Voter turnout was 15 percent higher for the Nov. 3 election in San Mateo County than it was in November 2013, the last off-year election that can be considered as a fair comparison, county election officials say. Of the 357,191 registered voters mailed ballots this time, 105,325 returned them, mostly by mail, according to the final semi-official tally released by the county Elections Office on Nov. 12. That’s a turnout of 29.5 percent compared to 25.4 percent in 2013, according to Elections Office records. The principal difference this time, according to Jim Irizarry, San Mateo County’s assistant chief elections officer: the 2015 election was held by mail. Accommodations were made for in-person voting, but the county mailed ballots to all registered voters in a package that included return envelopes with prepaid postage, Mr. Irizarry said.
Colorado: County clerks worry about mail-ballot delays, urge voters to use dropoff boxes | The Gazette
Delays by the U.S. Postal Service trapped some El Paso County election ballots in a cycle between Denver and Colorado Springs this month, with some ballots reaching voters days after they were sent. Issues with barcoding delayed roughly 10,000 ballots statewide, and prompted Secretary of State Wayne Williams on Tuesday to issue a plea to voters to not drop their mail-in ballots in a Postal Service box, less they get lost in a similar cycle. The El Paso County Clerk and Recorder’s Office joined the state by instructing voters to bring their ballots straight to the ballot box to make sure they get counted. But a spokesman for the U.S. Postal Service said on Tuesday that voters should have no concerns about dropping their completed ballots in the mail. Spokesman David Rupert said that the delays were minor, and ultimately millions of ballots were delivered on time – a statistic that bodes well for return ballots, he added.
Residents in the five Utah County cities holding vote-by-mail elections this year won’t have to cast two ballots to weigh in on both city and county issues. Elections officials have reached a compromise after five cities — Alpine, Cedar Hills, Lehi, Orem and Vineyard — protested the Utah County clerk’s refusal to allow a proposed sales tax increase to be printed on mail-in ballots. The compromise came in a private meeting Monday afternoon between Utah County Clerk Bryan Thompson and representatives from the five cities and the Utah Lieutenant Governor’s Office.
Editorials: Going Postal: How All-Mail Voting Thwarts Navajo Voters | Stephanie Woodard/In These Times
All-mail-in voting has arrived in the red-rock bluffs and canyons of San Juan County, Utah, which overlaps the Navajo Nation’s reservation. In 2014, the county sent voters mail-in ballots for the general election, while closing local precincts in the shadow of Red Mesa’s ruddy flat-topped butte; in Monument Valley, the fabled location for John Ford Westerns; and in other towns and hamlets. Just one polling place remained open, in the county seat, Monticello, in the predominantly white northern portion of the county. Also gone were 20-some election judges and translators who had provided voting help and federally mandated language assistance to non-English-speaking Navajos. Just one part-time official interpreter was left to cover about 8,000 square miles—an area nearly the size of Massachusetts. As states and counties around the nation increasingly offer voters convenient ways to cast a ballot—early voting, in-person absentee voting, vote-by-mail—Native people find themselves shut out, according to an In These Times story,“The Missing Native Vote.” Since 2012, Natives have sued three times in federal court to obtain in-person absentee voting on reservations, claiming that offering this option only in distant, off-reservation county seats means they do not have voting rights that are equal to that of non-Natives. The Department of Justice has proposed legislation to remedy this problem, according to a Rural America In These Times article.
The era of the neighborhood polling place with its paper voter rolls and rickety booths isn’t quite over, but it is well on its way out in California. No tears will be shed here: It’s high time the state entered the 21st century. That’s the opinion of new Secretary of State Alex Padilla as well. Last week he unveiled his second proposal to encourage voter participation in California: a plan to send mail-in ballots to every registered voter and to encourage counties to set up voting centers for their voters to use, regardless of precinct, up to 10 days before election day.
Alaska: Fairbanks Borough Assembly says ‘no’ to mail-in ballots, raises mill rate slightly | Fairbanks Daily News-Miner
The Fairbanks North Star Borough Assembly shot down a proposal to change voting in local elections from the ballot box to the mailbox, but it was clear something needs to be done to boost voter turnout. The assembly voted down an ordinance authored by Assemblyman Lance Roberts to implement vote-by-mail elections in the Fairbanks borough during its meeting Thursday night, with Roberts casting the lone “yes” vote for the measure. The move was, in part, an effort to make voting in municipal elections more convenient in the hopes of boosting voter turnout. Turnout in the last two municipal elections has been historically low at 16.7 percent last year and 14.4 percent in 2013.
