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“Fixing that”: States identify technological, personnel solutions to election delays

by Jacob Derr, Editor

One of the biggest stories talked about in the wake of Election Day 2012 were the long lines at the polls. As Election Night played out in real time on television, people were able to see firsthand–or not see, as the case was–the votes come in from districts in states that had closed their polls hours ago. Jump over to any local station in these areas, and you could probably find a local reporter talking to prospective voters, many of whom said they had been waiting in line for hours. President Obama, speaking the day after, declared: “we have to fix that.”

Some states have already started to address these problems. Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner filed a report earlier this month with his findings as to the best ways to reduce long lines and streamline elections. Florida saw some of the worst lines last year. Chief among Detzner’s proposed solutions include requiring county commissioners to pay for technological upgrades, giving election administrators greater leeway to make decisions that will shorten lines, and requiring that legislators have a word limit for the constitutional amendments they place on the ballot. He also suggested that, besides unpreparedness among election officials, one of the greatest problems leading to Election Day lines was the cutback passed by the state legislature on the number of early voting days and locations. He says that, despite the budget concerns that led to these being cut back after the 2010 election, they remain a pivotal reason why lines were so long. Continue reading

No Use Crying Over Spoilt Votes: A Report on the Election Law Program’s Wisconsin War Game

by Jacob Derr, Editor

On December 7, 2012, the Election Law Program held its third war game scenario in Neenah, Wisconsin. The war game focused on potential overvoting and the rights of Wisconsin voters to override their spoiled votes in a hypothetical governor’s race.

Carey Kleinman voted absentee several weeks before the election for governor of the state of Wisconsin, but due to a confusing error in ballot design, she accidentally voted for two gubernatorial candidates. The Republican, Democrat, and Green Party candidates were each listed on their own line, and then three other third party candidates were listed in a box next to the lines. Many voters, like Ms. Kleinman, mistakenly voted for two of these candidates–one from the box, and one from the lines. Ms. Kleinman is joined by 247 other absentee voters who believe their ballot may be spoiled.

There are two statutes in the state which pertain to accidental overvoting. The first allows a voter on Election Day “who, by accident or mistake, spoils or erroneously prepares a ballot” to “receive another, by returning the defective ballot.” Wis. Stat. §6.80(2)(c). Their initial vote is destroyed, and the re-vote is counted. On the other hand, another statute disallows absentee voters who mail or deliver a ballot to the clerk from getting another ballot from the county clerk, and they may not vote a second on Election Day. Wis. Stat. §6.86(6). All of the counties except for Stone County, where the plaintiffs reside, chose to allow absentee voters to re-cast their vote under a reading of the first statute. Continue reading

Interview: Doug Chapin, University of Minnesota

by Jacob Derr & Tony Glosson, Editors

Doug Chapin is the Director of the Program for Excellence in Election Administration at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs. His Election Academy seeks to provide education and research to help election administrators improve and adapt their performance in the future. He spent ten years at the Pew Charitable Trusts working for voting reform at the national and state level, and to improve voting technology, including internet and mobile applications. He will be moderating panelists at the Seventh Annual Election Law Symposium at William & Mary Law School this Thursday, February 21, 2013. We asked him a few questions in advance of his appearance….

You’ve looked at the issue of election day delays for a while now. What approach do you think state election administrators should take to address the issue?

I think the biggest thing that election officials need to do is get a handle on how many voters they expect on Election Day and how long it will take those voters to cast a ballot. So many of the problems we saw in 2012 were the result of underestimating the number of voters who would turn out – and in a few cases (like Florida) underestimating how long it would take voters to navigate a lengthy ballot. I even heard reports that in some jurisdictions where pollworkers were using e-pollbooks, pollworkers’ unfamiliarity with mouse and keyboard (as opposed to printed greenbar) created delays at the front of the line. Knowing a little more about these factors in advance can reduce the possibility of surprises on Election Day.

Do you think state election administrators could be using the Internet better than they currently are? While Internet voting might be a ways off, can the Internet better serve elections in other ways?

Internet voting is an issue that will generate huge disagreement in the election community … I often joke that everyone agrees that we’ll have Internet voting “someday”, but that consensus evaporates the minute you try to define when “someday” will be. That said, we are already seeing huge strides in the ways in which election officials are using the Internet to help voters with the voting process like online voter registration and polling place locators available via smartphone (even text message). In addition, military and overseas voters can now get unvoted ballots electronically; while this doesn’t include electronic return, it does cut considerably the time it takes for these voters to cast a timely and valid ballot.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, some jurisdictions loosed rules for voting location and even experimented with Internet voting (albeit imperfectly). Do you think these examples have anything to teach election administrators about running elections?

