California: Can paying people to vote increase voter turnout? L.A.’s looking into it and the answer is yes. | The Washington Post

Just 23.3 percent of Los Angeles voters cast ballots in last year’s mayoral election, the lowest figures in 100 years. Turnout was “embarrassingly down,” Herb Wesson, the city’s council president said, and he’s looking at how to change that. “Someone brought up what would it be like if we had some sort of incentive program,” Wesson said. “It’s just an idea.” The Los Angeles Ethics Commission voted Thursday for Wesson to look into various ways to increase turnout, including cash incentives like a lottery. The idea is just in the “incubation process,” Wesson said, with nothing approaching even an actual proposal, but there’s data to suggest paying people to vote increases turnout. A study conducted in 2010 in Lancaster, Calif., in northern Los Angeles County, by Fordham University professor Costas Panagopoulos found nominal incentives like a few bucks don’t do much to increase turnout, but a few more dollars is enough of an incentive to convince a larger percentage of people to vote.

Colorado: Arapahoe County pioneering use of new vote verification system | The Denver Post

Arapahoe County is piloting a vote-checking system this week that promises to raise the level of confidence in the accuracy of election results in Colorado. Elections officials gathered Wednesday at the county’s clerk and recorder office in Littleton to put the system — dubbed the risk-limiting audit — through the paces. The goal is to work out the bugs and have it ready for statewide rollout by election day 2017, as required by the state legislature. “The way we do audits doesn’t present a good enough picture,” Arapahoe County Clerk Matt Crane said Wednesday. “Our citizens deserve to know that we have a fair, transparent and accurate voting process.” The way a post-election audit of ballots is done currently requires a canvass team to pull at least 500 randomly selected paper ballots and compare the results to the tally recorded by the tabulation machines used in the election. Under the risk-limiting audit, random numbers generated by a software program will identify certain ballots to be pulled for inspection. The sample size is statistically determined based on the total number of ballots cast, the margin of the contest and the audit results as they unfold.

Florida: Original districts stand for 2014 election, new map to take effect in 2016 | Miami Herald

Florida’s flawed congressional districts may remain in place for two more years and newly drawn boundaries for seven north and central districts don’t have to take effect until 2016, a Tallahassee circuit court judge ruled late Friday. Judge Terry Lewis upheld the revisions to the state’s congressional map approved by the Florida Legislature during a three-day special session earlier this month. But he said the original map, which he ruled unconstitutional a month ago, could stand for the 2014 election. “An election in 2015 is not a viable option,” Lewis wrote in his four-page order. “The 2014 elections will have to be held under the map as enacted in 2012.” That will come as a relief to U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown, D-Jacksonville, and U.S. Rep. Dan Webster, R-Winter Garden, whose congressional districts were the target of the court’s criticism. Brown and Webster feared being elected to a new term in November only to have to face a special election possibly next year under the newly configured boundaries.

Mississippi: Judge doubts McDaniel election challenge can be decided by Nov. 4 | USA Today

The judge in Chris McDaniel’s lawsuit challenging his Republican primary loss to incumbent Sen. Thad Cochran expressed doubts Wednesday that a trial can be finished before the Nov. 4 general election. Special Judge Hollis McGehee told lawyers for McDaniel and Cochran he feels compelled to quickly hold trial on McDaniel’s challenge of his June 24 GOP Senate runoff to Cochran, but the case is complicated and unprecedented. McGehee said Tuesday he’ll set a trial schedule by the end of the week. He said trial will likely begin Sept. 15 or Sept. 22. McGehee scheduled an Aug. 28 hearing on motions Cochran’s lawyers plan to file to have the case dismissed.

Arizona: Pima County to do away with precinct scanners | The Explorer

Pima County will no longer make use of precinct scanners at polling locations after the Pima County Board of Supervisors rejected a measure to spend $1.8 million to replace them. The board’s decision came despite a recommendation by Pima County Election Integrity Commission (PCEIC) to keep the scanners in place since they allow for an electronic count at polling locations, serving as a way to double check ballots when they are tallied in the central count system. Bill Beard, District 1 PCEIC representative called the board’s decision frustrating, particularly since he says Pima County has a poor track record with handling elections in the past. “If the board is truly concerned about the matter, perhaps actually listening to the advisers they appointed to advise them on thing elections-related might be a good place to start,” he said, also noting that District 1’s Ally Miller was the only supervisor to vote in favor of the PCEIC’s recommendation to keep scanners in place.

