Voting Blogs: A back-of-the-envelope calculation of Florida’s capacity to handle Election Day turnout without lines | Election Updates

Did Florida have enough capacity to deal with the crush of voters who showed up on Election Day? In the following posting, I take on this question by performing a back-of-the-envelope calculation of the ratio of turnout on Election Day to the number of voting booths reportedly deployed in the various counties.  The short answer is that it looks like the number of voting booths was sufficient for keeping the lines short in Florida.  The cause of the lines must lie elsewhere. One very interesting paper helps us to think about this.  Presented at the 2010 Electronic Voting Technology Workshop/Workshop on Trustworthy Elections (EVT/WOTE), a paper by Edelstein and Edelstein proposed a rule about the minimum number of voting booths (or electronic machines) that would keep long lines from forming.

Voting Blogs: We Have to Fix That | Brennan Center for Justice

On Tuesday, millions of Americans stood in long lines at crowded polling stations to exercise their right to vote. It was heartening to see that so many Americans care so deeply about their democracy that they were willing to endure considerable inconvenience to have their say. Although most were ultimately able to cast a ballot, the long lines were a disgrace. As President Obama said that night, “We have to fix that.” And we have to do so now. Long lines were the most visible manifestation of the problems with our voting system; unfortunately, those problems run deeper. I spent Election Day helping to field calls from voters across the country on behalf of the Election Protection Coalition, which runs the nation’s largest non-partisan voter protection hotline. I have also been monitoring the election process and its problems throughout the lead-up to November 6th. These are the key takeaways.

Voting Blogs: Minnesota’s “NO” Vote on Voter ID: What It Means | Election Academy

On Tuesday, Minnesota voters rejected a constitutional amendment that would have required voters to show photo ID at the polls. The result marked the end of nearly two years of fierce partisan debate, including sharply divided legislative votes, a gubernatorial veto, and several court cases about the wisdom of voter ID, the language of the ballot amendment and the potential impact of voter ID on the state’s election system. What, then, is the significance of the defeat of voter ID?

Voting Blogs: How Minnesota’s Voter ID Amendment Was Defeated | Brennan Center for Justice

On Tuesday, Minnesota voters defeated a ballot initiative that would have amended the state constitution to require voters to present a photo ID at the polls in order to be able to vote. This was the latest in a string of pushback victories for voting rights, and the final verdict was squarely in the hands of voters. As recently as five months ago, the amendment appeared positioned for easy passage. Public Policy Polling’s first survey in June asking voters if they supported or opposed a constitutional amendment requiring voter ID, 58 percent supported the amendment and only 34 percent opposed it.

Voting Blogs: “We Have to Fix That”: Will Long Lines Be the Next Major Focus for Election Reform? | Election Academy

“I want to thank every American who participated in this election … whether you voted for the very first time or waited in line for a very long time. By the way, we have to fix that.” – President Obama, last night

Every national election seems to yield a storyline for election administration – and yesterday’s story, hands down, was the long lines that many voters faced at the polls. Just to be clear, when I say “long lines” I’m not talking about one-hour waits like the one I faced at my home polling place at lunchtime yesterday – I’m talking about epic waits, including those voters who, as the President was speaking just before 2am Eastern time, were still voting in Miami.

Voting Blogs: Regardless of Presidential Race Results, Voting Issues Likely to Spark Lawsuits | The BLT

Even if tonight’s presidential vote is not close enough to spark a contested election and a major legal battle for the White House, election law experts have already identified plenty of voting issues today that could mean post-election litigation. If the presidential election is not extremely close, “the press and the public won’t care for another three and a half years,” said Richard Hasen, a professor of law and political science at the University of California, Irvine. But any number of races further down on the ballot that are close could be pushed into the courts, said Hasen, who wrote about how election litigation has more than doubled since the Bush v. Gore election in his new book, The Voting Wars: From Florida 2000 to the Next Election Meltdown.

