Some longtime voters in Texas reported on Tuesday that they were refused a ballot because they lacked newly required photo identification. In North Carolina, voters who showed up at the wrong precinct were unable to vote, reflecting a new policy. And in Georgia, hundreds of frustrated people called a hotline to say they were unsure if their voter registrations had been processed, some of the thousands of would-be new voters who reportedly faced uncertainty. In many cases, the accounts seemed to reflect concerns raised by civic groups and civil rights leaders that new photo identification requirements in several states and cutbacks in early voting and same-day registration in others would deter significant numbers of people from participating in the elections. Most of the new policies were adopted by Republican legislatures in the name of electoral integrity, even though evidence of voter fraud has been negligible. They are opposed by Democrats who say tighter rules are aimed at discouraging minorities, poor people and college students, groups that tend to prefer Democrats, from voting. Many of the changes adopted in recent years “will make it harder for millions of Americans to participate,” said Wendy R. Weiser, director of the democracy program at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law. “But the problems of disenfranchisement don’t show up in a visible way,” Ms. Weiser added. “It’s people who don’t show up, or someone’s who’s turned away.”
U.S. voters in 14 states are navigating new laws that critics say make it harder for lower-income and minority voters, who typically back Democrats, to cast ballots in the midterm elections. Advocacy groups across the country are gearing up to help voters contend with cutbacks in early voting and new state requirements for voter identification, which the mostly Republican sponsors say are necessary to combat voter fraud. Democrats and civil rights groups counter there is scant evidence of fraud, and say the measures are a Republican effort to depress turnout by Democratic-leaning demographic groups such as the young, poor and minorities. The laws are the latest in a wave of voting restrictions instituted by Republican-controlled legislatures and Republican governors since the party’s big election gains in 2010. Many are being used for the first time in a national election on Tuesday, after the U.S. Supreme Court in June 2013 invalidated a section of the Voting Rights Act that required areas with a history of racial discrimination, mainly in the U.S. South, to get federal approval for changes to voting laws.
Voting machine and voter identification problems emerged in some U.S. states on Tuesday when Americans went to the polls in midterm elections that will shape the final two years of Barack Obama’s presidency. Although a full picture of the problems was not yet clear, officials and voting rights advocates reported machine failures in North Carolina and Texas, polling breakdowns in a key Florida county and an overall increase in the number of people reporting they were turned away for lack of proper identification. “It all points to problems we need to solve,” said Wendy Weiser, director of the non-partisan Brennan Center Democracy Program. In North Carolina, where a strict election law barring provisional voting outside a voter’s normal precinct was upheld last month by the U.S. Supreme Court, voting was briefly halted at one precinct after officers responded to an altercation between voters and election officials, according to the state’s Democratic Party. There were also reports of voting machines in Columbus County that were down but later fixed, said Election Protection, a non-partisan voting rights group.
Poll monitors and voting rights groups reported thousands of questions and complaints during the early hours of voting in the first major national election since the Supreme Court overturned key aspects of the Voting Rights Act. The Election Protection Coalition, composed of civil society activists and lawyers, reported receiving more than 14,000 calls to its election day hotline from voters asking for registration information and to report complaints about mistreatment at the polls. That tally, through 5 p.m. EST, was higher than the total number of calls they received during the last midterm election in 2010, the group said. “Today and for the past several weeks during early voting, we have been witnessing the most unfair, discriminatory and confusing election landscape in almost 50 years,” said Wade Henderson, president of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, a member of the coalition. The most complaints came from Georgia, Florida and Texas, the group said. All three states have some form of voter identification law.
