California: ‘Spoiled Ballots’ Subvert Will of Voters in Special Election | San Jose Inside

Sitting in what we affectionately call the “bat cave,” watching returns come in from the special election for San Jose’s District 4 council seat, Steve Kline noted there was something wrong. “There are too many spoiled ballots, “ he said. Kline, our numbers guy, was noting the difference between votes cast and votes counted. In a small turnout, spoiled ballots can make a huge difference. Fortunately, it did not affect our candidate in the race: Tim Orozco. But it did hurt Lan Diep, who should be Orozco’s opponent in the runoff, not Manh Nguyen. It is an anomaly that falls in line with the “butterfly” ballots cast in Florida for Pat Buchanan, back in 2000. The spoiled ballots cost Diep, who finished just 13 votes behind Nguyen.

Florida: 1 name on ballot for District 64 special election | Bay News 9

The special election for District 64’s house seat will now only include one name. In April, James Grant is the only one whose name will appear on the ballot in the Special Election for House District 64. “I would say that it’s really unfortunate,” said Grant. Miriam Steinberg was originally in the race, but she didn’t qualify for the special election. Her husband said she didn’t want to pay the filing fee again. “She wasn’t going to pay another filing fee for a special election, she had already lost the election the first time,” said Michael Steinberg, Miriam’s husband.

Arizona: Two-time GOP loser changes party to Democrat, name to Cesar Chavez for new congressional bid | Arizona Capitol Times

Scott Fistler didn’t have much luck as a Republican candidate. He lost a 2012 write-in campaign against U.S. Rep. Ed Pastor, then lost a 2013 bid for a Phoenix city council seat now held by Laura Pastor, Ed’s daughter. All that could change, though, just like Fistler’s name and party registration. After petitioning a state superior court last November and paying $319, Fistler now legally shares the name of the celebrated labor movement icon, Cesar Chavez. Earlier this year, Chavez (formerly Fistler) became a Democrat, and – before Ed Pastor announced his retirement from Congress – filed to run in the heavily Hispanic 7th Congressional District. In his petition for a name change, Fistler wrote that he had “experienced many hardships because of my name.”

Michigan: An Incumbent Falls Afoul of Election Laws Designed to Protect Incumbents | New York Times

Political pros know better than anyone that election laws are typically crafted by statehouse lawmakers with enough hedges, hurdles and moats to insulate party machines and shield incumbents against insurgent challengers. That’s the nature of the power game. All the more shocking then to Washington’s political class that Representative John Conyers Jr., Democrat of Michigan, was denied a place on the ballot this week. He was widely expected to win his primary this summer as a prelude to a re-election stroll into his 26th term in Congress. Instead, Wayne county officials ruled that most of the 1,236 voter signatures submitted for ballot qualification by Mr. Conyers — one of the civil rights pioneers and Democratic wheel-horses of Washington — were invalid under state law.

Michigan: Wayne County clerk: I won’t allow Conyers on August primary ballot | Detroit Free Press

he fate of U.S. Rep. John Conyers’ re-election campaign now lies with the Secretary of State’s Office after Wayne County Clerk Cathy Garrett announced Tuesday the longtime congressman won’t appear on the Aug. 5 primary ballot after a majority of signatures turned in to certify him for a 26th term were invalidated. Conyers plans to file an appeal with the state office, and has three days to do so. The office then will review the work done by Wayne County, said Chris Thomas, director of elections for the state. A decision won’t come until some time next week, he said. “It’s a verification process, we’ll be looking at registration status and the spreadsheet they provided us. It won’t take all that long,” he said. Conyers also could be headed down the same path as Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, who waged a write-in campaign in last summer’s primary, eventually prevailing over Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon in the general election.

