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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

June 8, 2010

Tim James asks for $ "to ensure that every vote counts"

GOP gubernatorial candidate (now in 3rd place) Tim James'
website carries this Democratic-sounding headline: We need your help to ensure that every vote counts!

His undated blog entry repeats this plea and says, "It has always been my intent to have every vote count. What’s apparent now is that we will need to recount the vote. There is nearly a 100% chance that when you recount votes, especially with as many as 492,000 cast in this primary, the numbers will change. My No. 1 concern is knowing whether we won or lost."

"Every vote counts" -- what a catchy slogan.

June 5, 2010

Alabama: fewer provisional ballots than 4 years ago

AP has a short item about the decline in the number of provisional ballots. -- Alabama election chief says provisional ballots down | al.com

June 3, 2010

Alabama: Provisional ballots might make the difference in the GOP governor race

The Birmingham News reports: Republican candidate for Alabama governor Tim James urged voters who cast a provisional ballot Tuesday to make sure their votes are counted by taking a driver license or other form of identification to their county's Board of Registrars by 5 p.m. Friday. ...

"There are an estimated 1,000 ballots that have yet to be counted," the Greenville businessman said. "This race is still not settled." ...

James would not talk about what he might do after the votes were certified, which is expected to happen June 9. The certification could decide whether James or state Rep. Robert Bentley of Tuscaloosa would join the July 13 Republican runoff for governor with former two-year college chancellor Bradley Byrne. ...

In unofficial results, James trailed Bentley by 208 votes out of more than 492,000 cast in Tuesday's GOP primary. Read the whole article --> Tim James, with GOP runoff spot in limbo, tells provisional voters to take IDs to county officials | al.com

November 15, 2009

Alabama: Packard proposes amendments to election laws

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

April 16, 2009

Florida: keep those lawyers away from the voters

The New York Times reports: Republican lawmakers, who control both houses of the Legislature, have proposed sweeping changes to the state’s election laws, including new procedures on registering voters, and requiring voters to use a provisional ballot if they move shortly before an election.

The rules would also prevent anyone, including those with video or audio equipment, from getting within 100 feet of a line of voters, even if that line is outside a polling place. This would also prevent anyone from offering legal advice to voters in line.

State Senator Alex Diaz de la Portilla, a Republican from Miami and sponsor of the legislation, said the changes were a response to complaints and problems in the 2008 elections. ...

Elizabeth Westfall, a senior lawyer with the Advancement Project, a voting rights group, predicted that the measure would shut down voter-registration drives in Florida by outside groups like the N.A.A.C.P. The legislation would require voter-registration groups to turn in applications within 48 hours after they are first filled out. --

October 30, 2008

New Demos reports

Expanding Voter Registration for Low-Income Virginians: The Impact of the National Voter Registration Act
Report: http://www.demos.org/pub1604.cfm
Press release: http://www.demos.org/page669.cfm

Provisional Ballots: Where to Watch in 2008
Report: http://www..demos.org/pubs/provisionalballot_brief.pdf
Press release: http://demos.org/page670.cfm

Toward an Equal Electorate: Five States' Gains Under the National Voter Registration Act
Report: http://demos.org/pub1607.cfm
Press release: http://www.demos.org/page672.cfm

June 8, 2008

Alabama: provisional ballots will decide race for county school superintendent

The Prattville Progress reports: While more than one-fourth of Autauga County's eligible voters went to the polls on Tues­day, the race to determine the Republican candidate for coun­ty school superintendent could be decided by just over one-tenth of a percent of those vot­ers.

The validation or rejection by county Republican officials of eight provisional votes could provide school system person­nel director Greg Faulkner with the margin he needs to pre­vent a July 15 runoff with Pratt­ville High School Principal Lee Hicks. ...

Based on preliminary vote to­tals, Faulkner is headed for a showdown with Hicks to decide which of them would face Dem­ocrat Purvis Johnson in No­vember. Faulkner received 49.95 percent of the 6,571 votes cast in Tuesday's three-candi­date GOP primary and fell just short of a majority that would have given him the party's nomination out­right. --

Hat-tip to Doc's Political Parlor for the link.

April 16, 2008

Pennsylvania: Provisional ballots

NPR's Morning Edition reports: With lots of new voters showing up at the polls for this year s primaries, election officials are also seeing many problems. Some people are going to the wrong polling sites; others can t find their NAMEs on voter registration lists. Still others don t have the proper ID. The fallback for these voters is often something called a provisional ballot. But those votes do not always count.

Cecilia Martinez is executive director of The Reform Institute, a non-profit group that helps operate a national voter assistance hotline, 866-MyVote1. The hotline has received thousands of calls so far this year from voters. Many are trying to find out where they are supposed to go vote. But Martinez says many others have encountered problems.

Oftentimes what happens is when a voter goes to the polls, and they have registered, but they for whatever reason are not listed on the registration rolls, they are supposed to be voting provisional. That s sort of the backup plan, she says. -- Pa. Officials Pin Hopes on Provisional Ballots : NPR

November 15, 2007

Rep. Holt introduces Provisional Ballot Fairness in Counting Act

Rep. Rush Holt has introduced the Provisional Ballot Fairness in Counting Act of 2007, H. R. 4145. Here is the most important provision: Section 302(a)(4) of the Help America Vote Act of 2002 (42 U.S.C. 15482(a)(4)) is amended to read as follows:
`(4) The provisional ballot of an individual who is a registered voter in a jurisdiction in a State and who is eligible to vote in an election for Federal office in the State shall be counted as a vote in such an election if the appropriate State or local election official to whom the ballot or voter information is transmitted under paragraph (3)--
`(A) in the case of an election for electors for President or for the office of a Senator, determines that the individual is registered to vote in the State in which the provisional ballot is cast; and
`(B) in the case of an election for the office of a Member of the House of Representatives (including a Delegate or Resident Commissioner to the Congress), determines that the individual is registered to vote in the Congressional district in which the provisional ballot is cast.'.

