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National: Wide Divide In States’ Voting Preparedness | CBS DC

Nearly four months before the 2012 national elections, a study on U.S. voting preparedness has found that some states are far more ready than others. Minnesota, New Hampshire, Ohio, Vermont and Wisconsin were all labeled as the “best prepared” states for voting problems and disenfranchisement protection. While on the other hand, Colorado, Delaware, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and South Carolina are the six “least-prepared” states. The Rutgers Law School released the study that evaluates each state’s preparedness for the 2012 election. According to the study, computerized voting systems have failed in every national election in the past decade in some way: they haven’t started, they failed in the middle of voting, the memory cards couldn’t be read, or the votes were lost as a whole. The study used five categories of proven failures and successes as its basis for judgment in each state. They also protect against machine failures that can change election outcomes and disenfranchised voters.

Full Article: Wide Divide In States’ Voting Preparedness « CBS DC.

National: Candidates Look Overseas for Campaign Cash | NYTimes.com

In the hunt for campaign money, no distance is too far to travel, especially when the race between President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney is tight and likely to stay that way into the fall. The Democratic president and his Republican challenger have been aggressively courting Americans living abroad at fundraisers held far beyond U.S. shores. Such efforts serve the dual purpose of raising money to pay for what may be the most expensive election in U.S. history, and galvanizing a largely untapped group of eligible voters. The practice is legal and has been used for decades, said former Federal Election Commission Chairman David Mason. Obama has raised nearly $600,000 from Americans abroad while Romney has brought in about $325,000, according to campaign finance records analyzed by the Center for Responsive Politics. Those figures don’t include sums raised overseas by both party committees or Romney’s take from a pair of fundraisers in London during his visit there last week. The sums are just a fraction of the more than $300 million Obama has raised overall and the $155 million raised by Romney, but every penny counts in a race that is neck and neck, as recent polls have shown.

Full Article: Candidates Look Overseas for Campaign Cash - NYTimes.com.

National: Super PACs: $125 million spent — and counting | CBS News

With less than 100 days to go in the presidential race, nine single-candidate “super” PACs — political action committees that can raise and spend unlimited sums on political expression – have spent $125 million advocating and advertising for their preferred candidate, a CBS News analysis of Federal Election Commission reports shows. Through the first half of 2012, the pro-Mitt Romney Restore Our Future, was the most active super PAC, raising $81 million and spending $60 million through June 30. Two-thirds of its spending, or $40 million, went to negative ads attacking Republican primary opponents Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum. Super PACs established for six also-ran Republicans — Gingrich, Santorum, Ron Paul, Rick Perry, Jon Huntsman, Herman Cain — spent a combined $36 million dollars on advertising and advocacy during the primaries, which effectively ended when Santorum dropped out in April.

Full Article: Super PACs: $125 million spent -- and counting - CBS News.

Editorials: Thanks, Citizens United, for This Campaign Finance Mess We're In | Adam Skaggs/The Atlantic

Before a Senate Judiciary subcommittee Tuesday, the Cato Institute’s Ilya Shapiro became the latest to come out swinging against critics of Citizens United, testifying that the case is one of the most misunderstood high court decisions ever and claiming that “it doesn’t stand for half of what many people say it does.” Shapiro joins a chorus of Citizens United defenders, including First Amendment lawyer Floyd Abrams and his son Dan — the latter of whom has railed against what he calls the media’s “shameful, inexcusable distortion” of the case — as well as the New York Times Magazine‘s chief political correspondent, Matt Bai, who recently wrote that liberal criticism of the decision is “just plain wrong.” To be sure, it would be an oversimplification to suggest the decision is the only cause of our current Wild West campaign finance environment. But those criticizing the critics of Citizens United miss the forest for the trees. Their myopic focus on debunking overstatements about the case downplays the major roleCitizens United played in ushering in current conditions — and how it fits with the Roberts Court’s ongoing project to put our democracy up for auction. The defense of Citizens United rests on two primary claims about the case, one factual and one legal. Its defenders contend, first, that while Citizens United only concerned corporate election spending, the facts show that it is spending by individuals — not corporations — that counts this year. Next, they argue that, as a legal matter, individual spenders have been free to make unlimited political donations since long beforeCitizens United. They’re wrong on both counts.

