The Supreme Court’s decision to hear a case challenging redistricting plans in Texas has brought preparations for the State’s March primary on hold. A hearing will be held to settle a dispute over custody of voting machines under investigation in Horry County, South Carolina. Following the conviction of an aide to former Governor Robert Ehrlich in Maryland prompted the introduction of a bill to prohibit deceptive election practices. Attorney General Eric Holder indicated in a speech that the Department of Justice would be addressing the wave of restrictive election laws passed in several State legislatures. The United Nations and the Carter Center have expressed concern over vote rigging and fraud in the Congo elections. The New York times reported on details of election fraud tactics provided by a Russian election official. An initial report from a forensic review of ES&S iVotronics used in Venango County Pennsylvania showed that the central tabulators were accessed remotely on multiple occasions and Doug Chapin discussed the future of the embattled Election Assistance Commission.
- Texas: Elections Paralyzed by Hearing Before Supreme Court | NYTimes.com
- South Carolina: Atlantic Beach, Horry County officials will return to court over voting machine dispute | TheSunNews.com
- National: In wake of robocalls case, Cardin seeks new federal law against election tricks | The Washington Post
- Editorials: Attorney General Eric Holder Defends Voting Rights | NYTimes.com
- Congo: UN Mission Urges Review of Issues Raised By Election Observers | allAfrica.com
- Russia: Russian election insider outlines fraud | The New York Times
- Blogs: Forensic Analysis Finds Venango County E-Voting System ‘Remotely Accessed’ on ‘Multiple Occasions’ by Unknown Computer | The Brad Blog
- Blogs: Forgotten But Not Yet Gone: Is This the End of the EAC? | Doug Chapin/PEEA
Jacquelyn F. Callanen was neither a plaintiff nor a defendant in the redistricting case that the Supreme Court decided to hear last week. But her life — and her office — went from calm to chaos because of it. Ms. Callanen is the elections administrator for Bexar County in south-central Texas, home to San Antonio and 1.7 million residents. The Supreme Court’s decision temporarily blocked a set of district maps that Ms. Callanen and other officials around the state were going to use in next year’s elections.
Less than 90 days before the scheduled March 6 primary, Ms. Callanen has no electoral map in place for Congressional and State House and Senate districts in Bexar County, and none are in effect in any other county either. Much of the political geography of the country’s second-biggest state, in other words, has essentially vanished.
A redistricting dispute between the state and minority groups has turned the legality of two sets of rival electoral maps into a question mark, creating uncertainty about the election schedule and what impact changing it will have on local elections, voter turnout, state party conventions in June, Gov. Rick Perry’s presidential bid and county budgets.
Lawyers, lawmakers and a San Antonio panel of federal judges are now debating delaying the primary and splitting it into two elections because of the uncertainty after the Supreme Court’s decision to hear the case on Jan. 9. But as they argue the political and legal consequences of maintaining, pushing back or splitting the primary, Ms. Callanen has more practical worries.
Adding an additional primary and a runoff next year would cost the county an extra $560,000, not counting the roughly $150,000 it would cost for any second mailing of voter registration cards, she said. Meanwhile, none of the preparatory work for a March primary has been done, and her department on the third floor of a county building here is unusually quiet.
Hundreds of variations of Democratic and Republican ballots would have already been programmed and proofed by each party. The machines that count absentee ballots and electronic votes on Election Day would have completed, or be in the middle of, testing. About 900,000 voter registration cards, each one identifying the district a voter lives in, would have been mailed, as required by state law. Up to 2,400 temporary election workers would be undergoing training.
- High Court Halts New Texas Electoral Maps | NYTimes.com…
- Military voting jumped last year, report says | The Washington Post
- Supreme Court weighs GOP appeal over Texas election map | latimes.com…
- Voting Rights and Texas | NYTimes.com…
- State Supreme Court Sides with GOP, Requires Counties Hold 2012 Primary | Mauldin, SC Patch
Town of Atlantic Beach and Horry County officials will return to a Conway magistrate courtroom next week to settle a dispute about town leaders refusing to return the voting machines used in the November election. Magistrate Bradley Mayers took a motion to return the machines to town officials from the town attorney, Kenneth Davis, under advisement, and continued the hearing until 10 a.m. Wednesday so Davis would have time to prepare.
Horry County sheriff’s deputies took the voting machines Tuesday after town officials refused to return them after the voting. Magistrate Bradley Mayers issued a court order for deputies to seize the machines and Atlantic Beach officials plan to dispute that seizure and want the machines returned to them during Wednesday’s hearing.
Davis, who is representing Atlantic Beach, declined to comment after Thursday’s hearing because it is an ongoing issue. But during the hearing, Davis said the seizure of the machines interferes with an “ongoing election protest in Atlantic Beach.” “By seizing these machines the ongoing judicial process … has been interrupted,” Davis said and noted there was no evidence town officials planned to tamper with the machines.
