As the clock winds down to what could turn out to be an extremely close presidential race, some election watchdogs are keeping a wary eye on paperless electronic voting machines that are scheduled to be used in several key states and jurisdictions around the country. Paperless systems are basically Direct Recording Electronic systems (DREs) in which voters cast their ballots in a completely electronic fashion by using push buttons or touchscreens. Some DREs allow voters to print out a paper copy of their ballots to verify that their vote was cast as intended. Election watchdog groups such as Verified Voting and Common Cause and academicians have insisted that such a voter verifiable paper audit trail (VVPAT) is vital to ensuring the integrity of the vote in jurisdictions that use DREs.
If polling places along the East Coast are without power on Election Day, an Omaha company faces a powerful test. With much of the coast bracing for damage and prolonged power outages from the storm called Sandy, election officials and providers of voting equipment, including Omaha-based Electronic Systems & Software, spent Monday hashing out contingency plans, backup contingency plans and backup-backup contingency plans in case polling places remain without power on Nov. 6.
Slate has an Explainer on the possibility of a delay. The power to change election dates lies with the states, not with the president. “Although states may reschedule a canceled or suspended election at their discretion (or according to their individual election laws), they must choose their presidential electors by the “safe harbor” deadline, which is six days before the Electoral College votes,” L.V. Anderson writes. That deadline is Dec. 17.
With polls continuing to suggest a presidential election too close to call, attention has focused on what some critics refer to as voter suppression tactics and whether they could have a significant effect on such a tight race.
As with most election years, there have been regular media reports of such things as destruction of voter registration forms and allegations of voter intimidation. But more troubling for some are the suggestions that politicians, through the legislative process, are creating laws to disenfranchise certain voting groups. The accusations of legislative suppression are mostly targeted at Republicans, who are criticized by some civil rights groups for creating new laws, in particular voter identification laws, that affect mostly poor or minority voters — a demographic more inclined to vote Democrat.
Voting Blogs: Is The Voter Vigilante Group True The Vote Violating Ohio Law to Intimidate Voters at the Polls? | Alternet
A right-wing voter vigilante group, TrueTheVote, may be pushing their anti-democratic agenda into illegal territory in Ohio by interfering with that state’s official poll worker training regimen one week before the 2012 presidential election. In recent weeks, the Texas-based group, with many local affiliates drawn from Tea Party ranks, has been urging poll workers in key Ohio counties—primarily Republicans—to supplement their official state training with TrueTheVote materials. These Election Day workers are not the observers chosen by political parties who can watch but not interfere with voting; they are the people who are drawn from both parties and employed by the state to run the voting process.
Mitt Romney’s campaign has been training poll watchers in Wisconsin with highly misleading — and sometimes downright false — information about voters’ rights. Documents from a recent Romney poll watcher training obtained by ThinkProgress contain several misleading or untrue claims about the rights of Wisconsin voters. A source passed along the following packet of documents, which was distributed to volunteers at a Romney campaign training in Racine on October 25th. In total, sixsuch trainings were held across the state in the past two weeks.
Deadly Superstorm Sandy left millions of Americans snowed in, flooded out or stranded without power – and the federal government itself in Washington closed – just a week before voters across the country head to the polls. But if anyone is wondering whether Election Day will be put off, the answer is almost certainly no. Local U.S. elections have been postponed before – in one relatively recent example, New York put off voting that had been set for Sept. 11, 2001, because of the attacks on the country that day. But presidential balloting has always gone on, even during the Civil War in 1864 (President Abraham Lincoln was re-elected). Federal law mandates that the national vote must take place on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November every four years.
“Voter ID” has become the GOP’s weapon of choice in the fight to keep Democrats from voting, but progressives may have found an answer: Election Day registration. Virtually unknown two years ago, voter ID laws, which require citizens to present a certain form of government-issued photo identification at the polls, came into vogue when Republicans used their electoral gains in 2010 to pass them in states from Texas to Wisconsin to South Carolina. Approximately one in 10 potential voters in these states lack photo ID, according to the nonpartisan Brennan Center for Justice, without which they will not be able to cast a ballot in November. Studies have found that minorities, college students and poor voters — groups that tend to vote Democratic — will be disproportionately impacted by these new laws.
I was on MSNBC’s “Up With Chris Hayes” yesterday doing my Ancient Mariner harangue in favor of the National Popular Vote, along with Yale’s Akhil Reed Amar, one of the intellectual fathers of that ingenious plan, which would allow us to elect our Presidents the same way we elect governors and senators and everybody else, i.e., the candidate with the most votes wins—and would do it without messing with the Constitution. You can watch the relevant three segments. (One follows another, with unavoidable commercials.) Akhil and I managed to squeeze in most of our arguments, but right at the end Chris brought up a question we didn’t have time to fully answer: What about recounts? What if Florida 2000 were reproduced on a national scale?
Voting Blogs: The Identity of Provisional Voters: Private or Public? (An Issue That Might Emerge Early in Overtime) | ElectionLaw@Moritz
Recently I have written about the possibility of this year’s presidential election going into overtime because of provisional ballots in Ohio, and why history cautions against being overly alarmed at this prospect. Here I want to explore the dynamic of what might unfold on November 7 and immediately afterwards, so that we can distinguish between (1) an understandably competitive process that is working according to the system as designed, and (2) a process that is beginning to careen out of control and potentially could fall off the rails, causing the proverbial train wreck. To focus on one possible scenario (we could pick others, but it helps to have a specific situation in mind), let’s suppose—as I hypothesized previously—that on November 7 Romney is ahead in Ohio by 10,000 votes, with 150,000 provisional ballots for local elections boards to evaluate. Ohio law permits all provisional voters ten days, until November 16, to give their local boards of elections any required additional information that would enable the boards to verify the eligibility of their ballots. For example, some voters cast a provisional ballot because they show up at the polls without a valid form of voter identification; these ballots, however, will count if the voters supply a permissible form of ID within the next ten days.