Voting Blogs: Why Was Uncertified ‘Experimental’ Software Installed on ES&S Tabulation Systems in 39 OH Counties Just Days Before Presidential Election? | BradBlog

Last week, Bob Fitrakis and Gerry Bello at FreePress.org reported an important story concerning what they described as “uncertified ‘experimental’ software patches” being installed at the last minute on electronic vote tabulation systems in 39 Ohio counties. The story included a copy of thecontract [PDF] between Republican Ohio Sec. of State Jon Husted’s office and ES&S, the nation’s largest e-voting system manufacturer, for a new, last minute piece of software created to the custom specifications of the Sec. of State. The contract itself describes the software as “High-level enhancements to ES&S’ election reporting software that extend beyond the current features and functionality of the software to facilitate a custom-developed State Election Results Reporting File.”

Voting Blogs: Election 2012 Recounts | Brennan Center for Justice

With the polls deadlocked just a few days before Election Day, state recount laws once again take on national significance. It is no exaggeration to say that these laws could determine who is elected president in 2012. This issue brief takes a look at some of the most critical provisions of the recount laws in the 10 states identified as most likely to be “tipping point” states that could provide the decisive electoral vote in a close presidential contest (Colorado, Florida, Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Virginia, and Wisconsin). We also look at factors related to each state that could increase the likelihood of bitter recount contests. Download the Report (PDF)

Voting Blogs: Matt Blaze: Voting by Email in New Jersey | Crypto.com

New Jersey was hit hard by Hurricane Sandy, and many parts of the state still lack electricity and basic infrastructure. Countless residents have been displaced, at least temporarily. And election day is on Tuesday. There can be little doubt that many New Jerseyans, whether newly displaced or rendered homebound, who had originally intended to cast their votes at their normal neighborhood polling stations will be unable to do so next week. Unless some new flexible voting options are made available, many people will be disenfranchised, perhaps altering the outcome of races. There are compelling reasons for New Jersey officials to act quickly to create viable, flexible, secure and reliable voting options for their citizens in this emergency.

Voting Blogs: Lt. Governor invites voters to submit invalid ballots | Andrew Appel/Freedom to Tinker

On November 3rd, the Lieutenant Governor of New Jersey issued a directive, well covered in the media, permitting storm-displaced New Jersey voters to vote by e-mail.  The voter is to call or e-mail the county clerk to request an absentee ballot by e-mail or fax, then the voter returns the ballot by e-mail or fax:

“The voter must transmit the signed waiver of secrecy along with the voted ballot by fax or e-mail for receipt by the applicable county board of election no later than November 6, 2012 at 8 p.m.”

We see already one problem:  The loss of the secret ballot.  At many times in the 20th century, NJ political machines put such intense pressure on voters that the secret ballot was an important protection.  In 2012 it’s in the news that some corporations are pressuring their employees to vote in certain ways.  The secret ballot is still critical to the functioning of democracy. But there’s a much bigger problem with the Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno’s directive:  If voters and county clerks follow her instructions, their votes will be invalid.

Voting Blogs: New Dispute over Ohio’s Provisional Voting Procedures | ElectionLaw@Moritz

A late-breaking controversy has emerged over provisional voting in Ohio. It concerns the official form used to indicate whether or not the provisional voter has shown the poll worker a valid identification. The form contains a space for the provisional voter to write down the last four digits of the voter’s Social Security Number (SSN), if that is the form of ID the voter wishes to use. Alternatively, the voter may write down his or her Ohio driver’s license number (DLN), and the form provides a separate space for that. Beyond those two methods of identification, the form also contains several boxes the provisional voter may select depending upon which other type of identification the voter presents. There is a box for “military identification card”; one for current utility bill, bank statement, or other similarly acceptable document; and another for a government-issued photo ID. Finally, there is also a box for a voter who does not possess any of the permissible types of ID and who fills out a separate form swearing so.

