National: U.S. Court to Hear Case on Voting Restrictions as Arizona Prepares for Polls | New York Times

A decades-old effort by Congress to make voter registration simple and uniform across the country has run up against a new era’s anti-immigration politics. So on Tuesday, when Arizona’s polls open for primaries for governor, attorney general and a host of other state and local positions as well as for Congress, some voters will be permitted to vote only in the race for Congress. As voter registration drives intensify in the coming weeks, the list of voters on the “federal only” rolls for the November general elections could reach the thousands. These are voters who could not produce the paper proof of citizenship that Arizona demands for voting in state elections. The unusual division of voters into two tiers imposed by Arizona and Kansas, and being considered in Georgia, Alabama and elsewhere, is at the center of a constitutional showdown and, as Richard L. Hasen, an elections expert at the University of California, Irvine, put it, “part of a larger partisan struggle over the control of elections.”

National: Federal appeals court to hear Kansas, Arizona voting rights case | The Washington Post

A lawsuit filed by Kansas and Arizona will be argued before a federal appeals court panel this week as the states seek to force federal election officials to impose proof-of-citizenship requirements on national voter registration forms. At the crux of the closely watched case in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit in Denver is whether the federal government or states have ultimate authority to regulate voter registration. Each side contends that the U.S. Constitution supports its position. Monday’s arguments come after the U.S. Election Assistance Commission filed an appeal seeking to overturn a federal judge’s order that the commission modify a federal form to include special instructions requiring Kansas and Arizona residents to provide citizenship documentation when they register to vote.

Voting Blogs: New Nominees Raise Hope for a Revived EAC | Election Academy

After years of inaction, it looks like the powers that be in Washington are ready to put the EAC back together. Yesterday, the White House issued a press release that included the following: President Obama announced his intent to nominate the following individuals to key Administration posts … This is good news on a variety of fronts. First, these two nominations suggest that Capitol Hill Republicans are ready to let the nomination and confirmation process move forward, which may put to rest (for the time being) the drive to defund and eliminate the EAC. Second, they raise expectations that a full complement of Commissioners will be able to restart and/or continue the lesser-known but crucial functions of the EAC like voting system standards adoption and management of the Election Administration and Voting Survey, which underpins much of the data-focused reforms underway nationwide.

Kansas: Decision on Kansas voting law could come in time for general election | Wichita Eagle

A decision on whether the federal government must follow Kansas’ rules requiring proof of citizenship to register to vote could come by the end of September, in time for the Nov. 4 general election, according to a federal agency’s filing in a Denver appeals court. A federal lawyer has suggested that oral arguments in the case could be held as early as July 21 or as late as Sept. 8 and still leave the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals enough time to decide the case by Sept. 30, “in time to inform registration in the run-up to the general election.” The deadline to register for the general election is Oct. 14. The court conflict is over a federal registration form authorized by the national Help America Vote Act. That form requires prospective voters to swear they are citizens, under penalty of law.

National: EAC: The Phantom Commission – Agency Formed to Restore Confidence in Elections Is in Disarray | Roll Call

A federal agency created to restore confidence in the election process in the wake of Bush v. Gore sits all but leaderless as the country approaches Election Day. As local election officials scramble to sort out last-minute issues — Palm Beach County, Fla., for example, recently hired dozens of workers to hand copy about 27,000 misprinted absentee ballots — the U.S. Election Assistance Commission operates, on its 10th anniversary, as a shell of what Congress designed it to be. Its four commissioner spots are vacant. The executive director resigned last year. Its general counsel left in May. It has lacked a quorum to conduct official business for almost two years. Congressional gamesmanship has hamstrung the commission by neither giving it necessary resources nor eliminating it outright. “It’s a national embarrassment that this agency, whose only mission is to provide information, doesn’t have a single commissioner,” said Rick Hasen, an election law expert at the University of California, Irvine.

National: The Abandonment of the Election Assistance Commission | Steny Hoyer/Huffington Post

While the embarrassing debacle of the 2000 election may seem like a distant memory to some, the unfortunate reality is an encore may be on our doorstep. The Election Assistance Commission was created by the bipartisan Help America Vote Act of 2002 in order to avoid a repeat of the disastrous 2000 election, inspired directly by the failure of effective election administration in Florida that year. The only federal agency whose primary mission is to assist states carry out their elections and provide assistance to local election officials, the EAC has succeeded in this capacity beyond even the most optimistic projections. But now, due either to intentional neglect or outright calls for the agency’s elimination, the EAC is currently without any commissioners or a permanent executive director. While the agency persists in carrying out its mission, its spirit is sorely bruised.

