After years of unsuccessfully trying to get the Mississippi Legislature to pass a voter ID law, last November, state conservatives put the issue of voter ID to the state’s voters. In the same election where voters said “no” to a controversial initiative to make a fetus a person, voters said “yes” to forcing voters to present a government-issued identification card to cast a ballot. The initiative passed with 62 percent of the vote. Of course, that wasn’t the end of the issue for Mississippi. First, the state Legislature had to pass a law, which it did. Before implementing any laws that change voting procedures, Mississippi has to get a ruling on the law from the U.S. Department of Justice. That isn’t a frivolous request; the state has a history of black voter suppression going back to Reconstruction and the Jim Crow era. Essentially, because it wouldn’t give a fair and level playing field to African Americans then, the federal government is watching us to make sure we do now. By June 20, however, the Justice Department had not received all the pertinent information it needed to make its ruling. Among the items missing were Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann’s specific procedures to implement voter ID across the state.
As we approach the 2012 presidential election, concerns are being raised about the likelihood of cyber attacks leading up to and during that event. There are many individuals, groups and rogue nation states that would like nothing better than to disrupt this year’s election. Remember back in 2010 there were reports of a cyber attack that allowed hackers to gain access to online voting system in the District of Columbia. Now add to that the activity of hackers during last year’s elections in Russia, as well as the cyber fire exchanged during the last Iranian elections. We shouldn’t forget the cyber attacks back in 2008 that targeted the Obama and McCain campaigns. With all this activity it is easy to see why cyber security practitioners have a heightened state of awareness and are on cyber guard. In an election that looks like it will be too tight to call, all they have to do is to create a reason for the results to be called into question.
During their news conference Friday, Iowa’s Republican secretary of state, Matt Schultz, and Democratic attorney general, Tom Miller, presented evidence suggesting there are non-citizens who have registered to vote illegally and that some of these illegal registrants have voted. Clearly, further investigation is called for, and if indeed these people have voted, they should be prosecuted. I am worried, however, about the effort to run a database matching effort to ferret out and remove non-citizens from the voting rolls. The central problem here is that we have no requirement of registering to vote under the same name as we use for other purposes.
For a driver’s license, you present a birth certificate, so your name on the driver’s license will match your birth certificate. To register to vote, you can use your employer ID card and a phone bill. As it turns out, my voter registration is in the same name as my driver’s license. That’s because I used my license to register about 32 years ago. On the other hand, my employer’s ID card lists my name differently (just a middle initial). I could have registered to vote with that card, had I wanted to. There is no legal requirement that I use the same name everywhere, and in fact, I use a variety of names and nicknames:
- Most people know me as Doug Jones.
- Some know me as Douglas Jones.
- To my employer, I’m Douglas W. Jones.
- And on my driver’s license, I’m Douglas Warren Jones.
As the Presidential election nears, attention turns to voting – and counting those votes. Thanks to the Help America Vote Act of 2002, this year’s elections will be the first time that every state will have traded in their old-fashioned lever and punch-card machines for electronic voting. But computerized voting is not without its problems. Glitches arise. Paper jams. Service personnel are not always available in times of trouble. And if that weren’t bad enough, there’s always human error to add to the mix.
One thing’s for certain, though. Everyone wants his or her vote to count. Despite some recent voting debacles, the country is moving to a more accurate way of tallying your vote.
“What you need is a system where if something goes wrong you have a way to recover,” said Pam Smith, president of Verified Voting, a non-partisan organization that studies voting systems. “You want to be able to reconstruct what should have been the outcome without a do-over.”
Sean Campbell, the chief deputy to Clerk of Courts Mitch Needelman, said he has suspicions about the results of the primary election last week that ousted his boss and want the Supervisor of Elections Office to check into it. Former Clerk Scott Ellis won that election, getting 61 percent of the vote to Needelman’s 39 percent. Campbell said he fears that the vote-counting system may have been hacked, either from within the Supervisor of Elections Office or from the outside, and the results reported were not the actual vote totals. He wants election officials to hand-count ballots from three randomly selected precincts to double-check the accuracy of the reported totals. “I’m not accusing anybody,” Campbell said. “I’m just concerned. If the results are what they are, well, OK.”
