The movie Unstoppable is playing this week on HBO, and it’s hard not to watch even just the trailers for the action-adventure film without seeing parallels to the coming election. Folks, we are just a little more than two weeks away from Election Day, and we may well be the runaway train, barreling straight toward an election-night, voting-rights crash-and-burn which easily could be worse and more damaging to the nation than Bush v. Gore. Not only is there no Denzel Washington to save us, not only is there no guarantee of a happy Hollywood ending, but none of the so-called adults running the country even seems willing to publicly acknowledge the danger.
Ernest Zirkle was puzzled. The resident of Fairfield Township in Cumberland County, NJ, ran for a seat on his local Democratic Executive Committee on June 7, 2011. The official results showed him earning only nine votes, compared to 34 votes for the winning candidate. But at least 28 people told Zirkle they voted for him. So he and his wife—who also ran for an open seat and lost—challenged the result in court. Eventually, a county election official admitted the result was due to a programming error. A security expert from Princeton was called in to examine the machines and make sure no foul play had occurred. Unfortunately, when he examined the equipment on August 17, 2011, he found someone deleted key files the previous day, making it impossible to investigate the cause of the malfunction. A new election was held on September 27, and the Zirkles won. A decade ago, there was a great deal of momentum toward paperless electronic voting. Spooked by the chaos of the 2000 presidential election in Florida, Congress unleashed a torrent of money to buy new high-tech machines. Today, momentum is in the opposite direction. Computer security researchers have convinced most observers that machines like the ones in Fairfield Township degrade the security and reliability of elections rather than enhancing them. Several states passed laws mandating an end to paperless elections. But bureaucratic inertia and tight budgets have slowed the pace at which these flawed machines can be retired.
Late the night of Nov. 6, or by the wee hours of Nov. 7, Americans should know the results of the presidential election, right? Probably. But the extremely tight races in several states, shifting voter identification requirements, the increased use of “provisional” ballots and automatic recount provisions in key states all expand the possibility of a prolonged, slow-motion finish. Ten states in recent years have passed laws requiring voters to show government-issued photo identification. This, in turn, has prompted lawsuits by those who say not all eligible voters can meet the requirements.
The Republican Party has made voter fraud the red herring of this election. Now it turns out the party has been forced to cut its ties to a well-paid consulting firm after cases of real voter registration abuse arose in several swing states. A thorough federal investigation of the consulting firm, Strategic Allied Consulting, is needed.
Technology and process upgrades implemented since the controversial 2000 presidential election have made electronic voting machines more secure and reliable to use, the Caltech-MIT Voting Technology Project said in a report last week. Even so, the only way to ensure the integrity of votes cast with the systems is to have mandatory auditing of the results and of all voting technologies used in an election, the 85-page report cautioned. Rather than setting security standards for election equipment, the better approach for safeguarding ballot integrity is to hand-count a sufficiently large and random sample of the paper records of votes cast electronically, it said. “The 2000 United States presidential election put a spotlight on the fragility and vulnerability of voting technology,” the report said. “It became clear that providing robust, accurate, and secure voting systems remained an important open technical problem” for the United States. The Voting Technology Project is a joint initiative between MIT and Caltech and was launched originally to investigate the causes of the voting problems in Florida in 2000 and to make recommendations based on the findings.
he wave of new voter restrictions and scare tactics being implemented for the 2012 elections — such as voter ID laws, early voting restrictions, threatening billboards, misleading mailers and vigilante poll watchers — could intimidate countless numbers of Americans from exercising their right to vote. Republicans have proposed voting restrictions in a majority of states since 2011, including strict voter ID laws and limits on early voting and voter registration. Though many of the laws have been blunted, confusion about voting requirements could still make it harder for many Americans to exercise their right to the franchise. At the same time, the Tea Party group “True the Vote” — which has been accused of voter intimidation — is pledging to send one million observers to polling places on November 6, and has been filing largely baseless lawsuits to purge voters from the rolls.
Having shouted himself hoarse for two days urging supporters to vote, and vote early, President Obama flew to Chicago to do so himself this afternoon, on his way to an evening rally here in Ohio. His campaign says he is the first sitting president to vote for himself ahead of Election Day. In casting his ballot early, Mr. Obama is providing a very personal endorsement of a system that was enormously successful for him in 2008, and may be the key to his re-election hopes. His narrow win in North Carolina four years ago was driven in large part by early voters, who turned out in larger numbers than those on Election Day, and tended to support Mr. Obama. They also gave him a winning margin in Iowa, Florida and Colorado.
Touch-screen electronic voting machines in at least four states pose a risk to the integrity of the 2012 presidential election, according to a Monitor analysis. In four key battleground states – Pennsylvania, Virginia, Florida, and Colorado – glitches in e-voting machines could produce incorrect or incomplete tallies that would be difficult to detect and all but impossible to correct because the machines have no paper record for officials to go back and check.
When Phyllis Cleveland first saw the billboard on East 35th Street warning of prison time and a $10,000 fine for voter fraud, the city councilwoman concluded it had one purpose: to intimidate the constituents of her predominantly low-income ward in Cleveland, Ohio. “It just hit me in the gut when I saw it,” said Cleveland, who helped capture the attention of a coalition of civil rights groups that pressured Clear Channel Outdoor Holdings (CCO) Inc. to remove the billboards this week.
