Last week, we looked at what the electoral impact of new election-law changes would be in 2014. Would stricter photo ID requirements or curtailed early voting influence the outcome of November races in the states that had passed such legislation? Ultimately, we concluded any affect would be limited. But in other ways — and in the longer term — such changes to voting rules could have a big impact. Here are a few ways in which the new changes could shape November and beyond. Several states where election-law changes are being held up in the courts are highly competitive electorally. In both Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, voter ID laws are being held up in the courts. The laws were passed by Republican legislatures and signed by Republican governors, but both of these states are politically competitive. If either law is ultimately enacted, numerous competitive races could be affected in future electoral cycles.
Every Democratic ballot cast in Champaign County in last week’s primary is being recounted after irregularities were discovered in the results of several races. Election authorities began a machine recount Tuesday afternoon. The errors occurred in the vote tabulations for 13th and 15th Congressional District committeeman; the 13th and 15th Congressional District committeewoman; and all precinct committeeman races. All were at the bottom of the ballot — but only the Democratic ballot. In every case, the candidates were unopposed. In one instance — the race for 15th Congressional District committeewoman — Jayne Mazzotti of Taylorville was credited with only 450 votes in Champaign County, while there were 7,325 “undervotes” (ballots where no vote was cast). But a Tuesday morning handcount of Mazzotti’s votes in the city of Champaign’s Precinct 19 found she got 40 votes — despite being credited with none a week ago. County Clerk Gordy Hulten acknowledged the mistake, which Democratic Party chairman Al Klein highlighted as a reason Hulten — who for now is unopposed in November’s general election — should face competition.
Cass County is preparing its new pollbook equipment for the upcoming primary election. The county was forced to seek out a new pollbook vendor after its former provider declined to go through a new certification process brought on through recent changes made by the Indiana General Assembly. After considering several quotes, the Cass County Election Board decided to get the new electronic pollbooks from Hart InterCivic, out of Austin, Texas. It is the same company that provides the county’s electronic equipment voters use to cast their ballots. The cost of the new electronic pollbooks and training for them comes to about $35,000. It was paid for through funds in the Cass County Clerk’s budget specifically earmarked for election equipment awarded from a former vendor that went out of business several years ago.
What would New York City and the state’s 57 counties do with their share of $50 million? Provide housing assistance to victims of domestic violence? Develop after-school or summer youth programs? Provide low-interest loans to businesses to help them expand and create jobs? Help senior citizens with transportation? Or how about reduce property taxes or support community hospitals? These are just some of the options that might be available to New York City and county officials if the state Senate and Assembly consolidated New York state’s two primary elections to one. But the Legislature has not resolved the issue and congressional candidates are now circulating nominating petitions. So, later this year New Yorkers will once again have two primary elections, one in June for the congressional races and another in September for state and local races. The cost to New York City and counties is enormous, as much as $50 million. The roots of the problem go back to 2011, when a federal judge determined that New York was not in compliance with the Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act.
Ohio: Savings for proposed online voting registration may not reach expectations from Husted, legislators | Cleveland Plain Dealer
Supporters of two stalled bills in the Ohio General Assembly say online voting registration could save hundreds of thousands of dollars statewide each year. A roundup of estimates gathered by the Northeast Ohio Media Group show that those projections may overstate savings for county boards of elections. In four states that already have online registration, relatively small participation rates may be keeping significant savings at bay.
Texas: Commissioners Court drops Hidalgo County voting machine investigation; DA’s probe to continue | The Monitor
Hidalgo County commissioners will have no more official involvement with an investigation into irregularities in voting machines, they decided Tuesday morning. Instead, they’ll leave the investigation in the hands of state District Court judges and the Hidalgo County District Attorney’s Office. DA Rene Guerra will continue a criminal investigation into possible tampering with electronic voting machines, starting with asking a grand jury to hire an expert to analyze the machines’ logs.“We’re going to present to a grand jury asking them to assume the jurisdiction of the machines through a proper court order so that they, the grand jurors, with the court’s assistance and disposition with proper orders, will be able to look into the allegations as to the election machines and help us hire an expert or two to investigate,” Guerra told reporters at the Hidalgo County Commissioners Court on Tuesday.
