National: Voting rights activists monitoring polls in 4 states with ID laws | UPI

On Election Day, laws restricting the right to vote remain controversial, prompting voting rights advocates to scrutinize the polls in four states.
The 2014 midterms are boiling down to a battle over control of the deeply partisan Senate, though numerous state and local races are also on ballots across the country. Restrictions involving voter ID, voter registration, early voting and others have become symbolic of such political divisiveness. Yet voting rights advocates are primarily concerned about people having equal, unfettered access to the polls — in Tuesday’s elections and beyond. “The integrity of our elections is sacred,” said Dale Ho, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Voting Rights Project. “There are cynical hucksters out there who have decided this is the way to win elections. But if you look at the evidence, you see they’re not necessary.”

National: Can we trust the Internet with our most basic civic duty? | DecodeDC

Americans across the country will participate Tuesday in one of the most basic civic duties: voting. For many, that means taking time off work, driving to a designated polling place and casting their ballot through standalone voting machines. But what if the process of voting could be vastly different? Today we can do almost anything on the Internet from banking to ordering take-out, so it only feels natural that we should be able to vote that way too. … Not all elections experts think going online is a great idea. But Thad Hall, a professor of political science at the University of Utah, is ready. You know it’s kind of the ultimate easy, convenient way to vote. And I don’t have to have a piece of paper, I don’t have to mail it back, I can send my ballot instantaneously. If Hurricane Sandy comes, I don’t have to worry about voting because I can just vote from my phone or I can vote from a computer somewhere.” But then there are the naysayers, many of them statisticians and engineers who think the Internet is too insecure for such a sacred thing as voting.

Editorials: To Guarantee Voting Rights, Enforce the Laws We Have | Richard Hasen/New York Times

We don’t need an amendment to the Constitution guaranteeing the right to vote. What we need is a Supreme Court guaranteeing that right through already existing parts of the United States Constitution, such as the right to equal protection. In recent years, the court unfortunately has not read the Constitution to guarantee a vibrant democracy committed to political equality. It effectively struck down a key provision of the Voting Rights Act; it gave its approval to Indiana’s strict voter identification law; it approved of laws protecting the Democratic and Republican parties from competition; and it rejected efforts to limit money in politics to promote political equality.

Alaska: Hackers Could Decide Who Controls Congress Thanks to Alaska’s Terrible Internet Ballots | The Intercept

When Alaska voters go to the polls tomorrow to help decide whether the U.S. Senate will remain in Democratic control, thousands will do so electronically, using Alaska’s first-in-the-nation internet voting system. And according to the internet security experts, including the former top cybersecurity official for the Department of Homeland Security, that system is a security nightmare that threatens to put control of the U.S. Congress in the hands of foreign or domestic hackers. Any registered Alaska voter can obtain an electronic ballot, mark it on their computers using a web-based interface, save the ballot as a PDF, and return it to their county elections department through what the state calls “a dedicated secure data center behind a layer of redundant firewalls under constant physical and application monitoring to ensure the security of the system, voter privacy, and election integrity.” That sounds great, but even the state acknowledges in an online disclaimer that things could go awry, warning that “when returning the ballot through the secure online voting solution, your are voluntarily waving [sic] your right to a secret ballot and are assuming the risk that a faulty transmission may occur.”

Colorado: Mail-In Voting Gets Early Test | Wall Street Journal

A new election system using all mail-in ballots faces an immediate test in Colorado, with tight Senate, House and gubernatorial races that are being closely watched nationally. Hoping to boost turnout, the Democrat-led legislature here passed a law a year ago requiring Colorado to use mail-in ballots in virtually all elections. Some Republicans, including the secretary of state, have voiced concern about mandating the system statewide, saying that relying so heavily on the postal service could cause problems, especially for rural voters. Democrats have said that the two other states with all-mail elections, Washington and Oregon, have experienced few problems. Colorado voters can still drop off ballots at designated voting centers. They can also fill out a ballot at the centers and even register there on Election Day. But the idea is for most ballots to be mailed in. County clerks have to receive a ballot by 7 p.m. on Tuesday for it to count. A ballot postmarked but not received by that time isn’t valid. “The reason we did this was just to modernize our system and make it easier for people to vote and stay in the process,” said the state House majority leader, Dickey Lee Hullinghorst, a Democrat from Boulder. “You have a lot of people who have a very difficult time just showing up on Election Day and casting their ballot.”

