The Voting News Weekly: The Voting News Weekly December 24-20, 2012

User interface issues have led to complaints about the internet voting experiment for this year’s Oscars. The Supreme Court will consider one of the key provisions of the Voting Rights Act early next year. A Senate committee hearing on election reform revealed familiar partisan divisions, while lawmakers in Florida expressed bipartisan support for efforts to reduce long lines at polling places. Iowa Governor Terry Branstad has agreed to streamline for process for the restoration of voting rights for ex-felons. Republican legislatures in both Pennsylvania and Wisconsin are considering proposals to alter the allocation of electoral college votes and protests continued over Eqypt’s constitutional referendum.

National: E-voting causing problems for Oscar voters, report says | CBS News

The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences opted to try online voting for this year’s Oscars, and with one week left in the voting period multiple sources have told The Hollywood Reporter that the new system isn’t working well. Voting started December 17 and is set to end on January 3. THR reached out to several members of the Academy and roughly half told the paper they experienced problems, or were concerned that older, less technically-savvy Academy members would simply give up. (The median age of the Academy’s 5,765 members is 62, according to a study done by the Los Angeles Times.) Some told of repeated difficulties logging in and being locked out of the system.

National: Oscar’s E-Voting Problems Worse Than Feared | Hollywood Reporter

It looks like online Oscar voting is hitting a few snags, which some Academy members worry might depress voting participation to its lowest level in years. \ Voting to determine the next set of Oscar nominees began Dec. 17 and will extend through Jan. 3. On Dec. 26, I reached out to a wide cross-section of the Academy to see if they tried to vote online (an Academy spokesperson tells me that “a great majority” of members have registered to do so) and, if so, to characterize their experience. Roughly half of the members reached said they experienced problems navigating the site; more than one described it as a “disaster.” They also worried that hackers could compromise the Oscar vote. On Dec. 26, I also spoke with an Academy spokesperson who told me most complaints about e-voting have stemmed from members “forgetting or misusing passwords.”

National: Supreme Court will revisit the Voting Rights Act | Voxxi

The New Year is likely to amass a wave of issues that will affect Latinos including a pending case in the Supreme Court that revisits a key provision of the Voting Rights Act (VRA). In Shelby County vs. Holder, the Supreme Court justices will be deciding whether it makes sense to pursue section 5. The provision requires that lawmakers who want to enact changes to voting laws are obligated to seek permission from the federal government in states with a history of discrimination. Advocates argue that without this key provision, federal judges would not have been able to block voter ID laws in Texas and South Carolina. It also voided district maps in Texas and prevented early voting in parts of Florida. Yet, critics claim the provision is outdated.

National: Voter ID 2013 | The Thicket at State Legislatures

In Voter ID: Five Considerations – the lead story in the November / December issue of The Canvass – we predicted that interest in photo voter ID laws would remain high in 2013. This prediction has already been borne out. When we drafted the article, lawmakers in Arkansas, Minnesota and Wisconsin had revived discussion of their states’ photo ID proposals. Since then, a number of other states have jumped in the mix. Here’s a quick rundown of some recent developments on the photo ID front. We’ll be back shortly with the second half of the list. Republican Representative Bob Lynn’s photo ID proposal (HB 162) failed to make it to a vote in Alaska last session, when Democrats and Republicans split control of the Legislature. With Republicans holding their lead in the Alaska House and newly in charge of the state Senate, the proposal is sure to get another airing in 2013. Lynn told the Anchorage Daily News that photo ID will “be one of the first bills we hear.”

Colorado: HAVA complaint filed in Saguache County election | Center Post Dispatch

Election integrity advocate Marilyn Marks has filed a Help America Vote Act (HAVA) complaint with the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office concerning the Saguache County 2012 General Election. The complaint was filed after examination of M-100 machine tapes showed apparent discrepancies in the vote tabulation. Marks’ activities in Saguache County came under fire this summer and fall prior to the general election after commissioners candidates Jason Anderson and Ken Anderson, who later won their election bids made it clear they felt Marks was unjustly interfering in Saguache County business and should butt out.

Florida: Ballots not counted, voters’ mistakes doomed thousands of votes | MPTV

The election ended on Nov. 6, but more than a month later, ballots were still trickling in. They won’t be counted. They’ll go in the stack of ineligible ballots already piled high with those that were missing signatures, or those from voters who showed up in the wrong precinct. In an election so crucial to voters that many were willing to stand in lines at the polls for hours, hundreds threw their votes away — mostly through simple mistakes. “That happens every election,” said Broward Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes, “and it really is unfortunate.”

