Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Flip a coin to resolve an election?, Mayoral recalls gone wild

AZ: Phoenix getting rid of polling places for August election - abc15.com

There’s a new way of voting in Phoenix, and officials tell us it will save the city money and make it easier for citizens to vote. There’s two main changes if you plan to vote in the Phoenix city elections come August; the locations and the times when you can vote. Your neighborhood poling place is going away, replaced by 26 voting centers throughout the city. “Any voter can go to any of those voting centers to cast their ballot, you don’t have to get to the one by your home,” said acting City Clerk Cris Meyer. And those centers will be open for three days to allow you more time to vote. “The other thing about the change is now you won’t be limited to voting on Tuesday, election day, either,” said Meyer. Read More

CO: Summit County: Public hearing on mail-in voting « Summit County Citizens Voice

A move to mail-in voting is touted as a win for convenience and a cost-savings for Summit County, but watchdog groups say the switch has to be done with care to avoid impacts to access that could skew the voting demographic. “We can’t run democracy on the cheap. When it comes to voting, we have to make sure that access trumps cost, said Jennie Flanagan, director of Colorado Common Cause. The Summit County Commissioners will hold an April 12 public hearing on a resolution to authorize a mail-only ballot in the upcoming November election. Many other jurisdictions in Colorado and elsewhere have already made the switch. In recent elections, up to 40 percent of Summit County’s voters have used mail-in ballots. Along with cost-savings, mail-in ballots can reduce the risk of voter fraud associated with electronic voting systems in recent elections, said Luis Toro, of Colorado Ethics Watch. Some critics have said mail-in voting constitutes a form of poll tax because of the cost associated with mailing the ballot. That’s why it’s important to have drop-off centers. Read More

MD: Voter registration reform gains momentum in Maryland - WTOP.com

Efforts by Sen. Ron Young to reform the state’s voter registration system are gaining traction in the Maryland General Assembly. Young, a Frederick Democrat, sponsored two bills this session to help improve voter registration. They have until midnight Monday, when the General Assembly is scheduled to adjourn, to pass both chambers. The first, which has already passed the Senate and on Thursday passed the House of Delegates with an amendment, would allow Maryland election officials to share voter registration with other states. The Senate is scheduled to vote today on an identical bill that originated in the House of Delegates â”" if both chambers approve the same version of the bill, it will head to the governor’s desk for his signature. The purpose of the bill is to catch instances where people have registered to vote in more than one state. Young said if the bill becomes law, Maryland would be the 16th state, plus the District of Columbia, to agree to share information. “It really helps clean up the voting rolls and (helps us) to see that people aren’t voting more than once,” Young said. The Senate passed Young’s other bill on Friday, by a vote of 41-5. It would allow residents to register to vote online, and a similar bill has already passed the House of Delegates. Read More

NH: Voting rights groups opposing photo ID bill - Boston.com

Voting rights groups are opposing a bill in the New Hampshire Senate that requires people to show valid photo identification to vote. America Votes spokeswoman Melissa Bernardin said Monday that her organization, the League of Women Voters in New Hampshire, AARP, Granite State Independent Living, disability rights groups and others oppose the bill. It would require voters to show photo identification issued by the federal government, the state, a New Hampshire municipality, a licensed school or one approved by the postsecondary education commission or a business or institution recognized by local election officials. If the voter doesn’t have a satisfactory photo ID, local election officials can satisfy the requirement by taking the person’s picture and keeping it on file.The House holds a hearing on the bill Tuesday afternoon. Read More

OH: High Court Asked To Intervene In Election Dispute - Politics News Story - WLWT Cincinnati

A county elections board in Ohio and the Republican candidate in a disputed election for a juvenile court judgeship are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to step in.The Hamilton County Board of Elections in Cincinnati and Republican John Williams on Monday asked the justices to stop provisional ballots from being counted that could swing the November election to Democrat Tracie Hunter.A lower court sided with the Democrat.The elections board and Williams want a court order halting the counting at least until the high court decides whether to hear the appeal.Republican Williams now leads Hunter by 23 votes in the official count, out of 230,000 votes cast. Read More

PA: Lancaster County Pennsylvania Board of Elections Moves to Bar Media from Vote Count - LancasterOnline.com

