absentee voting

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Pennsylvania: Absentee-ballot problem: Votes come in late because of tight deadlines | Philadelphia Inquirer

Every vote counts. But the reality in Pennsylvania is that not every vote is counted. In fact, if past patterns hold, more than 2,000 absentee ballots cast by Pennsylvanians this November won’t be tallied — and the voters won’t know it. The problem is the deadlines, election officials say: Outdated election laws set timelines that are too compressed. Would-be voters who wait until the end — and of course, people do — have almost no chance of getting their votes counted if they use standard mail service. Just three days separate the deadlines for requesting a mailed absentee ballot and for returning it to county officials. “We’re in the 21st century and we’re relying on a 19th-century system,” said David Thornburgh, head of the Philadelphia-based good-government group Committee of 70. “It’s just absurd in 2018 to be basically back in the Pony Express era.”

Full Article: Pa.’s absentee-ballot problem: Votes come in late because of tight deadlines.

Luxembourg: Postal voting gains more ground in Luxembourg | Luxembourg Times

A growing number of Luxembourg nationals are choosing to cast their votes by post. If at the previous elections, nearly 30.000 individuals decided to elect their representatives by post, authorities expect postal voting to gain even more ground at the upcoming national elections on 14 October. Based on current predictions, nearly 50.000 individuals are set to send their votes by mail. If the estimate turns out to be true, the figure would mark a new record for Luxembourg. Voting is compulsory in the Grand Duchy and one’s failure to exercise this right may be subject to a fine.

Full Article: Luxembourg Times - Luxembourg - Postal voting gains more ground in Luxembourg.

Arizona: Challenge filed to law barring collecting of mail-in ballots | Associated Press

Another legal challenge has been filed to a 2016 law that bars groups in Arizona from collecting early mail-in ballots from voters and delivering them as part of get-out-the-vote efforts. The lawsuit filed Tuesday seeks to bar officials from enforcing the law and alleges the statute is unconstitutional because it’s trumped by federal law. It argues the state is trying to regulate the delivery of mail-in ballots, even though federal law lets private citizens mail items that belong to others if they do so without getting paid. Nearly two months ago, a federal judge rejected another attempt to overturn the Arizona law, ruling that the people who challenged the law didn’t prove that the election practices unjustifiably burden voting or were enacted to suppress minority turnout.

Full Article: Challenge filed to law barring collecting of mail-in ballots - Fairfield Citizen.

Arizona: Lawsuit seeks to remove ‘ballot harvesting’ ban | Arizona Daily Sun

A new lawsuit seeks to block Arizona from enforcing its ban on “ballot harvesting” for the upcoming election, claiming the state has no legal authority to regulate who can and cannot deliver someone else’s mail. In legal papers filed in federal court here Tuesday, attorney Spencer Scharff is arguing that only Congress has the right to regulate the U.S. mail. And he said that once someone puts a ballot into an envelope which has prepaid postage on it, it becomes “mail.” What all that means, said Scharff, is a 2016 statutes that makes it a felony to collect early ballots and deliver them to polling places is preempted by federal law. And he is asking U.S. District Court Judge Douglas Rayes to put the law on “hold” until there can be a full hearing on the issue.

Full Article: Lawsuit seeks to remove 'ballot harvesting' ban | Local | azdailysun.com.

Wisconsin: State, U.S. Department of Justice reach agreement ensuring electronic absentee ballots | Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

The State of Wisconsin will update its process of sending absentee ballots to overseas voters after reaching a settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice Friday. Wisconsin law differentiated between voters who were overseas temporarily and permanently, a distinction that decided how an individual received their absentee ballot. The agreement makes sure that regardless of that distinction, individuals will receive their absentee ballot electronically — either by email or fax. Originally, voters defined as being overseas temporarily were manually mailed a ballot. 

Full Article: Wisconsin, feds reach agreement ensuring electronic absentee ballots.

Hawaii: Lava prompts election officials to mail absentee voting applications | Hawaii Tribune-Herald

The State Office of Elections and the Hawaii County Elections Division on Monday announced they will be mailing absentee voting applications to more than 6,000 voters assigned to Pahoa Community Center (precinct 04-03) and Pahoa High/Intermediate (precinct 04-04) due to the uncertain nature of the volcanic eruption in lower Puna. Voters can use the absentee application to request a mail ballot for the 2018 elections, or to update their address if they have relocated.

Full Article: Lava prompts election officials to mail absentee voting applications - Hawaii Tribune-Herald.

Washington: State to pay for ballot postage to boost turnout | Associated Press

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and Secretary of State Kim Wyman said Tuesday that Washington state will pay for prepaid postage on mail-in ballots in this year’s primary and general elections in an attempt to boost turnout – but not for voters in King County, where local officials approved their own measure last week. The decision Tuesday came at Wyman’s request and was prompted by King County’s plans. Wyman said it would be unfair if voters in the most populous county could mail their ballots for free while those elsewhere had to pay for stamps, and she asked Inslee to let her spend nearly $2 million to reimburse all 39 counties on prepaid postage this year.

