Voting Blogs: Survey of the Performance of American Elections helps paint overall picture of voting as experienced by voters | Charles Stewart/electionlineWeekly

The experience of voters is one of those things that hide in plain sight. Despite the fact that more than 100 million voters take part in presidential elections, and around 80 million voters take part in midterm congressional elections, very little is actually known about the experiences voters have when they go to cast a ballot. Do their machines work? Do they wait in long lines? Are they met by competent poll workers? Voters tell each other stories about these things, and sometimes reporters write news accounts about them, but until 2008 no one had ever attempted to ask voters about their experience on Election Day in any comprehensive, systematic way. Thus was born the Survey of the Performance of American Elections (SPAE), the first (and thus far only) comprehensive national public opinion study of voting from the perspective of the voter. In 2014, with the financial assistance of the Pew Charitable Trusts (which has generously funded the SPAE since its inception), we have been able to study in detail the voting experience at midterm. This report touches on some highlights.

Nebraska: Voter ID legislation abruptly stops despite anticipation for long, heated debate | Associated Press

Efforts to require Nebraska voters to show identification at the polls came to an abrupt halt Wednesday, less than 24 hours after lawmakers began what many expected to be a long, heated debate. Lawmakers voted 25-15 to push the measure to the bottom of the 2015 agenda, meaning it has little chance of returning this year. The move came after numerous amendments were added to the bill, which has faced heavy resistance from lawmakers and civil rights activists who say it would disenfranchise poor and minority voters. Opponents also note that Nebraska has no documented cases of voter fraud. Sen. John Murante of Gretna, one of the bill’s supporters and chairman of the government committee, asked his fellow senators not to “prolong the pain” by sending it back to the committee for reconsideration. The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Tyson Larson of O’Neill, said the measure was intended to protect the state from voter fraud and included safeguards, such as offering free IDs to poor residents, to prevent disenfranchising voters. But opponents noted that ID cards were costly and didn’t fully protect against fraudulent voting.

Oregon: Automatic voter registration is cleared for House vote | Portland Tribune

The Oregon Legislature’s budget committee, on a party-line vote Friday with multiple political implications, cleared a bill providing for automatic voter registration upon obtaining or renewing a driver’s license. The bill is a top priority for Secretary of State Kate Brown, who is next in line of succession if Gov. John Kitzhaber resigns amid influence-peddling allegations against him and first lady Cylvia Hayes. A couple of hours after the committee vote, Kitzhaber announced his resignation, effective Feb. 18, when Brown will be sworn in as Oregon’s 38th governor. House Bill 2177 went to a vote of the full House with all committee Democrats for it and all Republicans against it. A similar bill failed on a tie vote in the Senate after the House passed it in 2013.

Pennsylvania: State Supreme Court rejects challenge to electronic voting systems | The Patriot-News

In a unanimous ruling, Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court has denied an appeal by a group of 24 voters who asked it to bar the use of some types of electronic voting machines. At issue was whether direct-recording electronic voting systems – DREs – which do not produce simultaneous paper records as each vote is cast, violate the state Election Code and the rights of voters. The state has approved six types of DREs for use in Pennsylvania. Most, if not all, midstate counties use electronic voting systems. Pennsylvania’s highest court backed the use of DREs in a 35-page ruling issued this week by Justice Correale F. Stevens. That decision upholds a ruling Commonwealth Court issued in October 2013.

National: New evidence shows election officials are biased against Latino voters | The Washington Post

Voter identification laws are cropping up around the country: 31 states had a voter identification requirement in the 2014 midterms, up from 14 states in 2000. These laws vary widely in the types of identification they accept, even in whether identification is required or merely requested. And many people don’t know whether they need identification to vote, or what type of identification to bring. Opponents argue that these laws disproportionately impact minority voters, who are less likely to have required identification. Our new research in this month’s American Political Science Review shows that minorities face another hurdle: bias in the bureaucracy that implements these laws. Roughly 8,000 local officials – county or municipal clerks and election boards – manage the nation’s election system. These officials train local poll workers, provide information, and interact with constituents with little immediate oversight from state officials.

