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Colorado: Court of Appeals rules voted ballots should be public records | The Denver Post

The Colorado Court of Appeals ruled today that electronic images of voted ballots should be open for public inspection, provided the voter’s identity cannot be discerned from the ballot. The ruling could have a major impact on Colorado election law, though today’s decision likely is not the end of the fight.

Earlier this month, Secretary of State Scott Gessler said he would use the court’s decision as guidance to begin the rulemaking process for how public reviews of voted ballots should be conducted. Gessler has said that public access to voted ballots will improve transparency, and therefore increase voter confidence in elections.

Colorado’s county clerks association has maintained that ballots should be secret, and not subject to the Colorado Open Records Act. They have said they will fight efforts by Gessler or the public to review voted ballots, either in court or the General Assembly. Today’s ruling stems from a case filed in Pitkin County by election activist Marilyn Marks. Read More

Pennsylvania: Venango County: Electronic Voting Under Scrutiny | WICU12

Two Pittsburgh College professors today began an examination of reported electronic voting machine problems in Venango County. And while the forensic audit takes place, voters will use paper ballots in the November general election.

After the May primary, the county received complaints from voters who said the touch screen machines did not register their votes correctly, basically flipping the votes to another candidate. Other problems included reports of missing write in votes.

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National: Electoral Regulations at Stake in 13 Secretary of State Races | governing.org

With tight contests brewing for president and control of Congress, there’s no shortage of competitive races over the next 14 months. But a number of offices further down the ballot are also up for grabs, such as the low-profile but increasingly contested position of secretary of state.

Currently, Republicans control 30 seats; Democrats control 20. Most of these positions are officially known as secretary of state, but a few states hand equivalent duties to their lieutenant governor instead. All told, 39 are popularly elected, eight are appointed by the governor and three are appointed by the legislature.

Many secretaries of state have portfolios that include fairly neutral duties, such as overseeing the registration of businesses and lobbyists. But the main reason why they have become coveted and competitive offices in recent years is the role they can play in shaping how elections are conducted. Part of this has to do with the perception that secretaries of state can aid their party in narrowly decided elections. Read More

Voting Blogs: A primary cause for concern – 2012 primary questions worry election administrators | electionlineWeekly

While the national parties work to shore up their bases and GOP candidates jockey for position and those on the fringe just try to take it all in, local elections officials are busy preparing for the 2012 election season. Some of these officials have numerous concerns about when the primary will be held, how much it will cost and whether or not new laws will impact part of the preparation equation.

In 2008 states across the country jockeyed to be among the first to hold presidential primaries with some of the primaries being held before some people had even taken down their up-too-long Christmas decorations. Four years later, while the race to be first may not be as frenzied, the battle over when to hold primaries still has some local election officials in a holding pattern for preparations for 2012. Read More

Arizona: Cortes denies being a sham candidate in Pearce recall election | Arizona Republic

Recall candidate Olivia Cortes took the stand Thursday to defend herself against allegations that she is a sham candidate running to draw votes away from candidate Jerry Lewis and help Senate President Russell Pearce retain his seat. “I wanted to offer my points of view as a naturalized citizen, a concerned citizen for the future of Arizona,” Cortes said. “I want to serve my community.” She said the accusations about her campaign make her feel “bad.”

“I feel they are taking away my constitutional right,” she said. “Anybody can run. I’m running to win. I want to win.”

During her testimony, Cortes said she is paying for her campaign but admitted she hasn’t yet spent any money. She said she does not know who paid professional circulators to collect the signatures to get her on the ballot. She said she also does not know who paid for the signs with her name on it that were put up around West Mesa. She doesn’t know who created her Web site. Cortes said she was not forced or paid to run. She said East Valley Tea Party leader Greg Western is the only one helping her with her campaign and as a political novice, she has left many decisions to him. Read More

Colorado: Appeals court rules in Marilyn Marks’ favor in ballot transparency case | Aspen Daily News Online

The Colorado Court of Appeals ruled in favor of local resident Marilyn Marks today in her case against the city of Aspen, agreeing with her that digital copies of election ballots are open to inspection by the public, so long as the identity of the voter cannot be discerned.

Read the Court Opinion (PDF)

Marks was seeking to review computer files containing photographic images of the ballots cast in the May 2009 municipal election, in which Marks was a losing mayoral candidate. It was the city’s first and only election using instant runoff voting, where voters rank candidates in order of preference, and the information is used to simulate later runoff contests. Aspen voters later repealed instant runoff voting in favor of going back to traditional runoffs to decide close races. Read More

Colorado: Can Pueblo County soldiers vote? Clerk Ortiz asks SOS Gessler to go on the record | The Colorado Independent

Pueblo County Clerk Gilbert Ortiz is pained by the idea that his office would fail to send an election ballot to even one county soldier serving in the US Military overseas. He sent a letter Tuesday to Secretary of State Scott Gessler seeking an express prohibition “in writing ” on sending ballots to soldiers overseas who are legally registered but inactive voters.

“I want it on the record because this goes against everything I want to do as clerk,” he told the Colorado Independent. “When in doubt, you send a ballot. I think of those soldiers not being able to vote. They’re on the battlefield. This is not a comfortable place to be.” Read More

Connecticut: Secretary of State’s office selects precincts for post-primaries audit | NorwalkPlus.com

Deputy Secretary of the State James Spallone today joined Connecticut voting rights advocates from CT Voters Count and Common Cause for a public drawing to randomly select 12 precincts that will have election results audited following the September 13, 2011 municipal primaries that took place in 21 Connecticut communities. A complete list of the precincts selected is below. Precincts from Bridgeport, where municipal primaries were held on September 27th, will be drawn at random for a post election audit at a later date.

“On September 13th voters went to the polls across Connecticut to choose nominees to run in November’s general election to fill very important roles in local government,” said Deputy Secretary of the State James Spallone. “Our audit law exists to hold our election process accountable and reassure the public to have continued confidence that all votes were recorded accurately. We will repeat this process again in the near future for the city of Bridgeport, whose primary was held two weeks after other cities and towns.” Read More

Kansas: Group meets in Wichita to organize fight against voter ID law | Wichita Eagle

Leaders representing about two dozen, faith, labor and civil rights groups from across Kansas met here today to organize efforts to battle early implementation of the state’s voter identification law. The organizations were reacting to efforts announced by Secretary of State Kris Kobach to begin enforcing a provision requiring proof of citizenship for voter registration next spring. The law, passed last March, currently doesn’t go into effect until January 2013. Election officials have also voiced opposition to moving up the date.

But groups meeting over the lunch hour at Inter-Faith Ministries said Kobach’s efforts to start the requirement in March could keep thousands of Kansas citizens from participating in the 2012 elections. People who don’t have driver’s licenses or changes in name or address may not have the documentation required by law to register to vote, they said.

“This is not a partisan issue,” Marie Johnson of the NAACP in Salina told the group. “It makes it more difficult for people to participate in our democracy.” Read More

Ohio: Opponents of new elections law collect signatures to challenge it | The Columbus Dispatch

Opponents of a new elections law scheduled to take effect Friday say they have collected enough signatures to challenge the law and hold it in abeyance until after the November 2012 election.

A Statehouse press conference is scheduled for Thursday by Fair Elections Ohio to announce that it has at least the 231,324 valid signatures of registered Ohio voters for a referendum on House Bill 194, signed into law on July 1 by Gov. John Kasich.

Brian Rothenberg, executive director of ProgressOhio and spokesman for Fair Elections Ohio, would not reveal the number of signatures gathered, but said, “We’re way ahead of projections and we expect to have a good day tomorrow.” Read More