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October 20, 2015

"Caravan to protest Black Belt license office closings still on despite partial reopening" reports: A caravan to protest the closing of driver's license offices in Alabama's Black Belt will proceed even though Gov. Robert Bentley announced the offices would reopen at least one day a month starting Nov. 1.

Caravan organizers announced today they would still make stops in 11 counties on Thursday and Friday, as they had planned last week.

In a news release, they called the plan to open at least one day a month a "charade."

"This will cause great hardship for the people who can least afford it and who are most impacted," the statement said.

Caravan organizers are the Save OurSelves Movement for Justice and Democracy and the National Action Network, founded by the Rev. Al Sharpton. -- Caravan to protest Black Belt license office closings still on despite partial reopening |

October 13, 2015

Letters showing the barriers to blacks trying to register to voter reports: Black women who went to the Jefferson County courthouse to register to vote in 1960 were routinely interrogated about whether their children were born out of wedlock.

Black men who had been arrested on misdemeanor charges as part of the Birmingham civil rights movement were turned away for "doing harm to the city."

Bad handwriting and misplaced check marks barred many from registering to vote 55-years-ago.

The Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth, then the secretary of the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights, outlined those concerns in an August 1960 letter to the U.S. Attorney General. -- 1960 Fred Shuttlesworth letter shows fight blacks faced to vote in Alabama |

NOTE: this article contains a 184-page DOJ file with complaints and investigations regarding blacks trying to register to vote.

August 28, 2015

"Ten Alabama counties have more voters than eligible people" reports: An organization called the Public Interest Legal Foundation has notified 10 counties in Alabama that they have more registered voters than voting age population.

Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill said he checked the numbers in the counties listed by the foundation and confirmed that all 10 had more registered voters than people 18 and older.

The counties are Lowndes, Perry, Greene, Macon, Wilcox, Marengo, Hale, Washington, Conecuh and Choctaw.

Merrill said all 10 counties have lost population since 2010 and believes some people who have left the counties remain on the voting rolls. -- Ten Alabama counties have more voters than eligible people |

July 28, 2015

"Civil rights martyr killed in Alabama gets stone carving at National Cathedral" reports: Civil rights activist Jonathan Myrick Daniels, an Episcopal seminary student who died in Alabama in 1965 when he stepped in front of a shotgun blast aimed at black teenager Ruby Sales, has been remembered with a stone monument in the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C.

Daniels is the third person memorialized with a bust in the Human Rights Porch of the National Cathedral. The other two are Rosa Parks and Mother Teresa. ...

The Episcopal Diocese of Alabama will celebrate Daniels the weekend of Aug. 14-16. The weekend activities will begin Friday evening in Montgomery with a program at St. John's Episcopal Church and will wrap up Sunday morning with a service at St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Selma.

Morris Dees, Jr., co-founder and chief trial counsel for the Southern Poverty Law Center, will be guest speaker at St. John's at 5:30 p.m. Friday, Aug. 14.

The annual pilgrimage honoring Daniels begins at the Courthouse Square in Hayneville on Aug. 15 at 11 a.m. The procession will go to the old county jail where Daniels and others were detained, then will move to the former site of Varners Cash Grocery Store where the shooting took place. The current owner of the store, which had become an insurance agency office, demolished the building. During this year's pilgrimage a historical marker will be dedicated at the site. -- Civil rights martyr killed in Alabama gets stone carving at National Cathedral |

June 15, 2015

Tuscaloosa News editorializes against universal, automatic registration

An editorial from the Tuscaloosa News: Voter fraud is not imaginary. But labeling reasonable efforts to ensure that fraud doesn't taint elections as voter suppression is pure fantasy. Loading the voter rolls with the names of people who don't care enough about their civic duty to provide county officials with a name and correct address is an open invitation to fraud.

The incessant drumbeat, mostly from Democrats, that voter fraud doesn't exist is simply untrue. They know it and we, here in this part of Alabama, certainly know it. We've seen fraudulent absentee ballots turned in by the bundle. ...

What automatic registration would do is create exceptionally fertile ground for voter fraud. People don’t neglect to vote because it’s difficult to register or get to the polls. It’s not. They fail to register and vote because they don’t care about the process of governing this country to make the effort. Or perhaps they just don’t believe their vote makes a difference. ...

People who won’t make the minimal effort to register aren’t likely to vote. Why let someone vote for them? -- EDITORIAL: Registering all is invitation to voter fraud |

May 22, 2015

Should Alabama adopt online voter registration? reports:
Currently, if you want to register to vote in Alabama, you have to fill out a form and send it in to the Board of Registrars or go by the office in person. In more than half the states in the U.S., however, registration is as simple as going online.

Twenty states have implemented online voter registration so far, NPR reported, with seven other states and the District of Columbia in the process of doing so now. Proponents maintain online registration is not only easier and more efficient, it's also considerably cheaper.

In Arizona, for example, it costs only 3 cents to register someone online versus 83 cents on paper. -- It's cheap, it's easy and everybody is doing it: Another idea for Alabama |

March 28, 2015

Congressmen Lewis, Hoyer, Clyburn, Conyers and Brady Reintroduce Voter Empowerment Act

From the website of Cong. John Lewis: Today, lead sponsors Rep. John Lewis (GA-5), House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer (MD-5), Assistant Democratic Leader James Clyburn (SC-6), Rep. John Conyers (MI-13), Rep. Robert Brady (PA-1) and more than 170 Democrats reintroduced the Voter Empowerment Act in the House of Representatives. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York will introduce a companion version in the Senate. The Voter Empowerment Act will help ensure equal access to the ballot for every eligible voter, will modernize our voter registration system to help more Americans participate, and takes steps to eliminate deceptive practices and voter fraud that deter voters from casting their ballots.

On March 21, 1965, thousands of protestors left Selma, Alabama and marched all the way to Montgomery to underscore the need for voting rights legislation which assured access to the ballot box for millions of Americans. Sponsors offer the VEA today as a continuation of the on-going effort to ensure that every American has an equal and fair opportunity to make their voices heard through the electoral process. At a time when some states have implemented or are planning to implement new barriers for voters who may be seniors, students, low-income Americans, members of our Armed Services, disabled, or speak English as a second language, Democrats see the need to certify their efforts to protect voting access for all Americans.

Click for a section by section description, quotes in support, or full bill text of the Voter Empowerment Act. -- Lewis, Hoyer, Clyburn, Conyers and Brady Reintroduce Voter Empowerment Act | The Website of Congressman John Lewis, Serving the 5th Congressional District of Georgia

Comment: I recommend you start with the 9-page section-by-section summary rather than the 167-page bill.

May 11, 2014

New Alabama rule on voters who move within the same county

The Alabama Secretary of State filed an emergency rule to conform to a decision of the Alabama Supreme Court 3 weeks earlier.

The new rule provides: If a voter has moved within the county and is now in a different precinct but has not changed her address with the Board of Registrars, she must go to her new polling place and vote using a provisional ballot.

The voter can avoid this problem by notifying the county Board of Registrars of her new address. The easiest way is to use the mail-in voter registration form at The voter can hand-deliver this to the Board of Registars by 5 pm on Friday, 23 May or mail it by that day (making sure it is postmarked on or before 23 May).

Emergency Rule on Voters Who Move Within County

April 22, 2014

Too many people registered in predominantly black counties reports: Less than three months before the June primary, four Alabama counties had more voters on their rolls than what the Census Bureau says is their voting age population.

Officials give a number of reasons for that, including under-counting by the census. ...

Each county has a three-person board of registrars that is responsible for maintaining the voting lists with help from the secretary of state’s office. ...

As of March, Greene, Hale, Lowndes and Macon counties had more active, registered voters than what the census estimated as their 18-and-older population in 2012. -- 4 Alabama counties have more active, registered voters than adult population |

April 18, 2014

"Florida no longer part of controversial national voter data project"

The Miami Herald reports: Interstate Crosscheck's reports in 2013 include Florida data based on the 2012 election. However, Florida is absent from the 2014 report.

We asked a spokeswoman for Republican Secretary of State Ken Detzner why Florida dropped out.

"The Department of State and Supervisors of Elections currently work with elections officials in other states to update registrations regarding residency, and we are always exploring options to improve the elections process," Brittany Lesser said.

Oregon is another state that changed its mind about sharing its voter data with the Kansas project. Its explanation was more blunt than the one we got from Florida.

"We left because the data we received was unreliable and we felt joining the ERIC project would better meet our needs," said Tony Green, spokesman for Oregon Secretary of State.

ERIC is a project of the Pew Charitable Trust to improve the accuracy and efficiency of state voter registration systems. States must pay to participate in ERIC while the Kansas project is free. -- Florida no longer part of controversial national voter data project | Naked Politics

Alabama Sec of State wants to join Interstate Crosscheck

Alabama Political Reporter reports: Based on recent evidence of double voting discovered in North Carolina, Alabama Secretary of State Jim Bennett (R) urged on Tuesday that Alabama legislators pass a bill allowing his office to exchange voter lists with other states to check for duplications.

Legislation that would have done that was sponsored by State Representative John Merrill (R) from Tuscaloosa in the last session. It passed the Alabama House of Representatives but died in the Alabama Senate. Secretary Bennett said that he remains committed to the plan under which a compact of 28 states exchange lists to look for duplicate voters. Alabama law currently only allows the secretary of state to sell the voter list to other states for a penny a name, which with about 3 million voters, amounts to approximately $30,000.

Sec. Bennett said, "The idea in the exchange is not to make money, but to check for voter fraud," Bennett said. "It is time Alabama joined the compact of states where cross-checks are made possible."

Sec. Bennett said that many Alabamians have vacation homes in Florida, so cross-checking there and in Georgia would be highly practical. Florida joined the compact in 2013. Every state surrounding Alabama is already a compact member. -- Bennett Urges Alabama to Join Compact of States Checking for Voter Duplication

[But see the post just before this one.]

July 10, 2012

Mobile County considers voters who changed addresses

The Mobile Press-Register ( reports: Some 20,000 registered voters in Mobile County do not live where they signed up to vote, and Probate Judge Don Davis' efforts to deal with that in the primary election this year has drawn complaints from critics.

Davis points to three different state statutes indicating that it is illegal for voters to cast ballots in a precinct where they do not live. The Mobile County Board of Registrars, backed by an administrative rule issued by the state Secretary of State's Office in 1994, contends that people should be allowed to vote in whichever precinct they are registered.

Davis said that he is waiting for a response to a request he made in April for an attorney general's opinion, which carries the force of law absent a court order. He said he wants to make sure to get it right. ...

A pair of former political candidates, however, questioned whether the probate judge's interpretation of the law runs counter to the federal Voting Rights Act. -- Read the whole story --> Conflict arises over how to treat Mobile County voters whose addresses don?t match registration |

June 29, 2012

Speaker Hubbard cool to the idea of party registration

The Huntsville Times ( reports: Republican Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard declined in Huntsville Thursday to support the closed party voting other state GOP leaders now want. "I don't want to alienate anyone," Hubbard said during a book signing stop. "There are a lot of people who don't really consider themselves Republican or Democrat. They're more independent, and I don't want them to feel excluded."

The state Republican Executive Committee approved a resolution Saturday endorsing legislation to require party registration and end the state's open primary system. "We just feel like Republicans ought to nominate Republicans and Democrats ought to nominate Democrats, and you need to identify where you stand," Alabama Republican Party Chairman Bill Armistead said.

Hubbard, a former state Republican party chairman, said he understood the sentiment. His book is about the GOP's long and finally successful fight to take control of state government from Democrats. But Hubbard said party registration wouldn't work, even if it didn't offend independents. -- Read the whole story --> House Speaker Hubbard cool to closed party voting and expanded healthcare |

June 24, 2012

GOP endorses party-registration of voters

The Birmingham News ( reports: Alabama Republicans on Saturday endorsed the idea of requiring primary voters to register by political party.

The Republican Executive Committee approved a resolution endorsing legislation that would require party registration and end the state's open primary system. A voter only has to say which party ballot he wants on primary day and doesn't have to register as a party member in advance. ...

Critics said open primaries allow members of one party to "cross over" and affect who becomes another party's nominee for office. One woman likened open primaries to allowing the University of Alabama to pick the roster for Auburn University's football team.

However, others expressed concerns that it could drive voters away from the GOP instead of welcoming them to it. -- Read the whole story --> Alabama Republican Executive Committee endorses party registration |

June 22, 2012

Job openings

Immediate Opportunity to Make a Difference

The Community Voters Project is immediately hiring Citizen Outreach Directors to run non-partisan grassroots voter registration offices through October 2012. Help make a change by helping register African American voters. For more information, contact Recruitment Director Jeff Sprague at (303) 623-4900 ext 201 or

Citizen Outreach Director, Community Voters Project

Immediate Openings: Philadelphia, Raleigh, Milwaukee, Denver, Colorado Springs

Possible Future Openings: California, Florida, Ohio and Virginia

Experience: college graduate or experience working on campaigns or managing canvassing operations

Salary: $1980 a month

We are looking for smart, motivated, action-oriented organizers who are interested in politics and have a commitment to social justice organizing. Citizen Outreach Directors will build and manage a team to run a campaign which will register 10-30,000 voters between now and November. Directors will recruit, manage and motivate staff, manage outreach sites, conduct registration and train canvassing staff to register voters. Nationally, we will register voters in eight states to help 350,000 disadvantaged voters find their voice. The Community Voters Project is a project of Fair Share Education Fund. Citizen Outreach Directors will work for Work for Progress, through a partnership with Fair Share Education Fund. To find out more, and to apply now, visit:

June 14, 2012

Alabama not complying with NVRA, civil rights groups say

The Huntsville Times reports: A coalition of voting rights and civil rights groups is alleging that Alabama is not meeting the law in providing voter registration materials to residents who seek government assistance.

The National Voter Registration Act, passed in 1993 and widely known as the "motor voter" act, requires that applicants for public assistance be given voter registration applications.

In a letter sent to Alabama Secretary of State Beth Chapman and the commissioners of the Department of Human Resources and Alabama Medicaid Agency, the groups said an investigation and interviews found widespread failure to provide registration materials in DHR and Medicaid offices.

The New York-based civil rights group Demos and the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and Project Vote, both out of Washington, D.C., said in a letter dated Wednesday that they want the state to develop a plan to comply with federal voting laws. -- Read the whole story --> Voting rights groups say Alabama agencies not obeying federal voter registration laws |

You can read the letter here.

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

October 9, 2011

Nearly all Alabama voter registrars are GOP

The Gadsden Times reports: For the first time, all three appointing authorities for county voter registrars are Republicans, but some Democrat holdovers were reappointed this year by new GOP Agriculture Commissioner John McMillan.

Gov. Robert Bentley, State Auditor Sam Shaw and McMillan, all Republicans, made board of registrar appointments this year in 66 counties. The governor, auditor and agriculture commissioner each have one appointment.

Jefferson County?s voter registrars are appointed by the county commission. ...

Republican Party Chairman Bill Armistead reacted strongly to the appointment of some Democratic holdovers.

“I think they should be all Republicans,” Armistead said. “I don’t know who the holdovers were, but if they were not declared Republicans or didn’t switch, I think it was a mistake.” -- Read the whole story --> Registrars set in 66 of 67 state counties; GOP chairman wants all to be Republican |

August 28, 2011

Alabama anti-immigration law's voter-registration provisions

In a few days, U.S. District Judge Sharon Blackburn will grant or deny a preliminary injunction against numerous provisions of the "Beason-Hammon Alabama Taxpayer and Citizen Protection Act." Three suits by a coalition of organizations and individuals, the federal government, and Bishops of the Episcopal, United Methodist, and Catholic Churches challenged numerous provisions of the Act. But I did not find a challenge to Section 29 (see page 61 of the Scribd copy of the Act) which deals with voter registration.

I only want to look at the sloppy drafting of the Act. Well, actually, Section 29 is drafted in a way superior to most Alabama legislation. Most bills seems to be drafted with extremely long sections with a variety of topics in each section. Section 29 actually has a structure that aids -- rather than impedes -- reading it. There are three provisions I want to point out as indicating the author(s) of the bill either did not understand Alabama governmental structure or did not understand federal law.

First, subsections (b) and (c) refer to "the county election officer." I have only been handling election-related work for 35+ years, but I have never seen such a term used in Alabama before. Does this actually mean the county board of registrars? Clearly, this was drafted outside of Alabama for some other state.

Second, subsection (k)(1) refers to the "driver's license or nondriver's identification card issued by the division of motor vehicles." Alabama has a DMV in the Department of Revenue, but it issues automobile tags. To get a driver's license, Alabamians go to the Department of Public Safety. Again, this is a sign of non-Alabama origin of the Act.

Third, the Act creates a "State Election Board" composed of the Attorney General, Lieutenant Governor, and Secretary of State to hear applications from those who do not possess the documentation the Act requires to prove American citizenship. If the Board rules against the applicant, the applicant may "institut[e] an action under 8 U.S.C. § 1503." That federal code section allows actions to be filed in certain cases "against the head of such department or independent agency for a judgment declaring him to be a national of the United States."

I believe that provision should be read in conjunction with 8 U.S.C. § 1104, which authorizes the Secretary of State "to confer or impose upon any employee of the United States, with the consent of the head of the department or independent establishment under whose jurisdiction the employee is serving, any of the powers, functions, or duties conferred or imposed by this chapter" -- and "this chapter" is Chapter 12, where § 1503 is also located. One would have to tie the Code in knots to decide that the State Election Board is a "department or independent agency" within the meaning of § 1503.

If some person has to bring suit to determine that he or she is an American citizen, should the State of Alabama be allowed to object on the grounds that § 1503 does not allow for such suits, or should the Act be taken as a waiver of the State's objection?

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

December 3, 2010

Jefferson Co, AL: Nell Hunter has retired after servicing 47 years as voter registrar

The Birmingham News reports: Nell Hunter has a cold, but the only reason she's home on this chilly December morning is that she retired last month from the Jefferson County Board of Registrars office after more than 40 years as its chairman.

The decision came three months shy of her 89th birthday, without any advance notice.

"I just decided that I'd had enough and I thought, 'Well, I'll just get out of here,'" Hunter said. "I don't want any fanfare and I don't want anybody acting like they're sorry I'm going."

Hunter is the only chairman the registrars office, created in 1967, has ever had. She served under 12 Alabama gubernatorial administrations, nine U.S. presidents and nearly three dozen county commissioners.

The Jefferson County Commission likely will select her replacement from a list of candidates provided by the Jefferson County Personnel Board. -- Read the whole story --> Nell Hunter, Jefferson County's first registrars chairman retires at 88 |

October 27, 2010

Alabama: 1.1% increase in voter registration

The Gadsden Times reports: Voter registration in Alabama increased little since the summer, and it may portend an average election turnout on Tuesday.

Statewide, the number of active registered voters increased by only 1.1 percent since August, from 2.555 million to 2.583 million, according to the secretary of state’s voter registration office. ...

Slight interest in new registrations may predict voter turnout for Tuesday’s general election, voter registrars said. -- Read the whole story --> Light voter registration indicates low turnout in Alabama |

September 14, 2010

Alabama: "I see dead people" on the voting rolls

TPMmuckraker reports: J. Christian Adams, the former DOJ lawyer at the heart of the New Black Panthers case, has sent letter to 16 states warning them that they are breaking voter law by not removing dead and ineligible voters from their rolls.

"I'm just interested in compliance with Section 8," Adams told TPMmuckraker yesterday, referring to the provision in the National Voter Registration Act -- known as the "motor voter law" -- which requires states to make a reasonable effort to remove ineligible voters from its registration lists. ...

Adams took advantage of a provision in the NVRA which allows private citizens to notify state elections officials if they haven't purged their rolls within 90 days of the primary or general election. If the states don't fix the problem, a private citizen can sue.

Adams says he wouldn't be the one to sue, if it comes to that. Fellow lawyers in each of the states, who would qualify as aggrieved parties, could sue instead.

He chose the 16 states by looking through the latest Election Assistance Commission report on the Motor Voter Act and picking out states which reported zero people removed from their rolls, or larger numbers of registered voters than residents over 18 -- 19 states in all. ...

The states he sent letters to: South Dakota, Texas, Mississippi, Kentucky, Indiana, West Virginia, Maryland, Iowa, North Carolina, Arkansas, Massachusetts, Oregon, Tennessee, Alabama, Rhode Island and Virginia. Read the whole article --> Adams Threatens 16 States With Lawsuits Over Voter Rolls | TPMMuckraker

October 3, 2009

Alabama: Autauga Co. judge orders registration of rejected applicant

The Prattville Progress reports: Autauga County Judge of Probate Al Booth granted this week a request for summary judgment from an 18-year-old woman whose voter registration applica­tion was denied in July, and ordered the county's board of registrars to immedi­ately add the woman's name to the coun­ty's list of registered voters.

Booth's decree brought to a close a controversial rejection by registrars of a voter application form filed by Jasmine Dent, a resident student at Tuskegee Uni­versity who moved from Millbrook to Prattville shortly before she started classes.

When Dent attempted on July 6 to reg­ister to vote here, she inadvertently put her Elmore County address on the origi­nal application, then wadded the erro­neous registration form and tossed it into a trash can at the board of registrars office.

She completed a second form, provid­ing the correct residency information, but Registrar Bobby Wise retrieved the original and noted on the second form that the document should not be approv­ed because it was "fraudulent," although he refused to specify upon what grounds his decision was based. Fellow registrar Joan Hamburger also signed off on the denial. -- Read the whole story --> :: Judge: Add woman to voter rolls

September 26, 2009

Alabama: rare appeal from denial of voter registration

The Prattville Progress reports: An 18-year-old local woman whose voter registration application was reject­ed by county registrars because she inad­vertently listed her former address on the document, has appealed the decision to the Autauga County Judge of Probate.

Judge Al Booth confirmed Thursday that his office had received a letter from Jasmine Dent, who asked that Booth overturn the board of registrar's deci­sion that listed her attempt at joining lo­cal voter rolls as a "fraudulent" applica­tion. ...

Booth did provide a requested copy of the Sept. 4 letter, which requested a sum­mary judgment in her favor, based on the actions of board member Bobby Wise, who rejected the application on the basis of the incorrect address and telephone number Dent listed on her initial voter registration form.

Dent, who filed an amended applica­tion minutes after Wise pointed out the inaccuracies, expressed on paper her be­lief that the registrar could have resolved the issue by allowing her to file a cor­rected form. -- Read the whole story at --> :: Appeal filed in voter application rejection

June 25, 2009

Alabama: more inmates are registering to vote

The Dothan Eagle reports: Some inmates in the city and county jails will have the chance to vote in upcoming municipal elections, thanks to the Rev. Kenneth Glasgow.

Glasgow and The Ordinary People Society will be registering inmates in the city and county jails and also in the local community corrections program.

Alabama law permits inmates convicted of misdemeanors and felonies not involving moral turpitude to vote. ...

In 2006, 90 inmates in city and county jails statewide voted. In 2007, 300 voted. And in 2008, 2,500 inmates voted, including felons in state prison. The felons were able to vote after Glasgow won a lawsuit regarding the rights of felons not convicted of moral turpitude to vote. -- Read the whole story --> Inmates to vote in city elections | Dothan Eagle

May 6, 2009

Over 33 Million Dollars Wasted in 100 counties in 2008 Due to Antiquated Voter Registration System

Guest post by Lisa Gilbert, U.S.PIRG Democracy Advocate

If only one lesson was well learned in the recent elections, it is that their success or failure is entirely dependent on the resources and skills of our local and state-level election officials.

The 2008 elections were noteworthy in many ways, for example, the 3.4 million more young voters who participated last fall than in the 2004 cycle. However one thing that the increased participation helped to spotlight are the enormous obstacles and cost inefficiencies inherent in our out-of-date voter registration system.

These challenges cost taxpayers millions and make it harder for election officials to do their jobs.

In U.S.PIRG’s new report, “Saving Dollars, Saving Democracy,” (, the 100 counties surveyed had over $33,467,910.00 of public money spent on simple registration implementation and registration error-correction issues in 2008.

Furthermore, as significant as these sums are, we know that they are really only the tip of the iceberg in our country.

In addition to the costs of the endless data-entry and ongoing dealing with errors that our report looked at in detail, almost every county has still further costs associated with our antiquated system.

For example, in Los Angeles County, entering the massive amounts of registration forms into the database system leads to an expense of over $56,000 in every major countywide election just to mail supplemental voter rosters to poll inspectors in time for Election Day.

From coast to coast local election officials have similar stories of being forced to apply expensive band-aids in order to effectively administer the registration system.

If we modernized our system we could both eliminate the majority of the registration cost burden local officials bear and register more citizens. A more modern system would reallocate funds and enable local officials to more effectively administer our elections.

“Saving Dollars, Saving Democracy” (found at recommends implementing a more automatic system that links existing federal and state databases with the state voter rolls to do this.

It is time to put our taxpayer dollars into activities that promote our democracy, like citizen election education and pollworker training, rather than into data-entering forms.

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. --

April 8, 2009

Sen. Schumer urges DOJ suits against non-compliance with Motor Voter

From a press release by Sen. Schumer: U.S. Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) urged Attorney General Eric Holder on Tuesday to sue states that fail to comply with a federal law requiring public assistance agencies that administer food stamps and unemployment benefits to also distribute voter registration materials.

The 1993 law, called the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA), was designed to increase registration opportunities for eligible voters, and accounted for more than 2.6 million new registrations in its first two years after taking effect. But lax enforcement of the law has led to a 79 percent reduction in the number of registrations at public assistance agencies since 1996, and last year, the Justice Department revealed that as many as 18 states were under investigation for skirting the law.

“This law is supposed to simplify the voter registration process, but it has been complicated by the rogue behavior of a large batch of states,” said Schumer, the Chairman of the Senate Rules Committee. “The Bush administration essentially condoned this flouting of the law, but with new leadership at the Justice Department, we hope states will be made to meet their obligations. Attorney General Holder should pull out all the stops to ensure the law is followed. If that means taking certain states to court, so be it.” -- SCHUMER URGES DOJ: SUE STATES THAT FLOUT VOTER REGISTRATION LAW

October 30, 2008

New Demos reports

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

Provisional Ballots: Where to Watch in 2008
Press release:

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

October 25, 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

October 21, 2008

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

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

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

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

October 20, 2008

Alabama: registration nears 3 million voters

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

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

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

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

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

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

October 17, 2008

FBI investigates the ACORN voter registration drives

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

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

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

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

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

Alabama: more voters than adults in six counties

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

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

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

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

October 16, 2008

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

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

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

October 15, 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

October 10, 2008

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

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

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

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

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

North Carolina: State will stop using SSN to verify voters

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

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

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

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

Ohio: Sec/State Bruner must verifiy new resgistrations

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

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

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

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

October 9, 2008

Virginia: student registration roadblocks

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

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

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

"States’ Actions to Block Voters Appear Illegal"

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

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

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

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

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

October 8, 2008

Social Security questions "extraordinary" SSN checks by states

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

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

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

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

October 6, 2008

"Registration Gains Favor Democrats"

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

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

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

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

Tennessee: felons seeking registration

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

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

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

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

October 4, 2008

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

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

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

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

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

October 2, 2008

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

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

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

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

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

"Voting goes to court"

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

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

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

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

October 1, 2008

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

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

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

September 30, 2008

Alabama: state representative asks prison chief to allow registration

The Huntsville Times: A legislator on Monday asked Alabama prison Commissioner Richard Allen to reconsider his decision that banned a minister from registering inmates to vote.

Rep. Alvin Holmes, D-Montgomery, said no court orders or laws prohibit the registration of an inmate at a prison as long as the person performing the registration does not represent any political party or candidate.

The issue came to light last week after it was reported that a coalition of groups led by a community activist, the Rev. Kenneth Glasgow of Dothan, began registering convicts to vote in state prisons. Nearly 80 filled out registration forms in two days.

Their goal was to get the prisoners to request absentee ballots for the Nov. 4 general election.

Allen halted the practice after receiving a letter from Rep. Mike Hubbard, R-Auburn, chairman of the Alabama Republican Party. -- Inmate voting at issue -

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 | | Port Clinton News Herald

September 25, 2008

Alabama: voter registrars falling behind

The Birmingham News reports: State Democratic Party leaders charged Wednesday that thousands of would-be voters are having a hard time registering to vote and may find themselves unable to cast ballots Nov. 4.

Joe Turnham, chairman of the Alabama Democratic Party, said that in some counties, voting officials are overwhelmed with the job of processing new voters, and in some counties, registration forms are running low. Most important, he said, many people who have registered have yet to receive by mail notification of where they should go to vote. ...

Turnham called on Secretary of State Beth Chapman, a Republican, to provide additional workers in counties that are experiencing problems. Some of the counties Turnham named included Jefferson, Montgomery, Lee, Wilcox and Autauga.

Turnham accused Chapman of efforts to stifle voter turnout. -- Democrats say registrars are overwhelmed by new voter registrations applications, which might lead some to be shut out of voting Nov. 4 -

September 19, 2008

Alabama: prison commissioner bows to the will of the GOP and stops voter-registration drives

AP reports: Alabama's prisons commissioner has stopped a drive to register inmates to vote so they can cast absentee ballots from inside state prisons.

