The results of a special Johns Creek City Council election held April 18 may not be legitimate, according to a report by the nonprofit group VoterGA. The report focuses its critique on alleged security flaws in voting machines and says the election was improperly scheduled. Three separate elections were held that night: the Johns Creek City Council election, the Roswell City Council run-off and the Sixth District Congressional race. … But there were problems in the Johns Creek election, according to VoterGA.
Rarely does the first iteration of a law translate legislative intent into implementation flawlessly and durably. The legislative process allows us to correct, improve or update laws as needed in our changing times. It’s an ongoing process, and one we should embrace! A new round of legislative reform is needed to ensure that the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA) and its progeny continue to play a vital role. In 2009, the Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act (MOVE) was passed as a much-needed, bipartisan reform to UOCAVA; and it has served as a mechanism to modernize key aspects of UOCAVA. The MOVE Act’s creation was informed by years of research, including work by U.S. Vote Foundation’s (US Vote) Overseas Vote initiative (formerly Overseas Vote Foundation), and it has been demonstrably successful in accelerating the transition to online methods for most overseas and military voting processes across all states.
A bill to fix scheduling and ballot-access problems for an upcoming election to replace Rep. Mike Pompeo is set to be considered in the Kansas House on Thursday. House Bill 2017 would revise current state law to comply with federal deadlines for sending military absentee ballots overseas. The bill also would allow the Libertarian Party to field a candidate in the special election and ease the signature requirement for independent candidates to get on the ballot. Rep. Keith Esau, R-Olathe and chairman of the House Elections Committee, said he expects a floor vote on the bill Thursday. The bill is being fast-tracked because Pompeo has been nominated by President-elect Donald Trump to head the Central Intelligence Agency, and he is expected to be confirmed by the Senate in a matter of days. That will create a vacancy in the Wichita-based 4th Congressional District, which must be filled by a special election.
The St. Thomas-St. John Board of Elections is in violation of a federal consent order that mandated the board to send out absentee ballots to overseas military personnel by June 17. During an emergency meeting called for Friday afternoon at the board’s offices in Lockhart Gardens on St. Thomas, board members were irate with the V.I. Elections System for not better communicating the status of the ballots in the last two weeks. They said that during that time, they thought that the ballots were finalized and sent out to military members. “We have a crisis,” said Arturo Watlington Jr., chairman of the St. Thomas-St. John Board of Elections. The U.S. Attorney’s Office asked the V.I. Attorney General’s Office to check on the status of sending out ballots for the Aug. 2 primary election in the territory, at which point the territorial office discovered this week that the ballots had not yet been finalized.
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.
Voting Blogs: The Impact of the Electronic Transmission of Blank Ballots in 2012 | Overseas Vote Foundation
Approximately 10 years ago, states began to explore using electronic transmission methods, such as fax and email, to transmit blank ballots to military and overseas voters. At that time, 24 states allowed a blank ballot to be sent to voters via fax only and three states, Florida, Wisconsin, and Virginia, also permitted email transmission in limited cases. Gradually, additional states continued to implement electronic transmission methods in 2006 and in 2008. In 2009, the Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment (MOVE) Act formalized the use of electronic technology in the military and overseas voting process by mandating the use of electronic transmission of election materials to UOCAVA voters with options for the electronic delivery of blank ballots. As states became compliant with MOVE, the use of electronic transmission methods for the delivery of blank ballots increased sharply. For example, in 2010, 47 states and the District of Columbia provided for the transmission of a blank ballot via email or Internet download, up from 20 states in 2008. Only two states, Alaska and Rhode Island, offered blank ballots via fax as their method of electronic delivery in 2010. Several states, however, placed restrictions on the use of email for delivery of blank ballots. For example, Colorado only allowed military voters to receive ballots via email and not overseas civilians.
A bi-partisan bill to streamline voting and voter registration for service members and their families has been announced by U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer. The legislation, to be introduced by Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), would also address delays in ballot distribution for military voters and civilians living aboard. The Safeguarding Elections for our Nation’s Troops through Reforms and Improvements Act — “SENTRI Act” — aims to enhance the senators’ MOVE Act of 2010 that improved access to voting for military personnel.
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.
The absentee voting process has improved in recent years, but many service members and their families still face hurdles in casting their ballots, according to a new report from the Overseas Vote Foundation. The foundation found that compared to overseas civilians, a higher percentage of military voters — 13.8 percent — tried to vote but could not finish the process, compared to 11.2 percent of civilians with the same problem, based on an OVF post-election survey of overseas citizens and military personnel and their family members, as well as local election officials. But overall, there have been improvements in the voting experience for overseas military and citizen voters since the passage of the Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act in 2009. The 2012 election is the first presidential election and first full-fledged test of the impact of the MOVE Act. “While we acknowledge the tremendous progress and positive trends now visible, continued improvements can still be realized,” the report stated.
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.
