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.

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.

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.”

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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?”

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.”

Oregon: Bad signatures top reason for ballot rejection | Blue Mountain Eagle

Signature problems were the top reason ballots in the state’s vote-by-mail system got tossed out in the 2010 mid-term election, according to data from Oregon Secretary of State Kate Brown’s office. County clerks in 30 Oregon counties ­— six didn’t report data — rejected nearly 5,000 ballots in that election because signatures on the envelopes did not match the signatures on file, and more than 3,200 ballots were discarded because they lacked any signature. Approximately 1,900 ballots arrived too late to be counted. The counties that did not report the numbers of ballots they rejected in the 2010 mid-term election were Curry, Grant, Lincoln, Malheur, Tillamook and Wheeler counties. The number of rejected ballots translates to a tiny fraction of the total ballots cast. Less than 1 percent of the 1.4 million ballots cast were rejected in the 2010 mid-term, and similar percentages in other recent elections. Nonetheless, a spokesman for the Secretary of State’s Office and an expert on early voting said there are ways that Oregon could improve.

Rhode Island: Barrington voters, be prepared: Ballot a long read | Providence Journal

Want to vote in Barrington Tuesday? Don’t expect to do it on your lunch break. First you have to pick a U.S. senator, member of Congress, governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, attorney general, general treasurer, two General Assembly members and five local officials. Then turn over the double-sided ballot sheet, the first of two, for seven statewide questions and the beginning of 40 local questions. Phew. “We are concerned about the number of questions,” state Board of Elections Executive Director Robert Kando said. “We asked the Board of Canvassers to send out the questions with a page that they [voters] can mark, tear out and bring with them so they can quickly go through the questions.” “In the 2012 election,” Kando continued, “Providence had a large number of questions and did not send out any voter information with respect to their questions…. [Voters] ended up reading five sides of ballot sheets and it created a backup at the booths.”

South Carolina: Election for Bobby Harrell’s seat postponed; Democrats ask court to overturn decision | Post and Courier

South Carolina election officials boosted Republicans’ chances of hanging onto former Speaker Bobby Harrell’s old seat, but Democrats wasted no time in asking the state’s highest court to reverse the decision. The legal duel began Thursday morning, when the State Election Commission voted unanimously to postpone the District 114 election, giving the GOP a chance to replace Harrell on the ballot with another Republican. Harrell is barred from running for or holding public office for at least three years after pleading guilty to six misdemeanor campaign finance-related charges earlier this month. Within hours, the Democratic candidate, Mary Tinkler, filed for a hearing before the South Carolina Supreme Court, contending that the Election Commission erred in ruling that state law allows the GOP to replace its candidate. The Supreme Court is expected to consider the case Friday – a mere four days before Election Day on Tuesday.

South Carolina: State to weigh special election for Bobby Harrell’s seat | The Augusta Chronicle

The abrupt resignation of former South Carolina House Speaker Bobby Harrell has left Republicans pushing for a special election. For their part, Democrats hope next week’s ballot goes forward, virtually assuring them of a Charleston-area House seat they have not held in almost 40 years. The South Carolina Election Commission meets today to consider whether to order a special election for the seat vacated when Harrell submitted his resignation last week after pleading guilty to using campaign money for his own benefit. The commission late Tuesday received his affidavit asking that his name be removed from the District 114 ballot, saying he resigned on what he called the “legitimate nonpolitical grounds” of “family crises and substantial business conflict.” As part of a plea deal with prosecutors Harrell agreed not to seek office for at least three years.

Montana: Professors’ Research Project Stirs Political Outrage in Montana | New York Times

The only thing that three political scientists wanted to do was send mailers to thousands of Montana voters as part of a study of nonpartisan elections. What could possibly go wrong? A lot, judging from the outrage and a state investigation. It has also raised thorny questions about political science field research, which isn’t uncommon, and its ability to affect an election. The experiment, by the political scientists Adam Bonica and Jonathan Rodden of Stanford University and Kyle Dropp of Dartmouth College, sent mail to 100,000 Montana registered voters about two elections for the state’s supreme court. The Montana mailer, labeled “2014 Montana General Election Voter Information Guide,” featured the official state seal. It also placed the four judicial candidates on an ideological spectrum that included Barack Obama and Mitt Romney as reference points.

Texas: Messing With Texas Again: Putting It Back Under Federal Supervision | Richard Hasen/TPM

Readers of the entire 147-page opinion issued earlier this month by a federal district court striking down Texas’s strict voter identification law as unconstitutional and a violation of the Voting Rights Act might have been too exhausted to realize that the opinion’s very last sentence may be its most important. The court ended its opinion with a dry statement promising a future hearing on “plaintiffs’ request for relief under Section 3(c) of the Voting Rights Act.” That hearing, however, has the potential to require Texas to get federal approval for any future voting changes for up to the next decade, and to make it much more difficult for the state to pass more restrictive voting rules. It may be much more important than the ruling on the voter ID law itself. From 1975 through 2013, Texas was one of a number of (mostly Southern) states and jurisdictions which were subject to “preclearance” under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. This meant that before Texas could make any changes in its voting rules (such as enacting a voter identification law or passing a new redistricting plan) it had to demonstrate either to the United States Department of Justice or to a three-judge federal court in Washington D.C. that its change was not intended, and would not have the effect, of making minority voters worse off. Texas enacted its voter identification law in 2011, but the Department of Justice believed it was discriminatory, and a three-judge court rejected Texas’s request to implement the law.

