Friday, March 25, 2011

Battle over Saguache CO ballots continues, Machine flaws in GA, DC Court decision may affect TX Voter ID proposal

CO: Gessler, clerks battle over ballots in Saguache County | Real

A disputed election in south-central Colorado is now in the hands of a grand jury that is reviewing allegations that the clerk and other officials committed crimes when they tallied the votes. The officials under investigation stood to benefit from the election’s outcome — most notably Saguache County Clerk Melinda Myers — who, along with County Commissioner Linda Joseph, at first lost but then won their races after Myers declared the races had to be retabulated due to a technical glitch. The snafu hasn’t just initiated secret court proceedings. It’s also knocked over a political hornet’s nest. "Family style voting" in Saguache County caught the attention of the Colorado Elections Division, which noted in a December report that partitions were not used Nov. 2 to protect voter privacy. It is but one example of problems that plagued the county's disputed general election. The Colorado Secretary of State’s Office initially claimed it didn’t have jurisdiction in the races, despite its heavy involvement in the election in question. A secretary of state official was present on election night — when Myers and Joseph were thought to have lost — but no one from the state directly oversaw the retabulation that changed the outcome. State officials did, however, remain in regular communication with Myers and provided her with guidance on how to proceed. The office also sent two officials to Saguache County two weeks after the election to conduct an audit. The secretary of state also rejected the county election canvassing board’s request to hand count the machine-plagued races. Read More

CO: It’s not about ballots — it’s about public records -

Beginning in 2006, when Valley Courier reporter Ruth Heide was denied copies of the minutes from Center Town Board meetings, Saguache County and municipal officials operating within the county have consistently balked at producing documents deemed public under the Colorado Open Records Act. Records either have been denied or their delivery has been delayed past the usual three business days specified by law. By settling the Colorado Open Meetings Law complaint filed by Valley Publishing last fall, Saguache County Commissioners avoided the release of tapes and/or notes of all executive sessions relating to the incident in question, which counties are required to record per state statute. Since the Nov. 2 election, Saguache County Clerk Melinda Myers also has consistently refused to release documents as requested — not only by this reporter, but by several other individuals. Among these requests were the ballots, which Myers now is refusing to deliver to Secretary of State Scott Gessler. This even though Myers’ invited the SOS to come look at the ballots during the Feb. 27 election forum. Read More

GA: Machine Flaws, Dubious Results and Deficient Auditing are Key Factors Again in $1.4 billion Cobb SPLOST Tax Levies - OpEdNews

Voting machine flaws have once again, plagued Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) referendum results in Cobb County. The 2011 results were certified this week by the Cobb Election Board. However, a flaw that is present in all Georgia voting machines has now played a key role in $1.4 billion of SPLOST tax levies for those who live in one of Georgia's largest counties. The flaw allows totally blank voted ballots to be recorded during an election. In a 2005 Cobb SPLOST, and again in the recent 2011 SPLOST, blank voted ballots exceeded the margins of victory. In 2005, the SPLOST appeared on its way to defeat, trailing by several percentage points with just a few precincts left to count. But then unexplained transmission problems and reporting delays were encountered. The next day the SPLOST was declared victorious by a razor thin 114 votes out of 39,780. The 2005 results show that 285 totally blank ballots were cast. In 2011, 95 blank voted ballots were recorded in a race decided by only 90 votes out of 43,109 that were cast. Adding to the 2011 unverifiable voting controversy are the verifiable mail-in ballot results that totaled to a near landslide, 60-40% point defeat for the 2011 SPLOST. John Fortuin, co-founder of Defenders of Democracy, explained: "The voting machine vendor could have easily programmed a specific warning to voters that their ballot is totally blank when they cast it". That warning could then allow the voter to either vote in at least one of the races or void the ballot. He concluded: " Officials may try to claim that is not a defect, but ensuring entry of required data is a must for integrity of any enterprise application." Read More

IL: Chicago Heights election problems prompt call to close early voting site - Chicago Tribune

A local minister has called for an early end to early voting in Chicago Heights after repeated claims of intimidation and improper electioneering at a polling site inside City Hall. At a news conference outside City Hall on Thursday that was watched by election monitors, the Rev. Lawrence Blackful complained that disruptions and allegations of attempted voter fraud at the location "threatened the democratic process" in Chicago Heights. "We need to make sure this election is done properly. We need to make sure no individual gains an edge … or circumvents the democratic process," said Blackful, pastor at St. Bethel Church and head of the Chicago Heights Area Ministerial Council. Read More

