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National Issues

Attention Voters: Here's What You Have to Do to Make Sure You Get to Vote PDF  | Print |  Email
General Topics
By Steven Rosenfeld, AlterNet   
October 21, 2008
Voters should verify their voter registrations are current and then vote early to avoid Election Day delays at polling places.

This article was posted at AlterNet and is reposted here with permission of the author.

Ignore the partisan attacks on new voters and voter registration groups. Call your county election office to ensure your registration information is correct. Vote early to avoid Election Day delays, or use an absentee ballot if you know how to fill one out.

For those voting on Election Day, know where your polling place is located, what ID to bring (especially new voters) and expect lines. Call an election protection hotline if there is trouble. But be confident that you will vote if you have followed your state's registration laws.

These are the messages from voting rights advocates as the partisan attacks on 2008's newest voters and voter drives continue with two weeks to go before Election Day.

"People should not be worried," said Tova Wang, vice president for research at Common Cause, "but they should educate themselves. For the overwhelming majority of people, there will be no problem ... But people should not let any tactic that is intended to discourage them from voting stop them."

"I would verify my registration," said Gerry Hebert, executive director of Washington's Campaign Legal Center and a former Voting Section chief at the Justice Department. "I would vote early… I would consider absentee voting. The only caution against that (means of voting) is if you make a mistake, you might not get to correct it."

New York Times: The Acorn Story PDF  | Print |  Email
Voting Rights
By New York Times   
October 18, 2008
This editorial appeared in the New York Times on October 16, 2008.

In Wednesday night’s debate, John McCain warned that a group called Acorn is “on the verge of maybe perpetrating one of the greatest frauds in voter history” and “may be destroying the fabric of democracy.” Viewers may have been wondering what Mr. McCain was talking about. So were we.

Acorn is a nonprofit group that advocates for low- and moderate-income people and has mounted a major voter-registration drive this year. Acorn says that it has paid more than 8,000 canvassers who have registered about 1.3 million new voters, many of them poor people and members of racial minorities.

In recent weeks, the McCain campaign has accused the group of perpetrating voter fraud by intentionally submitting invalid registration forms, including some with fictional names like Mickey Mouse and others for voters who are already registered.

Based on the information that has come to light so far, the charges appear to be wildly overblown — and intended to hobble Acorn’s efforts.
States Get Mixed Reviews on Readiness for Voting Machine Problems PDF  | Print |  Email
General Topics
By Common Cause, Brennan Center, Verified Voting   
October 17, 2008
Citing Improvements, Election Experts Call for Backup Measures to Secure the Vote on Nov 4th

With millions of Americans expected to confront an array of voting technologies on Nov. 4, today election administration experts from the Brennan Center for Justice, Common Cause and Verified Voting issued a 50-state report card that grades each state on its preparedness for election system breakdowns and offers concrete steps election officials can take in the weeks before the election to make sure every vote is counted accurately. The report, Is America Ready to Vote? State Preparations for Voting Machine Problems in 2008, finds that many states have made dramatic improvements in their voting systems, but nevertheless urges election officials to have backup measures in place – like emergency paper ballots and sound ballot counting procedures – to ensure the integrity of the vote.

“There’s no question that in the last few years, election officials around the country have made dramatic improvements that will make it much less likely that voters are disenfranchised due to voting system failures,” said Lawrence Norden, director of the Voting Technology Project at the Brennan Center. “Unfortunately, there is still much work to be done to ensure that every voter will get to vote and every vote will be counted if something goes wrong with voting systems on Election Day,” he stated.