Nebraska: Citing voter concerns over mail-in ballots, Nebraska lawmaker calls for ‘secrecy sleeve’ | Omaha World Herald
Paul Schumacher hears it all the time: More and more voters in Nebraska are worried about the secrecy of their ballots in the age of mail-in elections. The angst is especially acute in small towns, where everybody knows everybody, and some voters worry that an election worker will sneak a peek at their ballot and realize they didn’t vote for their crazy brother-in-law. “I have some people who are just outraged by the fact that they know, or think they know, their ballots are being viewed,” said Schumacher, a Republican state senator from Columbus. “In a small community, they worry that someone can see that they didn’t vote for their relative or they voted for someone in another party.”
Colorado: Secretary Of State Admits Voting Restrictions Stop Eligible Voters, Pushes Them Anyway | ThinkProgress
The state with some of the most accessible elections laws in the nation could soon make it more difficult to cast a ballot. Colorado lawmakers began debating a bill Wednesday that would require voters to present a photo ID if they register to vote on Election Day — a policy that would disproportionately impact people who are younger, lower income, non-white, and newly naturalized. While attending a recent conference in DC, Secretary of State Wayne Williams told ThinkProgress that he supports these measures despite the fact that investigations by his predecessor found voter fraud to be nearly non-existent in the state. “Most people don’t rob banks but we still protect against bank robbery,” he said. “Most people vote honestly but we did have some instances — for example, one individual submitted five separate voter registration forms with sequential Social Security numbers. The overwhelming majority of people don’t do that, but we need to have the protections in place to ensure all of us can have confidence in our elections.”
Voting in special elections could be easier for rural Nebraskans under a bill considered Feb. 5 by the Legislature’s Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee. LB 319, introduced by Sen. Jim Smith of Papillion, would change two aspects of mail-in voting: the population requirement for counties to qualify for holding elections by mail and allowing special elections by mail to include candidate issues. Under current law, counties must have a population of 10,000 people or less to qualify for elections by mail. Currently there are 74 counties in Nebraska with 10,000 people or less. The bill would remove that cap to accommodate counties that have both a metropolitan and rural voter demographic. Sarpy County Election Commissioner Wayne Bena testified in favor of the bill, specifying that it would not require mail-in ballots for special elections but “would allow commissioners from each county to determine the best method for each election.”
California: Santa Clara County: Registrar and supervisors look to fix to sluggish election system | San Jose Mercury News
A November election rife with results delays and uncertainty across Santa Clara County is pushing officials to look for solutions before heading toward the 2016 election and to look closely at a dated system. “We keep hoping for improvements,” said District 4 County Supervisor Ken Yeager during a special committee meeting Jan. 28. “I’m hoping to do more than a tweak and to be ready for the 2016 election.” Election result delays–some of the slowest in the state–in tight races across the county had some voters and candidates on the edge of their seats. For the first time, 50 percent of mail-in ballots were turned in the day of the election, further slowing down the counts.
Voters in New Jersey primary elections could cast ballots by mail, a move that would save taxpayers money, according to a bill recently introduced by a North Jersey lawmaker. The bill sponsored by state Assemblyman Timothy Eustace, D-Maywood, would allow primary elections to be held by mail in any county where the governing body for the county approves of conducting the election in such a way. Eustace said 22 states already have rules in place to allow some elections to be conducted entirely by mail, and three states permit all elections to be conducted by mail. One of those states, Oregon, he said, has realized 30 percent savings on election costs.
It’s a week after Election Day and they’re still counting votes in Colorado, where some are blaming a new state law that replaced polling booths with mandatory mail-in ballots. Top-ticket races have been decided—Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper was re-elected and Republican Cory Gardner unseated Democratic Sen. Mark Udall—but the vote totals in a dozen state House and Senate races remain unknown. Democrats currently have a 37-28 majority in the House and are expected to keep it. But they did lose the Senate, where the Republicans will hold an 18-17 edge after being in the minority for a decade. And although those outcomes are unlikely to change once all the votes are counted, there is frustration with the new process, especially among the grass-roots.
