National: States joining forces to scrub voter rolls | Associated Press

More than half of states are now working in broad alliances to scrub voter rolls of millions of questionable registrations, identifying people registered in multiple states and tens of thousands of dead voters who linger on election lists. Poll managers are looking for more states to get involved and say the efforts are necessary because outdated voter registration systems are unable to keep up with a society where people frequently move from one state to another. While many of the registration problems are innocent, some election leaders fear the current disorder within the system is inviting trouble. “It creates an environment where there could be more problems,” said Scott Gessler, the Republican secretary of state in Colorado. “It’s a precursor to potential fraud, there’s no doubt about it.” Half of all states have now joined a consortium anchored by the state of Kansas, compiling their voter registration lists at the end of every year to assess for duplicates. That program has grown rapidly since beginning in 2005 in an agreement between four Midwestern states. Meanwhile, seven states are coordinating on another project that makes those assessments more frequently with advanced algorithms _ while also checking for deceased voters.

Arizona: Not All Voters Equal as States Move to Two-Tier Ballots | Bloomberg

Arizona and Kansas, where top state posts come up for grabs next year, are creating two-tiered voting systems to bar some residents from casting ballots in all but congressional races unless they prove they’re U.S. citizens. The dual methods are in response to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in June that bars Arizona from rejecting federal voter-registration forms that don’t include proof of citizenship, which is required by both states. To comply, both plan to provide those voters with ballots listing just federal races. “It is quite likely going to disenfranchise a number of voters,” said Julie Ebenstein, a lawyer with the Voting Rights Project of the American Civil Liberties Union in New York. “It is going to cause a lot of expense to county election officials and confusion.”

Florida: Voter purging in Florida and Virginia leads to lawsuits | Facing South

We’re a little under a month away from Election Day, which for some means time to prepare for early voting. For others, it means time to start purging names from voter rolls. Two Southern states, Florida and Virginia, are facing lawsuits after launching (or in Florida’s case, relaunching) controversial programs that could lead to thousands of voters’ names getting stripped from voting lists. In Virginia, the purging has already started. Voters from these states who may have failed to update their voter registration information — or who ended up on the purge lists by mistake — might show up at the polls during early voting or Election Day only to find that they can’t vote. This was a problem last year in Florida that civil rights advocates thought they had resolved. Gov. Rick Scott and Secretary of State Ken Detzner started a purge program last summer. They tried to use the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE) database, which tracks welfare benefits for immigrants, but DHS would not allow it. So instead they turned to state driving records.

Minnesota: New online voter system challenged | Star Tribune

Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie launched an online voter registration system last month with little fanfare, but now the state’s legislative auditor is underscoring lawmakers’ questions about whether he had any authority to do so. Ritchie created the system without explicit permission from the Legislature. A nonpartisan analysis, which Legislative Auditor James Nobles highlighted on Thursday, said the secretary of state could have followed the lead of top election officials in other states and asked for lawmakers’ approval before creating the online system. “We wouldn’t have the controversy if he had,” Nobles said. The wrangling over the online registration system is the latest clash between the DFL secretary of state and the GOP. Last year, Republican lawmakers questioned whether Ritchie used his office to campaign against the amendment to require a photo ID for voting. In another incident, the Minnesota Supreme Court decided Ritchie overstepped his bounds when he tried to write new titles for constitutional amendments.

Massachusetts: Voter registration drive targets homeless | Boston Globe

Daniel Farquharson registered to vote for the first time ever Wednesday, at the age of 58. Homeless since 2007, the Quincy native said his top issue in the upcoming city election is deeply personal. “Get more affordable housing,” said Farquharson, who was living in a shelter even before he recently lost his job. “When I was working, I didn’t make enough to afford a decent place.” Farquharson said he hasn’t decided whether he will give his vote for mayor to Councilor John R. Connolly or state Representative Martin J. Walsh but said he was satisfied they prevailed in the 12-candidate preliminary election. “The two that they finally settled on would have been my pick,” he said. Conventional wisdom says Boston elections are won and lost in high-turnout neighborhoods such as West Roxbury and South Boston, but advocates for the homeless are working to ensure that voters with no permanent address also make their voices heard. At a Wednesday afternoon voter registration drive at the Pine Street Inn, Lyndia Downie, the shelter’s executive director, said voting has a symbolic as well as practical value for the shelter’s residents. “For many of our folks, they’re feeling very isolated and feeling forgotten about,” Downie said, “and getting ready to vote means they’re thinking about being part of a community again.”