Last Wednesday, the Lancaster County Board of Elections approved a policy designed to remove media members from the county’s election center on election night and move them to an adjacent building. The policy is intended to provide more space for voting materials in the warehouse at Burle Industries business park that serves as the county’s elections center, and provide reporters with an area in which they can work until all results are tabulated. Any change in election procedures is bound to arouse media concerns. But when Mary Stehman, the county’s chief elections clerk said the media would be allowed only in the area designated for them, not in the elections center, this became an issue of greater significance. It would have been a violation of the state’s Election Code. And it evoked the kind of response the public expects from those who gather the news: Outrage. Thursday, county solicitor Melvin Newcomer corrected that misperception. “There is nothing in this policy,” he said, “that limits the ability of the media to be right where they have to be under the Election Code.” Indeed, the county’s own written policy states, “The news media shall have access to the first floor of the warehouse, or designated space, on a not-to-interfere basis with Board efforts.” Friday, Stehman characterized her prior remarks as a “misunderstanding.” Read More

WI: To resolve Wisconsin’s state Supreme Court election, flip a coin - The Washington Post

Wisconsin’s already-fraught politics got even crazier last week when a bitterly contested, high-turnout state Supreme Court election ended in a near tie. Incumbent Justice David Prosser leads challenger JoAnne Kloppenburg by less than 0.5 percent, which means Kloppenburg has the right to a state-funded recount. We are probably headed toward a long, expensive, law-snarled process — much like Florida in 2000 or the Minnesota Senate election in 2008. This is no way to pick a judge. And any mathematician can tell you a better, fairer and less expensive way: Flip a coin. Choosing election winners by coin toss when there’s an exact tie is a time-honored tradition in states from Illinois to Alaska; just last Friday, a coin flip settled a school board election in Crawford County, Kan. It’s time to extend that tradition to elections so close that there’s no hope of being sure who “really won.” It’s not quite that simple, of course. If any result within 0.5 percent triggers a coin-flip, then any result within a few hundred votes of that threshold will be just as contentious as Florida 2000 or Minnesota 2008. And it’s hardly fair to Prosser to give his opponent a 50-50 chance of winning, as if he were up by seven votes instead of 7,000. But you can fix both problems by weighting the coin. Leading by 215 votes out of 3 million, as Norm Coleman was in his Minnesota Senate race against Al Franken? You get a 75 percent chance of winning. George W. Bush, leading by 537 Florida votes out of 6 million cast, gets a 90 percent chance. Prosser’s margin in Wisconsin is substantially bigger, so maybe Kloppenburg should be awarded a 1-in-1,000 chance of taking office. The exact formula doesn’t matter, only that the bigger your lead, the more the dice (or the computerized dice simulations) are loaded in your favor. You might be thinking, don’t we owe it to the people to figure out exactly how many votes each candidate got? That would be nice — but it’s impossible. There are always hundreds or thousands of ballots whose markings are ambiguous or whose legality is in question. In any election bigger than town dogcatcher, there’s just no such thing as an exact vote count. Read More

WI: Not Every Vote Counts - NY Times

The lizard people have eaten a vote in Beltrami County. That's not so strange in a recount like the one underway in Minnesota - voters do all kinds of inexplicable things like inscribing "lizard people" in the write-in slot, as one did, invalidating his ballot. Much more alarming is that hundreds of votes have disappeared in the still too-close-to-call Senate race between Norm Coleman, the Republican incumbent, and Al Franken, the Democratic candidate. The missing ballots expose a fundamental flaw in our way of doing elections - one that proves the recount in Minnesota is futile. Before the recount began on Nov. 19, Mr. Coleman and Mr. Franken were within about 200 votes of each other. With a little under three millionn ballots cast in the election, that margin was unbelievably small: a few thousandths of a percent separated the two candidates. So, as Minnesota law requires, election officials began counting, by hand, every single ballot from the more than 4,000 precincts around the state. Some missing ballots were misplaced: officials in Ramsey County - to their great embarrassment - discovered 171 uncounted ballots in a compartment of a voting machine. Some errors were typos: a clerical mistake wiped out 25 votes in Blue Earth County. Others might be due to equipment glitches. A Washington County election official I spoke with blamed jammed ballots in counting machines for possibly creating phantom votes. And some ballots seem to have simply vanished. When I visited Dakota County late last month, I saw an election official and an observer desperately trying to account for the whereabouts of certain absentee ballots. As required by law, the ballots had been duplicated, but the numbers of originals and copies don't match up - a problem that is apparently happening in several counties. Read More