ID: Closed primary moves closer - Coeur d'Alene Press

Idaho Republican leaders are close to inking a deal that would limit GOP primary elections to only the party's registered voters. The proposal comes weeks after a federal judge ruled that Idaho's 38-year-old open primary system was unconstitutional. That ruling was appealed by a national Independent voting organization on Wednesday, but legislators could be ready to spring a bill that would require Republicans to vote in GOP primary races, while Democrats would vote in Democratic primary races. "We are very close," said House Speaker Lawerence Denney, R-Midvale. He said a bill could be introduced by Friday. Read More

MD: Maryland lawmakers move to change presidential and gubernatorial primary election dates - The Washington Post

Maryland voters would cast ballots in the 2012 presidential primary election in April and the 2014 gubernatorial primary would move from September to June, under legislation moving through the General Assembly. In 2008, Maryland, Virginia and the District all held primaries on Feb. 12, creating a Potomac Primary that gave the region greater importance in the competitive race. Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) said he doesn’t like the date change, but noted that the scheduling of elections is being driven by the national political parties. “It makes no sense that New Hampshire and Iowa drive the politics,” Miller said, referring to party rules that protect the first-in-the-nation nominating contests in those states, held in February. Read More

MN: Analysis: Voter ID bill would cost state many millions - MinnPost

Voter ID bills introduced early in the legislative session have languished for many reasons, but they might be mostly burdened by their potential costs. We wrote about some feared costs before, particularly as they apply to proposed electronic pollbooks. Now, Minnesota Common Cause and Citizens for Election Integrity Minnesota have compiled a detailed review (PDF) of the costs of House File 210 — which requires Voter ID and institutes the electronic voter check-in system statewide — and House File 89, which simply requires photo ID for voters. Bottom line: $84 million over three years for H.F. 210, and $25 million for H.F. 89. Much of the analysis is based on real costs in other states that have instituted Voter ID. The two voter rights and election watchdog groups say the fiscal notes developed by legislative researchers underestimate the real potential costs. The voter groups also took county level costs into account. Read More

NC: Proposed voter ID could be too costly |

Legislative staff has come up with a non-partisan fiscal note on voter identification. On the high end, it shows the cost to the state could be two-and-a-half million dollars. But critics say that's way under what other states have reported and isn't close to what the actual cost may be. The fiscal note offers a range of what requiring voters to show identification at the polls could cost. On the low end the cost is almost $850,000, and on the high end, the cost is almost $2.5 million. There are a lot of unknowns such as what it would cost counties. "What's shocking about this estimate, it's full of lines like 'could not be determined,' 'could not be estimated,' 'was not included in this estimate,'" said Chris Kromm, Institute for Southern Studies. Read More

ND: Senate considers rules for counting election ballots from voters without ID - Bismark Tribune

North Dakota could deter voter fraud by requiring people who don't bring identification to the polls to prove they are eligible to vote, or risk having their ballots thrown out, a state lawmaker said Tuesday. Rep. Kim Koppelman, R-West Fargo, is sponsoring HB1447, which would set aside the ballots of voters who do not bring documentation that they're eligible to vote on Election Day. If the voter does not prove his or her eligibility to the county auditor within three to six days, the vote wouldn't be counted. The proof must be presented before a local voting board meets to certify election results. North Dakota law now allows voters who do not bring identification to the polls to sign a sworn statement saying they can legally vote at that precinct. The person's ballot is then counted, even if county officials find out later that the voter was ineligible. Read More

OH: David Callahan: Ohio's Voter ID Law and the 2012 Election - Huffington Post

Was the 2012 presidential election just decided by the Republican-controlled legislature in Ohio? It is possible. Two days ago, the state's House of Representatives passed one of the most restrictive voter ID laws in the country. If the bill is enacted into law, it will make it harder for President Obama to win in Ohio next year. Ohio, as we all know, has become the mother of all swing states. It was ground zero of the titanic fight between Bush and Kerry in 2004, and the outcome there narrowly secured Bush a second term. Ohio was also hotly contested in 2000. Obama fought hard to win the state in 2008, and did so with a five point margin. But a new poll out earlier this week now shows Ohioans exactly divided on whether Obama should be re-elected. With unemployment in Ohio still likely to be above 8 percent next year, Ohio is going to be a tough fight for Democrats and the state will again be the scene of massive turnout efforts by both parties. If Ohio is decided by a close margin, the new voter ID law could give a Republican contender enough of an edge to win there. And, if the state's 20 electoral votes are decisive, the outcome in Ohio could determine the election. Read More

RI: Justice Department Reaches Agreement with Rhode Island on Voter Registration at Public Assistance and Disability Offices | Vadvert

