absentee voting

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Indiana: House rejects effort to give voters more time to get absentee ballots | Greensburg Daily News

Democrats in the Indiana House tried and failed in their efforts to assure that Hoosiers have more time to apply for an absentee ballot. House Bill 1311, authored by Rep. Thomas Saunders, R-Lewisville, would change the amount of time to apply for an absentee ballot from eight to 12 days before an election because local county clerks had said they needed more time to process them. “We want people’s votes to count,” Saunders said in an interview. An earlier deadline would give voters more time to submit the ballots and clerks more time to count them.

Full Article: House rejects effort to give voters more time to get absentee ballots | Local News | greensburgdailynews.com.

Arizona: Bill banning early ballot drop-offs appears doomed | Arizona Mirror

Senate Republicans advanced a controversial bill that would bar Arizonans from dropping off their early ballots in person at polling places, but GOP holdouts appear likely to stop it from going any further. Republican Sens. Kate Brophy McGee and Heather Carter were silent during the contentious, hour-long debate over Senate Bill 1046 on Wednesday. However, both said afterward that they will vote against the proposal, which will be enough to defeat it, presuming no Democrats break with their caucus to support it. Brophy McGee said she believes there are other Republicans who are also opposed to the bill. Republicans have a 17-13 advantage in the Senate, and can only afford a single defection on a party-line vote.

Full Article: Bill banning early ballot drop-offs appears doomed • Arizona Mirror.

Hawaii: State Supreme Court invalidates Ozawa’s 22-vote victory | Star Advertiser

The Hawaii Supreme Court this afternoon invalidated Trevor Ozawa’s 22-vote victory over Tommy Waters for the City Council District 4 seat. “Because the correct results of the November, 6, 2018 special election for the city councilmember seat for District IV cannot be determined, the special election must be invalidated” the court said in a 55-page opinion signed by all five justices. “The second special election for councilmember for District IV, City and County of Honolulu, is invalidated.” City Clerk Glen Takahashi, in an email to Council members, said “while we are still reviewing, we will be required to re-run the election for Council district IV.” The re-vote will likely need to occur within 120 days.

Full Article: Hawaii Supreme Court invalidates Trevor Ozawa’s 22-vote victory over Tommy Waters.

Arizona: Senate committee votes to ban voters from dropping off early ballots | Arizona Mirror

Nearly a quarter million Arizonans who dropped off their early ballots at polling places on Election Day in November would lose that ability in future years under a bill that passed its first legislative hurdle in a Senate committee on Thursday. The Senate Judiciary Committee passed three election-related bills sponsored by Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita, R-Scottsdale. One of those bills, Senate Bill 1046, would require voters who receive early ballots in the mail to return them only by mail, rather than bringing them to polling places before or on Election Day. People who don’t mail in their ballots would be able to vote at a polling place, but would have to wait in line and go through the same process as other in-person voters. The committee passed SB1046 on a 4-3 party-line vote, with Republicans supporting it and Democrats in opposition.

Full Article: Senate committee votes to ban voters from dropping off early ballots • Arizona Mirror.

Iowa: Judge Strikes Down Absentee-Ballot Rules | Courthouse News

The Iowa secretary of state’s rules implemented last year restricting how election officials verify absentee ballots is illegal, a state judge ruled Thursday, saying the secretary incorrectly interpreted state law. Polk County District Court Judge Karen Romano temporarily enjoined enforcement of the new rules last July, which was upheld by the Iowa Supreme Court, and her 10-page ruling issued Wednesday and released publicly Thursday permanently blocked the new rules from being enforced. The ruling prevents the state from implementing regulations regarding verifying a voter’s legitimacy if their absentee ballot lacks a voter-verification number.

Full Article: Iowa Judge Strikes Down Absentee-Ballot Rules.

National: Disputed North Carolina race exposes mail ballot flaws | The Hill

An investigation into suspected fraud in a closely contested House race in North Carolina has shined a spotlight on an increasingly powerful tool in U.S. elections: mail-in ballots. The case in North Carolina’s 9th District, which centers on claims of an aggressive — and illegal — absentee ballot drive by a Republican operative, has resurfaced concerns about the security of mail-in ballots and the potential for fraud. It also raises questions about how vote-by-mail programs should be executed, especially with a growing number of Americans casting their ballots by mail. Between 2008 and 2016, the number of voters who cast mail-in ballots more than tripled, from 2.4 million to 8.2 million, according to a 2017 report from the U.S. Election Assistance Commission.

