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The Voting News Weekly: August 22-28, 2011

The Voting News Weekly: August 22-28, 2011

Cuyahoga County proposes to mail absentee ballots despite election official's ban | cleveland.com

Congressman John Lewis marked the dedication of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in Washington DC with an editorial in the New York Times. The Arizona Attorney General filed a lawsuit challenging the Voting Rights Act. Election integrity activists and computer scientists were quick to point out that the statewide upgrades to New Jersey's Sequoia Advantage electronic voting machines would not address fundamental flaws in the system. Defying a ban imposed by the Ohio Secretary of State, Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald announced plans to continue sending absentee ballot applications to all registered voters. Maine's voter registration system was infected by malicious software. The earthquake that shook the mid-Atlantic caused some disruption of primary elections in Virginia. Libya's National Transitional Council announced plans for elections within eight months and the League of Women Voters is preparing a legal challenge to Wisconsin's Voter ID requirement.

Aug 27, 2011 05:09 am

Editorials: A Poll Tax by Another Name | John Lewis/NYTimes.com

AS we celebrate the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, we reflect on the life and legacy of this great man. But recent legislation on voting reminds us that there is still work to do. Since January, a majority of state legislatures have passed or considered election-law changes that, taken together, constitute the most concerted effort to restrict the right to vote since before the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Growing up as the son of an Alabama sharecropper, I experienced Jim Crow firsthand. It was enforced by the slander of “separate but equal,” willful blindness to acts of racially motivated violence and the threat of economic retaliation. The pernicious effect of those strategies was to institutionalize second-class citizenship and restrict political participation to the majority alone.

We have come a long way since the 1960s. When the Voting Rights Act was passed, there were only 300 elected African-American officials in the United States; today there are more than 9,000, including 43 members of Congress. The 1993 National Voter Registration Act — also known as the Motor Voter Act — made it easier to register to vote, while the 2002 Help America Vote Act responded to the irregularities of the 2000 presidential race with improved election standards.

Despite decades of progress, this year’s Republican-backed wave of voting restrictions has demonstrated that the fundamental right to vote is still subject to partisan manipulation. The most common new requirement, that citizens obtain and display unexpired government-issued photo identification before entering the voting booth, was advanced in 35 states and passed by Republican legislatures in Alabama, Minnesota, Missouri and nine other states — despite the fact that as many as 25 percent of African-Americans lack acceptable identification.

Having fought for voting rights as a student, I am especially troubled that these laws disproportionately affect young voters. Students at state universities in Wisconsin cannot vote using their current IDs (because the new law requires the cards to have signatures, which those do not). South Carolina prohibits the use of student IDs altogether. Texas also rejects student IDs, but allows voting by those who have a license to carry a concealed handgun. These schemes are clearly crafted to affect not just how we vote, but who votes.

Full Article: A Poll Tax by Another Name — NYTimes.com….

See Also:

States’ Rights Redux: Voting Rights Act + 46 | Jackson, Arnwine, Mathis/Politico.com
States Dispute Criticism of New Voter Laws, Move to Offer Photo ID Free of Charge | FoxNews.com…
House Dems say state voter-ID laws a GOP plan to suppress minority votes | The Hill
In conservative New England state, voter ID vetoed | peoplesworld
Big voter turnouts and perceptions of fraud | NewsObserver.com…

Aug 27, 2011 05:06 am

Arizona: State sues over Voting Rights Act | Arizona Republic

Arizona has filed another lawsuit challenging the authority of the federal government. This time, the focus of the federal challenge is the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Arizona is the first state to challenge the constitutionality of sections of the federal law that forbid states from enacting a law or process that denies or limits someone’s right to vote based on their race or color.

The sections at issue require states that failed to meet certain criteria in 1972 to get federal approval for any state legislation or procedural change that could impact voting. Nine states failed to meet that criteria, which included having low voter turnout and not offering election materials in other languages. The nine states are Arizona, Alabama, Alaska, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia.

Arizona in 1974 implemented bilingual voting, but Congress never removed Arizona — or other states that now comply — from the list. The criteria has never been updated. So for more than 30 years, Arizona and its municipalities have had to get approval from the U.S. Department of Justice for things such as legislative or school-district boundary changes, revisions to driver’s licenses and laws requiring tax hikes to go before the voters.

Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne, who filed the lawsuit, said the original criteria for pre-approval are no longer relevant or constitutional, and Arizona no longer needs the federal government’s scrutiny.