Kansas: Kobach: Understaffing, undertraining caused Sedgwick County’s election-night problems | Wichita Eagle

Secretary of State Kris Kobach said Friday his office has completed its investigation and found that understaffing and undertraining were the primary causes of vote-counting problems in the November election in Sedgwick County. Kobach said he will recommend that county officials increase the number of employees at the election office, which is significantly understaffed compared to the offices in Johnson, Wyandotte and Shawnee counties. Johnson County has the largest election staff with 15 full-time employees and four part-time. Sedgwick County has three full-time and six part-time, the report said.

Louisiana: Rumble Because of the Jungle: How the “Jungle Primary” has Lead to a Vicious Same Party Battle for a Congressional Seat | State of Elections

In the contemporary era of American politics, Congressional races tend to be bitter partisan battles waged between one Republican and one Democratic candidate.  Third parties operate peripherally, typically only able to bring up issues for the major party candidates to address or maybe steal votes away from one of the major partisan contenders. However, this has not been the case in the congressional race in district 3 of Louisiana.  In district 3, a vicious battle between two Republican incumbents forced the opposing Democratic candidate into the role so often reserved for third party contenders.

Massachusetts: Secretary of State Galvin defends use of absentee ballots | Connecticut Post

The state’s top election official says he’s asking federal prosecutors for more information about a lawmaker who agreed to plead guilty to casting invalid absentee ballots but he’s reluctant to recommend tightening access to the ballots. State Secretary William Galvin says he wants more details about the case of Rep. Stephen Smith before deciding if any other steps needs to be taken. Galvin said he’s most interested in finding out who might have helped Smith. “I’ve very interested in finding out if there was any kind of electoral misconduct,” Galvin said. “If I believe there is any involvement of any election officials, I’m going to take action.”

Montana: Dark Money Helped Democrats Hold a Key Senate Seat In Montana | ProPublica

In the waning days of Montana’s hotly contested Senate race, a small outfit called Montana Hunters and Anglers, launched by liberal activists, tried something drastic. It didn’t buy ads supporting the incumbent Democrat, Sen. Jon Tester. Instead, it put up radio and TV commercials that urged voters to choose the third-party candidate, libertarian Dan Cox, describing Cox as the “real conservative” or the “true conservative.” Where did the group’s money come from? Nobody knows. The pro-Cox ads were part of a national pattern in which groups that did not disclose their donors, including social welfare nonprofits and trade associations, played a larger role than ever before in trying to sway U.S. elections. Throughout the 2012 election, ProPublica has focused on the growing importance of this so-called dark money in national and local races.

North Carolina: Merrill takes District 2 challenge into court; ‘Irregularities’ charged in two more precincts | The Tribune

Christina Merrill, who first apparently won and then apparently lost the District 2 Buncombe County Commission seat in the Nov. 6 elections, has announced she will now take her case into state superior court. Merrill’s move comes after she was denied appeals of the voting results, first by the local Board of Elections, then, on Dec. 13, by the State BOE in Raleigh. Merrill has ten days from that date to lodge her appeal, which would be heard by Wake County Superior Court in Raleigh, and she says she is on track to meet the deadline to have her appeal docketed.

Ohio: O’Farrell files suit to contest vote count in State Legislative race | The Times-Reporter

Josh O’Farrell, the Democratic challenger for the Ohio House of Representatives 98th District, filed a lawsuit to contest the election with the state Supreme Court on Monday. The complaint involves several provisional and absentee ballots that were rejected by the Tuscarawas County Board of Elections, and were not included when the board certified the election Dec. 14. O’Farrell lost to Republican incumbent Al Landis by eight votes, with Landis leading 23,393 votes to 23,385, in both Tuscarawas and Holmes counties. “It’s a basic tenet of our democracy that elections are decided by voters, not individuals, both at the state and local level, who manipulate the election process, even if that means disenfranchising voters in order for their preferred candidate to remain in office,” O’Farrell said.

South Carolina: Election laws anemic, lacking in accountability |

South Carolina’s election laws are almost completely toothless and enforcement is a matter of foxes and henhouses, concerned state officials are saying in the wake of Richland County’s bungled election. “I know that this agency does not have enforcement authority,” Marci Andino, director of the State Election Commission said. “That is the structure the General Assembly wanted.” Local elections and voter registration boards are created by state law through county legislative delegations, with each running its elections independently of state government control – and accountability, state election officials say. “People can tell her to just go jump in the lake,” state Rep. James Smith, D-Richland, said of Andino. Smith last week filed a bill that would weaken local boards, which he called “fiefdoms.” He wants to shift local control to Andino’s agency.

