In 2013, state legislators continue to push laws that would make it harder for eligible American citizens to vote. At the same time, others are pressing measures to improve elections. Below you will find a regularly-updated, comprehensive roundup of where restrictive laws were introduced, where they are pending, where they are active, and where they have passed thus far. Click here to read a detailed summary of all passed and pending restrictive legislation proposed nationwide in the 2013 state legislative sessions (as of March 29th).
Colorado: Election watcher renews objections about Boulder County’s ballot sorting machine | Longmont Times-Call
Longmont resident Jim August on Tuesday renewed his call for Boulder County’s commissioners to get rid of what he now calls a “piece of junk” — a mail ballot sorting and signature scanning machine the county bought for $220,000 last year. August, who made a similar appeal to the Board of County Commissioners last month, expressed dissatisfaction with an emailed answer from the commissioners late Monday afternoon, in which they wrote that Boulder County Clerk and Recorder Hillary Hall “has indicated to us that the equipment served its intended function during the (2012 general) election, allowing election staff to efficiently process mail ballot envelopes as they were delivered.”
A series of partisan clashes on an early voting bill Tuesday brought a stern lecture from Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, the point man on the legislation, who said he was “taking it a little bit personal.” He leveled a volley of criticism at Sen. Chris Smith, D-Fort Lauderdale, leader of the Senate’s 14 Democrats, who tried in vain to change the bill to Democrats’ liking. Latvala’s bill seeks to address the chaos and long lines at the polls last fall, but Democrats say it doesn’t go far enough. Case in point: The bill (SB 600) mandates at least eight days of early voting for eight hours every day. Election supervisors can expand that to 14 days for 12 hours a day, including the Sunday before the election, but it’s optional, as supervisors wanted, and not required. Smith offered a batch of amendments that failed on 5-3 votes in the Senate Community Affairs Committee, including allowing early voting at any precinct and mandatory 14 days of early voting including the Sunday before the election. Smith said the bill gives county elections officials too much discretion so that it will lead to varying early voting schedules. “It’s almost comical,” Smith said.
Nebraska lawmakers began debate Wednesday on a bill to reduce the number of days for in-person early voting in order to prevent situations like the one in which a blind Lincoln woman couldn’t cast an early ballot because the machine to help disabled voters was not ready. Late last year, a hearing officer, Lincoln attorney Robert Kinsey Jr., suggested reducing the period for in-person, early voting from 35 days to 25 days. Kinsey was appointed to oversee the case, which stemmed from a complaint filed by Nebraskans for Civic Reform on behalf of Fatos Floyd of Lincoln. Floyd, who is blind, called the Lincoln Election Commissioner’s Office on Oct. 3 — two days after in-person early voting began — to say she was bringing in a friend with visual impairment to vote on the county’s Automark terminal but was told the machine’s software wasn’t yet available. Neal Erickson, deputy secretary of state for elections, said earlier the main problem is that Nebraska law says ballots for early voting must be ready 35 days before the election. The law also says the ballots must be certified by the secretary of state 50 days before the election. In the 15 days between the two deadlines, election officials must finalize the ballot layouts, print the ballots and program Automark terminals.
New York: City report outlines millions wasted by Board of Elections for overstaffing 2011 elections | NY Daily News
The Board of Elections wasted nearly $2.5 million by ignoring recommendations that it reduce staffing for the low-turnout 2011 election, according to a blistering report Monday by the city Department of Investigation. With a paltry voter turnout of 3.9%, the city averaged one poll worker for every six voters, the report charged. At 12 poll sites, election workers actually outnumbered voters. With no major races on the ballot, the chronically blundering board had been warned by the DOI and the Daily News that full staffing was unnecessary for Election Day 2011. A News editorial on Oct. 31, 2011 — titled “Stop thieves!” — calculated that the board was about to throw away millions of dollars by having its usual complement of patronage workers at the polls.
A bill filed in the state Senate Tuesday would carry a tax penalty for parents whose children register to vote at their college address. Senate Bill 667, known as “Equalize Voter Rights,” would remove the tax exemption for dependents who register to vote at any address other than their parents’ home. “If the voter is a dependent of the voter’s parent or legal guardian, is 18 years of age or older and the voter has registered at an address other than that of the parent or legal guardian, the parent or legal guardian will not be allowed to claim the voter as a dependent for state income tax purposes,” the bill says. The measure would affect only state income tax, so it wouldn’t have much effect on out-of-state students. But it could effectively cut student voting in counties like Watauga and Orange, where college voters have been a key part of the Democratic Party’s dominance.