Richard Allen's decision to halt the program Thursday afternoon came after opposition from the Alabama Republican Party.

State Republican Chairman Mike Hubbard told Allen in a letter Thursday that the party supports the idea of registering more people to vote. But he says that doesn't extend to prisoners.

Hubbard said he was concerned about possible voter fraud. -- - Huntsville, Alabama - News Weather, Sports | Ala. stops voter registration driver for prisoners

September 17, 2008

Alabama: voter-registration drive in jails

A Montgomery Advertiser story begins: Alabama inmates are registering to vote from prison in a precedent-set­ting effort organized by activist groups with the blessing of state corrections officials.

Nearly 80 prisoners had filled out registration forms during drives at two lockups, and organizers plan to help them and hundreds more obtain absentee ballots in time to vote in the presidential election on Nov. 4.

Laura Schley, 34, has eight months left on a four-year sen­tence for illegal possession of prescription drugs. She had a hard time believing she was reg­istering Tuesday at the Bir­mingham Work Release Center. ...

The state attorney general's office issued an opinion seven years ago that inmates could vote from inside prison using absentee ballots. But confusion and lawsuits followed over which felons had that right be­cause of a murky phrase in state law. -- State inmates register to vote in prison | | Montgomery Advertiser

September 10, 2008

Easy voter registration and information

Vote for Change has a quick and easy-to-use web site that allows you to fill out a voter registration form, request an absentee ballot, find your polling location, and get polling-day information (hours of voting, etc.).

September 9, 2008

Veterans Affairs will allow voter registration drives

A New York Times report begins: The Department of Veterans Affairs said Monday that it would no longer ban voter registration drives among veterans living at federally run nursing homes, shelters for the homeless and rehabilitation centers across the country.

In May, the department said such drives would violate the prohibition on political activity by federal employees and would be disruptive.

The reversal came after months of pressure from state election officials, voting rights groups and federal lawmakers who said that such drives made it easier for veterans to take part in the political process.

Veterans’ participation could be particularly important this year in a presidential election in which the handling of the Iraq war and treatment of veterans will be major campaign issues. -- V.A. to Allow Voter Signup for Veterans at Facilities -

September 8, 2008

Virginia: registrar attempts to discourage student voter registrations

A New York Times report begins: The widespread practice of students’ registering to vote at their college address has set off a fracas in Virginia, a battleground state in the presidential election.

Late last month, as a voter-registration drive by supporters of Senator Barack Obama was signing up thousands of students at Virginia Tech, the local registrar of elections issued two releases incorrectly suggesting a range of dire possibilities for students who registered to vote at their college.

The releases warned that such students could no longer be claimed as dependents on their parents’ tax returns, a statement the Internal Revenue Service says is incorrect, and could lose scholarships or coverage under their parents’ car and health insurance.

After some inquiries from students and parents, and more pointed questions from civil rights lawyers, the state board of elections said Friday that it was “modifying and clarifying” the state guidelines on which the county registrar had based his releases. -- Voter Registration by Students Raises Cloud of Consequences

August 18, 2008

Alabama: drive to register the homeless

A Montgomery Advertiser report begins: John Cook Thomas would like to cast his vote in the November election for Barack Obama. ...

Despite living in the Salvation Army's homeless shelter, Thomas pays attention to politics and he plans to register to vote.

And advocates for the homeless and for voting are encouraging people like Thomas to get registered.

"When you're homeless you have a lot of issues you're dealing with," said Michael Stoops, project director for the 'You Don't Need a Home to Vote' campaign. "But some homeless folks are up on current events."

Thomas is one of those who keep up with current events in spite of the other problems in his life. He came to live in the shelter almost four months ago after his disability check was reduced. But he's aware the outcome of the presidential election does have an impact on his life. -- | Montgomery Advertiser

August 14, 2008

Alabama: Secretary of State takes action to get more former felons registrered

The NAACP Legal Defense Fund recently did a survey of voter registrars in Alabama and found that few of them knew the correct rules as to the registration of voters who had been convicted of felonies. In response, the Secretary of State's office has taken action:

1. Writing to "every voter registrar, informing them that we had received correspondence alleging that in some counties, voter registrars were not following the guidelines set forth in the Attorney General Opinion 2005-092";

2. Enclosing "in the letter to the registrars a statement to be signed by each registrar acknowledging that he or she had read the opinion (a copy of which was included in our letter) and further acknowledging that the registrar agreed to abide by that opinion's guidelines"; and

3. "[F]urther instruct[ing] the registrars to contact the Secretary's chief legal advisor in the event that they had any question as to whether a specific felony is a crime involving moral turpitude."

The letters are attached. Congratulations to the folks at LDF and thanks to Secretary of State Beth Chapman.

August 11, 2008

"For Those Once Behind Bars, A Nudge to the Voting Booth"

The Washington Post reports: Mitchell is a leader of a disparate group of grass-roots Democrats and civil rights activists who are trying to register tens of thousands of newly eligible felons. They have taken up the cause on their own, motivated by the belief that former offenders have been unfairly disenfranchised for decades. Despite massive registration efforts, the presidential campaigns of Sens. John McCain and Barack Obama have not designated anyone to go after the group.

In Alabama, Al Sharpton's younger brother, the Rev. Kenneth Glasgow, will take his "Prodigal Son" ministry into state prisons with voter-registration cards for the first time. The American Civil Liberties Union recently filed suit there and in Tennessee to make it possible for an even larger class of felons to register. In Ohio, the NAACP will hold a voter-registration day at the Justice Center in downtown Cleveland this month to register "people caught up in the criminal justice system," a local official said. In California, a team will stand in front of jails on Aug. 16 to register people visiting prisoners and encourage them to take registration cards to their incarcerated friends or family members, some of whom can legally vote. -- For Those Once Behind Bars, A Nudge to the Voting Booth -

August 9, 2008

Connecticut: VA and state Secretary of State reach agreement on voter registration (policy attached)

A New Haven Register report begins: A compromise between the state and the U.S. Veterans Affairs medical center Thursday ended the threat of a lawsuit over blocked efforts to register veterans to vote, but there are still limits on who can participate.

Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz and state Attorney General Richard Blumenthal declared a victory for democracy when Roger Johnson, administrator for the two federal veterans’ medical centers in Connecticut, agreed to allow Byziewicz to conduct a voter education session and registration inside the West Haven facility Thursday.

Johnson, however, said Bysiewicz only would be allowed to register in-patients at the hospital and the handful of veterans who live there.

Staff and outpatients will continue to be excluded, although Byziewicz managed to register a few people outside the hospital before a press conference on the issue. -- VA, state reach deal on voter sign-ups

The Register links to a statement of the Election Assistance Commission and the VA's policy.

California: 9th Circuit upholds VA's ban on voter registration drives (opinion linked)

A Palo Alto Daily News report begins: A federal appeals court has upheld a Veterans Administration policy barring voter registration drives inside its hospitals, concluding the rule does not violate the First Amendment.

In a unanimous three-judge decision Friday, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the VA policy, which came under attack four years ago when Santa Clara County's Democratic Central Committee tried to conduct voter registration at the VA's facility in Menlo Park. VA officials barred the registration, citing a rule that prohibits partisan political activity at VA hospitals.

The legal conflict arose from an attempt by Steve Preminger, the committee's chair, and Scott Rafferty, a Democratic Party lawyer, to register veterans at the hospital. When VA officials discovered that Rafferty wore a John Kerry button and was affiliated with the Democratic Party, they determined the registration effort violated their policy.

Preminger could not be reached for comment Friday, but Rafferty expressed disappointment, saying further appeals are a possibility, particularly with another presidential election looming. -- Palo Alto Daily News

The opinion (No. 08-15714, Preminger v. Peake) is available here.

July 28, 2008

Obama's strategy to increase the black vote

The Washington Post reports: At the heart of the Obama campaign's strategy is a national effort to increase registration and turnout among the millions of Democratic-inclined Americans who have not been voting, particularly younger people and African Americans. The push began during the primaries but expanded this month to a nationwide registration drive led by 3,000 volunteers dispatched around the country.

Gaining greater African American support could well put Obama over the top in states where Democrats have come close in the past two elections, and could also help him retain the big swing states of Pennsylvania and Michigan.

If 95 percent of black voters support Obama in November, in line with a recent Washington Post-ABC News national poll, he can win Florida if he increases black turnout by 23 percent over 2004, assuming he performs at the same levels that Democratic candidate John F. Kerry did with other voters that year.

Obama can win Nevada if he increases black turnout by 8 percent. Ohio was so close in 2004 that if Obama wins 95 percent of the black vote, more than Kerry did, he will win the state without a single extra voter. But an increase in overall black turnout could help offset a poorer performance among other voters.

The push has also raised Democrats' hopes of reclaiming Southern states with large black populations, such as Georgia and North Carolina, where low turnout among voters of all races has left much more untapped potential than in traditionally competitive states such as Ohio. Obama, who himself led a huge voter-registration drive in Chicago in 1992, has said he could compete in states such as Mississippi by increasing black turnout by 30 percent. -- For Obama, Hurdles in Expanding Black Vote -

July 24, 2008

New Mexico: Brennan Center sues over voter registration restrictions

The Brennan Center announces: Today the Brennan Center for Justice, along with pro bono law firms Davis Polk & Wardwell and Freedman Boyd Hollander Goldberg & Ives, filed a lawsuit in state court in Albuquerque challenging a New Mexico law that significantly restricts the ability of voter registration groups to register new voters and threatens to block thousands of eligible New Mexico citizens from registering and voting in the 2008 elections as unconstitutional and inconsistent with federal and state law. Plaintiffs in the case are the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD), the Federation of American Women's Clubs Overseas Inc. (FAWCO), New Mexico Public Interest Research Group (NMPIRG), and the Southwest Organizing Project (SWOP). Plaintiffs typically register thousands of New Mexico citizens (especially low income, minority, disabled, and young citizens) to vote but have suspended or dramatically curtailed their operations as a result of the challenged law.

There are currently over half a million unregistered eligible voters in New Mexico. The suit claims that New Mexico's law—New Mexico Statutes Annotated § 1-4-49, and New Mexico Administrative Rules §§—both enacted in 2005-constitutes an unconstitutional burden on free speech and association by impeding civic groups from helping eligible voters to register.

"The law aggressively discourages civic organizations from helping New Mexico citizens to exercise their basic right to vote, and threatens voter registration drives across the state," Robby Rodriguez from SWOP stated. --

The Brennan Center has a link to the complaint.

July 17, 2008

Missouri: court orders social services department to follow NVRA

AP reports: The Missouri Department of Social Services has been violating a federal law that requires it to help its clients register to vote, a federal judge has ruled.

U.S. District Judge Nanette Laughrey issued a preliminary injunction Tuesday, ordering the social services agency to comply with the National Voter Registration Act, commonly known as the "motor-voter" law.

The agency said it would follow the judge’s order. ...

The National Voter Registration Act was enacted in 1993 and requires state public assistance agencies, which administer such programs as food stamps and Medicaid, to provide its clients with the chance to register to vote. The agencies also are required to help the clients complete the registrations. --

The decision is available on the site of Demos.

Massachusetts: same-day registration bill before Senate today

The Eagle-Tribune reports: Lawrence Mayor Michael Sullivan blasted a Beacon Hill plan to allow same-day voter registration saying it would open the "floodgates" to fraud.

The Senate is expected to vote on the proposal today. Beginning in November it would allow people to register to vote at their town or city hall and then cast their ballot. ...

Augustus pointed to studies showing as many as 220,000 more people would vote if they could register at the polls.

The bill, aimed at helping people who moved but didn't re-register to vote, would contain current antifraud safeguards. Voters would still have to show proof of identification and residency, such as a driver's license and utility bill. They would also have to sign an affidavit attesting to their identity. -- Lawrence mayor slams same-day voter registration bill -, North Andover, MA

July 13, 2008

Florida: LWV's lawsuit may not effect on this year's registration drives

The Times-Union reports: Confusion over how citizens can register to vote is threatening to muddle upcoming elections in Florida.

Voter registration drives statewide are under fire from a new state law that establishes stiff fees for groups who undertake them. The League of Women Voters is challenging that law. ...

The League of Women Voters of Florida is suing the state, saying the 2007 law will have a "chilling" effect on registration drives. They argue that the regulations disproportionately affect poor, African-American, Hispanic and women voters because they are twice as likely to register through a drive, said Dianne Wheatley-Giliotti, past president of the league.

The court battle over the law won't be resolved for at least two months. So the rule won't be in place for at least the Aug. 26 primary, Davis said. The registration deadline is July 6.

A federal judge has until mid-August to decide on a legal challenge to the law. Even if she decides it's permissible, it might not take effect before the registration deadline for the Nov. 4 election. The registration deadline for the November election is Oct. 6. -- Voter law threatens to cloud elections --

July 6, 2008

Republicans as agents of change

Doonesbury@Slate - Daily Dose explains that Republicans are agents of change -- "Changing the rules, changing the subject."

June 13, 2008

Report on the argument in Preminger v. V.A.

AlterNet reports: An attorney for the Department of Veterans Affairs, which runs hospitals and homeless shelters for veterans, told a federal appeals court Thursday that the VA could not conceive of any circumstance where voter registration drives could occur at its facilities. ...

But Scott Rafferty, a Washington, D.C.-based attorney who has spent several years arguing the VA must allow voter registration drives to help wounded former soldiers register and vote, disagreed. ...

The issue before a federal appeals court in San Francisco is whether restrictions on voter registration drives at the VA's campus in nearby Menlo Park are unconstitutional.

The case has national significance. The VA has facilities across the country serving thousands of veterans. In 1994, then-President Bill Clinton ordered the VA to help register veterans. However, the VA ceased allowing voter registration drives during the Bush administration. -- Veterans Affairs Tells Court It Can't Imagine Voter Registration Drives for Its Wounded Veterans and the Homeless | Democracy and Elections | AlterNet

Criticism for V.A.'s ban on voter registration

The New York Times reports: Voting rights groups are criticizing the Department of Veterans Affairs for its decision to ban registration drives among the veterans living at federally run nursing homes, shelters for the homeless and rehabilitation centers across the country.

The groups say such drives make it easier for veterans to register and participate in the political process, which could be particularly important this year in a presidential election in which the handling of the Iraq war and treatment of veterans will be major campaign issues. ...

Although veterans are not federal employees, department officials based their decision in part on the Hatch Act, which bans federal employees from engaging in partisan political activity. ...

For years, the department allowed the managers of its sites to decide individually whether to permit such drives. In 2004, Steve Preminger, a Democratic county chairman, filed a lawsuit after he was refused permission to register voters at a V.A. campus in Menlo Park, Calif., about 25 miles south of San Francisco. A lower court ruled against Mr. Preminger in January, finding that he had failed to prove that any veteran was actually prevented from voting.

On Thursday, a federal appellate court heard arguments in the case. -- V.A. Ban on Voter Drives Is Criticized -

June 3, 2008

Vet.Admin. refuses to register voters

The St. Petersburg Times reports: The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs last month said it would refuse to abide by a 14-year-old presidential directive requiring it to help register veterans to vote.

It says doing so would detract from providing medical care and benefits to veterans.

On May 1, California officials asked the VA to help register veterans, citing a 1994 executive order by President Bill Clinton requiring federal agencies to undertake the responsibility if a state s top elections official makes the request.

The VA s May 19 refusal, which received little media attention, has repercussions beyond California. It provides the latest sign that the VA is vigorously resisting organized voter registration drives on its property as a presidential election nears.

Earlier this month, the agency banned any group or individual from registering voters in any of its facilities. Critics say politics are behind the decision and accused the VA of trying to prevent low-income veterans from voting. -- VA refuses to help veteran voters

June 2, 2008

Iowa: election-day registration now available

The Times-Republican reports: While the time to pre-register to vote has passed, those wishing to participate in Tuesday’s primaries have an option that was not available in previous years – registering on election day.

This is the first statewide primary election where the option has been given.

Those wishing to register on election day must bring along proof of identity and residency. If no identification is available, a registered voter in the precinct can attest to the registrant’s identity.

Even if that option is not available, a registrant can still vote without proof of identity or someone to vouch for them. They will be given a provisional ballot, which is subject to verification of the information the registrant volunteers.

For those already registered, if changing parties is desired, they can do so at the voting location before casting their ballot. -- Registering on election day now an option for voters | Times Republican

May 8, 2008

Office of Special Counsel was investigating the voter registration fraud case

The Project On Government Oversight POGO Blog: Internal Draft Document Reveals Bloch-Headedness
The Project on Government Oversight Blog reports: POGO has gained access to an extraordinary internal DOCUMENT from the Office of Special Counsel, an independent federal agency charged with protecting whistleblowers from reprisal. Clearly marked DRAFT, it is a memo dated January 18, 2008, to Special Counsel Scott Bloch from the members of a special task force. The task force was created, according to the memo, in May 2007, to pursue certain complex and high profile investigations, such as the firing of the U.S. Attorneys and the political presentations given by the White House Office of Political Affairs OPA . The stated subject of the memo is Summary of Task Force Activities and Recommendations, but it reads at times like an anguished cry from investigators charged with an important mission but virtually every recommendation they make is countermanded by their boss. If they recommend going forward with an inquiry, Bloch says no. If they say they lack evidence or jurisdiction, he orders them to go forward.

The inescapable conclusion reached from poring through the contents of this 13-page memo is that Bloch was deliberately creating the impression of a huge ongoing multi-faceted investigation of the White House--at the same time that he himself was being investigated by another arm of the White House for various forms of misconduct. ...

Voter Registration Fraud Case:
Indictments were filed against four individuals associated with a liberal organization, ACORN, for engaging in election fraud. ACORN had reported the fraud itself and had fired the individuals, but a senior Justice official in Washington rushed to file the indictments a few days before the 2006 election, despite clear DOJ policy against bringing such actions right before an election because of the possibility of influencing the outcome.

The task force wrote a memo "outlining the reasons that the Hatch Act case investigating this matter should be opened.” The Hatch Act expressly forbids any Executive Branch official from taking actions that might influence an election. The task force was told they were "not authorized to open up this file." The task force protested strongly:

Because the facts raise the strong possibility of violations of two Hatch Act provisions, the TF requests that a case file be opened into these allegations. OSC is the only agency charged with enforcement of the Hatch Act…it could be perceived that the Office of Special Counsel was abdicating its responsibility to enforce the Hatch Act if we were to take no action in this matter. More importantly, [if the actions were]…an attempt to affect the results of an election, this would constitute one of the most egregious violations of the Hatch Act.

-- Internal Draft Document Reveals Bloch-Headedness

The draft document is here.

Hat-tip to Left in Alabama for the link to this extraordinary document.

April 30, 2008

Florida: agreement allows voter registration organizations to keep registering til July

From a press release via email: Today, the parties to LWV v. Browning, a lawsuit challenging Florida’s onerous restrictions on third-party voter registration, entered into a binding agreement filed in federal court. The agreement comes the day after plaintiffs sought a temporary restraining order that would have barred state authorities from enforcing the restrictions. Under the agreement, Secretary of State Kurt S. Browning stated that he will not enforce the restrictions until the administrative rulemaking process is completed, which he estimates will occur no earlier than early July 2008. As a result, groups and individuals who conduct voter registration drives in Florida can proceed with their voter registration activities without fear of being fined under the law, until at least early July 2008.

Plaintiffs to the lawsuit, League of Women Voters of Florida, the Florida AFL-CIO, and Marilyn Wills, president of the Tallahassee League of Women Voters, are thrilled with this result.

Plaintiffs are represented by the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law and the Advancement Project, and by pro bono counsel Debevoise & Plimpton (representing the League of Women Voters of Florida), and Becker & Poliakoff, P.A.

April 29, 2008

Florida: LWV sues over restrictions on voter-registration groups

The New York Times reports: The League of Women Voters of Florida sued state election officials on Monday to challenge a law that fines voter registration groups for losing registration forms or returning them late.

The lawsuit, filed in Federal District Court here, is likely to amplify the political battle over a handful of laws that have tightened the rules for registration and voting in Florida.

It comes less than two weeks after the league suspended its registration drive, fearing penalties of up to $1,000 per volunteer. And in its complaint, the group said the law “severely burdens efforts by the league and other plaintiffs to encourage civic engagement and strengthen democracy.”

State officials have defended the law as an effort to preserve the integrity of the voter registration process. Jennifer Krell Davis, communications director for Secretary of State Kurt S. Browning, said Monday that she could not comment on the league’s complaint because she had not yet received it. -- Voting Group Sues Florida Over Penalties - New York Times

April 24, 2008

Missouri: civil rights groups sue state officials over Motor Voter non-compliance (court docs attached)

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports: Voting-rights activists filed a federal lawsuit Wednesday against Missouri public aid officials and election authorities in St. Louis and Kansas City, saying that agencies have failed to help poor people stay active on the voter rolls.

The suit, filed in Kansas City by the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, focuses on a 1993 federal law that requires voter registration to be offered at drivers license facilities and government assistance offices — those that offer aid such as food stamps, Medicaid and welfare. But although registering at drivers license offices is now commonplace, activists claim the Missouri Department of Social Services has shirked its obligations.

ACORN, represented by lawyers from national groups Project Vote, Demos and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, also says election authorities need to better instruct local public aid offices.

The lawsuit carries all the overtones of a traditional political brawl, pitting groups allied with minorities and the poor — who typically lean Democratic — against a key department of a Republican administration. -- STLtoday - Civil rights groups sue state officials over voter registrations

The case is Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now et al v. Scott et al, #: 2:08-cv-04084-NKL (WD Mo). You may download the complaint here.

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 — — 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

April 3, 2008

Iowa: judge enjoins Sec of State over English-only law

The Des Moines Register reports: A Polk County District Court judge has ordered Iowa Secretary of State Michael Mauro to stop using languages other than English in the state’s official voter registration forms.

Judge Douglas Staskal ruled in favor of U.S. Rep. Steve King, an Iowa Republican, who sued state officials last year, contending they were violating the state’s English-language law. He brought the suit against Gov. Chet Culver, who previously served as secretary of state, and Mauro, contending they had placed illegal voting forms on the secretary of state’s Web site.

The dispute began shortly before Election Day in 2006, when King demanded that Culver remove voting information in languages other than English from the Web site. The site offered information in Spanish, Laotian, Bosnian and Vietnamese.

Non-English voter forms were removed from the the state's Web site late Thursday afternoon.

King, a former state senator, said the materials were illegal because under an English-language law authored by King and signed by Democratic Gov. Tom Vilsack in 2002, all official government communications must be in English. -- Judge: Iowa voting forms violate official English law | | The Des Moines Register

Florida: 11th Circuit reverses injunction on new registration law

In Florida State Conference of the NAACP v. Browning, the 11th Circuit has reversed the injunction against Florida's voter registration law. Here is the opening paragraph of the decision:

This is an appeal of a preliminary injunction barring enforcement of a Florida voter registration statute as being preempted by two different federal statutes. The state law would require as a precondition of registering to vote for the first time in Florida that the voter disclose her driver’s license number or the last four digits of her Social Security number on the registration application, and that this number match up with the number for this voter contained in the state driver’s license database or the Social Security Administration’s database, respectively. The district court held that plaintiffs, several organizations representing the interests of minority communities in Florida, had standing to challenge the statute, would likely succeed at trial on the merits of their claim that federal law preempts the enforcement of the state law, and would suffer irreparable injury absent provisional relief. Accordingly, the court preliminarily enjoined the enforcement of the state statute. We affirm the district court’s decision on plaintiffs’ standing to prosecute this action and reverse its decision granting the preliminary injunction.

March 22, 2008

California: man arrested for voter registration fraud

CBS 13 in Sacramento reports: A man suspected of state voter registration fraud was arrested on Sac State's campus. Accused of signing up fake people to vote!

Why would there be a manhunt by the election fraud unit of the Secretary of State for this mystery guy, 45-year-old Don Cornell Williams.

He's known by state officials for registering voters in Southern California.

"That's what he does for a living," says Corey, a friend of the suspect. ...

Corey says some unknown organization pays Williams to get signatures. He says Williams told him gets cash for every signature or registered voter card he turns in. Yesterday the state election fraud unit got a tip Williams was at Sac State trying to register more people. They asked campus police to capture him on a warrant out of Orange County for completing voter registration cards using false names. -- - Man Arrested For State Voter Registration Fraud

March 18, 2008

Dept. of Veterans Affairs still blocking voter registration

Steven Rosenfeld writes on AlterNet: For at least four years, since the 2004 presidential election, when a veteran, Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., was the Democratic Party nominee, the Department of Veterans Affairs has blocked efforts to help U.S. soldiers register to vote at its facilities in all 50 states.

This is politically motivated voter suppression, said Scott Rafferty, an attorney based in Washington, D.C., who has fought the VA in federal courts since 2004 over the right to assist homeless people, including veterans, register to vote at a shelter on VA property in Menlo Park, Calif. Now the political motivation might be different that the veteran running for president is a Republican.

The issue has resurfaced, not merely on the fifth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq and in the midst of a heated presidential campaign, but because the VA -- whose public affairs office did not answer telephone calls nor return requests to comment Monday -- apparently has also stonewalled requests by U.S. senators for an explanation.

We write today to once again highlight our concerns about voter registration in VA facilities, began a March 6, 2008, letter from Sen. Diane Feinstein, D-Calif., chair of the Senate Rules and Administration Committee, and Sen. Kerry, to James B. Peake, secretary of Veterans Affairs. Nearly one year ago, your predecessor, Secretary Nicholson, was questioned about the lack of access to nonpartisan voter registration services for our nation s veterans. A response to this inquiry was never received. -- Veterans Administration Won t Help Soldiers Register to Vote | Democracy and Elections | AlterNet

March 4, 2008

Nadler tells DOJ, "we need vigorous enforcement." of the NVRA

Voting Matters Blog reports: February 26 was not a good day for Asheesh Agarwal, Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division of the U. S. Department of Justice. During a hearing of the House Committee on the Judiciary, the bookish bureaucrat was raked slowly over the hot coals by several irate members of Congress.

At issue was the DOJ’s enforcement of key provisions within the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA), which was passed by Congress in 1993 to increase participation in federal elections. Committee members attempted, with little success, to get Agarwal to explain why DOJ has spent the lion’s share of its resources to pressure states to purge voters rather than ensuring their rights.

"Rights on paper are not the same as rights in fact," intoned Congressman Jerrold Nadler of New York. "For that we need vigorous enforcement."

Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a Congresswoman from South Florida, cited alarming statistics about voter registration decreases documented in Unequal Access: Neglecting the National Voter Registration Act, 1995-2007, a report written by Project Vote and Demos. The report found that voter registrations generated from public assistance agencies within that period had declined by 79 percent, despite the NVRA’s specific requirement that states offer the service in agencies that help the disadvantaged. -- House Members Grill Justice Dept. Official Over NVRA Enforcement

Note: the Voting Matters Blog has a link to the video of the hearing, but be prepared to spend 2+ hours.

March 3, 2008

Problems beset statewide voter lists

AP reports: Welcome to the first presidential election in which nearly every state must have a list of every registered voter. Here's the catch: if your name isn't on it, you may have trouble casting a ballot in this historic race for the White House.

The lists have already caused problems in New Mexico, Arizona and California, where people waited hours to choose a presidential nominee only to find they weren't listed as registered voters — or they weren't listed in the party of their choice.

On Tuesday, when folks line up in the crucial states of Ohio and Texas, election observers fret that similar snafus will confuse and delay primary vote counts that could help decide whether the Democratic nominee will be the first woman or the first black man to hold that title. ...

The problems stem from a federal law that was supposed to deter voter fraud. Under the Help America Vote Act, every state was required to have a computerized database listing all registered voters. The deadline was 2006, which several states missed. Some of them, including New York and New Jersey, were sued by the Justice Department for not having databases up and running. -- The Associated Press: Is Your Name on the Voting List?

March 2, 2008

Nevada: NVRA agency-based registrations very low in state

The Las Vegas Sun reports: Poor people have less say at the polls in Nevada than in most of the nation — and public assistance offices appear to be partly to blame, according to a recently released report.

In 2006 workers at those offices registered fewer Nevadans to vote than they did in 1995, the year federal law began requiring such agencies to offer voter registration. The decline, the report says, might explain why 53 percent of Nevada’s low-income citizens 18 and older are not registered to vote — the third-highest percentage of the 44 states examined in the study.

The result is that even as Nevada’s population increases, participation by the poor in elections in the Silver State is shrinking, said Scott Novakowski, senior policy analyst for Demos, a New York-based think tank and advocacy center. Novakowski is one of the authors of the report “Unequal Access: Neglecting the National Voter Registration Act, 1995-2007.”

He argues that Nevada and other states could do more to put into effect the federal law that seeks to make voter registration routine at offices offering food stamps, welfare and Medicaid benefits. At stake is “political empowerment,” Novakowski said — particularly in light of the 2008 presidential election. -- Agencies slip in registering poor to vote - Las Vegas Sun

Thanks to Scott Novakowski for the link.