Full Article: Thanks, Citizens United, for This Campaign Finance Mess We're In - Adam Skaggs - The Atlantic.

Editorials: How corporate PACs deal with bad PR | Politico.com

When it comes to campaign donations, corporations that suddenly find themselves crosswise with Congress know the playbook. First, immediately cut off political action committee contributions. Second, refuse to talk about your campaign contributions. Then, after perhaps taking some lumps at congressional hearings and spending a few months in the political wilderness, quietly begin cutting checks again as if nothing happened. Such appears to be the case for JPMorgan Chase, which is under fire for losing $2 billion on trades tied to credit derivatives — financial tools that helped damage the U.S. financial system late last decade. Its PAC typically contributes hundreds of thousands of dollars to federal candidates and committees each election cycle but it hasn’t donated a reportable dime to candidates since May 7, according to federal campaign filing.

Full Article: How corporate PACs deal with bad PR - Dave Levinthal - POLITICO.com.

Florida: Top elections official steps down | The News-Press

A top official involved in Florida’s contentious push to identify and remove potentially ineligible voters is stepping down just two weeks before the Aug. 14 primary. Division of Elections Director Gisela Salas is leaving her job this week to take a position closer to her home in Ocala, Secretary of State Ken Detzner announced Monday in an email to county election supervisors. Salas, who earns $90,000 a year, was hired in May 2011 to oversee the office that does everything from approve certain types of election machines to issuing opinions on how to interpret election law. But Salas was also deeply involved in the effort by the state to identify non-U.S. citizens on the voter rolls.

Full Article: Top elections official steps down | The News-Press | news-press.com.

Ohio: Lawsuit challenges provisional ballot rules | Reuters

A lawsuit challenging ballot rules in Ohio goes to trial on Monday — the latest in a series of voting rights cases brought in courts around the country. A group of labor and civil rights organizations are suing Ohio over a 2006 change to the state’s election code that requires all provisional ballots cast at the wrong voting precinct to be discarded. In Ohio, provisional ballots are used instead of traditional ballots when there are doubts about a voter’s eligibility because of missing registration or identification information. In most cases, a board of elections then reviews the ballots to determine if they should be counted. If the ballots are cast from the wrong precinct, they are discarded. In the 2008 election, 14,000 of Ohioan’s provisional ballots were discarded under the state’s election code.

Full Article: Lawsuit challenges Ohio provisional ballot rules.

Ohio: Overhaul of Ohio election laws still stalled – parties agree on need for reform, but not much else | Cincinnati.com

In the 2008 election, Ohio had its typical problems, among them a high number of provisional ballots and long lines at some polling locations. So the then-secretary of state set up a series of bipartisan “election summits” on how to fix the problems. Nearly four years later, most of the recommendations haven’t been voted on by the General Assembly, much less put into action. This even though the state’s Association of Election Officials, made up of Democratic and Republican appointees to boards of election across the state, endorsed the recommendations in April 2009, calling them “ripe for review and reform prior to the 2010 election year.” The summit process in 2008 and 2009 was unusual, said Lawrence Norden, a national expert on elections who chaired the summits for New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice. He doesn’t know of “another state where there’s been a bipartisan review open to the public” to recommend improvement in election law and administration, he said. “But I don’t know that it ultimately, at least for now, produced the results I had hoped for,” conceded Norden, deputy director of the Brennan Center’s Democracy Program and an adjunct professor of law at NYU.

Full Article: Overhaul of poll laws still stalled | Cincinnati.com | cincinnati.com.

