National: A month from Election Day, election rules still in flux | The Washington Post

The ballots are printed, election workers trained and voting locations scouted. But with just a month to go before Election Day, the rules under which the midterms will be conducted remain in flux in four key states. The outcomes of legal challenges could determine just who is eligible to vote on Election Day — and, in states where Senate and gubernatorial races are nail-bitingly close, just who wins when the votes are counted. In Wisconsin, voting rights advocates have appealed to Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan, seeking an injunction to halt the state’s voter identification measure. A federal district court in Texas is weighing whether to block a voter identification law after hearing arguments last week. Justices on the Arkansas Supreme Court heard arguments Thursday over the constitutionality of a similar law. And North Carolina officials are seeking an injunction from the U.S. Supreme Court after the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled this week that the state must allow eligible residents to register and vote on the same day, and to cast provisional ballots if they show up at the wrong precinct.

National: Voter ID Laws: Research shows they impose costs, discourage voting | New Republic

One federal judge has allowed a voter ID law to take effect in Wisconsin. Another is now contemplating whether to do the same in Texas. Defenders of these laws, which exist in some form in 34 states, insist that requiring people to show government-issued identification at the polls will reduce fraud—and that it will do so without imposing unfair burdens or discouraging people from voting. In North Carolina, for example, Republican Governor Pat McCrory wrote an op-ed boasting that the measures fight fraud “at no cost” to voters. It’s not surprising that McCrory and like-minded conservatives make such arguments. The Supreme Court under Chief Justice John Roberts has steadily weakened the Voting Rights Act and related legislation, which for generations federal official used to make sure minority voters had equal voice in the political process. But in 2008, when the Court approved Voter ID laws, the Court left open the possibility of new challenges if plaintiffs can demonstrate the laws impose a burden on would-be voters. There are now good reasons to think the laws do exactly that.

National: Voter-ID Rules’ Impact on Turnout Is Hard to Determine | Wall Street Journal

In the last decade, 34 states—including nearly a dozen since 2011—have enacted new or stricter voter-identification laws. Critics say the requirements have prevented a significant number of people from voting, but research indicates turnout in recent years has been strong. It’s possible both claims are true. The work of Michael McDonald , a political-science professor at the University of Florida and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, shows that far from being in decline, voter participation in U.S. presidential elections hit a 40-year high of 61.6% in 2008. Though participation decreased some in 2012, it still was 58.2%. The U.S. Census Bureau, whose official figures have dropped sharply since 1960, measures turnout by dividing the number of votes by the number of people who are 18 or older. Mr. McDonald performs the same math, but first he removes noncitizens and ineligible felons from the equation and adds in overseas voters, such as members of the military. His tally, he says, represents eligible voters rather than simply anyone who is old enough to vote.

National: Privacy advocates sue Pentagon over Internet voting test results | The Washington Post

Privacy advocates, worried that the Defense Department is sinking millions of dollars into unproven online voting systems, are suing the Pentagon for the release of long-promised test results on whether Internet-based voting is safe. The subtext of the lawsuit is that after spending millions on online voting experiments — in 2010 alone, the Defense Department’s Federal Voting Assistance Program received $9 million from Congress to design and test Internet-based voting — privacy advocates worry that online voting could spread in the United States without proper vetting. The Electronic Privacy Information Center, a D.C.-based advocacy group, filed a lawsuit last month against the Pentagon, under the Freedom of Information Act, to compel the release of the results of the department’s test of its online voting system. Ginger McCall is the director of EPIC’s open government project. “Voting is an integral part of our democratic system,” she said, “and it is imperative that the public have information about whether or not e-voting systems are really secure and reliable before they are used or more money is spent on their acquisition.”

