Palm Beach County’s elections supervisor moved quickly to remove a Boca Raton mosque from a list of polling locations when she sensed voters were upset, according to records released Friday. But when her decision became public, she received even more emails criticizing her for discriminating against Muslims and giving into threats. The emails, released by the elections office in response to a public records request, provide the most comprehensive account yet on what led Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher to remove the Islamic Center of Boca Raton as a voting site. Complaints from voters started coming in by phone and email in late June, shortly after cards were mailed to voters showing their polling location as the mosque, at 3480 NW Fifth Ave., the emails show.
Palm Beach County voters have been assigned to polling stations in about 80 Christian churches and five synagogues or Jewish centers this year, along with schools, government buildings and other locations. Until last week, a single mosque was part of this mix. County Elections Supervisor Susan Bucher had invited the Islamic Center of Boca Raton to host a polling site for the Aug. 30 Florida primary and Nov. 8 general elections. Then she disinvited the mosque after an anti-Islamic backlash. She told the center’s president that she received about 50 complaints, including threats of violence, from people who don’t want to vote in a mosque, according to the Council on American-Islamic Relations-Florida. But moving the polling station to a nearby library hasn’t saved Bucher from criticism. U.S. Reps. Ted Deutch and Lois Frankel, both Palm Beach Democrats, issued statements Tuesday night opposing religious discrimination. “If we are going to use places of worship as polling places, we should not discriminate,” Deutch said.
For years, the Islamic Center of Boca Raton, Fla., served as a polling station for Palm Beach County voters. Since at least the year 2010, citizens have cast their votes within the pastel green walls of the mosque, whether it was for a presidential primary, a municipal election or a special primary. Last week, however, the mosque was removed as a polling site. The decision was made by Susan Bucher, Supervisor of Elections for Palm Beach County, after she received complaints, and threats, about the use of the mosque in the upcoming Florida primary in August and general election in November. Bucher, a Democrat, is running for re-election for the nonpartisan supervisor post. “We began receiving complaints from voters,” said Bucher in an email to The Palm Beach Post Editorial Board. “Some felt uncomfortable voting at the Islamic Center.” She had received a call “that indicated individuals planned to impede voting and maybe even call in a bomb threat to have the location evacuated on Election Day,” Bucher said, and she decided to relocate the polling place to the Spanish River Library about two miles away.
Today, an estimated half a million people in New Hampshire will go to the polls to vote in the Republican and Democratic primaries, and in the weeks ahead, many other Americans will vote as well. Depending on where you live, you’re guaranteed to get a totally different voting experience compared to someone in another state, or even another county. That’s because the physical design of polling stations varies wildly across the U.S.: they’re located in libraries, civic centers, grocery stores, and other random places, and there isn’t a universal set of rules that tells officials how to set up polling stations. But new research suggests that the design of polling stations is critical to the voting process—and if we don’t design these places well, some people may decide not to vote. Just like an ATM machine or public transportation, polling stations are systems, and their poor or great design could influence whether voters use them. When people deal with a badly designed system—one that’s inconvenient, confusing, or takes too much time—they might make mistakes or avoid the system altogether. The problem with polling stations is that people can’t just switch to a different location—they have to use the one to which they’re assigned (unless they vote by mail). Rice University researchers Claudia Acemyan and Phil Kortum say this all-or-nothing situation, along with a poorly designed system, could disenfranchise people. Since there currently aren’t general design standards for polling places, they’ve set out to create a set of guidelines, based on science.
If you make voting fun, will it encourage people to cast their ballots? And once people are at the polls, can you keep them there, and get them talking about what they want from their local and national politicians? Those were some of the questions that designers at the Long Beach, California-based studio City Fabrick were pondering when they came up with the idea for Placemaking the Vote—their very own “kit for creating temporary pop-up social spaces at voting polls in historically low voter turnout areas.” While the designers are still figuring out exactly what would go into the kit, they’d likely include lights, shelter, chalk and other supplies for building a gathering place and drawing attention to it. City Fabrick would set up the brightly-colored booths outside of the polling places and provide snacks and comfortable places to sit to encourage voters to stick around and talk.
A soon-to-be law takes aim at the practice of “rolling voting,” which critics say can be used to tip the scales in favor of one side in some elections by moving polling places too often. The law’s backers say it adds uniformity and predictability to the process by requiring, among other things, that mobile polling locations be open for two consecutive days, eight hours a day, in some cases. That contrasts with some elections, often those held by school districts, in which officials move around the locations for briefer periods, according to the rolling voting opponents.
