County election officials are running into an unexpected problem with the Department of Motor Vehicles’ new online voter registration system: faulty signatures. Without clear copies of voters’ signatures to compare to poll books, the identities of New Yorkers who registered online might be challenged on Election Day, elections officials said. Digital scans of applicants’ signatures “are not as crisp as we are used to getting, and they could be blurry. They could be distorted,” said Louis Babcock, Rockland County Republican election commissioner. “It could be brought into question by a poll inspector.”
The Voting News Daily: As More Vote by Mail, Faulty Ballots Could Impact Elections, Congressman opens voting rights probe of tea party group
National: As More Vote by Mail, Faulty Ballots Could Impact Elections | NYTimes.com On the morning of the primary here in August, the local elections board met to decide which absentee ballots to count. It was not an easy job. The board tossed out some ballots because they arrived without the signature required on the outside of…
On the morning of the primary here in August, the local elections board met to decide which absentee ballots to count. It was not an easy job. The board tossed out some ballots because they arrived without the signature required on the outside of the return envelope. It rejected one that said “see inside” where the signature should have been. And it debated what to do with ballots in which the signature on the envelope did not quite match the one in the county’s files. “This ‘r’ is not like that ‘r,’ ” Judge Augustus D. Aikens Jr. said, suggesting that a ballot should be rejected. Ion Sancho, the elections supervisor here, disagreed. “This ‘k’ is like that ‘k,’ ” he replied, and he persuaded his colleagues to count the vote. Scenes like this will play out in many elections next month, because Florida and other states are swiftly moving from voting at a polling place toward voting by mail. In the last general election in Florida, in 2010, 23 percent of voters cast absentee ballots, up from 15 percent in the midterm election four years before. Nationwide, the use of absentee ballots and other forms of voting by mail has more than tripled since 1980 and now accounts for almost 20 percent of all votes.
A Maryland congressman has opened an investigation of a group that has tried to remove thousands of voters from registration rolls across the nation in advance of the presidential election. The inquiry by Rep. Elijah E. Cummings , a Democrat, is being started a week after Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) urged the Justice Department to enforce voting rights laws, citing a Los Angeles Times article detailing attempts by an Ohio offshoot of the group, True the Vote, to strike hundreds of students and others from voting rolls. “At some point, an effort to challenge voter registrations by the thousands without any legitimate basis may be evidence of illegal voter suppression,” Cummings told True the Vote founder Catherine Engelbrecht in a letter on Thursday. “If these efforts are intentional, politically motivated and widespread across multiple states, they could amount to a criminal conspiracy to deny legitimate voters their constitutional rights.” Cummings is the ranking minority member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.
At a time when Republicans have moved to enact tougher qualifications for voting in states around the country, Democrats have begun to push voter registration laws in the opposite direction in states they control, especially here. In the last few weeks, potential voters in California have been able to register online for the first time, and Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill that will allow residents to register and vote on Election Day. Connecticut passed similar legislation this year, and voting rights advocacy groups hope as many as five states might join them next year. Democratic lawmakers here described the legislation as a potential counterweight to Republican-backed laws in other parts of the country requiring photo identification to vote and making it more difficult to register. “It’s extremely important that as some states in the nation are moving to suppress voter turnout, California is moving forward to expand voter participation,” said Mike Feuer, a Democratic state assemblyman who sponsored the Election Day registration law. “I hope California is the catalyst for other states to encourage civic engagement and participation.”
Six weeks ago, the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court issued a wrongheaded ruling upholding that state’s new voter ID law. On appeal, however, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court sent the case back for further review. This time, the Commonwealth Court Judge Robert E. Simpson, Jr., has arrived at a slightly more rational rationale. The decision he issued last Tuesday should greatly reduce the risk of disenfranchising hundreds of thousands of registered Pennsylvania voters—those who happen not to drive, for example, or have not otherwise needed a state-issued photo identification card before this election cycle. Let’s be clear precisely which voters we are talking about: Poor voters. Elderly voters. Black and brown voters. Students. Voters who are ill or infirm. With Judge Simpson’s new ruling, these folks will not be forced to travel to state bureaucratic offices, simply to wait in line for hours, all for a card they will use only for one purpose – to exercise their right to vote.
Voting Blogs: Rules May Change, But the Secret Money Game Remains the Same | Brennan Center for Justice
In the last six months, the disclosure rules covering the sources of money spent on elections have changed dramatically — twice. Despite those changes, one thing has stayed the same: moneyed interests have remained able to spend tens of millions of dollars on elections without having to publicly reveal who is doing the spending. In March, a federal court ruled that Federal Elections Commission disclosure regulations were too weak, in violation of Congress’s instructions to the agency. The court said that any group (or individual) that runs a type of advertisement called “electioneering communications” must publicly disclose the identities of its donors. These are the so-called “issue ads” run shortly before an election that mention a candidate but stop short of telling the audience to vote for or against the candidate. In response to the ruling, organizations switched to a different type of advertisement called “independent expenditures” — ads that expressly call for a viewer to vote for or against the targeted candidate. Prior to this ruling, many groups had avoided independent expenditures for tax reasons, but they were willing to face the tax consequences once it became the only way to hide their donors from the public.
