National: Study: U.S. voters face shorter waits, but voting methods are changing | Atlanta Journal Constitution

New data from the 2014 midterm elections show a vast majority of national voters waited 10 minutes or less to cast their ballot, while a surprising number of people who requested mail ballots either didn’t vote or returned their ballot in ways other than by mail. In short, states have gotten better at getting voters in and out of the polls quickly. But with mail voting increasing in popularity, both voters and election officials still face planning challenges when it comes to absentee and mailed ballots. The report from the Pew Charitable Trusts comes as the nonpartisan research and public policy organization readies a comprehensive review of how each state fared during the 2014 election. That “elections performance index” is due out at the beginning of next year, ahead of the 2016 presidential election.

National: New Survey Highlights the 2014 Voting Experience | Pew Charitable Trusts

A nationwide study of voters’ experiences during November’s midterm federal election found that approximately 40 percent of respondents cast their ballots early or by mail. The 2014 Survey of the Performance of American Elections (SPAE)—conducted by Charles Stewart III, the Kenan Sahin distinguished professor of political science at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and funded by The Pew Charitable Trusts—surveyed more than 10,000 registered voters nationwide. Among the findings:

41 percent of voters cast ballots before Election Day.
o 16 percent voted early in person or in-person absentee.
o 25 percent voted by mail.
o 59 percent voted in person on Election Day.

Texas: House Lawmakers Debate Online Voter Registration | Texas Public Radio

A committee of House lawmakers heard the reasons why the state of Texas would be better served with an online voter registration system, but some groups remain skeptical about the possibility of voter fraud. As of April, 19 states offer online voter registration. Last legislative session Texas came very close to passing their own version but it was not added the calendar for a final vote. In this period between sessions, lawmakers are re-considering the same thing. David Becker is with the Pew Research Group and testified how this is working in other states. He said online voter registration reduces incidents of voter fraud because there is not a third party involved. “Another big advantage of online registration is its accuracy, because voters are directly putting their information in you get a lot less data entry errors. All of that is going to be correct and often checked against the motor vehicles data base,” Becker said.

National: Get Ready for the Datapalooza of Election Performance! | American Prospect

During the brief time in the election cycle when the voting booths are actually open, we hear a lot how smoothly elections are going—where voters are waiting in long lines, where ballots are getting rejected, and the like. Elections expert Doug Chapin, who heads the University of Minnesota’s Elections Academy, calls it “anec-data”—anecdotes substituting for hard numbers.  In a presidential election, we tend to hear all about problems in swing states, since the national press corps is already there, but we’re less likely to hear about issues in Montana or Connecticut, where the election outcome is almost a foregone conclusion. Good data would make it easy to compare states’ election performance, and more importantly, let us see how states are improving or declining from one election to the next. That’s why Pew’s 2012 Elections Performance Index is a big deal. Released this week, the index uses standardized data from the U.S. Census, the Elections Assistance Commission, and a major survey to assess states on 17 different variables and judge just how well they are running their elections. Because Pew offered an index for 2008 and 2010, we can now compare two different presidential elections to actually see whether election administration is getting better or worse—rather than just guess. It’s the first time such a tool has been available. For the most part, the results are encouraging. A quick perusal shows 40 of the 50 states have improved since 2008—wait times are down an average of three minutes and online registration is spreading quickly, with 13 states offering online voter registration during the 2012 election, up from just two in 2008. (Since the election, another five states have started offering it.) Many of the top-performing states in 2008, like North Dakota, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Colorado, stayed on top in 2012 while low performers, like Mississippi, Alabama, California, and New York remained at the bottom.

Pennsylvania: Voter ID Law Faces Lawsuit From ACLU | Stateline

The fierce battle over Pennsylvania’s voter ID law goes to trial on Monday in a state courtroom in Harrisburg. The legal fight began with a lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania and other groups in May 2012. A state judge temporarily blocked the voter ID law from affecting Election Day 2012, but only after the state Supreme Court intervened. The Pennsylvania ACLU argues the voter ID law is unconstitutional because it infringes on the right to vote and could disenfranchise voters.

Voting Blogs: Measuring Elections: Data, Not Anecdotes | The Canvass

Anecdotes are illustrative, evocative and memorable—and a staple of election policy debates. Just think back to February’s State of the Union Address, when President Obama introduced Desiline Victor, the Floridian who waited six hours to vote. The President was illustrating why he created a bipartisan election commission. But anecdotes make a weak foundation for public policy. Instead, “evidence-based management” is underpinning all kinds of government services these days, whether the topic is health care, transportation, criminal justice, education or election administration. For election administration, finding “evidence” is tricky. Every state, and frequently every jurisdiction, conducts elections differently, making comparisons difficult. Data is not gathered uniformly nationwide as it is in many other government arenas. Election costs are hard to track because they’re borne by several levels of government. You get the idea—it is hard to get facts and figures to support election evaluation.

Voting Blogs: Supposing is Good, But Finding Out is Better (cont.): Pew on Lines in 2012 | Election Academy

I spent the last couple of days with my old friends at Pew, who hosted the Voting in America 2012 conference in Washington, DC. There was a TON of good content – you can watch the first day’s activities via archived video on CSPAN3, or searching on the (very active!) Twitter hashtag #VIA2012. Early on day one, Charles Stewart of MIT presented preliminary data on the Survey of the Performance of American Elections (SPAE), which once again asked voters about their voting experiences in 2012. Here’s Pew’s summary of the results.

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.

Voting Blogs: Pew Study Shows Need for Modern Voting System | Brennan Center for Justice

Today, the Pew Center on the States released a report detailing some of the serious flaws in our voter registration systems, the lynchpin of election administration. Their study reaffirms what election administrators and voter advocates have known for a long time — that the voter rolls are filled with errors, and an unconscionable percentage (almost a quarter, according to Pew) of American citizens who are eligible to vote are not registered. The flaws identified in the Pew study are the result of an outdated, paper- based voter registration system that is not only inefficient and costly, but prone to inaccuracy. Worse, the clunky system leaves off millions of eligible voters or contains errors in their records that could prevent them from voting effectively. The question is no longer whether we should upgrade the system, but how we should do so. Recent technological innovations point the way to the solution: modernizing the system.

National: U.S. Voter Registration Rolls Are in Disarray, Pew Report Finds | The New York Times

The nation’s voter registration rolls are in disarray, according to a report released Tuesday by the Pew Center on the States. The problems have the potential to affect the outcomes of local, state and federal elections. One in eight active registrations is invalid or inaccurate. At the same time, one in four people who are eligible to vote — at least 51 million potential voters — are not registered. The report found that there are about 1.8 million dead people listed as active voters. Some 2.8 million people have active registrations in more than one state. And 12 million registrations have errors serious enough to make it unlikely that mailings based on them will reach voters.

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.

National: Military, overseas voting easier, report finds |

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.