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October 20, 2015

"Bernie Sanders: Alabama Republicans are 'cowards' trying to 'suppress' vote" reports: Sen. Bernie Sanders called Republicans in Alabama and other states "cowards" for trying to "suppress" votes.

"Republican cowards all across the country, including Alabama, are very clearly trying to win elections by suppressing the vote and making it harder for low-income people, minorities, young people and seniors to vote. That has to change. Anyone 18 years of age or older should be automatically registered to vote," Sanders said in a statement he tweeted Sunday.

The Washington Post reported the statement came in response to remarks Hillary Clinton made during her speech in Hoover Saturday. -- Bernie Sanders: Alabama Republicans are 'cowards' trying to 'suppress' vote |

October 18, 2015

"Hillary Clinton: Alabama remains front line of voting rights battle"

Hillary Clinton writes on Alabama is one of 17 states with no early voting. That needs to change. Alabama should make sure those who've served time have their voting rights restored. And they should eliminate the discriminatory requirement that people provide proof of citizenship when they register to vote. We should be doing everything we can to get more people involved in our political process, not turning them away when they try to participate.

Alabama isn't alone. Over the past few years, many states have passed laws that make voting harder. Since the Supreme Court gutted a key provision of the Voting Rights Act, the situation has gotten even worse. And some people --including many Republican candidates for president--would keep pushing our country in this shameful direction. -- Hillary Clinton: Alabama remains front line of voting rights battle |

September 7, 2015

"Alabama voter convicted for openly carrying gun to poll" reports: A Pelham man was convicted Friday on misdemeanor charges he illegally wore, in open view, a holstered pistol at a polling site during last year's Nov. 4 general election.

Robert Kennedy Jr., 59, was convicted in a bench trial before Shelby County District Court Judge Daniel A. Crowson Jr. on charges of voting obstruction and possession of firearms at certain places.

Crowson sentenced Kennedy to 30 days in jail, but suspended it 24 months and placed him on unsupervised probation for each conviction, with both sentences running concurrent. -- Alabama voter convicted for openly carrying gun to poll |

August 28, 2014

"What if Alabama elected multiple congressmen per district? A radical reform proposal" reports: No one would dispute that Alabama is a Republican-leaning state, but an electoral reform group contends the current voting system distorts GOP dominance.

Presently, six of seven members of the U.S. House of Representatives are Republican. But the state is not 85 percent Republican. The Maryland-based Center for Voting and Democracy, in an analysis of the upcoming 2014 election issued last month, puts the Republican percentage at 63 percent. ...

The center recommends combining ranked choice voting with multi-member "super districts." For Alabama, that would mean folding the current seven districts into two. One would combine the 1st, 2nd and 3rd districts, covering Mobile and Baldwin, the Wiregrass and east Alabama. The other district would combine the 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th districts, covering Huntsville, Birmingham and west Alabama.

Both super districts would be between 62 percent and 65 percent Republican. But because of the nature of ranked voting, it is unlikely they would elect all Republicans. -- What if Alabama elected multiple congressmen per district? A radical reform proposal |

July 10, 2014

Sheriffs ask for clarification re guns at polling places

Fox10 News (WALA, Mobile) reports: "Because the sheriff, by Alabama law under Title 17, is specifically responsible for the security and the safety of the polling sites," Baldwin County Sheriff Huey "Hoss" Mack said.

Under Alabama law, private polling sites like churches are able to decide for themselves if they will allow firearms while they are being used for voting. Likewise with schools, if they have a no gun policy normally, that still stands during elections.

The question for Mack and other sheriffs in Alabama is what regulatory authority they have for public buildings that are used as polling places, like event centers and city halls.

"If a sheriff or a sheriff's deputy encounters someone with a firearm in a polling site, what is the appropriate action? Can an arrest be made? What would be the specific charge? How would that be handled,?" Mack said.

As the president of the Sheriff's Association, Mack asked for clarification from Strange on behalf of all sheriffs in the state. -- Alabama sheriff?s seek answers on gun policy in polling places | Mobile, Al. News - FOX10 News

July 9, 2014

Guns may be prohibited at most Alabama polling places reports: Counties do not have the authority to prohibit voters from carrying firearms at all polling place, Attorney General Luther Strange said in an opinion issued Monday. ...

For instance, Strange said, in courthouses and the offices of a district attorney, guns are already banned and that ban is not lifted when the same facilities are used as a polling place.

Likewise, schools and facilities that implement certain levels of security and already prohibit firearms may continue to do so even if they become polling places on election day.

Strange said that when a piece of private property such as a church serves the public purpose of acting as a polling place, gun owners must have a concealed carry permit or the permission of the property owner to carry a weapon there. Strange said even those with a concealed carry permit can be prohibited from carrying onto private property at the discretion of the property owners.

"The owner of private premises or another authorized person may revoke the license or privilege of a person to enter or remain on private property," Strange said. "Therefore, the owner of the private property who allows his or her property to be used as a polling place may personally or by an authorized representative, prohibit firearms on the premises, even with respect to persons who have a permit." -- Ballots and bullets: Counties cannot issue blanket ban of firearms at polling places, Luther Strange says |

Note: The article contains a link to the AG's opinion.

June 6, 2014

"State GOP chair seeks closed primaries"

The Decatur Daily reports: The state's GOP party chairman said he will ask the Legislature next year to close Alabama's primary elections, meaning that only people registered with the state as Republicans or Democrats could vote in them.

Bill Armistead has favored the idea for years, but after Tuesday's primaries, he said, it may have more support.

It is very clear that some of our incumbent House members were defeated by newcomers supported by the (Alabama Education Association)," Armistead said. "It is likely that Democrats came in to vote."

Armistead's proposal would keep independent voters out of primaries. -- State GOP chair seeks closed primaries - Decatur Daily: News

August 7, 2012

Mobile Dems complaining about probate judge's flagging of ballots as provisional

The Mobile Press-Register ( reports: Members of the local Democratic Party are upset that an unknown number of ballots in the March primary election may not have been counted because the voters' mailing addresses did not match their addresses on file at their precincts.

One of the party members, Milton Morrow, who has run for political office in the past, has filed a formal complaint with Secretary of State Beth Chapman's office asking for a cease and desist order against Mobile County Probate Judge Don Davis.

Davis had flagged 4,000 such voters who moved from one part of Mobile County to another and ordered that their ballots be cast as "provisional ballots," which, by law, count only if the Board of Registrars can demonstrate that the voter is eligible. ...

A recent opinion from Attorney General Luther Strange's office noted that a voter cannot be blocked from casting a regular ballot when the address on the voter's registration conflicts with post office information. The opinion did not state whether Davis acted improperly, but, instead, was designed to guide future actions. -- Read the whole story --> Democratic Party upset over flagging of Mobile County ballots |

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 |

March 13, 2012

Fifty GOP delegates to be divided in Alabama primary

The Birmingham News reports: Alabama's 50-delegate prize is especially large for a small state and if the race is as close as recent polls suggest, today's Republican presidential primary is likely to divide it among at least three of the candidates. ...

Here is how Alabama's 50-delegate package is broken down: There are 26 at-large delegates, three delegates each from the seven congressional districts, plus three delegate slots for the state's top three party officials.

Every state starts out with 10 at-large delegates, according to the party rules, five for each U.S. Senate seat. The second group of "bonus" at-large delegates is where Alabama Republicans were rewarded for their loyalty. Alabama received 16 bonus delegates for supporting John McCain in 2008, electing Republican governors and senators, electing almost all Republican members of Congress, and electing a Republican majority in the state legislature.

If any one candidate wins more than 50 percent of the vote today, those 26 at-large delegates will go to the winner. But with recent polling showing Romney, Gingrich and Santorum nearly even, those 26 delegates are likely to be divided proportionally among them. A candidate has to receive at least 20 percent of the vote to be awarded any of the at-large delegates. ...

Within the state's seven congressional districts, any candidate who wins the majority will win all three delegates from that district. If not, then the candidate who won the most votes gets two delegates, and the second place finisher gets one. Again, a candidate has to receive at least 20 percent of the vote to win any of them. -- Read the whole story --> GOP candidates likely to share Alabama's large, 50-delegate prize |

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

April 29, 2011

Alabama may change its primary schedule in presidential years

The Alabama House has passed and sent to the Senate a bill to move both the presidential primary (now in early February) and the non-presidential primary (now in June) to the second Tuesday in March. A copy of the bill is at the end of this entry.

Intended consequence #1: This change was adopted to bring Alabama into line with the schedule worked out by the DNC and RNC. According to the Washington Post,

Iowa and New Hampshire would retain their status as the nation's first contests, held in February, joined by South Carolina and Nevada.

Other contests would generally be held in April or later, although states would have the option of holding votes in March, provided convention delegates chosen at those elections were awarded to candidates in proportion to the percentage of the vote they received, rather than in a winner-take-all system.

Intended consequence #2: This schedule change will avoid the early February schedule's interference with Mardi Gras celebrations in Mobile and Baldwin Counties.


August 21, 2010

Australia: how are the votes cast and counted?

ABC of Australia is predicting a hung Parliament -- meaning no party has a majority. To get the official totals go to the Australian Electoral Commission's Virtual Tally Room.

What are the mechanics of voting? For the answer to that, go to the AEC's Voting page.

June 16, 2010

Utah: crossover primary voting discussed, promoted, derided

The New York Times reports from Utah: So-called tactical voting in open primaries, here and elsewhere, is a perennial possibility that mostly fizzles come Election Day, voting experts say. And some people in both parties are convinced that will happen again here.

Mr. Wimmer, for example, who initially floated the idea of Republicans voting for Ms. Wright on his Facebook page last month, later withdrew the post and denounced the idea. A spokesman for the Utah Tea Party movement, David Kirkham, also said the group was opposed to members voting in the Democratic primary. ...

Ms. Wright, while making no bones that she would like to earn some conservative votes, said that the race would be won or lost in the Democratic base, and that she had a county-by-county strategy to pull off an underdog victory.

But whispers and hints, measures and countermeasures, have nonetheless become a subtext of the campaign for both candidates. Read the whole story --> Political Memo - In Open Primary, Fear of Party Crashing -

May 6, 2010

Britain: voting problems

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

November 15, 2009

Alabama: Packard proposes amendments to election laws

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

October 3, 2008

Florida: email rumors about voting

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

None of these voting rumors is true.

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

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

September 25, 2008

"Know Your Rights as a Voter"

The Campaign Legal Center has compiled a primer on the rights of voters which is being circulated nationwide by various grassroots organizations and has been provided to congressional offices and party committees. -- The Campaign Legal Center: Know Your Rights as a Voter

September 18, 2008

Mississippi: Governor to move Senate race to top of ballot

AP reports: Republican Gov. Haley Barbour agreed Thursday to move a special election for Trent Lott's old Senate seat to near the top of the November ballot, ending a dispute that had threatened to delay the start of absentee voting.

Barbour's decision came after the state Supreme Court ruled that putting the election near the bottom of the ballot was against the law, but stopped short of ordering him to move it.

Opponents had accused Barbour, a former Republican National Committee chairman, of attempting to bury the race to try to confuse voters and hurt the chances of the Democratic candidate, former Gov. Ronnie Musgrove.

Musgrove and Republican Roger Wicker are competing to serve the final four years of a six-year term started by Lott, who retired last December to become a lobbyist. Barbour, who unseated Musgrove in 2003, appointed Wicker to temporarily fill Lott's seat until the special election. One of the governor's nephews is managing Wicker's campaign. -- The Associated Press: Miss. gov agrees to move Senate race up on ballot

July 16, 2008

Alabama: "Where's my $500?"

The Birmingham News reports: "Where is my $500?" asked Larry Banks Jr., striding up to a big blue tent outside the Ragland Municipal Complex.

The tent shaded lemonade, crackers and raffle tickets - just some of the incentives laid out to encourage the people of Ragland to show up at the polls for Tuesday's runoff election.

There was the promise of a raffle with a cash prize ranging from $50 to $1,000, depending on how many people turned out to vote. There was a 10 percent discount at the local grocery store. ...

The precinct that contains Ragland has a bit more than 1,900 registered voters. In the June 3 election, only 260 of them showed up. ...

When all the ballots had been marked and cast Tuesday evening, 519 people in the precinct had voted, Daffron said, for a turnout of more than 25 percent. -- Ragland rallies to increase voter turnout-

July 1, 2008

"Election Day"

The PBS documentary Election Day will air tonight on many PBS stations. Look for the P.O.V. series or check the local listings here.

June 30, 2008

Massachusetts: Attention, shoppers -- voting in Aisle One

The Worcester Telegram reports: After last year’s elections, the Election Commission developed criteria to evaluate the city’s polling locations, and based on those evaluations, it found that a number of sites had problems or deficiencies that need to be addressed. Election officials then spent the past several months working on securing potential new polling sites.

What resulted was a series of recommendations, which include eliminating nearly all public school buildings as sites for residents to cast their ballots. In their place, election officials are looking to use more spacious digs in some church or synagogue halls, community rooms within apartment complexes and nursing homes, a college (Assumption) and, yes, even three supermarkets.

The common characteristics of all the new locations are that they have ample parking and are fairly easy to get to.

Perhaps the most novel idea is using supermarkets — Price Chopper, 72 Pullman St.; Stop & Shop, 949 Grafton St.; and Shaw’s, 68 Stafford St. — as polling locations. If those sites are adopted by the Election Commission, it is believed that Worcester would become the first community in the state to tap supermarkets for polling sites.

While some people might snicker at the idea of having people go to supermarkets to exercise their right to vote, Mr. Rushford feels it makes a lot of sense.“People aren’t going to be voting next to the deli or in the middle of an aisle,” Mr. Rushford said. “The areas that we are looking at in these stores are either off to the side in a quiet part of the store, or in the case of the Stop & Shop, in a board room on the second floor. People won’t be disturbed in these locations when they go to vote.” -- Worcester Telegram & Gazette Nick Kotsopoulos

June 9, 2008

Alabama: high turnout in one county brings criminal investigation

AP reports: The district attorney for Perry County says he will ask the Justice Department and the FBI to investigate an unusually high turnout and potential absentee ballot problems during the June 3 primary elections.

It’s the latest in a line of voting problems that have plagued the small western Alabama county for decades, including a 1985 trial in which three black leaders in Perry County were found not guilty of charges they altered absentee ballots. ...

District Attorney Michael Jackson said he expects there will be federal and state observers in Perry County for the July 15 primary runoff after a federal observer reported that a candidate hung around a polling place much of the day Tuesday and helped some voters cast ballots.

Secretary of State Beth Chapman has pointed to a number of irregularities in Perry County during Tuesday’s primaries. Chapman said there are 8,361 registered voters in the county, and 4,207 votes cast, which means 50.3 percent of eligible voters would have gone to the polls. That gives Perry County a turnout that nearly triples the rate in counties like Marengo, where about 17.7 percent of voters cast ballots. -- Perry County district attorney seeks federal probe of voting problems |

June 6, 2008

Alabama: human error mars election in 2 counties

The Mobile Press-Register reports on election-day problems: Mobile County election officials said they would in the future put extra emphasis on giving voters the correct ballots after a problem at a voting precinct Tuesday.

At the First Independent Methodist Church on Halls Mill Road, election workers may not have given the right ballot to as many as 44 people who voted in the Democratic primary, Mobile County Probate Judge Don Davis said.

The church is in a split precinct, meaning voters there live in different school board districts, for example. -- Officials will try to correct voting error-

After learning of ballot problems at two precincts, Baldwin County Republican Party leaders will meet soon to decide whether to redo voting for the entire school board District 5 race or just at those polling sites, the local GOP chairman said Wednesday.

Probate Judge Adrian Johns said 142 total Republican voters in the Foley Civic Center and Magnolia Springs Wesleyan Church polling places didn't receive the ballot with that race on it. That includes 55 voters at precinct No. 36 in Magnolia Springs and 87 voters at precinct No. 38 in Foley, he said.

Because that is more than the 65-vote margin of victory by Angie Swiger over incumbent Margaret Long, some or all of the voting should take place again, said county Re publican Party Chairman Don McGriff. -- School board race likely headed for redo

Alabama: AG seizes voting records in Perry Co.

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

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

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

June 5, 2008

Alabama: details of voting irregulatires in Perry County

WSFA-TV reports: Concern is building over what may have happened at some polls in Perry county during Tuesday s primary vote. As we reported, a federal observer notified the state that a candidate allegedly violated state law by helping people vote and by being too close to a polling site. Now, an investigation is underway. ...

That s why Jackson has asked the F.B.I. to investigate the latest allegation. Perry County Probate Judge Eldora Anderson explained how it all started. The federal observer asked a voter can I watch you and the voter said yes. The situation escalated at this voting place, the Armory, when county commission candidate Albert Turner allegedly told the federal observer to back off. Turner says The federal observer doesn t have a right to infringe on the rights of the voter. The voter has a right to vote in private.

But, there are also complaints from some citizen observers. They say Turner transported people to and from the polls and even voted for them. Turner says he has done nothing wrong. That voter asked me to carry them to the polls. Asked me to assist them while they were voting. After I completed their request, I left. I had a right to assist voters. They asked for my assistance. Nothing in the law against that.

However, Perry County voter Annette Goree says there is something wrong with that. Idon t think a candidate should, if you re running for a position I don t think you should pick up anybody and bring them to the polls because you have time to persuade them before you get there. -- WSFA 12 News Montgomery, AL |Decision 2008: Alleged Voter Irregularities in Perry County

June 3, 2008

Alabama: candidate reported as loitering at polls in Perry County

The Birmingham News reports: A federal observer from the U.S. Department of Justice reported potential violations of election law in Perry County to the Alabama secretary of state Tuesday afternoon.

The observer reported that one candidate was loitering in the polling place throughout the day and appeared to be telling people how to vote. State law prohibits campaigning closer than 30 feet from the entrance of a polling place.

Secretary of State Beth Chapman said she called the Perry County sheriff and County Commission to report the problems. Perry County Sheriff James Hood said he went to the voting LOCATION to look and saw nothing unusual.

She may be referring to some person going in with people to assist them to vote, he said, but I don t consider that loitering. -- Poll problems reported in Perry County - Breaking News from The Birmingham News -

May 17, 2008

Scotland: expert casts doubt on 2007 election results

Scotland on Sunday reports: THE expert appointed to investigate last year s Scottish Parliament election fiasco has said some MSPs may have no right to sit at Holyrood.

Elections watchdog Ron Gould revealed he is not comfortable with the view that all 129 MSPs elected last year actually received more votes than their opponents. He blames the farce in which more than 140,000 ballots were spoiled.

Gould s astonishing comments last night threw a cloud of uncertainty over the Scottish Parliament s integrity, and over the SNP s historic victory.

Last May, First Minister Alex Salmond won power on the back of a one seat victory over Labour. One constituency, Cunninghame North, was won with a majority of just 49. It later emerged that 1,015 votes had been spoilt. In other seats the spoiled papers outweighed the winner s majority, suggesting different results could have emerged if they had been counted. -- Wrong MSPs elected in poll fiasco - Scotland on Sunday

May 12, 2008

Texas: LULAC sues Texas Democratic Party over lack of Sec. 5 preclarance for "Texas two-step" (updated with court docs attached)

AP reports: The Texas Democratic Party was sued Friday by Latino advocacy groups that contend the complicated primary and caucus system used in the March 4 presidential primary unfairly diluted Latino votes.

The League of United Latin American Citizens of Texas and the Mexican American Bar Association of Houston sued in federal court, arguing the party failed to seek clearance required by the U.S. Justice Department for the so-called Texas Two Step. The groups also argue the system effectively discriminates against Latino voters by giving them fewer delegates.

Texas Democrats distribute the state s 193 delegates using both a primary election and a caucus, but the distribution favors state Senate districts that had high voter turnout in the last presidential and gubernatorial elections.