National: New online tool helps troops overseas vote | Stripes

With the midterm elections approaching, voting activists have developed a new online tool to make it easier for servicemembers deployed overseas to cast their votes. The Can I Vote Absentee? widget provides information about absentee voting rules and regulations on a state-by-state basis. It also helps people register to vote and request their ballots. … Registering and acquiring ballots are critical steps in the voting process, but Pamela Smith, the president of Verified Voting, emphasized the importance of getting the ballots mailed back in time. She encouraged troops to take advantage of the Military Postal Service’s special express mail delivery service for sending ballots. The service is free and gets each ballot back to election officials within two days on average, she told reporters. “This is really helpful because it makes it a secure and private way to get your ballot back,” she said.

National: Three years later, Pentagon unit still hides Internet voting test results | McClatchy

A nonprofit watchdog group is suing an obscure Defense Department unit over its failure for three years to disclose the results of testing on the security safeguards of Internet voting systems that are increasingly being used to cast absentee ballots. The Pentagon unit, the Federal Voting Assistance Program, has effectively bankrolled many states’ shift to online voting, disbursing tens of millions of dollars in grants for the purchase of equipment that includes Internet balloting options. Its actions have drawn consternation from cyber experts, who have warned for years that Internet voting is an easy target for hackers who could tamper with or even fix election results. The government’s premier technology testing agency also has refused to endorse these systems. Now, on the eve of another federal election in which at least 31 states plan to use some form of online voting, the Electronic Privacy Information Center is pressing a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit demanding disclosure of the test results so it can disseminate the information nationwide.

National: Justices Take Cases on Redistricting and Judicial Elections | New York Times

The Supreme Court on Thursday added 11 cases to its docket, including ones on redistricting, judicial elections and discrimination in housing and employment. … The redistricting case will consider the fate of an independent commission created by Arizona voters in 2000 in an effort to make the process of drawing congressional district lines less partisan. The court’s decision is likely to affect a similar body in California. The Arizona commission has five members, with two each chosen by Republican and Democratic lawmakers. The final member is chosen by the other four. Republican lawmakers have complained that the commission’s latest efforts favored Democrats. The Republican-led State Legislature sued, saying that the voters did not have the power to strip elected lawmakers of their power to draw district lines. They pointed to a provision of the federal Constitution that says, “The times, places and manner of holding elections for senators and representatives shall be prescribed in each state by the Legislature thereof.”

National: As Dark Money Floods U.S. Elections, Regulators Turn a Blind Eye | Newsweek

With apologies to the cast of Cabaret, dark money makes the political world go round. Confusing rules and a regulatory void in campaign finance have unleashed a tsunami of cash from anonymous donors that is expected to have unprecedented influence over the midterm elections in November. As a result of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission judgment in 2010, individuals—and big corporations—received a carte blanche to make unlimited anonymous financial donations to “nondisclosing” organizations, increasingly nonprofit groups whose primary mission is defined as “social welfare.” There are some guidelines: Such groups, categorized as 501(c)(4), can devote no more than half of their funds to political spending if they want to retain their nondisclosing tax-exempt status. The trouble is, who is holding them to account? Since the Internal Revenue Service got hammered for oversight activities that were at best overzealous, at worst partisan, many of these groups can essentially do whatever they want, unchallenged.

National: Voter Turnout Plummeting in Local Elections | Governing

ust over a fifth of registered voters cast their ballots in the Los Angeles primary and runoff elections that ushered in Mayor Eric Garcetti last year. The elections continued a persistent downward trend in voter participation that’s not limited to Los Angeles. In New York, Bill de Blasio won a landslide election that similarly saw the lowest voter turnout since at least the 1950s. More recently, just over a quarter of voters showed up for the District of Columbia’s hotly-contested mayoral primary – the lowest turnout in more than 30 years. Voter turnout for local elections, typically held in off-cycle years, has historically lagged behind state and federal races set to take place in November, but recent results suggest it’s slowly becoming even worse. University of Wisconsin researchers provided Governing with elections data covering 144 larger U.S. cities, depicting a decline in voter turnout in odd-numbered years over the previous decade. In 2001, an average of 26.6 percent of cities’ voting-age population cast ballots, while less than 21 percent did so in 2011. Turnout for primary and general local elections fluctuate from year to year, but long-term trends in many larger cities suggest voter interest has waned.

