Election workers around California discovered good news in this year’s crush of ballots to be processed and counted: far fewer provisionals. Officials who faced a mountain of 1 million provisional ballots four years ago instead found just over one-third of that this year. The Secretary of State’s office reported Thursday that counties have an estimated 354,600 to process. Provisional ballots chew up time from election workers because of the work involved. They must verify that the voter is registered in the county and has not already cast a ballot. Election officials credit new vote centers available in 15 counties for the lower number of provisional ballots. Brandi Orth, registrar of voters for Fresno County, said the centers allow staff to resolve issues on the spot, unlike traditional polling places that didn’t offer similar services. “They can now determine if they voted or not,” she said. Provisional ballots are used when election workers cannot verify at the polls if the voter is eligible to vote.
Pennsylvania: Upward of 100,000 provisional ballots could further delay a winner being named | Tom Lisi/The Philadelphia Inquirer
Those across the nation eager for a winner to be declared in Pennsylvania might have to wait a little longer because of a flood of provisional ballots, most of which are only now being counted in a process that takes a lot more time than tallying in-person or mail votes.As of Friday morning, 56 of the state’s 67 counties reported about 85,000 provisional ballots cast based on only a partial count, a Pennsylvania Department of State spokesperson said. House Speaker Bryan Cutler told reporters Friday he’s told the number could top 100,000.Provisional ballots are cast when a voter’s eligibility is in question. And so far, 2020 looks like it might be a record year, owing mostly to the state’s expansion of no-excuse mail voting. Any voter who requested a mail ballot but did not receive it — or who forgot or lost their ballot or envelopes — could still vote at the polls on Election Day using a provisional ballot. There were also reports on Election Day that some voters were told to cast a provisional ballot even if they brought their entire mail ballot to the polls, which should have allowed them to vote in person. Usually, county officials do not review provisional ballots until after in-person, mail, and absentee ballots are counted. That’s why many counties did not begin until after 5 p.m. Friday, the deadline to accept mail ballots sent by Election Day. Late-arriving mail ballots are being segregated because they are subject to a pending U.S. Supreme Court case.
Georgia: Judge orders review of provisional ballots in Georgia election | Atlanta Journal Constitution
A federal judge on Monday ordered election officials to review thousands of provisional ballots that haven’t been counted in Georgia’s close election for governor. U.S. District Judge Amy Totenberg’s order calls for a hotline for voters to check if their provisional ballots were counted, a review of voter registrations, and updated reports from the state government about why many voters were required to use provisional ballots. The court decision comes as votes are still being counted in the race for governor between Democrat Stacey Abrams and Republican Brian Kemp. Abrams trails Kemp and would need to gain more than 20,000 additional votes to force a runoff election. Totenberg said she’s providing “limited, modest” relief to help protect voters. The order preserves Tuesday’s deadline for county election offices to certify results and the Nov. 20 deadline for Secretary of State Robyn Crittenden to certify the election. The ruling enjoins Crittenden from certifying the election before Friday at 5 p.m. Her ruling applies to provisional ballots, which were issued to as many as 27,000 Georgia voters because their registration or identification couldn’t be verified. Provisional ballots are usually only counted if voters prove their eligibility within three days of the election, a deadline that passed Friday.
The chances of a Kansas voter’s ballot being counted might depend on which county he or she lives in — especially if they vote by mail. The issue of counties having different standards for determining whether a ballot should be counted came up last week (Monday) during a meeting of the State Objections Board, where Davis Hammet of Topeka objected to Republican Kris Kobach’s victory in the Aug. 7 GOP primary for governor. Hammet’s objections involved how the election was administered and whether the varying standards could have influenced the outcome of a race that Kobach won over Gov. Jeff Colyer by less than 350 votes. Hammet noted Johnson County rejected 153 mail-in ballots because the signature on the envelope used to mail the ballot back to the county did not match the voter’s signature on file in the county election office. In contrast, Shawnee and Douglas counties’ election officials didn’t reject any ballots because of mismatched signatures, The Lawrence Journal-World reported.
Yesterday, New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver adopted the final version of four new administrative rules, which take effect in time for the Primary Election in June 2018. The new rules enhance numerous aspects of the state’s absentee voting process, outline procedures for candidates to transfer funds from one state campaign finance account to another, establish the order in which certain races will appear on the ballot, and bring uniformity to procedures for provisional voting statewide. “These rules bring clarity to a number of existing election procedures and make it easier for New Mexico’s voters – including blind and visually impaired voters – to cast a ballot,” said Secretary Toulouse Oliver. “I will continue looking for ways to streamline New Mexico’s election processes and increase access to the ballot box.”