Montana: Lawyers: Wrong standard used in Indian voting case | Associated Press

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will soon decide whether American Indians in rural Montana were wrongly denied on-reservation satellite voting offices that the plaintiffs say are needed to make up for the long distances they must drive to reach county courthouses. Attorneys representing tribal members and the U.S. Justice Department on Thursday told judges in Portland that a federal judge used the wrong legal standard when he denied a request to establish satellite election offices on three reservations. The attorneys said U.S. District Judge Richard Cebull overlooked the fact that some Indians are denied equal access to voting because they can’t afford to travel up to 150 miles to county courthouses. Cebull since has retired after forwarding an email with a racist joke about President Barack Obama. Montanans can vote by mail with early absentee ballots or by delivering ballots in person to county offices; late registration begins at county offices a month before Election Day.

North Carolina: In skirmish in national voting-rights wars, student once thrown off ballot wins race | Washington Post

Being thrown off the ballot was the best thing that ever happened to Montravias King. The national coverage that rained down on the Elizabeth City State University student when a local elections board in North Carolina rejected his initial City Council bid surely helped him break out from the field of candidates. He got the chance to plead his case, and his views, before millions, reaching many more people than a meager campaign budget could ever allow. This week, according to preliminary results, the university senior was the top vote-getter and will get to represent the ward where his school is located. Was turnout affected by the actions of the board in an increasingly partisan state atmosphere where restrictive voting laws have drawn legal action from many groups, including the U.S. Justice Department? King, who never stopped thinking local, didn’t take any chances, knocking on 365 doors for votes, he said in the News & Record. He said that in addition to his fellow students, he had gotten a “great and amazing” reception from older voters. That he had also discussed the issue of voter suppression with MSNBC host Rachel Maddow, who went to North Carolina for the story, was an unexpected extra.

Editorials: North Carolina local elections find students fired up to fight rights rollbacks | Facing South

If the local elections that took place across North Carolina this week are any indication, the Republican effort to roll back voting rights in the state and enact other regressive policies have inspired students at historically black schools to stand up, soldier forth, and fight back at the ballot box. After Elizabeth City State University student Montravias King declared his intention to run for a local city council seat earlier this year, he faced a legal challenge from Pasquotank County GOP chair Richard “Pete” Gilbert. Gilbert claimed King should be disqualified because he was registered to vote at his college dormitory, arguing that it is only a temporary residence. Gilbert had previously challenged registrations of students at the historically black school for the same reason but not of students at the nearby largely white Christian college. The Pasquotank County Board of Elections sided with Gilbert and struck King from the ballot. But with the help of attorneys with the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, King appealed the local board’s decision to the state elections board, which last month unanimously upheld his constitutional right to run for office.

Editorials: Tennessee’s Voting Machines | Memphis Flyer

On the political scene, growing numbers of observers have been worrying out loud about the vulnerability of our voting devices, especially those — like the ESS-manufactured machines in use in Shelby County — which depend so heavily on the computerized processing of results. Opponents, like local investigator Joe Weinberg, contend that both the hardware and software of these machines, and electronic devices like them, are inherently unreliable and subject to being hacked. Anybody who has looked into the fruits of Weinberg’s researches will realize, at the very least, how complicated these mechanisms are and how complex the potential problems they present. Rich Holden, the current administrator of the Shelby County Election Commission, has insisted that the margin for error of these election machines is infinitesimally small, and he contends that, as instruments for measuring the vote, they are far more efficient, less time-consuming, and more accurate by far than the old practice of voting via paper ballots. He sees that method as retrograde and believes that a return to it is the true goal of those who criticize the now-prevailing method.

Virginia: Chesterfield registrar delays purge of voter rolls | Richmond Times-Dispatch

The Democratic Party of Virginia is seeking a preliminary injunction to stop the State Board of Elections and the commonwealth’s 132 local registrars from purging names from their voter registration lists. The move, less than a month before statewide elections, comes ahead of the Oct. 15 deadline to register to vote. A judge will hear the injunction request Oct. 18 in U.S. District Court in Alexandria. The purge list of 57,000 voters — broken down by locality and provided to local registrars by the State Board of Elections — is “replete with errors” and includes thousands of voters who reside in Virginia and who are lawfully registered to vote, according to a memorandum filed late last week in support of the Democratic Party’s motion. The State Board of Elections said in a statement that it is required by federal law to “conduct list maintenance activities to ensure the accuracy of the voter rolls.” It says it does not cancel voters by itself but directs local registrars to “carefully review all data” to ensure it properly cancels registrations.