October 12, 2007

Alabama: losing mayoral candidate cites HAVA re provisional ballots

The Birmingham News reports: Birmingham mayoral candidate Patrick Cooper plans to deliver a letter to election officials today urging that they count provisional ballots of people who voted in the wrong precinct Tuesday.

Election officials have said that, according to state law, voters must vote in their assigned precincts or their votes will not be counted.

Cooper says the federal law that created provisional ballots, the Help America Vote Act of 2002, was designed to eliminate the problems created when election officials change polling places or district lines and create confusion about where people are supposed to vote. ...

However, state and local officials say a state law that went into effect this year requires that voters cast their ballots at the precinct where they have been assigned to vote. Those voters who cast ballots at one precinct but are listed in another will not have their ballots counted, according to election officials. -- Cooper cites U.S. voting law- al.com

June 18, 2007

Texas: provisional ballots are an "increasing problem"

The Beaumont Enterprise reports: Provisional ballots are designed to be the last resort to insure that a vote that should count actually does.

But in the recent Jefferson County election, Port Arthur resident Virginia Dudley's provisional ballot was rejected even though it probably should have counted.

In the May 12 election, the county received 55 provisional ballots and all but eight were rejected. ...

While provisional ballots are designed to be foolproof, studies show that they are an increasing problem.

Nationwide one out of three or 650,000 of the 2 million provisional ballots cast in 2004 were uncounted or discarded, according to a report produced by Demos, a New York-based non-partisan public policy research and advocacy organization. -- The Beaumont Enterprise - Studies show provisional ballots an increasing problem

Thanks to Scott Novakowski of Demos for the link.

April 6, 2007

Ohio: Secretary of State rules provisional ballots must be paper

AP reports: Ohio's new elections chief ordered the state's 88 boards of elections Thursday to record all provisional ballots on paper, beginning with the first elections after the May 8 primary.

Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner said electronic machines assign each provisional voter a number that is printed on a paper record in each machine, putting ballot secrecy at risk if a recount occurs. If the number is visible while votes are being counted, it would be possible to learn the identity of the voter.

A provisional ballot is cast when a voter does not have suitable identification or if the address on the voter's ID differs from the one written in precinct poll books.

Most counties still use paper for provisional ballots, said Matt Damschroder, director of the Franklin County elections board and president of the Ohio Association of Election Officials. Elections officials should have no problem making the switch, he said. -- Beacon Journal | 04/06/2007 | Provisional ballots must be on paper

February 1, 2007

New Mexico: DOJ and Cibola Co. settle voting-rights suit

AP reports: The U.S. Department of Justice has settled voting rights claims against Cibola County.

The department announced Wednesday it had settled allegations that the county violated the Help America Vote Act and the National Voter Registration Act. Those claims had been added to a lawsuit alleging violations of the Voting Rights Act, which originally was filed in 1995, attorney Joe Diaz of Albuquerque, who represented the county, said Thursday.

Justice Department oversight of elections in the county will be extended through 2008 under a consent decree with the county. ...

Federal law requires counties to hire interpreters and translate ballots and other election material into Indian languages. In the case of Cibola County, officials must provide voter information and assistance in Navajo and Keresan to voters who need it.

The Justice Department alleged the county failed to ensure that valid voter registration applications were processed and added to voter registration lists in a timely manner; that voters' names were not removed from the rolls without cause; and that provisional ballots were offered at elections to voters whose names were not on the voter rolls. Provisional ballots are counted after the election once officials determine the person is a qualified voter. -- 4:44 pm: Justice Department settles Cibola County voting rights claim

November 16, 2006

Indiana: provisional ballots may decide a State House race

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

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

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

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

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

November 15, 2006

Ohio: agreement reached on counting some provisional ballots

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

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

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

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

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

September 19, 2006

Maryland: at least 3 races hinge on provisional ballots

The Baltimore Sun reports: Local election officials began the painstaking process yesterday of sorting through thousands of sealed provisional ballots that could determine the outcome of a Washington-area congressional race and at least two state legislative contests.

"I'm not sure how many [provisional ballots] we have because it took us three days just to get them out of all of the bags," said Jacqueline K. McDaniel, the director of elections in Baltimore County, where some races hang in the balance. "We know what we sent out, but we have to figure out how many are spoiled."

Provisional ballots are cast on paper and are most commonly used when a voter's eligibility is in question. But major mistakes during Tuesday's primary, including equipment that abruptly turned off or went missing, forced some precincts to rely on them for several hours. A few precincts ran out and resorted to instructing voters to write their choices on scrap pieces of paper.

State elections chief Linda H. Lamone has ordered local elections officials in Baltimore and three counties to draw action plans to make sure the problems are not repeated during the Nov. 7 general election. -- Provisional ballots getting close attention - baltimoresun.com

January 16, 2006

New Hampshire: bill proposes tagging provisional ballots for tracking

AP reports: Secret ballots may not always remain secret under one of several proposals going before New Hampshire lawmakers seeking to tighten voting rules.

The House could vote as early as Wednesday on a bill that would allow certain ballots to be tagged and later removed if it is discovered that individuals voted improperly.

Opponents, including the secretary of state's office and town and city clerks, say so-called provisional ballots interfere with the cherished right to keep one's vote private. ...

