The Voting News Daily: Debate intensifies over state election laws, Hoyer launches voting rights application

National: Debate intensifies over state election laws | Four months away from a presidential election still considered a tossup, new battles are brewing over state election laws. A federal court in Washington began hearing arguments this week on whether a voter ID law in Texas discriminates against Hispanic voters. Michigan Republican Gov. Rick Snyder vetoed a…

National: Debate intensifies over state election laws |

Four months away from a presidential election still considered a tossup, new battles are brewing over state election laws. A federal court in Washington began hearing arguments this week on whether a voter ID law in Texas discriminates against Hispanic voters. Michigan Republican Gov. Rick Snyder vetoed a bill last week that would have required voters to show identification before casting absentee ballots. The Justice Department rejected South Carolina’s voter ID law for the second time, saying it could disproportionately affect black voters. The state sued earlier this year. A federal court has scheduled oral arguments for Sept. 24, just 43 days before the election. A judge ruled in June that Wisconsin’s voter ID law violates the state constitution. An appeal is likely. Attorney General Eric Holder is promising an aggressive effort to safeguard voting rights.

National: Rep. Hoyer launches voting rights application | The Hill

Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (Md.) this week is unveiling his next step in the battle over voting rights in the form of a pop-up Web application that informs people where to vote and how to register. Hoyer and Rep. Robert Brady (D-Pa.), the ranking Democrat on the House Administration Committee, sent a letter to colleagues dated Monday to introduce the new application and encourage members to use it, specifically recommending sharing it through social media. The letter urges that it is the “responsibility” of elected leaders to help inform constituents about the democratic process. “In the last year, we have witnessed a nationwide assault on American citizens’ constitutionally-guaranteed right to vote,” they wrote. “Aside from the unnecessary, expensive, and ineffective new Voter ID laws, we have also seen targeted purges of eligible, registered voters from state rolls. Little has been done to educate the public about these actions. As a result, there are thousands of eligible voters at risk of being turned away from the polls while attempting to make choices about their federal representation.”

Editorials: The fraud of voter ID |

Spare us any more hooey about “preventing fraud” and “protecting the integrity of the ballot box.” The Republican-led crusade for voter ID laws is revealed as a cynical ploy to disenfranchise as many likely Democratic voters as possible, with poor people and minorities the main targets. Recent developments in Pennsylvania – one of more than a dozen states where voting rights are under siege – should be enough to erase any lingering doubt: The GOP is trying to pull off an unconscionable crime. Late last month, the majority leader of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, Mike Turzai, was addressing a meeting of the Republican State Committee. He must have felt at ease among friends because he spoke a bit too frankly. Ticking off a list of recent accomplishments by the GOP-controlled Legislature, he mentioned the new law forcing voters to show a photo ID at the polls. Said Turzai, with more than a hint of triumph: “Voter ID, which is going to allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania – done.”

Alabama: Conflict arises over how to treat Mobile County voters whose addresses don’t match registration |

Some 20,000 registered voters in Mobile County do not live where they signed up to vote, and Probate Judge Don Davis’ efforts to deal with that in the primary election this year has drawn complaints from critics. Davis points to three different state statutes indicating that it is illegal for voters to cast ballots in a precinct where they do not live. The Mobile County Board of Registrars, backed by an administrative rule issued by the state Secretary of State’s Office in 1994, contends that people should be allowed to vote in whichever precinct they are registered. Davis said that he is waiting for a response to a request he made in April for an attorney general’s opinion, which carries the force of law absent a court order. He said he wants to make sure to get it right. “We pride ourselves on having proper, correct elections in Mobile County,” he said.

Arizona: Governor Brewer nixes plan for election law special session | TriValley Central

Gov. Jan Brewer late Friday dropped a plan to hold a special session to present Arizona voters with a second ballot measure on proposed changes to election laws, according to a Brewer spokesman who said legislative leaders had changed their minds. Republican legislative leaders and Brewer earlier had agreed to hold a special session to consider a possible referendum that was a reaction to a recently filed initiative measure. The initiative measure would make major changes in how Arizona conducts primary elections. It will go on the November ballot if election officials determine that backers submitted enough petition signatures. Word of the planned special session surfaced earlier Friday, a day after initiative backers filed their petitions.

California: De La Fuente pushes for vote on Oakland’s election system | Inside Bay Area

This November will be Oakland’s second election using ranked-choice voting, but if Councilman Ignacio De La Fuente gets his way, it could be the last. De La Fuente wants council members next week to place an initiative on the November ballot asking voters to rescind the voting system and return to holding runoff elections when no candidate wins an absolute majority. But De La Fuente doesn’t appear to have the votes to get the measure on the ballot, and he likely won’t even be able to keep the proposal on the council’s agenda. Ranked-choice elections ask voters to rank their top three candidates. When no candidate wins more than half of the first-place votes, the second- and third-place votes are tabulated, avoiding the need for runoff elections.

