Friday, May 13, 2011

Tennessee Senate Dials Back Election Reform, Kansas Senators "Spank" the Secretary of State

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CT: Senate Approves Balloting Reform Bill -

Responding to last November's highly publicized Election Day problems in municipalities including Bridgeport, where a shortage of paper ballots contributed to a days-long delay in the declaration of a new governor, the Senate has approved a bill establishing standards to ensure local registrars buy enough ballots. The 34-0 vote Thursday sent the bill to the House for action in coming weeks. The bill says local voter registrars must certify to the secretary of the state that they have ordered enough ballots for each polling place. They also would need to show that they have considered all relevant factors in determining how many they need. Unless registrars clear their plans with the secretary of the state, they would have to order one ballot for each registered voter. The bill also would require registrars to "create an emergency contingency plan for elections," covering potential problems including ballot shortages, a shortage or absence of poll workers, a loss of power, a fire or an alarm sounding in a polling place, voting-machine malfunctions, the need to remove a poll worker or moderator, and "disorder in and around the polling place." Read More

KS: Lawmakers Spank Kobach On Elections Bill - Politics News Story - KCTV Kansas City

Kansas legislators are refusing to move up the starting date for a proof-of-citizenship requirement for people registering to vote for the first time or to give Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s office new power to prosecute election fraud cases. The rejection of those proposals Wednesday by a bipartisan majority in the state Senate is a political defeat for the Republican secretary of state, who took office in January. It came after he successfully pushed for a law designed to combat election fraud, one he touted as model legislation for other states. That law requires voters to show photo identification at the polls, starting next year, and says anyone registering for the first time must provide a birth certificate, passport or other proof of citizenship to election officials, starting in 2013, though a Kansas driver’s license will be sufficient for many. Kobach had hoped the proof-of-citizenship rule would take effect next year and that his office would gain the power to file and prosecute election cases in state courts — and didn’t stop pushing even after Republican Gov. Sam Brownback signed a compromise version of Kobach’s proposed Secure and Fair Elections Act. The vote Wednesday in the Senate was 23-15 against a bill revising the election law enacted earlier this year. Some critics renewed longstanding arguments that election fraud is nowhere near as serious a problem as Kobach says it is, while others resented his efforts to revise a law that had strong bipartisan support. “You don’t unravel the deal after it’s finished,” said Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, a Topeka Democrat. “And he needs to learn that.” Kobach didn’t return messages left on his cellphone and his office did not issue a statement. Read More

KS: Senate rejects attempt to toughen voter ID bill; Schodorf says she feels guilty about ever voting for it | Wichita Eagle

A cantankerous debate to move up by a year a requirement for new voters to provide proof of citizenship failed Wednesday on the Senate floor, with one senator saying she was embarrassed for Secretary of State Kris Kobach and another admitting she felt guilty for ever voting for the state’s voter ID bill. Legislators defeated a last-minute maneuver to concur with the House on a substitute for Senate Bill 129 15-23. That means people registering to vote won’t have to provide a birth certificate, passport or other citizenship proof until 2013. It also means that Kobach won’t get the authority he sought to independently prosecute allegations of voter fraud. Sen. Kelly Kultala, D-Kansas City, said she was “starting to get embarrassed” for Kobach, who made voter fraud a big part of his campaign. Other legislators said they were offended an effort to push up the implementation date was coming up so late in the session, which traditionally ends on the 90th day. The 90th day is today. Sen. Jean Schodorf, R-Wichita, said “I am sorry this has been brought to be concurred because I believe that we already have a system that is able to investigate reports of voter (fraud) and decide whether those cases will be charged.” She said she regretted ever voting for the voter ID bill. She called it “chilling,” especially against people of color. “I have felt guilty for voting on it all the weeks that we’ve been here I’d not believe there is voter fraud in this state,” Schodorf said, admitting she was getting emotional about the issue. Read More

KS: Secretary of State Kris Kobach won't end push to get voter ID requirements in place by 2012 /

