballots for mailing were prosecuted for failing to properly sign the mailing envelope as required by law.

Under the agreement, the attorney general's focus will be on cases in which there was actual fraud, not what Democrats called "hypertechnical violations" involving mail-in ballots.

"This is an implicit recognition on his part that these technical violations that he has been prosecuting these little old ladies for are not voter fraud," said attorney Gerald Hebert, who represented the Democratic Party.

For his part, Mr. Abbott said the judge's order dismissing the lawsuit was accompanied by a renewed commitment by the state to educate political activists who collect mail-in ballots about the law's requirements. -- Texas Democrats, attorney general settle federal voter-fraud lawsuit | Dallas Morning News | News for Dallas, Texas | Texas Regional News

April 7, 2008

Overseas voting: new website aims to make it easier

Stars and Stripes reports: A new Web site unveiled last week will give overseas military voters a one-stop site for voter registration, ballot requests and other election-related needs.

Organizers with the Overseas Vote Foundation, a nonpartisan voter advocacy group, unveiled the site — https://military.overseasvotefoundation.org — during the foundation’s second annual overseas voting summit Friday in Munich.

Using drop-down navigation menus divided by state, the site features election official directories, a voter help desk, state-specific information and write-in ballot services.

After military personnel or their eligible family members choose a state, the system prompts the user for the information required to register there, according to a news release. Billed as an alternative to voters navigating bulky and confusing regulations on their own, the site features safeguards to ensure forms are filled out correctly and legibly for stateside election officials, the release stated.

Once a voter fills in their information, the site generates a PDF file with the address of the voter’s county election office. Users print it out, sign it and throw it in the mail. -- Stars and Stripes: Web site aims to make absentee voting easier

March 19, 2008

Alabama: Hale County ex-clerk indicted in absentee vote fraud

The Birmingham News reports: Former Hale County Circuit Court Clerk Gay Nell Tinker has been indicted on multiple vote fraud-related charges.

A Hale County grand jury issued a 13-count indictment against Tinker after receiving evidence from the Attorney General s Office.

Investigators for years have been looking into voting irregularities in the west-central Black Belt county, and grand juries have indicted others on vote-fraud charges. ...

According to King's office, the indictment charges Tinker with nine counts of second-degree criminal possession of a forged instrument, an absentee voter affidavit; two counts of promoting illegal absentee voting by intentionally soliciting or otherwise promoting illegal absentee voting, and two counts of first-degree perjury by falsely certifying who signed an absentee voter affidavit. -- Former Hale County circuit clerk indicted- al.com

January 30, 2008

Alabama: early voting heavy in two Mardi Gras counties

AP reports: The turnout Wednesday by voters in Mobile County may signal a lively ballot battle statewide Feb. 5 in the tightened Democratic and Republican presidential primary fields.

Mobile County Democratic Chairman Brad Warren said he was impressed with Wednesday's turnout, and his Republican counterpart, Mark Erwin, had a similar view.

"Looks like everybody that intended to vote got out today," Erwin said.

But with the votes in Mobile and Baldwin counties sealed until all Super Tuesday ballots are counted in Alabama, there was only anecdotal evidence of what drew voters to the polls.

Voters in the two coastal counties were allowed to cast ballots Wednesday because Feb. 5 also is a Mardi Gras holiday in both counties, with Fat Tuesday parades drawing huge throngs to downtown Mobile. -- Alabama's early voters signal lively races Feb. 5 - NewsFlash - al.com

Tennessee: DOJ and State reach UOCAVA agreement

From a press release by DOJ: The Justice Department today announced that it has reached an agreement with Tennessee officials to help ensure that military servicemembers and other U.S. citizens living overseas have an opportunity to participate fully in the state's Feb. 5, 2008, federal primary election.

The agreement, which was filed at the same time as a lawsuit by the Civil Rights Division, creates emergency procedures for next week's presidential primary election to ensure eligible military and overseas voters have sufficient time to cast and return their ballots and to have their ballots counted. ...

The lawsuit was necessary after many counties in the state failed to mail requested absentee ballots to Tennessee's military and other citizens living abroad in sufficient time for them to vote in the federal primary election. The availability of ballots was delayed by difficulties stemming from the state's decision to move the primary date to Feb. 5.

The agreement, which was approved by the federal district court in Nashville today, provides extra time -- until Feb. 15 -- for the receipt of overseas ballots and allows eligible military and overseas voters who did not receive an absentee ballot to download and return a federal write-in absentee ballot. -- Justice Department Reaches Agreement to Protect Rights of Military and Overseas Voters in Tennessee Presidential Primary Elections

January 14, 2008

Campaigns chase mail-in ballots

The New York Times reports: The first Tuesday in February, when 22 states hold primaries, may turn out to be the biggest day of the presidential campaign. But for many voters, half or more in some states, the polling place will be the kitchen table, the ballot box will be the mailbox and the choice in many cases will be made weeks before a voting machine lever is pulled.

In California, the biggest prize on Feb. 5, state election officials estimate that more than half of voters may vote by mail, which has forced campaigns to adjust their strategies and has some political observers worried that people may make hasty choices they may later regret.

Mail ballots went out last week, and some campaigns have been stepping up efforts to reach voters before they open the mailbox. ...

Nationwide, 31 states allow some form of early voting with “no excuse required,” and analysts say interest in voting by mail has increased mainly because it is more convenient than going to, and sometimes waiting in line, at a polling place. Several states in the last decade have changed their laws to allow all voters to cast ballots by mail for any reason, as opposed to limiting it to the infirm or those who will be out of town. (New York, whose primary is Feb. 5, requires voters to state a reason when they apply for an absentee ballot, leading political professionals to speculate that such voting by mail will not be as large a factor there as in other states.). -- Mail-In Voters Become the Latest Prize - New York Times

October 30, 2007

Alabama: 11th Circuit hears Woodward case tomorrow

The Birmingham News reports: A federal appeals court Wednesday will hear the case of former Jefferson County Sheriff Jim Woodward, who continues to maintain his prosecution on charges of illegally using a criminal database was politically motivated.

Woodward, now retired, said Monday he has been fighting to clear his and lawyer Albert Jordan's names ever since a federal grand jury returned charges against them in 2000. ...

A federal jury in 2006 convicted Woodward, a Republican, and Jordan in their second trial, on charges they conspired to run criminal history checks on absentee voters to use in Woodward's 1998 election contest against Democratic challenger Mike Hale. ...

Woodward said that the indictment was politically driven to steal his sheriff's victory in the 1998 race. He said the case was arranged by high-ranking Democrats and the Justice Department, including former U.S. attorney Doug Jones, who served during the Clinton Administration. -- Ex-Jeffco sheriff sees 2000 election case going before Appeals- al.com

September 26, 2007

EAC report on UOCAVA

GCN reports: Election officials need to do a better job of educating overseas citizens of their rights to vote in federal elections and improve the delivery of ballots to those voters, the Election Assistance Commission concluded after reviewing results of overseas voting in last year’s elections.

According to a Government Accountability Office report cited by the EAC, there are about 6 million overseas citizens and uniformed service members and their family either abroad or away from home domestically and eligible to vote. But state and local election officials reported that only about 992,000 absentee ballots were requested by this group in 2006, and only slightly more than 330,000 of these were cast or counted.

The Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Voting Act ensures that citizens away from home can register to vote and receive ballots in U.S. elections. EAC is required under the Help America Vote Act to report to Congress on performance of UOCVA. The 2006 report was released Monday.

The most common reason for requested ballots not being cast, 70 percent, was that mailed ballots were returned as undeliverable. -- EAC issues report on U.S. overseas voting for 2006

The EAC report is here.

July 13, 2007

Alabama: candidate arrested for absentee voter fraud

The Mobile Press Register reports: Darren Lee Flott, a one-time candidate for Alabama House District 98, and Angie Corine Green, an activities director for a nursing home, were both arrested and charged with voter fraud Thursday, Mobile County District Attorney John Tyson Jr. announced.

The pair exploited a host of nursing-home patients, Tyson alleged in a news conference held in his offices at Mobile Government Plaza.

Those taken advantage of were elderly and infirm men and women, who, at the time the ballots were cast in their names, were either "comatose" or "otherwise unable to communicate" their voting preferences, Tyson said. ...

The charges stem from a July 2006 Democratic runoff election, in which Flott was first announced the winner of the Prichard area House seat.

But that was voided after the results were protested by now-sitting Rep. James Gordon. -- Former candidate faces charges of voter fraud- al.com

June 20, 2007

North Carolina: state auditor charges "voter fraud" and retreats

Facing South reports: The major political story in North Carolina yesterday, as Facing South reported, was the State Auditor's office retreating from claims of "voter fraud" and giving the green light to the state senate to pass a bill for same-day registration at early voting sites.

What's striking is how completely the auditor's office back-tracked, after raising the alarm of alleged fraud and delaying passage of the bill for almost two weeks. The Charlotte Observer reports:

State Auditor Les Merritt backed away Tuesday from the early findings of a review of North Carolina's voter rolls, telling lawmakers his office might find no irregularities at all.

"We'll eventually get to a correct, final report," Merritt said, "and that final report, it could very well say there isn't anything here, that everything's fine, we're doing a super job.

One issue won't go away: the role of Chris Mears, former political political director of the N.C. Republican Party, and now a public affairs staffer at the auditor's office. In a private email, he had admitted the "fraud" allegations were raised to stop the same-day bill (even as the auditor's office formally declared they had "no position" on same-day registration). -- Facing South

June 1, 2007

Alabama joins the National Primary -- again -- but with a footnote

AP reports: The Legislature approved a bill Thursday that keeps Alabama's early presidential primary on Feb. 5, but allows residents of Mobile and Baldwin counties to vote almost a week early to avoid a conflict with the Mardi Gras holiday.

The Legislature decided last year to move the state's presidential preference primary from early June to make the state more of a player in the selection of the Republican and Democratic candidates for president. But the change created a conflict because Feb. 5, 2008, is Fat Tuesday, the culmination of Mardi Gras celebrations in Mobile and Baldwin counties.

The Senate voted 32-0 Thursday for a revised primary bill, and the House concurred 102-2. The bill will let residents of Mobile and Baldwin counties to go to the polls on Wednesday, Jan. 30 with the results sealed until Feb. 5. The bill will also allow residents of the two coastal counties to vote using absentee ballots for any reason. -- Alabama's Mardi Gras conflict resolved for presidential race

April 24, 2007

Scotland: postal votes being delayed

The Scotsman reports: SCOTLAND'S postal voting system has been thrown into chaos days before polling.

Electoral Reform Services, the company employed to administer postal ballot papers for councils across Scotland, has had to delay the process.

The hold-up has been blamed on a failure to inform city officials about changes to the design of the voting slips and extra checks to ensure that the papers would be suitable for electronic counting. -- The Scotsman - Politics - Delays over postal votes

A more detailed story appears in the Edinburgh Evening News,

March 22, 2007

Wisconsin: college students run "Vote Naked" campaign

The Wisconsin State Journal reports: Spring break fever may have UW-Madison students thinking more about sunny beaches and showing some skin than exercising their right to vote, but the "Vote Naked" campaign on campus is out to capitalize on that.

Hundreds of flyers showing a body in the buff holding up a well-placed ballot reading "Vote Naked" have been posted all over campus and sent via e- mail as a way to encourage the idea of absentee voting.

With the April 3 general election falling in the middle of spring break when many students won't be on campus, the "Vote Naked" blitz is among several approaches UW- Madison is taking to encourage students to vote by absentee ballot. -- Wisconsin State Journal

Mississippi: briefing deadline extended in Noxubee Co. case

AP reports: A federal judge has extended until April 9 the deadline for attorneys to file final briefs in a government lawsuit in which a black Democratic Party official in Noxubee County is accused of trying to limit white voters' participation in local elections.

U.S. District Judge Tom Lee, in an order filed Monday, gave attorneys for Ike Brown and the Justice Department an extra two weeks to file briefs in the case. The deadline had been March 26.

Brown, the chairman of Noxubee County's Democratic Executive Committee, is accused of violating the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which was written to protect racial minorities when Southern states strictly enforced segregation. -- Judge extends briefs deadline in voting rights case - The Clarion-Ledger

February 7, 2007

Colorado: bill to ease overseas military voting

The Colorado Springs Gazette reports: A groundbreaking bill aimed at making it easier for overseas military personnel to vote sailed through the House State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee on Tuesday. ...

