American election reform, where states look to either impede or assist people’s ability to influence government with their vote. Ballots in at least five states — Connecticut, Montana, Missouri, Illinois and Arkansas — focus on some kind of election reform. Most states have made voting harder in the past decade by enacting voter ID laws, ostensibly to guard against voter impersonation, a problem that the public believes to be more widespread than the evidence suggests. For example, a five-year crackdown by the Justice Department under President George W. Bush resulted in only 86 people being found guilty of voter fraud across all 50 states, according to a 2007 investigation by The New York Times. In part because many of these voter ID laws have already passed, the majority of the legislative activity in 2014 actually focused on making voting more convenient. … Based on interviews with state and local election officials in states with early voting, the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University Law School argues that early voting brings a host of benefits, including shorter lines and less administrative burden on election day. Nonetheless, eight states have cut back on early voting since 2010. One recent example is North Carolina, where the legislature decided to cut a week of early voting, eliminate same-day registration during early voting and reduce the hours of early voting on the final Saturday before election day.
The Voting News
Georgia: State says 25 voter applications of 85,000 “confirmed” forgeries | Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Investigators backed away Wednesday from allegations a Democratic-backed group may have organized voter registration fraud, saying they can confirm 25 applications of more than 85,000 submitted to the Georgia Secretary of State’s office. Chief investigator Chris Harvey, however, said the office needed more information from the New Georgia Project to confirm no more fraudulent forms existed — already, it has identified another 26 applications as suspicious. The state has extended a deadline for the group to get investigations such information through Sept. 26. Harvey spoke after the group’s leaders said Secretary of State Brian Kemp may be ignoring more than 51,000 unprocessed voter registration applications to instead pursue what they called “a witch hunt.” With the state’s Oct. 6 registration deadline quickly approaching, state House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams, D-Atlanta,and more than a dozen civil rights and religious leaders who support the New Georgia Project called on Kemp —the state’s top elections official — to focus on ensuring ballot access to thousands of new voters they and others have signed up this election year.
Democrat Chad Taylor’s name won’t appear on the Kansas ballot for the U.S. Senate. The Kansas Supreme Court, dominated by Democratic appointees, ordered Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach Thursday to strike Taylor’s name from the Nov. 4 ballot. In its ruling, the court turned aside Kobach’s contention that Taylor’s Sept. 3 withdrawal letter failed to meet the standard set in state law. “The Secretary of State thus has no discretion to refuse to remove Chadwick J. Taylor’s name from the ballot,” the court said. Kobach, a Republican mired in his own tough re-election battle, had moved to keep Taylor’s name in front of voters on grounds that the Democrat had not specified that he would be legally “incapable” of serving in the Senate. Kobach was scheduled to meet with reporters late Thursday afternoon in Topeka to discuss the ruling.
Every big election year, horror stories surface around the South and the rest of the country of voters having to wait for hours to cast their ballots. In 2008, reports came out of Georgia of voters having to stand in line for up to 12 hours to vote. In 2012, the battleground state of Florida garnered national headlines with accounts of voters waiting six hours at the polls. In 2013, President Obama assembled a 10-member bipartisan commission to look into the experiences of voters in the previous year’s elections and to propose solutions to help streamline the voting process. The commission found that the Florida and Georgia experiences weren’t isolated: More than 10 million people had to wait more than half an hour to vote in 2012. Arguing that “no citizen should have to wait in line for more than 30 minutes to vote,” the group outlined a series of ways election officials could make voting easier, saying that “jurisdictions can solve the problem of long lines through a combination of planning … and the efficient allocation of resources.” Yet despite a flurry of election law bills at the state level, many states have failed to act on the commission’s proposals and make improvements to ensure long wait times don’t taint the 2014 mid-term elections.
