Voting Blogs: Why do Four States Have Odd-Year Elections? | The Thicket

When a reporter asked us why Louisiana, Missisissippi, New Jersey and Virginia have state elections in odd-numbered years, Tim Storey and I replied that it was probably the same reason that states have moved their gubernatorial elections into non-presidential election years: to insulate them from national political trends. After doing some research, though, it turns out that the reasons are sometimes more prosaic and quirky.

In some cases, the odd-year elections have to do with when new constitutions were adopted. Until the mid-19th century, the Virginia General Assembly, not the voters, elected the governor. A new constitution was adopted in 1851, and the first governor was directly elected in December 1851. They have been holding state elections in the odd-numbered years ever since. (See “Virginia’s Off-Off-Year Elections.”)

Voting Blogs: Election Costs: A New Weapon? | PEEA

A recent story from Port Orchard, WA demonstrates how important election costs are in the current tight fiscal environment. There, the City Council had voted in late May to take advantage of a state law that allows cities to modify their status to become “code” cities and thus give themselves more flexibility in their affairs.

Shortly thereafter, one member of the city’s Planning Commission who had argued that citizens be given an opportunity to weigh in on the change filed papers to put the question to a vote. But because of a misunderstanding about deadlines, the question was not certified in time for this November’s general ballot and thus would have required a special February election next year.

Voting Blogs: Indiana Reaches Settlement to Offer Voter Registration to Low-Income Citizens | Project Vote Blog

Thousands of low-income Indiana residents will finally have the opportunity to register to vote at state public assistance offices, as mandated by federal law.

Today, U.S. District Judge Tanya Walton Pratt approved a settlement of a class action lawsuit brought against Indiana officials to bring the state into compliance with the National Voter Registration Act. The suit was brought by the Indiana State Conference of the NAACP on behalf of state public assistance clients injured by the state’s violation of federal law. Plaintiffs are represented by attorneys from Project Vote, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Demos, the NAACP, the Chicago law firm of Miner, Barnhill & Galland, and the ACLU of Indiana.

Voting Blogs: The Virginia Primary Day Earthquake, Contingency Planning … and Andujar’s Law | PEEA

Yesterday’s East Coast earthquake – centered near Mineral, VA but felt up and down the Atlantic seaboard and as far west as Chicago – was and will be a big story for several days (and a source of endless eye-rolling from the West Coast).

It’s worth noticing, however, that the earthquake didn’t appear to stop Virginia from conducting a primary election in communities across the Commonwealth. There were scattered reports of brief evacuations and voting in parking lots, but generally people soldiered on. [The Virginia State Board of Elections’ Twitter feed has a nice chronology of events.]

In the aftermath, there will be lots of discussion about what lessons to draw from Tuesday’s events. The U.S. Election Assistance Commission’s blog came out quickly with a post detailing numerouscontingency planning resources that election offices should consult to be prepared for emergency situations that inevitably arise. Resources like these are crucial to the field and should be required reading for anyone responsible for the smooth operation of voting on Election Day.

Voting Blogs: Political Hurdles for League of Women Voters’ State Constitutional Challenge to Wisconsin Photo ID Law | The Brad Blog

The League of Women Voters in Wisconsin announced it will file a lawsuit in Dane County Circuit Court charging that the Badger State’s newly-enacted polling place photo ID restriction law violates the state’s Constitution. From a strictly legal perspective, the decision by the League’s attorney Lester Pines to challenge the new photo ID law pursuant to the state’s Constitution is significant.

Under Equal Protection analysis, any impartial jurist would readily understand that the statute does not meet the heightened scrutiny that accompanies the fact that, under the WI Constitution, voting is deemed a “fundamental right.”

Voting Blogs: Suddenly, the Voter ID Debate is Unpredictable | PEEA

Over the last several years, the debate about voter ID, especially requirements that voters show photo identification as a condition of casting a ballot, has become so predictable as to seem almost routine.

ID proponents – usually Republicans – argue that the spectre of voter fraud demands safeguards like ID to protect the sanctity of the ballot box, while opponents – usually Democrats – see ID requirements as barriers to the polls and thus vow to fight them in the name of combating disenfranchisement.

Indeed, in recent years the best predictor of whether voter ID would advance in a given state was whether or not Republicans held legislative majorities and the governorship. Recently, however, the headlines have brought new twists that suggest that the voter ID debate is no longer the predictable partisan storyline we have all come to know – if not love.

