More than 90 percent of absentee ballots for the 2018 runoff election have to be remade, according to V.I. Board of Elections Chairman Arturo Watlington Jr., an unavoidable reality of the short time span between the General Election and the runoff. On Tuesday, Watlington said board members on St. Thomas counted 273 absentee ballots — of which, more than 250 will have to be remade because they are not “official” runoff election ballots and cannot be fed into the voting machines. Watlington said the two weeks between the Nov. 6 General Election and Nov. 20 runoff election gave little time for elections officials to order and receive new ballots.
A voting rights group on Monday called for a “full review” after finding several errors on absentee New Hampshire. But the secretary of state’s office said the group is wrong in one instance and that other issues are being addressed as part of the usual pre-election process. A small number of ballots are sent 45 days before the election to military members and others overseas. The New Hampshire Campaign for Voting Rights said Londonderry’s ballots listed a candidate under the wrong party, the Bedford ballot lists a candidate twice and another candidate was left off ballots for Auburn, Sandown and Chester. The group’s director, Liz Wester, called the errors “unacceptable.”
Virginia: Virginia judge won’t force count of 55 absentee ballots in close delegate race | The Washington Post
A federal judge in Alexandria declined Friday to force a count of 55 absentee ballots that could help determine control of the Virginia House of Delegates. In the race to fill the seat held by retiring Speaker William J. Howell (R-Stafford), Republican Robert Thomas is ahead of Joshua Cole by 82 votes. Cole’s campaign filed suit arguing that 55 absentee ballots that arrived in Stafford County the day after the Nov. 7 election were late because of postal-office problems and should be counted. Judge Claude M. Hilton disagreed. “These ballots were late,” he said. Everyone, Hilton added, wonders sometimes “what’s wrong with the mail.” But he saw no evidence of “improprieties” here.
Nevada: Absentee ballots could become more accessible for disabled voters | Las Vegas Review-Journal
It may become easier for registered voters with disabilities to get Nevada absentee ballots on a long-term basis.
Senate Bill 447 would allow registered voters with a physical disability to request an absentee ballot for every election they are eligible to vote in. The Senate Legislative Operations and Elections Committee heard the bill on Monday without taking action.
California: State takes issue with Contra Costa elections chief over double-voting concerns | East Bay Times
The California Secretary of State’s office is taking exception to the Contra Costa County elections chief’s call for a change in how vote-by-mail voters are accommodated at election-day polling places, and wants to see evidence backing allegations made last week that following state rules allowed double-voting in the June 7 primary election. Secretary of State spokesman Sam Mahood said Monday his office as asked Contra Costa Registrar of Voters Joe Canciamilla to provide evidence that 113 people successfully voted twice in the primary election in that county. Canciamilla said this week he will comply.
A bill to keep voters from casting ballots using the names of dead people received preliminary approval Monday in the Arizona Senate even though there was no evidence that type of fraud was occurring in the state. Arizona conservatives are pushing the legislation in the wake of legislative victories that include limiting the collection of early ballots and erecting more hurdles to get initiatives on the ballot. Republicans say the measures help protect against voter fraud while Democrats argue the moves limit voter participation.
Saying it will maintain election integrity, Gov. Doug Ducey on Wednesday signed legislation to make felons out of those who collect the ballots of others to bring them to the polls. HB2023, which takes effect later this year, will allow judges to impose a presumptive one-year prison term and potential $150,000 fine for the current practice…
Utahns will likely no longer have to wait two weeks to find out election results in tight races. HB21, a bill requiring clerks to update vote counts between Election Day and the official canvass, has already sailed through both the House and the Senate with overwhelming approval. It now awaits Gov. Gary Herbert’s signature. The proposed law change comes after voters waited anxiously to know the winner of two high-profile, neck-and-neck races last year: the Salt Lake City mayor’s race and Proposition 1 in Salt Lake County. Elections officials deemed both races too close to call on Election Day, with thousands of lingering vote-by-mail ballots still making their way to clerks.