Australia: Palmer claims Electoral Commission ‘rigging’ recount | Brisbane Times

Clive Palmer believes the Australian Electoral Commission will “rig” the Fairfax recount and deliver victory to his LNP opponent. Mr Palmer says he’s odds on to lose the contest with the LNP’s Ted O’Brien, despite finishing ahead in two previous counts. “I think in the end Ted O’Brien will win because the AEC will put him there,” Mr Palmer said on Friday. “I’ve said that while I’ve been leading all along because the system is very corrupt. Mr Palmer originally finished with 36 more votes than Mr O’Brien. His lead was whittled down to a mere seven votes after a full redistribution of preferences. The AEC is now conducting a full recount which isn’t likely to wind-up for at least another week.

Australia: Electoral Commission to recount over a million WA senate votes | ABC Perth

After a successful appeal by the Greens and the Australian Sports Party, all the above-the-line ballot papers in WA will be recounted. As the result currently stands, Palmer United Party (PUP) candidate Zhenya Wang and Labor’s Louise Pratt have won the last two West Australian Senate seats, while sitting Greens Senator Scott Ludlam has narrowly lost out. The WA Electoral Officer Peter Kramer initially refused the Greens’ request for a recount, but an appeal to the Electoral Commissioner has overturned that decision. All the ‘above-the-line’ votes cast in Western Australia will be recounted, Peter Kramer says that is just under 1.3 million ballot papers.

Maldives: Go away and vote again – democracy under threat in the Indian Ocean | The Economist

Masked men with machetes and metal rods burst into a television studio in Male, capital of the Maldives, early on October 7th. They stabbed a security guard and set the place ablaze in a clumsy attempt to intimidate Raajje TV, which is aligned with the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP). That afternoon, another blow: the Supreme Court annulled the first round of the presidential election, held on September 7th. The MDP’s modernising candidate, Mohamed Nasheed, had won with 45% of the votes. Before a run-off, the court suspended polling. Then, on the basis of a “secret” police report that even the electoral commission was not allowed to see, it scrapped the election.

National: Supreme Court Again Weighs Spending Limits in Campaigns | New York Times

The Supreme Court on Tuesday seemed prepared to strike down a part of federal campaign finance law left intact by its decision in Citizens United in 2010: overall limits on direct contributions from individuals to candidates. The justices seemed to divide along familiar ideological lines, and they articulated starkly different understandings of the role of money and free speech in American politics. “By having these limits, you are promoting democratic participation,” Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said. “Then the little people will count some and you won’t have the super-affluent as the speakers that will control the elections.” Justice Antonin Scalia responded, sarcastically, that he assumed “a law that only prohibits the speech of 2 percent of the country is O.K.” Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., who probably holds the crucial vote, indicated that he was inclined to strike down overall limits on contributions to several candidates, but perhaps not separate overall limits on contributions to several political committees.

Arizona: Officials say rule may keep thousands from voting | Los Angeles Times

An Arizona plan to tighten voter registration would create a two-tiered voting system in time for next year’s elections but affect only several thousand people, some of whom could be denied participation in state and local elections, state officials said Tuesday. Voting rights activists, however, said that many more eligible voters probably would choose not to participate because of confusion over the new plan, which is expected to be challenged in court. The new system will essentially have separate voter rolls. Those who registered using a state form and documented their U.S. citizenship will receive a full ballot for federal, state and local elections, and those who registered using a federal form but whose citizenship could not be fully verified would be able to vote only in federal elections. In a practical sense, just because a potential voter registered using a federal form doesn’t automatically exclude that voter from participating in local and state elections, experts and county officials said.

Florida: Many questions, few answers on state’s voter purge plan | Miami Herald

Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner’s mea culpa tour to tout the state’s revamped noncitizen voter purge led to a tense exchange Wednesday with an election supervisor miffed about the state’s botched efforts last year. Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher peppered Detzner and his staff with questions about the process and the accuracy of the data to be used in the purge. “Where does that data come from, how often is it updated: every 10 years or every 10 minutes? … I have a lot of concern that the people we got the database from are saying this is not comprehensive and definitive,” Bucher said during a meeting at Broward County’s Voting Equipment Center in Lauderhill. Bucher’s questions revolved around the federal SAVE database that the state will use this time to search for non-citizen voters. Detzner explained that state agencies currently use SAVE data to verify that Floridians are eligible for millions of dollars in entitlements. “This is the best database we have to deal with,” he said. “This is important to get it right…It can be done and it will be done correctly.” But Bucher wasn’t satisfied, nor were voting activists who egged her on at times in the audience. A Democrat elected to a nonpartisan office, Bucher continued to ask multiple questions.