Editorials: Voter ID controversy gets worse | Melanie Balog/The Post and Courier

It’s apparently more tricky than anybody thought to figure out how many South Carolina voters need photo IDs. This week, the State Election Commission released an updated estimate of how many registered voters don’t have photo IDs. The previous estimate was 178,000. On Thursday, they said it was probably 217,000 — or about 40,000 more.

Then Friday, the commission said that they may have further underestimated the numbers, by excluding more than 74,000 people who haven’t voted since 2006. The state attorney general’s office wants some more information about those newly discovered.

“We’re going to talk with the S.C. Election Commission and figure out what analysis they used to come up with their numbers,” said Deputy Attorney General Bryan Stirling. He said he expects that to happen early next week. Then they’ll either submit new information to the DOJ or ask that the Election Commission go back and recalculate, he said.

So, in one week we’ve gone from 217,000 to potentially more than 290,000 people. Of course, that’s minus the 21 people who signed up for rides to local DMV offices Thursday. If the DMV could register 21 people a day, every day of the year, it would take 38 years to get everybody covered.

Editorials: ‘I’m just wondering if it’s all necessary’ | The Item

Antonia Preston made a trip to Sumter’s branch of the Department of Motor Vehicles on Wednesday to get an ID but will have to go back today. The 89-year-old Sumterite doesn’t have a birth certificate, she said, and her current state ID expired.

The state DMV hosted “State Identification Card Day” on Wednesday in an effort to get people government-issued IDs so they’re able to vote after the Voter ID law takes effect in November.

Proponents of the law say it’s needed to combat voter fraud, while detractors contend many elderly and rural residents will be disenfranchised because often their births weren’t registered with the state.

The Voting News Daily: Court of Appeals rules voted ballots should be public records, Electronic Voting Under Scrutiny in Venango County PA

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…

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.”

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.”

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.”

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.”

Ohio: Butler County settles voting machine lawsuit | Middletown Journal

Butler County’s lawsuit with Diebold Inc. and Premier Election Systems regarding faulty voting machines has been settled with the board of elections receiving equipment and services worth $1.5 million, which Director Tom Ellis said will be a “boost in the arm for the voting experience.” The suit was over a glitch in the system during the March 2008 primary election that early caused 200 votes to go uncounted.

Provided to the county at no cost as part of the suit are 400 electronic poll books, bar scanners, signature pads, and printers supported by seven years of software and hardware maintenance. The equipment and on-going maintenance support will be provided by Election Systems & Software, Inc.

“The Butler County Board of Elections is very satisfied with the terms of the settlement and enthusiastic about the new relationship with an industry leader such as ES&S and the use of the company’s well-regarded Express 5000, electronic poll book,” Ellis said.

South Carolina: More voters than first thought don’t have photo ID | MidlandsConnect.com

New numbers from the state Election Commission out late Tuesday show approximately 217,000 South Carolina voters don’t have a photo identification, which could be required if the U.S. Justice Department approves the state law.

That’s up from 178,000 voters without the ID in January 2010. The commission initially compared its voter lists with DMV records at legislators’ request. It re-compared the lists to comply with the law signed in May, which requires each of those voters to be notified. The update also answers a question from the U.S. Department of Justice, which is reviewing the law.

The Department of Motor Vehicles says nearly 700 people have called about getting a free ride to get a photo identification card to comply with South Carolina’s new voter ID law. According to the DMV, only 25 rides are scheduled for the one-day only free ride program, happening Wednesday, and most of the people who called the DMV were not interested in getting a ride.

West Virginia: County to refuse maintenance contract for voting machines | The Charleston Gazette

Kanawha County Commission President Kent Carper said he will refuse to sign a maintenance contract for the county’s electronic voting machines. Earlier this month, Carper and county commissioners Hoppy Shores and Dave Hardy reluctantly agreed to pay a contract to Election Systems & Software to provide maintenance for the county’s electronic voting machines. The maintenance contract would have cost the county $56,000 a year for four years.

In 2005, under former secretary of state Betty Ireland, state officials negotiated a sole-source contract with ES&S to provide touch-screen and optical-scan voting machines all over the state. State officials told county election officials earlier this year they would be passing on responsibility for maintaining the voting machines to county government.

The state contract gave ES&S a virtual monopoly on voting machines in West Virginia and a monopoly on fixing the machines if they break. In the past, Kanawha County officials have had trouble getting in touch with ES&S representatives and finding qualified technicians to work on the machines.

Wisconsin: Can students vote in the next election? | The UWM Post

More than 9,000 students at UW-Milwaukee could be ineligible to vote in future Wisconsin elections without substantive modifications to university ID cards. Based on previous studies, The UWM Post estimates that 9,179 students, approximately 30 percent of the campus, do not have valid, state-issued driver’s licenses, a prerequisite to voting in upcoming elections.

Black students ages 18 to 24 will be impacted most by the Voter ID Bill, on average being 27.5 percent less likely than white students to have a Wisconsin driver license, according to a 2005 study conducted by UWM’s Employment and Training Institute.

