The Voting News Daily: Study finds only 5 states very well-prepared to handle voting machine errors, Embattled postal service faces challenge on Election Day

National: Voting Machine Report: States Ranked Based On Use Of Paper Ballots | Huffington Post Six states received the lowest grades for their abilities to accurately count election results based on their lack of access to paper ballots, according to a report released Wednesday by Common Cause, Rutgers Law School and the Verified Voting Foundation. The report…

National: Voting Machine Report: States Ranked Based On Use Of Paper Ballots | Huffington Post

Six states received the lowest grades for their abilities to accurately count election results based on their lack of access to paper ballots, according to a report released Wednesday by Common Cause, Rutgers Law School and the Verified Voting Foundation. The report — which studied election technology and administration in the 50 states and the District of Columbia — calls primarily for states to implement paper ballots in all counties in order to guard against system failures and other issues. The grading centered primarily on whether the state had paper trails in place. “The biggest problem is if those machines malfunction, there is no way to independently check,” Susannah Goodman, director of the voting integrity project at Common Cause said in a conference call with reporters. “What was the voters’ intent? You can’t do an audit.” The report showed that Minnesota, New Hampshire, Ohio, Vermont and Wisconsin were best when it came to catching voting problems, while Colorado, Delaware, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and South Carolina ranked at the bottom of the list. States were graded on whether their machines leave a paper trail, whether an audit is done of ballots, whether election officials check the vote count against the amount of voters who come to the polls, whether there are contingency plans in place in case of machine failure, and whether voting-by-mail is encouraged over online voting for military and overseas voters. Failure in the paper ballot category led to failure for states in the audit category, given the need for paper ballots to conduct the audit. “For states that don’t have paper ballots or records, it knocks them down,” Goodman said.

National: Only 5 states very well-prepared to handle voting machine errors, study finds | ABC News

How equipped is your state to handle voting machine errors? Chances are, not overly prepared. Apparently just five states—Minnesota, New Hampshire, Ohio, Vermont and Wisconsin—are “exceptionally well-prepared” to deal with voting machine problems and breakdowns, according to a new study released Wednesday by Common Cause in conjunction with the Verified Voting Foundation and the Rutgers Law School Constitutional Litigation Clinic. And six states are underprepared, said the study: Colorado, Delaware, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and South Carolina. “Recent election history reminds us that equipment does fail and votes will be lost without key protections,” Pamela Smith, president of Verified Voting, said in a statement. “We’re dependent on complex electronic voting systems that must be surrounded by robust procedures to safeguard votes and verify results if we are to avoid known and unknown risks of election failure. Do-overs are never an acceptable part of an election plan. Fair elections are at the heart of our democracy, yet many states are not yet prepared to survive voting system failures that could change results.” With expected close elections in many of the unprepared states, voting errors could have a significant impact on the 2012 results.

National: Electoral College tie possible in Obama-Romney race |

It’s the white whale of American elections: elusive, mythical and never realized. But could it finally happen this year? The likelihood that President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney will each net 269 electoral votes in November, instead of the 270 needed to win, is actually not so farfetched — and for close observers of the Electoral College system, a tie would set off a wave of constitutional and political mayhem that would make the 2000 Florida recount seem like a tidy affair. Election results in key states would immediately be subject to legal challenges. Electors, normally an anonymous batch of party insiders elected to ratify each state’s winner with their electoral votes, would be lobbied to change their votes by friends, neighbors and political leaders. Swing states could decide U.S. election Alex Castellanos’ electoral map James Carville’s electoral map Ultimately, the House of Representatives could elect the next president, even if that candidate lost the popular vote.

Alabama: State asks federal court to rule its redistricting plan doesn’t violate Voting Rights Act | The Washington Post

Alabama’s attorney general filed a lawsuit Thursday asking a federal court to approve a redistricting plan for his Legislature without requiring the plan to go through the U.S. Justice Department for approval to make sure it doesn’t discriminate against minority voters. The lawsuit seeks a declaratory judgment from a three-judge panel of U.S. District Court in Washington finding that the plan approved by the Alabama Legislature during a special session in May does not deny or abridge the right to vote based on race or color. Joy Patterson, a spokeswoman for the Alabama Attorney General’s office, said the state has the option of seeking pre-clearance from the Justice Department or asking for a three-judge panel to do it. She said the attorney general’s office filed a similar suit last year for its new Congressional and state school board districts. But the Justice Department ended up preclearing those districts anyway.

