Call them the voter fraud brain trust. A cadre of influential Washington, D.C., election lawyers has mobilized a sophisticated anti-fraud campaign built around lawsuits, white papers, Congressional testimony, speeches and even best-selling books. Less well-known than Indiana election lawyer James Bopp Jr., who’s made a national name for himself challenging the political money laws, conservative veterans of voting wars such as Hans von Spakovsky and J. Christian Adams nonetheless play a role similar to Bopp’s in their behind-the-scenes fight to protect ballot integrity. Both former Justice Department officials, von Spakovsky and Adams have worked alongside such anti-fraud activists as Thomas Fitton, president of Judicial Watch, and Catherine Engelbrecht, president of the tea party group True the Vote.
Democratic Rep. Mark Critz’s chances of hanging onto his seat representing Southwestern Pennsylvania could hinge on a lawsuit filed by a 93-year-old great grandmother over the state’s new voter identification law.
The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania is hearing Viviette Applewhite’s appeal today so it can decide whether the recently enacted statute is so burdensome on some citizens that it violates Pennsylvania’s constitution. Like other lawsuits across the country, it pits Republicans concerned about voter fraud against Democrats worried about voter suppression. The outcome could affect turnout on Election Day and spawn legal challenges afterward.
Today is Election Day. And so is tomorrow. And the day after that. By the end of September, voters in 30 states will start casting early or absentee ballots in the presidential race — a fact that both poses challenges for the campaigns seeking to make their final pitches as well as raises the stakes between now and Nov. 6. Absentee ballots have been mailed out in key swing states like North Carolina, Virginia, Wisconsin and New Hampshire. In South Dakota and Idaho — firmly red states — early voting began Friday, and in-person early voting in the crucial swing state of Iowa begins this Thursday. “It’s no longer Election Day; it’s election two months,” said Pete Snyder, the Republican National Committee Victory chairman in Virginia.
National: Study says voter roll purges, citizenship proof demands, photo ID may affect 10 million Hispanics | The Washington Post
The combined effects of voter roll purges, demands for proof of citizenship and photo identification requirements in several states may hinder at least 10 million Hispanic citizens who seek to vote this fall, civil rights advocates warn in a new report. Hispanic voters are considered pivotal to the presidential election this November, and are being heavily courted by both Democratic incumbent Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney. If they turn out in large numbers, Hispanics could sway the outcome in several swing states. In an analysis based on government data, civil rights group The Advancement Project identified legal barriers that could deter voter registration and participation among eligible Hispanics. In some of those states, the group’s researchers said, the number of voter-eligible Latino citizens potentially blocked by those barriers exceeds the margin of victory in the 2008 election.
Millions of Latinos may have a difficult time voting this year. New laws that require voters show proof of citizenship and photo identification at the polls — as well as recent voter roll purges — could hinder at least 10 million Hispanics in 23 states who try to cast a ballot in November. The number of Latinos eligible to vote who might be blocked from voting this year is equal to the margin of victory in a number of states, according to a new study by the Advancement Project, a civil rights group. Overall, 17 states have enacted laws that would require voters to present photo identification at the polls before casting a ballot. Propoents have said the laws are needed to combat voter fraud, but civil-rights activists have countered that the laws are a political ploy on behalf of Republicans to limit turnout from minority voters who traditionally favor Democrats.
They vowed to wage a war on voter fraud. But those officials are having a hard time finding much of an enemy to fight. State officials in key presidential battleground states, many of them Republican, have found only a tiny fraction of the illegal voters they initially suspected existed. Searches in Colorado and Florida have yielded numbers that amount to less than one-tenth of 1 percent of all registered voters in either state. Democrats say the searches waste time and, worse, could disenfranchise eligible voters who are swept up in the checks. “I find it offensive that I’m being required to do more than any other citizen to prove that I can vote,” said Samantha Meiring, 37, a Colorado voter and South African immigrant who became a U.S. citizen in 2010. Meiring was among 3,903 registered voters who received letters last month from the Colorado Secretary of State’s office questioning their right to vote.