The plan calls for ballots to be flagged when a voter shows up without proper identification and signs an affidavit to certify residence or citizenship as part of same-day registration. Those signing affidavits would be informed that their ballots are being tagged for possible later identification. -- Ballots could be tagged to fight fraud - Concord Monitor Online - Concord, NH 03301

April 17, 2005

Arizona: DOJ (?) says voter ID bill would not violate federal law

The Arizona Republic reports: The U.S. Department of Justice said Friday that Gov. Janet Napolitano erred when she vetoed a bill that would have prevented people from casting a provisional ballot at a polling place if they could not produce identification.

Napolitano vetoed Senate Bill 1118 on April 1, saying that she thought it violated the federal Voting Rights Act because it might prevent registered voters from getting a provisional ballot if, for example, they were robbed of their identification shortly before the election.

Secretary of State Jan Brewer had pushed hard for the bill as a clarification to Proposition 200, which mandated identification at the polls.

On Friday, Brewer got a letter from Sheldon Bradshaw, a deputy assistant attorney general with the Civil Rights Division of Justice, who said Brewer's proposed legislation would not have conflicted with federal law. ...

The fact that the Justice letter was written by Bradshaw and not the head of the Civil Rights Division or the department's chief of the Voting Section could raise questions about partisan political maneuvering. According to a federal government Web site, Bradshaw was not even employed at DOJ at the time he wrote to Brewer. His letter is dated April 15, but a news release announced his hire as chief counsel for the Food and Drug Administration "effective April 1."

Bradshaw was also a central figure in the forced redistricting of Texas two years ago to create more Republican congressional seats. In that controversial decision, it was Bradshaw again, rather than a higher-ranking Justice official, who authored the letter that gave Texas lawmakers the go-ahead to redraw their districts. -- Governor erred in vetoing provisional-ballot bill, Justice official says

In addition, I wonder why the Justice Department would even give an opinion on a bill that has not been enacted.

March 20, 2005

Provisional ballots -- rate of counting varied widely

The New York Times reports: Two-thirds of the more than 1.6 million provisional ballots cast in last year's presidential election were counted, but there were wide differences from state to state. Alaska counted 97 percent of its provisional votes, Delaware just 6 percent.

The figures are from a study by electionline.org, a nonpartisan clearinghouse for election information. It is the most comprehensive look yet at how states carried out the major change to grow out of the 2000 presidential vote in Florida, when administrative errors and voter registration database problems kept thousands of eligible voters from casting ballots.

In the 43 states where figures were available, provisional votes accounted for just over 1 percent of the total votes counted. In Alaska, 7.2 percent of all the votes counted came from provisional ballots, the highest of any state.

A law enacted by Congress in 2002 required all states to adopt procedures to allow people whose names are not on voter lists but who believe they are registered to cast ballots that can be checked later. Provisional voting "was a success in many ways in terms of what happened in 2000 when people were turned away and had no fail-safe way of voting," said Elizabeth Schneider, one of the authors of the study. -- The New York Times > Washington > Counting of 2004 Provisional Ballots Varied Widely, Study Finds

The study is here.

February 8, 2005

Texas: still counting the provisional ballots

AP reports: More than three months after the November election, state officials don't have a final tally of how many provisional votes were cast and counted in Texas.

Provisional vote totals remain in question for 29 counties. Local election officials had to report provisional votes in a lengthy federal survey. Some counties have not yet responded. For 10 of the 29 counties a computer registered the provisional vote total as zero, possibly inaccurately, Bill Kenyon, spokesman for the Texas secretary of state's office, said Monday.

The agency is following up with the 29 counties to verify their totals. ...

So far the tally shows that 35,282 provisional votes were cast statewide. Of those, 7,156 were determined to be valid and were counted. -- DentonRC.com | News for Denton, Texas | AP: Texas

January 5, 2005

Washington State: more votes than voters in King County

The Seattle Times reports: An unknown number of provisional voters, some of whom may not even have been registered to vote, improperly put their ballots directly into vote-counting machines at polling places, King County's elections superintendent said yesterday.

Once those ballots went into the machines, there was no way to separate them from legitimate ballots.

Provisional ballots are given on Election Day to voters who show up at the wrong precinct or whose registration is in question. The ballots are supposed to be put inside two envelopes, with the voter's name, address and signature on the outside, and counted only after the voter's status is verified. ...

Miscast provisional votes could be one reason the number of ballots counted in King County outnumbered the list of voters who voted by 3,539. -- The Seattle Times: Politics: Election scrutiny reveals provisional-vote flaws

January 3, 2005

Florida: 2/3 of provisional ballots were rejected

AP reports: Nearly two-thirds of provisional ballots cast on Election Day in Florida weren't counted, mostly because the people casting them weren't registered to vote, state officials said Monday.

Preliminary figures, culled by the state from county elections officials, showed that of 27,742 provisional ballots cast, 9,915 were counted and 17,827 were rejected. The number could be revised but isn't likely to change dramatically. ...

Court rulings last year held that voters must vote in their correct precincts in Florida. In most cases, people who showed up at the wrong precincts were directed to the correct ones, said Jenny Nash, a spokeswoman for the Florida Department of State, which oversees elections. ...

An analysis by the Tallahassee Democrat, which polled counties about rejected provisional ballots, found that slightly more than 7 percent were tossed because voters had been purged from the rolls either because they hadn't voted in several years or were found to be ex-felons. -- State officials reject two-thirds of Florida's provisional ballots: South Florida Sun-Sentinel

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

December 1, 2004

Provisional ballot litigation

The Brennan Center has compiled a list of the litigation over provisional ballots this year. In addition to the case name, it contains the rulings, the parties, and their counsel, and any amici.


