We send emails instead of hand-written letters, we buy Kindles instead of books, we use iPads instead of pen and paper—and yet, voting is still mostly left to good old-fashioned paper. Voting technology has essentially remained at a standstill for decades. Still, some things have stayed the same even longer: the same concerns for security and secrecy that have kept paper dominant were also the driving forces behind voting policy in the early years of the United States. … Most states use a combination of electronic and paper technology. Only five states (Delaware, Georgia, Louisiana, New Jersey, South Carolina) have paper-free voting and some states (Colorado, Oregon, and Washington) send all constituents a paper ballot in the mail. Even more states use a combination of electronic and paper at polling places. Given how much technology has advanced in recent years, it’s fair to wonder why we continue to vote with paper. However, there are good reasons why the U.S. is hanging on to paper ballots.
A judge on Tuesday threw out a challenge to the results of Arizona’s problematic presidential primary despite evidence that there were glitches in the election. Maricopa County Superior Court Judge David Gass ruled that a Tucson man challenging the results hadn’t proven fraud and hadn’t shown long lines in Maricopa County or registration problems statewide with the election would have changed the results. “I’m going to find that as a matter of law…plaintiff just hasn’t met their burden,” Gass said. “To prove fraud, it’s clear and convincing evidence. It’s an incredibly high burden. And it’s a burden that’s very difficult to prove.” The ruling came at the close of two days of testimony. Gass noted that while there were problems with the election, throwing out the results would mean that more than 1 million people who voted in the March 22 primary would be disenfranchised. “I can’t find that one, there were illegal votes and two…I can’t find it would have made a difference in the outcome of the election,” he said. “The election would have been the same.”
Voting rolls in Kansas are in “chaos” because of the state’s proof-of-citizenship requirements, the American Civil Liberties Union has argued in a court document, noting that about two-thirds of new voter registration applications submitted during a three-week period in February are on hold. Kansas is fending off multiple legal challenges from voting rights activists, and just months before the state’s August primary, the status of the “dual registration” system remains unclear. Federal judges in separate voter-registration lawsuits unfolding in Kansas and Washington, D.C., could rule at any time. There’s also greater urgency because registrations typically surge during an election year. Kansas is one of four states, along with Georgia, Alabama and Arizona, to require documentary proof of citizenship — such as a birth certificate, passport or naturalization papers — to register to vote. Under Kansas’ challenged system, voters who registered using a federal form, which hadn’t required proof of U.S. citizenship, could only vote in federal races and not in state or local races. Kansas says it will keep the dual voting system in place for upcoming elections if the courts allow its residents to register to vote either with a federal form or at motor vehicle offices without providing proof of citizenship.
There is a variety of origin stories for why Missouri is known as “the Show-Me State.” But if Republicans in the state legislature get their way, it could take on new meaning for voters headed to the polls—as in, “Show me your photo ID.” The state senate, which is overwhelmingly Republican, is considering a double-barreled proposal. One part is a joint resolution that would place a ballot measure before voters to create a constitutional amendment requiring voters to show photo identification to vote. The other part governs how the requirement would be enforced if approved; in particular, it would require the legislature to fund programs to help get voters who don’t have some form of ID a card. If there’s no money, the requirement wouldn’t go into effect. The House already passed both halves in January. Senate Republicans brought the issue up Wednesday, but Democrats filibustered until 2 a.m., and the issue was temporarily set aside. Democrats have repeatedly obstructed attempts to pass the measures. Republicans are expected to bring it up again before the end of the session on May 13, and may use procedural measures to try to end the Democratic filibuster. If they succeed, Governor Jay Nixon, a Democrat, could veto the the bill, but his veto would likely be overridden. He can’t veto the joint resolution.
A federal judge on Monday upheld sweeping Republican-backed changes to election rules, including a voter identification provision, that civil rights groups say unfairly targeted African-Americans and other minorities. The ruling could have serious political repercussions in a state that is closely contested in presidential elections. The opinion, by Judge Thomas D. Schroeder of Federal District Court in Winston-Salem, upheld the repeal of a provision that allowed people to register and vote on the same day. It also upheld a seven-day reduction in the early-voting period; the end of preregistration, which allowed some people to sign up before their 18th birthdays; and the repeal of a provision that allowed for the counting of ballots cast outside voters’ home precinct. It also left intact North Carolina’s voter identification requirement, which legislators softened last year to permit residents to cast ballots, even if they lack the required documentation, if they submit affidavits. The ruling could have significant repercussions in North Carolina, a state that Barack Obama barely won in 2008, and that the Republican Mitt Romney barely won four years later.