Georgia: 40,000 ‘Missing’ Voters in Georgia Are Unlikely to Regain their Ballot | New Republic

ver the past few months, upwards of 40,000 voter registrations from three counties in Georgia have reportedly gone missing. The groups that registered most of these voters, the Georgia chapter of the NAACP and the New Georgia Project, filed a lawsuit against Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp, alleging that most of those missing registrations are from “members of the underrepresented classes of voters.” The lawsuit went before the court on Friday October 24. By the following Tuesday, the judge had dismissed the case, writing that “there has been no failure of clear legal duty,” and asserting that there was still time for the missing registrations to appear. The stakes in Georgia are high. The Senate contest between David Perdue and Michelle Nunn has hovered within a couple of percentage points. The Governor’s race between Nathan Deal and Jason Carter is just as close. The loss of tens of thousands of voter registrations is a big deal. In the four years that Brian Kemp has served as Georgia’s secretary of state, most of the issues that various voting rights activist groups have flagged have been about voter identification. This isn’t the first time, or the second, or even the third that Kemp has clashed with civil rights groups over voter registration. In 2013, when the U.S. Supreme Court found that a Georgia law requiring first-time voters to show proof of U.S. citizenship (that went above and beyond federal requirements) violated the National Voter Registration Act of 1993, Kemp called the decision “disappointing.” Last Monday, on the eve of the dismissal of the lawsuit, the Atlanta Journal Constitution reported that eight protestors were arrested because they refused to leave Kemp’s office after breaking off from a larger rally and sit-in at the state Capitol.

Editorials: Georgia’s Voting Wars | Jamelle Bouie /Slate

Standing in front of a huge David Perdue bus in a hangar at DeKalb Peachtree Airport, Sen. Johnny Isakson begged the crowd to go to the polls. “Tomorrow isn’t just about going to the polls for yourself, it’s about bringing our neighbors and friends,” he said, “Whatever you do from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., you want to get everyone to go out and vote.” This is the typical plea of a campaign in its final stretch. But it also reflects the fundamental and driving dynamics of the Georgia’s election contests. Rapid demographic change has pushed this Southern state from a deep red—which gave 57.9 percent of its votes to George W. Bush—to a reddish purple, where the Democratic Senate candidate—Michelle Nunn, daughter of former Sen. Sam Nunn—is neck-and-neck with Republican David Perdue, and the Democratic candidate for governor—Jimmy Carter’s grandson Jason Carter—is close to a win over Nathan Deal, the Republican governor. Compared to 2010, the black share of the electorate is larger (28.8 percent versus 28.2 percent) and the white share smaller (64.2 percent versus 66.3 percent). These look like small shifts, but in a close election, they’re substantial. In an electorate with more black voters, Democrats need significantly fewer white voters to maintain a lead and get to 50 percent. What’s more, these trends are ongoing—the Georgia electorate of 2016 and 2018 will each be less white than the one that preceded it. Tuesday’s races—and the strategies pursued by both campaigns—will set the stage for the next decade of partisan fights in the state.

Kansas: Electronic voting machines may soon phase out, but not in Sedgwick Co. | KSN-TV

New national data released Monday indicates that nearly 70 percent of American voters will cast their ballots Tuesday by hand, using paper ballots. According to Verified Voting, an election watchdog, the growing trend of return to paper ballots is due to a “deterioration of voting machines.” KSN News reached out to Sedgwick Co. elections officials to learn more about the use of electronic voting machines locally, as well as in counties across the state, to find out why a majority of counties across the nation are turning back the clock and opting for paper ballots instead. In the 2012 general election, voters in Sedgwick Co. experienced their fair share of blunders at the ballot box. “We do have one polling place that their ballots would not read and this one precinct they would not read on our machines, as well,” said Tabitha Lehman, the Sedgwick Co. Elections Commissioner, in 2012.

