National: How Hurricane Sandy could affect the election | Washington Post

Could the deadly Hurricane Sandy, headed for the East Coast, have an impact on the election?  The storm is already affecting campaign schedules — Romney has canceled a planned rally in Virginia Beach. While the storm is expected to have passed by Nov. 6, it could leave flooding, power outages and destruction in its wake that would make it hard for voters to get to the polls. Two key states — Virginia and North Carolina — are in the path of the storm. So is Pennsylvania, a Democratic-leaning state that Republicans often eye. Rain showers and wind have already hit the coast of Florida. Parts of Ohio will feel the effects.

National: The Danger of Voter Fraud Vigilantes | NYTimes.com

In 2008, Montana was the canary in the coal mine. About a month before the election, a local citizen named Jacob Eaton formally challenged Kevin Furey’s voter registration, swearing that he was no longer eligible to vote. Furey had asked the post office to change his address from Helena to Missoula. Eaton asked local election officials to take Furey off the Helena rolls. Eaton did not, presumably, know that his target was 1st Lieutenant Kevin Furey, an Army Reserve officer deploying to Iraq. Lt. Furey had asked the post office to send his mail to his mother in Missoula while he was overseas. His legal residence never left Helena, and his right to vote there never changed. Had the challenge succeeded while he was deployed, Lt. Furey would have lost the chance to vote for his own commander in chief. Lt. Furey was not alone. Amateur “sleuths” challenged the voting rights of more than 6,000 other Montanans, based on a blunderbuss attempt to scan data records for ostensibly suspicious activity. When something looked suspicious (to them), they asked officials to cancel the offending registrations. In Montana, the challengers looked for postal records that didn’t match the voter rolls; other amateur detectives deployed different variations elsewhere.

National: No Supreme Court Action on Voting Rights Act | Associated Press

Three years ago, the Supreme Court warned there could be constitutional problems with a landmark civil rights law that has opened voting booths to millions of African-Americans. Now, opponents of a key part of the Voting Rights Act are asking the high court to finish off that provision. The basic question is whether state and local governments that once boasted of their racial discrimination still can be forced in the 21st century to get federal permission before making changes in the way they hold elections.

National: Spectre of Florida recount hangs over U.S. campaigns’ push for early voting | The Globe and Mail

No American election would be complete without the armies of lawyers that are being assembled by both parties to contest the results and monitor recounts if the outcome in some states is too close to call on Nov. 6. The nightmare scenario of 2000 – when a recount in Florida left the nation in limbo for days – is once again top of mind. The Obama campaign has launched an ad recalling the circumstances that allowed George W. Bush to claim the presidency 12 years ago, when the U.S. Supreme Court halted a recount in Florida with Mr. Bush ahead by only 537 votes.

National: Campaign lawyers gear up for nail-biter election | Deutsche Welle

The dead heat in the presidential race between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney brings back memories of the controversial 2000 election. But unlike 12 years ago, this time everyone is prepared to engage in legal battle. If the history of the 2000 presidential contest between George W. Bush and Al Gore is any indication of this year’s election, we could be heading toward a political cliffhanger. That’s because at this point – a week before election day on November 6 – the race between Obama and Romney might even be closer than that of 2000 between Bush and Gore. According to Real Clear Politics’ national average, a sort of aggregated poll of most national surveys, Romney currently leads Obama by less than one percent point – a virtual tie. Back in 2000, at the same time, most national polls had Bush in front by several points.

National: How Hurricane Sandy Could Spoil Election Day | The New Republic

Could Hurricane Sandy lead to a constitutional crisis? Since 1845, Congress has mandated that the presidential election take place on the Tuesday after the first Monday in November. But no one in the waning days of the Tyler administration anticipated a giant hurricane hitting the East Coast within a week of Election Day. In fact, there is no precedent whatsoever for a natural disaster of this scale before a federal election. A devastating storm, like Sandy, could produce several constitutional and legal crises if voting can’t take place on November 6.