February 12, 2008

Too many places: states are falling down on the responsibility to offer registration to low-income Americans

From a press release by Project Vote: As the nation prepares for the 2008 election, a new study reveals that many states are routinely failing to offer low-income Americans an opportunity to register to vote as required by the federal National Voter Registration Act (NVRA). Unequal Access: Neglecting the National Voter Registration Act, 1995-2007, published this week by the non-partisan voting rights groups Demos and Project Vote, shows that 12 years after the NVRA's requirements went into effect, voter registrations from public agencies that provide services to low-income Americans have declined dramatically.

Unequal Access: Neglecting the National Voter Registration Act, 1995-2007 examines voter registration data state by state, finding that in states across the nation--Virginia, Florida, Texas, Nevada and many others--public assistance agencies are neglecting to offer voter registration to all clients and applicants, as required by the law. Because of noncompliance with the NVRA, the rights of thousands of low-income citizens are violated daily.

"All Americans should have an opportunity to register and vote, but states are ignoring a federal law that requires them to offer voter registration to low-income citizens. In 2006, more than twice as many low-income Americans were unregistered as upper-income Americans. States need to follow the law. If they do, we can close the registration gap between rich and poor," says Unequal Access: Neglecting the National Voter Registration Act, 1995-2007 co-author Douglas R. Hess. "Our democracy works best when everyone, not just some, are allowed to participate." -- Low-Income Americans Denied Voter Registration Opportunities, New Report Shows

February 2, 2008

Alabama: voter registration up by 58,000 in 3 months

The Birmingham News reports: Alabama voter rolls swelled by nearly 60,000 in the three months leading up to next week's Super Tuesday presidential primaries.

Perhaps fired up by a flurry of visits by presidential hopefuls, frenzied voter registration drives and Alabama's new prominence in the primary process, the rush of people to sign up has Secretary of State Beth Chapman expecting an unusually high turnout Tuesday. ...

When registration closed Monday, 58,341 Alabamians had added their names to voter rolls since Nov. 1, bringing the total number of people eligible to vote in Tuesday's primaries to 2,757,111.

"These numbers would suggest there's an increased interest in this election," Ed Packard, the state's interim supervisor of voter registration, said. "And it would indicate we're tapping into people who were not registered to vote before." --

White women were the largest group of registrations in the final three months, at 21,568. They were followed by white men at 18,347; black women at 9,452 and black men at 6,390.

Packard said that racial and gender breakdowns are consistent with past years. Voter rolls in state swelled for primaries-

January 24, 2008

Ohio: county elections board revokes prosecutor's voter registration because of non-residency

The Coshocton Tribune reports: The Morgan County Board of Elections has determined Prosecutor Rick Welch is not a qualified elector and his right to vote in the county has been revoked.

Now the acting county prosecutor will be reviewing whether further action should be taken after it was determined Welch does not live in the county.

Welch withdrew from the March primary on Tuesday after a complaint was filed with the elections board concerning his residency. The elections board met with a special prosecutor and a representative with Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner to discuss the matter on Wednesday.

Welch, who has been prosecutor since 2000, sent a letter to the board members stating he was withdrawing from the race due to his becoming a "catalyst for division and not unity." -- Coshocton Tribune - - Coshocton, OH

January 22, 2008

Mississippi: "it was time for me to get out of my comfort zone" reports: Mississippi was a brutal place in the civil-rights era of the 1960s, from the perspective of two veterans of the movement who were there -- Flonzie Goodloe Brown-Wright and Hellen O Neal-McCray.

They shared their experiences Monday morning at Denison University during the Martin Luther King Jr. Day commemoration breakfast. Their presentation was "The Power of Story: A Dialogue Between Two Women."

"The date June 12, 1963, was the defining moment in my life," Brown-Wright told the standing-room-only crowd in the Welsh Hills Room of the Burton D. Morgan Center. "That s the day Medgar Evers was assassinated in his front yard in front of his wife and his children for trying to help people register to vote. I realized it was time for me to get out of my comfort zone. I began to work in the movement to get people registered to vote."

When Brown-Wright, now 65, tried to register to vote she was asked to define habeas corpus as part of the registration form -- a form only black Mississippians were expected to answer. She didn t know what it meant at the time, but she studied the state constitution and later returned to successfully register to vote.

Subsequently, she vowed she would get the job of the man who denied her the right to vote, and she did. She became the first black woman to be elected the county registrar. She frequently was persecuted for her efforts. -- Central Ohio - - Central Ohio, OH

November 20, 2007

Florida: voter registration system is "disenfranchisement by bureaucracy"

TPM Muckraker reports: Earlier this month, we reported on a Florida law that requires the state to reject voter registration applications if the data does not match driver's license or Social Security records. The law, first implemented in January, 2006, was based on advice from Hans von Spakovsky -- yet another addition to his legacy of voter suppression at the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division. Civil rights groups, calling the measure “disenfranchisement-by-bureaucracy," have sued to halt the law in an attempt to minimize the effect on the 2008 election.

This weekend, Southwest Florida's News-Press ran an analysis of state records, and, well, the law seems to have had a predictable effect (enjoy the spin from election officials); ...

Blacks were 6 1/2 times more likely than whites to be rejected at that step.

Hispanics were more than 7 times more likely to be failed. -- Vote Suppression Measure Hits the Mark

November 12, 2007

Colorado: county clerk proposes citizenship-check with voter registration

The Denver Post reports: El Paso County Clerk Bob Balink brings up an interesting point but one that always raises political hackles.

If the state is going to require that people be U.S. citizens in order to vote then it should allow election officials to verify that citizenship Balink argues.

But if the state doesn t want to require a check of citizenship then the law shouldn t even mention the word in its definition of eligibility. It would make sense Balink says to remove it.

But Balink doesn t want to remove the requirement. He just wants to be able to check for citizenship. Or else he says "How can I be sure I m following the law "

Balink a Republican insists "It s not a political issue. It s a legal issue." But of course it s a political issue too.

Republicans generally favor requiring potential voters to prove they are who they say they are. It discourages fraud they say.

Democrats generally oppose identity or citizenship checks because it discourages people from voting. Voting should be comparatively easy they say. -- The Denver Post - Should voters have to prove citizenship?

November 9, 2007

DOJ asks 18 states for proof of motor voter compliance

McClatchy Newspapers reports: The Justice Department s Civil Rights Division is reversing course and has begun taking steps to enforce a 1993 law that s intended to make it easier for poor minorities to register to vote.

The division, which has come under attack for allegedly pursuing policies aimed at suppressing the votes of Democratic-leaning minorities, has demanded that 18 states provide evidence that they re complying with the National Voter Registration Act.

If it is fully pursued, this new action will represent the first significant return to traditional enforcement of voting-rights laws since a scandal erupted earlier this year over the alleged politicization of the Justice Department. ...

The states receiving the letters include three that frequently are battlegrounds in presidential and Senate races — Iowa, Michigan and Pennsylvania. The others are Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, New York, South Carolina, Utah and Vermont. -- McClatchy Washington Bureau | 11/09/2007 | Justice Department returns to enforcing voter laws

October 25, 2007

Alabama: voter registration database completed

AP reports: A judge ruled Wednesday that Alabama finally has a statewide computerized system for voter registration that meets federal requirements.

U.S. District Judge Keith Wat-kins praised Gov. Bob Riley for doing in 14 months what other state officials had failed to accomplish in three years. ...

The U.S. Justice Department sued Alabama last year after then-Secretary of State Nancy Worley missed the Jan. 1, 2006, deadline for developing the computerized system. Watkins turned over the duties to Riley in August 2006 and set a new deadline of Aug. 31.

Riley had to get an extension of two months, but he and his staff reported to the judge Wed-nesday that the new system began working properly on Monday.

Justice Department attorney Don Palmer agreed. -- Judge approves state's new voter system

October 13, 2007

Virginia: statewide voter file has many mistakes

Media General News Service reports: Voting registrars say a new statewide computerized voter registration system is so flawed that potential voters will be at best inconvenienced and at worst not allowed to vote on Election Day.

The State Board of Elections has reminded registrars in all 134 voting jurisdictions that provisional ballots could be offered as an alternative if names don’t match up with the poll books.

In a provisional ballot, a person could vote and election officials would check the day after the election to see whether the person is, indeed, registered to vote.

The election is Nov. 6. Because there are no statewide races, turnout is expected to be low. Voters will elect members of the General Assembly, boards of supervisors, school board members and constitutional officers.

But with a slew of candidates to choose among in many localities, registrars are worried that incorrect poll books will prolong the voting process. -- State's registrars reporting registration errors

October 12, 2007

The Second Great Disenfranchisement

David Schultz has posted his article, "Less than Fundamental: The Myth of Voter Fraud and the Coming of the Second Great Disenfranchisement." It will be published soon in the William Mitchell Law Review. The article begins:

When it comes to voting and voting rights, American history is marked by two traditions. One expresses a continuing expansion of the formal right to vote beyond that found at the time of the framing of the Constitution where only white males who owned property, of protestant faith, and of specific age and citizenship, had franchise rights under the Constitution. ...

But while one American tradition was marked by an expansion of franchise, Alexander Keyssar notes another one characterized by efforts to deny the right to vote. There are repeated periods in American history to disenfranchise voters or to scare them away from the polls. For example, after the Civil War many in the South used Jim Crow laws, poll taxes, literacy tests, grandfather laws, and not so subtle means such as lynchings, cross burnings, and other techniques to prevent newly freed slaves from voting. ...

A second great disenfranchisement is afoot across the United States as yet again voter fraud is raised as a way to intimidate immigrants, people of color, the poor, and the powerless from voting. This time the tools are not literacy tests, poll taxes, or lynch mobs, but instead it is the use of photo IDs when voting.

Who is registered?

Representational Bias in the 2006 Electorate
Project Vote announces "Representational Bias in the 2006 Election": The proportion of the U.S. population that registers to vote and that does vote is highly skewed towards Whites, the educated and the wealthy. Furthermore, young eligible Americans, particularly young minority males, and those who have recently moved, are disproportionately represented among those who do not participate in the U.S. electorate.

This report provides an introductory review of frequency tables for responses to some of the questions in the November 2006 CPS as well as cross tabulations showing how the responses interact with race, gender and income. Data on voter registration and voter turnout for each state and the District of Columbia for 2002, 2004 and 2006 are also provided.

Hat tip to beSpacific.

October 5, 2007

Ohio: at last, someone convicted of voter fraud

The Columbus Dispatch reports: A man with two residences who thought he had to vote in two counties last fall pleaded guilty today to two counts of illegal voting.

Claudel Gilbert, 38, a citizen who moved from Haiti in 1994 with his family, said he had an apartment in Franklin County before he bought a house in Licking County in 2006. He registered to vote in both counties.

Boards of elections in both counties sent him voter verification cards, and Gilbert thought his vote would not count unless he voted twice, said defense attorney Eric Yavitch.

An investigation was launched after the Nov. 7, 2006, election when his name showed up on a statewide database of all those who voted, officials said. -- The Columbus Dispatch : Immigrant pleads guilty to voter fraud

Hat tip to Gerry Hebert (who took time away from bashing von Spakovsky to send me the link).

September 18, 2007

Alabama: Riley gets more time for voter database

The Montgomery Advertiser reports: A federal judge agreed Monday to give Gov. Bob Riley an extra two months to develop a statewide computerized voter registration system that was due Aug. 31.

U.S. District Judge Keith Watkins said there was no reasonable alternative to allowing the governor the extra time he had requested. ...

The U.S. Justice Department sued Alabama last year after then-Secretary of State Nancy Worley missed the deadline for developing the system. Watkins turned over the duties to Riley with a new deadline of Aug. 31.

On the deadline, Riley told the judge that the state needed two more months to tie together computers in state agencies that are used to verify voter data and remove the names of voters who die or are convicted of certain crimes. -- :: State gets more time on voting project

September 17, 2007

Florida: NAACP and Haitian group sue over "no-match, no-vote" policies

Press release: Today voting rights advocates filed suit in a US District Court to strike down a statewide election law that could disenfranchise tens of thousands of eligible citizens from registering and voting in the 2008 elections.

The law bars any Florida citizen from registering to vote if the state cannot match or otherwise validate the driver’s license or Social Security number on a registration form, an error-laden practice struck down in 2006 by a federal judge in Washington State. Plaintiffs bringing today’s suit, including the Florida branch of the NAACP and the Haitian-American Grassroots Coalition, contend that this matching law unduly delayed or denied registrations for thousands of Florida voters in 2006, and will jeopardize many more voters in 2008 if not blocked.

Florida and a handful of other states refuse to place eligible citizens on the rolls unless they clear a series of extra bureaucratic hurdles largely dependent on “matching” registration information on a new statewide voter list with information in the state motor vehicle or Social Security systems. Common database errors, however, make “matching” unreliable, jeopardizing the status of up to 30% of new voters. A 2006 study by the Brennan Center for Justice, one of the voting rights groups that brought today’s suit, found that such a procedure misinterpreted the federal Help America Vote Act (HAVA), which told states to create the statewide lists.

Youth vote report

Press release: With an upward trend in young voter turnout in recent years, Democracy Fellow Tova Wang and Kristen Oshyn predict that youth turnout in 2008 will reach a new level of participation, giving young voters the potential to make an unprecedented impact on the campaigns and electoral outcomes. In “Youth Vote 2008,” a new issue brief from The Century Foundation, Wang and Oshyn look at the history of how young voters have been brought into the electoral process compared to more recent and possible future processes. Highlighting research, they argue that the current upward trend of young voter turnout will not only impact the 2008 election but politics for the next generation.

The authors found that campaigns and candidates are increasingly reaching out to young voters but that they continue to fail to address issues of interest to young people in terms that are relevant to their lives. They also found that while campaigns and organizations are capitalizing on the new technologies available in their outreach efforts to the “wired” generation, indications are that without follow up using traditional methods, much of that online interest will not translate into votes.

The report is here.

July 18, 2007

Mississippi: polarized politics may return with party registration

The New York Times reports: A federal court ruling in June that forces voters to register by party could return Mississippi to the days of racially polarized politics, as many white Democrats warn that thousands of white voters will now opt definitively for the Republican Party.

Republican-leaning voters in Mississippi have long been able to cross party lines in primaries, voting for centrist Democrats in state and local races while staying loyal to Republican candidates in national races. But political experts here say that by limiting these voters — almost all of whom are white — to Republican primaries, the ruling will push centrist Democratic candidates to the other party, simply in order to survive.

Most black voters in Mississippi are Democrats, and black political leaders have been pushing for years to prevent crossover voting in Democratic primaries. Black leaders say they want to end precisely what white Democrats here seek to preserve, a strong moderate-to-conservative voice in the Democratic Party, and in the process to pick up more state and local posts.

The ruling last month by Judge W. Allen Pepper Jr. of Federal District Court allowed the legal remedy sought by black leaders. Judge Pepper said the Democratic Party in Mississippi had a right to “disassociate itself” from voters who were not genuine Democrats. Most other Southern states also have open primaries. -- In Mississippi, Ruling Is Seen as Racial Split

June 25, 2007

Ohio: DOJ sided with GOP effort to purge 23,000 black voters in 2004

McClatchy Newspapers reports: Four days before the 2004 election, the Justice Department's civil rights chief sent an unusual letter to a federal judge in Ohio who was weighing whether to let Republicans challenge the credentials of 23,000 mostly black voters.

The case was triggered by allegations that Republicans had sent a mass mailing to mostly Democratic-leaning minorities and used undeliverable letters to compile a list of voters potentially vulnerable to eligibility challenges.

In his letter to U.S. District Judge Susan Dlott of Cincinnati, Assistant Attorney General Alex Acosta argued that it would ''undermine'' the enforcement of state and federal election laws if citizens could not challenge voters' credentials.

Former Justice Department civil rights officials and election watchdog groups charge that his letter sided with Republicans engaging in an illegal, racially motivated tactic known as ''vote-caging'' in a state that would be pivotal in delivering President Bush a second term in the White House.

Acosta's letter is among a host of allegedly partisan Justice Department voting rights positions that could draw scrutiny on Capitol Hill in the coming weeks as congressional Democrats expand investigations sparked by the firing of at least nine U.S. attorneys. -- Attorney under fire for Ohio voter letter - 06/25/2007 -

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

May 31, 2007

Massachusetts: election day registration hearing

The Worcester Telegram & Gazette reports: Backers of election-day voter registration believe Massachusetts could see a double-digit spike in voter turnout if people could register and vote all at once.

At a hearing yesterday at the Statehouse, state Sen. Edward M. Augustus Jr., D-Worcester, co-chairman of the legislative committee on Election Laws and a co-sponsor of an election-day registration bill, said people who are busy with their day-to-day lives deserve a more convenient path to the voting booth. ...

Secretary of State William F. Galvin testified in favor of the proposed legislation yesterday but expressed some reservations about the way it would be implemented.

Lt. Gov. Timothy P. Murray also testified in support, with a reminder that he and Gov. Deval L. Patrick were elected on a day of record voter turnout. The campaign registered and turned out thousands of new voters last fall. -- Same-day voter registration recommended

May 29, 2007

Texas: counties having problems with centralized voter list

The Houston Chronicle reports: More Texas counties are abandoning a centralized voting records system after experiencing difficulties in the May 12 election, as the state struggles to get it running smoothly.

Critics of the system, known as Texas Election Administration Management, or TEAM, say former Texas Secretary of State Geoffrey Connor made a mistake by accepting the higher of two final bids for an unproven system. ...

Enacted in response to allegations of fraud during the 2000 presidential election, the Help America Vote Act of 2002 requires that states have an interactive centralized list in which election workers can easily determine whether a person is eligible to vote and to prevent citizens from being registered in more than one location.

Two counties, Hidalgo and Tarrant, recently confirmed they were leaving TEAM to contract with VOTEC, the vendor that Connor rejected in a close contest. The defections raise the number of counties abandoning TEAM to five, and others are considering a similar move. -- More Texas counties ditching state-OK'd voting system

April 1, 2007

Alabama: A.G.'s office represented Worley while investigating her

AP reports: State Attorney General Troy King said there was no conflict of interest when his staff represented then-Secretary of State Nancy Worley in lawsuits at the same time it was conducting an investigation that led to criminal charges against her.

Worley, a Democrat, has repeatedly complained that the Republican attorney general did a poor job of representing her in civil matters and pursued the criminal case simultaneously to help her Republican opponent, Beth Chapman, and make himself look better.

While Worley was secretary of state, King’s office represented her in a lawsuit filed by the Justice Department that accused her office of missing the deadline for implementing a statewide voter registration database. Worley repeatedly complained that King wasn’t following her wishes when King asked a federal judge to transfer the database responsibilities to Republican Gov. Bob Riley, who had appointed King attorney general. -- King: No conflict of interest

March 28, 2007

North Carolina: House approves Election Day Registration

The Greensboro News-Record reports: North Carolinians would be able to register to vote on the same day they cast their ballot under legislation the state House tentatively approved Wednesday.

The measure only would apply to the period scheduled for early voting. Those wishing to vote on Election Day would have to register in advance. ...

Seven states have similar provisions. Turnout figures show election participation is about 10 percentage points greater there -- as high as 65 percent of eligible voters -- than in states with advance registration requirements. -- - Greensboro, North Carolina: News: Legislature: House tentatively backs voter registration change

Iowa: legislature adopts Election Day Registration

The Mason City Globe Gazette reports: Voter registration got a lot easier Tuesday as the Iowa Senate passed a bill that allows registration at the polls on Election Day, sending the measure to Gov. Chet Culver for an expected signature.

Also Tuesday, the Senate sent a bill to Culver that requires a paper backup for electronic voting machines.

Support for the Election Day registration bill was split 30-20 along party lines. Democrats said the measure would increase citizen participation, while Republicans warned that an easier process would lead to voter fraud. The current cutoff for registration is 10 days before an election. ...

Demos, a Washington D.C.-based advocacy group, issued a report Tuesday that says Iowa would have had 4.9 percent higher turnout in the 2004 general election if Election Day registration had been in place. Iowa set a turnout record in 2004, with more than 1.5 million ballots cast, which was roughly two-thirds of the voting-age population.

The report, written by faculty from New York University and the California Institute of Technology, says a disproportionate share of the new voters will be in the following categories: naturalized citizens, Latinos, African Americans, people ages 18 to 25, and people who have moved within the last six months. -- - Archived News Story

March 21, 2007

Iowa: House approves Election Day Registration

The Des Moines Register reports: The Iowa House approved a plan Tuesday that would allow Iowans to register to vote the day of an election.

Iowa's current law requires voters to register 10 days before primary and general elections and 11 days before other elections. The change would allow people to bring records to their voting location and register just moments before casting their ballot.

The proposal, House File 653, passed on a 54-44 vote, largely split along party lines. Rep. Walt Tomenga of Johnston was the only Republican to vote in favor of bill. No Democrats voted against the bill, which now moves to the Senate.

House Democrats said same-day voter registration would encourage more people to vote and that, in turn, would strengthen the political process. They based their proposal on a Minnesota law that has been in place more than 30 years.

Republicans, however, said the proposal is critically flawed because it fails to adequately protect against voter fraud. --

March 20, 2007

Missouri: Secretary of State finds no voter impersonation cases

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

an excerpt from the executive summary:

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

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

You can download the news release or the report.

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

March 19, 2007

Washington State; court enjoins Secretary of State from "matching" registrants' names

Justin Levitt at the Brennan Center emails: after a preliminary injunction last August, the parties have now reached a settlement in Washington Association of Churches v. Reed, the first case regarding "matching" information on registration forms to other databases under HAVA (what we've been calling the "no match, no vote" case). The court entered the final order on Friday — I've attached the signed version for you here.

Download the file here.

Congratulations to the folks at the Brennan Center and their esteemed co-counsel.

March 18, 2007

New Mexico: Iglesias was chosen by DOJ to teach other federal attorneys about vote fraud cases

The Washington Post reports: One of the U.S. attorneys fired by the Bush administration after Republican complaints that he neglected to prosecute voter fraud had been heralded for his expertise in that area by the Justice Department, which twice selected him to train other federal prosecutors to pursue election crimes.

David C. Iglesias, who was dismissed as U.S. attorney for New Mexico in December, was one of two chief federal prosecutors invited to teach at a "voting integrity symposium" in October 2005. The symposium was sponsored by Justice's public integrity and civil rights sections and was attended by more than 100 prosecutors from around the country, according to an account by Iglesias that a department spokesman confirmed.

Iglesias, a Republican, said in an interview that he and the U.S. attorney from Milwaukee, Steven M. Biskupic, were chosen as trainers because they were the only ones identified as having created task forces to examine allegations of voter fraud in the 2004 elections. An agenda lists them as the panelists for a session on such task forces at the two-day seminar, which featured a luncheon speech by Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales.

According to Iglesias, the agency invited him back as a trainer last summer, just months before a Justice official telephoned to fire him. He said he could not attend the second time because of his obligations as an officer in the Navy Reserve. -- Justice Dept. Recognized Prosecutor's Work on Election Fraud Before His Firing -

New Mexico: registration-fraud case lead to Iglesias' ouster

The New York Times reports: The first whiff of something suspicious came when a 15-year-old boy received a voter registration card in the mail. Soon a second one arrived. Then his 13-year-old neighbor got one, too.

Neither boy had applied for the cards, and it looked as if their signatures and birthdates had been forged. It was August 2004, and the local authorities quickly traced the problems to a canvasser for a liberal group that had signed up tens of thousands of voters for the presidential election in this swing state.

State Republican leaders demanded a criminal investigation. And with the television cameras rolling, the United States attorney, David C. Iglesias, a boyish-looking Republican, promised a thorough one. “It appears that mischief is afoot,” Mr. Iglesias said, “and questions are lurking in the shadows.”

The inquiry he began, however, never resulted in charges, so frustrating Republican officials here that they began an extraordinary campaign to get rid of him that reached all the way to President Bush. -- G.O.P. Anger in Swing State Eased Attorney’s Exit - New York Times

March 15, 2007

Iowa: proponents tout Election Day Registration

The Council Bluffs Daily Nonpareil reports: It's like grabbing hold of someone's hand who is reaching out to become part of the Democratic process.

That's how one advocate described a new voting method the Iowa Legislature is discussing - the ability to register on Election Day.

"Our goal is to increase participation and reduce the barriers to participate," said Stuart Comstock-Gay, democracy program director for Demos, a nonpartisan public policy research and advocacy organization. "Election Day registration is in place in seven states, and those states that have it tend to get 10 percent to 12 percent higher turnout."

"Somebody who is not registered can go to the polling place on Election Day and register right there," said Betty Ahrens, executive director of the Iowa Citizen Action Network.

The voting registration deadline in Iowa is 10 days prior to an election. A lot of people, especially those who recently moved from other locations, apparently don't know that, according to Pottawattamie County Auditor Marilyn Jo Drake. -- SW Iowa News - Election Day registration has backers

Minnesota: strip club owner cleared of voter fraud charges

The Pioneer Press reports: Exotic dancers, drunken patrons and employees registered to vote for Richard J. Jacobson as mayor in 2002, using his Coates strip club — Jake's — as their fake home address.

The scheme was illegal, unethical and completely "cockamamie," Jacobson's defense attorney acknowledged this week.

But a Dakota County jury found that the club owner himself was not guilty of voter fraud.

Jacobson, 36, of Prescott, Wis., was cleared Wednesday of criminal wrongdoing for unlawfully registering dozens of dancers and patrons to vote in Coates under a false address, a felony under state voter law.

The jury deliberated for more than six hours Tuesday and Wednesday before finding Jacobson not guilty of two felony charges — conspiracy to commit forgery and conspiracy to procure unlawful votes.

Jacobson maintained at trial that he was relying on the advice of his former attorney, Randall Tigue, when he mounted his failed mayoral campaign.

For legal precedent, Jacobson and Tigue pointed to a letter written by a Dakota County prosecutor in defense of a group of Minneapolis police officers who listed their precinct station as their home address on their voter registration cards. -- St. Paul Pioneer Press | 03/15/2007 | Dakota County / Strip club owner wins in vote case

March 13, 2007

"Undocumented Citizens" Part 2

Justin Levitt, at the Brennan Center for Justice, reminded me of the following: A recent national survey sponsored by the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law reveals that millions of American citizens do not have readily available documentary proof of citizenship. Many more – primarily women – do not have proof of citizenship with their current name. The survey also showed that millions of American citizens do not have government-issued photo identification, such as a driver’s license or passport. Finally, the survey demonstrated that certain groups – primarily poor, elderly, and minority citizens – are less likely to possess these forms of documentation than the general population. --

March 12, 2007

"Undocumented citizens"

I did not pay enough attention to this story in the New York Times this morning, but Rick Hasen's title, "And the Relevance for Voter I.D. Laws and their Potential for Disenfranchisement?" made me think of "undocumented citizens" -- a new term I just made up to cover these folks: A new federal rule intended to keep illegal immigrants from receiving Medicaid has instead shut out tens of thousands of United States citizens who have had difficulty complying with requirements to show birth certificates and other documents proving their citizenship, state officials say.

Florida, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Ohio and Virginia have all reported declines in enrollment and traced them to the new federal requirement, which comes just as state officials around the country are striving to expand coverage through Medicaid and other means.

Under a 2006 federal law, the Deficit Reduction Act, most people who say they are United States citizens and want Medicaid must provide "satisfactory documentary evidence of citizenship" which could include a passport or the combination of a birth certificate and a driver's license. -- Lacking Papers, Citizens Are Cut From Medicaid - New York Times

March 9, 2007

California: court denies part of VA's motion for summary judgment in voter registration case

Scott Rafferty emails: Only one veteran at the Menlo Park veterans home voted in the 2004 primary. Under new Army policies, many acutely injured soldiers will be discharged and transported directly to Menlo Park, which has major facilities for brain injury and “polytrauma.” Like all incoming patients, they will lose their right to vote unless they re-register (or change their absentee mailing address).

I represent two persons who were threatened with arrest after they asked permission to register voters in April 2004 – ostensibly under color of a VA regulation banning “demonstrations.” Because the Federal Circuit has exclusive jurisdiction over VA rulemaking, the Ninth Circuit has required the district court to “deem” the regulation constitutional pending the action to set it aside in the Federal Circuit.

Yesterday, Judge Fogel issued a decision granting in part and denying in part the VA’s motion for summary judgment in the “as-applied” First Amendment challenge. The facial challenge to the 38 CFR 1.218 was fully briefed last week before the Federal Circuit and is awaiting oral argument.

Alabama: legislative committee delays voter file contract

AP reports: The Legislature's Contract Review Committee voted Thursday to hold up a contract between the governor's office and an Omaha, Neb. company to create a court-ordered statewide voter registration list.

But Gov. Bob Riley's attorney says the company that is receiving the $6.2 million contract, Election Systems and Software, has already begun work on the project and that the committee's action will not delay efforts to meet a federal judge's Aug. 31 deadline to have the list compiled.