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach said Thursday that he's not giving up on having a proof-of-citizenship requirement for new voters in place ahead of next year's elections, despite the state Senate's rejection of the idea. State law already says that people who are registering to vote for the first time in Kansas will have to provide a birth certificate, passport, or other proof of U.S. citizenship to election officials. The rule was enacted this year at Kobach's urging but doesn't take effect until January 2013, a year later than he wanted. The same law also will require voters to show photo identification at the polls, starting next year. Kobach wanted the proof-of-citizenship requirement to take effect at the same time and authority for his office to file and prosecute election fraud cases in state courts. But senators had insisted on the later start date for the proof-of-citizenship requirement and had removed the new prosecutorial power for Kobach's office before the legislation passed. The Republican secretary of state praised the compromise version of the new law as a historic step toward combatting election fraud and as a model for other states. But he also didn't stop pushing for the stronger version, and on Wednesday, the Senate rejected a tougher bill on a 23-15 vote. Read More

MD: Glenarden absentee ballot complaints spur hearing -

A Ward 3 candidate denies allegations that she offered to drop off and pick up absentee ballots for Glenarden residents and a hearing has been scheduled for next week to investigate election complaints which, if verified, could change the results of the mayoral race and land the candidate in trouble with state law. The meeting will be held 5 p.m. May 18 before the city’s Board of Elections Chairwoman Geraldine Langford to discuss issues such as a note on Ward 3 candidate Judy Diggs’ website that states residents can do “early voting” from April 8 to April 29. The city never established an early voting date separate from the May 2 election day. The city’s Board of Elections held a closed meeting Monday night with City Attorney Suellen Ferguson prior to the regular City Council meeting to discuss the complaints before scheduling the May 18 meeting. On April 29, prior to the election, Ward 3 incumbent Jennifer Jenkins filed a complaint with Langford stating residents told her that Diggs offered to drop off and pick up absentee ballots for them. Diggs eventually lost to Jenkins by a count of 116 votes to 51. The night of election day, May 2, mayoral candidate Donjuan Williams, Ward 1 candidate Marsha Peeks, Ward 2 candidate Elaine Carter and Jenkins filed a complaint challenging the validity of the absentee ballots. Read More

NY: New York Must Defend Its Count of Double Votes (Fusion Voting) | Courthouse News Service

Smaller political parties can sue over a New York state law that they say is robbing them of votes because it lets candidates appear on the ballot for multiple parties, a federal judge ruled. Last September, the Conservative Party of New York State and the Working Families Party sued the commissioners of the New York State Board of Elections over its practice of counting votes when a ballot is marked multiple times. "Fusion voting" lets candidates run on multiple platforms, but if a voter chooses a candidate on a two platforms, only the "first" party gets the vote. "In other words, if a 2006 voter voted for (Elliot) Spitzer on both the Democratic and Independence lines, the Democrats were credited with the vote, and if the voter voted for John Faso on both the Republican and Conservative lines, the Republicans were credited with the vote," according to the original complaint. "The Board simply ignores the fact that the voter has expressed her intent to support a minor party." Since a political party needs 50,000 votes to qualify for a subsequent gubernatorial election, the lost votes can have a significant effect, the plaintiffs claim. Read More

NC: House panel moves to cut early voting |

On a party-line vote, the House Elections committee voted today to shorten the early voting period from 18 days to 11 days. Early or “one-stop” voting has become increasingly popular over the past few years. A recent study by Catawba College professor Dr. Michael Bitzer found that 60% of the ballots cast in NC’s 2008 general election were cast before Election Day, up from 30% in 2004. Bitzer also found Democrats were more likely to use early voting than Republicans. The NC Free Enterprise Foundation has a nice writeup here. “We’re not trying to do away with early voting in any way,” H658 sponsor Bert Jones, U-Rockingham, told the committee. “The question is, how many election days should we have in North Carolina?” Jones said data shows most early voting takes place within the final 9 days of early voting. He says cutting the first week of early voting would save local election boards “approximately 2000 dollars a day per site.” It would also save candidates money on campaign advertising, Jones said. Rep. Deborah Ross, D-Wake, said the extra week helps lessen long lines at sites in urban areas like Wake County. “Elections are about voters, not about politicians,” Ross said. “This is just another way of cutting down on the number of people who vote,” said Rep. Mickey Michaux, D-Durham. Read More

