Archives

The Voting News Weekly: The Voting News Weekly for November 24-30 2014

namibia_260Election officials across the country are facing the prospect of replacing aging voting machines without the benefit of federal funding. Heading into a recount, incumbent Arizona Congressman Ron Barber lost a lawsuit seeking to force two counties to include the 133 ballots the campaign says were legally cast but have been erroneously disqualified. Previously secret testimony and documents about the 2012 redistricting process, released this week provide detailed information about an alleged plan by Republican political consultants to funnel maps through members of the public to conceal the origins. In Saline County Kansas a malfunction of ES&S iVotronic voting equipment left 5,207 votes out of the original Nov. 4 vote total. The Maine Democratic Party is calling for an investigation into ballot count discrepancies on Long Island that tipped the scales in favor of the Republican candidate in the Senate District 25 race in Portland’s northern suburbs. Ohio lawmakers from both parties are working to coalesce around a new system for drawing congressional and legislative districts with hopes they can reach the resolution they have promised the public by year’s end. Moldova’s election commission barred Renato Usatii, a populist pro-Russian candidate, from running in Sunday’s parliamentary elections after a leaked audio recording appeared to show him discussing his close connections to the Russian security service and Namibia is to become the first African country to use electronic voting machines in a general election, after the Windhoek high court dismissed a legal challenge by an opposition political party.

Arizona: Barber loses lawsuit ahead of recount | The Hill

The campaign for Rep. Ron Barber (D-Ariz.) lost a lawsuit it filed just days ago with a federal district court seeking to force two counties in Arizona to include the 133 ballots the campaign says were legally cast but have been erroneously disqualified. Cindy Jorgenson, a U.S. district court judge in Tucson, notified the Barber campaign of her ruling on Thanksgiving Day. “While we are disappointed in the court’s decision, we remain committed to ensuring that Southern Arizonans are able to trust the integrity of this election, and we thank the voters who not only took the time to vote in this election, but who came forward to ask that their voices be heard,” Barber campaign manager Kyle Quinn-Quesada said in a statement.

Full Article: Ariz. Dem loses lawsuit ahead of recount | TheHill.

Florida: Redistricting process under scrutiny | The News Service of Florida

Previously secret testimony and documents about the 2012 redistricting process, released this week by the Florida Supreme Court, provide the most detailed information yet about an alleged plan by Republican political consultants to funnel maps through members of the public to conceal the origins. The effort itself is not a surprise; revelations at a redistricting trial about a map submitted under the name of former Florida State University student Alex Posada had already indicated some maps submitted through the Legislature’s system to gather public ideas were not drawn by the people whose names were attached to them. But the records and testimony released this week provide the clearest view yet of the breadth of the scheme and how the consultants tried to explain it away. “The documents that these political operatives worked so hard to hide from the public, along with their testimony given in closed proceedings, reveal in great detail how they manipulated the public process to achieve their partisan objectives,” said David King, a lawyer for voting-rights organizations challenging the state’s congressional districts.

Full Article: Redistricting process under scrutiny | November 26, 2014 | The News Service of Florida | HT Politics.

Kansas: Malfunction results in missing votes | Salina Journal

A malfunction of electronic voting equipment left 5,207 votes out of the original Nov. 4 Saline County vote total, but no election outcomes were affected, according to the Saline County Clerk’s Office. What was affected was a change in the percent of voter turnout, from 35.47 to 50.47 percent, and the total number of votes, 17,532 out of 34,735 registered voters. “That’s a huge difference,” county Chairman Randy Duncan said when notified by the Journal of the error. “That’s scary. That makes me wonder about voting machines. Should we go back to paper ballots?” Saline County Clerk Don Merriman said after the meeting that four of the 34 PEBs, or Personal Electronic Ballots, were not reading correctly on election night, which left the votes out of the original count. The problem has been fixed, he said. He said the missing votes weren’t discovered until after votes were canvassed on Nov. 10. Merriman said he learned of the error during a “triple check” with flash cards from the PEBs.

Full Article: Malfunction results in missing votes | News | Salina Journal.