Hispanic students ages 18 to 24 will also be impacted considerably, with Hispanic women being 28 percent less likely than white women to have a driver license, and Hispanic men being 17 percent less likely than white men. Junior Julio Guerrero, chairman of the Latino Caucus of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, said the bill will have a negative impact for students and Latinos alike.

Bermuda: Reform electoral system to combat racial polarisation UBP leader Kim Swan | Bermuda Politics

Bermuda must have electoral reform to rid the Island of racial polarisation, according to UBP MP Kim Swan. Mr Swan was reacting to a poll on Monday, for The Royal Gazette, which showed 38 percent of people said they would vote OBA in a general election, with 32 percent opting for the PLP. The Mindmaps poll was carried out shortly after the fledgling party’s debut conference.

But the survey found that the OBA is attracting much of its support from whites and the older generation. The survey found that the OBA had 72 percent of the white vote and 16 percent of the black vote, but the PLP took five percent of the white vote and 49 percent of the black vote.

In a statement yesterday Mr Swan said: “The Royal Gazette poll released on Monday, September 26, highlights that the repeated trends of racial polarisation, prevalent for the past four decades, continue in Bermuda in 2011.

Bhutan: Election Commission of India to Train Bhutanese Election Officials | Northern Voices Online

Chief Election Commissioner of India, Dr. S. Y. Quraishi visited Bhutan from 16th – 18th September 2011 at the invitation of his counterpart Dasho Kunzang Wangdi for strengthening bilateral cooperation between the two Election Commissions. He was accompanied by Akshay Rout, Director General.

The two Chief Election Commissioners signed a Memorandum of Understanding for a period of five years to facilitate exchange of knowledge and experience, information, material, expertise and technical knowhow, training of personnel and development of human resources in electoral matters and also for taking up joint initiatives and providing assistance to others.

Bulgaria: Ethnic tensions mar Bulgaria’s presidential elections | EurActiv

On a visit to Brussels, Rossen Plevneliev, the candidate for president of the EPP-affiliated GERB ruling party, condemned recent events in the town Katunitsa as “purely criminal actions.” He said the occurrences should not be politicised to avoid the risk of a ‘blame game’. Rather, he insisted, one should hold a real debate about policies.

Violence erupted in Katunitsa last week (23 September) when 19-year old ethnic Bulgaria was reportedly killed by a man employed by Roma mafia boss Kiril Rashkov, known locally as ‘Tsar Kiro’, sparking an unprecedented outburst of anger among the local population and the arson of the crime leader’s property.

Canada: Online elections sought by B.C. municipalities – concern that online voting could fall prey to hackers | CBC News

B.C. municipal leaders have endorsed the idea of online voting for the 2014 municipal elections — but debate on the issue has revealed deep divisions within the Union of B.C. Municipalities at its convention in Vancouver. A majority voted Wednesday to ask the province to do the work required to have online voting ready for the elections in three years.

Online voting is fraught with danger, said Coun. Donna Shugar, of the Sunshine Coast Regional District. “Particularly because you don’t know who is in the room with the voter, coercing or persuading,” Shugar said.

Many at the convention agreed with Shugar, and also expressed concern that online voting could fall prey to hackers.

Canada: Returning officer advises against electronic vote counting for Calgary | Calgary Herald

If Calgary’s returning officer gets her way, the next election night will still be all about the hands — the poll staff manually counting ballots, and the candidates chewing their nails as they await the slow trickle of results. Barb Clifford will recommend Monday that council avoid joining other large Canadian cities that electronically count votes, because she worries it’s a prohibitive expense.

“It’s pretty hard to justify $3.4 million for something that will be used one night every three or maybe four years,” she said Wednesday, after a report on vote-counting machines was released.

Germany: Berlin suggests sending election observers to Russia | The Local

The German government on Monday called on Russia to see that next year’s presidential election observed “democratic principles,” and added that it would welcome a plan to send in independent election observers. Government spokesman Steffen Seibert said, “From a German point of view, it would be very helpful if a sufficient number of election observers were allowed into the country.”

But he also made it clear that the “strategic partnership” between Russia and Germany was of primary importance, and would be used as the basis for a continued close cooperation with any successor to President Dmitry Medvedev.

United Kingdom: Why the Electoral Commission disagrees with Harman on voter registration | politics.co.uk

Harriet Harman wrapped up today’s Labour conference with a speech attacking the coalition’s planned voter registration changes. What she didn’t mention is that the independent Electoral Commission is broadly in favour of the idea.