National: Absentee ballots may have been destroyed in crash | Boston.com

Federal officials say that absentee ballots being sent to U.S. military serving in Afghanistan may have been burned in a plane crash. A top official in the Federal Voting Assistance Program this week notified election officials across the nation that a transport plane crashed at Shindad Air Base on Oct. 19. The crash resulted in the destruction of 4,700 pounds of mail inbound to troops serving in the area.

National: An Electoral Tie Could Bind the Senate | Roll Call

One of Washington’s favorite parlor games is conjecturing about the remote possibility of an Electoral College tie. Prognosticators have come up with various maps and scenarios under which the election would result in a 269-269 deadlock, which would vest the responsibility of choosing the country’s leaders squarely in what polls say is one of the least popular institutions in the country — Congress. There’s little dispute about what would happen in the main event. Next year’s House would choose the president, with each state delegation casting one vote.

National: Could e-voting machines in Election 2012 be hacked? Yes. | CSMonitor.com

Rapid advances in the development of cyberweapons and malicious software mean that electronic-voting machines used in the 2012 election could be hacked, potentially tipping the presidential election or a number of other races. Since the machines are not connected to the Internet, any hack would not be a matter of someone sneaking through cyberspace to change ballots. Rather, the concern is that an individual hacker, a partisan group, or even a nation state could infect voting machines by gaining physical access to them or by targeting the companies that service them.

National: Presidential election 2012: Lawyers gird for possible recounts | POLITICO.com

As the frenzied race for the White House comes down to the wire, tens of thousands of partisan lawyers are mobilizing under the radar in battleground states, all steeling for one terrifying scenario: a recount that could decide the presidency. Their objective is to head off a repeat of the Gore-Bush fiasco 12 years ago in which Al Gore won the popular vote and George W. Bush captured the Electoral College and ultimately the presidency.“They are all bracing for Florida in 2000 — everyone wants to be in position so as not to be disadvantaged by a court decision in a tie,” says Steve Schmidt, who ran John McCain’s 2008 campaign. “This [is] a preventive strategy. They are largely in search of problems that don’t yet exist. It’s like the Cold War and nuclear capability. You want to have what the other guy has. ”

National: High court weighs new look at voting rights law | Businessweek

Three years ago, the Supreme Court warned there could be constitutional problems with a landmark civil rights law that has opened voting booths to millions of African-Americans. Now, opponents of a key part of the Voting Rights Act are asking the high court to finish off that provision. The basic question is whether state and local governments that once boasted of their racial discrimination still can be forced in the 21st century to get federal permission before making changes in the way they hold elections.

National: Thousands of People Have Used Remote-Controlled Pens Over The Internet To Register To Vote | TechPresident

While it’s a drop in the bucket in numbers, this election cycle has seen one science-fiction like innovation in an area that might seem dry as dust, yet holds significance for the future of voter engagement: Voter registration. This year, more than 100,000 people have used remote-controlled pens over the Internet to sign and complete their voter-registration forms. President Obama’s re-election campaign and Rock the Vote have both used the new service from the five-person startup Allpoint Voter Services in Oakland, Calif. The Obama campaign made the service available through its GottaRegister.com Web site to voters in North Carolina, 10 other states and the District of Columbia. Campaign finance records show that the campaign spent almost $43,000 from August through last week to use the service. Allpoint provided the service to Rock the Vote for free so that they could prove that the model works and can scale, says company spokesman Jude Barry. He claims that the system could potentially process a million voter registration forms a month.

National: Election’s poll workers face a myriad of challenges amid changes in voting rules | The Washington Post

There’s no talking politics on the job. Try not to wear red or blue. No snooping through electronic records to see whether your neighbor is lying about her age. Bring plenty of food for a day that will run from 5 a.m. to as late as 9 p.m. Most important, assistant registrar Keith Heyward told volunteer poll workers in a recent training class, is try to put voters at ease. Months of news reports about photo IDs and other changes have left them confused and leery.“People are coming to the precincts expecting you to give them a hard time,” Heyward said. “We don’t need you to give them a hard time.”

