The Voting News Daily: The Abandonment of the Election Assistance Commission, Appeals court overturns political donor disclosure ruling

National: The Abandonment of the Election Assistance Commission | Steny Hoyer/Huffington Post While the embarrassing debacle of the 2000 election may seem like a distant memory to some, the unfortunate reality is an encore may be on our doorstep. The Election Assistance Commission was created by the bipartisan Help America Vote Act of 2002 in order…

National: The Abandonment of the Election Assistance Commission | Steny Hoyer/Huffington Post

While the embarrassing debacle of the 2000 election may seem like a distant memory to some, the unfortunate reality is an encore may be on our doorstep. The Election Assistance Commission was created by the bipartisan Help America Vote Act of 2002 in order to avoid a repeat of the disastrous 2000 election, inspired directly by the failure of effective election administration in Florida that year. The only federal agency whose primary mission is to assist states carry out their elections and provide assistance to local election officials, the EAC has succeeded in this capacity beyond even the most optimistic projections. But now, due either to intentional neglect or outright calls for the agency’s elimination, the EAC is currently without any commissioners or a permanent executive director. While the agency persists in carrying out its mission, its spirit is sorely bruised.

National: Appeals court overturns political donor disclosure ruling |

Conservative groups pumping hundreds of millions of dollars into the 2012 campaign won a reprieve Tuesday when the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington overturned a decision requiring organizations that run election-related television ads to reveal their donors. In an unsigned decision, a three-judge panel said a lower court erred in finding that Congress intended to require such disclosure. It sent a case brought by Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) against the Federal Election Commission back to the district court and called on the FEC to defend its regulations or issue new ones. Practically, the ruling changes little in the short term: Nonprofit organizations such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Americans for Prosperity and Crossroads GPS changed the type of ads they were running this summer in order to sidestep the lower-court ruling and keep their donors secret.

Voting Blogs: Readers Debate the Merits of Post-election Audits | The Thicket

The September issue of NCSL’s elections newsletter, The Canvass, addressed what I thought was a sleepy topic: post-election audits. (As a way to double-check that the procedures, voting equipment and vote-counting software yielded the correct result, election officials run a post-election audit by hand-counting the ballots from a random set of precincts or machines.) So I was surprised that this issue received more responses than politically-charged and publicly debated issues, such as those on Voter ID or Voter Registration.

California: Some Question The Tactics Of The Election Integrity Project In San Diego |

Between now and October 6th the Election Integrity Project has scheduled at least nine training seminars in San Diego County. The national organization is known for examining voter rolls, and they were present at many polling places in San Diego during the June primary. They say they’re watching out for voter fraud. But critics say they’re trying to intimidate voters. Linda Paine, president of the group in California, said poll watchers in California found many polls where things went fine. “On the other hand,” she said, “we saw what appeared to be policies and procedures in existence that opened the door to the potential of voter fraud.”

Connecticut: Ballot Cast By Woman Thought Dead Could Decide 5th House District Primary | Hartford Courant

An absentee ballot cast by an elderly Windsor woman who was thought to have been dead may decide the outcome of the disputed Democratic primary for the 5th General Assembly District nomination. That ballot, still contained in a sealed envelope, had not been counted either in the primary or in two recounts because it was marked “deceased.” But Windsor officials discovered Tuesday that the 91-year-old woman who cast the ballot is indeed alive and living in a local nursing home. The uncounted ballot could wind up being pivotal because a recount Monday in Windsor gave challenger Brandon McGee an additional vote, tying his race with party-endorsed candidate Leo Canty at 774 to 774. A recount of absentee ballots in Hartford Tuesday answered a lingering question about the tally, but didn’t change the result.

Florida: State Loses Bid to Toss Suit Challenging Voter Purge | Bloomberg

Florida Governor Rick Scott lost a federal court bid to throw out a challenge to his initiative to purge non-citizens from voter registration rolls ahead of the Nov. 6 presidential election. U.S. District Judge James Whittemore in Tampa today ruled Mi Familia Vota Education Fund and two state residents may proceed with a complaint alleging the program requires pre- clearance under the Voting Rights Act. Florida is one of 16 jurisdictions with a history of voting rights violations that, under the act, must obtain pre-approval of some laws by either the Justice Department or a panel of federal judges.

Hawaii: League of Women Voters Weighs in on Hawaii Election Snafus | Honolulu Civil Beat

The Hawaii State League of Women Voters (LWVHI) is asking state and county elections officials to take definitive action on the primary election day mishaps that transpired on the Big Island. The blunders — including the delayed opening of 13 Hawaii County polling places — have been attributed to the poor management by Big Island elections clerk Jamae Kawauchi. “This year, we have been troubled by a number of serious issues on the island of Hawai‘i which cumulatively may have diminished voters’ confidence in the Hawai‘i County Elections Office,” reads the LWVHI press release. “We are concerned about an apparent lack of communication and transparency from the County Clerk with the press and public. Press conferences may have explained prior actions, but the time lag between actions and explanations fostered an air of mistrust.