Voting Blogs: ‘There is No Way for Them to be Tampered With’: Mississippi Election Clerk Gets Approval to Remove Paper Trail Printers from Diebold Touch-Screens | The Brad Blog

The Jones County, Mississippi slogan is “A Great Place to Live”. While they may or may not be true, I’ve never been there, it’s clearly not a great place to vote. At least if voting in a way that is verifiably accurate for the citizenry is something one might care about. A remarkable statement by the county’s Circuit Clerk, and a unanimous decision in support of it by the County’s Board of Supervisors this week has made that as clear as can be.

You may recall that just last week, e-voting system failures — such as, as e-voting machines that wouldn’t start up at all, and votes that were counted twice — led to chaos and uncertain results in Mississippi’s state primaries, leading one official to declare days afterward, as they were all struggling to sort out results of several close elections: “At this point there is no election…Everyone is baffled.”

Against that back drop then, behold what Jones County, MS Circuit Clerk Bart Gavinis now calling for — and receiving unanimous approval from the Jones County Board of Supervisors for(!) — as irresponsibly reported without even a hint of fact-checking by Laurel Leader-Call reporter Charlotte Graham under the laughably misleading headline “Improving the voting process” [emphasis added].

Voting Blogs: Elections Canada and Social Media – How Tweet it Is | Edmonton Journal

If you still have any vague memories of this spring’s federal election campaign, you may be recall that Elections Canada attempted to enforce a ban on the “tweeting” and “Facebooking” of any regional election results before the polls had closed in British Columbia. It also banned mainstream media outlets from reporting such results on their commercial websites.

It was an antediluvian notion, which completely failed to grasp the way that social media and the Web have changed the way Canadians report upon and discuss the news. It was, in fact, a noxious attempt to censor political speech in the name of regional equity – as though western Canadians had a constitutional right or duty to be kept in ignorance of what was happening in the rest of their country.

It wasn’t wholly Elections Canada’s fault, of course. It was the Harper government which failed to amend the offending, and offensive legislation, despite the fact that Stephen Harper himself had railed against it back when he ran the National Citizens’ Coalition.

Voting Blogs: Still Clueless About Touch-Screens in South Carolina | The Brad Blog

Yesterday, The Post & Courier of Charleston, South Carolina reported that a local “Council of Governments [COG] approved a resolution…asking for the state to audit how its voting machines are working.” The “machines” are the 100% unverifiable ES&S iVotronic touch-screen Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) voting systems.

The Post & Courier not only mentions the fact that state election officials insist that the “iVotronic machines reliably tally votes,” but buys into the canard that “increased skepticism” is based upon [emphasis added] “human errors made during last year’s elections.” It adds that the COG resolution expressed “a concern [that the] voting machines…do not incorporate a ‘paper trail’ that could facilitate unequivocal confirmation of election results.”

If there is any state in the nation that should realize that casting a vote on the ES&S iVotronic amounts to an exercise in blind-faith, with or without a so-called “Voter-Verifiable Paper Audit Trail” (VVPAT), it would be South Carolina.

Voting Blogs: Wisconsin Recalls Come to a Close…For Now | The Brad Blog

The final round of state Senate recalls in Wisconsin, brought on in response to anti-union legislation by Gov. Scott Walker and state Republicans, have completed today. AP is reporting tonight that the two Democrats up for recall in the state’s 12th and 22nd have each retained their seats. TPM has thenumbers by district here.

By way of reminder, in Wisconsin most votes are cast by hand-marked paper ballot though tallied secretly by optical-scanners made by Diebold, Sequoia and ES&S. The state does not examine any optically-scanned ballots to assure the machines have tallied accurately after they’ve already been scanned, other than in the even of a recount if permission is granted by the courts to hand-count ballots. I’m told, but haven’t been able to confirm today, that some of the municipalities in the two districts where elections were held today, may have been hand-counting ballots, though centrally, after they’ve been transported, rather than at the precincts.

Voting Blogs: Children and Dead People Are NOT Voting in Utah | Utah Data Points

In a blog post Monday, my colleague Adam Brown analyzed the publicly available Utah voter file with the catchy headline, “Are children and dead people voting in Utah?”  Later in the day he posted a follow up with this headline: “Which counties have more registration errors?” Voting by dead people and children is not a problem in Utah.  These so-called “registration errors” are better termed anomalies.

