The Voting News for 05/17/2011
The Journal Sentinel Editorial Board is entitled to its own opinions but it is not entitled to its own facts. The board’s speculation about my motives regarding the recount of the vote in the Supreme Court election is inaccurate. I appreciate this opportunity to set the record straight.
The recount process in Wisconsin is unfolding as prescribed by Wisconsin law. Votes are recounted in all 72 counties, and an official record is made of that process. When the Editorial Board says the recount is a “mere preamble to the court challenge,” it is wrong on the facts and wrong to prejudge my intentions.
Wisconsin law specifically anticipates that there may be court challenges to the recount, but those challenges can only happen after the recount is done. The recount is not “merely” a preamble to anything: It is a process that proceeds in prescribed ways when an election is this close.
Full Article: Why recounts are a vital part of election process — JSOnline.
“This is clearly not an indictment against early voting,” said unaffiliated Rep. Bert Jones of Rockingham County, the sponsor of the bill. “I guess the question is, how long is enough?”
Jones said cutting back on the number of early voting days would help save money for local boards of elections and help candidates who’ve had to change their campaign strategy by sending mailers and purchasing ads weeks before election day.
Opponents, however, said it was misguided and would inconvenience voters at best, and would suppress voter turnout at worst. Currently, early voting starts on the Thursday that is 2½ weeks before an election. Jones’ bill would have early voting starting on the Thursday that is one and one-half weeks before an election.
My print column this week examines the debate over voting systems that theorists and reformers have backed to replace the system prevalent in the U.S. and many other places, in which each voter gets one vote and the candidate with the most votes wins. Among possible alternative systems include some where voters rank candidates and others where they assign candidates scores.
Instant runoff, the focus of my column, has gotten the most traction so far. But some mathematicians point out that the system could give rise to various troubling results. Two significant ones: Voters who decide to shift their support from one candidate to a second can hurt that second candidate; and voters can get a worse outcome if they choose to show up to the polls, inadvertently helping their least-favorite candidate (the no-show paradox). Robert Z. Norman, Dartmouth College professor emeritus of mathematics, has simulated three-candidate elections in which each candidate has at least 25% of support and finds that each of these apparent paradoxes occur about one in five times.
Rob Richie, Instant runoff’s leading advocate as executive director of the nonprofit advocacy group FairVote, counters that in practice, such paradoxes are rare — and can also arise in elections that have non-instant runoffs if no candidate gets a majority of the vote.
Researchers sometimes turn to simulations because it can be difficult to determine just how rare these occasions are because instant-runoff localities often don’t release full election results. Unlike in a simple, one-voter, one-vote race — the so-called plurality system, where election results are simply the number of votes each candidate received and the winner has the most votes — full instant-runoff results are much more complicated. In a three-party race, there are 15 different ways to rank the candidates (counting ballots with just one or two candidates ranked). But election boards often just release the final candidate totals in each round of the runoff, rather than the full voter preferences.
Politically tinged legislation to cut North Carolina’s early voting period by a week hinges on Democratic worries they’ll lose voters and Republican insistence the shorter time is more efficient. The state House is scheduled to vote on the measure Monday. A tentative vote last week passed by a close margin, meaning a veto by Democratic Gov. Beverly Perdue could block the measure.
More than 2.4 million voters — 55 percent of the electorate — cast ballots at one-stop sites in the 2008 general election marked by Barack Obama’s presidential victory. The first Democrat to receive North Carolina’s electoral votes in 32 years was powered in large part by a 300,000-vote advantage over Republican John McCain during early voting.
Democrats also protest that the GOP-proposed change would pare back turnout by black voters.
Fifty-two percent of registered black voters cast ballots in the 2008 general election through early or traditional absentee voting, compared to 40 percent of registered white voters, according to State Board of Elections data. It was also the first general election in which people at early voting sites could register to vote and cast a ballot the same day.
Bills requiring local special elections to be held on general election days and bringing military voting guidelines in line with national standards passed the House Monday night.
The special election date bill, sponsored by Harry Warren, requires special elections – such as bond referendums – to be held when voters would also be going to the polls on general election dates. The military absentee bill, sponsored by Rep. Grier Martin, D-Wake, would align North Carolina’s law with national standards. It would set standards for electronic transmission of ballots.
The special elections bill includes a provision allowing boards of county commissioners who are required to fill vacancies, such as on their own boards or for sheriff, the option of filling that vacancy by calling a special election. The billl still needs a final House vote before going to the Senate. It tentatively passed by a 63–51 vote.
The uniform military bill passed by a 115–0 vote. It now goes to the Senate.
Kathy Nickolaus, the county clerk at the center of the state Supreme Court election controversy and the focus of an ongoing state elections investigation, has been described by colleagues and acquaintances as headstrong and insular, hardworking and independent.
She came to local public office, where constituents are the boss, from a staff job at the state Capitol, where partisan politics and loyalty to the party caucus fomented team warfare.
“I dont think shes ever gotten past that,” said Pam Reeves, the Republican elected county treasurer two years before Nickolaus arrival at the courthouse. “From the beginning she put up walls: Youre not going to tell me what to do. Then she put up more walls.”
Co-workers say her go-it-alone isolation more than anything is whats gotten her into the current mess, evident now by the tedious ballot recount still under way in the county Administration Center cafeteria, days after every other county has finished its job. And in a high-income, Republican-dominant county where officials tout its financial and service superiority, they say Nickolaus failings this election have given the county a black eye under national glare.
