Washington: King County acknowledges using cardboard boxes to collect ballots | King 5 News

King County Elections Director Sherill Huff acknowledged Friday that she approved use of a temporary, cardboard ballot box for a recent “voting party.” The box was used during a party, attended by the governor, mayor and political candidates and hosted by “The Stranger.” Huff says the agency supplied the box, which was not handled by elections staffers, after “The Stranger” asked for it. She says it is an effort to encourage more people to get out to vote. The boxes, as shown by Huff, include protective straps. Huff added that the ballots were delivered properly to her agency and believes it could be a tool to build turnout in the future. “We’re encouraging people to vote, people to have their friends and neighbors vote and this was a part of that effort, that I believed would be a start for that,” said Huff. “It turned out it was a wonderful event.”

Montana: McCulloch pitches vote-by-mail, other election bills | Montana Standard

Secretary of State Linda McCulloch again is asking legislators to pass a bill requiring all Montana elections to be conducted by mail, except for school elections. McCulloch, the state’s chief election official, said switching elections to mail ballot would increase voter turnout and save counties $2 million every two years. If it’s approved, Montana would join Colorado, Oregon and Washington as states where citizens vote by mail for most elections. “I feel if every voter could get a ballot in their hands, that would increase those who voted,” she said. “It was true in 2014.” In the November 2014, 88 percent of voters receiving absent ballots cast their votes, while only 36 percent of those who didn’t sign up for absentee voting actually turned out to vote. Rep. Geraldine Custer, R-Forsyth, is sponsoring House Bill 70 for McCulloch, a Democrat.

Maine: Election workers, recount volunteers and state police officers headed to Augusta for recount investigation | Bangor Daily News

More than 30 witnesses will travel to the State House on Tuesday to testify in a special Senate committee’s investigation into the disputed Falmouth-area state Senate election that Democrats argue is still undecided. By day’s end Tuesday, the committee intends to rely on that testimony to compile a timeline that starts with the delivery of blank ballots to the community of Long Island and goes through every instance in which those ballots have been handled since Election Day, Nov. 4. Republican Sen. Roger Katz of Augusta and Democratic Sen. Dawn Hill of Cape Neddick, who lead the seven-person Senate Electoral Committee, both acknowledged Monday that the prospect of completing the investigation on Tuesday may be a tall order given the number of witnesses — some of them residents of Long Island — for whom an impending winter storm might cause complications. “We’re in uncharted waters here. We’re trying to see if we can re-create the events of that day and understand what one would have actually seen had one actually been there,” said Katz, who was appointed by Senate President Mike Thibodeau, R-Winterport, to lead the committee. “Our goal is to complete this in a long day, but the most important thing is that we get it right.”

North Dakota: Determined voter derailed after driving 200 miles | Bismarck Tribune

A man spent his election day in a failed attempt to cast his ballot by first learning his new address wasn’t on file at a polling location in Bismarck then crisscrossing the state to his old voting location in Dickinson at the suggestion of poll workers. Kyle Thiel, of Bismarck, is one of a handful of voters who reported being turned away from the polls Tuesday when his updated address information wasn’t found in the state’s central voter file. Thiel, 32, explained Thursday via email that he moved to Bismarck in August from Dickinson. On Aug. 25, he updated his address online through the North Dakota Department of Transportation website as directed on the back of his driver’s license. Although he’d updated his information online, Thiel said his license still had his Dickinson address on it. He said he hadn’t found the time to go get a new license, something he acknowledged would have helped. When Thiel went to vote in Bismarck, local election workers couldn’t find his updated address information in the system. After being directed to the DOT office for verification, he was told that information couldn’t be accessed.

Wisconsin: On-again, off-again voter ID law is off | Pioneer Press

Wisconsin’s on-again, off-again voter ID law has been put on hold for the fall election, leaving local election officials to make adjustments less than a month before voters go to the polls. Election workers were being trained for the ID requirement, forms were being changed and plans were in place tell voters to bring an ID following a U.S. Court of Appeals ruling in September that validated the law. But another order, this time by the U.S. Supreme Court on Oct. 9, blocked the voter ID law from being implemented for the Nov. 4 election. “It’s a roller coaster, I’ll say that,” said St. Croix County Clerk Cindy Campbell. Plans were in place in the city of River Falls to send letters to residents telling them to bring an ID to the polls, but “luckily (they) didn’t go out before the reversal,” said City Clerk Lu Ann Hecht. Her office also had made signs informing people about the law, as had the clerk’s office in Polk County. “I printed them the day before the (Supreme Court) ruling came down,” said Polk County Clerk Carole Wondra. “So, I’m just sitting on them now.” Local clerks are now working to get out the opposite message: IDs won’t be required at the polls.

