The Voting News Daily: Ending the Voting Wars, Every vote counts? For military members, only if they plan ahead

Blogs: Ending the Voting Wars | Rick Hasen/TPM Over the last few days I’ve been describing some of the major problems with our elections which I cover in The Voting Wars. Too many U.S. jurisdictions allow our elections to be run by political partisans. Local officials have too much control, and often lack adequate training and resources. Political rhetoric has…

Voting Blogs: Ending the Voting Wars | Rick Hasen/TPM

Over the last few days I’ve been describing some of the major problems with our elections which I cover in The Voting Wars. Too many U.S. jurisdictions allow our elections to be run by political partisans. Local officials have too much control, and often lack adequate training and resources. Political rhetoric has been ratcheted up and mistrust has been building thanks to spurious and exaggerated claims of voter fraud (and in some cases voter suppression) by political provocateurs. Social media inflames partisan passions and could push the next election meltdown into the streets. What can be done to end the voting wars? We might begin by asking about the goals of a fair and effective election system. Most people of good faith considering this problem likely would agree with this statement: an election system should be designed so that all eligible voters, but only eligible voters, may freely cast a vote which will be accurately counted. If we were able to design our system of running elections from scratch, the best way to achieve this goal would be to use a system of national, nonpartisan election administration. The people who run our elections should have their primary allegiance and owe their professional success to the fairness and integrity of the political process and not to a political party. This is how it is done in Australia, Canada, the U.K., and most other serious democracies.

National: Every vote counts? For military members, only if they plan ahead | NBC

Members of the armed forces face a unique set of logistical challenges when serving in other states or countries: many lack the ability to simply go to the DMV to renew their driver’s licenses, filing taxes can be complex and voting in elections can be even more confusing. “It is critically important to ensure that every voter entitled to an absentee ballot is given every chance to receive one,” said John Conklin, a spokesman for the New York State Board of Elections.

National: Gloves come off as general election approaches – State and local election officials butt heads over variety of issues | electionlineWeekly

With only 75 days until the November 6, 2012 General Election, more and more news stories are focusing on the increasingly contentious nature of the administration of that election — especially between state and local officials. From voter purges to early voting to a general lack of confidence, state election officials seem to be clashing with local elections administrators on a more frequent basis as summer turns to fall. Interestingly enough — or not — most of these state/local clashes have occurred in swing states. One of the more high profile instances has been in Florida, where Gov. Rick Scott recently threated to remove from office Monroe County Supervisor of Elections Harry Sawyer for Sawyer’s failure to agree with the state’s early voting law. Scott and several elections supervisor butted heads over the state’s plans to review information from the U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security and purge voter rolls of potential non-citizens, but it never reached the height that it has over early voting.

California: Major Victory For Voting Rights Advocates As California Legislature Approves Election Day Registration | ThinkProgress

As voter suppression laws spread across the country, voting rights advocates can take heart: the biggest state in the nation is on the cusp of passing a major voter protection initiative. Election Day Registration (EDR), which allows citizens to register up to and on Election Day, passed the California State Senate today by a party-line vote of 23-13. AB 1436 had passed the State Assembly in May 47-26. Under current law, Californians cannot register to vote in the final two weeks before an election, just as many Americans are beginning to tune in. EDR will eliminate that deadline, ensuring that no citizen is disenfranchised because he or she wasn’t registered beforehand.

Editorials: Florida election laws threaten the vote in a key swing state | The Washington Post

In 2011, Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) signed into law a measure that imposed more than 75 restrictions on Florida voters, ostensibly to combat voter fraud. These included requirements that make it more difficult for third-party organizations to register voters, limits on early voting and a plan to purge voter rolls of non-citizens. As with many of the voter limitations imposed by Republican state governments since they won election in 2010, these measures are likely to favor Republican candidates — and Florida is the ultimate swing state. Thankfully, a federal judge in Florida has issued a preliminary injunction against the law, which would interfere with the ability of organizations like the League of Women Voters to register voters in time for the election.

Hawaii: Elections Officials Grapple With Uncooperative Hawaii County Clerk | Honolulu Civil Beat

“If you don’t know the game of basketball and you’re going to run a tournament, good luck.” Those were the words of Hawaii County Council Member Dennis Onishi, who spoke before the state Elections Commission at a routine meeting Wednesday. He was alluding to primary election day fiascos on the Big Island that culminated in the delayed opening of 13 polling places. State elections officials blamed the mishaps on Hawaii County clerk Jamae Kawauchi. She’s been on the job since 2010, but this is her first election. Everyone at the meeting — commissioners, election officials, other county clerks — agreed that Kawauchi’s inexperience in running elections fueled the problems. Yet Kawauchi was the only county clerk not in attendance Wednesday. Those who testified before the commission, including Onishi, suggested that state elections officials ought to send an expert to Kawauchi’s office who can facilitate election-day preparation and implementation. Onishi estimated that only one employee currently working in Hawaii County’s Elections Office has run an election before. But commissioners and state elections chief Scott Nago emphasized that they can’t force that on Kawauchi. She herself must be the one who seeks assistance, said Nago.

