A ballot language change ordered by a state appeals court Monday could cost some Missouri counties thousands of dollars as now they must scramble to reprint the ballots for the November election. Laclede County Clerk Glenda Mott said Tuesday she received the ballots for local voters on Friday. This coming Friday, she was planning to send out the ballots for military members overseas as required by federal law. On Tuesday — six weeks before the November election — she has to have absentee ballots available for voters, according to Missouri statutes. The Missouri Western District Court of Appeals Monday reversed an Aug. 25 decision of Cole County Circuit Court Judge Jon E. Beetem, who had deemed the ballot language for Amendment 6 sufficient.
In an era of early voting, no-fault absentee ballots and all-mail elections, Election Day is something of a misnomer. Candidates and their supporters now drive their voters to the polls for days, weeks, sometimes more than a month. And it’s already kicked off: 379 voters in North Carolina have requested and returned absentee ballots from state elections officials. More states join in this week. Somewhere in Minnesota this Friday, a voter will cast the first ballot of that state’s midterm election. The following day, voters in Maine, New Jersey, South Dakota and Vermont will be able to go to local elections offices and do their civic duty, too. Before the month is out, voters in Iowa and Wyoming will start casting their ballots, too.
Wisconsin: Absentee ballots already cast will need photo ID, elections official says | Associated Press
Wisconsin’s top elections official said Tuesday that hundreds of voters who have already cast absentee ballots for the Nov. 4 election must show or send in a photocopy of acceptable photo identification to their local municipal clerk’s office for those ballots to be counted. Also Tuesday, plaintiffs in a lawsuit that challenged the voter ID requirement said they plan to appeal the ruling by three judges on the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals to the full court. That ruling on Friday reinstated the voter ID requirement that had been stalled since 2012 by court challenges. “The panel’s decision allowing this law to take effect this close to the election is a recipe for disaster,” said Dale Ho, director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project. “It will create chaos in election administration, resulting in voter confusion and disenfranchisement. The voters of Wisconsin deserve a chance to cast their ballots free of these obstacles.” Kevin Kennedy, director of the state Government Accountability Board, urged absentee voters to send copies or bring in a valid photo identification such as a driver’s license to their local clerks as soon as possible to ensure their ballots would be counted. IDs can be presented in person or copies can be emailed, faxed or mailed. Kennedy said more than 11,000 absentee ballot requests had been received statewide as of Friday. He said he didn’t know how many had been returned by voters to clerks’ offices but estimated it in the hundreds.
It is difficult to understand the reasoning of the federal appeals court panel that permitted Wisconsin officials to enforce a controversial voter ID lawless than two months before Election Day. That’s partly because the panel’sfive-paragraph order, issued late Friday only hours after oral arguments, offered the barest rationale for lifting the stay that Judge Lynn Adelman of the federal district court had placed on the law in April. Judge Adelman issued a remarkably thorough 70-page opinion finding that the law violated both the Voting Rights Act and the Constitution by making voting harder for a substantial number of Wisconsinites — disproportionately those who are minority and poorer, and who tend to vote Democratic. (The law, passed in 2011 by a Republican-controlled Legislature but since tied up in lawsuits, requires prospective voters to present a government-issued photo ID, like a driver’s license or passport.)
Wisconsin election officials were scrambling Monday to deal with a federal appeals court’s ruling reinstating the requirement that voters show photo identification when casting ballots. The law had been on hold, after being in effect only for the low-turnout February 2012 primary, following a series of court orders blocking it. But a three-judge panel of the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago, just hours after hearing oral arguments, said late Friday that the state could proceed with implementing the law while it weighs the merits of the case. The decision came after a federal judge’ ruling in April struck down the law as an unconstitutional burden on poor and minority voters who may lack the required identification. The biggest immediate issue is what to do about more than 11,800 absentee ballots that have already been requested, and perhaps returned, without the voter showing the required identification, Government Accountability Board spokesman Reid Magney said Monday.