The Supreme Court on Friday allowed Texas to continue to enforce a law requiring voters to show identification at the polls, a setback for civil rights challengers who said the law could make it difficult for a sizable number of minorities to cast a ballot in November. The court, in a brief written order, declined to disturb a lower-court action that has allowed Texas to use its voter-ID law while litigation over the measure continues, including during its recent primary election in March. The court’s order, which didn’t note any dissents, said the parties could renew their request if lower courts haven’t acted by late July. An appeals court is slated to hear arguments in the case in late May.
Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin signed legislation Thursday to automatically register eligible voters who apply for a driver’s license or state ID, making the Green Mountain State fourth in the nation to enact an automatic voter-registration law. “While states across the country are making it harder for voters to get to the polls, Vermont is making it easier by moving forward with commonsense policies that remove unnecessary barriers and increase participation in our democracy,” Shumlin said in a statement.
Virginia: McAuliffe restores voting rights for 206K ex-felons; GOP calls it move to boost Clinton | Richmond Times-Dispatch
Gov. Terry McAuliffe signed an executive order Friday restoring the voting rights of 206,000 ex-felons, a sweeping action the governor said was aimed largely at rectifying Virginia’s “long and sad history” of suppressing African-American voting power. The move, coming in a presidential election year, outraged Republicans who accused McAuliffe of abusing his power to help longtime ally Hillary Clinton win a battleground state by putting more likely Democratic voters on the books. The governor’s order applies to all violent and nonviolent felons who had finished their sentence and supervised release as of Friday, even those who have not applied for a restoration of rights. Previous Virginia governors have restored rights on an individual basis, but none has done it for an entire category of offenders with one pen stroke. The order stops short of creating automatic restoration of rights for all ex-offenders, because McAuliffe will have to sign similar orders on a monthly basis moving forward. Still, the order is a historic shift away from Virginia’s policy of lifetime disenfranchisement for those convicted of serious crimes.The governor’s order applies to all violent and nonviolent felons who had finished their sentence and supervised release as of Friday, even those who have not applied for a restoration of rights. Previous Virginia governors have restored rights on an individual basis, but none has done it for an entire category of offenders with one pen stroke. The order stops short of creating automatic restoration of rights for all ex-offenders, because McAuliffe will have to sign similar orders on a monthly basis moving forward. Still, the order is a historic shift away from Virginia’s policy of lifetime disenfranchisement for those convicted of serious crimes.
Hundreds of Serbian opposition supporters rallied in Belgrade on Saturday demanding a nationwide recount of last weekend’s election ballots, the resignation of the election commission or a re-run of the vote, claiming fraud and irregularities. Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic, who wants to take Serbia into the European Union, won Sunday’s election with 48.24 percent of the vote, roughly unchanged from 2014. But his Progressive Party’s majority in parliament was reduced as more parties attained the five percent vote threshold needed for seats. Left-wing and ultra-nationalist opposition parties teamed up on Saturday to protest in front of the election commission office, chanting “We want our votes” and “This is fraud”.
The high court has rejected an attempt to force the government to grant millions of UK citizens living abroad a vote in this June’ s EU referendum. The legal challenge brought by two disenfranchised expats on behalf of those living overseas for more than 15 years was dismissed by Lord Justice Lloyd Jones and Mr Justice Blake. The government, the judges said, was entitled to adopt a cut-off period “at which extended residence abroad might indicate a weakening of ties with the United Kingdom”. The ruling also noted that there would be “significant practical difficulties about adopting, especially for this referendum, a new electoral register which includes non-resident British citizens whose last residence in the UK was more than 15 years ago”. The judges added: “Electoral registration officers currently retain records of previous electoral registers for a period of 15 years. They have no straightforward means of checking the previous residence status of British citizens who have been resident overseas for longer than 15 years.
President Barack Obama on Thursday nominated former Nevada Treasurer Kate Marshall as a member of the Election Assistance Commission. Marshall, who has been a principal with her firm, Marshall Legal Consulting, since 2015 served as state treasurer from 2007 to 2014. She was a senior deputy attorney general in the Nevada attorney general’s office from 1997 to 2000. From 2015 to 2016, she was the executive director of Opportunity Alliance Nevada.