National: Early voting is changing election ‘day’ into election ‘month’ | Los Angeles Times

The midterm election may be weeks away, but tens of thousands of ballots have already been cast in a reprise of an increasingly powerful political tool: early voting. In North Carolina, which has a pivotal U.S. Senate contest at the top of the ticket, voting began Sept. 5 when absentee ballots were mailed to voters. As of Friday about 15,000 voters — the majority of them Democrats — had requested ballots ahead of Nov. 4. On Thursday, Iowans, who will choose between Democratic U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley and Republican state Sen. Joni Ernst in a competitive race for an open Senate seat, began to vote both in person and through early absentee ballots. Already, more than 145,000 voters have requested absentee ballots, with Democrats outpacing Republicans by about 38,000 requests, according to the Iowa secretary of state’s office. In 2010, Democrats in the Hawkeye State cast 19,000 more early ballots than did Republicans.

National: Most states aren’t waiting until Election Day to start voting | CBS

Iowa is home to one of the most closely watched Senate races this year and voters don’t have to wait until November to vote for their candidate – voters can vote early, in-person starting Thursday. Thirty-six states plus the District of Columbia have some form of early voting, that is, allowing many people to vote before Election Day without needing an excuse to do so. Eight of these states feature races for the U.S. Senate that CBS News is calling competitive. The portion of voters who cast their ballots early has been on the rise. Ten years ago, fewer than a quarter of ballots were cast early nationwide for president, but that figure climbed to 35 percent in 2012 (representing about 45 million votes) and 30 percent in the 2010 midterm elections. The Democratic Party has been successful in their organizational efforts to get out the vote early during the last two presidential elections, but both parties will look up to lock up as much of the vote as early as they can.

National: Why Voting Machines Are About To Wreak Havoc On Another Election | ThinkProgress

In 2012, hundreds of thousands of people across the U.S. waited, at first patiently and then with growing frustration, in lines that ventured out the doors and wrapped around street corners. They weren’t waiting more than seven hours in line to buy the new iPhone — they were waiting to vote on an electronic touch-screen machine. Technology has made life easier, simplifying common tasks such as banking, publishing a book, talking to friends and paying for things online. But when it comes to voting, technology is stuck in 2002. And with the decade-old electronic voting machines that states use falling apart — creating long lines that cause some not vote at all — voters are slowly losing access to their voting rights. There’s been renewed emphasis on voting rights in the last year, since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a key portion of the Voting Rights Act. … But even without ID laws, voters face obstacles at polling centers having to wait hours to vote in some regions partly because of outdated and too few electronic voting machines.

National: G.O.P. Error Reveals Donors and the Price of Access | New York Times

In politics, it is sometimes better to be lucky than good. Republicans and Democrats, and groups sympathetic to each, spend millions on sophisticated technology to gain an advantage. They do it to exploit vulnerabilities and to make their own information secure. But sometimes, a simple coding mistake can lay bare documents and data that were supposed to be concealed from the prying eyes of the public. Such an error by the Republican Governors Association recently resulted in the disclosure of exactly the kind of information that political committees given tax-exempt status usually keep secret, namely their corporate donors and the size of their checks. That set off something of an online search war between the association and a Washington watchdog group that spilled other documents, Democratic and Republican, into the open. The documents, many of which the Republican officials have since removed from their website, showed that many of America’s most prominent companies, from Aetna to Walmart, had poured millions of dollars into the campaigns of Republican governors since 2008. One document listed 17 corporate “members” of the governors association’s secretive 501(c)(4), the Republican Governors Public Policy Committee, which is allowed to shield its supporters from the public.

