City Clerk Janice Winfrey must appear in court Wednesday to respond to allegations that absentee ballots for the November election have been printed and distributed without the approval of the city’s election commission. Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Patricia Fresard entered an order late Tuesday requiring Winfrey to appear for a 9 a.m. show-cause hearing to answer questions under oath about the printing and distribution of the ballots, union activist Robert Davis said. Davis, of Citizens United Against Corrupt Government, along with D’Etta Wilcoxon, who is Winfrey’s challenger for city clerk in the Nov. 5 election, asked the judge for a temporary restraining order on claims the ballots that Winfrey is sending out to absentee voters ballots that are “unlawful and illegal” and have not been approved by the city’s election commission, as called for under state election law. Davis said the absentee ballots were distributed after the Wayne County Board of Canvassers certified the election on Thursday.
The counting of paper ballots in the special mayoral election continued to move at a glacial pace, as Dave Ware clings to his 32-vote lead over Mayor Johnny DuPree. But Ware vs. DuPree took a backseat to Jones vs. Perry on Thursday, as the brewing battle between Election Commissioner Turner Jones and Ware election observer Pete Perry erupted into a heated verbal exchange at City Hall. “Either he goes or I go,” Jones said angrily as he stormed out of the council chambers during the early afternoon. Despite threats of quitting punctuated by a dramatic exit out the front door of City Hall, Jones stayed to continue the vote count.
Maryland: Absentee ballots downloaded online raise security issues, as does Election Day voter registration | MarylandReporter.com
A new Maryland law allowing voting by mail with a ballot downloaded online has some voter advocacy groups alarmed that adequate security measures will not be in place for the 2014 elections. Election Day voter registration and the future of online voting were also among the hot button issues debated at a forum this week, hosted by the Maryland League of Women Voters in Annapolis. The bill, Election Law – Improving Access to Voting, extends the right to all Maryland absentee voters to download and mark their ballots online. Ballots would then be mailed in to local election boards rather than tallied online. Previously only overseas voters and military personnel were allowed by law to obtain and mark ballots on the Internet. Under Maryland’s no-excuse absentee voting law, any Maryland voter is allowed to receive an absentee ballot without having to provide a reason for being absent on Election Day. Cyber-security hawks like Rebecca Wilson of SAVE our Votes said Maryland has no process for examining voter’s handwritten signatures that are required for all the new potential mailed in absentee ballots. “Maryland is moving increasingly to vote by mail,” Wilson said. “How does the [election official] know the person on the computer is the real voter?” Wilson cited four western states that either vote entirely by mail — Washington and Oregon – or by a large percentage – California and Colorado.
Michigan: Handwriting experts see differences in Detroit absentee ballots from August | Detroit Free Press
The Wayne County Board of Canvassers will continue going through challenged ballots today with hopes to wrap up a recount of the City of Detroit’s election before the week is out. At Monday’s board meeting, the findings of a handwriting expert hired by the board to examine ballots from the election was shared with the public. The expert, who was hired to check for similarity in handwriting, reportedly found “significant differences” in the writings examined, according to the board’s chairwoman. At least one challenger has said that some absentee ballots appear to have been been filled in by the same person. The expert, Robert D. Coleman with East Lansing consulting firm Speckin Forensic Laboratories, also said in his report to the board, dated Sunday, that he examined the writing for naturalness, formation of the words, pen lifts from the ballots and how hard the pen was pressed to paper when writing the response, among other things, said Chairwoman Carol Larkin. “My microscopic examinations of handwriting features of each entry on each of the 19 ballots and my side-by-side comparisons of like letters and letter conbinations between the 19 ballots revealed … there are a number of significant differences between the 19 ballots,” Larkin read from Coleman to the board.
Three men, including a Hamtramck City Council candidate in August’s primary election, are being charged with returning absentee ballots that did not belong to them, state Attorney General Bill Schuette and Secretary of State Ruth Johnson’s offices announced today. Hamtramck Deputy City Clerk August Gitschlag told authorities that three people had delivered multiple absentee ballots to City Hall in violation of state election law, which says those in possession of ballots must be the voter, a relative, mail carrier or authorized official.