A federal judge put Riley in charge of developing the list after former Secretary of State Nancy Worley missed a federally mandated deadline. U.S. District Judge Keith Watkins gave Riley until Aug. 31 to complete the task. -- Committee holding up voter list contract

February 15, 2007

Demos issues reports on Election Day Registration and Accessible Voting Systems

Election Day Registration Continues its Winning Streak in 2006
In Voters Win with Election Day Registration, Demos finds that Election Day Registration (EDR) was widely successful in the 2006 midterm election. EDR states continue to boast turnout rates 10 to 12 percentage points higher than states that do not offer EDR. Montana, the most recent state to adopt Election Day Registration, saw 4,000 state residents register and vote with EDR last November.
> Click here to download report

New Voting Machines Do Not Accommodate Voters with Disabilities
Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) voting machines, once considered essential to ensuring private and independent voting for voters with disabilities, often do not work as promised. Improving Access to Voting: A Report on the Technology for Accessible Voting Systems -- authored by Noel Runyan, an electrical engineer and access technology expert, and published by Demos and Voter Action -- shows that the DREs purchased by states to comply with the Help America Vote Act fail to meet federal standards. The report recommends that election administrators instead adopt blended systems, such as a combination of optical scan ballots, ballot marking devices with appropriate accessibility features, and multilingual paper ballots.
> Click here to download report

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

January 17, 2007

Alabama: principal briefs now filed in Gooden v. Worley appeal

The main briefs have now been filed in the State of Alabama v. Gooden appeal to the Alabama Supreme Court (this was Gooden v. Worley in the trial court). Click on the links to get the Appellants' brief (1711 kb) and the Appellees' brief (219 kb). For earlier posts about this case, go to the Voting archive page on my other website.

Ryan Haygood, Sam Spital, and I represent the plaintiffs in this action seeking to restore the voting rights of thousands of Alabamians who have wrongfully been denied the right to vote.

A group of clergy have filed an amicus brief (1362 kb) in support of the plaintiffs. We appreciate the work of the Brennan Center and the Birmingham firm of Whatley Drake & Kallas LLC in producing this brief.

January 12, 2007

Florida: Coulter may have committed a third crime

The Palm Beach Post reports: When it comes to dealing with Palm Beach GOP vixen Ann Coulter — who, police now say, could end up facing two felonies and one misdemeanor — elections boss Arthur Anderson is starting to look like Don Quixote.

Nearly a year after Coulter allegedly voted in the wrong precinct in a town of Palm Beach municipal election, Anderson is looking desperately for a law enforcement agency willing to investigate.

In November, the gangly Anderson went to the town's police department. But Palm Beach's Finest weren't interested. ...

After Anderson asked the Palm Beach PD for help, the department issued a three-page report last month hinting at troubles ahead for the law-and-order Coulter. According to the report, she could end up charged with: one felony count for signing a voter form claiming she lived at her Realtor's Indian Road home instead of her Seabreeze Avenue homestead; one felony count for "unauthorized possession of a driver's license," also for providing the same wrong address when obtaining her license; and a misdemeanor for knowingly voting in the wrong precinct. -- Vote chief can't find lever to hook Coulter

Hat tip to BradBlog for the link. BradBlog also has copies of several documents in the case.

Alabama: Theresa Burroughs describes her struggle to register in 1947

Theresa Burroughs spoke to the StoryCorps of NPR: In 1947, Theresa Burroughs was 18 years old and ready to vote. But in her Alabama town, it took two years of effort just for her to register.

Accompanied by J.J. Simmons, a minister who would not let her back down, Burroughs went down to the Hale County Courthouse on the first and third Monday of each month.

"The white men," Burroughs says, "they would not let us register to vote."

The chairman of the board of registrars, remembered by Burroughs only as "Mr. Cox," posed questions meant to disqualify black voters, such as "How many black jelly beans in a jar? How many red ones in there?" -- NPR : 'Until the Building Falls Down': A Fight to Vote

November 1, 2006

Hispanic voter drive registers only 1/6 of goal

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

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

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

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

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

Registration campaign targets unmarried women

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

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

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

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

Note: Here is the video:

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

Florida: Coulter may be prosecuted for voting in wrong precinct

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

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

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

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

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

October 31, 2006

Maryland: settlement reached; state will notify "unmatched" voters of their rights

From a press release by Advancement Project and Project Vote: Advancement Project and Project Vote reached a settlement agreement with the Maryland State Board of Elections to protect the voting rights of voter registration applicants who have been classified as "pending" because their identification number did not produce an exact match against the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration or Social Security Administration database.

Nationwide statistics have shown that matching results in a high percentage of legitimate applications being denied through no fault of the applicants. If Maryland did not discontinue its practice of placing applicants whose personal ID number cannot be verified on pending status rather than registering such applicants, it would have lead to the inevitable and unlawful disenfranchisement of thousands of eligible voters throughout the state.

"Maryland was relying on computers to accurately identify eligible voters in a way that did not account for human error," said Elizabeth Westfall, senior attorney, Advancement Project, a national civil rights organization, "A disenfranchisement by typo rule would have mistakenly rejected too many registration applications, too close to the election. We are pleased that state has agreed to take immediate action to rectify this problem." -- Settlement Reached To Protect Maryland Voters

"Challenges to Fair Elections"

Demos announces a new publication: Across the nation, states are failing to meet a Federal mandate to boost voter registration among low-income Americans by offering registration opportunities in public assistance offices--a requirement established by Congress under the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (NVRA). Demos, a national, non-partisan public policy center, published the findings in a new briefing paper this week. ...

The National Voter Registration Act briefing paper, part of Demos' Challenges to Fair Elections series, shows that there is widespread failure in implementing the public assistance provisions of the NVRA, and that states are not adequately addressing the representation gap in American democracy the law was meant to reverse--one that has closely mirrored the income gap that has steadily increased over the last 40 years. According to the 2004 U.S. Census, nine years after the NVRA was required to be implemented by the states, 59 percent of citizens in households making less than $15,000 a year were registered to vote versus 85 percent of those in households making $75,000 or more. Data collected by state and federal agencies, in combination with public assistance office site visits and surveys conducted outside public assistance offices, have found that a large number of states are poorly enforcing, and some actively disregarding, their responsibility to offer voter registration in these agencies. --
Demos - A Network for Ideas & Action - Demos: A Network for Ideas & Action

The briefing papers so far are
> Voter ID/ proof of citizenship requirements
> Provisional Ballots
> Ballot access for disabled and language-minority voters
> The Case Against Felony Disfranchisement
> Poll Worker Training
> National Voter Registration Act

"Voting Problems Crop Up Ahead of Elections"

NPR : Voting Problems Crop Up Ahead of Elections
NPR's Morning Edition reports: Signs of possible voting trouble are popping up ahead of midterm elections. The reports range from hackers getting into an official registration database to ballots being printed incorrectly. Pam Fessler reports.

Note: Audio for this story will be available at approx. 10:00 a.m. ET.

October 25, 2006

Missouri: St. Louis Co. accuses ACORN of fraudulent voter registration forms

AP reports: Hundreds of fraudulent voter address changes have been submitted to St. Louis County election officials by ACORN, the activist group that has been criticized for its voter sign-up work elsewhere in the nation.

An ACORN official said it could be the fault of overzealous employees of the organization.

Voters who don't get a polling-place notification card in the mail right before the election could find that their addresses have been changed without their knowledge, said Joseph Goeke, one of the county's two elections directors.

The address changes, including forged signatures, are among hundreds of questionable or fraudulent voter registration cards submitted to the county within the past couple of months, election officials said. -- ACORN accused of bogus forms in Mo. - Yahoo! News

Ohio: groups sue state over new voter registration law

The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports: A union and a group that helped hundreds of homeless people register to vote say Ohio's new voter-identification law created a confusing mess that will lead to an unfair Nov. 7 election.

The two groups -- the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless in Cleveland and the Columbus-based Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 1199 -- on Tuesday asked a federal judge to strike down the rules, in part because county election boards are applying them differently. ...

The lawsuit said the new rules, which require voters to confirm their identity by presenting photo ID cards, utility bills or the last four digits of their Social Security number, "are confusing, vague, and impossible to apply."

Rules regarding how boards should determine whether provisional ballots are eligible to be counted also are too vague, the groups contend.

Some boards - including Cuyahoga and Lucas counties - require voters to provide more than their Social Security numbers if they appear at the board to cast a ballot early rather than mailing in an absentee ballot, the lawsuit said. -- Suit calls Ohio's voter ID law a mess, asks court to void it

Note: The complaint is available on the Moritz Law School site.

October 21, 2006

Joseph Forest, R.I.P.

The Marin Independent Journal reports: In 1965, Joseph Forest, then a Novato resident, was among 40 Northern California lawyers who traveled to Mississippi to take depositions from blacks who said they had been denied the right to vote.

Some of the lawyers had their windshields shattered and their tires slashed. "We really felt that, in a sense, we were at war with the white community down there," Mr. Forest told reporters when he returned.

Mr. Forest, once a prominent Marin county lawyer and Democratic Party activist, died Oct. 14 at 74 after a brief battle with the neuromuscular disease commonly known as Lou Gehrig's Disease. -- Marin Independent Journal - Joseph Forest, 1932-2006: Lawyer fought for civil rights, shaped land use in Marin

October 17, 2006

Alabama: Riley complains to court about Worley's lack of cooperation

AP reports:
Gov. Bob Riley's attorney told a federal judge Monday that Secretary of State Nancy Worley hasn't supplied all the records needed to implement a statewide voter registration system, despite the threat of contempt of court.

Riley's legal adviser, Ken Wallis, gave U.S. District Judge Keith Watkins a list of eight types of documents that "would be helpful" but that haven't been turned over to the governor.

They included e-mails between the secretary of state and voter registrars about the procurement of the voter registration system and many documents involving communications between Worley's office and companies interested in developing the computerized system. -- Riley’s office wants more documents from Worley

October 16, 2006

Problems with electronic voter lists

MIT Technology Review reports: What Americans should be most worried about this November, say elections experts like Thad Hall, a political scientist at the University of Utah, is not that someone might hack the Diebold machine they're using to vote--but that their names might disappear from the rolls entirely. According to him, the greatest risks of fraud or disenfranchisement concern voter registration.

As Hall spells out in a report for the IBM Center for Business and Government, voter registration databases are difficult to maintain because there are no electronic standards for creating them. That makes it hard for elections officials to compare their databases with motor-vehicle registries and prison records--let alone other states' elections records.

Earlier this year, the state of Kentucky was sued by its attorney general for attempting to remove 8,000 voters from the rolls--without notifying them--based on a comparison of its database with those in Tennessee and South Carolina, in search of voters registered in multiple states. Hall says that if the state had not been sued, many voters would have been disenfranchised because of database errors.

Until 2002, when Congress passed the Help America Vote Act in response to mistakes made in administering the 2000 presidential election, the federal government had never spent any money on election administration. -- Technology Review: Computerized Voter Registration Databases Need a Major Overhaul

October 13, 2006

New Jersey: DOJ sues and settles with state over HAVA compliance

From a Justice Department press release: The Justice Department today announced that it has reached an agreement with the state of New Jersey that will help to ensure an orderly process for the implementation of New Jersey's statewide computer voter database, in accordance with federal law. This agreement, which was filed contemporaneously with a lawsuit filed by the Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of New Jersey, sets a schedule for the state's completion and implementation of a statewide computer voter database that includes all eligible voters and for the identification and removal of ineligible voters from the voter rolls, in a manner that brings the state into full compliance with the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) and the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (NVRA). -- Justice Department Agreement Will Help Protect Voting...

Alabama: Worley responds to possible contempt citation

AP reports: Secretary of State Nancy Worley sought to fend off a possible contempt of court citation by telling a federal judge Thursday that she has “willingly cooperated” with Gov. Bob Riley’s efforts to develop an overdue statewide voter registration system.

In a one-page letter to U.S. District Judge Keith Watkins, Worley said she disagreed with a report filed with the court last week by the governor’s legal adviser, Ken Wallis. That report said Worley had not fully cooperated and had refused to work with a committee appointed by the governor to help develop the system, saying she would only deal with Riley.

She said she has worked with the governor and Wallis and has searched “bookcases, file drawers” and other areas looking for documents on development of a voter registration system.

Watkins had ordered Worley, a former Decatur High School teacher, to respond to him by Thursday on why she should not be found in contempt of court for violating his previous order that she help the governor. Watkins in August gave the Republican governor the title “special master” and put him in charge of developing the database, which is required by the federal Help America Vote Act. The judge’s decision came after Worley, a Democrat, was sued by the Justice Department for failing to meet a Jan. 1, 2006, federal deadline for implementing the computerized file. -- Worley tells judge she's cooperating on registration plan

October 9, 2006

Kentucky: state purges many voters without telling them

NPR reports: For the first time this year, states are required to have centralized voter registration lists. In Kentucky, a state effort to eliminate duplicate registrations resulted in at least several hundred voters being mistakenly removed from the rolls. Confusion and lawsuits followed. -- NPR : Kentucky Grapples with Confusion on Voter Lists

October 1, 2006

ACORN charged with submitting false voter registration forms

AP reports: An advocacy group that registered about a million voters two years ago is wrestling with new charges of voter fraud and sloppy work weeks before crucial midterm elections.

In Philadelphia, the city's voter registration office has rejected about 3,000 cards submitted by the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now since April because of missing information or invalid addresses.

Election officials in three of Ohio's largest counties have cited problems with hundreds of voter registration cards. ACORN is accused of submitting cards with nonexistent addresses, forged signatures and in one case for someone who died seven years ago.

"In my opinion there's a lot of words but little action in terms of fixing the problem," said Matt Damschroder, the elections board director in Franklin County in Ohio.

County election officials in Denver forwarded about 200 cards to the secretary of state's office after discovering identical handwriting on signatures. Colorado officials investigated similar problems two years ago. -- AP Wire | 10/01/2006 | Voter fraud charges still tripping up voting rights group

September 28, 2006

Georgia: federal court stops restrictive voter registration rules

Bradley Heard informs me by email: Today, a federal judge in Atlanta blocked enforcement of Georgia state regulations that went into effect earlier this year that imposed needlessly restrictive administrative requirements on voter registration activities. The plaintiffs, civic organizations and voting rights groups, said the laws were in violation of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (NVRA), and would severely limit the effectiveness of efforts to increase and encourage participation in the political process.

( To view the legal documents, go to: )

“These regulations would have made the operation of an effective voter registration program nearly impossible by removing our ability to check applications,” said Dana Williams, Chairman of Georgia ACORN. “ACORN helped over 22,000 Georgia citizens register to vote in our 2004 registration drive. We knew we were doing that work with success and with integrity because we had a quality control system that checked the applications collected by our staff and volunteers.”

Today’s decision is one in a series of victories in the past two years arising from litigation in Florida, Georgia, Maryland, and Ohio blocking enforcement of state laws and regulations that severely burdened third-party voter registration activities and denied traditionally disenfranchised citizens assistance in registering to vote.

September 22, 2006

Ohio: ACORN sues Blackwell for impeding voter registration

The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports: A community-action agency that has clashed with Secretary of State Ken Blackwell over Ohio's new voter-registration rules is suing Blackwell, claiming he also failed to enforce the national "motor voter" law.

In a lawsuit to be filed this morning in U.S. District Court in Cleveland, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now and two public assistance recipients from Northeast Ohio accuse Blackwell and Barbara Riley, director of the Ohio Department of Job & Family Services, of failing to give thousands of low-income Ohioans the opportunity to register to vote.

While Elections officials in Iowa and North Carolina have worked with ACORN to improve voter registration, Blackwell has done little more than provide a toll-free number for human services directors to call when they run out of registration forms, said Lisa Danetz, an attorney at the National Voting Rights Institute who is handling the case. ...

Blackwell, the Republican candidate for governor, has been hounded by partisan claims that he has tried to disenfranchise poor, mostly Democratic voters. The lawsuit, whose other two plaintiffs are welfare recipients Carrie Harkless of Lorain and Tameca Mardis of Cleveland, piles on new charges, blaming Blackwell and Riley for low registration rates and the absence of registration forms at many county human services offices. -- Blackwell sued, accused of failing voter registrations

Note: A copy of the complaint is here. Thanks to Brenda Wright of NVRI for the tip and complaint.

September 19, 2006

Missouri: state stops free voter I.D.s and considers appeal

The Kansas City Star reports: State officials Monday halted efforts to give voters free photo identification cards, and they killed a public information campaign saying the IDs were needed to vote in November.

That’s because a ruling by Cole County Circuit Judge Richard Callahan last week struck down the new law requiring voters to present state-issued photo IDs at the polls. Attorney General Jay Nixon’s office has not said yet whether it is going to appeal the ruling to the Missouri Supreme Court, but Republican proponents of the law were expected to do so.

A successful appeal could reverse the situation again shortly before the Nov. 7 election, requiring the state to once more start issuing the IDs for free and restart efforts to spread the word about the law.

As of Monday, the Missouri Department of Revenue started charging $11 for the non-driver’s license IDs it had been issuing for free to Missourians who want to vote in November. It also stopped sending vans to nursing homes and senior centers to issue the photo IDs to elderly voters without driver’s licenses. -- Kansas City Star | 09/19/2006 | Missouri stops free ID effort

September 13, 2006

Alabama: Governor appoints committee to oversee creation of statewide voter database

WSFA TV reports: Governor Bob Riley has appointed four people to oversee the development and implementation of a uniform, statewide computerized voter registration list as required to bring Alabama into compliance with the Help America Vote Act (HAVA).

A federal judge appointed the governor "Special Master" as a result of a federal lawsuit against the state and Secretary of State Nancy Worley for failing to meet some of the HAVA requirements related to voter registration by the federal timetable and guidelines.

Sid McDonald will serve as the committee's chairman; Lawrence County Probate Judge Richard "Rip" Proctor; Alabama Labor Commissioner and former Secretary of State Jim Bennett; Trey Granger, Director of Elections for Montgomery County. ...

Under a section on the Planned Activities for the Immediate Future. the filing states the governor has "instructed the Chairman and members of his HAVA Implementation Committee that they are to reactivate and re-engage the 24-member HAVA Advisory Committee, as soon as reasonably possible, and to give serious input to their input and recommendations." -- WSFA TV Montgomery, AL - Update: Governor Appoints Members to Oversee Voter Registration Compliance; Files First Interim Report

September 6, 2006

Alabama: Gov. Riley asks for delay in filing report on HAVA compliance

WSFA reports: U.S. District Judge Keith Watkins has given Governor Bob Riley another week to submit his first progress report as Special Master appointed by the court in the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) case filed by the federal government against the state of Alabama and Secretary of State Nancy Worley. The report was initially due today, September 5, 2006, the first Tuesday of the month as outlined previously by the court.

In the Motion for Extension request filed and granted on September 1, 2006, by the governor's chief legal adviser, Ken Wallis, Riley says "Though this team is very nearly assembled, there remains one person who has not fully committed to serve and cannot be briefed on the matter until next week. Thus providing the Governor until September 12, 2006, to submit his initial progress report will enable him to then announce the entirety of his implementation team, rather than an incomplete slate." -- WSFA TV Montgomery, AL - Governor Riley Given Extension to Submit First Report in Voter Registration Case

September 1, 2006

Ohio: federal court throws out new voter registration rules

AP reports: A federal judge threw out new state rules governing voter registration drives on Friday, saying they appear to violate the First Amendment and are hurting efforts to sign up new voters.

U.S. District Judge Kathleen O'Malley issued an order from the bench immediately halting the enforcement of the registration rules, saying they appeared to be unconstitutional. She said she planned to issue a detailed written order sometime next week.

A coalition of voter advocacy groups and Democratic lawmakers sued the state, asking O'Malley to throw out the regulations, which they claimed would hurt their registration drives because the rules carry potential criminal penalties. ...

The judge said that, in light of her ruling, voters should ignore the references to the criminal penalties on forms used to sign up new voters. She gave the secretary of state's office five days to remove references to the rules and penalties on its Web site. -- Ohio voter registration rules thrown out

Alabama: judge grants partial stay of judgment on felon voting rights

This afternoon, Judge Robert S. Vance, Jr., granted a partial stay of his judgment while the State appeals to the Alabama Supreme Court. The plaintiffs, represented by Ryan Haygood of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and me, had urged the court to issue only a partial stay -- although we had a few more bells and whistles in our proposed order.

The effect of this order is that those convicted of felonies involving moral turpitude may not register to vote unless their right to vote has been restored. Those convicted of a crime not involving moral turpitude may register to vote. For more details on crimes of moral turpitude, see this post on my other website,

For details on the judgment, see this earlier post.

August 28, 2006

Florida: federal court enjoins restrictions on voter registration groups

ACSblog reports: The Southern District of Florida has issued a preliminary injunction against a 2005 law which restricted persons and organzations registering voters. Under Florida's Third-Party Voter Registration Law, any person or organization, other than a political party, who registered voters was required to deliver the voter registration forms to an election official within 10 days or else face fines up to $5000 per form. The law applied even to organizations who lost forms through no fault of their own, such as in a hurricane, flood or fire.

As a result of this law, many organizations, such as the League of Women Voters and the Florida AFL-CIO, ceased registering Florida voters entirely out of fear that their organization's budget would be evicerated by fines, causing thousands of eligible Florida voters to go unregistered.

The court, in an opinion by Judge Patricia Seitz, held that the Florida law violates the First Amendment. According to the court, the First Amendment allows organizations to choose the "most effective means of conducting their voter registration drives to ensure their voices are heard in the political process." Additionally, the court held the law to be unconstitutionally discriminatory because it exempted political parties.

The court issued a preliminary injunction preventing enforcement of the Florida law. -- ACSBlog: The Blog of the American Constitution Society

August 24, 2006

Alabama: press coverage (2) of the felon voting rights decision

The Birmingham News reports: Alabama must allow all felons to register to vote under current state law, a Jefferson County judge ruled Wednesday - a decision Secretary of State Nancy Worley said could lead to polling places in prisons.

Circuit Judge Robert Vance Jr. said any felon should be able to register and vote until the state Legislature passes a law that defines crimes of moral turpitude. No such definition exists under state law, Vance said. ...

Responding to Vance's 50-page decision, Worley said having voting stations in prisons "would be a serious problem to handle." ...

"Obviously, there is the potential for appeal," Worley said. "In the meantime, we need some clear guidance."

Suzanne Webb, a spokeswoman for the attorney general, said the office was reviewing Vance's decision. -- Ruling may allow felons to vote

Comment and disclosure: I am one of the attorneys for the plaintiffs in this case. Worley's comment about voting stations in prisons is really disappointing. I don't know if she is just being demagogic or really believes that county commissions would place polling places in prison. Any prisoner who is registered to vote may be able to request an absentee ballot.

August 21, 2006

Wisconsin: statewide voter roll now in effect

The La Crosse Tribune reports: In another municipality, a student voted absentee in his hometown and then voted again where he went to college.

That won’t be possible under the Statewide Voter Registration System, which goes into effect with the Sept. 12 primary elections.

The 2002 federal Help America Vote Act mandated statewide registration, and municipal clerks from throughout the state have been converting their records to the statewide list and training staff on how it works.

Before, registration was handled locally, with no central depository, said La Crosse City Clerk Teri Lehrke. When a person registered, she said, the clerk in that municipality sent a postcard to the municipality where he or she voted before. Now, the registration in the person’s former voting place will be automatically cancelled. -- La Crosse Tribune - 6.0

August 17, 2006

"Can I vote?"

From a press release dated 15 August: The National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS) today launched the first-ever national voter education campaign to provide eligible voters from all 50 states with the information they need to cast their ballots in 2006 – all on one Web site. The campaign’s centerpiece,, is a one-stop shop that provides voters with step-bystep instructions for voting no matter where in the United States they live.

The Can I Vote? Campaign is designed to help answer the two questions voters most often asked in 2004, according to data collected by the Election Protection hotline: “Am I registered to vote?” and “Where is my polling place?” The Campaign Web site provides links to online voter registration lookup tools and polling place locators on state and local Web sites. It also includes an interactive directory of local election officials.

Comment: It may be "50 states" but some of those states have only a few counties -- Alabama has only one.

Arizona: Prop. 200 slowing down registration

The EastValleyTribune reports: A two-year-old law intended to keep illegal immigrants from voting has blocked thousands of Maricopa County residents from casting ballots because they can't prove U.S. citizenship.

So far this year, the county has rejected one out of every six new voter registration requests because they lacked proof of citizenship, said Yvonne Reed, a spokeswoman for the county recorder’s office.

Most were probably legal citizens who filled out the registration forms but didn’t have the proper identification for one reason or another, she said.

The high number of rejections stems from the passage of Proposition 200, a law approved by voters in 2004 that requires people to show a driver’s license or two other forms of identification before they register to vote or cast a ballot. -- ID law blocking legal Maricopa County votes |

August 15, 2006

Georgia: suit against new rules restricting voter registration drives

From a press release from the Advancement Project describes a suit just filed against the Georgia State Board of Elections' new voter-registration rules: The two new requirements being challenged in the case are: 1) a mandate that all voter registration forms must be sealed prior to being handed to a private voter registration organizer; and 2) a prohibition on copying voter registration forms. In both instances, third-party voter registration groups would no longer have an opportunity to view and utilize information contained on the forms, which will severely limit their ability to encourage voter registration and participation in traditionally underrepresented—minority, youth, and economically disadvantaged—communities.

More information on the case, including the complaint and exhibits is here.

August 9, 2006

Alabama: Artur Davis denounces "judicial activism" in HAVA ruling

The Tuscaloosa News reports: U.S. Rep. Artur Davis accused the Justice Department Tuesday of "judicial activism" when it urged a federal district judge to appoint Gov. Bob Riley to oversee Alabama's voter registration database project.

“This is the kind of situation where the court should bend over backwards to avoid the appearance of partisan politics," Davis, D-Birmingham, said of Riley’s appointment a week ago.

The computerized database is required under the 2002 Help America Vote Act, enacted in the wake of allegations of voter fraud in the 2000 elections.

On May 1, the Justice Department sued Alabama for failing to create the statewide voter database required by law. New York and Maine, two other states that also missed the January 1 deadline, face federal lawsuits as well. -- Davis claims court decision a partisan move - Tuscaloosa

Disclosure: I am quoted in the article because of my role as attorney for Democratic Party chairman, Joe Turnham who sought to intervene in the case.

August 6, 2006

Ohio: new voter registration rules slow down the process

The New York Times reports: For Tony Minor, the pastor of the Community of Faith Assembly in a run-down section of East Cleveland, Ohio's new voter registration rules have meant spending two extra hours a day collecting half as many registration cards from new voters as he did in past years.

Republicans say the new rules are needed to prevent fraud, but Democrats say they are making it much harder to register the poor. ...

Under the law, passed by the Republican-led state legislature in January 2006, paid voter registration workers must personally submit the voter registration cards to the state, rather than allow the organizations overseeing the drives to vet and submit them in bulk.

By requiring paid canvassers to sign and put their addresses on the voter registration cards they collect, and by making them criminally liable for any irregularities on the cards, the rules have made it more difficult to use such workers, who most often work in lower-income and Democratic-leaning neighborhoods, where volunteers are scarce. -- New Registration Rules Stir Voter Debate in Ohio - New York Times

August 5, 2006

Florida: federal court hearing on penalties for voter registration groups

AP reports: A federal judge in Miami raised questions Thursday about a new Florida voter registration law that exempts political parties from stiff penalties imposed on other groups that violate rules on the handling of registration applications.

Concluding three days of hearings on a challenge to the law, U.S. District Judge Patricia Seitz asked attorneys representing Florida Secretary of State Sue Cobb to explain why the Democratic and Republican parties -- as well as 23 minor ones, including the Surfers Party of America and the American Poor People Party -- were allowed to play by different rules. ...

The lawsuit asks Seitz to block implementation of the law, which took effect Jan. 1. Groups ranging from the League of Women Voters to the AFL-CIO say it has caused a complete halt in their voter registration drives this year.

The law imposes fines of $250 for each form that is submitted to election officials more than 10 days after it is collected from an individual. Fines can reach $5,000 for each form that is collected but never submitted. Third-party groups say they have stopped voter registration work because of the potentially ruinous cost of violations. -- | 08/04/2006 | Florida defends omitting parties from voter registration law

August 3, 2006

Alabama: NY Times editorializes against Riley takeover of voter registration

The New York Times states in an editorial: President Bush's Justice Department has been criticized for letting partisanship guide its work on voting and elections. And party politics certainly appears to have been a driving force in a legal maneuver it just pulled off in Alabama, where it persuaded a federal judge to take important election powers away from the Democratic secretary of state and give them to a Republican governor. The Justice Department says it is trying to enforce the election law, but that is unconvincing. There are plenty of ways to enforce the law without creating the impression that it is tilting the electoral landscape in favor of Republicans.

Alabama is one of many states that have been late in meeting a federal requirement to create a computerized statewide list of voters. Secretary of State Nancy Worley says the delay is due to factors outside her control. Her critics disagree. But whatever the reason, the Justice Department has every right to try to speed things along. The trouble is, rather than work with Ms. Worley to get the job done, it decided to go to court to take away her authority and hand it to Gov. Bob Riley.

Sadly, a federal judge agreed yesterday to do just that, in a one-sided proceeding that felt a lot like a kangaroo court. The Justice Department and the Alabama attorney general, Troy King, both argued that Governor Riley should control the voter database. Mr. King, a Republican, was appointed to his job by Governor Riley after serving as his legal adviser, and when Ms. Worley realized that Mr. King would not represent her interests, she asked him to let her hire a lawyer to argue her side. He refused. The Alabama Democratic Party tried to intervene in the case, so it could argue against giving control of the voter rolls to the governor. The judge, who was recently named to the bench by President Bush, would not let the Democrats in. -- Strong-Arming the Vote - New York Times

Disclosure: I was one of the attorneys for the Democratic Party in that case.