California: Appeals court to examine ballot numbering | San Jose Mercury News

An appeals court on Tuesday asked the California secretary of state to explain why Gov. Jerry Brown’s tax initiative should be first on the November ballot. The Third District Court of Appeal in Sacramento agreed to examine a challenge to the decision, one day after the state’s chief elections officer assigned numbers to 11 measures on the November ballot. Although no hearing was set, the secretary of state has until July 30 to respond. The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association is challenging a new law that placed the Democratic governor’s tax initiative at the top of a crowded ballot as Proposition 30. The bill, AB1499, moved the governor’s measure ahead of others because it involves a constitutional amendment.

Colorado: Suthers asks Homeland Security chief to verify voters’ citizenship | The Denver Post

Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler is intensifying efforts to root out and remove any noncitizens from the state’s voter rolls before the November election — and this time, he has the backing of Attorney General John Suthers and top elections officials in 11 other states. Gessler and Suthers sent separate letters to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano on Monday, again asking DHS to help verify the citizenship status of about 5,000 Colorado voters. Suthers’ letter also states that DHS is required under federal law to provide the information, and that the U.S. Supreme Court reiterated that requirement in its recent decision on Arizona’s immigration law.

Florida: State to release larger potential noncitizen voter list |

A month before a statewide election, Gov. Rick Scott’s top elections official will belatedly release a database of 180,000 voters whose citizenship is in question. But in an about-face from an earlier and highly controversial voter purge effort, no one faces being removed from the state’s voting rolls this time — meaning some noncitizens could cast ballots in the Aug. 14 primary. Reversing course, Secretary of State Ken Detzner agreed the list of names is a public record after talking with Attorney General Pam Bondi’s office. Detzner had wanted to get a legal opinion from Bondi, but his spokesman, Chris Cate, said that in verbal discussions, it was agreed the database is public and must be released. The list, however, will not be sent to Florida’s 67 county election supervisors, who have the authority to purge noncitizens from the voter rolls. That means that no one faces being blocked from voting before the primary, even if they’re not a U.S. citizen.

Michigan: McCotter resignation, special election create a “nightmare” scenario for city clerks | Michigan Radio

City clerks in Thaddeus McCotter’s former Congressional district say his resignation has created a “nightmare” scenario for them. McCotter’s resignation last week means clerks in suburban Detroit’s 11th Congressional district have to do a lot more work in very little time. Livonia city clerk Terry Marecki says she was surprised when state officials called the special election to fill what will amount to just a few weeks of McCotter’s remaining term. “I kept thinking ‘There is no way they can dump this on us,’” Marecki said. But city and county clerks will have to pick up both the cost and the burden of the special election–which includes an additional September primary for the remainder of McCotter’s term, and running another special election alongside the regular November general election.

Michigan: McCotter exit costs taxpayers $650,000 | The Detroit News

Thaddeus McCotter’s resignation from Congress will cost taxpayers about $650,000 in special election costs, Lt. Gov. Brian Calley said Tuesday in announcing the “unfortunate” conclusion the state must hold an election to fill the rest of his term. With six months left in his decade in Congress, McCotter’s abrupt exit last Friday followed a petition signature fraud investigation and revelation Thursday in The News that he had pitched a tawdry TV pilot written after his failed presidential bid. Absentee ballots for the Aug. 7 primary election have gone out, forcing the state to call a Sept. 5 special primary and Nov. 6 general election for the remainder of the Livonia Republican’s term. “We find it unfortunate that the resignation came so late that it’s not possible to hold the special primary election on the same day as our normal primary,” Calley said Tuesday, acting on behalf of Gov. Rick Snyder, who is out of the state. The state will not reimburse municipalities in Wayne and Oakland counties for the election, nor will McCotter be expected to pitch in, Calley said.

Mississippi: Voter Fraud Problem? | Jackson Free Press

Backers of voter identification in Mississippi and other states say the laws will eliminate voter fraud–but it may be a solution looking for a problem. Between 2000 and 2010, the country saw only 13 plausible cases of voter fraud, but since 2001 almost 1,000 voter ID laws have passed in 46 states across the country, including Mississippi, reports The Brennan Center for Justice, a non-partisan group in New York City that focuses on fundamental issues of justice including voter rights. In fact, Indiana, a state that recently introduced a voter ID requirement, went before the U.S. Supreme Court to defend the bill, representatives from the state could not give one instance of voter fraud in their state’s history. The Wall Street Journal reported that though Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach cited 221 cases of voter fraud in his state between 1997 and 2010, only seven brought convictions, but none related to voter fraud. Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said that Wisconsin was “absolutely riddled with voter fraud,” Mother Jones reports. However, in 2004 the state only found seven total votes that were fraudulent.

