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Tennessee Passes Paper Ballot Legislation
New from States - Tennessee
By Warren Stewart, Verified Voting Foundation   
May 18, 2008
Tennessee Voter Confidence Act Will Also Establish Random Post-Election Audits and Prohibit the Use of Wireless Devices in Voting Systems

On May 15, the Tennessee State Senate unanimously passed SB 1363 The Tennessee Voter Confidence Act, a sweeping reform of the state’s voting technology. Minor differences between the Senate bill and the House companion HB 1256, passed earlier in the week, are expected to be easily resolved and the bill sent to Gov. Phil Bredesen for his signature next week. The overwhelming support for the bill resulted from the steadfast efforts of state and national voting advocates and a report from the Tennessee Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations (TACIR) that recommended many of the measures in the legislation.

The bill would require that any voting system purchased and deployed in the state after January 1, 2009 use precinct-based optical scanners. The bill as amended in the Senate would use Federal funding provided to the state as a result of the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) to fund the replacement of currently deployed direct recording electronic (DRE) voting systems. The bill explicitly calls for counties to purchase ballot-marking devices to meet the Federal requirement to provide voters with disabilities a means of voting privately and independently.

In addition to moving the state toward voter marked paper ballot systems, the bill will also require each county election commission, for each election, to conduct mandatory hand count audits of at least 3% of the voter marked paper ballots of at least the top race in the federal, state, county, or municipal election, if on the ballot. This bill details the procedures for the audits, including the random selection of precincts, the timing of the audits, and the public announcement of the results of the audit, and provides for additional hand count audits when the results of the first audit show a variance of more than 1 percent between the hand count and the unofficial machine vote count to resolve any concerns and ensure the accuracy of the results.
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Missouri: Proposed Photo ID Legislation Failed
New from States - Missouri
By Missourians for Fair Elections   
May 16, 2008
Constitutional Change to Restrict Voting Rights Faced Groundswell of Opposition from Across the State

In a victory for all voters, Missouri lawmakers ended this year’s legislative session without a final vote on legislation that could have prevented up to 240,000 Missourians from voting. The proposed change would have altered Missouri’s constitution, allowing for strict citizenship and government-issued photo ID requirements that would make Missouri one of the toughest states in the country for eligible, law-abiding citizens to register to vote or cast a ballot.

“I am relieved that I will be able to vote this fall,” said Lillie Lewis, a St. Louis city resident, “I’ve been voting in every election since I can remember, but if I needed my birth certificate, that would be the end of that. I hope this is the last we hear of this nonsense.” Lillie Lewis was born in Mississippi, but the state sent her a letter stating they have no record of her birth.

Birdell Owen, a Missouri resident who was displaced by hurricane Katrina, also voiced her relief. “I should be able to participate in my democracy,” she said, “even if Louisiana can’t get me a copy of my birth certificate. I’m glad Missouri politicians had the sense to protect my right to vote.”
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Hans von Spakovsky Withraws from FEC Nomination
New from National Issues - Federal Election Commission (FEC)
By Warren Stewart, Verified Voting Foundation   
May 16, 2008
Likely Confirmation of Caroline Hunter Wil Create Opening at Election Assistance Commission

Bowing to opposition from Senate Democrats and citing the strain on his family caused by the protracted controversy over his nomination, Hans von Spakovsky has withdrawn his name for consideration for a seat on the Federal Election Commission. Von Spakovsky has been a lightning rod for criticism since his recess appointment to the FEC in December, 2006, primarily for his actions while in the Department of Justice.

Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) issued a statement calling Mr. Von Spakovsky’s withdrawal “a victory for our electoral process” and suggesting that the process of confirming a slate of nominees for the FEC would proceed quickly. The commission has lacked the quorum necessary for official action since the confirmation stalled over Mr. Spakovsky’s nomination last Fall.

A confirmation hearing was already scheduled by the Senate Rules and Admistrtion Committee for May 21 to consider a list of nominees that did not include Mr. Spakovsky and it is widely assumed that the process will move quickly with a full Senate vote perhaps even before Memorial Day. A  spokesman for Senate Rules Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein told Bloomberg News "Mr. von Spakovsky's decision to withdraw will certainly help expedite approval of the other commissioners". 

Significantly the new slate of nominees includes Caroline Hunter, who joined the Election Assistance Commission last year and currently serves as vice chair. If she is confirmed as expected, it will leave an opening at the EAC heading into the November elections.

Download the resignation letter.