The last surge of investment in voting technology happened a decade ago. Since then the regulatory apparatus for election reform has broken down, and voting machines themselves are starting to fail as well. Every election shines attention on a different bit of dysfunction, from long lines at polling places to cyber security risks. Open source to the rescue? Maybe, although probably not in time to have much impact on the 2016 election. Silicon Valley’s Open Source Election Technology Foundation (OSET) is methodically chipping away at the problem, building credibility with software for voter registration and election-night reporting while also working on the more challenging problems of improving the casting and counting of votes. Meanwhile, a few brave — and impatient — county election officials are embarking on their own voting technology design and development projects, which may or may not intersect with OSET’s work. The bottom-line goal of these initiatives is the same: to move away from reliance on proprietary technology while boosting transparency and leaving a reliable audit trail — making it clear that the victor in any contest really is the candidate who won the most votes.
A report from the vendor of the elections system used by Cochise County during the Aug. 26 Primary Election indicates that the issues surrounding incorrect ballot data being sent to the state on election night was the result of a procedural error at the local elections office. The report from Elections Systems & Software explains that the incoming results from a number of precincts throughout election night were aggregated incorrectly by the county elections staff selecting the wrong option on the system. This resulted in already tabulated election results being added multiple times to the aggregate total for those precincts. County officials received the report on Thursday, Sept. 4. Elections staff reviewed the report individually before holding a meeting by telephone with ES&S personnel on Monday, Sept. 8.
Editorials: Critics of D.C. statehood cite specious objections, such as Grave Snowplow Threat | Robert McCartney/The Washington Post
Why shouldn’t the District become a state? Opponents at Monday’s U.S. Senate hearing cited the grave threat that the city might gain full authority over its snowplows. You read that right. According to this objection, a self-governing District might intimidate Congress through its control of basic services for Capitol Hill. Statehood “would make the federal government dependent on an independent state, New Columbia, for everything from electrical power to water, sewers, snow removal, police and fire protection,” Roger Pilon, a constitutional scholar for the libertarian Cato Institute, testified. In Pilon’s defense, his argument is rooted in James Madison’s long-ago desire to prevent any individual state from unduly influencing Congress. But that concern is completely outdated.
Kansas: State Supreme Court hears Taylor’s request to remove himself from U.S. Senate ballot | The Kansas City Star
Everyone agrees that Shawnee County District Attorney Chad Taylor withdrew from the U.S. Senate race in Kansas. The question is, did the Democrat do it the right way and say the right words? The Kansas Supreme Court began exploring that issue Tuesday as it weighed a request to remove Taylor from the ballot, a decision that could boost independent Greg Orman’s chances of unseating Republican U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts. The country is watching the race because it could decide whether Republicans gain control of the Senate. The court has not said when it will deliver a decision. But a deadline for sending out ballots to overseas voters is Saturday.
The Kansas Supreme Court will hear arguments Tuesday over whether the Democrat who wants to drop out of the U.S. Senate race must stay on the ballot, a dispute that could have a big effect on Republicans recapturing a Senate majority. Democrat Chad Taylor, a county prosecutor from Topeka, threw the race into chaos earlier this month when he announced he wanted to be taken off the ballot, without giving an explanation. Taylor’s exit seemed to set up a clear two-person race between the three-term incumbent, Republican Pat Roberts, and wealthy independent Greg Orman, who many believe has a chance to unseat Roberts head to head. The unusual move by Taylor, apparently at the urging of fellow Democrats who worried that a three-person race would split the anti-Roberts vote, turned the race into one of the hottest campaigns of the season.
Robert Stewart hasn’t been able to vote since 2006, a right he lost because there’s a felony on his record. But for the past several years, the third-year sociology graduate student has been fighting to regain his voting rights. “It’s encouraged me to be involved,” he said, “because I have no other way to be involved in the political process, other than through advocacy.” While a bill to restore voting eligibility to many Minnesotans with criminal records when they leave prison made headway in the last legislative session, the measure failed to make it onto the floor of either chamber. Now, some University of Minnesota students are working to further the rights of those with criminal backgrounds. “I think [people with criminal records] should be welcomed back into the community,” said associate sociology professor Joshua Page. He said he believes the public should strive to integrate former convicts back into society, rather than exclude them.