As a new tide of voter disenfranchisement rises across the country, Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., announced a new campaign Thursday to expand an Oregon-style vote-by-mail program nationwide and tear down barriers to voting. “My home state of Oregon has led the nation in making voting more accessible. No one has to take time off work just to exercise his or her constitutional rights,” Wyden said. “My proposition is the rest of our country should follow Oregon’s lead and offer all voters a chance to vote by mail.” Voters across the country have faced unreasonable delays and new obstacles to voting, the senator said. This year alone: some voters in Arizona waited in line for up to 5 hours, New York is investigating why 126,000 voters were purged from voting rolls, Rhode Island slashed the number of polling places by two-thirds and 17 states have added new voting restrictions.
It is plainly illegal for foreigners to contribute to American political campaigns. But reform groups are warning that the ban would be gravely undermined by a little-noticed bill advanced Thursday by Republicans on the House Ways and Means Committee. It would alter the current tax code provision that, while permitting the identity of donors to 501(c) “social welfare” groups to be kept firmly secret from the public, requires that the donors be privately identified to Internal Revenue Service officials responsible for enforcing the law. Politically oriented groups claiming dubious exemptions as “social welfare” nonprofits have proliferated in recent elections, allowing donors — including publicity-shy campaign backers — to work from the shadows.
Despite fears of a botched debut of Maryland’s new voting machines, state election officials say they received few reports of glitches and voter confusion in Tuesday’s primary. The election marked Maryland’s long-awaited switch to paper ballots tallied by scanner, nearly a decade after lawmakers decided to ditch electronic machines that leave no paper trail. Late last year, Gov. Larry Hogan (R) and his administration raised concerns about election officials’ rushing the new machines into service. They relented when the machine vendor, Election Systems and Software, offered to devote additional staff and resources on a successful rollout.
Many major updates to Mississippi’s election law were lost on the last day of 2016 legislative session when the Mississippi House of Representatives killed House Bill 797. “There’s no reasonable excuse to me,” Mississippi Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann said. “We are disappointed and dismayed in the Mississippi legislature failing to do that. No real excuse for that to me. I’ve asked Governor to put it on his special session when he calls it in June. Bring it back up.” Hattiesburg Rep. Toby Barker said the election code changes were lost because they were in the same bill that would stop lawmakers from spending campaign dollars on personal items. “Out of a 291 page conference report, only 10 of those actually dealt with campaign finance reform, so the rest of it was trying to bring Mississippi up to date with technology, trying to clarify some things to prevent past election mishaps from happening,” Barker said. “So to lose the whole bill at the very end of session was very unfortunate.” Barker worked as a member of Hosemann’s bipartisan election reform committee, which was created in 2014 to help draft the election code changes.
Missouri: Kraus, Republicans confident photo voter ID will pass despite Democrat’s filibuster | The Missouri Times
For the third time this session, Senate Democrats stalled a vote on photo voter ID legislation sponsored by Sen. Will Kraus, R-Lee’s Summit. The Wednesday night filibuster on HB 1631, authored by Rep. Justin Alferman, stretched to about 1 a.m. early Thursday until the chamber went to an “at rest” period, and the Senate adjourned just an hour later for the day. At a press conference Thursday, Kraus, R-Lee’s Summit, voiced his frustration at the Democratic stonewalling, but he remains confident that Republicans will get the bill passed this session despite strong opposition. “The effort of trying to get this done and working with the minority party is there,” he said.
The U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals granted a quick review of the recent ruling on North Carolina’s election law overhaul. In an order filed on Thursday, Clerk Patricia S. Connor stated that attorneys should have all their briefs submitted to the appellate court by June 14. Rick Hasen, a law professor at the University of California-Irvine who has been following the case, said it was possible that under such a schedule a hearing could be held in July and a ruling issued before the November general elections. But most expect any ruling to be challenged up to the U.S. Supreme Court, and what would happen there is unclear.
Rhode Island: Common Cause calls for ‘immediate improvements’ to voting in Rhode Island | Providence Journal
Common Cause Rhode Island is calling for immediate improvements to voting in Rhode Island following a primary election in which, according to the advocacy group, “too many eligible voters showed up at the wrong polling place, or waited an unnecessary amount of time to cast their ballot.” “For the vast majority of voters, yesterday went fine,” said John Marion, the executive director of Common Cause Rhode Island, on Wednesday afternoon. “But we’re trying to achieve a process where we don’t see any problems and that’s what we are striving for.” On Tuesday, there were problems at some of the polling locations.