Open Facebook today and you’ll see a public service announcement of sorts. “It’s Election Day,” proclaims the text. “Share that you’re voting in the U.S. Election and find out where to vote.” Then Facebook offers you a button to do that sharing: “I’m a Voter.” To entice you to Vote (or, at least, click that button), Facebook listed a couple friends’s names and some profile pictures, and told me that 1.8 million other people had already done the same. (Which is a little staggering, since polls hadn’t even opened on the West Coast yet.) This civic-minded setup has become an election-day tradition on the website. Some form of the “I Voted!” button has appeared on the page for every major U.S. election since 2008. You vote, then you tell Facebook about it, exhorting your friends to engage in their civic duty. These buttons, though, have also always been part of experiments. The voting button in 2010, for instance, was part of a study later published as “a 61-million-person experiment in social influence and political mobilization.” That study found that the voting button could shape who actually voted to a significant degree: If you’re told your friends have voted, you’re 0.39 percent more likely to vote than someone who hasn’t. Facebook believes that in 2010, its election-day module was responsible for more than 600,000 additional votes.
Millions of Americans will vote today, and for the first time in years, many of them will use paper ballots. For a nation that’s produced some of the most advanced machines in the world, we’ve had a hell of a time figuring out one of the most important. However you vote today, take a second (and make sure your machine isn’t switching your vote) to consider just how massive a project elections are: Over a single day, millions of Americans filter through gyms, fire halls, and community center to vote, creating individual data points in all are analyzed over the course of a few hours. It’s a remarkable project of numbers and engineering, and it helps to explain why voting is still evolving two centuries after the first American election. To get a sense of how many iterations and failures have plagued voting day, look no further than the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, which helpfully pulled some of the more notable machines from its archives today, adding, “as Americans embrace their Constitutional right to vote, they’ll have IP all around them.” If you go all the way back in the USPTO’s archives, you’ll find dozens of patents for “improvements to ballot boxes,” to outsmart ballot stuffers. According to Richard Bensel’s The American Ballot Box in the Mid-Nineteenth Century, intimidation was common in polling places across the country, where Americans would cast their votes amongst their peers.
Civil rights lawyers monitoring polls across the country on Tuesday reported some confusion in states where contested voter identification laws were in effect. In Texas, where the state’s voter ID law faces a court challenge, voters reported receiving contradictory information about what types of identification they could show at the polls, according to Nicole Austin-Hillery of the Brennan Center for Justice. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled last month that Texas officials could enforce the law while a court challenge was pending. In Virginia, there were inconsistencies in how poll workers implemented the state’s voter ID law, according to Hope Amezquita of the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia; this was the first statewide election with the law in effect. Amezquita said her team fielded reports from two counties about voters showing up without identification who weren’t provided with provisional ballots, which should have happened. “There are people out there who did not vote and should have been offered the opportunity,” Amezquita said. “If it’s happening and we’re hearing about it, it’s probably happening elsewhere and we’re not hearing about it.” Vicky McPherson, a shareholder at Greenberg Traurig who was coordinating lawyers monitoring polls through the National Bar Association, reported situations in which Virginia voters were asked to provide supplemental identification when they weren’t legally required to do so. She said her team was in touch with state officials to make sure they were giving poll workers proper instructions.
With several key elections potentially hinging on razor-thin margins, Americans went to the polls Tuesday in 34 states with new voting laws that critics fear will adversely impact minority turnout and proponents say are needed to protect against voter fraud. The new laws – ranging from photo identification requirements to restrictions on same-day registration – brought increased scrutiny Tuesday from the two major political parties, civic groups, voting rights advocates and the Justice Department, almost all deploying monitors and lawyers to polling stations to look out for voting problems. “It’s the new normal since 2000,” said Richard Hasen, a law and politics professor at the University of California, Irvine, and author of “The Voting Wars: From 2000 to the Next Election Meltdown.” “Some of this is legitimate fear, some of it is a way of getting the base wound up and (to) raise funds.” From the moment polls opened ‑ and in some cases before ‑ reports of voting irregularities began. The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law’s election protection program reported more than 12,000 calls to its hotline – the bulk of them from Florida, Georgia, Texas, New York and North Carolina.