Chuck Tryon is one of the 57 percent of North Carolinians who cast their ballot before Election Day last year. He said it was convenient for both him and his wife, who live in the Raleigh suburb of Holly Springs but face a long commute to their jobs in Fayetteville. “It is incredibly valuable to us,” said Tryon, an English professor at Fayetteville State University. “I have always appreciated it.’’ But early voting – a practice in North Carolina since 2000 – may soon be sharply restricted if the Republican legislature has its way. The legislature is considering bills that would reduce the early voting period from two and half weeks to one week, and would end Sunday voting. It also would end the practice of allowing persons to register and vote on the same day at early voting sites.
North Dakota voters may have to present identification before they can cast a ballot at the next election. Senate lawmakers Wednesday passed House Bill 1332 by a 30-16 vote, which will eliminate the voter affidavit process that allows a voter to cast a ballot without proof of eligibility. Currently, people who can’t prove residency at the polls can vote by signing an affidavit that says they are a North Dakota resident. The bill will be sent to Gov. Jack Dalrymple for his signature. The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Randy Boehning, R-Fargo, and other lawmakers have been concerned about the current system, arguing it leads to voter fraud. Opponents of the proposal raised concerns that requiring identification will make it difficult for elderly people and college students to obtain an ID because they are physically unable to or do not have a permanent residence to obtain one.
The Senate Appropriations Committee gave a bill that would require a state-issued identification to vote a do pass recommendation on Tuesday. Committee members spent 30 minutes discussing House Bill 1332 before voting 7-6 in favor of the bill. The bill now heads back to the Senate Government and Veterans Affairs Committee for further review. Primary bill sponsor Rep. Randy Boehning, R-Fargo, said the bill deals with voter affidavits and details a requirement for having a state-issued identification to vote. Boehning pointed out a change made by the Government and Veterans Affairs Committee.
It’s possible in these days of instant connectivity to monitor nearly every financial, physical and social transaction using the Internet – from banking to travel, and from dieting to dinner reservations. So should you also be able to declare yourself a legal voter in the state of Pennsylvania online as well? State Sen. Lloyd Smucker, R-Lancaster, sponsor of a bill to create online voter registration in Pennsylvania, thinks so. “The idea is to give additional options and provide greater convenience, and hopefully increase participation in voting,” Smucker said. Smucker said he got the idea from a constituent who wondered why Pennsylvania didn’t have an online system like those used in other states. Residents would be able to register online up to 30 days before an election. They also would be able to change their party affiliation, address or name on the online form.
South Carolina Republicans who want to block Democrats from voting in GOP primaries have been unable to persuade state lawmakers to change election law, and they’re stalled in federal court. Now they’re turning to party rules, trying to line up enough delegates to make a big switch in GOP practice: Picking nominees through a vote of activists at a state convention in 2014 instead of through the current open primary in which anyone can vote. Favoring the change, which would have to be approved by 75 percent of delegates at a state convention, are some activists who have long complained that the current system facilitates the nomination of so-called RINOS – or Republicans in Name Only. These activists argue that non-Republicans must be kept from voting in GOP primaries if the party is going to put forward nominees who reflect the conservative values of its rank and file. But longtime Republicans who helped build the state party over the years say the current system has served the GOP well.
Wisconsin: Milwaukee voters overwhelmingly back retaining same-day voter registration | Journal Sentinel
Voters in Milwaukee overwhelmingly approved an advisory referendum Tuesday that backs the right to register at the polls on election day. With 97% of the units reporting, the measure was winning 73%-27%. A number of voter rights groups had backed putting the measure on the ballot in January, including Milwaukee Inner-city Congregations Allied for Hope, One Wisconsin Now and United Wisconsin. The Common Council, with Ald. Milele Coggs as the lead sponsor, approved the referendum on a 11-4 vote in mid-January. Before Tuesday’s vote, proponents of same-day voting were hoping for a large turnout and victory margin as a means of sending a message to Republican legislators not to fiddle with the law. It was unclear what Tuesday’s outcome will mean to the future of same-day registration. Nine members of the council doubled down this week, issuing a statement urging Milwaukee voters to express their opinion on same-day registration and voting.
The prosecutors who decided to proceed with a charge against Conservative campaign worker Michael Sona in the robocall case must believe they have a shot at conviction, which suggests Elections Canada has evidence stronger than anything it has disclosed in publicly available court documents, says veteran elections lawyer Jack Siegel. “The standard to get it through a prosecutor is reasonable prospect of obtaining a conviction,” said Siegel, an active Liberal, in an interview Wednesday. “Of course, all the evidence they have is not going to be on the public record.” Sona, who was director of communications on the unsuccessful campaign of Guelph Conservative candidate Marty Burke, was charged Tuesday under the Elections Act for seeking to “prevent or endeavour to prevent an elector from voting at an election,” for actions alleged to have taken place between April 30 and May 2, 2011.
