The Voting News Daily: How Voting Equipment Varies in the US, Tunisian Islamist party claims election victory, set to dominate writing of new constitution

From the Verified Voting Blog: How Voting Equipment Varies in the U.S. The following article was posted at Digital Communities on October 24 2011. Pamela Smith and the Verified Voting Foundation (VVF) are on a mission — in her words — “to safeguard elections in the digital age.” In an earlier time, she said, ballot boxes were inspected…

California: Mayoral candidates contact Department of Justice over reports of election fraud | KTVU San Francisco

Seven San Francisco mayoral candidates sent a letter to federal and state officials Sunday requesting an investigation into media reports that supporters of Mayor Ed Lee were filling in ballots for voters Friday. The letter points to reported witness testimony and video allegedly showing staff members from the group SF Neighbor Alliance for Ed Lee for Mayor 2011 “completing ballots for voters” and “preventing voters from marking their ballots for other mayoral candidates”.

In the letter, the mayoral contenders ask Assistant U.S. Attorney General Thomas Perez and California Secretary of State Debra Bowen to investigate these claims. The letter was signed by Public Defender Jeff Adachi, County Supervisor John Avalos, Board of Supervisors President David Chiu, City Attorney Dennis Herrera, state Senator Leland Yee, Michela Alioto-Pier and Joanna Rees.

Colorado: Law prohibits U.S. Postal Service from forwarding Boulder County ballots | Longmont Times-Call

The Boulder County Clerk and Recorder’s Office reports that more than 9,000 blank ballots it mailed to voters earlier this month have been returned as undeliverable. That typically means that those voters moved but didn’t update the addresses on their official voter-registration records.

A state law intended to prevent no-longer-eligible voters from casting prohibits the U.S. Postal Service from forwarding ballots. Residents who think they’re properly registered but who haven’t received a ballot in the mail can call their county clerks’ elections divisions or check their registration information online and still get a ballot. Voters also can get replacement ballots if they’ve spoiled, defaced or lost the originals.

Connecticut: Absentees: Early ballots bring victories, sometimes fraud | Connecticut Post

“Goal: 1,200 absentee applications,” read a sign hanging in Mayor Bill Finch’s campaign headquarters last month. By the time polls opened at 6 a.m. on Sept. 27, that goal had been surpassed — more than 1,300 applications were turned in and nearly 900 ballots returned. Before the first paper ballot was marked, Finch already had a 420-vote lead over Democratic challenger Mary-Jane Foster on Primary Day, the fruits of a well-organized absentee ballot operation.

“We, the politicians, we will do whatever we can to get that vote,” said Lydia Martinez, an East Side city councilwoman who for years has led the most successful absentee ballot operations in the city. “You can give transportation to people. You can call people to ask if they got their absentee ballot. I do have a record of who votes by absentee every year. I’ve been doing this for 30 years. I know who the people are.”

Voting Blogs: Allegations of absentee “voter fraud” in Indiana don’t add up | Early Voting Information Center

We need to invent a catchy phrase in the elections community to describe overblown allegations of voter fraud.  As Lorraine Minnite has documented, most charges of fraud don’t stand up to scrutiny.  It’s important that Americans have faith in the security and integrity of the ballot, but it’s just as important that overblown charges of “fraud” be challenged.

Take the latest series of charges and counter charges regarding voting irregularities in Indiana.  Rick Hasen noted the “latest salvo” from the state GOP chair.

I am careful to use the word “irregularities” and not “election fraud” because, regardless of the rhetoric, even a cursory examination of the list of charges only reveals one case that rises to any level of concern: allegations regarding absentee ballot fraud for a single UOCAVA ballot.  (I’ve been searching fruitlessly for the reasons why there are 65 counts in the indictment; some stories refer to absentee ballot “applications” while other stories note a single ballot in question.)

Nevada: Nevada GOP folds; opens January date for New Hampshire primary | Union Leader

Nevada Republicans on Saturday cleared the way for New Hampshire to host the nation’s first GOP presidential primary Jan. 10 and avoid voting during the Christmas shopping season. “We’re happy; we’re relieved; we’re grateful,” New Hampshire Republican Party Chairman Wayne MacDonald said after the vote by the Nevada GOP to move its caucuses to Feb. 4.

The spotlight now shifts to New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner, who sets the date and who has considered a December primary to comply with state law. “Now,” Gardner said Saturday, “New Hampshire will make its decision soon based on the schedules of all the other states as required by our law.”

If Gardner puts his stamp on Jan. 10, New Hampshire Republicans would follow Iowa caucus-goers by a week and enjoy an 11-day buffer before South Carolina residents voted on Jan. 21.

New Hampshire: Once more, elections chief plays a primary role | The Associated Press

New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner was a stickler for the rules from the start. In 1976, after the state Legislature chose him to oversee state elections, the Republican speaker of the House moved to swear in Gardner, just 28, immediately, but the young Democrat asked whether that was proper procedure. Without realizing the microphone in front of them was on, the speaker sneered, “Do you want the job, kid, or not?”

