National: Everyone Agrees That All Voting Machines Should Leave A Paper Trail. Here’s Why It Won’t Happen. | Buzzfeed

Despite Congress’s agreement last week to spend $380 million to help states replace voting machines that don’t produce a paper trail, it’s likely that tens of thousands of voters will cast their ballots in this year’s midterm elections on outdated equipment that the Department of Homeland Security has called a “national security concern.” That’s because the newly approved money will be allocated to all 50 states instead of just those that have the greatest need to replace voting machines. Thirteen states use voting machines that can’t be audited because they don’t produce a paper trail to check against the machine’s electronic tabulations. Of those, only two would receive enough funding under the recent appropriation to replace all their machines; the rest could replace only a fraction of what they need. For example, the funding would cover less than half the cost of what it would take for Pennsylvania — a state whose results were critical to the outcome of the 2016 presidential race — to replace all of its outdated machines.

New Hampshire: Federal election audit questions HAVA spending | Union Leader

A federal performance audit said New Hampshire failed to get prior approval to use $1 million in federal election grant money as part of a $3.7 million renovation to the state archives building. This was one of four conditions found in the 76-page audit the U.S. Election Assistance Commission published in the past week and posted in the Federal Register. State election officials said they have been trying for more than seven years to get retroactive approval of that archives building spending state lawmakers first approved in 2003. New Hampshire is one of the last states in the country to undergo this audit, which is mandatory under the Help America Vote Act of 2002.

Alabama: County decision pending on voting machines | Times Daily

Colbert County commissioners must decide if they will pay the price for maintaining Americans With Disabilities Act voting machines, or face a potential lawsuit if they are not available for handicapped voters. Probate Judge Daniel Rosser told commissioners in November the county’s maintenance contract on the 36 Automark ADA compliant machines had to be renewed. He said the contract with an outside vendor would cost $5,785 this year, and $7,714 the following year. Commissioners have delayed acting on the contract. During their Feb. 7 meeting, Rosser said they were trying to determine if the Association of County Commissions of Alabama’s self-insurance pool would cover the county if it is sued if the machines are not available. “You can’t answer coverage questions when you don’t know what a lawsuit says,” ACCA Executive Director Sonny Brasfield said Wednesday. “We get those calls all the time.”

South Dakota: State elections office struggling to find records for federal audit | Capital Journal

The audit is looking at how South Dakota had used hundreds of thousands of dollars received through the federal Help America Vote Act program established after the 2000 presidential election. Documents from the past needed for the audit aren’t available in some instances and some past spending is under question whether it was allowable, according to Krebs. Kristin Gabriel now is the HAVA coordinator on Krebs’ staff. Gabriel told state Board of Elections members during their meeting Thursday that HAVA is undergoing an audit that reaches back 13 years to the initial funding period. “We did our best and provided them what we had and what we could find,” Gabriel said.

Arizona: Citizen proof request rejected by federal election commission | Havasu News

In a rebuff to state officials, the head of the federal Elections Assistance Commission has rejected Arizona’s request to require proof of citizenship by those using a federal form to register to vote. In a 46-page order late Friday, Alice Miller, the commission’s acting director, said Congress was within its rights to conclude that those seeking to vote need not first provide documentary proof of eligibility. Miller said the affidavit of citizenship, coupled with criminal penalties for lying, are sufficient. Friday’s ruling is yet another significant setback for Arizona’s effort to enforce the 2004 voter-approved law. The state had argued all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court it has a constitutional right to demand citizenship proof, only to be rebuffed last year. But the justices, in their 7-2 ruling, said state officials were free to petition the EAC to add the requirement to the form. Friday’s order forecloses that option.

National: House Republicans put Election Assistance Commission in cross hairs | Washington Times

House Republicans are pressing to kill an independent government commission designed to improve state-level voting procedures, arguing the body has run its course, is ineffectual and is a waste of taxpayer money. The House Administration Committee will meet Tuesday to vote on amendments on a bill to repeal the Election Assistance Commission — created as part of the Help America Vote Act of 2002, or HAVA, that was designed to help modernize state-level voting systems in response to Florida’s ballot-counting troubles during the 2000 presidential election. But the commission has been in limbo since late 2010, when it last had a quorum. All four seats currently are vacant. Democrats, who support the agency, say that’s because Republicans have undermined its authority by holding up nominations and repeatedly trying to abolish it.