In Tennessee, a new law requiring voters to show photo identification at the polls explicitly excludes student IDs. In Wisconsin, college students are newly disallowed from using university-provided housing lists or corroboration from other students to verify their residence. Florida’s reduction in early voting days is expected to reduce the number of young and first-time voters there. And Pennsylvania’s voter identification bill, still on the books for now, disallows many student IDs and non-Pennsylvania driver’s licenses, which means out-of-state students may be turned away at the polls. In 2008, youth voter turnout was higher that it had been since Vietnam, and overwhelmingly for Barack Obama. This time around, the GOP isn’t counting solely on disillusionment to keep the student vote down. In the last two years, Republican-controlled state legislatures have passed dozens of bills that erect new barriers to voting, all targeting Democratic-leaning groups, many specifically aimed at students. The GOP’s stated rationale is to fight voter fraud. But voter fraud — and especially in-person fraud which many of these measures address — is essentially nonexistent.
Imagine how easy voting would be if Americans could cast ballots the same way they buy songs from iTunes or punch in a PIN code to check out at the grocery store: You could click on a candidate from a home computer or use a touch screen device at the local polling place. It’s not entirely a fantasy. In many states, some voters can already do both. The process is seductively simple, but it’s also shockingly vulnerable to problems from software failure to malicious hacking. While state lawmakers burn enormous energy in a partisan fight over in-person vote fraud, which is virtually nonexistent, they’re largely ignoring far likelier ways votes can be lost, stolen or changed. How? Sometimes, technology or the humans running it simply fail.
The November 6 election is still seven weeks away, but early, in-person voting begins in two states on Friday, even as Democrats and Republicans battle in court over controversial plans to limit such voting before Election Day. Idaho and South Dakota are the first states to begin early voting on Friday, although North Carolina has been accepting absentee ballots by mail since September 6. By the end of September, 30 states will have begun either in-person or absentee voting, and eventually all the states will join in. Much of the focus of the early voting period will be on the politically divided states of Ohio and Florida, which could be crucial in deciding the race between Democratic President Barack Obama and Republican Mitt Romney.
The afternoon before early voting began in the 2010 midterm elections, a crowd of people gathered in the offices of a Houston Tea Party group called the King Street Patriots. They soon formed a line that snaked out the door of the Patriots’ crumbling storefront and down the block, past the neighboring tattoo parlor. The volunteers, all of whom had been trained by the Patriots to work as poll watchers, had come to collect their polling-place assignments. As they waited, the group’s chief trainer, Alan Vera—a mustachioed former Army ranger who likens poll observers to commandos who “jump out of airplanes” and “blow things up”—walked the line, shaking hands. As he would later recall, he then launched into a drill-sergeant routine. “Are you ready?” “We’re ready!” “Strength and honor! Remember your mission! Your mission is the vote!” The next day, King Street Patriots—many of them aging white suburbanites—poured into polling places in heavily black and Hispanic neighborhoods around Houston, looking for signs of voter fraud. Reports of problems at the polls soon began surfacing in the Harris County attorney’s office and on the local news. The focus of these reports was not fraud, however, but alleged voter intimidation. Among other things, poll observers were accused of hovering over voters, blocking lines of people who were trying to cast ballots, and, in the words of Assistant County Attorney Terry O’Rourke, “getting into election workers’ faces.”
Even as the two presidential candidates fly from one battleground state to another and as the cascade of campaign ads rolls over television viewers, some fast-approaching deadlines are going to determine who will in fact get to vote on Nov. 6. The National Association of Secretaries of State has declared September National Voter Registration Month and Sept. 25 as National Voter Registration Day. In 48 states voter registration deadlines fall in October. One imminent deadline is this Saturday, Sept. 22, the date – 45 days before the general election – which is set by two federal laws, the Uniformed Overseas Absentee Voting Act and the Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act, for election officials to send ballots to voters in the military and to civilian voters living outside the United States.
Noncitizens aren’t allowed to vote in federal and state elections, but efforts to remove them from the nation’s voter registration rolls have produced more angst than results. Opponents say the scope of the problem has been overblown; those behind the efforts say they’ve just begun to look at the problem. Last year, Florida officials said they found 180,000 possible noncitizens on the voter registration rolls. Officials in Colorado said the number in their state was about 11,000. But it turns out many of these people were citizens. Now, after some names were checked against a federal immigration database, the number of suspected noncitizens is closer to a few hundred. Even those numbers are under review.
President Obama and Republican Mitt Romney have little need for public funding for their campaigns, given that, together, they have about $1 billion behind them. But Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate, could use a little help: She had raised only $283,000 as of the end of July. Her campaign officials, however, say they are having trouble getting the public funding fast enough to pay the campaign debts. They have been quick to find a culprit and allege a minor conspiracy by Democrats on the Federal Election Commission, hinting that the commissioners are seeking to limit Stein’s ability to peel off liberals who would otherwise support Obama. In a letter to the panel, the campaign’s general counsel wrote, “It is our understanding that one reason for the delays . . . was due to that fact that the Democratic Commissioners were already in Charlotte, NC, for the Democratic National Convention, and were thus unavailable to sign off.”
