A recent presidential commission report on election administration characterizes the state of U.S. voting machines as an “impending crisis.” According to the report, created in response to a presidential order, existing voting machines are reaching the end of their operational life spans, jurisdictions often lack the funds to replace them, and those with funds find market offerings limited because several constraints have made manufacturing new machines difficult. On Election Day, these problems could translate into hours-long waits, lost votes and errors in election results. In the long term, such problems breed a lack of trust in the democratic process, reducing the public’s faith in government, experts say. According to Barbara Simons, a member of the board of advisers to the federal Election Assistance Commission (EAC), the problem can’t be avoided any longer. “People died for the right to vote as recently as the civil rights movement,” she said. “The American Revolution was all about being able to control our own democracy, and that means voting … We know that a lot of machines were breaking in the 2012 election. It’s not that it’s an impending crisis. This crisis is already here.” Also, outdated voting machines can present security risks both in hardware deficiencies (some machines use generic keys to protect sensitive panels) and in software flaws that are difficult if not impossible to detect when compromised, according to security audits. Assessing the security of many of these systems is difficult, however, since companies insist proprietary software and hardware may not be disclosed to third parties. Government audits are often not fully public. The current problem is rooted in the short-term fixes that were implemented to solve the last major voting crisis, in 2000, when unreliable punchcard machines led to ambiguous ballots in Florida, putting the presidential election into question. After further issues in the 2002 midterm elections, Congress passed the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) that fall. HAVA gave states millions of dollars to replace punchcard machines and created the EAC, charged with establishing standards for voting systems.
Every big election year, horror stories surface around the South and the rest of the country of voters having to wait for hours to cast their ballots. In 2008, reports came out of Georgia of voters having to stand in line for up to 12 hours to vote. In 2012, the battleground state of Florida garnered national headlines with accounts of voters waiting six hours at the polls. In 2013, President Obama assembled a 10-member bipartisan commission to look into the experiences of voters in the previous year’s elections and to propose solutions to help streamline the voting process. The commission found that the Florida and Georgia experiences weren’t isolated: More than 10 million people had to wait more than half an hour to vote in 2012. Arguing that “no citizen should have to wait in line for more than 30 minutes to vote,” the group outlined a series of ways election officials could make voting easier, saying that “jurisdictions can solve the problem of long lines through a combination of planning … and the efficient allocation of resources.” Yet despite a flurry of election law bills at the state level, many states have failed to act on the commission’s proposals and make improvements to ensure long wait times don’t taint the 2014 mid-term elections.
Georgia: State says 25 voter applications of 85,000 “confirmed” forgeries | Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Investigators backed away Wednesday from allegations a Democratic-backed group may have organized voter registration fraud, saying they can confirm 25 applications of more than 85,000 submitted to the Georgia Secretary of State’s office. Chief investigator Chris Harvey, however, said the office needed more information from the New Georgia Project to confirm no more fraudulent forms existed — already, it has identified another 26 applications as suspicious. The state has extended a deadline for the group to get investigations such information through Sept. 26. Harvey spoke after the group’s leaders said Secretary of State Brian Kemp may be ignoring more than 51,000 unprocessed voter registration applications to instead pursue what they called “a witch hunt.” With the state’s Oct. 6 registration deadline quickly approaching, state House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams, D-Atlanta,and more than a dozen civil rights and religious leaders who support the New Georgia Project called on Kemp —the state’s top elections official — to focus on ensuring ballot access to thousands of new voters they and others have signed up this election year.
American election reform, where states look to either impede or assist people’s ability to influence government with their vote. Ballots in at least five states — Connecticut, Montana, Missouri, Illinois and Arkansas — focus on some kind of election reform. Most states have made voting harder in the past decade by enacting voter ID laws, ostensibly to guard against voter impersonation, a problem that the public believes to be more widespread than the evidence suggests. For example, a five-year crackdown by the Justice Department under President George W. Bush resulted in only 86 people being found guilty of voter fraud across all 50 states, according to a 2007 investigation by The New York Times. In part because many of these voter ID laws have already passed, the majority of the legislative activity in 2014 actually focused on making voting more convenient. … Based on interviews with state and local election officials in states with early voting, the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University Law School argues that early voting brings a host of benefits, including shorter lines and less administrative burden on election day. Nonetheless, eight states have cut back on early voting since 2010. One recent example is North Carolina, where the legislature decided to cut a week of early voting, eliminate same-day registration during early voting and reduce the hours of early voting on the final Saturday before election day.
