Editorials: Rick Scott’s misdirection on voting rights | St. Petersburg Times

Gov. Rick Scott’s administration has a novel strategy to preserve state election changes that would disproportionately hurt minority voters: Get the courts to end the federal process in Florida that could prevent the changes from taking effect in Hillsborough and four other counties. A three-judge court in the District of Columbia should not fall for the misdirection play, and it should not approve the discriminatory voting practices embraced by the governor and the Legislature.

The state first went shopping over the summer when it asked the federal court — rather than the Obama administration’s Justice Department — to sign off on four controversial provisions of a new elections law that would particularly hurt the poor and minorities. Adopted by the GOP-controlled Legislature this year, the changes reduce the number of days for early voting, make it harder for people who move to cast regular ballots at their new polling places, and put up new roadblocks for voter registration drives and citizen petitions.

Voting Blogs: Portland Maine’s Instant-Runoff Mayoral Election: Innovative Voting, Constitutional Questions | State of Elections

On November 8, 2011, Portland, Maine residents will vote for mayor for the first time in nearly a century. For the past 88 years, Portland’s city councilors annually appointed the mayor. However, last year Portland residents voted to popularly elect the mayor. The impetus behind the change is the hope that an elected mayor will carry more political clout in Augusta, the State Capitol. This sudden creation of a very powerful political figure is drawing lots of attention from academics assessing the potential political impacts.

However, the election changes more than just Maine’s political balance and who chooses the mayor. It also establishes a controversial voting procedure for how the mayor is chosen. The 2011 mayor race will use instant-runoff voting (IRV), which encompasses voters’ preferential choices. Here’s how IRV works: each voter votes for as many candidates as he wants, ranking them from his first to last preference. The instant runoff ballot might look like this. Once the votes are collected, voters’ first choices are tallied. If any candidate carries more than 50% of the vote, then that candidate wins. However, given that there are 16 candidates in Portland’s mayoral race, it is extremely unlikely that one candidate will carry the necessary 50% of the vote. If no candidate has more than 50% of the vote, then the candidate receiving the lowest number of first place votes is eliminated, and his votes are redistributed to the candidates his voters ranked as their second choice. This process is repeated from the bottom up until one candidate carries the necessary majority.

Ohio: Secretary of State Jon Husted announces restrictions on in-person absentee voting | cleveland.com

Secretary of State Jon Husted released an advisory Friday night upholding that no in-person early voting will be allowed at board of elections offices across the state the weekend before the Nov. 8 election.

Voters who want to cast ballots early at their county board of elections office will be allowed to do so only until 6 p.m. Friday, Nov. 4, according to the news release from the secretary of state. These restrictions fall under House Bill 224, which takes effect Oct. 27 but has caused some confusion among voters, especially with the passing of HB 194 this year.

Ohio: Court ruling throws 2012 Ohio elections into chaos | Cincinnati.com

The Ohio Supreme Court’s decision to allow Democrats to go forward with a petition drive to stop the Republican congressional redistricting plan has thrown the 2012 congressional elections into chaos. Candidates for Congress – incumbents and challengers, Republicans and Democrats – will have to sit on their hands for a while to see when they should file and if the districts they planned to file in will even exist.

It is not entirely clear yet, but it would appear now that congressional candidates will file petitions by the Dec. 7 deadline for districts that may no longer exist by the planned March 6 primary. Or they could be forced to run in a statewide primary election for Ohio’s 16 U.S. House seats, where the top 16 Republicans face the top 16 finishing Democrats in the November 2012 election.

Wisconsin: Legislature looks at need for email absentee ballots | weau.com

Do voters need their ballots emailed to them? Legislators are now debating whether it’s necessary, or even possible. Emailing absentee ballots isn’t new. In fact, it’s done all the time for the military and overseas voters. But, state democrats say email availability should be extended to everyone.

City clerks say most people vote the day of the election. And if they’re out of town, they’ll fill out their ballot early at the city clerk’s office, voting absentee. Some democrats in the state legislature say there should be more options.