Wisconsin: Absentee ballot mailings halted in push to restart voter ID law | Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel
Local clerks and state elections officials are putting their absentee ballot mailings on hold as they hustle to reinstate Wisconsin’s photo ID requirement for voters in the wake of Friday’s federal appeals court decision. University of Wisconsin-Madison officials are also analyzing the decision and considering whether to begin issuing ID cards that could be used for voting. While some student IDs can be used for voting, the ones issued at UW-Madison and some other schools cannot. The Milwaukee Elections Commission had been scheduled to start mailing absentee ballots to voters Monday, but instead suspended that work until Wednesday at least, director Neil Albrecht said. The Government Accountability Board, which oversees state elections, directed clerks around Wisconsin to also hold off on mailing absentee ballots. The deadline in state law to mail the ballots to those who have already requested them is Thursday. So far 8,000 people in Milwaukee alone have asked for them. Albrecht said that like other local elections officials, he is waiting on the accountability board to provide clear guidance about what clerks need to do to make sure their voters’ ballots aren’t invalidated. “That’s the worst thing that any of us would want to see,” he said.
The Michigan elections bureau has issued a warning about problems with a new Democratic Party program that lets voters apply online for absentee ballots, saying clerks are getting applications for voters who live outside the jurisdiction and signatures that do not match voter records. The late Monday alert to local election administrators statewide, obtained by The Associated Press, also cites concerns about duplicate applications and applications without signatures. “These issues raise concerns with the program’s accuracy and reliability and place unsuspecting voters in jeopardy of being disenfranchised,” according to the memo that describes the program as “unapproved” and asks clerks to quickly report problems to the state. The elections bureau is housed within Republican Secretary of State Ruth Johnson’s department, which confirmed to the AP that the alert had been sent.
Connecticut voters face a question when they head to the polls this November – it’s a constitutional amendment to allow state lawmakers to consider new ways for voters to cast ballots. State Rep. Ed Jutila says Connecticut is currently one of only 14 states in the nation that limits voting to Election Day. He says the Constitution also limits absentee balloting. “Individuals either need to be out of town, sick, disabled,” he points out. “Or the tenets of their religion prohibit them from coming out to vote on that day. So, that’s what we’re faced with.”
Voting in midterm elections that will determine control of Congress ends this fall. But it starts in North Carolina this week. On Friday, election officials begin mailing absentee ballots there, followed soon by Alaska and Georgia — with no excuses required. Iowans can vote in person beginning Sept. 25. After decades of expansion in American voting methods, an estimated one-third of all ballots will be cast before the traditional Election Day on Nov. 4. Yet this year, the trend collides with a Republican-led pushback in some states — for reasons of cost-cutting and election integrity or, as the Obama administration and civil rights groups suggest, crimping turnout by Democrats. Various new restrictions on voting, which range from more stringent identification requirements to fewer registration opportunities to curbs on early voting, have been put into place. A key election variable is whether the new limits will tilt close races. They might not. New voting restrictions have proven to be mobilizing tools for constituencies that feel threatened by them. In 2012, President Obama won battleground states, such as Florida and New Hampshire, where new limits had taken effect.
A judge presiding over a lawsuit that challenges Mississippi Sen. Thad Cochran’s victory in a Republican primary runoff said his intention is to have the case settled in time for the November general election. A hearing was held Wednesday before Special Judge Hollis McGehee, who was appointed to hear the lawsuit filed by Chris McDaniel. McGehee said it was a unique case because there has never been a statewide election challenge. McDaniel claims he lost to incumbent Thad Cochran because of thousands of fraudulent votes and voter irregularities. McDaniel wants to be declared the winner of the Republican primary runoff or have a new election. Certified results of the June 24 runoff show that Cochran, a six-term incumbent, defeated the tea party-backed McDaniel by 7,667 votes.
How and when people should be allowed to vote has become a highly partisan issue around the United States in recent years, and Connecticut’s turn is now arriving smack in the middle of a heated political campaign season. Democratic and Republican state lawmakers squared off Wednesday at a legislative meeting over the seemingly innocuous issue of how to explain to voters a proposed state constitutional amendment that’s on the ballot this November. The real debate wasn’t about the wording, but about the proposed amendment itself, one that would remove current restrictions on the General Assembly’s ability to allow things like early voting and “no excuse” absentee ballots. Republicans insist the change could lead to more voter fraud, but Democrats say all they want to do is make it easier for people to vote.