West Virginia Snapshot
New from States - West Virginia
By Sean Flaherty, Verified Voting Foundation   
May 12, 2008
West Virginia law requires voter-verifiable paper records on all voting systems, and a manual count of 5% of precincts is required as part of the canvass under §3-4A-28(d) of the West Virginia Code. ES&S is the only vendor currently providing equipment in West Virginia. 
  • According to the Secretary of State's web page,  34 counties, with almost 59% of the state's registered voters, live in counties in which the only voting system for polling-place voting is the ES&S iVotronic DRE.
  • In 15 counties, the iVotronic is used for accessibility at the polls, but the primary system is centrally counted optical scan ballots, with the M650 counting the paper ballots. About 21% of the voters live in these counties.
  • 2 counties use hand-counted paper ballots, with the iVotronic for accessibility.
  • 4 counties use optical scan systems, with the AutoMARK ballot-marking device used for accessibility. Only two of these counties, Putnam and Kanawha Counties, possess precinct-count scanners. The largest of these four, Kanawha County, is also the largest in the state, with over 130,000 voters. Kanawha uses the iVotronic for accessibility at the polling place, but the AutoMARK for early voting. 
In all, it seems fair to estimate that the majority of votes cast in the primary will be cast on the iVotronic.  Mail-in absentee balloting requires an excuse, so the vast majority of votes in the DRE counties will, in fact,  be cast on the iVotronic.

As we have noted in previous state snapshots, the paper trail for the iVotronic, known as the Real Time Audit Log (RTAL), has been the subject of some criticism for its design. Printer jams have also occurred with the RTAL, compromising about 9% of the machines in Guilford County, NC in the 2006 general election. The Ohio EVEREST review Academic Team report noted a risk that even voters careful to check the RTAL might not notice if their vote was cancelled quickly after printing. Combined with the severe security vulnerabilities of the machines, this is a serious concern.

The West Virginia Secretary of State's office reports that as of April 25, West Virginia has 1,183,495 registered voters. Each party's primary will be open to independents and to members of that party.  The Secretary of State reports that there are 665,234 registered Democrats,  347,760 Republicans, 156,199 voters registered with no party, and the remainder scattered among small parties.  The in-person early voting period ran from April 23 - May 10.
Women's Voices sows fresh confusion in West Virginia and Kentucky
New from States - West Virginia
By Facing South   
May 13, 2008
This article was posted at southernstudies.org.

The controversy that recently erupted in North Carolina over confusing, misleading and at times illegal voter registration tactics used by Women's Voices Women Vote has not discouraged the D.C. nonprofit from continuing similar efforts in Appalachian states with primaries this month.

Officials in West Virginia and Kentucky, which hold primary elections today and May 20 respectively, tell Facing South that the group is causing similar confusion among the prospective voters it's contacted in those states -- many of whom are already registered to vote.

As documented in our recent investigation into the group's activities in North Carolina, Women's Voices racked up official complaints from elections officials in Arizona and Colorado as long ago as November 2007. In February, the group was the target of a police investigation in Virginia that resulted in Women's Voices promising to stop making anonymous robo-calls. But two months after making that promise, the group showed up in North Carolina and again made anonymous robo-calls in the week and a half before the primary, telling people they'd receive a voter registration packet in the mail.

The calls and mailers raised concerns among North Carolina voting rights advocates because they gave registered voters the impression that they were not properly registered. In addition, the robo-calls were illegal under the state's laws because they did not identify the group making them, leading North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper to issue a cease-and-desist order. The N.C. NAACP filed a formal voter-suppression complaint with Cooper and notified the U.S. Department of Justice, in part because of the differences in the calls that went to black voters (listen to the call here) vs. white voters (audio file here).

Now Facing South has learned that Women's Voices Women Vote has gone on to engage in some of the same problematic behaviors in West Virginia and Kentucky.
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Grayson Issues Warning to Kentucky Citizens about Voter Registration Effort
New from States - Kentucky
By Kentucky Secretary of State Trey Grayson   
May 12, 2008
Secretary of State Trey Grayson issued a warning to Kentucky citizens that his office has learned that a voting group has sent thousands of potentially confusing mailings to women across Kentucky asking them to register to vote.  These mailings could cause confusion for Kentuckians because the deadline to register to vote in the upcoming May primary has already passed.  According to the group, “Women’s Voices. Women Vote.” (WVWV), the voter registration mailings were part of a larger nationwide mailing. Grayson encouraged voters to still consider registering to vote so that they will be eligible for the fall general election, but wanted to make sure that citizens understood that any new registrants registering after the April 21st deadline will not be able to vote in the May primary.

“I appreciate Women’s Voices Women Vote letting us know about this possibly confusing situation for Kentucky voters,” stated Secretary Grayson.  “It is important to stress that citizens can still register to vote for the November general election, but they will not be eligible to vote and in the upcoming primary.”