National: Smartmatic Sues Dominion Voting Systems for Licensing Breach and Improper Business Practices | Rock Hill Herald
Smartmatic International, a global technology company that develops advanced voting systems to support elections worldwide, has filed suit in the Delaware Court of Chancery against Dominion Voting Systems for that company’s alleged breach of a licensing agreement and tortious interference with Smartmatic’s business. The lawsuit is seeking compensation from Dominion for allegedly withholding technology and services that had been licensed to Smartmatic, and for Dominion’s intentional actions to denigrate Smartmatic’s brand and undermine its relationship with customers and prospects. “This lawsuit is necessary because of Dominion’s persistent refusal to deliver technology that Smartmatic legally licensed,” said David Melville, General Counsel of Smartmatic. “We intend to recover the costs of rectifying a basic Dominion software error that nearly affected the 2010 Philippine elections, which we went to great lengths and expense to correct in keeping with our commitment to maintain the highest standards of election integrity and transparency.”
Fourteen members of Congress have co-sponsored a bill that would override a recent spate of voter identification laws, passed in more than a dozen states to require voters to present government-issued photo ID in order to cast a ballot. Rep. Rick Larsen, a Washington Democrat, has introduced the “America Votes Act of 2012,” which he and other Democrats hope will counter the wave of new voter ID legislation passed by Republican-led legislatures across the country. The bill would allow voters to sign a sworn affidavit to prove their identity in lieu of providing government-issued photo identification such as a driver’s license or passport. The voter would then be able to cast a standard ballot and not a provisional ballot, the latter of which can be contested or thrown out for any number of procedural reasons under current voting ID laws.
While the embarrassing debacle of the 2000 election may seem like a distant memory to some, the unfortunate reality is an encore may be on our doorstep. The Election Assistance Commission was created by the bipartisan Help America Vote Act of 2002 in order to avoid a repeat of the disastrous 2000 election, inspired directly by the failure of effective election administration in Florida that year. The only federal agency whose primary mission is to assist states carry out their elections and provide assistance to local election officials, the EAC has succeeded in this capacity beyond even the most optimistic projections. But now, due either to intentional neglect or outright calls for the agency’s elimination, the EAC is currently without any commissioners or a permanent executive director. While the agency persists in carrying out its mission, its spirit is sorely bruised.
Conservative groups pumping hundreds of millions of dollars into the 2012 campaign won a reprieve Tuesday when the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington overturned a decision requiring organizations that run election-related television ads to reveal their donors. In an unsigned decision, a three-judge panel said a lower court erred in finding that Congress intended to require such disclosure. It sent a case brought by Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) against the Federal Election Commission back to the district court and called on the FEC to defend its regulations or issue new ones. Practically, the ruling changes little in the short term: Nonprofit organizations such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Americans for Prosperity and Crossroads GPS changed the type of ads they were running this summer in order to sidestep the lower-court ruling and keep their donors secret.
Come the November general election, close to 1 million minority voters under the age of 30 could be affected by voter ID laws implemented in 17 states, according to a new study. Between 700,000 and 1 million minority voters under 30 are expected to be unable to place a vote thanks to recently implemented voter suppression laws, with a potential drop-off in turnout amongst these voters to be close to 700,000, according to a study from the Black Youth Project.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that many of the most zealous advocates of voter ID laws object to anything that remotely smells like a national ID card. Voter ID laws are designed to harass and discourage old people, young people and minorities inclined to vote Democratic in states with Republican-dominated legislatures. National ID cards like the one approved under the Real ID Act of 2005 mandate another layer of federal regulation for state driver’s licenses and personal identification cards. By 2014, each state must issue driver’s licenses and ID cards that meet minimum federal requirements to be compliant with the law. The new cards will contain tamper-proof information and, eventually, biometric technology. All citizens, not just Democrats, would be hassled by the implementation of this law. The burden and expense of providing required documents just to apply for Real ID would be universal. If you want to catch a commercial flight, gain access to a nuclear facility or enter a federal building, Real ID cards will eventually be the only acceptable form of identification.