District of Columbia: Elections officials ‘cannot guarantee’ a smooth Nov. 4 general election | The Washington Post
Top D.C. election officials said Thursday they have fixed problems with computer switches and servers that caused a four-hour delay in reporting results of the city’s April 1 primary. But in sometimes contentious testimony before a D.C. Council committee , the city’s elections chief said he cannot ensure a smooth night on Nov. 4. “While we have resolved the technical issues . . . I cannot guarantee” there won’t be “more glitches,” said Clifford D. Tatum, executive director of the D.C. Board of Elections. Tatum also refused to make any promises about what time the vote tallying would be finished after the close of polls in the city’s general election. “We will plan for every reasonable contingency,” Tatum said, “but we cannot make any guarantees to when the election night process will be complete.” Tatum said that on Nov. 4 the board would have 45 “roving technicians” to deal with any issues that arise at polling places.
Hawaii County and state election workers are preparing for the possibility that voting could again be disrupted in lower Puna as a lava flow continues to advance toward populated areas. Election officials say they identified 7,542 voters in three precincts from Ainaloa to Kalapana who could have difficulty voting during the Nov. 4 General Election should the June 27 lava flow continue its long march to the sea. They are essentially the same voters, minus the precinct covering Hawaiian Paradise Park, who had voting disrupted during the Aug. 9 primary because of damage from Tropical Storm Iselle.
Democrat Chad Taylor’s name won’t appear on the Kansas ballot for the U.S. Senate. The Kansas Supreme Court, dominated by Democratic appointees, ordered Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach Thursday to strike Taylor’s name from the Nov. 4 ballot. In its ruling, the court turned aside Kobach’s contention that Taylor’s Sept. 3 withdrawal letter failed to meet the standard set in state law. “The Secretary of State thus has no discretion to refuse to remove Chadwick J. Taylor’s name from the ballot,” the court said. Kobach, a Republican mired in his own tough re-election battle, had moved to keep Taylor’s name in front of voters on grounds that the Democrat had not specified that he would be legally “incapable” of serving in the Senate. Kobach was scheduled to meet with reporters late Thursday afternoon in Topeka to discuss the ruling.
Kansas: Court strips Taylor’s name from U.S. Senate ballot; Kobach tells Democrats to pick new candidate | The Wichita Eagle
Democrat Chad Taylor’s name won’t be on the ballot for U.S. Senate. But Secretary of State Kris Kobach is determined that another Democrat will be. Minutes after the Kansas Supreme Court issued a unanimous decision overturning Kobach’s decision to keep Taylor on the ballot, Kobach declared the state’s Democratic Party must convene its state committee and choose another nominee by Sept. 26. Democratic leaders did not have an immediate response to that, though party chair Joan Wagnon said earlier in the week that “until the court tells me to do something, I’m not going to anything.” The court said the Democratic Party was not part of the case and did not rule on whether it had to appoint a replacement. The outcome of the dispute and the race could affect whether the Republican Party can recapture control of the U.S. Senate. Republicans need a net gain of six seats to take the Senate majority from Democrats, and Kansas is one of about a dozen races nationally that could determine the outcome.
Montana voters will lie to rest a divisive issue this November when they fill out their General Election ballot – whether to continue allowing new voters to register on Election Day, as the state has allowed since 2006. The legislative referendum will appear on the ballot after heated legal debate. In February, the state Supreme Court ruled the issue could proceed when it denied a petition by voting-rights groups attempting to occlude the referendum from the ballot. The Republican-controlled Legislature passed the referendum in 2013, placing it on the 2014 ballot, though it was rewritten after opponents argued that language in the referendum’s ballot initiative was misleading. The language asserted that ending same-day registration was necessary to comply with federal law. If the referendum passes and same-day registration is rescinded, voter registration would end at 5 p.m. on the Friday before Election Day.