National: Federal Voting Commissioners AWOL As Election Approaches | Huffington Post

As local officials gear up for a national election where razor-thin margins could tip the balance of power, the federal agency established after the Florida ballot disaster of 2000 to ensure that every vote gets counted is leaderless and adrift. There are supposed to be four commissioners on the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC), but right now there are none. The last executive director resigned in November, and the commissioners must vote to appoint a new one. President Barack Obama nominated two new Democratic commissioners last year, but congressional Republicans are trying to defund the agency entirely — which means for now no Republican nominations and no confirmation of the Democrats’ candidates. “If it is still as toothless by November 6 as it is today, I would have every expectation that things will fall through the cracks,” said Estelle H. Rogers, legislative director at Project VOTE, a nonpartisan group that supports voting accessibility. Rogers said the EAC has provided important assistance to local officials with respect to registration forms, poll worker training and issue alerts. “It is kind of disgraceful that we’re headed into a major election and the only federal agency that’s devoted to election administration has zero commissioners,” said Lawrence Norden, a lawyer at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University.

National: U.S. Vote Foundation web tool makes absentee voting easier | electionlineWeekly

With more and more people choosing alternative methods to casting their ballot than at a polling place on election day — the U.S. Election Assistance Commission estimated that 23.7 million voted absentee in 2008 — making sure voters have access to what they need to do so has become a top priority. This month, the U.S. Vote Foundation (US Vote) launched an online absentee ballot tool that allows U.S. voters anywhere in the world to download and complete a state-specific absentee ballot request. “We created this tool so that anyone who wishes to vote can be assisted – whether it be a traveling executive, a working parent, a home-bound person, or a college student away from home,” said US Vote President and CEO Susan Dzieduszycka-Suinat. “The point of our services is access.  We want to make sure all Americans are equipped with the tools they need to vote, from the polling place to the kitchen table.”

National: Tens of thousands of service members’ votes not counted |

Tens of thousands of military service members attempting to vote by absentee ballot in recent years haven’t had their votes counted because of various problems with the system, according to authorities that track voter participation. The Military Voter Protection Project, an organization founded by a Navy Reserve member who previously was a Justice Department lawyer, is promoting efforts to ensure that the votes of all military members are counted. “The problem has always existed, given the high degree of mobility of our fighting forces,” said Eric Eversole, founder and executive director of the Military Voter Protection Project, a nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C. But the issue is a bigger concern during a presidential election year with a military force totaling more than 3 million, including active-duty and reserve forces.

Georgia: Justice Department challenges Georgia on military, overseas ballots |

The federal government has sent a letter to Georgia officials saying the state’s schedule for runoff elections violates federal law on military and overseas absentee ballots and threatening a lawsuit if the matter isn’t resolved quickly. U.S. Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez on June 15 sent the letter to Attorney General Sam Olens and Secretary of State Brian Kemp. Olens’ office declined to comment on the letter, but Kemp said the state is in the middle of the primary election and doesn’t intend to make changes suggested by federal officials. Runoff elections are required in Georgia if no candidate earns more than 50 percent of the vote. Federal law requires that absentee ballot be sent to military and overseas residents at least 45 days before federal elections, including runoffs, the letter says.

North Carolina: Budget stripped of funding needed to receive federal election money |

Absent from the budget approved Wednesday by legislators is a previously included $664,000 appropriation that would have automatically released around $4 million of federal funds to maintain and improve the state’s election system. Allocating the funds would have kept the state in compliance with guidelines set under the Help America Vote Act, passed in 2002 as a reaction to controversy in the 2000 presidential election that brought phrases like “dimpled chad” into the country’s lexicon. Under the act, states must contribute money to take advantage of federal cash set aside to maintain and improve voting systems. Previous versions of the House and Senate budgets included the funding, but cost-saving efforts won out at the last minute.

National: Indianapolis Meeting Compares Voting Machine Standards | Indiana Public Media

State election officials from more than a dozen states are in Indianapolis to compare notes on voting machines. The controversy over “hanging chads” in the Florida presidential vote prompted Congress in 2002 to order the states to make the transition to optical-scan and touch-screen voting machines. But Indiana Secretary of State Connie Lawson insists Indiana is one of the few states with the technical expertise to assess whether competing models meet state standards. Still, Hoosier officials will hear presentations from many states in an effort to determine best practices, Lawson says.