Michigan: Canvassers in Detroit mayoral recount send some ballots to prosecutor, judge | Detroit Free Press
Six weeks after Detroiters cast their votes for mayor, City Council and clerk, ballots are still being examined, counted and analyzed as the Wayne County Board of Canvassers looks into allegations of fraud. The board spent Tuesday poring through ballots at Cobo Center and made some interesting discoveries. Among them: Some absentee ballots in which Mike Duggan’s name had been typed onto the ballot, some absentee ballots were cast using pencil, and some absentee ballots in which corrective fluid was used. The board voted to send the ballots that had Duggan’s name typed in to the Wayne County prosecutor and the chief judge at the Wayne County Circuit Court for investigation.
Wayne County elections workers are expected to begin their eighth day recounting ballots from disputed Detroit elections this morning, and little information is being made available on how much longer the recount will take — or how much it is costing. County officials said Monday that about 80% of the ballots have been counted. Paperwork then has to be completed after the count. Delphine Oden, Wayne County’s director of elections, declined to say Monday when she expected the recount to end. The recount was approved by the Wayne County Board of Canvassers, which is looking into allegations of fraud detailed in a petition filed by former mayoral candidate Tom Barrow. Barrow’s allegations include, among other things, that the number of applications for absentee ballots was lower than the number of absentee votes cast, and that similar handwriting appears on several ballots cast for former Detroit Medical Center CEO Mike Duggan, who will face Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon in November’s general election. Carol Larkin, chair of the Wayne County Board of Canvassers, said the overall cost for the recount appears headed closer to $100,000 than the $500,000 price tag Barrow has suggested. “We won’t know the total until it’s done,” she said. “It is going to get costly, though.”
The race to become New York City’s next mayor narrowed Monday as the runner-up in last week’s Democratic primary ended his campaign and endorsed Bill de Blasio, the liberal public advocate who has cast himself as the anti-Michael Bloomberg. But Bill Thompson, who captured just over 26% of the vote in the Sept. 10 primary, did not go out with a whimper as he announced his withdrawal at a news conference outside City Hall. Thompson, facing his second failed attempt at the mayor’s office, lashed out at the Board of Elections for taking days to count all the primary ballots, saying it made it impossible to campaign for what might have been a Thompson-De Blasio runoff on Oct. 1. “In the greatest city in the world, in the greatest democracy on Earth, we ought to be able to count all the votes,” said Thompson, who ran against Bloomberg in 2009. Tens of thousands of votes — including absentee ballots and paper ballots cast by voters who encountered malfunctioning voting machines — have not been counted and are not expected to be tallied until next week.
With nearly 60 ballots in question, Conservative Party leadership has broached the idea of seeking a new primary. The Livingston County Board of Elections is still receiving absentee ballots and will not be able to certify ballots for at least a week, according to elections commissioners. In the interim, some are already thinking about getting the court involved. “It certainly is looking more and more that way,” said Jason McGuire, Conservative Party Chairman. “Out of the 377 ballots that we believe were cast in that race, it looks like between 15 and 16 percent of those were given out irrespective of party affiliation, that’s a problem, you can’t do that in New York.” On Tuesday elections commissioners received word from inspectors at two of the 27 polling sites in Livingston County, that elections inspectors handed out ballots regardless of party affiliation, a violation of state law. James Szczesniak won the Conservative party line by one vote. His opponent, Tom Dougherty won the Republican line by 157 votes.