August 2, 2006

Washington State: voter registration law requiring exact match on names is enjoined

AP reports: A federal judge on Tuesday barred Washington state from enforcing a new law that keeps people from registering to vote if their names do not perfectly match identifying information in other government databases.

U.S. District Judge Ricardo Martinez agreed with lawyers who claimed that under the law, misspelled names or other minor errors could improperly prevent people from voting.

The law, designed to help prevent voter fraud, took effect Jan. 1. It directed Secretary of State Sam Reed to compare driver's licenses, state identification cards or Social Security numbers on registration forms with records from state and federal agencies to ensure that a voter's information matches. ...

As of June 22, 178 people had had their registrations rejected or canceled because of the law, and thousands more were trying to clear up their identities with the state. -- Judge bars state from enforcing new voter registration law

Note: The case is Washington Association of Churches et al v. Reed, CASE #: 2:06-cv-00726-RSM. The order is here.

Alabama: judge appoints Governor as special master over voter registration system

AP reports: A federal judge put Republican Gov. Bob Riley in charge of developing an overdue statewide voter registration database Wednesday and turned aside objections by the Democratic Party and the mostly black Alabama Democratic Conference.

U.S. District Judge Keith Watkins gave Riley the title of "special master" in the voter database project, replacing Democratic Secretary of State Nancy Worley.

At a hearing in which Worley and former Secretary of State Jim Bennett exchanged barbs, Watkins said he would issue a formal order detailing Riley's duties in about a week.

Democratic Party chairman Joe Turnham and ADC chairman Joe Reed had sought to intervene, contending partisan politics was behind the Justice Department's lawsuit and the call by the agency and GOP Attorney General Troy King to replace Worley with Riley in an election year for both. ...

Attorneys for the Justice Department and the Alabama Attorney General's office said the statewide file is needed to prevent voter fraud. But attorney Ed Still, representing the Democratic Party and the ADC, said Turnham and Reed want to make sure the new system does not end up disenfranchising some Alabama voters.

"Whenever you start talking about ballot security, it tends to have an impact on the poor and the elderly," Still said. -- Judge rejects Democrats' bid, names Riley head of voter database

Update: WSFA-TV has a long, detailed, and pretty accurate story about the whole thing. Thanks to Doug Chapin for pointing it out to me.

Alabama: hearing in HAVA suit today

The Tuscaloosa News reports: Secretary of State Nancy Worley is due in court today to defend herself in a federal lawsuit over voter registration that has morphed into a political battle.

The Justice Department has sued Worley, claiming she did not create a unified voter registration list before the deadline set by the federal Help America Vote Act, and did not have a plan to spend $44 million in federal voter money sent to Alabama.

U.S. District Judge Keith Watkins said he would appoint a special master to oversee compliance with the voter registration list requirement. Republican Gov. Bob Riley has been suggested as a potential appointee.

But the state Democratic Party moved to oppose the removal of Worley as the state’s voter registration boss and Riley’s appointment. --
Parties battle over who should be voter registration chief - Tuscaloosa

Disclosure: I represent Joe Turnham and Joe Reed, who have moved to intervene.

August 1, 2006

Indiana: Republicans purging voters in Marion County

The Indianapolis Star reports: Republicans may continue purging names from the Marion County voter rolls despite Democrats' concerns that some voters could be disenfranchised.

In an emergency meeting Monday, the Marion County Election Board sided with Republicans, who were concerned about potential voter fraud due to people registered in more than one location and deceased voters who were never taken off the books.

The Election Board voted 2-1 in favor of allowing Republicans to continue purging names.

The controversy began Friday when Republicans started removing the names of voters they thought were ineligible. The names came from a list supplied by a vendor contracted by the secretary of state's office that indicated about 36,000 Marion County voter registrations were questionable. Republicans were certain that about 4,500 of those names should be purged immediately. Purging of additional names also is being considered. -- GOP purging voter rolls |

Hat tip: DailyKos.

Maine: DOJ announces HAVA settlement with Maine

From a Justice Department press release on Friday: The Justice Department today announced that it has reached an agreement with Maine officials that will help to ensure full access to voting for Maine's citizens with disabilities and to protect the accuracy and integrity of Maine's statewide voter registration list in accordance with the provisions of the Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA) and the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (NVRA).

"I commend Attorney General Rowe and Secretary of State Dunlap for their willingness to protect the integrity of the voting process without delay and to ensure that individuals with disabilities have the same opportunity to cast a ballot privately and independently as other voters," said Wan J. Kim, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. "These reforms should give all eligible voters in Maine greater confidence in the state's elections."

The agreement sets forth the state's plan for ensuring that each polling place has a voting system that is fully accessible to individuals with disabilities and can generate a permanent paper record that can be manually audited. The agreement also sets forth the state's plan for creating a statewide computerized voter registration database that will help to identify and remove ineligible voters from the state's voter rolls. A lawsuit, filed contemporaneously with the agreement, followed a Justice Department investigation that found that Maine had not yet fully complied with HAVA's requirements that each polling place have a voting system accessible to disabled voters, and that the state create a statewide computerized voter registration database. The Justice Department's investigation also found that Maine's voter rolls contained a significant number of ineligible voters. -- U.S. Newswire : Releases : "Justice Department Announces Agreement to Protect Voting Rights in Maine"

Hat tip:

Alabama: Probate Judges Association opposes Democratic intervention in HAVA suit

AP reports: Alabama's probate judges have asked a federal court to keep the Alabama Democratic Party out of a lawsuit over development of a statewide voter registration database.

The filing by the Alabama Probate Judges Association said allowing the Democrats to intervene would unnecessarily inject politics into the case, which is what Democrats said Republicans were trying to do.

The latest pleading came after state Democratic Party chairman Joe Turnham filed a motion last week seeking to stop the court from naming Republican Gov. Bob Riley to take over the task of setting up the voter database. Turnham called that "a partisan attempt to affect the Democratic secretary of state negatively in the upcoming election."

Secretary of State Nancy Worley, who was sued by the U.S. Justice Department for failing to meet a federal deadline for implementing a single statewide computerized voter registration database, faces Republican Beth Chapman in the Nov. 7 general election. -- :: Judges group wants politics out election suit

July 28, 2006

Alabama: Demo Party chairman objects to Governor taking over voter registration

AP reports: Development of a statewide voter registration database is getting politically charged, with the state Democratic Party chairman going to court Thursday to try to stop the Republican governor from getting appointed to take over the duty from the Democratic secretary of state.

Democratic Party Chairman Joe Turnham said moving the responsibility to Gov. Bob Riley looks like "a partisan attempt to affect the Democratic secretary of state negatively in the upcoming election, while affecting the Republican governor and other Republican candidates positively."

Riley's communications director, Jeff Emerson, said, "Governor Riley's only concern is the state be in compliance," and it's fine if a federal judge wants to appoint someone else to complete the voter database.

The Republican-led U.S Justice Department sued Secretary of State Nancy Worley in May, saying she had failed to meet a federal deadline for implementing a single statewide computerized voter registration database. Alabama received $41 million from the federal government for elections improvements, and Worley has allocated $12 million of that to a computer company and buy equipment. -- :: Turnham fights voting change

Comment: Turnham is represented by James Anderson, Shannon Holliday, and me.

July 26, 2006

Alabama: Gov. Riley may be appointed to run the voter registration program

AP reports: Gov. Bob Riley likely will get appointed by a federal judge to implement Alabama's new voter registration computer system after Secretary of State Nancy Worley missed the deadline for getting the job done.

The U.S. Justice Department, which sued Worley over not completing the job, and state Attorney General Troy King, who is required by state law to defend Worley, both recommended to a federal judge Tuesday that he appoint Riley.

Riley would be given the power of "chief election official of the state of Alabama" to implement a centralized computer system of Alabama's voter registration records, the Justice Department said in a court filing.

U.S. District Judge Keith Watkins ruled last week that he would appoint a "special master" to complete the job, which is required by the federal Help America Vote Act. The judge has scheduled a hearing Aug. 2 to discuss the appointment, but state officials expect Riley to get the task since both sides recommended him. -- :: Election job may switch to governor

July 24, 2006

Alabama: federal court accepts HAVA plan and appoints special master

AP reports: A federal judge has accepted Secretary of State Nancy Worley's proposal to comply with election system changes under the federal Help America Vote Act, but with certain modifications.

U.S. District Judge W. Keith Watkins also will appoint a special master to administer the plan.

In an order Friday, Watkins sustained the Justice Department's objections to the state's plan, but said because there were no objections to the substance of the plan, it could be used provided some changes are made.

Watkins noted the "potential for disruption of the November 2006 general election substantially outweighs any benefit of taking further action" on the current voter registration system. -- Judge accepts Worley’s voting plan

You can read the whole order here.

July 12, 2006

"Revitalizing Democracy" video

The American Constitution Society for Law and Policy has posted the video of the “Revitalizing Democracy” panel at its recent National Convention. On June 17, ACS hosted a panel at its 2006 National Convention exploring the sources of the growing sense of disenfranchisement among Americans and avenues for reform that could make our democratic system more responsive to ordinary Americans. Panelists explored issues such as the impact of money in politics and campaign finance reform, the effect of redistricting on political polarization, the merits of the electoral college, how technology will affect political campaigning in the coming years and the implementation of the Help American Vote Act. Panelists also discussed ways that we can encourage a national conversation on these issues and broaden participation in our democracy. Included on the panel were:

  • Ron Klain, Executive Vice President and General Counsel, Revolution LLC; former assistant to President Clinton; former Chief of Staff and Counsel to Vice President Gore;
  • Donna Brazile, Brazile and Associates, LLC; former campaign manager for Vice President Al Gore;
  • Representative Artur Davis (D-AL);
  • Heather Gerken, Professor of Law, Yale Law School;
  • Benjamin Ginsberg, Patton Boggs LLP;
  • Robert Lenhard, Vice Chairman, Federal Election Commission; and
  • John Podesta, President and Chief Executive Officer, Center for American Progress; former Chief of Staff to President Clinton.
  • June 19, 2006

    Arizona: TRO denied in suit re federal voter mail registration form

    Nina Perales of MALDEF emails: Today, Judge Roslyn Silver of the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona denied MALDEF's motion for a TRO blocking Arizona's refusal to accept the federal mail voter registration form without the additional proof of citizenship required by state law.

    The case, Gonzalez v. Arizona, was filed May 9, 2006 by MALDEF and challenges both the proof of citizenship and voter ID provisions of Proposition 200. The TRO sought preliminary relief on the question whether Arizona could refuse properly-completed federal voter registration applications because Prop 200 requires documentary proof of citizenship with all applications.

    The court held that we had not shown a likelihood of success on the merits, concluding that the NVRA permits states to require more information from applicants than that set out on the federal mail voter form.

    June 6, 2006

    Ohio: Blackwell's voter registration rules criticized

    The Columbus Dispatch reports: Critics of Ohio’s new election law say Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell has implemented rules that make it more difficult to register voters than the law itself does.

    At a hearing yesterday, some said Blackwell’s rules would shut down voter-registration efforts in Ohio that use paid workers. Afterward, state Democrats said the rules were reminiscent of Blackwell’s 2004 edict that the paper for registration forms had to be a certain weight. ...

    Peg Rosenfield, elections specialist for the League of Women Voters, said she fears that the league and other voter-registration groups would have to abandon their efforts in Ohio.

    "The combination of ambiguity and the restrictions — we don’t know what to tell people," Rosenfield said. "The bill is restrictive but (the rules) are more restrictive than the bill." --
    New election rules draw fire

    May 15, 2006

    Washington State: 55,000 purged from the voting list as dead or duplicates

    The Seattle Times reports: The Secretary of State's Office has deleted about 55,000 registrations from Washington's voter rolls after finding duplicate records and dead voters with the aid of a new statewide database.

    The database, put in place earlier this year, allowed the state to find 19,579 dead people still on the rolls and 35,445 duplicate voter records.

    "It's a critical piece to help regain the trust and confidence of the voters of the state of Washington," Secretary of State Sam Reed said Friday. "I think we are slowly but surely rebuilding trust in the system."

    Voter confidence was shaken in 2004, when Democratic Gov. Christine Gregoire narrowly beat Republican Dino Rossi after two recounts. The tumultuous election was replete with lost ballots, mismatched signatures, and dead people and convicted felons casting ballots. Rossi challenged the election in court and lost. -- The Seattle Times: Local News: 55,000 dead or duplicate voters deleted from state database

    Hat tip to Taegan D. Goddard's Political Wire for the link.

    May 8, 2006

    Texas: you call thousands of voters being rejected by the voter registration database a "glitch"?

    The Star-Telegram reports: Dallas County Elections Administrator Bruce Sherbet was panicking. The new state voter-registration database was rejecting thousands of registered voters each day because the state could not match their names with those in driver's license and Social Security records.

    Each time the state turned away voters, Sherbet's office sent them a letter saying they had been rejected.

    In Tarrant and Denton counties, elections administrators had another problem. The state's computer system initially required driver's license numbers. If your number began with a zero, you got kicked off the voter rolls for insufficient digits.

    Those glitches have cropped up as Texas hustles to meet a federal requirement to have a statewide database designed to rid election rolls of fraudulent voters. But some are worried that the database will kick out legitimate voters. -- Star-Telegram | 05/08/2006 | Officials work on registration glitches

    Does anyone test these things before they roll them out to the public?

    May 3, 2006

    Alabama: the HAVA complaint

    Here are the documents from the US v. Alabama HAVA case:

    Complaint: Download file
    Motion for preliminary injunction: Download file

    I will add more documents as I have the time.

    May 2, 2006

    Alabama: DOJ sues Alabama for failure to meet HAVA requirements

    AP reports: The U.S. Justice Department is suing Alabama, contending it missed a deadline for creating a statewide computerized database of voters for this year's elections.

    The suit says the database is needed to provide accurate voter rolls, and it asks a judge to require Alabama to develop a plan within 30 days to get its voter registration system into compliance with federal law.

    Alabama Secretary of State Nancy Worley, who was named as a defendant in the suit, acknowledged the state was not in compliance and cited opposition from some counties and a lack of funding as some of the reasons for the failure to comply.

    "We've faced some roadblocks," Worley said Tuesday. "But ultimately Alabama will have a single statewide database that will protect our elections from fraud." -- Justice Department sues state over voter database

    ===earlier story===
    From a Justice Department press release of yesterday: The Justice Department announced today that it has filed suit against the state of Alabama, alleging violations of the Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA). With this lawsuit, Alabama becomes the second state in the nation to be sued by the Department of Justice for not complying with the database requirements of HAVA, after New York.

    The government's complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama (Northern Division) in Montgomery, alleges that the state has failed to create and implement a statewide computerized voter registration database, which is required by HAVA. The government contends that Alabama missed the Jan. 1, 2006 federal deadline for completing the statewide database, and that, as of the date of this lawsuit, the state has not selected the database vendor who would start this process. This lawsuit was undertaken only after several contacts and extensive efforts by the Civil Rights Division to convince Alabama to meet its Federal obligations in a timely fashion.

    "HAVA's database requirements are designed to ensure the accuracy of the voter rolls and the integrity of the electoral process in elections for Federal office," said Wan J. Kim, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. "This lawsuit is intended to vindicate the rights of the voters of Alabama, who do not, at present, enjoy all of the protections that HAVA affords."

    HAVA was enacted with bipartisan support after the 2000 presidential election and was signed into law by President Bush on Oct. 29, 2002. HAVA was the first federal statute to provide federal funds to states to support reform of federal elections. Alabama received over $41 million to assist it in meeting the federal mandates contained in HAVA. Under HAVA, if Alabama fails to comply with HAVA's various requirements, it runs the risk of losing some of these funds when it is audited by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, a federal agency that is responsible for assuring state compliance in the expenditure of HAVA funds.

    Today's lawsuit seeks a determination that the state has not fulfilled HAVA's database requirements, and an order requiring the state to submit a plan describing how it will come into compliance. -- U.S. Newswire : Releases : "Justice Department Sues Alabama Over Voting Rights..."

    April 22, 2006

    Virgin Islands: Senate defeats bill to make registration by military easier

    The Virgin Islands Daily News reports: A controversial bill that would allow members of the military to register to vote on the day of an election and allow nonresident citizens to vote in the territory was defeated in the Senate on Thursday because senators felt it added too much opportunity for fraud.

    The bill, jointly proposed by Senate President Lorraine Berry and Sen. Norman Jn Baptiste, would allow members of the armed forces and their family members who could not register to vote on time because they were on a mission to register until Election Day. It also includes a provision allowing U.S. citizens who never lived in the territory - but have parents who are qualified voters in the territory - to vote in territorial elections.

    Berry said that the bill was based on a request from the Federal Voting Assistance Program to benefit members of the military serving outside of the territory. The bill was also endorsed by the V.I. Joint Boards of Elections, she said. -- Virgin Islands, Virgin Islands Newspaper, A Pulitzer Prize Winning Newspaper, Virgin Islands Guide, Virgin Islands Info

    April 20, 2006

    Immigrant groups to promote voter registration

    The New York Times reports: Leaders of the demonstrations that drew hundreds of thousands of immigrants into the streets last week announced Wednesday that they were planning voter registration and citizenship drives across the country in an effort to transform the immigrant community into a powerful, organized political force.

    But the leaders of immigrant advocacy groups remain sharply divided over whether immigrants should demonstrate their economic strength by staying away from their jobs, schools and local shops on May 1 in what organizers are calling the Great American Boycott of 2006.

    In Washington, the leaders of the National Capital Immigration Coalition, an alliance of immigrant, labor and business groups, is urging immigrants to ignore the boycott and to participate in voter registration drives and other activities after attending school or going to work. ...

    Joshua Hoyt, executive director of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, said that this summer would be "an immigrant freedom summer," with citizenship and voter registration drives in various cities to ensure that immigrants would vote in Congressional elections this year and in the presidential election in 2008. -- Immigrant Groups Plan Campaign to Bring Legal Changes - New York Times

    March 29, 2006

    Virginia: Williamsburg blocks students from registering

    The Daily Press reports: The ACLU of Virginia said Tuesday that it would back College of William and Mary President Gene Nichol in his goal to change the city registrar's mind about allowing college students to register to vote in local elections.

    The ACLU has offered to review the applications of rejected students and help them correct any mistakes or include any necessary - but missing - information. Kent Willis, the organization's director, said the ACLU was prepared to file lawsuits on behalf of students if circumstances warranted.

    Willis said that students effectively lived in Williamsburg for four years while in school and that it's important for them to participate in the community. "Registrars who create barriers for people to vote in their communities aren't doing their jobs," Willis said.

    Nichol sent a letter to students last week, encouraging them to register to vote in Williamsburg by Monday, the deadline before the May 2 municipal election, if they chose to. -- W&M students get ACLU backing to vote

    March 28, 2006

    Arizona: group threatens suit over state's proof-of-citizenship requirement

    The Arizona Republic reports: A coalition of advocacy groups plans to sue Secretary of State Jan Brewer over the state's new voter identification requirements, claiming her rigid application of the law could prevent some out-of-state Arizonans, such as military members or college students, from registering in their home state.

    Brewer dismissed the legal threat Wednesday as little more than politics and vowed not to back down from the challenge.

    The latest confrontation is part of the continuing legacy of Proposition 200, a ballot measure approved by Arizona voters in 2004. The measure imposed new proof-of-citizenship requirements on registrants and strict voter ID rules at the polls.

    This dispute centers on whether Arizona voters who register using a nationwide federal voter registration form also must produce the proof of citizenship, such as a passport, birth certificate or valid Arizona driver's license, demanded by state law. Federal law requires registrants using the federal form only to sign the document after checking boxes attesting to their citizenship and age. -- Voter ID coalition will sue Brewer

    March 24, 2006

    New York: county election boards are blocking ex-felon registration

    The North Country Gazette reports: Many of New York’s local boards of election are systematically and illegally preventing thousands of eligible New Yorkers from registering to vote, according to a new study released by the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law and Demos.

    Under New York law, the right to vote is restored to citizens with felony convictions once they have served their maximum sentences, or have been discharged from parole. New Yorkers on probation never lose their right to vote. Despite these facts, the new survey shows that more than one-third of New York’s 63 local election boards, including four boards in New York City, are unlawfully disfranchising potentially thousands of eligible voters with criminal convictions.

    In the survey, 24 of New York’s 63 local boards reported, incorrectly, that individuals on probation are not entitled to vote, or stated that they did not know if probationers are eligible. Twenty local boards also request unwarranted documentation—beyond that authorized by New York law—before allowing an individual with a felony conviction to register to vote. Frequently, the documents requested do not exist, making it impossible for individuals to register even if they attempt to comply with the illegal requests. -- Study Shows Election Boards Blocking NY’ers From Voting

    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 14, 2006

    Arizona: Secretary of State defies EAC

    The Arizona Daily Star reports: Secretary of State Jan Brewer will tell county election officials to ignore a ruling that Arizonans do not need to show proof of citizenship when they register to vote with a federal registration form.
    In an angry letter to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, Brewer dismissed the ruling as "completely inconsistent, unlawful and without merit."
    The commission informed Brewer last week that "Arizona may not refuse to register individuals to vote in a federal election for failing to provide supplemental proof of citizenship," as required under Proposition 200.

    Overwhelmingly approved by voters in November 2004, Prop. 200 made Arizona the first state in the nation to require proof of citizenship for voter registration.
    Under its terms, county election officials must reject any voter registration form that is not accompanied by documentation such as a birth certificate, passport, tribal ID card or an Arizona driver's license issued after Oct. 1, 1996, when proof of legal residency for licenses became necessary. -- Ignore voter registration ruling, state official says |

    March 8, 2006

    Alabama: preliminary hearing in federal suit on felon disfranchisement

    The Birmingham News reports: A panel of three judges presiding over a federal lawsuit that claims some felons have a right to vote encouraged both sides in the case Tuesday to try and settle the issue.

    The suit, filed in December, contends that Alabama Secretary of State Nancy Worley and some county registrars are violating the state constitution by requiring all felons to apply to the Board of Pardons and Paroles to have voting rights restored.

    The suit claims Alabama's constitution provides that people convicted of certain felonies such as DUI and drug possession - unlike rape, robbery or murder - do not lose their voting rights and do not need to apply for an eligibility certificate from the board. ...

    An issue in the case, the lawyers said, is having registrars, many of whom have no law experience and are political appointees, decide which convicted felons are eligible to vote. Alabama law provides for county boards of registrars to approve or disapprove each voter's qualifications. A felon that has been denied the right to vote then can appeal the board's decision to the circuit court. -- Federal judges urge settlement in voting lawsuit

    The suit is Gooden v. Worley and the complaint is here. Ryan Haygood (of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund) and I represent the plaintiffs.

    March 7, 2006

    Brennan Center warns of "no-match, no-vote" policy

    The Brennan Center announces: Today, the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law released new research suggesting that improper implementation of statewide voter registration databases required under the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) could result in millions of eligible voters being denied access to the rolls.

    The report, Making the List: Database Matching and Verification Processes for Voter Registration, is the first extensive national survey of current state practices relating to the implementation of statewide voter registration databases required by 2006 under HAVA.

    “HAVA was meant to ensure that voter registration rolls are accurate and that all eligible citizens are able to cast their vote,” said Deborah Goldberg, Director of the Brennan Center’s Democracy Program. “Unfortunately, this report makes clear that poor implementation of HAVA’s database requirement has the potential to disenfranchise millions of Americans.”

    The Brennan Center found that the practice of using Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) and Social Security Administration databases to verify information on voter registration forms could create unwarranted hurdles to registration and, in at least seven states, could result in 20% of eligible voters being incorrectly left off the rolls.

    “Databases compiled at different times and for different purposes record information differently: ‘William’ may not match ‘Will’ or ‘Billy’ and a maiden name may not match a married name. Given that, a ‘no-match, no-vote’ policy would be a disaster for voters,” stated Wendy Weiser, Deputy Director of the Brennan Center’s Democracy Program and one of the report’s authors. -- New State Voter Registration Databases Could Bar Millions from Voting, Brennan Center Report Shows

    This ought to give us all a wake-up call. I know, in my own case, my driver's license shows only part of my middle name -- truncated back when it was first issued (when dinosaurs roamed the earth). And my Social Security card has name different from my full legal name.

    New Hampshire: House will consider bill to link voting and driving

    The Concord Monitor reports: After a week's vacation, the House is scheduled to consider about 300 bills and resolutions, on issues ranging from gay marriage to voting rights. Lawmakers will try to pack all that work into a three-day period, starting this afternoon. The schedule includes: ...

    A bill that would require voters who register on the day of the election and who drive to obtain a New Hampshire license and car registration within 40 days of that election. Opponents say this could interfere with voting rights by equating voting with motor-vehicle residency and registration. Proponents say it would not affect voters who do not drive. The Election Law Committee voted to support the bill, 12-4. -- Long menu of bills awaits House - Concord Monitor Online - Concord, NH 03301

    March 5, 2006

    Georgia: State signs consent decree on NVRA compliance

    I received this press release from Bradley Heard: Senior U.S. District Judge William C. O'Kelley approved a Consent Decree on Thursday, March 2, resolving a lawsuit brought by a Georgia nonprofit charitable foundation to challenge the State of Georgia's noncompliance with the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (NVRA). The judgment upheld earlier federal court decisions in the case which found that private entities have a right under the NVRA to engage in organized voter registration activity in Georgia at times and locations of their choosing, without the presence or permission of state or local election officials. (To view a copy of the ruling, go to )

    The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in Atlanta in June 2004 by The Charles H. Wesley Education Foundation, Inc., the nonprofit charitable affiliate of the Nu Mu Lambda Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. The Wesley Foundation's Complaint alleged that the Georgia Secretary of State's long-standing policy and practice of rejecting mail-in voter registration applications that were submitted in bundles and/or by persons other than registrars, deputy registrars, or the individual applicants, violated the requirements of the NVRA. The dispute arose after Secretary of State Cathy Cox's office rejected several voter registration applications submitted by the Wesley Foundation and Nu Mu Lambda following a voter registration drive that they had organized in DeKalb County in June 2004.

    In July 2004, Judge O'Kelley issued a preliminary injunction requiring Secretary Cox to accept and process the applications submitted by the Wesley Foundation and prohibiting state election officials from rejecting voter registration applications solely because they had been submitted in bundles or by persons other than registrars or deputy registrars. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit affirmed Judge O'Kelley's order in May 2005 and sent the case back to the district court for final resolution. Secretary Cox continued vigorously to defend her office's voter registration restrictions in court until late last month, when her attorneys finally agreed to reach a settlement in the case.

    As part of the Consent Decree, the Secretary of State's policy has been declared invalid and unenforceable, and the Secretary of State's Office has been permanently enjoined from enforcing the policy in the future. In addition, Judge O'Kelley's order requires Secretary Cox to notify all 159 of Georgia's county boards of registrars that they are not authorized to reject applications submitted by private voter registration organizers in the future solely for the reasons stated in the Secretary's previous policy.

    The decree also requires Secretary Cox to provide written acknowledgment to the Wesley Foundation and to the 63 voter registration applicants whose applications her office rejected that the Foundation, Nu Mu Lambda, and its volunteers and members did not engage in any improper conduct or violate any law in connection with their voter registration drives.

    Judge O'Kelley also ruled that a recently-amended State Election Board regulation restricting the manner in which private entities may collect and submit voter registration applications cannot be interpreted in a manner that requires registrars and deputy registrars at private voter registration drives or that regulates the times, locations, and circumstances wherein private groups can organize registration drives.

    Still unresolved is the question of whether the SEB's recent amendments (which were passed shortly after the Eleventh Circuit appellate court ruling in the case) unreasonably interfere with private entities' federal rights to engage in voter registration activity within Georgia. The Wesley Foundation and others continue to challenge these issues both in and out of court, with the hope that they will be resolved prior to the onset of major voter registration activities in advance of Georgia's statewide primary elections this summer.

    Another issue not resolved in the Consent Decree is how much this 20-month-long battle that Secretary Cox's office has waged is going to cost the State of Georgia in attorneys' fees and costs to the Wesley Foundation and its counsel. The parties' attorneys are currently attempting to come to an agreement as to that issue by the end of the month, so as to avoid the necessity of having the Court make that determination.

    Atlanta attorney Bradley E. Heard, a Foundation and Nu Mu Lambda board member who represented the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, said he is "gratified that the merits of this case have now been finally determined. The resolution of this matter by Secretary Cox and her office is a substantial and positive step in the effort to make voter registration accessible and available to all citizens. My only wish is that Secretary Cox and her attorneys would have come to this sensible decision back in the summer of 2004, when the court made its initial ruling, rather than choosing to continue defending a clearly illegal policy. That would have saved everyone a lot of time, money, and needless aggravation."

