Green Party Presidential Nominee Jill Stein’s recent requests for recounts in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin highlight how few states routinely verify the accuracy of their vote counts: Twenty-two states do not require a post-election audit, and 15 states do not require paper records that could be compared against electronic vote tallies in a recount. With roughly 22.5 percent of registered voters living in election districts with paperless ballots, the pressure to audit vote counts is mounting. Modern electronic machines are susceptible to tampering, casting doubt on the security of the machines and the certainty of their final vote counts. Following the 2000 presidential election and the resulting legal challenges in Florida over inaccurate counts of votes cast on paper ballots, Congress distributed more than $3 billion to replace manual voting equipment with modern electronic machines. At the time, “there was a feeling among some election officials and state legislatures that it’d be best to avoid paper going forward,” said Larry Norden, deputy director of the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice. Instead, states opted for “computerized voting machines that just told you what the totals were and you wouldn’t have to deal with the messy process of trying to figure out voter intent.” But as it’s become clear that without a paper record there’s no way to verify vote tallies, computer scientists and election activists have begun pushing for states to not only keep a paper record but to also institute routine post-election audits. Since 2004, many states passed a law requiring audits.
The Voting News
National: Supreme Court appears in favor of ruling against racial gerrymandering in GOP-controlled states | Baltimore Sun
A Supreme Court majority on Monday appeared to lean in favor of Democrats in Virginia and North Carolina seeking to rein in what they call racial gerrymandering by Republican-controlled legislatures in those states. Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, who is likely to hold the deciding vote, said he was troubled that Republican leaders drew new election maps by moving more black voters into districts that already had a majority of African American residents and usually favored black candidates. Civil rights lawyers and Democrats have contended these “packed” districts have the effect of diluting or weakening the political power of black and Latino voters in other districts and statewide. “I have problems with that,” Kennedy said, suggesting he would question such districts if the “tipping point, the principal motivating factor was race.”
National: The Supreme Court Tackles The Political Riddle Of Race-Based Gerrymandering | FiveThirtyEight
Every 10 years, after the census is complete, legislators in statehouses across the country embark on a time-honored tradition: remapping the boundaries of their states’ voting districts, usually to the benefit of the people doing the remapping. Gerrymandering, the practice of painstakingly engineering districts to bestow an advantage on the politicians in control of the process, has been baked into the American political process since the 18th century — and legal challenges to the weird-looking maps that result have their own long history, too. But not all gerrymanders are created equal, at least from a legal perspective. On Monday, the Supreme Court will hear arguments in two gerrymandering cases, in which the plaintiffs claim that after the 2010 census, Republican legislators in North Carolina and both parties in Virginia deliberately packed black voters into a small number of congressional and state legislative districts. The plaintiffs in the two cases, McCrory v. Harris (North Carolina) and Bethune-Hill v. Virginia State Board of Elections (Virginia), claim that by concentrating black voters in a few districts in an effort to protect their majorities, legislators unfairly diluted black voters’ influence. The legislators, on the other hand, say they are merely complying with the Voting Rights Act, which requires states to create districts where minority voters can select their preferred candidate. The question at the heart of these cases is a political riddle: How much mandated racial gerrymandering is too much racial gerrymandering?
Election officials might not want to hear this, but the way we vote isn’t scientific. If they were conducted using the scientific method, recounts would be expected, maybe even mandatory. People would want to re-examine the raw data — as former Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein has been pushing to do in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. Why? There’s no reason to assume elections are any more immune to errors than scientific studies, where replication is often a requirement for acceptance. And that means not just rechecking final results but either running an experiment again or re-evaluating the raw data — akin to the hand recounts that Stein, as well as a number of computer scientists, have advocated for. Stein succeeded in Michigan, where a hand recount is expected to begin Friday, and lodged a partial victory in Wisconsin, where both hand and machine recounts started Thursday. This isn’t just an exercise in sore losing. Vote counts, after all, aren’t any more sacred than any other kind of measurement. It’s a key tenet of science that measurements, from weight to temperature to cholesterol counts, are imperfect reflections of reality. Scientists acknowledge this uncertainty with error bars — if the error bars overlap, they can’t definitively declare one value bigger than the other.
