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National Issues

S. 3212: A Step Backward for Voting System Transparency PDF  | Print |  Email
Federal Legislation
By Verified Voting Foundation   
July 26, 2008
Download Verified Voting's complete statement on S. 3212

On June 26, 2008, Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Senator Robert Bennett (R-UT) introduced the Bipartisan Electronic Voting Reform Act (S. 3212). The press release accompanying the introduction of S. 3212 observes “the ability to ensure there is an accurate, reliable and transparent method for Americans to cast and count votes is fundamental to our democratic process.” Unfortunately, S.3212 falls far short of ensuring accuracy, reliability, and transparency in our elections and is likely to do more harm than good.

The bill contains some generally commendable provisions relating to election security (Section 4), voting system testing and certification (Section 5), and ballot layout design (Section 10), but the positive aspects of these provisions are outweighed by the problems created by many of the other sections of this bill. Despite its worthy motivations, the bill fails to carry out its objective.

A number of troubling provisions require us to urge opposition to S. 3212:
 
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Three States Accused of Illegally Purging Voter Lists PDF  | Print |  Email
Voting Rights
By Steven Rosenfeld, AlterNet   
July 26, 2008
The article was posted at AlterNet and is reposted here with permission of the author.

The states are swapping data files to find duplicate names, but civil rights attorneys say they are not following federal law to remove them.

Election officials in a handful of states appear to be ignoring the federal law dictating the way registered voters may be purged from voter rolls, civil rights attorneys say.

National voting rights groups have contacted officials in Kansas, Michigan and Louisiana in recent weeks because those states appear to be purging registered voters after election officials found duplicate names and birthdays of people on their voter lists and in out-of-state databases, such as driver's license records.

The states are assuming that a more recent driver's license or voter registration in another state indicates that the voter has relocated, meaning the voter registration tied to their prior address is no longer valid. While purging voters who move, die or are imprisoned is a routine part of managing elections, the federal law governing purges -- the National Voter Registration Act -- lays out a multiyear process of trying to contact voters to confirm a change of address before deleting them from voter rolls.

The election attorneys say the NVRA process seeks to err on the side of protecting voting rights and cannot be circumvented by what appears to be a duplicate voter registration.

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We Must Get Voting Right PDF  | Print |  Email
General Topics
By U.S. Representative Rush Holt (D-NJ)   
July 26, 2008
The following letter was published in the July 26, 2008 edition of the New York Times.

To the Editor:

Re “Influx of Voters Likely to Test New Machines” (front page, July 21):

The ability to vote is the most important right, as it is the right through which citizens secure all other rights. In recent years doubts about whether every vote counts and is counted have grown to a high level.

As your article reminds us, the 2008 election will be historic, and it comes on the heels of two highly controversial presidential elections and numerous controversial local elections. This time, we must get it right.

It is time we stopped using elections as beta tests for unreliable electronic voting machines. Despite failed attempts so far, Congress should still pass a national standard requiring that all voters can record their votes on paper (either manually or with the use of ballot marking devices) and that in every election, randomly selected precincts be audited. 
EAC Chair Urges Recruitment of Two Million Poll Workers for Presidential Election PDF  | Print |  Email
Election Assistance Commission (EAC)
By EAC Media Release   
July 24, 2008
U.S. Election Assistance Commission Chair Rosemary Rodriguez today emphasized the need to be prepared for record turnout this presidential election by calling for a recruitment goal of two million poll workers.

"We have seen historically high voter turnout during the primaries and continued high registration rates this year," said Chair Rodriguez. "Poll workers have always been central to ensuring smooth and accurate elections, and we will need them more than ever in November. Recruiting two million poll workers is an ambitious goal, but I believe if we can get the word out to the public, they will respond and participate.

"Election officials throughout the nation anticipate high voter turnout to continue in the general election. Preparation for high turnout includes extra ballots and voting machines, but most important, we must have as many poll workers--including bilingual poll workers--as possible to prevent long lines."
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Senate Bill Introduced to Require VA to Provide Access to Voter Registration PDF  | Print |  Email
Federal Legislation
By Senator Dianne Feinstein Media Release   
July 22, 2008
Legislation would give veterans access to voter registration services at VA facilities

U.S. Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and John Kerry (D-Mass.) today introduced a bill to require the Department of Veterans Affairs to provide voter registration services to veterans in the department’s care.

The senators introduced the legislation after receiving a response from Veterans Affairs Secretary James B. Peake earlier this month, again denying the senators’ request that Secretary Peake designate VA facilities as voter registration agencies. Senators Harry Reid (D-NV), Barack Obama (D-Ill), Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Patty Murray (D-WA) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) are co-sponsors.

“This is about giving those who have fought to spread democracy and freedom the right to exercise that freedom in the voting booth,” Senator Feinstein said. “I believe the cost of providing voter materials is minimal. And given the sacrifices that these men and woman have made, providing easy access to voter registration services is the very least we can do.”

“It shouldn’t have taken a legislative solution to fix a bureaucratic problem, but that’s what it’s come down to in the name of common sense and patriotism,” Senator Kerry said. Making it easier not harder for veterans to vote is the least we can do in our democracy for those who fought for democracy around the globe. The cost of getting these voter materials to veterans is tiny, but its meaning is bigger than any of us.”
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EAC Releases Report on HAVA Spending by States PDF  | Print |  Email
Election Assistance Commission (EAC)
By EAC Media Release   
July 22, 2008
The U.S. Election Assistance Commission has delivered a report to Congress on state government spending of Help America Vote Act (HAVA) funds. The report covers expenditures from April 2003 through December 2007 that are authorized under Sections 101, 102 and 251 of HAVA. The final report may be downloaded at www.eac.gov.

