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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. Read More

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. Read More

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. Read More

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. Read More

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.” Read More

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. Read More

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. Read More

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.  Read More

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. Read More