Iowa: Republicans Plot Assault On Iowa Caucuses On Military Voter Issue | BuzzFeed

The Republican party is on the brink of dealing a major blow to Iowa’s traditional caucus system, with the process’ critics pointing to recent battles over military voting rights to make the case for ending traditional nominating contest. Chris Brown, Chairman of the Young Republican Federation of Alabama and a member of the Republican Convention’s Rules Committee, is expected introduce a measure tomorrow requiring states to use “every means practicable” to ensure that military voters can cast ballots in any process used in the Republican presidential nominating process, according to a person involved in the effort. The measure will be seconded by influential Ohio GOP chair Bob Bennett, who has been a member of the RNC for more than two decades, the source said. Caucuses — by definition in-person voting systems — would not satisfy the proposed rule, requiring dramatic changes to the process in Iowa and other caucus states, if not their outright abandonment. “The Rule will simply guarantee the right of military voters and wounded warriors to vote in the process of selecting the delegates who will choose our party’s presidential nominee,” wrote former RNC Chairman and former VA Secretary Jim Nicholson in an email to members of the Rules Committee, which was obtained by BuzzFeed, asking that they end “the inexcusable practice of disenfranchising military voters in our party’s presidential delegate selection process.”

Maryland: Online ballot marking for absentee voters approved, but potential for fraud questioned |

Thousands of absentee voters from Maryland will be the first to mark their ballots online this fall, as the attorney general gave the green light to the State Board of Elections Thursday. But at least one advocacy organization said the new online ballot marking program, along with the state’s just started online registration process, is open to voter fraud. The long-awaited formal opinion from the attorney general  gave the elections board the official OK to implement online ballot marking software without having to undergo state or federal certification, which a watchdog group opposed. The five-member board voted unanimously during their monthly meeting to proceed with the new online tool. The ballot marking “wizard” will allow military and overseas voters, also referred to as Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA) voters, to mark their absentee ballots online, a step designed to make the final processing of their ballots more efficient, the state board said. After the approval, a voting rights advocate told the board about a possible security vulnerability, one she said that would not only affect the state’s new online voter registration system but could potentially extend to the November elections.

Massachusetts: Voter Fraud in East Longmeadow | I-Team/WWLP

A voter fraud scandal continues to play out in East Longmeadow.  Enrico “Jack” Villamaino, who is running for State Representative, resigned his position as an East Longmeadow selectman Wednesday night.  Villamaino sent an email to the Town Clerk. The 22News I-Team tracked down Villamaino in Connecticut. Villamaino hasn’t said anything publicly since this investigation into voter fraud began. So the 22News I-Team went searching for answers. Trying to get some answers, the 22News I-Team went to an address we had listed for him in East Longmeadow.  No one answered the door, but a note pointed us to Enfield, Connecticut. That’s where we found him. Not coming to the door, but speaking through an open window, Villamaino didn’t want to talk about why he resigned and gave a “no comment” when asked if he was staying in the State Representative race.

Michigan: Oakland County officials: State should pay for McCotter special election | Michigan Radio

Some officials from Oakland County are trying to turn up the heat on Lansing to pay for a special election. That election was called to replace Congressman Thaddeus McCotter, who resigned last month. Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley called for the September 5th special election to fill out just the few remaining weeks of McCotter’s term. State officials maintain it’s required by law. But that leaves local governments in suburban Detroit’s 11th district to pick up the tab. Oakland County clerk Bill Bullard, a Republican, is just one of many local officials to call this unfair. He requested last month that Lansing reimburse local governments.

Ohio: Early Voting Battle Flares After Racial Comment by G.O.P. Official |

A battle over early voting hours in Ohio is flaring again after a top adviser to Gov. John Kasich, a Republican, this week made remarks that Democrats cast as racist, and the Republican secretary of state suspended two local election officials who voted to extend balloting hours in one county. Anger over rules on early voting in this presidential battleground state appeared as if it might ease last week when, under pressure from voters’ rights groups, the secretary of state announced that all Ohio counties would follow a uniform policy over the five-week early voting period that begins Oct 2. But tensions have done anything but cool. The new policy excluded weekends, and Democrats have accused the secretary of state, Jon Husted, of trying to scale back voting opportunities in urban areas that had longer voting hours during the last presidential election, when Barack Obama won the state.

Rhode Island: Secretary of State says voter fraud claims are ‘concerning’ |

Rhode Island Secretary of State Ralph Mollis said the voter fraud allegations made by congressional candidate Anthony Gemma were “concerning” and questioned whether the candidate should have held a news conference to present his findings. “You have someone going on for a half hour with allegations and not much to back it up,” said Ralph Mollis. “You want people to participate and to have confidence in the process.” On Wednesday Anthony Gemma leveled stunning allegations of voter fraud against his Democratic rival, incumbent Congressman David Cicilline. Those allegations included coaxing people to vote, getting individuals to cast multiple ballots at multiple polling places, teaching underage individuals how to vote fraudulently, abusing the absentee ballot system, using dead voters’ names to cast ballots, tampering with electronic voting machines and registering to vote at businesses and vacant lots. Gemma claimed the fraud took place in Providence between 2002 and 2010.