Voting Blogs: Voting Rights Groups Move to Hold Alabama Accountable to Federal Voter Registration Law | Project Vote

Citing clear evidence that Alabama public assistance agencies are violating their federally-mandated responsibilities to offer tens of thousands of public assistance clients opportunities to register to vote, today attorneys from Demos, Project Vote, and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law sent a pre-litigation notice letter to the Alabama Secretary of State on behalf of the Alabama State Conference of the NAACP. The letter details violations of the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) and demands that the Secretary act immediately to bring the state into full compliance with the law or face litigation.  The groups forwarded copies of the letter to the Alabama Department of Human Resources (DHR) and Medicaid Agency.

Texas: State Aggressively Purging Voter Registration Files | CBS/DFW

More than 1.5 million Texans could be removed from the state’s list of registered voters if they fail to vote or update their records in consecutive federal elections under an aggressive policy to keep files current. One in 10 voters has already had their registration suspended under the scheme, and for people under 30, the number doubles to one in five, the Houston Chronicle reported Monday. Federal law requires states to keep up-to-date voter records. The Chronicle reports that Texas relies on outdated computer programs and faulty methods to do this, resulting in errors. In fact, 21 percent of voters who received letters saying they would be purged from the rolls were able to prove their validity, according to the newspaper’s analysis of U.S. Election Assistance Commission data. In some counties, the problems are especially severe. For example, in Collin County, 70 percent of the letters were sent to people who were able to prove their right to vote; in Galveston County, about 37 percent of those who received the letters were valid voters and in Bexar County, home to San Antonio, 40 percent were mistakes.

Maryland: Election board looks at online ballot marking |

The State Board of Elections may move to implement an online ballot marking system for all absentee voters in time for this year’s elections, depending on an opinion from the attorney general. But some voter advocacy groups worry about the potential for fraud. The move to online ballot marking comes after a 2010 federal mandate that required states to provide overseas voters and active military personnel with access to online absentee ballot applications. The attorney general’s opinion, requested by Sen. Edward Kasemeyer, would say whether or not the elections board should seek federal and state certification for the online ballot marking tool. The board staff is currently developing the device through a Department of Defense grant. Certification would test the system and look for vulnerable areas, including where fraud or manipulation could occur. All whole voting systems are federally required to receive certification, but the state board argues the ballot marking tool would be only part of a voting system.

National: Ninth Circuit Rejects Effort to Apply Help America Vote Act to Local Recount |

Federal law does not require states and localities to use a particular method of recounting ballots in elections for non-federal offices, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled yesterday. The court affirmed a district judge’s ruling dismissing a suit by Martin Crowley against the state of Nevada and the Churchill County clerk. Crowley sought declaratory relief and damages after a recount of a 2006 election for justice of the peace, which he lost by 26 votes, failed to change the results. Crowley brought suit under 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1983 and Sec. 301 of the Help America Vote Act of 2002. HAVA was enacted in response to problems in Florida and elsewhere during the 2002 elections, and established standards for the conduct of federal elections and authorized payments to state and local governments to replace antiquated voting systems.

Editorials: No Election Assistance Commissioners? No problem. | The Washington Post

Wait, isn’t this an election year? The kind that will see voters stepping into booths and casting ballots, pulling levers and punching buttons? Bad timing then for the Election Assistance Commission to be completely leaderless. It’s the body that was created in the wake of the 2000 presidential election’s hanging-chad debacle and tasked with overseeing federal election standards. Not one of the body’s four commissioner seats is filled, and it looks like they’ll remain vacant for the foreseeable future. Adding to the leadership vacuum, the commission’s executive director left in November. Filling in has been general counsel Mark Robbins — although he has been nominated to another post and could leave the agency if confirmed.

Pennsylvania: Legal experts debate impact of new voter ID law | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Six months before Pennsylvania’s new voter identification bill became law, Denise Lieberman helped file an open records request with the state asking for a list of Pennsylvanians who already have the proper identification card. The law — signed in March by Republican Gov. Tom Corbett — requires voters to present government-issued photo identification before being allowed to vote in elections. A civil rights lawyer with the advocacy group Advancement Project, Ms. Lieberman planned to compare a list of Pennsylvania voters with the state’s record of those with proper identification. The comparison would show exactly how many voters wouldn’t be allowed to vote under the new law. The request was denied. The state doesn’t have to provide the record, the denial letter says, because the record doesn’t exist. “How can a legislator have any idea what they’re voting on if they have no idea how many people are being affected?” Ms. Lieberman said. “If we’re talking about imposing rigorous restrictions on voting, then there’s legitimate value in having a sense of who stands to be affected and how.”