California: Judge resets trial on San Mateo County’s besieged voting system until after fall election | San Jose Mercury News

A judge Wednesday granted San Mateo County’s request to postpone a trial on the legality of its at-large system for electing supervisors, which critics contend is discriminatory because it dilutes the votes of minority residents. But in agreeing to wait until after the Nov. 6 election, Superior Court Judge Beth Freeman said the trial wouldn’t be moot even if residents approve a ballot measure to replace countywide supervisor elections with district elections. As civil rights lawyers who sued the county argued in their legal papers, “it is highly unlikely that the entire case would be moot if the voters approve district elections,” Freeman said in her ruling. “It is, however, quite clear that voter action would significantly affect the scope of the legal challenge and inform the court of the remedies remaining.” The lawsuit, filed in April 2011, contends that selecting supervisors countywide instead of by the districts they represent violates the California Voting Rights Act because that action weakens the voting power of Latino and Asian-American residents. Although each minority group makes up about one-quarter of the county’s population, there’s been only one Latino supervisor and no Asian-Americans since 1995, according to the lawsuit.

Colorado: Gessler’s proposed changes to election rules draw heated objections | The Colorado Independent

Over the course of a five-hour rulemaking hearing Monday, Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler probably got the message that a lot of people are unhappy with proposed rules that would stop county clerks from mailing ballots to inactive voters in some elections, change the way canvass boards are selected and give county clerks more power to determine how much access election watchers have. About 40 people signed up to testify at this week’s hearing; nearly all of them spoke in opposition to one or more of Gessler’s proposed rule changes, which covered three general areas. “It was pretty much all opposition,” commented Luis Toro, executive director of Colorado Ethics Watch, who did not speak.  “I don’t think it (the opposition) will change anything, though,” he said. The rules, (pdf) either as presented by Gessler or as revised by his office as a result of the hearing and written testimony, could go into effect as early as Monday, at Gessler’s discretion.

Connecticut: GOP says its candidates earned top spot on the next state ballot | The Connecticut Mirror

The state legislature’s top Republicans charged Thursday that GOP candidates should have been placed at the top of the ballot during last fall’s municipal elections, and challenged Connecticut’s chief elections official to correct the matter before the state elections this November. State law rewards the party with the best showing in the gubernatorial contest by placing its candidates first on the ballot for the next four years. In the 2010 gubernatorial election, Democrat Dannel Malloy finished 6,404 votes ahead of Republican Tom Foley. But Foley earned all 560,874 of his votes on the GOP line. Malloy, who was endorsed by both the Democratic Party as well as the Working Families Party, collected 540,970 votes on the Democratic Party line, and 26,308 votes on the Working Families ticket.So which party truly finished first in terms of ballot order rights? Republicans now assert it was theirs.

Hawaii: State’s Chief of Elections Takes Hawaii County Clerk to Task | Big Island News

In an unprecedented move, the State’s Chief Election Officer has weighed in on controversy surrounding the Hawaii County Elections office. Scott Nago, Chief Elections Officer for the State, sent a letter to Hawaii County Clerk Jamae Kawauchi Wednesday afternoon.  He said his office has been fielding calls as to what is going on in Hawaii County.  He said Kawauchi’s decision to close the elections office on July 23 and her failure to thoroughly communicate to the other  election offices and the media  as to  the reasons for the closure has unnecessarily lead to significant speculation in the public about the integrity of the elections.  He went on to say, “This is simply unacceptable on the part of a fellow election administrator.  The public relies on us to be assured that their elections are safe and secure.” Nago’s letter goes on, “The lack of communication of your office in the last few days has seriously undermined the hard work that the election community does to build the trust of the public in the integrity of the electoral system.”  He says a written request sent by the State Elections Office to Kawauchi on July 23 asking for information has gone unanswered.