Is America Ready to Vote? evaluates each state by four criteria: procedures for issuing emergency paper ballots, reconciling ballot tallies, providing paper records of votes cast, and post-election audits. The report reveals a broad range of preparedness across the country to address Election Day voting system meltdowns.
Project Vote Call to Protect the Votes of Americans Facing Foreclosure PDF  | Print |  Email
Voting Rights
By Project Vote   
October 14, 2008
The economic crisis now looms as the most important issue in the upcoming election, but there are concerns that partisan forces may be afraid to hear what those hit hardest by the downturn have to say at the polls. Recent reports in several states have indicated that partisan operatives are considering challenging the right to vote of Americans who have lost, or are at risk of losing, their homes to foreclosure.

Today the voting rights group Project Vote sent letters to both major political parties in 10 states—AZ, CO, FL, GA, MO, NC, NM, NV, PA, and VA—urging them to "oppose and refrain from" using lists of home foreclosures as the basis for "voter caging" operations. Project Vote also sent letters to secretaries of state in each of these states, outlining existing state and federal legal protections for voters, and urging election officials to "take all lawful steps" to protect foreclosure victims and other Americans from being disenfranchised based solely on returned mail or residency challenges. 

"Losing your home doesn't mean you lose your right to vote," says Project Vote Attorney Teresa James, who is the author of the Caging Democracy: A 50-Year History of Partisan Challenges to Minority Voters. "Challenging every voter whose residence was or is being foreclosed upon would serve no purpose but to interfere with the orderly conduct of the election and intimidate those voters who are not aware of their legal options under the law."
New York Times: States’ Actions to Block Voters Appear Illegal PDF  | Print |  Email
Voting Rights
By Ian Urbina   
October 09, 2008
This article was published in the October 9, 2008 edition of the New York Times.

The actions do not seem to be coordinated by one party or the other, nor do they appear to be the result of election officials intentionally breaking rules, but are apparently the result of mistakes in the handling of the registrations and voter files as the states tried to comply with a 2002 federal law, intended to overhaul the way elections are run.

Tens of thousands of eligible voters in at least six swing states have been removed from the rolls or have been blocked from registering in ways that appear to violate federal law, according to a review of state records and Social Security data by The New York Times.

Still, because Democrats have been more aggressive at registering new voters this year, according to state election officials, any heightened screening of new applications may affect their party’s supporters disproportionately. The screening or trimming of voter registration lists in the six states — Colorado, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, Nevada and North Carolina — could also result in problems at the polls on Election Day: people who have been removed from the rolls are likely to show up only to be challenged by political party officials or election workers, resulting in confusion, long lines and heated tempers.

Some states allow such voters to cast provisional ballots. But they are often not counted because they require added verification.

Election Assistance Commission Accredits Ciber as Fifth Voting System Test Lab PDF  | Print |  Email
Election Assistance Commission (EAC)
By U.S. Election Assistance Commission   
October 07, 2008
The U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) has accredited CIBER, Inc. to be the fifth voting system test laboratory under the commission’s Voting System Certification and Testing Program. Click here for more information about CIBER and other EAC accredited labs. Commissioners also approved EAC staff recommendations regarding CIBER, including on-site testing observation and technical assessments as provided under Section 4.5.2 of the EAC Lab Manual.

Commissioners accredited CIBER, Inc. following a recommendation by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), and after an independent EAC review of non-technical issues such as conflict-of-interest policies, organizational structure, and recordkeeping protocols. In addition to CIBER, Inc., Wyle Laboratories, InfoGuard Labs, iBeta Quality Assurance and SysTest Labs have also been accredited by EAC. All five labs will test against the 2005 Voluntary Voting System Guidelines.
EAC Issues Four Quick Start Management Guides PDF  | Print |  Email
Election Assistance Commission (EAC)
By U.S. Election Assistance Commission   
October 06, 2008
Topics: Serving Voters in Long Term Care Facilities, Provisional Ballots, Recounts and Canvassing and Certifying an Election

The U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) has issued four new Quick Start Management Guides for election administrators that provide guidance on serving voters in long term care facilities, conducting a recount, provisional ballots and canvassing and certifying an election. The Quick Start Management Guides are available at