Connecticut: Attorney: Hartford Council Can Remove Elected Officials | Hartford Courant

An attorney retained by the city council said in a written opinion Wednesday that the council has the power to remove elected officials. Allan B. Taylor, a legislative and legal adviser to the council, said he was responding to questions raised about whether the panel has the authority to remove such officials. The council has begun the process of seeking to remove Hartford’s three registrars of voters, following problems on Election Day that caused several polling places to open late.  People were unable to vote at as many as 10 polling locations when they opened at 6 a.m. on Election Day because the voter lists were not delivered on time. Voters waited more than an hour at some polling places, and some left without voting, prompting the Democratic Party to seek extended hours. A Superior Court judge eventually ordered that two polling places remain open for an extra half-hour. PDF: Attorney’s Report On Hartford Registrars

Idaho: Voting in the 21st century: Ada County to ditch ‘antiquated technology’ | Idaho Statesman

Like most political aficionados, Paul Woods looks forward to the excitement of the polls closing and the results pouring in each Election Day. For the past several years, though, Ada County’s results have not poured in. They’ve trickled. Woods had to wait 11 hours after Ada County’s polls closed in the November 2014 election to find out whether he won his race to become an Ada County Highway District commissioner. (He did.) “I stayed up until 2:30 in the morning and they still were not in,” Woods lamented. “I got up at 6 and checked and they were almost done.” Other Idaho counties had tallied ballots and sent election workers home to bed hours before Ada County posted final election results at 7 a.m. In 2012, ballot counting didn’t wrap up until 8 a.m. … Remember Zip disks and Zip drives? That once-cutting-edge computer storage technology fell out of favor around the turn of century. But that bygone technology is still at the heart of Ada County’s election system – and at least part of the reason results take so long.

Kentucky: How Senator Rand Paul can run for re-election and president at the same time | Slate

Sen. Rand Paul is on track to officially jump into the presidential race on April 7, the New York Times reports, citing “people close to” the Kentucky Republican. “Only his family’s doubts could change his mind at this point, said associates of the senator,” according to the Times. While Paul’s entry into what is promising to be a crowded GOP field appears nearly a done deal, the first-term senator has one looming problem ahead: Kentucky law dictates that “no candidate’s name shall appear on any voting machine or absentee ballot more than once.” In other words, by law, Paul wouldn’t be able to compete in both his home state’s GOP presidential primary and Republican Senate primary, which will be held together on the same day in May 2016. Team Paul, meanwhile, has made it clear that their man isn’t willing to give up a second term in the Senate to battle for the GOP presidential nomination. So, game over then? Hardly. “There are avenues available to him, should he decide to run for both offices at the same time,” Doug Stafford, Paul’s top political strategist, told reporters on a conference call in early December. “I don’t think we have abandoned any option, nor have we settled on any option.”

Minnesota: Renewed push to restore felon voting rights clears first hurdle | Minneapolis Star Tribune

A measure to restore voting rights to felons who have been released from incarceration successfully cleared its first committee hurdle Thursday backed by a broad coalition of support. Dozens packed the hearing room in support of the bipartisan bill, authored by Sen. Bobby Joe Champion, DFL-Minneapolis, that would change state law to allow conflicted felons to vote immediately after they’re released from prison or the workhouse, rather than when they’ve completed the terms of their probation or parole—a process that can take years, if not decades. Although an effort years in the making–this year’s push has seen new support from conservative and libertarian causes, bolstering GOP support. Walter Hudson, vice chair of the Republican Liberty Caucus of Minnesota, said that prison inmates should be denied the right to vote, just as they should be denied a multitude of other rights, but that shouldn’t apply once they are released back into the community, he said. “Participation in the political process conveys a sense of belonging and investment in the community which those seeking reconciliation ought to have,” he said.