Since her 2002 election, when a Republican primary challenge was her only contest, Nickolaus — who in addition to her full-time clerk job operates a bait shop and has moonlighted as a bartender — has been re-elected three times without opposition. Not only did she reject calls to resign because of the latest snafu, but she also says she intends to run again in November 2012.
Nickolaus, 51, has stumbled a few times since taking office in her duties as the countys chief election administrator, but none as badly as after the April election. Nickolaus biggest mistake — one that would later find her telling a clerk that shed had the worst day of her life — was in releasing a final but unofficial election-night vote count that didnt include Brookfields 14,315 votes.
Full Article: Colleagues see Nickolaus as insular, hardworking — JSOnline.
Wisconsin taxpayers so far are on the hook for more than a quarter-million dollars in the recount of votes in the Wisconsin Supreme Court race. The statewide recount of ballots in the Wisconsin Supreme Court race will cost the state at least $230,000, according to updated financial data gathered by Wisconsin Reporter.
As of Friday, initial recount cost estimates from 57 of the state’s 72 counties totaled $233,539, county officials said. That’s less than half of the Government Accountability Board’s initial estimate of $500,000, though figures from several of the state’s larger counties, including Milwaukee and Ozaukee, were unavailable.
The majority of the county officials contacted Friday said their costs were equal to or less than expected, due to both underestimating the number of volunteers they would have to conduct the recount and overestimating the time needed for the actual recounting process.
“I had originally estimated $1,700, because I thought we would have to go an extra day, but it worked out well,” said Marinette County Clerk Kathy Brandt, whose staff completed the recount in two days at a final cost of $1,448.74. “We had identified all of our problems ahead of time.”
The situation was similar in Marquette County, said Donna Seddon, the county’s clerk. The county’s recount was completed in about two days by a largely volunteer staff, making the final cost roughly $900, Seddon said.
“But if I had included all the help that I got for free, we would have spent $4,000,” she said.
Just nine of those 57 counties reported higher-than-expected recount costs. Most of the clerks in those counties said the extra money went to reprogramming databases or renting additional memory packs for vote tabulating machines.
Councilwoman Priscilla Leal wants a recount of Saturday’s election results and a state investigation into alleged voting problems in her district. Leal, who is seeking her fourth term as the District 3 representative, was forced into a runoff by three votes. She received 1,016 votes to challenger Roland Barrera’s 921 and Rose Marie Soto’s 99, according to complete, unofficial returns. Leal and Barrera will be in a runoff election June 11. Leal met with City Secretary Armando Chapa late Monday afternoon to discuss her options and register complains about voting irregularities.
She complained that early voters at the Corpus Christi Council for the Deaf reported they cast votes for Leal, but the voting machine registered them as votes for Barrera on the confirmation screen, Precinct 94 voters were given mixed ballots with candidates from other districts outside the precinct boundaries, Precinct 80 moved from the former elementary school at 5040 Rockford Drive to a new school at 1102 Villarreal St. and voters were not redirected on election day; and Precinct 17 voters might have left because the polling spot opened late.
Chapa said Leal would have to pay an estimated $3,000 for a recount if she decides she wants one. He said there isn’t a way to trace who voted for which candidate.
The Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) on Sunday made the bizarre demand for a re-poll using traditional ballots, saying that the Congress had rigged the electronic voting machines (EVMs) to win the Assam elections for the third straight time.
“Definitely there should be a re-election by way of ballots as we strongly believe the Congress party tampered and manipulated the electronic voting machines,” two-time former Chief Minister and AGP founder president Prafulla Kumar Mahanta told journalists. “We have formally apprised the Election Commission seeking a re-election in Assam,” he said.
The Congress party, led by Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi, pulled off an emphatic hat-trick by winning 78 of the 126 assembly seats on Friday. Its ally, the Bodoland People’s Party, (BPF) won 12 seats.
“How could the Congress candidates win with such huge margins,” questioned Mahanta. But Mahanta failed to give a convincing answer when asked how he won from one seat and nine other AGP candidates also emerged victorious. “No, they (Congress) manipulated the EVMs in the other seats,” the former Chief Minister said.
Full Article: The Assam Tribune Online.
Tomorrow is election day and the country will become a network of hope, change and unity. To make sure that each of the 23.5-million votes cast will count — literally at least — there are three people and their teams who have been working tirelessly. They are Libisi Maphanga, the chief information officer for the Independent Electoral Commission, and his ICT heads Mervin Naidoo and Melanie du Plessis.
Naidoo, responsible for IT operations and Du Plessis, responsible for business systems, rattle off staggering numbers related to the setup. “There are actually 278 different elections [one for each municipality] taking place in the country tomorrow at 20859 voting stations,” says Du Plessis. Then there are 200000 staff who have to be managed, 70.5-million ballot papers to be printed, and distributed and the multimillion votes which have to be counted, captured and audited before we all hear the results.
Maphanga says much of the voting process is manual. “As a technical person, I’d have loved to automate everything. But to be compliant with the acts [and the Constitution] and for the voter to be assured their secrecy is guaranteed and their vote does not change along the way, we have to use manual counterchecks. ”
The tech end is world-class, however. The “impressive” geographic information system means the IEC has aerial photography of almost the entire country. These images are used to check the topography of the area and identify possible impediments to the voting stations. For example, voters should not have to climb mountains or swim through rivers to get to their voting stations.
The vote counting process is a manual, labour-intensive process, with several checks. When the information becomes electronic, “it is captured and audited, per voting station and ballot paper for each party or candidate. We publish these results as they come in, on the website and internal network which political parties and the media can access at the ROC”, Maphanga says.
Full Article: Ready for your vote — Times LIVE.