A growing number of lawmakers want Congress to step in to streamline voters’ trips to the polls. Although warnings of voter fraud generated far more discussion leading up to Tuesday’s elections, enormous lines in many districts turned out to be the much greater threat to the process, as hours-long waits greeted voters in Florida, Virginia, Maryland, Wisconsin and elsewhere. The delays have stirred questions about why the United States can’t make it easier to vote, stoked accusations of voter suppression in minority districts and renewed the debate over Washington’s responsibility to safeguard an efficient process.
On Tuesday, millions of Americans stood in long lines at crowded polling stations to exercise their right to vote. It was heartening to see that so many Americans care so deeply about their democracy that they were willing to endure considerable inconvenience to have their say. Although most were ultimately able to cast a ballot, the long lines were a disgrace. As President Obama said that night, “We have to fix that.” And we have to do so now. Long lines were the most visible manifestation of the problems with our voting system; unfortunately, those problems run deeper. I spent Election Day helping to field calls from voters across the country on behalf of the Election Protection Coalition, which runs the nation’s largest non-partisan voter protection hotline. I have also been monitoring the election process and its problems throughout the lead-up to November 6th. These are the key takeaways.
The election is over, and it has already become easy to forget the election administration lunacy that plagued many communities this year: long waits for voting, changing legal rules even while the election was under way, misprinted ballots, incorrect instructions given to voters, and various machine breakdowns. When close elections lead to recounts and jurisdictions undergo the legal equivalent of a proctology exam, the remarkable variety of maladies that plague the American electoral system are exposed. But when a candidate’s margin of victory exceeds the margin of litigation, we tend, as a nation, to rapidly develop electoral amnesia. We shouldn’t need a Bush v. Gore-style heart attack, though, to shock us out of complacency about an election system that fails in its most basic functions.
National: Judicial elections in 2012: voters rejected the politicization of the courts | Slate Magazine
Tucked away in last Tuesday’s national election results was a bona fide mandate, on a scale that presidents can only dream of. Voters across the country rejected a multifront crusade to bully judges and politicize courtrooms. That doesn’t mean, though, that the war against the independent judiciary is over. The situation looked far graver two years ago. In 2010, in a breakthrough moment, three Iowa Supreme Court justices were swept from the bench after ruling—as part of a unanimous court—that the state constitution protects the rights of same-sex couples to marry. Meanwhile, Supreme Court justices in Alaska, Colorado, and Illinois also faced aggressive efforts to oust them in retention elections, where voters decide whether or not to keep an incumbent judge. The following year, a record-breaking number of bills were filed to impeach or remove judges. Legislators also sought to weaken merit selection, whereby a nonpartisan screening commission provides a governor with a list of potential nominees.
Observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) have expressed dissatisfaction with the organization of the presidential elections in the United States. Russia’s representatives of the OSCE mission are yet to speak to journalists on the matter, while their European colleagues have already issued an official report on the US elections. US media continue to hush up the report, instead focusing on the re-election of Barack Obama. One even gets the impression that US media outlets were irked with the OSCE observers’ work in the US during the elections. All this is not uncommon during elections worldwide, says Maxim Minayev of the Center for Political Conjuncture in Moscow.
Hundreds of thousands of ballots have yet to be counted in Arizona nearly a week after Election Day, a majority of which appeared to come from Maricopa County. Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett’s said Saturday that approximately 486,405 ballots still have to be counted across the state, representing more than a quarter of the 1.8 million votes cast. About 322,000 of those uncounted ballots came from Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix and many of its suburbs. The statewide total included 307,620 early ballots and 178,785 provisional ballots.
Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Richard Carmona conceded last week to Republican Rep. Jeff Flake, but as activists protest in Arizona over uncounted ballots, Carmona’s campaign said Monday it will consider its options if the voting tally tightens. “We’re watching it very closely, and we’re going to make sure every vote is counted,” Carmona campaign spokesman Andy Barr told TPM’s Sahil Kapur. Arizona has been under fire since last week, when a number of votes went uncounted due to issues at the polls. Voters reported showing up only to be told they were not registered or they had been issued absentee ballots, and were instead given provisional ballots that are now being counted by the state. (The Arizona Republic lays out the possible reasons for votes to go uncounted here.)