    Jaru Ruley, Nu Mu Lambda's vice president and one of the individually named plaintiffs in the lawsuit, said that the consent decree "absolutely vindicates the position that our organization and other like-minded organizations have taken with regard to this important voting rights issue." Ruley, who is also a federal government attorney, said he is hopeful that the decisions in this case will cause the Secretary of State and the State Election Board to be more responsive and proactive in the future to citizens' expressed concerns that Georgia's voting and voter registration policies may violate provisions of federal law.

    The State Election Board, which is chaired by Secretary Cox, meets on Wednesday, March 8. The Wesley Foundation has formally petitioned the SEB to make several necessary changes to its voter registration rules in light of the courts' rulings in this lawsuit. (Click here to view a copy of the petition.) The Foundation has also petitioned the SEB to adopt a comprehensive set of rules and regulations that would provide for training of voter registration volunteers and for the secure and timely submission of voter registration applications by private voter registration organizers. (Click here to view of copy of the petition.) State Senator Gloria Butler (D–DeKalb Co.) and others have also introduced a bill, S.B. 590, to adopt most of the Wesley Foundation's proposals in this area.

    February 26, 2006

    Washington State: group asks for re-registration of all voters

    AP reports: Voters would have to prove they are U.S. citizens and reregister to vote under an initiative that supporters said they will file this week.

    Conservative think-tank Evergreen Freedom Foundation has formed Grassroots Washington, which is backing the initiative that was expected to be announced Wednesday afternoon.

    The group takes issue with the state's new $6 million voter registration database, which has been checking for duplicate and dead voters since last month.

    "The database is capable of maintaining a clean voter list. It cannot create a clean voter list," Booker Stallworth, the foundation's spokesman, said Tuesday.

    Stallworth said he was concerned with the number of duplicate voters that the system has found, as well as the number he says he believes the system hasn't caught, due to misspelled names or inaccurate birth dates. -- Group to file initiative that would require all voters to reregister

    Thanks to Progressive Legislative Action Network for the link.

    February 18, 2006

    Georgia: Schwier decision's collateral damage to Secretary Cox's position

    Bradley E. Heard emails about the Schwier decision: Neil Bradley was the attorney on the case. As you know, Neil also wrote a friend-of-the-court brief in support of my clients' position in the Charles H. Wesley Education Foundation v. Cox voter registration case, which upheld the right of private non-deputized voter registration groups to conduct voter registration drives in Georgia at times and locations of their choosing.

    The other good news about the Schwier decision is that since the SSNs can no longer be required on the applications, this basically destroys Secretary Cox's arguments that her restrictive voter registration restrictions were needed in order to prevent identity theft and/or that the Wesley Foundation lawsuit was somehow dangerous and irresponsible. Hopefully, Cox won't decide to appeal this decision like she did with ours!

    Congrats to Neil and the ACLU Voting Rights Project on a great victory!

    February 16, 2006

    Georgia: State must stop requiring Social Security numbers on voter registration

    The 11th Circuit has affirmed the decision of the district court holding that the State of Georgia cannot require voter registration applicants to disclose their Social Security numbers. The Court summarizes its decision as follows (the Appellant was the Georgia Secretary of State):

    First, the district court concluded Georgia did not require all voter applicants to disclose their SSNs prior to January 1, 1975, and thus did not qualify for the § 7(a)(2)(B) grandfather exception. It therefore held Georgia violated § 7(a)(1) when it required Appellees to disclose their SSNs on their voter registration forms. Second, the district court determined Georgia must revise its voter registration forms and instructions to comply with the notice requirements of § 7(b), and, specifically, must expressly inform voter applicants they are not required to provide their SSNs. Third, the district court held Georgia cannot mandate disclosure of SSNs because such information is not “material” to a voter registration system under § 1971(a)(2)(B) of the Voting Rights Act.

    The case is Schwier v. Cox, No. 05-11428 (11th Cir.).

    Congratulations to the folks at the Southern Regional Office of the ACLU on this win.

    February 2, 2006

    Jamaica: Where do the homeless vote?

    The Jamaica Gleaner reports: THE GOVERNMENT and the Opposition are at odds on the issue of the right to vote under the amendment to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms Bill, currently being reviewed by a Joint Select Committee of Parliament.

    Yesterday's committee meeting departed from the consensus approach of the previous sitting.

    This after Opposition Member Mike Henry raised the point that many Jamaicans were currently being disenfranchised on the right to vote because of new requirements being introduced by the Electoral Office of Jamaica for its voter re-verification exercise. ...

    Opposition committee members Abe Dabdoub and Senator Dorothy Lightbourne insisted the issues were related.

    Mr. Dabdoub maintained that the wording of the section on the right to vote allows for a law to be put in place that restricts the right to be registered based on residence.

    He said that, currently, persons who are homeless are being denied the right to be registered on that basis. -- Jamaica Gleaner News - Jamaican Government, Opposition at odds over Charter of Rights - Thursday | February 2, 2006

    February 1, 2006

    Georgia: Secretary Cox as the "New Face of Southern Resistance"

    Bradley Heard, an Atlanta attorney, has written a short opinion piece entitled "Georgia Secretary of State Cathy Cox: The New Face of Southern Resistance." Here is an excerpt:

    Secretary Cox’s fervor in defending Georgia’s election laws and her own unsavory election policies at all costs — even after they have been specifically ruled to be in violation of federal law — goes well beyond the duty of an executive branch official to enforce and faithfully execute the laws. It reflects a degree of stubbornness and insensitivity to the plight of disadvantaged citizens that is frankly startling for a public official who professes to be a friend to such communities. After all, one of Secretary Cox’s duties as an elected state official is to support the Constitution of the United States, which recognizes that federal law is the supreme law of the land, even when state laws and regulations run contrary to it. This concept is particularly apposite in the area of federal voting rights, and many people have fought, marched, lobbied, suffered, and died to make sure that those rights are secured.

    Equally as troubling is Secretary Cox’s pattern of double-talk around these issues. While she has maintained a very frequent and welcome presence among minority and women’s groups, civil rights groups, retiree groups, and the like, her actual record has been woefully inadequate when it comes to securing, protecting, and enhancing the franchise rights of Georgia’s most vulnerable citizens.

    January 25, 2006

    Florida: bill to require voter registration in gun and bait shops

    The St. Petersburg Times reports: A bill requiring gun and bait shops to offer customers voter registration forms passed a House committee Wednesday after its sponsor made changes to allay concerns it could hurt the businesses.

    Rep. Greg Evers, R-Baker, eliminated fines up to $2,500 if shop clerks do not provide registration material, saying he did not want to put an "undue burden" on the shops.

    He also made clear that store clerks would not help customers complete the forms nor collect them - a response to elections officials who fear the bill could undo the Legislature's own efforts to tighten the flow of voter registration information.

    "It's up to the individual's responsibility to mail them" to a supervisor of elections office, Evers said.

    But even those changes did not settle controversy over the proposal, which affects any business that sells hunting or fishing licenses, including Wal-Mart. The bill is a priority of the National Rifle Association. -- State: Voter drive bill moves forward

    Voter lures? Bullets for ballots? Hmm, we need a catchy name for this.

    January 13, 2006

    Georgia: House passes new voter i.d. bill

    AP reports: After more than four hours of tense, racially charged debate, House lawmakers approved changes to Georgia's voting standards Thursday meant to address a federal judge's concerns that requiring a state-issued ID at the ballot box amounts to a poll tax.

    Republican backers contend the bill will help prevent voter fraud, but Democrats argued in fiery terms that it blocks voters from casting their ballots. One Democrat called some of the proposal's supporters "racist."

    The changes approved Thursday would devote about $150,000 to arm registrars in each of Georgia's 159 counties with the equipment to issue photo IDs, which voters must present to cast their ballots. The bill, which passed by a 110-64 vote, also offers the ID cards for free. It now awaits the approval of the GOP-controlled Senate, where it is expected to pass.

    Critics said the requirements to show a form of state-issued ID suppresses the votes of the poor, minorities and the elderly. -- Macon Telegraph | 01/13/2006 | House backs voter ID changes

    December 15, 2005

    Washington State: Secretary of State proposes online registration

    AP reports: Washington would become the second state in the country to allow online voter registration under a measure proposed Wednesday by Secretary of State Sam Reed.

    Reed said the plan - currently used only in Arizona - would be a "significant innovation" for the state, and urged lawmakers to sponsor the idea in the upcoming legislative session.

    The new statewide voter registration database going online next month will already be connected to the state Department of Licensing, which has people's signatures and photos on file. Voters would be able to fill out an application on the Secretary of State's Web site.

    People of voting age who apply for drivers' licenses in Washington are offered the chance to register to vote under the federal motor-voter law, but that process doesn't capture people who get their licenses while too young to vote. -- Secretary of State Sam Reed proposes online voter registration

    December 13, 2005

    New Hampshire: GOP head files complaint claiming fraudulent registratio

    AP reports: The head of New Hampshire's Republican Party on Tuesday filed an election-law complaint against the former manager of Manchester Mayor Bob Baines' unsuccessful re-election campaign.

    Warren Henderson said Geoff Wetrosky signed an affidavit that he intended to live in New Hampshire after the Nov. 8 election, but left for South Dakota. Republican Alderman Frank Guinta upset Baines, a Democrat.

    "A legitimate Manchester voter had his or her vote cancelled because Geoff Wetrosky illegally voted," Henderson said in a news release.

    Wetrosky had stayed at the Manchester home of Kathleen Sullivan, the state Democratic chairwoman. She reacted with anger.

    "Warren Henderson is a jerk and please quote me on that," she said. "What he's doing is reprehensible. He's trying to destroy the life of a young person who is active and interested in politics."

    She added that Wetrosky "had made it clear to everybody that after the election he planned to visit his family in South Dakota and stay with them through the holidays, see friends along the way, and come back and find an apartment in New Hampshire." -- GOP head files voting fraud complaint -

    November 22, 2005

    Missouri: DOJ sues state over voter rolls -- too many people listed

    AP reports: he Justice Department on Tuesday sued Missouri for alleged voting law violations, claiming that people who have moved or died may still be eligible to vote due to inaccurate and inflated registration rolls.

    The lawsuit contends the state is violating a federal law that requires it to make reasonable efforts to remove ineligible voters. The state has wrongly delegated that duty to 116 local election jurisdictions, which are putting forth a shoddy and inconsistent effort, the lawsuit claims.

    Some have left the names of dead people on the voter rolls, the Justice Department said. Others have failed to do meaningful reviews of voters rolls for people who have moved. Still others have taken voters off the rolls prematurely, the lawsuit says. -- Justice Sues Mo. for Alleged Voting Errors

    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 6, 2005

    Arizona: anti-immigrant law keeps Americans from registering

    The Los Angeles Times reports: A stringent new voter-identification law being put into effect in Arizona -- designed to keep illegal immigrants from voting -- is also preventing thousands of legitimate voters from casting ballots in Tuesday's election, according to election officials.

    Part of Proposition 200, which voters approved last year, the regulations require proving U.S. citizenship to register to vote and showing a photo ID at the polls. The law put this border state at the edge of a nationwide push to tighten screening at the polls: 15 states now require ID at polling places, but no other state requires documentation of citizenship in order to register.

    It's a movement that advocates say is long overdue to prevent election fraud, but which critics say will decrease voter turnout and has already disenfranchised thousands of legitimate Arizona voters.

    In Maricopa County, home to Phoenix, more than 10,000 people trying to register have been rejected for being unable to prove their citizenship. Yvonne Reed, a spokeswoman for the recorder's office, said Friday that most are probably U.S. citizens whose married names differ from the ones on their birth certificates or who have lost documentation. -- Arizona ID rule may deny U.S. citizens right to vote / Law passed to keep illegal immigrants from casting ballots

    October 27, 2005

    House restricts voter registration by housing groups

    The New York Times reports: Responding to the accounting scandals at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the House of Representatives approved legislation on Wednesday overhauling the regulatory oversight of the two huge mortgage financing companies. ...

    The House bill sets aside 3.5 percent to 5 percent of the company's profits over the next five years for grants to build low-income housing. But a provision inserted in the bill at the 11th hour to assuage conservative Republicans provoked considerable debate because it would prohibit any group that engages in voter mobilization efforts from applying for grants.

    The provision was opposed by more than 600 nonprofit and faith-based groups, including the National Urban League, Catholic Social Services, the N.A.A.C.P. and the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights. They said the provision was unconstitutional, contending that it interfered with voter registration efforts, and undermined the purpose of creating the housing fund. -- House Approves Overhaul at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac - New York Times

    October 17, 2005

    "What Baker-Carter Got Right"

    Rob Richie and Steven Hill wrote on on 27 Sept.: Last week’s release of the report of the election reform commission headed by Jimmy Carter and James Baker has drawn fierce fire from civil rights and electoral reform organizations for recommending that voters be required to present photo identification at the polls. Because the ID recommendations in isolation would shrink the electorate, many reformers have pronounced the Baker-Carter recommendations DOA.

    We believe it a mistake to condemn the entire report because of the understandable voter ID objections. Dominated by aging politicians of the creaky two-party duopoly, the Commission on Federal Election Reform certainly was less than bold in many important areas. But building on his vast experience observing elections around the world and experiencing elections in the South, Carter earned bipartisan support for several forward-looking recommendations.

    The commission’s boldest call is for universal voter registration, a practice used by many democracies around the world in which all eligible voters are automatically registered to vote. Universal registration would add more than 50 million unregistered Americans—nearly three in 10 eligible voters—to the voter rolls. These potential voters are disproportionately under 25, low-income and people of color. Their absence from the voter rolls helps to explain the shocking disparities in our voter turnout based on traditional measures of class status: income, education and race.

    Of course, the devil is in the details, and the commission fails to outline a clear plan for how the government would ensure that all eligible voters are registered. But if implemented fully, this would be one of the single most important government civil rights actions since the Voting Rights Act of 1965. -- What Baker-Carter Got Right

    October 5, 2005

    Georgia: state proposes regulations restrictions on private voter registration drives

    The Charles H. Wesley Education Foundation announces: The State Election Board in Georgia has recently enacted a very restrictive regulation, Rule 183-1-6-.03(3)(o), governing the distribution and collection of voter registration forms by private individuals and groups. The new rule — which requires all voter registration applications collected by private volunteers to be sealed before being handed to the volunteers; prohibits photocopying of applications; and requires all volunteers to submit applications within 72 hours of receipt — is in the process of being submitted to the U.S. Department of Justice for preclearance, pursuant to the Voting Rights Act.

    If allowed to become law, this new regulation will make it extremely difficult
    for nonpartisan voter registration groups to carry out their important verification
    and quality control functions, particularly during busy registration drives. Many
    common errors or omissions on voter registration applications (e.g., missing dates of birth, personal identification numbers, or signatures; failure to check required boxes; etc.) are typically not identified by private voter registration workers until after the conclusion of the registration drive, when volunteers can focus more carefully on each application. If these errors are not caught prior to submitting the applications to local election officials, applicants may risk having their applications rejected and/or not being processed in time for an upcoming election. This could have a particularly devastating impact in low income communities and communities of color, where many private voter registration efforts are focused. For these reasons, Georgia’s newly enacted rule has been opposed by several civil and voting rights organizations, including Advancement Project, Project VOTE, the Service Employees International Union, Georgia for Democracy, and our own group, The Charles H. Wesley Education Foundation.

    You may view the Action Alert and the proposed regulations by clicking on these links.

    July 30, 2005

    Washington State: judge uses business address for her voter registration

    The Seattle Times reports: The Evergreen Freedom Foundation has challenged the voter registrations of 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Betty Fletcher and her husband, Robert Fletcher.

    The complaint, filed Thursday with King County Elections, contends the Fletchers improperly used the King County Administration Building as their home address and a federal courthouse several blocks away as a mailing address. ...

    The Fletchers live in a legislative district different from those addresses, Edelman said, so they have been casting illegal votes. He said the couple could have applied for an unlisted address under the state Address Confidentiality Program.

    But Judge Fletcher said through her office yesterday that her home is in the same legislative district as her registration address. Fletcher, who was appointed to the appeals court by former President Carter in 1979, said she thinks she is legally registered. -- The Seattle Times: Local News: Voter registrations of judge, spouse alleged improper

    Thanks to How Appealing for the link.

    July 4, 2005

    A reunion for 1960's voting rights volunteers

    AP reports: Forty years ago, when college students were recruited to come South to help register black voters, the volunteers stuck together for their own safety.

    Last weekend, a dozen of them gathered again in Atlanta - this time to remember.

    Now grayer and heavier, they came from places like New York, California and Illinois to remember that summer of hope and resistance. Their memories of canvassing slices of the Deep South have always stayed with them, they said. ...

    The decision to bring in Northerners proved pivotal in the civil rights struggle. Where some native blacks had battled segregation for decades in obscurity, the mostly white college students attracted media attention and the nation's outrage when they were attacked for trying to help black Southerners vote. -- AP Wire | 07/04/2005 | Reunion brings back college students who worked for civil rights

    June 10, 2005

    Minnesota: Supreme Court says let the evidence in

    The Pioneer Press reports: Richard Joseph Jacobson, accused in what prosecutors call a blatantly illegal attempt to stack a 2002 municipal election, scored a modest victory in a ruling by the Minnesota Supreme Court on Thursday.

    Jacobson, owner of the defunct Jake's strip club in Dakota County's tiny town of Coates, is facing felony criminal charges alleging conspiracy to procure unlawful voting and conspiracy to commit forgery.

    The charges arose after 94 people — strippers, employees and others — registered to vote using the club's address and not their individual places of residence, as state law requires.

    In mounting his defense, Jacobson wanted to show at trial that he had no intent to break voter-registration laws and was reasonably following the legal advice of one of his attorneys, Randall B. Tigue of Minneapolis.

    Jacobson also wanted to use in his defense a letter written by Phil Prokopowicz, Dakota County's chief deputy prosecutor. In that letter, Prokopowicz found no criminal wrongdoing by Minneapolis police officers who registered to vote using work rather than home addresses.

    Over prosecutors' objections, the Supreme Court agreed that Jacobson is entitled to present both arguments and let a jury decide. -- St. Paul Pioneer Press | 06/10/2005 | Court sides with strip-club owner

    Thanks to How Appealing for the link.

    May 27, 2005

    UK: demand for reform of military forces voting

    The Herald reports: MILITARY campaigners are preparing a detailed submission for the Electoral Commission, the watchdog body that oversees voting in the UK, in an attempt to ensure that service personnel are not disenfranchised in future ballots.

    Up to 200,000 soldiers, sailors, airmen and their families were effectively denied the chance to take part in the general election three weeks ago because of delays in delivering postal votes to those serving abroad and the failure of the Ministry of Defence to provide registration advice in time.

    With the promised backing of both the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats, a handful of serving and former officers are drawing up proposals aimed at streamlining the system for servicemen and women scattered in garrisons from Basra to Benbecula and on patrolling ships and submarines around the world.
    One key proposal is that the MoD reverts to the system of allowing the armed forces to register once for the duration of their careers. ...

    A second suggestion is that a system of electronic voting be introduced. -- Campaign demands voting rights for the forces - The Herald

    Trivia: I have spent a weekend on the Royal Artillery base on Benbecula. Look it up in a good atlas and you'll know where I was.

    May 24, 2005

    Mississippi: trial of Killen set for 13 June

    AP reports: Edgar Ray Killen, the reputed Ku Klux Klansman accused of killing three civil rights workers in Mississippi four decades ago, will stand trial as planned on June 13, Circuit Judge Marcus Gordon ruled Monday.

    Gordon denied a defense motion to dismiss the murder charges on the basis of alleged selective prosecution of Killen in violation of the 80-year-old part-time preacher's constitutional rights.

    "We will definitely have a trial on June 13," Gordon said.

    Killen, who is confined to a wheelchair after shattering both his legs in a March tree cutting accident, is charged with the 1964 murders of James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner in Neshoba County. -- Picayune Item: Mississippi News Near the Gulf: News

    March 31, 2005

    Texas: voter database is behind schedule

    The Texas Civil Rights Review reports: A project to develop a statewide database for voter registration is running behind schedule, but the state's manager of the project predicts it will be completed in time to meet a federal deadline of Jan. 1.

    "It has taken a little while to get the project on its feet," says Bob Futrell, who oversees the project for the Texas Secretary of State, "but it's okay now."

    A mandate to create the Texas Voter Registration/Election Management System (TEAMS) originates in the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) of 2002 which requires all states to have centralized databases by Jan. 1.

    "Meeting the January deadline will be a challenge," said Futrell, speaking by telephone Thursday from his Austin office, "but in my experience these things are always a challenge up front." Futrell is an expert in the management of software development, holding academic positions at the University of Texas and at Austin Community College. He has also co-authored a textbook in the field.

    With an estimated 36,000 hours of work going into the project at an initial cost of $9.5 million, winning bidders IBM and Hart InterCivic promise to deliver a statewide voter registration database, election management, ballot definition, election night reporting, and a jury management system, too. -- - Texas Voter Database Running Behind Schedule

    January 29, 2005

    Arizona: Prop. 200 requires proof of citizenship when registering

    The Arizona Republic reports: Elections officials across the state are scrambling to enforce the voting provisions of Proposition 200, which became law Tuesday after the Justice Department signed off, making Arizona the first state that requires proof of citizenship when registering to vote.

    So when Jassey Salgado registers for the first time after her 18th birthday in June, she will have to present her birth certificate, a passport, her naturalization papers or a driver's license issued after 1996. And when the high school senior shows up at the polls for the first time, she will be asked to show a picture ID that lists her name and address or two other forms of ID that prove her residence.

    The new law, aimed at preventing voter fraud, will affect an estimated 200,000 who register to vote yearly in Maricopa County and up to 1.6 million residents who are eligible to vote in the next general election. ...

    To complicate matters, it's unclear if a post-1996 Arizona driver's license really proves citizenship, elections officials said. To receive a license after 1996, residents had to prove they were in the United States legally but not that they were citizens. The Office of the Attorney General will soon release an opinion on whether the ID is acceptable. -- Citizen proof is required to vote

    January 19, 2005

    Arizona: proposition 200 attacked

    AP reports: Opponents of Arizona's new immigration law -- stymied in their initial court challenges -- are taking aim at the law's election mandates, claiming they'll virtually eliminate voter registration drives and place too many obstacles in front of minority voters.

    A civil rights group and Democratic legislators have separately asked the Justice Department to block the law, which was designed to deny some public benefits to illegal immigrants. Voters approved the measure November 2. ...

    The move comes after the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) and other opponents unsuccessfully challenged non-election provisions of the new law.

    The election provisions include requiring a person to produce a copy of a birth certificate or other proof of citizenship when registering to vote or when reregistering in another county. Also, a voter would have to show identification before voting at a polling place. -- - Arizona immigration law challenged - Jan 19, 2005

    January 5, 2005

    Voter participation in the 2004 election

    The abstract of a new article: A record 122.3 million people, or 60.0% of those eligible, cast a vote for president in 2004. In this essay, I examine variation in voter participation among the states. I find that electoral competition in the battleground states was associated with higher turnout rates, and that where competition at the presidential level was not present, an amendment banning gay marriage or an interesting Senate election is related to higher voter turnout. -- Up, Up and Away! Voter Participation in the 2004 Presidential Election (free registration required)

    November 14, 2004

    Minnesota -- problems with registering at the DMV

    AP reports: Maybe she made a mistake when she registered to vote while renewing her driver's license in 2002, but 25-year-old Alissa Doth doesn't think so.

    When she went to vote in 2002, she wasn't on the roster. She had problems in 2003 and again this year. ...

    Kiffmeyer said she's heard from some voters who had similar problems with Minnesota's Motor Voter registration system - run by Driver and Vehicle Services - but she couldn't quantify the problem.

    Kiffmeyer said there were also a few unexplained reports of voters being dropped from the roster. That's what happened to Ryan Kucera, who lives in St. Paul. Two years ago, he voted in his precinct, but he wasn't on the list this year. -- Grand Forks Herald | 11/13/2004 | MINNESOTA: Some voters still question why they weren't registered

    November 9, 2004

    11 would-be voters sue ACORN for damages

    The Sun-Sentinel reports: A South Florida attorney is suing a voter registration group, saying he has 11 clients who were denied the right to vote and thinks there may be hundreds more.

    Stuart Rosenfeldt represents 11 people in Miami-Dade and Orange County who learned too late that they were never registered to vote after they signed up with the voter-registration group Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, or ACORN.

    ACORN is under investigation for not turning in all the paperwork. The group conducted voter registration drives across the state.

    Attorneys are looking for more victims to push for a class action lawsuit.

    Rosenfeldt says he'll sue ACORN for punitive damages -- $100,000 per disenfranchised voter. -- S. Florida lawyer says ACORN never registered hundreds of voters: South Florida Sun-Sentinel

    Thanks for the link to Matt Conigliaro at Abstract Appeal who says,"I'd just like to know what the underlying cause of action is. Hmmm."

    November 7, 2004

    New Jersey -- Students turned away from the polls

    The Star-Ledger reports: On Election Day, Rutgers University sophomore Sean Thom waited patiently as a poll worker combed the voter rolls for his name at a Livingston College polling site.

    Thom looked downcast as the poll worker came up empty. Though he had registered to vote in his first election in an on-campus drive last month, Thom, 19, assumed his form was not processed in time for Tuesday's election.

    He was one of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of new voters at Rutgers who reluctantly filled out paper provisional ballots or walked away from the polls when their names could not be found at polling locations. ...

    Rutgers and Middlesex County election officials are still trying to figure out what caused widespread confusion Tuesday on the state university's New Brunswick and Piscataway campuses.

    The university joins a long list of colleges reporting similar problems. Though young voters went to the polls in record numbers this election, they also ran into a record number of obstacles, voting rights advocates said. -- Rutgers not only campus to report voting problems

    New Hampshire -- voter registration form draws complaints

    AP reports: A state representative is calling New Hampshire's same-day voter registration process too restrictive.

    Democrat Charles Weed of Keene said affidavits voters can sign when registering on Election Day contain improper language.

    The affidavits let voters substitute sworn testimony for the ability to otherwise prove that they are citizens or that they live at a particular address. The penalty for giving false information is up to one year in prison.

    But Weed says voters also must acknowledge that they're bound by state laws in the process. That includes obligations to get a state drivers license and register vehicles in New Hampshire. Weed, who also is a political science professor at Keene State College, compared the requirement to charging a poll tax and said it's tough on college students. -- / News / Local / Voter registration form draws fire

    "Why does DMV have trouble properly registering voters?"

    The San Joaquin News Service reports: When Lodi's Janis Travis, 58, moved only four blocks from School Street to Roper Avenue [in San Joaquin County, CA], she re-registered to vote through the Department of Motor Vehicles.

    Travis, who has voted for at least 15 years and was a candidate for Lodi Unified School District's board of trustees in 1994, said she re-registered at the DMV for convenience.

    That convenience turned into hassle on Election Day, though, when Travis said she went to vote in her new neighborhood, but found her name wasn't on the rolls. All she could do was cast a provisional ballot -- and if her registration couldn't be verified, her vote wouldn't count. ...

    Unwilling to vote provisional, Travis said she returned to her old neighborhood and found she was still registered there.

    Hench said Travis' dilemma isn't unique. Since the DMV started voter registration in 1995 under the federal government's Motor Voter Act, there have been numerous problems, she said, and some of them still linger. -- - News

    November 6, 2004

    South Dakota -- another guilty plea in GOP registration drive case

    AP reports: A fourth person has pleaded guilty to improperly notarizing absentee ballot applications during a Republican Party get-out-the-vote effort.

    Eric Fahrendorf, 24, of Sioux Falls was fined $200 and given a suspended 30-day jail sentence after his guilty plea on Wednesday.

    Six workers for the GOP Victory effort resigned last month after questions surfaced about some absentee-ballot applications collected at college campuses across the state. Officials said the workers notarized applications collected by other workers, violating a state law that requires notaries to witness documents being signed before they can give them their official seal. -- American News | 11/06/2004 | Sioux Falls man pleads guilty in ballot flap

    November 4, 2004

    Virginia -- students' voter forms never processed

    The Daily Press reports: The voter registration tables were the most popular section of the graduate student orientation fair at the College of William and Mary. That day in August, dozens of students registered to vote in Williamsburg.

    But when they went to precincts Tuesday, several graduate students - and other students who sent in applications on their own - learned that their names were missing from the voter list. ...

    An unknown number of students' applications never made it into Andrews' system. He said he processed every form that he received and couldn't explain the missing applications. ...

    Andrews said he never received any forms from the graduate fair. Because Andrews couldn't attend the event this year, the James City County Registrar's Office handled all the students' applications. That office should have sent him the Williamsburg forms to process. -- Some W&M student voter forms never entered system

    See my comment below about Jimmy Buffett. But seriously, this points up a problem. Too many folks just passing voter registration forms around , but there's no accountability for when they are turned in.

    Indiana -- Motor Voter in the slow lane

    The Times-Union reports: The Kosciusko County [Indiana] clerk's office estimates they had 75-100 phone calls from people on Election Day who registered at the Bureau of Motor Vehicles and who were not shown on the registration rolls.

    Sharon Christner, county clerk, today said, "There's nothing we can do now. There's no way the BMV can verify who registered and who didn't."

