Georgia (Sakartvelo): Georgian president concedes but democracy rules | The Associated Press

Defying expectations, President Mikhail Saakashvili conceded Tuesday that his party had lost Georgia’s parliamentary election and his opponent had the right to become prime minister, setting the stage for political turmoil in the final year of his presidency.
The new Georgian government will be led by billionaire businessman and philanthropist Bidzina Ivanishvili, who made his fortune in Russia and until recently was little known to the 4.5 million people in his homeland on the Black Sea. In one notable accomplishment, it was the first time in Georgia’s post-Soviet history that the government changed by the ballot box rather than through revolution. Saakashvili came to power through the peaceful Rose Revolution after a rigged parliamentary vote in 2003. By conceding defeat even before the results of Monday’s election were released, the 44-year-old Saakashvili defied the opposition’s expectations that he would cling to power at all costs and preserved his legacy as a pro-Western leader who brought democracy to the former Soviet republic. He also prevented potential violence on the emotionally charged streets of the capital, Tbilisi, where support for the opposition Georgian Dream coalition is strongest. Opposition supporters began celebrating as soon as the polls closed, and the mood could have turned ugly very quickly if they thought they were being deprived of a victory.

National: White House Hacked In Cyber Attack That Used Spear-Phishing To Crack Unclassified Network

Hackers breached an unclassified computer network used by the White House, but did not appear to have stolen any data, a White House official said Monday. The hackers breached the network by using a technique known as spear phishing, in which they target victims who have access to sensitive computer networks by sending personalized emails that appear to come from trusted sources. Once the victims click on the bogus attachment or link, the hackers can install malicious software on the PCs to spy on users and steal data. A White House official declined to comment on what data resided on the network, but emphasized it did not contain any classified information.

Editorials: Beware Electronic Voting | Bob Barr/Town Hall

To paraphrase 15th Century Dutch Philospher Erasmus’ well-known characterization of women — “technology, can’t live with it, can’t live without it.” Ever since the debacle that was the vote counting in Florida a dozen years ago, virtually every jurisdiction in the country has moved away from some form of manual voting machine to embrace the technology of electronic voting (“e-voting” for short). Yet, as states and local elections offices have spent millions of taxpayer dollars to institute e-voting, little attention has been paid the potential dangers inherent in this form of vote counting. Indeed, even as many Republican voters and legislators decry the possibility of voting abuse posed by suspected voter fraud and have ousted for voter ID mandates, the specter of lost votes posed by e-voting continues to go largely unnoticed or deliberately ignored. However, as noted in a recent editorial in USA Today by Philip Meyer, professor emeritus in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of North Carolina, electronic voting machines have the very real “potential to steal your vote.” The problem identified by Meyer is magnified this election cycle, given the high likelihood of another exceptionally tight presidential race.

National: Voter ID Rules Fail Court Tests Across Country |

A Pennsylvania judge on Tuesday blocked the key component of a highly contested state law requiring strict photographic identification to vote in next month’s election, saying the authorities had not done enough to ensure that voters had access to the new documents. The result, that Pennsylvanians will not have to present a state-approved ID to vote in November, was the latest and most significant in a series of legal victories for those opposed to laws that they charge would limit access to polls in this presidential election. With only a month left until Election Day, disputes around the country over new voter ID requirements, early voting, provisional ballots and registration drives are looking far less significant. “Every voter restriction that has been challenged this year has been either enjoined, blocked or weakened,” said Lawrence Norden of the Brennan Center for Justice, which is part of the New York University School of Law and opposes such restrictions. “It has been an extraordinary string of victories for those opposing these laws.”

National: Romney seeks extended deadline for overseas voters | The Detroit News

Working to broaden his popularity among military veterans, Republican Mitt Romney’s campaign has sent letters to election officials in Wisconsin, Mississippi and Vermont demanding that the deadline for receiving ballots from military and overseas voters be extended. The letters sent in recent days on Romney’s behalf by former U.S. Veterans Affairs Secretary Anthony Principi charge that election officials in the states missed the Sept. 22 deadline for mailing some ballots to overseas and military voters. A fourth letter was to be sent Tuesday to Michigan officials, according to Romney campaign spokesman Ryan Williams. The campaign is actively monitoring state and local election officials across the country, he said. “We want to ensure that our fighting men and women overseas have the right to vote in the time that is given under federal law,” Williams said. “We’re doing it across the country in both red states and blue state and battleground states.”

