“The U.S. Supreme Court upheld voter ID requirements in concept three years ago, but justices said then that they might reconsider if opponents could produce actual voters who had been turned away because they could not get ID,” the Tennessean reports. This may not be far off as more and more reports of voters without photo ID begin to emerge. Although officials in at least three states have attempted to help voters adhere to the law, voters and advocates caution that it’s not enough if voters are not “plugged in” in the first place.
To prevent the disenfranchisement of Tennessee’s 230,000 senior citizens who have non-photo IDs, state officials are planning a campaign to teach them about the new photo ID law that goes into effect during the 2012 election. The new voting law essentially overrides another law that makes it more convenient for drivers over age 60 to renew their driver’s licenses. That law allows seniors to renew driver’s licenses—without a photo—online through the mail.
Transportation for elderly people in assisted living homes as well as long waiting periods at the DMV for seniors with disabilities are major concerns for groups like Tennessee Citizen Action, reports Chas Sisk at the Tennessean. Read More
The latest voter suppression tactic employed by Republicans can be found in Maine, where last week the Secretary of State sent a threatening letter to hundreds of college students who were legally registered to vote in Maine, floating the possibility of election law violation and encouraging them to re-register elsewhere.
The letter explained that Maine Secretary of State Charles Summers was writing because he “was presented with a list of 206 University of Maine students with out-of-state home addresses and asked to investigate allegations of election law violations.” That list was provided to him not by an uninterested citizen, but rather the Maine Republican Party Chairman Charlie Webster, who has accused these students of voter fraud.
In his letter, Summers informed the recipient that “our research shows you have registered to vote as a resident of Maine,” before going on to strongly imply that the students did not meet the state definition for “residence of a person”. Summers went on to encourage the students to re-register in another state, telling them that if “you are no longer claiming to be a Maine resident, I ask that you complete the enclosed form to cancel your voter registration in Maine.” Read More
Poll workers cannot force voters to cast ballots in private if they choose to vote in the open, the state Supreme Court ruled today. The high court affirmed a Pulaski County Circuit Court ruling that barred election officials from directing voters to tables set up outside voting booths but that said state law does not require poll workers to force anyone to mark ballots within the confines of a booth.
Today’s decision came in an appeal of a lawsuit brought against the Pulaski County Election Commission by Keith Hamaker in July 2010. Hamaker said he witnessed voters seated at a table at a polling place in Little Rock when he went to vote in the 2008 general election. Hamaker’s lawsuit contended the practice he termed “community table voting” violated the public trust. He asked the circuit court to bar the election commission from allowing open voting. Read More
A woman suing Mesa County elections officials over the release of voting records scored a major victory Thursday. In a separate suit filed against the City of Aspen a judge ruled in her favor, saying digital copies of election ballots are open to public inspection. Now she’s hopeful that ruling will come into play as the case here moves forward.
Aspen resident Marilyn Marks made a request in August to see electronic scans of ballots cast here in Mesa County during the 2010 elections. Mesa County Clerk and Recorder Sheila Reiner denied part of that request, saying the way the ballots are organized in the digital files could reveal how individual citizens voted — violating their right to ballot secrecy. In early September, Marks filed suit against the Clerk’s office for the public release of the records.
Thursday was a good day for Marks, who describes herself as an elections activist. After a two year legal battle with the City of Aspen, she’ll be granted access to digital copies of ballots there, which she says is necessary to verify fair and accurate elections. Read More
Pueblo County Clerk Gilbert “Bo” Ortiz wanted an answer Thursday from Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler to a simple question but one heavily laced with politics: Could Ortiz send out roughly 70 mail ballots to registered county voters in the military, but who did not vote in the 2010 election? “I want an order from the secretary’s office by Friday (today) saying that I cannot send out those ballots because I believe I should under the (Uniform Military and Overseas Voters Act),” Ortiz said Thursday morning.
He got his answer at closing time Thursday. Gessler’s letter to Ortiz said the secretary of state was sticking to his position that no inactive voters should get ballots sent to them this election — including out-of-area military voters, or those “covered” by the Uniform Military and Overseas Voters Act.
“A covered voter who is registered to vote may apply for a ballot. Ballots are not automatically sent to covered voters,” Gessler’s letter said. “Thus, Pueblo County may only send mail ballots to inactive voters who submit a timely request as required by the (Act).” Perusing the letter Thursday night, Ortiz said Gessler had provided an order as asked. Read More
A three-year fight over Butler County’s faulty voting machines has come to an end. The board of elections is getting 400 free electronic poll books out of the agreement as well as seven years of maintenance and available upgrades to the tune of about $1.5 million, Prosecutor Michael Gmoser said Thursday.
“We wanted more and we got more,” he said.
Butler County last year rejected a state-wide settlement that the Secretary of State’s office negotiated with Premier Election Solutions for about 47 other counties that accepted software upgrades, discounted maintenance fees, cash payments and more of the same free voting equipment. Read More
The Cherokee Nation Election Commission continued to navigate around roadblocks in the tribe’s efforts to elect a principal chief this week. In the meantime, the two candidates — Chad Smith and Bill John Baker — continued to throw barbs at one another.
On Tuesday the election commission held a special meeting to determine how to comply with a federal court order that all tribal members have until Oct. 8 to vote for a principal chief. Due to vote-count inconsistencies in the first election in June, the tribe held a second election Saturday for principal chief, and will keep the ballot box open for freedmen until Oct. 8, as ordered by a federal court. But the federal court on Tuesday ordered that the ballot box and election had to be open to all tribal members not just the freedmen.