Voting Blogs: OSCE vs. Texas and Iowa: The Facts Behind the Fight | Election Academy

One of the stranger stories to emerge from the pre-election “silly season” is the fight between state officials in Texas and Iowa and international observers from the Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), who are in the United States preparing for their sixth mission to observe the election process since 2002. Specifically, last week Texas’ Attorney General threatened to arrest observers from the OSCE/ODIHR team if they come within 100 feet of a Texas polling place on Election Day. Iowa’s Secretary of State issued the same warning earlier this week regarding any observers within 300 feet of an Iowa polling place.

Voting Blogs: The Counting Rules for Overtime: Materiality | ElectionLaw@Moritz

Recently, in this space, Ned FoleySteve Huefner, and Josh Douglas have offered some characteristically thoughtful comments on election overtime. Ned reminded us thatpatience is a virtue; we have a process to work through narrow margins of victory, and even in a world a-Twitter, we should let the process run its course without panic. Steve mentioned a model calendar for shaping that process, at least in the context of a Presidential dispute. And Josh discussed the fora provided by state law in which to work through the details. At the kind invitation of the Moritz team, I would like to add a fourth element to the discussion: neither the appropriate emotional disposition for a post-election process nor timing nor location, but the substantive standards to be deployed. I think it extremely unlikely that the Presidential race will head into overtime. But it is virtually certain that some race, somewhere in the country, will. And it is therefore important to be prepared.

Voting Blogs: Who Decides a Post-Election Dispute? | ElectionLaw@Moritz

This post highlights a chart containing information about who would decide a post-election challenge in each of the fifty states, broken down by type of election. To access the chart, click here. For a summary and further analysis, read on. Doomsday scenarios abound regarding an election that might last into extra innings. What will happen if, on the morning of Wednesday, November 7, we do not know who won the presidential election, or other races? More menacingly, what happens if post-election challenges last several weeks, beyond the routine provisional ballot and recount procedures?

Voting Blogs: Is The Voter Vigilante Group True The Vote Violating Ohio Law to Intimidate Voters at the Polls? | Alternet

A right-wing voter vigilante group, TrueTheVote, may be pushing their anti-democratic agenda into illegal territory in Ohio by interfering with that state’s official poll worker training regimen one week before the 2012 presidential election. In recent weeks, the Texas-based group, with many local affiliates drawn from Tea Party ranks, has been urging poll workers in key Ohio counties—primarily Republicans—to supplement their official state training with TrueTheVote materials. These Election Day workers are not the observers chosen by political parties who can watch but not interfere with voting; they are the people who are drawn from both parties and employed by the state to run the voting process.

Voting Blogs: Romney Campaign Training Poll Watchers To Mislead Voters In Wisconsin | ThinkProgress

Mitt Romney’s campaign has been training poll watchers in Wisconsin with highly misleading — and sometimes downright false — information about voters’ rights. Documents from a recent Romney poll watcher training obtained by ThinkProgress contain several misleading or untrue claims about the rights of Wisconsin voters. A source passed along the following packet of documents, which was distributed to volunteers at a Romney campaign training in Racine on October 25th. In total, sixsuch trainings were held across the state in the past two weeks.

Voting Blogs: The Identity of Provisional Voters: Private or Public? (An Issue That Might Emerge Early in Overtime) | ElectionLaw@Moritz

Recently I have written about the possibility of this year’s presidential election going into overtime because of provisional ballots in Ohio, and why history cautions against being overly alarmed at this prospect. Here I want to explore the dynamic of what might unfold on November 7 and immediately afterwards, so that we can distinguish between (1) an understandably competitive process that is working according to the system as designed, and (2) a process that is beginning to careen out of control and potentially could fall off the rails, causing the proverbial train wreck. To focus on one possible scenario (we could pick others, but it helps to have a specific situation in mind), let’s suppose—as I hypothesized previously—that on November 7 Romney is ahead in Ohio by 10,000 votes, with 150,000 provisional ballots for local elections boards to evaluate. Ohio law permits all provisional voters ten days, until November 16, to give their local boards of elections any required additional information that would enable the boards to verify the eligibility of their ballots. For example, some voters cast a provisional ballot because they show up at the polls without a valid form of voter identification; these ballots, however, will count if the voters supply a permissible form of ID within the next ten days.