These Quick Start guides are developed in partnership with election officials from around the country, and are part of a series of EAC resources aimed at promoting the administration of fair, accurate, transparent and efficient elections.
Social Security Asks Six States to Review Voter Registration Verification Procedures PDF  | Print |  Email
Voting Rights
By Social Security Administration   
October 06, 2008
Michael J. Astrue, Commissioner of Social Security, on Friday contacted the Secretaries of State for Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, Nevada, North Carolina and Ohio and asked them, based onm extraordinarily high levels of requests to SSA, to review their procedures to ensure that they are fully complying with applicable federal laws relating to the registration of voters. Under the Help America Vote Act of 2002, most States are required to verify the last four digits of the Social Security number of only those new people seeking to register to vote who do not possess a valid State driver’s license.

“It is absolutely essential that people entitled to register to vote are allowed to do so,” Commissioner Astrue stated. “While there may well be legitimate explanations for the high levels of requests, I am confident that the States we have contacted will review their procedures promptly to ensure that they are in full compliance with federal law.”
Brennan Center Report on Voter Purges PDF  | Print |  Email
Voting Rights
By Myrna Pérez, Brennan Center for Justice   
October 03, 2008
Download Executive Summary
Download Report
Download Appendices


Voter registration lists, also called voter rolls, are the gateway to voting. A citizen typically cannot cast a vote that will count unless her name appears on the voter registration rolls. blocked ballot boxYet state and local officials regularly remove—or “purge”—citizens from voter rolls. In fact, thirty-nine states and the District of Columbia reported purging more than 13 million voters from registration rolls between 2004 and 2006. Purges, if done properly, are an important way to ensure that voter rolls are dependable, accurate, and up-to-date. Precise and carefully conducted purges can remove duplicate names, and people who have moved, died, or are otherwise ineligible.

Far too frequently, however, eligible, registered citizens show up to vote and discover their names have been removed from the voter lists. States maintain voter rolls in an inconsistent and unaccountable manner. Officials strike voters from the rolls through a process that is shrouded in secrecy, prone to error, and vulnerable to manipulation.

pull quoteWhile the lack of transparency in purge practices precludes a precise figure of the number of those erroneously purged, we do know that purges have been conducted improperly before. In 2004, for example, Florida planned to remove 48,000 “suspected felons” from its voter rolls. Many of those identified were in fact eligible to vote. The flawed process generated a list of 22,000 African Americans to be purged, but only 61 voters with Hispanic surnames, notwithstanding Florida’s sizable Hispanic population. Under pressure from voting rights groups, Florida ordered officials to stop using the purge list. Although this purge was uncovered and mostly stopped before it was completed, other improper purges may go undetected and unremedied.  

EAC Commissioners Confirmed by U.S. Senate PDF  | Print |  Email
Election Assistance Commission (EAC)
By U.S. Election Assistance Commission   
October 03, 2008
The United States Senate has confirmed the nominations of Rosemary E. Rodriguez, Donetta L. Davidson, Gracia M. Hillman and Gineen Bresso Beach as Commissioners of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission. Commissioners Rodriguez, Hillman and Davidson were reappointed to a second term on the Commission. Commissioner Beach was appointed to a first term.

"We are very pleased to welcome Gineen Beach to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission," said Chair Rodriguez. "Gineen brings a unique and valuable contribution to EAC, having served in positions that focus on both state and federal election law. The EAC, election officials and voters will benefit from her experience and expertise."

Prior to her appointment with EAC, Commissioner Beach was the minority elections counsel for the Committee on House Administration.  She previously served as a policy advisor to former Maryland Governor Robert L. Ehrlich, Jr. where her primary area of focus was on election law.  She also served as an attorney-advisor for the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and a judicial law clerk for the Honorable Arrie W. Davis, in the Maryland Court of Special Appeals. Commissioner Beach replaces Commissioner Caroline Hunter, who resigned in July, 2008. Her term expires on December 12, 2009.
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