In the March 4 election, that meant predominantly Hispanic districts, where turnout was low in 2004 and 2006, got fewer delegates than others, particularly urban, predominantly black districts. Latino districts favored Hillary Clinton; black districts favored Barack Obama. -- LULAC sued Texas Democratic Party over primary delegates - El Paso Times

Note: If anyone has a copy of the complaint, email it to me. The complaint may be downloaded here. Thanks to Jose Garza for responding to my request.

April 3, 2008

Maryland: Governor asks Legislature to skip primaries for Wynn vacancy

PolitickerMD reports: Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Mechanicsville) both expressed support today for Gov. Martin O’Malley’s proposal to bypass a special primary election and hold a special general election in Maryland’s 4th Congressional District.

Leggett’s spokesman Patrick Lacefield said, “He’s in support of Governor O’Malley’s proposal.”

Stephanie Lundberg, Hoyer’s press secretary, told, “Congressman Hoyer believes there is potential for this proposal to have the dual positives of seating a new representative in the current Congress and saving on the additional expense of a special primary election.” ...

O’Malley will ask the General Assembly to amend the state code or grant a special order allowing for the special general election to be held without the primary.

The governor’s decision came less than a week after Rep. Al Wynn (D-Mitchellville) announced that he would resign in June, leaving the House of Representatives seven months before the end of his term. -- Leggett and Hoyer express confidence in 4th District special election proposal | Politicker MD

March 14, 2008

9th Circuit: vote-swapping is legal

The National Law Journal reports: Third-party candidates take note for the upcoming presidential election: The First Amendment protects vote-swapping arrangements.

The short-circuited campaign in 2000 to arrange vote trading between supporters of presidential candidates Al Gore and Ralph Nader died when California election officials threatened the online sites with vote buying charges.

A federal appeals court back in December said California's action violated the free speech rights of people who wanted to swap votes. On Thursday the full court refused to back off that position, over the objection of three conservative judges, Porter v. Bowen, 06-55517.

Judge Andrew Kleinfeld of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals called the practice vote buying plain and simple, and thus illegal. But only two other judges joined his dissent from the full court's denial of en banc reconsideration March 13. It takes 14 votes to win reconsideration. -- - Vote-Swapping Arrangements Protected by First Amendment

March 7, 2008

Texas: Obama gets majority of delegates despite Clinton primary win

Ron Elving reports on Hillary Clinton has called her primary victories this week stunning, but their contribution to her delegate total continues to dwindle.

Senator Clinton won the Ohio primary with a healthy margin and squeaked past 50 percent in the Texas primary. She went on TV as the shiny new star of the 2008 campaign, the belle of the ball once again. All the glitter seemed legit at the time. She had cleared a high bar set by no less an authority than Bill Clinton himself, who said she had to win both of the big states on March 4 or it was lights out. ...

And now it appears that even her net gain of 15 on the day may be cut nearly in half.

Because in Texas, one third of the 193 delegates at stake this week were not awarded by the primary but by the caucuses held after the polls were closed. A record 4 million voters showed up for the primary, and a record 1.1 million also stayed for the caucuses at more than 8,000 sites around the Lone Star state. And in these caucuses, Obama won handily. -- NPR: Watching Washington

March 5, 2008

Ohio: secret ballot?

The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports: How secret was your ballot Tuesday?

Well, that depends.

Many Cuyahoga County voters complained their privacy was compromised as they turned in their ballots. Many voters had no way to shield the filled-out ballot from spying eyes, whether they were poll workers or other voters in line.

"My ballot was exposed for the 20 feet I carried it back to the precinct table, easily read by the poll worker who removed the receipt, and easily seen, or even photographed by a cell phone camera, by others," said Charles Hoppel of Broadview Heights, who said his wife filed a complaint with poll workers. ...

Ballots can be easily shielded by popping them into a sleeve that hides the markings. But that differed widely from polling place to polling place. Some voters received sleeves with their ballots. Others had to ask for them. Others simply uneasily lined up without them. -- Cuyahoga County voters complain ballot secrecy was compromised -

Ohio: several counties fail the Gerken test of compentency

The New York Times reports: A federal judge in Ohio granted a request late Tuesday from Senator Barack Obama’s campaign to extend the voting hours in 21 precincts in Cleveland by an extra 90 minutes because of a lack of paper ballots.

But because the order arrived after the polls had already closed, election officials were only able to reopen 10 polling stations, according to the Ohio secretary of state, Jennifer Brunner. That resulted in five additional votes being cast, Ms. Brunner said.

After a recent state review of touch-screen machines that raised concern about them, paper ballots were made available at all precincts for those voters who wanted to use them. Many more voters took advantage of the option than officials had predicted. The shortages of ballots were also caused by an unusually heavy turnout, officials said.

The federal judge, Solomon Oliver, denied a similar request for other precincts in Cuyahoga County, home to Cleveland, and for all precincts in Franklin County, where the capital, Columbus, is located. -- Ballot Shortages Plague Ohio Election Amid Unusually Heavy Primary Turnout

The Gerken test is explained here.

January 21, 2008

Nevada: Clinton and Obama trade charges of infractions in caucuses

The Trail blog of the Washington Post reports: Apparently the adage "whatever happens in Vegas stays in Vegas" doesn't apply to politics.

Tensions between the Obama and Clinton campaigns escalated today when officials traded charges about conduct on the ground during the Nevada caucuses Saturday.

Aides for Sen. Barack Obama, who lost the first-in-the-West contest, announced they would ask the state Democratic Party to review reports that Clinton caucus organizers had sought to block entry to certain sites a half hour before the official deadline, as outlined in a Clinton campaign caucus manual.

The Clinton campaign fired back that it was considering its own legal options in response to a barrage of voter intimidation complaints about Obama tactics. -- After Nevada Caucuses, Charges of Foul Play | The Trail |

January 18, 2008

Nevada: federal court refuses to shut down at-large caucus sites

The Washington Post reports: A federal judge on Thursday refused to shut down nine casino-based sites for Saturday's caucuses, delivering a victory to Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.) in what has become an increasingly bitter Democratic contest here.

U.S. District Judge James C. Mahan rejected the argument that conducting some of the caucuses in casinos would give Obama an unfair advantage because he has been endorsed by the state culinary workers union, which employs thousands of casino workers. Siding with lawyers for the Democratic National Committee, he said federal law "recognizes the parties have the right to determine how to apportion delegates."

The DNC, working with Nevada Democratic officials, approved the at-large precincts last summer to accommodate people who will be working when the hour-long caucuses are held at noon on Saturday. Any shift worker employed within a 2.5-mile radius of the Strip is allowed to participate, but those sites are expected to be dominated by culinary workers, many of whom are Latino. State party officials estimate that casino caucusgoers could account for as much as 10 percent of the total turnout.

The lawsuit, brought by a state teachers' union that has endorsed Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), led to a nasty dispute between her campaign and Obama's, escalating tensions just days after the two tried to defuse a racially tinged dispute. -- Judge Allows Casino Sites for Nevada Caucuses

There is no written order yet. The plaintiffs' brief is here. The defendants' brief is here.

January 16, 2008

Nevada: more background on the caucus lawsuit

AP reports: A last-minute federal court battle over caucus rules demonstrates just how important a tight three-way Democratic presidential contest in Nevada has become in the battle for momentum headed into Super Tuesday's votes.

Hillary Rodham Clinton, Barack Obama and John Edwards are in a statistical dead heat in polling here before Saturday's caucuses. And Nevada's sizable blocs of Hispanic, union and urban voters could provide an indicator of where the race is headed on Feb. 5, when hundreds of delegates will be awarded in states with significant minority populations. ...

At issue in a federal court hearing Thursday is whether Democratic caucuses will be held in nine casinos along the Las Vegas Strip. The special locations were designed to make it easier for housekeepers, waitresses and bellhops in the state's biggest industry to caucus at midday near their jobs rather than returning home to neighborhood precincts.

The rules were unanimously approved by the state Democratic party last March and ratified by the Democratic National Committee in August.

But last Friday, six Democrats and a teachers union, which has ties to the Clinton campaign, sued to shut the sites on grounds they allocate too many delegates to one group. Of roughly 10,000 delegates to Nevada's presidential nominating convention, more than 700 could be selected at casino caucuses, depending upon turnout, which could make them more valuable than some sparsely populated Nevada counties, the lawsuit said. Four plaintiffs are on the committee that approved the sites. -- Court Case Could Alter Nev. Outcome - Ap - Headlines - The Columbus Telegram - Columbus, Nebraska's Community Newspaper

Alabama: federal court hears arguments on Governor's appointment of Jefferson County Commissioner

The Birmingham News reports: Two people might be able to stake a claim to the Jefferson County Commission's District 1 seat after an election scheduled Feb. 5 if a three-judge panel doesn't intervene, attorneys said after a federal court hearing here Tuesday.

But Ken Wallis, Gov. Bob Riley's legal adviser, warned that the District 1 seat might be vacant for several months if the panel does get involved.

The comments came after attorneys gave arguments on whether the judges should void Riley's appointment of George Bowman to the commission. Riley appointed Bowman on Nov. 21 to replace Larry Langford, who left the seat to become mayor of Birmingham. But the Jefferson County Election Commission in October had scheduled a special election to fill the seat.

Fred Plump of Fairfield filed suit saying Riley lacked the authority to appoint Bowman. He's asking the judges for a preliminary injunction that would remove Bowman from office and prohibit Riley from interfering with the Feb. 5 election, in which both men are running. -- Flap over filling Jefferson County Commission seat could result in 2 commissioners or none-

Michigan: few Dem crossover voters in GOP primary

The Detroit News reports: Fears of a large crossover vote deciding the contentious Republican primary didn't materialize.

The electorate in the GOP contest was predominantly Republican, about one-quarter independent and less than 10 percent Democratic, according to National Election Pool exit polling.

Arizona Sen. John McCain captured about half of the Democratic vote and one-third of the independents, but there weren't enough of them to overcome Mitt Romney's dominance among Republican voters. -- Romney did well in most GOP demographic categories

January 14, 2008

Mississippi: judge rules, primary must be held within 90 days

The Clarion-Ledger reports: A Hinds County Circuit judge ruled today that Gov. Haley Barbour exceeded his constitutional authority by setting the special election to replace former U.S. Sen. Trent Lott for November. ...

DeLaughter voided Barbour's proclamation that scheduled the election for Nov. 4, 2008.

In his order, DeLaughter said the election should be held "within 90 days of the governor's Dec. 20, 2007 proclamation of writ of election...on or before March 19, 2008. -- Judge: Special election should be within 90 days | | The Clarion-Ledger

Hat tip, as always, to Old Southwest.

Michigan and Nevada: open primaries cause mischief

The assignment for today is to read the following two posts and write a paragraph comparing and contrasting the efforts to get "crossover voters" in the two primaries.

Adam B writes on Daily Kos:
Well, it seems like our site's Inspector Javert Clouseau is back, and John Bambenek has really got us on the ropes now:

Yesterday, I filed a complaint with the Michigan Attorney General against Daily Kos' blogger Markos Moulitsas, requesting an investigation into whether Moulitsas is encouraging voter fraud in next week's Michigan GOP primary.

The idea of the freedom to vote is part of the bedrock foundation of this nation. Vote fraud is not a new concept; likely it reaches back even to the time of the founders. However, once vote fraud is discovered, it should be prosecuted aggressively like all flagrant violations of the law. Daily Kos' call, under the direction of Markos Moulitsas himself, for a conspiracy to commit massive vote fraud during the Michigan primaries may be one of those serious attempts to circumvent election law.

-- Michigan's Open Primary, and a Fraud

Big Tent Democrat writes on TalkLeft: An Obama Nevada precinct captain (Taylor Marsh has a copy of the flier) is circulating a flier with the following language:

You can be a Democrat for one day. Vote for Obama and then return to your voting status as you chose [sic].

Everyone regardless of party is welcome to be a Democrat for one day and vote. Republicans, Independents, Everyone, you can make THE difference. If you think a Democrat will win in November and you don't want Hillary you can come to the Democratic Caucus and vote for Obama.

-- Obama Nevada Flyer: "You Can Be A Democrat For One Day"

One possible answer is that Kos is pushing a raid on the other party ... not that there's anything wrong for that, but Obama is trying to get independents and perhaps Republicans to come into the Democratic Party for a day.

Another answer is that Obama is trying to get people who support him sincerely into the Democratic Party. You know, give them a free sample and hope they will become steady customers. Conversely, Kos might be viewed as low-down skunk for trying to get insincere people to make mischief in the GOP.

What's your view?

Nevada: Obama attacks the source of his woes -- "a bunch of lawyers"

The Caucus blog of the New York Times reports: At a rally this afternoon, Senator Barack Obama questioned the timing and legitimacy of a lawsuit that had been filed here seeking to prevent caucuses from being held Saturday in nine casinos on the Las Vegas Strip.

“Are we going to let a bunch of lawyers try to prevent us from bringing about change in America?” Mr. Obama said, speaking to members of the Culinary workers union, which has endorsed his candidacy.

A federal judge is expected to rule this week on a lawsuit filed against the Nevada Democratic Party by the state teachers’ union, which believes that nine “at-large” caucus locations at casinos provide an unfair advantage to Mr. Obama. Why? Culinary union members and other shift-workers who are on the job Saturday will be allowed to take an hour break to caucus near their workplace in a hotel ballroom, rather than return to their home precincts. -- Obama Questions Nevada Caucus Lawsuit

January 12, 2008

Nevada; Nevada Teachers sue to stop at-large caucus sites inside resorts

The New York Times reports: Nevada’s state teachers union and six Las Vegas area residents filed a lawsuit late Friday that could make it harder for many members of the state’s huge hotel workers union to vote in the hotly contested Jan. 19 Democratic caucus in Nevada.

The 13-page lawsuit in federal district court here comes two days after the 60,000-member Culinary Workers Union Local 226 in Nevada endorsed Senator Barack Obama, a blow to Mrs. Clinton. Mr. Obama addressed the Culinary Union at their hall earlier Friday.

The lawsuit argues that the Nevada Democratic Party’s decision, decided late last year, to create at-large precincts inside nine Las Vegas resorts on caucus day violates the state’s election laws and creates a system in which voters at the at-large precincts can elect more delegates than voters at other precincts. The lawsuit employs a complex mathematical formula to show that voters at the other 1,754 precincts would have less influence with their votes. -- Teachers Sue to Block Hotel Workers’ Union Vote in Nevada Caucus

Download the complaint here.

Update: The Washington Post has a longer article on the politics behind the suit.

December 17, 2007

Iowa: how the Demo caucuses work

The Washington Post reports: Training for the Iowa caucuses combines several of the miseries of adolescence, like studying for a driver's license and an algebra test and the SAT -- only this time in the company of cheerful, middle-aged Iowans in a senior citizens home. ...

Much has been written about the Democratic caucuses and how they work -- how they're not like the primaries of other states, how you have to show up and stand in a corner for your candidate and then maybe stand in another corner if your candidate isn't "viable" (meaning, said candidate doesn't have at least 15 percent support among people in the room). And how each of the 1,781 precincts has a different number of delegates to award, and the number of delegates a candidate gets is proportional to the number of people who show up at a high school gym on a freezing night in January to stand in corners.

Hence the crazy math.

And we haven't even gotten to the various envelopes. And the filling in of bubbles. And the pink and yellow forms. And the fact that, once in a while, there's a tie, so folks have to toss a coin. -- Caucus Math 101: Bring a Calculator -

November 29, 2007

Over There: Citizens abroad may find voting easier and more reliable

The New York Times reports: For Americans abroad, who often feel underrepresented, overlooked and little appreciated in the United States, the approach of the 2008 elections has brought some grounds for hope that this time their votes have a better chance of counting.

Last month, the nonpartisan Overseas Vote Foundation, or O.V.F., unveiled a revamped voter-assistance Web site that has drawn wide praise (

Dorothy van Schooneveld, of American Citizens Abroad, said the new software made it “rapid, simple and almost foolproof to register” from abroad.

Members of a new Americans Abroad caucus in Congress, which has tripled in size since its formation last spring, have introduced two bills aimed at simplifying voter registration, expanding voter education, and ensuring that expatriates’ ballots are counted. -- U.S. Takes Steps to Simplify Voting From Abroad

November 17, 2007

Alabama: suit filed to ensure election for Jefferson County Commission seat

The Birmingham News reports: A Fairfield man sued Gov. Bob Riley on Friday, claiming the governor does not have the authority to appoint a replacement to the Jefferson County Commission for Birmingham Mayor Larry Langford.

The suit, filed in Montgomery's federal court on behalf of Fred Plump, said Riley is attempting to enforce election procedures that have not been approved by the Justice Department under the federal Voting Rights Act. The suit seeks to block Riley from filling the District 1 commission seat, a heavily Democratic district that stretches from Fairfield north to Fultondale and east to Roebuck.

The seat became vacant Tuesday when Langford, the District 1 commissioner, took office at City Hall.

Todd Stacy, a spokesman for the governor's office, said Friday night the office had not seen the lawsuit, but the law clearly says that the governor must appoint a replacement. -- Fairfield man files lawsuit over Gov. Bob Riley's authority to fill Jefferson County Commission seat-

Disclosure: Jim Blacksher and I represent the plaintiff in this suit.

A copy of the complaint is here: Download file

November 14, 2007

Alabama: special election called in Jefferson County

The Birmingham News reports: The Jefferson County Election Commission on Tuesday officially called a Feb. 5 special election to fill the District 1 seat on the County Commission.

The Election Commission, made up of Probate Judge Alan King, Sheriff Mike Hale and Circuit Clerk Anne Marie Adams, called the election hours after Larry Langford resigned his County Commission post to become Birmingham mayor.

The officials set the election to coincide with Alabama s presidential primary and scheduled a runoff, if necessary, for Feb. 26. ...

However, Gov. Bob Riley maintains he has authority to fill the seat. Riley's staff says county election officials are misinterpreting the 2004 act, and that the 1977 law providing for elections to fill vacancies in Jefferson County was rendered void by the 2004 law. -- Jefferson County Commission calls special election to fill the District 1 seat vacated by Larry Langford-

October 25, 2007

Tova Wang on "Reshaping the Nomination Contest"

Has America Outgrown the Caucus? Some Thoughts on Reshaping the Nomination Contest by Tova Andrea Wang, The Century Foundation, 10/23/2007 In this new issue brief, Tova Andrea Wang discusses caucuses: Because of their exclusionary nature, they go against some of the core values we express when we talk about voting rights, such as the fundamental nature of the right, equality of opportunity to participate in the process, and fair access to the ballot. --

September 24, 2007

Demos issues new report on voter fraud

Demos announces:
The specter of voter fraud unfortunately continues to dominate and distort much of the national debate about fair elections. As an antidote to distorted public discussion, Senior Demos Fellow Lorraine C. Minnite has released An Analysis of Voter Fraud in the United States, adapted and updated from Securing the Vote, released in 2003. The voter fraud discussion has taken on new proportions over the past four years, looming over state and federal debates on voter identification and election reform, the performance of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, and dismissals of U.S. Attorneys. Professor Minnite's new report provides a contemporary overview of domestic voter fraud, explores the matrix of state and federal laws governing the issue, and details recent instances of voter fraud in Miami, FL; Orange County, CA; and St. Louis, MO. She plans a forthcoming book on voter fraud in contemporary American elections.

The report is here.

July 6, 2007

Alabama: election finally called for Mobile County vacancy

The Mobile Register reports: Mobile County Probate Judge Don Davis on Thursday set an election schedule to fill the vacant District 1 commission seat, with party primaries taking place Aug. 28 and a general election no later than Nov. 20.