Voting Blogs: Hurricane Sandy and Election Day | ElectionLaw@Moritz

With Hurricane Sandy expected to make landfall along the Mid-Atlantic Coast later today, many are wondering how this year’s election may be affected by this “perfect storm,” including even whether the Presidential election could be postponed. Although at this point it is simply too early to predict with any confidence how widespread any power outages will be or how other weather-related damage might affect voting on November 6, it may be helpful to identify key features of the laws concerning Election Day. First, with respect to a Presidential election, the U.S. Constitution provides that Congress “may determine the time of [choosing] the Electors, and the Day on which they shall give their Votes; which Day shall be the same throughout the United States.”

Voting Blogs: Using Electronic Pre-Poll Votes as Guide for the ACT Election Result | Election Blog

The ACT is the only Australian jurisdiction to make extensive use of electronic voting. All pre-poll voting centres use electronic voting equipment, though paper ballots are available for the technology challenged. The six pre-poll voting centres are also used as election day polling places with electronic voting available. In all 20% of votes at the 2008 election were recorded electronically. A total of 43,820 electronic votes were recorded, though only 42,668 were formal votes. The rate of informal and discarded electronic ballots was 2.6% compared to 4% for paper ballots. The electronic voting system guides voters through the numbering sequence, so you cannot make a mistake filling in your ballot paper without being prompted that you have made an error. This means that an informal electronic vote is a deliberate informal, as a voter cannot vote informal without over-ridding the warning message.

Voting Blogs: Rules May Change, But the Secret Money Game Remains the Same | Brennan Center for Justice

In the last six months, the disclosure rules covering the sources of money spent on elections have changed dramatically — twice. Despite those changes, one thing has stayed the same: moneyed interests have remained able to spend tens of millions of dollars on elections without having to publicly reveal who is doing the spending. In March, a federal court ruled that Federal Elections Commission disclosure regulations were too weak, in violation of Congress’s instructions to the agency. The court said that any group (or individual) that runs a type of advertisement called “electioneering communications” must publicly disclose the identities of its donors. These are the so-called “issue ads” run shortly before an election that mention a candidate but stop short of telling the audience to vote for or against the candidate. In response to the ruling, organizations switched to a different type of advertisement called “independent expenditures” — ads that expressly call for a viewer to vote for or against the targeted candidate. Prior to this ruling, many groups had avoided independent expenditures for tax reasons, but they were willing to face the tax consequences once it became the only way to hide their donors from the public.

Voting Blogs: Elections officials aren’t the only ones prepping for Nov. 6 | electionlineWeekly

While the 2002 and 2004 elections were certainly watched following the issues in Florida in 2000 and the implementation of the Help America Vote Act of 2002 this year could prove to be under the microscope more than any in the past. Not only will all eyes being the administration of elections this year because of the multitude of new laws and regulations governing how voters cast their ballots, but also because anyone on social media becomes a de facto “reporter.” With a little more than a month to go till Election Day 2012, elections officials and campaigns are hard at working making sure everyone is properly registered and that those who want a ballot will get a ballot. But they aren’t alone. In newsrooms across the country editors and reporters are plotting their November 6 course of action as well. Even for those of us who cover elections 24/7/365 there is planning to be done.

Voting Blogs: Thousands of Non-Citizen Voters? It’s Déjà Vu in Michigan | Brennan Center for Justice