Alabama: Military, provisional ballots tallied in Alabama’s US Senate race; not enough to swing the outcome | WHNT
The Alabama Secretary of State’s office has announced the total number of military and provisional ballots that will be counted, and there aren’t nearly enough to make up the difference between Doug Jones (D) and Roy Moore (R) in the U.S. Senate Special Election. Roy Moore previously said he would hold off on conceding because there were still votes to be counted. Military ballots, cast under the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA), have now been added to county totals. A news release from the Alabama Secretary of State’s Office says the office received 366 ballots from UOCAVA voters. The release also says state officials have verified 2,888 provisional ballots out of a total of 4,967. They add that no additional ballots are eligible to be received.
The man who oversees the election office that threw out nearly 14,000 Kansans’ ballots from the 2016 general election is running for governor a year from now. That’s a thought six other Republicans in the gubernatorial primary field – and the Democratic candidates – probably can’t get out of their heads. Secretary of State Kris Kobach is known locally for his work in making it harder for Kansans to vote in the name of eliminating voter fraud – fraud that has been proven in the most infinitesimal numbers. He’s known nationally for that, plus being co-chairman of President Donald Trump’s Advisory Commission on Election Integrity that was seemingly created to prove Trump’s unsubstantiated claim that he would have won the 2016 popular vote if not for 3 million to 5 million illegal votes.
Editorials: Why did Kansas discard nearly 14,000 ballots in the 2016 election? | The Kansas City Star
On Thursday, Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York urged the White House to disband its misnamed Election Integrity Commission, whose vice chairman is Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach. Otherwise, Schumer said, he’ll try to block the commission by forcing its demise in an amendment to must-pass legislation, such as an increase in the debt ceiling or a government funding bill. We’re not big fans of using must-pass bills as trees on which to hang unrelated legislative ornaments. But the senator is right to call for the dismantling of the already-discredited commission. The effort to verify President Donald Trump’s claim that millions of Americans voted illegally is a waste of time and money. Instead, Americans should support Schumer’s alternative: public hearings on the status of voting rights.
A conservative firebrand promoting President Donald Trump’s unsubstantiated claims of widespread voter fraud oversees a Kansas election system that threw out at least three times as many ballots as any similarly sized state did, fueling concerns about massive voter suppression should its practices become the national standard. Only six states – all among the top 10 in population – discarded more votes during the 2016 election than the 33rd-largest state of Kansas, according to data collected by the bipartisan U.S. Election Assistance Commission, a federal agency that certifies voting systems. Kansas’ 13,717 rejected ballots even topped the 13,461 from Florida, which has about seven times as many residents. Critics of Kansas’ election system argue its unusually high number of discarded ballots reflects policies shaped over several elections that have resulted in many legitimate voters being kept off voter rolls in an effort to crack down on a few illegitimate ones.
A conservative firebrand promoting President Donald Trump’s unsubstantiated claims of widespread voter fraud oversees a Kansas election system that threw out at least three times as many ballots as any similarly sized state did, fueling concerns about massive voter suppression should its practices become the national standard. Only six states — all among the top 10 in population — discarded more votes during the 2016 election than the 33rd-largest state of Kansas, according to data collected by the bipartisan U.S. Election Assistance Commission, a federal agency that certifies voting systems. Kansas’ 13,717 rejected ballots even topped the 13,461 from Florida, which has about seven times as many residents. Critics of Kansas’ election system argue its unusually high number of discarded ballots reflects policies shaped over several elections that have resulted in many legitimate voters being kept off voter rolls in an effort to crack down on a few illegitimate ones.
Reports that Kansas discarded provisional voter ballots in the 2016 election at a rate higher than almost any other state is further proof that Kansas should not be the model to follow in establishing federal election guidelines. Kansas becoming an election model for the country wasn’t a real concern until President Donald Trump appointed Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, the architect of Kansas’ voting policies, co-chairman of Trump’s Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity. Kobach is the architect of some of the nation’s most restrictive voter registration policies. The requirements to register to vote require extensive documentation and are most burdensome on poor and elderly voters. New data from the U.S. Election Assistance Commission show just how effective those policies have been, not only at keeping people from the polls in Kansas, but also challenging their ballots once they do turn out.