November 28, 2004

North Carolina: protest over "partial" provisional ballots

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ohio: foundation sues for validation of provisional ballots

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

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

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

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

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

November 22, 2004

North Carolina -- voting problems

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

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

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

November 17, 2004

Colorado -- about 80% of provisional ballots accepted

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

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

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

November 15, 2004

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

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

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

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

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

November 14, 2004

Greg Palast on Ohio

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

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

November 13, 2004

North Carolina may see suit over provisional ballots

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

November 10, 2004

Florida -- Most provisional ballots rejected

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

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

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

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

November 8, 2004

New Mexico slow in counting the ballots

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

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

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

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

One provisional ballot may decide the Montana House's composition

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alabama -- amendment may hinge on provisional ballots

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Arizona -- LULAC sues over provisional ballots

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

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

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

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

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

New Orleans -- provisional ballots

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

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

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

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

Hawaii -- provisional ballot

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

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

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

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

Ohio -- 2 suits over provisional ballots

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

November 2, 2004

Pennsylvania -- provisional ballots

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

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

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

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

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

November 1, 2004

My predictions for the election

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    October 27, 2004

    Election rules changing because of lawsuits

    The Washington Post reports: Iowa Republicans charged yesterday that Democrats are trying to rig the presidential election there by allowing voters to cast ballots even if they vote in the wrong precincts, while in Ohio Democrats sued to try to stop the GOP there from challenging the eligibility of tens of thousands of voters.

    The two moves were part of an ongoing legal fight for the presidency that has put election rules in flux less than a week before Election Day.

    Court battles have been underway in virtually all of the battleground states, leading to last-minute hearings and rulings that have election officials scrambling as they prepare for voters to come to the polls on Tuesday and contend with hundreds of thousands of voters who are already casting ballots in states that allow early voting.

    Many of the lawsuits have focused on how provisional ballots should be counted, a new voting procedure that was intended to be an improvement in balloting. After the disputed 2000 election, Congress declared that no voter could be turned away at the polls and passed legislation requiring that provisional ballots be given to those who come to the polls but whose names are not on the rolls. But the measure left unclear the standards for determining whether the ballots are valid and should be counted -- and how quickly -- after Election Day. -- Legal Battles Over Ballots Put Election Rules in Flux (washingtonpost.com)

    October 24, 2004

    Don't sing "those wrong precinct blues"

    Many states -- including my own Alabama -- require voters to vote in the correct polling place, and votes on a provisional ballot in the wrong polling place will be discarded. (For a handy chart, see Election Law @ Moritz.)

    To avoid this problem, use the lookup at MyPollngPlace and urge your friends to do so as well. This site, provided by People for the American Way Foundation and the Election Protection coalition, includes the address for the polling place, a map and driving directions, a short list of voters' rights, and step-by-step instructions for the exact voting equipment at the polling place.

    There are a few glitches. I just checked my old polling place in Springfield, Virginia, and the site does not know if the DRE equipment there produces a printed copy. But, it's still a useful site.

    6th Circuit allows restrictions on Ohio provisional ballots

    AP reports: A federal appeals court ruled Saturday that the provisional ballots Ohio voters cast outside their precincts should not be counted, throwing out a lower-court decision that said such ballots are valid as long as they are cast in the correct county.

    The ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit supports an order issued by Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell. Democrats contend that the Republican official's rules are too restrictive and allege that they are intended to suppress the vote.

    Ohio Democrats late Saturday decided not to file an appeal in the case, one of the first major tests of how such ballots will be handled in a close election. Polls show that the race between President Bush and Democratic challenger John F. Kerry is too close to call in the key swing state. -- Court Rules On Ohio's Provisional Ballots (AP via washingtonpost.com)

    Election Law @ Moritz should have the opinion on its site shortly. And Rick Hasen has some comments on the decision.

    October 23, 2004

    Iowa AG says out-of-precinct provisional ballots are OK

    The Quad-City Times reports: Iowa voters who show up at the wrong polling place on Election Day should be allowed to cast a provisional ballot, Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller said in an opinion issued Friday.
    .
    In his opinion, Miller said the federal Help America Vote Act, or HAVA, intended to allow people who go to the wrong precinct to cast ballots as long as they are registered to vote in Iowa.

    The opinion by Miller, a Democrat, drew an immediate response from George W. Bush's campaign in Iowa.

    "The campaign finds it unfortunate the attorney general would act to change the rules of an election already under way. We are reviewing his opinion and have no further comment at this time," said Dave Roederer, chairman of the Bush campaign in Iowa. -- Iowa AG: Voters can vote at wrong place (Quad-City Times)

    Brenda Wright sent the opinion.

    October 22, 2004

    Federal court rules Florida may count provisional ballot cast only in correct precinct

    AP reports: Rejecting a claim by Democrats, a federal judge said Thursday that the state must reject provisional ballots if they're cast in the wrong precinct.

    U.S. District Judge Robert L. Hinkle ruled that people who show up at a polling place and aren't on the rolls should be allowed to submit a provisional ballot, in case it is determined later that they were in the right place and should have been on the rolls.

    But he ruled that federal law doesn't require the state to count the ballot if it's determined the voter submitted the ballot somewhere other than the properly assigned precinct.

    In the ruling, Hinkle put in writing generally what he said from the bench earlier this month, when he essentially told Democrats he wasn't inclined to block Secretary of State Glenda Hood from ordering the counting of ballots only if they are from the correct precinct. -- Federal judge: Provisional ballots in wrong precinct don't count (AP via Tallahassee.com)

    Election Law @ Moritz has the order and the Democrat's notice of appeal.

    Illinois election officials ponder provisional ballots

    AP reports: Local election officials across Illinois are divided over whether to allow provisional ballots cast in the wrong precinct by otherwise eligible voters to count for some federal offices, a recommendation state election officials have made despite state law to the contrary.

    Provisional ballots are cast by voters whose names aren't on the rolls when they show up at a polling place and are later reviewed to determine the voter's eligibility.

