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National: Pentagon watchdogs scrutinize states’ push toward online voting | McClatchy

Nevada’s election chief says the state’s much-ballyhooed new system for electronically delivering absentee ballots to troops and other citizens overseas isn’t an “online” voting system, even if it offers those abroad the option of emailing marked ballots to county clerks. But his boss, Nevada Secretary of State Ross Miller, described the system differently in testimony to Congress last year, boasting that it would allow voters abroad “to request, mark and deliver a ballot to their county without the need of a printer or a scanner.” The office of Pentagon Inspector General John Rymer is taking a hard look at systems like Nevada’s to see whether they’re violating a prohibition on the use of Defense Department grant dollars to create online voting systems, a spokeswoman for Rymer told McClatchy. The prohibition was spurred by concerns that those systems are vulnerable to hackers. Republican Rep. Joe Wilson of South Carolina, the chairman of a House Armed Services subcommittee on military personnel, and the panel’s ranking Democrat, California Rep. Susan Davis, wrote Rymer last June requesting “a full and thorough investigation” to determine whether they’re designed to return votes electronically. So far, the inspector general’s office said, Rymer has ordered only an “assessment” of whether grant recipients are skirting the rules – a review not previously disclosed. At Wilson’s and Davis’ request, the inspector general’s office also is examining how an obscure Pentagon unit, whose task is to facilitate absentee voting overseas, spent $85 million in research funding from 2009 to 2013, Rymer’s office said. Read More

National: Is It Voter Fraud or Voter Suppression in 2014? | New York Times

Earlier this month, the Supreme Court upheld a move by Texas lawmakers to implement voter identification checks at polls during the midterm elections this November. “Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg issued a six-page dissent saying the court’s action ‘risks denying the right to vote to hundreds of thousands of eligible voters,’” reports Adam Liptak for The New York Times. “The law, enacted in 2011, requires voters seeking to cast their ballots at the polls to present photo identification like a Texas driver’s or gun license, a military ID or a passport,” he explains. “Those requirements, Justice Ginsburg wrote, ‘may prevent more than 600,000 registered Texas voters (about 4.5 percent of all registered voters) from voting in person for lack of compliant identification.’” At the heart of the voter-ID debate is the specter of voter fraud. Right-leaning pundits have expended hours upon hours of airtime persuading viewers of its widespread existence and insidious growth. “Voter fraud will occur” during the 2014 midterm elections, claims Hans von Spakovsky, writing for The Wall Street Journal. “Many states run a rickety election process, lacking rules to deter people who are looking to take advantage of the system’s porous security. And too many groups and individuals — including the N.A.A.C.P., the American Civil Liberties Union and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder — are doing everything they can to prevent states from improving the integrity of the election process.” “Democrats want everyone to vote: old, young, white, black, Hispanic, Asian, citizen, non-citizen,” Mona Charen writes at National Review. “Voter-ID laws, passed by 30 states so far, are efforts by legislatures to ensure the integrity of votes. Being asked to show a photo ID can diminish several kinds of fraud, including impersonation, duplicate registrations in different jurisdictions, and voting by ineligible people including felons and non-citizens,” she says. Read More

National: Arms race: Parties, groups ready thousands of lawyers for Election Day | McClatchy

As Americans prepare to vote Tuesday in dozens of tight elections, the two major political parties and interest groups across the ideological spectrum already have lawyered up for potential problems at the polls or with election results. On Election Day, armies of partisan attorneys and poll watchers will be at the ready at voting sites and in war rooms in almost every state, scrutinizing nearly every aspect of the voting process and prepared to spring into action if they see something that could adversely impact their candidate or cause. “The parties are well lawyered up,” said Richard Hasen, a University of California, Irvine, law and political science professor and the author of “The Voting Wars: From 2000 to the Next Election Meltdown.” “It’s a tactic and a tool. It’s like an arms race.” Read More

Georgia: Parties brace for war over voter registrations in Georgia Senate race | The Hill

Georgia’s tight Senate race could be headed for the courtroom after voters head to the ballot box. A state judge ruled earlier this week against civil rights groups seeking to force the Georgia secretary of State to account for roughly 40,000 voter registrations that were filed but allegedly haven’t shown up on the voting rolls. Those voters could have a big impact on the tight open seat contest between Democrat Michelle Nunn and Republican David Perdue. That initial ruling raises the possibility of further post-election legal action — and is likely to increase the number of potential provisional ballots, the type of votes that get fought over in court in close elections. Civil rights groups are vowing to fight to make sure every new voter they helped register gets their vote counted after next Tuesday. And both parties are quietly preparing for chaos in close races like the current deadlocked battle, where the results could be fought out in the courts as well as in a runoff. At issue are a large chunk of the more than 100,000 new voters registered by the state NAACP and the New Georgia Project, a nonpartisan group focused on registering African-American, Asian-American and Hispanic voters. Read More