Maine: Mystery ballots in state Senate race bring call for investigation | The Portland Press Herald

The Maine Democratic Party is calling for an investigation into ballot count discrepancies on Long Island that tipped the scales in favor of the Republican candidate in the Senate District 25 race in Portland’s northern suburbs. The party’s claim involves 21 ballots from the island town that appeared on Nov. 18, when the Secretary of State’s Office conducted a recount in the race between Republican Cathy Manchester of Gray and Democrat Cathy Breen of Falmouth. The ballots were not tabulated by Long Island officials on election night Nov. 4, and all 21 of them were cast for Manchester, according to a written statement Tuesday from Secretary of State Matt Dunlap. The 21 ballots, combined with ballots from other towns that had been missing or were changed in the recount, were enough to reverse the results of the election and give Manchester an 11-vote victory over Breen, 10,927 to 10,916. The unofficial election night results, before the recount, showed Breen beating Manchester by 32 votes, 10,930 to 10,898. The Maine Democratic Party did not accept the results of the recount, which means the Maine Senate will create a special committee to review the recount and recommend a winner to the full Senate. Republicans will control the Senate when it is sworn in Dec. 3 and will hold four of the seven seats on the committee, which has broad discretion to make a recommendation as it evaluates the recount results.

Full Article: Mystery ballots in state Senate race bring call for investigation - The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram.

Alabama: Case shows redistricting damage | Montgomery Advertiser

There are many things about this country that make us great: our economy, our military and our people, to name a few. But perhaps our greatest accomplishment has been democracy. Democracy is our most precious and cherished blessing, and it is the foundation of our freedom. As Americans, we have a fundamental birthright to control our government and determine who serves as our leaders. For more than two centuries, men and women have risked and sacrificed their lives to protect that right. But in one House district, District 89, more than 200 Alabamians were denied this basic right. Not intentionally or maliciously, but because of the convoluted manner in which our new legislative districts were drawn. Our districts, which are now being reviewed by the U.S. Supreme Court because of the questionable manner in which they were gerrymandered, have no shortage of faults. But there are two main arguments that have fueled the debate: the “packing” of black voters into certain districts and the division of “communities of interests.”

Full Article: Case shows redistricting damage.

Florida: Democrats, stung by low turnout, consider shifting Florida’s election schedule | Tampa Bay Times

After yet another defeat blamed on low voter turnout, some Florida Democrats want to change the rules and elect the governor in the same year voters pick the president — when turnout is always much higher. In the aftermath of Charlie Crist’s narrow loss to Gov. Rick Scott, strategists are plotting how to put an initiative on the 2016 ballot that would shift statewide races back to presidential years, as they were in Florida until 1964. “Our state leaders should be elected by the greatest number of people,” said Ben Pollara, a Miami strategist who worked on the medical marijuana campaign. “How can you argue that having fewer people participate in the political process is good for the state?” Crist adviser Kevin Cate wrote an opinion column, which got picked up by liberal blog the Daily Kos, in favor of shifting statewide elections. It launched an online petition that argues: “More Floridians deserve to have their voice heard.” Backers have sought legal guidance from Jon Mills, dean of the University of Florida law school and a former House speaker, who also worked on the medical marijuana campaign.

Full Article: Democrats, stung by low turnout, consider shifting Florida's election schedule | Tampa Bay Times.

Oklahoma: Half of provisional ballots cast in election not counted, some wrongly | Tulsa World

Travis Rice expressed surprise when he was told the ballot he cast earlier this month during the Oklahoma general election hadn’t counted. “That doesn’t make me happy,” Rice said, when informed by the Tulsa World that his provisional ballot had been rejected. “They told me it would count,” the Jenks resident said, quoting what precinct workers told him when he cast the provisional ballot. Rice was among hundreds of voters who cast provisional ballots during the Nov. 4 election that ended up not being counted by election officials, records show. And while nearly all were rejected for valid reasons, some were not counted due to mistakes by election workers, a World investigation has found.

Full Article: Half of provisional ballots cast in election not counted, some wrongly - Tulsa World: Election Results.