Florida: Elections supervisors wonder how to deal with GOP voter registrations | Tampa Bay Times

With less than a week before the deadline to register to vote in the November election, Republican state leaders who had made voter fraud a top issue are offering little insight into how they are handling the increasing numbers of suspicious registration forms being found throughout Florida. Last week, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement began a review of Strategic Allied Consulting after the company turned in more than 100 botched voter registration forms in Palm Beach County on behalf of the Republican Party of Florida. Subsequently, 10 other counties — Bay, Charlotte, Duval, Escambia, Lee, Okaloosa, Pasco, Miami-Dade, Santa Rosa and Walton — have reported similar issues with registration forms linked to that firm. On Monday, a top elections official announced that the FDLE was investigating a second group, the National Council of La Raza, the largest Hispanic civil rights organization in the United States, for turning in three questionable registration forms in Miami-Dade County. The two cases, so far at least, are hardly equal in magnitude.

Indiana: Supreme Court declines Indiana robo-call case | The Indiana Lawyer

The Supreme Court of the United States came back for its 2012 session Monday and decided it will not take the appeal filed by a provider of prerecorded telephonic messages seeking to overturn enforcement of a ban on automated robo-calls in Indiana. Inc. used an artificially intelligent calling system to contact residents throughout the country on behalf of its clients, including Economic Freedom Fund. The messages were political in nature. In 2006, Indiana filed a complaint alleging had violated the state’s Autodialer Law. contended the law violates the Indiana Constitution’s free speech clause.

Voting Blogs: Thousands of Non-Citizen Voters? It’s Déjà Vu in Michigan | Brennan Center for Justice

Michigan’s Secretary of State is joining a growing trend among state elections officials: Declare that thousands of non-citizens are registered to vote and then use those allegations to justify efforts that confuse, intimidate, and in some cases purge eligible voters on the eve of the election. But similar claims about ineligible voters in Florida and Colorado were debunked within a matter of weeks after being publicly disclosed. So why is Sec. Ruth Johnson jumping on the bandwagon, saying there are 4,000 non-citizens registered to vote? Is there something different about Michigan? Almost certainly not. To quickly recap: In Florida it was initially asserted that as many as 180,000 potential non-citizens were registered to vote. Claims of registered non-citizens in Colorado were smaller, but still in the thousands — over 11,000. But as time went by, these lists decreased in size. In Florida, 180,000 morphed into 2,600 and later into 198, while in the Centennial state 11,000 shrunk to 3,900 and then to 141. The final numbers represent thousandths of a percent of all registered voters in each state. But Michigan is a different state. Perhaps Johnson has learned from these fiascos and developed a more reliable and efficient system for identifying the extremely small percentage of non-citizens who may be on the rolls? Unfortunately, no.

Mississippi: Hinds County absentee ballot status unclear | The Clarion-Ledger

Ballots for Hinds County voters who would like to vote absentee were turned over to the circuit clerk’s office Tuesday, more than a week after the state-imposed deadline, the county’s Election Commission chairman says. That, along with cards sent to some residents with incorrect voting locations, hase placed District 3 Election Commissioner Jermal Clark in hot water with county supervisors. Clark was responsible for creating the ballot and meeting a Sept. 22 deadline. When he missed it, concerns immediately were raised that Mississippi members of the military wouldn’t get their absentee ballots by the deadline of 45 days before a federal election. The series of snafus led supervisors Monday to call for a full-scale investigation. “It’s embarrassing that elected officials sworn to uphold the law … cannot work together for the good of the citizens of the county,” said District 3 Supervisor Peggy Hobson Calhoun.