A lawmaker on Tuesday expressed reservation about the proposal to allow voting for the 2016 local and national elections in malls, saying “political operators” might find a way to influence voters in such an open set-up. Capiz Rep. Fredenil Castro, chairman of the House committee on suffrage and electoral reforms, said that while the Omnibus Election Code allows the voting to be held in public buildings, there is a possibility that the conduct of elections might be compromised if voters were allowed to cast their votes inside malls.
th a $125,000 price tag and zero impact on local election candidates’ fortunes, the city’s Sept. 1 preliminary election is poised to be cancelled. City Council President Daniel Cahill confirmed councilors will be asked Tuesday night to vote on scheduling a July 21 public hearing allowing residents to discuss scrapping the preliminary. If councilors and state legislators vote to cancel the preliminary, the names of every candidate who submitted nomination papers to run for city office will be listed on the Nov. 3 final election ballot. “No one is going to be knocked off the ballot. No one is going to be disenfranchised,” said City Clerk Mary Audley.
Most people who vote in tomorrow’s general election will vote in person, in one of around 40,000 polling stations that will be open from 7am to 10pm. All voters should have received a poll card no less than a week before election day. You should present this at the polling station when you vote. Each voter is then given a ballot paper on which to mark their vote. The paper bears an alphabetical list of all the candidates standing in that constituency. In addition to your elector number, your ballot paper will carry an “official mark” which should be visible from both sides of the paper. This will usually be stamped with a special instrument immediately before it is given to you; but some papers may have a pre-printed mark or barcode instead.
For the next round of elections, voters might be able to cast their ballots with a cell phone in hand. Current state law prohibits voters from having their cell phones within 100 feet of the voting area, but the State House of Representatives on Monday heard and initially passed a bill that would allow voters to use their cell phones in polling stations, with certain limitations. The bill, authored by Rep. Greg Bonnen (R-Friendswood), permits voters to “access information that was downloaded, recorded or created on the phone” before the voter enters his or her polling place.
Pennsylvania’s decision to continue to keep the press from entering polling stations draws an arbitrary line and leaves room for foul play by ensuring that the voting process is not as transparent as possible. The 2012 election marked the first time that the Commonwealth would attempt to enforce its voter identification law. The law required all eligible voters to present an authorized government ID at the polls. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reporters’ wanted to gain access to the polling stations to observe the ID law, but were prevented from doing so due to a section of the Pennsylvania Election Code. The code stated that:
“[a]ll persons, except election officers, clerks, machine inspectors, overseers, watchers, persons in the course of voting, persons lawfully giving assistance to voters, and peace and police officers, when permitted by the provisions of this act, must remain at least ten (10) feet distant from the polling place during the progress of the voting.”
A committee charged with investigating Election Day mishaps began hearing testimony Monday, with employees from the Town and City Clerk’s Office and the Secretary of the State’s Office raising concerns about discrepancies in numbers reported by the city. Ross Garber, one of two attorneys working for the committee, said that in addition to determining what went wrong, the group is looking into whether reports were submitted on time by the city and whether the reports were accurate. “There is a question about the accuracy of the election reports,” Garber said. People were unable to vote at as many as 10 polling places when they opened at 6 a.m. on Election Day because voter registration lists were not delivered on time. Voters had to wait more than an hour at certain locations, and some left without voting, prompting the Democratic Party to seek extended hours.
There’s a ritual to the way most people vote in most UK elections – parliamentary, local, European and in referendums – which has remained largely unchanged for many decades. On election day, traditionally a Thursday, voters go to their local polling station and cast their ballots by marking crosses in boxes with a pen or pencil and paper. The ballots are then counted by hand after the polls close. The digital revolution, which has swept through so many areas of modern life, has barely touched the system by which we elect our democratic representatives. Moves to modernise it with automated systems have so far met with high levels of resistance amid concerns over security and fraud. … Concern over security is the main reason the UK government has so far resisted any significant moves towards e-voting. Cabinet Office Minister Sam Gyimah told the political and constitutional affairs committee there were “more downsides than upsides” to the technology.
Calling the 2012 general election in Sandoval County “a debacle,” a federal judge has ruled in favor of three Republicans who claimed actions by the Democratic county clerk and elections director deprived voters of the chance to cast ballots. There were problems administering the election in Rio Rancho, which resulted in voters standing in long lines and waiting in some instances for more than five hours to exercise their right to vote, according to the order by District Judge William P. Johnson. Johnson had granted a preliminary injunction ordering Election Bureau Director Eddie Gutierrez and Sandoval County Clerk Eileen Garbagni to comply with a resolution passed by the County Commission in October 2013 pertaining to the number of voting machines and distribution of polling places in Rio Rancho. The resolution establishes 17 voting convenience centers in Rio Rancho and two in Corrales.
Mississippi: Guns OK inside Mississippi polling places, attorney general says | Mississippi Business Journal
The trend among gun fanatics of openly carrying assault weapons and other firearms into stores and restaurants could spread to polling places around Mississippi in November. The key here is that gun owners must wear the weapon so it is visible to everyone, says Attorney General Jim Hood, who this week replied in the affirmative to a query on guns in the voting booth. “The Legislature has given no authority to counties or municipalities by any statute to restrict open carrying of weapons into polling places,” Hood said. He emphasized, however, that gun owners may have to ask permission of the property owner if the polling place is on private property such as a church. High security government buildings may also be off limits to gun toters.
South Carolina: Richland County elections officials, pollworkers say they’re ready for June 10 primaries | The State
The addition of precincts, equipment and pollworkers should add up to trouble-free June 10 primaries in Richland County, election officials say. “I feel good. I think it’s going to run well,” said Patrick Nolan, a retired USC professor who runs a Forest Acres precinct. He concurred with the assessment of fellow pollworkers that they are well-prepared for voting in two weeks. Officials at the elections office – still smarting from the fiasco of November 2012, when voters were outraged by long lines, misplaced ballots and a lack of accountability – say they’ve put new safeguards in place. “We have just buckled down and tried to look back – 2012, 2013 – and tried to find those things that did not play so well,” said Samuel Selph, who became Richland County’s interim elections director in February. “So what we’re doing is trying not to repeat the past.”
For Miami-Dade County voters who have had to wait up to seven hours on Election Day to cast their ballots, there’s an argument over what should take priority: the call to citizenship or the call of nature. Emails from a deputy elections supervisor and an assistant county attorney say Miami-Dade voters are banned from using restrooms at polling places. But the chief deputy elections supervisor pooh-poohed the notion. Number One and Number Two are fine in publicly owned voting sites, such as libraries and city halls, where bathrooms are open for anyone to use. The problem might arise when precincts are located in private buildings, which don’t have to allow public bathroom access, or in churches and other religious facilities, which are exempt from federal law requiring accessible restrooms for people with disabilities. Elections administrators have long relied on those locations to set up Miami-Dade’s more than 500 polling places.
More than half of all California voters who cast a ballot in 2012 did so by mail, not surprising since the state has been trending that way for many years. More interestingly, the California Civic Engagement Project at UC Davistook a closer look at 2012 voter data to try and understand how the vote-by-mail population breaks down along demographic lines. Researchers found that voters over the age of 55 and Asian voters are much more likely to vote by mail than Latino and younger voters. It’s worth noting that researchers used actual voter records for the analysis, data that do not include information about ethnicity. To break out numbers for Asian and Latino voters, researchers used a process called surname matching, in which names are compared against a dictionary provided by the U.S. Census. Lead author Mindy Romero said surname matching is common in political science when working with actual voter records and is considered to be 94-95 percent accurate.
A superb report released Wednesday by the Presidential Commission on Election Administration can be summarized in one quick sentence: There are many ways to make voting easier in America. There shouldn’t be the slightest whiff of controversy or partisanship about that concept, or the important suggestions made in the report. But, of course, there is, and that makes the commission’s persuasive logic and research all the more valuable. President Obama appointed the commission last year to address the problem of long lines at the polls in 2012. At a time when states were deliberately keeping people from voting with draconian ID requirements, that seemed a narrow goal, but members of the commission did far better than expected in showing the many ways that the nation’s patchwork of state and local election laws has contributed to low turnouts.
The US Supreme Court on Monday declined to take up a case testing a Minnesota law that bans the wearing of buttons or clothing with messages that election officials deem too political to be worn within 100 feet of any polling place. The justices took the action in a one-line order without comment. It lets stand a federal appeals court decision upholding the statute. The Minnesota law seeks to prevent campaigning and electioneering by candidates and their supporters at the locations where voters are casting their ballots. But an array of conservative groups challenging the statute said it went far beyond preventing electioneering and violated the free speech rights of voters to express broader political ideas without facing government censorship.
The state’s online application allowing residents to search for the location of their polling place returned error messages for many users today, prompting the state to replace it with another service. Today is the day New Jersey voters will choose a new U.S. senator in a special election. Bill Quinn, a spokesman for the Treasury Department, which oversees the state’s network of websites, said the application slowed down this morning and many people received error messages or may have had to try multiple times to get the site to load.
Every election department (and many advocacy groups) create flyers and small booklets to help voters learn about elections. But when we looked for guidelines for good communication with voters, we found very little. There were some political science and social psychology experiments that measured the impact of get-out-the-vote campaigns, but there was little about what questions voters have, and how to answer those questions well. As a companion to the research on county election websites, we did a study of how new voters used election information booklets. We recruited people who had voted for the first time in the 2008 election or later. Our participants were young people, recently naturalized citizens, and people with lower literacy. As new voters, we hoped that they would remember their first experiences clearly and would still have questions about elections.