National: Voting rights battle could aid minority turnout | USA Today

Democrats and civil rights groups hope the fight to restore a key provision of the Voting Rights Act will boost turnout among minority voters this year, particularly in the South. “We’re going to do some things to raise the profile of the Voting Rights Act and the fact that the Supreme Court gutted it,” said Rep. Cedric Richmond, a Democrat from Louisiana. “You will see us be more active. We tried to do it in a very bipartisan manner … But it just doesn’t seem like that’s going to go far enough soon enough, so it’s going to be a fight.” Richmond is among those working to pass legislation that would revive a section of the 1965 Voting Rights Act that the Supreme Court threw out last year. The bill’s supporters are making their case at press conferences, town halls and in newspapers — online and in print — to mobilize voters. The issue will be the focus of several panels at the Congressional Black Caucus’ annual legislative convention in Washington this week.

National: Access to polls is in the hands of the courts | MSNBC

Wisconsin’s voter ID law was on, then off, and now back on again—for now. A similar Texas law was blocked by a federal court before going into force last year, and could now be nixed once more. North Carolina’s sweeping and restrictive voting law looks likely to be in effect this November, but there’s no guarantee. Ohio’s cuts to early voting were put on hold recently, but that decision too could be reversed. And no one seems to know what’s going to happen with Arkansas’ ID law. In a slew of states with crucial races this fall, access to the polls is in the hands of the courts. That reality underlines how last year’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling that weakened the Voting Rights Act has transformed the legal landscape on the issue — but also how the conservative push to restrict voting is now a national, not a regional, campaign. It’s a situation that is likely to cause confusion for voters no matter the legal outcomes. And looming at the end of the road is the Supreme Court led by Chief Justice John Roberts, no friend of voting rights, which could upend everything if it decides to clear things up by weighing in. “That is the big question right now,” said Myrna Perez, a top voting rights lawyer with the Brennan Center for Justice, who has been arguing the Texas case. “Is this going to get before the court before the 2014 election? It’s certainly something that folks are pondering.”

National: Voting’s ‘impending crisis’ | Al Jazeera

A recent presidential commission report on election administration characterizes the state of U.S. voting machines as an “impending crisis.” According to the report, created in response to a presidential order, existing voting machines are reaching the end of their operational life spans, jurisdictions often lack the funds to replace them, and those with funds find market offerings limited because several constraints have made manufacturing new machines difficult. On Election Day, these problems could translate into hours-long waits, lost votes and errors in election results. In the long term, such problems breed a lack of trust in the democratic process, reducing the public’s faith in government, experts say. According to Barbara Simons, a member of the board of advisers to the federal Election Assistance Commission (EAC), the problem can’t be avoided any longer. “People died for the right to vote as recently as the civil rights movement,” she said. “The American Revolution was all about being able to control our own democracy, and that means voting … We know that a lot of machines were breaking in the 2012 election. It’s not that it’s an impending crisis. This crisis is already here.” Also, outdated voting machines can present security risks both in hardware deficiencies (some machines use generic keys to protect sensitive panels) and in software flaws that are difficult if not impossible to detect when compromised, according to security audits. Assessing the security of many of these systems is difficult, however, since companies insist proprietary software and hardware may not be disclosed to third parties. Government audits are often not fully public. The current problem is rooted in the short-term fixes that were implemented to solve the last major voting crisis, in 2000, when unreliable punchcard machines led to ambiguous ballots in Florida, putting the presidential election into question. After further issues in the 2002 midterm elections, Congress passed the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) that fall. HAVA gave states millions of dollars to replace punchcard machines and created the EAC, charged with establishing standards for voting systems.