I think the biggest thing we learned from Sandy was the importance of contingency planning for election administration. The affected states did a heroic job making the best of a very bad situation, but probably would have liked to have had a better sense of what to do if the standard election infrastructure was damaged or unavailable. As bad as things were, the country is lucky that Sandy didn’t make landfall closer to Election Day. I know for a fact that election officials across the nation are thinking much harder about contingency planning because of what they saw happen during Sandy.

 

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Interview: Paul Herrnson, University of Maryland

by Jacob Derr & Tony Glosson, Editors

Dr. Paul Herrnson is the director of the Center for American Politics and Citizenship and a Professor of Government and Politics at the University of Maryland. He is also the principal investigator of a project funded by the Maryland State Board of Elections which is designed to research campaign financce and voting in the state and also to design a method to deliver absentee ballots over the internet. Dr. Herrnson’s scholarship focuses on voting technology and ballot design. He was recently quoted by the New York Times explaining the causes of longer ballots in some states than in others. Dr. Herrnson will be a panelist at Thursday’s Seventh Annual William & Mary Election Law Symposium. In advance of the event, we asked him a few questions about voting technology, now and into the future.

1. In your opinion, what is the single most efficient voting technology in use today?

I don’t think efficiency is the most important characteristic of the voting process. Integrity, security, equal access to the ballot, accessibility, and usability–including the ability to cast a vote as intended without the need of outside assistance–are more important.

That having been said, I think the most efficient voting technology in existence today is an internet-based absentee ballot delivery system. There are variations among these systems. The Center for American Politics and Citizenship at the University of Maryland developed a highly effective system for the State of Maryland that makes voting easy and very efficient. It also makes voting a possibility for citizens located abroad, including military personnel deployed to remote locations where voting was previously impossible.

2. If you could make one universal change to voting technology in the United States today, with the wave of a wand (assuming money was no issue), what would it be?

Just one! I would make sure that there were enough high-quality voting systems available so that every citizen who wished to vote in person either on Election Day or during an early voting period had to wait in line no longer than 30 minutes.

3. It seems like voting technology is all over the place in this country, even though HAVA attempted to address the issue of outdated voting machines back in 2002. Is another piece of federal legislation (and federal dollars) needed again or should we rely on states to address the problem?

The evidence suggests we cannot rely solely on the states. Some states have done an outstanding job, but others have shortcomings in terms of voting machines, poll books, the maintenance of accurate voter rolls, and other administrative matters.

Permalink: http://electls.blogs.wm.edu/?p=4944

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This Week: Seventh Annual W & M Election Law Symposium

by Jacob Derr & Tony Glosson, Editors

This Thursday, February 21, the William & Mary Election Law Society and Election Law Program are proud to present the Seventh Annual Election Law Symposium. The symposium features prominent election law attorneys, the Colorado Secretary of State, election law scholars, and Virginia registrars. The symposium centers upon voting delays and is titled “We Have to Fix That: Bipartisan Solutions to Election Day Delays.”

In advance of the event, State of Elections will be publishing special entries all week. We will have advance interviews with Paul Herrnson and Doug Chapin, two of Thursday’s panelists. We will take an in-depth look at the Wisconsin War Game conducted by the Election Law Program last December, which will be discussed at Thursday’s event. We will also highlight and outline the issues for Thursday’s panelists, including a look at what states around the country have been doing in the wake of election delays last year.

We hope you will join us in conversation by commenting on our coverage this week, and we hope you will participate in the Seventh Annual Election Law Symposium at William & Mary Law School this Thursday, February 21, 2013.

 

 

News Brief: Former W&M Election Law Symposium panelists will chair commission to reduce election delays

by Jacob Derr, Editor

President Obama took the first step yesterday to address election deficiencies by appointing two top election attorneys on opposite sides of the aisle to chair a Presidential Commission on Election Administration: Bob Bauer and Ben Ginsberg. Both are wise picks. Bauer served as White House Counsel during the first Obama administration, and general counsel to Obama’s reelection campaign. Ginsberg, a prominent Bush attorney during the historic 2000 election, ran Romney’s legal team in 2012.

Bauer and Ginsberg are no strangers to William & Mary Law. Both Bauer and Ginsberg sit on the Advisory Board to the Election Law Program (a joint program of William & Mary Law School and the National Center for State Courts). In 2009 the pair traveled to Williamsburg for William & Mary’s Third Annual Election Law Symposium, “Campaigning in the Courts: The Rise of Election Litigation.” The symposium examined the rising tide of litigation as a central campaign strategy. In conjunction with the symposium, Bauer and Ginsberg also filmed a web lecture entitled “A View from the Trenches: Advice for Judges Handling Election Related Lawsuits” for the Election Law Program website electionlawissues.org. Moderated by William & Mary Law School Dean Davison Douglas, the discussion focuses on trends in election litigation since Bush v. Gore. In addition, Bauer will travel again to William & Mary Law to participate in our 7th Annual Election Law Symposium on February 21st which will address Election Day delays. For more information see here.