The Miami-Dade elections department is working with its software vendor to make it easier for staff members to flag suspicious requests for absentee ballots. The change will take effect next year. It won’t cost the county any additional money. A grand jury had recommended that the elections department should beef up security on its website by requiring user logins and passwords after the office uncovered thousands of fraudulent requests for absentee ballots in the August 2012 primary election. Elections Supervisor Penelope Townsley said the grand jury’s recommendation would have required an initial investment of $843,000, with possible costs of $743,000 in every major election. And, she told The Miami Herald, legitimate voters may have been dissuaded to request ballots if the system were made more challenging. “It would have also deterred voters,” Townsley said.
It may be hard to believe but the primary election in Detroit still is not settled. And today makes exactly one month since voters cast ballots for mayor, city council and city clerk. The Wayne County Board of Canvassers voted Thursday to recount ballots from Detroit’s August primary, based on a petition from former mayoral candidate Tom Barrow, who alleged fraud in the election process. It will be the fourth time ballots from Detroit’s mayoral race will be counted. Detroit elections workers counted the ballots initially, then workers from the Wayne County Elections Division verified the counts to try and certify the results. But the certification came from the Board of State Canvassers after the Wayne County board found issues they said called for state intervention.
Florida: Prosecutors charge 2 campaign aides for Miami mayoral candidate Francis Suarez in absentee-ballot probe | Miami Herald
Miami-Dade prosecutors on Thursday charged two political operatives for Miami mayoral candidate Francis Suarez — including his campaign manager — with unlawfully submitting absentee-ballot requests online on behalf of voters. Campaign manager Esteban “Steve” Suarez, 34, who is also the candidate’s cousin, and campaign aide Juan Pablo Baggini, 37, were charged with attempting to request absentee ballots for 20 voters in May. Francis Suarez, a sitting city commissioner and lawyer, was cleared of any wrongdoing during the investigation, according to the Miami-Dade state attorney’s office. His only involvement was advising his campaign to seek legal advice to make sure any online requests did not run afoul of the law. The campaign did so — but failed to heed a recommendation that the requests be submitted differently to avoid potential problems, sources close to the investigation said.
For those with illness, disabilities or who can’t be present to vote at the polls in the September recall election, emergency ballots will be available. Absentee ballots will not be issued, Pueblo County Clerk and Recorder Gilbert “Bo” Ortiz said Tuesday. Emergency ballots, in this special election, are similar to absentee in a general election, but Ortiz urged voters to cast their ballots at polling centers.
North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory signed into law the toughest voter ID rules in the country on Monday, and shrunk the number of days allowed for early voting. McCrory says the new law is “common-sense.” But the numbers show the law will have, as Reid Wilson explained for National Journal, “undeniable political ramifications.” Democrats tend to vote early. Republicans tend to vote absentee. The law makes big changes to in-person voting while leaving rules for absentee ballots mostly the same. The North Carolina NAACP and the ACLU have each filed lawsuits challenging the law as racially discriminatory under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. The ACLU wrote in a statement Monday, “the suit specifically targets provisions of the law that eliminate a week of early voting, end same-day registration, and prohibit ‘out-of-precinct’ voting.” A third suit is expected to be filed Tuesday morning, also by the ACLU, challenging the voter ID portion of the law. According to The Nation, the plaintiffs in this third suit will be “college students who will not be able to vote in North Carolina because they have out of state driver’s licenses and their student IDs will not be accepted, and elderly residents of the state who were not born in North Carolina and will have to pay to get a birth certificate to validate their identity.”
Absentee ballots often generate intrigue, suspicion and allegations across party lines. It is easy to see why. “Other ballots are filed at the polling place — where presumably people keep an eye on what goes on,” explained a New York elections expert. “Absentee ballots go wherever they go and then come back with somebody delivering them.” How they’re handled, and by whom, opens chances for irregularities. Last week, Frances Knapp, the Dutchess County election board’s Democratic commissioner, was accused on 94 criminal counts of misconduct and false-instrument filing. Under the law, an absentee voter may designate an agent to handle his or her ballot. Two years ago, says the indictment announced by Dutchess District Attorney William Grady, Knapp permitted the names of such designated agents “to be fraudulently changed” in the county’s computer system.