Michigan: Judge dismisses lawsuit over disputed absentee ballots in Dearborn Heights | The Detroit News
A Wayne County judge dismissed a lawsuit Wednesday that raised suspicions of election fraud involving hundreds of absentee ballots in Dearborn Heights. Judge Robert Colombo Jr. lifted an injunction Wednesday morning that halted the counting of absentee ballots after state Rep. David Nathan, a state Senate candidate, sought a temporary restraining order to set aside certain absentee votes cast in Tuesday’s primary. “There is absolutely no evidence in this case that there has been one fraudulent ballot submitted by absentee ballot,” Colombo said. Nathan, one of six Democrats running in the 5th Senate District primary, filed a lawsuit late Monday seeking a temporary restraining order to prevent Dearborn Heights Clerk Walter Prusiewicz from counting absentee ballots.
Michigan: Wayne County judge to hear request to block absentee ballots in Dearborn Heights | The Detroit News
A Wayne County judge will hold a hearing Wednesday over a request to halt counting of absentee ballots in Dearborn Heights suspected of potential election fraud. Judge Robert Colombo Jr. scheduled a 9 a.m. Wednesday hearing after a state Senate candidate sued and sought a temporary restraining order to set aside certain absentee votes cast in Tuesday’s primary. State Rep. David Nathan, one of six Democrats running in the 5th Senate District primary, filed a lawsuit late Monday seeking a temporary restraining order to prevent Dearborn Heights Clerk Walter Prusiewicz from counting absentee ballots. Colombo’s clerk confirmed late Tuesday a hearing has been scheduled. Nathan’s attorney said the judge planned to issue an overnight injunction.
Iowa Democrats, eager for Hillary Clinton to compete in their state and thus maintain the credibility of their caucuses, unveiled five proposals Friday to increase turnout in 2016. But they did not go nearly as far as some thought they would. After her humiliating third place finish in Iowa in 2008, Clinton noted in her concession speech that “there were a lot of people who couldn’t caucus tonight.” She mentioned troops serving overseas, hospital workers, waitresses and cops on patrol. As she moves toward a likely 2016 presidential campaign, one of the biggest decisions that Clinton must make is how hard to compete in the caucuses that kick off the nominating process. They tend to draw a more ideological, motivated set of base voters. A higher turnout would favor the better-known, better-funded former secretary of State, senator and first lady.
The city’s Election Commission met Friday morning to discuss continued issues stemming from a misprint on 392 absentee ballots, and to test tabulation equipment for Wards 2 and 3. This is the third meeting the Commission has held on the issue, which began when it was discovered June 27 that Ward 3 City Council candidate Bob Dascola had been left off the first wave of absentee ballots issued by the city. The state’s Bureau of Elections initially instructed the city to not count Ward 3 votes on the original, incorrect ballot but reversed its position over the next few days, instead instructing the city to count Ward 3 votes on the incorrect ballots over concerns of voter disenfranchisement, which prompted Dascola to file a motion against the city on July 7.
A federal judge has ordered the city of Ann Arbor not to count any votes for 3rd Ward City Council candidates Julie Grand and Sam McMullen on defective ballots that left off Bob Dascola’s name. Dascola, a candidate in the three-way race for the open seat, was left off a batch of absentee ballots that went out to voters this past month due to what the Washtenaw County clerk’s office has described as a series of unfortunate events, including an error by a third-party ballot programmer. U.S. District Judge Lawrence Zatkoff ruled on Tuesday that should any absentee voters turn in the defective ballots without following up and turning in replacement ballots, then any votes in the 3rd Ward race on those defective ballots should not be counted.
Terry Lewis — the circuit judge, not the former interim manager of Sarasota city and county governments — faces a dilemma. Lewis recently ruled from Tallahassee that the state Legislature violated terms of a “fair districts” amendment to Florida’s constitution. Among other provisions, the amendment — approved in 2010 by 63 percent of voters statewide — requires the Legislature to create reasonably shaped congressional districts without favoring incumbents or political parties. Following a 12-day trial, Lewis found that interference by Republican operatives both manipulated and influenced the creation of new districts statewide. Legislative leaders declined to appeal. During a hearing Thursday, Lewis must either:
A. Allow this year’s congressional elections to continue in Florida, even though he found that the creation of two of the districts was unconstitutional.
B. Require the Legislature to redraw the Fifth and Tenth districts.
City voters can now request an absentee ballot through their smartphones, an initiative called “historic” Tuesday by the Michigan Democratic Party Chairman Lon Johnson and City Clerk Janice Winfrey. Detroit will now begin accepting such absentee ballot requests. Similar efforts in about three other municipalities will be unveiled next week, Johnson said. These localities in Michigan will join Arizona, Florida, Maine, Maryland, Ohio, Illinois and some municipalities in California that allow absentee ballots to be requested online. Other states such as Alaska, Georgia and Wisconsin allow voters to make requests via email, Johnson said.