William & Mary’s Election Law Program, a joint project of William & Mary and the National Center for State Courts, is proud of its connection to Bauer and Ginsberg, and the many other outstanding luminaries from the election law field who speak and teach at William & Mary.

See, “A View from the Trenches”:  http://www.electionlawissues.org/Video-Modules/View-from-the-Trenches.aspx

http://electls.blogs.wm.edu/?p=4912 Continue reading

The Battleground 2012: Introduction

by Jacob Derr & Tony Glosson

During the next two days we’ll be posting a special series of entries under the banner “The Battleground 2012.”

Over the past decade, every major presidential campaign and many state campaigns have litigated state election law as a part of their races. Candidates spend money, time, and human capital fighting in courtrooms in states across the nation, especially if the vote looks close. This is not merely a luxury, but an election strategy itself.

We’ll be taking a look at some of the fights going on in several states considered “battlegrounds” this election cycle, where either the presidential race is close or there is a state race that is strategic to the national party. We will examine a campaign finance free-for-all in Missouri, attempts to shoehorn third party candidates onto the ballot in Oklahoma, and the aftermath and continued importance of the legal wrangling in Ohio this fall.

We hope you will enjoy this series, which aims to take us inside battles that, in an election cycle as contentious as this one, will continue in the courtroom long after election day.

Jacob Derr & Tony Glosson are the editors of the State of Elections blog. Continue reading

Put the Sewing Kit Away: Puerto Rican Statehood Desired, But Not Likely

by David Noll, Associate Editor

The people of Puerto Rico have, for the first time ever, voted in favor of statehood in the United States. While all 50 states have citizen petitions to secede from the Union, Puerto Rico has chosen to enter our Union. Puerto Ricans voted against statehood twice in the Clinton administration, a time when a booming U.S. economy would have made statehood very beneficial. The vote for statehood now, in a weak U.S. economy, signals two big changes in Puerto Rico and the U.S.

The general expectation would be that Puerto Rico would want to keep its commonwealth status in weak economic times. In strong economic times Puerto Rico benefits from massive U.S. tourism and the easier it is for people to travel there, the better for tourism. In an economic slowdown, the lower tax rate that can be sustained in a protectorate (especially for the gambling industry) is more important to keep vacations to Puerto Rico cheap. But this would suggest Puerto Ricans should have voted against statehood in the November elections. Continue reading

Kansas’ Secretary of State: Protecting Voter Privacy, or Politics as Usual?

by Katherine Paige

A U.S. District Court ruling handed down Wednesday in Kansas granted disclosure of the names of provisional ballot voters to candidates in a tightly contested state house race, thereby clarifying the scope of voter privacy protection under federal law.

The ruling was issued in response to a federal lawsuit filed by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach to prevent disclosure of the names.

Kobach argued that federal election law protects voters’ identities from disclosure, citing § 302(a) of the Help America Vote Act (HAVA): “Access to information about an individual provisional ballot shall be restricted to the individual who cast the ballot.” U.S. District Court Judge Marten rejected Kobach’s argument, reading the plain text of the statute to protect only disclosure of how someone voted, not the identity of the voter. Continue reading

NYC League of Women Voters vs. Sandy & Partisanship: The Triumph of Community Over Mother Nature and the Need to End the Partisan Election Process

by Brenden Dougherty

The October surprise for the 2012 election cycle turned out not to be a terrorist attack or an extramarital affair, but rather a devastating super-storm that flooded portions of New York City and cut out power to millions of customers.  Many wondered if the damage to the city would cripple efforts to get voters to the polls on Election Day.  However, the League of Women Voters of New York City refused to surrender to the destruction.

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The League of Women Voters of the City of New York is an organization whose goal is to inform citizens about election matters and encourage citizens to vote.  On November 6, 2012, the organization pursued this mission with incredible vigor by assisting those voters affected by Hurricane Sandy.  Members set up a telephone hotline days before the election to answer questions from voters about whether their polling places would be open despite the damage from the floodwaters.  On the day prior to the election, league members answered more than 200 calls, and when the big day finally came, the League of Women Voters kept their phone hotline open from 8 in the morning until 9 at night.  Indeed, the organization was intent on ensuring that every resident in the city knew where to vote and how to get there, with particular emphasis on those without access to the Internet and those who were unable to withstand the heavy call volume coming into the Department of Elections.  As the League’s President Ashton Stewart stated on Election Day, “Our people power is minimal, but we’ve been keeping our four phone lines engaged all day, just letting people know where their nearest poll site is.”  Once the votes had been cast, the league’s work continued, with members traveling to polling locations to report the numbers to the Associated Press. Continue reading

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