Virginia: Massive restoration of felon voting rights challenges registrars | Richmond Times-Dispatch
Hundreds of felons have rushed to register to vote in Richmond and Henrico County since Gov. Terry McAuliffe restored the civil rights of 206,000 last week, but local registrars say the state hasn’t given them the information they need to approve applications. Richmond General Registrar J. Kirk Showalter said she had been able to verify just two of the 102 applications the office had received by Tuesday night, while Henrico Registrar Mark J. Coakley said his office was working through more than 200 online requests and setting aside those it had accepted in case of later questions about an ex-offender’s status. They and other registrars across Virginia say the state wasn’t ready to carry out McAuliffe’s sweeping executive order on Friday that restored voting and other civil rights. “This is the time when government went too fast,” Coakley said. But McAuliffe administration officials said they warned from the beginning that it would take time to update online state databases to show the restoration of rights for so many people. “This is a massive administrative undertaking, but it is the right thing to do,” spokesman Brian Coy said.
Virginia: The felon vote: Will the restoration of felons’ voting rights in Virginia help the Democrats? | The Economist
Virginia’s governor, Terry McAuliffe, has a problem similar to one faced by Barack Obama: a Republican-controlled legislature delights in killing his proposals, especially those popular with Democrats. So Mr McAuliffe is doing as Mr Obama has done: implementing some of them by executive fiat. Mr McAuliffe’s latest is a doozy: a order made on April 22nd that restores the voting and civil rights of an estimated 206,000 non-violent and violent felons who have completed their penalties. Until Mr McAuliffe’s order, which came as a surprise, he had been considering the reinstatement of such rights as all Virginia governors have since the mid-1800s: on a case-by-case basis, making for an achingly slow and sometimes erratic process. Republicans, who have generally opposed making it easier to re-enfranchise felons stripped of their voting rights upon conviction, were quick to complain that by flooding the polls with new voters Mr McAuliffe was simply trying to tip this presidential battleground state to his good friend, Hillary Clinton. But while there is little doubt that Mr McAuliffe’s executive order has become a talking point for both political parties, it is not clear what impact it will have on registration and voting.
The Supreme Court of Virginia has accepted a portion of an ongoing redistricting case, saying it will mull what correspondence legislators must release about their work drawing election maps, and what they may keep secret. The question is a key one before a lawsuit that targets nearly a dozen legislative districts over state constitutional concerns can move forward, but the high court’s decision could also set precedent when it comes to the release of legislative documents in court cases. Both sides – redistricting advocates connected to a group called OneVirginia2021 and state senators looking to protect emails under a legislative immunity clause in the Virginia Constitution – asked for the state Supreme Court to hear the matter. The broader case sits in City of Richmond Circuit Court. The high court’s decision, announced in a court order Wednesday, means the matter will skip the state Court of Appeals.
The eve of the Orthodox Easter long weekend found Bulgaria’s MPs still in their benches in the National Assembly – unless they were in one of a series of unscheduled adjournments – arguing the toss in the latest day of controversy over amendments to the country’s election laws. The arguments on April 28 involved not only the substance of the amendments but also a row about a report submitted in the name of the legal affairs committee – which irked opposition MPs who said that there could be no such report from the committee because it had not met. Among the issues to be resolved on the final day before the scheduled Easter recess involved voting abroad. An earlier version of the amendments, restricting the opening of polling stations to Bulgaria’s embassies and consulates, has caused discontent not only among several political parties but also among Bulgarians living outside the country.
Serbian election authorities on Thursday annulled the votes cast at a handful of polling stations amid allegations of irregularity, in a move that could significantly impact parliamentary elections held last weekend. The vote will be repeated in at least 15 polling stations, affecting around 18,000 of the 6.7 million registered voters. The election commission was also reviewing dozens of other complaints and recounting ballots from as many as 100 polling stations. Although the voided votes make up a tiny fraction of national total, they may be vital to two parties that stand to be eliminated if they do not pass Serbia‘s 5-per-cent threshold. The election authority‘s decision also means the final result can only be announced after the vote is repeated.
Singapore: Online voting not feasible for overseas Singaporeans: Chan Chun Sing | The Online Citizen
On 6 April in Parliament, it was decided that online voting for Singaporeans living abroad using the SingPass portal still remained unfeasible due to concerns over authenticity of votes and the privacy of voters. This decision comes in response to queries from Non-Constituency Member of Parliament (NMP) Dennis Tan with regard to whether online voting will be implemented for overseas Singaporeans. Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Chan Chun Sing said in Parliament that while a system of online voting was considered by the Elections Department, the traditional tried and tested voting method still had the upper hand. Using paper ballots at polling stations still stayed the “simplest and most transparent method of voting that can ensure the integrity and secrecy of our voting process,” according to Mr Chan.