Australia: Thousands of Victorians unable to vote because of ‘unsound mind’ | The Age

Thousands of Victorians cannot vote in this year’s state election because they have been deemed to have an “unsound mind”. You won’t find a definition for the term in either the federal Electoral Act or in any of its state and territory counterparts. But since the 2010 election, 7176 people have been removed from the state’s electoral roll for this reason, according to Australian Electoral Commission figures. Anyone who is eligible to vote can object to another person being on the roll if they believe they have an “unsound mind”. There are growing calls for the law around such objections to be scrapped to avoid discrimination. Victorian Electoral Commission spokeswoman, Sue Lang, said she was still receiving requests to remove people’s elderly relatives from the roll – usually people with dementia – days before the election. 

Full Article: Thousands of Victorians unable to vote because of 'unsound mind'.

Canada: Scytl offers 25% discount over election problems | Cornwall Standard Freeholder

While the company responsible for the delay in releasing results from the Oct. 27 municipal elections has apologized and offered compensation, 20 municipalities in Ontario are saying it isn’t enough. Scytl Canada Inc. was awarded the contract in January 2104 to provide election services for the internet and telephone ballots. However, on election night, municipalities using the service were waiting until after 11 p.m. for results that should have been made available by 8:30 p.m. due to human error. The delay, according to Scytl, was due to an anomaly found during routine processing causing tabulation to be rerun and a thorough manual audit to be done. Five election files had been mislabeled due to human error and rather than just rename the files, Scytl reran the entire process. Scytl stands by the fact the election results are 100% accurate. Municipalities affected received a letter of apology and an offer of a 25% discount on the final payment for their services in addition to a 10% discount on a future online voting project.

Full Article: Scytle offers 25% discount over election problems | Cornwall Standard Freeholder.

France: €40m of Russian cash will allow Marine Le Pen’s Front National to take advantage of rivals’ woes in upcoming regional and presidential elections | The Independent

The financial and political firepower of Marine Le Pen’s Front National (FN) is to be transformed by a €40m (£32m) loan from a bank with links to the Kremlin, it has been alleged. Ms Le Pen confirmed earlier this week that a Russian bank was lending her cash-strapped, far-right party €9m. This is part of a growing pattern of connections between Vladimir Putin’s Russia and far-right and Europhobic parties in the European Union. Ms Le Pen dismissed as “fantasy” a report that the €9m was the first instalment of loans totalling €40m which will allow her to mount an unbridled challenge to France’s mainstream parties in regional elections next year and presidential elections in 2017. However, other senior FN officials told the investigative website Mediapart that there was an agreement that the First Czech-Russian Bank would provide most of the party’s funding needs up to the presidential election in 30 months’ time. “A first instalment has been agreed of a €40m loan,” a member of the party’s political bureau told Mediapart. “The €9m has arrived. Another €31m will follow.”

Full Article: €40m of Russian cash will allow Marine Le Pen’s Front National to take advantage of rivals’ woes in upcoming regional and presidential elections - Europe - World - The Independent.

Moldova: Election pulls tense Moldova between EU and Russia | The Irish Times

A bitter election battle between rival parties favouring the EU and Russia is stoking tension in Moldova, amid echoes of the political conflict that spiralled into war in neighbouring Ukraine. Prosecutors are questioning several people suspected of planning violent unrest after this Sunday’s parliamentary ballot, and a popular pro-Russian party has been banned on the eve of the vote for allegedly receiving illegal funding from abroad. Analysts say the exclusion of the Patria party, which is led by a political novice who made his fortune as a businessman in Russia, could either help or hinder pro-EU parties in the election, and could also inspire protests among Patria’s supporters. Party leader Renato Usatii – who denies breaching funding rules and rejects critics’ claims that he is a Kremlin agent – opposes Moldova’s push for greater integration with the EU rather than with Russia. Like Ukraine and Georgia, Moldova signed a far-reaching association agreement with the EU in June and also secured visa-free travel to the bloc, despite complaints, warnings and the imposition of an embargo on its wine and food by Russia.