Horne filed the lawsuit Thursday in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., and asked for a hearing before a three-judge panel. The lawsuit asks the court to either eliminate the original criteria for scrutiny as well as the pre-approval requirement or at least exempt Arizona from the requirement.

“The historical Voting Rights Act was meant to overcome horrendous voting discrimination that occurred in the South,” Horne said. “But they implemented an irrational system. We are being severely penalized for something that happened in 1972 that was corrected in 1975. It’s not only unconstitutional, I think you could describe it as crazy.”

He said the things the federal government must review are so broad that many have nothing to do with discrimination, such as school-district boundaries and tax increases. Dozens of pieces of Arizona legislation must get approval each year, which can sometimes take months and delay enactment. Nearly all get that approval.

Full Article: Arizona sues over Voting Rights Act.

See Also:

Department of Justice says South Carolina Voter ID law can’t be enforced this year | Examiner.com…
New election law approved – except for most controversial portions | OrlandoSentinel.com…
Groups ask Justice Department to block voter ID law | TheState.com…
Federal observers to monitor primaries in 11 Mississippi counties | CNN.com…
Carded at the Polls – Will the Justice Department stop the assault on voting rights for minorities, the elderly, and the poor? | prospect.org…

Aug 26, 2011 09:09 am

New Jersey: County voting machines get chip upgrades | The Daily Journal

Cumberland County recently replaced computer chips in all its voting machines and completed background checks on five technicians who service them as a safeguard against tampering and inaccuracy. But those upgrades, which are part of a statewide initiative, don’t sufficiently address flaws in the system used to cast votes, according to a woman who says an electronic machine cheated her and her husband in a recent election in Fairfield. The recent upgrades to county voting machines were not related to the Fairfield case. Activists say, however, the Fairfield case just adds ammunition to their argument that New Jersey needs a paper record of election results.

The results of the June 7 election in Fairfield showed Cynthia Zirkle and her husband, Ernest, lost the election for two seats on the county Democratic Committee. Suspecting more people had voted for them than the results showed, the Zirkles obtained affidavits from voters that confirmed their worst fears, they say. Preliminary results showed Vivian and Mark Henry receiving 34 and 33 votes respectively in the election for two committee seats, though only 43 total votes were cast. Cynthia Zirkle said they obtained 30 affidavits from residents who voted for them. As a result of a petition by the Zirkles, Cumberland County Superior Court Judge David Krell ordered the machine impounded.

“Were you to have the paper ballot with the optical scan, that election would have been done and decided in 10 minutes and the Zirkles would not have had to file a lawsuit,” said Irene Goldman, chairwoman of the Coalition for Peace Action, based in Princeton, which is fighting for paper voting records.

Last week, a technology expert from Princeton University, Andrew Appel, who has been critical of the touch-screen machines, was scheduled to evaluate the machine used in the Fairfield election.

“Winning is not the issue,” said Cynthia Zirkle. “The issue is why did this occur, and how do we prevent it in the future?”

Like nearly every county in New Jersey, Cumberland uses electronic AVC Advantage voting ma-chines made by Sequoia Voting Systems. None of the Sequoia machines used in New Jersey produces a paper record, according to the website verifiedvoting.org….

Dominion Voting Systems of Denver, which bought out Sequoia, did not respond to an email request for comment. Cumberland County recently finished replacing three chips in all its 120 machines, except the one that was impounded. The same upgrades are being made to all of New Jersey’s 1,100 electronic voting machines as a result of a lawsuit filed in 2004 by the Coalition for Peace Action and other activists who want machines to produce a paper record.

The upgrades are costing the state $700,000.

New Jersey lawmakers passed a law in 2005 that by 2008, all elections should be verifiable by paper record, but the state lacks the money to follow through.

Full Article: County voting machines get chip upgrades | The Daily Journal | thedailyjournal.com….

See Also:

Setback to Election Commission as India paper trail pilot poll reports errors | menafn.com…
Judge wants expert witness, voting machine docs in Fairfield case | NJ.com…
“Human error” found in Fairfield New Jersey election results | NJ.com…
State Supreme Court dismisses challenge to electronic voting machines in Travis County | statesman.com…
Voting machine fears hit home in Cumberland County | NJ.com…

Aug 26, 2011 09:06 am

Ohio: Cuyahoga County proposes to mail absentee ballots despite election official’s ban | cleveland.com

Cuyahoga County’s executive plans to continue sending absentee ballot applications to all voters, circumventing a ban the state’s top elections official had imposed on boards of election. County Executive Ed FitzGerald announced Thursday that his administration will pay about $330,000 for a mass mailing, if County Council approves the expense Monday. Seven council members, including Republican Mike Gallagher, have already signed on as sponsors.