New Hampshire: State Supreme Court to take up voter registration law dispute |

The state Supreme Court on Monday agreed to hear a dispute over New Hampshire’s new voter registration law. The law, passed by the Republican-dominated Legislature over Gov. John Lynch’s veto, requires new voters to sign a statement saying that they declare New Hampshire their domicile and are subject to laws that apply to all residents, including laws requiring drivers to register cars and get a New Hampshire driver’s license. A Strafford County Superior Court judge last week sided with out-of-state college students and civil liberty groups who challenged the law and ordered the secretary of state’s office to remove the paragraph about residency laws from the voter registration form. That prompted the attorney general’s office to ask the state Supreme Court to put the lower court’s ruling on hold and to review the case itself. The high court agreed Monday and set a deadline of the end of the day Thursday for the parties to file responses.

Pennsylvania: Judge Halts Pennsylvania’s Tough New Voter ID Requirement | Associated Press

A judge on Tuesday blocked Pennsylvania’s divisive voter identification requirement from going into effect on Election Day, delivering a hard-fought victory to Democrats who said it was a ploy to defeat President Barack Obama and other opponents who said it would prevent the elderly and minorities from voting. The decision by Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson on the law requiring each voter to show a valid photo ID could be appealed to the state Supreme Court. However, Simpson based his decision on guidelines given to him days ago by the high court justices, and it could easily be the final word on the law just five weeks before the Nov. 6 election. Simpson ordered the state not to enforce the photo ID requirement in this year’s presidential election but will allow it to go into full effect next year.

Pennsylvania: Judge Bars Voter-ID Law for 2012 Election | Businessweek

A Pennsylvania judge barred enforcement of the state’s voter photo-identification law until after the November election. Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson today said that while election officials can ask for ID on Election Day, voters without ID can still cast ballots and have them counted. Previously the law had given those voters six days after the election to get ID to have their provisional ballots counted. Enacted in March, the law requires voters to present a state-issued ID, or an acceptable alternative such as a military ID, to cast a ballot. Opponents of the law said probable Democratic voters, such as the elderly and the poor, were those least likely to have a valid ID by Election Day.

Pennsylvania: Law professor says state Supreme Court gave judge little wiggle room with Pennsylvania voter ID law |

Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson had little choice but to issue a partial injunction on Pennsylvania’s voter ID law.
Michael Dimino, constitutional and election law professor at Widener University, said the directives last week from the Pennsylvania Supreme Court were tough and clear. “It didn’t give Judge Simpson much room to exercise discretion,” Dimino said. “I don’t think he had very much in the way of options. He could have found that everyone wanting an ID was getting one, but realistically there wasn’t very much for him to do other than enjoin the law from this election.” Last month, the state Supreme Court returned the case to Simpson. Simpson was directed to stop the voter ID law from taking effect in this year’s election if he found that the state had failed to meet the requirement under the law of providing easy access to a photo ID or if he believed it would prevent any registered voter from casting a ballot.

Pennsylvania: Does Judge Simpson’s Pennsylvania Injunction Inadertently Violate Federal Law? | Free and Equal PA

Does the injunction that Judge Simpson issued today inadvertently violate the first-time voter identification requirement in the Help America Vote Act of 2002 (“HAVA”)? HAVA, in Section 303(b), requires voters who register by mail and are voting for the first-time to present identification at the polls.  Pennsylvania implemented this requirement of HAVA in the law that preexisted the current Photo ID Law. … Because the new requirement in the Photo ID Law that everyone show photo ID at every election made the requirement that first-time voters show ID unnecessary, Act 18 amended this section to do away with the distinction between first-time voters and all other voters.  The Act also limited the acceptable forms of identification to photo ID.

Pennsylvania: Judge rejects settlement over polling place access | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

A federal judge Monday gave the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the Allegheny County Board of Elections a week to come up with alternatives to a consent order that they hoped would resolve a dispute over media access to the polls on Nov. 6 and beyond. The newspaper has sued the board and Secretary of the Commonwealth Carol Aichele, claiming that barring media from the polls, especially during the first election governed by the voter identification law, violates the First Amendment right to gather news. A state law bars anyone but voters and poll workers from coming within 10 feet of polling places.