    State law says provisional voters must be in the correct precinct for their votes to count. But the State Board of Elections late last month recommended that provisional ballots cast in the wrong precinct by voters who are otherwise eligible be counted for some offices.

    The guide the board sent to election authorities said those ballots should count for "the offices that the two precincts share." Dan White, the board's executive director, said the intent was federal offices only, but acknowledged the wording was confusing. He said Friday the board would send out a clarification. -- Officials divided over new provisional ballot recommendation (AP via Kansas.com)

    DOJ says private citizens may not sue about provisional ballots

    AP reports: Ohio Democrats did not have the right to challenge a state requirement that voters show up at their assigned polling place to cast a ballot, lawyers for the Justice Department told a federal appeals court Friday.

    Ohio Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell is within his authority under federal law to require that a voter appear at the correct polling place, Department of Justice lawyers contended in written arguments filed with the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

    The federal government may sue in order to enforce its provisions, but federal law does not grant private parties that right, the Justice Department contended in its brief in support of Blackwell. The Justice Department is not a party in the lawsuit, which Ohio Democrats filed against Blackwell, a Republican.

    Blackwell says the state has the authority to administer elections. The Justice Department lawyers backed that position, arguing that the law does not conflict with, or pre-empt, Ohio's precinct-based system of voting. -- Justice Dept. weighs in on Ohio ballots (AP via Boston.com)

    If you have a copy of this brief, email me the link or a copy of the brief.

    Will provisional ballots really work?

    From a Demos newsletter: With passage of the federal Help America Vote Act (HAVA) in 2002, Congress promised to fix many of the problems associated with the last presidential race. One reform that has drawn increasing attention this election season is provisional balloting. As of the first federal primary election this year, any voter whose name was omitted from the voter rolls or who could not show identification at the polls would be permitted to vote provisionally. These ballots would ultimately be counted once election officials substantiated the individual's eligibility to vote.

    In Placebo Ballots: Will "Fail-Safe" Voting Fail? Demos found that several hundred thousand citizens may again be sent home from the polls without casting a vote. Over half of all states are adopting an overly cramped approach to provisional voting.

    • Idaho and Minnesota will not offer provisional ballots to first-time, newly registered voters who can not show identification. Ten other states will provide, but automatically invalidate provisional ballots cast by "voters" who do not present identification.

    • Thirty states and the District of Columbia will invalidate provisional ballots cast in the wrong precinct – even when voters are selecting candidates for president or statewide offices, where polling place error is immaterial. --
    Placebo Ballots: Will "Fail-Safe" Voting Fail?

    October 19, 2004

    Federal court rules for plaintiffs in Michigan provisional voting suit

    AP reports A federal judge ruled Tuesday that Michigan must count provisional ballots cast by voters who show up at the wrong polling precincts but are in the right city, township or village.

    U.S. District Judge David Lawson issued an injunction barring Republican Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land from ordering election officials not to count provisional ballots unless voters appear in the right precinct. -- Federal judge says Michigan must count provisional ballots in wrong precincts (AP via freep.com)

    Thanks to Brenda Wright for the link and the decision.

    October 18, 2004

    Florida supreme court rules against wrong-precinct provisional ballots

    AP reports: People who cast a provisional ballot at the wrong precinct aren't entitled to have their votes counted, the state Supreme Court unanimously ruled Monday, rejecting an argument by labor unions that the rule wrongly disenfranchises voters.

    The court said the law clearly states that provisional ballots must be counted only if the person was entitled to vote "at the precinct," and that the constitution gives the Legislature the authority to dictate voting rules.

    Under Florida law, if a voter shows up at a polling place but officials have no record of them being registered, they are given a provisional ballot. That ballot is then held until officials determine if the person was entitled to vote at that precinct and hasn't already voted.

    If they should have been allowed to vote, the ballot counts; if not, it's thrown out. -- Supreme Court: Provisional ballots in wrong precinct don't count (AP via bradenton.com)

    Here is the opinion. Thanks to Abstract Appeal for the link and an interesting analysis.

    DOJ opposes Dems in Michigan provisional ballot case

    AP reports: The U.S. Justice Department asked a federal judge on Monday to dismiss a lawsuit filed by Michigan Democrats in an effort to get the state to count provisional ballots cast by voters in the wrong polling precincts on Nov. 2.

    The Justice Department argued in a friend-of-the-court brief that the Help America Vote Act does not give individuals the right to sue if they believe their state has violated the law passed by Congress in 2002. Rather, those citizens should go through a state administrative complaint process or rely on a U.S. attorney to file suit, government attorneys said.

    The Justice Department also opposed Democrats' request that citizens who appear in the right city, township or village should have their votes counted regardless of whether they show up in the correct precinct.

    "American elections have long been precinct-based," Justice Department attorneys wrote in court papers. "A well-understood premise of such a system is that a voter must appear at the correct polling place -- the one to which the voter was assigned, and on whose rolls the voter appears -- or else the voter will not be able to vote." -- U.S. Justice Department files brief in provisional ballot case (AP via freep.com)

    October 16, 2004

    Provisional balloting litigation

    Updated: Provisional ballots are at the center of several cases pending (or recently concluded) around the country. The issue is whether provisional ballots must be counted if they are cast in the wrong precinct. Here are the collections of pleadings in the cases I have found. If you know of others, please send me a link or the documents.

    Florida -- Abstract Appeal has the briefs in the Florida Supreme Court. (See the Abstract Appeal post just below that one for more details.) There is also a federal court suit, recently dismissed, on a slightly different theory.

    Ohio -- Election Law @ Moritz has all the briefs, orders, pleadings, and order in the U.S. District Court.

    Michigan -- the Complaint is on the Brennan Center website. (Thanks to Lisa Danetz for the link.)