Today Americans are voting in an election that could shift control of the U.S. Senate and significantly impact the direction our nation will take in the next few years. Yet, 31 states will allow over 3 million voters to cast ballots over the Internet in this election, a practice that computer security experts in both the federal government and the private sector have warned is neither secure nor trustworthy. Most states’ online voting is limited to military and overseas voters, but Alaska now permits all voters to vote over the Internet. With a hotly contested Senate seat in Alaska, the use of an online voting system raises serious concerns about the integrity of Alaska’s election results. Alaska’s State Election Division has even acknowledged that its “secure online voting solution” may not be all that secure by posting this disclaimer on its website: “When returning the ballot through the secure online voting solution, your are [sic] voluntarily waving [sic] your right to a secret ballot and are assuming the risk that a faulty transmission may occur.” Unfortunately, faulty transmission is only one of the risks of Internet voting. There are countless ways ballots cast over the Internet can be hacked and modified by cyber criminals.
Editorials: Why we don’t have online voting (and won’t for a long while) | Michael Cochrane/World Magazine
Society deems the voting process so important that it must be 100 percent reliable. We may tolerate failures with our cars and computers, but not our elections. The degree to which an election is free and fair is the very heart of our representative form of democracy in the United States. Technological advancements that might make the voting process more efficient or convenient could also chip away at that integrity, which requires a voting system that is available, secure, and verifiable. At an early October panel discussion on internet voting hosted by the Atlantic Council, Pamela Smith, president of Verified Voting, addressed voting system availability. “If the equipment should happen to break down, you need something else to vote on to replace it. Otherwise people are disenfranchised by that malfunction,” she said. … “Any voting system that you use has to be able to demonstrate clearly to the loser and their supporters that they lost,” Smith said. “And to do that, you need actual evidence. Voters need to be able to see that their votes were captured the way that they meant for them to be and election officials need to be able to use that evidence to demonstrate that votes were counted correctly.”
Yesterday’s USA Today had an article entitled “Internet Voting ‘not ready for prime time.'” The story quotes Verified Voting as saying that there are about three million people eligible to vote online in today’s elections, most of them members of the military. Numerous security risks are cited that are inherent in Internet voting. Readers of The New American have often been warned about the dangers of Internet voting. For instance, the October 9, 2000 issue carried an article entitled “Voting on the Web,” in which readers were told of the dangers to electoral integrity due to the inherent insecurity of the Internet. … There are a great number of security weaknesses in Internet voting: no voter-verified paper audit trail, denial of service attacks, spoofing, eavesdropping by servers along the way capturing people’s passwords and enabling verification of vote selling, just to name a few. There are also security weaknesses in the user devices such as laptops or smart phones. They include key-stroke monitors, stored passwords, and many others. There are numerous special interests in both the United States and foreign counties for whom the outcome of our elections is of major importance. They have the resources to exploit these security weaknesses, and it’s well worth their investment.
One thing this election cycle has taught us is that although recent court battles and political arguments over voter identification laws, gerrymandering, and the Voting Rights Act tend to grab the headlines, election officials across the political spectrum are improving how well elections actually work by implementing some of the technological improvements the private sector has been using for years. Consumers — in this case, voters — want the convenience, accessibility, and mobility offered by new technologies. This has led to a quiet revolution in red and blue states alike that has made the voting process more accurate, cost-effective, and efficient. After all, we’re accustomed to using our smartphones and laptops to pay bills, book flights, and scan the news. So why not use them to register to vote or find out where to cast a ballot? A great example of this approach is online voter registration. Four years ago, citizens in only eight states, representing 12 percent of eligible voters nationwide, could register online. But as of the end of September 2014 — with registration deadlines rapidly approaching — almost 110 million of the approximately 225 million eligible U.S. voters were living in the 20 states that now offer online registration. This innovation was driven not by political partisans but by professional election administrators; pioneered by Republican election officials in Arizona and then Washington, online voter registration is now offered by states as red as Kansas and Georgia, and as blue as California and Maryland.