Tennessee: Audit Report Details Shelby County TN Election Commission Faults | Memphis Daily News

The Tennessee Comptroller’s audit division has concluded the Shelby County Election Commission has “demonstrated an inability to conduct elections without significant inaccuracies, including those identified in the 2012 elections.” But the audit review requested by Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett also concludes there was “no discernable evidence of intentional misconduct or other actions intended to affect or influence the election process or election outcomes in Shelby County.” The report – which goes to Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, Hargett and state legislators, who will recommend election commissioners for counties across the state to the Tennessee Election Commission in April – examined election problems in Shelby County prior to 2012.

South Carolina: Justice Department clears South Carolina’s online voter registration law | The Augusta Chronicle

South Carolina’s online voter registration law has won federal approval, allowing just a few days for people to use the easier option to sign up to vote Nov. 6. The U.S. Justice Department waited until its deadline to act on the state law signed in June. Under the 1965 Voting Rights Act, South Carolina must receive the federal agency’s approval for any election law change. The law, passed unanimously by the Legis­lature, removes several steps from the paper registration process. Sup­porters say the online option will help voters, improve the accuracy of voter rolls and save money. South Carolina is the 13th state to implement online voter registration. The system was available by Tuesday afternoon through a link on the state Election Commission Web site. People who want to vote Nov. 6 can register through Saturday. State law requires registration at least 31 days before an election.

Tennessee: Vendor Gives Tennessee County Closed-Primary Pollbooks in Open Primary | Election Academy

Continuing in the vein of “there is no small stuff” in elections, here’s a story from Davidson County (Nashville), TN where voters in the August primary didn’t always get the ballot they were expecting, acording to the Tennessean. The problem, apparently, was that the county’s vendor failed to program electronic pollbooks to allow for the fact that the Volunteer State conducts “open primaries” where a voter can choose which party’s ballot to cast – as opposed to a “closed primary” where voters must register as a member of a party in order to cast a ballot in that party’s primary. Unfortunately, the mistake creates a situation where critics can claim that the vendor is either engaging in illicit activity or simply incompetent.

Texas: Voter fraud? Charlie Gonzalez, Texas Democrats say it’s Republicans guilty of ‘abuses’ | Houston Chronicle

Apparently dead people love to vote. Just weeks after Texas counties tried to purge their voter rolls by eliminating supposedly deceased voters (many of whom beg to disagree), it turns out that a firm hired by the Republican National Committee may have been registering truly deceased Republicans to vote in Florida. In ironic turn of events, the Republicans who have been strong proponents of the Voter ID laws, insisting that voter fraud does in fact exist, are now smack dab in the middle of a voter fraud investigation. A real, live criminal investigation.

Zimbabwe: Zimbabwe Electoral Commission Ready For Referendum, General Elections | Bernama

The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) said on Tuesday it is ready to conduct the referendum on a new Constitution scheduled for November this year and harmonised elections slated for March next year provided it is availed of the requisite resources. Zimbabwe is due to conduct a Constitutional referendum most likely in November while general elections have been tentatively set for March 2013, reports Zimbabwe’s news agency New Ziana. ZEC acting chairperson Joyce Kazembe told a media conference that at least US$104 million was required for the referendum. “The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission is always ready to conduct elections or a referendum. Technically, we are ready and technically we boast that we are one of the best organised to hold any elections on the basis that the Commission is properly resourced both financially and materially and human resource wise to hold that,” she said.

Georgia (Sakartvelo): Georgia’s Election Brings New Hope for Democracy | CFR

More than two decades after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Republic of Georgia passed an important democratic milestone this week when the opposition party won the  parliamentary elections and the incumbent president, Mikheil Saakashvili, conceded defeat.  The door is now open for the first peaceful transition of power in modern Georgia’s history. The development is also a landmark for the Eurasian region of former Soviet Republics, where most elections have been rigged and often violent. …  Since the collapse of the Soviet Union twenty-one years ago, the fifteen former Soviet Republics have followed mostly bumpy paths toward and away from democracy. On Monday, Georgians stunned the world when an opposition coalition led by eccentric billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili won the parliamentary election there. President Mikheil Saakashvili conceded defeat on Tuesday, paving the way for Ivanishvili’s Georgian Dream bloc to form a new government. When Ivanishvili becomes prime minister, as expected, it will be the first time in Georgia’s history that the government will have changed at the ballot box rather than through revolution.