Missouri: Voting Machine Veto Stands; St. Charles County to Re-Bid Election Items | St. Charles, MO Patch

For the second time, St. Charles County send out bids for 260 optical scan voting machines. The council lacked the five votes necessary during its Monday meeting to override County Executive Steve Ehlmann’s veto on buying 260 voting machines for $1.2 million. So, the council opted to re-bid the items. Council members Terry Hollander, Ward 5, and Paul Wynn, Ward 4, were absent. Election Authority Director Rich Chrismer said the bid results will be the same. “We will get only one bid,” he said. “There are no other companies. Is that a shame that only one company can bid in the state of Missouri? Sure it is.” Chrismer said only one company is certified under 2005 standards by both federal and state government to supply the voting machines, and that’s Henry Adkins & Son. “You could not buy new voting equipment unless it’s certified according to the 2005 standards (according to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission),” Chrismer said.

National: Postal Service to suspend closures during election season | The Washington Post

The U.S. Postal Service plans to suspend its planned closure of processing facilities and post offices during the November election season in response to concerns from state officials that the delivery of absentee or mail-in ballots might be lost or delayed in the shuffle. Postal officials announced plans last month to proceed with closing or consolidating at least 223 processing centers in the coming years in hopes of saving billions of dollars. USPS also plans to close thousands of post offices in the coming years in mostly rural communities. But state officials in Arizona, California, Ohio and Oregon, among others, complained that the changes could confuse voters accustomed to mailing ballots close to mail-in deadlines or Election Day.

Voting Blogs: Not Dead Yet: President’s FY13 Budget Has (Reduced) Funds for EAC | Doug Chapin/PEEA

Anyone looking for clues about the future of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) got at least a hint on Monday, when the President’s Fiscal Year 2013 (FY13) budget was released. Tucked into the $3.8 trillion budget is a relatively tiny ($11.5 million, or about 0.0003%) amount in new funds for the EAC. Only about two-thirds is slated to go directly to the agency; $2.75 million is earmarked for the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) for its work on voting technology, and $1.25 million is designated for the agency’s Office of Inspector General, which audits both the EAC’s spending and HAVA fund spending by states. The remaining $7.5 million will be used to support an agency which continues to downsize; the budget shows a reduction in full-time equivalent (FTE) staff from 48 in FY11 to 29 in FY13.

Voting Blogs: Do Nothing ‘Til You Hear From Me: EAC Shutdown of HAVA Boards Provokes Resistance from State Election Officials | Doug Chapin/PEEA

Last week, the Acting Executive Director and General Counsel of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission issued a memo directing the EAC’s 37-member Board of Advisors and 110-memberStandards Board to cease all official activities. The two boards, created as part of the Help America Vote Act of 2002, have wide-ranging responsibilities and – in the wake of the resignations of the remaining Commissioners due in part to the growing partisan battle over the EAC’s future in Congress – had been the most active in carrying out the duties of the agency.

South Carolina: Lawsuit over voter ID could cost taxpayers more than $1 million | The Post and Courier

South Carolina taxpayers will be on the hook for a high-powered Washington attorney’s $520-an-hour rate when the state sues the federal government this week to protect its voter ID law. That litigation could cost more than $1 million, according to two South Carolina attorneys who have practiced before the U.S. Supreme Court. Supporters of South Carolna’s voter ID law say it is necessary to prevent voter fraud. Opponents say there is no proof that a voter-fraud problem exists.S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson has more than five dozen staff attorneys to handle the state’s legal affairs, but Wilson hired a former U.S. solicitor general to litigate the voter ID case at a rate of $520 an hour, a contract obtained last week reveals.

Colorado: Former Secretary of State, EAC Commissioner Davidson to Head Colorado County Clerks Association | Colorado Statesman

The Colorado County Clerks Association announced last month that the Honorable Donetta Davidson, a former Colorado Secretary of State and current U.S. Election Assistance Commissioner, will be the organization’s first executive director. Davidson brings the expertise of more than 30 years in the administration of elections at the local, state and federal levels. She served Colorado as the secretary of state, the state’s director of elections, and as a clerk and recorder in both Arapahoe and Bent counties. She is currently a commissioner on the U.S. Election Assistance Commission and served as chair in 2010 and 2007.