Republican Mitt Romney’s campaign has sent letters to election officials in Wisconsin, Mississippi and Vermont demanding that the deadline for receiving ballots from military and overseas voters be extended. In question are absentee military and overseas ballots that missed the deadline in Hinds County. The issue, absentee election ballots missed the state-imposed Sept. 22 deadline. The delay is of concern to military families who did not receive absentee ballots 45 days prior to the upcoming federal election.
Last Friday, I blogged a story describing concerns about the slow pace of absentee ballot requests across the country, especially in the military. Those numbers were (in part) the focus of a hearing in the House Armed Services Committee yesterday. The slowdown is giving rise to fears that efforts to encourage and enable military and overseas voting (specifically, the MOVE Act) aren’t working -or aren’t being implemented – the way Congress intended. But now, thanks to George Mason’s Michael McDonald and his United States Election Project, comes the information that other factors may be at work – and that absentee ballots might not be slowing down as much as people think:
The number of ballot requests … continues to steadily increase, with an updated 2,476 reported on Tuesday (revised from 2,129) and a preliminary 2,386 on Wednesday. The number of absentee ballot requests is now 32,158. I previously discussed an apparent decline in the number of absentee ballot requests in comparison to 2008. Then, at the start date of mail balloting there were 37,539 absentee ballot requests.
Half of all U.S. military bases around the world lack legally required facilities where troops can register to vote and get absentee ballots, according to a report from the Pentagon’s inspector general. Advocacy groups said the report shows the military has let down its service members by failing to implement the 2009 Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment (MOVE) Act. “It’s disappointing. This was the will of Congress,” said Eric Eversole, founder of the Military Voter Protection Project. “Here you have an agency [the Pentagon] that basically said to Congress, ‘We’re not going to do what you told us to do. We think we know more about voter registration than you do and we’re not going to do it.’?”
Three years after the enactment of the Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment (MOVE) Act of 2009, a new report by the Department of Defense’s inspector general found that MOVE’s requirement of installation voting assistance offices (IVAO) on all non-warzone facilities is not being implemented across the globe. More specifically, IG researchers attempted to call every IVAO identified by the Federal Voting Assistance Program. The report says the “results were clear,” with about half of IVAOs unreachable. Those findings have touched off an interesting debate in Washington. One of the IG’s recommendations is to amend MOVE to make IVAOs discretionary, not mandatory.
Michigan: Justice Department sues Michigan for failure to send absentee ballots in time to military, overseas voters | MLive.com
The U.S. Justice Department sued the state Tuesday, seeking an order requiring that hundreds of military and overseas voters who did not receive absentee ballots on time be given more time for their votes to be counted. The lawsuit – predicted late last week by Republican Secretary of State Ruth Johnson – was filed in the Grand Rapids federal courthouse. Johnson had warned that 70 of more than 1,500 local clerks did not mail or email absentee ballots to military and overseas voters on time. More than 200 others did not give the state a status update on whether they had met the 45-day deadline to do so before the Aug. 7 primary election. As of Tuesday, the number of non-responders had dropped to 24. Federal attorneys also are seeking to make sure all absentee votes are counted for the Sept. 5 special primary election in the 11th Congressional District in suburban Detroit. “Americans have fought and died for the right to vote,” said Patrick Miles, U.S. attorney for the Western District of Michigan. “We must ensure eligible voters have the opportunity to cast their vote and for it to count.”
States trying to make it easier for troops overseas to vote have set up voting systems that are vulnerable to hacking when they allow voters to return ballots online, via e-mail, or Internet fax, says a state-by-state report to be released today. The report, Counting Votes 2012, by the Verified Voting Foundation and Common Cause Education Fund, says all states should require overseas ballots to be mailed because even faxed ballots can’t be independently audited. “They’re trying to do a calculus and make it easy for the voter, and they may not realize the great risk they’re putting those votes at,” says Pam Smith of the Verified Voting Foundation, a group that advocates accuracy and verifiability of election returns. The report also rates states on their ability to accurately count votes, and it warns that progress away from paperless voting — which leaves nothing to recount in a dispute — has been halted by the lagging economy.
Absentee ballots for the special election to fill U.S. Rep. Thaddeus McCotter’s term were sent out Monday, a day later than allowed by federal rules. State elections officials are working with the U.S. Justice Department to get a waiver of the 45-day rule mandating how long before an election the ballots must be sent out. “The Justice Department is (very) strict on the 45 days,” State Elections Director Chris Thomas told the Board of State Canvassers on Monday. After the meeting, Thomas said there is a provision in the federal law for the Department of Justice to grant a waiver to the 45-day rule. Thomas told board members his office is “in discussions” with the Justice Department about a waiver. The tight timeframe is the result of McCotter’s resignation from Congress after a petition signature scandal. Gov. Rick Snyder’s office set Sept. 5 as the date of a special primary election to fill the remainder of McCotter’s term.
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 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.
