Hawaii: State takes over Big Island elections | Hawaii News Now

The state has seized control of elections on the Big Island due in the wake of voting delays that plagued the county’s primary vote. State elections officials said they have “no confidence” in County Clerk Jamae Kawauchi and made the move to avoid problems in the November general election. “They didn’t feel we could run a successful general election in the County of Hawaii if we continued on this current path,” said State Chief Election Officer Scott Nago. “This has never been done before.” Nago said meetings last month with Kawauchi and elections workers convinced him that the county clerk hasn’t done enough to solve the voting delays that marred the August primary. On the primary election night, Gov. Neil Abercrombie kept Big Island polls open an hour-and-a-half later after Kawauchi told state officials that 25 of 40 polling stations did not open on time.

Iowa: Secretary of State Schultz blasts audit request | KMA Radio

Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz, a Republican, says he is disappointed Democrat State Senator Tom Courtney has called for a federal and state audit of federal funds used to pay a state DCI agent to investigate possible voter fraud. In response to Courtney’s request, Schultz told Radio Iowa it boils down to one thing. “Political grandstanding by Senator Courtney. You know, here is a situation where we’re trying to do what is right. We’re trying to make sure that we have honest and fair elections,” according to Schultz. “And instead of trying to help us, Senator Courtney is trying to stop the investigations. What Senator Courtney should be doing is saying ‘I support he has the funding to ensure we have fair and honest elections, and I will do whatever I can to ensure we have honest and fair elections’, but that is not what the senator is saying.” Schultz says he is confident any audit of the use of the Help America Vote Act, or HAVA funds, will confirm he is right. “At this point I trust my election staff that’s made up of election law lawyers. And I can tell you, Senator Courtney only focused on one part of the law and did not bring the entire law into the case here. My staff tells me we have the ability to do it, and I am trusting my staff,” Schultz says. The DCI charged three people with voter fraud in Pottawattamie County in September based on information from the Secretary of State’s office. Schultz says he could use more help in finding voter fraud.

Louisiana: New, smaller districts create voting machine shortage in Louisiana | The Advertiser

When local governments developed new election districts after the 2010 Census, they drew so many small precincts that it forced the state to purchase additional voting machines and limit the number of machines at each precinct. Secretary of State Tom Schedler said Wednesday that local governments went overboard. “We have precincts with one voter,” Schedler told a joint meeting of the House and Senate Governmental Affairs committees. “Several have three or four.” In Lincoln Parish, local officials increased the number of voting precincts from 42 to 102. “There’s no way the population doubled,” Schedler said. “It’s just out of control,” said Sen. Mike Walsworth, R-West Monroe, reacting to Schedler’s report.

Michigan: Secretary of State Ruth Johnson ordered to appear in court for hearing in voting case | Detroit Free Press

A federal judge has ordered Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson to appear in court on Friday for a hearing over her plans to require the use of citizenship check-off boxes on voter applications statewide for the Nov. 6 presidential election. Johnson’s office filed an emergency motion Monday asking U.S. District Judge Paul D. Borman to allow her director of elections, Christopher Thomas, to be substituted in her place at the hearing in Detroit. As of Wednesday, the judge had not ruled on that request, court records showed. An accompanying brief lists two reasons for the request: that Johnson has 11th Amendment immunity and that she should not be compelled to testify where a lower-ranking official has the requisite authority and knowledge.

Montana: Judge strikes down Montana campaign contribution limits | Missoulian

A federal judge Wednesday struck down Montana’s dollar limits on campaign contributions to state candidates, dealing another blow to long-standing state laws that attempt to limit money in politics. U.S. District Judge Charles Lovell of Helena, in a brief order, said the nearly 20-year-old limits violate free speech rights under the First Amendment of the Constitution, because they prevent candidates “from amassing the resources necessary for effective campaign advocacy.” Lovell permanently blocked the state from enforcing its contribution limits, apparently opening the door for individuals, political parties and political action committees to give virtually unlimited amounts of money to candidates running for Montana office this election season. However, state Attorney General Steve Bullock – who’s also running for governor this year – said his office will ask for an emergency stay of Lovell’s ruling while it appeals the order to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Oklahoma: School for the Blind tests new voting machines | MuskogeePhoenix.com

Oklahoma voters with visual impairments will be able to cast ballots independently and privately this year for the first time in a presidential election. The state’s new voting machines incorporate an audio aid that guides blind voters through the various ballot choices. Once selections have been made, the audio device summarizes the selections made and provides voters an opportunity to change their choices before the ballot is cast. Jane Thomas, a social worker at the Oklahoma School for the Blind, said students who participated Wednesday in a mock election encountered “some glitches.” But for the most part, Thomas said the technology incorporated this year with the state’s new voting machines is “wonderful.”

