absentee voting

Tag Archive

New Jersey: Lawmaker Backs Away from Allowing Early Tabulation of Mail-In Ballots | Nancy Solomon/WNYC

A New Jersey lawmaker is backing away from a proposal that would have allowed the state’s 21 counties to count vote-by-mail ballots one week before Election Day. The provision is buried in a bill sponsored by state Sen. James Beach (D-Cherry Hill). The stated purpose of the bill is to give county clerks more time to prepare for the 2020 primary. But the provision allowing each county’s Board of Elections to open and count mail-in ballots a week early has drawn the ire of some progressive activists. “We’re calling it legalized cheating,” said Yael Niv, president of the Good Government Coalition of New Jersey. County elections staff are often closely tied to party machines in the state. Under the proposed legislation, early results are supposed to be confidential. But Niv said she’s worried that candidates backed by the machine could gain an edge and better direct their resources if county employees share the early vote totals. “They have a whole week to send their canvassers, to send their pamphlets, and the money, and the ads and everything that they need to those places,” Niv said.

Full Article: NJ Lawmaker Backs Away from Allowing Early Tabulation of Mail-In Ballots | WNYC News | WNYC.

New Jersey: Murphy undecided on measure allowing early mail ballot counting | Nikita Biryukov/New Jersey Globe

Gov. Phil Murphy isn’t backing or opposing a bill that would allow mail-in ballots to be counted in the week preceding election day. “I don’t think we’ve taken a position on that,” the governor said. The measure’s primary stated goal is moving the filing deadline for candidates back from April to March to avoid overtime bills at county clerks’ offices. The bill’s language appears to have been written with the intent that only ballots cast in the 2020 primaries be counted a week before polls open. Some activists and Republican lawmakers have raised alarms over the measure, claiming political insiders could leak early returns to better inform campaign strategy in the closing week of the election. Under the measure, results are not to be disclosed until after polls close, but leaks aren’t exactly uncommon in New Jersey politics.

Full Article: Murphy undecided on measure allowing early VBM counting - New Jersey Globe.

Georgia: Election Day absentee ballots rejected as Georgia creates voting rules | Mark Niesse/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The State Election Board voted down a citizen petition Tuesday that would have allowed voters to deliver their absentee ballots to the polls on Election Day, but the board moved forward with several other rules for running elections with printed-out paper ballots. One of the new rules calls for mobile ballot printers that can print absentee, provisional and back-up paper ballots on demand in each of Georgia’s 159 counties. The mobile ballot printers will prevent local election officials from running out of ballots. Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, the chairman of the State Election Board, said the rules will ensure that votes are counted when the state’s new $104 million voting system is rolled out to all voters during the March 24 presidential primary. The system will use touchscreens that are connected to printers that create paper ballots. The State Election Board voted 4-0 to open a 30-day public comment period on the rules, which require voting equipment testing, voter registration application forms, ballot security, provisional ballot access and notification of voters about rejected absentee ballots within three days.

Full Article: Election Day absentee ballots rejected as Georgia creates voting rules.

Ohio: Thousands of Ohio absentee applications denied | Julie Carr Smyth/Associated Press

Thousands of Ohio voters were held up or stymied in their efforts to get absentee ballots for last year’s general election because of missing or mismatched signatures on their ballot applications, an Associated Press review has found. The signature requirement on such applications is a largely overlooked and spottily tracked step in Ohio’s voting process, which has shifted increasingly to mail-in ballots since early, no-fault absentee voting was instituted in 2005. To supporters, the requirement is a useful form of protection against voter fraud and provides an extra layer of security necessary for absentee balloting. To detractors, it’s a recipe for disenfranchisement — a cumbersome addition to an already stringent voter identification system. Susan Barnard, of Dayton in Montgomery County, said her 78-year-old husband, Leslie, who has cancer, missed a chance to vote last year because of a delay related to the signature requirement. “We had planned a cruise last fall to give him something to look forward to,” said Barnard, 73. “It fell at the time of the election, and we were going to vote the absentee ballot. We got right down to the wire and we didn’t have one for him, and so he did not vote because of that.”

Full Article: AP Exclusive: Thousands of Ohio absentee applications denied.

Michigan: Absentee voting surges in Michigan, creating challenges for local clerks | Kathleen Gray/Detroit Free Press

With absentee voting skyrocketing since voters approved a ballot proposal  last year allowing for its expansion, clerks across the state are worrying about counting ballots next year, when a record turnout is expected for the presidential race. Some clerks and Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson are calling on the state to allow election officials to be able to open and prepare absentee ballots for counting — and maybe even begin tabulating — votes before Election Day. Opponents worry that early processing and counting could lead to more voter fraud because ballots could be less secure until they’re ready to be counted. They’re also concerned that results could leak out and have a chilling effect on voters who haven’t cast ballots yet. In the August primary and November general election, when city leadership races and police and parks millages were at stake, absentee voting in some communities was as high as 82%. Hot races drew a record number of absentee voters:

Full Article: Absentee voting surges in Michigan, creating challenges for local clerks.