Signature problems were the top reason ballots in the state’s vote-by-mail system got tossed out in the 2010 mid-term election, according to data from Oregon Secretary of State Kate Brown’s office. County clerks in 30 Oregon counties — six didn’t report data — rejected nearly 5,000 ballots in that election because signatures on the envelopes did not match the signatures on file, and more than 3,200 ballots were discarded because they lacked any signature. Approximately 1,900 ballots arrived too late to be counted. The counties that did not report the numbers of ballots they rejected in the 2010 mid-term election were Curry, Grant, Lincoln, Malheur, Tillamook and Wheeler counties. The number of rejected ballots translates to a tiny fraction of the total ballots cast. Less than 1 percent of the 1.4 million ballots cast were rejected in the 2010 mid-term, and similar percentages in other recent elections. Nonetheless, a spokesman for the Secretary of State’s Office and an expert on early voting said there are ways that Oregon could improve.
Greater Napanee mayoral candidate Robert Dorey is asking council to consider a recount of the municipal election results announced on Oct. 27. Dorey said in a statement issued to media and supporters that he has been “inundated with requests from supporters that I demand a recount of the votes cast.” Incumbent Mayor Gordon Schermerhorn regained the mayoral seat on Monday night with 2,907 votes — only three votes more than first-time candidate Dorey, who received 2904. While he doesn’t believe a recount will come up with a different outcome, Dorey does think that there are some major flaws with the electronic voting system that Greater Napanee adopted for the first time this election. “I don’t think that the results will change, but I think that it’s important that we use this opportunity to examine electronic voting in a way that really matters,” Dorey said in an interview with QMI Agency on Wednesday. “I’m doing this to draw attention to the flaws in the voting process. They were obvious to me, and to other candidates and residents in this election.”
Millions of voters — about 1 in 5 — are expected to vote absentee, or by mail, in November’s midterm elections. For many voters, it’s more convenient than going to the polls. But tens of thousands of these mail-in ballots are likely to be rejected — and the voter might never know, or know why. The U.S. Election Assistance Commission found that in 2012 more than a quarter of a million absentee ballots were rejected. The No. 1 reason? The ballot wasn’t returned on time, which in most states is by Election Day. Sometimes it’s the voter’s fault. Others blame the post office.
Alameda County elections officials are sending out cards to alert 27,000 voters in Berkeley that they’ve received mail-in ballots imprinted with the incorrect date for next month’s election. The address window in Alameda County mail-in ballots displaying incorrect date for this year’s election. The ballots arrived in voters’ mailboxes last month. In addition to the legend “Official Election Balloting Material,” the ballots’ address window says, “Election Day November 5, 2014.”
“The sooner you get it in, the sooner they stop calling you.” That’s what Kristyne Brenner, a resident of the Denver suburb of Greenwood Village, described as the only way to cease the incessant calling from the campaigns of Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) and his Republican challenger, Rep. Cory Gardner. The already high-stakes Senate contest between Udall and Gardner has gained an added element of uncertainty because this year, every registered Colorado voter has received a ballot by mail. And to the chagrin of voters like Brenner, both campaigns are going all-out to make sure no one forgets to send in their ballot. Colorado’s nearly three million registered voters began receiving ballots on Oct. 14. Campaigns can track which voters have not yet returned their ballots, as well as who hasn’t registered at all. As a result, residents have experienced a significant amount of harassment from campaigns. This will likely continue through Nov. 4, since people can also register on Election Day and vote in person. (Voters can also register online and receive a ballot in the mail until Oct. 27.) The seemingly nonstop calls from campaigns have aggravated Brenner’s frustration with a race that she already considered too polarized and negative. “I’m pretty much over it,” she grumbled as she tossed back popcorn kernels while taking a break from shopping at Denver’s upscale Cherry Creek mall. Based on a number of interviews conducted by The Huffington Post, Brenner’s annoyance seems to be a universal emotion in the highly-targeted Denver suburbs.
Boulder County voters electing to mail in ballots this election might come up 1 cent short on postage. Voter instructions for returning ballots say the cost of postage for county residents who received two-sheet ballots in the secrecy sleeve will cost 69 cents — the 49 cents for a stamp plus the cost of an additional ounce. However, in January the U.S. Postal Service raised the cost of an additional ounce to 21 cents, meaning postage for a two-sheet ballot and secrecy sleeve would actually cost 70 cents. Voters should rest assured their ballots will be delivered with no problem however, Boulder County Clerk and Recorder’s Office spokeswoman Mircalla Wozniak said in an email Monday.