A thought experiment in the election’s aftermath: What if, instead of focusing on making it harder for people to vote, we made voting mandatory? Indulge me in a rant against the phantom menace of voter fraud. The efforts to suppress it are barely disguised Republican moves to hold down minority votes that would, presumably, go to Democrats. This year, the Supreme Court allowed a new Texas voter-ID law to proceed despite a lower court judge’s finding that it amounted to an unconstitutional poll tax that could disenfranchise 600,000 registered voters, about 4.5 percent of the total. This in low-turnout Texas, with voting participation rates near the bottom of a country with overall anemic turnout. Pivot to Australia, one of 11 countries that have, and enforce, mandatory voting, according to the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, and the nation most culturally similar to the United States.
Connecticut: Hartford Voting Issues Result in Parties Waging Midday Court Battle | Connecticut Law Tribune
Gov. Dannel Malloy has asked a judge grant an emergency injunction that would give voters an extra hour to cast ballots at Hartford’s polling places after the governor’s campaign said an early-morning snafu “discouraged” people from voting. A judge will hear arguments from both Democrats and Republicans, who are expected to oppose the extended polling times, at a 2:30 p.m. hearing in Hartford Superior Court. The complaint was filed by attorneys William Bloss, of Koskoff, Koskoff & Bieder, and James Wade, of Robinson & Cole on behalf of Malloy, who is running against Republican Tom Foley in a rematch of their hotly contested election in 2010. The request for extended voting hours echoes a controversial request made four years ago, when Democrats persuaded a judge to keep Bridgeport polls open late after city voting officials ran out of ballots. On Tuesday, Malloy’s campaign filed a complaint in Hartford Superior Court just after noon. Malloy has asked a judge to intervene after he says at least a dozen of the city’s polling places didn’t open at 6 a.m. as required by state law. At nine of those locations, voters were forced to wait for up to 90 minutes “with no certainty as to when the polls would be able to be opened,” according to the complaint because voter registrations lists were not ready when polls opened.
Extending an expensive and largely negative campaign for one more month, voters in Louisiana sent Mary Landrieu, a Democrat and three-term United States senator, and her Republican challenger, United States Representative Bill Cassidy, into a runoff election set for Dec. 6. Given Louisiana’s nonpartisan primary system — in which all candidates run in a primary and, if no one wins a majority, the top two vote-getters compete in an election a few weeks later — runoffs are fairly routine here and one had long been expected in this race. While the state Republican Party formally backed Mr. Cassidy this summer, another Republican, Rob Maness, a retired Air Force colonel with a strong Tea Party following, stayed in the race and drew about 14 percent of the vote on Tuesday. Mr, Cassidy received 42 percent of the vote and Ms. Landreau 41 percent. Numerous polls suggest that much of Mr. Maness’s support will move to Mr. Cassidy in the runoff, putting him in a strong position to win.
Maryland elections officials got dozens of reports of malfunctioning election machines Tuesday but said the problem did not lead to incorrectly cast ballots. Voters can look at a preview screen of their selections before they actually cast their ballots, a step designed to prevent anyone from voting for the wrong candidates, said Nikki Charlson, a spokeswoman for the Maryland State Board of Elections. There were 56 reports in which the preview screen showed a candidate other than the one that the voter had selected, Charlson said Tuesday afternoon. But no incorrect votes were actually registered, Charlson said, and most of the malfunctioning machines were taken out of service. The malfunctioning machines represent a small fraction of more than 16,000 voting units at 1,800 precincts, and voting overall was going smoothly in Maryland, Charlson said.