After it was revealed Monday that more than 500 unaccounted-for Atascosa County primary votes were discovered on an unscanned machine, elections officials there spent Tuesday morning recounting the votes. Atascosa County Elections Administrator Janice Ruple said for whatever reason, someone failed to scan one machine to do the count. (See earlier story.)
Utah Republican Party leaders tell UtahPolicy that they are considering suing the state over SB54, the Count My Vote citizen initiative petition compromise that provides a dual-track process to candidate nominations. It’s not the dual-track that state party chair James Evans finds illegal. Rather, it is the requirement in SB54 that political parties have an open primary. The state GOP has a closed primary today. Several court cases, including one in Idaho, rule that the government can’t force a political party to open its primaries, says Evans. Thus, there are legal problems with SB54 from the get-go, Evans believes. That may be the case if the compromise law, sponsored by Sen. Curt Bramble, R-Provo, forced all political parties to have open primaries.
Voting rights are under attack in Wisconsin. The state Legislature just passed a partisan, anti-democratic bill to reduce voter turnout that is on its way to the governor’s desk for his signature. It would restrict the hours for voting early on weekdays and eliminate early voting on weekends altogether. I strongly urge Gov. Scott Walker to veto this legislation. The right to vote is fundamental to our democracy, and attacks against that right have no place in Wisconsin. When legislators passed this backwards bill, they made it clear that partisanship is more important to them than the thousands of veterans, seniors, minorities, students and disabled Wisconsinites who will be affected by the legislation. This legislation is an unnecessary fix to a voting system that isn’t broken — a classic example of a solution in search of a problem. If anything, elected officials should be working on ways to increase participation in our democracy, not reduce it.
The political dispute over Bulgaria’s new Central Election Commission (CEC) that has put the President and the parties in power at odds was set to continue in the National Assembly on March 26 2014. A twist in the dispute came on March 25 when the Movement for Rights and Freedoms, a partner in the ruling axis, said that it was giving up on getting a third seat on the CEC, in spite of its earlier demands for such a seat – and that it would opposition party GERB’s demand for a deputy chairpersonship of the commission. Centre-right GERB is the largest party in the 42nd National Assembly but also the opposition after it could find no party with which to form a governing coalition after the May 2013 national parliamentary election.
As the Australian government returns to an honours system that will see new Australian Knights and Dames, the Department of Communications has suggested that there should be a trial of electronic voting in the 2016 election. The proposal came in a submission to a parliamentary inquiry in the 2013 Federal election. The issue of electronic voting was first raised after the election by Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull as a way for dealing with informal votes, but gained even more attention after the Australian Electoral Commission lost 1,375 ballot papers in the WA Senate election, forcing voters in the state to head back to the polls for a second time on April 5. The Department said in its submission that trials of electronic voting in the ACT and New South Wales have been a success, with the ACT system in operation since 2011, built on Linux open source software that is made publicly available prior to the election to improve transparency.
A change proposed by the Conservatives in their new election bill would “directly affect” some Canadians’ right to vote, former chief electoral officer Jean-Pierre Kingsley said Tuesday. Abolishing the process of vouching, which serves as proof of a voter’s identification, “will impact very negatively on the values of participation, impartiality and transparency,” Kingsley told a committee of MPs. “This will directly affect the constitutional right to vote of a significant number of Canadians without justification.” “Please. Please do not get rid of it,” he said.
The board of Iraq’s electoral commission resigned en masse on Tuesday in protest at political and judicial “interference,” throwing a general election due next month into disarray. The sudden decision comes with doubts already swirling over whether the Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) could organize polling nationwide on April 30 with anti-government fighters in control of a city on Baghdad’s doorstep. Much is at stake in the election, as Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki bids for a third term with his security credentials thrown into question by a surge in violence to levels not seen since 2008. The nine-member IHEC board handed in its resignation in protest at what it said were conflicting rulings from parliament and the judiciary on the barring of would-be candidates for the election.
Election monitors observing Maldives parliamentary polls over the weekend have pointed to a ” violation of rules” by the Supreme Court, and noted voting was undermined by vote buying, reports released on Tuesday said. The Maldives parliamentary election was preceded by a controversial Supreme Court verdict that passed prison sentences on the Election Commission chief and his deputy. The verdict also removed them from their positions leaving a virtually headless Elections Commission to head the vote. The European Union (EU) observers and the Commonwealth Observer Group (COG) have now released their interim reports.