Pennsylvania: Does Judge Simpson’s Pennsylvania Injunction Inadertently Violate Federal Law? | Free and Equal PA

Does the injunction that Judge Simpson issued today inadvertently violate the first-time voter identification requirement in the Help America Vote Act of 2002 (“HAVA”)? HAVA, in Section 303(b), requires voters who register by mail and are voting for the first-time to present identification at the polls.  Pennsylvania implemented this requirement of HAVA in the law that preexisted the current Photo ID Law. … Because the new requirement in the Photo ID Law that everyone show photo ID at every election made the requirement that first-time voters show ID unnecessary, Act 18 amended this section to do away with the distinction between first-time voters and all other voters.  The Act also limited the acceptable forms of identification to photo ID.

Voting Blogs: Getting Disabled Voters Off the Sidelines? | Election Academy

Last week, USA Today ran a story about a study of disabled voters that suggests that as many as 3.2 million disabled voters are “sidelined” in the electoral process. The study, Sidelined or Mainstreamed? Political Participation and Attitudes of People with Disabilities in the United States by Lisa Schur of Rutgers and Meera Adya of Syracuse, finds that this large number of “sidelined” voters is the product of several different factors: lower motivation and reduced mobility plus, in some cases, the persistence of barriers at the polls. This last observation is somewhat puzzling given the apparent focus – especially since passage of the Help America Vote Act – on improving accessibility for disabled voters. And yet, as the study found, accessibility issues remain: a GAO report from 2009 found that only 27 percent of polling places nationwide had “no features that might impede access to the voting area for people with disabilities”, with another 45 percent presenting some barriers but offering curbside voting.

National: Book review: Broken Ballots | ZDNet UK

Few people — the security expert Rebecca Mercuri being the notable exception — thought much about the mechanics of voting before the Bush-versus-Gore presidential election in 2000. A few weeks of watching diligent poll workers holding up ballots to look for hanging chads changed all that. The timing — coincidental with both the rise of the internet and the dot-com bust — suddenly put voting technology on everyone’s agenda. The UK, like a number of European countries, had a brief flirtation with electronic voting. Notably, the Netherlands reverted to pencil-and-paper after a group of technical experts proved their point by getting the voting machines to play chess. E-counting is still on the UK’s agenda, however, despite objections from the Open Rights Group on technical and cost grounds. Most recently, it was used in London’s May 2012 mayoral elections. In the US, Bush v. Gore led to the passage of the Help America Vote Act (HAVA), which mandated the updating of voting equipment and set off substantial controversy.

North Carolina: Attempt to revive voting funds killed with little used motion |

House Republicans headed off a potentially lengthy debate over whether to set aside more money for this year’s elections with a little-used parliamentary procedure Wednesday. Both the House and Senate had set aside $664,000 in their individual budgets to trigger the release of $4.1 million in federal Help America Vote Act — or HAVA — funds. Together, that extra $4.7 million would have gone toward maintaining voting machines, training poll workers and opening more early-voting sites. But when the final compromise version of the $20.2 billion budget emerged, that money was gone, sparking protests from good government advocates. That budget has passed and is currently sitting on Gov. Bev Perdue’s desk.  Typically, after every budget, there is a technical corrections bill that cleans up mistakes, adds in last-minute changes and otherwise tweaks the spending plan. That bill is S 187 this year and was on the House floor today.

Verified Voting in the News: Voting Technology: Current and Future Choices | The Canvass

In the next several years, new voting equipment will need to be begged, borrowed or bought in most of the nation’s jurisdictions. This raises at least two questions: In an age of galloping technological advancement, what should we buy? And, who’s going to pay for it? …  When levers and punch cards went out, what came in? Two systems, one based on electronics (often with a touch screen) and the other based on optical scanners that “score” hand-marked paper ballots in the same way that standardized tests are scored. The electronic machines (aka DREs, short for “direct recording electronic” voting machines) dominated the market in the early part of the 2000s; but by 2008, optical scanning equipment had become more common. (See the map provided by Verified for details.) A debate still rages between advocates of the two systems. Those who distrust electronic machines say they make votes hard to recount when an election is contested. Additionally, “there should be a way that a voter can check on a hard copy—independent from the software—that their vote was captured as they intended it to be,” says Pam Smith of Verified, an organization that advocates for a voter-verifiable paper trail for elections.

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.

Arizona: New state law could alter future election dates in city, county | Mohave Daily News

A bill signed by the Arizona governor that would consolidate elections could impact city and county elections in Mohave County. Gov. Jan Brewer signed into law House bill HB-2826 that would consolidate elections effective in 2014. The goal of the bill was to increase voter turnout and to reduce the cost of an election. Bullhead City will hold elections for four council members with the primary in March 2013 and the runoff election in May 2013. The new council members will serve 31⁄2-year terms with the next primary and general elections for those seats to be held in August and November 2016. After the 2013 election, Bullhead City as well as Kingman and Lake Havasu City will hold elections in the fall along with state and national elections, Bullhead City Clerk Sue Stein said.