“I support the idea that clerks should be able to email out ballots. People are using email today instead of the post office. It’s a fast, easy way to get information,” says State Senator Kathleen Vinehout.

Wisconsin: Universities waiting for answers on ID cards | LaCrosse Tribune

Local universities have found thrifty ways to make student IDs mesh with looming requirements at the polls, but their plans rest on a state board’s interpretation of the new voter ID law. Student IDs at Viterbo University and the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse will not be accepted as valid forms of photo ID when the law takes effect next year.

All student IDs will need a signature and posted issuance and expiration dates with a two-year life span to be acceptable for voting. UW-L officials plan to keep existing student IDs and issue an extra voting card to students upon request.

“We’re only going to provide these to students that need them and request them,” said Larry Ringgenberg, UW-L director of university centers. “Typically, we’re not seeing this as a huge population of our students.”

Voting Blogs: Wait … What? The Need for Usability in Election Materials | Doug Chapin/PEEA

After weeks of controversy where it wasn’t clear if, how or when voters in Cuyahoga County, OH, would get their absentee ballots, a new issue has arisen: the ballots themselves aren’t clear.

The Plain Dealer has the story:

The Nov. 8 ballot asks Cuyahoga County voters whether they wish to approve three state issues. But some who are voting early are wondering where to mark their votes. The confusion will be the same for those who go to the polls on Election Day. The “yes” and “no” ovals that normally are under the wording for an issue appear to be missing for the state issues. The ovals aren’t under the English version of the questions. They only are under the Spanish translations.This is the first election in which bilingual ballots will be distributed countywide. The ballot design is particularly hard to follow because two of the three state issues are spread over two columns — leaving no place to vote in the column with the English-language wording.

The problem here is one of usability, which is defined by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) as “the extent to which a product can be used by specified users to achieve specified goals with effectiveness, efficiency, and satisfaction in a specified context of use.”

Liberia: Opposition denounces poll as ‘fraudulent’ | BBC News

The parties, which include candidates in second and third place so far, said the National Election Commission has manipulated vote-counting in favour of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. Partial results show Mrs Sirleaf leading, but short of the majority needed to avoid a run-off vote. And the election commission later rejected the opposition charges. It has until 26 October to announce the final results.

Under the rules, if no candidate scores an overall majority, a run-off between the two front-runners will be held early next month. The opposition say they will not accept the result if counting goes on.

An opposition statement said: “We wish to notify the Liberian people of the massive fraud being carried out by the National Elections Commission in the handling and reporting of the presidential election results in favour of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and the Unity Party.”

Liberia: Opposition seeks Liberia presidential vote recount | Reuters

A group of nine Liberian opposition parties on Sunday, asked the West African nation’s election commission to recount the votes of a presidential poll, alleging fraud in the results announced so far. The nine, which includes President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf’s two main challengers, said in a statement during a rally that they wanted Liberia’s National Election Commission (NEC) to release the total number of voters per county and recount all the votes.

The row is the first sign of trouble in Tuesday’s presidential election, the second post-war ballot which is a test of progress towards stability and Liberia’s readiness for investment in untapped mineral and agricultural resources. Latest results announced on Sunday showed that newly named Nobel Peace laureate Johnson-Sirleaf was leading with 44 percent of the votes, ahead of Winston Tubman of the CDC party, on 32.2 percent with some 1,162,729 valid votes and 96 percent of total votes counted.

Despite her lead, Johnson-Sirleaf remains short of the outright majority required for a first-round win and the NEC’s chairman said the election was likely to be decided in a second-round ballot.

Liberia: Vote Valid Despite Opposition Pull-Out, Election Commission Says | VoA News

Liberia’s electoral commission says the credibility of last week’s presidential vote is not undermined by eight opposition parties refusing to recognize its results. Opponents of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf are calling for peaceful protest Sunday after pulling out of a process that they say is being rigged to assure the president’s re-election.