House Bill 1149 would allow commissioned officers to sign absentee-ballot applications for registered Colorado voters stationed overseas. Secretary of State Mike Coffman, who helped write the bill, said he hopes its passage will persuade other states to develop similar legislation.

The measure sprang from recent experiences in which Coffman and Rep. Joe Rice, D-Littleton, served overseas and could not vote. Coffman was in remote Iraq setting up elections in 2005 and did not have a fax machine available to transmit his signature so he could not get his absentee ballot.

This proposal still requires troops to cast the actual votes on the ballots. But Rice, who sponsored the bill with Marine reservist and Republican Sen. Steve Ward of Littleton, said soldiers can get ballots even in remote areas as long as someone else can do the paperwork. -- Gazette.com

January 24, 2007

Mississippi: defeated candidate testifies against Ike Brown

The Commercial Dispatch reports: An unsuccessful candidate for sheriff testified Monday that Noxubee County Democratic Party Chairman Ike Brown's allies include the sheriff's department, which has been used as “the strong arm” to split the county along racial lines.

Sam “Tiny” Heard said the black-dominated Noxubee County Election Commission also works to shut whites out of politics.

“The ones who abuse their positions are the polarizing effect,” said Heard, a white who lost the 2003 election to black Noxubee County Sheriff Albert Walker. ...

The Justice Department alleges Walker and his deputy sheriffs are part of the “political machine” used to ensure Noxubee County whites lose elections. They've escorted Brown in patrol cars to Election Day precincts to aid his attempts to rig the vote, and they've intimidated witnesses with evidence against Brown, according to the claims. -- Commercial Dispatch Online

January 23, 2007

Mississippi: Noxubee County voter-intimidation case enters second week

The Jackson Clarion-Ledger reports: A black Noxubee County Democratic Executive Committee official said she was going to follow her own law in counting absentee ballots during a 2003 primary election, a white candidate's son testified Monday.

"I was not allowed to make challenges," said Richard Heard, whose father was a candidate for county sheriff.

In the first lawsuit of its kind in the United States, the Department of Justice is accusing black political leaders in majority-black Noxubee County of discriminating against white voters.

A trial on the lawsuit is in its second week in U.S. District Court in Jackson. District Judge Tom S. Lee will decide the case.

The Justice Department is still presenting its side. -- Absentee vote count questioned - The Clarion-Ledger

January 19, 2007

Virginia: 18 months for vote fraud

The Kingsport Times-News reports: Retired mail carrier Don Estridge was sentenced to 18 months in jail by Wise County Circuit Judge Tammy McElyea on Thursday for Estridge's role in an Appalachia election fraud plot.

The judge, however, balked at a recommended two-year jail sentence for former Appalachia Mayor Ben Cooper, considered the "kingpin" of a conspiracy to steal the 2004 town elections.

A jury found Estridge guilty on Oct. 12 on three of four counts, including conspiracy to prevent others from exercising their right to vote, conspiracy to steal absentee mail ballots, and aiding and abetting violations of Virginia's absentee ballot procedures.

Estridge, the only one of 14 original defendants to proclaim his innocence throughout what has been nearly a yearlong legal ordeal, did so before the court again on Thursday. All the other defendants - including Cooper - forged cooperation and plea agreements with the special prosecution team of Tim McAfee and Greg Stewart. -- Tri-Cities, Tennessee Personal News and Media Center

December 11, 2006

Eastern Band of Cherokees: chief considering absentee voting law

The Asheville Citizen-Times reports: The voting rights of potentially thousands of people depend on a decision expected this month from the top elected leader of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.

Principal Chief Michell Hicks is reviewing legislation passed by Tribal Council on Thursday that made changes to the 13,500-member tribe’s controversial absentee ballot law. Hicks has the power to veto the bill.

The chief normally has 30 days to consider legislation but because the tribe’s law prohibits changing election rules during an election year, he must make a decision before Dec. 31.

Paxton Myers, executive administrator for Hicks, said today the chief will “take his time” on reviewing the legislation. Hicks, Tribal Council members and some school board members are up for election next year. -- CITIZEN-TIMES.com: Cherokee chief has veto power over absentee voting law

Mississippi: "Judge orders Noxubee Co. to certify election results"

AP reports: A circuit judge on Monday ordered the Noxubee County Election Commission to certify results from the Nov. 7 general election.

The local certification must be done by 5 p.m. Tuesday, under the order of Circuit Judge Robert Bailey. Bailey issued the ruling after a hearing in Meridian.

After the Noxubee results are in, the state Board of Election Commissioners can certify the re-election of U.S. Sen. Trent Lott and U.S. Rep. Chip Pickering, both Republicans who start new terms in January. Lott already has been chosen Senate minority whip by his GOP colleagues in Washington.

Noxubee County had not certified the returns because absentee ballots were seized by authorities amid allegations that Ike Brown, a Democratic activist in Noxubee County, had witnessed an absentee ballot for a deceased voter. Brown says the incident was a clerical error. -- Judge orders Noxubee Co. to certify election results

December 2, 2006

Texas: early voting starts today for TX-23

The San Antonio Express-News reports: The state has stepped back from a standoff with Bexar County Elections Administrator Jacque Callanen and civil rights groups over the start of early voting in the runoff for Congressional District 23.

A federal judge in the Eastern District of Texas has ordered early voting to begin today in counties that are ready, including Bexar. That's two days earlier than the early voting schedule set by Gov. Rick Perry.

Callanen said she was "absolutely thrilled" and that election judges are ready to go.

Nina Perales, regional counsel for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, said she didn't know why the state decided to agree to two extra days, but that negotiations moved quickly. -- MySA.com: Metro | State

December 1, 2006

Virginia: Appalachia mayor pleads to 233 counts

The Kingsport Times-News reports: Former Appalachia Mayor Ben Cooper told Wise County Circuit Judge Tammy McElyea "guilty" during a plea hearing on Thursday, then repeated that word 232 more times to an equivalent number of charges involving the 2004 town election scandal.

Cooper also pleaded no contest to an additional 10 charges. A sentencing hearing is scheduled for Jan. 9.

Charges ranged from preventing or hindering citizens to exercise their right to vote to entering multiple votes and tampering with the absentee ballot process.

Cooper's plea agreement stipulates that testimony presented during the October trial of former Appalachia postal carrier Don Houston Estridge constitutes evidence against the former mayor as well, Special Prosecutor Tim McAfee reminded the judge. Estridge was convicted of three counts primarily involving charges of passing absentee mail ballots to the ring of election fraud conspirators. -- Tri-Cities, Tennessee Personal News and Media Center

November 16, 2006

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

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

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

November 10, 2006

Florida: "Inverted Jenny" stamp used on absentee ballot

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

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

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

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

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

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

November 7, 2006

Virginia and Maryland: last minute problems in elections

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

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

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

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

November 6, 2006

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

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

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

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

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

November 4, 2006

Another Defense Dept. for voting may lead to vote tampering

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

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

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

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

November 2, 2006

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

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

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

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

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

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

November 1, 2006

New book: "Absentee and Early Voting"

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

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

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

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

October 31, 2006

Military emailed ballots face problems

The Washington Post reports: Time was when soldiers, if they wanted to vote, had to request ballots by snail mail, fill them out and return them the same way.

The process typically took weeks.

This year, thousands of soldiers around the world have the opportunity to vote in the Nov. 7 elections by e-mail. It's part of a Pentagon effort to make it easier for overseas military personnel to cast ballots in federal and state elections, and it reflects how the Internet has changed life in the combat zone.

But computer security experts inside and outside the government warned that the Pentagon's Federal Voting Assistance Program ignores the risks associated with unencrypted e-mail: interception, hacking and identity theft. -- E-Mail Voting Comes With Risks - washingtonpost.com

October 28, 2006

Colorado: election commission to hand-copy 30,000 absentee ballots

The Denver Post reports: An editing mistake on Denver's absentee ballots has turned a little-discussed referendum on recall protections into an issue that could affect controversial statewide campaigns.

The concern is actually not with the mistake, but the solution: On election night, Denver plans to have election judges hand-copy as many as 30,000 voted absentee ballots onto new ballots.

The same process of "duplication" is a common practice in elections, but not on the scale Denver plans to attempt.

The idea has prompted "very serious concerns" from watchdogs such as Colorado Common Cause. -- DenverPost.com - Up to 30,000 ballots will be hand-recopied

October 27, 2006

Ohio: federal court enjoins voter I.D. rule for absentee voters

The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports: Don't want to show ID? Vote absentee.

A federal judge Thursday evening blocked enforcement of new identification requirements for absentee voters, agreeing that the state's voter ID law is vague, confusing and unevenly applied by Ohio election boards since early voting began this month.

"Absentee voters are suffering irreparable harm right now," said U.S. District Judge Algenon L. Marbley in announcing his decision.

Marbley ordered Secretary of State Ken Blackwell's office to notify the state's 88 county election boards of the ruling by noon today.

The emergency order will be in effect until Nov. 1 when Marbley will hold a full hearing that will also address whether the ID requirements should be suspended at the polls on Nov. 7. -- Judge blocks ID rule for absentee voters Don't need ID for absentee, judge rules in voting suit Judge blocks new state law on absentee voter ID rules

October 22, 2006

Early and absentee voting changing the way of campaigning

The New York Times reports: For millions of Americans, Election Day is already over.

Thirty states now allow no-excuse absentee voting, and most of them also allow voters to cast early ballots in person at county clerks’ offices or satellite polling places.

In Montana, absentee ballots were mailed Sept. 22. As many as 40 percent of Florida’s voters will cast their ballots before Election Day, Nov. 7. Oregon’s elections are conducted entirely by mail, and Washington is moving that way. California sent out 3.8 million absentee ballots the week of Oct. 8.

Candidates are maneuvering to adapt to a changed political calendar, accelerating their advertising, their mailings and their get-out-the-vote calls. They are figuring out exactly who votes early and are trying to get to them before they cast their ballots. They are raising more money and spending it faster. -- Growing Absentee Voting Is Reshaping Campaigns - New York Times

October 1, 2006

Pentagon's newest voting system compromises voters' security

The San Jose Mercury News: Just weeks before the November election, the Pentagon is struggling to fix its system for handling the votes of soldiers overseas.

Yet experts in computer security and election technology say the Pentagon's current attempt to keep those ballots from being rejected in large numbers, as they have been in past elections, has created a system that is ripe for fraud.

During the next six weeks, thousands of service members are expected to fax or e-mail ballots over international communications networks that are susceptible to interception and tampering, putting those votes at risk.

``I can't for the life of me figure out how the Defense Department decided this is the right thing to do,'' said Doug Jones, an associate professor of computer science at the University of Iowa. -- MercuryNews.com | 09/28/2006 | U.S. soldiers' overseas votes ripe for fraud

September 18, 2006

Texas: suit to challenge state's "possession of absentee ballots" law

The San Antonio Express-News reports: At issue for the three North Texas women and others investigated by [Attorney General] Abbott is a 2003 Texas law that makes it a crime to put other voters' absentee ballots in the mail or deliver them to election officials.

Backers of the law say it's needed to prevent election fraud by paid political operatives who take advantage of the elderly or even steal their votes. Detractors say the law is overly broad, goes too far in criminalizing legitimate political activity and infringes on voters' rights to assistance in casting ballots.

This week, a Washington-based voting rights attorney aligned with Texas Democrats plans to challenge the state law in federal court, arguing it violates the Voting Rights Act and the U.S. Constitution's guarantees of free speech, free association and equal protection.

Democrats complain, and the suit will argue, that Abbott is selectively enforcing the law against Hispanics and blacks to intimidate minority voters and dilute their strength at the polls. ...

Yet of the 13 individuals indicted for voter fraud during Abbott's term, 10 are accused of simply possessing another's absentee ballot for delivery to election officials or to a mailbox, Democrats say. Such activities had been legal until the 2003 law turned them into crimes.

Both Democratic and Republican political activists have traditionally assisted elderly or homebound voters who need help in voting, said attorney J. Gerald Hebert, executive director of the Washington-based Campaign Legal Center, who plans to file the lawsuit on behalf of Democrats. -- MySA.com: Metro | State

September 3, 2006

Alabama: few military absentee ballots in the delayed runoff

AP reports: After a Justice Department suit and legislative action to extend the primary runoff from three weeks to six weeks, only a small number of military personnel stationed overseas voted in the July 18 primary runoff.