    Missouri -- the order granting summary judgment to the defendant is here (thanks to reader Terry Jarrett, who just happens to be General Counsel in the Office of Secretary of State Matt Blunt).

    Federal court blocks Ohio provisional ballot rule

    AP reports: In a victory for Democrats, a federal judge ruled Thursday that Ohio voters who show up at the wrong polling place on Election Day still can cast ballots as long as they are in the county where they are registered.

    U.S. District Judge James Carr blocked a directive from Ohio Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell, a Republican, that poll workers must send voters to their correct precinct to cast their ballots.

    Blackwell filed an appeal within a few hours of the decision.

    The judge said that voters who go to the wrong polling place after having moved without notifying the elections board -- and those whose names cannot be found on the registration roll -- should be able to cast provisional ballots at the site. -- State loses election ruling (AP via Beacon Journal)

    Election Law @ Moritz has the opinion in Sandusky County Democratic Party v Blackwell.


    October 14, 2004

    Vote Litigate early and often

    The New York Times reports: Not a single ballot has been counted in the presidential election, yet Florida is already teeming with lawsuits charging the state and its county elections supervisors with voter disenfranchisement, a legal muddle likely to grow worse before Election Day.

    On Wednesday, the State Supreme Court heard arguments in a lawsuit seeking to require election officials to count provisional ballots - which voters can cast when their names do not appear on precinct rolls - regardless of where they are cast. And on Tuesday, labor unions and voting-rights groups sued to stop the disqualification of more than 10,000 incomplete registration forms in Florida, accusing the state of overly restrictive rules that disproportionately hurt minority voters.

    Also on Tuesday, plaintiffs in another suit met with aides to Secretary of State Glenda Hood to discuss how counties with touch-screen voting should conduct manual recounts. The state had banned recounts in such counties, but an administrative law judge, responding to a suit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union and other groups, threw out that rule in August.

    "The 2000 election signaled the era of lawsuits in elections," said Susan MacManus, a political science professor at the University of South Florida, "and it's escalated markedly not just in Florida, but everywhere. Both parties are playing the pre-emption game as much as the reactive game this time out." -- In '04 Florida, Lawsuits Begin Before Election (The New York Times)

    October 13, 2004

    ACLU study: 7% of provisional ballots cast in wrong precinct and discarded in Florida

    The Sun-Sentinel reports: About 7.3 percent of provisional ballots cast in recent Florida elections were thrown out because voters failed to file them from the correct precincts, raising more questions about whether every vote will be counted in the upcoming presidential election, the American Civil Liberties Union said Tuesday.

    The finding was based on an ACLU study of 2,151 provisional ballots cast in elections that took place over the last two years. The survey found that elections officials discarded 156 of those votes because they were cast in the wrong place.

    Provisional ballots were introduced after the 2000 presidential election debacle in Florida to offer people a second chance to vote if their names do not appear on voter rolls.

    Florida law, however, directs the state to reject a provisional ballot if it is cast in a precinct other than the one assigned to the voter by elections officials. -- ACLU finds 7.3 percent of provisional ballots get tossed (South Florida Sun-Sentinel)

    Federal judge upholds Missouri's provisional voting law

    AP reports: Missourians who vote from the wrong polling places, despite directions to go elsewhere, cannot have their votes counted, a federal judge ruled Tuesday.

    The ruling essentially upholds the interpretation of Missouri's provisional voting law taken by Secretary of State Matt Blunt, the Republican candidate for governor.

    The Missouri Democratic Party and three Kansas City residents had sued Blunt and the Kansas City Board of Election Commissioners on claims that the state law regarding provisional ballots conflicted with the federal law. Provisional ballots are used when someone's eligibility to vote cannot be immediately determined; they can only be cast for federal and statewide candidates and issues. -- Judge upholds provisional ballot law (AP via News-Leader.com)

    The order granting summary judgment to the defendant is here (thanks to reader Terry Jarrett, who just happens to be General Counsel in the Office of Secretary of State Matt Blunt).

    EAC chairman backs Blackwell's interpretation

    The Columbus Dispatch reports: The chairman of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission said yesterday that federal law doesn't tell states how to count provisional ballots, which is consistent with Ohio Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell's position on the controversial issue in the Nov. 2 election.

    And Ohio won't be the Florida of 2004, said DeForest Blake Soaries Jr., chairman of the bipartisan commission Congress created in 2002 to help with federal elections after problems in 2000 with Florida balloting. ...

    Critics of Blackwell’s directive argue that it violates the law’s intent to provide a "fail-safe" even if a voter is in the wrong precinct. The ballots aren’t counted until workers confirm voters’ eligibility.

    But Soaries said the law requires provisional ballots only in a voter’s jurisdiction — and it allows each state to decide what constitutes the jurisdiction. -- Expert backs Blackwell on ballots (The Columbus Dispatch)

    Florida provisional voting case argued in state supreme court

    AP reports: Florida's provisional ballot law violates the state constitution because it disenfranchises otherwise eligible voters who try to cast ballots outside of the precinct they have been assigned, union attorneys told the state Supreme Court on Wednesday.

    Under the Florida Constitution, voters are qualified as residents of a particular county - not as residents in a precinct, San Francisco attorney Jonathan Weissglass told the justices in oral arguments.

    Weissglass represents the AFL-CIO, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and Service Employees International Union. The unions want Florida's high court to keep most of the provisional ballot law in place but to overturn the provision that requires ballots be cast by voters in the proper precinct.