Oregon: Brown denies state improperly struck signatures from marijuana measure |

A lawsuit charging that Secretary of State Kate Brown improperly invalidated thousands of signatures on a proposed ballot measure to legalize marijuana was filed in Marion County Circuit Court Wednesday. Robert Wolfe, the chief petitioner for the marijuana initiative, charged that Brown’s actions unfairly denied his initiative a spot on the November ballot despite his turning in 170,000 signatures — far more than the 116, 284 valid signatures required. State Elections Director Stephen Trout, defended the secretary of state’s handling of the marijuana initiative, saying that officials are following long-established procedures based on state law. However, the lawsuit could result in the first major legal test of the state government’s handling of ballot measures since Brown put tougher regulations on paid petition gathering after taking office in 2009.

South Dakota: Pressure builds, but Secretary of State Gant won’t go | The Argus Leader

A state senator is calling for the resignation or impeachment of Secretary of State Jason Gant, who has faced a steady drumbeat of criticism for being too politically involved. Sen. Stan Adelstein, R-Rapid City, has filed an official complaint about Gant with Attorney General Marty Jackley, who is reviewing the issue and expects to produce a report within the next few weeks. Adelstein hopes this investigation will produce pressure on Gant to resign, or possibly provide grounds to impeach him when the Legislature reconvenes in January. “Gant has to leave,” Adelstein said. “My problem now becomes this: If it’s only going to be impeachment, it’ll be a terrible distraction to the legislative process. I’ve really got to see what I can do to make it more compelling for Gant to resign. I’m not sure how I’m going to do that.”

Wisconsin: Nickolaus changed software before April election breakdown | JSOnline

Sometime after final testing of Waukesha County’s election software – but before the April election – County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus mysteriously changed something in her office’s computer programming, according to a consulting firm’s report released Tuesday. Only Nickolaus knows what she did. The consultants can’t figure it out, and she’s not talking. But whatever she did, it caused a breakdown in reporting election results that will cost county taxpayers $256,300 to fix, the report says. And that’s not the only money that Waukesha County will have to spend to get its election systems operating properly, County Executive Dan Vrakas said Tuesday. Aging hardware is out of compliance with federal standards and nearing the end of its useful life, the report says. That equipment was supposed to be replaced in 2009, but Nickolaus killed the project because county purchasing officials wouldn’t let her award a no-bid contract, said Norm Cummings, county director of administration. Now Vrakas and the County Board will need to spend unknown amounts of money in the 2013 and 2014 budgets to replace that equipment before the 2014 gubernatorial election, Cummings said.

Wisconsin: Citizens group auditing recall election results—by hand | GazetteXtra

The Rock County Clerk’s Office opened its doors to an unusual request Tuesday. A group of six concerned citizens wanted to cross-check Rock County’s election results of last month’s gubernatorial recall election—by hand. The group members, who said they were part of the action group Election Fairness, had filed an open records request July 2 with Rock County and Wisconsin’s 71 other counties. Its members seek to hand-count paper ballots in storage at counties around the state to determine whether results on paper ballots match electronic tabulations that counties used to total votes in the June 5 recall election between Gov. Scott Walker and Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, said James Mueller of Cross Plains, the group’s attorney. Most Wisconsin municipalities rely on electronic voting machines to tally votes from paper ballots. The electronic totals are recorded and added to late-arriving absentee ballots during a post-election canvass. That’s how counties arrive at official election results that they certify with the state. But members of Election Fairness say they believe electronic vote tabulation could be a flawed system. The group argues electronic voting machines can misread ballots and lead to mistakes that can skew election results.

Editorials: Meet the hanging chad of 2012 – absentee ballots | NY Daily News

At this point in a closely fought presidential campaign, pundits and pollsters are checking their guts and sifting through data to try to predict November’s winner. Those of us who specialize in election law engage in a more heart-wrenching task: attempting to make an educated guess about the likelihood that one or another election irregularity will lead to a Bush v. Gore-style meltdown. My candidate for the honor of the next potential chad to dangle: absentee ballots. Competition for this year’s biggest potential ballot box nightmare is pretty stiff. We can expect the rise in voter identification laws to lead to some confusion at the polls. This confusion may arise both from the voters who face unfamiliar barriers to entry and from untrained poll workers who must enforce sometimes arcane, novel laws on the fly. This will probably lead to a large number of provisional ballots — the kind a poll worker gives you when they can’t find your name on the rolls. The legality of these would be determined in a post-election recount, if one comes to pass. But the silent, creeping revolution in the timing and method of voting presents bigger opportunities for trouble. In recent years, absentee and mail-in ballots have been steadily rising as a share of total ballots cast. The majority of states now allow “no-excuse absentee” voting, meaning anyone can ask to cast a ballot by mail. You don’t need the political equivalent of a doctor’s note, as was true previously.