Pennsylvania: Voter ID issue is far from resolved | Boston.com

Just because opponents of Pennsylvania’s new law requiring voters to show photo identification won a preliminary injunction in court doesn’t mean the issue or the court case is going away. The law itself has not cleared the constitutional challenges before it, and indications from the state Supreme Court are that the law still faces significant legal problems. Meanwhile, the hubbub over the divisive law has awakened new Democratic Party volunteers and prompted the formation of the 175-group Voter ID Coalition. The Democratic Party and the coalition both said Wednesday they will shift their education campaigns to reflect a judge’s day-old decision that voters will not, after all, be required to show photo ID at their polling place. ‘‘The issue remains, the law remains,’’ said Joe Grace, a Philadelphia-based spokesman for the Voter ID Coalition. ‘‘It will have to be dealt with after Election Day, but it is simply not a factor when people go to the polls on Nov. 6 unless there’s confusion.’’

Editorials: Pennsylvania Voter ID Judge Rescues Republicans | Francis Wilkinson/Bloomberg

Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court judge Robert Simpson yesterday did his part to save the Republican Party. Simpson, a Republican himself, essentially postponed Pennsylvania’s voter ID law until after the 2012 election on the grounds that the state had made scant progress supplying IDs to prospective voters and would likely disenfranchise large numbers if the law wasn’t derailed. According to recent polls, President Barack Obama is leading Republican Mitt Romney in Pennsylvania by 7 to 12 points. Obama appears likely to win the state with or without a voter ID law tamping down the youth and minority vote. That doesn’t mean the state’s election would be without drama. Pennsylvania is on record with an estimate that 758,000 registered voters lack the proper ID. Over the course of 2012, a few more than 10,000 of those voters obtained one. So if the courts had permitted the law to go forward, perhaps three quarters of a million registered Pennsylvania voters would have been unable to vote this November.

Palau: Election Commission Bans Cell Phones to Prevent Vote Buying | Oceania Television Network

When voters went to the polls for the 2012 primary election in Palau they were greeted by a barrage of signs banning cell phones and cameras.  For the first time, cell phones were collected before voters were allowed to enter the voting booths.  This new rule was prompted by complaints to the Palau Election Commission of alleged vote-buying for walk-in voters that produced a photo of their vote.  Multiple sources have contacted OTV to advise that local radio and television host Alfonso Diaz was offering money to walk-in voters who took a picture of their ballot in the voting booth with presidential candidate Johnson Toribing marked.  Vote buying is a criminal offense in Palau subject to a fine and up to 1 year in prison for each individual offense.  The Palau Election Commission responded quickly after these complaints with the “No Cell Phones or Cameras” rule.

Ukraine: Violations build up as Ukrainian Election Day approaches | Kyiv Post

Just several weeks ahead of Election Day, Ukraine’s parliamentary campaign is already full of violations of election legislation that could affect the results and the vote’s legitimacy. Observers from OPORA, the largest domestic election monitoring group, point out increasing number of incidents of campaign violations, among them bribing voters, use of government resources of local authorities to the advantage of some parties and candidates, obstruction in election campaigning, unfair campaigning, use of law enforcement for campaign help and pressure on news media. “We have clearly determined that the [use of] administrative resources and [vote] bribing are those factors that may influence the outcome of [upcoming parliamentary] elections,” said Olha Ayvazovska, coordinator of electoral programs at OPORA, but could not elaborate whether this impact would be significant saying that it is too early to provide a final judgment as the campaign is not over yet.

Venezuela: High-Stakes Election in Venezuela | Council on Foreign Relations

The October 7 presidential election in Venezuela, which pits longtime president Hugo Chávez against former governor Henrique Capriles Radonski, presents Chávez’s most formidable electoral challenge to date. Although the three-term president retains popular support, Capriles has led a strong opposition campaign that has gained considerable momentum in the weeks leading up to the election. A defeat for the president could signal a significant shift in the country’s “socialist revolution,” its economy, and foreign relations. In the event of a reelection for Chávez, concerns linger over the conditions of his health and the trajectory of Venezuela’s future should he die in office. The October 7 vote has significant implications for the direction of Venezuela’s “socialist revolution,” as well as the country’s democratic landscape. Michael Penfold writes in a January 2012 Foreign Affairs article that “a Chávez defeat would signal the end of a leftist revolution that has radically transformed Venezuela and, some argue, Latin America in the twenty-first century,” while a Chávez victory would “inflict a fatal blow to a renewed opposition that has struggled, and now seems to be succeeding, to gain some traction in a socially polarized country.”