Indiana: Secretary of State: No such thing as over the phone voting | Chesterton Tribune

Indiana Secretary of State Connie Lawson is warning Hoosiers not to accept phone calls offering over-the-phone voting. Lawson was prompted to issue this warning after receiving complaints from voters who received phone calls offering to let them vote early over the phone, her the Secretary of State’s Office said last week. “Under no circumstances can you vote over the phone,” Lawson said. “If you receive a call offering to let you vote over the phone, hang up. It’s a scam. This investigation centers around a firm called Vote USA. But there could be other similar types of illegal contact with voters and we must remain vigilant.”

Iowa: Iowa Secretary of State says voting rule changes are on hold in wake of judge’s ruling | Sioux City Journal

Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz said Monday that “everything is on hold right now” after a district court judge’s ruling last week that halted the Iowa Republican from implementing voting rules he established on an emergency basis earlier this year. Polk County District Court Judge Mary Pat Gunderson ruled on Friday that Schultz could have followed normal rule-making procedures and that emergency rules were unnecessary before the November election. In so doing, the judge stayed the rules and issued a temporary injunction, which prevents Schultz from enacting them until the court can hear the full arguments of challenges brought by the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa and the League of United Latin American Citizens of Iowa to stop the rules. Schultz met Monday with Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller, whose office is representing the secretary of state, to discuss options going forward.

Maryland: Democrats find new candidate for House race after voter-fraud claims knock out primary winner | Fox News

The Democratic Party has a new challenger to Rep. Andy Harris in Maryland’s 1st Congressional District, after voter fraud allegations ended the previous candidate’s bid, but the odds of his beating the incumbent are slim.  The party had scrambled for a replacement since its primary winner Wendy Rosen had to drop out of the race on Sept. 10, after confirming reports that she had voted in two different states in more than one election. Now, after a week-long search, the party has thrown its support behind John LaFerla, the 63-year-old gynecologist from Chestertown, who had lost in the primary to Rosen by just 57 votes.

Michigan: Rights groups sue over citizenship checkboxes for voters | Detroit Free Press

A federal judge will likely decide whether Michigan voters will have to check off whether they are U.S. citizens when they go to the polls in November. A coalition of voting rights groups filed a lawsuit Monday in U.S. District Court in Detroit challenging Secretary of State Ruth Johnson’s decision to require U.S. citizenship checkboxes on applications to vote, saying the boxes are unconstitutional and violate federal and state law. Mary Ellen Gurewitz, attorney for the plaintiffs, said the group will head to court within a day or two to request a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction. “This is a matter that has to be addressed quickly because the forms are being ordered and printed and money is being spent,” she said.

Minnesota: Divisions persist on need for Minnesota voter ID amendment | SFGate

Supporters of a proposed Minnesota voter ID amendment say it will protect the integrity of the state’s election system, while opponents point to several studies finding the kind of fraud the proposed requirement is designed to prevent is extremely rare. Weeks before voters get the chance to decide whether to approve an amendment to the state constitution to require a photo ID at the polls, deep divisions persist about whether it’s needed, Minnesota Public Radio reported. Dan McGrath, who runs the pro-amendment campaign Protect My Vote, said the group has found that Minnesota topped all states in the number of voter fraud convictions linked to a single election — nearly 200 convictions from 2008, when Democrat Al Franken defeated Republican Norm Coleman in the U.S. Senate race by a razor-thin 312 vote margin after a recount and court challenges. McGrath said that means fraud “played a role” in the race.

North Carolina: Not dead, but still voting |

Carolyn Perry remembers voting in her first election. It was 1967 in Ohio, a municipal election, and she was 21 years old. “The people at the polls introduced me and said, ‘This is Carolyn and this is her first time to vote,'” recalled the retired special education teacher.  Perry, who has been registered to vote in North Carolina since at least 1975, according to election records, was dismayed to receive a letter this month from the Wake County Board of Elections suggesting she may no longer be qualified to vote because she might be dead.  “My initial reaction? I was mad as hell,” Perry said Monday morning. Her name was one of nearly 30,000 across the state that volunteers with the Voter Integrity Project identified two weeks ago as potentially being dead but still registered to vote. The Voter Integrity Project is a North Carolina offshoot of True the Vote, a national movement that purports to combat election fraud by challenging the voter registration of those they believe should not be on voter lists. “We’re not really interested in partisan politics,” said Jay DeLancy, a retired Air Force officer and director of Voter Integrity Project. “As an organization, we try to eliminate those kinds of biases in our research.”

