Voting Blogs: Federal Court Rules That Louisiana Systemically Violated the NVRA | Project Vote

On January 23, voting rights advocates won a major legal victory on behalf of Louisiana’s public assistance agency clients, the state’s most vulnerable and most marginalized residents. In a 36-page ruling, following a trial in October 2012 in the United States District Court in the Eastern District of Louisiana, Judge Jane Triche Milazzo found that the state of Louisiana violated federal law by failing to offer an opportunity to register to vote to all applicants and recipients of food stamps, TANF, Medicaid, and WIC. The National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) requires that voter registration be offered to all such individuals, whether they seek benefits in person, or by the internet, telephone, or mail.

Voting Blogs: Governor McDonnell Should Veto Virginia’s GOP Redistricting Gambit | Brennan Center for Justice

The 20-20 divided Virginia Senate took extraordinary action to drastically rewrite the district lines for 45 percent of Virginia’s residents on Inauguration Day.  On January 21, 2013, State Senator Henry March—a Civil Rights Activist—left the state to attend the inauguration of President Barack Obama. The Virginia Senate quickly moved to take advantage of his absence and introduced, amended and passed an amendment to a House bill making technical changes to the 2011 redistricting lines. By the time the temporarily Republican-controlled Senate was done with the technical fixes presented by the House, it had fully rewritten a number of senate districts—displacing almost 2 million Virginia residents into new districts.  While the current Senate is evenly split with 20 Democrats and 20 Republicans, some estimates suggest that the newly-proposed lines might result in a far more lopsided chamber even though there has been no significant change in the makeup of VA’s electorate in the 19 months since the previous lines were approved. The proposal could put Republicans in position to win 27 seats in the Senate at the next election, which would give Republicans a veto-proof supermajority in the chamber. This bill, as amended, passed on a party-line vote, 20 to 19, with Sen. March absent.

Voting Blogs: Thinking Outside the Lines | Election Administration Theories and Praxis

“Our journey is not complete until no citizen is forced to wait for hours to exercise the right to vote.” ~ President Barak Obama, Inauguration Speech, January 21, 2013

When President Obama repeated his election night remark that the nation needs to solve the problem of long lines at the polls in his inauguration speech today, I could hear the collective rolling of eyeballs by election officials across the country. Every election administrator, at one time or another, has received complaints from voters about the length of time it takes to vote and the frustration engendered by waiting in a line to vote. Old news, right?  Based upon the President’s comments and pundit commentary, lines at the polls have become new news and a likely subject of federal debate and legislation.  I believe that this is unfortunate but not for the reasons one may expect.

Voting Blogs: Tying Presidential Electors to Gerrymandered Congressional Districts will Sabotage Elections | Brennan Center for Justice

Recently WisconsinPennsylvania, and Virginia introduced legislation to make the distribution of electoral votes for president dependent on the votes in each congressional districts instead of statewide results. Legislation to that effect has been introduced in MichiganWisconsin, andVirginia, and there are serious discussions in Pennsylvania. Legislators in states like Florida and Ohio also may introduce similar legislation. Currently, only Maine and Nebraska (a state with a unicameral, bipartisan legislature) allocate their electoral votes in a similar fashion. Most critics of this plan identify it as a scheme by the GOP to rig the election to improve its chances to elect a president. But there are a number of reasons to object to this proposal beyond its partisan intent or impact. Significantly, it would import into the presidential election process the dysfunction that plagues the congressional districting process. The problems with redistricting include not only partisan gerrymandering but also citizen exclusion from the redistricting process, imbalanced districts based on prison-based gerrymandering, and chronic problems with Census undercounts.

Voting Blogs: Colorado Victory: Judge Rules for Voting Rights | Brennan Center for Justice

The voting rights of thousands of Colorado citizens were protected today as a state district court judge blocked Secretary of State Scott Gessler’s controversial interpretation of Colorado’s mail ballot election law. Under Sec. Gessler’s reading of the law, county clerks could not mail ballots in elections conducted only by mail to voters who did not vote in the most recent general election. In effect, thousands of eligible voters — including many longtime voters — would not be able to vote unless they jumped through new and burdensome hurdles. Colorado election law gives counties the option of conducting certain elections by mail. In these elections, there are no traditional polling places; instead, citizens vote by mailing in ballots sent to them by county election administrators. Just before the November 2011 election, Sec. Gessler issued an order prohibiting counties from mailing ballots to voters who did not vote in the last general election (2010). These voters, so called “inactive-failed to vote” voters, could only be sent mail ballots if they submitted to a confusing and burdensome administrative process to “reactivate” their status by effectively re-registering to vote.