Full Article: Disputed North Carolina race exposes mail ballot flaws | TheHill.

Iowa: Mailing codes could have called close Iowa race | Southernminn.com

Despite having been mailed back before the November election, 29 absentee ballots in Northeast Iowa’s House District 55 race — which was decided by a mere nine votes — were never postmarked and therefore cannot be counted, state officials say. But they could have been counted by now if Winneshiek County had availed itself of a safeguard the Iowa Legislature approved two years ago — an “intelligent bar code” that can verify if mailed-in ballots meet the deadline even if they are not postmarked. That safeguard is voluntary, and currently is used by only seven of Iowa’s 99 counties. It adds a few pennies to the cost of each mailed-in ballot, and takes time to set up. But there is no assurance the Postal Service will postmark each letter, and therefore no assurance that absentee votes mailed in on time will ever be counted.

Full Article: Mailing codes could have called close Iowa race | News | southernminn.com.

North Carolina: Disputed House race puts spotlight on ‘ballot harvesting’ | Associated Press

An investigation into whether political operatives in North Carolina illegally collected and possibly stole absentee ballots in a still-undecided congressional race has drawn attention to a widespread but little-known political tool called ballot harvesting. It’s a practice long used by special-interest groups and both major political parties that is viewed either as a voter service that boosts turnout or a nefarious activity that subjects voters to intimidation and makes elections vulnerable to fraud. The groups rely on data showing which voters requested absentee ballots but have not turned them in. They then go door-to-door and offer to collect and turn in those ballots for the voters — often dozens or hundreds at a time. Some place ballot-collection boxes in high-concentration voter areas, such as college campuses, and take the ballots to election offices when the boxes are full.

Full Article: Disputed House race puts spotlight on ‘ballot harvesting’ - The Washington Post.

North Carolina: Latest voter ID bill tries to address absentee ballots | Associated Press

A voter photo identification bill won state House approval Wednesday, a proposal now also altered to try to improve absentee ballot security in North Carolina in light of fraud allegations in a congressional district. The House version of legislation detailing how a new constitutional amendment mandating photo ID to vote in person is carried out starting in mid-2019 also directs the state elections board next year to figure out how people requesting mail-in absentee ballots also must offer ID. The measure now returns to the Senate, which approved an earlier version last week that didn’t address the mail-in requests. That was before attention to absentee ballots soared with word that election officials and prosecutors are investigating claims of fraudulent absentee ballot activities in the 9th Congressional District.

Full Article: Latest voter ID bill tries to address absentee ballots | Myrtle Beach Sun News.

North Carolina: Bladen, Robeson Had 3,400 Absentee Ballots That Weren’t Returned. What Happened To Them? | WFAE

In the still un-certified 9th Congressional District race, Bladen and Robeson counties had the two highest rate of unreturned absentee mail-in ballots. Bladen and Robeson also stand out statewide, according to an analysis by Catawba College political science professor Michal Bitzer. He found there were about 19,400 absentee ballots by mail statewide that were requested but not returned for the Nov. 6 election. Robeson had 10 percent of those statewide non-returned ballots, and Bladen County had 8 percent of the non-returned ballots. That’s 3,404 ballots. The two counties make up less than 2 percent of the state’s population.

Full Article: Bladen, Robeson Had 3,400 Absentee Ballots That Weren't Returned. What Happened To Them? | WFAE.

North Carolina: Certification in limbo in North Carolina House race as fraud investigation continues | The Washington Post

Mounting evidence of voter fraud in North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District could indefinitely delay the certification of a winner, as state election officials investigate whether hundreds of absentee ballots were illegally cast or destroyed. The North Carolina State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement has no plans to certify Republican Mark Harris’s 905-vote victory over Democrat Dan McCready, according to an agenda of a board meeting scheduled for Friday morning. The board is collecting sworn statements from voters in rural Bladen and Robeson counties, near the South Carolina border, who described people coming to their doors and urging them to hand over their absentee ballots, sometimes without filling them out. Others described receiving absentee ballots by mail that they had not requested. It is illegal to take someone else’s ballot and turn it in.