Virginia: Move to restore voting rights for ex-convicts |

Someone commits a crime and does their time. But when convicted felons in Virginia get out of prison, they lose their right to vote forever. That is, unless they petition the governor to get that right back. And it’s a slow cumbersome process. Sen. Chap Peterson (D – Fairfax County) has introduced a constitutional amendment to be considered during the 2013 General Assembly session that would give felons their right to vote back once they have completed their sentence.

Editorials: Election-day registration works here | Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Don’t look now, but an ongoing battle over how Wisconsinites vote opened on a new front. After signing into law a series of changes to how state elections are run, Gov. Scott Walker said he was considering doing away with election-day registration – or EDR, as its known – the practice of letting voters register on the same day they vote. Walker has since backed away from that idea, pointing to a Government Accountability Board report that showed doing away with EDR would be costly. But it would be a mistake for other reasons as well, one that runs contrary to our state’s fine traditions and will add an unnecessary barrier to voting. The concerns the governor raised about EDR actually would become much worse if it were eliminated.

Cyprus: Cyprob back in the limelight as elections draw nearer | Cyprus Mail

After months of wrangling over the economic woes of the country, the government and opposition yesterday joined forces to reject Turkish reports of a UN proposal to hold a four-party conference on the Cyprus problem. The realignment of stars was brief however as the various factions within the Cypriot political system soon turned on each other to blame their opponents for giving Turkey the chance to push for a four-party conference through their alleged playmaker, UN special adviser on Cyprus Alexander Downer.

Israel: Campaigning in Israel – Facebook and YouTube play growing role | The Jewish Standard

The debate was not televised. The participants did not sit on a stage in front of an auditorium under bright lights. Israel’s major candidates were not present. Instead, five representatives of Israeli political parties sat at a folding table in a classroom of perhaps 100 students at a Haifa college. One representative was the second-ranking member of his political faction and a onetime runner-up in the balloting for prime minister. Another was a minor Israeli celebrity, the leader of last year’s social justice protests. At one point during the debate, Rabbi Shai Peron of the centrist new Yesh Atid Party criticized Amram Mitzna, the former prime ministerial hopeful, for his past defeats. “I’m not in your yeshiva,” Mitzna shot back. “I don’t need to answer your question.” Welcome to the Israeli campaign, a far more informal, intimate, and legally circumscribed affair than what unfolds in the United States.

National: Parties at odds over more election changes | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

On election night, President Barack Obama thanked voters who braved long lines at polling places throughout the country. People waited as long as seven hours in some precincts in Florida, with some still waiting to cast a ballot long past midnight. In other states, such as Virginia and Maryland, lines also stretched into hours. “By the way, we have to fix that,” Mr. Obama said. But with the presidential election over, comprehensive overhauls to the patchwork of state election laws remain a distant goal. More than a decade after the 2000 Florida vote-count debacle, the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee last week spotlighted complaints about the casting and counting of votes that persist despite a package of post-2000 adjustments.

Voting Blogs: Statewide Recounts Remain Scarce: Zero in 2012 | FairVote

There were no statewide election recounts in 2012. This is particularly noteworthy, considering the fact 419 statewide elections took place this year. In this post-Florida 2000 political landscape, the specter of recounts continues to loom large and you will even read thoughtful people suggesting that the possibility of a recount is enough to oppose a having one-person, one-vote elections for president by national popular vote. However, when we step back and take a close look at the numbers, it becomes clear that chance of actually having to perform a recount is relatively remote. Indeed, from 2000 to 2012, 99.457% of statewide elections have been successfully held without recounts – and recounts take place consistently show minuscule changes in victory margin.

Voting Blogs: The Year in Recalls – 168 recalls in 2012; 509 petitions taken out | The Recall Elections Blog

As it is this blog’s second year, we are now looking at our second recap, and the number are pretty impressive. In 2012, there were at least 168 recalls in 93 different jurisdictions. Here’s my article in The Week examining the phenomena. This is an increase from last year, when there were 151 recalls. This year, I also compiled a list of how many times recall petitions were reported to have been taken out — 509 times. There were also numerous reported recall threats, but I never saw a follow-through, so I didn’t include those. I should point out that I am fairly certain that there are almost certainly recalls that I missed, so the 168/509 numbers should be seen as a floor, rather than a ceiling.

