What would New York City and the state’s 57 counties do with their share of $50 million? Provide housing assistance to victims of domestic violence? Develop after-school or summer youth programs? Provide low-interest loans to businesses to help them expand and create jobs? Help senior citizens with transportation? Or how about reduce property taxes or support community hospitals? These are just some of the options that might be available to New York City and county officials if the state Senate and Assembly consolidated New York state’s two primary elections to one. But the Legislature has not resolved the issue and congressional candidates are now circulating nominating petitions. So, later this year New Yorkers will once again have two primary elections, one in June for the congressional races and another in September for state and local races. The cost to New York City and counties is enormous, as much as $50 million. The roots of the problem go back to 2011, when a federal judge determined that New York was not in compliance with the Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act.
Two senators said Wednesday they want Congress to improve voting opportunities for hundreds of thousands of U.S. military personnel stationed abroad by tightening rules on states for getting absentee ballots to them. Ahead of the Fourth of July holiday, Sens. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and John Cornyn, R-Texas, said they want to eliminate waivers for states that that fail to mail ballots overseas 45 days before an election. States that miss the deadline would be required to mail the ballots express mail, despite the much higher expense. The measure would toughen a 2010 law governing absentee voting in the military and the counting of those ballots. A congressional report estimated that 25 percent of ballots cast by military and overseas voters in the 2008 presidential election went uncounted.
National: Program exceeds expectations in reaching overseas and military absentee voters | Fort Hood Sentinel
The Federal Voting Assistance Program exceeded congressional expectations in the 2012 election cycle by getting guidance to service members so they could vote by absentee ballot, a senior FVAP official said here, Jan. 24. David Beirne, acting deputy director of technology programs for FVAP, participated in a “MOVE and the Military” panel discussion at George Washington University during the seventh annual summit of the Overseas Vote Foundation and U.S. Vote Foundation. MOVE refers to the Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act, designed to help military people serving overseas and citizens who live abroad to vote in U.S. elections.
Voting from abroad continued to become easier in last year’s U.S. election, thanks to the combined effects of federal law and Internet resources, according to a new study by the Overseas Vote Foundation, a nonpartisan voter-assistance group. Whereas a full half of expatriate American voters surveyed by the group after the 2008 election reported not receiving a ballot or receiving it too late, that figure declined to one-third for the 2010 election and to just one-fifth in last year’s presidential election. “The tipping point is in the use of technology,” said Claire M. Smith, research manager for the foundation. “There’s no going back.”
Though early American elections involved shouting out your vote to the county clerk, oh, how the times have changed. Thirty-one states now use electronic voting machines; the remaining 19 rely on paper ballots or punch cards. The technological march from voices to touchscreens took hundreds of years, but widespread adoption of e-voting began in earnest a decade ago, shortly after the 2000 presidential election revealed the myriad ways in which outdated punch card and lever voting systems could throw the country into a tailspin. But now new fears have arisen: Both paper ballots and electronic systems are vulnerable to fraud, as electronic votes often leave no paper record (depending on the jurisdiction). Without paper trails, fraud is easier to perpetrate and harder to detect. Many experts say the march toward e-voting, and even the specter of Internet voting, should be slowed until we figure out a way to craft a better system and defend it from attack.
Nearly three years after Congress passed a law to guarantee military and overseas voters receive their absentee ballots at least 45 days before a federal election, several states are still failing to comply with the law. The Department of Justice announced last week that it had filed a lawsuit against Vermont and its chief election official for not complying with the Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act, also known as the MOVE Act, which was passed in 2009 to safeguard the voting rights of the military, their family members and U.S. citizens overseas by allowing them adequate time to request, receive and send in their ballots from overseas.
Both presidential campaigns are closely watching states’ election officials for any ballot or voting-law irregularities. The Romney team is the latest to sue, over Wisconsin’s handling of absentee ballots for residents abroad. The Mitt Romney campaign has filed a federal lawsuit in Wisconsin seeking a five-day extension for absentee voters overseas and in the military. The campaign for the Republican presidential candidate is concerned about 44 ballots that the state’s Government Accountability Board says were sent out by local election officials after the Sept. 22 deadline. Under federal election law, all ballots are to be returned by Nov. 9 (three days after the general election); the Romney campaign wants that deadline pushed back to Nov. 14 for overseas absentee ballots.
Even as the two presidential candidates fly from one battleground state to another and as the cascade of campaign ads rolls over television viewers, some fast-approaching deadlines are going to determine who will in fact get to vote on Nov. 6. The National Association of Secretaries of State has declared September National Voter Registration Month and Sept. 25 as National Voter Registration Day. In 48 states voter registration deadlines fall in October. One imminent deadline is this Saturday, Sept. 22, the date – 45 days before the general election – which is set by two federal laws, the Uniformed Overseas Absentee Voting Act and the Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act, for election officials to send ballots to voters in the military and to civilian voters living outside the United States.
Many military installations across the globe lack offices where troops can register to vote and obtain absentee ballots, the Defense Department’s inspector general concludes in a newly released report. Investigators attempted to contact 229 voting-assistance offices and were able to reach just 114 — about 50 percent. Under the 2009 Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act, all military installations are required to have such offices. The report could inflame tensions between the Obama administration and House Republicans, who have accused the White House of moving too slowly to implement the law, which also requires states to mail absentee ballots to service members at least 45 days before an election.
US Virgin Islands: Department of Justice and Virgin Islands sign consent decree to fix absentee ballot procedures | Virgin Islands Daily News
The U.S. Department of Justice and the V.I. government have signed a consent decree aimed at ensuring the territory allows its absent military members and voters living overseas to fully participate in the upcoming primary and general elections. The consent decree, filed in federal court on St. Thomas on Friday, settles a lawsuit that the U.S. Department of Justice filed the same day, alleging that the territory has violated the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act, as amended by the Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act, by failing to transmit absentee ballots to overseas and military voters in a timely manner. The territory already has signed the consent decree, thereby agreeing to its mandates. However, a judge must sign off on the agreement for it to be valid. A hearing on the matter is scheduled in U.S. District Court before Judge Curtis Gomez this morning.