Pennsylvania: Judge in voter ID case asks witness: Let’s say I grant an injunction? | witf.org

Day four of the court hearing on the state’s new photo identification requirement at the polls brought more testimony on the implementation of the new law, and a rare question for a witness from the judge presiding over the case.  Jonathan Marks, a Department of State employee who oversees elections programs, testified that his office has worked out how to deal with exceptional cases for those people who have difficulty even obtaining the yet-to-be-released Department of State voting ID. “We’re ready to go,” said Marks on the stand.  “It’s just a matter of training help desk staff [on] how to deal with these oddball exceptions.” Within the past month, the state revised its estimate of the number of people who may lack PennDOT-issued ID (driver’s or non-) to roughly 759,000.  Commonwealth Secretary Carol Aichele has said her office is confident many of those people actually do have PennDOT ID but were flagged because of discrepancies between the state’s voter registration database and PennDOT database.

Full Article: Judge in voter ID case asks witness: Let’s say I grant an injunction? - witf.org.

Pennsylvania: Air Force veteran testifies Pennsylvania voter ID law could prevent him from casting ballot | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

A 63-year-old Air Force veteran testified today that Pennsylvania’s new voter identification law could prevent him from voting in upcoming elections because he has been unable to get a state-issued photo ID card. Taking the stand in Commonwealth Court in a hearing over the law’s validity, Danny Rosa of West Chester said poor health and eyesight have prevented him from getting a Pennsylvania driver’s license. And when a friend gave him an hour-long ride to the PennDOT center nearest his house, the clerk refused to issue the photo ID because the name on his New York birth certificate is Daniel Guerra — changed later to Daniel Rosa after his mother married his stepfather. Rosa is the name on his discharge papers and his Veterans Administration ID card. “I banged on the desk real hard and stomped out” of the PennDOT office when the clerk refused to give him a photo ID, he said. He said he is proud of his military service in the 1970s and his honorable discharge and thinks he should be allowed to vote.

Full Article: Air Force veteran testifies Pa. voter ID law could prevent him from casting ballot - Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Tennessee: Shelby County Election Commission hopes for smoother vote on Thursday | The Commercial Appeal

With a troubled early-voting period now behind it, the Shelby County Election Commission is working to insure voters receive correct ballots on Thursday’s Election Day. But the commission and its staff continue to ask voters to be sure when they go to the polls that they know which state and federal districts they should be voting in, and to ask poll workers for clarification if there is any question of whether they are voting in the correct districts. “We continue to work to try to make sure we will be as successful as possible on Election Day,” said commission chairman Robert Meyers. “We’re doing all we can to make it through this election, and then post election we’ll be taking some serious looks at what happened and why it happened.” The state said last week it will conduct a performance audit after the election, and Meyers said Monday he hopes that will help identify core problems that have affected previous elections as well.

Full Article: Shelby County Election Commission hopes for smoother vote on Thursday » The Commercial Appeal.

Nepal: Election commission rules out November polls | AFP

Nepal’s Election Commission said Monday it lacked a legal framework to hold elections promised for November — threatening a long delay that could push the country deeper into political turmoil. “In a situation of constitutional and legal ambiguity, it will be difficult for us to proceed,” commission spokesman Sharada Prasad Trital said in a statement. “Therefore, we have decided to inform the government that it is not possible to hold elections… on November 22,” Trital said.

Full Article: AFP: Nepal election commission rules out November polls.

Panama: Election Commission wants electoral reforms withdrawn | Prensa.com

The National Commission on Electoral Reforms requested the judges of the Tribunal Electoral (TE) to request the National Assembly withdraw the draft of electoral reforms, since it believes there is enough time to implement them before the 2014 elections. TE Judge Gerardo Solis said that the commission also decided that the reforms should be considered one of the first priorities of the next government.
According to Solis, the withdrawal of the reforms will be the best way to ensure peace and tranquility during the election.

