Verified Voting Blog: Hot State Update! What’s happening in Virginia, Oregon, Connecticut and more… and what Verified Voting is doing to help.

At Verified Voting we work to establish relationships in the states with policy makers and elections officials, in order to ensure they are educated on how to keep our votes secure. We’ve started 2014 with lots of activity around the country, building on a very strong and determined energy around voting issues, much of it unfolding on the state level. We have a great network of people in place and continue to work to make our voices heard. The following is a quick look at some of the Hot States on which we are focusing.

Virginia: This session, House and Senate bills sought to initiate electronic return of voted ballots over the Internet by overseas military voters. Amendments made to the bills called for security protocols to be examined and review of the feasibility and costs involved prior to initiating actual ballot return, thanks to intense outreach with our allies Virginians for Verified Voting, a lot of letters from VA supporters (thank you!), and an op-ed penned by Justin Moore (who is on VV’s advisory board) in the Richmond Times Dispatch.  The amended version of HB 759/SB 11 was conferenced and passed, with these crucial stop-gaps and a clause requiring that the provision be re-approved in 2016 before any ballots are sent over the Internet. As the review process takes place over the coming 18 months, we will be participating actively.  Ensuring that technologists are at the table as the conversation moves forward is critical, as is feedback from Virginia voters.  See the Bill summary here.

Arkansas: State Election Board files emergency statement on absentee ballots | Arkansas News

The director of the state Board of Election Commissioners on Friday filed an emergency statement that he said was inadvertently omitted when the commission previously filed an emergency rule on how absentee ballots should be handled under the state’s new voter ID law. The board adopted an emergency rule Feb. 28 stating that when voters submit absentee ballots that are not accompanied by a form of identification as required under Act 595 of 2013, those ballots should be treated as provisional ballots and the voters should have until noon on the Monday after the election to submit ID and have their ballot counted. Act 595 requires voters to show photo ID at the polls and requires absentee voters to provide a form of identification, not necessarily photo ID. The board adopted the emergency rule after confusion arose as to whether a cure period provided in the law for voters who fail to show photo ID at the polls should apply to absentee voters as well.

California: Highlighting Democratic losses, Republicans block campaign finance bill | The Sacramento Bee

Republicans on Monday blocked a California campaign finance reform bill that fell one vote short, demonstrating the limits of a diminished Democratic caucus. Senate Bill 27, by Sen. Lou Correa, D-Santa Ana, sought to lift the veil on outside campaign spending by compelling nonprofits to identify their donors if contributions hit certain benchmarks, such as when a nonprofit spends more than $50,000 in a given election cycle. The bill’s basic premise of requiring broader disclosure of campaign donations was sound, said Senate Minority Leader Bob Huff, R-Diamond Bar, but he objected to the timeline. The bill carried an urgency clause that would allow it to take effect in July, before the upcoming election. “We will be subjecting people to a different process,” Huff said. “They will not have had time to understand the rules of engagement changed.”

Colorado: Recall proposal sparks partisan dustup | Associated Press

Calling Colorado election law “dusty” and confusing, Democrats announced a plan Monday to update recall election regulations. Democrats called the plan nonpartisan, a straightforward effort to address conflicting, confusing language in state elections code. Republicans didn’t bite, immediately deriding the proposal as an effort to circumvent constitutional requirements for recalls. Colorado’s recall language came into focus last year, when two Democratic state senators were recalled over support for gun-control measures including expanded background checks.

Hawaii: County audit finds 2012 election a bargain | West Hawaii Today

Even counting the County Clerk’s Office staff pulled from across the hall to help out during the contentious 2012 election, it still cost less to run that election than the two elections prior. That’s the finding of an outside auditor the County Council hired last year to compare the election costs. The audit, scheduled to be discussed Tuesday by the council Finance Committee, found that the 2012 election cost $1.5 million, compared to $1.8 million for the 2008 election, the most recent other presidential election. In 2010, when fewer voters came to the polls, the election also cost $1.5 million. The cost per ballot cast was $17 in 2008, $16.19 in 2010 and $14.40 in 2012, the audit found. The 2012 election proceedings became a hot political issue when former County Clerk Jamae Kawauchi fired the division chief and three other elections staff after alleging the former warehouse manager used the site to conduct his own sign-making and screen-printing business, and stored alcohol and held post-election drinking parties there.