States have spent 67 percent of the nearly three billion in funding they received under these three sections. HAVA does not specify the year in which the funds must be used, so the roughly $1.2 million (including interest earned) of unspent funds remain available to states.

For funds spent in 2007, 64 percent went toward acquiring and administering voting system technology. The remainder was divided among the following election activities:

    * 17 percent on developing and implementing computerized statewide voter registration databases.
    * 11 percent on federal election administration improvement.
    * 7 percent toward uncategorized election administration costs.
    * 1 percent on provisional voting and polling place information for voters.

Funds covered by the report are described below:
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Brennan Center: Better Ballots PDF  | Print |  Email
General Topics
By Lawrence Norden, David Kimball, Whitney Quesenbery, and Margaret Chen   
July 21, 2008
Download PDF of study

The notorious butterfly ballot that Palm Beach County, Florida election officials used in the 2000 election is probably the most infamous of all election design snafus. It was one of many political, legal, and election administration missteps that plunged a presidential election into turmoil and set off a series of events that led to, among other things, a vast overhaul of the country’s election administration, including the greatest change in voting technology in United States history.

Yet, ironically, eight years after the 2000 election, and billions of dollars spent on new voting technology, the problems caused by poor ballot design have not been fully and effectively addressed on a national level. Year in and year out, we see the same mistakes in ballot design, with the same results: tens, and sometimes hundreds, of thousands of voters disenfranchised by confusing ballot design and instructions, sometimes raising serious questions about whether the intended choice of the voters was certified as the winner.

Problems with voting technology have, rightly, attracted much public attention. Scores of independent reports—including a major study published by the Brennan Center—have documented the vulnerabilities of electronic voting machines. More importantly, voting system failures lead to long lines on Election Day, voters being turned away at the polls, and lost votes. These are serious problems, and we must do what we can to ensure that poor technology and procedures do not continue to disenfranchise voters.

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VA Ban on Voter Registration Drives for Injured Vets Becomes National Fight PDF  | Print |  Email
Voting Rights
By Steven Rosenfeld, AlterNet   
July 18, 2008
This article was published by AlterNet and is reposted here with permission of the author.

The Department of Veterans Affairs, which oversees medical care for injured veterans, is locked in a growing dispute with 19 secretaries of state -- Democrats and Republicans -- who are urging the federal agency to allow voter registration drives for former soldiers living at its facilities.

In a letter this week to Connecticut Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz, who earlier this month was barred from registering voters at a VA facility and has since been organizing top state election officials, Secretary of Veterans Affairs James B. Peake said his agency would not allow registration drives unless "these efforts be coordinated through the VA Voluntary Service (VAVS) office at each VA medical center."

"This policy is the result of careful deliberation and consideration for the needs and rights of our patients, concerns about disrupting facility operations, and the need to ensure VA is not involved in partisan political activities," Peake wrote in his July 15, 2008, letter.

Voter registration advocates said the VA policy will not help injured veterans to vote.

"It's official. State officials cannot help veterans vote," said Scott Rafferty, a Washington, D.C., attorney who has been fighting the VA in court to allow voter registration drives at its Menlo Park campus in northern California. "No one, except fingerprinted volunteers, can tell them anything about elections -- and only if they ask."

"No VA staff can help. That's been made clear, too," he said. "It's unbelievable."
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Rep. Lofgren Issues Statement on Voting Memorandum PDF  | Print |  Email
General Topics
By Rep. Zoe Lofgren   
July 16, 2008
Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) today issued the following statement on a recent Heritage Foundation memorandum on non-citizen voting.

I have recently been made aware of a Heritage Foundation “Legal Memorandum” authored by failed FEC nominee Hans von Spakovsky entitled “The Threat of Non-Citizen Voting.” After reviewing this “legal” memorandum, I’ve come to the realization that it is nothing more than political fear mongering masquerading as scholarly research. I’d go so far as to characterize it as intellectual fraud. The report sites a few anecdotal sources as evidence that undocumented immigrants are actively working to undermine our election systems. Little verifiable evidence exists to support such claims. By far, the largest problem facing our voting systems is not non-citizen voting, it is the continued disenfranchisement of minority and working poor Americans.  

Republican operatives have continually used “voter fraud” as a way to justify their own efforts to disfranchise minority voters. This memo is yet another piece of this disinformation campaign, which is designed to stoke the fears of Americans. After participating in numerous hearings and listening to countless hours of testimony on our elections process, the true fear is that Americans from all across the country are being actively denied a voice in our political process. In light of recent votes by my Republican colleagues in the House it’s also becoming quite clear that they prefer disenfranchisement.
Rep. Holt Statement on House Voting Legislation PDF  | Print |  Email
Federal Legislation
By Representative Rush Holt   
July 15, 2008
Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ) issued the following statement in support of legislation, similar to his own emergency bill introduced earlier this year, which would reimburse states and localities to make available paper ballots for the November 2008 elections. The bill failed to secure the two-thirds needed for passage:

I rise in support of H.R. 5803, a bill that would reimburse states and localities to make paper backup ballots available for this November's 2008 election.

I want to complement Rep. Lofgren for introducing this important measure that would allow more Americans to vote than might otherwise be able if their only option is failed electronic voting. The bill would allow more Americans to vote when facing long lines, something that has been documented widely.
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