The Voting News Daily: Backlash Swells Against Voter Laws, Think Voter ID is Bad? Meet the Poll-Watchers

National: Backlash Swells Against Voter Laws | The Daily Beast Another symbol of just how quickly the political calculus can change ahead of Election Day: crucial swing states Ohio and Florida, along with Texas, South Carolina, and Wisconsin, have won significant—albeit possibly temporary—victories against restrictive voting laws over a span of mere weeks. Voting laws,…

National: Backlash Swells Against Voter Laws | The Daily Beast

Another symbol of just how quickly the political calculus can change ahead of Election Day: crucial swing states Ohio and Florida, along with Texas, South Carolina, and Wisconsin, have won significant—albeit possibly temporary—victories against restrictive voting laws over a span of mere weeks. Voting laws, including the requirement that people carry photo IDs to the ballot box, have became a major source of controversy as the presidential race remains close less than two months ahead of the election.  “The tide has clearly turned,” says Diana Kasdan, counsel for the Democracy Program of Brennan Center, a public policy institute affiliated with New York University. “The results are coming in, court after court is rejecting these restrictive laws.” The next crucial decision will come out of Pennsylvania. The state’s law requiring all voters to show identification is currently being debated by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court; a decision is forthcoming.

National: Study of US campaign ads finds growing role of outside groups | Reuters

Unlimited spending driven by Republican groups is responsible for an outsized share of advertising in the 2012 campaign season that feeds the markedly negative stream of ads, according to an academic analysis released on Wednesday. Super PACs, or political action committees, and tax-exempt advocacy groups accounted for nearly a third of all the ads aired in the U.S. presidential race, according to a study by the Wesleyan Media Project that analyzed broadcast and national cable spots run between April 26 and Sept. 8. “The key dynamic of this campaign is the increased presence of these outside groups in all key races across the federal landscape,” said Michael Franz, co-director of the project and associate professor of government at Bowdoin College in Maine. Republican outside groups are largely responsible for this year’s trend. Of 302,580 ads backing Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, outside groups funded 54 percent, spending $117.5 million. Meanwhile, the official Romney campaign spent $37.8 million for 30 percent of the pro-Romney ads. “We’ve never seen that big of a share of outside group spending in presidential races before,” Franz said.

National: Underfunding of voter registration: a guarantee that 25 percent or more of Americans won’t participate | Remapping Debate

Non-partisan voter registration organizations, while proud of their efforts, are conscious of their limited ability to reach the still-large unregistered population. They say that a critical problem they face in doing their work is a lack of available money. According to Michael Slater, executive director of Project Vote, a national organization that submitted 1.3 million registration applications, “I don’t see any sorts of funding that would allow a coalition of organizations working together to get…registration to the level that we need. I mean could we really boost registration in Ohio working together? Absolutely. But [all] across the country? No. No one’s in that position.”  Caitlin Baggott, the executive director of the Bus Project Foundation, a smaller non-partisan group that seeks to engage young people in politics, and whose work includes registering young voters in Oregon, described “non-profit organizations and community groups [as] scrap[ing] together meager funds to register what truly ends up being a drop in the bucket [among younger] voters each election cycle, while literally millions of Americans are eligible to vote but don’t know how, where, or when to register or vote in an election.” That system, she said, “is fundamentally broken and unsustainable for the health of our democracy.”

National: 3 Electoral College members may pass on Romney | The Associated Press

At least three Republican electors say they may not support their party’s presidential ticket when the Electoral College meets in December to formally elect the next president, escalating tensions within the GOP and adding a fresh layer of intrigue to the final weeks of the White House race. The electors — all supporters of former GOP presidential candidate Ron Paul — told The Associated Press they are exploring options should Mitt Romney win their states. They expressed frustration at how Republican leaders have worked to suppress Paul’s conservative movement and his legion of loyal supporters. “They’ve never given Ron Paul a fair shot, and I’m disgusted with that. I’d like to show them how disgusted I am,” said Melinda Wadsley, an Iowa mother of three who was selected as a Republican elector earlier this year. She said Paul is the better choice and noted that the Electoral College was founded with the idea that electors wouldn’t just mimic the popular vote. The defection of multiple electors would be unprecedented in the last 116 years of U.S. politics. It also would raise the remote possibility that the country could even end up with a president and vice president from different parties.

Connecticut: State Supreme Court hears ballot-line issue | The Bulletin

Connecticut’s Republican Party asked the state’s highest court on Wednesday to give GOP candidates the top line on the state’s November ballot, a challenge that could affect voting in the closely watched contest for an open U.S. Senate seat. The outcome of the governor’s race determines which party holds the first line. But state Republicans argued the secretary of the state was wrong to list Democrats first because their candidate, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, relied on votes from a third party to put him over the top in the 2010 election. Since lever voting machines have been replaced with optical scan machines, both sides in dispute say it matters less which party is on the top line of ballots. But academics say recent studies have demonstrated ballot order can make a small yet significant difference.

