Could the deadly Hurricane Sandy, headed for the East Coast, have an impact on the election? The storm is already affecting campaign schedules — Romney has canceled a planned rally in Virginia Beach. While the storm is expected to have passed by Nov. 6, it could leave flooding, power outages and destruction in its wake that would make it hard for voters to get to the polls. Two key states — Virginia and North Carolina — are in the path of the storm. So is Pennsylvania, a Democratic-leaning state that Republicans often eye. Rain showers and wind have already hit the coast of Florida. Parts of Ohio will feel the effects.
In 2008, Montana was the canary in the coal mine. About a month before the election, a local citizen named Jacob Eaton formally challenged Kevin Furey’s voter registration, swearing that he was no longer eligible to vote. Furey had asked the post office to change his address from Helena to Missoula. Eaton asked local election officials to take Furey off the Helena rolls. Eaton did not, presumably, know that his target was 1st Lieutenant Kevin Furey, an Army Reserve officer deploying to Iraq. Lt. Furey had asked the post office to send his mail to his mother in Missoula while he was overseas. His legal residence never left Helena, and his right to vote there never changed. Had the challenge succeeded while he was deployed, Lt. Furey would have lost the chance to vote for his own commander in chief. Lt. Furey was not alone. Amateur “sleuths” challenged the voting rights of more than 6,000 other Montanans, based on a blunderbuss attempt to scan data records for ostensibly suspicious activity. When something looked suspicious (to them), they asked officials to cancel the offending registrations. In Montana, the challengers looked for postal records that didn’t match the voter rolls; other amateur detectives deployed different variations elsewhere.
Three years ago, the Supreme Court warned there could be constitutional problems with a landmark civil rights law that has opened voting booths to millions of African-Americans. Now, opponents of a key part of the Voting Rights Act are asking the high court to finish off that provision. The basic question is whether state and local governments that once boasted of their racial discrimination still can be forced in the 21st century to get federal permission before making changes in the way they hold elections.
National: Spectre of Florida recount hangs over U.S. campaigns’ push for early voting | The Globe and Mail
No American election would be complete without the armies of lawyers that are being assembled by both parties to contest the results and monitor recounts if the outcome in some states is too close to call on Nov. 6. The nightmare scenario of 2000 – when a recount in Florida left the nation in limbo for days – is once again top of mind. The Obama campaign has launched an ad recalling the circumstances that allowed George W. Bush to claim the presidency 12 years ago, when the U.S. Supreme Court halted a recount in Florida with Mr. Bush ahead by only 537 votes.
The dead heat in the presidential race between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney brings back memories of the controversial 2000 election. But unlike 12 years ago, this time everyone is prepared to engage in legal battle. If the history of the 2000 presidential contest between George W. Bush and Al Gore is any indication of this year’s election, we could be heading toward a political cliffhanger. That’s because at this point – a week before election day on November 6 – the race between Obama and Romney might even be closer than that of 2000 between Bush and Gore. According to Real Clear Politics’ national average, a sort of aggregated poll of most national surveys, Romney currently leads Obama by less than one percent point – a virtual tie. Back in 2000, at the same time, most national polls had Bush in front by several points.
Could Hurricane Sandy lead to a constitutional crisis? Since 1845, Congress has mandated that the presidential election take place on the Tuesday after the first Monday in November. But no one in the waning days of the Tyler administration anticipated a giant hurricane hitting the East Coast within a week of Election Day. In fact, there is no precedent whatsoever for a natural disaster of this scale before a federal election. A devastating storm, like Sandy, could produce several constitutional and legal crises if voting can’t take place on November 6.
Federal officials say that absentee ballots being sent to U.S. military serving in Afghanistan may have been burned in a plane crash. A top official in the Federal Voting Assistance Program this week notified election officials across the nation that a transport plane crashed at Shindad Air Base on Oct. 19. The crash resulted in the destruction of 4,700 pounds of mail inbound to troops serving in the area.
One of Washington’s favorite parlor games is conjecturing about the remote possibility of an Electoral College tie. Prognosticators have come up with various maps and scenarios under which the election would result in a 269-269 deadlock, which would vest the responsibility of choosing the country’s leaders squarely in what polls say is one of the least popular institutions in the country — Congress. There’s little dispute about what would happen in the main event. Next year’s House would choose the president, with each state delegation casting one vote.
