The Voting News

National: Why Donald Trump’s ‘Ballot Watchers’ Might Be Illegal | TIME

Donald Trump’s repeated calls for supporters to gather friends and family to monitor polling places for cases of voter fraud raises a thorny question: When, exactly, do “ballot security” measures cross the line into illegal acts of voter intimidation? “You’ve got to go out. You’ve got to go out. And you’ve got to get your friends. And you’ve got to get everyone you know. And you got to watch your polling booths,” the Republican presidential nominee said last Saturday at a campaign rally in Manheim, Pennsylvania. He went on, “I hear too many bad stories, and we can’t lose an election because of you know what I’m talking about.” From a legal perspective, this kind of talk occupies an uncomfortable gray area. “There is a lot activity that is not clearly illegal, but could still be perceived as intimidation,” Rick Hasen, an election law expert at the University of California-Irvine School of Law, told TIME. “The question is where you draw that line.” Read More


National: Voters With Disabilities Fight For More Accessible Polling Places | NPR

More than 35 million eligible voters in the U.S. — about one in six — have a disability. And in the last presidential election, almost a third of voters with disabilities reported having trouble casting their ballots — whether it was getting into the polling place, reading the ballot, or struggling with a machine. Despite some improvements, many of these voters are expected to face similar problems again this year. Ian Watlington, of the National Disability Rights Network (NDRN), demonstrates why. He has cerebral palsy and needs to use a wheelchair to get up a long concrete ramp outside a church in Washington, D.C. “It is one of those ramps that everybody thinks is absolutely perfect,” he says. But as he struggles to get up it, it’s clear that it’s not perfect. Watlington says the slope is fairly steep, which means some people in wheelchairs could tip backward. At the top, he finds another problem. Read More

National: Many Americans unaware of their states’ voter ID laws | Pew Research Center

With less than a month to go before Election Day, not all American voters are aware of their states’ voter ID requirements. A new national survey finds that the confusion runs two ways: Some voters live in states that do not require identification to vote but think it is needed, while others living in states that do require IDs mistakenly believe they do not need one to vote. About four-in-ten voters (37%) living in states with no identification requirement incorrectly believe that they will be required to show identification prior to voting, according to a survey conducted Sept. 27 to Oct. 10 among 3,616 registered voters on Pew Research Center’s nationally representative American Trends Panel. About six-in-ten (62%) in these states know they do not have to produce a photo ID to vote. In the states that do require or request identification, more than three-quarters (77%) of voters know it is needed. However, about one-in-five voters (22%) in these states do not know a photo ID is needed, which may result in inconvenience or could prevent them from voting at all. Read More


National: Postage Required For Absentee Ballots Varies By State | International Business Times

In a presidential election as competitive as this one, you don’t want to risk any complications with your precious vote. Be careful: If you’re voting by mail, something as simple as postage could impact your ability to do your civic duty. “The number of ballots mailed back to election officials with insufficient postage is on the rise,” the Unites States Postal Office writes on its website. “Each election cycle presents a different set of parameters for ballot creation and for the size and weight of the return mailpiece. As a result, many voters do not know the correct amount of postage required to return their ballot by mail.” 2016 is no exception. People are already flooding social media with questions about how many stamps they need, why they have to pay to vote and what happens if they don’t use the right postage, according to Snopes. Here’s what you need to know. Depending on where you are, you may need two stamps. If your absentee ballot says “extra postage required” or “apply first-class mail postage,” a single regular $0.47 stamp might not cut it. Whereas usually you can mail about four pages with one stamp in a standard envelope, absentee ballots often weigh more, according to NPR. The more pages there are, the more you need to spend to vote. Read More


National: Why the Justice Dept. Will Have Far Fewer Watchdogs in Polling Places | The New York Times

For the first time since the days of poll taxes and literacy tests a half-century ago, the Justice Department will be sharply restricted in how it can deploy some of its most powerful weapons to deter voter intimidation in the presidential election. Because of a Supreme Court ruling three years ago, the department will send special election observers inside polling places in parts of only four states on Election Day, a significant drop from 2012, when it sent observers to jurisdictions in 13 states. And in a departure from a decades-old practice, observers will be sent to only one state in the South, where a history of discriminatory voting practices once made six states subject to special federal scrutiny. The pullback worries civil rights advocates, who say that Donald J. Trump’s call for his supporters to monitor a “rigged” electoral system could lead to intimidation of minority voters at polling places. Read More