NC: Cut to early voting advances |

North Carolina residents would have one week less to cast ballots before state and local elections in legislation narrowly approved by a House Committee a on Wednesday. Supporters said the proposal would save money, but opponents argue it would discourage citizens — particularly Democrats — from voting. The House Elections Committee voted 16-14 to delay the start of early voting from the third Thursday before an election to the second Thursday, curbing what’s been a popular method for casting ballots begun with the 2000 elections. During the November 2008 election, more than 2.4 million voted at one-stop sites statewide, or 55 percent of all voters that fall. Those votes helped President Barack Obama become the first Democrat to win North Carolina’s electoral votes since Jimmy Carter in 1976.Rep. Bert Jones, the only unaffiliated member of the legislature and a primary bill sponsor, said the bill would save nearly $2ooo per one-stop voting site statewide and save more money for candidates who now must campaign to get people to the polls for up to 18 days. The bill would reduce that maximum to 11 days. He presented a chart showing relatively light turnout during the first current week of early voting since the 2008 primary. “This is not in any way a negative indictment on early voting,” said Jones, of Rockingham County. “The question is how many election days should we have in North Carolina.” Democratic Rep. Mickey Michaux of Durham said after the meeting that shortening the time period was designed to decrease turnout among Democrats and black voters, both of whom voted disproportionately during the 2008 election. It comes about a month after the same committee agreed to legislation that would require people who want to vote in person to show photo identification. Read More

OH: Bill would aid military in voting -

State Rep. Mike Dovilla was serving in Iraq four years ago when he attempted to obtain an absentee ballot to vote in that year’s municipal elections. The Cleveland-area Republican said he submitted the paperwork to the board of elections but later was told he didn’t include all of the required information. “Through no fault of my own, and despite a proactive effort to obtain a ballot, I was disenfranchised in that year in the municipal elections,” Dovilla said. “Since that time, I’ve vowed that if I were ever in a position to be able to address this public- policy challenge and prevent it from happening to others in the military service, I would do so." Dovilla made good on that promise Tuesday with the introduction of legislation that could help men and women serving in the military and Ohioans who are overseas cast their election ballots. The legislation would allow uniformed service members and overseas voters to apply for absentee ballots over the Internet or via email. The bill also would require county boards to process ballots cast by those others and to establish a process to enable voting when military or other emergencies arise. “While these brave individuals are protecting our country and our families around the globe, we have a duty to protect their ability to vote,” Dovilla said. The bill is a bipartisan effort: Democratic Rep. Michael Stinziano of Columbus is the other primary co-sponsor. He is a former board of elections director in Franklin County. “From an administrative perspective, we always knew there was more that should be done,” Stinziano said. “Often, it was not until deadlines were pressing that individuals like Rep. Dovilla would … contact the board of elections and raise the concern about their ability to cast a ballot.” He added, “It should not be difficult for any registered Ohioan to participate in our election process, regardless of their location.” The legislation is expected to move separately from a larger election-reform package moving through the Ohio House and Senate. Read More

TN: Senate Votes To Undo Voter Confidence Act Requirements |

The state Senate voted on Thursday to undo requirements of the Voter Confidence Act passed three years ago. Supporters said the action will ensure that more accurate voting machines would be implemented across the state as the legislature reversed requirements approved three years ago. “The strength of our political system lies in our citizens’ trust that their votes count,” Senator Roy Herron said. “Our current voting machines endanger that trust.” House Bill 386 as approved by the Senate would delete the requirement for more secure voting machines with a verifiable paper trail. The touch-screen voting machine system used in many Tennessee counties has been called by experts as “the least secure voting system” in the country. Numerous incidents of machine hacking and vote flipping by the machines have occurred throughout the country, officials said. In 2008, machines in Decatur County were reported to have changed votes in the presidential race. Read More