Michigan’s Secretary of State is joining a growing trend among state elections officials: Declare that thousands of non-citizens are registered to vote and then use those allegations to justify efforts that confuse, intimidate, and in some cases purge eligible voters on the eve of the election. But similar claims about ineligible voters in Florida and Colorado were debunked within a matter of weeks after being publicly disclosed. So why is Sec. Ruth Johnson jumping on the bandwagon, saying there are 4,000 non-citizens registered to vote? Is there something different about Michigan? Almost certainly not. To quickly recap: In Florida it was initially asserted that as many as 180,000 potential non-citizens were registered to vote. Claims of registered non-citizens in Colorado were smaller, but still in the thousands — over 11,000. But as time went by, these lists decreased in size. In Florida, 180,000 morphed into 2,600 and later into 198, while in the Centennial state 11,000 shrunk to 3,900 and then to 141. The final numbers represent thousandths of a percent of all registered voters in each state. But Michigan is a different state. Perhaps Johnson has learned from these fiascos and developed a more reliable and efficient system for identifying the extremely small percentage of non-citizens who may be on the rolls? Unfortunately, no.

Voting Blogs: Thousands of Non-Citizen Voters? It’s Déjà Vu in Michigan | Brennan Center for Justice

Michigan’s Secretary of State is joining a growing trend among state elections officials: Declare that thousands of non-citizens are registered to vote and then use those allegations to justify efforts that confuse, intimidate, and in some cases purge eligible voters on the eve of the election. But similar claims about ineligible voters in Florida and Colorado were debunked within a matter of weeks after being publicly disclosed. So why is Sec. Ruth Johnson jumping on the bandwagon, saying there are 4,000 non-citizens registered to vote? Is there something different about Michigan? Almost certainly not. To quickly recap: In Florida it was initially asserted that as many as 180,000 potential non-citizens were registered to vote. Claims of registered non-citizens in Colorado were smaller, but still in the thousands — over 11,000. But as time went by, these lists decreased in size. In Florida, 180,000 morphed into 2,600 and later into 198, while in the Centennial state 11,000 shrunk to 3,900 and then to 141. The final numbers represent thousandths of a percent of all registered voters in each state. But Michigan is a different state. Perhaps Johnson has learned from these fiascos and developed a more reliable and efficient system for identifying the extremely small percentage of non-citizens who may be on the rolls? Unfortunately, no.

Voting Blogs: Which States have the Highest Risk of an E-Voting Meltdown? | Freedom to Tinker

Computer scientists, including us, have long been skeptical of electronic voting systems. E-voting systems are computers, with all of the attendant problems. If something goes wrong, can the problem be detected? Can it be fixed? Some e-voting systems are much riskier than others. As the 2012 Presidential election approaches, we decided to evaluate the risk of a “meltdown scenario” in which problems with electronic voting equipment cause a state to cast the deciding electoral college vote that would flip the election winner from one candidate to the other. We’re interested in the risk of these technological problems, weighted by the relative voting power of each voter. So for example, here in New Jersey we use direct-recording electronic voting machines that have been found by a court to be inadequate, but with Obama polling at +14% it’s not likely that a snafu with these machines could change the entire state’s outcome. But in swing states that poll closer to even, like Virginia (where your voting machines can be modified to play Pac-Man), an electronic voting mix-up could have a much bigger impact. So, which states have the greatest risk of an e-voting meltdown affecting the result of the 2012 Presidential election?

Voting Blogs: The Surprisingly Easy Case for the Constitutionality of the Voting Rights Act | CAC

The next big showdown over the constitutional powers of the federal government is nearly upon us.  When the Supreme Court reconvenes in October, the Court is widely expected to grant review in Shelby County v Holder, a constitutional challenge to Congress’ 2006 renewal of the preclearance requirement of the Voting Rights Act, one of the Act’s most important and successful provisions in preventing and deterring racial discrimination in voting. Since it was first enacted in 1965, the Voting Right Act has required jurisdictions with a history of racial discrimination in voting to get permission – “preclearance” – from the U.S. Department of Justice or a three-judge federal court in Washington D.C. before changing their  voting laws and regulations.  Recent court opinions written by judges across the ideological spectrum illustrate just how vital preclearance remains as a tool for preventing racial discrimination in voting.