The County Commission seat, which represents the northern third of Mobile County, has been empty since May, when a panel of federal judges forced out Juan Chastang after ruling that his appointment in 2005 violated the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Candidates have until 5 p.m. July 17 to qualify. Any runoff would take place Oct. 9, with the general election following on Nov. 20. If no runoffs are needed, the general election will be held Oct. 9. -- Election planned for Mobile County Commission seat-

Disclosure: I was one of the attorneys for the plaintiffs in the federal suit.

June 22, 2007

EAC "Faces Partisanship Allegations"

The Washington Post reports: In late 2003, the first four commissioners of the newly formed, bipartisan Election Assistance Commission were given a tall order: Help states overhaul their election procedures so that the acrimony that followed the contested 2000 presidential election would not be repeated. ...

But, three years later, as it prepares for its second presidential election, the agency is facing far more serious problems: inquiries over a rash of allegations of partisan decision making.

Commissioners blame management failures and incomplete policies that have plagued the agency since the beginning. "We weren't able to develop a really strong foundation as a federal agency," said Gracia H. Hillman, the only commissioner who has been on the panel from the beginning.

Activist groups have raised questions about whether, in response to pressure from the Justice Department, the commission altered or delayed research to play down findings on sensitive topics such as voter fraud and voter identification laws that many Republican figures and appointees would have found objectionable.

"There has been increasing evidence of improper attempts to exert political pressure on the EAC to influence the agency's decisions on election-related matters," said Wendy Weiser, deputy director of the Democracy Program at the liberal Brennan Center of Justice at New York University School of Law, who has reviewed thousands of pages of the commission's internal documents.

Meanwhile, the agency's inspector general, Curtis Crider, is investigating the agency's research into voter fraud, voter intimidation and voter identification laws. -- Panel Faces Partisanship Allegations -

June 17, 2007

Scotland: Scottish Labour condemns UK Labour minister's decision on single ballot paper

The Sunday Herald reports: LABOUR MSPS have fuelled the simmering tensions with the party at Westminster by blaming Scottish secretary Douglas Alexander for the Holyrood election fiasco which disenfranchised more than 100,000 voters.

A secret report listing Labour MSPs' views on the poll debacle claimed Alexander's decision to use a single ballot paper for the parliament election was "confusing" and wrong.

It also suggested MSPs' concerns on the issue had been ignored by the wider Scottish party, which pushed ahead with its plan for one ballot paper.

The claims reveal the tensions between Labour at Holyrood and Westminster and point to the recriminations taking place behind the scenes after the party's loss to the SNP. -- The Sunday Herald - Scotland's award-winning independent newspaper

June 13, 2007

Armed forces voting system -- not very good now, and prospects cloudy for the future

The New York Times reports: Over the last six years, the Defense Department has spent more than $30 million trying to find an efficient way for American soldiers and civilians living abroad to vote in elections back home.

But the traditional paper ballot system for overseas voters — the one the Pentagon is trying to improve — has also had problems for years.

Typically, voters mail paper forms back and forth across continents as they try to register to vote, request a ballot and then return the ballot before the polls close. But the forms are often lost or delayed in the mail.

Voters often wait until the last moment or get confused because rules and deadlines vary state to state. Poor planning, legal challenges or technical problems often lead local election officials to send ballots abroad too late.

As a result, anywhere from a quarter to half of overseas voters fail in their attempt to vote, say voting experts at the National Defense Committee and the Overseas Vote Foundation. -- Casting Ballot From Abroad Is No Sure Bet

June 12, 2007

Alaska: Yup'ik speakers file suit over language rights in elections

The Anchorage Daily News reports: A federal lawsuit was filed Monday on behalf of Native voters in the Bethel area whose primary language is Yup'ik.

The lawsuit filed by the Native American Rights Fund and the American Civil Liberties Union of Alaska seeks to have state and regional election officials provide oral and written voter assistance to Yup'ik-speaking voters in the region.

The lawsuit wants election officials to come up with a plan to ensure that Yup'ik-speakers with limited English are able to understand and participate "in all phases of the electoral process." It would require that federal observers be on hand for elections held in the Bethel area. ...

The lawsuit says the problem extends beyond providing an official ballot for federal, state and local elections that voters can read. Officials also have failed to translate a host of other written voting materials including advertisements for voter registration, election dates, absentee voting opportunities, polling place locations and voting machine instructions. -- Yup'ik voters need more, lawsuit says

The case is Nick v. Bethel, No. 3:07-cv-00098-TMB, and a copy of the complaint is here.

Thanks to Neil Bradley, one of the attorneys for the plaintiffs, for bringing this to my attention.

June 1, 2007

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

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

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

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

May 15, 2007

Scotland: Ron Gould to lead review of election problems

The Scotsman reports: ONE of the world's leading election experts will head the review into the voting fiasco which marred the Scottish Parliament elections this month.

The Electoral Commission announced yesterday that Ron Gould, the former assistant chief electoral officer of Canada, would lead the investigation into the 140,000 invalid voting papers from the election on 3 May.

Mr Gould has monitored, organised and overseen elections all over the world, from the ground-breaking South African elections of 1994 to the critical Bosnian elections of 1995 and 1996.

From 1981 until his retirement in 2001, Mr Gould led and participated in more than 100 election observation missions in more than 70 countries, and advised the United Nations, the Commonwealth and governments around the world. -- News - The Scottish Parliament - Election expert Gould to lead review of Holyrood poll scandal

April 1, 2007

How do you spell "bozo bigot" in Spanish?

AP reports: Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich equated bilingual education Saturday with "the language of living in a ghetto" and mocked requirements that ballots be printed in multiple languages.

"The government should quit mandating that various documents be printed in any one of 700 languages depending on who randomly shows up" to vote, said Gingrich, who is considering seeking the Republican presidential nomination in 2008. He made the comments in a speech to the National Federation of Republican Women.

"The American people believe English should be the official language of the government. ... We should replace bilingual education with immersion in English so people learn the common language of the country and they learn the language of prosperity, not the language of living in a ghetto," Gingrich said to cheers from the crowd of more than 100.

"Citizenship requires passing a test on American history in English. If that's true, then we do not have to create ballots in any language except English," he said. -- Gingrich Calls Spanish Language Of Ghetto - Education

March 22, 2007

North Carolina: GOP pushes several election reforms

AP reports: House and Senate Republicans held their weekly news conference, this time to talk about election-related bills. They highlighted measures that would create an independent redistricting commission, rotate the order of candidates on the election ballot and limit to four years the terms of House speaker and Senate president pro tempore. Senate Republican Leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, said it was up to Democrats - who control the Legislature and the Executive Mansion - to decide whether to support bills that he said would restore the public's confidence after recent scandal. -- Tuesday, March 20, 2007, at the North Carolina General Assembly - - Times-News Online

March 21, 2007

Indiana: state sets up voter fraud hotline

The Post-Tribune reports: Indiana government wants to make it easy for voters in Lake County to report fraudulent activity on and around the May primary.

Voters can confidentially call a toll-free phone number set up by the offices of the Indiana Attorney General and Secretary of State if they suspect ballot tampering, voting under another name, voting in the wrong precinct or other criminal activity. ...

Rokita said his office will also offer bipartisan pollworker training, focusing on photo identification requirements and voters' rights. ...

The vote fraud hotline, paid for with federal funds, will be monitored by the state's Joint Vote Fraud Task Force. -- POST-TRIBUNE :: News :: Toll-free line set up to thwart 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 15, 2007

Voter fraud -- easy to charge, hard to prosecute

NPR's Morning Edition reports: The Bush administration says it has received complaints that some U.S. attorneys are not pursuing voter fraud aggressively enough. But collecting enough evidence to prosecute such claims is rarely easy. -- NPR : Voter Fraud: A Tough Crime to Prosecute

March 13, 2007

"The Politics of Voter Fraud"

The Advancement Project Project Vote has released "The Politics of Voter Fraud" by Lorraine C. Minnite, Ph.D. The main findings are these:

• Voter fraud is extremely rare.

• The lack of evidence of voter fraud is not because of a failure to codify it.

• Most voter fraud allegations turn out to be something other than fraud.

• The more complex are the rules regulating voter registration and voting, the more likely voter mistakes, clerical errors, and the like will be wrongly identified as “fraud.”

• There is a 200-year history in America of elites using voter fraud allegations to restrict and shape the electorate.

• The historically disenfranchised are often the target of voter fraud allegations.

• Better data collection and election administration will improve the public discussion of voter fraud and lead to more appropriate policies.

Thanks to Praveen Fernandes of the American Constitution Society for Law and Policy for jogging my memory about this.

March 8, 2007

Arkansas: legislature passes instant-runoff procedure for overseas voters

The Arkansas News Bureau reports: Another bill that passed the Senate, HB 1509 by Rep. Horace Hardwick, R-Bentonville, would allow voters who are overseas to use "instant runoff" ballots that allow making a second choice when voting in the primary or general election.

Both bills passed 35-0. Steele's bill goes to the House. Hardwick's bill goes to the governor. -- Arkansas News Bureau - House approves school funding appropriation

Thanks to Rob Richie for the tip.

February 21, 2007

Pennsylvania: borough councilman may not vote by phone from Afghanistan

AP reports: A borough councilman serving in Afghanistan was denied a request to participate in meetings by phone, drawing protests from veterans.

Tullytown Councilman Joseph Shellenberger, a master sergeant in the Air Force, was sent to Afghanistan in January and is expected to return home in about two months. He asked before leaving to be allowed to phone in his votes during meetings. -- | 02/21/2007 | Councilman denied request to vote from Afghanistan

January 24, 2007

House allows delegates to vote in Committee of the Whole

The Hill reports: In a move that left Republicans crying foul, the House voted Wednesday to change its rules and grant limited and mostly ceremonial voting rights to the five delegates representing the District of Columbia and four U.S. territories.

The resolution passed 226-191, largely along party lines. The voting rights for the District of Columbia, Guam, American Samoa, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands are largely symbolic and the rules change is designed to make sure that the delegates' votes cannot affect the fate of legislation.

Regardless, Republicans were fuming after the vote and labeled it "a power grab." Four of the five delegates are Democrats. ...

The rules change will allow the delegates to cast votes on amendments. However, they cannot vote on final passage of a bill, and, if the delegates tip the balance on any given amendment, the House will re-vote on that amendment without the delegates' participation. -- Delegates get limited voting rights, Republicans get angry

January 22, 2007

Mississippi: legislator to introduce National Popular Vote plan

AP reports: The movement to junk the Electoral College and choose a president by a nationwide popular vote has come to Mississippi.

Legislation has been filed here and in 46 other states this year to award a state's electoral votes to the candidate who wins the popular vote nationally.

Sen. Gloria Williamson, D-Philadelphia, filed the bill here. She said the effort, led by the National Popular Vote, is aimed at preventing a repeat of 2000, when Democrat Al Gore lost the electoral vote and, ultimately, the presidential race, despite getting more individual votes than Republican George W. Bush. -- | 01/22/2007 | Miss. lawmaker says presidential Electoral College system is outdated

District of Columbia: DC and territories' delegates may get voting rights in House

AP reports: When the bells ring announcing a vote, 435 members of the House stream out of their hearings and offices and head for the House floor. Five others, banned from voting, seldom bother.

That would change if the new Democratic majority succeeds in changing the rules this week to give partial voting rights to the delegates from the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, American Samoa, Guam and the Virgin Islands. A vote is scheduled Wednesday on restoring the rule.

It was in effect in 1993 and 1994 _ the last time Democrats were in power _ but rescinded when Republicans took over Congress in 1995. ...

The rule that existed briefly a decade ago let delegates vote in what is called the "committee of the whole," a term for the procedures the House uses when debating and amending a bill before going to a final vote. But the rule also stipulated that if a delegate's vote has a decisive impact on the outcome, the committee of the whole disbands and the full House votes on the issue without delegate participation. -- House Delegates May Get Some Voting Rights

January 21, 2007

Viriginia: federal judge stays his ruling on closed primaries

The Richmond Times-Dispatch reports: A federal judge has stayed the implementation of closed nominating primaries in Virginia.

The stay has political implications because conservative Republicans hope to use closed primaries to nominate their candidates in the June 11 General Assembly primary.

State Sen. Ken Cuccinelli, R-Fairfax, representing those seeking to close the primaries, appealed U.S. District Judge Henry Hudson's stay order and asked the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals for an expedited hearing.

"We want a decision by Feb. 22, when the legislative district committees start considering their nominating procedures," Cuccinelli said yesterday. -- | Judge orders stay on closed nominating primaries in Va.

Note: For the earlier story on this case, click here.

January 10, 2007

Illinois: Speaker proposes early February primary to help Obama

Capitol Fax Blog reports: [Illinois] House Speaker Madigan has just proposed moving the 2008 IL primary to Feb. 5 to help Barack Obama's presidential candidacy. -- The Capitol Fax Blog » Madigan proposes moving primary

Thanks to Political Wire for the link.

January 7, 2007

A 6-way race for president in 2008?

Political Insider says: Independent candidacies for president have sometimes tipped the balance in numerous elections. In 1912, former Republican Teddy Roosevelt ran on the Bull Moose ticket, throwing the election to Woodrow Wilson (D). In 1992, Ross Perot ran as an Independent and captured nearly 20% of the vote, tipping many states in Bill Clinton's (D) favor. Most recently, Ralph Nader's 2000 candidacy made the difference in enough states to give George W. Bush (R) the presidency. The election of 2008 could soon be added to this list.

In this election, we could be facing as many as six major candidacies for president in the general election, two major party nominees and four big-name independent candidacies. While this prospect is far from a certainty, it remains likely that some of the independents from the following list will indeed throw their hats in the ring. Let's take a look at the possible contenders. -- Political Wire: Election 2008: A Six-Way Race?

Florida: bill introduced for "none of the above"

AP reports: Voters would have the option of choosing "none of the above" under a bill proposed to avoid confusion over whether people mean to leave ballots blank.

State Sen. Mike Bennett, the bill's sponsor, wants the additional option to prevent a repeat of the congressional race between Republican Vern Buchanan and Democrat Christine Jennings. Buchanan was declared the winner by 369 votes, but more than 18,000 ballots didn't indicate a choice in the race.

Currently, it's impossible for elections officials to determine whether voters purposely meant to leave the race blank or if they, by accident, didn't make a choice. ...

He filed the bill (SB 494) Thursday, the day Buchanan was seated in Congress to represent Florida's 13th District. House leaders are investigating the race and have said Buchanan could be removed if they determine the results need to be changed. -- Possible ballot option: 'None of the above' - Orlando Sentinel : State News Possible ballot option: 'None of the above' - Orlando Sentinel : State News

December 17, 2006

Kentucky: Secretary of State recommends end of straight-ticket voting

The Kentucky Post reports: Kentucky is one of only a dozen or so states where voters can, with one flick of the wrist, cast their votes for all the candidates of one party.

It's called straight-ticket voting, and it's practiced by thousands of the faithful in the Democratic and Republican parties. But if Secretary of State Trey Grayson has his way, it would become a relic of the past.

Grayson , the state's top election official, pushed legislation during the last session of the General Assembly to prohibit straight-ticket voting, but it didn't make it out of committee, he said. He is considering pursuing it again during the next session, which starts in January.

Grayson, a Republican from Boone County, said he'd rather not give voters the option of picking multiple candidates with the push of one button, despite the likelihood that it could shorten lines at the polls. -- The Cincinnati Post - Straight-ticket voting may end

December 11, 2006

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

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

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

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

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

December 10, 2006

An old chestnut busted, but something new to worry about

The New York Times Magazine's annual "Year in Ideas" issue has a couple of articles of interest to election mavens (did I use that term correctly, Bill Safire?): In their book “The End of Southern Exceptionalism,” Richard Johnston of the University of Pennsylvania and Byron Shafer of the University of Wisconsin argue that the shift in the South from Democratic to Republican was overwhelmingly a question not of race but of economic growth. In the postwar era, they note, the South transformed itself from a backward region to an engine of the national economy, giving rise to a sizable new wealthy suburban class. This class, not surprisingly, began to vote for the party that best represented its economic interests: the G.O.P. Working-class whites, however — and here’s the surprise — even those in areas with large black populations, stayed loyal to the Democrats. (This was true until the 90s, when the nation as a whole turned rightward in Congressional voting.) -- The Myth of "the Southern Strategy" - New York Times

After analyzing data from Arizona’s 2000 general election, the Stanford researchers found that voters were more likely to support raising the state sales tax to support education if they voted in schools. This bias remained even when results were controlled for voters’ political views and demographics. In a follow-up laboratory study, subjects were asked to vote on a number of initiatives, including California’s 2004 stem-cell-research financing proposition. Before casting a vote, each subject was primed with a picture of a school, church or generic building. Voters were less likely to support stem-cell initiatives when presented with images of a church. -- Voting-Booth Feng Shui

Comment: About a year ago, a pol I had known for a long time called and asked me to come up with a theory to attack voting places in churches. He was convinced that the Christian Right would be turning out its people to vote in those polling places and wanted them moved. I did not come up with a theory that passed the "straight-face" test. My friend the pol lost his election. Maybe I should have use the theory of the guy in Florida. (On the other hand, the magnitude of his loss could not be blamed on just the Christian Right.)

December 7, 2006

Florida: "Man Sues Over Church As Polling Place"

AP reports: A man who had to vote in a Catholic church has sued election officials, claiming that casting a ballot amid crucifixes and anti-abortion banners violates the principles of church and state separation.

Jerry Rabinowitz, a nonobservant Jew from Delray Beach, filed the lawsuit in federal court Friday. In it, Rabinowitz says elections officials refused to remove or cover religious items at Emmanuel Catholic Church when he voted last month.

"The effect of the defendant's conduct in this case is nothing if not government endorsement of religion," the lawsuit read. ...

According to the lawsuit, Rabinowitz had to walk past an anti-abortion banner flanked by large crosses to reach the polling site. Once inside, he said he had to vote in a room with crucifixes, a poster of the Ten Commandments and signs with messages including "Each of Us Matters to God." -- Man Sues Over Church As Polling Place

December 6, 2006

Oregon: "where everyone votes by mail"

Ruth Goldway writes on the op-ed page of the New York Times: LAST Election Day, voters encountered myriad difficulties, from the unexplained glitch that temporarily halted Montana’s vote count to the 18,300 undervotes in Florida’s 13th Congressional District, to long lines, bad weather, inadequately trained workers, delayed or missing absentee ballots and complicated new identity forms. There was, however, one state where all went well: Oregon, where everyone votes by mail.

Since Oregon adopted Vote by Mail as its sole voting option in 1998, the state’s turnout has increased, concerns about fraud have decreased, a complete paper trail exists for every election, recounts are non-controvertible and both major political parties have gained voters. Moreover, in doing away with voting machines, polling booths, precinct captains and election workers, the state estimates that it saves up to 40 percent over the cost of a traditional election.

Vote by Mail could offer real advantages if it were adopted nationwide. Voters would not need to take time off from work, find transportation, find the right polling station, get babysitters or rush through reading complicated ballot initiatives. The country’s 35,000 post offices could provide information, distribute and collect voting materials and issue inexpensive residency and address identifications for voting purposes. -- The Election Is in the Mail - New York Times

December 2, 2006

Virginia: GOP wins partial victory in case challenging open primary

AP reports: The State Board of Elections cannot require the Republican Party to hold an open primary in a state Senate race next year, a federal judge ruled on Friday.

The decision regarding a possible primary for Republican state Sen. Steve Martin could affect GOP efforts to block Democrats from voting in other Republican primaries in Virginia.

The case arose from Martin's decision to seek a primary should he face a nomination fight next year. Virginia law gives incumbents the choice of a primary, caucus, canvass or party convention.