National: Hurricane, and Other Worries, Buffet Presidential Race | NYTimes.com

In the dark of night, when they get what little sleep they get these days, the people running the campaigns for president have more than enough fodder for nightmares. Worse, come daybreak, they realize their worst fears may yet come true. Dancing in their heads are visions of recounts, contested ballots and lawsuits. The possibility that their candidate could win the popular vote yet lose the presidency. Even the outside chance of an Electoral College tie that throws the contest to Congress. Now add to that parade of potential horrors one more: a freakish two-in-one storm that could, if the more dire forecasts prove correct, warp an election two years and $2 billion in the making.

National: Voting Rights Act: Supreme Court Weighs New Look At Law | Huffington Post

Three years ago, the Supreme Court warned there could be constitutional problems with a landmark civil rights law that has opened voting booths to millions of African-Americans. Now, opponents of a key part of the Voting Rights Act are asking the high court to finish off that provision. The basic question is whether state and local governments that once boasted of their racial discrimination still can be forced in the 21st century to get federal permission before making changes in the way they hold elections.

National: Think the Florida Recount Was Bad? Just Wait Until November 6 | The Atlantic

The movie Unstoppable is playing this week on HBO, and it’s hard not to watch even just the trailers for the action-adventure film without seeing parallels to the coming election. Folks, we are just a little more than two weeks away from Election Day, and we may well be the runaway train, barreling straight toward an election-night, voting-rights crash-and-burn which easily could be worse and more damaging to the nation than Bush v. Gore. Not only is there no Denzel Washington to save us, not only is there no guarantee of a happy Hollywood ending, but none of the so-called adults running the country even seems willing to publicly acknowledge the danger.

National: Paper prophets: Why e-voting is on the decline in the United States | Ars Technica

Ernest Zirkle was puzzled. The resident of Fairfield Township in Cumberland County, NJ, ran for a seat on his local Democratic Executive Committee on June 7, 2011. The official results showed him earning only nine votes, compared to 34 votes for the winning candidate. But at least 28 people told Zirkle they voted for him. So he and his wife—who also ran for an open seat and lost—challenged the result in court. Eventually, a county election official admitted the result was due to a programming error. A security expert from Princeton was called in to examine the machines and make sure no foul play had occurred. Unfortunately, when he examined the equipment on August 17, 2011, he found someone deleted key files the previous day, making it impossible to investigate the cause of the malfunction. A new election was held on September 27, and the Zirkles won. A decade ago, there was a great deal of momentum toward paperless electronic voting. Spooked by the chaos of the 2000 presidential election in Florida, Congress unleashed a torrent of money to buy new high-tech machines. Today, momentum is in the opposite direction. Computer security researchers have convinced most observers that machines like the ones in Fairfield Township degrade the security and reliability of elections rather than enhancing them. Several states passed laws mandating an end to paperless elections. But bureaucratic inertia and tight budgets have slowed the pace at which these flawed machines can be retired.

National: Election will all be over in 12 more days, or will it? | latimes.com

Late the night of Nov. 6, or by the wee hours of Nov. 7, Americans should know the results of the presidential election, right? Probably. But the extremely tight races in several states, shifting voter identification requirements, the increased use of “provisional” ballots and automatic recount provisions in key states all expand the possibility of a prolonged, slow-motion finish. Ten states in recent years have passed laws requiring voters to show government-issued photo identification. This, in turn, has prompted lawsuits by those who say not all eligible voters can meet the requirements.

National: Blocking the Vote | NYTimes.com

The Republican Party has made voter fraud the red herring of this election. Now it turns out the party has been forced to cut its ties to a well-paid consulting firm after cases of real voter registration abuse arose in several swing states. A thorough federal investigation of the consulting firm, Strategic Allied Consulting, is needed.