Page Gardner, President of WVWV, stated in her letter that:
“…Kentucky residents will receive this mail after the deadline for registering to vote to participate in the upcoming primary election.  Please be aware that the mailing is not intended to encourage registration specifically for the primary, but simply to encourage voter registration in general.  The mailing clearly indicates that the deadline to register to vote by mail for a particular election in Kentucky is 29 days before the election … We hope that this unfortunate coincidence in timing does not lead to any confusion or aggravation for either your state’s voters or registrars.”
Grayson had previously noted at a March press conference that many third-party registration groups are in Kentucky now and are trying to register voters.  He stated that there have been some complaints to the State Board of Elections about some of these voter registration efforts.  While most voter registration efforts are very helpful, they sometimes can confuse voters.
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North Carolina NAACP Files Formal Vote Suppression Complaint Against Women's Voices Women's Vote
New from States - North Carolina
By North Carolina NAACP   
May 05, 2008
Alerts U.S. Department of Justice of concerns

The North Carolina NAACP has filed a formal complaint of possible voter suppression against Women's Voices Women Vote, the D.C. nonprofit that as we revealed earlier this week was behind the deceptive and illegal robo-calls made to state residents. The N.C. NAACP hand-delivered its complaint today to state Attorney General Roy Cooper and State Board of Elections Executive Director Gary Bartlett. It's also alerted the U.S. Department of Justice that it's collecting more information from its national network and is contemplating filing a formal complaint with that agency.

N.C. NAACP President Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II announced the filing of the complaint at a press conference held this afternoon outside the N.C. Department of Justice. He was joined by his group's attorney, Al McSurely, and Bob Hall of Democracy North Carolina. The state Attorney General's office is already investigating Women's Voices, but the N.C. NAACP and Democracy North Carolina want to be parties to that investigation.

"When you mess with the right to vote, you're messing with everything that is fundamental in our democracy," Barber said.


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EAC Selects D.C. Elections Director for Chief Operating Officer Post
New from National Issues - Election Assistance Commission (EAC)
By EAC Media Release   
May 09, 2008
The U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) today announced that Alice P. Miller will join the EAC as its chief operating officer, effective June 2, 2008. Ms. Miller currently is in charge of elections in the District of Columbia, where she serves its 340,000 active voters and manages a $5.2 million budget.

"We are very pleased to have someone with Alice's unique experience, both as a manager and an election official," said EAC Chair Rosemary Rodriguez. "The EAC has a lot of work ahead, and I am confident that she will help us make sure election officials have the tools they need to conduct accessible, accurate and secure elections."

Ms. Miller will oversee the day-to-day operations at the EAC in six program areas: Voting Systems Testing and Certification, HAVA Funding, Election Administration Improvement Programs, Research, Administration and Human Resources. Her leadership role will also figure centrally as the agency focuses on developing and integrating policies and procedures aimed at improving efficiency and transparency.

Ms. Miller is the executive director of the District of Columbia Board of Elections and Ethics. During her 12 years in this role, she has been responsible for overseeing and managing all aspects of elections, from voter registration to ballot access for candidates and measures. She also has directed the management of voter rolls and supervised the recruitment, training and deployment of 2,500 poll workers.

In addition to her duties as chief elections official for the District of Columbia, Ms. Miller also served in 2003 as president of the National Association of State Election Directors. She holds a juris doctor degree from Northeastern University School of Law and a bachelor of arts from Boston College.
South Dakota: Secretary of State Warns Against Bogus Mailings
New from States - South Dakota
By Rapid City Journal Staff   
May 08, 2008
This article appeared in the Rapid City Journal.

Secretary of State Chris Nelson is warning South Dakotans that a Boston organization called the "Voter Participation Project" is sending mailings into South Dakota, saying residents -- under "state law" -- must re-register to vote. The mailing lists the Secretary of State's address, adding the appearance of credibility.

"The language in this mailing is not true," Nelson said. "This organization is misleading our citizens into thinking they need to fill out another voter registration form in order to vote."

Nelson said he has received a number of complaints about the mailings and that some of the mailings have gone to deceased South Dakotans. Others have targeted older citizens.

"My elderly mother received a mailing and was concerned that she needed to fill it out in order to vote," Nelson said.

He noted that voters aren't required to re-register when they move, but he does encourage the practice. Nelson said any voter wishing to view their registration status should go to www.sdsos.gov and click on the Voter Information Portal. The site shows where voters are registered, where polling places are and offers a sample ballot for the primary election.
VA Retreats on Voter Registration Efforts for Wounded Veterans
New from National Issues - Voting Rights
By Steven Rosenfeld, AlterNet   
May 08, 2008
This article was posted at AlterNet and is reposted here with permission of the author.

The Department of Veterans Affairs has retreated on a recently announced policy to allow voter registration drives at its facilities where veterans' groups and others would assist wounded former soldiers to participate in the 2008 presidential election.

"It is VHA (Veterans Health Administration) policy to assist patients who seek to exercise their right to register and vote; however, due to Hatch Act (Title 5 United States Code (U.S.C.) 7321-7326) requirements and to avoid disruptions to facility operations, voter registration drives are not permitted," the new policy directive by Michael J. Kussman, Under Secretary for Health said.

The Hatch Act restricts political activities by federal employees.

The VA directive rolls back a new policy announced in late April where the agency agreed, after mounting public and political pressure, to assist wounded veterans with registering to vote and voting for federal elections. While the VA still says it will help former soldiers on an as-requested basis with registration and voting, curtailing voter registration drives brought swift condemnation from Capitol Hill and advocacy groups.
 
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