California: How to Make Sure Your Vote-by-Mail Ballot is Counted | KQED

Almost 8 million Californians now cast their ballots by mail instead going to the polls. A new study of three California counties found that only 0.8 percent of mailed ballots, about 30,000, are not tallied. That might seem insignificant, unless it’s your ballot. There are three main reasons vote-by-mail ballots go uncounted:

• The ballot was mailed too late. Ballots need to be received by 8 p.m. on Election Day, not postmarked (61 percent of uncounted ballots).
• There was no signature (20 percent).
• The signature provided did not adequately compare with the one on file (18 percent).

The California Voter Foundation studied the vote-by-mail process for one year in Santa Cruz, Sacramento and Orange counties. The foundation estimates that about 66,000 vote-by-mail ballots went uncounted statewide in 2012.

Editorials: The voter turnout conundrum in Los Angeles | Los Angeles Times

It’s one of the worst ideas we’ve heard in a long time: Last week, the Los Angeles Ethics Commission floated a plan to offer cash prizes as an incentive to get Angelenos to vote in local elections. Sheer desperation, as far as we can tell, led the commission to propose an election day lottery, with a jackpot of $1,000 or more that might persuade more registered voters to go to the polls. Would it work? Probably. But it’s still a bad idea. The folks pushing the lottery concept are well-intentioned and obviously disheartened by Los Angeles’ record of terrible voter turnout. Just 23% of registered voters bothered to cast a ballot in last year’s mayoral election. Last week, turnout was an abysmal 9.5% for a Los Angeles Unified School Board special election. But dangling a cash prize over the polls is a cynical and superficial pseudo-solution that fails to address the deeper reasons why people don’t vote. If the Ethics Commission and the City Council want to increase engagement and participation on election day — and they should — they would do better to focus on specific changes that make it easier to cast a ballot, while also getting to work on larger, longer-term reforms that could help counter the pervasive civic malaise that prevents so many Angelenos from feeling engaged in the democratic process.

Florida: In Redistricting Battle, Both Parties Claim to Offer Better Protections for Black Voters | Governing

The racial tensions that coursed for years beneath the surface in Florida’s redistricting battle came into sharp focus Wednesday as lawyers for each side blasted each other for attempting to use black voters for partisan gain. The conflict emerged at a hearing Wednesday called by Leon County Circuit Court Judge Terry Lewis to decide whether the Florida Legislature’s redrawn congressional map meets the constitutional standards imposed by voters in 2010. Lewis said he will decide “as quickly as I can” whether to accept the new map drawn by legislators last week in a three-day special session. Legislators had until Aug. 15 to revise two congressional districts he ruled invalid — one held by Democrat U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown, and the other held by Republican U.S. Rep. Dan Webster.

Editorials: Florida’s New Redistricting Plan: Round Two | Linda Killian/Wall Street Journal

Florida Circuit Court Judge Terry Lewis heard arguments Wednesday about whether to throw out the Florida Legislature’s redrawn congressional map, which critics say unfairly advantages Republicans, hurts minority voters and is unconstitutional. Under order by Judge Lewis, the legislature met in special session in early August and issued a revised congressional map on Aug. 11. But a coalition led by Common Cause and the Florida League of Women Voters says the new redistricting plan contains only minimal changes and still violates the state constitution. The nonprofit coalition charges that both the original and revised redistricting plans were drawn up by Republicans behind closed doors with no public input.

Hawaii: ACLU sues Hawaii over election storm response | Associated Press

The American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii has asked the state’s top court to allow voters affected by Tropical Storm Iselle to cast ballots in the primary election. The ACLU filed the challenge in state Supreme Court on Thursday. The lawsuit against Gov. Neil Abercrombie, Chief Elections Officer Scott Nago and others says voters on Hawaii Island were disenfranchised because they couldn’t get to the polls due to storm damage. Tropical Storm Iselle made landfall on Hawaii’s Big Island less than 48 hours before election day. Two precincts in the badly damaged Puna region were closed, and voters were told they would be mailed ballots. But then Chief Elections Officer Scott Nago changed course and scheduled a makeup primary for a week after the original election date, leaving some voters confused about the logistics of voting.