Full Article: Certification in limbo in N.C. House race as fraud investigation continues - The Washington Post.

Arizona: Maricopa County saved nearly 7,000 ballots through curing policy | Arizona Mirror

Nearly 7,000 voters would have had their early ballots rejected over problems with their signatures if Maricopa County hadn’t initiated a new policy of attempting to “cure” those ballots after Election Day. According to data provided to the Arizona Mirror by the Maricopa County Recorder’s Office, 7,240 early ballots had signatures on their envelopes that required further review after Election Day. The majority of those ballots were dropped off at polling places on Election Day. County election officials began contacting voters who dropped off early ballots on Election Day and whose signatures needed further review on Nov. 8, two days after the election. The outreach effort allowed the county to verify the signatures on 6,933 of the ballots, which was nearly 96 percent of the ballots that election officials reviewed for potentially mismatched signatures.

Full Article: Maricopa County saved nearly 7,000 ballots through curing policy • Arizona Mirror.

North Carolina: Elections Investigator Seized Bladen County Absentee Ballot Forms | WFAE

The chief investigator for the North Carolina Board of Elections took absentee by mail ballot request forms and their return envelopes from Bladen County immediately after the Nov. 6 election, according to the chair of the county’s board of elections. Bobby Ludlum, chair of the Bladen County Board of Elections, told WFAE Wednesday that the board’s chief investigator, Joan Fleming, came to Elizabethtown to get the records during the week of the election. “She was here the day after, or around that time,” said Ludlum, a Republican who chairs the county’s board. “I’ve heard rumors and allegations (about what they are looking for) but they haven’t said anything.” Bladen County is in the 9th Congressional District.

Full Article: NC Elections Investigator Seized Bladen County Absentee Ballot Forms | WFAE.

Pennsylvania: Judge Dismisses Lawsuit Over Absentee Ballots in Pennsylvania Senate Race | Governing

A Bucks County judge on Monday dismissed a legal challenge filed in a contested state Senate race that claimed Pennsylvania’s deadline for excluding absentee ballots is unconstitutional. State Rep. Tina Davis filed the lawsuit Nov. 19  after losing the race in the state’s Sixth District to incumbent state Sen. Richard “Tommy” Tomlinson by just 74 votes. However, at least 216 absentee ballots went uncounted because they were received after the deadline but before Election Day, according to the filing. Common Pleas Judge Jeffrey Davis did not provide an explanation for his ruling Monday, which came hours after a hearing on the issue in Doylestown. Under his order, the absentee ballots in the race will remained sealed, despite attempts by Davis’ campaign to view a list of the voters who had submitted them.

Full Article: Judge Dismisses Lawsuit Over Absentee Ballots in Pennsylvania Senate Race.

Mississippi: Civil rights lawsuit claims Mississippi made it nearly impossible to vote by absentee ballot | Salon

A civil rights group is suing top officials in Mississippi for giving voters very little time to cast absentee ballots in Tuesday’s special runoff Senate election, making it nearly impossible for some votes to be counted. Democrat Mike Espy faces appointed Republican incumbent Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith Tuesday after neither received a majority of the vote in the November 6 election. According to a federal lawsuit filed by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, election officials did not send absentee ballots for the run-off until Nov. 17. Many out-of-state voters did not receive the ballots until Thanksgiving time. Under state law, absentee ballots must have been submitted by Monday, Nov. 26 at 5 p.m. Absentee ballots in the state must also be notarized, which means many voters had just one business day to get the ballot stamped and delivered to their county elections office, Mississippi Today reported. “Mississippi’s absentee ballot procedures stand out as some of the most burdensome in this country,” the lawsuit says, accusing the state of violating the Constitution.

Full Article: Civil rights lawsuit claims Mississippi made it nearly impossible to vote by absentee ballot | Salon.com.

New Mexico: Dispute flares as vote results are certified | Albuquerque Journal

New Mexico’s midterm election results were certified Tuesday, but not before a dispute over the legality of online absentee ballots applications roiled a meeting of the State Canvassing Board and prompted questions from Gov. Susana Martinez about whether Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver had overstepped her legal authority. While the secretary of state, a Democrat, staunchly defended the program’s legal moorings and the integrity of this year’s general election results, Martinez, a Republican, and others suggested the online absentee ballot requests could open the door to voter fraud. “This is a statutory process, and the statute wasn’t followed,” Pat Rogers, an Albuquerque lawyer, said during Tuesday’s meeting at the state Capitol.