Full Article: State to pay for ballot postage to boost turnout | The Spokesman-Review.

California: California is quietly disenfranchising thousands of voters based on their handwriting | Slate

California is not typically viewed as a hotbed of voter suppression, and not just because it’s California. Over the past few years, its legislature has passed sweeping reforms to protect residents’ right to vote with the strong encouragement of Gov. Jerry Brown. Democratic Attorney General Xavier Becerra has praised these measures and sued the Trump administration for attempting to abridge “our fundamental voting rights.” But even as Becerra attacks Trump for disenfranchising Americans, he is voluntarily defending a California scheme that nullifies tens of thousands of votes on the basis of dubious handwriting analysis. How did California, of all states, wind up suppressing so many votes? The problem lies in the state election code’s rules for counting absentee ballots. All registered voters can choose to vote by mail in California if they want to; they need only request a ballot, fill it out, sign the ballot envelope, and drop it in the mail. Unbeknownst to most voters, however, is the stipulation that their signature on the envelope must match the signature on their voter-registration form. If it does not, election officials do not count the ballot.

Full Article: California is quietly disenfranchising thousands of voters based on their handwriting..

Washington: Secretary of state urges King County to postpone prepaid-postage plan for mail-in ballots | The Seattle Times

Secretary of State Kim Wyman said she will ask Gov. Jay Inslee for emergency funding to help the state’s counties pay for postage for voters in this year’s primary and general election if King County moves forward with a similar plan. However, Wyman urged the King County Metropolitan Council on Monday not to fund prepaid postage for mail-in ballots this election cycle, becoming the first of the state’s 39 counties to do so. She told the council she supports the idea but believes for reasons of equity it should happen statewide, all at the same time.

Full Article: Secretary of state urges King County to postpone prepaid-postage plan for mail-in ballots | The Seattle Times.

Missouri: Legislators approve numerous changes to elections | Associated Press

Missouri legislators approved numerous changes Thursday to local elections, including allowing voters to request absentee ballots by email. The omnibus measure won final approval in the Senate, 24-7, more than a week after the House passed it 139-6. The measure would also potentially reduce the amount of time candidates would have to get their names on ballots during special elections.

Full Article: Missouri legislators approve numerous changes to elections - StarTribune.com.

Voting Blogs: Are Absentee Ballots as Helpful to Voters as They Appear to Be? | State of Elections

My experience in voting with an absentee ballot in New Jersey in the 2012 and 2016 presidential elections, as well as the 2017 gubernatorial election, alerted my attention to flaws in the system. As an active voter, these experiences have left me to wonder if absentee voting is worth it. I am thankful that my home state of New Jersey has an absentee ballot system that allows me to vote as a New Jerseyite even though I go to school in Virginia. Although New Jersey’s absentee ballot rules are arguably less stringent than other states, I learned the hard way that absentee voting can be difficult.

Full Article: Are Absentee Ballots as Helpful to Voters as They Appear to Be? - State of Elections.

Voting Blogs: Are Rhode Island’s Mail-In Ballots a “Gigantic, Illegal Loophole?” | State of Elections

Ken Block, a two-time former gubernatorial candidate, made headlines in early October 2017 over a provocative tweet regarding voter identification (“voter-ID”) and mail-in ballots. Mr. Block claimed that mail-in ballots violated Rhode Island’s voter-ID law and are effectively a “gigantic, illegal loophole” to performing widespread voter fraud. Block implored the Rhode Island legislature to attend to this matter immediately. In response, Mr. Stephen Erickson, a Rhode Island State Board of Elections member, considered such a measure as “another effort to limit people’s ability to vote.” Mr. Erickson asserted that the Board “regularly rejects mail[-in] ballots where there is a substantial difference between the two signatures or if the witnesses does not provide enough information so that they can be identified and questioned.”

Full Article: Are Rhode Island’s Mail-In Ballots a “Gigantic, Illegal Loophole?” - State of Elections.

New Mexico: Secretary of State Toulouse Oliver Adopts Four Administrative Rules | KRWG

Yesterday, New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver adopted the final version of four new administrative rules, which take effect in time for the Primary Election in June 2018. The new rules enhance numerous aspects of the state’s absentee voting process, outline procedures for candidates to transfer funds from one state campaign finance account to another, establish the order in which certain races will appear on the ballot, and bring uniformity to procedures for provisional voting statewide. “These rules bring clarity to a number of existing election procedures and make it easier for New Mexico’s voters – including blind and visually impaired voters – to cast a ballot,” said Secretary Toulouse Oliver. “I will continue looking for ways to streamline New Mexico’s election processes and increase access to the ballot box.”