An employee of the Brevard County Clerk of Courts office wants to examine ballots from the Aug. 14 Republican primary, as he continues to express concerns about the results of the election, in which his boss was defeated. Sean Campbell, the chief deputy to Clerk of Courts Mitch Needelman, has been trading emails with Brevard County Supervisor of Elections Lori Scott, seeking to examine ballots from three election precincts. Campbell has suspicions about the accuracy of the reported vote counts, and wants to compare the paper ballots with reported totals. In the Republican primary, former Clerk of Courts Scott Ellis received 61 percent of the vote, to defeat Needelman, who got 39 percent.
Florida authorities are reviewing allegations of voter registration fraud leveled against the Florida Democratic Party just days before the deadline to register new voters. The Florida Department of State on Friday confirmed that it has forwarded complaints about voter registration fraud that have been filed against the Democrats, as well as two other groups — the Florida New Majority Education Fund and the National Council of La Raza/Democracia USA. State election officials, as well as the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, provided few details on the complaints, including whether it is limited to just one county or how many voter registration forms are at issue. FDLE will look at the complaints and determine whether a criminal investigation should be launched.
Michigan: Voting rights coalition argues against citizenship check box on Michigan ballots | Detroit Free Press
There will be a “hitch” in the voting process if U.S. citizenship check boxes are used on ballot applications at the polls during the Nov. 6 presidential election. That’s the crux of an argument by a voting rights coalition that is challenging the use of the check boxes and is asking a federal judge in Detroit to issue a preliminary injunction to stop Secretary of State Ruth Johnson from requiring the boxes on ballot applications. “Our evidence shows there will be many jurisdictions where the voters will not be asked to check the citizenship box, others where they will be asked if there is no injunction,” Mary Ellen Gurewitz, an attorney for the coalition argued today before U.S. District Court Judge Paul D. Borman. “There will be this hitch.”
Mississippi’s controversial new law requiring voters to show photo identification at the polls will not be in effect for the November general election while federal officials review whether the measure is discriminatory, the state said on Tuesday. It was the second setback for voter ID laws in a single day, coming on the heels of a judge in Pennsylvania ordering officials there to delay implementing a photo ID requirement until after the Nov. 6 election. Voters in Mississippi approved a voter ID ballot initiative by a wide margin last November. But as part of the implementation, the state provided insufficient evidence for the U.S. Department of Justice to determine whether the new law would violate the Voting Rights Act, the agency’s voting section chief T. Christian Herren Jr. said in a letter on Monday.
The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals today sided with the Obama campaign and Ohio Democrats in reinstating in-person early voting on the final three days before Election Day. However, the court is not requiring that the polls be open on those days, but rather leaves the decision up to individual county elections boards. “The state has proposed no interest which would justify reducing the opportunity to vote by a considerable segment of the voting population,” the appellate judges said. “The public interest…favors permitting as many qualified voters to vote as possible,” Without the courts’ intervention, “all non-military Ohio voters would be irreparably injured.”
The Rhode Island Supreme Court has denied challenger Carlos Tobon’s bid for a manual recount of the Pawtucket House race he lost by one-vote, after four ballot counts produced four different results. In a 3-to-2 decision Friday, the high court said the state Board of Elections had already provided to Tobon – who lost to longtime state Rep. William San Bento 544 to 543 – all of the relief the law requires, including a “manual re-feeding of ballots” into the voting machines and “a manual recount of those ballots rejected by the machine.” Read the decision: Carlos Tobon v. Rhode Island Board of Elections et al. No. 2012-289-M.P. (Order).pdf
Civil rights attorney George Barrett Wednesday filed an appeal to the Tennessee Court of Appeals of a recent state court decision that found Tennessee’s voter identification law to be constitutional. His application for emergency appeal asks state officials to remove government-issued photo ID as voting requirement in the November election. The appeal requests a hearing no later than Oct. 12. Tennessee’s early voting starts Oct. 17. Barrett has been at war for months with state officials over the state’s voter ID law, which took effect this year. He has called the law “an unconstitutional impediment on the right to vote.”