Chris McDaniel, a Tea Party-backed Mississippi U.S. Senate candidate, is preparing a possible legal challenge to his defeat in last month’s Republican primary after supporters spent Monday sorting through voting records in dozens of counties, campaign officials said. The conservative state senator has blamed his loss to U.S. Senator Thad Cochran on what he describes as illegal voting by Democrats who favored the six-term incumbent. The primary election is scheduled to be certified on Monday evening by the state Republican party, which will forward the results to the Mississippi Secretary of State’s Office, party spokesman Bobby Morgan said. McDaniel and his supporters allege that the Democrats in question voted in the Democratic primary and then in the Republican runoff, which is against election rules.
The St. Thomas-St. John Board of Elections is in violation of a federal consent order that mandated the board to send out absentee ballots to overseas military personnel by June 17. During an emergency meeting called for Friday afternoon at the board’s offices in Lockhart Gardens on St. Thomas, board members were irate with the V.I. Elections System for not better communicating the status of the ballots in the last two weeks. They said that during that time, they thought that the ballots were finalized and sent out to military members. “We have a crisis,” said Arturo Watlington Jr., chairman of the St. Thomas-St. John Board of Elections. The U.S. Attorney’s Office asked the V.I. Attorney General’s Office to check on the status of sending out ballots for the Aug. 2 primary election in the territory, at which point the territorial office discovered this week that the ballots had not yet been finalized.
Minnesotans will no longer have to stretch the truth to get an absentee ballot. A new law, approved overwhelmingly last year, will allow voters to request absentee ballots regardless of whether they can get to their polling places on Election Day. The program, coupled with online tools that will let voters register online and check the status of their ballots, is part of a nationwide movement to make voting easier. Minnesota’s law doesn’t go as far as those in some states, where vote-by-mail and early voting have become commonplace, but its supporters say the changes will help the state maintain its best-in-the-nation turnout status. “I think anything that permits more people to vote, as long as they are doing so lawfully, is a boon,” said DFL Gov. Mark Dayton. “The more people who will vote, the better off we’ll be.”
It is a big night for some key races here in the Valley and across the state of North Dakota. The Cass county Auditor’s office says they’re on track to exceed voter turnout compared to the 2010 primaries, when presidential nominees were not on the ballot. As of 4:00 p.m. they say 8,553 votes have come in. If you factor in early voting and absentee ballots, and that number is 12,348. Despite the turnout, there have been several issues at the polls with computers, ballots and with voter identification. At Bethel Church in south Fargo, space was an issue for voters. The location was forced to use a smaller room because of scheduling conflicts with the election and summer bible school. Some voters say it was hard to vote in the smaller room. “It would be nice if we had a larger room to go to,” explains voter Donna Bladholm. “Especially for the people in wheel chairs, it is difficult to get around,” she says. Another voter called Valley News Live with the same issue, saying older voters using walkers had a hard time voting because, at times, there wasn’t enough space to sit down.
Iowa voters, beware: You could be disenfranchised by an absent postmark on your absentee ballot. Lawmakers and state elections officials are warning that a state law mandating postmarks on absentee ballots has caused the disqualification of dozens of potentially valid votes in recent elections, and could disqualify many more in high-profile statewide contests later this year. After months of debate, legislators have failed to find a solution to the problem and all but given up on fixing it before they adjourn the current session.
Last April, Arkansas’ Republican-controlled state legislature overrode Gov. Mike Beebe’s (D) veto to enact a strict photo ID law for all voters. But while Arkansas is now one of several states which suppress voting by requiring valid photo identification to vote at the polls, a unique and poorly written provision in the bill caused hundreds of absentee voters to also have their votes rejected in last month’s primary. The Arkansas ID law requires that people who show up to vote in person early or on Election Day show “proof of identity” before casting their ballots. That proof must be a driver’s license, a photo identification card, a concealed handgun carry license, a United States passport, an employee badge or identification document, a United States military identification document, a student identification card issued by an accredited postsecondary educational institution in the State of Arkansas, a public assistance identification card, or a state-issued voter identification photo ID card. Such laws have been shown to have both adiscriminatory intent and effect — and to depress voter participation. Even one of the Arkansas law’s strongest supporters, Republican gubernatorial nominee Asa Hutchinson, was initially turned away from voting in his own primary because he forgot his photo ID last month.