The runoff was extended to give soldiers more time to receive and return absentee ballots and to keep their votes secret. Incomplete figures in the Alabama Secretary of State's office show that some counties received no overseas military absentee ballots and in many the number was fewer than five.

Just 13 overseas military absentee ballots were received for the runoff in Jefferson County, the state's most populous. -- Few overseas soldiers voted in state runoff

Comment: As I said at the time, a better solution would be to send overseas and military voters an instant-runoff ballot.

September 1, 2006

Arkansas: secretary of state candidates spar over voting rights ... for the National Guard

Rhe Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports: By the Nov. 7 general election, about 1, 700 Arkansas National Guardsmen are expected to be deployed overseas, largely in Iraq, and 200 others are expected to be in Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.

Making sure that military voters get to cast their ballots and get them counted has emerged as a contentious issue in the secretary of state’s race.

Currently, 800 Arkansas guardsmen are overseas, 900 are in Oklahoma, Mississippi, Texas and Wisconsin in preparation to go overseas, and 200 are in Southwestern states, said Chris Heathscott, a spokesman for the Arkansas National Guard.

Republican secretary of state candidate Jim Lagrone says Secretary of State Charlie Daniels has failed to do enough to make sure that the out-of-state votes of Arkansas military personnel get counted.

Daniels, the Democratic nominee seeking re-election, says he’s done everything he can. -- NWAnews.com :: Northwest Arkansas' News Source

August 28, 2006

Alabama: Mobile DA investigating voting fraud

The Mobile Press Register reports: Mobile County District Attorney John Tyson Jr. confirmed Friday that his office is looking into possible voter fraud in the disputed Democratic runoff for Alabama House District 98 between Darren Flott and James Gordon.

"I've sent my investigators to pick up the ballots and the information associated with them so that we can review it to determine whether or not we need to formally open a criminal investigation," Tyson said.

Tyson declined to comment further about the District 98 election but added, "In general, voter fraud is a fraud committed against every other voter in Alabama. Our intention both now and in the future is to see that election laws are observed."

At issue are scores of absentee ballots that Alabama Democratic Party officials earlier this week found to be forged, some on behalf of mentally incompetent citizens. -- Tyson examining disputed ballots

August 17, 2006

DOJ launches website on military rights

Technology News Daily reports: Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales announced the launch of a new Web site designed to safeguard the civilian employment rights, voting rights and financial security of members of the Armed Services and veterans. The Web site, http://www.servicemembers.gov is a partnership between the Justice Department and other federal agencies that oversee these protections.

"Every day, men and women of our nation's armed forces put their lives on the line to protect the freedoms we enjoy, and it is our responsibility to ensure that their rights are protected in return," said Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales. "Through this new website, members of the armed services will have the information they need about the rights guaranteed to them by law. At the Justice Department, we are proud to help those in uniform both know about the rights they have and vigorously defend those rights under the rule of law."

The Web site, launched today, offers information and resources about three laws passed specifically to protect servicemembers. The Uniformed Services and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) prohibits employers from discriminating or retaliating against an employee or applicant for employment because of past, current, or future military obligation. The Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA) requires that states allow certain groups of citizens, including servicemembers and their families, to register and vote absentee in a timely manner in elections for federal offices. The Servicemembers' Civil Relief Act (SCRA) provides civil protections for military personnel while on active duty. -- New Web Site for Veterans and Members of the Armed Services | Technology News Daily

July 31, 2006

Alabama: absentee ballots made the difference in one legislative runoff

The Mobile Press-Register reports: Almost a third of the 426 absentee ballots cast in the disputed Democratic primary runoff for Alabama House District 98 came from nine addresses, a Press-Register review of public records found.

But the executive director of an Eight Mile nursing home, which produced the most absentee votes from a single location, said the voting practices at his facility were not out of the ordinary.

Runoff winner Darren Flott said his campaign did not engage in any special push to increase his absentee ballot totals. And, he said, neither he nor his volunteers engaged in gathering illegal votes from District 98 residents.

The high number of absentee ballots are at the center of chiropractor James Gordon's accusation that illegal votes delivered Flott, a respiratory therapist, his 65-vote margin of victory in the second round of voting July 18. ...

Of 426 absentee ballots, 15.5 percent of the total turnout, Flott won 283 votes to Gordon's 143. That 140-vote advantage is more than double Flott's margin of victory. Gordon posted a 75-vote advantage among ballots actually cast on July 18 in precincts around the district. -- Arguments continue over absentee ballots

July 13, 2006

Massachusetts: legislature defeats redistricting commission proposal, approves absentee voting proposal

AP reports: Here is a list of all of the proposals before the Legislature at Wednesday's constitutional convention. Some issues appear twice because of minor differences in language or because they were brought to the convention in separate ways, such as through citizen petitions or by lawmakers. ...

ABSENTEE VOTING (1) -- The amendment would permit a city or town to vote to allow absentee voting for any reason.

Lawmakers voted for a substitute amendment allowing absentee voting, then gave it initial approval.

SEPARATE ELECTIONS -- The proposal would repeal an amendment to the constitution that was enacted in 1966 to group the governor and lieutenant governor in teams according to party in the general election. This amendment would allow a governor and lieutenant governor from different parties to be elected.

Lawmakers rejected initial approval of the proposal.

LEGISLATIVE TERMS (1) -- The amendment would increase the legislative term from two to four years.

Lawmakers rejected initial approval of the proposal.

REDISTRICTING (1) -- The proposal would create an independent redistricting commission in an effort to establish transparency and fairness in the redistricting process.

Lawmakers voted to move this item to the end of the calendar.

BALLOT QUESTIONS -- The amendment would increase the current signature requirement for qualifying initiative petitions for the ballot and place title and language setting authority in a new commission.

Lawmakers rejected initial approval of the proposal. -- A look at the proposed constitutional amendments before lawmakers - Boston.com

April 15, 2006

New Orleans: the racial impact of the absentee voting plan

Tracy Clark-Flory writes on Salon.com: Louisiana officials have offered two alternatives to accommodate displaced residents: absentee ballots, and 10 "satellite" polling stations set up around the state to which voters can travel. Despite a recent outcry, a federal judge in Louisiana determined that officials were not required to provide polling stations outside the state.

Sharing Samuels' concern are civil rights advocates, legal experts and researchers who have tracked Katrina's toll. They warn that not nearly enough has been done to protect against the disenfranchisement of New Orleans residents -- a majority of them African-American and from poorer neighborhoods ravaged by Katrina. Beyond the reliance on absentee ballots and in-state satellite polling stations, critics say the integrity of the election is threatened by serious problems within the city itself, where some polling stations are dilapidated and possibly hazardous, and others are inaccessible to the disabled -- a violation of federal law. ...

According to John Logan, a professor of sociology at Brown University, a recent survey shows that more than twice as many blacks as whites were displaced out of state after Katrina. Logan headed a study released in January that found that New Orleans could lose up to 80 percent of its black population if residents displaced by Katrina were unable to return to their neighborhoods. Logan's research included the Current Population Survey released by the U.S. Department of Commerce in December, which showed that an estimated 102,000 African-Americans outside Louisiana were eligible to vote, compared with 48,000 whites. The number of blacks scattered within the state drops to an estimated 31,000, compared with 92,000 whites.

"The population that has returned to the city or general area is white and middle class," Logan said. "It's quite clear that if voting is higher within the state than by people out of state, that introduces a serious race and class bias to the electorate." -- Whitewashing the New Orleans vote? | Salon.com News

April 11, 2006

Louisiana: hundreds vote early in New Orleans

The New Orleans Times-Picayune reports: Elaine Stovall, a 62-year-old retiree still displaced from eastern New Orleans, walked off a chartered bus in Lake Charles on Monday morning to vote in the New Orleans elections, becoming one of the first to cast a ballot in one of the most scrutinized elections in American history. ...

One of several hundred displaced New Orleanians taking advantage of satellite polls across Louisiana, Stovall was among more than 100 people who traveled to Lake Charles on a bus sponsored by ACORN, an activist group that has criticized preparations for the elections and has worked to educate and transport voters.

Treasuring the secret ballot, she declined to say who she voted for, as did many others. But many said they voted for Mayor Ray Nagin, while a smaller number indicated support for Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu, who some polls show as Nagin's chief threat. ...

In all, 1,642 voters turned out by 4 p.m., 30 minutes before closing, at early voting locations in New Orleans and in 10 other parishes across the state, a tiny fraction of the tens of thousands of registered voters believed to be living out of town because of Hurricane Katrina. The largest vote totals came in Orleans Parish, with 990 votes cast, and in East Baton Rouge Parish, with 244 votes. -- 2,190 cast early ballots in New Orleans elections

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 26, 2006

Alabama: in defense of ranked-choice ballots

The Montgomery Advertiser publishes my letter: While we want and need to be fair to our overseas voters, we must remember that they are about one-half of 1 percent of the electorate. Inconveniencing the other 99.5 percent by a longer runoff primary period just does not make sense. Doubling the runoff period from three to six weeks means twice as many ads we have to watch, and twice as much money the candidates have to raise for that period.

In the 2004 general election, Alabama's election officials sent out 8,000 overseas ballots but only 4,200 were returned. Those 4,200 voters already have problems that prevent their equal participation in our elections. The ranked-choice ballot would cut the administrative burden of the overseas voters in half. They would have to review the candidates only once, seek out the official to verify their signature only once, and mail the ballot back to Alabama only once. -- montgomeryadvertiser.com:: Ranked-choice primaries work

Alabama: why not fax the overseas absentee ballots?

Ed Packard writes in the Montgomery Advertiser: While I have no quarrel with extending the absentee voting period, we should also look at easier and quicker methods for the military to request, receive and vote their absentee ballots. The Pentagon already has an established service that allows for the fax or e-mail transmission of voting materials.

During the first Gulf War, Alabama had no problem allowing our soldiers to transmit voting materials via fax. But now, leaders in the Legislature and the executive branch say they cannot support these methods, despite the fact that all other states allow the military to utilize some kind of electronic or fax transmission to complete all or part of the absentee voting process. -- montgomeryadvertiser.com:: State must empower military voters

March 23, 2006

Census Bureau report

The Census Bureau has released Voting and Registrationin the Election of November 2004. The report covers turnout and registration rates by

  • gender
  • race and ethnicity
  • income
  • nativity status
  • age
  • marital status
  • educational attainment
  • employment status and income
  • veteran status
  • methods of registration.
  • March 21, 2006

    Alabama: Huntsville Times opposed HB 711

    The Huntsville Times editorializes:
    Why complicate an issue that can be solved simply?

    Simple solutions aren't always the best solutions. But simple solutions ought to be considered first, not last.

    Alabama has a problem with its party primary runoffs in June. The runoff date of June 27 is too close to the primary date of June 6 to allow some absentee voters, especially military personnel in such places as Iraq and Afghanistan, to take part. In fact, the U.S. Justice Department has sued the state. Something must be done.

    The logical solution is to postpone the runoff, and Attorney General Troy King and Secretary of State Nancy Worley endorsed that idea. -- Runoffs: bad solution

    March 20, 2006

    Alabama: Montgomery Advertiser opposed HB 711

    The Montgomery Advertiser editorializes: Legislation that would make service men and women serving overseas vote for candidates in possible June 27 party runoff elections at the same time they vote in the June 6 primary elections would treat military voters like second-class citizens, which they decidedly are not.

    The Alabama House approved such a bill last week, but the Senate should see that it does not pass.

    The legislation attempts to address a serious problem in Alabama's voting process - one that should have been addressed long ago. There is not enough time between the June 6 primary elections and the June 27 runoff elections to print new ballots, mail them to U.S. troops serving overseas, and have them returned in time to be counted in the runoffs. -- montgomeryadvertiser.com�::� Treat those voters in military same

    March 19, 2006

    Alabama: why the Senate should adopt HB 711

    The Birmingham News published my commentary piece: Our service men and women overseas deserve a ballot - an effective ballot. That much is uncontroversial. How to do it - that is the question.

    The U.S. Justice Department filed suit against Alabama nine days ago because the three-week period between our first and second primaries is too short to get an absentee ballot from Alabama to Iraq or to Afghanistan or to our fleet and back. Under the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act, the Justice Department has the duty to make sure all overseas citizens, including our armed forces personnel, have the right to cast a ballot in elections with federal candidates. But Alabama needs to make certain these folks can vote for state and local candidates in the runoff as well.