Iowa: Judge will weigh in on new Iowa voter rules |

A Polk County judge says she will decide whether new voter rules created by Iowa’s Republican secretary of state will be enacted before the November election. Judge Mary Pat Gunderson said in a ruling filed Wednesday that two civil rights organizations, the American Civil Liberties Union and League of United Latin American Citizens, do have a legal standing to challenge the rules. Both groups filed a lawsuit to block Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz from enacting the rules, which would allow Schultz to begin a process to purge certain voters from Iowa’s voter registration list and make it easier to report fraud. Lawyers from the Iowa Attorney General’s Office representing Schultz contended that the groups have no legal standing to challenge the rules and asked Gunderson to dismiss the case.

Kansas: Kansas State Board Considers Removing Obama From Ballot | TPM

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, an informal advisor to Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, said on Thursday he and his fellow members of a state board were considering removing President Barack Obama from the Kansas ballot this November. Kobach is part of the State Objections Board along with Attorney General Derek Schmidt and Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer, all Republicans. The Topeka Capital-Journal reported that on Thursday the board agreed consider whether to take Obama off the ballot because they said they lacked sufficient evidence about his birth certificate. “I don’t think it’s a frivolous objection,” Kobach said, according to the Capital-Journal. “I do think the factual record could be supplemented.” The board is looking at a complaint filed by Joe Montgomery, of Manhattan, Kan., who claimed the Obama is not a natural born U.S. citizen and so is ineligible to be president. The man appears to be part of a group of conspiracy theorists known as “birthers,” who deny Obama’s birth certificate is real.

New Hampshire: New Hampshire sued over voter ID law |

The League of Women Voters is suing New Hampshire to halt a new voter registration requirement it sees as discriminatory toward college students from out of state. Meanwhile, the primary’s test run for a new photo identification requirement prompted complaints from voters in Salem, Londonderry, Pelham and other communities throughout the state, according to the League and America Votes, a voter rights advocacy group. The League of Women Voters filed a petition yesterday in Strafford County Superior Court, challenging the registration law. It asked the court to either block enforcement or rule that voters who plan to leave the state at a specific time in the future do not have to register vehicles or obtain a driver’s license.

Ohio: Judge denies Ohio elections chief’s request in early voting dispute | The Marietta Times

A federal judge on Wednesday denied a request by Ohio’s elections chief to hold off in enforcing his court’s order on disputed early voting days in the presidential battleground state. Secretary of State Jon Husted had asked the judge last week to stay his ruling that restores early voting on the final weekend and Monday before the November election while the state appeals the decision. Husted said he didn’t want to confuse voters by setting in-person, early voting hours that a court could later change. U.S. District Judge Peter Economus in Columbus said Wednesday that Husted failed to demonstrate his likelihood of succeeding on appeal and didn’t provide “sufficiently compelling reasons” for the stay.

Pennsylvania: Battery life of ES&S iVotronic voting machines in doubt before election | Citizens Voice

Luzerne County officials discussed concerns Wednesday that batteries for electronic voting machines bought in 2006 could be dying. Tom Pizano, acting director of elections, said he wants the county to start heating the warehouse that stores the 850 touch-screen machines so the temperature doesn’t dip below 55 degrees. Storing the machines in cold temperatures shortens the lives of the batteries, Pizano said at Wednesday’s board of elections meeting. But the county typically doesn’t heat the voting-machine warehouse until after the general election in November, Pizano said. He said he didn’t like a suggestion to use gas-fueled portable heaters in the warehouse because of fumes and because areas nears heaters would get too hot. New batteries for the voting machines would cost more than $60,000, voting machine technician David Bartuski said.

Editorials: Pennsylvania’s Bad Election Law |

On Thursday, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments about the state’s strict new photo ID law, which is allegedly intended to prevent voter fraud. A voter must present a government-issued or other approved photo ID at a polling place to vote or can file a provisional ballot, which must be validated later by a submission of a photo ID or proof that the voter is indigent. The state has offered no evidence of voter identity fraud to justify this law. There is no legitimate government interest that justifies the burden the law imposes on voters. If the court does not block the law, it will cause irreparable harm. In Philadelphia, for instance, almost one-fifth of the registered voters may not have an acceptable form of identification to vote on Election Day. Statewide, almost one-tenth may not. When he signed the law in March, Gov. Tom Corbett claimed that it “sets a simple and clear standard to protect the integrity of our elections.” But, at a meeting of the Republican State Committee in June, the House majority leader, Mike Turzai, boasted that it would “allow Governor Romney to win the State of Pennsylvania.”