Eight opposition parties say vote totals announced by Liberia’s National Electoral Commission are “null and void” because officials are manipulating results to favor Sirleaf. They say they will not accept the results if the vote count continues now that they have withdrawn their party agents from the electoral commission.

India: Right to reject, recall may not work in India: Chief Election Commission S Y Quraishi | The Economic Times

Amid a campaign by Team Anna for polls reforms, the Election Commission has disfavoured any proposal to include the ‘Right to Reject’ or ‘Right to Recall’ clauses in election rules, saying they may not work in a large country like India.

Opposing the proposal to have a ‘Right to Recall’ as in many developed countries, Chief Election Commission S Y Quraishi has held that it will “destabilise” the country, especially in areas where “people already feel alienated”.

The Voting News Daily: House Dems denounce GOP’s proposed dissolution of Election Assistance Commission, Vets press Gessler to drop voter ballot case

National: House Dems denounce GOP’s proposed dissolution of Election Assistance Commission | TheHill.com Democrats on the Committee on House Administration have unanimously denounced a Republican recommendation to reduce spending within the legislative branch. This week lawmakers proposed cost-saving initiatives to the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction. In a letter Thursday to the joint committee co-chairmen,…

National: House Dems denounce GOP’s proposed dissolution of Election Assistance Commission | TheHill.com

Democrats on the Committee on House Administration have unanimously denounced a Republican recommendation to reduce spending within the legislative branch. This week lawmakers proposed cost-saving initiatives to the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction. In a letter Thursday to the joint committee co-chairmen, Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), House Republicans recommended eliminating funding for the Election Assistance Commission.

House Administration Committee Republicans have long advocated the dissolution of the EAC, an independent, bipartisan commission formed by the Help America Vote Act in 2002, saying the commission’s primary purpose had already been achieved. In June, the House rejected a bill to end the commission, which Republicans said would save $33 million over five years.

“The Election Assistance Commission has fulfilled its function and is now a perfect example of unnecessary and wasteful spending,” committee Chairman Dan Lungren (R-Calif.) wrote in Thursday’s letter. Committee Democrats responded swiftly to the recommendation, claiming that terminating the EAC would instead lead to problems.

California: California comes online…sort of – Governor signs legislation allowing for online voter registration | electionlineWeekly

With the stroke of a pen from Gov. Jerry Brown, California recently once again legalized online voter registration providing an additional opportunity for more than six million residents of voting age to register to vote. California law already allows for online voter registration, however the process on the books before the new legislation was approved was contingent upon the completion of the state’s federally approved voter registration database — VoteCal.

While the state does have a statewide voter registration database, the current system does not make it possible to fully register to vote online. Tired of waiting for the state’s fully federally compliant statewide voter registration database to come online San Francisco Senator Leland Yee introduced SB 397 which would allow counties to offer online voter registration now.

“This is an important first step toward fully upgrading California’s voter registration, making use of better technological tools to make the voter registration process more accurate, less expensive, and more efficient,” said David Becker, director of the Pew Center on the States’ Election Initiatives.

Colorado: Vets press Gessler to drop voter ballot case | The Colorado Independent

Richard Allen Smith, Afghan war veteran and vice chairman of national soldier and veteran advocacy organization VoteVets, on Thursday hand delivered a petition with more than 9,000 signatures asking Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler to drop the lawsuit he filed seeking to prevent counties in the state from mailing ballots to inactive voters, including to soldiers serving away from home. The organization is asking Gessler to accept a decision handed down in district court last week finding insupportable Gessler’s interpretation of election law in the matter.

“I didn’t meet Gessler,” Smith told the Colorado Independent on his way back from the office. “I met two people from the Elections Division. They were polite and professional but they didn’t let on about Gessler’s plans. Actually, one of them seemed more interested in sharpshooting our petition.”

Smith said that, of the 9,000 signatures he delivered, 3,400 were signatures from veterans. He said the petition contained the full names, addresses and, where appropriate, veteran status. The Elections Division staffer, however, suggested that wasn’t enough.