Voting Blogs: Voting Rights Cannot Be Ignored | Brennan Center for Justice

A new year means new opportunities. It is 2013, and our democracy should not have to suffer through another cycle of rancorous, partisan, and business-as-usual politics — there is too much we need to fix. In Virginia, Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell already seized the opportunity of a new legislative cycle to support wide scale voting rights restoration for people with past criminal convictions. Yet, Virginia legislators squandered the chance to move beyond partisanship by voting against restoring rights. Virginia is one of only four states in the nation that permanently disenfranchises those with past criminal convictions unless they individually apply to the governor to have their rights restored.

Voting Blogs: New Research on Florida’s 2012 General Election by Herron and Smith | electionsmith

Michael C. Herron and Daniel A. Smith, “Florida’s 2012 General Election under HB 1355: Early Voting, Provisional Ballots, and Absentee Ballots

The 2012 General Election was the first major election in Florida held after the passage of House Bill 1355, a controversial election law that among other things reduced the early voting period in Florida and altered the requirements for casting provisional ballots. By cutting early voting from 14 to eight days and eliminating early voting on the Sunday before the 2012 election, HB 1355 likely contributed to longer early voting lines at the polls, causing in‐person early voting turnout to drop by more than 225,000 voters compared to 2008. The reduction in opportunities to vote early under HB 1355 disproportionately affected African American voters, insofar as nearly half of all blacks who voted in 2012 cast in‐person early ballots. Although blacks made up less than 14 percent of the Florida electorate as of November/December 2012, they cast 22 percent of all the early votes in 2012, roughly the same percentage as in 2008.

Voting Blogs: Straight-Ticket Voting: In or Out? Depends Where You Live | Election Academy

One of my favorite election-geeky things about following the news from across the country is the occasional opportunity to see states heading in opposite directions on an issue. The latest example is on the question of straight-ticket voting: while policymakers in Rhode Island consider whether or not to eliminate the option, some legislators in New Hampshire are looking to reinstate it. Straight-ticket voting is currently authorized in 15 states, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures; however, in 2012 New Mexico’s Secretary of State decided not to offer the option, which is not required under state law.

Voting Blogs: How to make voting lines short; let’s keep voting times under 30 minutes | Vote Notes

There were numerous reports of multihour long lines in the November 2012  Presidential Election in many states across the country. This problem was mentioned by President Obama in his acceptance speech. Long lines disenfranchise people who cannot wait and have to leave, for example, because of health issues, because they need to get to a job, because they have child care responsibilities. These are often poor people who don’t have a lot of control over their lives. Efficient elections are fundamental to democracy and not just “nice to have.” Lines form when there are too many people for the available voting means. The question is how to quantify this phenomenon and get the right amount of equipment for the expected number of voters, including the possibility that there may be uneven voter arrivals and surges that put even more pressure on the voting system.

Voting Blogs: Konopasek’s New ElectionGuru Asks: What’s a “Good” Election? | Election Academy

Former election official and current Utah doctoral candidate Scott Konopasek recently launched a new blog entitled, and focused on, Election Administration Theories and Praxis. Fortunately, we don’t have to use (or shorten) that title because he helpfully gave the blog a URL that includes ElectionGuru so it shall henceforth be known here as just that. After his introductory post, Scott dives into a question that’s very timely in the current environment: what’s a “good” election? The answer, he says, depends on who you ask.

Voting Blogs: Oscar Discovers, Then Denies, E-Voting Dangers | BradBlog

Last week, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) had to extend its deadline for Oscar nominations, after outlets like The Hollywood Reporter spread the news of extensive difficulties with AMPAS’ new online voting system. Yes, Oscar has caught the dreadedInternet Voting disease, and it seems to be working out about as well as it didfor Canada in 2012 and just slightly better (as far as we know) than it did for Washington D.C. back in 2010 orfor Honolulu in 2009 (where the same company ran that particular Internet Voting disaster.)