National: Does Your Vote Count? | CBS Miami

Ion Sancho is a man on a mission.  Just weeks from the presidential election, one of the most veteran election supervisors in the state of Florida, thinks there’s plenty for him and his colleagues to lose sleep over. What keeps him awake at night?  Whether you can trust the machine you will be voting on. “We still have not secured the process to ensure that that machine has read that ballot correctly and it is 100 percent accurate. Because it is wrong to assume that the machines are always right. They’re not, ” Sancho tells CBS4  Chief Investigator Michele Gillen. “I think the citizens should be screaming from the rooftops,” he punctuates with the candor and directness he is known for. For many voters Sancho’s words hold weight. He was the first elections supervisor in America to dare a “look under the hood” of a voting machine, to see if the machines were recording votes properly and if they could be hacked. ” I sanctioned the first investigation of a voting system without the vendor’s authorization,” Sancho recalls.

National: Voter registration fraud claims singe GOP | CBS News

Revelations that the Republican National Committee urged several states to hire a consulting firm that submitted potentially fraudulent voter registration forms in Florida are continuing to cause embarrassment to the Republican Party. RNC spokesman Sean Spicer said Thursday his group had cut ties to the firm, Strategic Allied Consulting, citing “zero tolerance” for voter fraud. “This is an issue we take extremely seriously,” he told CBS News. “When allegations were brought to our attention we severed all ties to the firm.” The Los Angeles Times reported that the RNC urged the state GOP in seven swing states to hire the firm, despite the fact that the man who runs it, Nathan Sproul, has been accused of running firms that have destroyed Democratic registrations. Sproul told the newspaper that RNC officials asked him to set up a new firm, Strategic Allied Consulting, so that his efforts would not be linked to those allegations. The RNC has reportedly paid the firm at least $3.1 million via state parties. Sproul blamed the suspicious forms on a single employee in Palm Beach County. But Florida election officials tell CBS News they have found a “couple hundred” voter registrations in eight Florida counties with “irregularities” that deserve further scrutiny. They are currently reviewing the registrations and if they find them to be “legally significant” they will turn them over to law enforcement. This could happen by the end of the day.

National: E-Mail Votes Seen Raising Election Security Risk: BGOV Barometer | Bloomberg

The Nov. 6 presidential election is the first in which almost half the states will permit Americans in the military or overseas to cast ballots via e-mail or online, raising concerns that voting may be vulnerable to hacking or cyber attacks. The BGOV Barometer shows that 23 states and the District of Columbia will permit some degree of Internet-enabled voting for armed forces personnel and U.S. citizens living abroad, according to data compiled by the Overseas Vote Foundation. Among contested states in the presidential race, Nevada, Colorado, Iowa and North Carolina will allow e-mailed ballots, raising the possibility that the winner of a state’s electoral votes might depend on a few thousand electronic ballots. “From a security point of view, it’s the riskiest form of voting ever invented,” said David Jefferson, a director of the Verified Voting Foundation, a Carlsbad, California-based non- profit that works to improve the security of online and electronic balloting.

Iowa: Secretary of State Schultz criticized for use of federal funds in voter fraud probe | Des Moines Register

Secretary of State Matt Schultz and a key state lawmaker are at odds over the use of federal money to investigate alleged voter fraud in Iowa. Sen. Tom Courtney, D-Burlington, chairman of the Iowa Senate’s Government Oversight Committee, sent formal letters on the matter Tuesday to State Auditor David Vaudt and a federal inspector general for the U.S. Election Assistance Commission. Courtney asked the officials for audits of Schultz’s use of federal funds from the Help America Vote Act, or HAVA, to hire a state Division of Criminal Investigation agent to investigate alleged voter fraud. Courtney said the federal money is supposed to be used to help educate voters about procedures, voting rights and voting technology. Hiring a law enforcement officer isn’t an allowable expense, he said.

