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The Voting News Weekly: The Voting News Weekly September 24-30 2012

Tensions Flare Ahead of Georgian Elections

Researchers at Princeton have released a report surveying the potential for election equipment failure in swing States. Voter registration fraud has been linked to Strategic Allied Consulting, which the RNC and state parties have hired in at least five States. With the wave of new Voter ID laws, there is concern that provisional ballots could create legal battles in close elections. The New York Times reported on the potential for voter harrasment in polling places this November and The Los Angeles Times considered the role that voter suppression has played in American history. A software error cancelled the registrations of hundreds of voters in Colorado. During hearings on Pennsylvania’s voter ID, the judge indicated that much of the controversial law will stand. The AVS WINVote voting machine, used only in Virginia, presents unique security issues because of it’s use of wi-fi. A decision to use electronic voting machines in Belgium has re-kindled controversy and tensions have flared on the eve of Gerogia’s parliamentary elections.

Voting Blogs: Which States have the Highest Risk of an E-Voting Meltdown? | Freedom to Tinker

Computer scientists, including us, have long been skeptical of electronic voting systems. E-voting systems are computers, with all of the attendant problems. If something goes wrong, can the problem be detected? Can it be fixed? Some e-voting systems are much riskier than others. As the 2012 Presidential election approaches, we decided to evaluate the risk of a “meltdown scenario” in which problems with electronic voting equipment cause a state to cast the deciding electoral college vote that would flip the election winner from one candidate to the other. We’re interested in the risk of these technological problems, weighted by the relative voting power of each voter. So for example, here in New Jersey we use direct-recording electronic voting machines that have been found by a court to be inadequate, but with Obama polling at +14% it’s not likely that a snafu with these machines could change the entire state’s outcome. But in swing states that poll closer to even, like Virginia (where your voting machines can be modified to play Pac-Man), an electronic voting mix-up could have a much bigger impact. So, which states have the greatest risk of an e-voting meltdown affecting the result of the 2012 Presidential election?  Read More

National: Students try to navigate voting laws, registration hassles | Houston Chronicle

For young voters busy registering for classes, registering to vote isn’t always their No. 1 priority. Tack on changing registration laws and voting can turn into a struggle. “When students come back to school, they’re either more worried about schools or worried about, let’s be honest, parties,” said David Schultz, an election law expert at Hamline University. “The first thing on their mind is not registering to vote, especially for students who just turned 18. They don’t know much about the process.” California’s new same-day registration law is a blessing for students with planners already crammed with exam dates, Rock the Vote President Heather Smith said. But across the country there are technical issues students face that could complicate the process for them. Students new to voting often don’t know registration deadlines (in Texas, Oct. 9 and Oct. 12 in New York) or even that they need to register to vote, Smith said. “It’s frustrating when a young person navigating the process for the first time is calling our office on Election Day (saying), ‘I’m here and ready to vote and I didn’t realize I needed to register,’” Smith said. Proposed ID requirements to register, like Texas and Pennsylvania laws currently in the courts that don’t accept all student IDs, have been criticized as adding another hurdle for young voters. For example, students in the dorms or on campuses with good public transportation often don’t need a driver’s license, Smith said. Read More

National: 2012 US campaigns have cost more than $4bn, election commission says | guardian.co.uk

More than $4bn was spent on the presidential and congressional candidates and campaigns in the first 18 months of the election cycle, according to the Federal Election Commission. Presidential candidates have received $601.9m of that money, the data released on Wednesday, shows, while $1.21bn has been donated to congressional candidates donated to presidential candidates personally. The Federal Election Commission compiled campaign finance reports filed between 1 January 2011 and 30 June 2012 to produce the report. The time period covers the Republican primaries and the buildup to the presidential race. In total $4.06bn was received by presidential candidates, congressional candidates, party committees and PACs over the 18-month-period. There are no direct figures directly comparing the same period available from 2008 or earlier, but Bill Allison, from the non-profit Sunlight Foundation, said ultimately more money will be spent on the 2012 campaign. “This is 18 months and we’re at $4bn, 2008 the entire election cycle ended up being at $5.2bn, so there’s still a quarter of the money to go,” Allison said. “We’ll definitely top that number. The current projection is about $5.8bn that we’ll see for 2012.” Read More

National: GOP’s ACORN moment | Salon.com

There are still plenty of conservatives who think ACORN stole the 2008 election for Obama and will do it again this year. ACORN was everywhere four years ago. Even John McCain, late in his campaign and desperate to land a blow on Obama, ran an ad tying his challenger to the community-organizing group before saying in the final debate that ACORN “is now on the verge of maybe perpetrating one of the greatest frauds in voter history in this country, maybe destroying the fabric of democracy.” How did ACORN steal the election? A number of the group’s paid canvassers had been caught submitting false voter registration forms in a handful of states, using the names of dead people or false addresses, in order to avoid working. Four years later, ACORN is dead, and a Republican firm contracted by the Republican National Committee has adopted its shady tactics. But, so far at least, there’s been hardly a peep from the same conservatives who seized on ACORN about one of their own engaging in almost identical fraudulent tactics. Prosecutors in Florida are looking into alleged voter registration fraud conducted by employees of Strategic Allied Consulting, which the RNC and state parties hired in at least five states. The RNC has now cut ties with the firm after news broke that its employees had registered dead people and listed the addresses of a Land Rover dealership and other non-residences on registration forms. Paul Lux, the Republican supervisor of elections in Okaloosa County, Fla., who first brought the suspect registration forms to the attention of prosecutors, said as many as one in three were questionable. “It’s kind of ironic that the dead people they accused ACORN of registering are now being done by the RPOF [Republican Party of Florida],” Lux said. Read More