Kentucky: Judge Denies Grimes Lawsuit Over McConnell ‘Election Violation’ Mailer | TPM

A Kentucky judge on Monday rejected a court motion filed by Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes seeking an immediate injunction to stop Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell’s campaign from sending out mailers that have the appearance of an official Kentucky notice. The mailers, reported Friday by TPM, read “ELECTION VIOLATION NOTICE” and go on to warn voters that they may be acting on “fraudulent” information from the Grimes campaign. The tactic ultimately amounts to a creative attack on Grimes, although the mailers could create the impression that the voters who received them are at risk of committing voter fraud if they cast a ballot. Franklin County Circuit Judge Phillip Shepherd denied the Grimes motion, spokespersons for the Grimes and McConnell campaigns confirmed on Monday. Grimes is “exploring options” on what to do next, her spokesperson said.

North Carolina: Early voting turnout increases amid concerns over voter ID law | The Chronicle

Election Day brings a series of changes in voting for North Carolina’s residents—but the early voting period showed that not all of the modifications have had the expected outcome. Some experts initially said that a 2013 bill limiting early voting, eliminating same-day registration and requiring voters to present identification at polling places would drive down voter turnout. This was anticipated to affect Democrats in particular—whose most loyal constituents, minorities and youth, are already less likely to vote, especially in midterm elections. But early voter turnout has increased across the state, with Democrats accounting for much of the surge. In the year since the bill was passed in the Republican-controlled legislature, it has been labeled by a number of state and national Democrats as a voter suppression campaign.

Texas: Voter-ID law: So, is it suppressing voters? | The Economist

Anyone who hopes to vote in Texas this year needs an approved form of government-issued photo ID. Concealed handgun licences count; student IDs do not. The state’s Republican lawmakers introduced this requirement in 2011, arguing that it would prevent fraud and ensure the integrity of elections. They passed it over the objections of Democrats, who maintained that voter-ID laws are merely a cynical way to suppress turnout—especially among African-Americans, Hispanics and poor people—and who have continued to fight the law in court on that basis. The legal wrangling has thus far been inconclusive, and confusing. Texas was finally able to implement its voter-ID law in time for this year’s primaries, as a result of Shelby County v Holder, the Supreme Court decision in 2013 that struck down part of the Voting Rights Act (meaning that a number of states with a history of discriminating against minority voters, including Texas, no longer need the federal government to clear new voting restrictions). But then on October 8th a federal judge struck down Texas’s law on its own merits, ruling that insofar as some 600,000 registered voters in the state lacked the relevant forms of ID—about 4.5% of the state’s registered voters—the requirement was tantamount to a “poll tax.”  On October 18th, though, with the early voting period set to begin about 48 hours later, the Supreme Court allowed the law to remain in place for the general election. Debate over the law promises to continue. But this year, for the first time, Texans will finally be able to assess its impact in practice.

Texas: What’s ahead in Texas voter ID battle | Austin American-Statesman

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott won the most recent round in the fight to require voters to show valid photo identification to cast ballots, but a potentially much bigger fight looms beyond Tuesday. Abbott’s victory has only short-lived implications, since last month’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling that allowed Texas to enforce its voter ID law will affect only Tuesday’s election. But later a federal judge may decide whether Texas should once again be required to ask for permission from the federal government before enacting changes to election laws, a ruling that could affect Texas and possibly other states for years. “That might be bigger than the ID issue itself,” said Richard Hasen, an election law expert and a professor at the University of California, Irvine School of Law. Texas and North Carolina, which also has a voter ID law facing a legal challenge, are test cases for the Justice Department, Hasen said.