Full Article: Secretary of State Toulouse Oliver Adopts Four Administrative Rules | KRWG.

New Hampshire: ACLU sues over law that lets moderators toss absentee ballots | Concord Monitor

Another aspect of New Hampshire election law is going to court: The ACLU-NH is suing over town moderators’ ability to reject absentee ballots if they have doubts about the signature, without telling the voter. At issue is state law RSA 659:50, which allows moderators to reject absentee ballots if they don’t believe “the signature on the affidavit appears to be executed by the same person who signed the application” for voting by absentee ballot, “unless the voter received assistance because the voter is blind or has a disability.” In a brief filed in U.S. District Court in Concord, the ACLU says that during the 2016, 2014, and 2012 elections, this law “disenfranchised approximately 275, 145, and 350 voters, respectively.”

Full Article: ACLU-NH sues over law that lets moderators toss absentee ballots.

California: Voters with sloppy signatures must have a chance to correct them, court rules | The Sacramento Bee

California elections officials must notify voters before rejecting their mail-in ballots over concerns that the signature is not authentic, a San Francisco judge ruled this week. Current California election law allows officials to toss out vote-by-mail ballots if they suspect the signature on the envelope does not match the signature on file for the voter, without giving the voter a chance to respond. In November, the American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU of Northern California and law firm Cooley LLP sued Secretary of State Alex Padilla, arguing the practice is unconstitutional.

Full Article: CA ballot signature mismatch law ruled unconstitutional | The Sacramento Bee.

Kansas: Mail Ballot Bill Clarifying Disabled Voters’ Rights Moves Through Kansas Legislature | KMUW

Sedgwick County leaders are optimistic a law will be passed this year that makes sure voters with disabilities can vote by mail.  County commissioners have backed two bills in the Kansas Legislature clarifying that voters who can’t sign their mail-in ballot envelopes will still have their votes counted. State law already allows voters to receive assistance filling out their mail-in ballots if needed. One of those bills — sponsored by Sen. Oletha Faust-Goudeau of Wichita — passed unanimously through the Senate last week. Sedgwick County Commission Chairman David Dennis says he thinks there’s a good chance it’ll pass through the House just as easily.

Full Article: Mail Ballot Bill Clarifying Disabled Voters' Rights Moves Through Kansas Legislature | KMUW.

Arizona: Justice Department, Arizona Settle Spat Over Rushed Absentee Voting | Courthouse News

The federal government said Tuesday it has reached a deal with Arizona after the state failed to give absentee voters enough time to consider final ballots in a special primary election slated for the end of February. The agreement comes after the Justice Department sued Arizona Secretary of State Michele Reagan last week, claiming absentee voters were not given 45 days to consider the finalized ballot for a special election to fill a vacancy in the state’s 8th Congressional District. U.S. Rep. Trent Franks, a Republican, stepped down from the seat in December after he was accused of offering a female staffer $5 million to be a surrogate for his children. Gov. Doug Ducey ordered a special primary election for Feb. 27, with the general election set for April 24.

Full Article: Feds, Arizona Settle Spat Over Rushed Absentee Voting.

Indiana: Attorney General Opinion Sidelines Bill To Allow Dead People’s Votes To Count | NIPR

Legislation to ensure ballots are counted even if the voters who cast them die won’t advance in the House. The bill – which easily cleared the Senate – would require absentee ballots to be counted if the person who cast the ballot dies before Election Day. But Attorney General Curtis Hill contends the measure is unconstitutional. A non-binding opinionissued by his office says a person ceases to be a resident if they die – and the Indiana Constitution requires residency to vote.

Full Article: AG Opinion Sidelines Bill To Allow Dead People's Votes To Count | Northeast Indiana Public Radio.

Texas: New law forces Texans who want to vote by mail to apply by mail first | Houston Chronicle

A small change took place during the state special legislative session last year, one that at least one local election administrator expects will make it harder for Texans to apply to vote by mail. Texans who want to apply to vote by mail in the state must now do so by mail. In the past, voters could also apply by email or fax. Those options still exist, but they must be supplemented with a mailed application, received by the early voting clerk after no more than four business days. The change, which was passed as part of SB 5, would “make it more challenging for voters to apply for that ballot,” Fort Bend County Election Administrator John Oldham wrote in a news release.

Full Article: New law forces Texans who want to vote by mail to apply by mail first - Houston Chronicle.

Indiana: Dead-voter bill passes Indiana Senate, moves on to House | Indianapolis Star

A measure that would allow the votes of certain dead people to count is a major step closer to becoming law in Indiana. The Senate on Tuesday passed the measure 45-2. It now heads to the House.  Under the proposal by Senate Elections Committee Chairman Sen. Greg Walker, if someone casts an absentee ballot in Indiana but then dies before Election Day, the dead voter’s ballot would be counted.

Full Article: Dead-voter bill passes Indiana Senate, moves on to House.