National: Waiting at the polls: Long lines and voting rights | Facing South

Every big election year, horror stories surface around the South and the rest of the country of voters having to wait for hours to cast their ballots. In 2008, reports came out of Georgia of voters having to stand in line for up to 12 hours to vote. In 2012, the battleground state of Florida garnered national headlines with accounts of voters waiting six hours at the polls. In 2013, President Obama assembled a 10-member bipartisan commission to look into the experiences of voters in the previous year’s elections and to propose solutions to help streamline the voting process. The commission found that the Florida and Georgia experiences weren’t isolated: More than 10 million people had to wait more than half an hour to vote in 2012. Arguing that “no citizen should have to wait in line for more than 30 minutes to vote,” the group outlined a series of ways election officials could make voting easier, saying that “jurisdictions can solve the problem of long lines through a combination of planning … and the efficient allocation of resources.” Yet despite a flurry of election law bills at the state level, many states have failed to act on the commission’s proposals and make improvements to ensure long wait times don’t taint the 2014 mid-term elections.

National: 5 States Put Voting Reform to the Voters | Governing

American election reform, where states look to either impede or assist people’s ability to influence government with their vote. Ballots in at least five states — Connecticut, Montana, Missouri, Illinois and Arkansas — focus on some kind of election reform. Most states have made voting harder in the past decade by enacting voter ID laws, ostensibly to guard against voter impersonation, a problem that the public believes to be more widespread than the evidence suggests. For example, a five-year crackdown by the Justice Department under President George W. Bush resulted in only 86 people being found guilty of voter fraud across all 50 states, according to a 2007 investigation by The New York Times. In part because many of these voter ID laws have already passed, the majority of the legislative activity in 2014 actually focused on making voting more convenient. … Based on interviews with state and local election officials in states with early voting, the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University Law School argues that early voting brings a host of benefits, including shorter lines and less administrative burden on election day. Nonetheless, eight states have cut back on early voting since 2010. One recent example is North Carolina, where the legislature decided to cut a week of early voting, eliminate same-day registration during early voting and reduce the hours of early voting on the final Saturday before election day.

National: The first midterm election votes will be cast this week | The Washington Post

In an era of early voting, no-fault absentee ballots and all-mail elections, Election Day is something of a misnomer. Candidates and their supporters now drive their voters to the polls for days, weeks, sometimes more than a month. And it’s already kicked off: 379 voters in North Carolina have requested and returned absentee ballots from state elections officials. More states join in this week. Somewhere in Minnesota this Friday, a voter will cast the first ballot of that state’s midterm election. The following day, voters in Maine, New Jersey, South Dakota and Vermont will be able to go to local elections offices and do their civic duty, too. Before the month is out, voters in Iowa and Wyoming will start casting their ballots, too.

National: The average margin of victory for 2014 House primary winners was 77 points | The Washington Post

There is one key way to increase the margin by which you win your primary: Be the incumbent. Granted, it’s hard to be the incumbent until you’ve already won a race (although not impossible!). But it’s still about the most sure-fire way to ensure you’ll win handily. That’s still very much true, but at least things are getting more competitive. With the 2014 primary season concluding Tuesday, we pulled data on the five most recent primary seasons to see how much that incumbent effect changed over time. The good news: Races are getting closer! The bad news: Only under a very particular subset of conditions. And they’re not getting very much closer. But, still! The average margin of victory for winners of House primaries in 2014 topped 77 percent; for the Senate, it was nearly 70.

National: Study finds transgender voters could lose big in the midterms | MSNBC

Approximately 24,000 transgender citizens do not have the proper identification to comply with certain states’ strict voter ID laws, leaving them vulnerable to significant barriers at the polls and possibly disenfranchisement this November, a new study from the Williams Institute has found. According to the report, the 10 states where transgender voters stand to face the toughest challenges this election cycle include Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Mississippi, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and Wisconsin. Most of those states have passed photo ID requirements – the strictest kind of voter identification law – which call for citizens to present a specific type of government-issued photo ID before casting a ballot. For some with gender dysphoria, a condition in which there is a marked difference between a person’s expressed or experienced gender and the gender others would assign him or her, updating state-issued IDs can be prohibitively difficult and costly.