National: E-Voting Problems Cast Shadow on Elections | Mobiledia

An e-voting machine expected for use in the 2012 presidential election is experiencing anomalies, increasing scrutiny on the system’s reliability as elections loom. The Electronic Assistance Commission’s formal investigative report revealed the DS200 machine, used only in Ohio and Wisconsin, failed to record votes, logged in the wrong vote, and often froze up, jeopardizing voting accuracy. Testing protocol included powering off the machine between votes and inserting ballots at various angles.

The government group, which certifies electronic voting, reportedly won’t decertify the machines because manufacturer, Electronic Systems & Software, said it fixed the issues.

National: ES&S DS200 digital scanning device for presidential vote has bugs, report confirms | CNET News

An e-voting machine that is to be used for the presidential election this year has been found to have “anomalies” such as failing to record votes or logging the wrong vote and freezing, according to a government report.
The Formal Investigative Report issued late last month by the Electronic Assistance Commission (EAC), which certifies electronic voting equipment, issued a notice of noncompliance for the DS200 optical scanning device manufactured by Electronic Systems & Software (ES&S), but did not decertify the machine.

The report found three anomalies:

Intermittent screen freezes, system lockups, and shutdowns that prevent the voting system from operating in the manner in which it was designed

Failure to log all normal and abnormal voting system events

Skewing of the ballot, resulting in a negative effect on system accuracy

Specifically, the DS200 failed in some cases to record when the touch screen was calibrated or the system was powered on or off, failed to read votes correctly when a ballot was inserted at an angle, and accepted a voted ballot without recording the ballot on its internal counter and without recording the marks, according to the report.

Ohio: Cuyahoga County elections board leads pack in testing, auditing |

To cope with ballot scanners a federal agency has deemed faulty, Cuyahoga County’s elections board has mandated four tests during each election — plus an audit afterward — to guarantee results are right. The county even received a grant from the federal agency, the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, to produce a how-to guide on testing and auditing, to give voters throughout the country greater confidence in elections.

“The board has become a nationwide leader in assuring accurate elections and understanding that technology can fail, and it’s their job to test carefully, not just occasionally, but persistently,” said Candice Hoke, an elections professor at Cleveland-Marshall College of Law. “That is very good news.”

Rigorous testing matters in part because the election commission last week ruled the county’s ballot scanners were out of the compliance, the first such decision in the agency’s nine-year history. The machines, made by Omaha-Neb.-based Elections Systems & Software Inc. inexplicably freeze up, miss some votes and fail to log problems.

Ohio: Agency finds defects in ballot scanners – ES&S DS200 |

The federal agency responsible for inspecting voting equipment said Thursday that a ballot scanner used in several key battleground states can freeze up without warning, fail to log errors and misread ballots.

The U.S. Election Assistance Commission said the ballot reader, made by Omaha-based ES&S, is not in compliance with federal standards. And while it’s the first time the 8-year-old agency has taken such a step, it falls just short of decertification — a move that could force election officials to abandon the machines on the eve of the 2012 presidential primaries.

The DS200 optical-scan system is designed to read paper ballots fed into the machines by voters themselves at their precincts. It’s used in all or part of Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, New York and Wisconsin.

Ohio: U.S. government investigation finds Cuyahoga County’s election machines are flawed – ES&S DS200 |

Scanners Cuyahoga County has used to tally election results since 2008 are defective, missing some votes, freezing up inexplicably and failing to log problems, according to a federal government agency. The U.S. Election Assistance Commission released its findings this week, after a 20-month investigation spurred by an April 2010 Plain Dealer story. The paper reported a tenth of the machines arbitrarily powered down and locked up, failing certification tests required by federal law.

The manufacturer, Omaha-Neb.-based Elections Systems & Software Inc., tried to fix the problems this year, but the upgrade actually created more problems, according to the report. If the company can’t correct the flaw, the government could decertify the machines — leaving Cuyahoga and jurisdictions without the country no way to conduct elections in a presidential year.

US Virgin Islands: Elections reform bill passed | Virgin Islands Daily News

Senators passed multiple bills at Thursday’s Legislative session, including a bill that makes changes to the territory’s election system. The elections bill passed Thursday is separate from the election reforms recently submitted to the V.I. Legislature by the Joint Board of Elections.

The approved bill, sponsored by Sen. Usie Richards, was based on proposed legislation submitted by prior boards of elections. The measure clarifies definitions, prevents board members running for office from participating in election activities and gives the boards of elections the discretion to use the legal counsel provided by the V.I. Attorney General’s Office or hire outside counsel. It also raises the per diem pay for election workers.