National: Military voting threatens caucuses | Politico.com

In an unexpected political twist, a move to include overseas military personnel and wounded warriors in the presidential nominating process could threaten the caucuses in Iowa and other states. At both the Republican and Democratic national conventions over the summer, delegates proposed rules changes to enhance the ability of overseas service members and injured troops to participate in the caucuses. A Republican rules change asserting that states “shall use every means practical to guarantee” the participation of overseas and injured service members in the presidential nominating process was designed to enhance military voting. But in the case of Iowa and other caucus states, where voters must be present to participate, it also has the side effect of forcing changes in traditional procedures — and raising questions about the future viability of the caucuses themselves. Read More

National: Provisional ballots could be hanging chads of 2012 | KNOE

New voting laws in key states could force a lot more voters to cast provisional ballots this election, delaying results in close races for days while election officials scrutinize ballots and campaigns wage legal battles over which ones should get counted. New laws in competitive states like Virginia, Florida, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin could leave the outcome of the presidential election in doubt – if the vote is close – while new laws in Kansas, Mississippi, South Carolina and Tennessee could delay results in state or local elections. Some new laws requiring voters to show identification at the polls are still being challenged in court, adding to the uncertainty as the Nov. 6 election nears. “It’s a possibility of a complete meltdown for the election,” said Daniel Smith, a political scientist at the University of Florida. Voters cast provisional ballots for a variety of reasons: They don’t bring proper ID to the polls; they fail to update their voter registration after moving; they try to vote at the wrong precinct; or their right to vote is challenged by someone. Read More

National: Voter Harassment, Circa 2012 | NYTimes.com

This is how voter intimidation worked in 1966: White teenagers in Americus, Ga., harassed black citizens in line to vote, and the police refused to intervene. Black plantation workers in Mississippi had to vote in plantation stores, overseen by their bosses. Black voters in Choctaw County, Ala., had to hand their ballots directly to white election officials for inspection. This is how it works today: In an ostensible hunt for voter fraud, a Tea Party group, True the Vote, descends on a largely minority precinct and combs the registration records for the slightest misspelling or address error. It uses this information to challenge voters at the polls, and though almost every challenge is baseless, the arguments and delays frustrate those in line and reduce turnout. The thing that’s different from the days of overt discrimination is the phony pretext of combating voter fraud. Voter identity fraud is all but nonexistent, but the assertion that it might exist is used as an excuse to reduce the political rights of minorities, the poor, students, older Americans and other groups that tend to vote Democratic. Read More

Editorials: Should partisans be in charge of our elections? | CBS News

Imagine that the umpire in a baseball game was affiliated with one of the teams on the field. Would you trust him to call the game fairly? You most likely would not. Yet when it comes to elections, Americans trust officials from the two political parties to oversee the process in a fair way. There are 36 states in which elections are overseen by an elected, partisan secretary of state or lieutenant governor, according to the National Association of Secretaries of State. In another three states – Florida, Pennsylvania and Texas – partisan secretaries of state appointed by the governor oversee elections. These officials vow to carry out their duties in an impartial manner. The Constitution of the National Association of Secretaries of State says that members commit to “practicing fair and unbiased election administration that recognizes each eligible citizen’s right to cast his or her vote, and for that vote to be counted with the highest regard to constitutional foundations.” Read More

Editorials: Protecting the right to vote – history demonstrates that any effort to deny citizens the ability to vote can’t be ignored | latimes.com

Since their historic victories in the 2010 midterm elections,Republicans across the country have passed an array of voting laws — to require photo identification, to make it more difficult to register, to reduce periods of early voting or to purge voter rolls — and they are considering others. The Justice Department, the National Assn. for the Advancement of Colored People, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, theAmerican Civil Liberties Union and other groups have challenged many of these laws in court. A federal court recently rejected Texas’ voter ID law, and similar cases from Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Wisconsin await final judicial action. Sound-bite analogies between these new laws and the fully mature Jim Crow system have been properly condemned as simplistic and misleading. But more careful study of the experience of a century ago may offer a cautionary lesson about today’s changes in election laws. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Southern Democrats used statutory and state constitutional restrictions — as well as violence, intimidation and ballot-box stuffing — to discourage and, ultimately, to disfranchise many poor whites and the vast majority of African Americans. Several popular misunderstandings about that “first disfranchisement” cloud the public’s view of recent legislation. Read More