Bolivia: MAS Party Wins Legislative Assembly Vote | Wall Street Journal

Bolivian President Evo Morales ’s ruling Movement Toward Socialism party won a two-thirds supermajority in the legislative assembly in an election earlier this month, according to final results released late Wednesday, solidifying his political control in the Andean nation. More than two weeks after Bolivians went to the polls, the country’s electoral court announced the final results of the vote count, showing that Mr. Morales’s party, known as MAS, won 113 of the 166 seats in the assembly. While Mr. Morales’s re-election to a third term was confirmed shortly after the Oct. 12 election, the results for the legislative assembly weren’t immediately clear. Analysts say the two-thirds result could open the door for Mr. Morales to change the constitution, which would be necessary to remove presidential term limits.

Canada: Manual recount demanded in Leamington after ‘computer glitch’ | CBC News

One of losing candidates in Leamington’s election questions the legitimacy of the vote because of a problem with the computerized tabulation. Robert Tatomir is calling for a review of the results. Leamington hired Scytl, an online voting company, to run its election. Voters cast their ballots online and nowhere elese. Results were expected within half an hour afer polls closed. Instead it took nearly three hours to tabulate results. In a statement Scytl says it detected an “inconsistency” in the naming of certain files, and required additional time to deliver the results to ensure the integrity of the election.

Mozambique: Opposition rejects Mozambique’s election results | Associated Press

Mozambique’s opposition parties on Saturday rejected the victory of the ruling Frelimo party, alleging voter fraud in the southeastern African nation’s elections. Last week, election officials announced Frelimo won the election with about 57 percent of the vote. Frelimo’s victory means the party’s presidential candidate, Defense Minister Felipe Nyusi, who was relatively unknown before campaigning began, will be Mozambique’s next president. The official opposition, Renamo, which won just over a third of the vote, called for negotiations with Frelimo saying a coalition government should be formed.

Romania: Romania votes to elect new president on November 2 | The Sofia Globe

Romanians will head to polling stations on November 2 to elect a new president, with incumbent Traian Basescu stepping down after serving the maximum two terms allowed by law. The field to replace Basescu features 14 candidates, but only two are seen as realistic challengers – prime minister Victor Ponta, leader of the Social-Democrat party, and the mayor of Sibiu Klaus Iohannis, leader of the National-Liberal party. Ponta is seen as the favourite, with various opinion polls giving him between 38 per cent and 43 per cent support, while Iohannis ranked second with support between 30 per cent and 33 per cent. All other candidates were polling in the single-digit range. In the likely scenario that no candidate wins the presidency in the first round of voting, a run-off would be held on November 16. A win by Ponta would consolidate the Social-Democrats’ hold on government and bring a degree of stability after a decade marked by repeated conflicts between the presidency and parliament during Basescu’s two terms in office.

Ukraine: Good voters, not such good guys | The Economist

TO ALL appearances, Ukraine’s parliamentary election on October 26th was a triumph. Reformists mostly won and voters rebuked the far right and far left. Western allies heaped praise on the pro-European, pro-democratic results. Yet Ukraine remains troubled and deeply divided. In an upset, the People’s Front party of Arseniy Yatsenyuk, the prime minister, narrowly beat President Petro Poroshenko’s bloc by 22.2% to 21.8%. This means that Ukraine will keep two power centres, as Mr Yatsenyuk seems sure to stay in office. Mr Poroshenko had hoped to win a majority and install a loyalist instead. Now the People’s Front and the Poroshenko Bloc must form a coalition, probably with the third-placed Samopomich (self-help) party, led by the mayor of Lviv. The six parties that reached a 5% threshold will fill half of the 450-seat parliament (Rada) from their party lists. The rest will come from districts where deputies are elected directly and only later join party factions.

South Carolina: State Supreme Court returns race for Harrell’s seat to Tuesday | The State

Voters will cast ballots Tuesday for the seat once held by House Speaker Bobby Harrell, R-Charleston, after the S.C. Supreme Court halted a special election ordered by state election officials. The state Elections Commission ruled Thursday that Republicans could hold a primary after Election Day to find a new nominee. Commission members voted unanimously that Harrell was disqualified from the race, which opened the door for a special election. Harrell resigned and agreed not to seek office for three years as part of a guilty plea agreement last week on campaign-finance charges. Democrat Mary Tinkler, who is running for the contested House seat, filed an appeal with the state’s high court.