A proposed state law that would prohibit taking someone else’s early ballot to a polling place is getting mixed reactions here, with some saying it would deny home-bound or disabled people their right to vote and others saying the measure would help prevent electoral fraud. In San Luis, it has been a practice for decades for campaign workers of candidates for city and county offices to collect early ballots from voters who presumably can’t get to the polls on election day, or who otherwise need help voting. But ballot collecting – sometimes called “ballot harvesting” – has also raised concerns that the practice leaves open the possibility that vote collectors could pressure voters to vote a certain way, or that the ballots could be trashed or altered before being delivered to the poll.
Republican lawmakers approved a measure Thursday that would make felons out of people who return the early ballots of others to the polls. The 34-23 House vote, with every Democrat present opposed, was propelled by arguments that the current system is ripe for fraud. Rep. Heather Carter, R-Cave Creek, also voted against the measure. Rep. J.D. Mesnard, R-Chandler, cited testimony from Maricopa County Elections Director Karen Osborne who spoke during a prior attempt to enact this provision. She told lawmakers there have been situations where individuals claiming to be county election workers have gone door-to-door trying to pick up ballots. “This is a problem,” he said.
House Republicans have reintroduced a pair of bills that would make it nearly impossible for voter-outreach groups to collect and drop off early ballots as the state prepares for the 2016 election season. The proposals would make it a felony for anyone but a family member, roommate, caregiver, postal worker or candidate to collect early ballots from another person in an act sometimes called “ballot harvesting.” The outcome of the legislation could impact the state’s general and primary elections if the bill is signed into law and enacted before elections take place. Early ballot voting makes up 60 percent of all voting in the state, a Secretary of State spokesman said. Both Republicans and Democrats engage in early ballot collection efforts, though Democrats tend to collect more. There is no evidence that voter-outreach groups have ever tampered with or tossed early ballots.
With presidential primary elections two months away, the U.S. Postal Service has yet to explain why nearly 9 percent of Summit County mail-in ballots were missing postmarks and had to be thrown out. And no one has come up with a solution for the future. The unusually high number of botched ballots led the Summit Board of Elections to subpoena postmasters to a hearing last month. While postal officials skipped the hearing, Ohio Secretary of State John Husted’s office has since taken up the issue statewide. During the last presidential election in 2012, more than one-third of Ohio voters mailed their ballots.
Former state Sen. Melanie Sojourner testified Wednesday it was a “great concern” to her that Adams County officials stored absentee ballots and other records in cardboard boxes after the November election. She also argued that her loss in that election should be overturned because she believes poll workers improperly assisted some voters at the Bude precinct in Franklin County. Sojourner testified on the opening day of a hearing being held by a five-member Senate committee that’s considering her complaints about the District 37 race in Adams, Amite, Franklin and Pike counties.
Florida: Elections supervisors to court: Decide Senate redistricting by March 15, please | Florida Politics
Florida’s election supervisors are asking the courts to resolve the state Senate redistricting saga by March 15 to protect the “quality and integrity of the (voting) process.” The Florida State Association of Supervisors of Elections filed its notice Wednesday with Circuit Judge George Reynolds, who is in the process of deciding how to redraw the state’s 40 senatorial districts. Reynolds, who sits in Tallahassee, held a trial on the matter last week. His recommendation goes to the Florida Supreme Court, which has the final say on a new map. With Florida’s primary election on Aug. 30, the supervisors need lead time “to remap and re-precinct their counties following approval of new Florida Senate districts by this Court.” Absentee ballots must go out 45 days before the primary, and new polling locations will have to determined.
A bill that will make it all but impossible for voter-outreach groups to boost turnout by collecting early ballots from voters was advanced by an Arizona House panel dominated by Republicans on Wednesday. The proposal makes it a felony for anyone but a family member, caregiver or candidate to collect more than two early ballots from voters during a two-year election cycle. Republican Secretary of State Michele Reagan is backing the last-minute amendment to Senate Bill 1339. The proposal failed in the House elections committee last week, but it was revived and added to an unrelated bill. The appropriations committee approved the amended bill on a 9-5 party-line vote.