Full Article: Dispute flares as vote results are certified | Albuquerque Journal.

Florida: Elections Experts Suggest Florida Rethink Recount Deadlines, Rules | WJCT

When a federal judge ruled Thursday not to suspend election recount deadlines across Florida in the races for U.S. Senate, governor and agriculture commissioner, he also had some harsh words to say about the state’s handling of the elections. “We have been the laughingstock of the world, election after election,” U.S. District Judge Mark Walker said. To many people, it seems little has changed in Florida since 2000, when the U.S. presidential race was decided by the Sunshine State more than five weeks after Election Day. Voting irregularities were also uncovered across the state. … Except for overseas and military ballots, mail-in votes must be in the county supervisor of elections office by the time the polls close on Election Day. Mail ballots are also vulnerable to problems with voter identification. More than 3,600 mail-in ballots cast on Nov. 6 were tossed out because of mismatched signatures, according to Florida Division of Elections Director Maria Matthews. That tally does not include some of the state’s largest counties, including Duval and Miami-Dade County.

Full Article: Elections Experts Suggest Florida Rethink Recount Deadlines, Rules | WJCT NEWS.

Mississippi: Civil rights group sues State over ‘burdensome’ absentee voting rules | Mississippi Today

A national civil rights group has filed a lawsuit against state officials over Mississippi’s absentee voting procedures, which “threaten to disenfranchise honest, eligible voters,” the suit alleges. The suit, filed last week by the Washington, D.C.-based Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights in the state’s Southern District, seeks emergency relief on behalf of three Mississippi residents who will be away from home during Tuesday’s runoff election and intend to vote absentee instead. None of the three had received their requested ballots as of Nov. 20, stated the suit, which was also filed on behalf of the NAACP’s Mississippi chapter. But according to Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann, computer records show that county officials downloaded ballots for two of the plaintiffs, William Sewell and Julianne Huber, on Nov. 17, the first day that those ballots could have been mailed out, the Associated Press reported.

Full Article: Civil rights group sues Mississippi over 'burdensome' absentee voting rules | Mississippi Today.

Florida: Florida Democrats hire investigator to look into altered mail ballot ‘cure’ forms | Tampa Bay Times

The Florida Democratic Party has hired an investigator to dig into altered “cure affidavit” forms sent out to voters whose mail-in ballots had missing or non-matching signatures, according to a statement released by the party’s lawyer. “Upon receiving notice of the allegations that the form was incorrect, FDP took immediate steps, including hiring an independent investigator to review the issues at hand,” read the statement by attorney Mark Herron.  “As soon as we know the results of the investigation we will advise you.” The move comes after the Florida Department of State sent a letter to federal prosecutors on Nov. 9 asking them to look into the forms, which they had received from voters in four different counties. The forms, which the voters had apparently received from the Democratic party, had an incorrect deadline listed at the top for mail-in ballots to be fixed: Nov. 8, instead of the real deadline of Nov. 5.

Full Article: Florida Dems hire investigator to look into altered mail ballot ‘cure’ forms | Tampa Bay Times.

National: Why Elections Officials Struggle To Match Voters’ Signatures On Ballots | NPR

It used to be you would sign on the bottom line, whether it was a check or a credit card receipt or even a love letter. But the art of the signature has become less important and less practiced, and that has meant less certainty for elections officials in several states who are still counting votes from the Nov. 6 midterm elections. Those officials are trying verify that the signatures required on mail-in, provisional, absentee and military ballots match the signature that voters have on file with the board of elections. But signatures change over time — a problem especially for younger voters, says Daniel Smith, a professor and chair of the political science department at the University of Florida. “Let’s say you’re a civically engaged 16-year-old and you preregister to vote in Florida, which you are allowed to do,” Smith tells NPR. “You might have a signature that has a nice heart over the ‘i’ in your name as a 16-year-old, but you come to the University of Florida, you become a sophisticated Gator, and your signature now looks very different.”

Full Article: Why Elections Officials Struggle To Match Voters' Signatures On Ballots : NPR.