    There are several ways under consideration. -- Soldiers stationed overseas deserve a better ballot

    The whole commentary is also available here. In the rush to catch up with events in the Legislature, a typo crept into the piece. In the fifth paragraph, it should refer to the bill passed by the Senate, not the House.


    March 18, 2006

    Alabama: Ed Packard on HB 711

    Ed Packard writes on his Election Administration blog that Instant Runoff Voting (IRV) is not the answer to the Justice Department's suit against Alabama over military and civilian overseas absentee voting.

    Background: The Justice Department has sued Alabama under the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA) because, the complaint says, the time between Alabama's first and second primaries is too short to allow many absentee ballots to be sent and returned by civilian and military overseas voters. In response, two bills are working their way through the Alabama Legislature. One would change the date of the runoff (second) primary to allow time for the mail-out and mail-back of the absentee ballots. The House bill (HB 711) will create a ranked-order ballot that will allow the overseas voters to cast one ballot that can be counted twice, if necessary.

    [Let me stick in a disclaimer here: I may be indirectly responsible, I think, for the IRV amendment to the original HB 711 (which was to change the date of the second primary). I spoke to House Majority Leader Ken Guin at the beginning of the week about using IRV as a method of saving money and complying with UOCAVA). I mentioned the bill pending in South Carolina and the act already adopted in Arkansas. I think that Guin picked the language out of one of those and offered it as an amendment to HB 711.]

    Ed Packard (whom I greatly respect) has three objections to HB 711. First, he says, "HB711 as passed does not do anything to increase the amount of time for this absentee voting period." True, but irrelevant. Since one ballot will be used by the overseas voter to vote in the first and second primaries, the date change is unnecessary.

    Second, he says, "HB711's instant runoff provision assists military voters in the runoff election only if they have applied to vote in the primary election." Again this is true, but I thing not very much of a problem. How many absentee voters apply to vote only in the runoff? A very small percentage, I would suggest. (Ed Packard probably has greater access to those figures than I do.) Rather think of it in terms of the overseas voter. If I want to vote by absentee ballot in any election, I have to meet a deadline for getting my ballot in the mail. If I want to vote in the runoff, but not the first primary, then I can do request the special absentee ballot and let it sit in my footlocker till I know who is still in the runoff and vote then. (I don't know why anyone would want to do that.) Even under the mailing time quoted by the Department of Justice in its suit, this would be plenty of time to mail the absentee ballot back to the U.S.

    Third, he says, "The violations alleged by DOJ involve citizens who live overseas, not just military personnel." I think Ed just misread the bill. HB 711 refers to "the qualified electors who are overseas citizens and active duty military personnel stationed overseas" as the ones eligible to receive a special absentee ballot.

    I hope Ed Packard will take another look at HB 711.

    March 16, 2006

    Louisiana: DOJ preclears New Orleans voting plan

    The Washington Post reports: The Justice Department approved plans yesterday for the first New Orleans election since Hurricane Katrina, despite objections from civil rights groups who said the voting arrangements do not adequately accommodate the city's displaced black voters.

    The storm has tilted the racial balance of city residents in favor of whites, many believe, and controversy has surrounded the question of what kind of accommodations should be made to allow the tens of thousands of black evacuees to vote from outside the state.

    The state plan for the election calls for sending mass mailings to evacuees, easing restrictions on absentee ballots, and setting up satellite polling stations around Louisiana. But it stops short of arranging for balloting in other states such as Texas, Mississippi and Georgia, where many evacuees are dispersed.

    Several civil rights groups, including the NAACP, urged the Justice Department to call for out-of-state polling places. -- Election Plan for New Orleans Approved

    South Carolina: IRV bill passes House committee

    AP reports: A House subcommittee has approved changes in the state's primary elections forced by the threat of a federal lawsuit.

    The panel approved creating "instant runoffs" for the state's June 13th primaries. -- WIStv.com Columbia, SC: House subcommittee approves "instant runoffs"

    Alabama: House passes bill adopting IRV for overseas voters

    AP reports: The Alabama House approved a bill Thursday that will allow military personnel overseas to cast a ballot for the June 27 party runoffs at the same time they vote in the June 6 primary elections - a change lawmakers hope will resolve a lawsuit filed against the state by the U.S. Justice Department.

    The House voted 101-1 to approve the legislation sponsored by Rep. Lesley Vance, D-Phenix City. Vance's bill would have originally moved the date of the runoffs to July 18, but the House approved an amendment by Majority Leader Rep. Ken Guin, D-Carbon Hill, to instead allow soldiers to use the special runoff ballots.

    But the issue is still not settled. A Senate committee Thursday approved a bill to change the runoff date and some senators said the final version of the bill still must be worked out.

    The Justice Department's lawsuit claims there is not enough time between the June 6 party primaries and the June 27 runoffs for military personnel overseas, particularly those fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, to receive and return absentee ballots. -- Welcome to TimesDaily.com

    The bill as engrossed (that is as it passed the House) is here.

    March 15, 2006

    Alabama: House consider IRV amendment to primary runoff bill

    AP reports: The Alabama House delayed a vote Wednesday on a proposal to change the date of political party primary runoff elections from June 27 to July 18 to give members time to study a different plan for giving military personnel overseas an opportunity to vote in the runoff.

    The U.S. Justice Department has filed a lawsuit against the state, claiming there is not enough time between the June 6 party primaries and the June 27 runoffs for military personnel overseas, particularly those fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, to receive and return absentee ballots.

    Attorney General Troy King and Secretary of State Nancy Worley had recommended a bill to delay the date of the runoff to resolve the problem.

    But when that bill came up on the House floor for debate Wednesday, House Majority Leader Rep. Ken Guin, D-Carbon Hill, suggested an amendment that would leave the runoffs on June 27, but would allow counties to send soldiers absentee ballots for the runoffs when they mail out the primary ballots.

    The special runoff ballots, to be sent only to service members overseas, would list the names of all candidates in races where there are more than two candidates and there is a possibility there will be a runoff. The service members would be asked to rank those candidates from favorite to least favorite and return the runoff ballot with the primary ballot, Guin said. -- Welcome to TimesDaily.com

    March 11, 2006

    Alabama: text of the DOJ suit against Alabama

    The U.S. Justice Department website has the text of the UOCAVA suit it filed on Friday against the State of Alabama.

    I have two questions about the suit. I hope my readers can answer them.

    First, why is the Justice Department suing? It appears that the relief it seeks is redundant of the provisions of the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act -- specifically, the use of the blank Federal Write-in Absentee Ballot.

    Second, if the suit is still pending in four weeks and there are no Congressional races with more than two candidates, will the feds dismiss the suit? Qualifying deadline for the primaries is 7 April. If there are only one or two candidates in each party for each Congressional seat, there will not be a runoff.

    March 10, 2006

    Alabama: DOJ files suit over military absentee ballots

    AP reports: The U.S. Justice Department has filed a lawsuit against the state of Alabama to force state officials to make sure military personnel overseas can vote in this summer's primary runoff elections.

    The lawsuit, filed late Thursday in federal court in Birmingham, said there is not enough time after the June 6 Democratic and Republican primaries to deliver ballots to service members in Iraq and other overseas locations and have them returned by the June 27 runoffs.

    Attorney General Troy King told The Associated Press on Friday he believes a bill pending in the Legislature to delay the runoffs until July 18 will resolve the problem. The bill was approved by the House Constitution and Elections Committee Thursday and is expected to be voted on in the full House next week.

    King said the Justice Department offered to let state officials sign a consent decree, agreeing to allow service members to vote by fax and to delay the date of the runoff. But the attorney general said he declined to sign the consent decree because he believes only the Legislature - not a consent decree - can change state election law. -- AP Wire | 03/10/2006 | Justice Department sues state over military voting issue

    Louisiana: groups criticize confusing voter information

    The New Orleans Times-Picayune reports: Voter rights groups accused state elections officials Thursday of mailing out "totally confusing" or incomplete election information to more than 700,000 Louisiana residents displaced by hurricanes.

    Voter information posted on Secretary of State Al Ater's Web site also has been incomplete and misleading, although improvements have been made in recent days, said Jean Armstrong, president of the League of Women Voters of Louisiana and spokeswoman for the Louisiana Voting Rights Network.

    The Louisiana Voting Rights Network includes the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, ACORN, the American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana, Common Cause of Louisiana, the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under the Law and other groups.

    The conflicting or incomplete information may keep some residents displaced by Hurricanes Katrina or Rita from voting in the New Orleans primary April 22, said Tory Pegram, the ACLU's development and public education associate. -- Voter rights groups criticize election mailings

    March 2, 2006

    Alabama: DOJ threatens suit against Alabama over military absentee ballots

    AP reports: The U.S. Justice Department plans to file a lawsuit to force the state to come up with a plan to insure that military personnel overseas can vote in the June 27 primary runoff elections, Secretary of State Nancy Worley said Wednesday.

    The lawsuit could result in the state having to delay the runoffs until after the July 4 Independence Day holiday.

    Worley said her office received a letter this week from the Justice Department saying that a lawsuit has been authorized. The letter from Assistant Attorney General Wan Kim gives the state until March 10 to come up with a plan that would insure that soldiers have enough time to receive the ballots and return them.

    The letter was also sent to Attorney General Troy King and to Gov. Bob Riley's legal adviser, Ken Wallis.

    In his letter, Kim said federal law requires that uniformed military personnel be permitted to vote by absentee ballot.

    "To effectuate this right, election officials must send absentee ballots sufficiently in advance of the election to allow all such voters a reasonable opportunity to return their ballots in time to be accepted," Kim said in the letter. -- AP Wire | 03/01/2006 | Justice Department: state to be sued over military voting issue

    February 22, 2006

    Virginia: politician exonerated in election fraud case

    The Roanoke Times reports: A small-town politician accused of cheating his way to a two-vote victory on Election Day got the 12 votes he wanted Tuesday — from a jury.

    The Scott County jury acquitted Charles Dougherty of two counts of election fraud that stemmed from his aggressive courting of absentee voters in the disputed election for mayor of Gate City in May 2004.

    A clearly relieved Dougherty was surrounded by friends and family members following the verdict, which came after a day of testimony in which one voter said the ex-mayor paid her $7 for a pint of liquor in exchange for her vote.

    Dougherty’s relief may be short-lived; he still faces another 35 counts of election fraud. -- Gate City politician acquitted of vote fraud

    "Agressive courting of absentee voting"? Should all politicians be meek and mild in seeking votes?

    February 9, 2006

    Louisiana: absentee voter bills clear House and Senate committees

    The Shreveport Times reports: Thousands of Louisiana residents forced from their homes by hurricanes Katrina and Rita shouldn't be deprived of the right to vote in state and local elections but they should have to make some kind of effort, lawmakers said Wednesday.

    House and Senate committees Wednesday approved bills to ease restrictions on first-time voters, to allow mail-in votes and to allow evacuees to vote early in person at registrars' offices in specific parishes around the state.

    Without the changes, "there's a potential for disenfranchisement," said Sen. Charles Jones, D-Monroe, author of SB16.

    Secretary of State Al Ater, whose office administers elections, told the Senate and Governmental Affairs Committee that the Legislature needs to approve the changes or have a federal judge take over the elections.

    "I can almost assure you, from the legal challenges I've had in court, if we don't do this ourselves, someone else will do it for us," Ater said. "Besides, it's the fair and just thing." -- The Shreveport Times

    February 8, 2006

    Louisiana: civil rights groups pushing absentee voting plan

    The Shreveport Times reports: Hurricane evacuees who ended up in parishes or states outside their home districts should be allowed to vote by mail or in person wherever they are, representatives of citizen rights groups from across the state said Tuesday.

    Under the umbrella organization Louisiana Industrial Areas Foundation Network, the groups support several bills to be debated by the Legislature. The bills seek to allow evacuees to vote by mail or in person at any registrar's office in elections that affect their homes. Several bills seek to suspend a state law requiring first-time voters to cast ballots in person.

    "The 25,000 evacuees in Avoyelles Parish won't have a say in what's going on" if the Legislature doesn't establish a way for them to vote, said Jacqueline Marchand, a resident of a Federal Emergency Management Agency trailer village in Bunkie. ...

