Iowa is home to one of the most closely watched Senate races this year and voters don’t have to wait until November to vote for their candidate – voters can vote early, in-person starting Thursday. Thirty-six states plus the District of Columbia have some form of early voting, that is, allowing many people to vote before Election Day without needing an excuse to do so. Eight of these states feature races for the U.S. Senate that CBS News is calling competitive. The portion of voters who cast their ballots early has been on the rise. Ten years ago, fewer than a quarter of ballots were cast early nationwide for president, but that figure climbed to 35 percent in 2012 (representing about 45 million votes) and 30 percent in the 2010 midterm elections. The Democratic Party has been successful in their organizational efforts to get out the vote early during the last two presidential elections, but both parties will look up to lock up as much of the vote as early as they can.
In 2012, hundreds of thousands of people across the U.S. waited, at first patiently and then with growing frustration, in lines that ventured out the doors and wrapped around street corners. They weren’t waiting more than seven hours in line to buy the new iPhone — they were waiting to vote on an electronic touch-screen machine. Technology has made life easier, simplifying common tasks such as banking, publishing a book, talking to friends and paying for things online. But when it comes to voting, technology is stuck in 2002. And with the decade-old electronic voting machines that states use falling apart — creating long lines that cause some not vote at all — voters are slowly losing access to their voting rights. There’s been renewed emphasis on voting rights in the last year, since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a key portion of the Voting Rights Act. … But even without ID laws, voters face obstacles at polling centers having to wait hours to vote in some regions partly because of outdated and too few electronic voting machines.
When Eric Holder took over the Department of Justice, the Civil Rights Division, known as the crown jewel of the agency, was in shambles. Conservative political appointees in the Bush administration had forced out well-respected section chiefs. Longtime career lawyers left in droves, replaced by partisan hacks. Civil rights enforcement was virtually non-existent. Holder made restoring the credibility of the Civil Rights Division a leading cause. “In the last eight years, vital federal laws designed to protect rights in the workplace, the housing market, and the voting booth have languished,” he said at his confirmation hearing. “Improper political hiring has undermined this important mission. That must change. And I intend to make this a priority as attorney general.” Enforcing the Voting Rights Act became a key priority for Holder’s Justice Department. In 2012, it successfully challenged Texas’s voter ID law, South Carolina’s voter ID law, and Florida’s cutbacks to early voting under the VRA.
As holidays go, National Voter Registration Day is self-explanatory. Created in 2012 by the League of Women Voters, it’s a day in September when volunteers work to register voters and increase participation. In the last two years, the effort helped add 350,000 people to the voter rolls, and this year more than 2,000 groups have organized events to mark the occasion and repeat the success. In Atlanta, for example, the NAACP, the Georgia Coalition for the People’s Agenda, the Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials, and the American Legal Advocacy Center of Georgia gathered at the State Capitol to host a mass registration event. Likewise, in Ohio, the state Democratic Party held registration events in Cincinnati and Columbus, by way of a statewide bus tour. And on a more national note, the Democratic National Committee issued a message in support of National Voter Registration Day. The Republican Party has not responded with similar enthusiasm.
Elections officials across the country are busy preparing for the upcoming November 4 general election. For many, while the days and sometimes nights are busier than normal, it’s relatively business as usual in the ramp up to the 2014 midterm election. However, officials in a handful of states are grappling with recent court rulings or waiting for the proverbial other shoe to drop as they await court rulings. Nowhere does it seem have recent court rulings been more acutely felt than in Wisconsin. Last week the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated the state’s voter photo ID law and now elections officials, state agencies and colleges and universities are scrambling to not only inform voters about the law, but make sure voters have the necessary ID. The state’s Government Accountability Board (GAB) said at a press conference following the ruling that they are taking “extraordinary efforts” to put the ID law into place.