U.S. District Court Judge Henry Hudson on Friday denied a motion from Republicans in the 11th Senatorial District to rule immediately on the case but wrote that parties could exclude independent voters and voters affiliated with other parties if they chose to nominate candidates through a process other than a primary. -- Judge: State Election Board can't require open GOP primary

Comment: I think the reporter got it backwards in the last pargraph. Judge Hudson ruled:

Section 24.2-530 [the open primary law] is constitutionally sound when engrafted onto a statutory scheme providing for alternative, less restrictive means of candidate selection. [The party can hold a caucus or a privately finance selection process.] When the Republican Party’s discretion is foreclosed by Senator Martin’s invocation of § 24.2-509 [which allows the incument to choose the method by which he or she will stand for renomination], mandating a forced open primary, the confluent effect impermissibly undermines the 11th District Committee’s right of free association. This narrow and perhaps infrequent application of § 24.2-530 violates the First Amendment right of the plaintiffs in this case. Therefore, in the event that a Republican primary is held in 2007 in the 11th Senatorial District of Virginia, the defendants are enjoined from requiring the plaintiffs to hold an open primary.

Thanks to Richard Winger for calling this case to my attention this morning. The Court's website has been unavailable most of the day, so I am just now getting the opinion. Some courts were upgrading their case-access software this morning.

November 30, 2006

Texas: state seeks DOJ preclearance for runoff date

AP reports: Texas is asking the Justice Department to approve Dec. 12 for a congressional runoff election, a date that a Latino group opposes in part because it is an important religious day for many Hispanics.

Republican Rep. Henry Bonilla and former U.S. Rep. Ciro Rodriguez, D-San Antonio, are in a runoff for the 23rd Congressional District, which was redrawn after the U.S. Supreme Court found that the old district map discriminated against Latino voters.

Dec. 12 is the feast day of the Virgin of Guadalupe, the patron saint of Mexico and Latin America. The League of United Latin American Citizens has said the election should be set for Dec. 19. The group contends that the earlier date discriminates against Hispanics to help Bonilla, whose support among Latinos has been eroding. ...

Texas filed the request Tuesday. The state had said it did not need approval because a court had ordered it to set the runoff for the earliest time possible.

Scott Haywood, spokesman for the Texas secretary of state, said Texas has asked for an expedited decision. He said he did not think his office knew the date was the holy day. He said setting the date a week later would push the election into Hanukkah, which begins at sundown Dec. 15, and Christmas. -- State seeks federal OK for Bonilla-Rodriguez election date

November 29, 2006

Florida: was it bad ballot design?

The Washington Post reports: Almost since the time the votes were tallied here on election night, the race for Florida's 13th Congressional District has been surrounded by a contentious mystery:

Why were there no votes for Congress recorded from more than 18,000 people who chose candidates in other races? ...

But other experts who have analyzed the ballots and the results argue that the culprit might be not the machines but rather voters confused by a poorly designed ballot.

The congressional race appeared on the same screen as the gubernatorial contest, which had a brighter banner and took up more space.

Ted Selker of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a director of the CalTech/MIT Voting Technology Project, said that tests in his lab have shown that as many as 60 percent of voters can miss races when they are displayed in such a manner.

If the missing votes were caused by ballot design, that is bad news for the challenger, because it is more difficult under Florida law to challenge an election because of ballot design or voter confusion. -- Vote Disparity Still a Mystery In Fla. Election For Congress -

November 26, 2006

"the country is still far from able to ensure that every vote counts"

The New York Times reports: After six years of technological research, more than $4 billion spent by Washington on new machinery and a widespread overhaul of the nation’s voting system, this month’s midterm election revealed that the country is still far from able to ensure that every vote counts.

Tens of thousands of voters, scattered across more than 25 states, encountered serious problems at the polls, including failures in sophisticated new voting machines and confusion over new identification rules, according to interviews with election experts and officials.

In many places, the difficulties led to shortages of substitute paper ballots and long lines that caused many voters to leave without casting ballots. Still, an association of top state election officials concluded that for the most part, voting went as smoothly as expected.

Over the last three weeks, attention has been focused on a few close races affected by voting problems, including those in Florida and Ohio where counting dragged on for days. But because most of this year’s races were not close, election experts say voting problems may actually have been wider than initially estimated, with many malfunctions simply overlooked. -- Experts Concerned as Ballot Problems Persist - New York Times

November 23, 2006

Texas: LULAC objects to runoff falling on feast day of the Virgin of Guadalupe

AP reports: A Latino group is objecting to the Dec. 12 Texas congressional runoff election date set by Republican Gov. Rick Perry, saying it's a GOP attempt to "suppress" Hispanic votes by allowing too little time to mobilize and because it falls on a holy day.

A Perry spokeswoman said the governor was merely complying with a court order to set the earliest date possible in the race between Republican Rep. Henry Bonilla and Democrat Ciro Rodriguez. They're seeking the U.S. House seat in a district that was redrawn after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the congressional map violated Latinos' voting rights.

A runoff was necessary because none of the eight candidates had 50 percent of the vote in the Nov. 7 election. Bonilla won 49 percent and Rodriguez had 20 percent. ...

Dec. 12 is the feast day of the Virgin of Guadalupe. Some Latino communities in the district that stretches over a large swath of West and southwest Texas and part of San Antonio attend processions, Mass and family gatherings to honor the day celebrating the appearance of the Virgin before Indian peasant Juan Diego in Mexico in 1531. -- | 11/22/2006 | Latino group objects to congressional runoff date

November 20, 2006

Missouri: repeal of straight-ticket voting seems not to have lead to predicted drop-off in down-ballot offices

AP reports: Until this year, Missourians had been able to vote for every Republican, Democratic or Libertarian candidate merely by checking one box at the top of the ballot, instead of placing a mark by each individual name.

But the Republican-led state Legislature, over the objection of Democrats, did away with that option in a law that took effect Aug. 28.

The generally accepted political theory was that fewer votes would be cast in contests listed lower on the ballot, as people accustomed to the timesaving straight-ticket option grew weary of having to choose between numerous individual candidates. ..

But it seems the repeal neither benefited Republicans nor resulted in fewer votes for down-ballot races. -- AP Wire | 11/19/2006 | Election bucks expectations on repeal of straight-ticket voting

Alabama: counting write-in votes costs counties time and expense

The Birmingham News reports: Those write-in votes eat up the time and patience of election officials and poll workers, said Kim Melton, who supervised Shelby County's general election this year because [Probate Judge] Fuhrmeister was ill.

Melton estimated that about 6,000 write-in votes were cast on the county's 49,009 ballots.

"In our office, two clerks worked on it for three days just to compile all of the write-ins from all the precincts into one report," Melton said. "It takes longer for everyone to get back on election night because the poll workers have to list write-ins that night at the precinct.

"And it definitely caused a backlog in other things that we do in this office," she said. -- Write-in votes try patience of poll workers

November 16, 2006

Rhode Island: Democratic leader files complaint against mayor for interfering with voting

The Providence Journal reports: Ward 8 Democratic leader Wilbur W. Jennings Jr. has filed complaints with state and federal authorities, contending that Mayor David N. Cicilline threw a tantrum at a polling place on Election Day and interfered with a Cambodian couple who wanted to vote.

Jennings said the Democratic mayor infringed on his constitutional rights to freedom of speech and assembly and to the couple’s right to vote with assistance. The couple, confused about the voting experience, asked him to help them vote, and then Cicilline interfered by objecting vociferously, according to Jennings.

Cicilline then arranged to have the police force Jennings to leave the vicinity of the polling place, at the Reservoir Avenue fire house, under the threat of arrest, Jennings said.

Jennings said he has asked the Rhode Island attorney general, Rhode Island Board of Elections and the U.S. attorney’s office for Rhode Island to declare that the mayor misbehaved and to take any other action that would be appropriate to preserve the integrity of the voting process. -- Rhode Island news | | The Providence Journal | Rhode Island News | Providence

November 15, 2006

Press release about Sarasota election-day problems

A coalition of voter advocacy organizations will hold a public hearing Thursday night from 6:00-9:00 p.m. at the Hyatt Sarasota to allow voters to offer public testimony on problems they encountered voting in the Nov. 7 elections, and offer ideas about how to improve the voting process.

Sarasota County saw a massive undercount of some 18,000 voters in the race for the 13th Congressional District between Christine Jennings and Vern Buchanan. The race is currently undergoing a recount, but coalition members say the recount will not address the problem of the 18,000 votes which were apparently not recorded in the Congressional race, either because of a faulty ballot design or other glitches in the voting machines.

The coalition urges voters who experienced problems voting in Sarasota County to attend the public hearing and put their experience on the record. RSVP is not required. Voters who wish to attend may contact Kristin Nabers at People For the American Way Foundation, toll free number, 1-800-326-7329 ext. 2356, for more information. (NOTE: News media, please direct press inquiries to the contact numbers listed above.)

WHO: Florida Fair Elections Coalition, Common Cause Florida, People For the American Way Foundation

WHAT: Public Hearing to gather public testimony about voter problems experienced in the13th District undercount, and collect suggestions for long-term election reform.

WHEN: 6-9 p.m. Thursday, November 16

WHERE: The Ballroom of the Hyatt Sarasota On Sarasota Bay, 1000 Boulevard Of The Arts, Sarasota, FL 34236

November 13, 2006

Pennsylvania: many polling places in Washington Co. still inaccessible

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports: Sixty-four percent of 141 polling places in Washington County surveyed last summer by the Tri-County Patriots for Independent Living were found to be inaccessible to the disabled.

Results of the survey were given to county Elections Director Larry Spahr last month, said Bob Romero, membership director of the organization, which also is known as TRIPIL.

But on Election Day, the disabled still found inaccessible polls or poll workers inexperienced in dealing with disabled voters.

Mr. Spahr said he visited each of the county's 168 polling places and acknowledged the county's obligation under the Help America Vote Act to make a good-faith effort to find polling places for the disabled and the elderly. -- Group pushes for handicap poll access

Arnwine calls on blacks to fight for further election reform

The Wilmington Journal reports: With Tuesday’s heated election now history, activists across the nation say it will take much more than new standardized voting machines to increase the confidence of African-Americans in the electoral process.

“The number one thing that African-Americans are going to have to start doing is exercising voter vigilance,” says Barbara Arnwine, executive director of the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under the Law, the organization that founded and initiated the “Election Protection” program after the botched Election 2000. “We have to demand of the very candidate that we support, ‘What are you going to do about electoral reform? Where are you on early voting? Where are you on registration? Where are you going to be on getting rid of the ‘you gotta vote at the right precinct’ laws, knowing that that’s going to disenfranchise thousands and thousands of voters?’”

Increasing the level of activism that holds politicians accountable to the Black community will engender the confidence needed beyond Election Day to force lasting change – not only in elections – but in America’s democratic process, says Arnwine, “Since people fear our particular political dynamic so much, the only anecdote is for African-American voters being as vigilant as they can be,” she says. “We’ve got to become the number one voice in the fight for election reform.” -- The Wilmington Journal - Article - more national

November 8, 2006

Colorado: auditor calls for resignation of election officials because of election snafus

The Denver Post reports: Denver woke up today with a bad hangover, after embarrassing computer glitches prevented thousands of residents from voting, piles of absentee ballots still to be counted and a call for heads to roll.

Denver Auditor Dennis Gallagher today asked that Denver's two elected voting commissioners - Susan Roger and Sandy Adams - resign and that the mayor fire Clerk and Recorder Wayne Vaden as well as the entire senior staff of the election commission, including executive director John Gaydeski.

Gallagher promised by the end of the week that he would push a previously rejected charter change to overhaul the structure of the commission, discarding Denver-s three-commissioner system for a single, elected clerk and recorder. -- - Gallagher: Fire election officials

An earlier story said: A broken ballot scanner will prevent Denver from counting all its absentee ballots for days, adding to a series of Election Day problems that erupted during the city's first general election with vote centers.

Frustrated voters stood in lines as long as three hours at several of the more concentrated centers. By 10 p.m., long after media outlets had declared Bill Ritter the winner of the governor's race, problems in Denver and Douglas counties left voters stuck in lines still waiting to cast their ballots.

About half of the 55 centers in Denver had long lines because of problems with the centralized registration system, which stalled under an overload during in the morning and then went off line in the middle of the day. -- Voting problems overwhelm city

"Voting glitches in at least a dozen states"

The Washington Post reports: Voting glitches in at least a dozen states marred yesterday's election, including difficulties getting voting machines to work, confusion about voters' eligibility and sporadic accusations of vote fraud or intimidation.

The troubles delayed the opening of polling sites and created long lines in some precincts of nearly every region of the country. They prompted courts in eight states on the East Coast and in the Midwest to extend polling hours last evening, and caused election officials elsewhere to give out provisional ballots.

Still, no catastrophic problem had emerged by late last night to imperil the validity of any race, according to nonpartisan election experts and polling observers across the ideological spectrum. ...

Election specialists cautioned that even small problems could influence the outcome of especially close contests. A complete portrait of how the voting went will not become clear until today or later, when election boards evaluate what could be a record number of absentee ballots, as well as the provisional ballots. -- Courts Weigh In After Voting Difficulties Emerge at the Polls -

November 6, 2006

Ohio: Blackwell pulls another fast one

AP reports: Lawyers and judges scrambled Monday to wrap up key election lawsuits that pertained to Tuesday's election.

Some succeeded, some failed.

With time expired, for example, a long-standing attempt by backers of Issue 1 had failed to force a signature recount that might have gotten the workers' compensation overhaul certified for the ballot. As a result, votes cast on the issue will not be counted.

The Ohio Democratic Party, by contrast, prevailed Monday in its lawsuit seeking to place 300 additional election observers around the state - though there was a twist.

In a brief ruling, Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge Timothy E. McMonagle provided the wording for Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, the Republican governor candidate, to use in informing the state's 88 county election boards that observers can freely be added, deleted or substituted.

Blackwell's office, however, interpreted the order to only apply in Cuyahoga County - where it was filed and where the judge's court resides - and said so in a directive it eventually released. McMonagle had also given Democrats an extra two hours to put in observer requests, and the state said that also only applied in Cuyahoga County. -- AP Wire | 11/06/2006 | Legal challenges live, die on eve of Ohio election

November 5, 2006

Florida: 4 voters have complained that voting machine will not record vote for Democratic House candidate

The Herald Tribune reports: Poll workers are to remind every voter to look out for the 13th Congressional District race on the electronic ballot after at least four people complained that their initial votes for Democrat Christine Jennings weren't recorded.

Sarasota County Supervisor of Elections Kathy Dent gave the order by e-mail, calling it "critical." She told the Herald-Tribune she believes a very small number of the 24,000 early voters overlooked the 13th Congressional District race because it "is sandwiched in between the Senate and the governor's race."

Dent said her office will review ballot design on the county's touchscreen voting machines to see if the problem can be avoided in the future, but added that more voters correctly fill out touchscreen ballots than paper ballots.

The county uses a paperless touchscreen voting system, and a number of high-profile glitches around the state and nation have added to some voters' inherent distrust of touchscreen voting. -- Voting glitch prompts warning

Thanks to Talking Points Memo for the link.

"Democracy's dirty little secret"

The National Journal reports: Democracy's dirty little secret: Vote counting is a messy business. In nearly every election, votes that shouldn't be counted are, and votes that should be counted aren't. In the 2004 election, at least 850,000 ballots cast somewhere in the nation were never counted, the federal Election Assistance Commission estimates.

Some voters inadvertently invalidated their absentee ballots by failing to sign them. Other absentee ballots were signed but weren't counted because scanners failed to detect a signature.

But voters who showed up at a polling place didn't necessarily have better luck: Some lacked proper identification, or were directed to the wrong precinct. Others discovered that they weren't registered, that their names had been purged from voter rolls, or that someone had already voted in their name. Most of these frustrated folks were allowed to cast provisional ballots, but many of those ballots were not counted.

When a race isn't tight enough for contested ballots to matter, or when the results are not within what election experts call "the margin of litigation," election officials and the political parties' official observers generally accept the imperfections and move on. That's what happens in most races. It's quite a different matter when the vote count for an important office is very close. -- NATIONAL JOURNAL: Let The Recounts Begin (11/03/2006)

November 4, 2006

Being first on the ballot may give a 2% edge

Jon A. Krosnick writes in the New York Times: People who are first in line at a movie know they have the best chance of getting the seats they want. When students answer multiple-choice questions incorrectly, they usually choose one of the first options offered. When people taste-test four brands of beer, they tend to prefer the one they try first.

And so it is with voting. Candidates listed first on the ballot get about two percentage points more votes on average than they would have if they had been listed later (flipping a 49 to 51 defeat into a 51 to 49 victory). In fact, in about half the races I have studied, the advantage of first place is even bigger — certainly big enough to win some elections these days.

When do voters gravitate to the first name they see? Based on the more than 100 elections in Ohio that a colleague and I studied, it’s when voters know little or nothing about the candidates, or when the candidates’ party affiliations are not listed on the ballot, or when the incumbent (whom voters typically know at least somewhat) is not running for re-election. Thus, some voters apparently feel an obligation or desire to vote even when they have no basis for choosing a candidate and are drawn to the first name they read.

But even in well-publicized major national races, being listed first can help. Some people walk into the voting booth feeling ambivalent, and in the end just grab the name on top so they can get out of the booth. -- In the Voting Booth, Bias Starts at the Top - New York Times

November 2, 2006

Election Protection 2006

If you experience election-related problems, call 1-866-OUR-VOTE.

Arizona: federal judge requires count of non-voters, but denies poll-watcher request

AP reports: A federal judge on Wednesday refused to let critics of Arizona's voter identification law station observers inside polling stations during the Nov. 7 general election but ordered election officials to count how many people without identification walk away without voting.

U.S. District Judge Roslyn Silver said the Inter Tribal Council of Arizona and other challengers to the 2004 law have a legitimate pretrial interest in learning how many people are affected by the requirement that people casting ballots at polling places produce specified types of identification.

The judge ordered election officials to count instances where people who do not have required identification and leave a polling place without casting a conditional provisional ballot.

Silver said she denied the challengers' request to be allowed to station their own observers in polling places because state law permits only certain people in polling places in order to prevent interference, intimidation and harassment. -- Mohave Daily News: Top Story

Ohio: "Confessions of an Ohio poll worker"

"Lucy Paul" writes on Salon: I had been thinking about working at a polling place on Election Day ever since 2004, when Ohio was the crucial presidential battleground state -- and the red-hot center of controversy, with voters either turned away from the polls, or exercising their rights on machines that recorded their votes incorrectly, or not being able to get to the few machines at all.

Would this year be 2004 all over again, I wondered?

Then I saw a notice in our church bulletin: "Poll Workers Wanted." It said you could help your community and make money, too. It listed the pay: $95 plus training fees as a regular judge, $105 plus training fees as a presiding judge, or $115 plus training fees as a red bag judge. Figuring I could take a paid vacation day from my job while being paid to work a polling place -- and seeing the bill from my husband's student loans -- I decided I could use an extra hundred bucks, in addition to witnessing our democracy at work. Or not. -- Confessions of an Ohio poll worker | Salon News

Note: The author will write another article on her Election-Day experiences and reveal her true identity.

October 31, 2006

Important voting survey form

Verified Voting has a survey on accessibility of polling places. Everyone should participate. Please download the survey form here, print it before you go vote, fill it out, and send it back to the address on the bottom of the form.

"Why Tuesday?"

The Los Angeles Times reports: Why do we vote on Tuesdays?

A bipartisan voter-reform group is paying prospective voters to videotape themselves asking elected officials that question face to face.

The first person to post a clip of a particular official onto YouTube or another video-sharing website cashes in.

The bounty hunting is lucrative: For a current U.S. House member, the payoff is $300, while a sitting U.S. senator or governor is worth $500. A vice president, either sitting or not, brings $2,500; President Bush or a predecessor commands $5,000. -- Ask an official, post the answer, get paid - Los Angeles Times

For the answer, click here.