Venezuela: Electoral Commission Ramps up Security Measures | venezuelanalysis.com

With just over 10 weeks before the realization of the country’s presidential elections, Venezuela’s National Electoral Commission (CNE) is tightening its preparations for October 7 through heightened security measures and high-tech anti-fraud initiatives. On Sunday, the CNE closed enrollment for the initiative known as “Make Your Mark” which obliges enlisted voters to register their thumbprint with the electoral authority in order to ensure the integrity and veracity of the electronic ballots cast at polling stations around the country. The measure began on June 22 and has successfully updated the prints of more than 3 million people through the deployment of over 3,000 registration machines made available to residents in 1,600 enrollment points throughout the country.

Full Article: Venezuela’s Electoral Commission Ramps up Security Measures | venezuelanalysis.com.

Virginia: Virginia Democrats Angered By Special Election Timing | WAMU

Virginia Democrats are criticizing Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell’s decision to hold a special election for the House of Delegates in September rather than November. For more than three weeks, Democrats and Republicans in Northern Virginia had been waiting for McDonnell to determine when to hold a special election to fill the seat vacated by Del. David Englin. He resigned in June after acknowledging being unfaithful in his marriage. Last week, the governor has called a special election in September, dashing the hopes of many Democrats who were expecting to merge that contest with the November general election. “What we now have is an election on the day after Labor Day on the first day of school that is going to cost the combined jurisdictions of Fairfax, Arlington and Alexandria around $50,000 to run a separate election,” says Dak Hardwick, chairman of the Alexandria Democratic Committee. “That just boggles the mind.”

Full Article: Virginia Democrats Angered By Special Election Timing | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio.

National: Voting Tech Errors Could Be a Deal Breaker in Swing States, Report Says | GovTech

As with any technology, electronic voting machines run the risk of malfunctioning. However, with the upcoming November presidential election, states may want a plan B if a worst-case scenario occurs on Election Day, like if a machine fails to process votes — an issue that could be even more troubling in swing states. History shows that technology doesn’t always cooperate on Election Day. In a 2010 nonpresidential election, North Carolina voters faced problems with electronic voting machines when Republican voters claimed they couldn’t select the Republican candidate while voting because the machines selected the Democratic candidate without the voters’ consent. New York City faced trouble with voting machines that same year due to operational failures and a lack of proper equipment arriving on time at polling sites. To find out how prepared states will be for possible voting system failures in the upcoming election, the Verified Voting Foundation, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization; Common Cause, another nonpartisan organization; and Rutgers Law School’s Constitutional Litigation Clinic surveyed each of the 50 states on series of criteria and released a report Wednesday, July 25, that outlines the findings. The report, Counting Votes 2012: A State by State Look at Voting Technology Preparedness, ranked the states based on five evaluation topics. States were asked questions including: Has the state instituted a post-election audit that can determine whether the electronically reported outcomes are correct? Does the state have adequate contingency plans at each polling place in the event of machine failure? According to the report, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Ohio, Vermont and Wisconsin were ranked as best prepared to handle potential voting system malfunctions. Ranked least prepared were Colorado, Delaware, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and South Carolina. Overall, the states’ rankings placed them into one of four categories: good, generally good, needs improvement and inadequate.

Full Article: Voting Tech Errors Could Be a Deal Breaker in Swing States, Report Says.

Editorials: Killing a Fly With a Bazooka – Voting Rights, Voter Suppression and 2012 | NYTimes.com

Curious whether new restrictive state voting laws requiring photo ID will damage the credibility of this year’s election outcome, I sent email queries over the past week to several conservative analysts. I found their responses illuminating. Amy Kaufman, director of congressional relations at the Hudson Institute, wrote that “while there are changes to many states’ registration programs, these will not be an impediment to the victor.” She argued that Florida is “attempting to reduce voter fraud by purging possible noncitizens. Those people have the right to be readmitted by proving citizenship. It appears that over 500 of the roughly 2500 on that list have come forward to show documentation.” A colleague of Kaufman’s at the Hudson Institute, Michael Horowitz, was more outspoken, declaring that “requiring some form of identification of voters seems to me not merely reasonable but long overdue.” In Horowitz’s view, the “accusatory rhetoric” of Attorney General Eric Holder “about the alleged racism of those who support the I.D. reforms — unspeakable because he’s the Attorney General of the United States, not someone running for mayor of the District of Columbia  — merits condemnation from progressives, not a threat that Republicans will lack political legitimacy.” 