The blog posts, the brief summary on the Tribune’s Political Cornflakes blog, and the hype on KSL radio missed a lot of nuance. For example, KSL had a story during its 8-9 am drive-time show on Tuesday morning that reported on the posts.  They introduced the story with this (at 31:09 in this mp3 file): “Our top local story this hour. This is something like you’d expect from Chicago.  Dead people staying on the voter registration rolls.”  Later on in the hour (at 46:33 in the mp3 file), KSL introduced Adam for a brief interview with this: “Well, there are either a whole bunch of long-living residents in Utah or some dead people are registered to vote…So, is this like Chicago?” Adam’s actual interview wasn’t quite as dramatic, but he referred to “incomplete record keeping,” his surprise at finding “several thousand people born in the 1800s registered to vote,” and how “carelessness” creates “opportunities for abuse.”

Voting Blogs: The Seattle Times Says “Voting by Mail Doesn’t Increase Turnout” in King County. Is That True? Does It Matter? | PEEA

The Seattle Times recently covered the release of a report examining the impact of King County’s 2006 switch to voting by mail. The Times’ takeaway? Vote by mail doesn’t increase turnout, even though that was supposedly a goal when the County Council supported the switch 5 years ago.

Read just a little further, though, and the answer isn’t as clear as the headline and lede would suggest. Comparing off-year elections in 2005 and 2009, the report found that turnout was about the same – just over 56 percent.

Voting Blogs: A review of the FVAP UOCAVA workshop | Freedom to Tinker

The US Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP) is the Department of Defense Agency charged with assisting military and overseas voters with all aspects of voting, including registering to vote, obtaining ballots, and returning ballots. FVAP’s interpretations of Federal law (*) says that they must perform a demonstration of electronic return of marked ballots by overseas military voters (**) in a Federal election at the first Federal election that occurs one year after the adoption of guidelines by the US Election Assistance Commission. Since the EAC hasn’t adopted such guidelines yet (and isn’t expected to for at least another year or two), the clock hasn’t started ticking, so a 2012 demonstration is impossible and a 2014 demonstration looks highly unlikely. Hence, this isn’t a matter of imminent urgency; however, such systems are complex and FVAP is trying to get the ball rolling on what such a system would look like.

As has been discussed previously on this blog, nearly all computer security experts are very concerned about the prospect of marked ballot return over the internet (which we will henceforth refer to as “internet voting”). Issues include vulnerability of client computers, issues with auditability, concerns about usability and coercion, etc. On the flip side, many states and localities are marching full steam ahead on their own internet voting systems, generally ignoring the concerns of computer scientists, and focusing on the perceived greater convenience and hoped-for increased turnout. Many of these systems include email return of marked ballots, which computer scientists generally consider to be even riskier than web-based voting.

Voting Blogs: Florida’s “hacktivism” controversy and its lessons for the election community | PEEA

Recently, the Miami Herald ran a story about the boasts of a hacker named Abhaxas that he had twice compromised Florida’s election systems by gaining access to servers with sensitive data. State and local election officials – and their vendors – vehemently denied the hacker’s claims and insisted that their systems (and the personally-identifiable voter data on them) remained insecure.

That didn’t stop what the Herald called “major geek news clearinghouses” like Gizmodo and Slashdot from publicizing news of the alleged hack, leading to lots of “here we go again” in the comments.

Even more importantly, the hacker appears to have taken the public denials of harm as a challenge – and has invited others to do the same. Last week, he tweeted the location of the vendor’s server, saying it had a “hack me” sign on it and noting “hack one, have access to all”.

Voting Blogs: Controversial Changes to Florida Election Law Remain in Question | Project Vote Blog

Today, Florida Secretary of State Kurt Browning announced that the Justice Department approved part of a controversial new election law that is being challenged by Project Vote and the ACLU. The critical portions of the bill relating to restrictions on early voting and voter registration drives remain in question.

Browning took the most controversial elements of the law to a federal court in Washington D.C. instead of the Justice Department, a move that he claims was to avoid “outside influence” at the hefty expense of taxpayers.

Voting Blogs: As Minority Language Assistance Becomes More Common, A More Common Approach Makes Sense | PEEA

The Denver Post had a story this weekend about the likelihood that 16 counties in Colorado will soon be required to make ballots and other election materials available in Spanish.

These requirements will be driven by 2010 Census data and required by Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act. Section 203 uses the Census data to identify jurisdictions in which the citizens voting age population in a single language group within the jurisdiction 1) is more than 10,000, OR 2) is more than five percent of all voting age citizens, OR 3) on an Indian reservation, exceeds five percent of all reservation residents AND the illiteracy rate of the group is higher than the national illiteracy rate.