National: Despite e-voting improvements, audits still needed for ballot integrity | Computerworld

Technology and process upgrades implemented since the controversial 2000 presidential election have made electronic voting machines more secure and reliable to use, the Caltech-MIT Voting Technology Project said in a report last week. Even so, the only way to ensure the integrity of votes cast with the systems is to have mandatory auditing of the results and of all voting technologies used in an election, the 85-page report cautioned. Rather than setting security standards for election equipment, the better approach for safeguarding ballot integrity is to hand-count a sufficiently large and random sample of the paper records of votes cast electronically, it said. “The 2000 United States presidential election put a spotlight on the fragility and vulnerability of voting technology,” the report said. “It became clear that providing robust, accurate, and secure voting systems remained an important open technical problem” for the United States. The Voting Technology Project is a joint initiative between MIT and Caltech and was launched originally to investigate the causes of the voting problems in Florida in 2000 and to make recommendations based on the findings.

National: Will Voter Suppression Tactics Threaten Free and Fair Elections? | PR Watch

he wave of new voter restrictions and scare tactics being implemented for the 2012 elections — such as voter ID laws, early voting restrictions, threatening billboards, misleading mailers and vigilante poll watchers — could intimidate countless numbers of Americans from exercising their right to vote. Republicans have proposed voting restrictions in a majority of states since 2011, including strict voter ID laws and limits on early voting and voter registration. Though many of the laws have been blunted, confusion about voting requirements could still make it harder for many Americans to exercise their right to the franchise. At the same time, the Tea Party group “True the Vote” — which has been accused of voter intimidation — is pledging to send one million observers to polling places on November 6, and has been filing largely baseless lawsuits to purge voters from the rolls.

National: Obama Campaign Uses Early Voting System to Its Advantage | NYTimes.com

Having shouted himself hoarse for two days urging supporters to vote, and vote early, President Obama flew to Chicago to do so himself this afternoon, on his way to an evening rally here in Ohio. His campaign says he is the first sitting president to vote for himself ahead of Election Day. In casting his ballot early, Mr. Obama is providing a very personal endorsement of a system that was enormously successful for him in 2008, and may be the key to his re-election hopes. His narrow win in North Carolina four years ago was driven in large part by early voters, who turned out in larger numbers than those on Election Day, and tended to support Mr. Obama. They also gave him a winning margin in Iowa, Florida and Colorado.

National: E-voting puts vote accuracy at risk in four key states | CSMonitor.com

Touch-screen electronic voting machines in at least four states pose a risk to the integrity of the 2012 presidential election, according to a Monitor analysis. In four key battleground states – Pennsylvania, Virginia, Florida, and Colorado – glitches in e-voting machines could produce incorrect or incomplete tallies that would be difficult to detect and all but impossible to correct because the machines have no paper record for officials to go back and check.

National: Groups Use Fake Letters, Felony Threats to Suppress Vote | Bloomberg

When Phyllis Cleveland first saw the billboard on East 35th Street warning of prison time and a $10,000 fine for voter fraud, the city councilwoman concluded it had one purpose: to intimidate the constituents of her predominantly low-income ward in Cleveland, Ohio. “It just hit me in the gut when I saw it,” said Cleveland, who helped capture the attention of a coalition of civil rights groups that pressured Clear Channel Outdoor Holdings (CCO) Inc. to remove the billboards this week.

National: Who Created the Voter-Fraud Myth? | The New Yorker

Teresa Sharp is fifty-three years old and has lived in a modest single-family house on Millsdale Street, in a suburb of Cincinnati, for nearly thirty-three years. A lifelong Democrat, she has voted in every Presidential election since she turned eighteen. So she was agitated when an official summons from the Hamilton County Board of Elections arrived in the mail last month. Hamilton County, which includes Cincinnati, is one of the most populous regions of the most fiercely contested state in the 2012 election. No Republican candidate has ever won the Presidency without carrying Ohio, and recent polls show Barack Obama and Mitt Romney almost even in the state. Every vote may matter, including those cast by the seven members of the Sharp family—Teresa, her husband, four grown children, and an elderly aunt—living in the Millsdale Street house. The letter, which cited arcane legal statutes and was printed on government letterhead, was dated September 4th. “You are hereby notified that your right to vote has been challenged by a qualified elector,” it said. “The Hamilton County Board of Elections has scheduled a hearing regarding your right to vote on Monday, September 10th, 2012, at 8:30 a.m. . . . You have the right to appear and testify, call witnesses and be represented by counsel.” “My first thought was, Oh, no!” Sharp, who is African-American, said. “They ain’t messing with us poor black folks! Who is challenging my right to vote?”