California: More young voters register unaffiliated | SFGate

Young adults in California flexed their muscle in the voting booth in 2012, registering in record numbers and increasingly choosing “no party preference” to the two major political parties, a new study shows. The study by the UC Davis Center for Regional Change and the California Civic Engagement Project also showed that Democrats reaped big numbers this year among voters 18 to 24 with the start of online voter registration – a trend that could shape future elections and campaigns.

Florida: Three-step election reform |

Here is what Gov. Rick Scott recently said, during an interview with CNN about Florida’s elections: “We need to have bipartisan legislation that deals with three issues. One, the length of our ballot. Two, we’ve got to allow our supervisors more flexibility in the size of their polling locations and, three, the number of days we have. We’ve got to look back at the number of days of early voting we had.” We couldn’t have said it better. In fact, Herald-Tribune editorials focused on the 2012 general election have emphasized those same three points.

Editorials: Florida Election Reform: Ballot, Polls, Duration |

Gov. Rick Scott told CNN the following Dec. 19 about Florida’s elections: “We need to have bipartisan legislation that deals with three issues. One, the length of our ballot. Two, we’ve got to allow our supervisors more flexibility in the size of their polling locations and, three, the number of days we have. We’ve got to look back at the number of days of early voting we had.” Scott is right, although many have made the same points in recent months.

Editorials: End the war on voter fraud | Tampa Bay Times

Here is the great irony of increased voting options in Florida: Cast either a mail-in ballot or a provisional ballot at the polls, and you increase the chance your vote won’t count. That’s because poorly crafted regulations intended to thwart fraud, which is no discernible threat, can end up disenfranchising legal voters. The Republican-led Legislature helped create this mess, and now it needs to adopt some simple fixes.

Hawaii: Lt. Gov. Schatz named to Inouye’s seat | The Hill

Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie (D) chose Hawaii Lieutenant Gov. Brian Schatz (D) to fill the seat left open by the death of longtime Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), deciding against  Inouye’s deathbed wish that Rep. Colleen Hanabusa (D-Hawaii) succeed him. The move comes as a surprise — most expected Abercrombie to honor Inouye’s wish, delivered in a letter to the governor on the day of his death earlier this month. Abercrombie chose Schatz over Hanabusa and former congressional candidate Esther Kia’aina (D), the options presented to him by the state Democratic committee.

Iowa: Felons to have easier time getting voting rights restored in Iowa | TheGazette

Gov. Terry Branstad said Friday he has agreed to streamline the application for convicted felons who seek to have their voting rights restored. In response to concerns raised last month by leaders of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Branstad said the application now has simplified instructions, removes the requirement for a credit history check for the voting application, and provides a more detailed “checklist of materials” to help applicants turn in a completed application.

Editorials: Answering South Carolina’s Voting Question |

Coming in 2014 to a theater near you, a hard look at the vulnerabilities and the issues of electronic voting in our nation. At least, first-time documentarian Jason Grant Smith hopes his film will be in theaters then. Even if it’s not, the issue will still likely be apt. Intrigued by the lack of rational explanations for the 2010 primary election win of U.S. Senate candidate Alvin Greene in South Carolina, Smith embarked upon a journey shortly afterward into what he called “the byzantine rabbit hole of election administration in the United States.”

Texas: Days before hearing over Dallas’ newly drawn city council map, plaintiffs drop their federal redistricting suit | Dallas Morning News

On Friday, the federal lawsuit over the Dallas’ city council district map died a quiet death. According to a single-page filing, plaintiffs Renato de los Santos and Hilda Ramirez Duarte — who claimed in a July lawsuit that the recently redrawn council map discriminates against the city’s Latinos by diluting their voting strength — said they “no longer wish to pursue their claims” against the city. Their attorneys, and those representing the city of Dallas, have signed off on the Stipulation of Dismissal with Prejudice, which means the case can’t be refiled. And so, just like that, what had been expected to be a contentious, drawn-out and expensive battle over the city’s district boundaries is no more.

Pennsylvania: Republicans look to alter state’s electoral vote system | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

One year after requiring voters to show photo identification, state Republican leaders are set in 2013 to consider changing Pennsylvania’s nearly two-century-old method of awarding its presidential votes. As with voter ID, the proposal is being met with howls of protest from Democrats. Like 48 other states, Pennsylvania uses a winner-take-all system with its electoral votes: when Barack Obama won 52 percent of the state’s vote on Nov. 6 to Mitt Romney’s 47 percent, he bagged all 20 of them. A measure from state Sen. Dominic Pileggi, R-Delaware County, would instead award 18 of them according to the popular vote breakdown and give two others to the state’s overall winner.