Voting Blogs: What to expect when you’re expecting recalls: A guide to state legislative recalls | The Recall Elections Blog

While the political arguments surrounding tomorrow’s Wisconsin recall elections are well covered elsewhere, I’d like to draw attention to the many issues and history surrounding the use of the recall – both in Wisconsin and the rest of the nation. Due to the unprecedented circumstances in Wisconsin, we shouldn’t expect the usual recall phenomena like…

Voting Blogs: Dirty Tricks in Wisconsin: Deceptive Absentee Ballot Mailers Appear to be Coordinated Hoaxes | The Brad Blog

No doubt by now you’ve heard of the deceptive absentee ballot applications mailed to Democrats in Wisconsin by David Koch’s Americans for Prosperity, WI, as reported earlier this week by David Catanese at Politico.

As seen below, the mailer instructed recipients to return the application to the “Absentee Ballot Processing Center” by August 11th, even though the recall elections for 6 Republicans is next Tuesday, August 9th…

Voting Blogs: How easy is it to rig the outcome of a New South Wales Australia Electronic Election? | Poll Blogger

Question need to be asked “Just how easy is it to rig the NSW Legislative Council election? The reality is its quite easy if you have access to the data file and no one else has copies of the data so a comparison cannot be made.

The NSW “Below-the-line” preference data fiels that habve just been released exclude preferences recorded as being informal. Votes where a preference has been omitted or duplicated. This could be as a result of a data-entry or voter error. Without access to the missing data it is impossible to verify the quality of the data recorded.

What’s even more scary is that if a person had access to the original data file they could easily run a simple query against the data set, removing preferences for a given candidate where that candidate has a higher preference than another candidate. The number of primary votes would still be the same but the ballot paper would exhaust during the count if the preference order had been altered in any way.

Voting Blogs: New federal case says voting machines aren’t “facilities” under ADA; might the answer change as elections do? | PEEA

On July 27, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit issued a new opinion in American Association of People with Disabilities v. Harris, a case originally brought in 2001 by plaintiffs alleging that the State of Florida had failed to acquire voting machines to accommodate voters with disabilities.

The case has had a long and eventful trip through the federal courts – and appeared to be finished in May 2010 when the 11th Circuit issued an opinion dismissing the case on the grounds that plaintiffs lacked a private right of action (translation for non-lawyers – a right to sue directly as opposed to relying on government enforcement) under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Maine: Same Day Voter Registration and Charlie Webster’s Infinite Wisdom | Price on Politics

I have been avoiding this topic for the past couple of weeks because it has received plenty of coverage, but given GOP Chairman Charlie Webster’s latest actions, it was time for a college student’s take on the matter. For the past four years I have been a registered Republican in a college town and as frustrating as it often can be to go up against the liberal leanings of the area, restricting voting access is wrong and will not change the outcome of elections.

I am from Maine and have voted since I was 18, and never once was it in my hometown. I follow the local politics of the area I reside in and am most informed about the issues of that area. While I am not one of the students Webster has decided to target, I still take issue with his accusations. I’d also be curious to know where LePage’s children voted during their time (paying in state tuition?) attending college in Florida. If we are heading down this road, why not look at Maine citizens voting in other states while attending school. Does this concern Webster? No, because to him they represent one less liberal voting in a Maine election.

Voting Blogs: Bank Account Activity New Voting Requirement in Wisconsin? | Rock the Vote Blog

Did you know that your constitutional right to vote actually hinges on how often you swipe your debit card at Starbucks? No? Neither did a Wisconsin voter who went to the DMV to get his “free” voter ID card.

Since you will need to show a government-issued photo ID to vote in Wisconsin in 2012, the requirements for actually getting an ID at the DMV are pretty important. This video showcases the apparently new requirement that a bank account has to show a certain amount of “activity” to be used to prove your residency. I don’t remember seeing that in the Constitution.

National: Will the Roberts Court Kill the Voting Rights Act? | ACS

Speaking before a joint session of Congress on March 15, 1965, LBJ urged support for the Voting Rights Act (VRA). He implored all members to get behind it or risk being on the wrong side of history. He asserted that “Experience has clearly shown that the existing process of law cannot overcome systematic and ingenious discrimination. No law…can ensure the right to vote when local officials are determined to deny it.”

That was then, and Justice Clarence Thomas (among others) and his assertion that the time for the Voting Rights Act has indeed come and gone, is now. But before we throw dirt on the VRA once and for all, a bit of context is in order.

With the current redistricting cycle full steam ahead, the VRA becomes controlling  when plaintiffs seek to challenge newly drawn maps of legislative districts with sections (2) and (5) being invoked. Section 2 prohibits any “voting qualification or prerequisite to voting, or standard, practice or procedure” being imposed or applied to any State or political subdivision” that would “deny or abridge the right of any citizen of the United States to vote on account of race or color” while Section (5) requires a DOJ or US District Court of DC “pre-clearance” when seeking to administer any voting qualification, procedure, standard, practice or procedure “different from that in force or effect November 1, 1964.”