National: Electronic Voting Machines Still Widely Used Despite Security Concerns | Huffington Post

For years, researchers have been aware of numerous security flaws in electronic voting machines. They’ve found ways to hack the machines to swap votes between candidates, reject ballots or accept 50,000 votes from a precinct with just 100 voters. Yet on Nov. 6, millions of voters — including many in hotly contested swing states — will cast ballots on e-voting machines that researchers have found are vulnerable to hackers. What is more troubling, say some critics, is that election officials have no way to verify that votes are counted accurately because some states do not use e-voting machines that produce paper ballots.After the “hanging chad” controversy of the 2000 election, Congress passed a federal law that gave states funding to replace their punch card and lever voting systems with electronic voting machines. But computer scientists have repeatedly demonstrated that a variety of electronic voting machines can be hacked — often quite easily. “Every time they are studied, we find further problems,” said J. Alex Halderman, a computer science professor at the University of Michigan who researches voting machine security.

National: National tribal group focuses on voter ID laws, encourages registration in Indian Country | The Washington Post

New voter identification laws in a dozen states could negatively affect voter participation in Native American and Alaska Native communities, a tribal advocacy group says. The National Congress of American Indians released a report Monday that highlights the states, including some where photo identification will be required at the polls on Election Day. Two of the states — Alaska and Florida — do not list tribal ID cards as acceptable forms of identification at the polls. Problems with other new voter ID laws include requirements that voters provide their home addresses, since some tribal communities have no street addresses, and the “barriers of cost, logistics and distance to obtaining required IDs,” the study says.

National: Getting to Vote Is Getting Harder | NYTimes.com

A wave of at least 180 proposed laws tightening voting rules washed over 41 statehouses in 2011 and 2012, by the count of New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice. Only a fraction of those bills passed and survived the scrutiny of the courts, but the new rules cover voters in 13 states, several quite populous, in time for next month’s election. More laws are to start afterward. Partisans and experts are arguing, over the airwaves and in the courts, about the effects of all this on voter turnout, for which few studies exist. (The most rigid voter ID laws are believed to affect about 10 percent of eligible voters, said Lawrence Norden of the Brennan Center.)

National: Voter ID Laws, Registration Challenges Create Hurdles For College Students Ahead Of Election

College students who want to vote in the state where they go to school have some hurdles to jump. In Minnesota, for example, a proposed Voter Restriction Constitutional Amendment on the state’s November ballot would require a valid state photo ID to vote. Under the law, students in the University of Minnesota system would be able to vote with their U-Cards, issued by the school at voting booths on campus, according to the Twin Cities Daily Planet. However, the same is not true for students at private colleges in the state; they would be required to seek an ID from the Department of Vehicle Services stations. At Minnesota private schools like the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University or Concordia University, the 17 to 28 percent of students who come from out of state would find it harder to vote in local and federal elections in Minnesota. At the Minneapolis College of Art and Design the 42 percent out-of-state students would also need a Minnesota ID to vote.

National: Will voter suppression and dirty tricks swing the election? | Salon.com

On Thursday of last week, Virginia authorities charged a man working for the Republican Party with dumping the voter registration forms of Democrats. In Albertis, Pa., authorities arrested the town’s 19-year-old Democratic city council member after he allegedly stole yard signs of his Republican opponent.  In minority urban areas of Ohio and Wisconsin, an anonymous group has paid Clear Channel (owned in part by Mitt Romney’s former company Bain Capital) to put up billboards proclaiming that “Voter Fraud Is a Felony.”  And a Tea Party-affiliated group, True the Vote, is promising to send observers into polling places in Democratic areas, leading Democrats to cry voter intimidation. Does this stuff matter? Or is it just a bunch of noise before our hyper-polarized and hyper-partisan election, as polls show both sides expect the other to try to steal the election? The answer is probably a little bit of both. But the real action when it comes to affecting election turnout probably happened months or even years ago.