Continue reading ""Why Tuesday?"" »

"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 30, 2006

Election problems: "The worst software ... is often the human brain"

The Orlando Sentinel reports: Long lines, faulty machines and new voting rules could mar Election Day throughout the country, warn several groups that study and monitor elections.

With control of Congress at stake, even a small blunder Nov. 7 has the potential to escalate into a crisis similar in scope to the 2000 election.

"The ingredients are there," said Dan Seligson, who edited an independent report detailing the potential troubles.

Among them:

* Electronic machines that could fail or be hacked.

* Stricter voting requirements that already have sparked lawsuits.

* A divided electorate that could make many races across the U.S. very close, putting added pressure on an already imperfect system.

"The worst software in an election is often the human brain," said Seligson, whose nonpartisan organization predicted "the possibility -- if not certainty -- of problems at polls nationwide." -- | 10/30/2006 | Balloting brouhahas could be brewing

October 29, 2006


The Baltimore Times reports: As the November elections approach, the nonpartisan Election Protection Coalition is launching its national 1-866-OUR VOTE voter assistance hotline and the poll location web site 1-866-OUR-VOTE is the only national voter assistance hotline staffed by live call center operators trained to provide state specific assistance to all voters. Lawyers, poll monitors and additional volunteers will be mobilized in 16 key states across the nation to assist voters in the days leading up to the election and on Election Day.

Led by People For the American Way Foundation, the NAACP, and the Lawyers' Committee For Civil Rights Under Law, Election Protection (EP) has operated in every election cycle since 2001, and is the nation's most far-reaching nonpartisan effort to provide voter assistance and protect voter rights. The services will include bilingual assistance for areas with a heavy concentration of Spanish-speaking voters.

Trained volunteers will staff the hotline providing immediate, state specific, assistance to callers. Call center operators will inform voters and solve problems on issues such as voter identification requirements, voting machine malfunctions, problems at the polling place, and voter intimidation. National call centers will be located in Washington, New York, Baltimore, and San Francisco. Local call centers will be hosted in Florida, Georgia, Louisiana and Minnesota. -- Baltimore Times - Article - local news

Comment: I will be participating in this program again this year.

October 20, 2006

Georgia: supreme court discounts write-in votes, confirms win

The Southern Voice reports: The Georgia Supreme Court on Oct.16 unanimously confirmed the razor thin re-election victory of lesbian Atlanta City Councilmember Anne Fauver over gay opponent Steve Brodie, erasing doubt over who will continue to represent District 6.

The court’s seven justices ruled that nine write-in ballots that were in dispute were for candidates not qualified to serve if elected.

“Because unqualified write-in candidates cannot assume office, counting the write-in votes for these unqualified candidates would be a futile act by the board,” the ruling states.

Fauver, who defeated Brodie by only five votes in November 2005, said the state Supreme Court’s ruling “vindicated” her. ...

According to state law, in order to win an election without a runoff, a candidate must receive 50 percent plus one of the votes cast. Brodie contended that if the nine write-in ballots were included in the total vote count, Fauver would have received 49.97 percent of the vote. -- Southern Voice Online

October 19, 2006

Florida: Secretary of State appeals ruling on Negron signs in polling places

AP reports: Florida's secretary of state on Thursday appealed a ruling that prohibits the posting of signs to tell voters in the district of disgraced former Rep. Mark Foley (news, bio, voting record) that his votes will go to another Republican.

Circuit Judge Janet Ferris ruled Wednesday that state law did not permit such signs to be posted in polling places.

Florida Secretary of State Sue Cobb, an appointee of Republican Gov.
Jeb Bush, asked the 1st District Court of Appeal to reverse the ruling. The court agreed to expedite the case. Early voting for the Nov. 7 election begins Monday. ...

Cobb has until noon Monday to file written arguments, and the Democratic Party has until noon Wednesday to reply. -- Fla. official appeals Foley sign ruling - Yahoo! News

"New Laws and Machines May Spell Voting Woes"

The New York Times reports: As dozens of states are enforcing new voter registration laws and switching to paperless electronic voting systems, officials across the country are bracing for an Election Day with long lines and heightened confusion, followed by an increase in the number of contested results.

In Maryland, Mississippi and Pennsylvania, a shortage of technicians has vendors for new machines soliciting applications for technical support workers on job Web sites like Ms. Oakley, who is also facing a shortage, raided the computer science department at the University of California, Davis, hiring 60 graduate students as troubleshooters.

Arizona, California, Georgia, Indiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio and Pennsylvania are among the states considered most likely to experience difficulties, according to voting experts who have been tracking the technology and other election changes.

“We’ve got new laws, new technology, heightened partisanship and a growing involvement of lawyers in the voting process,” said Tova Wang, who studies elections for the Century Foundation, a nonpartisan research group. “We also have the greatest potential for problems in more places next month than in any voting season before.” -- New Laws and Machines May Spell Voting Woes - New York Times

Florida: court rules against Foley-Negron signs inside polling places

AP reports: Florida law doesn't permit polling place signs saying a vote for disgraced former U.S. Rep. Mark Foley will go to a replacement candidate, a judge ruled Wednesday.

Circuit Judge Janet Ferris granted a temporary injunction to stop election officials from using signs to tell voters that while Foley's name remains on the ballot, Republican state Rep. Joe Negron will get his votes in a race against Democrat Tim Mahoney. Foley resigned last month after it was revealed he had sent suggestive messages to several male congressional pages. ...

Ferris cited a 2005 law that repealed a provision which had called for putting replacement candidates' names on the ballot up to 21 days before a general election. The new law instead prohibits name changes after primary election results are finalized.

Ferris wrote that lawmakers had a chance in that law to require explanatory signs, but declined. ...

The law was changed a year after signs had been used as an alternative to reprinting or rubber-stamping ballots to indicate that votes for a Democratic congressional candidate who withdrew would go to a replacement in another South Florida congressional district. -- Court: No Foley signs at polls

October 16, 2006

California: election guides growing larger each election

AP reports: Voter guides are landing with a big thud on doorsteps across California, with residents confronted with an unusually large number of ballot measures and candidates in next month's election.

Election officials worry that the state's largest guides — 192-page books sent to 12 million homes — will overwhelm and discourage would-be voters.

The array of complicated issues on the ballot could also lead to long lines and delays at polling sites if people haven't done their homework. ...

A majority of voters are expected to vote by mail. But the ballots are so big that election officials fear some may be returned for insufficient postage. -- Bulky voter guides cause worry in Calif. - Yahoo! News

October 13, 2006

Florida: Dems sue to block signs in polling booth about Foley-Negron switch

The Palm Beach Post reports: The Florida Democratic Party filed a lawsuit today in hopes of keeping notices out of polling places that would inform voters that ballots cast for former U.S. Rep. Mark Foley will count for fellow Republican Joe Negron.

The eight-county elections supervisors who will record the outcome in the 16th Congressional District agreed this week to print a notice that would be posted at registration tables and handed to voters who had questions about the race.

Foley resigned Sept. 29 - too late to print new ballots - and was replaced as the Republican candidate by Negron, a state lawmaker from Stuart. Negron will receive any votes cast for Foley, according to state law.

When Negron was picked as Foley's replacement, Florida Division of Elections Director Dawn Roberts asked the supervisors to mail a notice about the change with absentee ballots and to post the notice inside individual voting booths.

Supervisors decided against her recommendation, but agreed this week to make a notice available in case of voter confusion. -- Democrats sue to stop Negron ballot signs

LWV report on "Thinking Outside the Ballot Box"

From the League of Women Voters' new report, "Thinking Outside the Ballot Box: Innovations for the Polling Place": Across the country, elections officials are changing the way Americans vote. Some of the changes—such as early voting and the use of vote centers—are dramatic and obvious. Others are more subtle, involving new technologies and changes in the procedures used to get voters in and out of the polling place. The common denominator linking many of the changes: convenience. Reports of long lines and widespread confusion at polling places in recent elections have forced elections officials to take a fresh look at how they do their work, while drawing attention to innovative approaches and new ideas.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 20 percent of registered voters who did not vote in the November 2004 election said it was because they were too busy or had conflicting work or school schedules. By bringing added convenience to the voting process, elections officials hope to boost participation among these voters while making voting less of a hassle for one and all. -- Template.cfm (application/pdf Object)

Thanks to Democracy Dispatches for the link.

Denying the vote to pretrial detainees and "deadbeat dads"

Scott Novakowski writes on Democracy Dispatches: In "Modern-Day 'Poll Tax' Costs GOP Votes," Human Events columnist Barry Weinstein argues that divorced fathers are being unconstitutionally stripped of their right to vote because they are in jail for failure to pay child support:

"The issue is now playing out all across America's 3,141 counties and parishes. These individuals who have not committed any crime are the target of activist judicial discrimination based upon their sex. They have not been accused of a crime. They have not had a trial by jury of their peers. In fact, they have not been convicted of a crime. They are in jail until they - even if they cannot comply - pay a judge's arbitrary established sum in order to be released from jail," writes Weinstein.

Despite several factual errors and an overabundance of silly rhetoric and conservative catch phrases, Weinstein has a valid point. Across the country, those in jail awaiting trial (typically referred to as "pre-trial detainees") are not provided with voting machines on Election Day or adequate access to the absentee ballot process. These untried and unconvicted individuals are a much larger group than the fathers to which Weinstein refers. For example, at Rikers Island, the largest jail in New York State, over 65 percent of those 13,751 being held at any given time are pre-trial detainees. Attempts to register eligible voters at Rikers and to facilitate absentee balloting have largely been unsuccessful. -- Democracy Dispatches

September 17, 2006

Massachusetts: More than one-third of Springfield's poll workers will be bilingual

AP reports: The city has hired 73 new bilingual poll workers - more than a dozen more than it agreed to employ after being sued by the U.S. Department of Justice.

Last month, the city said it would hire 57 bilingual poll workers, appoint a Hispanic voting coordinator and make other changes to help more Hispanic people vote. The move came after the Justice Department sued the city for violating the voting rights of Spanish-speaking residents by not giving them enough help at the polls. -- Worcester Telegram & Gazette AP State News

August 28, 2006

New Hampshire: Supreme Court delays effect of ballot-order ruling

The Concord Monitor reports: The Sept. 12 primary can be held as scheduled, the state Supreme Court ruled yesterday. At the request of the state, the justices issued an order clarifying their recent decision that the state's ballot order was unconstitutional.

The judges delayed enforcement of their ruling until after the primary but said the state must come up with a new ballot for the Nov. 7 general election. That ruling pleased both parties in the lawsuit: the secretary of state and politicians who sued the state. But top Republican lawmakers said it represented only a modest improvement, warning that they may convene a rare special session to settle the matter.

"I think we're going to have to come back," Senate Majority Leader Bob Clegg said. The Hudson Republican said the court issued a flawed decision that could harm voters in its attempt to make the ballot fairer for candidates. ...

The lawsuit that triggered this dispute accused the state of giving an unconstitutional advantage to certain candidates by putting the majority party first - a law that has given Republicans the top spots on the ballot for 40 years - and by listing candidates in alphabetical order within party lists. The Supreme Court struck down both laws.

State officials have conceded the party matter. The debate right now is over alphabetizing. -- Concord Monitor Online Article - Justices give go-ahead to Sept. 12 vote - Your News Source - 03301

August 8, 2006

Texas: Rumors true! DeLay to back write-in effort

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports: Rebuffed by the U.S. Supreme Court to have his candidacy nullified by removing his name from the November ballot, former U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay said Tuesday that he’ll formally withdraw as candidate for Congress in hope that the GOP can unite behind a write-in hopeful.

“As a Virginia resident, I will take the actions necessary to remove my name from the Texas ballot,” said DeLay, who quit Congress in June and changed his residency from Sugar Land to Virginia. “To do anything else would be hypocrisy.

“I strongly encourage the Republican Party to take any and all actions necessary to give Texas voters an up-or-down choice this fall between two major party candidates,” he added. -- | 08/08/2006 | DeLay: GOP should push for write-in candidate

Texas: write-in roundup

The media are all a-twitter over the prospect of a write-in campaign by the GOP for DeLay's seat. After all, what are their choices? As Ben Meyers suggested on Politics1, DeLay's slogan could be "VOTE FOR ME ... FOR A JOB I DON'T WANT ... SO I CAN RESIGN AGAIN."

Mike Allen writes on Ever since the mugshot taken when he was booked on money laundering charges, former Congressman Tom DeLay of Texas has been grinning through his court appearances and resignation speeches. He even mischievously suggested recently on TV that Democratic efforts to keep him on the November ballot might prompt him to seek reelection. On Monday, the Democrats won the ballot battle and Republican sources tell TIME that DeLay is leaning to another surprising move --
stepping aside and supporting a write-in candidate for his old seat.

A Republican official with first-hand knowledge of the deliberations by DeLay said he "more likely than not" will go that route, although he had not made a final decision. "With DeLay, you never know," the official said. ...

The write-in effort in the 22nd District of Texas would bring a fresh, unsullied face to the hunt. "Lampson's best shot has always been against DeLay--Lampson's record is too liberal for a Republican district," a GOP official said, signaling the tack the party plans to take. An official close to DeLay said: "Nick Lampson would lose this race to a write-in candidate who had any name ID at all." ...

But the notion of a write-in campaign drew a different reaction in Texas. "This would be met with ridicule and scorn," said Bill Miller, a Republican consultant with close ties to the state's GOP legislative leadership. "This strategy would be like handing the seat to the Democrats on a silver platter," Miller said. "Tom Delay will be remembered for the craziest end to his political career." -- Mike Allen | The Allen Report

August 4, 2006

Connecticut: state will count late military ballots

AP reports: State officials agreed Wednesday to hold open Connecticut's Aug. 8 federal primary elections until Aug. 25 to ensure that absentee ballots from residents serving overseas in the military are counted.

The agreement settles a civil rights lawsuit filed against the state by the U.S. Attorney's office after the military complained that some members had not received ballots in time to return them to the state before the election.

There are up to 2,100 people qualified to vote in the primary elections under the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voter Act, according to the lawsuit.

About 700 ballots for the Democratic U.S. Senate race and fewer than 100 ballots for the Republican 1st Congressional District primary were mailed late by town clerks, according to the secretary of the state's office. Under the agreement, any military absentee ballot received before Aug. 25 will be counted. -- The Advocate - Election to be held open for military votes

Note: The complaint and the stipulated agreement are available on the DOJ website.

Massachusetts: Springfield mayor denounces DOJ suit against city

The Springfield Republican reports: Springfield Mayor Charles V. Ryan yesterday denounced as rash a voting rights lawsuit filed by the U.S. Department of Justice against the city.

The Justice Department announced on Wednesday that it had filed a suit stating that the city violated the Voting Rights Act regarding Spanish-speaking voters.

Ryan said yesterday that neither he nor anyone in City Hall had ever received complaints about voting rights issues. Furthermore, he said, the Justice Department gave officials who had not seen the complaint virtually 48 hours to sign a consent decree in which the city would have been placed under federal oversight or face a lawsuit. ...

The federal complaint states that poll workers were hostile to Hispanic and Spanish-speaking voters and denied them the right to be assisted by the person of their choice. -- Mayor objects to U.S. lawsuit

The text of the DOJ complaint is available here.

August 3, 2006

Tennessee: imposter picks up election supplies in Memphis

The Memphis Commercial Appeal reports: Hours before polls were set to open to decide the largest ballot in Shelby County's history, agents with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation opened a late-night criminal probe at the elections operation center.

Elections officials called in the TBI after someone impersonating a precinct official picked up ballot supplies, including a list of registered voters, for Precinct 49-1, said election commissioner O. C. Pleasant Jr.

Electon Commission chairman Gregory Duckett and Dist. Atty. Gen. Bill Gibbons also confirmed that TBI agents were at the operations center investigating a single precinct.

The TBI action began late Wednesday afternoon as election workers made last-minute preparations for today's vote, which features the largest ballot in Shelby County history with 141 races. -- Memphis Commercial Appeal - Memphis' Source for News and Information: Politics

July 22, 2006

Democratic committee adopts new primary & caucus calendar

The Chicago Tribune reports: The Democratic Party intends to add Nevada and South Carolina to the opening chapter of the 2008 presidential campaign, with a key panel deciding Saturday to introduce the voice of Western and Southern voters to the Iowa-New Hampshire duet.

At a meeting in Washington, the rules and bylaws committee of the Democratic National Committee voted to place Nevada between the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary, the two contests that traditionally have launched the race. The group voted to add a South Carolina primary soon after New Hampshire's.

Nevada, which will hold a party caucus, edged out Arizona for the Western slot, and South Carolina beat Alabama for the Southern position in the first significant calendar restructuring in years. ...

Unless there is unexpected maneuvering, the Democratic calendar will begin with the Iowa caucuses on Jan. 14, 2008, likely followed by Nevada's caucuses on Jan. 19, New Hampshire's primary on Jan. 22 and South Carolina's primary a week later. After Feb. 5, other states would be allowed to weigh in. -- KRT Wire | 07/22/2006 | Democratic committee votes to add Nevada, South Carolina to lineup

July 21, 2006

Democratic committee to vote on changed primary and caucus calendar

AP reports:
WASHINGTON -- Democrats are on track to jumble the states in the presidential primary calendar in response to growing criticism that the same predominantly white states hold many of the cards in early voting.

And not even complaints from a former president and a half-dozen White House hopefuls can stop them.

Iowa would still go first in the new calendar, but a Western state -- possibly Nevada or Arizona -- would be wedged in before the New Hampshire primary. A Southern state -- possibly Alabama or South Carolina -- would follow New Hampshire.

The national Democrats' rules and bylaws committee expects to vote on the proposal this weekend. -- Democrats Set to Shake Up Primary Calendar - Los Angeles Times

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

    Washington State: Pierce County to vote on IRV in November referendum

    The Tacoma News Tribune reports: Come November, Pierce County voters will decide a smorgasbord of proposals to remodel county government, including making the job of sheriff an elected position, adopting a different way to elect some county officials and bolstering property rights.

    In a series of votes, the Charter Review Commission on Saturday decided to send nine of 15 possible changes to the county’s constitution to voters on the Nov. 7 ballot. ...

    The commission also adopted a proposal to use a different system for electing all county officials except for judges and the prosecuting attorney: instant runoff voting. Under that system, voters would cast ballots allowing them to rank all candidates for an office in their order of preference. -- Charter changes now up to you | | Tacoma, WA

    Hat tip to Rob Richie for the tip.

    June 11, 2006

    Alabama: DOJ gets relief for overseas voters

    From a DOJ press release: The Justice Department today announced the successful resolution of its lawsuit against the state of Alabama to enforce the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA).

    The lawsuit, filed on March 9, 2006, contended that the three-week period between Alabama’s primary and second primary elections was too short for run-off ballots to be created, mailed, and returned from absentee voters living in distant places such as American servicemembers in Iraq. In response to the lawsuit, the Alabama General Assembly enacted legislation that extends the period between the primary and run-off elections to five weeks, and allows ballots cast by military and overseas voters to be counted if they are received within seven days after the election. A new state law will help ensure that military and overseas voters have an opportunity to participate fully in the state's primary run-off elections for federal office, as required by UOCAVA. The reforms in Alabama follow similar actions in North Carolina and South Carolina in 2006 in which the Civil Rights Division pressed to obtain full UOCAVA compliance in advance of the 2006 federal primary elections. ...