Voting Blogs: Americans Elect Internet Vote for President? Consider how it worked in DC 2010 | Irregular Times

Apart from the various considerations of political ideology, influence and process regarding Americans Elect, there’s the simple matter of technology. Americans Elect plans to use all-internet-voting to nominate a presidential candidate and to broker the selection of the actual president in an Electoral College showdown. Will a binding internet vote be pulled off with accuracy and without getting hacked? Or is online voting subject to tampering?

Internet votes can be pulled off. The city of Honolulu managed an internet election for neighborhood councils in 2009. Estonia is often mentioned by internet-voting advocates, although more than 98% of votes cast in Estonia’s 2005 e-vote were old-fashioned paper ballots, and Estonia is a small country that had 9,681 electronic votes to verify that year.

Voting Blogs: Wisconsin Clerk: Anger and Lines Greet ID Soft Launch | Rock the Vote Blog

Wisconsin’s recall elections are serving as a “soft implementation” of the new voter ID law, and poll workers and clerks are already expressing concerns about the new process. Even with modest turnout, voters experienced long waits and confusion, alarming clerks for future elections.

The concerns of elections officials and poll workers – including voice fears about long lines stretching from two to three hours, frustrated voters leaving before casting a ballot, anger revolving around poll book signatures and IDs, and drastically understaffed polls – were captured in a letter from the Madison City Clerk, Maribeth Witzel-Behl.

Voting Blogs: Complying with minority languages requirements | From Our Corner

If you ever wonder why our state or a certain county provides ballots or elections material in some language besides English, it’s because we’re complying with a federal mandate resulting from the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

The minority language provisions of the Voting Rights Act were added in 1975. These minority language mandates are found in Section 203 of the VRA.  The way it works is that if at least 10,000 (or over 5 percent) of the voting-age citizens in a voting jurisdiction are members of a single language minority group and are limited-English proficient, that jurisdiction has to provide any registration or voting notices, forms, instructions, assistance, ballots and other  elections-related info in that minority language.

Ohio: Ohio’s Election “Reform” | Rock the Vote Blog

For a brief and glorious moment, Ohio was going to have online voter registration. A mere 12 days after online voter registration was born, the Ohio legislature passed HB 224, a bill that amended parts of an election reform bill (HB 194) that gave online voter registration its short life. We’ll get to that in a minute.

First, let’s just say that the original election reform bill – HB 194 – was not entirely beneficial to voters. It shortens the early voting period from 35 days to 17 days, ends all Sunday voting hours, and stops counties from automatically sending out absentee ballot applications (a common practice in larger, urban counties). It also eliminates a requirement for poll workers to direct voters to their correct precinct if they arrive at the wrong location. That’s right: if you show up at the wrong polling place, poll workers now don’t have to tell you where your proper polling place is.

Voting Blogs: A Voting System without “Spoilers” — Approval Voting | Democracy Counts

A perpetual problem with our current voting system is that it subjects third-party candidates to charges that they are “spoilers” while forcing voters to vote strategically rather than honestly. That is, if you really like candidate C, but realize that the most likely winner is either candidate A or candidate B, you may feel obligated to vote for A to prevent a win by B.

How hard is it to get around this problem? Not hard at all — it just means considering the system that was used to vote for the first four U.S. presidents. That’s Approval Voting.

Voting Blogs: Wisconsin’s Soft Launch and Hard Times | Rock the Vote Blog

As the Wisconsin recall elections kicked off yesterday, voters were greeted with a test run of the new photo ID law. The “soft implementation,” as officials were calling it, was an effort to get voters used to the real photo ID requirements, which will go into effect next year. Everyone who votes in the recall elections this year will be asked to show ID. If you don’t have one, you’ll still be allowed to vote and will be given a flyer on the new requirements and how to meet them.

The Government Accountability Board estimates that educating Wisconsin voters will cost about $750,000, not including the price of the IDs or infrastructure such as increased poll hours and worker training.

National: New EAC Report Shows Increased Voter Registration Among Low-Income Americans | Project Vote

A newly released review of a June 27 report by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) shows that voter registration application rates at state public assistance agencies have risen sharply following National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) enforcement actions by advocacy groups Demos, Project Vote, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, and others. In contrast, the overwhelming majority of states not targeted have continued to see a long decline in registration of lower-income residents.

The EAC report covers voter registration that occurred between the November 2008 and November 2010 elections.