Voting Blogs: 2013 Israeli Pre-Election Report | The Monkey Cage

The coalition government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, headed by the Likud party, was sworn in on 31 March 2009, following the 10 February elections. The 18th Knesset, Israel’s parliament, was comprised of a dozen parties (exactly the same as the previous Knesset). Surprisingly, Likud did not win the largest number of seats; it came in second closely after Kadima, which won one more seat. However, Likud was able to form a majority coalition government with five other parties: Likud (27); Israel Our Home (15); Labour (13); Shas (11), United Torah Judaism (5); and The Jewish Home (3), for a total of 74 of the 120 seats in the Israeli parliament. The numerous coalition partners were quite generously rewarded in the formation of the Netanyahu government, which was one of the largest cabinets in Israel’s history. Between ministers and deputy ministers, almost one-third of the legislature held executive positions. This is a main reason why the coalition government survived almost four full years.

Voting Blogs: Statewide Recounts Remain Scarce: Zero in 2012 | FairVote

There were no statewide election recounts in 2012. This is particularly noteworthy, considering the fact 419 statewide elections took place this year. In this post-Florida 2000 political landscape, the specter of recounts continues to loom large and you will even read thoughtful people suggesting that the possibility of a recount is enough to oppose a having one-person, one-vote elections for president by national popular vote. However, when we step back and take a close look at the numbers, it becomes clear that chance of actually having to perform a recount is relatively remote. Indeed, from 2000 to 2012, 99.457% of statewide elections have been successfully held without recounts – and recounts take place consistently show minuscule changes in victory margin.

Voting Blogs: The Year in Recalls – 168 recalls in 2012; 509 petitions taken out | The Recall Elections Blog

As it is this blog’s second year, we are now looking at our second recap, and the number are pretty impressive. In 2012, there were at least 168 recalls in 93 different jurisdictions. Here’s my article in The Week examining the phenomena. This is an increase from last year, when there were 151 recalls. This year, I also compiled a list of how many times recall petitions were reported to have been taken out — 509 times. There were also numerous reported recall threats, but I never saw a follow-through, so I didn’t include those. I should point out that I am fairly certain that there are almost certainly recalls that I missed, so the 168/509 numbers should be seen as a floor, rather than a ceiling.

Voting Blogs: Spotlight on Ohio: Steps to Cure Disenfranchisement by Typo | Brennan Center for Justice

In the run up to the 2012 election (as in every presidential election since at least 2004), Ohio was again at the center of controversy. On early voting, provisional ballots, and more, the Ohio Secretary of State’s office took positions that we strenuously opposed because they would make it more difficult for Ohioans to cast ballots that would be counted. But this post isn’t about those controversies.  It’s about an important step taken by the Ohio Secretary of State’s Office to ensure the ballots of legitimate voters were counted.  It’s worth highlighting because it didn’t receive any coverage, yet it’s an important example for other states to follow.

Voting Blogs: Richland County’s Breakdowns: Mechanical or Managerial? | Election Academy

Richland County, SC has emerged as one of the jurisdictions with the worst and longest lines on Election Day 2012. In the aftermath, County has been struggling to figure out both what went wrong and who, if anyone, should be held responsible. The County’s problems have been traced to a shortage of voting machines; in a post-election report, University of South Carolina professor Duncan Buell found that in 2012 there were hundreds fewer machines available than in 2010 despite a 28% greater turnout.

Voting Blogs: Every Second Counts: UPS’ Lesson for Polling Places | Election Academy

Recently, NBC News had a segment focusing on the intensive training United Parcel Service requires of new drivers. It’s a fascinating look – especially the video of trainees (and then the reporter) struggling on the “icy sidewalk” used to teach balance – but it also included a discussion about efficiency that got me thinking about election administration and polling places in particular. What struck me was the degree to which the training focuses on shaving time – literally seconds – off of every delivery. For drivers, that means keeping keys to the truck on their fingers (so they don’t set them down or have to fumble for them) and learning how to fasten a seat belt with one hand while turning the keys to the ignition with the other. This focus on efficiency may strike you as extreme, but when you consider that the average driver is delivering 200-300 packages a day those seconds begin to add up.