Full Article: Voting Rights, Voter Suppression and 2012 - NYTimes.com.

Editorials: A throwback to poll taxes | The Washington Post

The U.S. District Court is soon to rule on Texas’s new voter ID law. Ostensibly to combat voter fraud — the existence of which has yet to be demonstrated — the law would require every voter to present a government-issued photo ID at the poll. After a week of arguments this month, the question before the panel of federal judges is whether this law — one of many to emerge in the wake of 2010’s Republican legislative resurgence — places an undue burden on minorities. Under the Voting Rights Act of 1965, jurisdictions such as Texas with a history of suppressing minority voting must prove that any new requirements don’t “have the effect of denying or abridging the right to vote on account of race or color.” In March, the Justice Department denied the Lone Star State the necessary clearance for this new law, arguing that it would disproportionately affect Hispanic voters. Texas officials appealed. To preserve the access of all citizens to the right to vote — certainly among the most sacrosanct in our democracy — the District Court should follow the Justice Department’s lead and strike down this highly suspect and unnecessary law.

Full Article: A throwback to poll taxes - The Washington Post.

National: Voter ID laws could swing states | Politico.com

At least 5 million voters, predominantly young and from minority groups sympathetic to President Barack Obama, could be affected by an unprecedented flurry of new legislation by Republican governors and GOP-led legislatures to change or restrict voting rights by Election Day 2012. Supporters of these new laws — spearheaded in six swing states, as well as other less competitive ones — argue they are just trying to stop voter fraud and protect the integrity of the vote. But opponents, mainly Democrats and Obama’s campaign, which is closely monitoring the daily warfare over the new laws, believe they are trying to change the face of the electorate in a way that benefits the Republican candidate for president. Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Virginia and Wisconsin, all viewed as important states this fall, each have enacted stricter ID laws. Florida and Ohio have cut back on early voting. And a whole host of other states have passed new ID laws as well. As a result, millions of voters will find it much more difficult to vote on Election Day in November — some estimates, such as one from the Brennan Center of Justice last fall, put the number of those affected nationwide at more than 5 million. In Pennsylvania alone, the state’s Transportation Department released figures showing that more than 750,000 registered voters in the state — 9.2 percent of voters there — do not have the required forms of ID to vote in November.

Full Article: Voter ID laws could swing states - Emily Schultheis - POLITICO.com.

Alabama: State challenges Voting Rights Act over district review | al.com

The Alabama Attorney General’s Office has opened yet another front in the legal battle to scale back the 1965 Voting Rights Act. With a lawsuit filed this week in Washington, D.C., add Alabama to the growing list of governments complaining to judges that they’re chafing under the burdens of the 47-year-old law that doesn’t let them run their elections without strict supervision. All or part of 16 states — those with a blatant history of discrimination against minority voters — have to get permission from the federal government before they change any election-related procedures. Alabama is one of those states. “The fact that so many covered states are now willing to come out against the Voting Rights Act is a sea change since the act’s amendments passed 98-0 in the Senate in 2006,” said Rick Hasen, professor at the University of California Irvine School of Law and election law expert. Congress approved a 25-year extension of the law in 2006 and, as with previous renewals, sparked a new round of legal action. Shelby County has a case pending at the U.S. Supreme Court, as does a jurisdiction in North Carolina. And other states from around the South have challenges at various stages in the legal process.

Full Article: Alabama challenges Voting Rights Act over district review | al.com.