As the prospects of a close Presidential election this fall show no signs of abating, it is worth reflecting on what might – and should – happen after Election Day in the event of an election that is too-close-to-call. My colleague Ned Foley has already addressed one aspect of this “what if” scenario, namely, the possibility that a swing state like Ohio, because it has a large number of provisional ballots or late-arriving absentee ballots, may not be able to declare a winner until some ten days after Election Day. But beyond that reality of the regular election processes, what if alleged errors or mistakes in the casting or counting of ballots lead to an election contest over the outcome in a particular state? How well prepared are states to handle post-election litigation on a very compressed timetable, and under the glare of the national spotlight?
The electoral college is one of the most controversial and ridiculed parts of the Constitution. It is not just for the obvious reasons — the “wrong winner” elections of 1876, 1888 and 2000. The college has also focused the nation’s attention on a few swing states, allowing candidates to ignore a large percentage of the voters in their campaign. Today, the three largest states get little attention, except as ATMs for campaign fundraising.
Florida: Why Florida Should Not Be the “Next Florida”: Fixing the Debacle In Palm Beach County | Election Law @ Moritz
There’s a storm brewing in the Sunshine State, and once again Palm Beach County is at the center of the turmoil. The problem arises because of a ballot printing error on absentee ballots in Palm Beach County.The County contracted with an Arizona firm to produce the ballots, and the firm printed about 60,000 absentee ballots before anyone noticed the error: all of the races had a “header” over each section of the ballot except for the section for Judicial Retention elections. For example, before listing the presidential candidates, the ballot says “President and Vice President” in both English and Spanish in all capital letters and in boldface type. The Judicial Retention portion of the ballot, however, lists the candidates without any identifying header. Palm Beach County mailed out thousands of these absentee ballots to voters before catching the mistake.
Several Leon County voters recently received scam letters purportedly sent by the Supervisor of Elections Office calling into question their citizenship and their ability to vote in the Nov. 6 general election. Supervisor of Elections Ion Sancho said three voters contacted him Monday after receiving the letters, which were written on bogus Supervisor of Elections letterhead and mailed from Seattle, Wash. Sancho said he turned them over to federal prosecutors Monday to investigate as possible mail fraud. “This is just a silly, stupid trick that I hope someone gets caught for,” Sancho said.
Idaho: Why Idaho May Win And Lose Fight To Uncover Donors To Education Proposition Campaign | Boise State Public Radio
Idaho’s Secretary of State wants a court to order a group campaigning for Idaho’s ballot referenda to reveal its donors. Education Voters of Idaho gave more than $200,000 to another, affiliated group for ads supporting propositions 1, 2, and 3. Those ask voters if they want to keep Idaho’s Students Come First education laws. Education Voters refused an ultimatum from Secretary of State Ben Ysursa to reveal its donors. Ysursa maintains Idaho’s Sunshine Law says Education Voters has to disclose. Education Voters insists the First Amendment and the Supreme Court decision Citizens United says it doesn’t.
The Democrat party chair is asking the federal government to get involved in the wrongful purge of 13,000 voters in La Porte County last year. Chairman John Jones said in a press release that he will be asking the U.S. Department of Justice Election Integrity Task Force to investigate exactly how the purge happened, which he said was an “effort led by Republican voters’ appointee Donna Harris, the wife of county Republican chairman Keith Harris.” Originally some 800 inactive voters were supposed to be purged in 2011. Voters are inactive if they fail to vote over two federal election cycles, meaning they have not voted since before the 2008 election that seated President Barack Obama in office. But the 13,303 who were canceled included voters who voted in Obama’s election.
Hamilton County officials find themselves facing an unexpected distraction as they prepare for next month’s presidential election: a conspiracy theory that investments by Mitt Romney’s political allies in a voting machine company could rig Ohio’s results.The topic began gaining traction on the Internet earlier this month, propelled largely by left-wing websites spreading the idea that Romney-linked investments in Hart InterCivic, a Texas-based voting machine firm, could somehow jeopardize the accuracy of Ohio’s vote count on Nov. 6.
The Tennessee Court of Appeals, acting in a Memphis case, has upheld the constitutionality of the state’s controversial law that requires voters to display a photo ID. However, the appeals court overturned two other rulings by Chancellor Carol McCoy. The ruling can be read here and here.
Virginia’s Republican attorney general is expanding a criminal probe of alleged efforts to destroy voter registration applications statewide.. Ken Cuccinelli’s office entered the politically charged investigation in the battleground state Wednesday when the Republican-dominated State Board of Elections voted unanimously to authorize the inquiry.
Washington: Jefferson County WA ballot accidentally asks voters to pick a president of the Untied States | Peninsula Daily News
Jefferson County voters are casting their ballots for “President/Vice President of the Untied States.” “Yes, it’s a typo,” lamented County Auditor Donna Eldridge. Eldridge and her staff didn’t notice the mistake until it was brought to her attention Tuesday by the Peninsula Daily News, which had been alerted by a Port Townsend voter earlier in the day. The mistake appears on 22,596 ballots that were sent out to voters last Wednesday. As of Tuesday afternoon, 2,901 had been returned in the all-mail election that ends at 8 p.m. Nov. 6.
Ukraine geared up on Friday for an election which many commentators expect to cement President Viktor Yanukovich’s rule, despite his jailed rival Yulia Tymoshenko calling on voters to stop an imminent “dictatorship”. Yanukovich’s Party of the Regions and a union of opposition forces backing Tymoshenko were scheduled to stage their final public rallies later on Friday in the capital Kiev ahead of Sunday’s poll for a new parliament.