“The vote-by-mail program which Cuyahoga and other counties across the state were running were working. It was good government,” said FitzGerald, a Democrat. “That’s a principle that is worth going out on a limb for.”

FitzGerald’s solution might be short-lived, though. Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted said he plans to look for a “legislative fix” that would prevent county governments from paying for the mailings in the future.

Since 2006, the Cuyahoga board of elections has regularly sent ballot applications to about 650,000 active voters. Hamilton and Franklin counties had similar programs.

But Husted on Monday outlawed boards from mailing the applications, stating that policies should be uniform throughout Ohio.

In addition, a controversial state law — which will take effect in six weeks unless opponents collect more than 230,000 signatures to trigger a referendum — will prevent county boards of elections from paying return postage on applications or paying postage for completed ballots.

FitzGerald’s plan “kind of flies in the face of what they were trying to achieve in their legislation,” said Husted spokesman Matt McClellan.

Even before Husted’s ban, the Cuyahoga board of elections split along partisan lines Monday on a vote to continue sending applications. Republicans opposed the program, in part because Husted — the board’s boss — had opposed it as far back as February.

Full Article: Cuyahoga County proposes to mail absentee ballots despite election official’s ban | cleveland.com….

See Also:

Cuyahoga County Board of Elections splits on voting-by-mail provision | cleveland.com…
Secretary of State bans county officials from sending voters unsolicited absentee ballot applications | WJW
Hold On Ohio, Rhode Island’s Voter ID Bill Isn’t the Same | Rock the Vote Blog
A Poll Tax by Another Name | John Lewis/NYTimes.com
State sues over Voting Rights Act | Arizona Republic

Aug 25, 2011 09:16 am

Maine: Voter registration system breached | Bangor Daily News

The Maine Secretary of State’s Office said Wednesday it is investigating a potential security breach in the computer system that contains records on Maine’s registered voters. The state was notified Wednesday afternoon by the cybersecurity monitoring arm of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security that Maine’s Central Voter Registration system had been compromised. The breach was detected as part of a regular security check.

Maine Secretary of State Charlie Summers said a computer in an undisclosed town office apparently had been infected by malicious software — commonly known as malware — that may have then infected the centralized data system.

“I am in the process of assessing what, if any, information has been compromised,” Summers said in a statement released Wednesday afternoon. “I have taken immediate action to shut this computer down and disable the username and password assigned to the town clerk.”

The Central Voter Registration system, or CVR, contains personal information on registered voters including names, addresses, dates of birth and, in some cases, driver’s license numbers. The system does not contain Social Security numbers, Summers said in an interview Wednesday.

Summers declined to name the town office where the breach appears to have originated until his office more thoroughly understands the extent of the situation and whether other towns’ computers also were compromised. He said his office hoped to have more information late Wednesday or early Thursday.

Summers said they strongly suspect that some information was accessed, however.

“We just don’t know how much or the size” of the breach, he said.

Full Article: Maine voter registration system breached — Maine Politics — Bangor Daily News.

See Also:

Voter database breach came from Millinocket, Secretary of State says no information compromised | Bangor Daily News
Canada isn’t ready for online voting | National Post
Governments, IOC and UN hit by massive cyber attack | BBC News
Americans Elect Internet Vote for President? Consider how it worked in DC 2010 | Irregular Times
Florida voting database leaked, can they keep anything safe? | Cyber War News

Aug 25, 2011 09:14 am

Virginia: Earthquake Disrupts, But Doesn’t Derail, Primary Election | Sun Gazette Newspapers

County election officials rocked and rolled with the punches, even as the Aug. 23 earthquake briefly threw a wrench into operations at precincts across Arlington. But the show went on: Polls closed on time at 7 p.m., and the first results were in four minutes later.

“Everybody handled it beautifully,” Registrar Linda Lindberg said of staff at the 51 precincts, who like the rest of the local area were jolted by the 5.8-magnitude quake just before 2 p.m. on the day of the commonwealth’s primary election.

A few tiles fell down at the polling room at Taylor Elementary School, and some precinct operations were forced outside when the buildings they occupied were closed either temporarily or for the day. Given the glorious late-summer weather, there were few complaints.