North Carolina: Grand jury indicts former Durham County elections worker Richard Robert Rawling of Cary | News & Observer
A Durham County grand jury has indicted Richard Robert Rawling of Cary, a former Durham County elections worker, on charges related to the mishandling of provisional-ballot results during the March 2016 primary election. The indictment was handed down on Monday on counts of obstruction of justice, which is is felony, and failure to discharge a duty of his office, which is a misdemeanor, the N.C. State Board of Elections & Ethics Enforcement said in a release. Rawling worked for the Durham County Board of Elections during the March 15 primary, before resigning later that month. The N.C. State Board of Elections opened an investigation into the election in April 2016.
Editorials: What an election law expert worries about on election day | Richard Hasen/Los Angeles Times
For those of us who follow elections and election law professionally, election day itself is pretty uneventful—unless of course you work for a campaign. There often are reports of “flipped votes” for one candidate or another thanks to a miscalibrated machine, problems of long lines here or there and various little hiccups, but generally nothing major. This time around, though, I am more nervous than usual. Here are the three things I am most worried about, from least to most concerning. Bureaucratic shenanigans. In recent years, Republican legislatures have passed a slew of laws making it harder to register and vote, especially if you’re poor, a person of color or a student (all populations likely to vote Democratic). In response, Democrats and voting rights groups have sued, claiming the laws violate the Constitution or the Voting Rights Act. Although federal courts in some states, such as Wisconsin and Texas, have imposed interim remedies to assist those who, for example, do not have one of the narrow forms of photographic identification required to cast a ballot, reports from the early voting period suggest that misinformation is widespread. (That’s often because recalcitrant state governments are unwilling to clarify requirements or to fully and fairly implement court orders.)
Ohio: Multimillion-dollar voting rights battle could prove even more costly for taxpayers | Cleveland Plain Dealer
The state of Ohio has racked up more than $2.7 million in legal fees it will likely have to pay to attorneys who have engaged in a decade’s worth of litigation over voting laws passed by the state’s legislature and enforced by the secretary of state’s office. And while a federal appeals court said part of that amount must be re-calculated, the cost is expected to increase significantly in the future, as those same lawyers still need to add in the nearly three years of legal work completed since the last time a judge ordered payment. The legal battle at issue has raged on since 2006, though it is in line with challenges to a series of laws passed by Republican-controlled legislatures across the country in the past few years. Courts in Wisconsin, North Carolina, Texas, North Dakota and Kansas issued scathing opinions in the past week that invalidated key parts of voting legislation passed in each state, with each court stating that the laws were aimed at curbing minority participation in elections. The Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless first filed suit against the secretary of state over laws passed by the legislature that required voters to provide identification at polling places. The case has evolved and continued after elected officials passed laws that affected provisional ballots. This resulted in a trial earlier this year, after which Columbus federal Judge Algenon Marbley issued a constitutional rebuke of the state’s laws pertaining to the disqualification of absentee and provisional ballots for technical violations.
While he doesn’t quite share Donald Trump’s sentiment that the election system is “rigged,” Subodh Chandra says the proof is indisputable that thousands of Ohioans have improperly had legitimate votes discarded. And the Cleveland lawyer whose lawsuit against the state is being heard by a federal appeals court panel today contends Ohio’s voting rules discriminate against minorities. “Counties are applying completely different standards, and those standards seem to correlate heavily by race,” he said during a Columbus press conference Wednesday. “Ohio’s secretary of state and the General Assembly have been trying to skew the voting process in favor of voters they believe are friendly to them. And that mostly white voters,” Chandra said. “That is unacceptable under any conceivable interpretation of the Constitution or the Voting Rights Act.”
California: Some say it’s time California had statewide rules for provisional ballots | Los Angeles Times
Once reserved for emergency situations, provisional ballots were freely handed out across California on June 7 as a Times analysis finds they were used by more than one of every five primary voters who showed up at a polling place. But the wide use of provisional ballots has not been matched by any broad statewide oversight, with rules changing from one county to the next dictating when they are used and how elections officials decide whether to count them as valid votes. “You think it would be clean and simple,” said Donna Tarr, a resident of Rolling Hills Estates who volunteered to observe provisional ballot counting in Los Angeles County last month. … Tarr, 64, was one of several supporters of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders who descended on county elections offices after the June election to observe how provisional ballots were processed and how many were actually counted. When she and others complained that some provisional ballots cast by unaffiliated “no party preference” voters were not being correctly counted in the Democratic presidential race, Los Angeles County elections officials quickly stepped in to fix the problem.