National: A month from Election Day, election rules still in flux | The Washington Post

The ballots are printed, election workers trained and voting locations scouted. But with just a month to go before Election Day, the rules under which the midterms will be conducted remain in flux in four key states. The outcomes of legal challenges could determine just who is eligible to vote on Election Day — and, in states where Senate and gubernatorial races are nail-bitingly close, just who wins when the votes are counted. In Wisconsin, voting rights advocates have appealed to Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan, seeking an injunction to halt the state’s voter identification measure. A federal district court in Texas is weighing whether to block a voter identification law after hearing arguments last week. Justices on the Arkansas Supreme Court heard arguments Thursday over the constitutionality of a similar law. And North Carolina officials are seeking an injunction from the U.S. Supreme Court after the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled this week that the state must allow eligible residents to register and vote on the same day, and to cast provisional ballots if they show up at the wrong precinct.

California: Controller recount highlights concern about California election law | Los Angeles Times

In much the way surgeons need skilled hands and fighter pilots must have great eyesight, there is at least one key requirement for election workers handling the recount in California’s controller race: long attention spans. Starting Friday, they will gather in government offices and sit four to a table, where ballots will be lined up for their review. One worker will read a voter’s decision, another will watch and two more will keep count. They will do this thousands and thousands of times. “It has to be people who can stay focused, because you can understand how boring it can get,” said Debra Porter, Imperial County registrar. And if the workers lose count, they’ll have to backtrack to make sure they get it right. This tedious process is at the heart of what could become the largest recount in California history. It will also showcase a rarely discussed area of state law that observers and participants say fails to provide an equitable safeguard in close elections.

Mali: Governor says election workers kidnapped in north have been freed | The Washington Post

A group of election workers, who were kidnapped over the weekend in northern Mali’s troubled Kidal region where they had gone to distribute voter ID cards, were released Sunday, officials said. The incident comes a week before Mali is rushing ahead with a July 28 presidential election, despite concerns over the lack of government control in the province of Kidal, which remains largely the turf of Tuareg separatists. The rebels known as the National Movement for the Liberation of the Azawad, or NMLA, reluctantly signed an accord last month, renouncing their claim to independence and agreeing to allow government administrators to return ahead of the election.

Voting Blogs: Romney Campaign Training Poll Watchers To Mislead Voters In Wisconsin | ThinkProgress

Mitt Romney’s campaign has been training poll watchers in Wisconsin with highly misleading — and sometimes downright false — information about voters’ rights. Documents from a recent Romney poll watcher training obtained by ThinkProgress contain several misleading or untrue claims about the rights of Wisconsin voters. A source passed along the following packet of documents, which was distributed to volunteers at a Romney campaign training in Racine on October 25th. In total, sixsuch trainings were held across the state in the past two weeks.

Florida: Cause of Pinellas County voting glitch still a mystery | Tampa Bay Times

Pinellas County officials still don’t know exactly what went wrong with the county’s election system during Tuesday’s primary. Minutes after the polls closed, election workers found themselves unable to electronically transmit the vote tallies to the main office in Largo. Instead, they drove the memory sticks to election headquarters, delaying publication of the final results by about 90 minutes. The problem, county officials said, came from the phone lines leading into the server. But on Wednesday they could not say what might have caused the phone lines to fail, or how quickly county technicians would be able to repair them. Supervisor of Elections Deborah Clark on Tuesday promised that the system would be up and running in time for the Nov. 6 general election. “They’ll just have to look and see where the problem came from and they’ve assured us they’ll work to take care of it as soon as possible,” said spokeswoman Nancy Whitlock.

Wisconsin: Wisconsin Senate recount could wind up in court | JSOnline

The odds of Racine’s recall recount winding up in court increased Tuesday, as Republican Sen. Van Wanggaard’s campaign said it may challenge canvassers’ decision to accept ballots from voters who did not sign the poll book. The recount is in its second week after Wanggaard’s campaign requested canvassers review an 834-vote victory that favored Democratic challenger John Lehman in the June 5 recall. Republicans’ latest contention of voting irregularities in Racine targets election workers who failed to ask voters to sign poll books as required by state law. The Wanggaard campaign also disputes the Government Accountability Board’s recommendation that canvassers accept the votes. Once canvassers certify the recall, the campaign could challenge the recount in court, potentially delaying Democratic control of the state Senate for weeks. The results of the recount will determine whether Republicans keep the majority or if Democrats take control of the Senate between now and the November general election. Since 2011, a new voting law requires that poll workers have voters sign a poll book.

Alaska: New Report on Botched Anchorage Election Says City Broke its Own Election Laws | ktuu.com

A new report, released by a group of Anchorage voters who paid for a partial recount of April’s botched municipal election, calls into question several of the processes employed by election workers both on election night and during a recount afterwards.  It was presented in front of the Anchorage Assembly today, by Anchorage voters Linda Kellen Biegel, Melissa Green, Carolyn Ramsey and others. The report also says the city violated its own election code, known as Title 28, when election workers handed out photocopied or sample ballots in place of official ones when polling places ran dry.