A candidate for Nebraska governor says he will seek to appeal a judge’s decision allowing Mike Foley’s name to remain on the ballot as Republican Pete Ricketts’ running mate. Ricketts selected Foley as his lieutenant governor after former Lt. Gov. Lavon Heidemann resigned from his post and dropped out of the race last week. On Wednesday, Lancaster County District Judge Lori Maret dismissed a petition by Libertarian gubernatorial candidate Mark Elworth Jr. to have Heidemann’s name on the ballot for the Nov. 4 election. Elworth and state Democrats have criticized Nebraska Secretary of State John Gale, a Republican, for allowing Foley’s name onto the ballot despite the switch taking place after a deadline for Ricketts to commit to a running mate.
North Dakota: Secretary of State Al Jaeger gets funding request to cover costs of reviewing ballot measures | Associated Press
A state commission on Wednesday approved Secretary of State Al Jaeger’s emergency funding request to help his agency cover overtime, temporary help and other costs associated with a spate of measures on the Nov. 4 ballot. North Dakota’s Emergency Commission, a six-member panel that includes the governor, legislative leaders and Jaeger, unanimously voted to increase funding to review the measures from $8,000 to $15,000. Voters will decide eight measures this fall, the most on a ballot since there were nine in North Dakota’s 1996 June election, Jaeger said. November elections in 1980 and 1990, and a 1989 special election each had eight ballot measures.
Groups challenging Wisconsin’s voter ID law in filings asked a full appeals court to reverse a decision by three federal judges that allows the law to go into effect this fall. The submissions Tuesday and Wednesday by lawyers for the Advancement Project and the American Civil Liberties Union said Friday’s decision by a panel of judges from the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals was a “radical, last-minute change to procedures for conducting an election that is already underway.” “Supreme Court precedent and other circuits uniformly caution against such eleventh-hour changes to the election laws, even where those courts have approved such changes for future elections,” the attorneys wrote. In a terse order Wednesday, the court told Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen’s office to respond by Tuesday. Van Hollen declined to comment on the filings through his spokeswoman, Dana Brueck. The legal fight is coming to a head just seven weeks before the Nov. 4 election between Republican Gov. Scott Walker and Democrat Mary Burke. Walker signed the voter ID law in 2011; Burke opposes it.
Fiji’s election has been thrown into confusion as a united opposition says it has evidence of fraud, contradicting international observers’ findings that the election result looked to be in line with what people wanted. Provisional results give Rear Adm. Voreqe Bainimarama’s party, Fiji First, a convincing lead with more than 60% of the vote, according to data released by the Fijian election authority early Thursday. The military strongman has ruled Fiji for eight years. The nearest opposition, the Social Democratic Liberal Party, known as Sodelpa, won just 27% of the vote, the election authority said. Final results aren’t expected for several days. Peter Reith, the Australian co-leader of the Multinational Observers Group, said that after talking to 92 observers from 15 countries, it had been concluded the elections were “on track to broadly represent the will of the Fijian voters.”
New Zealand: New Zealand prepares to vote after ‘strangest, dirtiest’ election campaign | The Guardian
Election campaign labelled New Zealand’s strangest, dirtiest and most dramatic, reaches a climax as voters go to the polls, though it may take days or weeks before a government is agreed. In the last month conventional policy arguments have been squeezed to the margins, with the ruling National party forced to face down revelations of links to a notorious attack-blogger that hogged headlines for a fortnight. That was soon followed by allegations of deception over state surveillance from the NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden and the journalist Glenn Greenwald. In response, the National party leader and prime minister, John Key, maintained a consistent strategy of dismissing the allegations and attacking the messenger’s motives and credibility.
Rules preventing people saying how they have voted and taking selfies with their ticked voting paper will be tested as never before on polling day. Publishing anything on election day that could potentially influence another voter is strictly prohibited in New Zealand. People can post on Facebook that they have voted but not who they have voted for because that may influence others. They can take selfies outside the voting place after they have voted but no pictures are allowed in polling booths depicting ticked boxes on the ballot paper. The Electoral Commission says it will investigate complaints. “This is a long-standing law in New Zealand and one most New Zealanders value,” chief electoral officer Robert Peden told NZ Newswire.