    The coalition consists of the Jeremiah Group from Orleans and Jefferson parishes, the Northern and Central Louisiana Interfaith with members in Ouachita, West Carroll, Bossier, Caddo, Rapides and Avoyelles parishes. -- The Shreveport Times

    February 5, 2006

    Louisiana: searching for the voters

    AP reports: Louisiana officials are preparing to send out nearly 1 million mailers as part of a campaign to tell voters who fled the wrath of Hurricane Katrina how to cast ballots from afar, a problem not as widespread in other Gulf Coast states.

    "It's unfair to think that displaced people would be election experts," Louisiana Secretary of State Al Ater said Saturday during a conference of secretaries of state.

    Ater said he wants every voter driven out of Louisiana to have "the opportunity to participate, if they want, and that the bar is no higher for them to participate than it is if somebody's home didn't get destroyed."

    In contrast, Mississippi faces fewer challenges because many of those who were displaced along the coast moved inland but are still in the state, its secretary of state, Eric Clark, told the conference.

    Mississippi is considering consolidating voting areas to create "mega-precincts" where population density is lower, and it will also try to identify people who could cast absentee ballots, Clark said. -- Nola.com: NewsFlash - Katrina-ravaged states plan for local, statewide elections

    February 1, 2006

    Utah: House approves early voting bill

    The Salt Lake Tribune reports: Utahns could vote up to two weeks before the polls usually open under a proposal that swept through the House on Monday as part of an election reform package receiving legislative scrutiny.
    The early-voting bill was one of three proposals the House approved in response to a federal mandate requiring the state to offer the latest in voting technology. Two aim to limit the number of new $3,200 touch-screen voting booths each county must buy. The other would allow Utahns abroad, namely those in the military, to vote electronically.
    It's all about "flexibility," says Rep. Douglas Aagard, R-Kaysville, who expects the proposal to make voting "more convenient" and possibly increase turnout.
    The first of his two bills, HB13, would decrease the number of polling places by allowing precincts to include more voters. The second, HB15, would allow voters to cast their ballot at specially created early-voting centers two weeks before Election Day. -- Salt Lake Tribune - Salt Lake Tribune Home Page

    Illinois: early voting now allowed

    The Chicago Tribune reports: Election Day is about to get much longer.

    Following a national trend that promises to change political campaigns here, Illinois voters will be allowed to cast ballots starting Feb. 27, well in advance of the March 21 primary and without providing the kind of travel or illness excuses needed for absentee ballots.

    Billed as a response to declining voter turnout, early voting will even be offered on weekends, providing flexibility for those tied up with work, children's swimming lessons or other obligations.

    "It ends Election Day as we know it," said Lake County Clerk Willard Helander. "Election Day simply becomes the last day to vote." -- Chicago Tribune | Soon you can vote early ... legally

    January 27, 2006

    Louisiana: ACLU opposes turning over the FEMA list to election officials

    AP reports: The American Civil Liberties Union is weighing in on whether a federal agency should provide information on where residents displaced by hurricanes are living.

    ACLU president Joe Cook said the information on the Federal Emergency Management Agency lists should remain private.

    "The Federal Privacy Act, which governs information about individuals who have applied for assistance, protects them against scam artists, abusive spouses, data miners and a host of others who would misuse the information, if it became public," Cook said in a news release.

    But some state lawmakers want the FEMA list.

    Attorney General Charles Foti has it and Reps. Charmaine Marchand and Cedric Richmond, both D-New Orleans, want to see it. Both represent heavily damaged areas of New Orleans and they said in a court petition to a district court in Baton Rouge that they were seeking the list so they could contact their constituents. -- Nola.com: NewsFlash - ACLU says FEMA list should stay private

    January 26, 2006

    Louisiana: 2 representatives sue for FEMA's list

    AP reports: Two state representatives from New Orleans want a state judge to force Attorney General Charles Foti to turn over a Federal Emergency Management Agency list that shows where residents displaced by the hurricanes are living.

    Reps. Charmaine Marchand and Cedric Richmond, Democrats who represent heavily damaged areas of New Orleans, said in their petition to a district court in Baton Rouge that they were seeking the list so they could contact their constituents.

    The petition — filed Thursday by state Sen. Cleo Fields, D-Baton Rouge, on behalf of the representatives — also says Foti refused to provide the list for "voting purposes." -- Nola.com: NewsFlash - State representatives ask judge for FEMA list

    January 11, 2006

    Louisiana: Secretary of State pushes for exception to absentee voting rules

    BayouBuzz.com reports: Secretary of State Al Ater is requesting that the state allow for first-time voters who have already registered by mail to be able to vote by absentee voting. This provision failed during the recent legislative session, but Ater says that a federal judge who is now involved in the matter due to two lawsuits lodged in his court believes those voters who would normally be required to be present to vote for the first time be allowed to vote by the absentee process. Ater says that the federal judge might block the election if the first-time absentee voters are not allowed to vote. In some respects, the Judge’s statement flies in the face of those plaintiffs who wanted elections as soon-as-possible and adds more uncertainty to the election date. However, there is a sense of fairness that should be considered as long as there is certainty that this new process is not tainted with any voter fraud. -- Louisiana Politics: Police Consolidation; New Orleans Election Delay; Villere, Alito, Landrieu and Dobson

    November 16, 2005

    Louisiana: State Senate nixes relaxation of absentee law for evacuees

    The Baton Rouge Advocate reports: The Senate derailed legislation Tuesday aimed at allowing more displaced hurricane evacuees to participate in upcoming elections.

    Under the proposal, residents who registered to vote by mail but have not yet voted in person could have cast absentee ballots -- something that opponents said could lead to voter fraud.

    Current law requires mail registrants to vote in person the first time so their identity can be verified.

    When the vote came, 16 senators voted for the proposal while 20 opposed it, so it did not pass. Another three senators didn't vote.

    Similar legislation is pending in the House, where it squeaked out of a committee on a 5-4 vote. -- 2theadvocate.com: News

    November 14, 2005

    Wisconsin: Election Law Review panel proposes changes in state law

    AP reports: Felons would have to sign a new document as they're released from prison acknowledging they can't vote and voter registration cards would include a new checkoff for people to swear they aren't criminals under draft reforms a committee approved Monday.

    The Legislative Council Special Committee on Election Law Review, made up of state lawmakers, municipal clerks and election law attorneys, passed the reforms on a 10-2 vote. The package now goes to the full Wisconsin Joint Legislative Council. If that body approves them, they'll be introduced into both the state Assembly and Senate simultaneously.

    The reforms stem from reports in Milwaukee County that some 4,600 more ballots were cast in the November 2004 election than voters tallied at the polls, that hundreds of votes were cast by felons and that people used fake names and addresses when registering to vote.

    The draft would require municipal clerks to keep soldiers' absentee ballots that arrive after the election but are postmarked prior to Election Day so they could be used in a possible recount. -- AP Wire | 11/14/2005 | Committee approves election reforms

    November 11, 2005

    Alabama: bill would allow military absentee balloting by fax

    AP reports: Two state senators have pre-filed a bill that would allow military personnel to apply for absentee ballots and to cast votes in Alabama elections by fax.

    Currently military personnel must cast votes and apply for ballots through the mail.

    The bill was pre-filed by Sens. Gerald Dial, D-Lineville, and Larry Dixon, R-Montgomery. -- AP Wire | 11/10/2005 | Bill would allow military personnel to cast ballots by fax

    November 9, 2005

    Ohio: redistrcting and election reforms defeated in referendum

    AP reports: Voters soundly rejected four issues Tuesday that would have overhauled the way Ohio runs its elections, ending a high-pitched campaign that had hoped to capitalize on a Republican investment scandal and complaints about last year's presidential election.

    The issues would have opened absentee balloting to all voters, lowered the cap on individual campaign contributions and put boards, instead of elected officials, in charge of drawing legislative and congressional districts and overseeing the state's elections.

    Reform Ohio Now, a coalition of unions and other Democrat-leaning groups, wanted to wrest control of elections from state officeholders, now a virtual Republican monopoly. Republicans resisted, forming an opposition group known as Ohio First. -- cantonrep.com

    November 7, 2005

    Michigan: absentee ballot campaign questioned in Detroit

    AP reports: Allegations of racism, biased judges and improprieties that include dead people on the voter roll have surfaced in the weeks before Tuesday's hotly contested city election.

    On the eve of the vote, the focus was on City Clerk Jackie Currie and her "Project Vote" program, which sends ambassadors to help the elderly and disabled fill out absentee ballots.

    Last week, a judge ordered state and Wayne County election officials to oversee absentee voting after ruling that Currie has been breaking state law in how she handles absentee ballots and supervises the ambassadors.

    In late October, The Detroit News reported that Currie's handling of absentee ballots was questionable. The newspaper found that people cast ballots even though their addresses were abandoned nursing homes or in one case, a vacant lot. -- mlive.com: NewsFlash - Allegations of election fraud, racism surface in days before Detroit election

    October 26, 2005

    Democrats support bill to give absentee ballot to Katrina evacuees

    The Birmingham News reports: Rep. Artur Davis' proposal to give displaced hurricane evacuees a chance to vote absentee in their home state elections has gained support on Capitol Hill but so far only from Democrats.

    The legislation, if approved, would treat evacuees from Louisiana and Mississippi like military personnel and let them vote back home in the 2006 and 2008 federal elections.

    Since its introduction Sept. 13, Davis' bill has attracted 33 co-sponsors, all of them Democrats, and a Senate version of the bill has three Democratic supporters. ...

    The proposal would require voters to certify that they are storm evacuees, provide their former address, and attest that they plan to return to their original residence after the election. Each state's own absentee voting laws would also apply. -- Democrats support bill to allow absentee voting by evacuees

    September 14, 2005

    Rep. Artur Davis introduces Displaced Citizens Voter Protection Act

    Congressman Artur Davis (D-AL7) has sent a press release concerning three hurricane-related bills he has introduced. One relates to voting rights: The Displaced Citizens Voter Protection Act of 2005 (HR 3734) ensures that victims of Hurricane Katrina have the right to vote by absentee ballot while temporarily displaced. Its provisions ensure that displaced citizens receive the same voting protections currently available to military and overseas voters. The absentee ballot voting provisions of the Act apply only to those individuals who certify that:

    1) they are otherwise qualified to vote in their original place of residence; and

    2) they intend to return to that residence in the near future.

    The Act covers elections for federal office held through 2008 and provides that state agencies designated under the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 take steps to notify individuals of their absentee voting rights.

    "Our displaced citizens should have the same rights as our soldiers, and for that matter our college students, to participate in their states elections while they are temporarily away from home. This bill would allow evacuees to assert by affidavit that they intend to return to Louisiana or Mississippi and to vote in the 2006 and 2008 federal elections by absentee ballot," Davis said.

    A copy of the bill is here.


    June 28, 2005

    Mexico: absentee voting approved

    AP reports: Lawmakers overwhelming approved on Tuesday a law allowing millions of Mexicans living abroad to vote by mail in next year's presidential election - a measure that could reshape the country's leadership race.

    To chants of "Viva Mexico," the lower house of Congress passed an absentee voting proposal 455-6 with six abstentions. The bill was already approved by Mexico's Senate and now only needs to signed by President Vicente Fox to become law_ something he has promised to do. ...

    An estimated 11 million Mexicans, as much as 14 percent of the country's electorate, live overseas, most in the United States. Expatriates are legally allowed to vote and hold dual citizenship, but have been effectively barred from participating in elections because of the lack of an absentee ballot system. -- AP Wire | 06/28/2005 | Mexico approves absentee mail-in voting

    May 25, 2005

    Washington State: King Co. election worker warned about inability to track returned ballots

    AP reports: The mail ballot supervisor in Washington state's most populous county testified Wednesday that she had raised concerns about the county's inability to track ballots months before last year's disputed governor's race.
    Click Here

    The supervisor, Nicole Way, said she repeatedly told her bosses as early as spring 2004 that the King County elections department couldn't tell how many ballots were being mailed out or received back. About two-thirds of the county's 900,000 votes in the November election were mail ballots.

    She testified on the third day of a trial in the GOP's challenge to the governor's race, which Gov. Christine Gregoire, a Democrat, won by 129 votes on the third count.

    The Republicans are trying to prove election errors and fraud stole the victory from Dino Rossi. They want Chelan County Superior Court Judge John Bridges to nullify Gregoire's victory, prompting a new election.