The review of absentee and questioned ballots cast in Tuesday’s municipal election revealed a general sense of confusion among many Juneau voters. City and election officials tallied 1,447 additional ballots during a public review Friday at the City and Borough of Juneau Assembly Chambers. The certified official results will be announced Oct. 14, after the remaining mail-in ballots trickle in. Election officials noted that counting machines continually rejected “over-voted” ballots in which too many candidates were chosen in a particular race. These errors disqualified that race on those ballots, though the rest of the correctly completed votes on the erroneous ballots were counted.
Voters could have an extra six days to cast ballots during the 2016 presidential election if a proposal to change the Missouri Constitution gets enough support on Election Day. Touted by Republicans as making voting more accessible and faulted by Democrats as not making it accessible enough, proposed Amendment 6 would allow registered voters to cast a ballot for six days ending the Wednesday before a general election, not including weekends. Unlike the six-week period of absentee voting in Missouri, residents wouldn’t need an excuse to vote — in-person or with mail-in ballots — early. The catch: Local election offices could hold early voting only if the state agrees to pay for the costs, estimated at close to $2 million the first year and at least $100,000 per election in following years. That has some local clerks worried that they might not get enough state funding and be saddled with expenses. To that end, a state appeals court panel ordered a description of the initiative for the Nov. 4 ballot be changed to add the state-dependent funding.
Election officials are preparing for the possibility that the Puna lava flow could potentially disrupt voting in next month’s general election. Hawaii’s election chief outlined plans at a state Elections Commission meeting on Friday, but some critics fear a repeat of problems that happened during the primary due to Tropical Storm Iselle. “Please prevent another man-made disaster caused by the Elections Office,” said State Sen. Russell Ruderman (D-Puna, Kau). He recommended mail-in ballots only for next month’s election for precincts in lower Puna that could be affected by the lava. “We do not know at this time which precincts will be accessible, which neighborhoods will be accessible,” said Ruderman.
The first Tuesday in November is notorious for long lines to tap a few buttons, cast a vote, and possibly change the future course of our state. Depending on where you live, you may not be waiting in line to cast your vote in November. Several counties across Utah are doing it: mail-in ballots- for everyone, not just the absentee voters. This isn’t new, but several counties are trying it for the first time this year.
Voting by mail surpassed 50 percent of votes cast in a general election in California for the first time in 2012. A new study shows that nearly 69,000 mailed ballots, or about 1 percent, were not counted, and why they were rejected. The top three reasons mail-in ballots were rejected: not arriving on time, not being signed or because signatures could not be verified, according to the study to be released Sept. 29 by the California Civic Engagement Project at the University of California, Davis, Center for Regional Change. “California has one of the highest mail ballot rejection rates in the country,” said study author Mindy Romero, director of the California Civic Engagement Project. “Although 1 percent may not seem very high, that’s tens of thousands of people whose votes were not counted. And these votes could make the difference in close elections.”
Thousands of mail-in ballots that could have made a difference in the tight primary election for state Controller have been invalidated because they showed up at registrars’ offices too late to count. Fresno’s mayor, Republican Ashley Swearengin, finished first and will be in November’s general election. The contest for the second spot has swung back and forth between two Democrats — former Assembly Speaker John Perez of Los Angeles and Board of Equalization member Betty Yee, from the Bay Area. With more than 3.9 million ballots counted, Perez led by fewer than 1,800 votes Tuesday afternoon. The total has been changing several times a day since the June 3 primary as California’s 58 county registrars send updates to the Secretary of State.
Thousands of mail-in ballots are being invalidated in California elections because they arrive too late to be counted, government officials and political experts said Monday. In the state’s June 3 primary, Los Angeles County received about 2,400 mail-in ballots after the Election Day deadline — the close of polls — making them ineligible to be tallied. The number of latecomers invalidated in Santa Cruz County was nearly 600, all postmarked on or before the election. The postmark isn’t the deciding factor — the cutoff is the close of polls, when election officials must have the ballots in-hand. In a state with nearly 18 million registered voters, the figures for late-arriving ballots are relatively tiny, but even small numbers can make a difference in tight races.