Missouri: Senate passes cutoff for changes to ballot measures | Kansas City Star

Missouri ballot measures would need to be finalized earlier if legislation passed by the Senate on Thursday is signed into law, an effort to save money on reprinting ballots that last year cost the state close to $680,000. The bill, approved 26-8, would set a deadline to change ballot measures about two months before an election, which is two weeks sooner than the generally accepted standard. Current law allows measures to be finalized at any point within 180 days of an election, although absentee and military ballots must go out about six weeks early. The legislation follows hundreds of thousands of dollars in reprinting expenses after a mid-September court ruling that required last-minute changes to the wording of a proposed constitutional amendment to create a limited early, no-excuses-needed voting period.

Nevada: The latest battleground in voter ID wars | The Washington Post

A new Republican majority in Carson City will aim to make Nevada the latest state to require voters to show identification at the polls, opening a new front in the voting wars that have angered Democrats and minority groups. Proponents of voter identification laws say those laws help prevent fraud at the polls. The Nevada version would enforce strict requirements on what types of identification are acceptable, including only state- and federally-issued forms of identification. College identifications would not be acceptable. Voters without an accepted form of ID would be allowed to cast a provisional ballot, which would not be counted until they show proper identification at a county or city clerk’s office.

New Mexico: Legislator wants New Mexico to consider thumbprints, eye scans for voter ID | KOB

State Senate Minority Whip Bill Payne, R. Albuquerque, can envision a future where New Mexicans use their fingerprints to prove their identity in order to vote. In a Senate Memorial introduced Wednesday, Payne asks the secretary of state to study the advantages of using iris scans, thumbprints and other biometric measures to prevent potential voter fraud in state elections. “The state-of-the-art technology is here. Anyone who watches the NCIS TV drama series can tell you that modern technology is commonly used for authentication purposes,” Payne said in a statement.

Virginia: House GOP in no hurry to tackle redistricting process | The Daily Progress

Any chance of progress on a constitutional amendment or legislation changing the way Virginia draws its congressional and legislative boundaries is all but dead in the General Assembly session. Thirteen of the 14 bills and proposed constitutional amendments addressing the creation of a redistricting commission, including a number aimed at a nonpartisan approach, failed to pass both the House of Delegates and the Virginia Senate. While the Senate passed four redistricting measures on its own, three of them — in addition to 10 similar bills and resolutions filed by members of the House — were killed or left to die in the House Privileges and Elections Committee. The lone remaining piece of redistricting legislation — Senate Joint Resolution 284, sponsored by Sen. Jill Holtzman Vogel, R-Fauquier — is headed to almost certain demise Friday morning in a P&E subcommittee.

Editorials: Restoration of voting rights ought to be automatic | Richmond Times Dispatch

Gov. Bob McDonnell expedited the restoration of voting rights of nonviolent felons who have completed their sentences. Gov. Terry McAuliffe has built on the precedent. The state Senate has taken the next step. The chamber has given first approval to a proposed constitutional amendment to make restoration automatic. Nonviolent felons would not need to apply for it. Section 1 of Article II in the Virginia Constitution describes qualifications of voters. The amendment adds the italicized language to the text: “In elections by the people, the qualifications of voters shall be as follows: Each voter shall be a citizen of the United States, shall be eighteen years of age, shall fulfill the residence requirements set forth in this section, and shall be registered to vote pursuant to this article. No person who has been convicted of a felony shall be qualified to vote unless his civil rights have been restored by the Governor or other appropriate authority.

Israel: Election discourse testing limits of democracy | Al-Monitor

On Feb. 17, a short while after the Supreme Court heard arguments against disqualifying Knesset member Haneen Zoabi from running on the United Arab list, participants at the annual Israel Democracy Conference heard arguments from the television anchor Lucy Aharish in favor of Zoabi’s disqualification from the Knesset race. “Zoabi should demonstrate responsibility toward the Arab society and not incite with harsh words, which provoke Israeli society against its Arab neighbors,” said the successful Arab-Israeli journalist. “The minute you know what your words can do to an entire society, to 20% of this state, you will learn how to talk,” Aharish lashed out. “I am a proud Arab living in this state,” she continued, visibly agitated. “I do not apologize for being an Arab. I do not apologize for being a Muslim.” According to the platform of the party headed by Avigdor Liberman, the foreign minister of Aharish’s state, however, had she chosen to live in the Arab town of Umm al-Fahm or in one of the villages of the Triangle in the north, even an apology would not have saved her from being separated from her country.