Editorials: All states should include ‘none of the above’ on their ballots | The Week

The New Hampshire legislature is in the early stages of considering an electoral novelty: allowing Granite State voters to cast their ballots for “none of the above.” It’s a great idea. Every state should consider similar legislation. The New Hampshire bill, proposed by state Rep. Charles Weed (D), is an unusual idea in American politics but not a unique one: Nevada has offered its voters a “none of the above” option in statewide races since 1976. The New Hampshire version appears to have “the proverbial snowball’s chance of passing the House,” says John DiStaso at the New Hampshire Union Leader. Weed’s stated motivation for a “none of the above” option is to give voters a way to lodge a meaningful protest vote. “Real choice means people have to be able to withhold their consent,” he tells The Associated Press. “You can’t do that with silly write-ins. Mickey Mouse is not as good as ‘none of the above.'” The arguments against the bill from Weed’s colleagues range from the absurd to the nonsensical. Secretary of State Bill Gardner, for example, says that voters won’t know what “none of the above” means, since ballots now list names left-to-right, not top-to-bottom.

Minnesota: Tweaking ranked-choice voting: Minneapolis considering three changes | MinnPost

Members of the Minneapolis City Council got scolded by a member of the Charter Commission as they prepared to change some of the rules on how ranked-choice voting will be administered in this fall’s election. “I would submit that 13 declared candidates for office, in an election year, five months prior to an election, have no business changing election laws,” said Devin Rice of the Charter Commission. He also was critical of an earlier council decision to reduce funds available for voter education, given the incidence of voter error in the 2009 election. Errors in using ranked-choice voting showed up on 6.5 percent of ballots cast, Rice said.

Maryland: Voter fraud allegations against Rosen prompt Maryland write-in campaigns |

The Maryland Democratic Party this week said it will back a write-in candidate challenging Republican U.S. Rep. Andy Harris in Maryland’s 1st Congressional District — which includes much of Carroll County — after voter fraud allegations ended the previous Democratic candidate’s bid. The party had scrambled for a replacement since its primary winner Wendy Rosen had to drop out of the race on Sept. 10, after confirming reports that she had voted in two different states in more than one election. The party this week threw its support behind John LaFerla, 63, a gynecologist from Chestertown, who had lost in the primary to Rosen by just 57 votes. But because LaFerla is late entering the campaign he will have to run as a write-in candidate, a distinct disadvantage.

California: The Cost of Taking on California “Reformers” | NBC Bay Area

Prop 14, the initiative to put in place California’s new top-two primary system, was backed by business interests and rich folks, such as Charles Munger Jr. This year, as it is being used for the first time in a California election cycle, it has so far been a bust — except for adding considerably to the nastiness and expense of campaigns. A small group of less-than-wealthy citizens — many of them longtime supporters of minor political parties — has gone to the courts to challenge Prop 14, on multiple grounds. Among their objections are that the top-two primary limits the rights of people who would choose to vote for minor political parties (since they no longer appear on the general election ballot) and also excludes write-ins. … But the citizens lost their challenge in court, with judges finding that the top-two primary law was valid and constitutional. But unfortunately for these citizen-challengers, that’s not the end of the story.

Tennessee: State Democratic Party disavows Senate nominee | The Tennessean

The party of Cordell Hull, Estes Kefauver and Al Gore Sr. and Jr. won’t have a standard-bearer — or at least not one it can stomach — in Tennessee’s next U.S. Senate race. Less than 24 hours after a man espousing conservative and libertarian views surprised the state’s political scene by winning the Democratic nomination, the Tennessee Democratic Party disavowed him, saying he’s part of an anti-gay hate group. The party said Friday that it would do nothing to help Mark Clayton, 35, who received nearly twice as many votes as his closest challenger in Thursday’s seven-candidate primary, winning the right to challenge Republican U.S. Sen. Bob Corker in November.

Michigan: Governor to review holding special election for U.S. Rep. Thad McCotter’s seat |

Gov. Rick Snyder said late Friday he does not yet have on answer on whether to schedule a special election so someone can serve out the term of U.S. Rep. Thad McCotter, who resigned abruptly. Spokeswoman Sara Wurfel said Snyder received the Livonia Republican’s resignation letter in the afternoon. “The governor thanks the congressman for his years of service to our state and country,” she said. “We won’t have a definitive answer on next steps until we have the opportunity to more closely review Michigan’s election law and consult with the state’s election experts.” The U.S. Constitution says the governor shall hold elections to fill vacancies in the House. But with the Aug. 7 primary less than five weeks away, it may be too late to hold a coinciding special election then – when the only Republican on the ballot, Kerry Bentivolio, faces a write-in challenge from former state Sen. Nancy Cassis. Perhaps the election could be held during the November general election, though whoever wins would only serve about two months.