Colorado: Marks seeks the release of Pitkin County ballots | Aspen Daily News

A recent Court of Appeals ruling that voted ballots are accessible public records is being put to the test. Marilyn Marks has submitted a Colorado Open Records Act (CORA) request to the Pitkin County Clerk and Recorder’s Office, seeking to inspect a sample of voted ballots from the 2010 election.

Pitkin County Clerk Janice Vos Caudill said she is reviewing Marks’ request with County Attorney John Ely. Her office has yet to decide whether to grant the open records filing, and has asked for seven additional days to respond, while normally she would have to answer in three. The extra time, which Marks said is OK with her, puts the deadline at Oct. 18.

The Colorado Court of Appeals released a ruling on Sept. 29 which sided with Marks in her case against the city of Aspen. Marks sued the city after officials denied her CORA request to inspect digital copies of ballots from the May 2009 municipal election, in which Marks was a losing mayoral candidate. The election was also the first and only in the city to use instant runoff voting, a system where voters ranked candidate preferences and those choices were used to simulate later runoff contests.

Indiana: Indiana Republicans Call For Federal Election Fraud Investigation | WRTV Indianapolis

Indiana Republicans are calling for a federal investigation into whether President Barack Obama got on the ballot illegally here in 2008.
The GOP wants to know who was responsible for alleged forged signatures on Obama’s petitions and those for Hillary Clinton. State Republican Chairman Eric Holcomb sent a letter Friday to U.S. Attorney for Northern Indiana David Capp asking to open an investigation and to punish anyone responsible for submitting fraudulent petitions, 6News’ Norman Cox reported.

The request is based on newspaper articles in South Bend reporting that hundreds of names were forged on petitions to put Obama and Clinton on the primary ballot in 2008. Holcomb said it wasn’t his intent to try to remove Obama from office, but he wants to know who was responsible and send them to jail. “What I want to know going forward is, what happened, who was involved, and what’s the appropriate punishment for that crime,” Holcomb said.

Michigan: Secretary of State seeking to reform state’s election laws | Huron Daily Tribune

Secretary of State Ruth Johnson on Wednesday announced a new initiative to ensure every citizen gets a vote — and only one vote — in future elections. Included in that is an effort to prevent what happened in the 84th District State Representative election recount last fall, where nearly 10,000 ballots cast in Huron and Tuscola counties were not recountable because of procedural errors, the majority of which were because ballots were not properly sealed.

In an interview Wednesday, Johnson told the Tribune that what happened in the Thumb during the recount that followed the Nov. 2, 2010 isn’t uncommon. She said it’s estimated about 30 percent of ballot containers statewide are not sealed properly. Per Michigan law, if ballots are not properly secured, they cannot be included in a recount.

Ohio: Mail-In Ballots Come with New Postage Costs | WJW

If you plan on voting by mail for November’s election, get your stamps ready! Unlike years past, this year all mail-in ballots in the state of Ohio will require postage. Postage costs will vary by county depending on the weight of the ballot. In Cuyahoga County, the cost is 64 cents.

The pre-addressed envelope does not say how much postage is required, but voters will receive a special paper notice reminding them of the added postage cost. Some voters worry that the new postage costs will go unnoticed or some people will refuse to pay and forgo the voting process altogether.

Wisconsin: City clerk: Voters may have to wait at least a minute per person in line | madison.com

When heading to the polls in Madison in 2012, hope for short lines and plenty of poll workers, or you could be queueing up for awhile. Statistics put together by the Madison city clerk’s office following the mock election on Tuesday showed if there are 30 people waiting to vote, you should plan on being in line for at least 32 minutes.

The mock election at the City-County Building was held to give election workers (and voters) an early look at how it will be at the polling place when 2012 elections roll around, the first elections that will implement a new voting law in Wisconsin. According to the news release from the city clerk’s office, a total of 154 voters and nine election officials took part in the three-hour mock election; 15 of those voting cast provisional ballots.