Gardner did and, 35 years later, he still does. He’s the nation’s longest-serving secretary of state, and every four years his influence in election matters extends far beyond New Hampshire. State law requires that New Hampshire’s presidential primary be held at least seven days ahead of any other state, and it gives the secretary of state exclusive authority to select a date.

New Mexico: Doña Ana County considers using at-large voting centers | Las Cruces Sun-News

Amid rushing the kids to school, zipping through a busy day at work, squeezing in a few other chores and picking the kids up from soccer, gymnastics or guitar lessons, finding time to cast your election-day ballot as important as it may be sometimes falls by the wayside.

That’s especially the case if your memory is a bit fuzzy about where to vote. Was it Alameda Elementary School? Or that community center a few streets away? Or just possibly that neighborhood church used two years ago?
County officials said they’re hoping a proposal up for consideration Tuesday will streamline the process of election-day voting and make it more accessible to voters.

The proposal would change the way the county hosts election-day voting moving it from precinct-based polling places to at-large voting centers.
Instead of voting at a designated precinct or casting a provisional ballot if you show up at the wrong precinct you’d visit to any one of 39 voting centers throughout Doña Ana County, said County Clerk Lynn Ellins, a Democrat.

South Carolina: Audit finds anomalies in Beaufort County’s 2010 election data |

An audit of the 2010 election released late last month by the S.C. League of Women Voters shows a few irregularities in data from Beaufort County’s voting machines. County elections executive director Scott Marshall said he’s not yet certain how many votes might have been affected by problems, but he said that number is small enough that it wouldn’t have affected any results.

Nonetheless, Marshall said irregularities in the data are “unacceptable” and said he will work to understand what caused them. “Anytime there is an opportunity for error in results being reported, I’m concerned about it,” he said. “We want to make sure that we do get it figured out, so we don’t repeat that.”

To perform its audit, the league analyzed the log files stored on memory cards inside county voting machines. “What we have seen around the state is that all the possible things that could go wrong have gone wrong somewhere,” said Duncan Buell, a University of South Carolina computer science professor, who helped lead the project.

Tennessee: Chattanooga woman denied voting ID gains national attention |

Dorothy Cooper may be 96, but she’s become the poster child for Democratic opposition to a Republican-sponsored state law requiring photo identification to vote — she’s even attracted the attention of the nation’s Democrat in Chief. Days after the Chattanooga resident was denied the free photo ID card promised in a new state law, state Democratic Party Chairman Chip Forrester cited her travails in a campaign fundraising email.

Forrester’s email said that “Tennessee’s new Republican ‘photo ID’ law has successfully suppressed another voter,” as reported by Nashville Scene. It invited potential donors to “Please give $5, $10 or $25 to support our efforts to ensure people like Dorothy — or your grandmother — can be a voter on Election Day.”

Tennessee: After long wait with no seat, 91-year-old voter quits on ID | The Daily News Journal

Ninety-one-year-old Virginia Lasater has voted and worked in campaigns for some 70 years. But Wednesday she ran head-long into the barrier Tennessee’s new voter photo ID law is throwing up for some elderly people. Recently moved to Murfreesboro from her farm in Lewisburg to live with son, Richard Lasater, she registered to vote Wednesday at the Rutherford County Election Commission office but that afternoon found herself facing long lines at the driver’s license testing center in Murfreesboro. She’s never had a photo ID on her license, even though she’s still capable of driving and goes to Sunday school.

Aided by a walking cane to get around, she quickly decided she couldn’t stand up long enough to wait and her son could find no chairs available for her to sit. Richard estimated at least 100 people were in the building, and workers were “way overworked and way understaffed.” He was told at the help desk there was nothing they could do but wait. They left, upset about the law and the long lines.

Argentina: Cristina Fernandez celebrates landslide win | BBC News

Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner has won re-election in a landslide victory, on the back of strong economic growth in the country. Ms Fernandez secured nearly 54% of vote, with her closest challenger, socialist Hermes Binner on just 17%.

Ms Fernandez told jubilant supporters in Buenos Aires’ Plaza de Mayo that she wanted to keep Argentina growing. She also made an emotional reference to her late husband, former president Nestor Kirchner, who died a year ago.

“Count on me to continue pursuing the project,” she said, watched by supporters on a huge TV screen. “All I want is to keep collaborating … to keep Argentina growing. I want to keep changing history.” Her critics say she has benefited from a weak and fragmented opposition in this election. But Ms Fernandez, 58, has presided over strong economic growth and pursued popular social policies.

Bulgaria: NGO Head Blames Central Electoral Commission for Election Chaos | – Sofia News Agency

Commenting on the chaos surrounding the October 23 presidential and local elections, Antoaneta Tsoneva, President of the Institute for Public Environment Development (IPED), has said that Bulgaria’s inexperienced election administration is to blame for the situation.

Speaking in an interview for the state-owned Bulgarian National Television (BNT), she noted that, instead of allowing cameras in the Sofia Municipal Electoral Commission (OIC), MPs from ruling party GERB had been granted entry. Tsoneva called the presence of a regional coordinator at the vote counting “a total nonsense.”