National: Civilians, military abroad may find it more expensive to vote | Bill Theobald/The Fulcrum

Election officials are growing increasingly concerned that the Trump administration’s trade war with China could make it more difficult and expensive for overseas voters — including those in the military — to cast ballots in the 2019 and 2020 local, state and federal elections. The issue is the pending withdrawal in October by the U.S. from the Universal Postal Union, a group of 192 nations that has governed international postal service and rates for 145 years. Last October, the U.S. gave the required one-year notice stating it would leave the UPU unless changes were made to the discounted fees that China pays for shipping small packages to the United States. The subsidized fees — established years ago to help poor, developing countries — place American businesses at a disadvantage and don’t cover costs incurred by the U.S. Postal Service. With the U.S.-imposed deadline for withdrawal or new rates fast approaching, states officials are running out of time to prepare for overseas mail-in voting. Last week, Kentucky elections director Jared Dearing pleaded for help from the Election Assistance Commission — for himself and his peers in other states. The deadline for his state and most others to send out absentee ballots for the fall elections, Dearing said, falls a few days before a Sept. 24-25 UPU meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, to discuss the U.S. proposal to revise the rate system. That makes it difficult to provide voters with guidance about how to return their ballots. If the United States ends up withdrawing from the UPU, overseas citizens may not be able to return their ballots using regular mail service and could have to pay upward of $60 to use one of the commercial shipping services, Dearing said.

Full Article: Civilians, military abroad may find it more expensive to vote - The Fulcrum.

North Carolina: Proposal offers new absentee ballot security, tweaks early voting hours | Travis Fain/WRAL

House leadership rolled out a wide-ranging election bill Thursday to tinker with early voting hours, let counties that use touchscreen voting machines keep doing so and tighten absentee ballot rules in response to last year’s 9th Congressional District scandal. Among other things, Senate Bill 683 would start a pilot project to cover postage on absentee ballots so that voters wouldn’t have to buy stamps. There are other measures meant to keep campaigns from trying to collect absentee ballots en masse, including a rule requiring prohibiting outside groups from returning ballot request forms. Those forms would also change every election so groups couldn’t simply photocopy old ones and submit fraudulent requests. The 12-page bill has been under construction for some time, and it has a ways to go to become law. Rep. David Lewis, R-Harnett, a House leader on election issues, said in a statement that he looks forward to working with the Senate to get the bill passed “in a timely manner.”

Full Article: Proposal offers new absentee ballot security, tweaks early voting hours :: WRAL.com.

North Carolina: ‘A risk to democracy’: North Carolina law may be violating secrecy of the ballot | Jordan Wilkie/The Guardian

North Carolina may be violating state and federal constitutional protections for the secret ballot in the US by tracing some of its citizens’ votes. The situation has arisen because North Carolina has a state law that demands absentee voting – which includes early, in-person voting as well as postal voting – is required to use ballots that can be traced back to the voter. The laws are in place as a means of guaranteeing that if citizens cast multiple ballots during early voting or that if ineligible residents – like non-citizens or people who have not completed sentences for criminal offenses – cast ballots, those votes can be retrieved and removed. Likewise, if a voter casts an early ballot then dies before election day, that ballot can then be discounted. But voting rights advocates think the North Carolina law breaks one of the most sacred tenets of the democratic system: preserving the secrecy of the ballot. “Anytime you can link a ballot back to the individual voter, that’s a violation of the secret ballot,” said Caitriona Fitzgerald, the chief technology officer for the nonprofit Electronic Privacy Information Center.

Full Article: ‘A risk to democracy’: North Carolina law may be violating secrecy of the ballot | US news | The Guardian.

Georgia: Election law resolves lawsuits over absentee ballots | Mark Niesse/Atlanta Journal Constitution

The battle over thousands of rejected absentee ballots appears to have come to an end. Absentee ballots can no longer be thrown out in Georgia because of a signature mismatch or a missing birth year and address, according to a new state law that recently resolved two federal lawsuits.County election officials discarded nearly 7,000 absentee ballots in the November election, often for minor transgressions such as marking the outside of the absentee ballot envelope incorrectly.Judges issued orders at the time preventing election officials from discarding absentee and provisional ballots. Then the Georgia General Assembly passed House Bill 316 in March, a broad elections bill that replaces the state’s voting machines and makes many other changes to elections.That legislation led to the lawsuits’ dismissal.

Full Article: Georgia election law resolves lawsuits over absentee ballots..

Florida: Elections Reform Effort Nears Final Votes Amid Democratic Opposition | WJCT

A key elections bill backed by the state’s supervisors heading for final votes. The measure is meant to address issues stemming from the 2018 election but Democrats say it doesn’t do enough. Last year local supervisors of elections found themselves trying to handle three statewide recounts in addition to local races. Bad ballot designs, mis-matched signatures, and questions around vote-by-mail and provisional ballots coupled with a tight turnaround deadline for certification made the process harder for some supervisors, especially those in South Florida. It also gave the state some unwanted attention. Reports from national Media outlets like CNN, USA Today and ABC News along with local coverage drew attention to the monumental task of recounts. Larger counties like Palm Beach and Broward missed the deadline to submit their recount totals. The ghosts of past elections loomed over 2018. Republican Representative and former state GOP Chairman Blaise Ingoglia has taken on the task of trying to clean up the process.

Full Article: Elections Reform Effort Nears Final Votes Amid Democratic Opposition | WJCT NEWS.

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.