    Under questioning by GOP attorney Harry Korrell, Way said she and other workers tried to create a computer spreadsheet to track ballots they were mailing out, but eventually gave up. -- Top Stories - The Olympian - Olympia, Washington

    May 19, 2005

    Washington State: King co. absentee manager admits to false report

    AP reports: King County's absentee-ballot supervisor has testified that she collaborated with her boss when she filled out a report that falsely showed all ballots were accounted for in the November election, The Seattle Times reported Thursday.

    Nicole Way is the first employee to link an upper-level manager with a practice that failed to meet state ballot-auditing regulations. In a deposition Friday, she said she and assistant elections superintendent Garth Fell agreed to the misleading report because officials didn't know how many absentee ballots were returned by voters.

    By law, counties must reconcile the number of absentee ballots returned by voters with the number of ballots accepted or rejected. Way's report showed perfect reconciliation because it simply added the number accepted and rejected to calculate ballots returned.

    Dozens of absentee ballots were misplaced and the votes not tabulated during the November election. The ballots were never counted as accepted or rejected. -- OregonLive.com: NewsFlash - Election manager testifies boss agreed to false absentee count

    April 12, 2005

    Illinois: class action re lack of notice to challenged absentee voters

    A class action has been filed in the Northern District of Illinois regarding the untimely notice given to absentee voters of challenges to their ballots.

    Bruce Zessar voted by absentee ballot in Lake County, Illinois, but his ballot was never counted because the election officials determined that the signature was not the same. The election officials did not notify Zessar until mid-January that his ballot had not been counted.

    Zessar now seeks a reformation of the process. His suit points out, "The state of Illinois otherwise goes to great lengths to allow individuals to vote and to defend his [sic] ballot over a challenge. ... The validity of [absentee ballots] is determined by election officials without any opportunity to defend, although it would no difficulty to afford it."

    Zessar v. Helander, No. 05-1917, N.D. Ill. The complaint is here (without the exhibits).

    April 8, 2005

    Alabama: group formed to fight absentee fraud

    The Montgomery Advertiser reports: Voter fraud has been a fact- of- life in Alabama elections for many years, especially in the state's Black Belt region where investigations, indictments and occasional jail sentences are almost expected.

    Earlier this year, hundreds of Black Belt residents got together to form an organization they dubbed the Democracy Defense League.

    The purpose of the group is to focus attention on fraudulent voter activities and to push legislators to pass more stringent laws to stop them.

    If past efforts are any indication, the DDL project would seem to be facing an uphill fight. It's been tried before without much success. -- montgomeryadvertiser.com

    March 13, 2005

    Is sunshine a disinfectant or prelude to identity theft?

    The Palm Beach Post reports: If you've ever driven a car, leased a home, applied for a loan or even received mail, chances are you, and lots of information about you, are in a database somewhere.

    Using public records as well as private credit histories, data miners create your digital profile, which they then sell in bulk with millions of others.

    The recent spate of security breaches at ChoicePoint and Seisint makes Florida's generous Sunshine laws even more vulnerable than they already are.

    At least some of the information that alleged identity thieves took from ChoicePoint and LexisNexis' Seisint division, each with large computer centers in Boca Raton, originally came from public records.

    "We might see a backlash because it's easier to close public records than it is to regulate the aggregators," said Barbara Petersen, president of the Florida First Amendment Foundation, a watchdog group that monitors the state's laws designed to help the public watch over its government.

    "We need to focus on the problem, and access is not the problem," Petersen said. "Some states have attempted to do that, and it is completely contrary to 100 years of public records policy in Florida." ...

    For example, State Sen. Bill Posey, R-Rockledge, has filed a bill (SB 2178) that would keep confidential much of the information that can be found on someone's application for an absentee ballot.

    The measure would keep secret information such as the Social Security number, the date the absentee ballot was requested, when it was mailed, when the supervisor received it and, most concerning to open records advocates, "any other information the supervisor deems necessary regarding the request."

    Posey said, "You shouldn't be able to get someone's driver's license number" from an elections supervisor. -- Data thefts imperil open records

    What a wonderful thought on Sunshine Sunday.

    March 12, 2005

    Florida: mayor and judge indicted for paying for absentee vote campaign

    The Ledger reports: Mayor Buddy Dyer was suspended Friday after he, a judge and two others each surrendered on a felony charge that they violated a state law prohibiting payments for the collection of absentee ballots. ...

    Dyer, Circuit Judge Alan Apte and Dyer's campaign manager, Patty Sharp, each were booked on one count of providing "pecuniary gain" for absentee ballot possession or collection. Campaign consultant Ezzie Thomas was charged with accepting pecuniary gain for absentee ballot possession or collection. Each is a third-degree felony punishable by up to five years in prison.

    A grand jury indicted them Thursday.

    The law was enacted after Miami's 1998 mayoral election was thrown out because of fraud committed in the collection of absentee ballots. Dyer voted for the law while he was a state senator. -- Orlando Mayor To Face Charges | theledger.com

    February 23, 2005

    Alabama: election contest for Guntersville mayor now in second day

    The Huntsville Times reports: Guntersville election officials accepted hospital bills and credit card documents as proper identification for voting absentee during the 2004 Guntersville mayor's race, according to testimony Tuesday.

    Plaintiffs say many illegal absentee ballots were counted in the Aug. 24 election in which Mayor James Townson defeated Bob Hembree Jr., by one vote, 1,242 to 1,241. Testimony was to continue today at 9 a.m.

    During eight hours of testimony Tuesday, Guntersville City Clerk Betty Jones identified the absentee voting documents of 60 or more residents and answered questions about counting ballots.

    Townson lost at the polling place at the Guntersville Recreation Center, 1,206 to 1,124, but won his fourth term by taking the absentee ballot count, 118 to 35.

    Hembree, who conceded the election to Townson after a recount, told the Guntersville Rotary Club last week he doesn't support the court fight but will serve if Jolley decides he should have won. But he said if Townson wins the trial, he wouldn't accept the post even if the plaintiffs win on appeal. -- Guntersville clerk testifies about absentee votes at trial

    Some folks in Guntersville hired me last week to file an amicus brief in this case. I've been working on it pretty heavily the last few days and filed it just before the trial started. You can download my brief here.

    January 9, 2005

    Orlando: consultant admits absentee ballot violations

    The Tallahassee Democrat reports: A campaign consultant at the center of an investigation into alleged ballot fraud in a disputed mayor's race has told prosecutors that the campaigns of many central Florida politicians, including newly elected U.S. Sen. Mel Martinez, paid him to gather absentee ballots, according to his attorney.

    Ezzie Thomas, who has been given immunity, is a specialist in getting out the absentee vote and has been hired for this service since 1998, attorney Dean Mosley said Friday. ...

    The practice of paying ballot brokers was outlawed in 1998 when Florida cracked down on election fraud in the wake of a Miami mayor's race that was nullified by a judge, primarily due to fraudulent absentee ballots.

    The law made it a third-degree felony to pay or accept money "for distributing, ordering, requesting, collecting, delivering or otherwise physically possessing absentee ballots." -- Tallahassee Democrat | 01/09/2005 | Absentee ballots questioned

    December 13, 2004

    Washington State: 561 wrongfully-rejected absentee ballots to be counted

    AP reports: In a move that could swing the close race for governor, King County Elections Director Dean Logan will ask the county Canvass Board to amend the results of the Nov. 2 election to include hundreds of absentee ballots that Logan says were wrongly rejected.

    Democrat Christine Gregoire, who trails Republican Dino Rossi by just a few dozen votes as both sides await the results of a tedious hand recount, won King County handily, and new votes there could put her back in the lead.

    Logan said Monday that approximately 561 absentee ballots were rejected because it was mistakenly thought that the signatures on the ballots did not match original voter registration records. However, he said the signatures simply were not on file in the county's voter registration system, and that original registration records should have been checked. -- King County elections head: 561 ballots wrongly rejected

    December 7, 2004

    Conference tallies voting problems

    AP reports: Voting and civil rights advocates contended Tuesday that the election did not go as smoothly as Americans might think.

    Reports of long lines at some polling places, voting machine errors, absentee ballots that never arrived and problems with provisional ballots dominated a daylong conference Tuesday, and experts said more changes are needed to eliminate obstacles to voting.

    "We learned on Election Day that our voting methods remain troubled and that many Americans continue to experience difficulty navigating a system that falls far short of our view of ourselves as the world's greatest democracy," said Common Cause President Chellie Pingree, who moderated the conference.

    Registration problems were the most frequent complaint in 2004, according to a database kept by a coalition of voting rights groups. Some voters registered by the deadline but did not show up on voter lists, while others received cards with incorrect information. -- Conference focuses on 'troubled' voting system

    November 24, 2004

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

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

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

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

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

    November 10, 2004

    Florida -- Federal judge rejects suit on tardy absentee ballots

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

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

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

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

    How many ballots went missing?

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

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

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

    November 6, 2004

    South Carolina -- challenge to GOP absentee voter program

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

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

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

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

    November 5, 2004

    Florida -- voters using provisional ballots accused of voting twice

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

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

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

    November 4, 2004

    Iowa -- lagard absentee ballots

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

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

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

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

    November 3, 2004

    Dahlia Lithwick: "The legal nightmare that never materialized"

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

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

    November 2, 2004

    Philadelphia -- absentee voters

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

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

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

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

    November 1, 2004

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

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

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

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

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

    Was this just a cleap publicity stunt?

    October 28, 2004

    GOP is whipping up a controversy over military absentee ballots

    AP reports: Military voters stationed overseas are returning absentee ballots in Pennsylvania at about the same rate as all absentee ballots are coming in, according to electronic reporting by 53 county elections offices.

    The 53 counties collectively mailed 15,373 ballots to servicemen and women and their families overseas, and so far 9,522 have been returned, a rate of 62 percent, according to state records obtained by The Associated Press on Thursday. ...

    The figures were released as Republicans raise concerns that mailing delays could unfairly reduce the number of military overseas ballots counted in Tuesday's presidential election. Ballots for military families and overseas voters in remote parts of the world were mailed out starting Aug. 24, and all other overseas ballots were mailed out starting Sept. 20. Domestic absentee ballots were mailed starting Oct. 19. ...

    A GOP-financed federal lawsuit by two servicemen in Iraq and Kuwait filed Wednesday against Rendell and Secretary of State Pedro Cortes seeks a 15-day extension for their ballots' return. One of the plaintiffs lives in Venango County, where records show that 131 of the 134 overseas ballots mailed out have already come back to the elections office.

    Fanned by conservative radio hosts, the issue has erupted over the past week, with thousands of callers jamming phone lines at the governor's office and Rendell facing repeated questions about it from the public during his ongoing bus tour in support of Democratic candidate Sen. John F. Kerry. -- Overseas military returning ballots at same rate as others (AP via philly.com)

    Early voting brings early litigation in Florida

    The New York Times reports: It is as if the presidential election of 2000 never ended here.

    Six days before Election Day, Florida is again struggling with questions about potential voting irregularities, from complaints about missing absentee ballots in Broward County and accusations of voter suppression in minority neighborhoods to concerns about new touch-screen voting machines. Floridians have been standing for as long as three hours to cast early votes in the presidential race, testimony to the unresolved passions of the election of 2000. Interest is so intense that analysts predict that a staggering 75 percent of Florida voters will cast ballots by the time polls close Tuesday evening.

    The disappearance of absentee ballots only fed suspicion among Democrats already distrustful of a state government controlled by President Bush's brother Gov. Jeb Bush, with pollsters saying Floridians are already concerned that their votes will not be counted.

    The Florida Department of Law Enforcement said Wednesday that it found no foul play after investigating widespread complaints of missing absentee ballots in Broward County. But questions remained about where the ballots had gone and whether the intended recipients would be able to vote. -- Passion and Election Disputes on Rise in Florida (New York Times)

    The disappearance of the absentee ballots brings new meaning to SNAFU -- Situation Normal, All Floridaed Up.

    October 25, 2004

    Mecklenburg officials relent; Sunday voting draws large crowd

    The Charlotte Observer reports: Faced with throngs of voters seeking to cast ballots Sunday, Mecklenburg County [North Carolina]'s top election official said the big crowds caught his department by surprise.

    Some voters waited more than three hours to cast a ballot. ...

    [Board of Elections Director Michael Dickerson] said nearly 2,400 voters turned out during a four-hour voting window Sunday afternoon, days after county commissioners split in a partisan fight over whether Sunday voting should take place at all.

    A total of 40 machines were operating at five sites. Dickerson said the Elections Board had not known how many sites would be needed because the county has never before offered Sunday voting. On weekdays, 100 machines operate at 13 sites. ...