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.

Voting Blogs: New Florida Data Suggests HAVA’s Approach to Disabled Voters Isn’t Working | Election Academy

The latest Election Data Dispatch from Pew finds that in the recent GOP primary in Florida, only 49 voters (or 0.03%) used the disabled-accessible voting machines in Miami-Dade and Orange counties, two of the state’s largest. Accessible machines for disabled voters – one per polling place – were one of the federal mandates on state and local election offices included in the Help America Vote Act. Inclusion of this provision was widely seen a victory for the advocates for disabled voters, given the perceived failure of previous efforts to make voting more accessible such as the Voting Accessibility for the Elderly and Handicapped Act (VAEHA). Post-HAVA, however, the preferred technology for this mandate – direct recording electronic (DRE) machines, known popularly as touchscreen machines – became the focus of a fierce debate about the security and transparency of electronic voting. Indeed, in the early years of the debate advocates for the disabled and advocates for verifiable voting often found themselves on opposite sides of the argument or even opposing sides in a courtroom.

National: Obama Campaign General Counsel Criticizes ‘Anti-Reform’ Movement in Election Politics | Virginia Law

Robert Bauer, general counsel to President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign and a former White House counsel, said Monday that an anti-reform movement has been dismantling rules that aim to protect confidence and integrity in government.

“I’m very troubled that there is an extremism in the opposition to reform, a sort of reckless and doctrinaire quality that is going to go a long, long way if it is taken to its logical conclusion to further undermine the fragile and critical trust the people have in their government and in the quality and effectiveness of self-governing,” said Bauer, speaking in Caplin Pavilion at the University of Virginia School of Law.

For roughly three decades after the Watergate scandal, Bauer said, there generally was bipartisan support for political reforms. Yet that support has frayed in recent years, particularly since the enactment of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform law in 2002 that limited soft-money contributions by corporations and unions.

Editorials: The truth about voter suppression – 2012 Elections |

The national trauma of the 2000 presidential election and its messy denouement in Florida and the U.S. Supreme Court made, for a brief moment, election reform a cause célèbre. The scrutiny of election administration went far beyond the vote counting and recounting that dominated headlines. The Florida saga cast a harsh light on the whole country’s archaic and fragmented system of election administration, exemplified by a state where hundreds of thousands of citizens were disenfranchised by incompetent and malicious voter purges, Reconstruction-era felon voting bans, improper record-keeping, and deliberate deception and harassment.

The outrage generated by the revelations of 2000 soon spent itself or was channeled into other avenues, producing, as a sort of consolation prize, the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) of 2002, an underambitious and underfunded law mainly aimed at preventing partisan mischief in vote counting. The fundamental problem of accepting 50 different systems for election administration, complicated even more in states like Florida where local election officials control most decisions with minimal federal, state or judicial oversight, was barely touched by HAVA. As Judith Browne-Dianis, of the civil rights group the Advancement Project, told me: “The same cracks in the system have persisted.”

Colorado: Colorado Secretary of State sued over election-complaints standard | The Denver Post

An Aspen election-integrity activist is suing Secretary of State Scott Gessler and his office, saying Colorado has set an overly restrictive standard for who may allege violations of federal election law.

“When an election irregularity occurs, it’s important that anyone be able to complain and have their complaint fully investigated,” Marilyn Marks said Wednesday. “If a very, very high hurdle is up, it will discourage complaints. It sends a message to the county clerks that ‘You don’t have to worry; we’re not going to let anyone complain.’ “

Marks filed a complaint in April alleging that violations of the federal Help America Vote Act occurred during the 2010 general election in Saguache County — an election so plagued with problems, it prompted a statewide grand jury investigation.

National: House to vote on repealing election commission set up after Bush-Gore | The Hill

The House is scheduled to vote Tuesday on whether to repeal an election commission set up after the controversial 2000 presidential election. Members plan to vote on H.R. 672, which would repeal the Election Assistance Commission. That commission was established in 2002 after confusion and controversy over ballots in Florida for presidential election between then-Vice President Al Gore and then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush.

The commission was set up under the Help America Vote Act approved in 2002. That law created the commission, which set voting guidelines for states, and to distribute funds to states that could be used to update voting equipment.

Rep. Gregg Harper (R-Miss.), the sponsor of H.R. 672, says repealing the commission would save $14 million a year and that it can safely be repealed because the commission’s work has been completed. He said that in 2010, the National Association of Secretaries of State renewed their request to repeal the EAC, which has “served its purpose.”