Ireland: E-Voting machines finally put to use |

A Tullamore-based recycling company which recently purchased 7,500 mostly unused e-voting machines from the State has made a generous donation to a children’s charity. KMK Metals Recycling presented Barretstown with a cheque for €10,000 today after it decided to go ahead with the donation despite not being allowed to sell any of the machines for the cause. Kurt Kyck bought the machines last month with intentions of selling 100 of them to raise funds for the Kildare residential camp for children with serious illness. However, he was advised by the Department of the Environment that the machines should be put entirely beyond functional use and could not be sold. “My staff were disappointed and so when we looked at the figures it was agreed that we were in a position to go ahead with the donation to Barretstown,” he said.

Libya: Jibril has vote lead, Islamists say not beaten | Reuters

Libya’s wartime prime minister Mahmoud Jibril extended his lead in landmark elections, vote tallies showed on Wednesday, but Islamist rivals predicted their score would be boosted by allied independent candidates. Jibril’s National Forces Alliance headed for a landslide win in the eastern district covering the towns of Tobruk and Derna, seen as a hardline Islamist stronghold, suggesting his support was broader than urban areas such as the capital Tripoli. However Western-educated Jibril’s gains do not automatically translate into dominance of the 200-seat national assembly which is set to choose a prime minister and cabinet before setting the stage for full parliamentary elections in 2013.

Voting Blogs: Revisiting Fraud and the 2012 Mexican Presidential Election | The Monkey Cage

In view of the large amount of attention yesterday’s post on the potential for vote buying in the 2012 Mexican presidential election has received, we are very pleased to have a second follow up post-election report on this election from  Marco A. Morales, a Ph.D candidate in the Department of Politics at New York University, that addresses more directly the question of the potential for and consequences of electoral fraud in this election. In addition to his graduate work in political science, Morales has also served as a public official under both PRI and PAN administrations, most recently – under the current PAN administration – as Press Counsellor and Spokesman for the Mission of Mexico to the United Nations, and Director General for Political Analysis at the Office of the Mexican Presidency. The official tally for the Mexican presidential election has now been released. After all votes have been counted (and recounted whenever there were discrepancies in the tallies) the results advanced by the PREP and the expedite count remain virtually unchanged: PRI’s Peña Nieto has38.21% of the vote, PRD’s López Obrador 31.59%, and Vázquez Mota 25.41% of the vote. This means that a difference of over 3.3 million votes between the front-runner and the second place remains virtually unchanged. (Or in other words, that there was human error on the vote counts, but no systematic error). Yet, for outside observers, this could seem like a convoluted process taking an exceptional amount of time. And that would be a correct observation. Nevertheless, that is what the electoral law dictates. So what exactly is going on, and why?

Mexico: Mexico Still Far From Fair Elections | Huffington Post

The media rewrites history every day, and in so doing it often impedes our understanding of the present. Mexico’s presidential election of a week ago is a case in point. Press reports tell us that Felipe Calderón, the outgoing president from the PAN (National Action Party) “won the 2006 election by a narrow margin.” But this is not quite true, and without knowing what actually happened in 2006, it is perhaps more difficult to understand the widespread skepticism of the Mexican people as to the results of the current election. The official results show Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) candidate Enrique Peña Neto winning 38.2 percent of the vote, to 31.6 percent for Andrés Manuel López Obrador, of the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) and 25.4 percent for Josefina Vázquez Mota of the PAN. It does not help that the current election has been marred by widespread reports of vote-buying.

Romania: Romanian Court Raises Bar for Recalling President |

Romania’s Constitutional Court on Tuesday ruled that at least half the electorate must cast ballots in a recall referendum aimed at removing the president for the vote to be valid, a new twist to a bitter partisan feud between a resurgent left and a right no longer favored by an austerity-weary electorate. The government of Prime Minister Victor Ponta, a Social Democrat who took office in May, has drawn criticism from European capitals and local civil liberties groups for a series of rapid-fire maneuvers that set the stage for the impeachment of right-leaning President Traian Basescu. Parliament voted Friday to suspend Mr. Basescu. The national vote on whether he should be ejected from office is to be held July 29. The court upheld a new law lowering the threshold for removal to a majority of the votes cast, but added the turnout proviso, which could make for a close election.

United Kingdom: Scottish independence: Electoral Commission ‘will not test panel’s question’ | BBC

The Electoral Commission has said it will not examine any proposed referendum question drawn up on behalf of the pro-union parties. Labour, the Tories and Lib Dems have asked an expert panel to compose a question which would be submitted to the commission for testing. But the commission said only the “relevant government” could propose a question. The SNP said the decision was a humiliation for the pro-union campaign.