The Voting News Daily: New State Laws Are Limiting Access for Voters, States faces 2012 with shrunken election budget

National: New State Laws Are Limiting Access for Voters | Since Republicans won control of many statehouses last November, more than a dozen states have passed laws requiring voters to show photo identification at polls, cutting back early voting periods or imposing new restrictions on voter registration drives. Representative Hank Johnson, Democrat of Georgia, at…

National: New State Laws Are Limiting Access for Voters |

Since Republicans won control of many statehouses last November, more than a dozen states have passed laws requiring voters to show photo identification at polls, cutting back early voting periods or imposing new restrictions on voter registration drives. Representative Hank Johnson, Democrat of Georgia, at a rally at the United States Capitol in July opposing such laws, which are on the rise.

With a presidential campaign swinging into high gear, the question being asked is how much of an impact all of these new laws will have on the 2012 race. State officials, political parties and voting experts have all said that the impact could be sizable. Now, a new study to be released Monday by the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law has tried to tally just how many voters stand to be affected.

The center, which has studied the new laws and opposed some of them in court and other venues, analyzed 19 laws that passed and 2 executive orders that were issued in 14 states this year, and concluded that they “could make it significantly harder for more than five million eligible voters to cast ballots in 2012.”

National: Report: Voting Law Changes in 2012 | Brennan Center for Justice

Ahead of the 2012 elections, a wave of legislation tightening restrictions on voting has suddenly swept across the country. More than five million Americans could be affected by the new rules already put in place this year — a number larger than the margin of victory in two of the last three presidential elections. This report is the first full accounting and analysis of this year’s voting cutbacks. It details both the bills that have been proposed and the legislation that has been passed since the beginning of 2011.

Download the Report (PDF)

Download the Appendix (PDF), a compilation of potentially vote-suppressing legislation proposed in the 2011 legislative sessions.

Download the Overview (PDF), a four-page summary with key findings.

View the Report

Editorials: State voter ID laws: Democracy treads backward | Neal Peirce/

Could Bill Clinton have it right — that we’re seeing the most “determined effort” in half a century to limit Americans’ right to vote? That the new wave of restrictions are the worst, as the former president puts it, “since we got rid of the poll tax and all the Jim Crow burdens on voting”?

Alarmingly, the evidence supports Clinton’s position. Bills to require government-issued photo identification at the polls have passed this year in several states where Republicans control both the governorships and legislatures — Texas, Wisconsin, South Carolina, Alabama, Kansas and Tennessee. And they’re being advanced in several more GOP-held states.

The alleged reason: serious voter fraud. But the facts beg to differ. The Brennan Center for Justice reports that actual prosecutions, arrests or findings of voter malfeasance are exceedingly rare. Kansas reports more sightings of UFOs than voter-fraud charges. Realistically, there’s no significant problem.

California: Zany instant runoff race in San Francisco gives voters thousands of choices | Ventura County Star

The city that is home to the crookedest street in the world is this fall witnessing what surely could be the zaniest election in America. There are 16 people running for mayor and hardly a gadfly in the bunch. The field includes the current appointed mayor, two county supervisors, a state senator, the public defender, the city attorney, the assessor-recorder and three former supervisors.

Each is eligible for up to $900,000 in public financing, so none will be starved for campaign funds. Even those who find themselves dropping in the polls will be able to keep battling through Election Day.

When voters receive their ballots, they will have not one, not two, not even just 16 choices to make. Rather, under the instant-runoff voting system that is being used for the first time in a San Francisco mayoral election, they will have 3,360 distinct ways they could fill out their ballot.

California: Web registering may shake up voter rolls in California | San Francisco Examiner

Registering to vote might soon be as easy as placing an online order for a pizza with all the fixings. A bill by state Sen. Leland Yee could push millions more Californians to vote, and save the state millions of dollars by moving voter registration to the Web.