Voting Blogs: U.S. Court of Appeals Says Government Never Needs to Count Write-in Votes | Ballot Access News

On June 8, the U.S. Court of Appeals, D.C. Circuit, issued a short, thoughtless opinion in Libertarian Party v District of Columbia Board of Elections. It says that because the U.S. Supreme Court in 1992 said that the U.S. Constitution does not require states to print write-in space on ballots, therefore it follows logically that if governments do allow write-in space, the same government can refuse to count them.

Michigan: Write-In Field for Thaddeus McCotter’s Seat Grows | Roll Call

Another candidate is considering a write-in bid for the GOP nomination to succeed retiring Rep. Thaddeus McCotter (R), stoking speculation that Republicans will not be able to settle on a consensus successor. Former state Sen. Nancy Cassis told the Associated Press on Tuesday that she’s interested in running as a write-in on the Aug. 7 GOP primary ballot, joining a burgeoning field of potential candidates. McCotter announced his retirement on Saturday after he failed to make the GOP primary ballot. There were so many errors with his signed petitions that the Michigan attorney general launched a criminal investigation.

Michigan: GOP Rep. McCotter ends write-in campaign | The Hill

GOP Rep. Thaddeus McCotter (Mich.) announced Saturday that he would end his write-in bid for reelection and would finish his term in Congress. “I have ended my write-in campaign in Michigan’s 11th Congressional District,” announced McCotter, in a statement.  His decision comes after news last week that the five-term lawmaker had failed to collect enough signatures to appear on the ballot in his bid for reelection to the House. McCotter was quick to acknowledge the misstep saying that the “buck stops with me” and had begun efforts to wage a write-in campaign. However, despite signals for GOP leaders that they would support his bid, he reversed course on Saturday.

California: Broad test for California’s “top two” primary |

In the first broad test of California’s new “top-two” election system, many candidates in heated races for Congress and the state Legislature have been campaigning earlier, spending more money and downplaying their party affiliation as they try to widen their appeal. Gone are the party primaries, except in the presidential race. Now all state candidates appear on a single ballot. Only those who come in first or second on June 5 will move on to the November general election, in which no write-in or other added candidates will be allowed. The new rules, approved by California voters in 2010, further empower voters who don’t belong to a political party _ already the fastest-growing category in California, accounting for more than 21 percent of the state’s registration.

Virginia: House Narrowly Passes Bill to Allow Write-ins in Primaries | Ballot Access News

On February 3, the Virginia House passed HB 1132, the bill to allow write-ins in primaries, if the party holding the primary wants write-ins. The vote was 50-49. Republican legislators were more supportive of the bill than Democratic legislators. Republicans supported it by a margin of 38-28. However, Democrats opposed it, with 11 “yes” votes but 21 “no” votes. The lone independent, Delegate Lacey Putney, voted in favor of write-ins.

New Hampshire: Second Place in New Hampshire Democratic Primary Goes to…Ron Paul?! | Huffington Post

We all know that President Obama won his party’s primary in New Hampshire. What you may not know is that Obama only won 79.5% of the vote. Second place in the New Hampshire Democratic primary went to Ron Paul, with 3.7%, Mitt Romney was third with 2.9% of the vote, and Jon Huntsman was fourth with 2.0%. Yes, you heard me right, Ron Paul came in second in the New Hampshire Democratic primary. And in case you are wondering, Barack Obama received 0.1% of the vote in the Republican primary.

South Carolina: A Stephen Colbert Write-In Campaign in South Carolina? Not So Fast | Yahoo! News

As comedian Stephen Colbert’s superPAC preps for his potential run for “President of the United States of South Carolina” by buying up ad time in the Palmetto state, there’s a problem that’s emerged in his plan. South Carolina doesn’t allow write-ins in its presidential primary. As ABC News reported last night, the filing deadline to appear on the ballot in South Carolina’s upcoming Republican primary has come and gone. Candidates who did not pay the $35,000 filing fee by Nov. 1, 2011 will not appear on the state’s ballot. A sample ballot on the State Election Commission’s website shows nine options for voters, and that’s all. For anyone thinking “well, someone could still technically write-in Mr. Colbert’s name on a ballot” – think again. South Carolina uses something called direct recording electronic voting machines in all 46 counties. The South Carolina State Election Commission describes how these machines work on their webpage.