Georgia: DOJ: Runoff election dates violate federal law on military and overseas absentee ballots | The Republic
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. Georgia’s state primary runoff is scheduled for three weeks after the state primary election, and Georgia’s general election runoff is scheduled for four weeks after the general election. Both of those elections have federal offices on the ballot, and the time between the election and the runoff is less than 45 days in both cases.
California: Eleven California counties miss deadline to send ballots to overseas, military voters | North County Times
Elections officials throughout California missed a deadline to send 8,250 ballots to overseas and military voters for next week’s presidential primary, prompting a lawsuit and swift settlement over the weekend between the state officials and the U.S. Department of Justice. Eleven of the state’s 58 counties violated the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act by failing to send ballots to voters abroad on April 21 – 45 days before the primary. While about 5,450 of the late ballots were sent out within two days of missing the deadline, some were delayed as much as a week. On Saturday, the U.S. Department of Justice filed a lawsuit [PDF] against California for missing the deadline, but Secretary of State Debra Bowen reached an agreement on the matter that same day, federal officials said. As part of the settlement, the secretary of state’s office will hold training sessions with at least one election official in each county before the general election in November.
One absentee ballot request from military and overseas voters would be good for an entire election cycle, under legislation introduced Friday in the House of Representatives. The bill, HR 5828, is aimed at clarifying confusion created in a 2009 overhaul of the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act. The change can be interpreted as requiring separate absentee ballot requests for primary and general elections.
Alabama: State, county officials blame each other for Alabama absentee ballot fiasco | The Montgomery Advertiser
The state of Alabama filed a response Wednesday to a temporary restraining order issued over absentee ballots that were sent late to military and overseas voters. The response filed Wednesday lists some of the precautions the secretary of state’s office took and the special circumstances that led to the delays. County and state election officials, meanwhile, sparred over where to place the blame for the delays. The U.S. Justice Department filed a suit late Friday against Alabama and Secretary of State Beth Chapman alleging that the state failed to send absentee ballots to military and overseas voters by the required deadline for the March 13 primaries. U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson issued a temporary restraining order against Chapman and the state Tuesday that requires them to work with the Justice Department to decide on a remedy for the late ballots.
National: Summit addresses military and overseas voters – despite progress, challenges remain | electionlineWeekly
The Overseas Vote Foundation (OVF) hosted its Sixth Annual UOCAVA Summit last week, where participants highlighted progress made and noted the challenges that still remain in ensuring that military and overseas voters can successfully cast their absentee ballots.
A new report from the Pew Center on the States noted in the past two years, 47 states and the District of Columbia enacted laws to protect the voting rights of military and overseas citizens. This year’s election will be the first presidential election since many of these changes went into effect. The report, Democracy from Afar, found that many states have implemented changes to their laws or administrative codes.
Since the 2000 recount in Florida, voting procedures have been under the microscope; in close races, painstaking legal details and arcane rules can determine the results. Among those details is the handling of ballots cast by hundreds of thousands of “invisible” overseas voters. In the swing state of Virginia this November, 10,000 votes could decide the outcome in the presidential race, or the U.S. Senate race. In 2006, Democrat Jim Webb won Virginia’s Senate seat by a margin of 9,329 out of the nearly 2.4 million votes that were cast, a mere four-tenths of one percent margin of victory. Likewise in 2008, in another battleground state, Missouri, Republican presidential candidate John McCain beat Democrat Barack Obama by 3,903 votes, a one-tenth of one percent margin.
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.
Today at the 2012 Overseas Vote Summit in Washington, DC the Pew Center on the States will release Democracy from Afar: States Show Progress on Military and Overseas Voting, a new report updating progress on the issue of military and overseas voting first high lighted by Pew’s 2009 report No Time To Vote.Democracy from Afar finds that “47 states and the District of Columbia enacted laws to protect the voting rights of military and overseas citizens”. More specifically, Pew found that “many states have implemented changes to their laws or administrative codes.”
Texas Governor Perry sued Virginia election officials after state Republican officials ruled he did not get the required number of verified voter signatures, arguing the state’s qualification process limits voters’ access to the candidates of their choosing. U.S. District Judge John Gibney set a January 13 hearing on the matter.
To comply with laws that protect overseas absentee voters, the state must send ballots to them at least 45 days before the March 6 primary contest, meaning they will have to be mailed by January 21. It takes about two weeks to prepare and mail ballots, a state official said.
Former House of Representatives Speaker Newt Gingrich also failed to get the 10,000 verifiable signatures, including at least 400 qualified voters from each congressional district, that are necessary to be included in Virginia’s primary.
In a trip through the archives yesterday, I mentioned the ongoing drama in New York State about whether or not the state’s September 2012 primary would be moved up to give military and overseas voters enough time to vote in compliance with the MOVE Act.
New York has always had its own timetable with regard to implementation of federal election laws; the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has taken the state to court numerous times to enforce the Help America Vote Act’s requirements for a statewide voter registration database and accessible voting technology.