If you vote, you might very well be confused about what the rules will be when you go to cast your ballot this fall. There’s been a flood of new laws on things such as voter identification and early voting, and many of them are now being challenged in court. Some cases could drag on until Nov. 6, Election Day, and beyond. The outcomes will affect voters, and maybe even the results. Last week alone, a Pennsylvania judge rejected an effort to stop that state’s new voter ID law from going into effect. A federal panel blocked Florida’s plan to limit early voting hours. Another court is expected to rule on a Texas voter ID law any day now.
As Jamila Gatlin waited in line at a northside Milwaukee elementary school to cast her ballot June 5 in the proposed recall of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, she noticed three people in the back of the room. They were watching, taking notes. Officially called “election observers,” they were white. Gatlin, and almost everyone else in line, was black. “That’s pretty harassing right there, if you ask me,” Gatlin said in the hall outside the gym. “Why do we have to be watched while we vote?” Two of the observers were from a Houston-based group called True the Vote, an offshoot of the Houston tea party known as the King Street Patriots. Their stated goal is to prevent voter fraud, which the group and founder Catherine Engelbrecht claims is undermining free and fair elections. The national anti-vote fraud movement represented by groups such as True the Vote is one of the most hotly debated issues of the 2012 election. Proponents say it’s about preserving the integrity of the electoral process, while critics contend that the movement is more about voter intimidation and vote suppression in Democratic strongholds and minority communities.
National: GOP Attorneys General Target Voting Rights Act, Ask Supreme Court To Strike Down Key Section | Huffington Post
Several Republican state attorneys general called a key provision of the Voting Rights Act unconstitutional and asked the Supreme Court to strike it down. The officials from Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, South Carolina, South Dakota and Texas submitted a brief in a closely watched Supreme Court case arguing that the law oversteps federal authority and places an unfair burden on certain states. The case at issue involves a plan to reshape a district in Shelby County, Ala., a largely white suburb of Birmingham. The new district maps led to the sole black council member in one of the county’s towns losing his seat. But the Justice Department blocked the certification of the voting results, and the town eventually redrew its districts. The black council member later re-won his seat.
Editorials: Voting Rights Act denies equal right to discriminate, says Arizona Attorney General | Examiner.com
Next week, state attorney general Alan Wilson will attempt to contest the U.S. Dept. of Justice’s rejection of South Carolina’s “voter ID” law. The case is taking a new twist, however, thanks to the AG of another state. Today, Arizona’s Thomas Horne filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court, claiming that one particular part of the Voting Rights Act unfairly affects the nine states that are subject to its laws. Section Five of the Act notes that any change to voting laws in subject states must be approved by the federal government. Some other states not subject to VRA, though, have already changed their own laws pertaining to voting and didn’t require federal approval for those changes, Horne notes. Different formats of voter identification requirements are used in some of those other states, Horne notes, and the federal government didn’t interfere in those cases. Minority voters are still subject to discrimination in those states, too, he says. Because South Carolina and nine other states are the only ones subject to the Voting Rights Act, Horne concludes, it has unfairly lost its own right to discriminate. Section Five of the VRA “undermines the principal of equal sovereignty,” he says.
Florida is asking a federal court to approve eight 12-hour days of early voting in five counties, saying it would not harm African-American voters. Gov. Rick Scott’s administration filed papers with U.S. District Court in Washington, saying that 96 hours of early voting, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. for eight days, including a Sunday, would comply with the Voting Rights Act. Hillsborough, Collier, Hardee and Hendry counties agreed in writing to hold eight 12-hour days of early voting in an effort to win statewide approval of the new schedule from a panel of three federal judges. Those four counties and Monroe, in the Florida Keys, cannot implement changes to voting without federal approval so that minority voters are protected from discrimination. The state acted despite Monroe County’s refusal to join the other four counties in the state’s request. Monroe wants 12 days of early voting for eight hours each day, saying that is better for Keys voters.