    When a person registers at the BMV, the BMV sends their registration card to the county clerks office. The BMV does not keep track of who registers to vote there. -- 11-04-2004 - Voters Registered At BMV Not On Registration Rolls

    As Jimmy Buffett sings, "Some people claim that there's a woman to blame, but I know it's my own damn fault." When did these people register at BMV? Did they ever get a little worried when the registration card was not in the mail?

    November 3, 2004

    Youth vote

    T. Eve Greenaway writes on Alternet: Now that some of the smoke has cleared and the data has been crunched, it's clear that 2004 was, in fact, an amazing year for young voter participation. Whereas only 42 percent of 18-29 year-olds had voted in 2000, a whopping 51 percent showed up at the polls this year, making for a 9-point increase. The catch? Everyone else came out in record numbers too.

    Hans Reimer, director of Rock the Vote, describes the youth turnout as "exceeding all expectations." He points out that the percentage of youth who came out to vote this year was four points higher than in 1992, a number he says is "phenomenal."

    "1992 was a similar election" Reimer continues. "There were really sharp issues; there was a candidate who reached out to young people; there was tremendous interest in voting. It was also the first year of the MTV/Rock The Vote effort. Voting was part of the social movement." -- AlterNet: WireTap: The Truth About the Youth Vote

    October 28, 2004

    GOP and Ohio appeal to get pre-election hearings on voter eligibility

    AP reports: The Ohio Republican Party asked a federal appeals court Thursday to allow hearings on thousands of voters whose registrations have been challenged in this pivotal battleground state.

    The request asked the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to overturn a lower-court ruling Wednesday that stopped hearings on about 23,000 voters who were challenged by the GOP around the state.

    Republicans say mail to some of the voters came back undelivered, raising the possibility of fraud. Democrats say the GOP is trying to keep poor and minorities, who move more often, from voting. ...

    Ohio Attorney General Jim Petro also filed an appeal similar to that of the Republicans, saying Wednesday's order "has just thrown Ohio's electoral process into disarray, and has opened the door to voter fraud." -- Court actions piling up on Ohio voter eligibility (AP via

    Federal court blocks pre-election voter challenges

    The New York Times reports: A federal judge on Wednesday blocked six boards of elections in Ohio from proceeding with hearings into Republican-initiated efforts to knock tens of thousands of registered voters off the voting rolls.

    The temporary restraining order issued by Judge Susan J. Dlott of Federal District Court in Cincinnati made it likely that few, and perhaps none, of the challenge hearings would proceed before Election Day, state officials said. ...

    The hearings had been scheduled in 65 of Ohio's 88 counties to review challenges that Republicans brought last week against what they said were 35,000 questionable voter registrations, most of them from urban, heavily Democratic neighborhoods.

    The Republicans contended that the registrations were questionable because mail sent to those addresses had been returned as undeliverable - evidence, they said, of fraud. This week, about 10,000 of the challenged registrations were withdrawn or dismissed, in many cases due to filing errors.

    On Wednesday, Republicans said that if hearings did not go forward this week, they intended to challenge many of the 35,000 registrants in person if they showed up to vote. -- G.O.P. Bid to Contest Registrations in Ohio Is Blocked (New York Times)

    But challenging voters at the polls may be an effective way to make voting a frustrating and frightening experience. As Ion Sancho told the BBC's Greg Palast recently, "Quite frankly, this process can be used to slow down the voting process and cause chaos on election day; and discourage voters from voting."

    October 27, 2004

    Judge rules against Florida voters on check-the-box issue

    The New York Times reports: A federal district judge here dismissed a lawsuit Tuesday that was filed on behalf of more than 10,000 new voters whose registration forms had been rejected as incomplete.

    The judge, James Lawrence King, said the labor unions that brought the case had no standing because they had not proved that any of their members were affected. Judge King also said several other plaintiffs, people who had turned in incomplete registration forms, could not blame their local elections supervisors, who were named as defendants.

    "No federal or state statute,'' he wrote, "prescribes a time period within which a supervisor must notify an applicant that her application is incomplete.''

    Sheila Thomas, a lawyer for the Advancement Project, a rights group that represented the plaintiffs, said, "We think the ruling is incorrect as a matter of law, and we are considering appealing it."

    The suit, brought against elections supervisors in Broward, Miami-Dade and several other counties, charged that the rejected registration forms had come disproportionately from blacks and Hispanics. In some cases, the applicants did not check a box indicating that they were American citizens, though they signed an oath on the form affirming that they were. Some registrants corrected their incomplete forms before the Oct. 4 registration deadline, the suit said, but elections officials did not always process them in time, and did not let other registrants know that their forms were flawed. -- Florida: Judge Rules Against 10,000 Floridians Barred From Voting (The New York Times) **

    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 (

    South Dakota Sec of State advises auditors to ignore missing checkboxes

    Brian Sells of the ACLU Southern Regional Office emails: Attached is a fax that I received last night from the South Dakota Attorney General's office. It contains a memo sent by Secretary of State Chris Nelson to all county auditors regarding the checkbox issue that I raised in a letter to him last week.

    As you will see, the Secretary and the Attorney General agreed with me that voters who do not check one or both of the checkboxes at the top of the voter registration form should not be denied the right to vote and he has instructed county auditors accordingly.

    Brian emailed later:I have just sent you under separate cover the esponse that I got from the South Dakota Secretary of State last night. I would be remiss if I didn't give credit to Brenda Wright of the National Voting Rights Institute, whose work in Iowa made this possible. Would you please give her a nod if you blog this development?

    The memo is here.

    October 25, 2004

    More check-the-box problems in North Carolina

    AP reports: A federal law designed to reduce problems on Election Day could cause the opposite effect for some new voters on Nov. 2, [North Carolina] county voting officials say.

    The Help America Vote Act of 2002 requires would-be voters to check two boxes on their registration forms attesting that they are U.S. citizens and are at least 18 years old. They also must indicate their citizenship on two other places on the form.

    Wake County elections director Cherie Poucher said that about 1,000 residents forgot to check the boxes and have not yet responded to a letter she sent asking them to correct the problem before Election Day.

    The residents will still be able to vote but will have to cast provisional ballots, Poucher said. -- Repeated questions trip up some N.C. voter registrants (AP via

    October 22, 2004

    Another check-the-box problem

    Bryan Sells of the ACLU Southern Regional Office emailed: Attached is a letter that I have just faxed to the Secretary of State and the Attorney General concerning an unlawful voter registration procedure in South Dakota that has recently come to my attention. It threatens to disenfranchise hundreds, if not thousands, of South Dakota voters.

    The letter is here. Auditors in several counties are refusing registration to those who leave blank either or both of two check boxes -- I am a US citizen and I will be 18 at the next election -- even though the information is contained in an oath the voter must take in completing the form.

    October 21, 2004

    Florida students claim they were duped into becoming Republicans

    The Orlando Sentinel reports: Students at two more Florida universities have complained about campus voter-registration efforts that they say duped them into registering as Republicans.

    Meanwhile, an official of a California company tied to some of the registration activity described the students as "brainless" and speculated Wednesday that Democratic opponents of President Bush could be behind the gripes.

    The complaints come from students who said they signed petitions on use of medical marijuana or penalties for child molesters, but then ended up with a new voter-registration card indicating they were switching to the Republican Party.

    On Wednesday, the police chief at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville said he had turned over a handful of cases his agency investigated to the State Attorney's Office there. -- More students say teams duped them to go GOP(

    The first let's do is villify the voters.

    Iowa AG OK's registration forms without the citizenship "check box"

    The Sioux City Journal reports: The Iowa Attorney General's Office argued Wednesday that Iowans who fail to check a box affirming their U.S. citizenship on mail-in voter registration forms should still be allowed to cast votes for president and for congressional candidates.

    The Attorney General issued that "informal advice" at the request of Iowa Secretary of State Chet Culver. A number of groups, including the League of Women Voters and the Iowa Civil Liberties Union argued that some voters who mistakenly overlook the citizenship box might be disenfranchised.

    Those groups warned legal action might be necessary if voters face barriers. Culver's office said "several hundred" voters could be affected. And those votes might be crucial in a state where the presidential race is a dead heat.

    "Voter registration applicants who submit a registration form which is complete in all other respects, but upon which the applicant has failed to mark either yes or no to the citizenship question, should be treated as fully registered for state, local, and federal elections," Assistant Attorney General Christie Scase wrote in the advisory letter. -- Attorney general says not checking box shouldn't cancel vote (Sioux City Journal)

    Brenda Wright has sent a copy of the AG's opinion.

    Alabama voter registration chief quits; discrepancy in voter registration figures questioned by Secretary of State

    AP reports: Counties across Alabama struggled to deal with a backlog of thousands of last-minute voter registrations as the state's longtime head of voter registration quit Wednesday less than two weeks before Election Day.

    Secretary of State Nancy Worley's office also was attempting to sort out a record-keeping discrepancy that left uncertain the actual number of registered voters in the state -- thought to be around 2.54 million. ...

    With some 37,000 newly registered voters statewide in September and as many as 110,000 additional voters this year, county registration offices have been inundated with registration forms that need to be processed before the election. Friday is the deadline to register.

    As counties dealt with the surge of new voter forms, Anita Tatum, director of the State Office of Voter Registration, said she resigned under pressure Tuesday evening. She referred questions to officials at the Alabama State Employees Association. ...

    Worley said the resignation came after Tatum could not explain discrepancies between the computerized voter registration rolls maintained by Tatum's office and voter registration statistics posted on the secretary of state's Web site. -- Alabama registration beset on 2 fronts (AP via

    October 20, 2004

    GOP charges Dems with fraudulent registrations

    The Washington Post reports: President Bush's campaign charged yesterday that fraudulent voting engineered by pro-Democratic groups could throw the election to John F. Kerry -- a charge Democrats immediately attacked as a Republican smoke screen to justify the intimidation of minority voters on Election Day.

    With less than two weeks until Nov. 2, reports of skullduggery by both Kerry and Bush supporters are flying in key battleground states: a burglary that resulted in the theft of hundreds of completed registration forms in New Mexico; a man paid with crack cocaine to register fictitious voters such as "Mary Poppins" in Ohio; a Colorado resident who registered to vote not once, but 35 times.

    In a conference call with reporters yesterday, three top Bush campaign officials cited reports of thousands of phony registrations around the country. Deputy campaign manager Mark Wallace contended that already there is evidence of "an enormous amount of fraud" in the presidential race.

    Jack Corrigan, a senior adviser to the Democratic National Committee, called the Republicans' assertions "hysterical, hypocritical and false." -- Charges, Countercharges Exchanged Over Fraudulent Voting (

    October 19, 2004

    Nevada judge refuses to reopen registration for those with trashed registration forms

    The Las Vegas Review-Journal reports: District Judge Valerie Adair on Friday denied the Democratic Party's request to reopen voter registration to voters whose forms might have been destroyed by a Republican-backed organiza- tion.

    In denying the Democratic Party's petition, Adair said extending registration could "open the floodgates" to allow people not affected by the purported fraud to register. Such a move would be inviting "additional fraud and manipulation," she said.

    "This court does not believe that there is any way to ensure that only those individuals legitimately affected will register if the time period is extended," the judge said. "There is no guarantee that hundreds of people will not seek to register or claim that they have been impacted."

    The appropriate remedy under Nevada law is for those who believe they've been wrongfully denied the right to vote to file individual lawsuits against the Clark County registrar asking to be included on the voter rolls, Adair said. -- VOTER FRAUD ALLEGATIONS: Judge denies request (

    Another candidate for "the next Florida" : New Mexico

    The Hill reports: Unless the presidential election is a blowout, the Land of Enchantment will see lawsuits challenging the outcome, a key Republican state party official predicts.

    Greg Graves, executive director of the New Mexico GOP, said: “The honest ballots counted will give President George W. Bush a narrow victory” and the state’s five electoral votes. Just a few feet from Graves’s office, Scott Jennings, executive director of New Mexico’s Bush campaign, said the president would beat Kerry “in a free, fair election.”

    But Graves anticipates that, in addition to 615,000-620,000 legally cast votes, there will also be “15,000 to 20,000 fraudulent votes,” which could hand the election to Democratic nominee Sen. John Kerry.

    In any case, a close election will translate into legal challenges of the outcome, Graves said. “Every time a fraudulent vote is cast, it disenfranchises those of us who obey the law,” he added. -- Lawsuits loom over New Mexico outcome (The

    October 16, 2004

    Florida: new recount rules; judge wants fast action on rejected voter applications

    AP reports: The state set a new rule for recounting touch-screen ballots Friday -just 18 days before the presidential election. The move angered voter rights groups that had sought to help shape the language.

    In other Friday actions affecting Florida voting, a Miami judge urged a quick trial on a lawsuit challenging the rejections of more than 10,000 voter registration cards, and Palm Beach County officials completed a critical test of their touch-screen system after a computer crash delayed it by several days. ...

    If the Nov. 2 election is as close as the 2000 contest between President Bush and Democrat Al Gore, county elections supervisors will be told to review each electronic ballot image to see if the number of so-called undervotes, those on which no candidate was chosen, matches the undervote totals given by the machine.

    If the numbers don't match up, the machines will be checked for problems. If that doesn't solve the discrepancy, the elections officials are told to trust that the original machine count was accurate.

    The new rule is a far cry from what a coalition of voter activists was seeking. ...

    With the election looming, U.S. District Judge James Lawrence King of Miami urged quick work in a lawsuit against Florida's largest counties over the rejection of more than 10,000 voter registration forms that officials say were improperly filled out.

    Nearly 45 percent of the challenged forms in one county, Duval, came from blacks.

    The lawsuit challenges state rules that let counties disqualify people who provided a signature affirming their eligibility to vote but failed to list an identification number, such as from a driver's license, or failed to check boxes affirming they were citizens, were mentally competent and were not felons. -- New Rule Is Set on Recount Methods (AP via

    Ohio Dems file another suit against Blackwell

    AP reports: Democrats have filed a second lawsuit against Ohio's top elections official, accusing him of trying to use voting rights laws to disenfranchise voters.

    The Lucas County Democratic Party and the Ohio Democratic Party filed the lawsuit on Friday against Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell, a Republican.

    The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Toledo, said Blackwell told county boards of elections not to process voter registration forms if the applicants had not filled out a space on the form for their driver's license numbers or the last four digits of their Social Security numbers.

    An exception would be applicants who say they do not have that information and write "none" in the space. -- Party files second lawsuit (AP via

    Colorado GOP wants a special prosecutor to investigate voter registration fraud allegations

    The Colorado Springs Gazette reports: Colorado's growing voter registration fraud crisis took a partisan turn Friday, less than three weeks before the Nov. 2 election.

    Republican Party leaders asked Secretary of State Donetta Davidson to bypass Attorney General Ken Salazar, the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate, in investigating widespread charges of voter registration fraud in Colorado.

    Davidson has been sending complaints from counties across the state about forged registration documents and other election im- proprieties to Salazar's office.

    "The attorney general has an appearance of impropriety by virtue of his candidacy for the U.S. Senate," said Mike Norton, an attorney representing the Colorado Republican Party. -- GOP bid for special prosecutor rejected (

    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

    Private firm may have trashed voter registrations

    KLAS-tv reports: An employee of a private voter registration firm alleges that his bosses trashed registration forms filled out by Democratic voters because they only wanted to sign up Republican voters. ...

    Russell worked for a company called Voters Outreach of America, along with 300 other people. He says he got into a beef with the company over a pay dispute, and witnessed his bosses ripping up registration forms that had been filed by democrats. ...

    Nevada Democrats came out swinging Wednesday. "Most disturbing is that Voter Outreach of America is being paid by the National Republican Party and we ask how can people have faith in government if a national party is involved in trickery in depriving people the right to vote," said Clark County Commissioner Yvonne Atkinson Gates.

    The Republican National Committee acknowledges that it hired Voters Outreach of America to register voters, but in a statement said it had zero tolerance for any kind of fraud. -- Investigation into Trashed Voter Registrations (

    Thanks to TalkLeft for the link.

    Blacks complain of technicalities blocking their registration in Florida

    The Washington Post reports: Nearly a dozen African American ministers and civil rights leaders walked into the Duval County election office here, television cameras in tow, with a list of questions: How come there were not more early voting sites closer to black neighborhoods? How come so many blacks were not being allowed to redo incomplete voter registrations? Who was deciding all this?

    Standing across the office counter under a banner that read "Partners in Democracy" was the man who made those decisions, election chief Dick Carlberg. Visibly angry, the Republican explained why he decided the way he had: "We call it the law." ...

    In Duval County, 31,155 black voters had been added to the rolls by the end of last week. That is more than the total number of ballots nullified here four years ago, in a race that George W. Bush won by 537 votes.

    But hundreds more could show up at the polls only to find they cannot vote. The office has flagged 1,448 registrations as incomplete, and as of last week had yet to process 11,500 more.

    A Washington Post analysis found nearly three times the number of flagged Democratic registrations as Republican. Broken down by race, no group had more flagged registrations than blacks.

    This, in a heavily GOP county where records show that the number of blacks added to the rolls since 2000 approximately equals the number of non-Hispanic whites.

    Some registrations were missing critical information, such as a signature. Others had different problems, with some people listing post office boxes instead of street addresses or putting street addresses on the wrong line. -- Pushing to Be Counted in Fla. (

    October 11, 2004

    Registering the homeless

    The Los Angeles Times reports: While the presidential candidates try to impress suburbanites, swing voters and soccer moms, social advocates are working to increase the numbers of homeless and low-income voters who vote.

    Recent efforts included 100 events in 35 states with the goal of registering 25,000. Volunteers in Los Angeles are registering people in welfare offices, providing absentee ballots to invalids and disabled residents at transient hotels, conducting voter education sessions at homeless shelters and signing up inmates at the Los Angeles County Jail.

    Los Angeles advocates, who were the first in the nation to submit homeless shelters as polling places, hope to register 5,000 new voters and plan extensive voter education and mobilization drives before Nov. 2. The registration deadline is Oct. 18.

    Although homelessness has not been a high-profile theme in the campaign, it has been addressed obliquely. Democratic vice presidential candidate John Edwards speaks of two Americas, and the decidedly lower-key Green Party candidate, Pat LaMarche, is in the midst of a two-week sleeping tour of homeless shelters, including a scheduled stop in Los Angeles. -- Advocates Rally Homeless to Get Out the Vote (

    Indian Health Service withdraws anti-voter registration order

    The Native American Times reports: The federal government has rescinded an order that prohibited voting drives at Indian Heath Service clinics.

    The issue first came to light when the Washington Post published a memo that revealed IHS officials refused to allow even non-partisan get-out-the-vote efforts at their hospitals and clinics. The apparent reasoning was that since so many Native Americans vote Democrat, the drives would have amounted to partisan politicking. A law on the books prevents federal workers from using government resources for partisan work. Critics argued that the law was unfairly applied because the Department of Defense is allowed to conduct voting drives on military installations.

    New Mexico Democrat Senator Jeff Bingaman, citing the military base rule, publicly called on Heath and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson to repeal the IHS voting ban. Thompson agreed.

    Bingaman said the victory was bittersweet. Several states with large Indian populations have already seen their voter registration deadlines come and go. -- Government backs off on IHS voting drive prohibition (Native American Times)

    October 6, 2004

    Indian Health Service prohibits non-partisan voter registration drives

    The Washington Post reports: Officials at a federal program that runs hospitals and clinics serving Native Americans this summer prohibited employees from using those facilities to sign up new voters, saying that even nonpartisan voter registration was prohibited on federal property.

    Staff members at several Indian Health Service hospitals and clinics in New Mexico, a presidential battleground state where about one-tenth of the population is Native American, were trying to register employees, patients and family members who use the facilities.

    In a July e-mail, Ronald C. Wood, executive officer of the program's regional Navajo office, told his hospital and clinic directors that "we are in a very sensitive political season" and outlined a policy that he said came from Indian Health Service headquarters.

    "There have been recent questions about whether we can do nonpartisan voter registration drives in our IHS facilities during non-duty hours," Wood wrote. "The guidance from HQs staff is that we should not allow voter registration in our facilities or on federal property."

    Several of those involved in the registration effort questioned what they saw as a double standard, given that the federal government encourages registration on military bases, where voters traditionally have favored Republicans. -- Indian Health Agency Barred New-Voter Drive (

    October 4, 2004

    Voter registrations being rejected in Florida for failure to check the "citizenship" box

    The Miami Herald reports: A missing check mark may stand between thousands of Florida voters and their right to cast ballots in November because of advice from Tallahassee to reject registration applications if the box for citizenship was left blank -- even if the oath at the bottom affirming citizenship was signed.

    America's Families United, a nonpartisan, Washington-based civil rights group that advocates increased political participation, obtained lists of people whose applications were rejected in every county but one and has been trying to contact them to refile before the deadline at midnight tonight.

    The group says many of the almost 8,000 applications deemed incomplete in Broward County were likely rejected because of the blank box. Broward officials couldn't be reached Sunday. -- Missing mark may deny voters (Miami Herald)

    Perhaps this would be good time to remind the voter registration officials of 42 USC § 1971, which says, in part: "No person acting under color of law shall ... deny the right of any individual to vote in any election because of an error or omission on any record or paper relating to any application, registration, or other act requisite to voting, if such error or omission is not material in determining whether such individual is qualified under State law to vote in such election...."

    Voter registration surges

    The New York Times reports: A record surge of potential new voters has swamped boards of election from Pennsylvania to Oregon, as the biggest of the crucial swing states reach registration deadlines today. Elections officials have had to add staff and equipment, push well beyond budgets and work around the clock to process the registrations.

    In Montgomery County, Pa., the elections staff has been working nights and weekends since the week before Labor Day to process the crush of registrations - some 32,000 since May and counting. Today is the deadline for registering new voters in Pennsylvania, as well as Ohio, Michigan, Florida and 12 other states, and election workers will go on mandatory overtime to chip away at the thousands of forms that have been arriving daily.

    To help in the effort, the Montgomery office has also added 12 computers, 15 phone lines and 12 workers from other departments - as well as one of the technicians whose usual job is fixing voting machines at the warehouse.

    Across the county line in Philadelphia, overtime and weekend duty began in July to deal with what is now the highest number of new voter registrations in 21 years. The office says it is still six days behind the flow, and the last two days have brought about 10,500 new registration forms. At 204,000, the number of new registrations has already surpassed that of the last big year, 1992, which had 193,000.

    "The vote was so close four years ago, people are now thinking, hey, maybe my vote does count," said Joseph R. Passarella, the director of voter services in Montgomery County. Al Gore won in Pennsylvania in 2000 by 204,840 votes. -- As Deadlines Hit, Rolls of Voters Show Big Surge (New York Times)

    September 27, 2004

    Kenneth Blackwell and the Voting Rights Act

    Earlier today, carried a story about Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell refusing to allow registration if the registration form was not on 80 pound card stock. In other words, none of those "print directly from the FEC site" forms would be good enough. DailyKos now has the latest on this (I am shortening it considerably):

    Atrios dug this up:

    Sec. 1971. - Voting rights

    (2) No person acting under color of law shall -

    (B) deny the right of any individual to vote in any election because of an error or omission on any record or paper relating to any application, registration, or other act requisite to voting, if such error or omission is not material in determining whether such individual is qualified under State law to vote in such election.

    So what the hell are they thinking about in Ohio, supressing thousands of new voter registrations because they are printed in the wrong card stock?
    Because the Sec of State is a Republican. And because he read this NY Times piece. ...

    And remember, these new voters aren't being counted in "likely voter" polls (which ACT will work to get to the polls on election day). This is not good news for Republicans, hence the desperation tactics we're seeing in Ohio.

    September 26, 2004

    Dems ahead in new voter registration

    The New York Times reports: A sweeping voter registration campaign in heavily Democratic areas has added tens of thousands of new voters to the rolls in the swing states of Ohio and Florida, a surge that has far exceeded the efforts of Republicans in both states, a review of registration data shows.

    The analysis by The New York Times of county-by-county data shows that in Democratic areas of Ohio - primarily low-income and minority neighborhoods - new registrations since January have risen 250 percent over the same period in 2000. In comparison, new registrations have increased just 25 percent in Republican areas. A similar pattern is apparent in Florida: in the strongest Democratic areas, the pace of new registration is 60 percent higher than in 2000, while it has risen just 12 percent in the heaviest Republican areas.

    While comparable data could not be obtained for other swing states, similar registration drives have been mounted in them as well, and party officials on both sides say record numbers of new voters are being registered nationwide. This largely hidden but deadly earnest battle is widely believed by campaign professionals and political scientists to be potentially decisive in the presidential election. -- A Big Increase of New Voters in Swing States

    September 23, 2004

    Groups claim that localities block student voting

    The Washington Post reports: ... Their argument reflects a new approach in the push to encourage youthful political participation. Despite the well-publicized efforts by Rock the Vote and other groups, voter turnout among eligible 18-to-24 year olds hit only 32.3 percent in the 2000 presidential election, the lowest point in a decades-long decline, according to U.S. Census data.

    Now, some of those groups are identifying the registration policies and voting systems in college towns as part of the problem.

    Callahan and others said the resistance to student voters appears to have less to do with party politics than local politics -- officials who don't want short-term and often non-tax-paying residents to hold sway over local matters. But they acknowledged that such trends could affect presidential elections as well, especially in small states with large college towns.

    States have varying standards for what qualifies a person to declare a certain place a permanent home for voting purposes. Yet voting-rights advocates allege that many jurisdictions apply different standards to students. -- Vote Policies Impeding Students, Groups Say (

    Advocates claim Ohio reneging on promise to notify released felons of right to vote

    AP reports: Advocates who contend that Ohio elections officials haven't properly informed released felons about their right to vote said Thursday that the state has backed away from a promise that led to the settlement of a lawsuit.

    State officials denied the claim by the Prison Reform Advocacy Center, which had filed the lawsuit in August in an effort to inform ex-convicts that they can register to vote in the Nov. 2 presidential election. State spokesmen said Ohio had not made any commitment or reached any settlement of the lawsuit against Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell and 21 county boards of election. ...

    The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction did not reach a settlement because it was not named as a defendant in the suit, department spokeswoman JoEllen Culp said.

    But the Prison Reform Advocacy Center said it dismissed its lawsuit against Blackwell this month based on a promise by a lawyer who spoke for the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction. The prisoners' advocacy organization released a court transcript in which a state attorney told a federal judge on Sept. 3 that the state prisons department could help by having parole officers give written notice to ex-convicts saying that state law allows them to vote after being released. -- Advocates: Ohio backing away from vow to tell released felons of voting rights (AP via Ohio News Now)

    September 16, 2004

    Ben & Jerry's "election"

    Ben & Jerry's press release: There's no debate necessary: the clear winners in this campaign are the ice cream lovers. Ben & Jerry's at is offering the Confection Election Sundae in honor of the company's partnership with Rock the Vote. The ice cream treat serves up a side of democracy to encourage voter registration and mobilize Americans to turn out at the polls. When consumers "elect" a politically themed chocolate topping for their sundae, they receive information on registering to vote. ...

    The Confection Election Sundae combines Primary Berry Graham (strawberry cheesecake ice cream with a graham cracker swirl) and Vanilla with a strawberry sauce core. It's capped with whipped cream, graham crackers and one of five chocolate toppings symbolic of political parties that consumers can "vote" onto their sundaes. The chocolate topping choices include a donkey, elephant, sunflower (Green Party), moose (Progressive Party), and woody cow (the Ben & Jerry's symbol for peace, love and ice cream). -- Ben & Jerry's Scoops Up Delectable, Elect-able New Sundae (FeatureXpress - Online News Distribution)

    September 13, 2004

    Colleges not living up to their responsibility to register voters

    AP reports: The semester just started at most schools, but the grade is in for more than one-third of the nation's colleges on the assignment of helping register young voters -- a C or worse.

    Harvard University's Institute of Politics and The Chronicle of Higher Education sent surveys to 815 colleges and universities last month to determine whether they met the spirit of the Higher Education Act. The law requires schools that accept federal funds to request enough voter registration forms for their campuses four months before registration deadlines.

    Some 249 schools responded to the survey, which was released Monday. Seventeen percent met the requirement and 37 percent said they graded their effectiveness at registering young voters at C or worse.

    "It was pretty clear that not all knew what the requirements were under the Higher Education Act," said Philip Sharp, director of the Harvard Institute. -- (AP via

    August 22, 2004

    Vote once, vote twice

    The New York Daily News reports: Some 46,000 New Yorkers are registered to vote in both the city and Florida, a shocking finding that exposes both states to potential abuses that could alter the outcome of elections, a Daily News investigation shows.

    Registering in two places is illegal in both states, but the massive snowbird scandal goes undetected because election officials don't check rolls across state lines.

    The finding is even more stunning given the pivotal role Florida played in the 2000 presidential election, when a margin there of 537 votes tipped a victory to George W. Bush.

    Computer records analyzed by The News don't allow for an exact count of how many people vote in both places, because millions of names are regularly purged between elections.

    But The News found that between 400 and 1,000 registered voters have voted twice in at least one election, a federal offense punishable by up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine. -- Exposed: Scandal of double voters (New York Daily News)

    I wonder if their study is as (in)accurate as the Florida felon purge list?