An error that forced the reprinting of 2,917,201 general election ballots will cost the state of Alabama $459,690.80, according to Secretary of State John Merrill. The ballot had to be reprinted to add the complete required language to the ballot in order to capture the entire statement that had been prepared in the original legislation. Once the error was discovered, Merrill immediately contacted the service provider and instructed them to stop printing the ballots. All required ballot styles had not yet been printed. Merrill then directed his staff to make the required, corrected changes and recertify the corrected ballot language to the vendor so printing could be completed.
It looked like democracy’s bingo hall. In the lobby of the Riverside County elections office Thursday, Dec. 1, workers sat at foldout tables with sheets of paper and ballots. Methodically and calmly, they verified votes cast electronically in last month’s general election. A sign taped to a wall asked for quiet amid the shuffling of papers and voices reciting names of candidates and ballot measures. It’s part of a state-mandated and manual labor-intensive process that starts after the polls close. More than 14 million Californians voted in the Nov. 8 election, and ballots were still being tallied last week, long after Election Day and with most races clearly decided.
Three central Florida voters are mounting an unlikely bid to overturn the presidential election result in the Sunshine State. In a lawsuit filed Monday in Leon Circuit Court, they assert that Hillary Clinton, not Donald Trump, actually won Florida. The plaintiffs, who live in Osceola and Volusia counties, say the state’s official election results were off because of hacking, malfunctioning voting machines and other problems. They’re asking for a hand recount of every paper ballot in Florida, at the expense of defendants including Trump, Gov. Rick Scott and the 29 Republican presidential electors from Florida.
Palm Beach County state Senator Jeff Clemens filed legislation this week (SB 72) that would automatically register Floridians to vote when they apply for or renew their driver’s license. “The reason is pretty simple – nobody should have to jump through an extra hoop to exercise their constitutional rights,” says Clemens, who edged out Irv Slosberg in a fiercely combative primary in the Democratic-leaning Senate District 31 in August. Clemens says this is either the third or fourth time he’s proposed such a bill, and he says that his fellow Republicans should embrace it.
The central Kansas town of Frederick has dwindled over the decades to just 10 people, and its only real expense is a $55-a-month electric bill for a half-dozen or so street lights that illuminate the unpaved streets. For a community with nine registered voters, the tally at the ballot box last month was 13-7 in favor of keeping Frederick a third-class city. The three workers at the polling place 5 miles to the west handed out the wrong ballots to some voters living outside the city. Local and state officials, at a loss for what to do, are letting the results stand. Either way, it’s unclear whether anything will change for Frederick’s residents. Just off a state highway about 75 miles northwest of Wichita, this city-in-name-only has no approved budget and didn’t elect anyone to any office in its last municipal election in 2015.
Broken polling machines may have put vote counts in question in more than half of Detroit’s precincts and nearly one-third of surrounding Wayne County, possibly throwing the Michigan recount into chaos. If the discrepancies can’t be solved by recounting every paper ballot in question by hand, a recount in those precincts simply won’t happen. Donald Trump’s slim margin over Hillary Clinton means any chance that the state might flip on a recount likely hinges on Wayne County, where she won by a landslide. Clinton lost by 10,704 votes in Michigan; Wayne’s population of 1,759,335 makes it the likeliest candidate to contain errors bigger than that margin. Eighty-seven of Wayne County’s decade-old voting machines broke on election day, according to Detroit’s elections director, Daniel Baxter. He told the Detroit News, which first reported the story, that ballot scanners often jammed when polling place workers were trying to operate them. Every time a jammed ballot was removed and reinserted, he suspects the machine may have re-counted it.