A U.S. district court judge may decide two critical issues in Arizona before the November presidential election: whether to stop the state’s new so-called “ballot harvesting” law from taking effect and whether to force elections officials to count out-of-precinct provisional ballots. The Democratic National Committee and a group of voters have filed a lawsuit accusing officials of voter suppression after people in Maricopa County – the state’s largest county – waited for hours to cast their ballots in the March 22 presidential preference election. They also claim that making ballot harvesting a felony could disenfranchise thousands of minority voters.
Maryland: About 1,650 ballots handled improperly in Baltimore election, state review finds | Baltimore Sun
About 1,650 ballots cast in Baltimore’s primary election were handled improperly, a state review has found — prompting some to question the validity of the election results. The State Board of Elections concluded that 1,188 provisional ballots were inappropriately scanned into the vote tally on Election Day — without judges verifying that the voters were eligible — and 465 other provisional ballots were not considered. The board’s findings were released Monday. “In many ways, this is worse than what anybody thought,” said the Rev. Cortly “C.D.” Witherspoon, an activist with Voters Organized for the Integrity of City Elections, or VOICE. “Although we knew there was a problem, we did not know it was to this magnitude. The citizens deserve better.”
Maryland: State elections officials decertify Baltimore election results, investigate irregularities | The Washington Post
Maryland state elections officials have ordered that the results of Baltimore’s recent primary election be decertified after watchdogs and candidates complained that the process was flawed. State Elections Administrator Linda H. Lamone said the number of ballots cast in the April 26 contest was hundreds more than the number of voters who checked in at polling places. The state also identified 80 provisional ballots that hadn’t been considered. “It’s important every ballot is counted,” Lamone said. It doesn’t appear likely that the investigation will change the results of Baltimore’s Democratic mayoral primary, where Senate Majority Leader Catherine Pugh finished more than 2,000 votes ahead of Sheila Dixon, a former mayor of the city. Statewide election results in the U.S. Senate and presidential primary cannot be certified until the problems in Baltimore are resolved.
Ohio’s elections chief and advocates for the homeless are making their final arguments in a federal lawsuit that could affect how thousands of ballots are cast and counted in the swing state. The advocates, along with the Ohio Democratic Party, are suing Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted over changes made in 2014 to requirements for absentee or provisional ballots. The two sides reiterated their arguments and findings in court briefs last week and are expected to submit their final filings with the court on Thursday. The case would then be left to the judge to decide. … At issue are the laws and procedures for absentee and provisional ballots. Provisional ballots are those cast when a voter’s identity or registration is in question, among other reasons. The voter’s eligibility is verified later.
Some rules for Ohio voters are under legal scrutiny as the focus starts shifting toward the fall election. The perennial presidential battleground is no stranger to election-law challenges. Voting disputes in Ohio seem to appear at the rate of political TV ads as Election Day nears. “There are always new issues that arise as the election approaches, especially in Ohio, given that we’re a perpetual swing state,” said Dan Tokaji, an Ohio State University law professor. … A federal judge began hearing testimony Wednesday over changes to requirements for absentee and provisional ballot. Advocates for Ohio’s homeless and the state’s Democratic Party claim the 2014 changes create new hurdles for voters, particularly minorities and Democratic-leaning voters. Among other arguments, they allege that numerous ballots are being tossed because of paperwork errors. They say voters lack an opportunity to cure the problems, in violation of their 14th Amendment rights.
Editorials: The Next attack on voting rights and why Democrats should fight for a constitutional right-to-vote amendment | Jamelle Bouie/Slate
he last round of voter restrictions came after the 2010 Republican wave, when new GOP majorities passed voter identification laws and slashed ballot access in states like Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Florida. Now, three months after the 2014 Republican wave, another class of state lawmakers are prepping another assault on voting rights under the same guise of “uniformity” and “ballot integrity.” In Georgia, reports Zachary Roth for MSNBC, Republicans are pushing a bill to slash early voting from the present maximum of 21 days to 12 days. The goal, says Rep. Ed Rydners, a sponsor of the proposal, is “clarity and uniformity.” “There were complaints of some voters having more opportunities than others,” he said, “This legislation offers equal access statewide.” If cities like Atlanta want to have more voting access, said Rydners, they could open more precincts and “pay to have poll workers present.”