“A new court order has added additional voting days for any registered Cherokee Nation voter and stipulates that no ballots be counted until after the last voting opportunity on Oct. 8,” the election commission said in a prepared statement released Tuesday. Read More
More than 74,000 people who skipped voting in past elections may have been excluded from data used to estimate how many voters lack state issued identification that’s at the heart of South Carolina’s new law requiring photo IDs to vote, the State Election Commission said Friday.
Under the new law, people have to present photographic identification at precinct polling places to cast regular ballots. The data crunching is important because it will be used to reach out to voters to make sure they know about the law change, an issue the U.S. Justice Department is concerned about as it reviews the law. Earlier this week, the Election Commission said nearly 217,000 registered voters in the state lack a state driver’s license or photo ID. That already was nearly 40,000 more than the election agency had previously estimated. Read More
Doubts are being raised as to whether the state’s controversial voter identification bill will be implemented on schedule because Texas does not ask its citizens their race when they register to vote. As passed during the regular session of the 82nd Texas Legislature, Senate Bill 14 by state Sen. Troy Fraser, R-Horseshoe Bay, would require that voters present a valid state-issued ID before casting a ballot. Gov. Rick Perry deemed the legislation an emergency item. It is scheduled to go into effect Jan. 1, 2012.
Under the federal Voting Rights Act, the U.S. Department of Justice or the federal courts have authority to review laws that would affect voter turnout before they are enacted. Last week the department asked for more information before it could render a decision on whether to grant Texas’ request for preclearance, which the Texas Secretary of State submitted in July. Read More
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. Read More
The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission says it will need nearly $US120 million to bolster its operational capacity and conduct the referendum on the new constitution which some say could be held as early as November of this year – though a draft is not yet ready.
Electoral Commission Chairwoman Joyce Kazembe said this week that her organization needs some $US30 million to build capacity and $US88 million to run the referendum. She made the comments during a ceremony accepting vehicles, computers and other equipment provided by the United Nations Development Program. Read More
Yesterday, my friends and colleagues on Pew’s Election Initiatives team released the first of a series of Election Data Dispatches, which will be dedicated to examining “what data exist, what they say about elections in America and how states and localities use data to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of their election systems.”
You don’t need to go very far back in this blog’s short archives to see how excited I am to see this site make its debut. Take a moment right now and bookmark the page for future reference – I already have.
The first Dispatch looks at cost data collected by the State of North Dakota. For years, the Pew team and I have referred to cost data as the “white whale” of election administration – extremely valuable and eagerly sought, but elusive. Imagine our excitement when we discovered that North Dakota regularly collects such data – and had been doing so for 30 years! Read More
The national trauma of the 2000 presidential election and its messy denouement in Florida and the U.S. Supreme Court made, for a brief moment, election reform a cause célèbre. The scrutiny of election administration went far beyond the vote counting and recounting that dominated headlines. The Florida saga cast a harsh light on the whole country’s archaic and fragmented system of election administration, exemplified by a state where hundreds of thousands of citizens were disenfranchised by incompetent and malicious voter purges, Reconstruction-era felon voting bans, improper record-keeping, and deliberate deception and harassment.
The outrage generated by the revelations of 2000 soon spent itself or was channeled into other avenues, producing, as a sort of consolation prize, the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) of 2002, an underambitious and underfunded law mainly aimed at preventing partisan mischief in vote counting. The fundamental problem of accepting 50 different systems for election administration, complicated even more in states like Florida where local election officials control most decisions with minimal federal, state or judicial oversight, was barely touched by HAVA. As Judith Browne-Dianis, of the civil rights group the Advancement Project, told me: “The same cracks in the system have persisted.” Read More
It’s apparently more tricky than anybody thought to figure out how many South Carolina voters need photo IDs. This week, the State Election Commission released an updated estimate of how many registered voters don’t have photo IDs. The previous estimate was 178,000. On Thursday, they said it was probably 217,000 — or about 40,000 more.
Then Friday, the commission said that they may have further underestimated the numbers, by excluding more than 74,000 people who haven’t voted since 2006. The state attorney general’s office wants some more information about those newly discovered.
“We’re going to talk with the S.C. Election Commission and figure out what analysis they used to come up with their numbers,” said Deputy Attorney General Bryan Stirling. He said he expects that to happen early next week. Then they’ll either submit new information to the DOJ or ask that the Election Commission go back and recalculate, he said.
So, in one week we’ve gone from 217,000 to potentially more than 290,000 people. Of course, that’s minus the 21 people who signed up for rides to local DMV offices Thursday. If the DMV could register 21 people a day, every day of the year, it would take 38 years to get everybody covered. Read More
Antonia Preston made a trip to Sumter’s branch of the Department of Motor Vehicles on Wednesday to get an ID but will have to go back today. The 89-year-old Sumterite doesn’t have a birth certificate, she said, and her current state ID expired.
The state DMV hosted “State Identification Card Day” on Wednesday in an effort to get people government-issued IDs so they’re able to vote after the Voter ID law takes effect in November.
Proponents of the law say it’s needed to combat voter fraud, while detractors contend many elderly and rural residents will be disenfranchised because often their births weren’t registered with the state. Read More