Michigan: Citizenship question ordered off Michigan voter form | The Detroit News

A federal judge late Friday ordered Secretary of State Ruth Johnson to remove a U.S. citizenship question from ballot applications for the Nov. 6 election, citing inconsistent enforcement and potential “confusion” at the polls. “It really is a burden on the right to vote in terms of slowing things down, in terms of confusion,” U.S. District Court Paul Borman said in ruling from the bench after a six-hour hearing. Johnson, a Republican, said she was disappointed by the judge’s ruling. She questioned why she was hauled into court Friday and defended the citizenship question as a tool to root out noncitizens on the voter rolls. “This is an education tool that we found that works,” Johnson told reporters.

Ohio: Early voting reinstated in Ohio | The Washington Post

A federal appeals court on Friday sided with President Obama’s reelection campaign and said that if Ohio allows military voters to cast ballots in the three days leading to Election Day, it must extend the same opportunity to all voters. A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit said the state had not shown why voting during the Saturday-Sunday-Monday period should be offered to only one group of voters. “While there is a compelling reason to provide more opportunities for military voters to cast their ballots, there is no corresponding satisfactory reason to prevent non-military voters from casting their ballots as well,” wrote Circuit Judge Eric L. Clay. “The public interest . . . favors permitting as many qualified voters to vote as possible,” he added.

National: After Pennsylvania ruling, future of voter ID in other states is unclear | Philadelphia Inquirer

A Commonwealth Court decision Tuesday resolves the question of whether Pennsylvanians must present ID at the polls in November, but it hardly ends the state or national debate on the subject. In recent years, 30 states have put in place laws requiring voters to show some form of identification before casting a ballot, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. In 2012, 33 states introduced legislation to either implement voter ID or strengthen or amend previously passed laws. In many, like Pennsylvania, there has been great division over the need for such laws. And by confining the decision to the upcoming presidential election, Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson Jr. ensured that the debate will continue in Pennsylvania.

National: Setbacks For Voter ID Laws in Pennsylvania, Other States Could Be Short-Lived | NPR

Civil rights groups are cheeringthe injunction placed on the Pennsylvania voter identification law, but their recent victories against state photo ID measures very likely won’t last beyond Election Day. The Pennsylvania law is the latest to lose a court ruling that keeps it from being implemented for Nov. 6; before that, a federal court ruled against Texas’ strict photo ID statute. In both cases, the judges ruled that voters who lack the allowed IDs would be disenfranchised. The Pennsylvania ruling, in particular, turned on the judge’s opinion that there wasn’t enough time for voters to obtain new IDs before Election Day.

National: DOD slams report that military absentee ballots are down due to DOD error | Washington Examiner

Defense Department spokesman George Little said he takes “strong issue” with the Military Voter Protection Project report showing a major decline in requests for absentee ballots among service members. “The data in that report, we believe, is quite old,” Little told reporters at the Pentagon today. “It’s important to remember that the number of deployed members in the war-zones has declined significantly.”

Arizona: Political parties united in dislike of Arizona’s top-two primaries | Mohave Daily News

They don’t agree on much, but a plan to create “top two” primaries has Arizona’s major and minor political parties on the same page – or at least close to it. Their responses range from outright opposition from Republican, Libertarian and Green leaders to noncommittal dislike from the Arizona Democratic Party. Proposition 121, dubbed the Open Elections/Open Government Act, would replace the current partisan primary system with a single primary that advances the top vote-getters regardless of party. The Open Government Committee, led by former Phoenix Mayor Paul Johnson, contends the change would produce more moderate candidates and increase primary election turnout.

Florida: Election supervisor refutes Strategic Allied Consulting claim | ABC-7.com

Lee County Election Supervisor Sharon Harrington says she doesn’t believe one person is responsible for more than 100 bogus election registration forms discovered in Florida. “I don’t believe it’s all just one person.  It might be one person in a specific area,” said Harrington, who was referring to claims submitted by Strategic Allied Consulting. The company is accused of forging voter registrations around the state.  They were hired by the Republican Party and then fired after the allegations surfaced in Florida, North Carolina, Colorad, Nevada and Virginia.