With hundreds of campaigns in North Carolina entering their final six weeks, a federal appeals court must now decide what kind of election the state will hold. Will it be run under North Carolina’s old voting laws? Or will state voters cast ballots under the controversial set of rules passed last year? The answer now rests with three judges – two from the Carolinas – from the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals. For two hours in Charlotte on Thursday, judges Diana Motz of Maryland, Henry Floyd of South Carolina and James Wynn of Martin County heard point and counterpoint in the state’s ongoing battle over the vote. Passed by Republicans in the final hours of the 2013 legislative session, the new rules shaved a week off early voting (though the total number of hours remain the same), ended programs to allow residents to register and vote on the same day, eliminated the use of provisional ballots by voters who turned up at the wrong precincts, and cut a program that allowed 16- and 17-year-olds to register early.
Wisconsin: Report says nding Election Day voter registration would cost up to $14.5 million | Wisconsin State Journal
Ending Wisconsin’s practice of allowing people to register to vote on Election Day would cost up to $14.5 million when the expenses of several state agencies are taken into account, a spokesman for the state Government Accountability Board said Monday. Some Republicans have pushed for an earlier registration deadline, saying it would make it harder for anyone to vote illegally. The staff of the GAB, which oversees the state’s elections, studied the idea and in a preliminary report in December estimated its costs for the first two years after a change would increase by $5.2 million. The estimate increased dramatically Monday for two reasons. Since December, four affected state departments — transportation, workforce development, health services and children and families — have submitted their own cost estimates totaling between $9.9 million and $10.5 million, said GAB spokesman Reid Magney. Meanwhile, GAB staff has determined that depending on how state laws were changed, the election agency’s main costs could be held to $3.9 million.
One of two legal challenges to Ohio’s voting procedures could end up before the Supreme Court in the next few weeks, creating the possibility of an eleventh-hour decision affecting the nearly 8 million voters in the crucial swing state. President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign has until Friday evening to respond to a request by Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted (R) that the Supreme Court stay a lower court’s ruling blocking changes in the state’s early voting rules that would allow only military voters to cast ballots during the three days before Election Day. The same federal appellate court that made that ruling is considering another case related to provisional ballots. The Service Employees International Union challenged the state’s refusal to count ballots cast in the wrong precinct as a result of poll worker error. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit is expected to weigh in on that case within the next week, and the decision could lead to another high court appeal.
“It just throws people for a loop,” said Yan, 28. “I have trouble at the polling booth with people not believing that it’s me.” A study from the Williams Institute, an LGBT think tank at the University of Los Angeles, estimates that about 25,000 transgender Americans could be disenfranchised in the upcoming election because of a patchwork of voter ID laws. And it’s not just voter ID requirements that are the problem. Poll workers have discretion in giving voters a regular ballot or a provisional ballot, and bias could still affect who gets to vote. Provisional ballots can also be counted differently from regular ones.
Attorney General Gary King’s office announced today that it was opening an investigation into voter suppression based on a secretly-recorded video that showed a Republican poll training class being told they can ask for Voter ID — even though this is not allowed by state law. “I will not tolerate voter suppression efforts by anyone, period,” King said in a statement. “We have received a number of complaints since last Friday that there seems to be a concerted effort afoot to discourage some New Mexicans from exercising their right to vote this November. My office is committed to helping ensure fair elections by working to put an immediate stop to such misinformation and publically [sic] correcting what has already been disseminated.”
Voter ID laws have received plenty of attention recently, but they’re not the only controversial changes to election rules this year. Some states have made changes that critics say could impact individuals’ ability to vote. Here are four. Ohio won’t count provisional ballots mistakenly cast in the wrong precinct. Four years ago in Ohio, there were 200,000 provisional ballots cast among a total 5.7 million votes. This was the most among any state other than California. (Federal law requires states to use provisional ballotswhen a voter’s eligibility is in question or if their registration doesn’t reflect a new name or address.) But Ohio requires county election boards to reject provisional ballots if the ballot doesn’t correspond to the voter’s assigned precinct — even if it was the poll worker’s mistake. (A few other states have similar rules, but Ohio is fighting a lawsuit right now to preserve its approach.)
Ohio: Secretary of State Jon Husted frustrated by court challenges but confident in state’s elections operation | cleveland.com
Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted, a young and rising star in the Ohio Republican Party, has become one of the most embattled election officials in the country, thanks to a spate of recent court decisions his critics have used to fuel their charges of voter suppression. Judges in three courts have ruled against Husted and forced the secretary to set early voting hours on the weekend before Election Day, revisit how provisional ballots are handled and rewrite misleading ballot language for a redistricting proposal. Those rulings came on the heels of a barrage of state and national criticism Husted already faced over Ohio’s uneven rules for early voting. He responded last month by setting uniform hours throughout the state, but invited more criticism by excluding weekend voting.