The Alaska gubernatorial election could be derailed and thousands of voters disenfranchised if a lawsuit challenging the merged campaigns of two candidates is successful, state lawyers argue in court documents ahead of oral arguments Friday. “This court should not lightly order a remedy that will interfere with an ongoing election and disenfranchise Alaska’s voters,” Assistant Attorney General Margaret Paton-Walsh, representing the defendants, wrote in documents filed in the lawsuit against Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell and elections director Gail Fenumiai. The filing says more than 2,400 overseas ballots have already been mailed out. The lawsuit filed last week by an Alaska Republican Party district chair, Steve Strait, challenges an emergency ruling that allowed Democratic gubernatorial nominee Byron Mallott to join his campaign with now-independent candidate Bill Walker and run as Walker’s lieutenant governor.
The county has dropped the company it has been using for ballot printing and mailing after the company failed to get new equipment certified by the Secretary of State in time for Monday’s printing launch for the November election. County supervisors, during a special meeting Thursday, voted 3-0, with supervisors Gary Ovitt and Robert Lovingood absent, to approve a purchase order, not to exceed $700,000, with Washington-based K&H Integrated Print Solutions, which the county previously contracted with, county spokesman David Wert said.
Though much of the uncertainty about the U.S. Senate race stems from Democrat Chad Taylor’s last-minute decision to withdraw, Secretary of State Kris Kobach and his appointed county election commissioners must ensure there will be no doubt about the final tally in that or other contests. Confidence already is wobbly, including in Sedgwick County.
Some reasons for worry:
▪ Kobach ordered Friday that more than 500 ballots be mailed by the next day, as per federal law, to overseas civilians and military personnel. But he included a disclaimer that new ballots would be printed if the courts agreed with his position that Democrats must name a replacement for Taylor.
That scenario looked less likely Tuesday; the Kansas Supreme Court ordered that the voter’s lawsuit that could lead to such a ruling be transferred to Shawnee County District Court for what could be time-consuming fact-finding.
Cape May County counsel Jim Arsenault said he filed an action Sept. 19 to have a judge decide who will pay for the Dec. 9 special election on whether to dissolve the Lower Cape May Regional School District. County Clerk Rita Fulginiti informed Cape May it would have to bear the cost of the special election because they asked for the referendum. Cape May appealed to the county counsel, who has sought a determination from Super Court. The state Department of Education announced that a special election on the dissolution of the Lower Cape May Regional School District would be held Dec. 9 for Cape May, West Cape May, and Lower Township. Cape May requested a referendum on keeping or dissolving the LCMR school district as part of an effort to lower school taxes for Cape May property owners. Cape May property taxes fund 35 percent of the district’s budget, while sending just 5 percent of the students.
With hundreds of campaigns in North Carolina entering their final six weeks, a federal appeals court must now decide what kind of election the state will hold. Will it be run under North Carolina’s old voting laws? Or will state voters cast ballots under the controversial set of rules passed last year? The answer now rests with three judges – two from the Carolinas – from the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals. For two hours in Charlotte on Thursday, judges Diana Motz of Maryland, Henry Floyd of South Carolina and James Wynn of Martin County heard point and counterpoint in the state’s ongoing battle over the vote. Passed by Republicans in the final hours of the 2013 legislative session, the new rules shaved a week off early voting (though the total number of hours remain the same), ended programs to allow residents to register and vote on the same day, eliminated the use of provisional ballots by voters who turned up at the wrong precincts, and cut a program that allowed 16- and 17-year-olds to register early.
Hundreds of North Carolinians – and one cat – have received incorrect voter registration information, according to the N.C. State Board of Elections. The information – an “official application form” – was sent by Americans for Prosperity, a national conservative group with a state chapter based in Raleigh. Since then, hundreds of people who received the forms have called and complained to the State Board of Elections, said Joshua Lawson, a public information officer for the board. “It’s unclear where (Americans for Prosperity) got their list, but it’s caused a lot of confusion for people in the state,” Lawson said. One resident even received a voter registration form addressed to her cat, he said.