Full Article: Election pulls tense Moldova between EU and Russia.

Namibia: Namibia gets e-voting | iafrica.com

Voting began Friday in Namibia’s presidential and legislative elections, in an election that is expected to see the ruling SWAPO party retain power in the country it has run since independence 24 years ago. Voters at Katutura township, outside the capital Windhoek, formed long lines before daybreak, including some first-time “born free” voters – those born after independence in 1990. “It’s a rich country with poor people, so I hope there is more balance,” said 43-year-old Elias while waiting to cast his vote. Although he expects the ruling South West People’s Organisation (SWAPO) to win, he wants to see a more opposition parliamentarians challenge the long-party’s 24 year grip on power. Polls opened at 7am local time and will close around 14 hours later in the latest closing stations.

Full Article: iafrica.com Namibia gets e-voting.

Taiwan: China Keeps Wary Eye on Taiwan Vote | Wall Street Journal

Taiwanese vote this weekend in local elections that are being watched by China for signs the ruling party it prefers to deal with is losing its political grip. In Saturday’s polls for mayors, town councilors, village chiefs and other local positions, political watchers are focusing on the bigger cities, particularly the capital, Taipei, and the central city of Taichung. The cities are usually strongholds for the ruling Nationalist Party, but pollsters put the party, also known as the Kuomintang, or KMT, on shaky ground. A drubbing would position the KMT badly for holding on to the presidency when President Ma Ying-jeou stands down in 2016 and would boost the chances of the opposition, some analysts said.

Full Article: China Keeps Wary Eye on Taiwan Vote - WSJ.

Taiwan: High drama in Taiwan vote as doctor takes on gun victim he saved | AFP

It is the most dramatic contest of Taiwan’s biggest ever local elections — a high-flying surgeon takes on the man whose life he helped save after he was shot in the head on the campaign trail. Emergency doctor Ko Wen-je led the team which operated on financier Sean Lien after Lien was attacked at a rally in November 2010. Now they are rivals in the intense battle for the influential post of Taipei mayor, with voters going to the polls Saturday. Independent candidate Ko, 55, has surged ahead of Beijing-friendly Lien, who is son of a vice president and running for the ruling Kuomintang (KMT) party. Maverick Ko’s lead in opinion polls reflects disenchantment with the KMT government over fears of increased Chinese influence, a slowing economy and a string of food scandals. Polls show the KMT is likely to take a beating in Saturday’s elections, which will see 20,000 candidates contest a record 11,130 seats and are an important barometer for a presidential vote in 2016. Losing Taipei, a KMT stronghold, would be a major embarrassment for the government.

Full Article: High drama in Taiwan vote as doctor takes on gun victim he saved - Yahoo!7.

Ohio: Lawmakers work toward map-making compromise | Associated Press

State Republicans and Democrats are working to coalesce around a new system for drawing congressional and legislative districts with hopes they can reach the resolution they have promised the public by year’s end. States alter political maps to reflect population shifts identified by the U.S. Census once every 10 years in a process called redistricting. Both parties have acknowledged flaws in Ohio’s setup, which has state lawmakers drawing congressional lines and a state Apportionment Board drawing the districts of state legislators. A panel studying changes to Ohio’s state Constitution had seemed to be zeroing in on a proposal for a new system to put before voters. But some legislative leaders say they don’t want to wait any longer.

Full Article: Ohio lawmakers work toward map-making compromise - Break News - Ohio.

Moldova: Moldova Emerges as Battleground in EU-Russia Struggle | Wall Street Journal

A Cold War-style spy saga involving guns, gangsters and the Russian security services is roiling this tiny ex-Soviet state before its election, which has become crucial battleground in the tug of war between Europe and Moscow. Moldova’s election commission on Thursday barred Renato Usatii, a populist pro-Russian candidate, from running in Sunday’s parliamentary elections after a leaked audio recording appeared to show him discussing his close connections to the FSB, the Russian security service and successor to the KGB. Government officials and political leaders here have long alleged that Mr. Usatii is a front for Russian secret services and criminal gangs—part of a multipronged Russian plan to get control over the country, which neighbors Ukraine. The audio recording surfaced as Moldovan police unearthed a cache of weapons and military supplies, including grenade launchers and rifles, in raids on members of a pro-Russian antifascist movement. In Moscow, there was no official comment on the news.