With both a tradition of helping service members get their votes counted as well as a tight turnaround between its primary and general elections this year, Washington state officials decided to move up its primary date a few weeks, from late August to early August. The Military Voters Protection Project, a nonpartisan advocacy group, cited that schedule adjustment as an impressive effort to help ensure that the ballots of those serving in war zones are counted, and on Tuesday named Washington among 15 states that make extraordinary efforts to enfranchise military voters. The group noted state efforts to register service members to vote, to meet obligations to get absentee ballots out at least 45 days before elections, and legislative efforts to make good practices into law. The project says that less than 20 percent of 2.5 million military voters were able to request and return their absentee ballots in 2008 elections, and that in 2010 only 5 percent of military voters were able to successfully vote by absentee ballot. Those states making the list of 15 “all-stars” include Alaska, Florida, North Carolina, Texas and Washington. Eric Eversole, executive director of the military voter project, identified the states doing the worst job at helping military voters as Alabama, California, Illinois, New York and Wisconsin.
More than three dozen local election clerks appear to have missed a federally mandated deadline for sending out absentee ballots to military and overseas voters, according to the Government Accountability Board. Election officials had until this past Saturday to send out ballots requested by military and overseas voters who want to vote in the Aug. 14 primary in which Republicans will choose a U.S. Senate candidate to face the Democratic candidate, U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin, in the race to replace retiring U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl. The number of clerks who missed the deadline may change, as some 265 municipal clerks still haven’t told the GAB if they had any ballot requests, and GAB staff believe that some of the clerks who did respond to a survey might have responded incorrectly. But it nevertheless marks another in a string of elections in which Wisconsin has failed to comply with the federal Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act.
The Senate Government Operations, Energy and Veterans Affairs Committee on Wednesday voted to forward three elections bills to the Rules Committee and tabled two others. The bills that moved out of committee were: a bill allowing paper ballots under the elections laws of the territory, a bill pushing up the date for primary elections so the territory would be in compliance with the federal Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act, and a bill changing the way senators are elected to a combination of island seats and at-large seats. Senators said they plan to amend all of the forwarded bills while they are in the Rules Committee. The bill about paper ballots, sponsored by Sen. Neville James and co-sponsored by Sen. Celestino White Sr., would allow voters to choose whether they wanted to vote by machine or by paper ballot. As written, it also requires that all paper ballots be counted after the closing of the polls, at the same time that electronic ballots are counted on election night.
For military and overseas voters from 47 states and D.C., casting a ballot in 2012 will be a much different — and easier — experience than ever before. Since the 2009 passage of the Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act, which called for improved election access for those living or serving abroad, 47 states and D.C. have enacted new laws and reforms to protect this group of voters, the Pew Center on the States study released Friday found. The 2012 election is the first presidential contest where these voters will cast ballots with the newly implemented legislative and administrative changes. Pew found that 38 states and D.C. now have rules meeting or exceeding the MOVE act’s requirement to send absentee ballots no later than 45 days before a federal election, and eight states also moved their primary dates to accommodate that condition.
Voting Blogs: New York gets $2.5 million for technology upgrades for absentee voting | dailygazette.com
New York’s absentee voting system has received almost $2.5 million from the federal government for technological upgrades. Earlier this month, the Federal Voting Assistance Program awarded the state money to ensure a smoother voting process for New York’s 40,000 overseas voters, with the goal of offering better online access to registration tools and absentee ballot systems.
State Board of Elections spokesman John Conklin said the money would be distributed among all 62 counties on a need basis. Conklin said that some of the money will be spent on improving the process of overseas voters accessing their ballots. He said that currently the local Board of Elections sends out an email when the ballot is ready and the voter can use that email to sign into a website that allows them to print out their ballot and access additional voting information. With this grant, Conklin said this will now be easier for the voter.
National: FVAP report shows continued trends in military voting Report highlights successes and future challenges | electionlineWeekly
The Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP) recently released its 2010 Post Election Report, which included a wealth of information on the participation of military voters and their spouses. This release follows the recent publication of data and a report on military and overseas voting by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission.
While the report includes numerous details focusing on the specifics of members of this community, the general trend is clear: members of the military and their spouses are highly engaged in the elections process and continue to register and vote at higher rates than the general electorate.
Unlike the EAC, which simply reports data provided by states as part of the Election Administration and Voting Survey, the FVAP adjusted military participation data to account for the age and gender of the generally younger and male population of uniformed voters. FVAP also surveyed a number of populations to ascertain their level of participation in 2010.
New York had the poorest showing in the country when it came to counting overseas and military ballots last November, a new report from the U.S. Election Assistance Commission found. The national average for ballots counted was 93.2 percent. But in New York, 73.9 percent of the 22,303 ballots cast were counted.
State Board of Elections spokesman John Conklin said New York’s numbers may have been skewed because boards of election counted every ballot, including those that were returned as undeliverable, toward the total number returned. It appears other states may not have included undeliverable ballots in their overall total, he explained. Returned ballots can be rejected for a variety of reasons, such as they are mailed too late or there is a problem with the voter’s signature.
Wisconsin: Federal election official presses Wisconsin lawmakers to change fall primary date | The Republic
Federal election officials are pressing Wisconsin legislators to pass a bill that would shift the state’s fall primary from September to August.
The bill would bring the state into compliance with the federal Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act, which mandates that states mail ballots for federal elections to those voters at least 45 days before an election.