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.

The Voting News Weekly: TVN Weekly September 26 – October 2 2011

Researchers at the Argonne National Laboratory demonstrated a low cost and relatively low tech method of remotely hacking electronic voting machines. Activists in in Ohio gathered more than enough signatures to put the State’s controversial election law on hold for the 2012 elections. The Maine Secretary of State sent a letter to out-of-state college students encouraging them to re-register in their home States. The Colorado Court of Appeals ruled that electronic images of voted ballots should be open for public inspection. Two computer science professors began a forensic auit of Venango County’s iVotronic voting system. The New York Times posted an editorial examining the worldwide disillusionment with the democratic political process and the Charleston Post and Courier called for an independent audit of South Carolina’s voting systems. And Saudi King Abdullah announced that the nation’s women would gain the right to vote and run as candidates in the next municipal elections in 2015.

The Voting News Daily: States Ignore the Impact Photo ID Laws Could Have on Their Citizens, Maine: Elections Chief Uses GOP List To Intimidate Student Voters And Encourage Them To Re-Register In Another State

Blogs: States Ignore the Impact Photo ID Laws Could Have on Their Citizens | Project Vote Blog “The U.S. Supreme Court upheld voter ID requirements in concept three years ago, but justices said then that they might reconsider if opponents could produce actual voters who had been turned away because they could not get ID,”…

National: Researchers hack e-voting system for US presidential elections | Macworld UK

Researchers at the Argonne National Laboratory this week showed how an electronic voting machine model that’s expected to be widely used to tally votes in the US 2012 elections can be easily hacked using inexpensive, widely-available electronic components.

Roger Johnston, head of the Vulnerability Assessment Team at the US Department of Energy’s science and engineering reseaech lab, said the hack, which requires about $25 and very little technical expertise, would let cybercriminals “flip” votes gathered on Diebold Accuvote TS machines and change election results without raising any suspicion.

Johnston and his team have long warned about vulnerabilities in e-voting machines. And two years ago, the team demonstrated how a Sequoia touch screen e-voting machine could be similarly manipulated using cheap components. The latest research was first reported by the Salon news site.

Arkansas: Court: Voters can cast ballots in public | Arkansas News

Poll workers cannot force voters to cast ballots in private if they choose to vote in the open, the state Supreme Court ruled today. The high court affirmed a Pulaski County Circuit Court ruling that barred election officials from directing voters to tables set up outside voting booths but that said state law does not require poll workers to force anyone to mark ballots within the confines of a booth.

Today’s decision came in an appeal of a lawsuit brought against the Pulaski County Election Commission by Keith Hamaker in July 2010. Hamaker said he witnessed voters seated at a table at a polling place in Little Rock when he went to vote in the 2008 general election. Hamaker’s lawsuit contended the practice he termed “community table voting” violated the public trust. He asked the circuit court to bar the election commission from allowing open voting.

Colorado: Could new court ruling impact elections lawsuit against Mesa County? | NBCnews11

A woman suing Mesa County elections officials over the release of voting records scored a major victory Thursday. In a separate suit filed against the City of Aspen a judge ruled in her favor, saying digital copies of election ballots are open to public inspection. Now she’s hopeful that ruling will come into play as the case here moves forward.

Aspen resident Marilyn Marks made a request in August to see electronic scans of ballots cast here in Mesa County during the 2010 elections. Mesa County Clerk and Recorder Sheila Reiner denied part of that request, saying the way the ballots are organized in the digital files could reveal how individual citizens voted — violating their right to ballot secrecy. In early September, Marks filed suit against the Clerk’s office for the public release of the records.

Thursday was a good day for Marks, who describes herself as an elections activist. After a two year legal battle with the City of Aspen, she’ll be granted access to digital copies of ballots there, which she says is necessary to verify fair and accurate elections.

Colorado: Gessler: No to mailing ballots to inactive voters | The Pueblo Chieftain

Pueblo County Clerk Gilbert “Bo” Ortiz wanted an answer Thursday from Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler to a simple question but one heavily laced with politics: Could Ortiz send out roughly 70 mail ballots to registered county voters in the military, but who did not vote in the 2010 election? “I want an order from the secretary’s office by Friday (today) saying that I cannot send out those ballots because I believe I should under the (Uniform Military and Overseas Voters Act),” Ortiz said Thursday morning.