Malaysia: Fresh Elections Offer Striking Choice – Malaysia Prepares for a Close Election Fight | Wall Street Journal
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak’s call for fresh elections presents his fractured, multiethnic country with a stark choice: Stick with a ruling party that has governed the Muslim-majority nation for over half a century, or usher in an era of potentially sweeping change by electing Anwar Ibrahim’s opposition alliance. The date remains to be set by Malaysia’s Election Commission after Mr. Najib dissolved Parliament on Wednesday. But the race already is shaping up to be the most important and closely fought contest since independence from Britain in 1957, and one that could radically alter the future of what is widely regarded as one of the Islamic world’s most dynamic nations. Since taking office four years ago, Mr. Najib, 59 years old, has nudged through reforms aimed at outflanking Mr. Anwar’s supporters and containing a growing clamor for greater accountability and more democracy. After several mass rallies on the streets of Kuala Lumpur in recent years, Mr. Najib scrapped a decades-old law enabling security forces to detain critics without trial, and began chipping away at a sprawling affirmative-action program designed to help the majority ethnic-Malay Muslim population catch up with generally wealthier ethnic Chinese.
Venezuela has a transparent voting system but the election to replace late leader Hugo Chavez will be “deeply undemocratic” because the government candidate has an unfair advantage over the opposition, a member of the electoral body said. Vicente Diaz, known as the dissenting voice on the five-member National Electoral Council (CNE), told AFP that it was impossible for opposition candidate Henrique Capriles to have as much media visibility as Chavez’s chosen successor, acting President Nicolas Maduro. “If we look at the national electoral eco-system, we stand before a deeply undemocratic election because the basic principle is that the candidates participate in equal conditions, and this is not the case,” Diaz said. Speaking on Tuesday, the day the campaign for the April 14 election formally kicked off, Diaz pulled out a local newspaper and showed a page with a Capriles campaign ad and another one for Maduro financed by the ruling PSUV socialist party. The daily, however, contained eight more pages of Maduro ads paid for by the government.
Elections in Zimbabwe are still months away, but already President Robert Mugabe’s party is intimidating its opponents and threatening violence, human rights and pro-democracy groups say. Witnesses say Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party has begun deploying youth militia groups in some of its strongholds. A young mother in the Harare township of Mbare said militants of a pro-Mugabe youth group known as Chipangano, or “the brotherhood” in local slang, have started door-to-door visits in the neighborhood and told residents to attend night meetings where names and identity particulars of participants were written down. “They are watching me every day,” she said, refusing to give her name because she feared violent retribution. If she doesn’t go to the meetings with family members and friends her absence will be noted down on another list of suspected Mugabe opponents, she said.
Kentucky: Internet Voting Security: Wishful Thinking Doesn’t Make It True | Duncan Buell/Freedom to Tinker
On Thursday, March 21, in the midst of Kentucky’s deliberation over allowing votes to be cast over the Internet, the daily poll of the Louisville Courier-Journal asked the readers, “Should overseas military personnel be allowed to vote via the Internet?” This happened the day before their editorial rightly argued against Internet voting at this time. One of the multiple choice answers was “Yes, it can be made just as secure as any balloting system.” This brings up the old adage, “we are all entitled to our own opinions, but we are not entitled to our own facts.” The simple fact is that Internet voting is possible – but it is definitely NOT as secure as some other balloting systems. This is not a matter of opinion, but a matter of fact. Votes cast over the Internet are easily subject to corruption in a number of different ways.
Mississippi: Hinds County voters to use new optical screening machines this fall | The Clarion-Ledger
Hinds County this fall will use a digital voting system in which residents mark a paper ballot, but officials say that’s not a step backward. The optical scanner machines made by Omaha-based Election Systems and Software, used by the state’s 81 other counties, will replace Hinds County’s decade-old, touch-screen system. County leaders say it will make precinct check-in and voting quicker and more foolproof. But just as importantly, they say, the new process will restore confidence to a Hinds County system plagued in recent years by machine malfunctions and accusations that absentee and affidavit ballots were lost or mishandled. The machines will be delivered by July 1, not quite in time for spring municipal primaries and the June general election, but in time for any special elections in August. Jackson residents, though, will use the system via leased equipment in municipal elections this spring. “This will put you with a state-of-the-art system that exceeds many counties,” Frank Jackson, the county’s consultant for procurement and master agent with Electronic Option Services Inc., said of the $1.2 million system. “Our hope is that this project will be modeled throughout the state.
When Lawrence County purchased electronic voting machines more than five years ago, the batteries were included. But after several years of recharging and reusing those batteries, they are near the end of their useful life, which stands to take a bite out of the county Department of Voter Registration and Elections’ budget. In response to a request by Ed Allison, director of Voter Registration and elections, the commissioners designated approximately $26,000 from the county contingency fund to replace the batteries in more than 250 machines at a rate of nearly $100 apiece. The voting machine battery funding was the largest of Lawrence County’s first 2013 budget transfers.