Editorials: The Real Voting Problem in the 2016 Election | Zachary Roth/Politico

Donald Trump’s claims that the election will be “rigged” through voter fraud have become a centerpiece of his faltering campaign. There’s no evidence to support this incendiary charge, but the GOP candidate has been energetically spreading the notion that if Hillary Clinton wins, it will only be because thousands of illegal votes will be cast on Nov. 8. Polls now suggest that most Trump supporters fear the election could be stolen from their man. Trump is right that fairness is going to be a problem this year. He’s wrong about where the problem really lies. In fact, the real voting problem we face in 2016 is almost exactly the opposite of what Trump is complaining about: Officials in at least five states, including several key presidential battlegrounds, have been dragging their feet on obeying court orders to open up access to the polls. As a result, rather than an epidemic of illegal, fraudulent votes, the election is likely to see tens or even hundreds of thousands of people across the country deprived of their constitutional right to cast a ballot. The election wasn’t supposed to unfold this way. Over the summer and early fall, 2016 was shaping up as a landmark year for voting rights, as a string of federal court rulings struck down, blocked or loosened restrictive voting laws in key states across the country. In the three most significant decisions, North Carolina’s sweeping voting law was struck down, Texas’ voter ID law was significantly loosened, and a court required that Wisconsin promise to make voter IDs available on demand, seemingly blunting the impact of that state’s ID law. Voting rights supporters, who had fought for years against restrictions on who can register and when, breathed a cautious sigh of relief. But as Election Day approaches, what’s actually happening on the ground in those states reveals a troubling reality: Important as they are, court rulings can’t adequately protect voting rights if election officials simply don’t want to make things easy for voters. Read More

Editorials: The good news on voting and democracy | Joshua A. Douglas/USA Today

All politics is local, as the saying goes, and the same is true of election law. Although the U.S. Constitution protects the right to vote, local laws can expand its scope and influence democratic representation. Voters across the country are making choices this fall that will not only affect state and local elections, they will also serve as the catalysts for nationwide reforms. Maine voters, for instance, will decide whether to adopt ranked choice voting, a system in which people select their first, second, and third choices for each office. This reform would make it easier for third parties to gain support and would provide a better sense of the electorate’s overall preferences. In Missouri, voters are considering whether to amend the state constitution to allow a photo ID requirement for voting. In 2006, the Missouri Supreme Court ruled that the prior voter ID law violated the state constitution, so to enact voter ID law in Missouri the voters must change the state constitution. Read More

Editorials: It’s time to automate voter registration | The Washington Post

Judges in Virginia and Florida ordered officials to extend the time for people to register to vote because of unforeseen events. In Florida, it was a major hurricane that for days upended people’s lives; in Virginia, it was a crash of the state elections website. The decisions were eminently sensible and must be commended. But they also should raise the question of why in this day and age, this country largely remains wedded to an archaic system of voter registration that discourages — even prevents — people from voting. “No right is more precious than having a voice in our democracy,” wrote Judge Mark E. Walker of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida in ordering a six-day extension of voter registration in the wake of the massive disruption caused by Hurricane Matthew. “Hopefully, it is not lost on anyone that the right to have a voice is why this great country exists in the first place,” he said in a ruling that should shame Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R). Read More

Voting Blogs: DDOS Attacks and Election Day: What to Do? [HINT: Don’t Wait.] | Election Academy

Last Friday, Internet users across America were affected by an apparent worldwide distributed denial of service (DDOS) attack using an army of household appliances to barrage the network with data requests. … In the wake of the attack, many observers speculated on what would happen if a DDOS attack were to happen in the United States on Election Day. …  If this did happen, this would be an incredibly challenging day for election officials and voters alike. And while there’s no guarantee it won’t, I think the good news is that – thanks to the routinized nature of the election process – most if not all of the information voters need to get and cast their ballots is already available. Read More

Florida: Despite Trump’s plea, little sign of interest in poll watching | Tallahassee Democrat

Few local voters have answered Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump’s call to sign up as poll watchers to prevent a rigged election.  On the campaign trail this week, he warned of the media and partisans conspiring to steal the election. “The election is absolutely being rigged by the dishonest and distorted media pushing Crooked Hillary – but also at many polling places –SAD.” Trump tweeted Sunday. Trump’s vision of nefarious forces working to thwart the will of the people has failed to mobilize Leon County supporters to guard against Election Day fraud. “No effect, nothing. None at all,” said Leon County Supervisor of Elections Ion Sancho. Read More