National: Voting rights cases may be headed back to Supreme Court | USA Today

The Supreme Court’s decision last year eliminating a barrier against voting procedure changes in mostly Southern states came with a caveat: Chief Justice John Roberts warned that the Voting Rights Act still included a “permanent, nationwide ban on racial discrimination in voting.” Now federal courts from Texas to Wisconsin are on the verge of deciding whether Roberts was right — or if what remains of the 1965 law after the Supreme Court’s 2013 ruling is less able to stop states from making it harder to vote. An appeals court hearing Friday in the Wisconsin case, following a two-week trial in a Texas district court, might point the way back to the Supreme Court. Cases in North Carolina and Ohio also could be headed that way. Those states and others have made voting more difficult in recent years to combat what they claim are instances of voter fraud. Texas imposed strict new photo identification rules hours after the Supreme Court ruling. North Carolina cut back on early voting, same-day registration and provisional balloting. They were among 15 states freed in whole or in part from Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which requires states with a history of discrimination to clear any changes with the Justice Department. The high court’s decision in Shelby County v. Holder struck down the list of states dating back a half century.

National: Senate blocks campaign finance amendment | Politico

Senate Republicans unanimously rejected a constitutional amendment sought by Democrats that would allow Congress to regulate campaign finance reform. The measure failed to clear a 60-vote threshold on Thursday afternoon, 54-42. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) quickly moved to hammer Republicans and tie them to Charles and David Koch, billionaire brothers who back national conservative political operations. “Senate Democrats want a government that works for all Americans — not just the richest few. Today, Senate Republicans clearly showed that they would rather sideline hardworking families in order to protect the Koch brothers and other radical interests that are working to fix our elections and buy our democracy,” Reid said after the vote. The constitutional amendment would allow Congress and state lawmakers to override recent Supreme Court decisions that have struck down campaign finance laws previously passed by Capitol Hill — language that Republicans argued amounts to an attack on the Bill of Rights.

National: On Facebook, Nobody Knows You’re a Voter. Well, Almost Nobody. | New York Times

Your Facebook profile doesn’t have boxes to check which political party you belong to or whether you voted in the last election. But political organizations who already know that can now deliver Facebook ads to fit your political preferences. At least two statewide campaigns during the past year have used the new tool, “Custom Managed Audiences,” to reach Facebook users who are registered voters or political supporters. Facebook says Terry McAuliffe’s election as Virginia governor in 2013 and this year’s re-election effort of John Cornyn, a Texas Republican senator, are examples of successful user targeting via voter lists. The company first introduced the tool in February 2013 and recently upgraded its capabilities. Linking the two isolated sets of data and teasing out information on voter preferences and opinions is a new front in microtargeting. Even smaller campaigns could use the technique to sway small but crucial sets of voters with very specific messages. Facebook’s most notable achievement may be that it makes some of the sophisticated approaches used during the 2008 and 2012 presidential campaigns affordable to other kinds of political contests.

National: Reid sets up next vote on campaign spending | The Hill

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) filed cloture on a constitutional amendment meant to reverse two recent Supreme Court decisions on campaign spending. Republicans are likely to vote against the amendment on a procedural vote that is expected to occur Thursday. Earlier this week, Republicans supported advancing the measure because they said it deserved debate — that move also tied up the Senate from considering anything else for nearly three days. Democrats have had less time to hold other political votes during the two-week session before adjourning for the midterm elections. Reid has said he also wants to hold votes on Democrats’ political priorities, such as equal pay for women and refinancing student loan rates.

National: Senate Moves Forward In Bid To Limit Campaign Funds | NPR

The Senate voted overwhelmingly Monday to debate a proposed constitutional amendment that would let Congress and the states put caps on political spending. But that’s probably the high-water mark for the amendment. When Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) called the vote tally, it looked like a big win for advocates of the constitutional amendment: 79 ayes, 18 nays. That’s a dozen votes more than the 67-vote majority needed to actually move the amendment out of the Senate and over to the House. But it was a strategic move as 25 of the Senate’s 45 Republicans voted aye. It allows the GOP to prolong the debate and spend less time on other measures that Democrats want to vote on before the midterm elections – measures such as equal pay for women and college affordability. Democrats pretty much ignored the stalling tactic and insisted this is an important vote. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) said, “There are times when action is required to defend our great democracy against those who would see it converted into one more rigged game where the rich and the powerful always win. This is the time to amend the Constitution.” But setting the political gamesmanship aside, one question lingers. When pollsters ask Americans about the political money system, overwhelming percentages basically say they hate it. So why doesn’t Congress do something?