    The Governor promptly signed the bill into law, but an unanticipated consequence of the extension of the run-off date was a change in absentee voting requirements: absentee voters would now have to file separate requests for primary and run-off absentee ballots. With little time for effective publicity and the absentee voting process under way, this change could have affected numerous voters. Moreover, because data provided by the state of Alabama suggests that African American voters use absentee ballots at a higher rate than other voters, this change could have had particular implications for African American voters. The Justice Department obtained an Order suspending the dual-request provision until 2008, and the state agreed, among other steps, to provide each 2008 applicant with two applications and a prominent notice of the need for two separate applications. Having resolved the potential impact of the change, the Justice Department determined that the change satisfied the Voting Rights Act and moved for dismissal of its complaint. -- #06-354: 06-08-06 Justice Department Announces Resolutions to Protect Rights of Military and Overseas Citizens to Vote in Federal Primary Elections in Alabama and South Carolina

    Thanks to Mike Pitts for pointing me to this.

    You can view complaint , the US's motion, and the injuction with these links.

    Thanks to John Tanner for pointing out the mistaken uploads to me.

    May 16, 2006

    Mississippi: Jackson Co. Dems will use paper ballots

    AP reports: The U.S. Justice Department has given Jackson County Democrats permission to use paper ballots in the June 6 party primary, local party chairman Melton Harris says.

    Harris told county supervisors on Monday that the department also is allowing the county to reduce the number of precincts from about 60 to 21.

    David Blount, spokesman for the Mississippi Secretary of State's office, said Tuesday that new electronic touch-screen voting machines also will be available for use in Jackson County precincts in the primary.

    The reduction in the number of precincts will save the county money on a primary that's expected to have a light voter turnout. The primary is to select a Democrat to oppose longtime Sen. Trent Lott, R-Miss., who is from Jackson County. -- AP Wire | 05/16/2006 | Dems in one coast county get OK for paper ballots in June

    Pennsylvania: polling places to be moved from private sites

    The Philadelphia Inquirer reports: Philadelphia's long-standing - and, some argue, necessary - practice of using private houses as polling places will be sharply curbed under a controversial bill Gov. Rendell signed into law yesterday.

    The measure will require city officials to move several dozen polling spots from houses to the nearest public building in an adjacent ward before this fall's election - but after Tuesday's primary. It will also prohibit locating polling places in party headquarters or the homes of elected officials, as occurs now.

    Although the law applies to all counties, Philadelphia appears to be affected the most. Since the state's election code was passed in 1937, the city has liberally tapped nonpublic sites, from private houses to funeral homes, to operate polls.

    According to the city commissioners, who run elections in Philadelphia, at least 90 polling places might have to be changed - 77 of them in private houses. The remainder either are not handicapped-accessible or are located in bars or partisan headquarters. -- Philadelphia Inquirer | 05/13/2006 | Pa. law sharply restricts poll sites

    May 10, 2006

    Arizona: Maldef sues over Prop. 200's voting rules

    The Arizona Star reports: A Hispanic rights law firm filed suit Tuesday asking a federal judge to void the voting provisions of Proposition 200.

    The lawsuit by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund attacks provisions of the law which requires proof of citizenship to register to vote and certain forms of identification to cast a ballot. Attorney Nina Perales said Latinos are less likely to have the kinds of ID required.

    "As a result, significant numbers of Latinos attempting to register and turn out to vote are denied the right to vote,'' she said. And Perales said because Hispanics are a significant proportion of the people who are naturalized - people who need different documents - the law has a harsher effect on them, making it illegal. ...

    Joe Kanefield, the state elections director, countered there is a big difference between requiring someone to pay money to the government to exercise the right to vote and simply mandating that they provide proper documentation - even if it does cost them money to get those documents. -- Lawsuit seeks to void Prop 200 voting provisions | �

    May 8, 2006

    Mississippi: county Dems want to use paper ballots for primary

    The Biloxi Sun Herald reports: Melton Harris, head of Jackson County's Democratic Party, is sticking to his belief that next month's primary would be run best if the party used paper ballots.

    Secretary of State Eric Clark disagrees and wants Jackson County Democrats to use the new high-tech voting machines with touch screens, like other counties in the state, because he says the law requires it.

    That's a matter of interpretation, Harris says. Paper ballots were fine in 2004 and the U.S. Justice Department tentatively gave its approval to use them now, at least until the secretary of state interfered and complained, Harris said.

    With one month until the June 6 primary, Harris says he's not going to run the election if he can't use paper, and Clark says, through his official spokesman, that if Jackson County Democrats refuse to run the election it's a criminal misdemeanor. -- The Sun Herald | 05/06/2006 | Push comes to shove in Demo primary

    April 15, 2006

    Texas: College may cancel annexation election because of fraudulent signatures

    The San Marcos Daily Record reports: Austin Community College officials said this morning that they would recommend their trustees cancel the May 13 annexation election as evidence of voter fraud continues to mount.

    As of Thursday afternoon, Hays County Elections Administrator Joyce Cowan had collected 55 affidavits from voters who say their signatures were forged in addition to five deceased people discovered on the petition.

    College district trustees certified 1,036 of 2,999 signatures last month, 65 more than the 1,898 they needed to call an election. -- San Marcos Daily Record

    April 9, 2006

    Arizona: initiative proposes a lottery for those who vote

    Lottery Post reports: Cast a vote, win a million.

    If an Arizona man has his way, every person who votes in his state will automatically have his or her name entered in a in draw to win $1 million. Mark Osterloh, an Arizona physician and attorney, is proposing a state law that would act as an incentive to increase voter turnout.

    The long-time advocate of electoral policy reform says the idea is a variation on a highly successful law in Australia, under which citizens who fail to vote are fined.

    Such a penalty would be unconstitutional in the United States, since freedom of speech includes the freedom not to speak. But Osterloh believes his incentive-based system could be just as effective. -- Lottery Post: Arizona man proposes lottery to increase voter turnout

    March 10, 2006

    Louisiana: groups criticize confusing voter information

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

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

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

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

    Alabama: DOJ sues over military voters

    The Justice Department announces: The Justice Department today announced that it has filed a lawsuit to protect the opportunity of military and overseas voters to participate fully in the 2006 federal primary elections in Alabama. The lawsuit was brought under the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA), which requires states to allow military and other overseas citizens to register to vote and vote absentee for all elections for federal office. The lawsuit names as defendants the State of Alabama, Governor Bob Riley, Attorney General Troy King and Secretary of State Nancy Worley.

    The lawsuit contends that the three-week period between Alabama's federal primary and run-off elections is too short for run-off ballots to be created, mailed, and returned from absentee voters in distant places including war zones. The complaint asks the court to order adoption of a special blank run-off ballot, state and county Internet notice and media publicity of run-off candidates, expedited return of run-off ballots from overseas voters, and extra time for the receipt and counting of those ballots. The Civil Rights Division had notified each of the state officials of the need for action to comply with the UOCAVA by letter received by each of the state offices on Dec. 20, 2005. -- U.S. Newswire : Releases : "DOJ Announces Filing of Lawsuit To Protect..."

    Alabama: House committee votes to delay runoff

    AP reports: A House committee voted Thursday to delay the primary runoff elections from June 27 to July 18 to give military personnel overseas, particularly in Iraq and Afghanistan, time to cast ballots.

    Members of the House Constitution and Elections Committee approved legislation moving the runoff after Attorney General Troy King told them the Justice Department is expected to file a lawsuit, possibly as early as today, to force the state to make sure soldiers in Iraq and around the globe have time to vote.

    "I think we should be sued," King said. "Everybody, especially those defending others' right to vote, ought to have their own rights defended by this Legislature."

    The problem is that the runoff ballot will not be set until after the June 6 party primaries and it currently takes 10 to 15 days to get mail to many soldiers fighting in Iraq, making it almost impossible to deliver the ballots and have them returned in the 21 days between the primary and the runoffs. -- Delay sought in primary runoff

    February 22, 2006

    Pennsylvania: another effort to reduce so-called fraud by making it harder to vote

    Tom Ferrick Jr. writes in the Philadelphia Inquirer: Talk about a wolf in sheep's clothing.

    Consider the case of Pennsylvania's House Bill 1318, titled the Voter Protection Act of 2006. It has the stated intent of ensuring voters the right to access to polls by eliminating fraud, intimidation and identity theft.

    So many noble words, employed in an insidious cause.

    HB1318 is, plain and simple, a mechanism to suppress voter turnout, particularly in big cities, especially among poor, minority and elderly voters. It seeks to make the act of voting more difficult than ever. -- Philadelphia Inquirer | 02/22/2006 | Tom Ferrick Jr. | A predatory bill that ought to die

    February 5, 2006

    Louisiana: election board proposes law to require polling place accessibility

    The New Orleans Times-Picayune reports: Local governing authorities would be required to certify that their polling places are accessible to disabled voters under a proposed law recommended by the state's election board Thursday.

    The State Board of Elections Supervisors, a body made up of clerks of court, registrars of voters and members of the secretary of state and attorney general's offices, approved 21 mostly minor proposed changes in the state election code, which will be presented at the March 27 general session of the Legislature.

    Assistant Secretary of State Renee Free said most if not all public buildings used as polling places already are outfitted for the disabled but that some private residences used for voting may not be.

    Under federal law, Free said, if a polling place is not accessible to the disabled, the federal government can penalize the state. The board discussed requiring the certification to be made once every four years, at least six months before the governor's race, but no decision was made on that. -- Plan would require assurances of disabled access for elections

    February 2, 2006

    Ohio: appeal from 2004 emergency order dismissed

    The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports: A federal court dismissed a lawsuit left over from foulups in Ohio on Election Day 2004 in a ruling that came after Attorney General Jim Petro's office missed a deadline for filing its written legal brief.

    Petro's office sought this week's dismissal order from the 6th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, ending further conflict with Ohio Democratic Party lawyers, who already had asked that the case be tossed because the paperwork came in late. ...

    The dismissal means that a lower court's decision to grant an emergency order on Nov. 2, 2004, stands. That order, sought by Democrats, kept polls open past closing time due to long lines in Franklin and Knox counties.

    Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, the state's top election official, long ago dropped out of the dispute. But Petro, a Republican challenging Blackwell for governor in the GOP primary, kept the case going the last 14 months as state lawyers asserted nothing had gone wrong, despite the lines. -- Late legal brief gets election lawsuit tossed

    January 26, 2006

    Louisiana: 2 representatives sue for FEMA's list

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

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

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

    November 21, 2005

    Georgia: a different take on Burmeister

    Jay Bookman opines in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution: State Rep. Sue Burmeister, an Augusta Republican and author of the state's controversial voter ID law, told investigators for the Justice Department that the law isn't a threat since black voters in her area vote only if they're paid to vote anyway.

    Ladies and gentlemen, that's racism, pure and ugly.

    I know that sounds harsh — the racism charge gets tossed around a lot these days — but it's hard to describe this any other way.

    In fact, this has really made me angry. I'm a white guy, and I've voted lots of times. Now, after all these years of standing in lines and punching ballots, I discover that I've been voting for free while black people have been getting paid to do it?

    It's blatant discrimination against white people, that's what it is. If black people get paid to vote, I should be paid to vote. Equal pay for equal say! -- White people! Don't just cast a vote; sell it |

    November 18, 2005

    Georgia: Rep. Burmeister trash-talks black voters

    The Atlanta Journal Constitution reports: The chief sponsor of Georgia's voter identification law told the Justice Department that if black people in her district "are not paid to vote, they don't go to the polls," and that if fewer blacks vote as a result of the new law, it is only because it would end such voting fraud.

    The newly released Justice Department memo quoting state Rep. Sue Burmeister (R-Augusta) was prepared by department lawyers as the federal government considered whether to approve the new law. It also says that despite Republican assurances the law would not disenfranchise elderly, poor and black voters, Susan Laccetti Meyers, the staff adviser for the Georgia House of Representatives, told the Justice Department "the Legislature did not conduct any statistical analysis of the effect of the photo ID requirement on minority voters."

    It cites analyses showing that, in fact, the effects of the law — which will require Georgians seeking to vote to present a driver's license or an identification card for which they must pay — could fall disproportionately on blacks. It concludes that the state had failed to show the law would not weaken minority voting strength, and recommends that the attorney general's office formally object to it. ...

    Georgia Democrats reacted angrily to the memo and to reports that the department had approved the voter ID law even though staff attorneys recommended against it. They said the law is the most blatant evidence that Georgia's election laws should remain under federal scrutiny, as required by the 1965 Voting Rights Act, despite attempts by Georgia Republicans to free the state from federal oversight. -- Voter ID memo stirs tension |

    Georgia: DOJ trash-talks its career attorneys

    The Washington Post reports: The Justice Department yesterday played down the importance of a memorandum that concluded that a Georgia voter identification program would hurt black voters, saying the document was a draft that contained old data and faulty analysis.

    The memo's conclusions were overruled by senior Justice officials, who announced Aug. 26 that the controversial voter plan could proceed because it was not retrogressive, or harmful to black voters, under the Voting Rights Act. The plan has since been blocked by the federal courts on constitutional grounds.

    Justice spokesman Eric Holland said in a statement that the 51-page memo "was an early draft that did not include data and analysis from other voting section career attorneys who recognized the absence of a retrogressive effect." He said the document contained "analytical flaws" and "factual errors."

    "The early draft . . . does not represent the quality of factual and legal analysis that the Justice Department expects in a final product," Holland said. -- Justice Plays Down Memo Critical of Ga. Voter ID Plan

    Rick Hasen comments on this story: I cannot find Holland's statement on the DOJ website. It is interesting to call an Aug. 25 draft an "early draft" when DOJ announced the decision on August 26. It would also be nice to know more about questions regarding the "quality of factual and legal analysis" in the draft. I have always considered the work of the career attorneys in DOJ's voting rights division to be quite good, and I want to know what is lacking here.

    November 17, 2005

    Georgia: the DOJ side of the story

    A friend at the Justice Department reminded me about the letter of October 7, 2005 from William E. Moschella, Assistant Attorney General, to Senator Christopher S. Bond. Read that in conjunction with the Post story just below this one.

    Georgia: Voter I.D. law was precleared over DOJ staff objections

    The Washington Post reports: A team of Justice Department lawyers and analysts who reviewed a Georgia voter-identification law recommended rejecting it because it was likely to discriminate against black voters, but they were overruled the next day by higher-ranking officials at Justice, according to department documents.

    The Justice Department has characterized the "pre-clearance" of the controversial Georgia voter-identification program as a joint decision by career and political appointees in the Civil Rights Division. Republican proponents in Georgia have cited federal approval of the program as evidence that it would not discriminate against African Americans and other minorities.

    But an Aug. 25 staff memo obtained by The Washington Post recommended blocking the program because Georgia failed to show that the measure would not dilute the votes of minority residents, as required under the Voting Rights Act.

    The memo, endorsed by four of the team's five members, also said the state had provided flawed and incomplete data. The team found significant evidence that the plan would be "retrogressive," meaning that it would reduce blacks' access to the polls.

    A day later, on Aug. 26, the chief of the department's voting rights section, John Tanner, told Georgia officials that the program could go forward. "The Attorney General does not interpose any objection to the specified changes," he said in a letter to them. -- Criticism of Voting Law Was Overruled

    The Post has posted the memo in 5 parts: first, second, third, fourth, and

    November 15, 2005

    Arizona: initiative proposes all-mail balloting

    The Arizona Republic reports: A wealthy Bullhead City radio station executive is bankrolling an initiative that could pave the way for Arizonans to vote almost entirely by mail, a change that could transform state political campaigns and elections.

    Businessman Rick Murphy said he's pursuing the initiative because he was disturbed by paltry voter turnout when he unsuccessfully ran for Rep. Trent Franks' congressional seat in the 2004 Republican primary.

    On Monday, some state political leaders were intrigued by the proposal, which could make the voter identification rules in Proposition 200 moot. The state's top election official said she vehemently opposes the measure. -- All-mail balloting proposed

    Thanks to Poltical Wire for the link.

    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 2, 2005

    Wisconsin: state Assembly adopts constitutional amendment for voter I.D.

    The Capital Times reports: Despite pleas from numerous Democrats not to approve a constitutional amendment that they said would be an unconstitutional "poll tax," the state Assembly voted 58 to 36 Tuesday to take the first step toward that amendment.

    The approved resolution would require a photo ID for voting or registering to vote at the polls on Election Day. But it also would allow the Legislature, after the amendment becomes part of the state Constitution, to exempt any class of electors from those requirements. The author, Rep. Jeff Stone, R-Greendale, said such an exemption might apply to senior citizens in assisted living facilities.

    The resolution would need to be approved by the state Senate during the current legislative session, and again in both houses in the next session, before it could be presented to the voters of the state for ratification in 2007. Democrats delayed sending the bill to the Senate, something that likely will happen on Thursday.

    Gov. Jim Doyle, a Democrat, has previously vetoed photo ID legislation but plays no role in the constitutional amendment process. -- The Capital Times

    October 31, 2005

    Indiana: AARP concerned about voter I.D. law

    AP reports: The head of Indiana's chapter of the American Association of Retired Persons says a new state law requiring Hoosier voters to show an ID at the polls could put a burden on older, ailing Hoosiers who don't have driver's licenses.
    State AARP director Nancy Griffin said a recent survey by the group found that 10 percent of registered Indiana voters age 60 and older lack driver's licenses.

    She said the results "trouble" her because she worries the law passed this spring by lawmakers could "make it tough for our members -- particularly our older, sicker members -- to exercise their constitutional right to vote."
    However, the law's author -- state Sen. Vic Heinhold, R-Kouts -- says AARP is "stacking their numbers" for dramatic purposes.
    He said a simple photo ID is permissible, and points out that only 3 percent of the 843 people AARP surveyed don't have any such ID. -- Voter law bad for seniors, AARP says |

    October 27, 2005

    New Mexico: suit filed against ABQ Voter ID Ordinance

    AP reports: The American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico sued the city of Albuquerque on Thursday over its new voter ID ordinance, contending it's unconstitutional.

    The ordinance, approved by voters Oct. 4, requires people who vote at the polls to present a current, valid identification card that includes their name and photograph. People who vote absentee are exempt from photo ID requirements. ...

    Mark Shoesmith, an assistant city attorney, said the city could not comment because officials had not seen the lawsuit.

    However, he said the ordinance contains fail-safe procedures to make sure people get to vote — even if they lack a photo ID — by using paper provisional ballots. A canvassing board later counts those that are ruled valid. -- ABQJOURNAL: ACLU Challenging ABQ Voter ID Ordinance

    Georgia: 11th Circuit refuses to allow voter I.D. law for November elections

    The Atlanta Journal Constitution reports: The federal appeals court in Atlanta today denied a request to set aside an injunction barring enforcement of the state's new voter ID requirement in the upcoming municipal elections held statewide.

    In a brief order, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected a motion by the state Attorney General's Office to throw out a order last week by U.S. District Judge Harold Murphy in Rome that suspended enforcement of the law. The decision was made by 11th Circuit Judges Stanley Birch, Joel Dubina and Frank Hull. -- U.S. court backs order suspending voter ID in Ga. |

    October 20, 2005

    New Hampshire: to the winner goes the top spot

    AP reports: A judge upheld a state law that has allowed Republicans to remain listed at the top of election ballots for decades.

    The 90-year-old New Hampshire law says the party that won the most votes in the previous election goes first on the general election ballot. A group of Democrats, independents, Libertarians and some Republicans argued that the GOP has had the advantage of numbers for years, and likely is to continue to be first.

    In her ruling last week, Merrimack County Superior Court Judge Kathleen McGuire agreed with the group, who had challenged the Legislature and Secretary of State's office.

    "All credible evidence demonstrates that a small portion of the population in the absence of other information to grade their choices will vote for the first item or name on a list simply because it appears first," McGuire wrote.