WI: Democrat on Waukesha County vote panel speaks out - JSOnline

The Democrat on the Waukesha County Board of Canvassers who was widely quoted as endorsing the county clerk’s official ballot count that flipped the state Supreme Court winner last week said Monday that she was never told about more than 14,000 missing votes from the city of Brookfield until shortly before a Thursday news conference. By then, the three-member board had finished its canvass, which had started midday Wednesday. The Waukesha County Democratic Party released a statement Monday ascribed to Ramona Kitzinger, 80, a member of the canvassing board since 2004. In the statement, Kitzinger said that even during the canvass of Brookfield’s votes during the day Thursday, no mention was made of the big mistake, something in retrospect she called “shocking and somewhat appalling.” Read More

WI: Waukesha voting irregularities go back to 2004 - Daily Kos

Waukesha 2004, Bush v. Kerry. Apparently in 2004 the polls in Waukesha were teeming with voters as the Waukesha County Clerk's office showed a 97.63% turn out. No, that's not a typo. 97.63% http://www.waukeshacounty.gov/...

Of the 236,642 registered voters in Waukesha on Nov 2, 2004 apparently 231,031 of them came out in a hint of rain and drizzle and did their civic duty. Just to put this in perspective, Australia has compulsory (mandatory) voting and their turnout is 95%. The estimated population of Waukesha in July of 2004 was 375,350 with 91,530 residents under the age of 18. (source) Leaving out solely residents under the age of 18 that leaves 283,820 residents that are of voting age (remember that number, it will be referenced again). That's an 83% voter registration number which is well above both the national average and Wisconsin's average. Read More

WI: More Twists and Turns in Wisconsin - Consortium News

I’m still mulling over the recent Wisconsin election in general and the actions of Waukesha County’s County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus in particular. She was the one who forgot to record votes that would have made her former boss, Justice David Prosser, the winner in a hotly contested election.After my first report on this strange set of circumstances, data surfaced to show that the missing city’s data had been reported earlier by the city itself. The numbers Nickolaus reported were an exact match. So it doesn’t look like anyone made up the numbers for the missing town’s results in Brookfield. And then there was the stamp of approval from Democratic Party member Ramona Kitzinger who said the numbers “jived” with what she had been shown. Still, questions persist. Is Nickolaus the type to simply miss 14,000 votes? "She's an excellent detail person," State Sen. Joanne Huelsman, R-Waukesha, had said of Nickolaus in 2002. Huelsman had known Nickolaus from her work as a legislative staffer involved in statewide legislative redistricting. Some activists have privately (and publicly) expressed concerns that the vote was padded elsewhere in the County to give the Republican the needed victory – not just a win, but a win big enough not to trigger an automatic recount. Then, as the theory goes, the County Clerk went looking for a city with the needed number of votes to explain the suddenly increased vote total. Brookfield had the right total. This starts to sound like a crazy conspiracy theory. And frankly, I was about to dismiss it myself, until I found out that Ms. Nickolaus had lost and found votes in her database once before in an eerily similar way. Read More


Whither political equality? - Campaign Legal Center Blog

Two weeks ago, the Supreme Court heard oral argument in McComish v. Bennett, a challenge to the “triggered matching funds provisions” of Arizona’s successful state public financing program. Many have speculated as to the potential impact of the case: would an adverse ruling invalidate only the “triggers” of Arizona’s program or also imperil public financing more broadly? Unfortunately, the impact of McComish may extend beyond the sphere of public financing. Largely escaping notice has been another troubling aspect of petitioners’ case, namely their effort to absolutely discredit the so-called “equalizing rationale” for campaign finance regulation. The equalizing rationale – which encompasses an interest both in ensuring that wealth is not a prerequisite for running for public office and in enabling citizens of all economic brackets to meaningfully influence elections– has long been a part of the public thinking on campaign finance reform. At the same time, the Supreme Court has deemed this rationale to be insufficiently compelling to support restrictions on campaign fundraising and spending. Read More

Mayoral recall drives go viral - USATODAY.com

Buoyed by the viral power of the Internet and rising anti-government sentiment, disgruntled voters have set off a rash of recall drives against mayors in cities across the USA. The urge to oust city leaders has intensified in the struggling economy as more mayors raise taxes and cut services to close budget shortfalls. Fifty-seven mayors faced recall attempts last year, up from 23 in 2009, according to Ballotpedia, a non-profit that tracks recall elections. So far this year: 15. Almost all have failed. Recalls are so frequent that the U.S. Conference of Mayors today launches a campaign warning mayors to brace for recalls. The effort includes a documentary-style film, Recall Fever: Stop the Madness. The film recounts recent recall efforts in Omaha; Miami; Akron, Ohio; and Chattanooga, Tenn. Read More

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