Voting Blogs: Relocation, Relocation, Relocation: Online Voter Registration’s Impact on Existing Voters | Election Academy

My electionline.org colleague Mindy Moretti has an info-packed story in this week’s electionlineWeekly on the push to get voters registered before deadlines start to hit in early October. Her story covers a variety of items, but the ones that jumped out at me were the online voter registration (OVR) numbers for states who have recently begun the practice. These two grafs stood out in particular:

In Maryland, the [OVR] system launched in July and has seen more than 8,000 new registrants and more than 14,000 people have updated their registration….

Since its launch in August, 9,716 New Yorkers have used the [online] voter registration system to update their registration or complete an application. According to [the State Board’s Doug] Kellner, 3,168 are new registrants.

Voting Blogs: As deadlines loom, push is on to get people registered | electionlineWeekly

With voter registration looming in most states in early to mid-October, advocacy groups, political campaigns and elections officials are putting on a full-court press to get as many Americans registered in time to cast a ballot on November 6. The National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS) has deemed September as National Voter Registration Month, and for the first time this year, the country will celebrate National Voter Registration Day on September 25. National Voter Registration Day was created by a working group of organizations including Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance Education Fund, Bus Federation Civic Fund, Fair Elections Legal Network, League of Women Voters, Nonprofit Vote, and Voto Latino.

Voting Blogs: Readers Debate the Merits of Post-election Audits | The Thicket

The September issue of NCSL’s elections newsletter, The Canvass, addressed what I thought was a sleepy topic: post-election audits. (As a way to double-check that the procedures, voting equipment and vote-counting software yielded the correct result, election officials run a post-election audit by hand-counting the ballots from a random set of precincts or machines.) So I was surprised that this issue received more responses than politically-charged and publicly debated issues, such as those on Voter ID or Voter Registration.

Voting Blogs: The Nearly Non-Citizen Purges | Brennan Center for Justice

This week, Florida partially settled one of three lawsuits challenging its attempted purge of non-citizens form its voter rolls. The state has promised to send corrective letters to thousands of voters who received unfounded notices of removal and to restore to the rolls any who were wrongly removed. Across the country, Colorado recently conceded it lacks adequate procedures or time to fairly pursue a similar purge effort before Election Day and will not do so. This is good news for the thousands of eligible citizens who otherwise would have been swept up further in these purges. It also reveals a dramatically different story than the tall tale Secretaries of State Gessler and Detzner were selling to the public just a few months ago. Last year Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler declared a virtual state of emergency — possibly 11,000 non-citizens on the Colorado voter rolls. Soon after, Secretary of State Ken Detzner in Florida upped the ante by claiming he had a list of 180,000 potential non-citizens. That got attention. Numbers like that indicate a massive problem. But the numbers weren’t quite right. Not even close. The final count? According to Colorado it appears that up to 141non-citizens could be on its voter rolls. That’s .004 percent of its 3.5 million registered voters. Florida now reports that its numbers could be as high as … 207. That’s .002 percent of its 11.5 million registered voters. Error-ridden and inaccurate voter rolls are a problem, and any ineligible voter on the rolls should be removed. But playing fast and loose with numbers is not the way to do it.

Voting Blogs: Absentee Ballot Numbers: Is It Just a Calendar Thing? | Election Academy

Last Friday, I blogged a story describing concerns about the slow pace of absentee ballot requests across the country, especially in the military. Those numbers were (in part) the focus of a hearing in the House Armed Services Committee yesterday. The slowdown is giving rise to fears that efforts to encourage and enable military and overseas voting (specifically, the MOVE Act) aren’t working -or aren’t being implemented – the way Congress intended. But now, thanks to George Mason’s Michael McDonald and his United States Election Project, comes the information that other factors may be at work – and that absentee ballots might not be slowing down as much as people think:

The number of ballot requests … continues to steadily increase, with an updated 2,476 reported on Tuesday (revised from 2,129) and a preliminary 2,386 on Wednesday. The number of absentee ballot requests is now 32,158. I previously discussed an apparent decline in the number of absentee ballot requests in comparison to 2008. Then, at the start date of mail balloting there were 37,539 absentee ballot requests.