    But McGuire decided it was the Legislature's prerogative to write such a law. She also felt that the GOP's advantage over other parties wasn't big enough. -- New Hampshire judge upholds ballot order -

    October 6, 2005

    Georgia: request for preliminary injunction in voter ID case

    Daniel Levitas emails: Voting rights advocates filed documents in federal court in Rome, Georgia, today in support of their motion for a preliminary injunction enjoining the enforcement of Georgia’s photo identification requirement for voting. The filing consists of the plaintiff’s motion for a preliminary injunction, a 74-page brief in support of the motion, and 31 sworn declarations attesting to the negative impact of House Bill 244 on Georgia voters.

    The case, Common Cause/Georgia v. Billups, 4:05-cv-201, was filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, Rome Division, on September 19, 2005 and was assigned to the Hon. Harold Murphy.

    The next hearing in the case will be at 10 a.m. on October 12th in Room 300 of the federal courthouse in Rome, Georgia.

    September 19, 2005

    Georgia: suit against voter ID requirement

    A consortium of voting rights advocates and private attorneys filed suit today in federal district court in Rome, Georgia, challenging House Bill 244, charging the law violates the state and federal constitutions, the 1965 Voting Rights Act, and the 1964 Civil Rights Act. -- ACLU :: Voting Rights Act :: News (links to the complaint)

    September 14, 2005

    Louisiana: What if they held an election and no one came?

    The Shreveport Times reports: The exodus of Brumfield and others like her from southeast Louisiana because of Hurricane Katrina is raising perplexing questions in a state already known for its political eccentricities.

    With congressional elections coming up in 2006 and statewide elections -- including positions in the state legislature -- set for 2007, the major population shift caused by the hurricane could have an enormous impact on Louisiana politics for years to come.

    More than 133,000 residents from 13 parishes are living in 293 shelters across Louisiana and nine other states. Almost 60 percent of those evacuees are being housed out of state. And then there's all the people who left before the storm. In all, authorities estimate more than 1 million people have left southeast Louisiana, at least temporarily.

    Political questions hang in the air like storm clouds:

    How many residents displaced by Katrina will come back? Will they come back in time to participate in local, state or congressional elections? Are these people now residents of their new communities, or are they absentee voters? When will the hurricane-damaged parishes be capable of handling an election?

    And the most complicated question of all -- will the elections be fair? -- Storm ravages state's political landscape

    Democrats can carve out a pro-people position on Katrina

    As I noted below, Rep. Artur Davis (whom I think of as "my" representative, even though he is in the adjoining district) has introduced three bills to provide relief and protection for Katrina survivors and evacuees. The Emergency Savings Relief Act of 2005 (HR 3733) will provide victims of Hurricane Katrina the ability to withdraw funds without penalty from their individual retirement accounts and certain other retirement plans. The Emergency Medicaid Relief Act of 2005 (HR 3735) will suspend proposed federal cuts to Medicaid budgets for 29 states - including Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana - which are scheduled to go into effect September 30. And the The Displaced Citizens Voter Protection Act of 2005 (HR 3734).

    DavidNYC at DailyKOS reports:

    While the Republicans are busy trying to find a way to pass their abhorrent bill to repeal the estate tax, Democrats on Capitol Hill are actually trying to propose some serious - and necessary - tax relief for the victims of Hurricane Katrina. Congressman Rahm Emanuel, the chair of the DCCC, and Sen. Barack Obama (both of Illinois), are sponsoring the "Hurricane Katrina Accelerated Tax Refund Act". (Dems Propose Tax Refunds for Katrina Victims )

    I expect there are other such bills being introduced by Democrats. Now, if the Dems can work together to publicize these bills as a package, they can present a positive image of the party that cares for the people, as opposed to the other party that proposes tax cuts as the cure for every ill.

    I commend Rep. Davis for his bill, but I urge him to go further. We need to expand his bill to provide a permanent right to an easy-to-obtain absentee ballot for all federal elections. Half the states set the reasons for absentee voting, according to the always-excellent A law that requires a reason means that there must be proof of that reason, and the possibility of a post-election contest or a pre-election challenge that may throw out that vote.

    Let's expand the ability of our citizens to vote.

    August 27, 2005

    Georgia: DOJ preclears voter ID law

    AP reports: The U.S. Justice Department on Friday approved a Georgia law requiring voters to show photo identification at the polls. The measure's opponents immediately vowed to challenge it in federal court.

    The decision, written by John Tanner, chief of the department's voting section, says that while Attorney General Alberto Gonzales doesn't object to the law, approval doesn't preclude lawsuits against it. ...

    Democrats had argued the idea was a political move by the GOP to suppress voting among minorities, the elderly and the poor - all traditional bases for Democrats. Its opponents also included the AARP, League of Women Voters and the American Civil Liberties Union.

    The measure wipes out several currently accepted forms of voter identification other than photo IDs, including the use of Social Security cards, birth certificates or utility bills at the polls.

    "Requiring valid, photographic identification is a common sense step to ensure voter integrity and sound elections," Gov. Sonny Perdue said Friday in a written statement. -- Macon Telegraph | 08/27/2005 | Justice Department approves Georgia's voter ID law

    July 27, 2005

    North Carolina: Orange County will test voter-choice polling places

    The News & Observer reports: Voters in Chapel Hill and Carrboro may be the first to participate in a pioneering elections program this fall.

    A bill allowing the Orange County elections board to replace the 28 traditional precincts in the Chapel Hill Township with about 10 larger polling places tentatively squeaked through the House on Tuesday by a five-vote majority -- 61 to 56 -- with Democrats for it and Republicans against.

    House Majority Leader Joe Hackney, an Orange County Democrat, said the legislation would let the southern half of the county conduct an important experiment that could increase voter turnout. Voters who live within the township would be able to choose where they vote. ...

    But Republicans feared the experiment would create more opportunities for voter fraud. They also said it was intended to generate more turnout in a Democratic stronghold. -- | Politics

    June 14, 2005

    Virginia: GOP and Dems to hold simultaneous primaries

    The Washington Post reports: For the first time in nearly two decades, Virginians will be presented with the following choice when they walk into their polling places Tuesday: Do they want a Democratic or a Republican ballot?

    The last time the two major parties held a statewide primary on the same day was in 1988. In Virginia, voters do not register as Republicans or Democrats and may choose to vote in either party's primary -- but not both.

    The answers voters give when asked which ballot they want will dictate who they can vote for and might shape the results of close elections where middle-of-the-road candidates are hoping to draw support from independents and supporters of the other party.

    Larry J. Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia, said centrist Republican lawmakers battling conservative challengers may get fewer Democrats voting for them because of the Democratic primary for lieutenant governor. -- Va. Voters Must Choose Between Parties

    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 3, 2005

    Wisconsin: Assembly fails to override veto of voter i d bill

    Ap reports: After failing to override Gov. Jim Doyle's veto, Republican lawmakers Tuesday introduced a plan to amend the state constitution to make voters show a government-issued photo identification before casting ballots.

    Republicans were thwarted by Doyle's veto for the second time in two years in their attempts to require voters to produce a photo ID at the polls.

    The Assembly's 61-34 vote fell short of the two-thirds required to override Doyle, a Democrat who said in his veto message Friday the bill would disenfranchise 100,000 senior citizens who do not have the type of photo ID required in the legislation.

    Immediately after the vote, Rep. Jeff Stone, R-Greendale, introduced the amendment, accusing Doyle of standing in the way of a reform that most people would support. -- AP Wire | 05/03/2005 | Assembly fails to override Doyle's veto of voter ID bill

    Indiana: Dems file suit against voter i d bill

    AP reports: The Indiana Democratic Party sued in federal court Monday, seeking to overturn a new state law that requires most voters to show government-issued photo identification before casting a ballot.

    The lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Indianapolis claims Indiana’s voter-ID law violates the U.S. Constitution, the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 and the Help America Vote Act of 2002.

    The Indiana Civil Liberties Union has also filed a lawsuit to block the law slated to take effect July 1.

    Critics say requiring a photo ID at the polls unfairly affects the poor, minorities, people with disabilities and the elderly, who are more likely to lack driver’s licenses and might struggle to obtain a photo ID.

    Dan Parker, chairman of the state Democratic Party, said there have been no recorded instances of voter fraud at the polls that could be prevented by the bill. -- News Sentinel | 05/03/2005 | Lawsuits target new voter-ID law

    April 17, 2005

    Wisconsin: governor will veto voter ID bill

    AP reports: Voters in Wisconsin would face the nation's strictest requirements in proving their identities before they could cast ballots under a bill approved Wednesday by the state Senate.

    The 21-12 vote sent the bill to Gov. Jim Doyle, a Democrat who said he would veto the measure he claims would disenfranchise thousands of voters who lack photo IDs.

    Wisconsin would join South Carolina with the toughest requirements for voter identification in the country, said Jennie Drage Bowser, who tracks state election laws at the National Conference of State Legislatures.

    While 19 states require voters to show some form of identification, only South Carolina requires the ID be a state driver's license or a military ID with a photo. The other states allow voters to show other forms of IDs, such as student IDs or Social Security cards, or permit voters to sign affidavits if they don't have one. -- -Archives

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    February 1, 2005

    Wisconsin: GOP legislators call for voter ID

    AP reports: Saying the integrity of Wisconsin's elections have been severely undermined, Republican lawmakers re-introduced legislation Monday that would require voters to present valid identification cards before casting their ballots.

    The lawmakers cited allegations of voting irregularities and possible fraud in Milwaukee as a prime example why Wisconsin needs to overhaul its election laws to cut down on the opportunities to abuse the system.

    State Rep. Jeff Stone, one of the bill's main sponsors, said Wisconsin voters want to know "that we have fair, accurate elections."

    But Melanie Fonder, a spokeswoman for Gov. Jim Doyle, said the state should not try to make it harder to vote. She cautioned the state should not rush to judgment over the allegations in Milwaukee and said federal law requires changes for the 2006 elections that will help strengthen the integrity of Wisconsin's system. -- Green Bay Press-Gazette - GOP lawmakers propose requiring ID card to vote

    November 1, 2004

    My predictions for the election

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

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

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

    Ohio: federal judge blocks GOP in-precinct challenges

    I just heard on NPR hourly news that a federal judge has blocked the Ohio law that allows any voter to challenge any other voter. Can't find anything in print yet.

    Guide to Provisional Ballot and Poll Challenger Problems

    GW Law Professor Spencer Overton has compiled a five-page document that outlines the basic procedures for challenging voter qualifications and for casting and counting provisional ballots, and identifies problems that are likely to arise. You can find "How Conflicts Over Poll Challengers and Provisional Ballots May Impact the 2004 Election" on Spencer Overton's website at

    October 25, 2004

    Disability groups sue Westchester NY for polling access

    The Westchester Journal News reports: Last year, Westchester's [New York] Elections Board said 409 of 441 polling places were fully accessible. But the Westchester Independent Living Center and Westchester Disabled on the Move found only three of 31 polling places they surveyed were fully accessible.

    Four disabled voters and three advocacy groups are suing the Westchester Board of Elections over the issue. The lawsuit claims hundreds of polling places violate state and federal law, but a lawyer representing the Elections Board said there was no evidence anyone in Westchester had been denied the right to vote.

    Joe Bravo, executive director of the Westchester Independent Living Center in White Plains, said he doubts the judge will rule on the suit until after the Nov. 2 election. The center is a plaintiff in the suit. -- Disabled advocates sue for voting rights (

    October 24, 2004

    Don't sing "those wrong precinct blues"

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

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

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

    October 23, 2004

    GOP rolls out its voter-challengers

    The New York Times reports: Republican Party officials in Ohio took formal steps yesterday to place thousands of recruits inside polling places on Election Day to challenge the qualifications of voters they suspect are not eligible to cast ballots.

    Party officials say their effort is necessary to guard against fraud arising from aggressive moves by the Democrats to register tens of thousands of new voters in Ohio, seen as one of the most pivotal battlegrounds in the Nov. 2 elections.

    Election officials in other swing states, from Arizona to Wisconsin and Florida, say they are bracing for similar efforts by Republicans to challenge new voters at polling places, reflecting months of disputes over voting procedures and the anticipation of an election as close as the one in 2000.

    Ohio election officials said they had never seen so large a drive to prepare for Election Day challenges. They said they were scrambling yesterday to be ready for disruptions in the voting process as well as alarm and complaints among voters. Some officials said they worried that the challenges could discourage or even frighten others waiting to vote. -- Big G.O.P. Bid to Challenge Voters at Polls in Key State (New York Times)

    October 20, 2004

    “One-Stop Shop for Voters”

    From an LCCR press release: The Leadership Conference on Civil Rights (LCCR) and the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights Education Fund (LCCREF) are pleased to announce a new online resource for voters. The “One-Stop Shop for Voters” is a compendium of online resources, including many resources developed by LCCR member organizations, that help voters to:

  • verify voter registration status;

  • understand voting rights;

  • find polling place and hours of operation;

  • request an absentee ballot;

  • research what candidates and issues will be on their ballot;

  • find which voting system will be used to record votes; and

  • know what to do if facing difficulty in voting.
  • The website also offers a list of actions that voters can take to help protect voting rights this November 2, and encourages concerned voters to volunteer as a poll monitor with the non-partisan Election Protection Coalition. --
    One-Stop Shop for Voters

    October 18, 2004

    Judge upholds Colorado ID rule, overturns one absentee ballot rule

    The Colorado Springs Gazette reports: Colorado voters must take identification to the polls on Election Day, a judge ruled Monday.

    Colorado Common Cause had filed a lawsuit to block the practice on grounds that it might prevent some people -- college students and the homeless, for instance -- from voting.

    But Denver District Judge Morris Hoffman determined that requiring voters to show some sort of ID will help the state combat voter fraud, an increasing concern in Colorado this year as thousands of questionable voter registration forms have turned up in county clerks' offices across the state.

    Showing some kind of ID, whether it's a driver's license, birth certificate or passport, will help detect illegal voters "before fraudulent regular ballots are cast and fraudulent provisional ballots are counted," Hoffman wrote in his 27-page opinion. ...

    Hoffman overturned a new rule that would have prevented voters who had requested an absentee ballot from casting a vote on Nov. 2 at the polls. The judge ruled that voters who did not send in their absentee ballots could vote on Election Day using a provisional ballot. -- Judge upholds some election rules, overturns others (

    Rick Hasen has the opinion.

    September 28, 2004

    "Time to vote"

    The following states have laws giving employees the right to take time off from work to vote. Many states require employees to give employers notice about taking leave before Election Day and some states require employees to provide employers with proof of voting. In addition, while employers cannot prevent employees from voting, most states give employers the right to specify the time during the day that leave can be taken.

    For the list and lots of other information, go to Time To Vote | Voter Leave Laws.

    September 20, 2004

    Wanna swap?

    The Philadelphia Inquirer reports: Pssst! Want your vote to count? In Ohio? Or Florida?

    You can now arrange to trade votes with a voter in another state, under a plan created by activists who don't want Ralph Nader to siphon off votes from John Kerry in vital swing states.

    Today, a group called will start hooking up Kerry voters in "safe" Democratic or Republican states with third-party voters in hotly contested states. The goal: to get would-be third-party voters to vote for Kerry in swing states, in exchange for Kerry voters' voting for Nader or Green Party candidate David Cobb in secure states.

    That way, they figure, third-party candidates would get as many popular votes as otherwise, while Kerry would maximize his votes in states where they matter most. For instance, a voter in "safe" New Jersey could agree to vote for Nader, in exchange for a voter in "swing" Ohio agreeing to vote for Kerry. -- | 09/20/2004 | A Kerry for a Nader? Vote-trading gears up (Philadelphia Inquirer)

    Thanks to Jamin Raskin for the link to this story. The site is

    September 18, 2004

    DOJ investigating charges of intimidation of black voters in Florida

    AP reports: The U.S. Department of Justice has launched an investigation into whether Florida law-enforcement officers intimidated elderly black voters as part of a probe into March's Orlando mayoral election.

    A top attorney with the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division revealed the investigation during a hearing Friday in Washington, D.C., The Associated Press reported. A Justice Department spokesman confirmed it Friday night, though he said he could offer no other details.

    The controversy began after the Florida Department of Law Enforcement started interviewing voters in response to a complaint by Ken Mulvaney, who lost to Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer in the March 9 election. Dyer avoided a runoff with Mulvaney by just 234 votes out of more than 24,000 cast.

    After the election, Mulvaney, a registered Republican, accused Ezzie Thomas, whom Dyer paid $10,000 to rally voters in the city's predominantly black precincts, of manipulating absentee ballots in Dyer's favor. Dyer is a Democrat. That charge led FDLE officers to interview about 50 voters, an FDLE spokesman said.

    Thomas, president of a nonpartisan group in Orange County that encourages minority voting, then charged that some voters on Orlando's west side are afraid to vote this fall because of the interviews. -- Feds to determine if FDLE intimidated black voters (AP via

    September 16, 2004

    ACLU issues "Voter Empowerment Cards"

    Daniel Levitas writes: ACLU Voter Empowerment cards for Florida, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Washington State are now posted to the ACLU web site. Cards for approximately 23 additional states are still being developed. Please check the site periodically for new additions.

    These Voter Empowerment Cards are designed to inform voters of their rights and responsibilities, and to help voters avoid problems when casting a ballot. Along with downloadable cards, there is state-specific information on this site about voter registration forms, absentee ballot applications and polling place locations. The site includes contact information for ACLU affiliates, as well as state election authorities.

    Cards may be downloaded and printed at no charge, although the text may
    not be altered in any way.

    September 14, 2004

    Pre-Ivan preparations force delay in some Alabama municipal elections

    Hurricane Ivan forced some cities and towns in south Alabama to postpone today's municipal runoff elections - an unprecedented move, according to the Alabama League of Municipalities.

    But runoffs for mayor and city council seats in most parts of Alabama should still be held today, including 38 runoffs in Jefferson and Shelby counties.

    Voters in 210 Alabama cities and towns were scheduled to go to the polls, but some city officials along the coast and other parts of south Alabama have become increasingly concerned about the projected path of Hurricane Ivan, said Perry Roquemore, executive director of the Alabama League of Municipalities.

    Alabama Attorney General Troy King on Monday issued an opinion saying it's OK for cities to postpone their elections in circumstances "where the safety of voters is threatened by the imminent danger of a natural disaster." -- Ivan postpones runoffs in southern Alabama (Birmingham News)

    I wonder if they precleared this?

    August 17, 2004

    Hurricane Charley will affect Florida's primary

    From various sources: Voters in areas hit hardest by Hurricane Charley might have to vote in tents, and some counties might have to piggyback precincts, but Florida's Aug. 31 primary probably won't have to be postponed, election officials said Monday.

    On the first day of early balloting, Secretary of State Glenda Hood spoke with county elections supervisors across the state to collect early damage reports and assess what help can be sent to the stricken areas.

    A few counties reported severe damage to polling places and projected a long-term loss of electricity. But most of the supervisors said that their schools, courthouses and other polling places were ready and that their voter-registration rolls and other records were safe and dry. --
    Affected precincts still plan to vote (Tallahassee Democrat)

    With Florida's primary and nonpartisan elections just two weeks from today, at least 15 precincts, mainly in Southeast Polk, will not be usable because of hurricane damage, Polk County Supervisor of Elections Lori Edwards estimates.

    County officials might end up using motor homes parked in front of damaged precincts so people can vote. -- 15 Voting Precincts May Not Be Ready in Time (

    Damaged polling places, power outages and the sudden death Monday of Hardee County elections supervisor Dean Cullins left doubts Monday about the ability of three storm-ravaged counties to hold the Aug. 31 primary as planned.

    Although election equipment appears to be fine, many polling locations in Charlotte, DeSoto and Hardee counties suffered such significant damage that they may not be able to be used on Election Day.

    And in Hardee, Cullins' death left the elections office without its top official. -- Damage to polling places could affect election (

    State elections officials are waiting for more damage reports from counties hit hard by Hurricane Charley before deciding whether to postpone the Aug. 31 primary in some places.