Scuffles have broken out in Scotland amid confrontations and reports of voter intimidation on the final day of an increasingly passionate campaign for independence. Andy Murray, Scotland’s most celebrated athlete, joined a dramatic late surge for voting Yes on independence with a rallying cry on the eve of the historic referendum. “Let’s do this!” he declared. The tennis star’s unexpected change of heart has been replicated by hundreds of thousands of Scots who, according to polls, have swung behind independence in the last month, ratcheting up the tension ahead of polling day on Thursday. The battle to secure a fully independent Scotland for the first time in more than 300 years reached dramatic new heights on the final night of campaigning when there was a stand-off between rival supporters in Glasgow, while a heavy police presence monitored the melee in Edinburgh. Street and police confirmed one arrest outside a polling station. Both sides accuse the other of bullying tactics.
Officials at the referendum count in Glasgow are investigating 10 cases of suspected electoral fraud at polling stations. Glasgow City Council said police had been called earlier today. They said it related to possible cases of impersonation, where people pretend to be someone else, cast the vote, then the real person turned up to vote at a number of unidentified polling stations across the city. A council spokesman said: “The poll clerk had gone to score off the name and it appears the person had already voted. “We then contacted the police.who asked us to recover the ballot papers. We can do that quite easily because we know the number of the papers and which boxes. “It’s not likely to slow the count.”
Secretary of State Jon Husted wants a court to throw out his own directive. Under an order to county elections boards Husted issued on Friday, Ohioans could start voting a week earlier than he’d planned and cast a ballot during the two weekends before Election Day. But at the same time, the Republican is pushing for a higher court to overturn the lower-court ruling that added the days of early voting and eliminate them. Battling in court over when Ohioans can vote has become almost a biennial ritual, seemingly taking place every time the state has a gubernatorial or presidential election. This year, the dispute involves whether voters can start casting ballots on Sept. 30 or Oct. 7, and whether additional hours will be allowed on weekends and evenings.
Editorials: Preserving the right to vote in the wake of Wisconsin’s voter ID law | Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel
As we inch forward to the 119th anniversary of Booker T. Washington’s Atlanta Compromise speech, where “in all things that are purely social we can be as separate as the fingers, yet one as the hand in all things essential to mutual progress,” Wisconsin, not to mention the entire nation, is more separated than ever — like the fingers in a hand. From Ferguson, Mo., to Milwaukee and throughout all these United States, African-Americans perceive themselves to be targets of unfair treatment by our institutions. There are many issues that the African-American community must address from within (such as crime and poverty), but that cause is decidedly not helped by laws whose effect, if not intent, is to marginalize African-Americans from the political process and, thus, society. One such case, out of many, is the law requiring approved photo ID for participation in elections. The recent federal appeals court ruling on voter ID is unhelpful to Wisconsin’s poor who are disproportionately African-Americans, Latinos, women, students and the very elderly. It is also shameful to a nation that prides itself on liberty, equality and justice for all. Simply put, the courts in the U.S. have become overly politicized, as illustrated by the recent ruling by a three-judge panel, all appointed by GOP presidents, who rendered a decision that is advantageous to a governor in a tight gubernatorial campaign. We cannot say for certain that this factor weighed on the court; however, the haste in which the law just prior to an election will be executed is cause for concern.
Afghan presidential rivals Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah on Sunday signed a power sharing deal to form a National Unity Government. The signing ceremony took place at the presidential palace in Kabul with outgoing President Hamid Karzai and Afghan elders as well as religious leaders present on the occasion. The two candidates shook hands and hugged each other after singing the long-awaited political deal. Karzai then briefly addressed the gathering and congratulated both Ghani and Abdullah on reaching the power sharing arrangement.
Voters in Scotland rejected independence from Britain in a referendum that had threatened to break up the 307-year union between them, according to projections by the BBC and Sky News early Friday. Before dawn after a night of counting that showed a steady trend in favor of maintaining the union, Nicola Sturgeon, the deputy head of the pro-independence Scottish National Party, effectively conceded defeat for the “yes” campaign that had pressed for secession. “Like thousands of others across the country I’ve put my heart and soul into this campaign and there is a real sense of disappointment that we’ve fallen narrowly short of securing a yes vote,” Ms. Sturgeon told BBC television. With 26 of 32 voting districts reporting, there were 1,397,077 votes, or 54.2 percent, against independence, and 1,176,952, or 45.7 percent, in favor.