Alabama’s mandate that runoff elections be held 42 days after an inconclusive federal primary pre-empts the right of overseas military personnel to participate via absentee ballots, the 11th Circuit ruled. “In our nation’s recent history, active military personnel and their families have faced severe difficulties exercising their fundamental right to vote,” said U.S. Circuit judge Stanley Marcus, writing for the three-judge panel. “For affected service members, the decision to serve their country was the very act that frequently deprived them of a voice in selecting its government,” Marcus added. To remedy the problem, Congress in 1986 passed the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act, which provides that a state must send absentee voters a ballot 45 days before a federal election.
The number of uncounted votes in Alaska’s tightly fought U.S. Senate race grew by 21,000 between Wednesday and Friday — and more than 5,000 of those were votes that hadn’t been predicted in early accounts of the number of ballots outstanding. After election night on Tuesday, incumbent Democratic U.S. Sen. Mark Begich trailed Republican challenger Dan Sullivan by 8,000 votes, or 3.6 percent, and both campaigns have been closely watching as state elections officials collect additional ballots cast by mail, or at more than 200 so-called “absentee in-person voting locations” around the state, where people could vote early. More than 40,000 ballots will likely be counted starting Tuesday, though the number will probably climb even more before then. To win, Begich would have to reverse election night trends and win a substantial majority — though his allies have pointed out that in the count following Election Day in 2008, Begich overcame a 3,000 vote deficit to Republican Ted Stevens and ultimately won by 4,000 votes. The spike between Wednesday and Friday was a reflection of state elections officials’ new accounting for more than 13,000 provisional ballots, 2,200 absentee ballots submitted by fax, mail or email, and some 5,200 ballots cast early at the in-person absentee voting locations across the state.
In November of 2007, Clayton Anderson participated the most ordinary of elections—voting on a handful of local ballot proposals for his Houston suburb. But Anderson cast his ballot in an extraordinary fashion. He was traveling at 17,000 miles per hour, floating in microgravity at more than 200 miles above Earth. The vote made Anderson one of a handful of astronauts who have voted from beyond the reaches of Earth’s atmosphere, both on the International Space Station and Russia’s Mir station. “To be able to hit the button and send it and know that it was coming from outer space to go to somebody down on the Earth through that process—that was pretty cool,” Anderson said. For Anderson, the process held special meaning. His wife, Susan Anderson, was the NASA leader who headed the 1997 effort to allow astronauts to vote from space—a year before her husband was chosen to be an astronaut and a decade before he went into orbit. “We could only dream that I would be able to use that capability,” he said.
Connecticut: Ballot question in November could help change the way state votes | The Norwich Bulletin
There will be a constitutional question on the Nov. 4 ballot asking residents to empower the state Legislature to consider changes to the way people vote. The Connecticut Constitution states that ballots must be cast in person on Election Day with only a few exceptions: illness or disability; absence from the town; or religious prohibitions from going to the polls on the scheduled day. The ballot question will read: “Shall the Constitution of the State be amended to remove restrictions concerning absentee ballots and to permit a person to vote without appearing at a polling place on the day of an election?”
Election officials are preparing for the possibility that the Puna lava flow could potentially disrupt voting in next month’s general election. Hawaii’s election chief outlined plans at a state Elections Commission meeting on Friday, but some critics fear a repeat of problems that happened during the primary due to Tropical Storm Iselle. “Please prevent another man-made disaster caused by the Elections Office,” said State Sen. Russell Ruderman (D-Puna, Kau). He recommended mail-in ballots only for next month’s election for precincts in lower Puna that could be affected by the lava. “We do not know at this time which precincts will be accessible, which neighborhoods will be accessible,” said Ruderman.