A hearing on a bill repealing a sweeping 2013 election law that galvanized voter’s rights groups, Democrats, some conservative Republicans and third-party candidates was cancelled Thursday. But the delay is expected to be short as majority Republicans agree the repeal is needed. The bill was held in the House Judiciary Committee in part to ensure its language matches other repeal bills being readied, but it will be back on the agenda next Thursday. Once the bills match up, quick passage by each chamber could send them to Gov. Jan Brewer’s desk for action in just weeks, Senate President Andy Biggs said. “We’re just looking for certainty, as soon as possible,” Biggs said. The repeal of last year’s House Bill 2305 is designed to head off a voter referendum set for November’s ballot. The election-overhaul law was cobbled together from several GOP bills on the last day of last year’s Legislative session and passed without a single Democratic vote by the Republican majority.
The Atlantic County Board of Elections will examine provisional ballots Tuesday afternoon after a weekend in which Democrats accused Republicans of improperly canvassing voters who filed those ballots. Republicans, meanwhile, launched allegations of their own Monday, with the county Republican chair asking the state attorney general to investigate Democrats he said had improperly signed up voters for mail-in ballots. Two races hang in the balance of the provisionals – the Atlantic City mayor’s race, in which Republican Don Guardian holds a 247-vote lead over incumbent Democrat Lorenzo Langford, and the First District Assembly race, in which Republican incumbent John Amodeo holds a 287-vote lead over Democrat Vince Mazzeo, the Northfield mayor and owner of a fruit and vegetable store. There were 1,164 provisionals submitted in the district, 518 of them in Atlantic City. Provisionals are issued when a voter’s registration cannot be verified or, more frequently, when the rolls indicate a request for a mail-in vote.
Editorials: The Voting Fraud Bust that Proves Texas’ Voter ID Law Is Useless | Philip Bump/The Atlantic
A 55-year-old woman in Texas plead guilty to voter fraud on Monday for forging ballots in the 2012 primary election. The case will certainly become fodder in the defense of the state’s new, restrictive voter ID law. But it shows, above all else, how completely unnecessary that law actually is. According to an alert from the FBI (which we saw via Ryan Reilly), Sonia Leticia Solis faces up to five years in prison after her sentencing next February. She admitted that she obtained “multiple mail-in ballots by forging applications on behalf of individuals she represented to be disabled.” How many votes she actually completed isn’t clear, nor is the race which she was hoping to influence. The FBI notes that the race at issue “included candidates running for the U.S. House of Representatives,” and that Solis was a resident of Brownsville. That puts her in Texas’ new congressional district, the 34th, and means that she committed the fraud while voting in either the primary or run-off elections in that district for either party. Solis could have had the most effect if she’d been voting in the Republican primary in the heavily-Democratic district. That race was settled by only 223 votes. So Solis would “only” have had to come up with 223 different people that were eligible to vote that didn’t plan to, forge their applications and votes, and return each to the state.
Democrat Barbara Buono’s campaign claimed the morning after Wednesday’s special election that thousands of voters in the governor’s race are being disenfranchised by confusion over mail-in ballots. At issue are mail-in ballots for both Wednesday’s special U.S. Senate election, in which Newark Mayor Cory Booker defeated Republican Steve Lonegan, and the general election, which is headlined by Buono’s challenge to Governor Christie, a Republican. Some voters erroneously submitted their general election ballots in the same return envelope as the one used for their special election ballot.
Arizona: Group opposing voter referendum on new election law wants some signatures tossed | Associated Press
A group supporting a sweeping new Republican-backed election law wants the Secretary of State’s office to invalidate some petitions demanding a voter referendum. Wednesday’s letter from lawyers for a group calling itself Stop Voter Fraud demanded that Secretary of State Ken Bennett throw out signatures on petitions collected by four circulators because they’re allegedly felons. Bennett spokesman Matt Roberts said the Secretary of State by law can’t toss the petitions. “They’re asking us to do things that we’re not statutorily able to do,” Roberts said. “Usually these things move through the courts and I expect this to be no different.” The bill was backed by Republicans and passed in the last hours of the legislative session in June over the opposition of Democrats. They called it a thinly veiled effort to keep Republicans in power by creating new hurdles for low-income voters and some candidates.