Editorials: Ferguson Voter Registration Drive Infuriates Conservatives | Brian Beutler/New Republic

During a brief moment of calm late last week—when the police stood down and protesters celebrated a short-lived victory and it seemed as if the story had undergone a permanent transition—I wrote an article drawing a single line between the trampling of liberties in Ferguson, Missouri, and broader, less violent social phenomena, like voter suppression. Since then, the police have taken another volte-face, public opinion about the events in Ferguson has polarized along racial lines, and the combination of the two has elicited a conservative response that neatly underlines my point. I’m not talking about responses to the details of Michael Brown’s shooting, or the emergence of looters and outside agitators. I’m talking about the reflexive hostility with which conservatives reacted to the news that protesters in Ferguson had organized a voter registration drive. “If that’s not fanning the political flames, I don’t know what is,” Missouri GOP Executive Director Matt Wills told the conservative website Breitbart. “I think it’s not only disgusting but completely inappropriate.” Breitbart described the drive as “efforts by liberal organizers to set up voter registration booths”—a rendering that reflects a few revealing assumptions. But let’s begin with the overarching one—that these organizers are engaged in something nefarious; that their real goal here is to advance ideological or partisan interests, unrelated to those implicated by the civic unrest.

Wyoming: Secretary of state race highlights counties’ differing election equipment | Billings Gazette

As primary election results poured in late Tuesday night, the seesaw battle in the secretary of state race became the main event. Ed Murray and Ed Buchanan hovered at 36 percent of the vote, trading the lead throughout the night. One cloud loomed over the race until the bitter end. Laramie County, Murray’s home turf, had yet to report the entirety of its results with more than 80 percent of the state’s precincts reporting. The time it took to get the results from Laramie County, while adding drama to the race, left many in the age of instant gratification wondering what took so long. Laramie County Clerk Debbye Balcaen Lathrop said there were no issues in reporting the vote. “If people had any kind of memory, they would know that we finished last night about the same time we did in the primary two years ago and four years ago,” she said. “The reason the focus was on Laramie County last night is people knew that our results would change the secretary of state’s race.”

Afghanistan: Afghans call for immediate presidential vote results | PressTV

Scores of protesters have taken to the streets in the Afghan capital Kabul to call for the immediate release of the results of the disputed presidential runoff vote, Press TV reports. On Thursday, more than a hundred civil society activists chanted slogans and expressed their outrage over what they described as the violation of the Afghan constitution. The demonstrators also emphasized that the delay in announcing the results of the June vote is against the interests of Afghanistan. “Some elements do not think about our country and people, but rather think only about their own interests. It is nothing but a pre-planned political game against the nation,” said Mohammad Jawadi, a civil society activist.

Georgia (Sakartvelo): Abkhazia holds presidential elections amid Ukraine turmoil | Europe Online

The Black Sea region that broke away from Georgia more than 20 years ago might serve as a prime example of Russia‘s ability to impose its will on its neighbours through separatist movements. The Georgian breakaway province of Abkhazia is holding snap presidential elections on Sunday that might not pass unnoticed. Russia‘s annexation of Crimea and its covert military support for the insurgents in eastern Ukraine reminds many of the war in the early 1990s that led to Abkhazia‘s secession from Georgia. But the ouster of president Alexander Ankvab, who quit on June 1 after protesters stormed his administration building in the regional capital Sukhumi, also reminded observers that the lush subtropical region has its own unresolved problems.

North Carolina: NAACP appeals federal judge’s ruling to let 2014 elections proceed under new voting rules | News Observer

The NAACP has appealed a federal judge’s decision to allow elections to proceed under the sweeping changes made to North Carolina voting laws in 2013. U.S. District Judge Thomas D. Schroeder rejected a request earlier this month by the NAACP and other challengers of the 2013 overhaul to hold the November elections under old election laws instead of the ones at the heart of the lawsuit scheduled for trial in July 2015. The NAACP, the League of Women Voters, registered Democrats in North Carolina and others contend that voters will suffer “irreparable damages” if any elections scheduled before the hearing of the lawsuit are held under the laws adopted by the Republican-led General Assembly and signed into law by Gov. Pat McCrory last summer.  “If one person’s right to vote is denied or abridged this election, this democracy suffers,” the Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, president of the North Carolina NAACP, said in a prepared statement. “While restoring the rights of North Carolina voters and renewing the integrity of democracy in our state will require a long legal fight, we must start now by doing everything we can to block this law for the November election.”