Texas: Texas Has Issued More Auctioneer’s Licenses than Voter IDs | Texas Observer

It’s another election season in Texas. Another year that we’re on track to maintain the nation’s most dismal voter turnout. One difference this year is that voters are now required to present photo ID at the polls, the result of Republican-authored legislation ostensibly to deal with the diminishingly small number of voter fraud cases. It’s difficult to say what effect the voter ID requirement is having, though even some Republican state officials apparently knew that more than half a million registered Texas voters—disproportionately Hispanic and African American—lacked the credentials to cast ballots but didn’t bother to tell lawmakers. One thing is certain: Very, very few Texans have gotten election identification certificates (EIC), the new state-issued form of photo ID for those who don’t have it—340 Texans, to be precise.

Canada: Kingsville candidates seek recount over electronic voting | Windsor Star

A dozen Kingsville council candidates are asking for a recount and a thorough review after mislabelled files on election night led to a long wait for results and boosted concerns over Internet voting. “Bad, in a word,” candidate Derek Prowse said Monday of electronic voting. “Internet voting cannot be made secure.” Derek Prowse, was a candidate for council in Kingsville. Prowse wrote a letter to Kingsville administration and council asking that the electronic ballots be printed and manually counted. He said he and 11 other candidates recognize they are not going to change the election results but want some assurances that the electronic voting was a secure system and did the job properly. If ballots cannot be printed off, he said the company should go over all its data and make sure it adds up. … “With the electronic voting system, I don’t know how you can ever assure people that the data wasn’t corrupted,” said Prowse, a first-time candidate.

Ireland: Cabinet to decide on diaspora presidential vote shortly | The Irish Times

The Government will make a decision before Christmas on whether to hold a referendum next year to permit Irish people living overseas to vote in presidential elections, the Minister of State for the Diaspora Jimmy Deenihan, has said ahead of a five-day visit to the United States. The Minister, who arrives in New York today for his first trip to the US in his new role, said he saw no reason why the vote couldn’t be extended to Seanad elections, given that graduates of Trinity College Dublin and the National University of Ireland around the world vote in those ballots.

Editorials: Preventing votes, Romanian-style | Robert Schwartz/Deutsche Welle

The ruling socialists’ approach has paid off for the time being. Their candidate, incumbent Prime Minister Victor Ponta, won the first round of voting. Whether his roughly ten percent head start will be enough for the second round is doubtful, however. Klaus Johannis, the ethnic German candidate for the liberal alliance, has a real chance of moving into the presidential palace, and not just in numbers. What matters now is who gets the votes of the 12 candidates from the first round. It’s just as crucial whether the largest political group – the non-voters – will exercise their democratic right in two weeks’ time. For the first round, about half of Romania’s eligible voters chose to stay at home. Just like five years ago, it might be expatriate Romanians yet again who end up tipping the scales. In 2009, a clear majority voted for outgoing President Traian Basescu – to the great chagrin of the Socialists, who cried election fraud. This time, however, the Socialist government appears to have made sure that situation won’t be repeated. After hours of standing in line, thousands of Romanians hoping to cast their ballot in West Europe had to return home without having voted. Not enough polling stations had been set up for the estimated two to three million Romanians who live and work abroad. Disastrous planning permitted voting at nothing but a snail’s pace. When the polling stations closed right on schedule, many thousands still waiting to vote were turned away. In a European democracy, that’s not what fair elections look like.

Ukraine: Rebels Hold ‘Rogue’ Election | The Atlantic

Alexander Zakharchenko, a 38-year-old mining electrician, won an illegitimate election in pro-Russian separatist controlled Ukraine this weekend. The election was held to determine a leader of the Donetsk People’s Republic, however, the militant separatist group is not recognized as a legitimate power by the Ukrainian government. President Petro Poroshenko refers to them primarily as a terrorist group. In addition to being carried out by an unrecognized rebel organization, the election violated a September 5th ceasefire agreement that was signed by not only Ukraine and the separatists, but also by Russia. Though the separatists believe the election will allow them to break eastern Ukraine away from the west, and exert political control over the area, officials in Kiev will not recognize the election or Zakharchenko’s reign. The Ukrainian government referred to the vote as “rogue” and believes it was encouraged by Russian officials, who have long been accused of funding and controlling separatist actions in Ukraine. Poroshenko said the election was a “farce that is being conducted under the threat of tanks and guns.”