A provisional ballot means the voter didn’t have acceptable photo ID but was allowed to vote, providing proper ID is shown at the clerk’s office by 4 p.m. of the Friday following an election. Two key elements of the law, showing a photo identification card and signing the poll book, were looked at as possibly bogging down the vote. The mock election showed just how much.

Voting Blogs: “Supposing is Good, But Finding Out is Better”: The Value of Observational Data In Election Research | Doug Chapin/PEEA

On Tuesday, the Madison city clerk’s office held a mock election to test some of the effects of Wisconsin’s new photo ID law. As reported in the Capital Times, the results found that depending on the number of poll workers and the organization of the polling place, voters could expect to wait between one and four minutes per person in line. This isn’t the only mock election Madison will conduct, either; Tuesday’s test didn’t include Election Day voter registration, which officials will observe and test with help from students from nearby UW-Madison.

The Madison study is a perfect embodiment of the Mark Twain quote that serves as this post’s title. While common sense suggests that adding steps to the voter check-in process will add time to the wait, the clerk’s office went ahead and tried to find out how much; moreover, the process allowed for some experimentation (adding pollworkers, splitting the pollbook, checking IDs at the door, etc.) that will help guide how polling places are staffed when real voters come through the door.

Egypt: Fears of Mubarak allies as Egypt prepares elections | Reuters

Candidates registering on Wednesday for Egypt’s first parliamentary elections since the overthrown of the autocratic Hosni Mubarak said they feared Mubarak loyalists would sneak their way onto the candidate lists. Essam Said, registering as a candidate in Giza west of Cairo Wednesday, said veterans of Mubarak’s now disbanded National Democratic Party (NDP) would get themselves included on party lists because running as independents would make them easier to identify.

“The NDP people are hiding themselves inside the party lists,” he said, adding that he knew one former NDP legislator who planned to stand as a candidate for the liberal Wafd party. Under election rules set after Mubarak’s overthrow, two thirds of the lower house will be elected via the party lists covering entire regions, the rest as individuals in smaller constituencies. The rules are designed to stop old Mubarak loyalists, many of them wealthy notables with enduring local influence, returning to formal politics.

Jordan: New municipalities emerge as violent protests continue | Jordan Times

Authorities have endorsed 24 new municipalities amid protests continuing for a second day, with dissatisfied citizens closing roads and staging sit-ins in various parts of the country. The endorsement of the new municipalities, which came despite a Cabinet decision on Tuesday to look into outstanding applications after the December 27 municipal elections, raises the number of these new entities to 123, making the total number of municipalities 216.

In the Village of Salem, a southern district of Amman, residents closed a major highway leading to Sahab, east of the capital, demanding that the government establish a municipality for their area and separate it from the Greater Amman Municipality. An official source at the Ministry of Municipal Affairs told The Jordan Times that the demand has been met, pending the signature of Prime Minister Marouf Bakhit.

Morocco: Islamist group calls for election boycott | Ahram Online

Morocco’s popular Islamist Justice and Benevolence movement on Tuesday called for a boycott of 25 November parliamentary polls called by the king in response to pro-democracy protests.

“We call on the Moroccan people to boycott this process based on lies and illusions,” the movement, which is not officially recognised but tolerated by the authorities, said in a statement. “We also call on Morocco’s political, intellectual and economic elite to follow the February 20 movement, which is the movement of the people.”

The February 20 Movement, which takes its name from its first day of protest, was inspired by pro-democracy groups that have sprung up across the Arab world this year. Tuesday’s announcement is the latest boycott call of the November polls. In September Morocco’s opposition Unified Socialist Party announced that it would boycott the election, joining two far-left parties.