Florida: Florida at the forefront as states plan fresh assault on voting rights |

Voting rights groups are struggling to hold back a tide of new laws that are likely to make it harder for millions of Americans to vote in the presidential election in November and could distort the outcome of the race for the White House. Since January 2011, 19 states have passed a total of 24 laws that create hurdles between voters and the ballot box. Some states are newly requiring people to show government-issued photo cards at polling stations. Others have whittled down early voting hours, imposed restrictions on registration of new voters, banned people with criminal records from voting or attempted to purge eligible voters from the electoral roll. The assault on voter rights is particularly acute in key swing states where the presidential race is likely to be settled. Five of the nine key battleground states identified by the Republican strategist Karl Rove have introduced laws that could suppress turnout – Florida, Iowa, New Hampshire, Ohio and Virginia. Between them, the states that have imposed restrictions account for the lion’s share of the 270 electoral college votes that Barack Obama or Mitt Romney must win to take the presidency. Sixteen of the states that have passed new voter restrictions between them hold 214 electoral votes. “We are seeing a dramatic assault on voting rights, the most significant pushback on democratic participation that we’ve seen in decades,” said Wendy Weiser of the non-partisan thinktank the Brennan Center for Justice, and the co-author of the definitive study of US voter suppression in the 2012 election cycle. “These laws could make it harder for millions of eligible American citizens to participate, particularly in swing states.”

Indiana: Million-dollar donation in Indiana race may skirt limits on corporate giving | iWatch News

The RGA Right Direction PAC is a Washington, D.C.-based super PAC, registered with federal regulators to make independent expenditures supporting or opposing candidates. So what is it doing giving $1 million directly to the Republican running for governor of Indiana? The donation to Mike Pence, the largest to his campaign, appears to be a way around state laws limiting corporate contributions to candidates. “In one way, it’s legal,” said Andrew Downs of the Center for Indiana Politics, at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne. “But if you say this is a way to give in excess of corporate limits, that’s also absolutely true.” Right Direction is funded entirely by the Republican Governors Association, a so-called “527” organization dedicated to electing as many Republicans to governorships as possible — a mission fueled by contributions from some of the largest corporations in the country. In Indiana, candidates can accept unlimited donations from individuals and political action committees but only $5,000 from corporations and unions. Corporations and unions can also give to PACs, but only in small sums. Whether the check to Pence was drawn on a bank account that contained corporate money is not a matter of public record.

Editorials: Minnesota ballot measures – the name game |

Supporters of two state constitutional amendments up for a vote this November object to the ballot titles that Secretary of State Mark Richie has chosen. They’ve sued to overturn them. At the same time, Sen. Scott Newman, R-Hutchinson, declared that Ritchie had “thrown the Constitution and established case law out the window to serve his political interests” (“Ritchie’s rewording is out of bounds,” July 19). Actually, our state’s Constitution does provide quite a clear answer in this dispute — but it’s not the answer amendment supporters want to hear. We are part of a bipartisan group of professors from all four of the state’s law schools who submitted a brief supporting Ritchie’s authority to choose titles for both the marriage amendment and the “voter ID” amendment. The Minnesota Supreme Court will hear oral arguments next week. But you don’t have to be a law professor, or even a lawyer, to understand the constitutional argument. Junior high school civics will be plenty. A Minnesota law, first enacted in 1919, says, “The secretary of state shall provide an appropriate title” for every question on the ballot. (Notice that’s “shall,” not “may” — and that it’s “appropriate,” not “whatever the proposal’s boosters prefer.”) It’s all part of the secretary’s role as the state’s chief election officer, which also includes everything from certifying voting systems to registering candidates.

Pennsylvania: Delaware County election official vows to defy voter ID law | Philadelphia Inquirer

Even as the fate of Pennsylvania’s new voter-identification law plays out in a Harrisburg courtroom, an election official in Delaware County is vowing not to enforce it. Christopher L. Broach, a Democratic inspector of elections in the tiny borough of Colwyn, said he would not ask voters to prove who they are on Election Day. “To ask me to enforce something that violates civil rights is ludicrous and absolutely something I am not willing to do,” Broach said Thursday in an interview. An IT consultant, Broach was elected inspector of elections but has recently acted as judge of elections to fill a vacancy. He called the law a ploy by the Republican-controlled legislature, “a wholly unethical decision that violated civil rights for the sake of getting Mitt Romney elected.”