Full Article: Moldova Emerges as Battleground in EU-Russia Struggle - WSJ.

Namibia: Landmark e-voting to go ahead in Namibia after court challenge fails | Mail & Guardian

Namibia is to become the first African country to use electronic voting machines in a general election, after the Windhoek high court dismissed a legal challenge by an opposition political party. The Rally for Democracy and Progress (RDP) filed an urgent court application to seek the annulment and postponement of the presidential and National Assembly elections scheduled for this Friday, arguing that the machines violate Namibia’s newly amended Electoral Act because they leave no paper trail. The party was joined in its high court application by the African Labour and Human Rights Centre’s director August Maletzky and the Workers Revolutionary Party. But on Wednesday the high court rejected the claims that the use of the e-voting machines was unconstitutional and a breach of the Electoral Act. The Act stipulates that use of the machines in polling should be “subject to the simultaneous utilisation of a verifiable paper trail for every vote cast by a voter and any vote cast is verified by account of the paper trail”. It continues: “In the event that the results of the voting machines and the results of the paper trail do not tally, the paper trail results are accepted as the election outcome for the polling station or voting thread concerned.”

Full Article: Landmark e-voting to go ahead in Namibia after court challenge fails | News | Africa | Mail & Guardian.

Editorials: Federal Judge Strikes a Blow Against Dark Money — But Will It Hold? | Daniel I. Weiner/Brennan Center for Justice

On Tuesday, Judge Amy Berman Jackson of the federal district court in Washington, D.C. handed transparency advocates a victory, when she (again) struck down a deeply flawed Federal Election Commission (FEC) rule that has helped to fuel the explosion of “dark money” — political spending from unknown sources — in U.S. elections. Judge Jackson has the law and common sense on her side, but the ultimate impact of her ruling remains to be seen. The rule at issue governs “electioneering communications” (ECs) — broadcast, cable or satellite communications referring to a clearly identified federal candidate during the run-up to an election. Such ads do not explicitly advocate a candidate’s election or defeat, but the vast majority plainly are election-related. Voters deserve to know who is paying for this advocacy, and what they want from the government. Praise for a candidate from your regional chamber of commerce, for instance, merits different scrutiny than praise from a big oil company in another state. Criticism from a local veteran’s group is not the same as criticism from a faraway defense contractor.

Full Article: D.C. Federal Judge Strikes a Blow Against Dark Money — But Will It Hold? | Brennan Center for Justice.

Editorials: Studies Back Up That Few Elections Are Swung by Voter ID Laws | Nate Cohn/NYTimes.com

Last week, I wrote an article arguing that voter ID laws don’t swing many elections. This week, the Brennan Center for Justice says I have it “wrong” on voter ID. Yet, oddly, it’s hard to find a place we disagree. As the Brennan Center puts it in the second sentence of their article: “Yes, it is likely rare for an election to be close enough for voter ID laws to swing the outcome.” The Brennan Center instead disputes my contention that studies tend to “overstate the number of voters who truly lack identification.” My position on the matter, setting aside whether the laws are a cynical attempt to disenfranchise Democratic voters, is based on these facts: Many studies do not use robust matching techniques when comparing state voter registration and licensing databases (and robust matching, even when used, isn’t perfect); and many studies fail to match voter registration files with alternative forms of identification, like United States passports or military identification. The studies with the most sensational and widely publicized findings have generally failed to do these things. The most famous of these was a studyfinding that 758,000 of Pennsylvania’s registered voters lacked identification. It caused liberals to wonder whether voter ID laws could steal elections. The result was publicized by the Brennan Center, but more rigorous studies have since cut that figure nearly in half.

Full Article: Studies Back Up That Few Elections Are Swung by Voter ID Laws - NYTimes.com.