    Mecklenburg County commissioners touched off a partisan fracas Tuesday night, when the five Republican board members voted against accepting a $55,992 state grant for Sunday voting and early voting at two college campuses.

    Democrats cried foul, saying the Republicans were trying to suppress voter turnout, especially by minorities.

    Republicans said they believe the state Board of Elections did not follow the proper process in establishing Sunday voting.

    The commissioners later said they would accept the money at their Nov. 3 meeting, after finding out the county would be obliged to proceed with Sunday voting anyway, and pay for it out of local money. -- 1st Sunday voters form 3-hour lines (Charlotte Observer)

    October 23, 2004

    Fight over Nader delays Wisconsin's overseas ballots

    The Barron (WI) News Shield reports: Efforts by Democrats to remove candidate Ralph Nader from the Wisconsin ballot delayed printing and mailing ballots to overseas Wisconsin military.

    During a press conference Thursday, concerned citizens who are former military personnel or have family serving in Iraq said Wisconsin Democrats' actions "have put Wisconsin's military vote into jeopardy."

    Democrats tried to remove Independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader from the state ballot by first petitioning the state elections board and then appealing their rejection to the Wisconsin Supreme Court, which eventually agreed with the election board.

    In some municipalities across the state, printing was delayed by as many as five days.

    For the military in Iraq and Afghanistan, this delay might negate their vote since absentee ballots must be back to municipal clerks by Nov. 2. It can take up to 18 days one way for mail to get to and from Iraq. -- Efforts to oust Nader may cost soldiers their vote (Barron News Shield)

    Thanks to Richard Winger for the link.

    October 22, 2004

    South Dakota prohibits early voting near homecoming game

    AP reports: [South Dakota] Secretary of State Chris Nelson said Wednesday that plans to offer early voting Friday at a satellite station in Lyman County are illegal.

    The Four Directions Committee, a nonprofit group that undertook a voter registration drive before South Dakota's primary elections, worked with the Lyman County auditor to set up a way for American Indians to vote early on Friday in Lower Brule.

    But plans to combine the voting with the homecoming event creates an illegal incentive to vote, according to Nelson.

    "There are some laws that prohibit offering anything of value to a voter to encourage them to vote or vote for a specific candidate or ballot question," he said, citing a case from several years ago when food was brought to a polling place for voters. ...

    Many Indians already have voted early on reservations across South Dakota. But lawyer Patrick Duffy of Rapid City said the Lower Brule balloting should be allowed because people are not required to vote in order to eat free food.

    "It's insane," Duffy said. "What's next, a cease and desist order no food served in Sioux Falls on Nov. 2? The mere fact that people in Lower Brule might be going to a football game and eating a meal is no reason for the secretary of state to (step) in and say, 'I'm not going to let you vote.'" -- One early voting plan ruled illegal (AP via Rapid City Journal)

    Thanks to Bryan Sells for the link.

    October 20, 2004

    Mecklenburg County blocks early voting plan

    The Charlotte Observer reports: Early voting scheduled for this Sunday could be in jeopardy, after [Mecklenburg County, NC] commissioners voted 5-3 along party lines to withhold $55,992 in state funding for the program.Republicans argued that the State Board of Elections violated an established process when it approved Sunday voting.

    They said the county elections office would only get the money if it canceled Sunday voting.

    Democrats called the move an abuse of power and alleged that Republicans were trying to suppress voter turnout. Some groups planned to bus voters to the polls after church on Sunday.

    That prompted a quick retort from Republican Ruth Samuelson, who listed all the opportunities that people have to vote. -- County manager gets 7.1% raise; Board votes to withhold money if Sunday voting is not canceled (charlotte.com)

    A usually reliable source tells me: The sticking point was the county BOE's plan to keep 5 sites open on Sundays for early voting. (Sunday sites are open in Raliegh and Durham.) The commissioners who voted against the plan cited "fatih-based" reasons, among other things, but my contacts there believe that the real reason is the well-publicized "Souls to the Polls" campaign underway in black churches in Charlotte. Apparently, the campaign is planning to take 6,000 to 8,000 parishoners to the polls after church this Sunday.

    I just heard that the State Board of Elections has said that the Sunday voting sites are not optional. Either the county can accept the money or pay for it with property taxes. The county commission is meeting Friday to revisit the issue.

    October 18, 2004

    How early voting leads to missing votes

    John Dougherty writes in The Phoenix New Times: With less then three weeks before the general election, I have serious doubts that whatever "official" results the Maricopa County Elections Department posts will be an accurate reflection of what voters intended.

    After a week of investigating the department's mishandling of last month's controversial recount in the District 20 state House of Representatives race, I won't believe the results of any election in this county if the contest is within a couple of percentage points.

    There is just too much slop in the current system to have any confidence in the winner of an election closer than this.

    My concerns over the accuracy of Maricopa County's election numbers result from the widespread and popular use of mail-in ballots. I have discovered ample evidence that the county elections department is covering up serious shortfalls in its ability to accurately count such early mailed-in ballots.

    The uncontrolled circumstances of voting at home plus the wide variety of writing utensils commonly used to mark ballots greatly increases the likelihood that early ballots will be misread by the county's optical scanning machines provided by the Omaha, Nebraska-based Election Systems & Software, Incorporated (ES&S). -- Election Eve Nightmare (phoenixnewtimes.com)

    October 16, 2004

    Volusia County, Florida, to open more early-voting sites

    The Daytona Beach News-Journal reports: Attorneys for the NAACP and Volusia County on Friday settled a voting rights lawsuit against Supervisor of Elections Deanie Lowe.

    The activist organization sued on Oct. 7 to force the county to open an additional early-voting site in Daytona Beach.

    Lowe had planned to open only one site -- at Department of Elections headquarters in DeLand. Representatives of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People argued that having only one site would disenfranchise black voters in east Volusia County.

    Under the agreement, the county will open additional sites at City Island Library in Daytona Beach, New Smyrna Beach Regional Library and Deltona Regional Library. All sites open at 8 a.m. Monday. -- NAACP settles; county to open voting sites (The Daytona Beach News-Journal)

    7th Cicruit holds no constitutional right to absentee ballot

    In Griffin v. Roupas, the Seventh Circuit (through Judge Posner) held that there is no constititutional right to an absentee ballot. Here is how Judge Posner described the suit:

    The plaintiffs, who appeal from the grant of a motion by the defendants (the members of the Illinois State Board of Elections) to dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim, are working mothers who contend that because it is a hardship for them to vote in person on election day, the U.S. Constitution requires Illinois to allow them to vote by absentee ballot. Illinois allows voting by absentee ballot only if the voter either “expects to be absent [on election day] from the county in which he is a qualified elector” or is unable to vote in person because of physical incapacity, religious observance, residing outside his precinct for attendance at a college or university, or having to perform specified official duties—election judge in another precinct, certain other election duties, or serving as a sequestered juror. 10 ILCS 5/19-1. Failing as they do to qualify for any of these exceptions, the plaintiffs ask us to order in the name of the Constitution weekend voting, all-mail voting, an unlimited right to an absentee ballot, a general hardship entitlement to such a ballot, or some other change in Illinois law (Internet voting from home, perhaps?) that would allow people who find it hard for whatever reason to get to the polling place on election day nevertheless to vote.

    October 13, 2004

    DOJ sues Pennsylvania over delayed overseas ballots

    AP reports: The Department of Justice has sued Pennsylvania elections officials in an attempt to give overseas voters two more weeks to cast ballots in the Nov. 2 election, according to a published report.

    The suit, filed Tuesday in Pennsylvania, contends the state failed to send out ballots in time due to a legal dispute over whether they should list independent candidate Ralph Nader, The New York Times reported Wednesday.

    Pennsylvania officials said Tuesday that they would fight the lawsuit, arguing that they will help overseas voters by offering overnight deliveries of ballots or allowing them to fax their completed ballots. -- Justice Dept. Sues on Behalf of Overseas Voters in Pa. (AP via washingtonpost.com)

    October 6, 2004

    Georgia Dems complain about GOP absentee ballots

    AP reports: Georgia Democrats say a campaign mailer sent out by their Republican counterparts broke state law by attaching absentee ballots to literature urging voters to support the GOP.

    In a letter Tuesday to the state Elections Board, Democratic Party of Georgia Chairman Bobby Kahn said the mailer - sent to Republican voters by the state Republican Party - violates a law created by the Legislature in 2001. ...

    State law, passed in 2001, forbids anyone from distributing absentee ballots that also advocate for or against a candidate, issue or party.

    Democrats say the law was prompted by the 2000 election, when state Republicans sent out a similar mass mailing. -- Dems' complaint calls GOP mailing illegal (AP via Tallahassee.com)

    September 29, 2004

    Every vote counts ... unless the mail is late

    The New York Times reports: Four years after overseas voting became a battleground in the presidential election in Florida, millions of civilians and soldiers living abroad still face a bewildering and unwieldy system of absentee balloting that could prevent their votes from being counted.

    Election officials concede that tens of thousands of Americans overseas might not get ballots in time to cast votes. Late primaries and legal wrangling caused election offices in at least 8 of the 15 swing states to fail to mail absentee ballots by Sept. 19, a cutoff date officials say is necessary to ensure that they can be returned on time, a survey by The New York Times shows. In Florida in 2000, late-arriving ballots became a divisive issue when some were counted and others were disqualified.

    The tardy ballots are just one of several setbacks or missteps that have affected the ability of the estimated 4.4 million eligible voters overseas to participate in the presidential election. Some have been unable to send their registrations to a Pentagon contractor's computers, which are clogged by thousands of voter forms. Others were denied access to a Web site designed to help Americans abroad vote. And many voters simply have had trouble navigating the rules and methods that determine how and when to register and vote and that vary by state. ...

    To help speed the balloting process, federal officials activated a new system last week in which voters can obtain absentee ballots instantly through the Internet. But the Web site, myballot.mil, will be offered only to members of the military and their families, quickly raising concerns about fairness in a program that the Pentagon has been directed to run for civilians as well. In addition, 23 states have already declined to join the system for various reasons, including security, according to Pentagon and state officials.

    People on both sides vying for the overseas vote say the balloting system remains so flawed that some predict legal battles if these votes prove crucial to the outcome of the presidential race. -- Absentee Votes: Hurdles Remain for American Voters Who Live Overseas

    September 23, 2004

    Pentagon re-opens online absentee voting site

    The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports: The Pentagon has restored access to a Web site that assists soldiers and other Americans living overseas in voting, after receiving complaints that its security measures were preventing legitimate voters from using it.

    The site, www.fvap.gov, had been closed to users of certain Internet service providers, because some hackers were using those providers to launch attacks on U.S. government sites, military officials said. But that had the effect of restricting legitimate traffic from those providers, as well.

    The move prompted criticism from overseas voter advocates and a few Democratic members of Congress, who said the security interfered with the voting rights of Americans overseas.

    In a statement, the Pentagon said the changes will open the Web site, run by the Foreign Voting Assistance Program, to most, but not all, users. The site assists U.S. citizens overseas in casting absentee ballots. -- Pentagon restores voting Web site access (AP via Seattle Post-Intelligencer)

    September 22, 2004

    3 Democratic representatives ask Pentagon to reopen voting web site

    AP reports: Three Congress members urged the Pentagon on Wednesday to restore access to a Web site designed to help soldiers and other Americans living abroad to cast absentee ballots in the Nov. 2 elections.

    Democratic Reps. Henry Waxman of California, Carolyn Maloney of New York, and William Lacy Clay of Missouri said closing off some avenues of access to the site interferes with the voting rights of U.S. citizens overseas.

    "Our government should make it as easy as possible for all Americans to exercise their most basic right, rather than making them navigate an obstacle course just to apply for a ballot," they said in a letter to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

    The site, http://www.fvap.gov, belongs to the Federal Voting Assistance Program, which was designed to make it easier for expatriate Americans - including those serving in the U.S. military - to vote by absentee ballot. -- Congress members want overseas voting Web site restored (AP via TheState.com)

    September 21, 2004

    Pentagon shuts out overseas civilians from voting site

    Salon.com reports: Over the past year, the Federal Voting Assistance Program Web site has been widely advertised all over the foreign press as the way for Americans to get help on how to vote in the upcoming election. The site, which is maintained by the Department of Defense, is a nonpartisan, comprehensive, and official clearinghouse for voting registration information. Now that it's been put off-limits to many Americans just before registration deadlines kick in, activists fear that Americans will be unfairly barred from voting this year.