California: “Top-Two” Supporters Hope to Eliminate Write-in Space on California General Election Ballots | Ballot Access News

On January 10, at 1:30 p.m., the California Senate Elections Committee will hear AB 1413. The bill abolishes write-in space on general election ballots for Congress and partisan state office. It also makes various other technical changes that will alter the top-two system passed by the voters in June 2010, when they approved Proposition 14 by a 53.7-46.3% margin.

Hawaii: Republican Party changes caucuses in hopes of gaining more members | KHON2

Republican voters here in Hawaii will begin choosing their Presidential nominees in March. The Hawaii Republican Party made changes to this year’s Caucuses, hoping to attract more people to vote GOP. It’ll be very similar to the Democratic Caucuses in 2008, which as you may recall had a record turnout.

The Hawaii Republican Party will hold its Presidential Caucuses on Tuesday, March 13th from 6pm to 8pm. “Everyone goes, votes. At 8pm they’ll close, count the ballots and the votes will be allocated to a proportional method to each of the Presidential candidates they vote for,” said David Chang, Hawaii Republican Party Chair.

Editorials: Solving the problem of Virginia’s restrictive primary rules by allowing for write-in candidates | Slate Magazine

Intelligent life exists beyond Iowa, and even beyond New Hampshire. Before the Republican Party crowns its nominee, voters from other states should and will be heard. Or will they? According to Virginia law, many a lawful voter will not be allowed to vote for the candidate she truly favors on the day of the Virginia primary—March 6, to be precise. So far, no one seems to have highlighted this gaping flaw in the Virginia election code.

Virginia’s ultra-strict ballot-access laws, whose obstacle course kept every Republican presidential candidate off the ballot except Mitt Romney and Ron Paul, were challenged last week by Rick Perry’s legal team and supporters of Newt Gingrich. Last Friday four other GOP candidates signed onto Perry’s legal challenge as well.

Virginia’s ballot-access rules are indeed extreme, but it’s hard to say, as Perry’s lawyers are contending, that these rules are unconstitutional. Governments are allowed to print official ballots, and as long as they are in this business, surely they may choose to list only the names of the major candidates. Short lists plausibly promote democracy by making it easy for the ordinary voter to find and vote for his preferred candidate.

Maryland: Officials confirm machine problems hampered write-in voting in 13th District | Baltimore Brew

A volunteer for 13th District city council write-in candidate Shannon Sneed says problems with voting machines – and the unwillingness of staff to help voters – caused eight to 10 people who came to a polling place in East Baltimore to leave without voting this morning. “There was some technician they needed to get to fix the problem, but they couldn’t find him,” said Renold B. Smith, a retired U.S. Postal Service manager who was volunteering for Sneed.

Smith, who said he had been at Tench Tilghman Elementary/Middle School since before the polls opened, said he tried helping one woman who was particularly concerned about the problem. He said she told him the machine “just wouldn’t let her do a write-in.”

Utah: 38 Utah cities and towns cancel municipal election |

Only three candidates filed for three available City Council positions in the Nov. 8 election. “In a small city sometimes you beg for candidates,” said Carolyn Jorgensen, the city’s clerk/treasurer. So Castle Dale took advantage of a new state law that allows cities and towns to cancel municipal elections if it would not affect the outcome. Altogether, 38 Utah cities and towns have cancelled their municipal election for the same reason.

State Elections Director Mark Thomas estimates savings to the mostly smaller communities will total almost $250,000. Castle Dale hasn’t calculated how much its savings will be, but the cost of holding an election where the outcome is already known is what led communities to ask Lt. Gov. Greg Bell, the state’s top elections official, to push for a provision that would allow municipalities to cancel those elections.

Utah: Five cities cancel November elections thanks to new law | Deseret News

Five Utah cities are taking advantage of a new law that allows them to cancel municipal elections when the number of candidates for at-large seats does not exceed the number of positions available. Providence and Cornish in Cache County, Fielding in Box Elder County, Marriott-Slaterville in Weber County and Beaver in Beaver County all fit that profile and have chosen not to hold November elections.

