Republicans in Pennsylvania and Nebraska want to change the way their states award Electoral College votes, moves that could hinder President Barack Obama’s re-election chances.
Lawmakers in the Democratic-leaning battleground of Pennsylvania are weighing whether to give the presidential nominees one electoral vote for each congressional district they win, rather than giving all its votes to the candidate who wins the state’s popular vote, like Obama did in 2008. In GOP-tilting Nebraska, lawmakers want to go to a winner-take-all system four years after Obama won the 2nd Congressional District and its single electoral college vote.
It takes 270 Electoral College votes to win the presidency out of 538 up for grabs. Every vote matters in a close election and every sign points to a competitive 2012 race as an incumbent Democratic president who most people still personally like tries to win a second term in tough economic times. Read More
As the 2012 election approaches, voting by students is once again a source of controversy and concern – especially in Maine, where students have found themselves caught in the middle of the dispute over repealing the state’s Election Day registration law.
To be sure, it’s partly a political battle. Students can play a pivotal role in elections, and so where they vote matters. As state legislatures debate voter identification, residency requirements, same-day registration and even voting by mail, students are a popular target.
The real focus, however, should be the impact of America’s growing population mobility on the nation’s election system. The Census Bureau estimates that one in six Americans–including but not limited to students–moves each year. The average American moves eleven times in a lifetime. Read More
In “The Breakfast Club,” a geeky high school student played by Anthony Michael Hall says he procured a fake ID not to buy beer, but to vote. But are new photo ID laws in Alabama, Kansas, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin really necessary to stop widespread fraud like that perpetrated by a John Hughes character? Or are photo ID laws just another conservative scheme to oppress young people and minorities and limit Democratic turnout? Let’s put aside what we think we know about the ballot box and find out.
1. We need state voter ID laws to prevent fraud.
Prosecutable cases of voter fraud are rare. For example, a 2005 statewide study in Ohio found four instances of ineligible persons voting or attempting to vote in 2002 and 2004, out of 9 million votes cast. An investigation of fraud allegations in Wisconsin in 2004 led to the prosecution of 0.0007 percent of voters. From 2002 to 2005, the Justice Department found, only five people were convicted for voting multiple times. In that same period, federal prosecutors convicted only 86 people for improper voting.
According to Barnard political scientist Lorraine Minnite, most instances of improper voting involve registration and eligibility, such as voters filling out registration forms incorrectly or a person with felony convictions attempting to register. Neither of those issues would be prevented by a state photo ID requirement. According to George Washington University law professor Spencer Overton, a former member of the Commission on Federal Election Reform, “a photo ID requirement would prevent over 1,000 legitimate votes (perhaps over 10,000 legitimate votes) for every single improper vote prevented.” Read More
Candidate Olivia Cortes on Thursday withdrew from the Legislative District 18 recall election of Senate President Russell Pearce amid ongoing allegations that her campaign was a sham set up by Pearce supporters to pull votes away from opponent Jerry Lewis.
Pearce will now face only fellow Republican Lewis in the first recall election of a sitting legislator in state history.
Cortes said in a statement that the “constant intimidation and harassment” led to her withdrawal. And her attorney said that the move was the condition of a deal to stop a court hearing scheduled for today. Read More
Denver Clerk and Recorder Debra Johnson may send ballots to inactive voters, District Court Judge Brian Whitney ruled this afternoon. Secretary of State Scott Gessler asked Whitney last month to issue a preliminary injunction stopping Johnson’s office from sending mail ballots to voters classified as “inactive failed to vote.”
Those voters — about 54,357 in Denver county, or about 12 percent of all registered voters — are voters who didn’t vote in the 2010 general election or any subsequent election. They also failed to respond to postcards from their clerk and recorder asking whether they want a ballot for the Nov. 1 election.
Gessler, a Republican, said he wanted to ensure the statewide uniformity of the election. Although the judge refused to issue a preliminary injunction, Gessler’s suit may continue. The Secretary of State’s attorney also said Gessler may issue a rule on the issue. Read More
A Denver judge ruled on October 7 that the Denver Clerk and Recorder can mail ballots to “inactive” voters who missed one election, as she had planned. There will be a later legal proceeding to fully consider the issues. All across the country legislators and political operatives seem to be determined to make it more difficult for American citizens to vote.
Since January, more than a dozen states passed a variety of different laws and executive actions that will make it far more difficult for millions to vote. Seven states, including Texas and South Carolina, will now require voters to present certain government-issued photo IDs to vote. Florida has gone after organizations like the League of Women Voters, threatening them with huge fines if they try to help register citizens to vote unless they comply with a new set of byzantine state rules. Georgia and Arizona are trying to knock down the Voting Rights Act, the most successful piece of civil rights legislation, in a court challenge. And Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler made headlines with the false claim that thousands of non-citizens were voting in Colorado. Now Secretary Gessler is at it again, in a move that — if it stands — could essentially freeze the electorate to those who voted in 2010.
Colorado gives counties the option of conducting certain elections by “mail ballot.” In those elections, there are no traditional polling places; instead, citizens vote by mailing in ballots sent to them by the state. Colorado is holding such an election this November, and the Denver County Clerk and Recorder had planned to take the unremarkable step of sending ballots to all registered voters in the County, as she has for the last five election cycles. Secretary Gessler is suing the Denver County Clerk and Recorder to make her stop, arguing that she may only send ballots to voters who voted in the last election. This move, if it prevails, will keep thousands of eligible and registered Colorado citizens from participating in this November’s elections, for no good reason. Read More
Absentee voters in Tippecanoe County will not be sent new ballots with names of all candidates running in November’s municipal election. Instead, the 69 absentee ballots sent between Sept. 23 and noon Wednesday will be reviewed and entered by hand using a bipartisan team, Tippecanoe County Clerk Christa Coffey said Thursday.