    August 3, 2004

    Were there illegal voters in Florida in 2000?

    Contrapositive writes: If the Florida list for 2004 was set to purge a disproportionately small number of Hispanics--a crucial voting bloc for Republicans in Florida--how did the list treat Hispanics in 2000?

    THE NUMBERS Some digging led me to Guy Stuart, a professor of public policy at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, and the author of an impressively-thorough paper (.pdf) on African-American over-representation on Florida's 2000 list. (The paper's abstract can be found here.)

    What did I find out?

    According to Stuart, 1,241 Hispanic names made their way onto 2000 list. Which means that, while the list wasn't as egregiously unrepresentative back then as it was this time around, Hispanics were nonetheless substantially under-represented in 2000: only 4% of names on the list were Hispanic in a state where Hispanics make up 11% of registered voters.

    So what's going on? Were large numbers of Hispanics omitted from the 2000 list? Or, to put it more sharply: Is it possible that it took the illegal votes of Hispanic felons to put Bush over the top in 2000 in Florida?

    The short answer is that the numbers, by themselves, aren't persuasive evidence for either of those conclusions. On the other hand, the discrepancy between Hispanic representation on the voter rolls and on the felon/purge list strikes me as being large enough to demand an explanation, and Stuart agrees. -- contrapositive

    On the other hand, you could say that Hispanics were just not included in the improper purge. Read contrapositive's long post and decide for yourself.

    August 2, 2004

    Getting down to the grass roots

    FairVote2020 -- Community-based Voter Registration and GOTV is a great site put together by Bill Cooper, a demographer I have known for years. I don't think Bill and I have ever met, but emails and telephone calls make me think I know him.

    FairVote contains precinct-level data for 26 states. Since it does not have data for Alabama (which is no fault of Bill, because I helped him look for it), I checked where I used to live in Virginia. While my old precinct was marked "no reliable data," all the surrounding precincts were color-coded to show the percentage of unregistered adults. If you want to run a voter registration drive, go where the voters aren't.

    Thanks to Swing State Voter for the link.

    What did they know, and when did they know it?

    AP reports: Well before they abruptly discarded it, Florida election officials knew they had significant problems with a database of felons they planned to use in removing voters from the rolls.

    Just a week before they directed local election chiefs to begin purging ineligible voters from the list of 48,000 convicted felons, state officials documented two years of failures and breakdowns with the $2.7 million contract with database vendor Accenture.

    A May 2 internal memo, ordered personally by Secretary of State Glenda Hood, details half a dozen missed deadlines and broken promises, failed software programs, repeated miscues and personnel problems.

    Two months after the memo, with newspapers including The Miami Herald detailing major flaws with the felon database that could have disenfranchised thousands, the state reversed course and told election chiefs not to use the felon list. -- Election officials knew of list errors (AP via Bradenton Herald)

    No habla Espanol ...

    The Washington Post reports: Federal promises to make registering to vote easier for Spanish-speaking voters by posting the required forms on the Internet have been lost in translation.

    Seven months after the government hired a company to translate the material, and nearly a year after the English version was made available, nothing appeared online.

    On Friday evening, the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, after questions from The Washington Post, rushed a translated version still under review onto its Web site. But as of yesterday afternoon, the Federal Election Commission did not offer the Spanish version on its site. At issue has been the 33-page National Mail Voter Registration form that allows people to register from anywhere in the country.

    In January, two months after the English version appeared on the Internet, the FEC hired California-based Transcend, a company experienced in translating government documents, to translate the form. But after Transcend completed its work in April and handed the translation to the newly formed U.S. Election Assistance Commission, the project stalled. -- Plan to Ease Voter Registration for Spanish Speakers Stalled (

    July 19, 2004

    Expatriate voter registration

    The Washington Post reports: The votes of U.S. citizens living abroad are being courted by the Democratic and Republican parties more aggressively than in any previous election, officials from both parties said. They said the narrow outcome of the 2000 election, which George W. Bush won with a 537-vote margin in Florida over Democrat Al Gore, has motivated them to register every voter possible, including the millions of citizens who live abroad and are often overlooked.

    Sharon Manitta, a spokeswoman for Democrats Abroad, who lives in Salisbury, England, said her group had chapters in fewer than 30 countries for the 2000 election but has them in more than 70 countries now. She said one chapter, Donkeys in the Desert, was opened in Iraq by employees of the recently disbanded Coalition Provisional Authority.

    "It's just been incredible, just remarkable," said Manitta, who added that four months before the election, her group has already registered more than 8,000 voters in Britain.

    Republicans are also meeting with expatriates. California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has met with Americans in Israel, and former vice president Dan Quayle has visited Germany. Ryan King, deputy director of Republicans Abroad in Washington, said the son of Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, George P. Bush, would travel to France, Germany and Switzerland in September to drum up votes, and hopes to visit Mexico. -- Signing Up a Remote Electorate for November (

    July 18, 2004

    Chaney, Goodman, and Schwerner: when there be justice in their murders?

    Michael Kelley writes in the Memphis Commercial Appeal: On June 19, 1964, the U.S. Senate passed the Civil Rights Act, guaranteeing that the legislation would soon become law over President Lyndon Johnson's signature.

    On the night of June 21, a Ku Klux Klan mob pulled civil rights workers Michael Schwerner, Andrew Goodman and James Chaney from their car in Neshoba County, Mississippi, and made them pay for interfering in the state's affairs.

    The trio had been trying to help African-Americans secure the right to vote in what was considered the country's most resistant state. "Sir, I know just how you feel," Schwerner told one member of the mob, according to Seth Cagin and Philip Dray's book on the murders, "We Are Not Afraid."

    Schwerner's effort to reason with his executioners was emblematic of what was happening in America at the time. The killings awakened many Americans to the difficulties of a reasoned, cautious approach toward civil rights reform in the South. ...

    The prospects for a final resolution of their case are fair. Twelve men implicated in their murders are still alive. ...

    Support for the prosecution is coming from what at one time was the most unlikely of sources, however - the citizens of Neshoba County. "Come hell or high water," the Neshoba Democrat newspaper editorialized four years ago, "it's time for an accounting."

    These are significant signs of progress. But one glaring fact must be reported in any review of racial history and progress in Mississippi: Three young men were robbed of their futures on a dark night on a lonely road 40 years ago in Neshoba County, and their assassins have gotten away with it so far. -- 40 years later: Time for an accounting (

    July 15, 2004

    Florida jailers must hand out voter registration info

    Reuters reports: Florida jailers must give felons the applications they need to get their voting rights back before releasing them from prison, a court ruled on Wednesday in the latest election-year battle over Florida voting rules.

    Florida is one of only seven states that does not automatically restore voting rights to felons once they have finished their sentences. To get the vote back, released felons must petition a clemency board headed by the governor.

    The 1st District Court of Appeal ordered the state Department of Corrections to give soon-to-be released prisoners all the forms needed to obtain a clemency review and to help them fill the papers out if asked.

    Florida law already required that, and voting rights advocates sued to have it enforced in 2001. They argued that many former felons had no idea the clemency process was needed before voting, or how to start it. -- Florida Must Help Prisoners Regain Vote, Court Says (Reuters via Yahoo! News)

    Thanks to Paul Levine of for the link. More about later.

    July 8, 2004

    The Mongolian Shuffle

    The New York Times reports: Voters in this literate, sparsely populated country [Mongolia] between China and Russia have handed their governing party of former Communists an uncommon lesson that indicates that a young democracy may have come of age.

    In a boisterous election 10 days ago that pitted guile against might, the country's 1.5 million voters cut the Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party numbers in the 76-seat Parliament from 72 to 36. On Wednesday, the General Election Commission confirmed that the opposition, the Motherland Democratic Coalition, known as the Democrats, won 34 seats. The Democrats claim to have won two more seats, and have taken their argument to an administrative court. They are also wooing three independents in the hope of forming a government. ...

    But a good dose of political ingenuity proved to be the tugriks' [the local currency] match. In the 2000 election, the vote difference nationwide was only a few percentage points. The opposition lost dozens of seats by tight margins. So this time around, the opposition carried out a homemade election-day redistricting program.

    With voters scattered over an area twice the size of Texas, Mongolian law generously allows voting out of one's home district with minimum paperwork and advance notice. On election day, it quickly dawned on the governing party that the opposition was employing fleets of minibuses to shuttle voters from opposition strongholds to swing districts.

    But even as the governing party scrambled to deploy its own fleets of minibuses, it watched in disbelief as safe seat after safe seat fell to bused-in voters. -- A Cunning Opposition Turns Tables in Mongolia (New York Times) *** (alternate link via the International Herald Tribune)

    July 4, 2004

    "Let the people decide"

    The theme on this weekend's "Studio 360" was democracy and how it feeds creative expression. While the whole show is worth a listen, I suggest you pay particular attention to the segment, Let the People Decide, which includes a connection between voting for American Idol and voting in "real" elections. The piece is described this way on the Studio 360 website:

    With the success of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s governorship in California, we may be increasingly comfortable choosing our leaders from the ranks of pop culture and entertainment. At the same time museum curators and television producers are letting us vote to guide things they used to do on their own. Jake Warga looks at the merging of entertainment culture and democracy, and wonders whether he really wants art made through a popularity contest.

    Listen here. By the way, the guest co-host is former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.

    Registering young voters

    With the war in Iraq, the economy, rising tuition costs and iffy job prospects all weighing heavily on young folks, the youngest voters are ready to engage, polls suggest. A March poll by the Harvard Institute of Politics found that 62 percent of college students definitely planned to vote in November, compared with 50 percent of those polled in April 2000. The candidates have responded. Last Tuesday, for example, Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) outlined a plan for helping minority and poor students pay for college. But with college students making up only one-third of young potential voters, groups targeting that demographic group are not taking any chances.

    The stakes are enormous. Campaign strategists believe that if mobilized, the 24 million young people eligible to vote could turn the election for either major candidate. But young people, the conventional wisdom goes, don't do politics. In 2000, only 36 percent of eligible voters ages 18 to 24 voted, the lowest percentage of any age group and a new low for that age group. And as young people have been tuning out politics, politics has been tuning out young people. ...

    More organizations are working to engage and register young voters than ever, running the gamut from long-established groups such as the League of Women Voters and the NAACP to groups created specifically for young voters, such as Rock the Vote, formed in 1990, and the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network, in 2001. The newest groups, such as Punk Voter, the League of Independent Voters -- more commonly known as the League of Pissed Off Voters -- and Plea for Peace, were formed by young people themselves, who chose the attention-getting names. Most of the groups say they are nonpartisan, and by law none can tell anyone to register with a particular party. While conservative groups are certainly involved in targeting young voters, there seems to be an especially energetic response by the left.

    Voter registration and mobilization is a common goal of all these groups, and the main one for many. But some are setting their sights higher, trying to create a new generation of activists. They are hoping to get young people to not only vote, but to campaign, organize, even run for office. -- A Rallying Try For Young Voters (

    July 3, 2004

    Georgia must accept bundles of voter registration cards

    Bump and Update: The complaint, motion for preliminary relief, brief, and the preliminary injunction are at the website of the Heard Law Offices.

    Neil Bradley (ACLU Southern Regional Office) has informed me that in Chas. H. Wesley Ed. Fdn. Inc v. Cathy Cox, No. 1:04-CV-1780-WCO (ND Ga. July 1, 2004), a preliminary injunction issued against Secretary of State for rejecting NVRA forms not mailed or delivered by individual voter registration applicants. The plaintiffs did a voter registration drive and then mailed the forms in one "bundle." The opinion mainly interprets the NVRA to require acceptance, no matter the mode of delivery. The state, in an effort to "protect" the privacy of applicant's social security numbers, which Georgia now requires for registration, took the position that allowing someone to mail in a form for someone else violated state law protecting the confidentiality of the social security number.

    Neil does not have an electronic copy yet, but I hope to get one soon.

    May 27, 2004

    1 million more Hispanic voters predicted

    Hispanics could account for 1 million new voters in the presidential election, giving the fast-growing group additional clout in hotly contested states like Arizona and Florida, according to a study by Latino group.

    The National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, a nonpartisan group representing about 6,000 Hispanic officials, expects a record 7 million Hispanics to vote in November, or 6.1 percent of the total electorate, according to its voter projections, released Tuesday.

    In 2000, when Republican George W. Bush won, Latino participation was 5.4 percent, or just about 6 million voters.

    ''We believe this election year will be historic for Latinos," Arturo Vargas, executive director for the NALEO Educational Fund, said during a press conference. -- 1 million new Hispanic voters seen (Reuters via Boston Globe)

    May 26, 2004

    Florida has still not undone the improper purge of 2000

    With less than six months to go before the presidential election, thousands of Florida voters who may have been improperly removed from the voter rolls in 2000 have yet to have their eligibility restored.

    Records obtained by The Herald show that just 33 of 67 counties have responded to a request by state election officials to check whether or not nearly 20,000 voters should be reinstated as required under a legal settlement reached between the state, the NAACP and other groups nearly two years ago.

    Some of the counties that have failed to respond to the state include many of Florida's largest, including Broward, Miami-Dade, Orange and Palm Beach.

    Those counties that have responded told the state that they have restored 679 voters to the rolls so far -- more than enough to have tipped the balance of the 2000 election had they voted for Al Gore. President Bush won Florida and the presidency by 537 votes. -- Many voters not yet back on rolls (Miami Herald)

    Voter registration drive in the Twin Cities on Juneteenth

    For 140 years, African-Americans have honored the date -- June 19, 1865 -- when Texan slaves were first told of the end of the Civil War and their newfound freedom. Originally intended as an African-American event, the Minneapolis celebration now attracts tens of thousands of diverse people to honor the spirit of Juneteenth representing freedom, revival, rebirth, creativity and above all -- harmony.

    This year, Juneteenth will take on a new dimension -- the kickoff of an extensive bottom-up effort to help underserved Minnesotans take charge of their democracy. Juneteenth Twin Cities will launch the Freedom to Vote Project, a coalition of some 90 local organizations working to get minorities and other underrepresented groups to the voting booth and into the electoral process.

    The Freedom to Vote project is one of many grassroots efforts in Minnesota and nationwide operating outside of traditional political party structures to increase voter turnout for the upcoming fall election. From established, nonpartisan groups like the League of Women Voters, to the more obscure, in-your-face League of Pissed Off Voters, these projects make up what appears to be the largest and most aggressive voter participation campaign in Minnesota history. -- Grassroots groups launch major election campaigns (Pulse of the Twin Cities)

    I can't find a website for the League of Pissed Off Voters, but I got plenty of links on Google. Here is one that explains their goals.

    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

    May 23, 2004

    Willie Velásquez

    Willie Velásquez was a genuine American hero. Through his tireless efforts over more than 21/2 decades, he irrevocably changed the Latino political condition in the United States.

    Nearly 1,000 voter registration and education drives and 85 successful voting rights lawsuits had put Willie and his organization, the Southwest Voter Registration Education Project, at the forefront of an almost unnoticed revolution taking place across the country by the mid-1980s. The body of work that Velásquez and Southwest Voter accomplished resulted in a doubling of the number of Latino voters and elected officials during this period. ...

    Willie and Southwest Voter's stories need to be told because their low-key, research-based, grass-roots-led voter registration and education work helped dramatically alter the political map of the Southwest. This work brought unprecedented numbers of Latino Americans into the ballot box and, more importantly, into American political life.

    Willie used to say that Southwest Voter did not do voter registration by press conference, and for that reason, its highly successful approach consistently took place under the radar screen. Southwest Voter and Willie were not common household names. -- Champion of Latinos and democracy (

    This is an excerpt from the preface to the recently published book "The Life and Times of Willie Velásquez: Su Voto Es Su Voz" by Juan A. Sepúlveda Jr.

    Australian government proposes restrictions on right to vote

    AS MANY as 100,000 people will be locked out of polling stations at this year's [Australian] federal election, under proposed changes to laws.

    And almost 300,000 more face election-day confusion because of Federal Government plans to close the electoral rolls on the day the election is called by Prime Minister John Howard.

    The changes fly in the face of unanimous recommendations from a parliamentary committee, which said voters should be able to enrol up to one week after the election is announced. ...

    The Government also plans to remove the right to vote of everyone serving a prison sentence on election day - around 18,000 nationwide.

    Presently, only those serving sentences of five years or more lose their voting rights. -- Young voters facing lockout (The Courier Mail, Australia)

    May 22, 2004

    Voter registration suit against VA hospital

    Maybe it was the John Kerry button that turned staffers in the Menlo Park [California] Veterans Affairs health care facility against Scott Rafferty.

    The Mountain View attorney says he only wanted to practice his right to register voters -- of any political persuasion. Three times he was turned away, according to a federal lawsuit Rafferty filed Friday, claiming the Menlo Park VA violated the federal Voting Rights Act.

    ``This is not some novel theory, that people have the right to vote,'' he said. ...

    ``I told him to `work with our staff and they can ID vets for you.' He wanted to go into every room and we would not allow that,'' Ball said Friday. ``That's pretty much the gist of it. He feels we were not allowing vets to register to vote, and that is not the case.'' -- Voting lawsuit against hospital (Mercury News)

    May 19, 2004

    Registration before graduation

    Principal Van Phillips is the law at Minor High School [in Birmingham, Alabama]. And the law says graduating seniors must be registered to vote.

    Phillips recently held the last of four school-year registration drives to get seniors at the Jefferson County system school on the rolls before the Thursday graduation ceremony.

    Although many high school principals promote voter registration, Phillips said, he goes "out on a limb" in making it a condition for getting a diploma. -- Minor principal makes registering to vote the law for his seniors (Birmingham News)

    May 9, 2004

    Winson Hudson, rest in peace

    Winson Hudson, 87, a civil-rights campaigner in rural Mississippi who flaunted her contempt for Ku Klux Klan intimidation by wearing a bright red dress the many times she marched up to the courthouse to try to register to vote, died on April 24.

    Her grandson, Kempton Horton, said she died at a hospital in Jackson, Miss., that she had fought to desegregate.

    In 1963, Mrs. Hudson brought the first suit to desegregate schools in a rural Mississippi county and won the case the next year. In 1965, a black child attended a previously all-white school.

    She began trying to register to vote at the Leake County courthouse in 1937 and finally succeeded in 1962, but not before repeatedly having to write out and then explain a lengthy passage from the state Constitution. (White registrants merely had to explain this clause: "All elections shall be by ballot.")

    In Mrs. Hudson's failed attempt to register in 1961, someone slipped a small card to her. It read: "The Eyes of the White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan Are Upon You." -- Winson Hudson, one of civil rights' 'heroes,' dies at 87 (New York Times via Seattle Times)

    May 6, 2004

    Testimony before the EAC

    Ludovic Blain III, Associate Director of the Democracy Program of "Demos: A Network for Ideas and Action" (that is pronounced DEE-mos) has sent his organization's testimony for the U. S. Election Assistance Commission's May 5 public hearing on the use, security, and reliability of electronic voting systems.

    If other organizations would like to send their testimony (or better yet, a link to their testimony), I will be happy to post them.

    May 2, 2004

    "Home is where heart of dispute is"

    The truth of what really happened in the race between U.S. Rep. Ciro Rodriguez and challenger Henry Cuellar lies in some of the poorest neighborhoods in this politically charged border city [Laredo, Texas].

    Hired guns from both camps have been combing the area for weeks, some searching for households where improper votes may have been cast and others seeking to prove that nothing strange is going on. ...

    Rodriguez attorney Buck Wood acknowledges family ties are at the heart of many of his examples of alleged illegal voting, such as a son or daughter who moves from his or her parents' home but maintains voter registration there.

    "The tradition of people maintaining an address other than where they live seems to be very prevalent here " in Laredo, he said. "It's very family-oriented and people maintain their connections."

    While it may not be fraud, it's certainly not legal, he said.

    "If you go to a poll and you claim you still live at an address, that's illegal," Wood said. "That vote's going to be thrown out."

    Cuellar attorney Steve Bickerstaff disputes that.

    "It's very, very common for the registration to remain at the residence of the parents," he said. "Any ruling that would say that's a violation of the law would have implications statewide for minority voting." -- Home is where heart of dispute is (San Antonio Express-News)

    May 1, 2004

    These folks know how to run a voter registration drive

    Joe Herbrand's eyes shifted from the document on the cocktail table in front of him.

    The woman on stage at The Isabella Queen peeled off her top, arched her back against the pole and swung her hips side to side as she stepped out of her thong.

    Herbrand put down his pen, took a pull off his beer and strutted up to the stage, bobbing his head with the blaring music. With $2 tucked in his mouth he stood before the stripper as she pulled his head to her chest and clasped the money between her breasts. The 23-year-old from Janesville then sauntered back to his table and picked up his pen.

    When he answered the few questions on the form and signed his name, his voter registration was complete.

    "I was pretty amped about the situation," Herbrand said. "I've never been asked if I want to vote." -- Strip clubs focusing on va-va-va-voter drives (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

    Thanks for the link to How Appealing.

    April 26, 2004

    Whoops, my faith in India is shaken

    Thousands of people who have been denied the right to exercise their franchise have no remedy against the injustice committed on them by the election officers.

    Though the right to vote is a statutory right, the Supreme Court has held that its breach "should not come in the way of the process of fulfiling the high objective of bringing into existence a House or an institution contemplated by the Constitution for enabling democratic functioning of the country".

    So who is a voter?

    The first and foremost requirement for being a voter is that his or her name must figure in the electoral rolls.

    If the name is missing, the right to vote by such a person ceases to exist, even if he or she is carrying the photo identity card issued by the Election Commission.

    Though the apex court had, in several judgments, deprecated lapses in properly revising the electoral rolls, it has not bestowed the right on a victim voter to seek judicial remedy against such a grave offence. -- No remedy for missing names (The Times of India)

    April 24, 2004

    South Dakota rumors about voter registration campaign

    Election officials and law enforcement authorities [in South Dakota] are keeping close watch on voter registration projects in north Rapid City after reports that two convicted felons were being paid to specifically sign up Democrats.

    Pennington County Auditor Julie Pearson said Friday that she and her staff had not found any fraudulent registration forms. But she said she is being especially vigilant because of a well-publicized case of voter registration fraud in the county two years ago.

    Pearson also grew concerned after officers from the Pennington County Sheriff's Office notified her that two people with criminal records had been working the North Rapid area to register voters. ...

    It isn't illegal for convicted felons to register voters, Pearson said. Nor is it illegal for voter registration workers to be paid on a per-head basis for their registration work. In fact, state elections supervisor Kea Warne of Pierre said state law doesn't prohibit registration workers from paying people to register. -- Voter registration charges, denials fly (Rapid City Journal)

    Despite this behavior's being legal, the Democrats say that they are not doing it.

    April 23, 2004

    DOJ concerned about Michigan's HAVA compliance

    The U.S. Department of Justice is concerned Michigan won't be in compliance with new federal election standards if Gov. Jennifer Granholm does not sign legislation that would implement the needed changes.

    That's according to an e-mail sent this week by Chris Herren, an attorney for the voting section of the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, to State Bureau of Elections Director Chris Thomas.

    Herren said the department has concerns about whether Michigan will be in line with the Help America Vote Act by this year's first election for federal office on Aug. 3 "if the state does not soon have HAVA compliance legislation in place."

    The e-mail also said states that aren't in compliance with certain provisions of the Help America Vote Act by this year's federal elections will face court action. -- Justice Department concerned Michigan won't be in compliance without bills (Detroit Free Press)

    April 19, 2004

    Election supplies land in Afghanistan

    Two planeloads filled with election material arrived in Afghanistan on Thursday ahead of a stepped-up drive to register people for a vote later this year seen as a key step toward democracy for the war-torn country, officials said.

    Some 180 metric tons of booklets, laminating equipment, cameras and other items to be used in the September vote touched down at Kabul's international airport.

    "This is a big step in our logistical preparations providing eligible Afghan men and women outside of the regional capitals with the opportunity to register to vote," Farooq Wardak, the head of the Afghan electoral body, said during a ceremony at the airport. -- Tons of election material arrives in Afghanistan (

    Sinn Fein asks for changes in Norther Ireland's voter registration policy

    Voter registration in Northern Ireland should take place every five years instead of every year, a House of Commons committee was told today.

    In a six-point plan for getting voters back on the register, Sinn Fein also told the Northern Ireland Affairs Select Committee that household registration should replace individual registration.

    The party also said non-photographic forms of identification should be deemed acceptable at polling stations and voting applications should be received up to a week before elections are held.

    Sinn Fein vice president Pat Doherty said the new measures were needed because 210,000 people had lost their votes under the current system which was introduced in 2002 to counteract voter fraud. -- News - Latest News - Thousands Denied Right to Vote, MPs Told (

    April 18, 2004

    DOJ sues New York university system over voter registration

    The Justice Department announced today [15 April] the filing of a lawsuit against the state of New York and the New York public university system for violating the rights of students with disabilities.

    The lawsuit, filed in the United States District Court for the Northern District of New York, alleges that New York failed to offer voter registration opportunities for students with disabilities as required by Section 7 of the National Voter Registration Act

    Specifically, the NVRA requires states to designate, as mandatory voter registration offices, all state-funded offices that primarily serve persons with disabilities. The disability services offices at the State University of New York ("SUNY") and the City University of New York ("CUNY"), including those on their community college campuses, have never been so designated. Press release of Department of Justice.

    April 13, 2004

    Alabama computerizing 1867 voting list

    Yes, I said 1867.

    In faded black ink etched on yellowed paper, cursive handwriting records the names of about 100,000 blacks and 60,000 whites who registered to vote in Alabama in 1867, two years after the Civil War.

    The names are listed in county-by-county books kept for decades in the Capitol basement and now stored nearby in the state archives building.

    The registration books, many of them two feet wide and three feet tall, are some of the earliest listings of the last names of black men in Alabama who had been slaves just a few years before and hadn't had last names.

    State archivists are photographing book pages and typing names and other information from them into a computer database. The work may take two years to finish, said Tracey Berezansky, assistant director for government records at the archives. -- 1867 voter lists gave slaves' last names (Birmingham News)

    March 13, 2004

    Registered, yes; on the ballot, no

    A College of William and Mary student who won the right to vote in Williamsburg but then was denied his bid to run for City Council lost his appeal to the city's Electoral Board on Friday. ...

    Assistant Registrar David Andrews ... said four of Lowe's petitions, containing a total of 28 signatures, could not be considered because the people who circulated them were not registered to vote in the city or eligible to be registered in the city as required by state law.

    The signatures were collected by William and Mary students Zayd Khoury and Serene Maria Alami. Khoury is registered to vote in James City County, while Alami's bid to register to vote in Williamsburg was denied earlier this month. Alami, who also wants to run for City Council, plans to appeal the ruling to the Virginia Supreme Court. -- Electoral board denies W&M student's appeal (AP)

    March 6, 2004

    One wins, one loses right to register in Williamsburg

    A College of William and Mary student won the right Friday to file for the Williamsburg City Council race after a judge ruled in his favor, but a second student was rejected by the same judge.

    Williamsburg-James City County Circuit Court Judge Samuel Powell ordered the city's voter registrar, R. Wythe Davis, to allow Luther Lowe to file for the May 4 election. ...

    But Powell said Lowe's contract with the Virginia National Guard was evidence of his intention to stay in the area indefinitely, qualifying him to vote here. ...

    The judge ruled against Serene Maria Alami, however. Alami, 20, a junior from Roanoke majoring in sociology and religion, testified that she also planned to stay in Williamsburg indefinitely and hopes to attend law school at W&M.

    She conceded that she would have to move out of her dorm at the end of the semester, but said she hoped to find an internship in Williamsburg and rent an apartment. She acknowledged that she might accept an internship elsewhere.

    Powell said that didn't meet the standard of intending to stay indefinitely. -- One W&M student wins vote chance; 2nd turned down (Hampton Roads Daily Press)

    February 28, 2004

    3 more W&M students sue for registration

    The Virginia chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union has filed federal lawsuits on behalf of three more students at the College of William and Mary, trying to win them the right to register to vote in Williamsburg. ...

    All four students started campaigns this winter to run for three City Council seats in a May 4 election. They have run into problems meeting the residency requirements for registering to vote in the city, where only residents can run for the City Council. ...

    The cases are scheduled for a hearing at 11:30 a.m. Tuesday before U.S. District Judge Raymond A. Jackson in Norfolk. Tuesday is also the deadline for council candidates to register as voters and turn in petitions necessary to be on the ballot. -- Three more William & Mary students sue for voting rights (AP)

    February 26, 2004

    W&M student sues to register

    The American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia filed a lawsuit Thursday on behalf of a College of William and Mary student who was not allowed to register to vote in Williamsburg.

    Seth Saunders also wants to run for a seat on City Council in the May election. To do that he must be registered himself and have collected 125 signatures in support of his candidacy by March 2.

    The ACLU asked U.S. District Court in Newport News to order the Williamsburg voter registrar to permit him to register immediately.

    Saunders lives in Williamsburg, but his mother lives in Tappahannock and his father lives in Hanover County. He was told to register in Hanover because his father claims him as a dependent for income tax purposes. -- William & Mary student sues for voting rights (AP)