MNVotes, the new website launched by the Office of the Minnesota Secretary of State, makes it easier than ever to vote in the Nov. 4 elections. Minnesotans can register online, request absentee ballots, find their polling places and more. The website has a new look and functionality to allow voters to better access and interact with voter tools and information on their computers, tablets and mobile phones. “The enhanced functionality provides voters with an easier way to connect and engage with our voter resources and information,” says Secretary of State Mark Ritchie.
An Alaska Senate race has the potential to once again remain undecided well after the election, and this time the wait could keep control of the Senate up in the air until at least mid-November. December and January runoffs are possible in two other states with Senate races, so it could be even longer before either party can claim a majority of seats in the chamber in the next Congress. Senate Republicans need a net gain of six seats to take control. But the reason for the holdup in Alaska is, like the state itself, unique. In the Last Frontier State, the regular delay in races being called is largely a product of two confluent circumstances: close contests and an increased emphasis by campaigns on absentee voting, a get-out-the-vote method pushed to help compensate for the state’s travel and voting complications. The need to encourage absentees is a reality in one of the most topographically challenging states for campaigns in the country. Prop planes are often required for candidates to reach the state’s vast rural areas and even for timely travel between cities close in proximity but separated by mountains or water. And state officials running the election face similar logistical hurdles: All ballots are eventually transported by air to Juneau, a capital only accessible by boat or plane.
Wisconsin: U.S. Supreme Court is asked to block Wisconsin’s voter ID law | Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel
Opponents of Wisconsin’s photo ID requirement for voters took their case to the U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday, seeking an emergency halt to the state’s implementation of the law ahead of the fast approaching Nov. 4 election. … In their petition, voter ID opponents told the Supreme Court that there’s not enough time to properly implement the law ahead of the tight election between GOP Gov. Scott Walker and Democratic challenger Mary Burke, which is five weeks away. On Sept. 12, the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago ruled that the law could be put in place for the election while a lawsuit over the requirement grinds on, leaving state officials and local election clerks sprinting to put the law in place. “Thousands of Wisconsin voters stand to be disenfranchised by this law going into effect so close to the election. Hundreds of absentee ballots have already been cast, and the appeals court’s order is fueling voter confusion and election chaos. Eleventh-hour changes in election rules have traditionally been disfavored precisely because the risk of disruption is simply too high,” said Dale Ho, director of the Voting Rights Project of the American Civil Liberties Union, which is representing the voters suing the state.
The full U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit has split 5-5 on whether to restore the injunction blocking Wisconsin’s voter ID law for this election. Since the full court deadlocked, the three-judge panel’s decision to stay the injunction — or let the ID law go into effect — will stand, absent intervention by the U.S. Supreme Court (which so far has not been sought). There is an 11th seat for an active judge on the court, but that tie-breaking seat has remained vacant since January 2010. Following the 5-5 vote, the panel issued an opinion explaining its reasons for denying the request for rehearing and voting against the full court’s review, and the five judges who voted for continuing to block the ID law for this election filed a dissent. Both sides argued about the meaning of a 2006 Supreme Court opinion, Purcell v. Gonzalez. In Purcell, a district court had allowed Arizona to implement its new voter ID law, but with weeks left before the election, the Ninth Circuit issued an emergency stay, blocking the law pending its final decision. The Supreme Court unanimously reversed the Ninth Circuit, finding that court orders changing the status quo so close to an election risk voter confusion and suppress participation. With the election mere weeks away and thousands of absentee ballots already mailed without ID instructions, hundreds of which have been returned without ID, the dissenting Seventh Circuit judges reasonably think Purcell requires blocking the law for this election (whatever the ultimate decision on the ID law’s legality).