Amid calls for state and federal investigations into the number of provisional ballots cast in Arizona on Tuesday, election officials are appealing for patience — and some basic math skills. At a raucous downtown rally, state Democratic lawmakers and Latino activist groups said Friday that the U.S. Department of Justice and state officials should probe what the lawmakers and activists believe is an unusual number of uncounted early ballots, as well as what they said was a higher number of provisional ballots given to minority voters who showed up at the polls. They also want Maricopa County election officials to better publicize how voters who cast a “conditional” provisional ballot, because they were unable to present proper ID, can ensure their vote is counted.
Florida became a punch line after the 2000 presidential election when pregnant and hanging chad and butterfly ballots became household words. Evidently, Gov. Rick Scott and the Republican-controlled Legislature reckoned late-night comics needed new material. Consider: In the early voting period before Election Day, Floridians languished in long lines. Ditto on Election Day; in Miami, some voters cast ballots well past the witching hour.
Hawaii: Office of Elections Apologizes for Election Day Glitches That Left 24 Polling Places Without Paper Ballots | Hawaii Reporter
Election officials have confirmed 24 out of 140 polling places on the island of Oahu ran out of paper ballots during the General Election on Tuesday, November 6. (See the list here – BALLOT INVENTORY ISSUES BY POLLING PLACE). The number was originally reported as 5 polling places, but by the day after the election, that number had increased by nearly five times. With just one electronic voting machine at each location, only about 10 voters per hour could be accommodated. Others waited in line for sometimes more than hour for additional paper ballots to arrive.
The Black Hawk County Auditor’s Office will request an administrative recount in two precincts for the legislative elections after apparent discrepancies in vote totals at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Cedar Falls and Irv Warren Pro Shop in Waterloo. “We don’t expect the outcomes of these races to change, but they’re close enough that we didn’t think we should leave anything to chance,” said Black Hawk County Auditor Grant Veeder. The recount could impact the races for Senate District 30 and House Districts 59 and 60.
On first hearing, voter ID laws sound like an obvious and innocent idea. After all, don’t you need ID for everything else these days? So it’s not surprising that 80 percent of Minnesotans polled last year said they favored a proposed state ballot measure that would have required voters to present a government-issued photo ID before voting. But then progressive groups launched a massive education campaign, telling people what it would really mean. And despite starting 60 points behind in the polls, come Election Day they defeated the measure by a 54-to-46 margin.
The sun had set twice since Election Day and still Yellowstone County workers were counting votes Thursday afternoon on ballot machines that jammed after a couple of dozen ballots. With right around 70,000 voters turning out for the general election, it was the worst possible time for things to go haywire. Elections Administrator Bret Rutherford and his predecessor, Duane Winslow, said several things had tripped up their count. The biggest snag appears to be folded absentee ballots, of which Yellowstone County issued about 53,000. “It really was just the jamming that was the main issue,” Rutherford said.
For African-Americans in Ohio, coming out to vote during this election was personal. Many saw the state’s voter-ID bills as a direct threat to rights denied their ancestors decades earlier. Fueled as much by angst against the ID mandate as enthusiasm for a black president, African-Americans voted at a rate so much higher than 2008 that they may have been the decisive voting bloc. President Obama captured Ohio, arguably the most important battleground state, thanks to record African-American turnout. The Resurgent Republic, an independent not-for-profit organization that gauges public opinion, pointed out, “If African-American turnout was in line with 2008, Romney would have won Ohio,” according to Politico.
Oregon: Ballot fraud allegations in Clackamas County could lead to changes in election procedures | OregonLive.com
Allegations of ballot fraud by a Clackamas County election worker may lead to some immediate steps to make Oregon’s voting system more secure — as well as pressure for additional legislative changes. But, so far at least, the allegations don’t appear to cast a shadow over Oregon’s pioneering system of voting by mail. Local and national experts say this kind of fraud could occur in any state. Doug Lewis, executive director of the National Association of Election Officials, said that a rogue election worker could attempt the same kind of fraud in any jurisdiction that uses paper ballots – which at a minimum are used by absentee voters everywhere.
President Obama’s victory over Mitt Romney in last Tuesday’s presidential election was driven, in part, by the president’s strength in urban areas, where robust support cushioned the incumbent against electoral deficits in rural America. But almost a week after the election, it is now becoming clear just how lopsided President Obama’s victory was in some cities: in dozens of urban precincts, Mitt Romney earned literally zero votes. The Phildadelphia Inquirer reported today that, in 59 precincts in inner-city Philadelphia, the GOP nominee received not a single vote. And according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, nine precincts in Cleveland returned zero Romney votes. At first blush, it seems almost impossible: how, even in some of the most heavily Democratic strongholds in the country, could a major party’s presidential candidate fail to earn even one vote?