An increasing number of voters in the US are now required to show a photo ID to vote. Eight states have “strict” ID laws, and several more are considering similar rules: no proof, no vote. Critics argue that minorities, immigrants, and the poor are less likely to have photo IDs and are effectively being disenfranchised. Indiana was among the first states to pass a voter ID law back in 2005. If you ask Indianapolis attorney Tom Wheeler, who works with the Republican Party and Republican candidates, whether the law was necessary, he brings up the 2003 Democratic mayoral primary in East Chicago, Indiana. “The fraud was so bad, that the (Indiana) Supreme Court couldn’t even figure out who won the race,” said Wheeler. But ask Bill Groth, a lawyer who often represents Democratic Party interests, and he’ll give you a different slant. “The state of Indiana later stipulated that there was not a single recorded prosecution for imposter voting fraud in the history of the state,” said Groth. So which man is lying? Neither.
We’re still more than five months from midterm elections, but already Republican voting restrictions are causing chaos in states across the South, and in some cases, blocking access to the ballot. The slew of problems, even in a recent series of low-profile elections, is raising fears that large numbers of voters could be disenfranchised this fall if the laws aren’t blocked before then. Because two of the states involved, Arkansas and North Carolina, are hosting tight Senate races this fall, it’s possible that the laws could even be decisive in helping Republicans gain total control of Congress. “The problems we’re seeing in places like Arkansas and North Carolina are only going to worsen in higher-turnout elections in November, when hundreds of thousands more voters will arrive at the polls,” said Dale Ho, director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project. “They demonstrate exactly why we’ve filed motions to put these laws on hold until they’ve been thoroughly vetted by the courts.”
There is something incongruent and deeply troubling with the notion of a World War II veteran, someone who risked his life to protect the rights that all Americans cherish, being denied the power of his vote because he voted absentee and then died before Election Day. Regardless of the intent of the law that allowed a citizen to challenge the vote of Everette Harris and have it nullified, it is wrong and the General Assembly should change it. The injustice was made worse by the fact that Harris’ family was not contacted and allowed to argue against the challenge made to the Forsyth County Board of Elections by two voters. The board unanimously agreed to sustain the challenge. “There is a principle at work here that is extremely disappointing,” Harris’ son, Mark Harris, who ran unsuccessfully in the Republican primary for the right to challenge U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan, told the Journal’s Meghann Evans.
Missouri voters could cast ballots during several weekdays before Election Day under an early voting measure endorsed Tuesday by the state Senate. The proposed constitutional amendment approved by senators would allow ballots to be cast on six business days ending the Wednesday before the election. In-person ballots would be cast during the regular business hours of local election officials, who could not take any action or incur expenses for early voting unless funding was included in the state budget.
Dallas County officials say they’re getting an unusually high number of calls from confused absentee voters, causing worry that some votes may not be counted this month. The confusion is related to the odd circumstance of two elections this month. Voters in many cities and school districts, including the Dallas Independent School District, go to the polls Saturday. Runoffs for the statewide primary are on May 27. It’s possible, election officials say, that absentee voters are mixing up their local and runoff ballots, or sending them in using the wrong envelopes. When that happens, those votes are lost — and the people who cast them will probably never know it. By law, election workers can’t open absentee ballots until after early voting ends. For Saturday’s municipal and school board elections, the last day of early voting was Tuesday. The ballots will be opened Wednesday. “We will know then if there is an issue,” said Dallas County Elections Administrator Toni Pippins-Poole.
Wary members of the state election board said they could not certify a new voting system for use in the June primary election until more security measures are put in place. State election officials were hoping to certify a new online ballot marking tool that could be accessed when downloading a ballot online — a feature that is currently available to all voters. But board members were troubled by an IT security assessment conducted for the state by a firm that has never performed Internet security tests on election systems. The Largo-based company, Unatek, Inc., also didn’t study voter fraud risks at the front end of the voting system where ballots are requested online. Legislation passed last year required the state to certify the new voting system in order to facilitate some disabled voters and add to the state’s scope of online voter services. Part of the certification requires the state to deliver a secure ballot while maintaining a voter’s privacy. For years, voting advocates have been sounding the alarms that the state’s online voter service systems are highly vulnerable to Internet attacks and voter fraud.