Voting Blogs: Context and Pretext: Why the Courts Were Right to Halt Ohio’s Latest Voting Restrictions | Dan Tokaji/Election Law Blog
The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals yesterday upheld the district court’s ruling in in NAACP v. Husted, which stopped new restrictions on early voting from taking effect. This decision is good news for Ohio voters. It faithfully applies existing law to the evidence admitted in the district court, maintaining the established period for same day registration and early voting. The federal courts have done their job by safeguarding voters against partisan manipulation of election rules. This comment explains why the ruling is correct and why Ohio’s call to stay the existing court order should be rejected, especially now that same day registration and early voting are just about to begin. NAACP v. Husted concerns a state law passed earlier this year eliminating Ohio’s limited window for same day registration and early voting, commonly referred to as “Golden Week.”* During this week (September 30-October 6 this year), voters can simultaneously register and cast their ballots in person. Tens of thousands of voters voted in this period the past two presidential elections, with thousands using the opportunity for same day registration and early voting. The evidence presented in the lower court showed that African American, low-income, and homeless voters were more likely to use this voting opportunity. The Sixth Circuit affirmed the district court’s preliminary injunction, based on its conclusion that the NAACP and other plaintiffs had shown likely violations of both the Constitution and the Voting Rights Act.
Voting Blogs: In Ohio, A Stirring Defense of Early Voting That Leaves Everyone Unhappy | Texas Election Law Blog
As a number of bloggers have reported, (including, separately, Professors Rick Hasen and Derek Muller) a generous pro-voter convenience decision has just come out of the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals. The court found that by eliminating a five-day period where voters could do same-day-registration and early voting all in one go, the State of Ohio had unjustifiably curtailed the opportunity for poor and minority voters to cast ballots. The reason why some analysts of the decision (including legal scholars from the Left) aren’t enthusiastic about the decision is that they find their credulity strained by the argument that voting rights are badly injured when a 35-day early voting period is reduced to a 28-day early voting period. The decision in Ohio State Conference of the NAACP v. Husted, et al. (pdf helpfully provided by Rick Hasen’s election law blog) is receiving criticism because of a perception that the court is going crazy and ruling that even the most inconsequential, incidental or de minimus injuries to voters rights are unacceptable.
As calls for a recount of the ballots in the New Brunswick election grow there are new demands for resignations following Monday night’s vote count confusion. Elections New Brunswick is hoping the release of official election results will silence the skeptics, but some politicians say a hand recount is the only way to restore confidence. “There should be a recount. There’s no ifs, ands or buts about it,” says outgoing Public Safety Minister Bruce Northrup. New Brunswick’s chief electoral officer, Michael Quinn, insists the election results are accurate, despite tabulation troubles. “Something has to be done there and it’s gotta be done right. I think all 49 ridings have to be redone.” Elections New Brunswick confirmed there were issues with the electronic tabulating system, which was being used for the first time in the provincial election. Later, it was determined that some of the results being entered manually were not being replaced properly by subsequent results coming in from memory cards.
While most Indonesians were sleeping in the early hours of Friday, September 26, their elected representatives dismantled a cornerstone of the country’s democracy. After a politicized plenary debate that lasted more than 10 hours, the House of Representatives voted 226-135 to pass the controversial Regional Elections Bill (RUU Pilkada). Indonesians will now no longer be able to directly vote for their governors, mayors and district heads – a stunning reversal for one of the most widely praised emerging democracies in the world. This comes just two months after Indonesia voted as president Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, a furniture businessman who would not have become Solo mayor or Jakarta governor if not for direct local elections.
The Electoral Commission of Namibia (ECN) has moved to allay fears of vote rigging and corruption after opposition parties raised alarm about the use of electronic voting machines without a paper trail. Namibians are set to go to the polls in November to elect the country’s third democratically elected president as well as members of the National Assembly. The November plebiscite will for the first time make use of electronic voting machines (EVMs) that were purchased from India, but the absence of a paper trail to be used in conjunction with the voting machines has seen members of the opposition crying foul. Despite the use of the voting machines in regional by elections held recently that were declared free and fair, the opposition feel that the absence of a verifiable paper trial will see results of the November election being manipulated in favor of the ruling party South West Africa People’s Organization (SWAPO).