In the popular imagination, election fraud usually takes a few forms: stuffed or disappearing ballot boxes, hijacked electronic voting machines, voter intimidation. The latter of those four tactics is somewhat harder to detect. After all, it’s not the ballot being tampered with, but rather the voter who cast that ballot. Fortunately, researchers have now figured out a way to detect “voter rigging,” as the authors of a new paper call it. Unfortunately, their method has turned up more or less exactly what you’d expect—fraud in Russia several times over the past decade, as well as in Venezuela, where voter rigging likely swayed the outcome of the 2013 race to replace Hugo Chavez. “Many elections around the world end in controversies related to alleged frauds; even in mature democracies, such as the U.S. and Canada, where voter suppression scandals have made the headlines,” write Raúl Jiménez, Manuel Hidalgo, and Peter Klimek.
On Monday, Judge Thomas D. Schroeder of Federal District Court in Winston-Salem, N.C., upheld legislation passed in 2013 that imposed far-reaching restrictions on voting across this state, including strict voter-identification requirements. Judge Schroeder justified his decision by claiming that robust turnout in 2014 proved that the law did not suppress the black vote. But in reality, his ruling defended the worst attack on voting rights since the 19th century. That attack began almost immediately after a 2013 Supreme Court decision, Shelby County v. Holder, which weakened Section 5 of the landmark Voting Rights Act. Section 5 required federal pre-approval of changes to voting laws in places with a history of discrimination, including parts of North Carolina. Within hours of that ruling, lawmakers in Raleigh filed H.B. 589, proposing some of the toughest voting rules in the country. Referring to Shelby, one sponsor expressed his relief that curtailing voting protections could move forward now that the “headache” of the Voting Rights Act had been removed. The Legislature passed the bill, and it was signed into law by Gov. Pat McCrory, a Republican.
There are 5.8 million Americans who will be barred from voting this year, because their home states deny felons that fundamental right. Lately, there have been efforts to reduce that absurd statistic. In Maryland, the legislature restored voting rights for felons who served their prison sentences by overturning their governor’s veto. And last Friday, by executive order, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe restored suffrage for more than 200,000 people – a good start toward reinstating full citizenship to 47 percent of the American prison population serving time for non-violent drug offenses. Call it a liberating blast of fresh democracy – even though three states (Florida, Kentucky and Iowa) still bar felons from voting for life. Maine and Vermont occupy the other extreme, allowing felons to vote even as they serve their time. And many states, like New Jersey, restore suffrage only after felons have served their full sentences – including prison time, parole and probation.
After two days of testimony, a Maricopa County Superior Court judge dismissed a lawsuit filed to invalidate the March Arizona presidential preference election. The suit was filed against Secretary of State Michele Reagan and every Arizona county by attorney Michael Kielsky on behalf of a Tucson man named John Brakey, who says his occupation is “election integrity activist.” In their pleadings, they alleged that voter-registration requests were mishandled and the number of polling places in Maricopa County was improperly cut. Hearings Monday and Tuesday were to determine if there was legal cause to go forward with trial. The state and the counties countered that the complaint was neither timely nor adequately prepared. And they questioned whether election law applied to presidential preference elections. Judge David Gass took the matter under advisement but allowed the evidentiary hearing to go forward.
The application form that convicted felons in Iowa must complete to seek restoration of their voting rights in Iowa has been made simpler, Gov. Terry Branstad said Wednesday, but voting rights advocates argue the process is still one of the most burdensome in the country. The streamlined, one-page form reduces the number of questions an applicant must answer from 29 to 13, Branstad said, which makes the process more efficient and convenient. “When individuals commit felonies, it is important that they demonstrate that they have fully satisfied their sentences and have paid their court-imposed financial obligations and be current on restitution if it’s required before receiving their voting rights back,” Branstad said in a statement.
Two bills aimed at making it easier to vote will head into conference committee today at the state Legislature. The legislation would allow residents to automatically register to vote when applying or renewing a driver’s license and would start a vote-by-mail program. The House and Senate each passed versions of the bills. Lawmakers will be tasked with working out the differences. The registration measure, House Bill 401, would give residents the option of registering to vote or updating their voter information while taking care of their license. Rep. Nicole Lowen, D-Kona, is a co-sponsor. HB 1653 in its latest form would require the state Office of Elections to start a vote-by-mail program incrementally. Mail ballots currently are limited to absentee voters.