Wisconsin: Wisconsin Election Board will not seek extension in absentee ballot returns | The Badger Herald
The state’s election board sent a letter to former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney’s campaign announcing the board will not go to the courts to ask for an extension for some absentee ballots to be turned in. The letter comes after the Government Accountability Board announced this week that 37 absentee ballots to overseas and military voters were sent out past the required deadline. This prompted a response from the Romney campaign, which told the board there should be an extension in the deadline for those voters to return their ballots. “I am writing to express my concern regarding your office’s attention to the voting rights of men and women in uniforms, and to urge you to take immediate action to correct recent violations of military voting rights,” the Romney campaign told the GAB in a letter. President Barack Obama’s reelection campaign agreed with Romney that it was important to see whether the voters were being denied their right to vote, United Council Governmental Relations Director Analiese Eicher said. She assured all votes would be counted.
A group of Canadians challenging the election wins of seven Conservative MPs has scored a victory along the road to getting the main case heard in Federal Court. The court has ruled in favour of the challengers denying a motion by the Conservative Party to force them to put down hundreds of thousands of dollars as a security deposit. Nine people, backed by the Council of Canadians, are challenging the election wins of seven Conservative MPs. They argue fraudulent or abusive phone calls targeted those seven ridings in an attempt to discourage voters from casting ballots on May 2, 2011, and that the election results should be nullified.
Mikheil Saakashvili, the pro-Western president of Georgia faced with increasing protests among his people, conceded defeat Tuesday after preliminary election returns showed the opposition had won control of parliament and the right to name a powerful new prime minister. In a televised address, the 44-year-old leader acknowledged that the Georgian Dream coalition led by tycoon Bidzina Ivanishvili had won, and said his own United National Movement would become the opposition. “You know well that the views of this coalition were and still remain fundamentally unacceptable for me,” he said, “but democracy works in a way that allows the Georgian people to make a decision by a majority.” With nearly half the ballots counted by Tuesday afternoon, the Central Election Commission reported that Georgian Dream had 54.1% of the vote to 41% for Saakashvili’s movement.
Opposition political blocs and the mostly Islamist Majority Bloc signed a document on Saturday that rejects any amendments to the Elections Law prior to the upcoming parliament elections. The document rejects changes to the five constituencies and the number of votes, saying the matter is the prerogative of the legislative authority. The signatories include the Majority Bloc, the Kuwaiti Reform Movement, the Popular Bloc, the Reform and Development Bloc, the Islamic Constitutional Movement (ICM), as well as liberal MP Saleh Al-Mullah. News reports predict that HH the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmed Al-Jaber Al-Sabah will approve the decree dissolving the 2009 Assembly this week, as early as Sunday. The government presented HH the Amir with a draft decree to dissolve the 2009 Assembly last Wednesday. However, parliament sources believe that the dissolution will be delayed to later this month, possibly until after Eid Al-Adha.
Venezuela: Venezuelan Re-Elects President Hugo Chavez for 6 More Years | Latin American Herald Tribune
Venezuelans went to the polls both in the country and abroad on Sunday in reportedly massive numbers to decide who will govern Venezuela for the next six years on a sunny day marked by both calm and expectation, given that President Hugo Chavez, a leftist firebrand who has been in office for 14 years, was facing a stiff challenge from Henrique Capriles. The polls were open from 6 a.m. (1030 GMT) to 6 p.m. (2230 GMT), although the National Elections Council (CNE) said that Venezuelans in line at that later hour who had not yet cast their ballots would be allowed to do so. Some 19 million people are eligible to vote in the election.
Venezuelans are heading to the polls in what is considered one of Latin America’s most important elections in years. After 14 years in power, the polarizing and controversial socialist President Hugo Chávez faces his toughest challenger yet — the center-right candidate Henrique Capriles. When Chávez came to power in 1999 he was the first a wave of left-wing Latin America leaders known as the “Pink Tide” to gain high political office in the region.
Polling – or perhaps more importantly, the abuse of polling data – has a checkered history in Venezuela. I will never forget the day of the presidential recall referendum in 2004. I was sitting in the BBC studio in Washington, between a TV and radio interview, and the fax machine spat out a release from what was then one of the most influential Democratic polling and consulting firms in the United States: Penn, Schoen, Berland and Associates. “Exit Poll Results Show Major Defeat for Chavez” was the headline. The agency claimed to have interviewed an enormous sample (more than 20,000 voters at 267 voting centers), and found that Chávez had been voted out of office by a margin of 59% to 41%. I looked up at the producer who gave me the fax with more than a bit of perplexity. With good reason: the actual result of the referendum was the opposite: 58% to 41% against the recall. The Organization of American States and the Carter Center observed the election and made it clear that there was no doubt that the results were clean. Given the actual vote, the probability of the variation in PSB’s result was less than 1 chance in 10 to the 490th power, if you can imagine something that unlikely. The producer put the press release aside. “I’m not doing anything with this unless there’s another source,” she said.