    Why would the Pentagon do this? Officials at the Voting Assistance Program have told some Americans living abroad that the blocked ISPs were havens for "hack" attacks against the voting site; the Pentagon had no choice but to block them in order to keep the voting site secure from attack. But that explanation is extremely fishy, say critics who see something more nefarious at work. The Defense Department maintains all manner of sensitive Web sites -- for instance, MyPay, which allows military personnel to manage their compensation online -- and it's had no problem protecting those from hackers while keeping them open for legitimate uses.

    "This is a completely partisan thing," one Defense Department voting official told Salon. The official, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of being fired, is one of the many people in the department assigned to help both uniformed military personnel as well as American civilians register to vote. The offical described the Pentagon as extremely diligent in its efforts to register soldiers stationed overseas -- for instance, voting assistance officers have been told by the department to personally meet with all of the soldiers in their units in order to help them register. But the department has ignored its mandate to help overseas civilians who want to vote, the official said. -- The Pentagon doesn't want you to vote overseas (Salon.com)

    September 13, 2004

    Absentee voting will increase this year

    The New York Times reports: As both major political parties intensify their efforts to promote absentee balloting as a way to lock up votes in the presidential race, election officials say they are struggling to cope with coercive tactics and fraudulent vote-gathering involving absentee ballots that have undermined local races across the country.

    Some of those officials say they are worried that the brashness of the schemes and the extent to which critical swing states have allowed party operatives to involve themselves in absentee voting - from handling ballot applications to helping voters fill out their ballots - could taint the general election in November.

    In the four years since the last presidential election, prosecutors have brought criminal cases in at least 15 states for fraud in absentee voting. One case resulted in the conviction of a voting-rights activist this year for forging absentee ballots in a Wisconsin county race. In another case, a Republican election worker in Ohio was charged with switching the votes of nursing-home residents in the 2000 presidential race. And last year in Michigan, three city council members pleaded guilty in a vote-tampering case that included forged signatures and ballots altered by white-out.

    The increasing popularity of absentee voting is reshaping how and when the country votes. Since the last presidential election, a growing number of election officials and party operatives have been promoting absentee balloting as a way to make it easier for people to vote and alleviate the crush of Election Day. At least 26 states now let residents cast absentee ballots without needing the traditional excuse of not being able to make it to polling places. That is six more states than allowed the practice in 2000. -- Fraud: Absentee Votes Worry Officials as Nov. 2 Nears

    August 21, 2004

    "It's election month and a half"

    The New York Times reports on the absentee ballot campaigns by the Dems and the GOP: "It's election month and a half," said Jason Glodt, executive director of the Republican Party in South Dakota.

    The state parties, furthering a trend already in evidence in 2002, are accelerating their schedules, gearing up activities like rounding up volunteers and releasing advertisements to reach the early voter. But the get-out-the-early-vote phenomenon has further potential implications for how the nation chooses its leaders. Political parties may be able to bank votes when their candidate is up in the polls. They may also be able to soften the blow of hit mail, televised debates or any late-season event - the "October surprise" - that could sway large numbers of voters.

    Early voting is also letting political parties get around one Election Day hallmark: the century-old anticorruption laws that force partisans to keep their distance from polling places. The laws do not apply to catching people at home with their ballots, and that has freed party tacticians to devise plans, largely unpublicized, to court the early vote. The plans include helping to register voters expressly to vote absentee, mailing out tip sheets on avoiding errors that could disqualify absentee votes, and even collecting completed ballots.

    In short, said Michelle Davidson, the Democratic operative who engineered the early-voter roundup in Arizona, "You can violate the 75-foot rule." -- Both Parties See New Promise When the Ballot Is in the Mail


    July 13, 2004

    DOJ sues Georgia over late absentee ballots

    UPI reports: The U.S. Justice Department said Tuesday it has filed suit to ensure Georgia absentee voters get a chance to vote, despite late absentee ballots.

    The department said "numerous" Georgia counties failed to mail requested absentee ballots to citizens living overseas in time for them to vote in the July 20 primary for members of Congress.

    The suit asks a federal judge for an emergency order requiring state officials to make sure qualified voters are allowed to cast ballots. Specifically, the department is asking for a 14-day extension of the state deadline for overseas ballots; to allow overseas voters to return ballots by fax and express mail at no charge ot the voters and to allow voters to use a special ballot available at U.S. embassies and military bases. -- Suit seeks to protect Ga. overseas voters - (United Press International via the Washington Times)

    July 4, 2004

    Fill-in absentee ballot mailed by Davidson County

    A Nashville man stationed with the Navy in Texas says he was taken aback yesterday when he received his absentee ballot to vote in the Aug. 5 election.

    The makeshift nature of the mailing left him wondering whether his vote would be counted.
    ''It's a bit of a joke,'' said Lt. Benjamin Whitehouse, 27, a Navy judge advocate general, or JAG, lawyer who has voted absentee many times.

    ''They've photocopied the ballot. It's not even an actual ballot. I'm supposed to write in the names of the people I want to vote for.''

    The packet he received from the Davidson County Election Commission was a result of the absentee ballot foul-up that led to Thursday's dismissal of Administrator of Elections Michael McDonald.

    Whitehouse's ballots had blank lines for him to fill in his choices and separate sheets with instructions and lists of candidates in various races in which Whitehouse is eligible to vote. -- Absentee voters get makeshift ballot packets (Nashville Tennessean)

    June 19, 2004

    Absentee ballot controversy in Britain

    The right to vote by postal ballot may have to be restricted if the [British] Government cannot find ways of eliminating fraud, the leader of Birmingham City Council has warned.

    Sir Albert Bore, in a letter to the Prime Minister, called for an overhaul of the system following numerous allegations of malpractice during the local authority elections.

    West Midlands Police is investigating claims of mis-use of postal votes across Birmingham, particularly in marginal inner city wards.

    The defeated Liberal Democrat candidate in Aston, Ayoub Khan, is expected to take an election petition to the High Court next week. He will claim that Labour's victory in the ward was the result of postal vote fraud. -- Blair told to change voting system (Birmingham Post)

    May 29, 2004

    Candidates on the wrong ballots

    Jefferson County [Alabama] officials are reprinting Democratic primary ballots and resetting voting machines at 185 locations for Tuesday's vote after an error involving a county school board seat.

    The election in question is for the Jefferson County Board of Education seat occupied by Jacqueline Smith and contested by Sonja Lynae Banks, both Democrats. There is no Republican opponent so the primary election will decide the race. And it's the only contested seat on the school board.

    The seat is voted on only by people living in cities in Jefferson County, such as Birmingham, that have their own school boards.

    The race was not printed on ballots going to cities and was instead printed on the ballots to be used in unincorporated Jefferson County. Residents there are to vote only for the other four school board seats. ...

    Some absentee ballots already have been collected; votes in that race will be thrown out, [Probate Judge] Bolin said. If the race comes down to those votes, the losing candidate may be able to contest the election, he said. -- Ballot error forces reprint (Birmingham News)

    I'm not exactly sure what Bolin means. The votes he is going to trhow out are from ineligible voters. If the margin of victory is less than the number of absentee ballots received from people who live in the Smith-Banks district, then the loser may have grounds for a challenge.

    May 24, 2004

    Alabama AG will not sue -- yet -- over late absentee ballots

    [Alabama] Attorney General Troy King says he will not take immediate legal action against officials in Tuscaloosa County for being late in mailing absentee ballots to military personnel.

    King said in a letter to Secretary of State Nancy Worley last week that he made the decision not to take legal action after being assured by Tuscaloosa County officials that no voters would be denied the right to vote because of the late ballots. -- A.G. Says He Won't Take Action Over Late Ballots To Military (AP via nbc13.com)

    May 21, 2004

    Overseas ballots delayed in Tuscaloosa County

    [Alabama] Secretary of State Nancy Worley says military personnel from Tuscaloosa County may not have their ballots counted in the June 1 Democratic and Republican Party primaries because county officials were late mailing the ballots.

    Worley sent a letter Thursday asking Attorney General Troy King to consider taking legal action to assure that the ballots of military personnel in Tuscaloosa County are counted.

    King's executive assistant, Chris Bence, said the attorney general would have no comment until his staff had a chance to study the issue.

    The Tuscaloosa County Commission recently redrew its county commission district lines and had delayed sending out the ballots while waiting for the U.S. Justice Department to approve the new district lines. -- Worley says Tuscaloosa County ballots late being sent to troops (AP via AL.com)

    May 12, 2004

    GOP candidate asks for recount in Indiana

    Longtime [Indiana] Senate Finance Committee Chairman Larry Borst asked state election officials yesterday for a recount in his 48-vote loss in last week's Republican primary.

    Borst decided against a more drastic option -- petitioning for a new election -- saying state Republican leaders should be the ones to decide whether voting irregularities in Marion County were so serious that voters were disenfranchised. ...

    Marion County GOP Chairman Mike Murphy said he will not seek a new election either, despite problems that include some voters leaving the polls after precincts ran out of ballots.

    Borst's attorney, David Brooks of Indianapolis, said yesterday that he believes there are a number of absentee and provisional ballots that were not counted in many Marion County precincts. ...

    In part, that's because election officials provided unclear instructions about how to handle the provisional ballots — which were used in last week's election for the first time — making many of them invalid.

    Also, Brooks said, some precinct inspectors have reported that they did not run their absentee ballots through the voting machines, as required by state law. -- Borst asks for primary recount (Louisville Courier-Journal)

    May 9, 2004

    Katherine Harris: Oops

    It sounds like something from the 2000 presidential election -- an absentee ballot isn't counted because it isn't filled out properly. And this disenfranchised voter was no stranger to election debacles -- U.S. Rep. Katherine Harris.

    Harris, who as Florida's secretary of state oversaw the presidential recount, forgot to sign her absentee ballot when she voted in Longboat Key's local election March 9.

    "I feel terrible," Harris said Friday. "It's a mistake. I regret it."

    Harris, now a member of Congress, said she was in a rush to catch a flight to Washington, D.C., when she handed the unsigned absentee ballot to her husband to send in. She said she usually votes in person and has never had trouble before. -- Harris forgets to sign her absentee ballot (OrlandoSentinel.com)

    Seems to me that I remember the Republicans claiming that any undervotes in 2000 were the fault of voters too stupid to follow instructions.

    April 18, 2004

    Pennsylvania ordered to extend time for military absentee ballots

    Here is the opinion of the US district court in United States v Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, which requires the Commonwealth to extend the time for accepting military and overseas absentee ballots.

    April 15, 2004

    Pennsylvania seeks to extend deadline for military absentee ballots

    PA Governor Edward G. Rendell today directed the Secretary of the Commonwealth, Pedro A. Cortes, to work with Attorney General Jerry Pappert, Pennsylvania's 67 county boards of elections, and the U.S. Department of Justice Voting Rights Section to take immediate action in Federal and State courts to assure that Pennsylvania voters serving on active duty in the U.S. military services and civilians who are overseas have a full and fair opportunity to vote by absentee ballot in the April 27, 2004 General Primary.

    The Governor today directed Secretary Cortes to take extraordinary action on behalf of Pennsylvanians in military service and voters overseas because of delays experienced by many Pennsylvania counties in distributing absentee ballots. An unprecedented number of challenges against primary nomination petitions caused delays in the preparation of official county absentee ballots. While Pennsylvania law authorizes counties to send special absentee ballots to absent military and overseas voters before official absentee ballots can be printed, many Pennsylvania counties waited to distribute official absentee ballots. -- PA Governor Rendell Acts to Secure the Voting Rights of Pennsylvanians in Military Service and Overseas Voters (Governor's press release via PRNewswire)

    April 13, 2004

    Should absentee ballots have a witness?

    With thousands more Floridians expected to use absentee ballots to vote in November's presidential election, state election officials are calling for changes that critics say could invite fraud.

    Election supervisors across the state want to do away with requiring absentee voters to find a witness to sign their ballots, even though witness information proved crucial in overturning a rigged 1997 Miami mayoral race.

    The witness portion of the ballot is unnecessary, election officials say, since their clerks merely verify whether the voter's signature matches the one on file. Voters must have a witness's signature and address on the absentee ballot, but no one in the election office ever checks the address or identity of the witness. -- Absentee ballots may not require a witness (Miami Herald)

    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)