Voting Blogs: Numbers Show Ohio at Unique Risk of Disputed Presidential Votes | ElectionLaw@Moritz

Today, December 17, is the date the presidential electors of each state meet to cast their official votes for president. No drama surrounds the event this year, because there have been no vote-counting disputes between November 6 and now that could affect the outcome of the presidential election. To invoke a phrase that has become familiar, the margin of victory was comfortably beyond the margin of litigation. But, as 2000 showed, it may not always be so, and some numbers from this year’s election indicate that, of all the presidential swing states, Ohio is the most vulnerable to a ballot-counting dispute that would delay determining the Electoral College winner. As will be detailed below, the swing states fall into three categories in terms of their level of risk–low, medium, or high–with respect to a disputed presidential election.  Ohio stands alone in having the highest risk.

Voting Blogs: Supposing is Good, But Finding Out is Better (cont.): Pew on Lines in 2012 | Election Academy

I spent the last couple of days with my old friends at Pew, who hosted the Voting in America 2012 conference in Washington, DC. There was a TON of good content – you can watch the first day’s activities via archived video on CSPAN3, or searching on the (very active!) Twitter hashtag #VIA2012. Early on day one, Charles Stewart of MIT presented preliminary data on the Survey of the Performance of American Elections (SPAE), which once again asked voters about their voting experiences in 2012. Here’s Pew’s summary of the results.

Verified Voting in the News: You’ve Got Mail, Mr. President: Two New Letters Weigh In on Voting Technology Issues | Election Academy

For the past month, the election community has been focused to different degrees on President Obama’s Election Night observation that “we need to fix” problems that caused long lines at the polls on Election Day. Recently, the President received two separate letters from computer scientists and advocates concerned about the role of technology in elections. The first, from California Voter Foundation founder and President Kim Alexander and 28 co-signers, focuses heavily on the concept of verifiable voting systems and urges the Administration to put a federal stamp on the problem. The second letter, signed by computer scientist Barbara Simons and 49 co-signers (many of whom appear on the first letter but also including some election officials), covers much of the same territory but contains stronger language on the perceived danger of Internet voting.

Voting Blogs: Nevada’s New Voter ID Proposal: Election Geek Jujitsu? | Election Academy

It was only a matter of time … After nearly a month of focus on long lines, voter ID is making a comeback in the headlines. The big news is a new proposal by Nevada Secretary of State Ross Miller (D) which is getting national attention. The proposal has gotten interesting reactions, many of them predictable. Republican legislators seem to like the idea, as evidenced by the comments of Assembly Minority Leader Pat Hickey: “The fact that the current system does not require any voter identifications rubs a lot of people the wrong way … I think the concept is very worthy of looking into. We need to see the details. The integrity of elections is at the center of believable democracy.”

Voting Blogs: Why We Should Still Pay Attention to Voter Registration Drives | Brennan Center for Justice

If you thought voting rights battles ended with the election, think again. Tomorrow morning the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit will hear argument in an action challenging Texas’s new laws restricting voter registration drives. U.S. District Court Judge Gregg Costa issued an injunction blocking the laws in August. The Brennan Center, along with the League of Women Voters and Rock the Vote, has filed an amicus brief urging the appellate panel to uphold the lower court’s ruling.

Voting Blogs: Should pressure for a fast count determine how we vote? | EVIC

The new clerk-recorder in Riverside County, CA, Kari Verjil, has apparently avoided the pothole that ended the career of her predecessor Barbara Dumore. Riverside has the 10th fastest count among California counties, according to information just released by the Secretary of State’s office. Verjil attributes the improvement to a dedicated effort by her office to encourage citizens to cast their ballots by mail.  Verjil did the smart thing by figuring out the best way to respond to the pressures placed on her by political actors.

Voting Blogs: Pennsylvania Senate Leader Pileggi Wrong on Prescription for Electoral College Reform | FairVote

Hot off the presses from Bloomberg News is a major Electoral College development. Pennsylvania Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi has circulated a letter to his legislative colleagues seeking support for a bill to replace the winner-take-all allocation of his state’s Electoral College votes with one based on proportional representation – with two electoral votes going to the winner of the state and 18 votes allocated proportionally. The proposal is sure to trigger an intense partisan reaction. Pennsylvania Republicans often come close in  presidential elections, but last won an electoral vote in 1988 when George Bush defeated Michael Dukakis. Yet if Sen. Pileggi’s plan had been in place this year, President Barack Obama’s 5.4% win in the statewide popular vote would have translated into his earning 12 electoral votes rather than 20, while Gov. Mitt Romney  would have won eight electoral votes rather than zero. Shifting eight electoral votes in Pennsylvania would have provided a bigger boost to Romney than switching the outcome in Iowa.