Sanford Graves, an attorney for Horry County, told Mayers that the machines are county property and Horry County officials provide the machines the day before an election and pick them up the day after the election.
Town Manager Benny Webb wrote Horry County officials that the machines would not be returned until an expert had inspected and reviewed them, according to documents filed with the court order.
Atlantic Beach Mayor Retha Pierce had said the town would not return the machines because they were evidence that votes were not recorded properly during the election. Pierce was defeated in the voting, but a protest hearing last month resulted in the Nov. 1 results being tossed out with orders for a new election in six months.
The order kept current officials in place until the new election.
Graves told Mayers that if Atlantic Beach officials had a problem with the machines being defective they must file an injunction in court for the machines to be investigated. On Wednesday, Mayers is expected to hear from local and state election commission experts and Atlantic Beach officials about their need to retain custody of the machines.
- Forensic Analysis Finds Venango County E-Voting System ‘Remotely Accessed’ on ‘Multiple Occasions’ by Unknown Computer | The Brad Blog
- Dismissed Venango County Election Board Files Appeal | VotePA
- Counting the Vote – Some Say South Carolina’s Outdated Machines Cause for Concern | Free Times
- Independent vote audit needed in South Carolina | The Post and Courier
- Audit of 2010 South Carolina Elections Shows Widespread Problems | Free Times
Maryland Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin on Wednesday said tricks designed to suppress voter turnout, especially those of historically disenfranchised minorities, require Congress to pass an update to the nation’s 50-year-old voting-rights legislation.
Cardin said he would file a bill Wednesday to make it a federal offense to produce or use fraudulent election material to try to mislead or discourage voting within 90 days of an election. For one, Cardin said the bill would allow prosecutors nationwide to guard against the kind of robocalls that a Maryland jury this month decided were intended to suppress black voter turnout in the state’s 2010 gubernatorial race.
Former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich’s campaign manager, Paul E. Schurick, was found guilty of four counts of election law violations stemming from ordering the calls, which told voters in Prince George’s County and in Baltimore to “relax” and to not bother going to the polls. The automated call said Democratic candidate Gov. Martin O’Malley and President Obama had already been successful. Schurick is scheduled to be sentenced Feb. 16, and faces potential jail time.
Cardin noted that the Office of the Maryland State Prosecutor could only pursue the case because of a 2006 change to state law. He and co-sponsor New York Sen. Charles Schumer (D), said a similar tool is needed in the hands of prosecutors nationwide. Their “Deceptive Practices and Voter Intimidation Prevention Act of 2011” would create a process for civil complaints as well as criminal penalties of up to five years in prison.
At a Capitol Hill news conference, Cardin and Schumer were flanked by placards showing examples of what they said were increasingly sophisticated attempts to suppress and intimidate voters. One showed a fabricated “sample Democratic ballot” from Maryland’s previous gubernatorial election, when paid campaign workers for Ehrlich and then Lt. Gov. Michael Steele circulated a flyer before the 2006 election that suggested the Republican candidates were the preferred choices of Democrats.
One from Milwaukee suggested erroneously that anyone who had been found guilty of even a traffic violation was not allowed to vote in an upcoming election. And another showed a flyer seemingly produced by a local election board asking Republicans to vote on Tuesday, and Democrats to vote on Wednesday.
“This should make anyone’s blood boil,” Schumer said, adding that “Democracy’s days are numbered” if the practices are not curbed. Cardin added that in an age of so many fledgling democracies seeking to take root around the world, the United States must “lead by example” in protecting citizens’ right to vote.
- Senator Cardin to introduce voter fraud bill | baltimoresun.com…
- Ex-Ehrlich campaign manager Schurick convicted in robocall case | The Washington Post
- Robocall: Schurick guilty of election fraud | baltimoresun.com…
- Robocall Trial Gives Rare Glimpse Behind Slimy, Election-Day Tactic | NPR
- Political groups get recall election date wrong | The Oshkosh Northwestern
There has been a coordinated attack this year on voting rights. More than a dozen states have enacted laws that are intended to make it more burdensome for Americans to cast a ballot, which President Lyndon Johnson called “the basic right, without which all others are meaningless.” New requirements – for special IDs, for example–will reduce turnout among minorities, the uneducated, the poor, the elderly, the newly arrived, students and other groups that traditionally vote for Democratic candidates. (For an explanation of why voter ID laws have a discriminatory effect, see my previous post on the subject.)
Now Attorney General Eric Holder is fighting back. I was delighted to hear Mr. Holder deliver a powerful speech in Texas yesterday, during which he said his department is facing five separate lawsuits aimed at killing Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which gives the Justice Department the power to review any changes to voting rules in 16 places that have a history of discrimination.