Iowa: Schultz’s crusade is out of sync | The Des Moines Register

Since he took office three years ago, Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz has focused more energy on revoking peoples’ right to vote than on getting eligible voters to turn out for elections. It seems to us Schultz has had it backward, and now it’s apparent a healthy majority of Iowans agree. According to The Des Moines Register’s Iowa Poll published March 10, a substantial majority of Iowans surveyed put a higher priority on making sure that “every eligible, registered voter has the opportunity to vote” than on making sure that “no person ineligible to vote slips through the cracks” to cast a vote. Seven in 10 poll participants said assuring the right to vote is more important than eliminating ineligible voters. Only a quarter saw it the other way around. The top priority favored by most Iowans ought to be the top priority of the state’s election officials, from the secretary of state to the 99 county auditors who run elections. That has been the priority of past secretaries of state, including most recently Mike Mauro and, before him, Chet Culver when he was in the job before being elected governor. Schultz, however, launched a relentless campaign to root out ineligible voters.

Editorials: How Could Michigan Elections be Improved? | WMUK

Jocelyn Benson is the Dean of Wayne State University’s Law School and has written a book on the role of state Secretaries of State. Michigan Democrats chose Benson as their nominee for Secretary of State in 2010. She lost that race to the Republican currently in the office, Ruth Johnson. Benson is also the founder of the Michigan Center for Election and Law as well as Military Spouses of Michigan. WMUK’s Gordon Evans asked Benson about drawing legislative boundaries. She has advocated changes in Michigan’s process, which currently leaves it to the lawmakers to agree on the districts for state Legislature, as well as Congress. Benson says any process that involves citizens would have more integrity than the currently system. She says it is difficult to keep politics out of drawing boundaries for legislative districts. But Benson says states that include citizens have a system which is more fair than having lawmakers create their own districts. Benson says election administration should be non-partisan. But she says Secretaries of State can  have a major influence on elections. Benson says both parties are trying to influence races for Secretary of State because they know it’s important. “But it’s still wrong” she says.

Editorials: Are amendments’ path to the Minnesota ballot too easy? | Star Tribune

The passions have cooled from Minnesota’s direct democracy trial of 2012, when the hot issues of gay marriage and voter ID were put to voters, and some legislators are now taking a critical look at the machinery that allowed that to happen. Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, and veteran Sen. Dick Cohen, DFL-St. Paul, want to make it harder for the Legislature to run to the voters with partisan, emotional issues, and risk permanently enshrining today’s popular opinion into the state Constitution. “I feel very strongly about it,” said Bakk, a former union official who worries that a right-to-work policy, which unions see as a threat to the standard of living, could be pushed into the Constitution by a future GOP-controlled Legislature. “To the extent that I can put something in the way to make it a little more difficult for one party to put something on the ballot, it will make me more comfortable when I leave,” Bakk said.

North Dakota: State plans voter ID campaign | Bismarck Tribune

Secretary of State Al Jaeger announced a statewide advertising campaign Monday that will use federal money to educate people on voter identification requirements for this year’s primary and general elections. “We want to make sure every qualified voter is made aware,” Jaeger said. The state of North Dakota has “an excellent history of elections” and the educational effort is meant to improve on that history, he said. The campaign, outlined by Jaeger at the state Capitol, consists of television, newspaper and radio advertisements that will be run weekly prior to the June 10 primary election and the Nov. 4 general election. Magazine ads and posters also are planned.

Utah: Parties to hold final caucuses under current system | The Salt Lake Tribune

For perhaps one last time, political party caucuses this week will figure into a long-running debate about whether small extremist groups can use them to control Utah’s ballot, or if big attendance there instead can ensure mainstream choices. Examples of when small groups ruled — such as the tea party dumping former GOP Sen. Bob Bennett four years ago, even though polls showed he likely easily would have won a primary — led to a change in the system that takes effect Jan. 1. Gov. Gary Herbert this month signed into law SB54 as a compromise between parties and the Count My Vote drive. It will allow Utah’s current caucus-and-convention system to continue with reforms, but also allows candidates to bypass it and gain direct access to a primary election if they gather enough signatures. But for one last time under the old system — unless courts overturn SB54 — Democrats hold their caucuses on Tuesday at 7 p.m. Republicans hold theirs on Thursday at 7 p.m. Locations may be found online at and

Wisconsin: Wisconsin Senate Republicans not likely to act on voter ID this session | Capitol Times

The Wisconsin state Senate’s Republican leadership favors a special session to address voter ID as opposed to taking up legislation passed by the Assembly in November in the remaining weeks of the 2013-14 legislative session. Myranda Tanck, an aide to Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, Senate Republicans would prefer to see how the state Supreme Court rules on the voter ID bill that Gov. Scott Walker signed three years ago. That law has since been struck down by two Dane County Circuit Court judges.