The measure was approved by the state Legislature in September and is awaiting a signature or veto by Gov. Jerry Brown, who has not indicated how he views the legislation.

About 6.5 million eligible California residents are not registered to vote and could benefit from the program. But online registration could be a major draw for one notably left-leaning and underregistered demographic — young adults.

Colorado: Reluctantly, clerk says, ballots not in the mail | The Pueblo Chieftain

Pueblo County Clerk Gilbert “Bo” Ortiz will “reluctantly” comply with Secretary of State Scott Gessler’s order not to mail ballots to 64 inactive military voters. Ortiz announced his decision Friday afternoon, but said the dispute with Gessler over whether inactive voters should receive mail ballots this year isn’t over.

“Pueblo County is currently weighing our legal options, including taking the issue to court,” Ortiz said in a statement. “The secretary of state effectively has denied 64 active military personnel the opportunity to vote.”

The dispute well could end Oct. 7 when a Denver district court hears the case. Gessler is suing Denver County Clerk Debra Johnson over her decision to send mail ballots to active and inactive voters this year. Active voters are those who took part in the 2010 election or freshened their registration since then. Inactive voters didn’t take part in the 2010 election or respond to postcards or queries to renew their registration.

Colorado: Gessler: No ballots for soldiers who didn’t vote in 2010 | The Colorado Independent

Pueblo County Clerk Gilbert Ortiz gave Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler until this morning to specifically and formally address another of the charged ramifications of his new interpretation of state election law. Gessler got in under the wire. Thursday evening, he sent Ortiz a letter ordering him not to send ballots to any of the county’s “inactive voters”– legally registered voters who failed to cast ballots in the previous even-year general election– including roughly 70 soldiers on the Pueblo County inactive voter rolls serving out of state. In Pueblo as elsewhere in the state, inactive voters are now meant to visit the clerk’s office or a polling place to retrieve ballots. With the election a month away, Gessler’s directive seems likely to effectively disenfranchise the soldiers.

On Wednesday, Ortiz told the Colorado Independent he was pained by the idea of not sending out the ballots. “This is not a comfortable place to be,” he said, adding that not sending the ballots went against all of his priorities as clerk. He said he felt the clock ticking for the inactive-voter soldiers.

Kentucky: County, state differ on Kentucky’s homeless voters |

Boone County officials have decided state law trumps the state board of elections, when it comes to homeless voters. County Clerk Kenny Brown said he will follow the direction of Kentucky Revised Statutes regarding voter registration as it pertains to homeless voters rather than follow a State Board of Elections memo.

As a result, homeless voters who do not supply a verifiable address will not be placed in any precinct for the November election, but could still potentially be allowed to vote. “We are not trying to disenfranchise voters here or deprive anyone of the opportunity to vote,” Brown said. “I have an obligation to ensure the integrity of the election process and if I follow the memorandum from the State Board of Elections I don’t think I can do that.”

North Carolina: States faces 2012 with shrunken election budget |

The country’s attention will be on North and South Carolina during next year’s election as Republicans will compete in a hotly contested primary and Democrats try to keep the Southern toehold they gained in 2008.

But the nuts and bolts of those elections — printing ballots, keeping machines in working order, making sure every voter who wants to cast a ballot gets a chance — depend on state agencies where budgets have shrunk dramatically. Some officials and observers now worry about whether everything will run smoothly on election day. “We are looking at a potential train wreck with less money and more complexity in handling the administration of elections,” said Bob Hall, executive director of the nonpartisan Democracy North Carolina.

The North Carolina General Assembly’s decision to cut more than $1 million from the state Board of Elections budget this year could make it harder for regulators to ensure county election operations are prepared for 2012, particularly with machinery.

Ohio: New Ohio elections law put on hold after groups deliver petitions to put issue on ballot |

A controversial new Ohio elections law was suspended on Thursday as a coalition of Democrats, voting-rights and labor groups submitted over 300,000 signatures to put the law on the fall 2012 ballot. That means the Nov. 8 election — and probably next year’s presidential election — will be run under the same early-voting laws that benefited Democrats in 2008.