The Justice Department announced today that it has reached an agreement with Rhode Island officials to ensure that all public assistance and disability services offices in Rhode Island offer voter registration services to their clients. The agreement is necessary to bring Rhode Island into compliance with the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA). The agreement was filed in conjunction with a lawsuit by the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division alleging that Rhode Island violated federal law by failing to provide voter registration services at all public assistance offices and all offices that provide state-funded programs primarily aimed at persons with disabilities. Congress enacted the NVRA in 1993 in part to enhance citizen participation in elections by making voter registration opportunities available at offices that provide essential services, like public assistance and disability services. Read More

TX: Impending decision by D.C. judge has implications for voter ID in Texas - The American Independent

Though Republican lawmakers remain unswayed by Texas Democrats’ arguments that disenfranchising minority voters should outweigh unsubstantiated fears of polling place voter impersonation — the U.S. Department of Justice, and possibly the courts, will consider those contentions in light of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) before allowing a voter photo identification law to take effect. That is, unless a U.S. District Court judge in Washington, D.C., issues an opinion — which is expected to come soon — that strikes down the part of the VRA requiring Texas and other states, mainly in the South, to seek federal approval before enacting election laws with the potential to adversely impact representation of racial or ethnic minorities. That includes voter photo ID. “During one of the telephonic conferences, Judge [John D.] Bates indicated that he would like to have this case settled by the first of April,” said Edward Blum, whose organization Project on Fair Representation is assisting the plaintiffs in Shelby County, Alabama v. Holder. “So we’re all just eagerly awaiting.” “If the court in Shelby County strikes down either Section 4(b) or Section 5 [of the VRA], and the judge does not stay his opinion, then Texas and all other states subject to Section 5 will no longer be required to preclear,” Blum said. “That doesn’t mean the DOJ doesn’t have the power to come in anywhere and sue a jurisdiction or sue a state under various constitutional statutory provisions to prevent discriminatory election practices from going into or staying in effect.” Blum’s organization backed a previous challenge to Section 5 brought by a small municipal utility district in Austin. That case made it all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court; however, justices refrained from addressing the constitutionality of that part of the VRA, deciding in a narrow ruling that the district, because of a clean voting rights record over the past 10 years, could seek to “bail out” of the preclearance requirement — an option that Shelby County, Ala., does not have. “If Section 5 is struck down, then Texas and the other eight states subject to this provision won’t have to go to D.C. to ask for permission anymore,” Blum said. Texas’ voter photo ID bill is most often compared to existing laws in Indiana and Georgia, though it’s generally considered tougher than either. The law in Indiana, which is not covered by Section 5, was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court. The law in Georgia, which is covered by Section 5, was OK’d by the DOJ under the administration of Pres. George W. Bush, amid allegations of partisanship. Read More

WV: Harrison County Commission Waits Another Week on Voting Machine Decision - State Journal

The Harrison County Commission hasn't decided yet what it will do about switching voting systems for the October election. County Clerk Susan Thomas and Commissioner Michael Romano have been pushing to make the switch from the computerized iVotronic machines that voters have seen for the last few years to the simpler and more reliable AutoMARK machine, which uses paper ballots. Read More

WI: Expert: Student IDs should be OK under voter ID law - LaCrosse Tribune

Wisconsin's proposed voter ID law will be less expensive, less susceptible to fraud and less likely to face legal challenges if student badges are included as an acceptable form of identification, an elections expert told lawmakers Thursday. Speaking for himself and three University of Wisconsin colleagues, UW-Madison political scientist David Canon told the Assembly Committee on Election and Campaign Reform that he's not taking a stance on whether the Legislature should require that voters present a valid photo identification card - just making suggestions on how to write a law that protects the integrity of elections, limits legal challenges and keeps the costs down. "You already have tens of thousands of these IDs being produced by the state (at UW campuses)," he said. "So why duplicate the state's efforts in terms of having (students) go out and get another free ID at a cost to the state?" Voters would be required to present a valid ID, such as a Wisconsin driver's license or a military ID card, to vote if the Senate Voter ID bill becomes law. Student IDs are not a valid form of voter identification under the Senate bill. Assembly members said Thursday they are drafting their own legislation. Read More


Estonia: Centre Party Demands Election Results be Annulled - ERR

The Centre Party has filed a petition with the Supreme Court to annul the results of the March 6 parliamentary elections over what it says are significant deficiencies in the electronic voting system. In a statement from the party, its secretary general Priit Toobal said that the nation's electronic voting is unreliable and unverifiable, and lacks the uniform procedure used in polling stations. The results, therefore, shouldn't be trusted. Read More

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