Editorials: European election: So what? | Deutsche Welle

During the last European Parliament election in 2009, fewer than half of Europe’s voters bothered to show up at the ballot box. What’s the EU doing to increase voter turnout – and what are its chances of success? For decades, the European Parliament in Brussels was seen as the place to put old politicians out to pasture. No wonder, then, that European citizens hardly spare much thought for Europe and its institutions. The numbers bear this out: Since the very first European election in 1979, voter turnout has steadily dropped. In 2009, only 43.3 percent of Germans exercised their right to vote, a figure also reflected in the average European turnout. The country with the lowest turnout was Slovakia, at 20 percent. There are many reasons that explain this voter disinterest, chief among them being that most European citizens aren’t familiar with the duties of the European Parliament and the extent of its authority. They’re unaware of how decisions made in Brussels and Strasbourg influence their daily lives.

Indonesia: Campaigning for Indonesian parliamentary poll begins | ABC

Indonesia has kicked off a three-week campaign for parliamentary elections due on April 9. There are more than 6,600 candidates vying for 560 seats in the House of Representatives and 132 in the Upper House. Another 16,000 hopefuls are competing at the provincial and district levels, making it arguably the world’s largest single-day election process. Recent surveys put the PDI-P ahead with about 20 per cent of the vote, while the Democratic Party of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is struggling and expected to fare badly.

Serbia: Progressives Prepare to Form Cabinet After Election Win | Businessweek

Serbia’s Progressive Party pledged to form a new government by May 1 after winning an outright parliamentary majority in an election on a pledge to fight graft, fix the economy and join the European Union by 2020. The party, led by Aleksandar Vucic, who forced the ballot two years earlier than scheduled, won 48.3 percent, more than polls predicted, Serbia’s Election Commission said today. Vucic will get 158 of the chamber’s 250 seats, while Prime Minister Ivica Dacic’s Socialist Party received 13.5 percent, for 44 seats, according to preliminary results. Vucic said he will consult with President Tomislav Nikolic and three other parties that made it into parliament. Vucic, who was once an ally of late Balkan strongman Slobodan Milosevic, pledged to embrace painful austerity measures endorsed by the International Monetary Fund and lead Serbia into the EU two decades after the bloody Balkan civil wars. He said he will “extend a hand” to other parties before forming his administration.

Ukraine: Crimea’s Controversial Election Day | The Atlantic Cities

Despite international condemnation of yesterday’s referendum, Crimea is moving closer to joining the Russian Federation. Officials in the regional capital of Simferopol announced that 96.7 of voters supported a secession from Ukraine. Government officials have given Crimeans the day off work today after declaring their independence from Ukraine. Sergei Aksyonov, the new prime minister of Crimea, told Russian state television that a delegation from the region will be arriving in Moscow to discuss the annexation process. According to the New York Times, Russian president Vladimir Putin has not declared his intent to annex Crimea as of this morning, but he’s scheduled to make a speech on the issue tomorrow.

Ukraine: The Crimean Farce: Russia’s margin of victory shows the election was rigged. | Slate

The people of Crimea have spoken. In yesterday’s referendum, they voted overwhelmingly to secede from Ukraine and join Russia. According to Russia’s Itar-Tass news agency, the vote was 93 percent to 7 percent. According to Russia Today, it was 96 percent to 3 percent. It’s an amazing victory. Even more amazing when you consider that according to the most recent census, 37 percent of the Crimean population is ethnically Ukrainian or Tatar. Yet only 3 to 7 percent voted against leaving Ukraine and embracing Mother Russia. To be fair, it’s not quite as amazing as last week’s election in North Korea. There, beloved leader Kim Jong-in was re-elected to the parliament with 100 percent of the vote. The ruling party holds all 687 seats. And last year in Cuba, voters approved 100 percent of the national assembly candidates put forward by official nominating committees. How do exemplary democracies such as Russia, Cuba, and North Korea achieve these mandates? By rigging them, of course.