National: Voting form downloads decrease from 2010 | Marine Corps Times

The number of military and overseas voters who have downloaded Federal Post Card Applications from the DoD website is down by more than half compared the 2010 midterm elections, Defense Department officials said. But that’s not necessarily an indication that voter turnout among the military and overseas absentee voter population will be low, officials said. For one thing, the number of troops deployed has decreased, which reduces the number of absentee voters. Other factors are in play as well. In the past, the rate of military voter registration and election participation has been higher than in the general population, noted Matt Boehmer, director of the Federal Voting Assistance Program.

National: The Democrats’ Katherine Harris Strategy | The Daily Beast

With control of the Senate up for grabs and a Republican House looking to expand its majority in November, it would seem strange for DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz to spend even a minute thinking about usually sleepy down-ballot races like the open seat for Iowa’s Secretary of State. But at the Democratic National Committee summer meeting last month, Wasserman Schultz not only talked about that Iowa contest—she also promised to campaign for the Democrat in the race, Brad Anderson, and four other Democratic secretary of state candidates in swing states across the country this fall. Why use so much fire power on such low-profile offices? “We’re committed to ensuring that those who administer elections do so fairly,” Wasserman Schultz said, singling out five races in Ohio, New Mexico, Colorado, and Nevada, in addition to Iowa, as the ones she’s most focused on. “The fights over voter ID and early voting are just the latest reminder of how important the rules for elections are in shaping the electorate and determining the eventual outcomes.”

National: Voting Restrictions Are Key Variable in Midterm Elections | New York Times

Voting in midterm elections that will determine control of Congress ends this fall. But it starts in North Carolina this week. On Friday, election officials begin mailing absentee ballots there, followed soon by Alaska and Georgia — with no excuses required. Iowans can vote in person beginning Sept. 25. After decades of expansion in American voting methods, an estimated one-third of all ballots will be cast before the traditional Election Day on Nov. 4. Yet this year, the trend collides with a Republican-led pushback in some states — for reasons of cost-cutting and election integrity or, as the Obama administration and civil rights groups suggest, crimping turnout by Democrats. Various new restrictions on voting, which range from more stringent identification requirements to fewer registration opportunities to curbs on early voting, have been put into place. A key election variable is whether the new limits will tilt close races. They might not. New voting restrictions have proven to be mobilizing tools for constituencies that feel threatened by them. In 2012, President Obama won battleground states, such as Florida and New Hampshire, where new limits had taken effect.

National: California, Texas Serve as Testing Grounds for Open-Source Voting Technology | PublicCEO

With counties staring down eventual replacement of their election management systems, some in California and Texas are leading the charge for an alternative that could save counties a lot of money and change an industry.​​ Open-source voting would use software designed by counties, which could run on inexpensive computer terminals to design, print and count paper ballots. All of which purportedly increases transparency and security, Most of the savings would come from eliminating the software license fees charged for management system vendors’ proprietary programs. Twelve years after the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) mandated new voting technology, the machines and software are reaching the end of their usable lives in counties nationwide, and voting officials are feeling pressure. Travis County, Texas’ machines have generally been reliably operational — though a few have begun freezing — but County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir said she is worried they won’t remain in working order for long. HAVA’s $3.5 billion that helped fund the new election management systems will likely not be replenished to help replace them. “It’s the same urgency we all feel in counties everywhere,” she said. “We all bought new voting systems at the same time and now we’re all watching them approach their ends-of-life at the same time. Counties just don’t have multi-millions to pay for new voting systems.”