    Attorneys for Secretary of State Glenda Hood and elections officials defended the law, arguing the precinct provision was a reasonable regulation, like closing polls at 7 p.m. And they warned that any new requirements created by the courts would lead to chaos. -- Unions tell Supreme Court that law disenfranchises voters (AP via News-Press.com)

    Michigan provisional voting case argued

    AP reports: Michigan Democrats urged a federal judge Wednesday to nullify the state's plan to not count provisional ballots cast by people voting in the wrong polling precincts on Nov. 2.

    They argued that citizens who appear in the right city, township or village should have their votes in federal races counted regardless of whether they show up in the correct precinct.

    "We want to ensure that every voter who is eligible to vote has the right to vote," said Mark Brewer, chairman of the Michigan Democratic Party.

    Michigan Democrats, the NAACP and voter-rights groups say the state's instructions to 2,438 county and local election officials would disenfranchise hundreds, and possibly thousands, of voters who cast ballots in the wrong polling place.

    But the state says the Help America Vote Act, which Congress passed in 2002, declares that provisional ballots should be counted in accordance with state law. Elections officials say Michigan law does not give citizens the right to vote in a precinct where they do not live. -- State, opponents argue over provisional ballot plan in court (AP via MLive.com)

    October 11, 2004

    Ohio's election-related lawsuits

    AP reports: After the 2000 presidential election mess in Florida, many political watchers predicted that lawyers would take on a larger role in this year's election.

    They're off to an early start in Ohio. No fewer than five major election cases landed before courts in Ohio - all at least one month before the Nov. 2 election.

    While court challenges of election law are common in the weeks before the election, the number of high-profile cases to reach court is unusual, said Herb Asher, a political scientist at Ohio State University who has followed Ohio elections for more than 30 years.

    The Ohio Supreme Court has two challenges before it. A constitutional ban on gay marriages that is to go before voters Nov. 2 should be removed, opponents say, because the petitions circulated to collect the signatures to get on the ballot did not include a summary of what the amendment would do. An appeals court has upheld the ballot issue.

    Backers of independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader have appealed to the high court a ruling by Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell that some petition circulators illegally collected the signatures. The ruling meant Nader's bid fell short of the required 5,000 signatures of registered Ohio voters. -- PERSPECTIVE: Dockets crowded with election cases (AP via TheState.com)

    October 6, 2004

    Ohio's largest county will accept wrong-precinct provisional ballots

    AP reports: The elections board in Ohio's largest county said Wednesday it will direct voters to their correct polling place on Nov. 2 but will accept ballots from anyone who insists on voting at the wrong precinct, despite a directive to keep them from doing so.

    If a voter in Cuyahoga County insists on casting a ballot, even at the wrong polling place, the board will allow it but only after telling the voter that the vote may not be counted, said Jane Platten, board administrator.

    "We will make every effort to find what precinct the voter should be in and direct that voter to that precinct. There will be times that the voter will say, 'I want to vote and I want to vote here,'" Platten said.

    Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell had sent a directive to the state's 88 county boards of elections, advising them of state law concerning the collection of provisional ballots, which voters may use if they have moved within Ohio but failed to update their registrations. -- County to follow provisional ballot rule but still accept any vote (AP via TheState.com)

    League of Women Voters and unions sue over Ohio's provisional voting rule

    The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports: A voting-rights group filed a lawsuit Tuesday challenging Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell's rules on provisional voting - the second such legal challenge over the controversial issue.

    The suit, filed by the Ohio Voter Protection Project, says Blackwell will require some first-time voters to show identification before receiving a provisional ballot on Election Day - a violation of the federal Help America Vote Act, or HAVA.

    The group, which includes several labor unions and the Ohio League of Women Voters, also challenged a Blackwell order that says voters who appear at the wrong voting precinct may not receive a provisional ballot.

    The state Democratic Party has already gone to court over that issue, and a federal judge is expected to decide the case next week. -- Second lawsuit challenges Ohio provisional voting rules (Cleveland Plain Dealer)

    September 27, 2004

    Provisional ballot rule in Ohio is challenged

    Update
    AP reports: The Ohio Democratic Party sued Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell on Monday to allow voters to be able to cast ballots - even at the wrong polling place - as long as they are in the county where they are registered. -- Democrats sue over ballot access (AP via TheState.com)

    ====

    AP reports (25 Sept): [Ohio] Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell recently issued a directive to county election officials saying they are allowed to count provisional ballots only from voters who go to the correct polling location for their home address.

    Blackwell has ordered that if residents go to the wrong precinct, poll workers must find their correct precinct and tell them where to go, Blackwell's spokesman Carlo LoParo said. They also may cast provisional ballots at their county election board. ...

    The Ohio Voter Protection Project, a coalition of voting-rights groups, is considering a lawsuit to challenge Blackwell's directive before the Nov. 2 election, project attorney Sean Grayson said.

    Similar lawsuits have been filed in Colorado and Missouri. A lawsuit in Florida was rejected this week.

    Ohio is one of 29 states that will not count provisional ballots cast in the wrong precinct, said Dan Seligson, editor of electionline.org, a nonpartisan Web site covering voting procedures. -- Provisional ballots could pose Election Day problems (AP via Ohio News Now)

    September 23, 2004

    Florida judge rejects request to broaden provisional ballot law

    The Palm Beach Post reports: A Leon Counjudge rejected a challenge to the state's provisional ballots Wednesday, ignoring lawyers' arguments that some voters will be so confused by precinct changes caused by hurricanes and redistricting that they won't know where to vote in November.

    Circuit Judge L. Ralph Smith Jr. also refused to certify the suit as a class action on behalf of the American Civil Liberties Union, the AFL-CIO, and the union representing state and municipal workers.

    Attorneys for the unions said they plan to ask the District Court of Appeal to send the case directly to the Florida Supreme Court so a final decision can be issued before the Nov. 2 presidential election on whether voters must cast provisional ballots in their own precincts as state law requires. ...