Lesotho: Ominous rumblings from Lesotho army ahead of election | Mail & Guardian

In the first few months after Lesotho’s crisis in August, much of the blame was pinned on the aggression of the country’s military commander, Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli. But now, just days before the kingdom’s February 28 election aimed at resolving the impasse, there are indications that Prime Minister Tom Thabane may have an entire rogue military on his hands. The August 30 coup attempt saw Lesotho Defence Force soldiers chase Thabane from his official residence across the South African border. Simultaneously, troops attacked three police stations, killing one officer and injuring nine others. For South African Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, the lead mediator in the crisis for the Southern African Development Community (SADC), a crowning achievement came in November when he exiled Kamoli from Lesotho.

Nigeria: Electoral Commission Targets Vote Rigging | VoA News

A senior official of Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has refuted reports that the use of card readers to authenticate voters is unconstitutional. Both the 1999 constitution and the Electoral Act of 2010 stipulate that “electronic voting is prohibited for now.” Critics say those laws are also meant to cover the use of electronic readers to check voter registration cards. But Nick Dazang, INEC’s Deputy Director for Public Affairs said critics are misunderstanding the measures. “The card reader we are deploying for the elections is meant only for accrediting voters before they vote,” said Dazang. “Electronic voting means using a machine to vote. And in the instance of the card reader, the only thing it does is to accredit and authenticate the voter and then verify the voter as the genuine voter of the Permanent Voter Card [PVC] that we are using for the election.”

Philippines: Stop deal on repair of voting machines, Supreme Court asked | Rappler

The official organization of Philippine lawyers has requested the Supreme Court (SC) to stop a P268.8-million ($6.08-million) deal to repair, refurbish, and maintain voting machines for the 2016 elections. The Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) recently petitioned the SC to declare the deal between the Commission on Elections (Comelec) and technology provider Smartmatic-TIM illegal. The IBP explained that the Comelec awarded the P268.8-million contract to Smartmatic without public bidding. In a 28-page petition, the IBP said Comelec Resolution 9922, which mandated the contract, is null and void. According to the petition, the contract violates Republic Act 9184 or the Government Procurement Reform Act.

Nigeria: Vote delay prompts suspicion of election rigging, worries of violence | The Washington Post

It had been two days since Nigeria’s presidential election was postponed at the behest of the military, and Idayat Hassan’s phone was ringing nonstop. “It’s like a coup against democracy,” said the director of the Center for Democracy and Development to the ninth or 10th reporter of the day. “It’s like blackmail,” Hassan said when her phone rang again. “I’m very worried,” she said to a colleague, and now she hung up the phone, put her head in her hands and sighed. “After 16 years of democracy — this.” This: For weeks, Africa’s most populous nation appeared to be barreling toward its most fiercely competitive election since it returned to civilian rule in 1999, a race between President Goodluck Jonathan and Muhammadu Buhari, a former military dictator. Hassan and others were training poll watchers. Ballot boxes were being distributed across the country. And Nigerians, from elite professionals to street hawkers, were beginning to sense a startling possibility: An election could actually kick the ruling party out. Except that then it all came to a grinding stop.

Alabama: Run-off Election Timing Disenfranchises Overseas Military Voters | Courthouse News Service

Alabama’s mandate that runoff elections be held 42 days after an inconclusive federal primary pre-empts the right of overseas military personnel to participate via absentee ballots, the 11th Circuit ruled. “In our nation’s recent history, active military personnel and their families have faced severe difficulties exercising their fundamental right to vote,” said U.S. Circuit judge Stanley Marcus, writing for the three-judge panel. “For affected service members, the decision to serve their country was the very act that frequently deprived them of a voice in selecting its government,” Marcus added. To remedy the problem, Congress in 1986 passed the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act, which provides that a state must send absentee voters a ballot 45 days before a federal election.