RI: Senate passes voter identification bill -

Voters would have to show identification at the polls starting next year under a bill passed Thursday by the Rhode Island Senate. A driver’s license, a passport, military ID or a voter identification card are among the forms of identification allowed under the proposal. The bill would require the state to provide free voter identification cards. Those without identification could cast provisional ballots. The requirements would go into effect for 2012 elections. Until 2014, voters could also use a birth certificate, Social Security card or Medicare card. The Senate voted 27-6 in favor of the legislation Thursday. The bill now moves to the House, where a voter ID bill has already been introduced. Similar legislative proposals have failed in recent years, though in 2009 a voter identification bill passed the House. This year the measure has won support from both political parties. The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Harold Metts, D-Providence, said the proposal would prevent voter fraud and restore public confidence in elections. He said he began working on the bill after hearing complaints of alleged voter fraud in the 2010 primary election. ”My interest is in protecting and strengthening our elections,” he said. “No one will be denied the right to vote.” Read More

VI: Elections Board creates new committees | Virgin Islands Daily News

The V.I. Joint Board of Elections met Wednesday on St. John and created two new committees to deal with major issues, including legislative changes and the applications for supervisor and deputy supervisor of elections, said Board Chairman Rupert Ross Jr. But no report came out of the Election Reform Committee, which a number of people are watching and awaiting action on issues that played out in the last election cycle, Ross said. After the Joint Board voted against paying $75 stipends to board members who showed up at a series of contentious meetings that did not reach quorum in February, St. Croix Board Member Adelbert Bryan, who moved the motion, refused to provide a report on the Election Reform Committee, of which he is the chairman. Ross said reasons for voting against paying the stipends varied. When reached by phone, Bryan said that some board members who were present for the February meetings that failed to reach a quorum also voted against the payments. "Now, they say not to compensate the members who were there," he said. "All you need to do is visit the law and rules and regulations to see who's right." St. Thomas-St. John Board Member Alecia Wells said that most members felt the meetings "were not officially called." Read More

WI: City of Brookfield Ballot Bags Found "Wide Open" in Waukesha County, Wisconsin | Truthout

Five out of six bags of bal­lots from first batch to be co­un­ted out of the City of Brook­field in Waukes­ha Co­un­ty, Wis­consin today were dis­covered “al­most wide open” dur­ing Day 9 of the statewide Sup­reme Court elec­tion “re­count.” The bags were open and un­sealed, ac­cord­ing to both photog­raphic evi­d­ence and an eye-witnesses ac­count from the co­unt­ing room. “When the bal­lot bags were taken out and placed upon the co­unt­ing table, we were lit­eral­ly stun­ned,” one of the citiz­en ob­serv­ers, Mary Mag­nuson, a Klop­penburg volun­te­er, told The BRAD BLOG this morn­ing. “5 out of the 6 bal­lot bags were al­most lit­eral­ly wide open, and bal­lots could be clear­ly seen.” The bal­lots in those bags were among the 14,000 said to have been cast in the April 5th elec­tion, but left off of Waukes­ha Co­un­ty’s tally as re­por­ted to the media on Elec­tion Night. Ear­li­er this week we of­fered a de­tailed re­port on the status of the statewide “re­count,” highlight­ing a host of dis­turb­ing and out­right viola­tions of the chain of cus­tody of bal­lots, in­clud­ing un­num­bered and re­num­bered bal­lots bags (many of them from Waukes­ha Co­un­ty); bal­lots dis­covered un­secured and/or left out of the origin­al count all togeth­er; and ex­ceeding­ly slop­py record-keeping and re­port­ing of “re­count” re­sults by the state’s chief elec­tion agen­cy, the Wis­consin Govern­ment Ac­coun­tabil­ity Board (GAB). In sum, we de­scribed the state of the “re­count” of the con­tes­ted elec­tion bet­ween Re­pub­lican in­cum­bent Just­ice David Pro­ss­er and his in­depen­dent chal­leng­er Asst. AG JoAn­ne Klop­penburg, as “a mess.” Today, after the newest re­vela­tions from the Waukes­ha Co­un­ty co­unt­ing room, it got a lot mes­si­er. Read More

WI: Many Problems Observed in Milwaukee 'Recount' of WI Supreme Court Election - But No Media Reports! |The BRAD BLOG

I worked on the recount in Milwaukee County last Thursday, and it was quite a disturbing and stifling experience. I left there puzzled and frustrated, and have been searching for news on 'anomalies' there, but find next to nothing. News reports have only stated there have been "no major problems," and things are "going smoothly"...