Pennsylvania: At voter-ID hearing, justices have tough questions and a surprise | Philadelphia Inquirer

The state Supreme Court’s long-awaited hearing on Pennsylvania’s voter-ID law was going pretty much as expected when Justice Thomas G. Saylor, a white-haired veteran jurist from Somerset County, brought a new issue into the long-running controversy. He’d been reading the law himself, Saylor told chief deputy attorney general John G. Knorr 3d, and he questioned whether the commonwealth was actually following the precise requirements of the voter-ID law passed last March – specifically, a provision that requires the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation to provide a nondriver photo ID card to any registered voter who swears that he needs it for voting purposes. To the surprise of many in the standing-room-only courtroom in City Hall, Knorr agreed with the justice.

Editorials: ‘Nightmare’ Pennsylvania Voter ID Law Revisited in Court | Ari Berman/The Nation

A wave of new voting restrictions have been struck down by the courts in recent weeks. A major exception is Pennsylvania, where Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson, a Republican, declined to issue a preliminary injunction against the state’s controversial voter ID law on August 15. Today in Philadelphia, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court convened in a packed, standing-room-only courtroom to revisit the law. A decision is expected in the next few weeks to determine whether Pennsylvania will be the largest swing state with a new, restrictive voter ID law on the books for the 2012 election. David Gersch, the lead lawyer for the plaintiffs (which include voting rights groups such as the ACLU and the Advancement Project), argued that Judge Simpson erred in failing to conclude that Pennsylvania’s voter ID law “impermissibly violates the right to vote.” Gersch noted the significance of holding the hearing in Philadelphia, “the birthplace of American democracy,” in a state whose constitution explicitly protects the right to vote. Gersch asked, once again, for an injunction against the law based on three major points: (a) “the right to vote is a fundamental right” harmed by the law; (b) the voter ID law was not a mere election regulation but something far more significant and burdensome; and (c) the law was not narrowly tailored toward its legislative goal of stopping voter fraud.

Pennsylvania: High court takes hard look at voter ID law | Philadelphia Inquirer

Pennsylvania’s state Supreme Court justices on Thursday aggressively questioned whether a politically charged law requiring photo identification from each voter should take effect for the Nov. 6 presidential election and whether it guarantees the right to vote. With the election just 54 days away, the justices did not say when they will decide, although lawyers in the case expected them to rule before the end of September. The high court appeal follows a lower court’s refusal last month to halt the law from taking effect. The law , championed by Republicans over the objections of Democrats , is now part of the heated election-year political rhetoric in the presidential swing state and has inspired protests, warnings of Election Day chaos and voter education drives.

Pennsylvania: Voter ID Law Now In Hands Of State’s Partisan High Court | Huffington Post

The legal team fighting Pennsylvania’s restrictive new voter identification law asked the state’s Supreme Court on Thursday to at least postpone until after November the measure that could disenfranchise tens of thousands of voters, many of them minorities. “There’s too little time, there’s too many people affected and there’s no place in the statute that guarantees that qualified electors can get the ID they need to vote,” said David P. Gersch, representing the American Civil Liberties Union and other public interest groups. The three Democratic justices noted the nonexistence of the voter fraud the law is ostensibly designed to prevent, and repeatedly asked lawyers representing the state’s Republican-led legislature and Republican governor, “What’s the rush?” But even if the nation’s top courts were once a place where partisan differences were overcome, these days they are more likely to be one more place for partisan battles. On Thursday, the three Republican Supreme Court justices gave little indication that they would overrule a district court decision last month that let the law stand. In case of a tie, the lower court ruling would remain in effect.

Wisconsin: Residents no longer need to show papers – State accepts electronic documents for same-day registration | electionlineWeekly

While many elections officials across the country are concerned about the U.S. Postal Service’s ability to stay afloat because of the impact it may have on vote-by-mail and absentee voting, elections officials in Wisconsin are faced with another dilemma from the slow death of the mail. No one mails anything anymore — including identifying documents like utility bills. Faced with a growing number of people who receive and pay their bills exclusively online, recently, the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board ruled that residents wishing to register to vote at the polls on election day may provide a poll worker with an electronic proof-of-residency via their smartphone. “I can’t see the difference between being shown a screen with an identifying document or being shown a piece of paper,”said Judge Thomas Cane, according to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. “I think we’ve got to bring ourselves up to date.” Staff of the GAB recommended that the board not implement the use of electronic documents, but it wasn’t because they disagree with the practice, it was all about timing. “The staff supported the concept because there is no difference in the information that must be presented or recorded,” explained Kevin Kennedy, director of the GAB. “However, we wanted to get enough input from local election officials before instituting the change. “