It might as well be Harry Potter’s invisible Knight Bus, because no one can prove it exists. Teresa Sharp’s right to vote, as well as her family’s, was challenged by the Ohio Voter Integrity Project, which later apologized. The bus has been repeatedly cited by True the Vote, a national group focused on voter fraud. Catherine Engelbrecht, the group’s leader, told a gathering in July about buses carrying dozens of voters showing up at polling places during the recent Wisconsin recall election. “Magically, all of them needed to register and vote at the same time,” Ms. Engelbrecht said. “Do you think maybe they registered falsely under false pretenses? Probably so.” Weeks later, another True the Vote representative told a meeting of conservative women about a bus seen at a San Diego polling place in 2010 offloading people “who did not appear to be from this country.” Officials in both San Diego and Wisconsin said they had no evidence that the buses were real. “It’s so stealthy that no one is ever able to get a picture and no one is able to get a license plate,” said Reid Magney, a spokesman for the Wisconsin agency that oversees elections. In some versions the bus is from an Indian reservation; in others it is full of voters from Chicago or Detroit. “Pick your minority group,” he said.
In 2008 the majority-black town of Kinston, North Carolina, voted almost 2-to-1 to make its local elections nonpartisan. Nine months later, as the measure was set to kick in, the U.S. Justice Department blocked it.
The department’s reason: The plan would reduce the power of black voters. The dispute in the town of 22,000 spawned a lawsuit that is now before the U.S. Supreme Court as a potential test case for the 1965 Voting Rights Act. The landmark law was enacted to combat the discrimination that had kept blacks away from Southern polling booths for generations and has been used in this year’s elections to challenge Republican-backed voter- identification laws. The suit takes aim at one of the 1965 law’s core provisions: the power it gives the federal government to block changes in local election rules, like the one in Kinston, in 16 states.
A decade after Dana Debeauvoir helped change Travis County, Texas to an all-electronic voting system she still expects to be falsely accused of fixing the coming election, just as she had in the last two presidential races. The clerk, who has administered voting for 25 years in the county that includes Austin, says the public has remained mistrustful of the ballot system, where voters pick candidates directly from a computer screen, without marking a piece of paper. “There have been so many hard feelings,” says Debeauvoir. “You get people saying ‘I know you have been flipping votes.’” In the wake of the hanging chad controversy surrounding the 2000 presidential elections, the federal government encouraged election administrators across the country to switch to electronic systems and mandated upgrades to many election procedures. As they prepare for the presidential elections, those officials now find themselves at the center of a continuing debate over whether paperless direct-record electronic (DRE) balloting can be trusted – what Debeauvoir calls the “DRE wars.”
Democratic Rep. Mark Critz’s chances of hanging onto his seat representing Southwestern Pennsylvania could hinge on a lawsuit filed by a 93-year-old great grandmother over the state’s new voter identification law. The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania is hearing Viviette Applewhite’s appeal today so it can decide whether the recently enacted statute is so burdensome on some citizens that it violates Pennsylvania’s constitution. Like other lawsuits across the country, it pits Republicans concerned about voter fraud against Democrats worried about voter suppression. The outcome could affect turnout on Election Day and spawn legal challenges afterward. Legal tussles over voter ID laws, purges of voters deemed ineligible, registration tactics and early voting periods in states including Pennsylvania, Ohio, Florida, Wisconsin, Colorado, Texas and South Carolina are setting the stage for a potential post-election legal showdown in November. At least one Senate race and five House races that Roll Call currently rates as a Tossup are in states with ongoing voting lawsuits.
International experts have strongly criticized the current rules regulating the presidential election in the USA. According to the Global Commission on Elections, Democracy and Security, headed by the UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, the non-transparency and maximum dependence of the US election system on financial investments undermine the society’s belief in the principles of equality and democracy. In its report the commission consisting of a number of former world leaders and Nobel Prize winners says that there is an alarming tendency evident all over the world – a sharp growth of influence of the financial elite on election results.
Another symbol of just how quickly the political calculus can change ahead of Election Day: crucial swing states Ohio and Florida, along with Texas, South Carolina, and Wisconsin, have won significant—albeit possibly temporary—victories against restrictive voting laws over a span of mere weeks. Voting laws, including the requirement that people carry photo IDs to the ballot box, have became a major source of controversy as the presidential race remains close less than two months ahead of the election. “The tide has clearly turned,” says Diana Kasdan, counsel for the Democracy Program of Brennan Center, a public policy institute affiliated with New York University. “The results are coming in, court after court is rejecting these restrictive laws.” The next crucial decision will come out of Pennsylvania. The state’s law requiring all voters to show identification is currently being debated by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court; a decision is forthcoming.