Kloppenburg stated at her recount request press conference:

There are legitimate and widespread questions about the conduct of this election – most visibly in Waukesha County, but also in counties around the state...We are aware of widespread anomalies that occurred...: an undervote in the cities of Milwaukee and Racine; the Waukesha situation; reports of long lines and photocopied ballots in several counties including Fond du Lac; significant changes in the vote totals in Winnebago County.

People have wondered if Waukesha County 'irregularities' were perhaps a red herring, and that maybe we should be looking more closely at what's happening in other counties around the state. I really think so. I've compiled some information on the recount problems in Milwaukee County, many of which I witnessed. Read More

WI: Voter ID Changes Will Force Training For Poll Workers - WISN Milwaukee

Republicans who control the Wisconsin state Assembly and have passed a bill that will require voters to show photo identification at the polls are promising a smooth transition."When you hand that photo ID with your name on there that information will be quickly and accurately conveyed to the poll workers, it will speed up the process, it will make our election system work better," Republican state Rep. Jeff Stone said.But two Milwaukee County officials told 12 News' Mike Anderson that the transition may come with some complications for voters and poll workers initially."We'll have to train our poll workers on what's allowable, how to handle provisional voting, and of course, they have to sign the poll books," said Sue Edman, of the Milwaukee Election Commission. "Everyone will be required to sign the poll book before they come in, before they get their ballot, so there are a lot of things that we're going to have to cover."Sandy Wesolowski, city clerk for Franklin, said, "I think people just need to be informed of what the process is and when I say people, I do mean the public and the election workers, it's an equal education thing." Read More


Congressman seeks to eliminate Election Assitance Commission | The Daily Caller

With America facing a debt crisis, legislatures have gone spelunking for areas of government to cut. Mississippi Republican Rep. Gregg Harper has surfaced with a proposal to eliminate what Ronald Reagan once quipped was the nearest thing to eternal life: a government agency. Harper’s bill would terminate the Election Assistance Commission (EAC), which Congress created in 2002 to implement the Help America Vote Act (HAVA). The act was passed primarily to distribute funds to update equipment, a job which Harper says is essentially complete. He is not the only one that believes that. Last year, the National Association of Secretaries of State reaffirmed a 2005 resolution requesting that Congress eliminate the EAC since the body had “served its purpose.” Harper estimates that getting rid of EAC would save taxpayers an estimated $14 million annually. “You have more than fifty percent of the budget going to administration, a little over 30 percent is going to programs,” Harper told TheDC, pointing out that within three years the agency doubled their staff without adding new responsibilities. “[EAC was] only designed to be there for a few years.” The bill is pending in the House subcommittee on Elections and currently has 21 co-sponsors. The subcommittee is expected to be mark up the bill this month. Read More


India: AGP blames machine manipulation for defeat - Hindustan Times

Assam's beleaguered main opposition Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) on Friday blamed "manipulation of electronic voting machines (EVM) by the ruling Congress party" for its rout in the assembly elections even as the Congress got a decisive mandate for a third successive term. “We knew the Congress would do something and they did so by manipulating the EVMs. Otherwise such a result would not have come," former two-time chief minister and senior AGP leader Prafulla Kumar Mahanta told reporters. Mahanta lost in Samaguri, one of the two seats he contested, to forest minister Rockybul Hussain, but won the Barhampur seat defeating the Congress candidate. "EVMs were manipulated by the government machinery at the instance of the Congress," former AGP president Brindaban Goswami said. Goswami, who won the Tezpur seat for the last four terms, lost this time to the Congress nominee. Read More

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