Tennessee: Study suggests voter ID laws aren’t addressing the real problem — unless the problem is a Democratic turnout | Nashville Scene

“Well, I think we told you so.” That’s how state House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh responded to yet more evidence that voter ID laws like Tennessee’s, and others around the country, solve a problem that doesn’t exist. At a recent press conference, Fitzhugh and House Democratic Caucus chairman Mike Turner discussed concerns arising from this month’s primary elections — including that some voters received incorrect ballots, while others with proper identification weren’t allowed to vote. Just two days earlier, the Carnegie-Knight Initiative’s investigative reporting project News21 released a comprehensive study of American election fraud since 2000. The study found that in-person voter fraud — the type that voter ID laws were ostensibly created to stop — is “virtually nonexistent.” Out of 14 cases of reported fraud in Tennessee since 2000, the study said, none involved in-person voter impersonation, and thus would not have been stopped by the photo ID requirement. Those findings fuel suspicion that the motivation for such laws has less to do with rampant fraud and more to do with the laws’ probable effect: lower turnout in demographics that are more likely to vote Democratic but less likely to have a valid photo ID. Moreover, the nationwide push for voter ID laws — 62 laws, proposed in 37 states in the past two legislative sessions, according to the News21 report — was fueled in large part by conservative legislation-factory the American Legislative Exchange Council.

Washington: A.C.L.U. announces Voting Rights lawsuit against City of Yakima |

The American Civil Liberties Union announces voting rights suit in Yakima on Wednesday August 22. As previously mentioned in this column, more than 40% of Yakima’s Hispanic population have no Hispanic city council representative. Thirty years of immigration have changed the ethnic mix of Yakima but political representation in city council does not reflect that change. There are several contributing factors but an odd “at large” election system is seen as a significant barrier to realization of equal representation. Only three of seven council seats are chosen from districts the candidates reside in. Four seats are voted in “at large” which means majority populations can decide who represents minority districts. The result of this at large system is that some districts have no council person living in that district. Three council districts have all seven council person in residence. That isn’t equal representation it’s majority oppression.

Wisconsin: Voter ID issue may not end with State Supreme Court | WXOW

Wisconsin’s Attorney General wants the State Supreme Court to decide the issue of Voter ID once and for all. But they likely won’t have the final say, because of a separate case being heard in federal court. On October 10th in Milwaukee, U.S. Judge Lynn Adelman will hear the American Civil Liberties Union’s motion for a preliminary injunction to stop Wisconsin’s Voter ID law. If Judge Adelman grants that injunction, it would make any action by the Supreme Court, moot. Attorney General J.B. Van hollen announced Tuesday that he is asking the Supreme Court to take two separate Voter ID cases out of the state appeals courts, consolidate them, and then reinstate the law for the November general election.

Russia: Outrageous candidates bring excitement to Russian regional elections | Russia Beyond The Headlines

Elections will be held in Russia this year on Oct. 14 and the races promise to be interesting – not necessarily for political reasons, but because of the personalities who have registered to run for regional office. For example, United Russia’s electoral list for state council in the Republic of Udmurtia includes Envil Kasimov, who is currently a local legislator representing the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia, and is notorious for his controversial ideas. For instance, in February 2011, he wrote quite earnestly on his Facebook page that he wanted to become a woman – for the reason that women can retire at 55. Those who know him say Kasimov can come up with a new idea of this sort a couple of times a week, but joining United Russia will likely put a damper on his fertile imagination. While shocking statements are the norm for a member of the Liberal Democratic Party, they are inexcusable coming from a member of the ruling party. “If I become a member of the United Russia faction, I will naturally be bound by party discipline,” Kasimov said, and he has promise to run a campaign based around the preservation of national culture.

Venezuela: Chavez has apparent money edge | KWES

Opposition candidate Henrique Capriles typically runs his presidential campaign by jogging through Venezuela’s small towns, reaching out to supporters with both hands and climbing aboard the back of a flatbed truck to speak to hundreds of people. By contrast, President Hugo Chavez brings large sound trucks, a production team and a fleet of buses that carry supporters and government employees to plazas to cheer him on by the thousands. A little more than a month ahead of Venezuela’s Oct. 7 election, Chavez enjoys clear advantages over his challenger in campaign funding and media access. While neither campaign has revealed how much it’s spending, Capriles says he is in a “David vs. Goliath” contest, facing a well-financed incumbent backed by an even richer government. “We’re fighting against two checkbooks. There’s no way to compete economically speaking,” said Rafael Guzman, who is in charge of finances for the opposition coalition. He accused the government of using money from the state oil company, Petroleos de Venezuela SA, and a separate development fund, Fonden, to support Chavez’s campaign and bankroll projects aimed at boosting his support.