“They’re having a great time; it’s a beautiful day,” said Lindberg of the situation at George Mason University’s Arlington campus, where polling operations were moved into a courtyard area.

Most polling places were closed no more than 30 minutes immediately following the earthquake, election officials said. While the county government headquarters on Clarendon Boulevard was closed following the earthquake, election officials stayed through the evening to gather and post results.

Full Article: Sun Gazette Newspapers — from Archives — Arlington > News.

See Also:
Democrats may join GOP in fielding ‘fake’ candidates in recalls | JSOnline
A Poll Tax by Another Name | John Lewis/NYTimes.com
State sues over Voting Rights Act | Arizona Republic
County voting machines get chip upgrades | The Daily Journal
Cuyahoga County proposes to mail absentee ballots despite election official’s ban | cleveland.com…

Aug 25, 2011 09:05 am

Libya: Leaders promise elections next year | Telegraph

The National Transitional Council promised to hold elections next April to choose a permanent government for the nation ruled by Muammar Gaddafi for 42 years.

Mustafa Abdel Jalil, the TNC chairman made the promise as world leaders prepared to meet to discuss Libya’s future after Gaddafi. “In eight months we will hold legislative and presidential elections,” Mr Jalil said.

“We want a democratic government and a just constitution. Above all we do not wish to continue to be isolated in the world as we have been up to now.”

Mr Jalil and other members of the TNC have said they will not seek office in Libya at the elections, but they will still play a central role in the country’s immediate future.

Full Article: Libya: leaders promise elections next year — Telegraph.

See Also:

A Poll Tax by Another Name | John Lewis/NYTimes.com
State sues over Voting Rights Act | Arizona Republic
County voting machines get chip upgrades | The Daily Journal
Cuyahoga County proposes to mail absentee ballots despite election official’s ban | cleveland.com…
Voter registration system breached | Bangor Daily News

Aug 22, 2011 08:14 am

Wisconsin: Photo ID law for voters to face lawsuit | JSOnline

In approving one of the strongest photo ID requirements in the country for voters, GOP lawmakers and Gov. Scott Walker violated a few little-noted paragraphs of the state constitution — so say opponents of the law who are preparing a legal challenge to it.

But Republicans dismissed that claim, saying that in writing the legislation earlier this year they took care not to violate the federal or state constitution. They said the current objections over the state’s charter show photo ID opponents are recognizing the difficulties of a federal lawsuit over the law.

A lawsuit being prepared by the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin will allege that the law violates right to vote provisions of the state constitution not present in the U.S. Constitution. The group plans to file its lawsuit in Dane County Circuit Court, its attorney Lester Pines said.

“It is absolutely clear that the Legislature paid no attention to the (right to vote) provisions of the Wisconsin Constitution when it passed voter ID,” Pines said. “I’m not aware of any point in which they came up.”

Pines said that requiring a photo ID amounts to another restriction on voting that isn’t authorized by the state constitution. He said that small numbers of state residents are citizens but lack a birth certificate because of unusual circumstances in their lives, making it difficult to obtain an ID.

The law will require voters to show photo identification at the polls starting with next year’s presidential primary. The law approved in May ended a decade-long quest by GOP officials and made Wisconsin the 11th state to have approved requiring some form of photo ID at the polls.

Democrats say the $7 million measure is costly and unnecessary and will do little to prevent voter fraud while disenfranchising minority, elderly and rural voters. Republicans say the measure should prevent voter fraud and provide more public confidence in elections.

Rick Esenberg, a Marquette University law professor and the head of what he describes as a “conservative public-interest law firm,” said that he believes opponents of the photo ID law are focusing on the state challenge because Republican supporters of the law did a good job of following rules laid out by earlier federal Supreme Court decisions on voter ID laws in other states.

But he doubted the challenge would meet the high burden needed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the law was unconstitutional.

“It’s an interesting argument, and I can see why (opponents) want to do it rather than beating their head against the federal wall,” said Esenberg, who is the president of the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty.

Full Article: Wisconsin’s photo ID law for voters to face lawsuit — JSOnline.

See Also:

Groups ask Justice Department to block voter ID law | TheState.com…
State puts brakes on plan to close DMV sites | JSOnline
Walker administration working on plan to close offices where people can obtain driver’s licenses and Voter IDs | BusinessWeek
Election officials wary over cost, implementation of Wisconsin voter ID bill | LaCrosse Tribune
Senate passes Wisconsin voter ID bill, sends to Walker | Wisconsin Law Journal

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