The Voting News Daily: New census data trigger federal requirements for bilingual voting ballots in 25 states, Mississippi voting machines under scrutiny

National: New census data trigger federal requirements for bilingual voting ballots in 25 states | The Washington Post In the run-up to the 2012 elections, the federal government is ordering that 248 counties and other political jurisdictions provide bilingual ballots to Hispanics and other minorities who speak little or no English. That number is down from…

National: New census data trigger federal requirements for bilingual voting ballots in 25 states | The Washington Post

In the run-up to the 2012 elections, the federal government is ordering that 248 counties and other political jurisdictions provide bilingual ballots to Hispanics and other minorities who speak little or no English. That number is down from a decade ago following the 2000 census, which covered 296 counties in 30 states. In all, more than 1 in 18 jurisdictions must now provide foreign-language assistance in pre-election publicity, voter registration, early voting and absentee applications as well as Election Day balloting.

The latest requirements, mandated under the Voting Rights Act, partly reflect second and third generations of racial and ethnic minorities who are now reporting higher levels of proficiency in English than their parents. Still, analysts cite a greater potential for resistance from localities that face tighter budgets, new laws requiring voter IDs at polls and increased anti-immigration sentiment.

Effective this week, Hispanics who don’t speak English proficiently will be entitled to Spanish-language election material in urban areas of political battleground states including Pennsylvania, Virginia, Wisconsin and Utah, as well as the entire states of California, Florida and Texas. For the first time, people from India will get election material in their native language, in voting precincts in Los Angeles, Chicago and New York, due to their fast population growth.

Georgia: State Challenges Voting Rights Act | GPB

Georgia is challenging the constitutionality of a clause in the 1965 federal Voting Rights Act. The challenge is part of a lawsuit filed last week that seeks approval for Georgia’s new redistricting maps. Under the Act, the state can’t eliminate districts where minorities comprise more than 50 percent of the population. Georgia is one of nine states that also must receive so-called “pre-clearance” from the federal government for any election map changes.

State Attorney General Sam Olens calls this requirement a scarlet letter for Georgia that’s unfair because it’s based on a racial climate that no longer exists. He says he supports other provisions in the law.

“Whenever a government attempts to reduce the rights of minority voters, that’s clearly wrong, and clearly unconstitutional,” he said in an interview. “The only issue that we’re discussing is pre-clearance, and whether those nine states should be treated differently than other states.”

Indiana: Bayh Denounces ‘Baseless’ Voter Fraud Accusations | WRTV

Former Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh is denouncing what he calls baseless allegations of voter fraud brought by embattled Secretary of State Charlie White. In a five-page, single-spaced complaint filed Tuesday, White accused the former Democratic senator and his wife, Susan Bayh of casting ballots in May’s primary in Indiana while living in Washington, D.C., and of improperly claiming a property tax homestead exemption on a condo they own in Marion County.

White faces trial in January on seven felony charges, including voter fraud, after prosecutors allege he illegally registered to vote at his ex-wife’s address when he declared his candidacy for the office.

“Mr.White’s assertions are baseless. His situation is factually and legally different than mine,” Bayh said in a statement Thursday. White claims the Bayhs actually reside in a $2.3 million home in Washington, D.C., not their $58,000 condo on Indianapolis’ northwest side. But Indiana Democrats stressed that the Bayhs have always had a home in Indianapolis and called White’s complaint “laughable and regrettable.”

Mississippi: Voting machines under scrutiny | The Clarion-Ledger

Since Mississippi required electronic voting machines in 2006 to meet a federal mandate, all the state’s precincts have used approved equipment. For most of Mississippi’s 82 counties that meant the touch-screen machines the secretary of state’s office got at a bulk discount to comply with the Help America Vote Act. Counties wanting federal money to buy electronic machines had no options.

Now the financial costs assessed with operating touch-screen machines and concerns over contested elections have led officials in one county to ditch those machines and those in another to consider doing the same – both in favor of electronic paper ballot scanning machines . Even before the state mandate, Rankin County had opted for touch-screen machines. It has used them since the November 2003 general election. But District 5 Supervisor Jay Bishop said the system should be re-examined.

Supervisors last month cut the annual maintenance contract for the county’s touch-screen machines from roughly $57,000 to $47,000. But Bishop says, “If we were to go and put (paper ballot) scanners in, that would knock costs down to around $10,000 a year.