I’ve been going through its submission to the Commons’ political and constitutional reform committee, in which it states, in no uncertain terms:

“The Electoral Commission is clear that introducing IER is the right thing to do, because of the need:
• to improve the security of the system, making it less vulnerable to fraud
• to recognise people’s personal responsibility for this important stake in our democracy
• for a system that people recognise as up-to-date, not rooted in Victorian ideas about households and ‘heads of household'”

The Voting News Daily: As Scorn for Vote Grows, Protests Surge Around Globe, E-voting machines vulnerable to remote vote changing

Editorials: As Scorn for Vote Grows, Protests Surge Around Globe | NYTimes.com Hundreds of thousands of disillusioned Indians cheer a rural activist on a hunger strike. Israel reels before the largest street demonstrations in its history. Enraged young people in Spain and Greece take over public squares across their countries. Their complaints range from corruption to lack of affordable housing and…

Editorials: As Scorn for Vote Grows, Protests Surge Around Globe | NYTimes.com

Hundreds of thousands of disillusioned Indians cheer a rural activist on a hunger strikeIsrael reels before the largest street demonstrations in its history. Enraged young people in Spain and Greece take over public squares across their countries.

Their complaints range from corruption to lack of affordable housing and joblessness, common grievances the world over. But from South Asia to the heartland of Europe and now even to Wall Street, these protesters share something else: wariness, even contempt, toward traditional politicians and the democratic political process they preside over.

They are taking to the streets, in part, because they have little faith in the ballot box. “Our parents are grateful because they’re voting,” said Marta Solanas, 27, referring to older Spaniards’ decades spent under the Franco dictatorship. “We’re the first generation to say that voting is worthless.”

National: E-voting machines vulnerable to remote vote changing | CNET News

U.S. government researchers are warning that someone could sneak an inexpensive piece of electronics into e-voting machines like those to be used in the next national election and then remotely change votes after they have been cast.

The Vulnerability Assessment Team at Argonne Laboratory, which is a division of the Department of Energy, discovered this summer that Diebold touch-screen e-voting machines could be hijacked remotely, according to team leader Roger Johnston. Salon reported on it today, noting that as many as a quarter of American voters are expected to be using machines that are vulnerable to such attacks in the 2012 election.

Basically, when a voter pushes a button to record his or her votes electronically, the remote hijacker could use a Radio Frequency remote control to intercept that communication, change the votes, and then submit the fraudulent votes for recording.

Voting Blogs: Arizona and sham candidates — comparing different recall set ups | The Recall Elections Blog

Some interesting discussion by the Election Law Blogger himself, Professor Rick Hasen, focused on Olivia Cortes, the alleged sham candidate in the Russell Pearce. As I’ll explain below, because of the particularities of Arizona law, I don’t find the sham candidate problem that offensive.

For contrast, Hasen notes how California law works. California’s law eliminates sham candidates run to protect the targeted official. It provides for two concurrent votes, one on whether to actually recall the official, and the second (non-partisan) on the replacement. The removed official cannot run in the replacement race (which I believe was the source of debate during the adoption of the recall itself).

I think this is the best system, mainly because it limits costs and provides some contrasts between the official being recalled and the possible replacement. Though not a benefit, I believe the ability to draw a contrast with a successor actually benefits the elected official — as the official has somebody to attack rather than the potentially nebulous recall proponents.

Colorado: Elections Subcommittee Democrats Seek Investigation of Colorado Secretary of State | Committee on House Administration

In a letter to Thomas Perez, Assistant Attorney General in the Civil rights Division of the Department of Justice, Congressmen Bob Brady and Charles A. Gonzalez, the Ranking Members of the Committee on House Administration and its Subcommittee on Elections, respectively, have requested an investigation into actions taken by Colorado Secretary of State, Scott Gessler. Last week, Sec. Gessler petitioned the Denver District Court for an injunction to prevent the Denver Clerk and Recorder’s office from mailing ballots to eligible voters ahead of the November 01, 2011, election simply because they hadn’t voted in the last general election.

“No right is mentioned more times in the Constitution than the right to vote,” said Rep. Gonzalez. “It is the responsibility of every public official to ensure that eligible citizens are not denied that right. Secretary Gessler, instead, has taken steps that could prevent Coloradans’ civic participation. The Voting Section of the Department of Justice exists to protect this foundation of our democracy.”

Denver City and County Clerk and Record Debra Johnson has called this “a fundamental issue of fairness and of keeping voting accessible to as many eligible voters as possible” and the maps her office released suggest that districts with large minority populations would be particularly hard hit by Gessler’s rule. The congressmen were also concerned that eligible and registered voters who had missed the last election because of a disability or because they were deployed abroad at the time might miss their chance to vote this year.

Colorado: Congressmen ask U.S. to look into Gessler lawsuit against Denver clerk | The Denver Post

Two Democratic congressmen asked the U.S. Department of Justice Tuesday to investigate whether Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler violated federal law when he asked a judge to stop the Denver clerk and recorder from mailing ballots to inactive voters. The letter from Rep. Robert Brady of Pennsylvania and Charles Gonzalez of Texas says Gessler’s actions may violate the Voting Rights Act, which prohibits discriminatory voting procedures.

“Given the diversity of the state of Colorado, and particularly that of Denver County, there is a high likelihood that the barrier to voting Secretary Gessler seeks to impose . . . will have such a discriminatory result,” the letter states.

It says that not mailing ballots to eligible voters listed as “inactive” because they didn’t vote last year “might make participation particularly hard” for disabled voters who may not have been able to get to the polls and Americans who may have been deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan in 2010 but who want to vote Nov. 1.