Is there a clear constitutional right to vote in the United States? The answer, traditionally, has been no. That’s what Republican-dominated states were banking on when they moved, after the 2010 elections, to restrict the franchise. But their campaign has seen a legal backlash against those efforts—one that may end up establishing that there is a right to vote in the U.S. after all. Many people are surprised that the Constitution contains no affirmative statement of a right to vote. Several amendments phrase the right in a negative way: the right to vote shall not be denied “on account of race” (fifteenth amendment), “on account of sex” (nineteenth), or, as long as you’re eighteen, “on account of age” (twenty-sixth, which lowered the voting age from twenty-one). But within those broad strictures, the Constitution has long been read as leaving up to the states how to register voters, conduct elections, and count the votes.
With Hurricane Sandy expected to make landfall along the Mid-Atlantic Coast later today, many are wondering how this year’s election may be affected by this “perfect storm,” including even whether the Presidential election could be postponed. Although at this point it is simply too early to predict with any confidence how widespread any power outages will be or how other weather-related damage might affect voting on November 6, it may be helpful to identify key features of the laws concerning Election Day. First, with respect to a Presidential election, the U.S. Constitution provides that Congress “may determine the time of [choosing] the Electors, and the Day on which they shall give their Votes; which Day shall be the same throughout the United States.”
Every so often here, in the Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections office warehouse, someone mutters “Bush v. Gore” or, worse, “butterfly ballot.” For elections workers, November 2000 is an embarrassing legacy. For campaign lawyers, it’s a badge of honor, more Purple Heart than Silver Star. Recently, lawyers and volunteer ballot readers have flocked again to this hapless county, calling to mind 12 years of election blunders. If not for 2000, many say, this month’s printing error that spoiled about 35,000 absentee ballots might have gone unnoticed, and the Supervisor of Elections office might have escaped new scrutiny ahead of the Nov. 6 presidential election.
Florida: Lines, scanner problems greet early voters in Volusia County Florida | News-JournalOnline.com
Early voting started Saturday in Volusia and Flagler counties, and to say the least, lines were long. In Flagler, 2,172 residents cast their ballots on Saturday, according to Flagler County’s elections website. Results for Volusia were not immediately available from supervisor of elections Ann McFall or on the Volusia website. At some early voting sites in Volusia County, lines were longer than expected, but not solely because of residents’ desire to vote. “We had scanner failures all over the county,” Mary Garber, a poll watcher with Florida Fair Elections Coalition, said.
More than one-half million Hawaii ballots were printed with the presidential candidates in no particular order, despite a state law that says all candidates must be in alphabetical order within their respective races. The state Office of Elections has downplayed the error, and officials contacted this week also don’t see it as a problem, especially for the Barack Obama-Mitt Romney race. But Hawaii County Clerk Jamae Kawauchi is seeking a legal opinion after her office was contacted by voters. With Hawaii-born Obama on the ticket of an overwhelmingly blue state, there’s little chance the candidate will be missed, even if he’s at the very bottom of the line-up behind the GOP candidate Romney, at the top, followed by Green Party candidate Jill Stein and Libertarian Gary Johnson, they say. Obama received 71.5 percent of the Hawaii vote in 2008.
Montana: Insufficient postage an issue with many Montana ballots; Missoula will pay | Independent Record
For some western Montana counties, one stamp is not enough when it comes to mailing back absentee ballots this election season. It’ll work in Ravalli, Lake and Granite counties, for instance, because their mail-in ballots come in smaller envelopes and don’t weigh enough to require more than a 45-cent stamp. But in others …
When Las Cruces attorney Deborah Thuman went to fill out her ballot in early voting last weekend, she noticed something missing. Absent from the single-page paper were a number of judicial races — contests she’s keenly interested in because of her legal profession. It listed the heading for the judgeships, but there were no candidates.
The page was only partly printed. “I don’t know what happened, but I only got half a ballot,” Thuman said in a recent interview. “I got a defective ballot.”
A pallet of about 130,000 printed Oneida County election ballots with the incorrect spelling for the name of the president of the United States is sitting in a print shop in Albany. The cost: about $75,000. The cost to print the corrected ballots: about the same. County Executive Anthony Picente learned of the print job Friday amid a public dispute with the county Board of Elections over an apparent $115,000 budget shortfall in the department.