Providence had four candidates file for three City Council positions. But then incumbent David Low withdrew, leaving incumbents Bill Bagley and John Russel and newcomer Ralph Call on the ballot.

Indiana: Friday hearing set for ballot lawsuit | Palladium-Item

Local political leaders are hoping for a quick legal decision in their efforts to stop the Wayne County clerk from dropping unopposed candidates from the ballot this fall. County Clerk Jo Ann Stewart is following amended Indiana Code 3-10-6-7.5 in striking the names of unopposed candidates for Richmond Common Council in the Nov. 8 election.

The code reads in part, “An election may not be held for a municipal office if: There is only one nominee for the office or only one person has filed a declaration of intent to be a write-in candidate under IC 3-8-2-2.5.” The law took effect July 1.

Wayne County Democrats and Republicans filed an injunction Thursday to stop the names of unopposed candidates — Democrat Kelley Cruse-Nicholson in District 2, Republican Clay Miller in District 4 and Republican Larry Parker in District 6 — from being eliminated from the ballot.

Iowa: Butter Cow, Obama, “Parry” & “Paylin” all got Straw Poll votes | Radio Iowa

The State Fair’s most iconic figure and even President Obama were among the write-in votes at this past weekend’s Iowa Republican Party Straw Poll in Ames.

“There were votes for the Butter Cow. It happens in every election, just random votes that didn’t equate with a person,” says Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz, a Republican who oversaw the Straw Poll balloting. ”Most of them were fictitious characters.”

Schultz and his fellow counters used existing state rules for primaries and the General Election to sift through the votes cast in Saturday’s Straw Poll. That means anyone who spelled Texas Governor Rick Perry’s name with an A instead of an E had their vote counted as a vote for Perry.

Idaho: Idaho settles suit over ballot |

Idaho has changed its election laws after a Texas prison inmate made Idaho’s presidential ballot in 2008, and a Ralph Nader supporter from Arizona won a discrimination lawsuit over the nominating process.

The fixes were rolled into an innocuous election administration bill that passed near-unanimously this year, but Idaho Secretary of State Ben Ysursa says it could all change again soon. Now that both parties are going to hold caucuses for their presidential picks, Idaho likely will do away with its presidential primary altogether. “There’s no reason to have it,” Ysursa said Tuesday.

North Carolina: Fayetteville election will go on, even if no one is running |

You could say elections in Tar Heel this year are wide open. No one in this rural town of about 117 registered as candidates for any of its four elected positions, and now the deadline has expired, Bladen County Board of Elections Director Cynthia Shaw said Friday.

“The filing period for Tar Heel was the same as it was for everyone else, and no one stepped up to the plate,” she said.

The county elections board declined to extend the deadline for candidate filings, meaning ballots will be printed with blank spaces allowing voters to write in their preferences. “We’ve had single offices without candidates before, but this is the first time I can remember a whole town not filing for any of the offices,” Shaw said.

New Jersey: Supreme Court reverses decision in Atlantic Beach Town Council election |

The state Supreme Court ruled Thursday that two write-in candidates for seats on the Atlantic Beach Town Council may begin serving their terms as council members, saying there “was a direct attempt by the [Atlantic Beach Municipal Election Commission] to interfere with the full and fair expression of the voters’ choice.”

In the opinion, the state Supreme Court justices reversed a circuit court ruling that upheld the town election commission’s decision to overturn election results. Former town manager Carolyn Cole and the Rev. Windy Price were thedeclared winners in the town’s municipal election in November 2009.

Alaska: Joe Miller told to reimburse Alaska for election challenge | Reuters

Failed Senate candidate Joe Miller must reimburse Alaska more than $17,000 in legal fees and costs incurred during his fight to overturn Lisa Murkowski’s write-in victory, a state judge ruled on Friday.

Miller, a Tea Party favorite, beat the more moderate Murkowski in the Republican primary. But she then mounted a write-in candidacy in the general election and beat him by about 4.5 percentage points.

Miller sued to overturn the results, arguing that elections officials improperly counted write-in ballots, but was rejected by a Superior Court judge, a ruling that was upheld at the state Supreme Court.