Texas: Voter ID Law Hinders Some, Inspires Other Voters to Come Prepared — and Angry | Dallas Observer
In one West Dallas neighborhood, roughly 25 to 30 percent of eligible voters do not have a valid photo identification for voting. This area, along with sections near Fair Park, have the highest rates in the city. Yet speaking to voters outside C.F. Carr Elementary School, one of the central voting locations in the neighborhood, voters were, for the most part, well-prepared. And more important, many were more adamant about voting this year because of the voter ID law. See also: Dallasites without Voter IDs Are Generally Poor, Non-White and — Surprise! — Democrats Kameha Brown voted early last week, but says she has had a few friends who were discouraged from voting because they did not have a proper ID. “I had a friend who came in with the voter registration card, and they said with the new ID law, we cannot let you vote unless you have the ID,” Brown says. “It’s causing a lot of confusion, and people are getting upset.”
Something is seriously wrong when voters need to lose weight or get a manicure to be sure their votes count. In at least two cases Tuesday, Virginia Beach election officials reportedly suggested that fault might be with voters themselves, rather than malfunctioning machines. John Owens, who voted Tuesday morning at All Saints Episcopal Church, told The Pilot that when he called the registrar’s office to complain about difficulties with touchscreen voting, an official suggested that his fingers were too fat and that next time he might want to bring a Q-tip. This is what passes for modern voting? Cotton swabs? Meanwhile, a spokesman for U.S. Rep. Scott Rigell told The Pilot she phoned the State Board of Elections to report problems and was told that long fingernails can confuse touchscreen machines. By late morning on Election Day, it was clear that complaints about voting problems in the Resort City were widespread. And not because everyone in town has chubby fingers or acrylic nails.
Mozambique’s National Elections Commission (CNE) on Tuesday rejected an appeal by the main opposition Renamo party against the results of the Oct. 15 general elections. An extraordinary session held in Maputo between Renamo and CNE, called for a vote on Tuesday for a motion to reject the Renamo appeal, resulting in 9 CNE members in favor, 6 against and 2 abstentions, CNE spokesperson, Paulo Cuinica, told reporters after the session. According to Cuinica, Renamo not only appealed against the results of the polls, but also demanded the annulment of the elections.
Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman told reporters at a news conference in Berlin on Monday that Sunday’s elections in rebel-held eastern Ukraine were “illegitimate,” as they contravened the country’s constitution and the Minsk ceasefire signed in September. Steffen Seibert also said the manner in which the polls in the rebel-declared Donetsk People’s Republic and the nearby self-proclaimed Luhansk People’s Republic were conducted were “extremely questionable.” “It is all the more incomprehensible that there are official Russian voices that are respecting or even recognizing these so-called elections,” Seibert said. He added that under these circumstances there could be no thought of easing EU sanctions on Russia, and that if the situation in eastern Ukraine deteriorated further measures may be needed.
Rebel commander Alexander Zakharchenko smiled only slightly on hearing that he had won this weekend’s elections in Donetsk, Ukraine (pictured). The results were never in doubt: Mr Zakharchenko’s nominal opponents openly supported him, and his face was the only one on campaign billboards. Nonetheless, eastern Ukraine’s separatist republics went through the motions of democracy, including inviting international election observers. Those proved hard to find: while Russia has said it will respect the vote, America, the European Union, and the United Nations have all condemned it. The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe refused to monitor the elections. The European politicians who did show up to observe were drawn from a smattering of far-right parties, including Hungary’s Jobbik, France’s National Front, and Italy’s Forza, as well as a few far-left ones. While they may not have done much to legitimise the vote, their presence was significant as a marker of Russia’s growing relationship with Europe’s political fringes. The elections in the breakaway pro-Russian regions were marked by armed men standing next to ballot boxes and a disturbing absence of voter rolls. This did not bother the European observers, who pronounced the voting free and fair. Many of them had arrived in Donetsk with luggage bearing “ROV” airline tags, code for the Russian city of Rostov, where they had flown in before crossing the border by car into separatist-held territory. Russia has been courting European fringe parties for years, part of a multi-pronged strategy aimed at “undermining the EU project”, argues Thomas Gomart, a Russia scholar at the French Institute of International Relations.