Ohio: Obama Campaign Asks Court to Uphold Ohio Vote Ruling | Bloomberg

President Barack Obama’s campaign organization asked a U.S. appeals court to uphold a lower-court ruling that equalized Ohio’s number of early voting days leading up to the Nov. 6 national election. U.S. District Judge Peter Economus ruled Aug. 31 that all Ohio citizens must be allowed to cast pre-Election Day ballots through Nov. 5, agreeing with the Obama campaign and state and national Democratic parties that Ohio’s plan to grant three more early or absent voting days to residents in the armed forces or living overseas was unconstitutional. Economus last week rejected a request by Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted to delay enforcement of his decree until the federal appeals court in Cincinnati and then, potentially, the U.S. Supreme Court reviews the case. The Obama campaign told the appeals court in a Sept. 17 brief that ending early balloting on Nov. 2 for all except overseas residents and military personnel imposes a significant burden on the right to vote.

Pennsylvania: State Supreme Court Casts Doubt On Voter ID Law | TPM

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court cast serious doubt on the state’s voter ID law on Tuesday, ordering a lower court to rethink its decision upholding the law earlier this year. In a 4-2 ruling, the justices ordered the lower court to block the law unless Pennsylvania can prove it is currently providing “liberal access” to photo identification cards and that there “will be no voter disenfranchisement” on Election Day. The two dissenters opposed the voter ID law and wanted the Supreme Court to issue an injunction itself. The ruling said there was a “disconnect” between what the law prescribes and how it was actually being implemented. It said an “ambitious effort” to implement identification procedures in a short timeframe “has by no means been seamless in light of the serious operational constraints faced by the executive branch.”

Pennsylvania: High court wants review of voter ID access | The Associated Press

Pennsylvania’s highest court on Tuesday told a lower court that it should stop a tough new voter photo identification law from taking effect in this year’s presidential election if the judge concludes voters cannot easily get ID cards or thinks they will be disenfranchised. The 4-2 decision by the state Supreme Court sends the case back to the lower Commonwealth Court, where a judge initially ruled in August that the divisive law could go forward. The high court asked for an opinion by Oct. 2 — just 35 days before the election. If the judge finds there will be no voter disenfranchisement and that IDs are easily obtained, then the 6-month-old law can stand, the Supreme Court said. But the Supreme Court’s directions to the lower court set a much tougher standard than the one Judge Robert Simpson used when he rejected the plaintiffs’ request to halt the law, said David Gersch, the challengers’ lead lawyer.

Pennsylvania: Voter ID Neither Easy Nor Free | Huffington Post

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling on Tuesday kicking a challenge to the state’s new voter ID law back to a lower court that already approved it may force a close look at state efforts to issue identification for voters. When that lower court upheld the strict voter ID law on Aug. 15, Judge Robert Simpson said state initiatives to educate voters and create a form of identification that can be used to vote made it unlikely that the law would disenfranchise voters. When Simpson takes up the case again, he likely will look closely at Pennsylvania’s efforts. He will find what state officials say are sincere attempts to reach registered voters. And he will find signs of serious trouble. Few of the 2 percent of Pennsylvania voters who did not have state-issued ID when the law was passed have been able to obtain it, despite programs that state officials say are free and easy.

Pennsylvania: State Supreme Court sends Voter ID back to lower court | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has ordered a lower court to revisit its decision that allowed the new voter ID law to remain in effect for the November elections. If Commonwealth Court finds the state’s implementation of the law will disenfranchise voters in November, the high court has ordered it to issue an injunction. In its decision not to stop the law immediately, the high court ruled that Commonwealth Court relied on judgments about how the state would educate voters and provide access to acceptable forms of identification. The justices wrote that lawmakers have made “an ambitious effort” to put the photo identification requirement in place by the upcoming elections but that state agencies face “serious operational constraints” in doing so. Given that, the justices wrote, they are not satisfied with a decision based on assurances of what the state will do to ensure all voters have acceptable identification.

Georgia (Sakartvelo): EU foreign ministers in Georgia to oversee election build-up as political tension rises | The Irish Times

Five European Union foreign ministers are in Georgia to oversee the build-up to its October 1st parliamentary election, amid international concern over rising political tension in the country. The EU, US and leading democracy watchdogs have called on the country to ensure free and fair conduct of the election, in which the ruling party of Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili faces a strident challenge from supporters of the country’s richest man. Billionaire tycoon Bidzina Ivanishvili accuses Mr Saakashvili’s allies of using dirty tricks to undermine his newly formed Georgian Dream party, complaining that he has been stripped of his Georgian passport and fined millions of euro since entering politics.