Voting Blogs: Unintended (or Unanticipated?) Consequences: Pew Examines Roots of Long Lines in Galveston | Election Academy

A few weeks ago, I used a Pew Election Data Disptach to invoke Anna Karenina as a metaphor for the myriad ways jurisdictions can become “unhappy” via long lines.  Pew’s latest Dispatch about long lines in Galveston, TX is yet another example of that phenomenon but also a reminder that sometimes the problem isn’t unanticipated (i.e., what isn’t supposed to happen) but rather a natural consequence of election law and procedure – i.e., what is supposed to happen.

Pew explains:

The county was using vote centers for the first time during a presidential election, which allows voters to cast their ballot at any polling location. Of the 45 centers in the county, 38 reportedly did not open on time, leading to waits of one to 4.5 hours for some voters and prompting a judge to extend voting by almost two hours. What happened?

Voting Blogs: A Quick Look at the Two Congressional Election Bills | Election Academy

With Election Day almost three weeks behind us, Congress is preparing to return to Washington for a lame duck session which may or may not include consideration of two new election reform bills:

S. 3635, the “Fair,Accurate, Secure, and Timely Voting Act of 2012”, or FAST, sponsored by Democrats Chris Coons of Delaware and Mark Warner of Virginia; and

H.R. 6591, the “Streamlined and Improved Methods at Polling Locations and Early Voting
Act” or SIMPLE, introduced by Democrat George Miller of California and 74 co-sponsors.

There’s a lot to dig into in both of these bills, but a quick look reveals three very interesting issues.

Voting Blogs: Early Voting and Constitutional Law | Election Law Blog

Early voting (EV) is a recent development in American democracy. The 2008 election was the first time EV was used extensively in presidential elections.  And in the 2012 election, the courts began to confront for the first time the issue of how to understand early voting as a legal matter, including for purposes of constitutional law.  The most significant election litigation in 2012 involved early voting, with cases in Ohio and Florida (including cases litigated the weekend of the election) leading to more than 106,000 people in Ohio alone making use of judicial decisions to vote the weekend before the election. If we reason by analogy, the question is whether early voting should be thought about more like election-day voting or like absentee voting.  Is EV best understood, legally, as expanding election day back in time a bit, so that the legal and constitutional framework should be thought about much like the framework that applies to election day in general?  Or is EV best understood as like traditional absentee voting, in which States have long made decisions about which groups of voters have sufficiently good “excuses” for not being able to show up on election day to justify their access to an absentee ballot?  This was one of the fundamental questions underlying the Obama campaign’s constitutional challenge to Ohio’s “decision” (I will explain the quotes later) to open early voting to some voters but not others the weekend before the election — i.e., military and overseas voters.

Voting Blogs: Three Ways to Fix Our Democracy | Brennan Center for Justice

The 2012 election is over, but there are still clear challenges to the integrity of our democracy. A wave of laws passed in the last two years to make it harder for millions of eligible Americans to vote. Fortunately, most of the worst were blocked or weakened. But they had a clear impact on Election Day — long lines and confusion at the polls, compounded by broken voting machines and poorly trained poll workers. As President Obama said in his speech, “We have to fix that.” Here are three ways to improve our democracy and bring it into the 21st century.

Voting Blogs: What Effect, If Any, Did Voter ID Laws Have on the Election? | ProPublica

Elaine Schmottlach has been a ballot clerk in the small southeastern New Hampshire town of Nottingham – population, 4,785 – for the last 25 years. Yet when it came time for her to vote on Nov. 6, she had to show valid photo identification as required under a new state law. Schmottlach refused and submitted a challenged voter affidavit instead. “My view is this is a horrendous law,” she told ProPublica. “I absolutely detest it. I hated having to ask my best friend to show an ID to prove that she is who she is.”

Voting Blogs: Redistricting does not explain why House Democrats got a majority of the vote and a minority of the seats | The Monkey Cage

In the wake of the 2012 House elections, it looks like Democrats won a slight majority of the major-party votes (roughly 50.5%) but only about 46% of the seats.  A story has gradually developed that pins this gap on redistricting (for example, see here, here, and here), since Republicans controlled the line-drawing process more often than not this time around.  Matthew Green pushes back a little on this narrative, arguing that, if anything, House seat share and vote share correspond more closely today than they once did.  But he doesn’t necessarily deny that redistricting is to blame for the gap this year.