He got his answer at closing time Thursday. Gessler’s letter to Ortiz said the secretary of state was sticking to his position that no inactive voters should get ballots sent to them this election — including out-of-area military voters, or those “covered” by the Uniform Military and Overseas Voters Act.

“A covered voter who is registered to vote may apply for a ballot. Ballots are not automatically sent to covered voters,” Gessler’s letter said. “Thus, Pueblo County may only send mail ballots to inactive voters who submit a timely request as required by the (Act).” Perusing the letter Thursday night, Ortiz said Gessler had provided an order as asked.

Maine: Elections Chief Uses GOP List To Intimidate Student Voters And Encourage Them To Re-Register In Another State | ThinkProgress

The latest voter suppression tactic employed by Republicans can be found in Maine, where last week the Secretary of State sent a threatening letter to hundreds of college students who were legally registered to vote in Maine, floating the possibility of election law violation and encouraging them to re-register elsewhere.

The letter explained that Maine Secretary of State Charles Summers was writing because he “was presented with a list of 206 University of Maine students with out-of-state home addresses and asked to investigate allegations of election law violations.” That list was provided to him not by an uninterested citizen, but rather the Maine Republican Party Chairman Charlie Webster, who has accused these students of voter fraud.

In his letter, Summers informed the recipient that “our research shows you have registered to vote as a resident of Maine,” before going on to strongly imply that the students did not meet the state definition for “residence of a person”. Summers went on to encourage the students to re-register in another state, telling them that if “you are no longer claiming to be a Maine resident, I ask that you complete the enclosed form to cancel your voter registration in Maine.”

Ohio: Butler County OH gains from voting machine suit |

A three-year fight over Butler County’s faulty voting machines has come to an end. The board of elections is getting 400 free electronic poll books out of the agreement as well as seven years of maintenance and available upgrades to the tune of about $1.5 million, Prosecutor Michael Gmoser said Thursday.

“We wanted more and we got more,” he said.

Butler County last year rejected a state-wide settlement that the Secretary of State’s office negotiated with Premier Election Solutions for about 47 other counties that accepted software upgrades, discounted maintenance fees, cash payments and more of the same free voting equipment.

Oklahoma: Court orders voting open through Oct 8 for all Cherokees | Sequoyah County Times

The Cherokee Nation Election Commission continued to navigate around roadblocks in the tribe’s efforts to elect a principal chief this week. In the meantime, the two candidates — Chad Smith and Bill John Baker — continued to throw barbs at one another.

On Tuesday the election commission held a special meeting to determine how to comply with a federal court order that all tribal members have until Oct. 8 to vote for a principal chief. Due to vote-count inconsistencies in the first election in June, the tribe held a second election Saturday for principal chief, and will keep the ballot box open for freedmen until Oct. 8, as ordered by a federal court. But the federal court on Tuesday ordered that the ballot box and election had to be open to all tribal members not just the freedmen.

“A new court order has added additional voting days for any registered Cherokee Nation voter and stipulates that no ballots be counted until after the last voting opportunity on Oct. 8,” the election commission said in a prepared statement released Tuesday.

South Carolina: Voter ID count excluded thousands | Houston Chronicle

More than 74,000 people who skipped voting in past elections may have been excluded from data used to estimate how many voters lack state issued identification that’s at the heart of South Carolina’s new law requiring photo IDs to vote, the State Election Commission said Friday.

Under the new law, people have to present photographic identification at precinct polling places to cast regular ballots. The data crunching is important because it will be used to reach out to voters to make sure they know about the law change, an issue the U.S. Justice Department is concerned about as it reviews the law. Earlier this week, the Election Commission said nearly 217,000 registered voters in the state lack a state driver’s license or photo ID. That already was nearly 40,000 more than the election agency had previously estimated.

Texas: Will Federal Request Delay Texas Voter ID Law? — Voter ID | The Texas Tribune

Doubts are being raised as to whether the state’s controversial voter identification bill will be implemented on schedule because Texas does not ask its citizens their race when they register to vote. As passed during the regular session of the 82nd Texas Legislature, Senate Bill 14 by state Sen. Troy Fraser, R-Horseshoe Bay, would require that voters present a valid state-issued ID before casting a ballot. Gov. Rick Perry deemed the legislation an emergency item. It is scheduled to go into effect Jan. 1, 2012.