Florida: Did the Anti-Voter Fraud Crusade Undermine the GOP in Florida? | TIME.com

The Sunshine State news last week was dark enough for Republicans even before the voter registration scandal hit the headlines. A Quinnipiac poll gave President Obama 53% to just 44% for GOP candidate Mitt Romney in the critical swing state of Florida, which seemed a neck-and-neck race just a few weeks ago. That body blow has since been followed by revelations that a consulting firm contracted by the Republican Party of Florida to register GOP voters is under investigation by state and local officials for election fraud. The irony is stunning: like Republican establishments in numerous other states, the Florida GOP has declared itself the voter fraud watchdog of the 2012 election. Almost since taking office 21 months ago, conservative Republican Governor Rick Scott has pushed through tight restrictions on voter-registration groups, ramped up efforts to purge rolls of ineligible voters, made it harder for felons to regain voter rights and scaled back early voting. As a result, growing disclosures that the Arizona-based Strategic Allied Consulting—which the Republican National Committee required state parties like Florida’s to hire—may be guilty of turning in hundreds of fraudulent registrations in more than 10 counties, and is also being probed in other states, is a major embarrassment. (Strategic insists the problems are isolated and under control, but the Republicans have fired the firm.)

Hawaii: State Officials Will Oversee Voting On Nov. 6 In Hawaii County | Honolulu Civil Beat

State elections officials say they will take back oversight of Election Day voting on the Big Island because problems relating to the Aug. 11 primary have not been adequately addressed. Hawaii Chief of Elections Scott Nago said Tuesday he is rescinding state elections responsibilities that had been delegated to Big Island clerk Jamae Kawauchi. A small group of staff members hired by the state will take over Big Island Election Day activities, according to state elections spokesman Rex Quidilla. One of them is Lori Tomczyk, the office’s Oahu-based ballot operations section head who helped out with state elections operations in Hilo on the day of the primary. Tomczyk, who has been on the job since 2000, will be filling in as lead administrator. “We’re injecting our supervision and expertise,” said Quidilla, adding that little would actually be changing in terms of personnel. “This is something we see being done only under these current circumstances. With a great deal of hand-wringing did we come to this point. We certainly hope that this isn’t something that has to be done in the future.”

Mississippi: Hinds County Election Commissioners spar over absentee ballots | WLBT.com

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. In question are absentee military and overseas ballots that missed the deadline in Hinds County. The issue, absentee election ballots missed the state-imposed Sept. 22 deadline. The delay is of concern to military families who did not receive absentee ballots 45 days prior to the upcoming federal election.

Mississippi: Voter ID law getting federal scrutiny | The Commercial Appeal

Atty. Gen. Jim Hood says the Department of Justice has asked for more information on Mississippi’s voter identification law. Hood said in a statement Tuesday that the bottom line is that the law will not be pre-cleared by the Justice Department in time for it to be enforced for the Nov. 6 election. Mississippi’s law provides for a wide range of photo identifications that could be used at the polling places. Supporters of voter ID say it’s needed to help ensure the integrity of elections by preventing people from voting under others’ names. Opponents say there’s been little proof of people masquerading as others to cast ballots. They also contend the ID requirement could suppress voter turnout among poor, elderly and minority voters. “All the DOJ is saying in this response is that they need more details of the state’s plan in order to make a determination,” Hood said. “What this means is that the voter ID requirement will not be in place before the November election. You will not be required to show ID at the poll until DOJ interposes no objections or pre-clears Mississippi’s voter ID bill.”

South Carolina: Voter ID debate shifts to South Carolina as campaigners challenge restrictions | guardian.co.uk

The battle over voting rights in the November presidential election now swings to South Carolina, following the decision by the Pennsylvania courts on Tuesday to delay implementation of a voter ID requirement in that state. All eyes are now on the legal tussle between the department of justice and South Carolina, where probably the last voter ID law will be decided before election day on 6 November. Last year South Carolina became one of at least 34 states to introduce strict laws that require voters to present photo identification at polling stations – one of a swathe of measures attacking voting rights that swept across the US this election cycle. South Carolina’s law was blocked, however, by the Obama administration last June.

Pennsylvania: Voter ID ruling mirrors trend across U.S. | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

With Pennsylvania’s latest upheaval over what voters must take to the polls next month, the state joins a series of battles across the country where opponents of photo ID laws have seen success for the current election cycle. Challengers have garnered temporary victories against photo ID laws here, as well as in Texas and Wisconsin. Federal officials also halted laws in Mississippi, and likely South Carolina, from going into effect this year. While a weak lawsuit against Tennessee’s tough ID law was tossed aside and a stringent ID card referendum still awaits Minnesota voters, opponents note that the ballot measure in Minnesota only drew support from 52 percent of respondents in a recent poll. “In most cases, the challengers aren’t losing; they’ve generally been successful,” said Keesha Gaskins, senior counsel for the Brennan Center for Justice, which has been critical of voter ID laws.