North Dakota: Inquiries prompt Jaeger to make sure election workers are ‘on the same page’ | The Dickinson Press
In yet another sign of North Dakota’s hotly contested U.S. Senate race, the Secretary of State’s Office is fielding questions from party officials about the process for having poll challengers and poll checkers at voting sites. The questions prompted Secretary of State Al Jaeger to email county auditors last week, informing them of balloting rules and that they’ll receive several messages before Election Day to address the inquiries “so that all of us are on the same page.” “Naturally, many questions are being prompted by the predicted closeness of the U.S. Senate race,” Jaeger wrote. “Without doubt, the eyes of the nation will be on North Dakota. Regardless, I know all of us will rise to the occasion and will have another well run election.”
On August 31st, one day after the Republican National Convention ended in Tampa, a federal judge in Ohio issued a ruling that stymied an effort by Republican officials there to limit early voting dates for hundreds of thousands of registered voters. Citing the United States Supreme Court’s Bush v. Gore ruling, the 5-4 decision which ended the 2000 Florida recount, U.S. District Judge Peter Economus wrote that Ohio lawmakers and bureaucrats couldn’t, by “arbitrary and disparate treatment, value one person’s vote over that of another.”
Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted on Friday appealed a federal judge’s ruling that Ohio must count provisional votes cast in the wrong location due to poll worker error so long as they are cast in the correct county. That “vote anywhere” approach, Husted argues, could be burdensome to poll workers and potentially create chaos at polling places throughout the state, viewed as a pivotal battleground between President Barack Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney.
Texas Secretary of State Hope Andrade said Friday that European election observers have caused no problems with the state’s voting process, but she declined to criticize state Attorney General Greg Abbott for threatening them with arrest. Abbott sent a letter Thursday to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, complaining about the presence in Texas of members of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe. Abbott’s letter was the latest round in a public spat that began Tuesday when he warned the group’s representatives to stay at least 100 feet from all polling places and said they would be subject to “criminal prosecution” if they failed to comply with that requirement.
The supervisor of a Republican-affiliated voter registration drive has been accused of throwing away completed registration forms. Now authorities are trying to figure out whether the forms were discarded intentionally, and whether there is cause for concern elsewhere in Virginia. Authorities arrested the supervisor this month, after a Rockingham County businessman reported seeing someone dumping a bag into his store’s recycling bin. The businessman discovered the completed voter registration forms when he went to move the bag.
Chilean President Sebastian Pinera says the decision by many Chileans not to vote in Sunday’s local elections is a “warning sign” that should be heeded. The polls, the first to be held since voting was made voluntary, were marked by an abstention of 60%. The elections are seen as an early indicator with just over a year to go before the November 2013 presidential race. Mr Pinera’s centre-right alliance lost some key races, including in Santiago.
While an electronic voter registration system has been applauded, there are fears the absence of a paper trail for voting may compromise the counting process. Professor Wadan Nasey, a Fijian academic at Australia’s James Cook University told Radio Australia’s Pacific Beat program that electronic voting may also be confusing for some voters. “A lot of our people are very, very uneducated and they’re not able to even use an ATM machine,” he said.
Ukrainian President Victor Yanukovich’s party was on course on Monday to secure a parliamentary majority but international monitors said flaws in the way the election was conducted meant the country had taken a “step backwards”. Exit polls and first results from Sunday’s vote showed Yanukovich’s Party of the Regions would, with help from long-time allies, win more than half the seats in the 450-member assembly after boosting public sector wages and welfare handouts to win over disillusioned voters in its traditional power bases. They will face, though, a revitalized opposition boosted by resurgent nationalists and a liberal party led by boxing champion Vitaly Klitschko.
International observers delivered scathing criticism on Monday of Ukraine’s parliamentary election, saying the vote was heavily tilted in favor of President Viktor F. Yanukovich’s Party of Regions through the abuse of government resources, the dominance of media coverage and the jailing of two prominent opposition leaders. International observers on Monday said that the vote was heavily tilted in favor of President Viktor F. Yanukovich’s Party of Regions. “Considering the abuse of power, and the excessive role of money in this election, democratic progress appears to have reversed in Ukraine,” said Walburga Habsburg Douglas, a Swedish lawmaker who led an observer mission for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly.