Pennsylvania election officials in jurisdictions home to at least 5 million voters don’t expect to have unofficial results for the 2020 primary until the end of this week or, in some cases, next week. And some are warning that it could take even longer to count votes this fall unless steps are taken in the interim. A surge in vote-by-mail is the main reason why primary results will take days to compile. The state’s largest counties — Philadelphia and Allegheny — are among seven counties total that will accept mailed ballots until June 9, thanks to an extension issued by Gov. Tom Wolf on Monday. Officials in most of those jurisdictions – where more than 300,000 ballots hadn’t yet been returned as of Wednesday – say the public shouldn’t expect full unofficial results until at least June 10. Among the commonwealth’s other 60 counties, at least a dozen hadn’t plowed through their stack of absentee and mail-in ballots by the end of the day Wednesday, though most hoped to finish by Friday. In all 60, ballots were due by 8 p.m. Tuesday.
Ohio: About 5,500 provisional ballots rejected because voters didn’t qualify to vote in person | Rick Rouan/The Columbus Dispatch
About 5,500 ballots that were cast in person on Ohio’s delayed primary election were not counted because the voters were neither disabled nor homeless and didn’t request an absentee ballot on time. That represented a small fraction of the 1.8 million ballots that were counted in the election. Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose released the official results of the 2020 primary on Friday afternoon, about 2 1/2 months after Ohio’s originally scheduled March 17 Election Day. After the polls were closed to prevent the spread of COVID-19, state lawmakers extended the election to April 28 and forced most voters to cast absentee ballots through the mail. It carved out two exceptions: voters who were disabled or did not have access to mail, mostly the homeless. But mail delays plagued the system, and some voters never received their ballots. Those who showed up at their Board of Elections on April 28 to cast an in-person provisional ballot had to certify that they fell into one of the two exempted categories. LaRose directed boards of elections not to count those who did not unless the board could verify that the voter had requested an absentee ballot ahead of the deadline at noon on April 25. Democrats in the Ohio General Assembly and voting rights advocates objected to that decision.
Ohio: Lawmakers, secretary of state at odds over provisional ballot counts | Sarah Elms/Toledo Blade
Unless you have a disability, lack a permanent address, or properly requested an absentee ballot but never received it in the mail, your in-person vote in Ohio on April 28 won’t count. That’s according to a directive sent by Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose on Friday to the state’s boards of elections. But three Democratic state lawmakers, including Rep. Paula Hicks-Hudson (D., Toledo), argue that refusing to count all in-person ballots cast April 28, regardless of whether someone met one of those three criteria, disenfranchises voters. Ms. Hicks-Hudson on Monday called the secretary of state’s directive “an insult to the voters of Ohio,” while Mr. LaRose, a Republican, contends the very law she and her colleagues passed in March is what prevents some votes from being counted. She said there was widespread confusion among registered voters about how, when, and where to cast their ballots in Ohio’s first mail-in election after the in-person March 17 primary was called off because of coronavirus concerns. Many voters showed up to their respective boards of elections on April 28 believing that they could vote in person, just as they would have on March 17, she said.
The Republican-sponsored bill for a provisional ballot system is tied to a measure unlocking more federal funding to enhance election security. The Senate State Government Finance and Policy and Elections Committee advanced it Tuesday on a 6-3 party-line vote. The rules would apply to anyone who registers at the polls. Their ballots would be kept out of counts until additional eligibility and residency verification checks are done within a week of an election. Sen. Torrey Westrom, R-Elbow Lake, said it’s an election-integrity safeguard. “Once the ballot is in the box, it’s like pouring two cups of water together — one has toxins in it and the other doesn’t. You can’t separate that water again,” he said. “The same thing goes here.” Democrats argued it would impose new voting obstacles — and could tie up legitimate votes — when there isn’t widespread evidence of ineligible people casting ballots. “If a person were to swear erroneously and after the fact be found out that it was a lie, they have a felony. They have a felony,” said Sen. Carolyn Laine, DFL-Columbia Heights. “This is not done light-heartedly. And as we know in the state of Minnesota it is rarely done and usually by mistake.”
Minnesota: Key GOP senator revives fight over election security money | Steve Karnowski/Associated Press
An influential Senate Republican who held up federal election security funding for most of the 2019 legislative session moved Tuesday to tie approval of a new round of money to passing her proposal for a provisional balloting system that Democrats warn could suppress turnout. Sen. Mary Kiffmeyer, of Big Lake, who chairs the Senate’s elections committee, wants to require that the ballots of citizens who register at the polls on election day be designated as provisional ballots that aren’t counted until their eligibility can be verified. Currently, ballots of Minnesotans who register at the polls are counted along with all the other votes. The committee approved her bill on a 6-3 party-line vote and sent it to its next committee stop. At a news conference ahead of the hearing, Kiffmeyer, a former secretary of state, framed the issue as one of equal treatment of voters. She pointed out that applications from residents who pre-register undergo more verification before voting than people who register at the polls. Minnesotans who register at the polls need only to present identification, such as a driver’s license, and their information is verified later.
A Vanderburgh County official wants to make changes to the way some voters cast ballots. Vanderburgh county clerk Carla Hayden says some people refuse to vote using the machines so they received a provisional paper ballot. Hayden says that’s not the intended use for this type of ballot. Provisional ballots are meant to be used by people whose voting eligibility is in question. Maybe they aren’t registered or maybe they forgot their ID. But she says being uncomfortable with the polling machine is not a reason. She now wants to see if she can keep this from becoming a trend. During the 2019 election, more than 16 thousand votes were cast in Vanderburgh County. Of that, around 15 of them were votes written and put in envelopes like this one. Provisional ballots, a way for the voter to get their opinion in even if their eligibility is in question. But for those counting the votes– this can be a lengthy process. “If someone does cast a provisional ballot then we have 10 days from the election day to investigate that claim,” County Clerk Carla Hayden says. “Then the election board meets when we go to certify the election and they will look into the issue and see if it’s been cleared up.” And this is all before anyone even looks at the the vote inside the envelope. “If we decide it’s going to count then we have to open that envelopes the votes get transferred onto a legitimate ballot and that ballot gets counted,” Hayden explains. She says during this last election three people asked for this ballot because they didn’t trust the machine.
A key elections bill backed by the state’s supervisors heading for final votes. The measure is meant to address issues stemming from the 2018 election but Democrats say it doesn’t do enough. Last year local supervisors of elections found themselves trying to handle three statewide recounts in addition to local races. Bad ballot designs, mis-matched signatures, and questions around vote-by-mail and provisional ballots coupled with a tight turnaround deadline for certification made the process harder for some supervisors, especially those in South Florida. It also gave the state some unwanted attention. Reports from national Media outlets like CNN, USA Today and ABC News along with local coverage drew attention to the monumental task of recounts. Larger counties like Palm Beach and Broward missed the deadline to submit their recount totals. The ghosts of past elections loomed over 2018. Republican Representative and former state GOP Chairman Blaise Ingoglia has taken on the task of trying to clean up the process.
Legislation regarding the procedure for casting provisional ballots passed the House on Monday, even after concerns were raised by some lawmakers as to what the law would do. The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Harlan Breaux, R-Holiday Island, struggled to answer several questions posed by his colleagues. At one point, he attempted to leave the well of the House floor while being pressed for more details. Breaux was running Senate Bill 159, which is sponsored in the Senate by Sen. Bob Ballinger, R-Hindsville. The bill would eliminate the portion of state law that requires poll workers to remove the stubs from provisional ballots and to keep those stubs in a separate box. Provisional ballots are cast when poll workers challenge a voter’s eligibility, and the voter signs an affidavit that he is legally registered to vote. Election officials later check the validity of the voter’s claim.
More than a week after Election Day, much remains murky in Georgia and Florida. But one thing is clear: Provisional ballots, often forgotten and minimized, will determine the results. Provisional ballots are a proven fail-safe for voters across the country, but their role in the political dramas playing out this week illustrates how the little-understood tool can fall prey to political manipulation. When candidates inaccurately attack provisional ballots as perpetuating voter fraud, they take advantage of a complicated process many Americans don’t understand. And when states decline to count all the provisional ballots or discard some on questionable grounds, then the system doesn’t work for all voters. Created by a federal law in 2002, provisional ballots are supposed to be a protection against administrative and technical errors that prevent registered voters from casting a normal ballot on Election Day. In other circumstances, voters cast a provisional ballot if they go to the wrong polling place or, in some states, forget their photo ID.
North Carolina: Durham elections worker pleads guilty to altering vote counts in 2016 primary | WRAL
A former Durham County elections worker has pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor related to the mishandling of provisional ballot results during the March 2016 primary election, officials said Wednesday. Richard Robert Rawling, 59, of Cary, pleaded guilty last Friday to failure to discharge a duty of his office and was sentenced to 30 days in jail, suspended to a year on probation and a $500 fine, according to the State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement. An obstruction of justice charge was dismissed. Elections board officials discovered the problem during a routine audit of primary results in April 2016. The issue involved provisional ballots, which are given to voters who experience some sort of administrative issue when they show up at a polling place, such as a glitch in voter registration or trying to cast a ballot in the wrong precinct.
Virginia: Vote count in close Stafford races fuels criticism, concern | Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star
Questions are swirling around two close elections in the Fredericksburg region that appear destined for recounts. In a conference call Friday, House Democratic Caucus Executive Director Trent Armitage said that 55 military ballots delivered to the Stafford County registrar’s post office box on Tuesday—Election Day—went uncounted because they were not picked up until Wednesday. Democrats said they had no way of knowing which candidates the 55 votes went for, but the ballots arrived on time and came from active-duty military personnel. “We find that to be absolutely ridiculous,” Armitage said. Stafford Supervisor Laura Sellers, a Democrat, lost her Garrisonville District seat to Republican Mark Dudenhefer by just 15 votes. And Republican Bob Thomas holds an 83-vote lead over Democrat Joshua Cole in the race for the 28th District House of Delegates seat representing parts of Fredericksburg and Stafford.
Minnesota: Provisional balloting, a June primary and ‘I voted’ stickers: How legislators are looking to change Minnesota elections | MinnPost
In St. Paul, there are only a few areas where bipartisanship is not just a lofty goal, it’s a requirement. That includes any changes lawmakers want to make to the state’s election and voting systems. Gov. Mark Dayton, like former Gov. Tim Pawlenty, has said he’ll only sign election-related bills if the proposals have broad support from legislators in both parties — no matter who’s in power. It’s a tradition that some say has bolstered Minnesota’s strong election system, which has some of the highest voter turnout rates in the nation and few instances of fraud. The rule has also influenced the measures moving through the Legislature this year, with the Republicans who control both chambers ditching proposals that have been controversial in the past — like voter ID — and advancing a list of changes to the state’s election system that have broad support. Well, mostly. As Secretary of State Steve Simon says: “I would say there is work that has yet to be done to get the bipartisan support necessary for the governor’s signature.”
A controversial proposal to use provisional ballots to stanch voter fraud is winding its way through the state Senate. The bill would introduce — for the first time in state history — provisional ballots to Minnesota elections. Provisional votes would be cast, then set aside until a challenged voter’s eligibility is reviewed by election authorities and either affirmed or denied. Officials would have seven days to make that decision. The provision was initially introduced as part of a stand-alone bill, Senate File 1225, authored by Sen. Mary Kiffmeyer, R-Big Lake. It has since been rolled into Kiffmeyer’s much larger election omnibus bill, Senate File 514. Yet it consistently takes center stage in committee deliberations.
Kansas election officials threw out thousands of uncounted provisional ballots cast in November, mostly because the state had no record that those residents were registered voters. Some local election officials are now voicing concerns about instances of lost registrations from people who filled out applications on Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s online site and at motor vehicle offices, but whose names never showed up on poll books, voter rolls or even a list of people whose applications weren’t complete. Some voters had date-stamped, computer screenshots showing they successfully completed their voter registration. Kobach’s office said in an emailed statement there was a technical problem with the computer system that handles voter registrations for the motor vehicle department, and that it is the office’s understanding that the problem was corrected within a few days of its discovery in October. Kobach’s office then instructed county election officers to accept any paper printout of an applicant’s computer screen as proof that the person timely completed the registration form.
This recent tweet from Professor Larry Tribe caught my eye: “Call it what you like, but the # of voters turned away for not having required forms of ID exceeded margin of T’s victory in MI, Pa & Wis” As soon as I read it, I said to myself, “That can’t be right.” First of all, no voter ever should be “turned away” for lack of ID. Instead, the Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA) requires that voters lacking required ID receive a provisional ballot. To be sure, some poll workers may fail to enforce the mandates of HAVA, but in volumes exceeding Trump’s margins of victory in Michigan (about 11,000), Wisconsin (about 23,000), and Pennsylvania (about 44,000)??? If there had been a massive failure of election administration on that scale, which could have accounted for the outcome of the presidential election, presumably we would have heard news reports of it by now. Just because voters cast provisional ballots does not mean, of course, that those provisional ballots will be counted. In some states, a voter who casts a provisional ballot because the voter lacked a required form of ID is not permitted simply to sign an affidavit to get the ballot counted, but instead within a limited period of time must find a way to get the required ID and show it to local election officials.
California: Southern California Election Officials Respond To Issa’s Allegation Of Vote Count Interference | KPBS
Registrars of voters in Southern California are defending the vote count in a tight congressional race after incumbent Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Vista, questioned its validity. Issa is ahead of challenger Doug Applegate by two percentage points with about 20,000 more provisional ballots to be counted. In a fundraising email, Issa claimed liberals are trying to steal the election and that if his lead shrinks, they could “force the Registrars to allow thousands of illegal, unregistered voters to influence the election,” according to the San Diego Union-Tribune. In a post on Twitter, the Republican congressman asked followers, “Can you help me make sure this election isn’t stolen?” It included a link to a letter on his campaign website, but the tweet and letter have since been deleted.
Tens of thousands of uncounted provisional ballots could decide North Carolina’s governor’s race, some which wouldn’t have been counted if the courts had upheld a Republican-backed law that limited voting access. With nearly 4.7 million ballots cast, GOP Gov. Pat McCrory trailed Democratic Attorney General Roy Cooper by about 5,000 votes — even though Republican U.S. Sen. Richard Burr and Donald Trump secured victories by comfortable margins. McCrory was dogged throughout the campaign by his support for a law limiting LGBT rights — a prime example, according to Democrats, of the state’s rightward shift under his watch. Cooper had declared victory, though the race remained too close to call Wednesday. County boards are supposed to decide in the next several days which mailed absentee ballots and provisional votes cast during early voting or on Election Day should be added to the race totals. The trailing candidate could then ask for a recount.
A federal appeals court panel rejected a challenge Wednesday night to an Arizona election law that throws out ballots cast by voters who go to the wrong precinct. The 2-1 opinion from a 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel turned away a legal challenge mounted by Democrats. Lawyers representing the state and national Democratic parties said Arizona throws out more out-of-precinct ballots than any other state and that minorities are more likely to be affected. A federal judge in Phoenix rejected the challenge last month, ruling that the state has a valid reason not to count such votes because different races are on ballots in different precincts. The judge also said that Democrats haven’t shown that minorities were affected more than white voters. Democrats appealed, and two of the appeals court judges agreed with the lower court and rejected the challenge, which cited Voting Rights Act and Constitutional violations.
The last pending legal challenge to Ohio’s voting laws died a quick death Monday when it was rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court. And thousands of Ohio voters could have their ballots thrown out as a result, the attorney who filed the lawsuit says. Justice Elena Kagan dismissed the matter after consulting with the other seven members of the high court, her one-sentence decision indicated. “This case has been ongoing in Ohio, taking many forms, under the administration of three secretaries of state, both Democratic and Republican, and it is time for the chaos and waste of taxpayer money to come to an end,” said Secretary of State Jon Husted in a statement Monday night. The attorney pushing the challenge, Subodh Chandra of Cleveland, said, “Unfortunately, Secretary of State Husted is now free in this election to disenfranchise voters who he and the elections boards know are eligible, over ‘errors’ as trivial as writing a name legibly in cursive on a form rather than in print. And Husted is free to continue his scheme to have boards in the big, urban counties disfranchise voters when smaller, white rural counties count ballots involving identical errors — and he looks the other way.”
There’s a court battle going on over Arizona’s law that allows provisional ballots cast in elections to be disqualified, or thrown out. Voters might have to use a provisional ballot if their voter registration is not up to date or they lost their early ballot or they go to the wrong polling place. A federal appeals court is deciding whether to force the state to count provisional ballots cast in the wrong precinct. In Arizona voters have to vote in the precinct assigned to their residential address. The three-judge panel heard arguments Wednesday, Oct. 26. A lawyer for state and national Democrats told the panel nearly 11,000 voters in Arizona had their provisional ballots disqualified in the last presidential election because they voted in the wrong place, and that it affects minority voters more often than not. The Democrats said throwing out the ballots disenfranchises voters and is unconstitutional. The state argued that counting the ballots would be unfair to candidates in local races.
This presidential election year, millions of Ohioans will be exercising — and already are exercising, in the early-voting period — their precious right to vote. But because of recent federal court decisions, it’s more important than ever that Ohioans protect their franchise by taking extra steps to make sure their right to vote is not being illegally abridged and that their votes will be counted. One recent federal court ruling, for instance, determined that thousands of Ohioans were purged illegally from state voting rolls going back to 2011. How to protect these voters’ rights to vote in the Nov. 8 election was not resolved until last week, when a federal judge ruled that certain voters absent from the voting rolls must be allowed to cast a provisional ballot. It’s important that all Ohio voters now take affirmative steps first to find out if they fall in this category by checking their registration status online or at their county board of elections, and then, if they have been wrongly purged, to understand how they can cast a provisional ballot to make sure their voting rights aren’t unlawfully denied.
The battle over voting rights in Ohio rages on with a new federal appeal challenging state laws enacted by the GOP-dominated legislature in 2014 and signed by Republican Gov. John Kasich. A group that includes the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless and Ohio Democratic Party wants the full 15-judge 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to consider a decision earlier this by month by a three-judge panel of the appellate court. The case “involves a question of exceptional importance that will impact the upcoming presidential election,” the group told the appeals court. The panel’s ruling also conflicts with other court rulings, including the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Bush v. Gore that settled the 2000 presidential election. The three-judge panel that largely left the GOP laws intact divided along party and racial lines, with two whites appointed by Republican presidents in the majority and a black picked by a Democrat issuing a withering dissent.
A federal judge in Phoenix is deciding whether in the upcoming election the state must count provisional ballots differently than in the past. Under the federal Help America Vote Act, if a voter shows up at a polling place to vote, but their name is not on the list, poll workers must offer that voter a provisional ballot. In Arizona, during elections that require voters to vote in an assigned precinct, a state law prevents ballots cast in the wrong precinct from being counted. Even if a voter goes to a polling sites a few blocks away from their assigned one, the ballot will be disqualified. In the 2012 presidential election, almost 11,000 provisional ballots in Arizona were tossed because the voter cast the ballot at the wrong precinct.
Tens of thousands of ballots cast in Arizona’s last presidential election were rejected by elections officials, indicating continued communication and voter education problems in the state, according to a 2014 analysis. Nearly 46,000 of the more than 2.3 million ballots cast in Arizona’s 2012 election — or about 2 percent — were rejected. That rate is down from 2.2 percent in 2008, when Arizona led the nation in rejected provisional ballots. The rejected votes consist of early voting or provisional ballots in which voters went through the voting process but later had their ballots thrown out after review by elections officials. The most common reasons were that voters weren’t registered in time for the election, voted in the wrong precincts or didn’t sign their ballots.
California: It only took a month to count California’s votes. Here’s why, and why it may get better | Los Angeles Times
Well, that’s a relief. For the last four weeks, Californians have ceased to be those goofy people on the left coast. For the last four weeks, we have been the people who can’t count. And now the votes from the June 7 primary, more than 8.5 million of them, have been counted; they are due to be certified by Secretary of State Alex Padilla on Friday. The lingering question isn’t who won the presidential primaries or the Senate race; the margins in those races, and most other regional and local contests across the state, were big enough that the winners have been known almost since primary day. No, this was the question: What took you so long? The answer: It’s complicated. More than voters know. But it may be about to get faster. For voters, the most time-intensive part of balloting is deciding which candidate to like. The act of filling in the answers at a polling place or mailing it in from home doesn’t take long. But this year, several factors combined to give elections officials a giant counting headache.
State officials will write the June 7 primary’s final chapter this week by certifying that more than 8.5 million ballots were cast, though it’s unlikely to assuage voters or local elections officials who complained that overlapping and confusing rules left them with a lingering political hangover. “It’s disheartening because people’s expectations were so high,” said Kim Alexander, president of the nonpartisan California Voter Foundation. “There were a lot of unhappy voters.” The primary’s sour ending note seems largely due to the asymmetric rules governing the presidential and statewide elections. Unlike the primary for state races – where anyone could vote for any candidate – the presidential contests were governed by a patchwork of rules that differed by political party. “The presidential primary is always the most difficult to conduct,” said Michael Vu, San Diego County’s registrar of voters. Independent voters, known in California as having “no party preference,” were allowed to vote in the Democratic primary between Hillary Clinton and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. But they were banned from voting in the Republican presidential primary.
Nearly a month after the June 7 primary, California still is tallying ballots, a task that regularly dumbfounds the uninitiated with its snail-like immunity to speed. “Yes, They’re Still Counting the Presidential Primary Votes,” The New York Times carped last week, wondering how the cradle of high tech could have such inefficient elections. A week before, The Washington Post quoted Sen. Bernie Sanders supporters speculating that Sanders actually had won the Democratic primary but no one knew because of the slow vote count. In fact, California election results are the way they are because this state bends over backwards not to disenfranchise voters. This year, some in the Sanders camp actually worsened matters by switching parties at the last minute and casting provisional ballots, which have to be individually verified.
We like to think of California as the center of the tech universe. But, apparently, all that know-how has not helped us figure out how to run more efficient elections. Three weeks after the state’s Democratic presidential primary, half a million votes remain uncounted. The final tallies, whenever they come in, are not expected to change the result. Hillary Clinton declared victory the night of the June 7 primary, when she was up by more than 10 points. In videos, in blog posts and on social media, some supporters of Bernie Sanders are pointing to the uncounted ballots as evidence that Mr. Sanders was robbed. Long waits for final totals are not rare in California. Most of the 2.5 million votes that were not counted by June 7 were mail-in ballots that were not returned until Election Day, or even a few days after.
Voting rights advocates Wednesday said the March presidential preference election amounted to voter suppression and proposed renewing federal election standards to protect voters. Community leaders representing numerous advocacy groups, along with Democratic Congressional representatives, said at a forum at the Greater Bethel A.M.E. Church in south Phoenix that the long wait times at Maricopa County election sites prevented many people from voting. “Let’s just make clear what happened. There was voter suppression,” Congressman Ruben Gallego said. Maricopa County had only 60 polling places, including one serving all of south Phoenix for the March 22 election, said Gallego, a Democrat who represents the area.
It was billed as a “Still Sanders” rally, a way to shame CNN and the rest of the media for covering up the success of Bernie Sanders’s campaign for president. It took over a street in Hollywood area of Los Angeles yesterday — coincidentally, a day that Sanders was appearing on CNN to discuss his future plans. And to the faithful, it shared new information about how Sanders, counted out in California, was gaining ground. “It is absolutely true that San Francisco has flipped for Bernie,” said organizer and emcee Cary Harrison. This was not true. The consolidated city-county of San Francisco gave a victory to Hillary Clinton, of 116,359 votes to 99,594 for Sanders. As of June 24, there were no mail-in or provisional ballots left to count. Yet for a small group of Sanders diehards, California’s ridiculously slow count of mail-in and provisional ballots is a source of hope, and evidence of media’s failure. Since election day, three of the 58 California counties that at first seemed to vote for Clinton flipped to Sanders. A 12-point Clinton victory margin has shrunk to nine points. The relative lack of coverage here fuels events like the Still Sanders march, a look at a world in which the Vermont senator remains in the hunt for the presidency.