Colorado: Voter ID bills struck down | The Durango Herald

Colorado lawmakers Wednesday once again took up the issue of photo identification as a requirement to vote, killing two measures that would have mandated the practice. The Republican-backed measures were killed by the Democratic-controlled House State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee on party-line votes. Similar attempts in recent years at the Legislature also failed. Both bills Wednesday addressed same-day voter registration, enacted by a Democratic-backed measure in 2013 that made sweeping reforms to the state’s election laws, including allowing voters to register on Election Day. One of the bills Wednesday was sponsored by Rep. Don Coram, R-Montrose. His idea with the legislation was to send the question to Colorado voters, pointing to a Magellan Strategies poll that indicated 72 percent of voters support photo ID as a condition of same-day voter registration.

Colorado: Secretary Of State Admits Voting Restrictions Stop Eligible Voters, Pushes Them Anyway | ThinkProgress

The state with some of the most accessible elections laws in the nation could soon make it more difficult to cast a ballot. Colorado lawmakers began debating a bill Wednesday that would require voters to present a photo ID if they register to vote on Election Day — a policy that would disproportionately impact people who are younger, lower income, non-white, and newly naturalized. While attending a recent conference in DC, Secretary of State Wayne Williams told ThinkProgress that he supports these measures despite the fact that investigations by his predecessor found voter fraud to be nearly non-existent in the state. “Most people don’t rob banks but we still protect against bank robbery,” he said. “Most people vote honestly but we did have some instances — for example, one individual submitted five separate voter registration forms with sequential Social Security numbers. The overwhelming majority of people don’t do that, but we need to have the protections in place to ensure all of us can have confidence in our elections.”

Georgia: Bill To Shorten Early Voting Period Advances In Georgia Legislature | Huffington Post

An extra day of voting access at some Georgia polls in 2014 may have inadvertently backfired, as Republican state legislators push a bill to reduce the number of early voting days from 21 to 12. When, for the first time, the state’s most populous counties decided to open some polling places on the Sunday ahead of the November midterms, GOP lawmakers argued that the early voting sites were chosen to maximize votes for Democratic candidates. Fears that Sunday voting would lead to Democratic victories were unfounded in the highest-profile races, however, as U.S. Senate candidate Michelle Nunn and gubernatorial challenger Jason Carter lost their races by about 8 percentage points each.

Missouri: Voter ID law gets initial House approval | Kansas City Star

Year after year, Missouri Republicans try to implement a photo ID requirement to vote. Despite overwhelming legislative majorities, they come up short every time. The GOP has watched voter ID bills vetoed by Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon, tossed out by the courts and bargained away by lawmakers in favor of other legislative priorities. The perennial push began anew this week, with the House granting initial approval to a pair of bills sponsored by Rep. Tony Dugger, a Hartville Republican. One bill would ask voters to amend the state’s constitution to allow the state to require a photo ID before casting a ballot. This is a necessary step to overcome a state Supreme Court ruling that deemed a previous voter ID law unconstitutional.

Nevada: Republicans introduce voter identification bill | Las Vegas Sun

Nevada Republicans introduced a bill on Tuesday that would require voters to show identification at the ballot box. Republican Sen. James Settelmeyer introduced SB169, which would require proof of identification in order to vote and provide for free voter identification cards. The bill lists acceptable forms of identification, including driver’s licenses and other government-issued identification cards, and requires the state Department of Motor Vehicles to provide free identification cards to voters who don’t have another way of verifying their identity. The bill would also allow voters without identification to cast a provisional ballot which would be counted after they show identification at a county or city clerk’s office.