That history is clear and indisputable. As Mr. Holder pointed out, Americans “willingly confronted hatred, bias, and ignorance – as well as billy clubs and fire hoses, bullets and bombs” to defend their right to vote without interference. And it is equally indisputable that discrimination is still a huge problem in this country. (Oh, by the way, a bill renewing Section 5 was approved by overwhelming votes in both houses of Congress in 2006 and signed into law by President George W. Bush.)
Mr. Holder also pledged to support efforts to speed and ease voter registration. He spoke about automatic voter registration, same-day voter registration and other programs that are not just a good idea, but vital to preserve our democracy.
- Department of Justice seeks info on voter ID law | The Post and Courier
- Department of Justice says South Carolina Voter ID law can’t be enforced this year | Examiner.com…
- Groups ask Justice Department to block voter ID law | TheState.com…
- Texas’ voter ID law and redistricting go ‘against the arc of history,’ AG Holder says | Houston Chronicle
- As 2012 turnout battle brews, Justice Department eyes voter ID laws | NBC
The United Nations peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo today called on the country’s electoral authorities to review the issues raised by independent observers about the recent DRC presidential and parliamentary polls, saying there were “significant irregularities” in the results process.
The UN Organization Stabilization Mission in DRC (MONUSCO) said in a press release that it strongly urged the DRC’s Independent National Electoral Commission (known by its French acronym, CENI) to undertake “a timely and rigorous review” of the issues raised, particularly regarding the counting and tabulation of votes.
It said the review should have “the full participation of witnesses and observers, including foreign observer groups, who may offer to provide technical advice.” MONUSCO’s statement noted that the Carter Center International Election Observation Mission in the DRC and other observer missions had issued statements voicing concern about the management process.
The mission added that it calls on CENI “to ensure that all counting, compilation and verification operations under way to determine the results of National Assembly elections are conducted in a fully transparent manner,” and to undertake corrective measures for future elections.
It also reiterated its call for all parties to settle election disputes peacefully through the country’s established institutions, including the National Mediation Committee, and for the Supreme Court of Justice to thoroughly and transparently handle all formal challenges.
Congolese went to the polls on 28 November to cast their ballots in presidential and parliamentary elections in what was only the country’s second multi-party vote since independence from Belgium in 1960.
- Opposition leader rejects new vote | seattlepi.com…
- Daniel Ortega winning re-election in Nicaragua by wide margin | Macleans.ca
- Daniel Ortega winning re-election in Nicaragua by wide margin | The Washington Post
- Supreme court upholds Joseph Kabila’s election victory | guardian.co.uk
- Elections Paralyzed by Hearing Before Supreme Court | NYTimes.com…
Election officials have been ordered to make sure that United Russia collects double the number of votes it is expected to win in State Duma elections on Sunday — even if they have to falsify the results, a senior election official said. The Central Elections Commission strongly denied the allegation.
But accounts from other people familiar with the issue — including opposition politicians and state-paid workers, who spoke of mounting pressure to round up votes for United Russia — appeared to confirm the election official’s remarks.
The official, who heads a key regional election committee, said United Russia was gunning for double the number of votes that the latest opinion polls indicate it will win. “This is a quite a hard task,” said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal.
The official said the only way out would be fraud. The official spoke of being involved in ballot stuffing in previous Duma elections but said an alternative that is less likely to raise suspicions is to change a polling station’s protocol — the record of how many voters show up and how many votes go to each party.
“During past Duma elections this was the most common way to falsify the results. We would do it in front of foreign observers because they didn’t understand anything on what was going on,” the official said.
A court order is required to examine protocols after an election, and the order is difficult to get, the official said.
The Central Elections Commission strongly denied falsifications and said Sunday’s elections would adhere strictly to the law. “No vote rigging will be allowed,” commission spokeswoman Viktoria Galanina said.
Full Article: Russian election insider outlines fraud — The New York Times.
- Russian election: Biggest protests since fall of USSR | BBC News
- Will Charges Of Election Fraud Prompt A ‘Russian Spring’? | Forbes
- Election results will stand, Vladimir Putin spokesman says | Telegraph
- Crowds gather for Moscow protests | BBC News
- Western Monitors Criticize Russian Vote That Cost Putin’s Party Seats | NYTimes.com…
According to the Initial Report from a landmark independent forensic audit of Venango County, PA’s touch-screen voting system — the same system used in dozens of states across the state and country — someone used a computer that was not a part of county’s election network to remotely access the central election tabulator computer, illegally, “on multiple occasions.” Despite the disturbing report, as obtained by The BRAD BLOG and posted in full below, we may never get to learn who did it or why, if Venango’s County Commissioners, a local judge, and the nation’s largest e-voting company have their way. And that’s not all we won’t get to find out about.