“Sectional electoral commissions are trained by municipal electoral commissions, which in turn are instructed by the Central Electoral Commission (CEC). We warned CEC repeatedly that it was running behind schedule with the start of the training of municipal electoral commissions,” the head of the Bulgarian non-governmental organization said.

Liberia: ECOWAS to Send More Observers to Monitor Run-off | VoA News

The president of the Commission of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) says his organization will send a larger delegation to monitor Liberia’s November 8 presidential run-off. The sub-regional bloc deployed over 150 poll observers across Liberia to monitor the first round of the October 11 presidential and legislative elections.

“We have a mandate from a protocol on democracy and good governance…that expects us to observe all presidential elections,” said Ambassador James Victor Gbeho. “[For] the second round, which is even more important, we might field an even bigger number to make sure that our observation is flawless. And also to make sure that we are in a position to certify whether that election or the run-off will be free fair and credible.” He warned that ECOWAS has no tolerance for some candidates, who he said create problems after losing a vote. ECOWAS judged the first round to be free fair and transparent.

Libya: Libya paves the way for elections | CBS News

Libya’s interim leaders are moving to put the war-torn country back together. A declaration of liberation is expected Sunday. On Saturday acting Prime Minister Makhmoud Jibril resigned, clearing the way for an interim government and elections. CBS News Elizabeth Palmer in Tripoli has the latest. Just before stepping down, Libya’s interim prime minister also set an ambitious deadline for elections.

“The first election after the liberating of the country, which should take place today, should be within a period of eight months, maximum,” he said.

Maldives: Electronic voting depends on public awareness | Minivan News

The Maldives has expressed support for electronic voting systems in India and Pakistan, and is taking steps to introduce Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) to its own electoral process. At an informal meeting of Electoral Commissioners from SAARC member countries in India, the Maldives joined Bhutan, Afghanistan, Nepal and Sri Lanka in praising India’s use of EVMs and indicated that “legal amendments would be thought of to see that EVMs were made popular to ensure free and fair polls in their countries,” Indian news outlet The Hindu reported yesterday.

Commissioners met to discuss Afghanistan’s voting procedures in light of waning financial and other aid from NATO allies. Maldives Elections Commission President Fuad Thaufeeq said the commission, which is developing a proposal for Parliament regarding EVMs, has met with the Committee on Independent Commissions to discuss their implementation.

Switzerland: Expats pleased with e-voting, disappointed no candidates elected | swissinfo

The parliamentary elections on Sunday were both a success and failure for the large community of Swiss voters living abroad. On the one hand, electronic voting worked in the four cantons that introduced the system for expatriate voters. However, none of the Swiss abroad who stood for election were voted in.

“We are both delighted and grateful to the cantons for carrying out these tests and to the government for allowing them,” Rudolf Wyder, director of the Organisation of the Swiss Abroad (OSA), told It was the first time that electronic voting was possible.

More than 3,500 expatriates registered to vote were able to benefit from e-voting in cantons Basel City, St Gallen, Graubünden and Aargau. That amounts to 53.1 per cent of the Swiss abroad who cast ballots in these cantons, the Federal Chancellery said on Monday.

Tunisia: Islamist party claims election victory, set to dominate writing of new constitution | The Washington Post

A moderate Islamist party claimed victory Monday in Tunisia’s landmark elections as preliminary results indicated it had won the biggest share of votes, assuring it will have a strong say in the future constitution of the country whose popular revolution led to the Arab Spring. The Ennahda party’s success could boost other Islamist parties in the North Africa and the Middle East, although Ennahda insists its approach to sharia, or Islamic law, is consistent with Tunisia’s progressive traditions, especially in regards to women’s rights.

Party officials estimated Ennahda had taken at least 30 percent of the 217-seat assembly charged with writing a new constitution for the country. Other estimates put the party’s share from Sunday’s vote closer to 50 percent. Official results are expected Tuesday. International observers lauded the election as free and fair while emphasizing that the parties in the new government must work together and safeguard the rights of women.

National: How Voting Equipment Varies in the U.S. | Digital Communities

The following article was posted at Digital Communities on October 24 2011.

Pamela Smith and the Verified Voting Foundation (VVF) are on a mission — in her words — “to safeguard elections in the digital age.” In an earlier time, she said, ballot boxes were inspected the morning before voting began then were padlocked. Voters would insert their paper ballots, and when the polls closed, officials would unlock the boxes and count the ballots. Smith, the foundation’s president, isn’t advocating a return to those simpler days, but she says that some modern electronic voting systems present unique challenges that make democracy vulnerable to tampering.

With some systems, said Smith, the voter marks a paper ballot, which then goes through an electronic scanner for tallying the vote. With that kind of system, she said, there’s a hard-copy record of the vote that can be used to audit accuracy, or in the event of a recount. The foundation’s map of “America’s Voting Systems in 2010” show a broad range of systems, from Oregon’s vote-by-mail to South Carolina’s “DRE without VVPAT,” which signifies a direct recording electronic voting machine that has no voter-verified paper audit trail.