It’s the latest development to come out of a civil lawsuit filed by Lafayette Mayor Tony Roswarski, West Lafayette Clerk-Treasurer Judy Rhodes and others challenging a new Indiana law that said names of unopposed municipal candidates may not be placed on ballots.
Both Roswarski, a Democrat, and Rhodes, a Republican, are running unopposed in November. Tippecanoe Circuit Court Judge Don Daniel on Wednesday granted a preliminary injunction keeping an election law passed earlier this year from taking effect in Tippecanoe County. Read More
A city councilman and the leader of the Rensselaer County Working Families Party were among a parade of witnesses who testified Thursday before a special county grand jury investigating absentee-ballot fraud.
Councilman Kevin McGrath and WFP County Chairman Jim Welch testified about allegations that voters’ signatures were forged on absentee ballots and ballot applications for the 2009 WFP primary. “It’s inappropriate for me to comment,” McGrath said as he strode in. Welch declined to comment after testifying.
For both, it was the second appearance before a grand jury probing the allegations of ballot fraud. They testified before an initial grand jury in December 2010. That panel indicted two Democratic officials. Read More
Cuts to the State Board of Elections could cause inconveniences for voters in the upcoming 2012 election. Many political officials have expressed concern about potential problems voters might face at the polls due to a $1 million cut to the State Board of Election’s budget.
The cut, enacted this summer, coupled with a freeze in federal Help America Vote Act funds means local boards of elections have to make do with less — including the elimination of 14 election officials statewide.
Gary Bartlett, executive director of the State Board of Elections, said eight of the election officials are technicians, which train county elections workers to improve accuracy, audit voting equipment and provide emergency technical support during elections. The technicians also served as liaisons between the state offices and local boards, he said. Read More
A Bucks County commissioner this week recommended “a full disclosure policy” for vendors who bid on voting machine delivery and handling contracts. Commissioner Diane Marseglia’s proposal for the policy comes a week after two independent candidates in the Lower Makefield supervisors’ race filed an ethics complaint with the county Board of Elections.
The candidates, Ron Smith and Kristin Tyler, accused Republican supervisor candidates Dobby Dobson and Jeffrey Benedetto of violating “every electoral standard of ethics” because they did not disclose that Dobson’s company hauls voting machines to polling places throughout the county. Dobson is a general manager with Graebel Eastern Movers Inc.
In late 2009, the commissioners signed the Moorestown, N.J., company to a two-year contract for just less than $105,000 to haul the machines. Dobson signed the bid form for the contract. The longtime township resident announced eight months ago that he was running for one of two supervisor seats up for election this year. He did not notify election officials of his role in the election process. Read More
This week, Stateline.org has been running a series looking at the relationship between states and localities in the current fiscal environment. Monday’s story paints a fairly bleak picture, noting that localities are going to have to learn “to do less with less” as funds traditionally available from the state begin to disappear.
A subsequent story looked at ways to rethink the state-local partnership – including efforts in Indiana and New York to reduce or eliminate local government functions entirely. Such changes would have a tremendous impact on election administration, which is still predominantly controlled by officials at the smallest levels of government. Consequently, you might expect local officials to fight any effort to relieve them of their traditional responsibilities. Read More
On Thursday, state election officials retracted changes which could have circulated recall petitions for the possible upcoming recall efforts more efficiently, including the effort to recall Gov. Scott Walker. At a meeting Thursday, the Joint Committee for Review of Administrative Rules oversaw several of the Government Accountability Board’s retracted plans to recall election operations, including the distribution of online petitions.
At the meeting, Kevin Kennedy, head of the GAB, said the rule changes previously sought would allow an individual to open a “petition for recall” online with both their name and address on the form, increasing the speed of the petition’s circulation. This petition would also be considered valid even if this individual was the only one to sign the petition, he said.
Kennedy said this proposition would have allowed for a faster process because groups would not have to gather the signatures face-to-face and the petition signers would not have to fill in their addresses. Read More
A group of Arab Spring activists observing Polish parliamentary elections are championing the spirit of civil society, and say such ballots back home will be milestones in turning hard-won freedoms into lasting democracy.
Fifteen activists and election officials — five from Tunisia, Egypt and Libya — met Friday with deputy foreign ministers Krzysztof Stanowski and Jerzy Pomianowski. They also held a meeting with the members and judges of the State Electoral Commission. Poland is to hold parliamentary elections on Sunday, with Prime Minister Donald Tusk’s Civic Platform party presently leading in opinion polls.
Following this year’s wave of Arab Spring revolutions, the first free elections in decades are to be held in Tunisia on Oct. 23 and in Egypt at the end of November. No elections are yet scheduled for Libya, where dictator Moammar Gadhafi remains in hiding. Read More
Experts from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) are coming to Switzerland to monitor this month’s federal elections.
Their two main focuses of attention will be electronic voting for voters living abroad, and campaign financing, according to a joint statement issued on Friday by the federal chancellery and the foreign ministry.
The experts are hoping to learn from the Swiss e-voting experience so as to be able to apply the lessons in younger democracies and to help develop new election technologies. However, the OSCE monitors determine their programme themselves and will only give the Swiss authorities operational details at short notice. Read More