Editorials: Phantom Menace: The hunt for proof of voting fraud | Philadelphia City Paper

A few days after upstart Republican Al Schmidt clobbered incumbent Joseph Duda and wrenched away the tightly held (by the GOP establishment) position of City Commissioner in last November’s general election, one source said to this reporter something like this: People think Al Schmidt’s some kind of progressive. But just you wait: He’s a snake in the grass. Something about the quotation stuck. Schmidt, after all, is a kind of political enigma here in Philadelphia: a Republican who’s managed to capture the attention, imagination and even votes of both restless Philly Republicans and local progressives, many of whom noticed over the last year that Schmidt had the habit — unusual among the entrenched political establishment of both parties — of answering questions, returning phone calls and engaging in intelligent, nuanced debate about his ideas. Still, he was (and remains) a Republican. And that raised an important question during his campaign, since the three City Commissioners have the incredibly sensitive job of running local elections: What did Schmidt think of laws requiring photo ID at polling places, being pushed by members of his own party in Harrisburg? Schmidt said at the time that he opposed the voter-ID law “as it was written,” noting that it was an “unfunded mandate.” Which meant, if you thought about it, that he didn’t necessarily oppose it because its obvious intent — here and in every state considering such legislation — was to squelch Democratic votes.

Editorials: Voter ID law could backfire on GOP | Emily Bazelon/Newsday

Pennsylvania’s voter ID law goes on trial this week. The first thing this challenge to the state’s law has going for it are the real people who will testify about why it means they can’t vote. The second thing is the Pennsylvania constitution. And the third is the utter lack of legitimate justification for the burdens the law imposes. This law should go down, and now, before it can cause problems in November. But if you’re a Democrat worried that the law — which requires voters to show an approved form of photo ID at the polls — is going to cost President Barack Obama the election, there’s a possible silver lining. The number of voters affected may not be as huge, or as overwhelmingly Democratic, as it seems. Let’s start with the trial. The Talking Points Memo website and The New York Times have introduced us to 93-year-old Viviette Applewhite and 60-year-old Wilola Shinholster Lee. Applewhite has never had a driver’s license, lost her Social Security card when her purse was stolen, and can’t easily get a new one because she has changed her name twice to marry. Lee — who was born in Georgia but has lived in Pennsylvania since she was 5 years old — lost her birth certificate in a house fire and she can’t get another one. (According to the state of Georgia, her original birth certificate was lost in a fire there, too.)

Tennessee: Memphis Voter ID Suit Alleges Voter Turned Away Twice | Memphis Daily News

The city of Memphis wants a Nashville federal judge to order the state to accept photo library cards issued by the city since last month as a valid form of voting identification. The lawsuit filed Tuesday, July 24, was expected. City Attorney Herman Morris wrote a 33-page legal opinion in January making the city’s case that the new library cards were acceptable under the state law requiring photo ID to vote, which the Tennessee Legislature passed in 2011. With Tuesday’s filing, the city is seeking an injunction “ordering the defendants to issue instructions to the Memphis Election Commission to accept such library cards as a means of identification for the purpose of voting in elections.” Without such instructions, the city claims the state is violating the U.S. Constitution, specifically the equal protection clause.

Editorials: Flap further shows need to restore voting rights for felons | Richmond Times-Dispatch

Voter registration by felons and the deceased is nothing new in Virginia. In 1998, the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission, the investigative arm of the General Assembly, found that the State Board of Elections’ record-keeping was so poor that 11,221 felons and 1,480 dead people were registered to vote. Recent reports have the Voter Participation Center trolling in the same voter pool in its voter registration mailings. A Louisa County felon illegally registered and cast a ballot in the 2008 election after submitting a form she received from the Washington-based center. Other felons have fallen through the voter registration cracks. And Virginia’s voter registrars are caught in the middle. “The real question is, Do we have a perfect system? No, we don’t. Can we? Probably not. Is it an epidemic problem? No, it isn’t. But from my perspective, it should be zero tolerance,” said Chesterfield County Registrar Larry Haake. “If they change the law and let felons vote, I’m here for them. I don’t have a dog in that fight.”

Washington: State partners with Microsoft and Facebook – voter registration app set to launch soon | electionlineWeekly

Now, in addition to letting all their friends know about what they had for dinner last night, or their political views, what they are listening to on Spotify, or their relationship status, Facebook users in Washington State will soon be able to let all their friends know that they are registered to vote. The Washington Secretary of State’s Office has teamed up with Microsoft and Facebook to offer citizens in Washington a first-in-the-nation opportunity to register to vote via the social networking site. “Our estimate [through Pew’s Electronic Registration Information Center] is that we have potentially two million eligible, but unregistered voters,” said Dave Ammons, spokesman for the secretary of state’s office. “The Facebook app is a marvelous way to prompt people onto our MyVote site for both registration and updates, as well as our voter vault of customized information.” Ammons noted that the state has had online registration since 2008 and that it is quite popular, especially with the Millennials. About a third of the state’s registration traffic is online.