South Carolina: Losing candidate calls for new election over voting machine shortage | The Augusta Chronicle
A Republican who lost a bid to unseat a Richland County councilman called for a new election Monday, accusing county elections officials of intentionally not putting out enough voting machines on Election Day. Michael Letts said at a news conference Monday that thousands of voters abandoned hourslong lines because there were not enough machines. Letts lost to County Councilman Jim Manning, 37 percent to 63 percent, but said he was also worried about a county sales tax vote. By a margin of more than 9,000 votes, Richland County voted to increase sales tax by a penny, a decision that supporters have said will mean a $1 billion windfall for the area. Letts, who opposed the increase, said fewer voting machines were sent to areas that had voted against the measure when it was first put to voters in 2010. “A law was broken, deliberately, before the polls were ever opened,” Letts said.
Republicans and Democrats don’t agree on much in South Carolina, but the leaders of both parties said this year’s elections were a mess. More than 200 candidates were kicked off the June primary ballot because of paperwork problems. Voters waited four hours or more to vote Tuesday in one of the state’s largest counties, and there was an unprecedented seizure of votes. The way people are elected was in the news more than the politicians themselves. “Both parties have spent more money, more time and more effort in court than we have on the political side. It’s been exasperating,” said South Carolina Democratic Party Chairman Dick Harpootlian.
South Carolina: Vote-counting expert, former voting machines’ technician detail possible missteps in Richland County’s election | TheState.com
Planning Richland County’s 2012 election didn’t require rocket science, yet the ship exploded. Critics – which is pretty much everyone – say last week’s voting was an utter mess. Election Day was entwined with unmatched voter frustration, people who walked away because of long lines, vote-counting delays, lawsuits, ballot seizures, an election protest and recriminations about the motives of some county election officials. Early voters, trying to get a jump on Tuesday’s election, lined the sidewalk on Harden street at the Richland County administration building all day on Monday.
V.I. Attorney General Vincent Frazer said Friday that he has set up a panel of his senior staff to look into a multitude of complaints residents have made to the V.I. Justice Department about the territory’s 2012 elections. “The complaints have been many,” he said. “We’ve gotten complaints about the conduct of the primary, about the certification of machines, about the use of ballots.” Those are just some of the complaints and allegations he is aware of, he said. “So we’ve established a panel of my senior staff to go in and investigate those things,” he said.
IT IS … days to election 2012. The anxiety of Ghanaians increase by the day, as the election approaches. Every day, the airwaves are filled with political discussions in both English and local languages. There are also individual discussions among various groups of people on different subjects of politics. The stakes in this year’s elections are very high because of the players involved. There are eight presidential candidates in the upcoming December 2012 elections, but the popular view is that there are two major contenders. They are President John Dramani Mahama of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) and Nana Addo Dankwa Akuffo Addo of the New Patriotic Party (NPP).
Sierra Leoneans are going to the polls on Saturday to elect their leaders. Although 10 parties are slugging it out, the contest is between two prominent parties. Like most political contests in Africa, the election is already assuming frightening dimensions with attacks of political opponents, mudslinging, and breeding of fear, as reported by veteran journalist, Lindsay Barret. Reports coming out of Sierra Leone indicate that objective observers of that West African nation’s affairs are increasingly anxious over the course of what may eventually be regarded as the most important and closely fought of four elections held since its civil war ended a little over a decade ago.
No candidate appeared to win an outright majority in Sunday’s presidential election in Slovenia, and a runoff is expected next month between the incumbent and a former prime minister. Former Prime Minister Borut Pahor was first with 40 percent of the vote, followed by President Danilo Turk, with 36.2 percent and center-right candidate Milan Zver at 24 percent, the state election commission said after 99.9 percent of the ballots were counted. If that outcome holds when the commission announces the official results in the coming days, a runoff between the top two candidates will be held on Dec. 2.
Turks and Caicos Islands: Official recount of ballots confirms results giving Turks & Caicos closely divided Parliament | The Washington Post
A Monday recount of paper ballots from parliamentary elections in the British territory of the Turks & Caicos Islands confirmed no changes from the provisional tally. The recount established that the Progressive National Party won eight of the 15 Parliament seats in Friday’s elections that will lead to a government that will resume local administration after three years of direct rule by Britain, the governor’s office said in a statement Monday evening. Provisional results announced Saturday showed that Ewing’s party won the election, but People’s Democratic Movement leader Oswald Skippings pushed for a recount of the overall vote. He failed to win a seat but his party claimed the remaining seven seats.