Maryland: GOP calls for investigation of voting machines | Baltimore Sun

The Maryland Republican Party is calling on the state Board of Elections to investigate reports that voting machines are switching ballots cast for GOP candidates to their Democratic rivals. The state party said Tuesday that it has received complaints from about 50 voters in 12 Maryland counties who say machines at early voting centers “flipped” their Republican votes to count toward Democratic candidates. “No matter what the reason, steps must be taken to protect the integrity of this election,” said state GOP Chair Diana Waterman. Marsha Epstein of Pikesville said she ran into the problem when she went to vote at the Reisterstown Senior Center’s Hannah More campus. She said she tried to vote for Republican Larry Hogan for governor but the machine recorded a vote for Democrat Anthony G. Brown. Epstein said she pointed out the problem to an election judge, who told her to try again. Read More

National: New Voting Restrictions Could Swing the 2014 Election | The Nation

On Monday, October 27, eight activists with Moral Monday Georgia occupied the office of Georgia GOP Secretary of State Brian Kemp, holding signs that read “Let Us Vote.” There are 800,000 unregistered African-American, Hispanic and Asian eligible voters in Georgia. This year, the New Georgia Project registered 85,000 of them. After the applications were submitted, Kemp subpoenaed the group’s records and accused them of voter registration fraud. It turned out that only 25 of the forms were fraudulent and the group was required by law to turn them in regardless. Despite the scant evidence of voter fraud, 40,000 new voter registration applications have yet to be processed in the state, according to the New Georgia Project. Civil rights groups sued Kemp and voter registration boards in five heavily populated urban counties, but on Wednesday a Fulton County judge dismissed the lawsuit. It was the latest court decision restricting voting rights this election year. Read More

California: Half of California voters getting mail ballots | The Sacramento Bee

More than one-half of California’s 17.6 million registered voters have requested vote-by-mail ballots for Tuesday’s election. The question now is: Will they use them? Tuesday was the cutoff for voters to apply for a vote-by-mail ballot, barring special circumstances such as members of the military being called to active duty. A tally by the California Association of Clerks and Election Officials pegged the number of vote-by-mail applicants earlier this week at 8.8 million, based on a survey of counties. About five percent of those ballots had been returned to election officials, amid fears that next week’s election could set a record for low turnout. Paul Mitchell of Political Data, Inc., which provides voter-registration data to campaigns, said Wednesday that more than 9 million vote-by-mail ballots have gone out. Read More

California: Heavy ballots may need extra postage; still getting delivered to elections office | Redding Searchlight

Blame the October moisture. But some Shasta County voters are paying an extra 21 cents in postage — this on top of the 49-cent stamp — to mail their absentee ballots. Voters who have mailed their ballot with 49-cent postage only, fear not. The ballots — no matter that they are slightly heavier than in the bone-dry summer — will get to the Shasta County Elections Office by Nov. 4. Cathy Darling Allen, county clerk and registrar of voters, said the U.S. Postal Service will still deliver, and her office is picking up the difference for any extra postage. “They already know about this issue,” she said of the postal service. “They understand that the purple and green ballots” are being dropped off “and they get them to us as fast as they can.” To date, the elections office has mailed 61,741 ballots and 14,675 ballots have been returned. Read More

Georgia: 50,000 Missing Georgia Voter-Registration Applications? Nothing to See Here | The Daily Beast

Voting-rights advocates are running out of time in Georgia, where civil-rights groups say more than 50,000 new voter registrations have gone missing since they submitted them to state and local officials earlier this year. But with Election Day less than a week away, Georgia’s Republican secretary of state, Brian Kemp, is insisting that every voter-registration application submitted by Georgians before the registration deadline has been processed. The missing potential voters? He says there aren’t any. On Tuesday, a county judge sided with Kemp and rejected a request by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights, the NAACP, and the New Georgia Project to intervene in the dispute, on which the two sides disagree on nearly every detail, including whether there is a problem at all. “This decision guarantees that there are going to be significant numbers of people who will be disenfranchised and not be put onto the voter-registration rolls even though they are eligible to vote,” said Julie Houk, senior counsel for the Voting Rights Project of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights, after the judge’s ruling, which the groups will likely appeal. “What good is early voting if people’s names aren’t on the rolls to vote?” Read More

Iowa: GOP gathers voting, recount data in Iowa | Associated Press

With the Iowa Senate race coming down to the wire, Republicans are requesting information from state and local voting officials in case a recount is necessary. The GOP is asking about polling places, voting rules and recount procedures, saying it just wants to be prepared in case there is any question about the outcome in the competitive contest between Republican Joni Ernst and Democrat Bruce Braley. The National Republican Senatorial Committee recently requested materials from the Iowa secretary of state’s office and the Ernst campaign has reached out to county auditors, seeking information. The NRSC, the Senate Republicans’ campaign arm, has made the same requests to secretary of state offices in 10 other states with tight Senate races. “It’s all standard recount prep,” said NRSC senior adviser Kevin McLaughlin. “It would be malpractice for us not to be concerned in any state where we are neck and neck or in the margin.” Read More