New Hampshire: Voter ID law hasn’t uncovered fraud, but officials are still checking | Nashua Telegraph
The attorney general’s office hasn’t found any voter fraud in recent elections, following the passage of the state’s voter ID law. At least, it hasn’t found any yet. Or, more accurately, it hasn’t found any yet so far as we know. “It’s an open investigation,” Assistant Attorney General Stephen LaBonte said in response to a query from The Telegraph. Because of that status, LaBonte declined to discuss details so far, such as how many people who voted without showing an ID have been contacted or whether any evidence of voting fraud has been uncovered. “We are following up with trying to track down the people who were sent verification mailings. … We have been successful in tracking down some of them,” he said. There are slightly over 2,000 names to track down. That’s the number of voters who didn’t returned postcards on time, confirming they had signed affidavits at polling places before voting in the November 2012 presidential election or in town and school elections in March. The affidavits, which swore to their voters’ identity, were required of anybody who lacked a photo ID; about 1 percent of voters in November signed them, and a smaller percentage than that did the same in March.
How crowded is the election field in Boston this fall? So crowded that election officials are worried that mobs of competing poll checkers inside polling places will leave no room for voters. The field is so crowded that signs for the 50 candidates running for mayor and City Council may blot out sunlight at some polling places. Dozens of canvassers are expected to line sidewalks outside, forcing voters to run a gantlet of brochures and slogans to get to the ballot box. To fight democratic gridlock, the city wants to make sure traffic keeps moving on election day. The most pressing issue will be poll checkers: campaign workers stationed inside voting places who check off names and play a crucial role in get-out-the-vote operations. Campaigns are allowed to station observers inside voting stations, but some of Boston’s polling places are in cramped spaces in churches and senior centers. There simply may not be room for all the poll checkers, forcing campaigns to share.
The Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) staff are trialling notebook computers to electronically check-off voters at polling booths around the country. It is the first time notebook computers have been used in a federal election to mark off names and addresses from the electoral roll. Similar devices were used during the ACT election last year and proved successful. AEC spokesman Phil Diak says staff will swap pencils and rulers for the notebooks, making it easier to look-up interstate voters. “We’ll also be able to print ballot papers from the notebooks and that will help us in terms of holding stocks of interstate ballot papers for the House of Representatives,” he said.
Voters may get the last word on a package of controversial changes to election laws — changes foes say are designed to depress turnout and throw roadblocks in the path of those who want to propose their own laws. A coalition of Democrats and minor parties hopes to gather 86,405 signatures before Sept. 13 to force an election on the provisions of HB 2305.
For those who still don’t vote by mail in California, going to the polls might become a bit more convenient soon. The state Senate Elections Committee has approved a bill that would increase access to elections by requiring county elections officials to open an early voting location on a Saturday prior to Election Day. “The fact that elections are held on a workday leaves many Californians in a situation where they have to choose between voting and fulfilling personal and professional obligations,” says Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, author of the bill.
Pennsylvania: High court refuses to hear Post-Gazette appeal – Pennsylvania can continue to restrict poll access | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Journalists have no right to report and photograph inside Pennsylvania polling places, and the U.S. Supreme Court is letting that state restriction stand. Without comment, the court Monday refused to hear a case brought on appeal by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette when its staffers were barred from voting sites in Allegheny and Beaver counties in the fall. State law bars anyone except voters, election workers and registered poll watchers from coming within 10 feet of entrances to polling places on Election Day. The denial means the Pennsylvania law can stay in effect unless the Legislature decides to change it.
A proposed overhaul of Arizona’s early voting laws has been blasted by Latino youth who say the Republican-backed effort would suppress minority turnout just as more Hispanics are registering to vote. Students on spring break are expected to lobby lawmakers at the Arizona Legislature Thursday in opposition to two measures that would limit who gets to vote early and how mail ballots are returned to local election officials. Hispanics leaders, including Arizona Democratic lawmakers, said the election bills are aimed at silencing voters who tend to vote for Democrats. Republicans currently control Arizona’s state government. “We are not going away,” said Daria Ovide, a Phoenix-based voting activist. “We are going to be voting no matter what and we are going to remember who was helpful and who was not helpful.”
Local election officials are moving polling places out of schools as the shootings in Newtown, Conn., have intensified concern about opening school doors on Election Day. In New York, Rockland County officials will relocate polls this year away from 10 schools at the request of the local school district in Clarkstown and Nyack. “In the wake of what happened in Connecticut, it’s definitely taken on more urgency,” says Kristen Stavisky, a county election commissioner. “Voters in these schools will have to move. They won’t be going to the polling sites that they’ve been going to — for some of them, since they were eligible and registered to vote.” In Baraboo, Wis., three polling sites will be located in the town civic center to avoid using schools, due to security concerns, says Cheryl Giese, Baraboo’s city clerk and finance director. At Newtown’s Sandy Hook Elementary School, 26 students and staff were killed by a gunman on Dec. 14.