The battle for election integrity continues in Venango, with the County Commissioners teaming up with e-voting vendor Election Systems & Software, Inc. (ES&S) on one side, and the county’s renegade interim Republican-majority Board of Elections on the other. The Commissioners and ES&S have been working to spike the independent scientific forensic audit of the county’s failed electronic voting machines that was commissioned by the interim Board of Elections. Making matters worse, the Board has now been removed from power by a county judge, a decision they are attempting to appeal as the three-person board and their supporters continue to fight the entrenched establishment for transparency and accountability in the rural Western Pennsylvania county.
The extraordinary battle began when the interim Board was appointed by a county judge to oversee elections in the Republican-leaning PA county last spring. Normally the County Commissioners serve as the Board of Elections. But when they themselves are up for election, as they were this year, the county court judge names a specially appointed Board to over the election and serve until the end of the year, or until they are dismissed by the same court.
When the interim Board of Elections — comprised of two Republicans and one Democrat — took power this year in Venango, they unanimously set about commissioning the landmark, independent forensic audit of the county’s 100% unverifiable ES&S iVotronic touch-screen voting systems, on the heels of sworn testimony from voters about several failed elections over recent years, beginning in 2008.
After months of legal wrangling, with County Commissioners in opposition, the special Election Board’s independent study of the County’s ES&S iVotronic voting system finally got under way in late September. At that time, a hard drive clone of the computer which runs the ES&S central tabulator system (known as the “Unity Election Reporting Manager”) was created and given, along with other data, to two Carnegie Mellon computer science professors who had volunteered to carry out the analysis on behalf of the Board. The Board also announced that the November election this year would be carried out on an optically-scanned paper ballot system, also made by the county’s vendor, ES&S, while the reported anomalies from their May 2011 primary election, run on the unverifiable touch-screen systems, were being examined by the scientists.
But now, as documents and letters obtained by The BRAD BLOG reveal, the voting machine company, Omaha-based ES&S, who had issued no objections prior to the start of the study, but who changed their mind quickly after it began (as we detailed in an Exclusive report in late October) has now hardened their position, sending threatening legal letters to both the county and the two computer scientists. The e-voting firm has warned them they are likely to face a lawsuit if they do not agree to complete confidentiality and if results of their analysis are released publicly without their prior review and approval.
- Vote count glitch probed in Sussex County – ES&S iVotronic | New Jersey Herald
- Dismissed Venango County Election Board Files Appeal | VotePA
- Counting the Vote – Some Say South Carolina’s Outdated Machines Cause for Concern | Free Times
- U.S. Supreme Court Rules Dallas County’s Appeal in Fight Over Voting Machines is “Moot” | Dallas News
- Pennsylvania County Begins Exam of Failed ES&S Touch-Screen Systems; Will Vote on Paper Instead in November | The Brad Blog
On Friday. U.S. Representative Glenn Harper [R-MS] posted a press release on Facebook suggesting that the two remaining members of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission had resigned, leaving the agency with no members and rendering the EAC, in his words, a “ZOMBIE AGENCY.”
Harper, of course, is the sponsor of recent legislation to terminate the EAC, which was approved earlier this month in a largely party-line vote in the House. If indeed the EAC is now empty (while the resignations aren’t yet public, I have no reason to doubt the reports are accurate) we may be seeing the beginning of the end of the EAC and its duties under the Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA).
There will be lots of opportunities to discuss the work of the EAC — and more importantly, what will happen to that work if the agency does indeed disappear — but as part of that discussion I think Congress as an institution needs to own its role in the birth and life of the EAC and what impact it might have had on the agency’s performance and potential demise.
The need for a new federal agency focused on election administration was an area of general consensus during the reform debate following the disputed 2000 election. The Carter-Ford Commission report — which served as a blueprint for Congress’ consideration of the legislation that became HAVA — explicitly called for such an agency as one of its recommendations (p.13).
In many ways, the agency that Congress created in HAVA resembled the consensus blueprint — charged with testing and certifying voting equipment, serving as an information clearinghouse and managing federal funding for election administration. Yet it also resembled the kind of federal body with which Congress could feel comfortable — commissioners nominated from lists approved by Congressional leadership, an even number of members with a majority requirement and subject to authorization and appropriations by Congress.
- EAC: Zombie Agency – Two Remaining Commissioners Resign One Year After Agency Loses Quorum | Rep. Gregg Harper Press Release
- Public financing of presidential campaigns becomes divisive | Las Vegas Sun
- House votes to end election commission | The Hill
- The GOP’s War on Voting Comes to Washington | Mother Jones
- Meet our election experts: Douglas Jones | fyi