Under the federal Voting Rights Act, the U.S. Department of Justice or the federal courts have authority to review laws that would affect voter turnout before they are enacted. Last week the department asked for more information before it could render a decision on whether to grant Texas’ request for preclearance, which the Texas Secretary of State submitted in July.

Utah: Five cities cancel November elections thanks to new law | Deseret News

Five Utah cities are taking advantage of a new law that allows them to cancel municipal elections when the number of candidates for at-large seats does not exceed the number of positions available. Providence and Cornish in Cache County, Fielding in Box Elder County, Marriott-Slaterville in Weber County and Beaver in Beaver County all fit that profile and have chosen not to hold November elections.

Providence had four candidates file for three City Council positions. But then incumbent David Low withdrew, leaving incumbents Bill Bagley and John Russel and newcomer Ralph Call on the ballot.

Zimbabwe: Sticker Shock as Electoral Commission Pitches US$88M Referendum | VoA News

The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission says it will need nearly $US120 million to bolster its operational capacity and conduct the referendum on the new constitution which some say could be held as early as November of this year – though a draft is not yet ready.

Electoral Commission Chairwoman Joyce Kazembe said this week that her organization needs some $US30 million to build capacity and $US88 million to run the referendum. She made the comments during a ceremony accepting vehicles, computers and other equipment provided by the United Nations Development Program.

Voting Blogs: States Ignore the Impact Photo ID Laws Could Have on Their Citizens | Project Vote Blog

“The U.S. Supreme Court upheld voter ID requirements in concept three years ago, but justices said then that they might reconsider if opponents could produce actual voters who had been turned away because they could not get ID,” the Tennessean reports. This may not be far off as more and more reports of voters without photo ID begin to emerge. Although officials in at least three states have attempted to help voters adhere to the law, voters and advocates caution that it’s not enough if voters are not “plugged in” in the first place.

To prevent the disenfranchisement of Tennessee’s 230,000 senior citizens who have non-photo IDs, state officials are planning a campaign to teach them about the new photo ID law that goes into effect during the 2012 election. The new voting law essentially overrides another law that makes it more convenient for drivers over age 60 to renew their driver’s licenses. That law allows seniors to renew driver’s licenses—without a photo—online through the mail.

Transportation for elderly people in assisted living homes as well as long waiting periods at the DMV for seniors with disabilities are major concerns for groups like Tennessee Citizen Action, reports Chas Sisk at the Tennessean.

Voting Blogs: New North Dakota Data from Pew Asks: What Does the “Cost of Elections” Mean? | Doug Chapin/PEEA

Yesterday, my friends and colleagues on Pew’s Election Initiatives team released the first of a series of Election Data Dispatches, which will be dedicated to examining “what data exist, what they say about elections in America and how states and localities use data to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of their election systems.”

You don’t need to go very far back in this blog’s short archives to see how excited I am to see this site make its debut. Take a moment right now and bookmark the page for future reference – I already have.

The first Dispatch looks at cost data collected by the State of North Dakota. For years, the Pew team and I have referred to cost data as the “white whale” of election administration – extremely valuable and eagerly sought, but elusive. Imagine our excitement when we discovered that North Dakota regularly collects such data – and had been doing so for 30 years!

Editorials: The truth about voter suppression – 2012 Elections |

The national trauma of the 2000 presidential election and its messy denouement in Florida and the U.S. Supreme Court made, for a brief moment, election reform a cause célèbre. The scrutiny of election administration went far beyond the vote counting and recounting that dominated headlines. The Florida saga cast a harsh light on the whole country’s archaic and fragmented system of election administration, exemplified by a state where hundreds of thousands of citizens were disenfranchised by incompetent and malicious voter purges, Reconstruction-era felon voting bans, improper record-keeping, and deliberate deception and harassment.

The outrage generated by the revelations of 2000 soon spent itself or was channeled into other avenues, producing, as a sort of consolation prize, the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) of 2002, an underambitious and underfunded law mainly aimed at preventing partisan mischief in vote counting. The fundamental problem of accepting 50 different systems for election administration, complicated even more in states like Florida where local election officials control most decisions with minimal federal, state or judicial oversight, was barely touched by HAVA. As Judith Browne-Dianis, of the civil rights group the Advancement Project, told me: “The same cracks in the system have persisted.”