    Most of Florida's 67 counties are ready for the election and started early voting on schedule Monday, but Charlotte, DeSoto and Hardee counties remain without power and telephone service in many areas and have lost some buildings that serve as polling places. Access to outlying areas is limited. ...

    Bush asked Hood to confer with local elections supervisors and determine whether a delay is necessary in some areas. At noon Monday, Hood had a conference call with officials from almost every county in the state. Polk County, which also sustained significant damage from the storm, did not report on the conference call.

    A decision is not likely until each county has completed a check of polling places. --
    Late voting possible in some counties (St. Petersburg Times)

    August 5, 2004

    Ventura County settles voting rights suit

    AP reports: The U.S. Department of Justice and Ventura County settled a complaint alleging the county election division violated the voting rights of Hispanics by failing to provide enough Spanish-language ballot materials.

    The federal government's complaint, filed this week in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, also alleged that the county failed to provide enough bilingual poll workers as required under the Voting Rights Act. The county is one-third Hispanic.

    Both sides announced Wednesday they had entered into a consent decree -- a settlement reached before a lawsuit is filed -- that requires the county to comply with federal law and provides for the Justice Department to monitor county elections, officials said.

    The decree still must be approved by a three-judge panel. -- Feds say Ventura County violated voting rights of Hispanics (AP via

    July 28, 2004

    Michigan GOP'er suggests "suppressing the Detroit vote"

    AP reported last week: Democrats on Wednesday denounced a Republican lawmaker quoted in a newspaper as saying the GOP would fare poorly in this year's elections if it failed to "suppress the Detroit vote."

    State Rep. John Pappageorge, R-Troy, acknowledged using "a bad choice of words" but said his remark shouldn't be construed as racist.

    Pappageorge, 73, was quoted in July 16 editions of the Detroit Free Press as saying, "If we do not suppress the Detroit vote, we're going to have a tough time in this election." ...

    "In the context that we were talking about, I said we've got to get the vote up in Oakland (County) and the vote down in Detroit. You get it down with a good message. I don't know how we got them from there to "racist,"' Pappageorge said. "If I have given offense in any way to my colleagues in Detroit or anywhere, I apologize." -- Democrats blast GOP lawmaker's 'suppress the Detroit vote' remark (AP via

    And the wolf said, "It was a bad choice of words to say I wanted a mutton sandwich, but mutton sure is tasty."

    July 19, 2004

    House votes against UN election monitors

    The Washington Post reports: House Republicans view a recent move by 11 Democrats to have United Nations observers monitor U.S. elections as a politically motivated stunt, and last week they moved to nip the idea in the bud.

    But after an unusually rancorous skirmish that brought proceedings on the House floor to a standstill late Thursday, the issue may have received more publicity than even Democrats hoped for.

    It pitted Rep. Steve Buyer (R-Ind.), author of an amendment to the 2005 foreign aid bill aimed at blocking U.N. involvement in U.S. elections, against Rep. Corrine Brown (D-Fla.), who had harsh words for Buyer.

    Buyer had been describing a July 1 letter from Democrats to U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, requesting that he send observers to "monitor" this fall's elections, as "rather foolish, nonsense and silly." -- Proposal to Have U.N. Monitor Elections Ends in Partisan Clash (

    Kerry's legal "SWAT teams"

    The New York Times reports: Mindful of the election problems in Florida four years ago, aides to Senator John Kerry, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, say his campaign is putting together a far more intricate set of legal safeguards than any presidential candidate before him to monitor the election.

    Aides to Mr. Kerry say the campaign is taking the unusual step of setting up a nationwide legal network under its own umbrella, rather than relying, as in the past, on lawyers associated with state Democratic parties. The aides said they were recruiting people based on their skills as litigators and election lawyers, rather than rewarding political connections or big donors.

    Lawyers for the campaign are gathering intelligence and preparing litigation over the ballot machines being used and the rules concerning how voters will be registered or their votes disqualified. In some cases, the lawyers are compiling dossiers on the people involved and their track records on enforcing voting rights. The disputed 2000 presidential election remains a fresh wound for Democrats, and Mr. Kerry has been referring to it on the stump while assuring his audiences that he will not let this year's election be a repeat of the 2000 vote. ...

    The Kerry campaign's legal efforts are hardly occurring in a vacuum.

    The Bush-Cheney campaign says it will have party lawyers in every state, covering 30,000 precincts. An affiliated group, the Republican National Lawyers Association, held a two-day training session in Milwaukee over the weekend on "how to promote ballot access to all qualified voters," according to the group's Web site.

    Lawyers for nonpartisan advocacy groups conducting voter registration drives are also working behind the scenes and in court to ensure that their new registrants make it onto the rolls and that their ballots are counted. -- Kerry Building Legal Network for Vote Fights (The New York Times)

    July 15, 2004

    Indians ask for repeal of South Dakota voter I.D. law

    AP reports: South Dakota's new voter-identification law should be repealed because it could prevent some Indians from voting, a state legislative committee was told Thursday.

    The State-Tribal Relations Committee heard testimony on the new law, which requires voters to show a driver's license or other identification that includes a photograph. But registered voters who do not have photo IDs can vote after signing an affidavit affirming their identity.

    Some people in various areas complained after the June 1 election that they had not been informed about the option of signing an affidavit.

    Critics of the law argued Thursday that Indians are more likely than white people to be harmed by the identification requirement because many Indians have no driver's license and some tribal identification cards do not include photos. -- Lawmakers asked to repeal voter identification law (AP via

    July 11, 2004

    International monitors for US elections proposed

    Weekend Edition Sunday on NPR reports: NPR's Brian Naylor speaks with Ted Lewis, director of the Fair Elections Project, about his group's plan to bring election monitors from around the world to the U.S. to observe elections in the fall. -- Monitoring Elections in the United States (NPR)

    July 8, 2004

    Montana's online voter lookup system

    Business Wire reports: Technology is helping Montanans exercise their right to vote. As part of the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) that took effect in October 2002, citizens are required to present legal identification at polling stations. A new electronic service in Montana allows voting officials to verify the identify of voters through the state's driver record database, and more than 600 citizens who arrived without identification during the state's June 8 primary were able to vote as a result.

    Montana's Voter Verification Service is believed to be the first of its kind in the nation. Voters who failed to present a driver's license or state-issued ID at a polling station were referred to a resolutions table. Once the voter provided a full name, date of birth, address, and driver's license number or last four digits of a social security number, an election staffer could query the Voter Verification Service. If the provided information matched what appeared in the Montana Department of Justice's driver record and state identification database, the voter was eligible to proceed to the polls.

    All 56 Montana counties signed up for the Voter Verification Service, which will also be available for the general election on November 2, 2004. -- Montana's New Online Voter Lookup Service Delivers Results in Recent Primary; Electronic System Confirms Voting Eligibility for Citizens without Legal Identification (Bisiness Wire via Internet Telephony Magazine)

    June 13, 2004

    "These people are going to try to steal this election"

    Recalling the contentious 2000 election, Democrats urged party activists on Sunday to find legal observers, push early voting methods and remain vigilant of any problems during the upcoming November election.

    Party leaders and activists discussed ways to prevent a repeat of the 2000 election in Florida, in which George W. Bush defeated Al Gore by 537 votes after a 36-day recount was halted by the U.S. Supreme Court.

    "Any way we cut it, these people are going to try to steal this election," said U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Miramar. "The only thing we can overpower them with is accuracy and numbers."

    Party officials suggested voting absentee as one way to avoid relying upon touchscreen voting machines in certain counties. The machines have been criticized by some Democrats for failing to have paper printouts of individual votes. -- Democrats aim to prevent repeat of 2000 election fiasco (AP via

    May 29, 2004

    Candidates on the wrong ballots

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

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

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

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

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

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

    May 26, 2004

    Tuscaloosa Co, Alabama, will allow late military ballots

    The U.S. Justice Department has approved a circuit court order that will allow the ballots of military personnel from Tuscaloosa County [Alabama] to be counted even if they arrive up to 20 days after the June 1 Republican and Democratic primaries.

    Tuscaloosa County did not send out ballots to overseas military personnel until last week, almost a month beyond the April 22 deadline for having the ballots ready to be mailed. ...

    "This injunction should ensure that Tuscaloosa County voters overseas — including members of the armed forces and their families — will be able to exercise their right to vote," said R. Alexander Acosta, assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division.

    The Tuscaloosa County ballots were late being sent out because the county commission was waiting for Justice Department approval of new commission district lines. -- Justice Department OKs plan to count military ballots (AP via

    May 12, 2004

    EAC asks for more money

    Members of a new federal voting commission appealed to Congress Wednesday to double their budget, arguing that the extra cash would allow them to help states run more efficient elections.

    "We've promulgated no rules. We've worked hard to get stationery, office space, business cards. We've had one public hearing," DeForest B. Soaries, chairman of the Election Assistance Commission, told a House Appropriations subcommittee.

    President Bush's budget proposal gives the fledgling commission $10 million for operations in fiscal 2005. Soaries asked lawmakers for an additional $10 million for research and data collection so the commission could provide states with guidelines on voting systems in time for the 2006 elections.

    "Those standards cannot be established without proper research," said Soaries, who noted that the extra money could come from $40 million in Bush's fiscal 2005 budget request for states to spend on election reforms. --
    New Voting Commission Seeks More Funding (AP via

    Election Assistance Commission

    The Election Assistance Commission's website is up and running, although some parts are still under construction. I was disappointed to find that the Best Practices in Election Administration link on the first page leads to this: "The Election Assistance Commission is presently gathering information to be included in this section of the website."

    May 10, 2004

    NYTimes: provisional ballots may disenfranchise many

    n 2000, untold thousands of eligible voters were prevented from voting because of flawed voting lists and other errors by election officials. This November, voters who show up and say they are eligible cannot be turned away. Instead, they must be given provisional ballots, which election officials will review after the polls close to determine their validity. This is an important reform, but unless it is done right, provisional ballots could actually disenfranchise many of the voters they were intended to help. ...

    Provisional balloting has great potential, but it is complicated, and the election system does not handle complexity well. State officials should be working now to put in place procedures to ensure that the ballots live up to their fullest potential, and do not make things worse. -- The New York Times > Opinion > Making Votes Count: Voting Reform Could Backfire

    May 7, 2004

    Mississippi voter ID bill dead for this session

    A proposed voter identification bill appeared doomed after [Mississippi] House and Senate negotiators failed to reach a compromise during talks Wednesday.

    Agitated after senators made major changes in the House bill, Rep. Willie Bailey, D-Greenville, said he refuses to return to the bargaining table for more discussions. ...

    Bailey was among Black Caucus members who fought the issue earlier this session, but he had a change of heart when the House agreed to exclude older Mississippians from having to show identification at the polls.

    Bailey said Wednesday voter ID is being used as an issue to help the Republican Party recruit members.

    Since he and other House negotiators won't sign the conference report, Gov. Haley Barbour can put voter ID in a special session, he said. -- Negotiators unable to reach compromise on voter ID bill (Jackson Clarion-Ledger)

    Arizona language minorities object to voting equipment plan

    Hispanic and Native American state lawmakers on Tuesday sent a letter to [Arizona] Secretary of State Jan Brewer opposing her $44.7 million voting-system plan.

    Some will meet today with federal officials to discuss objections. They argue that part of the $44.7 million should go to hire bilingual workers and to encourage Hispanic voting.

    The U.S. government is providing most of the money for such upgrades as new optical-scan ballot systems, more frequent checkups on voting equipment and better access for disabled voters.

    "We need to recruit more bilingual election workers to help the mostly monolingual voters," said Rep. Steve Gallardo, D-Phoenix, one of 15 legislators who signed the letter. -- Hispanic, Native American legislators dislike voting plan (Arizona Republic)

    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 5, 2004

    Ballot shortage in Indiana

    Marion County [Indiana] election officials are trying to determine why 45 voting precincts ran out of Republican primary election ballots late Tuesday afternoon, and if it will have any effect on close races.

    Some voters, either unable or unwilling to wait, left before they were able to cast their ballots, and several thousand extra ballots that were printed in an attempt to make up for the shortfall came too late for some, RTV6 reported.

    Early indications Wednesday were that there would be no legal recourse for the losing side in a race, because voters weren't turned away from the polls -- they left by their own choice, RTV6's Norman Cox reported. Officials said if the voters had waited, they would have been able to vote eventually.

    Two of the precincts that were affected by the shortage were in Senate District 36, where incumbent Sen. Larry Borst appeared to lose to Brent Waltz by 49 votes. -- Politics - Ballot Shortage May Be Settled Through Legal Means (

    April 30, 2004

    Priority mail for the troops

    Plagued by a history of problems delivering mail, especially in wartime, the Pentagon will soon be unveiling a program to do a better job of getting ballots overseas and back so units deployed in combat zones and elsewhere can cast votes in the fall presidential election.

    The pledge for improvement comes amid critical reports on laggardly military mail service and complaints of shortages of forms to request absentee ballots for overseas civilians.

    Pentagon studies of recent elections have found about a quarter of overseas military service members who try to get an absentee ballot do not get it in time or do not get it back to their local election office in time for it to be counted. More recently, a General Accounting Office study released this month said historic military mail problems have resurfaced in Iraq.

    The Pentagon and the Postal Service are putting finishing touches on a joint agreement for speedy handling of ballots going back and forth to units overseas. The ballots will travel in specially colored containers so everyone knows they need priority handling, said Charles S. Abell, principal deputy undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness. His portfolio includes the Federal Voting Assistance Program responsible for more than 6 million military and civilian voters overseas. -- Pentagon to Try to Fix War Zone Voting Woes (

    April 28, 2004

    Mississippi Senate amends voter ID bill

    The [Mississippi] Senate on Wednesday amended a House-passed voter identification bill to delete language that would have exempted the elderly from showing proof of their identity at the polls.

    The House version provided people born before Jan. 1, 1940, would not have to show identification. The exception was put in to address concerns that requiring ID could be used to intimidate older black voters who once had to pay poll taxes.

    Thirteen of the Senate's 52 members voted against the bill. The bill now goes back to the House, which can adopt it, send it to conference or let it die.

    Voter ID has been a hot-button issue at the Capitol for years. Supporters say the measure would strengthen the integrity of elections in the state. Opponents say poll workers could misinform or intimidate voters. -- Senate Passes Amended Version Of House Voter ID Bill (AP via

    April 21, 2004

    Feds may observe East Chicago election

    U.S. Department of Justice inspectors may be at the polls in East Chicago [Indiana] primary.

    The Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund has asked the U.S. Justice Department Voting Section to send watchers to the polls in the May 4 primary. Lake County Voter Registration Board Director Sally LaSota told the Lake County Election Board Tuesday that she has been contacted by the Justice Department, who asked about credentials.

    Federal officials in Washington would not comment on the request as of press time. ...

    In his landmark ruling in the Pabey vs. Pastrick election trial, Special Judge Steven King detailed instances of electioneering and fraud that he said appeared to target voters with limited English speaking ability. -- Feds asked to watch E.C. vote (Gary Post-Tribune)

    April 18, 2004

    "Bad New Days for Voting Rights"

    It has been years since the bad old days when Southern blacks were given "literacy tests," and voting rights activists were beaten and killed. But blacks, Hispanics and Indians are still regularly discouraged from voting, often under the guise of "ballot integrity" programs that are supposed to be aimed at deterring fraud at the polls.

    Minority vote suppression tears at the fabric of American democracy. It persists, however, for a simple reason: in close elections, when some minority groups are strongly identified with a single party, it can be the difference between winning and losing. In 2002, the Indian vote in South Dakota helped Senator Tim Johnson win by just 528 votes.

    Today, in Bennett County, S.D., Indians say they have to contend with poll workers who make fun of their names, election officials who make it hard for them to register and — most ominously — a wave of false voter fraud charges that have been made against them, which they regard as harassment. Jo Colombe, a Rosebud Sioux tribal council member, said that when she worked as a poll watcher in a recent election she was accused of fraud simply for taking a bathroom break. When she returned, she said, white poll watchers charged her with copying the names of Indians who had not yet voted, and taking them out to Indians waiting in the parking lot. In January, prosecutors dropped a highly publicized case against another Indian woman, Rebecca Red Earth-Villeda. -- Bad New Days for Voting Rights (New York Times)

    April 13, 2004

    South Africa has a holiday for voting

    South African Minister of Labour Membathisi Mdladlana on Wednesday warned that any attempt on the part of employers to prevent workers from voting would be a contravention of the workers' constitutional rights.

    "Employers should be aware that April 14 has been declared a public holiday in accordance with Section 2A of the Public Holiday Act (Act No 36 of 1994).

    "This holiday was declared specifically to allow South Africans to exercise their right to vote, which is a right entrenched in the Constitution of South Africa. I therefore call on employers to respect the constitutional rights of workers and allow them to vote. On previous occasions some employers even provided transport for workers to get to the polling stations to vote," Mdladlana said in a statement. -- Bosses urged to let staff vote (, South Africa)

    Mississippi House passes voter ID bill

    Reviving a debate on one of the hottest topics at the Capitol this year, the House voted 92-28 Tuesday for a bill requiring most voters to show ID starting next January.

    People born before Jan. 1, 1940, would not have to show identification.

    The exception was put in to address concerns that requiring ID could be used to intimate older black voters who once had to pay poll taxes. ...

    The bill would allow a voter to show any of several types of ID, including a driver's license, a passport, a military or student ID, a gun permit, a voter registration card and others.

    The bill says if a person is not carrying ID at the polling place, he could sign a sworn statement affirming his identity. Signing a false statement would carry a $5,000 fine.

    The bill also sets penalties of $5,000 for intimidating voters. -- House adopts ID mandate for most Mississippi voters (AP via Biloxi Sun Herald_

    April 5, 2004

    The voter ID debate in Mississippi

    The debate in Mississippi over voter identification seems to defy any rational analysis.

    With both sides of the argument conceding there is little or no hard evidence to back their stance, they rely on anecdote, emotion and accusation. The result is a partisan brawl in the House of Representatives that has led to bruised feelings, threats and, during one extraordinary debate a few weeks ago, tears being shed. ...

    Dan Seligson is editor of, a Web site established by the Pew Charitable Trust to track election reforms after the debacle in Florida in 2000.

    "In writing about this for four years, there are two things I have never been able to determine," Seligson said from his office in Washington. "First, that voter fraud is actually prevented by voter ID, and second, that someone is actually intimidated enough not to vote.

    "There's anecdotal evidence on both sides, but nothing concrete," Seligson continued. "People on both sides believe what they are saying, but the hard evidence is not there." -- An ID on that too? GOP wants it at ballot box (

    April 4, 2004

    "The Confusion Over Voter ID"

    In last month's Florida presidential primary, Fort Myers polling places had signs saying voters could not vote without photo ID, according to the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida The problem is, the signs were wrong. Florida law guarantees voters without photo ID the right to cast an "affidavit ballot," which counts the same as a regular one. There is no way of knowing how many eligible voters saw the false notice and did not vote as a result.

    The process by which voters prove who they are has largely been left to election professionals. It shouldn't be. Every barrier to the ballot box reduces the number of voters who end up voting. ID requirements, which vary widely by state, are complicated, and administered poorly. In November, there is every reason to believe a significant number of eligible voters will be turned away on ID grounds, perhaps enough to decide a close election. Election officials should be working to fix these problems now. ...

    Above all, election officials should enforce the law accurately. Their record, however, is troubling. In an interview, the election supervisor for Lee County, Fla., which contains Fort Myers, defended the polling place signs, saying there was an official at each polling place to tell voters about affidavit ballots. Training poll workers to operate by different rules than are stated in official written materials is a bad practice, and voters are entitled to have their right to vote correctly described. -- The Confusion Over Voter ID (New York Times)