Voting Blogs: Oil-lections: North Dakota Elections Are Corrupted But Nothing Needs To Change | State of Elections

North Dakota is perhaps best known for the Midwestern “charm” portrayed in the 1996 film, Fargo. However, even that movie took place almost entirely in Minnesota. In other words, North Dakota is about as nondescript a State as States come. But then North Dakota suddenly hit the national headlines when technological advances allowed for the extraction of oil from the state’s Bakken Shale Formation. This oil boom has drastically increased the state’s financial well-being, its oil output, and its population. By now, you may be asking, “What does this have to do with state election law?” The answer is, “A lot.” North Dakota remains the only state in the country that does not register its voters. An interesting side note: North Dakota was one of the first states that adopted a voter registration scheme, but then abolished it in 1951. The state prides itself on the ease of its electoral process – “Voting in North Dakota is as easy as pie!” This unique system of voting is based on the state’s rural character and small precincts, where every community is (or at least was) tight knit and election boards know the voters who come to the polls to vote on Election Day and can easily detect those who should not be voting in the precinct. To cast a ballot, a voter need only present identification (no photo required), which is a relatively recent addition to the ballot-casting process and only very recently made a strict requirement (North Dakota issued documents only).

Oregon: Kate Brown’s deputy, Robert Taylor, takes over as acting secretary of state | The Oregonian

Kate Brown’s deputy, Robert Taylor, took over as Oregon’s acting secretary of state when Brown was sworn in as governor Wednesday. Taylor will manage the day-to-day responsibilities until the new governor chooses a more permanent successor, secretary of state spokesman Tony Green said. That will include planning and overseeing the elections, auditing public spending and serving as the state’s chief archivist. Robert TaylorRobert Taylor “The deputy secretary, in absence of the secretary, has all legal power of the secretary,” Green said. According to Green, Taylor spent most the day Wednesday preparing for the secretary of state’s annual budget presentation to the Legislature’s Joint Ways and Means Committee. Kristen Grainger, Brown’s new communications director, said she’s not sure when Brown plans to announce an appointment.

Editorials: GOP ignoring real issue with voting: Old machines | The Virginian-Pilot

State lawmakers repeatedly claimed in recent years that preserving the integrity of Virginia’s elections justified – demanded, even – mandating that voters show photo identification in order to cast a ballot. This year, Republicans are pushing forward a proposal that requires voters seeking mail-in absentee ballots to provide photo ID. None of these requirements, of course, is based on evidence of widespread ballot fraud.…But the biggest risk to the integrity of Virginia’s elections exists in the unreliability of aging electronic voting machines used at four out of five polling stations across the commonwealth. And Republicans, who control both chambers of Virginia’s legislature, have taken a curiously hands-off approach to solving that problem. Gov. Terry McAuliffe proposed designating $1.6 million to help reimburse localities that recently replaced their equipment, and another $28 million in bonds to help more localities purchase new electronic voting machines. Those funds could have played a vital role in efforts to ensure that every vote is counted, yet Republicans in the Senate and House of Delegates rejected the request while assembling their respective budget plans.

Washington: Federal judge orders district voting for Yakima in ACLU case | Yakima Herald Republic

Citing the disenfranchisement of Latinos under Yakima’s current council elections system, a federal judge on Tuesday ordered the city to conduct future elections using seven geographic districts — including two majority Latino districts. Under U.S. District Judge Thomas Rice’s ruling, all seven City Council positions would be placed on the ballot this year and candidates would be elected by voters solely from within their district. Under the ruling, candidates would no longer be voted on citywide. The ruling comes in a voting rights lawsuit filed more than two years ago by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of two Latino residents. Rice, of the Eastern District Court of Washington, ruled in August that the city’s hybrid election system of at-large and district voting routinely “suffocates” the will of Latino voters.

Wyoming: House committee clears e-pollbooks, vote centers | Wyoming Tribune Eagle

A House committee gave its approval Tuesday to a bill that would allow county clerks to begin using electronic pollbooks and vote centers instead of traditional polling places on Election Day. Senate File 52 would allow county clerks to replace their existing paper pollbooks with electronic books for the purposes of keeping track of who is registered to vote, who has voted and where they voted. With electronic pollbooks, clerks would also be able to open “vote centers,” or polling places where anyone in a given jurisdiction can vote on Election Day, regardless of where they live within that jurisdiction. The idea of the bill is to provide better access to voters, particularly for jurisdictions where some far-flung polling places are having trouble staying open due to a lack of election judges. It also, in the case of elementary schools, would help alleviate any safety concerns about interaction between schoolchildren and the voting public.