    Opponents of the current law want Floridians to be able to cast provisional ballots in any precinct and have the canvassing boards later count only the votes in the races in which that voter was eligible to cast a ballot. -- Judge rejects challenge to provisional-ballot law (Palm Beach Post)

    August 21, 2004

    Missouri Dems sue over restrictive provisional ballot law

    The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports: As if being a presidential battleground weren't enough, Missouri now finds itself in the national bull's-eye over two suits aimed at changing how the state conducts this fall's election.

    One seeks to allow early voting, so Missouri voters could cast ballots within the two weeks before the Nov. 2 election.

    The second suit challenges a restriction in the state law governing provisional ballots, cast by people whose names don't appear on the election rolls but claim to be registered.

    Although running on independent tracks, both suits are tied by their common pedigree - both were launched by Democrats - and their potential to affect which presidential candidate carries the state and wins the White House.

    Missouri isn't the only state facing court action over voting procedures. Similar provisional-ballot suits have been filed in at least two other states, Florida and Nevada, and some experts predict more will follow. -- Suits over voting procedures echo nation's concern on issue (STLtoday.com)

    August 19, 2004

    Some Utah polling officials misinterpreting provisional ballots law

    The Salt Lake Tribune reports: The U.S. Department of Justice complained during Utah's primary election that poll judges were misinterpreting laws about provisional ballots, and more training could help ensure election results don't end up in court, the state elections director told lawmakers Wednesday.

    Amy Naccarato told the Legislature's interim Government Operations Committee that DOJ attorneys, who were observing polling locations during the primary, reported to her that poll workers apparently misunderstood the rules on such ballots, which are used by residents who say they have registered to vote but are not listed on voter rolls.

    In one case, Naccarato said, the DOJ attorneys said a poll judge stated that someone voting a provisional ballot would have to show a birth certificate to cast a vote. State law only requires proof of residency, like a utility bill. -- (Salt Lake Tribune)

    Three unions sue Florida over provisional ballots

    The Miami Herald reports: In yet another election-year skirmish over voting, several unions went to Florida's highest court on Tuesday and asked it to strike down a law that requires people who use provisional ballots to cast them in the right precinct.

    The AFL-CIO, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, and the Service Employees International Union called on the court to consider in time for the November elections whether state laws governing provisional ballots violate the state Constitution.

    The lawsuit, filed against Secretary of State Glenda Hood as well as local election officials in Leon County, asks the court to order state officials to tell elections supervisors that all provisional ballots cast within a county should be counted on Election Day.

    A provisional ballot is given to a voter whose name doesn't appear on voting rolls but who insists he is legally registered to vote. The ballots were authorized by state legislators in 2001 as a response to complaints that many people were wrongfully turned away by poll workers during the 2000 presidential election.

    But despite the strong objections of some lawmakers, such as Rep. Chris Smith of Fort Lauderdale, legislators mandated that the provisional ballots won't count unless the voter casts his ballot in the right precinct. -- Group of unions sues state over provisional ballot law (Herald.com)

    August 10, 2004

    Missouri Dems sued over provisional voting restrictions

    AP reports: The Missouri Democratic Party has sued Republican Secretary of State Matt Blunt, claiming voters who cast provisional ballots in the August primary at the wrong polling places should have had their votes counted anyway.

    The party claims that state law, which Blunt enforces as the state's chief elections official, conflicts with the federal Help America Vote Act. ...

    Provisional ballots are used when a voter's eligibility cannot be determined when the person shows up to vote. Provisional ballots can be used only for federal and statewide candidates and issues, not local contests.

    State law says that registered voters who cast provisional ballots at the wrong polling place cannot have their votes counted.

    Federal law says people should be allowed to cast a provisional ballots if they affirm they are registered voters in that jurisdiction, but also specifies that election officials should count such votes only if voters are eligible "under state law." -- State Democratic Party sues over voting issue (AP via KansasCity.com)

    August 5, 2004

    Provisional voting may lead to disfranchisement

    The New York Times reports: When [Chicago] poll workers could not find Kelly Pierce's name on the registration rolls during the primary here in March, they told him to take advantage of a new election rule that allowed him to cast his vote using a provisional ballot.

    The rule is intended to prevent one of the major problems experienced in Florida during the 2000 presidential election, when scores of voters, especially minority voters, were turned away at the polls over registration questions that could not be resolved quickly.

    So Mr. Pierce, who had voted regularly since 1989, filled out his paper ballot. Election administrators then proceeded to throw it out, determining that poll workers had Mr. Pierce file it in the wrong precinct. ...

    In the primary in Chicago, one in 90 ballots was provisionally cast. The majority of the 93 percent that were thrown out were disqualified because of technical errors caused by election workers; these included more than 1,200 ballots filed in the wrong precinct. Some 2,400 were discounted because affidavits were incompletely or incorrectly filled out. Only 416 provisional votes were ultimately counted. -- A Rule to Avert Balloting Woes Adds to Them (The New York Times) ***

    May 26, 2004

    Civil rights groups see more election problems

    Civil rights groups warned Wednesday that the same problems with voter access and ballot confusion that plagued the 2000 election will happen again in November unless election officials act now. ...

    They cited:

    _Voter registration problems

    _Voters being wrongly purged from rolls

    _Improper implementation of a new requirement that newly registered voters show ID on Election Day if the state hasn't verified their identity

    _Difficulties with voting machines and ballots

    _Potential failure to count newly required provisional ballots.

    They proposed better education for voters and poll workers, notifying people before removing them from voter lists and setting statewide standards for counting provisional ballots, which are supposed to be available for people who think they're eligible to vote but don't find their name listed at a polling place. -- Nov. Election Worries Civil Rights Groups (AP via philly.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)