The referendum effort is aimed at House Bill 194, a Republican-backed law that restricts early-voting opportunities and makes other changes that Democrats say amount to voter suppression. U.S. Rep. Marcia Fudge, a Warrensville Heights Democrat, said suspension of the law will increase turnout among the elderly, minorities, the needy and the disabled — all groups that tend to support Democrats.

South Carolina: Audits spotlight 2010 election problems |

Two audits of South Carolina’s November 2010 general election found scores of human errors that led to incorrect vote counts and other problems. None of these errors were large enough to have changed the outcome of a election or referendum, but they were significant enough to prompt the State Election Commission to make several procedural and policy changes. The problems also emboldened the chorus of critics questioning the accuracy, reliability and accountability of the state’s iVotronic voting machines.

And they could prompt the Legislature to lengthen the time period between Election Day and when counties meet to certify the results. That added time would give counties extra time to audit their data before formalizing their tallies. State Sen. Chip Campsen, R-Isle of Palms, has chaired a Senate Judiciary Subcommittee looking at elections and has reviewed the audits’ results. “The problem is these problems were uncovered after the election was certified,” he said. “Once an election is certified, it can’t be undone.”

Barbara Zia, co-president of South Carolina’s League of Women Voters, said the scrutiny of the state’s election system was triggered in part by the June 2010 Senate Democratic primary in which an unknown candidate who didn’t campaign won handily with 60 percent of the vote. The league’s recent audit — which requested information from all 46 counties under the state’s Freedom of Information Act — was an outgrowth of that.

Texas: Justice Department seeks more details on Texas voter ID law |

Texas’ new voter identification law remains in limbo as the U.S. Department of Justice asked on Friday for more details on how the state will implement the stricter voting requirements.

Read the Department of Justice’s letter

“The information sent is insufficient to enable us to determine that the proposed changes have neither the purpose nor will have the effect of denying or abridging the right to vote on account of race, color, or membership in a language minority group,” wrote T. Christian Herren Jr. , chief of the Justice Department’s voting section.

Under the federal Voting Rights Act, Texas and some other states with a history of past discrimination are required to get federal government approval, called pre-clearance, before changes to election law can go into effect.


Bahrain: Bahraini women win in special election | Bikya Masr

Bahraini and international women’s advocates praised the victory of three women in the special parliamentary elections in the embattled Gulf island nation. The women’s victory brings the number of women now sitting in the 40-seat assembly to four. The special elections were held on September 24 and October 1.

Seychelles: President to Schedule Electoral Reforms After Victory | Businessweek

Seychelles President James Michel said electoral reforms will soon be on the agenda in an announcement after his People’s Party won all 25 seats in the Indian Ocean island nation’s parliamentary elections held over three days. The Electoral Commission will start national consultations on the reforms, Michel said in a statement on television today.

The Seychelles National Party, led by Wavel Ramkalawan, pulled out of the vote, accusing the government of reneging on an earlier a promise of political reform. The election was a sham and an undemocratic process, Ramkalawan said by telephone today.

United Kingdom: Labour slam plans to reform voting system | Birmingham Mail

Labour have slammed plans to reform the voting system to prevent a repeat of the massive fraud which led to Birmingham being called a “banana republic”. Harriet Harman, the party’s deputy leader, said the proposed changes were a Tory plot to stop people voting. She was speaking at Labour’s annual conference in Liverpool, which ended yesterday.

The Government wants to change the rules following a high-profile court case in 2005 when Judge Richard Mawrey said election cheating in Birmingham would “disgrace a banana republic”, as he dealt with five Labour councillors guilty of vote rigging.

The Electoral Commission, the official body responsible for overseeing elections, called for an end to household registration, which allows one person to fill a form demanding polling cards for a number of people.