Unlimited spending driven by Republican groups is responsible for an outsized share of advertising in the 2012 campaign season that feeds the markedly negative stream of ads, according to an academic analysis released on Wednesday. Super PACs, or political action committees, and tax-exempt advocacy groups accounted for nearly a third of all the ads aired in the U.S. presidential race, according to a study by the Wesleyan Media Project that analyzed broadcast and national cable spots run between April 26 and Sept. 8. “The key dynamic of this campaign is the increased presence of these outside groups in all key races across the federal landscape,” said Michael Franz, co-director of the project and associate professor of government at Bowdoin College in Maine. Republican outside groups are largely responsible for this year’s trend. Of 302,580 ads backing Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, outside groups funded 54 percent, spending $117.5 million. Meanwhile, the official Romney campaign spent $37.8 million for 30 percent of the pro-Romney ads. “We’ve never seen that big of a share of outside group spending in presidential races before,” Franz said.
National: Underfunding of voter registration: a guarantee that 25 percent or more of Americans won’t participate | Remapping Debate
Non-partisan voter registration organizations, while proud of their efforts, are conscious of their limited ability to reach the still-large unregistered population. They say that a critical problem they face in doing their work is a lack of available money. According to Michael Slater, executive director of Project Vote, a national organization that submitted 1.3 million registration applications, “I don’t see any sorts of funding that would allow a coalition of organizations working together to get…registration to the level that we need. I mean could we really boost registration in Ohio working together? Absolutely. But [all] across the country? No. No one’s in that position.” Caitlin Baggott, the executive director of the Bus Project Foundation, a smaller non-partisan group that seeks to engage young people in politics, and whose work includes registering young voters in Oregon, described “non-profit organizations and community groups [as] scrap[ing] together meager funds to register what truly ends up being a drop in the bucket [among younger] voters each election cycle, while literally millions of Americans are eligible to vote but don’t know how, where, or when to register or vote in an election.” That system, she said, “is fundamentally broken and unsustainable for the health of our democracy.”
At least three Republican electors say they may not support their party’s presidential ticket when the Electoral College meets in December to formally elect the next president, escalating tensions within the GOP and adding a fresh layer of intrigue to the final weeks of the White House race. The electors — all supporters of former GOP presidential candidate Ron Paul — told The Associated Press they are exploring options should Mitt Romney win their states. They expressed frustration at how Republican leaders have worked to suppress Paul’s conservative movement and his legion of loyal supporters. “They’ve never given Ron Paul a fair shot, and I’m disgusted with that. I’d like to show them how disgusted I am,” said Melinda Wadsley, an Iowa mother of three who was selected as a Republican elector earlier this year. She said Paul is the better choice and noted that the Electoral College was founded with the idea that electors wouldn’t just mimic the popular vote. The defection of multiple electors would be unprecedented in the last 116 years of U.S. politics. It also would raise the remote possibility that the country could even end up with a president and vice president from different parties.
The campaigns of President Barack Obama and his Republican rival, Mitt Romney, are preparing for what could be a series of legal battles over new U.S. voting laws after the Nov. 6 election – especially if the result of the presidential race is close. The campaigns and political parties are lining up lawyers for what would amount to a new wave of litigation surrounding election laws that have been approved by Republican-led legislatures in more than a dozen states since 2010. Some of the laws involve requiring voters to produce photo identification. Others curtail early-voting periods that are designed to help working-class people cast ballots if they can’t make it to the polls on Election Day. Still others have imposed strict requirements on groups that conduct voter-registration drives.
National: Study Shows Voter ID Laws Could Disenfranchise 1 Million Young Minority Voters | Huffington Post
An estimated 700,000 young minority voters could be barred from voting in November because of photo ID laws passed across the country in recent years, according to a new study. The number of minority voters under the age of 30 likely to be disenfranchised by these new voting laws — passed overwhelmingly by Republican-led legislatures across the country — is a conservative estimate, according to the study’s authors. The actual number of voters in that category who could be disenfranchised is probably closer to 1 million, they said. The projections include African Americans, Latinos, Asian Americans, Native Americans and Pacific Islanders. “It’s a reminder that our voting rights have always been under attack and probably always will be,” said Cathy Cohen, a professor of political science at the University of Chicago who co-authored the report, Turning Back the Clock on Voting Rights: The Impact of New Photo Identification Requirements on Young People of Color.