North Dakota: Long lines greet voters on election day | Minot Daily News

A combination of high voter turnout and redistricting changes contributed to often long lines at Minot’s four polling places Tuesday. Devra Smestad, Ward County auditor, said there was a learning curve that resulted in longer lines earlier in the day, particularly at the Maysa Arena voting site. Movement through the system went faster with the addition of more scanners and changes in the way election workers handled the flow, such as giving voting directions to groups of voters rather than each voter individually. “We are seeing where we need to improve and we see where things are going very well. We appreciate the people’s patience and we understand their frustration,” Smestad said.

Voting Blogs: War on Polling Places | Election Diary

It may not be as dramatic sounding as the media’s phrase, “War on Christmas,” or many of the other wars on societal issues, but as we prepare for more elections, we’re reminded of the constant war on polling places. Selecting polling places is a no-win endeavor. For instance, in April 2005, the election featured a question on same-sex marriage.  I received several complaints from voters that some of our polling places were churches, potentially influencing the outcome of this vote. Then, in September 2005, we had a special election for a sales tax that was directed to schools.  I received a similar number of complaints from voters that some of our polling places were schools, potentially influencing the outcome of this vote. We used the same polling places for both elections. Most of our polling places are donated space.  That’s important because one thing I hear often from our county manager is how expensive elections are. They are expensive.  But that expense is relevant if you are comparing the cost to zero.  Merely having an election is expensive because it’s an event for, in our case, 360,000 people.

Wisconsin: One week till primary, elections officials prepare for two scenarios | FOX6Now

The April 3rd Wisconsin presidential primary is just one week away, and there is a great deal of confusion after a Dane County judge placed a permanent injunction on Wisconsin’s Voter ID Law. Milwaukee County election officials are also dealing with getting ballots reprinted, due to an error. Election clerks say even they aren’t sure whether the Voter ID Law will be in place at the polls on April 3rd. Amidst the continuing confusion, Alice Knitter says she’ll do what she can next Tuesday. “I’m a voter, and I will vote next week,” Knitter said. With the Wisconsin presidential primary next Tuesday, voters and election officials are trying to remain aware and prepared. In Greenfield, City Clerk Jennifer Goergen says she and other Milwaukee County election officials have already been dealing with the fact that they still do not have acceptable ballots, due to a printing error. Throw in the uncertainty surrounding the on, then partially off, and potentially back on again Voter ID Law requirements, and confusion abounds.

Voting Blogs: Appleton’s Doughnut Controversy: Even Little Things Get Big Scrutiny | Election Academy

Last week, the Appleton, WI city attorney ruled that doughnuts – at least those provided by candidates to poll workers – were pastries non grata in city elections:

City Attorney Jim Walsh ruled on the sticky situation last week. In February, a conservative civic group cried foul over the pastries that are traditionally delivered to election poll workers as a thank you from elected officials. “We determined that there was no illegal activity, and there was no unethical activity,” Walsh said Thursday. “But because the state Government Accountability Board recommends only the clerk provide food, we suggested to the council we don’t do this anymore.”

At first glance, this dispute appears good for a chuckle, but the issues behind it are (believe it or not!) very serious. Many states and localities have detailed statutes in place regarding rewarding anyone for participating in the voting process; the most obvious of these is vote-buying, but in recent years we have seen concerns related to offers of free ice cream, coffee or other rewards to anyone sporting an “I Voted” sticker.

Voting Blogs: Small Isn’t Always Beautiful: New Data Suggests Lack of Scale Affects Election Costs in Smaller Jurisdictions | Doug Chapin/PEEA

In case you missed it over the holidays – I know I did – on December 27 Pew’s Election Data Dispatches looked at some new research on election costs in California and Colorado. Both studies found – as similar research had in North Dakota – that less-populous counties had a higher cost per registered voter. More specifically (from the Dispatch):

In California, the study examined election expenditures between 1992 and 2008 and found a 1 percent increase in county population correlated with a 0.05 percent decrease in expenditures per registered voter. For example, San Diego County had an average cost of $6.57 per voter, while Modoc County, the third-smallest county in the state, spent $18.07 per voter. Similarly, the Colorado report found the average cost per voter in 2010 for small counties was $10.21 versus $4.95 for medium counties and $4.92 for large counties.

Ohio: Board of Elections must hire 8,000 temporary Election Day employees | newsnet5.com

In order for Election Day to run smoothly in Cuyahoga County, the Board of Elections must hire more than 8,000 temporary employees to work the polls. The Board of Elections is currently looking to hire temporary scanner operators and supply bag handlers.

Temporary scanner operators are paired with another employee and serve as a work team responsible for scanning vote-by-mail ballots. Each team consists of an input operator and output operator who must stand next to a high-speed scanner for the majority of the workday. Together they are responsible for loading vote-by-mail ballots into a high-speed scanner and collecting the scanned ballots and placing them into location specific files. The scanner operator must monitor the high-speed scanner for jamming and any other equipment issues. This position also requires individuals to assist with the preparation of equipment and materials to be scanned and the subsequent storage of the scanned materials. The scanner operator is also required to perform all other duties assigned, delegated or required of management as well as those prescribed by law.