The midterm election may be weeks away, but tens of thousands of ballots have already been cast in a reprise of an increasingly powerful political tool: early voting. In North Carolina, which has a pivotal U.S. Senate contest at the top of the ticket, voting began Sept. 5 when absentee ballots were mailed to voters. As of Friday about 15,000 voters — the majority of them Democrats — had requested ballots ahead of Nov. 4. On Thursday, Iowans, who will choose between Democratic U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley and Republican state Sen. Joni Ernst in a competitive race for an open Senate seat, began to vote both in person and through early absentee ballots. Already, more than 145,000 voters have requested absentee ballots, with Democrats outpacing Republicans by about 38,000 requests, according to the Iowa secretary of state’s office. In 2010, Democrats in the Hawkeye State cast 19,000 more early ballots than did Republicans.
Absentee voting opened Tuesday for the November general election, but local residents who want to vote early won’t get a real, official ballot Ñ at least not yet. That’s because all the ballots for the Missouri general election are being reprinted after an appeals court ordered a change to a proposed early voting amendment that will be decided in November. Ballots for most counties had been printed before the ruling was handed down, forcing county clerks order new, revised versions, said Bonnie Earl, Jasper County clerk. “We were pretty much blind-sided,” she said. Rep. Sue Entlicher, chairwoman of the House Elections Committee, said she will work on legislation aimed at preventing similar problems in the future. Under current law and court rulings, changes to ballot measures are allowed up to six weeks before the election Ð the same day that state law requires clerks to make absentee ballots available to the public.
Iowa is home to one of the most closely watched Senate races this year and voters don’t have to wait until November to vote for their candidate – voters can vote early, in-person starting Thursday. Thirty-six states plus the District of Columbia have some form of early voting, that is, allowing many people to vote before Election Day without needing an excuse to do so. Eight of these states feature races for the U.S. Senate that CBS News is calling competitive. The portion of voters who cast their ballots early has been on the rise. Ten years ago, fewer than a quarter of ballots were cast early nationwide for president, but that figure climbed to 35 percent in 2012 (representing about 45 million votes) and 30 percent in the 2010 midterm elections. The Democratic Party has been successful in their organizational efforts to get out the vote early during the last two presidential elections, but both parties will look up to lock up as much of the vote as early as they can.
Florida: National voting-rights groups bash Manatee County for inconveniencing voters | Bradenton Herald
A national coalition of voting-rights groups say Floridians face persistent barriers to voting that could result in more ballots not counting in November, and singling out Manatee County for inconveniencing its voters. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the Advancement Project and other groups cited Manatee, Polk and Orange counties for problems they claim they found in last month’s statewide primary election. The groups said Florida should encourage more people to register to vote, that voters are inconvenienced by changes in polling places, and that voters are not always told about a new law gives them a second chance to fix their absentee ballots should they forget to sign them, officials said during a news conference Tuesday. The groups singled out Manatee County, saying its elimination of polling places requires some black voters to travel longer distances to vote.
The state is urging the Michigan Democratic Party to suspend a new program that lets people apply online for absentee ballots, saying would-be voters are being disenfranchised close to the Nov. 4 election. Elections Director Chris Thomas wrote a letter Friday to party Chairman Lon Johnson, saying that the site www.miabsentee.com isn’t ready for a statewide rollout before Election Day. Thomas cited security issues and said that only 72 percent of 197 applications submitted and stored on the political party’s server were actually received by local clerks.
Election officials and civil liberties advocates are predicting that a surprise court ruling that lifted a stay on Wisconsin’s controversial voter-ID law will produce chaos on election day, as estimates suggest that up to 300,000 eligible voters may not have the documentation now required to vote. With only six weeks to go before the general election – including a hotly contested gubernatorial campaign – activists say there is little chance that identification papers can be issued in time to all those who lack them. Thousands of absentee ballots had already been mailed before the ruling on September 12, without any reference to the voter ID requirement. Neil Albrecht, the election commissioner for the City of Milwaukee, where more than 280,000 people voted in the 2012 election, told that Guardian that the limited time in which to implement the law would result in confusion on election day since many voters would likely turn up without the required ID. “When voters struggle, that slows down the operation of a polling place so that it can become very bottle-necked.” Albrecht said that he would be hiring 300 to 400 more poll workers to deal with the expected slowdowns.