Tag Archives: election integrity

Voters Eager to Have A Stake in Historical Election: Early Voting Predicts Strong Turnout Tuesday

Cross-posted at Project Vote’s blog, Voting Matters

Weekly Voting Rights News Update

By Erin Ferns

In the last two weeks voter registration and early voting has shown that voters are geared up and ready to take part in what has been called a “historical event” on November 4.

Last week, voters scrambled to register at drive-thru election office windows in Southern California, busy street corners in Wichita, Kansas, and post-naturalization ceremonies in Los Angeles County. These efforts to meet the Oct. 20 registration deadlines in some states are seen as evidence of a surge in voter registration among historically underrepresented communities, including newly naturalized Latino and Asian citizens, and Black voters as well as formerly disenfranchised ex-felons.

This week, early vote turnout gave a sneak peek at what voters and election officials can expect at the polls on Tuesday, and it’s “going to be busy as heck” said one official in Orange County, Calif., where registration rates went up 15 percent since 2004. To accommodate the high turnout, which is expected to exceed “the recent high-water mark in voter participation set in 2004,” some states are taking precautionary measures, adding new machines and even extending early voting.

Experts predict “huge turnout” of as much as 132 million people, or 60.4 to 62.9 percent of eligible voters this year, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. The last presidential election brought 60.7 percent of eligible voters to the polls, “the highest since 1968, when 61.9 percent cast ballots.” Election officials in many states, including Ohio, Arizona, New Mexico, and Minnesota, have predicted turnout as high as 80 percent.

“We are going to have long lines,” with some states expecting voting machine shortages, according to Curtis Gans, director of the Center for the Study of the American Electorate. “But long lines in this election, as in 2004, are not going to deter people from voting, because of the emotional context of this election. They didn’t deter people in 1992 or in 2004, and they’re not going to deter people now.”

Managing long lines has already been a point of contention in key states. In Georgia, voters waited four to five hours to cast early ballots on Wednesday, in spite of last minute changes Tuesday to reduce the eight hour waits voters encountered on Monday, according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution. A combination of “high turnout, staff and equipment shortages and state computer problems slowed the process.”

Like Gans predicted, however, these issues are not stopping voters from showing up at the polls bright and early.

“It’s a historical event and I want to be part of it,” said Hampton, Ga. voter, Dara Christian, who arrived at her precinct to be second in line shortly after 5 a.m. on Wednesday. According to a Tuesday AJC report, a million ballots had already been cast during more limited voting in the last few weeks. And about 125,095 of those were cast as of Tuesday night.

While officials in various counties addressed some of the problems by supplying extra equipment and staff, according Tuesday’s AJC report, the Democratic Party and election officials are still pleading with Secretary of State Karen Handel to extend early voting in order to support high turnout, including state Democratic Party chairwoman Jane Kidd and DelKalb County Commissioner Lee May.

“It is not my intention to lay blame on any particular, person or body of government,” May wrote in a letter to Handel and Ga. Governor Sonny Perdue. “It is my desire that we don’t inadvertently squelch the desire of so many Georgians to participate in the political process.”

“Handel said Tuesday that Georgia law doesn’t include a mechanism to allow her or Perdue to extend early voting,” according to AJC. Handel said that even if she could allow the extension, it would be a “logistical disaster,” dismissing Kidd’s plea an “orchestrated effort of that political party across the country.”

In Florida, on the other hand, after record turnout Monday,Governor Charlie Crist listened to similar concerns and signed an order to extend early voting hours  to 12 hours a day, over the objections of Secretary of State Kurt Browning, according to the Miami Herald.

“It’s not a political decision,” said Crist, a Republican. “It’s a people decision.”

In Broward and Miami-Dade counties alone, more than 43,000 people cast their votes Monday, “roughly 5,000 more than on any other previous day.”

Other efforts to help ensure Election Day runs smoothly for voters are underway, including the National Campaign for Fair Elections’ hotline, 1-866-OURVote. The line has already received up to 4,000 calls a day, according to New York Times blog, The Caucus. The group plans to have 20 call centers set up around the country by Tuesday with a capacity of handling 100,000 calls on Election Day.

“The notion behind the non-partisan National Campaign phone line is that if problems erupt at polling places on Election Day, the group will have lawyers at the ready to respond to the complaints,” the Times reports.

“So far, most calls have been from voters experiencing problems with their registration along with those trying to locate their polling place, according to Ken Smukler, president of InfoVoter Technologies, the Bala Cynwyd, Pa.company that which manages the call system.”

Among those who will benefit from the voter protection hotline and other precautions learned are the large numbers of new voters around the country. Since 2004, voter registration rose 15 percent in Orange County, Calif. where citizens were allowed to register at a drive-thru elections office window last week, according to the Associated Press. Alabama has 76,000 new voters since 2004, two thirds of whom are African-American, according to the Mobile Register-Press. Last week, two thousand voters registered on a street corner in Kansas, about a quarter of whom were ex-felons who until then thought they were ineligible to vote, according to MSNBC. Newly naturalized Latino and Asian citizens in Los Angeles County doubled last year’s registration rate with 64,000 new voters this year, according to the Los Angeles Times. Up until last week, community groups were “walking precincts, conducting phone banks, holding forums, and distributing multilingual voter guides” to help new citizens become a part of the democratic process.

Historically, Latino, Asian, and African-American citizens have registered and voted at alarmingly lower rates than their White counterparts. In 2006, just 41 percent of African-Americans and 32 percent of Asians and Latinos, respectively, voted in the midterm election compared to 52 percent of Whites, according to Project Vote report, Representational Bias of the 2006 Electorate.  But that may just be changing this year.

“We want people to know we’re here and our next generation is going to be very important in the process,” said recently naturalized citizen, Carlos Romero in the Los Angeles Times.

In Other News:

In Ohio, Wary Eyes On Election Process: Fears of Fraud and Blocked Votes – Washington Post

CLEVELAND — With Ohio still up for grabs in next week’s presidential election, the conversation here has expanded from who will carry the state to how — the nitty-gritty of registration lists, voting machines, court challenges and whether it all will play out fairly.

Provisional Ballots Get Uneven Treatment – Wall Street Journal

WASHINGTON — Provisional ballots, one of the fixes the government implemented following the disputed 2000 election, are often proving to be a poor substitute for the real thing.

Erin Ferns is a Research and Policy Analyst with Project Vote.

Veterans Advocates Skeptical Of New V.A. Registration Policies

Cross-posted at Project Vote’s blog, Voting Matters

Weekly Voting Rights News Update

By Erin Ferns

We recently wrote about the Department of Veterans Affairs decision to open its facilities to voter registration drives after months of urging by voting rights groups and elected officials. This week, however, “VA voter suppression continues,” as AlterNet’s Steven Rosenfeld wrote Tuesday, with voter registration efforts being blocked in California and the VA general counsel criticizing the pending Veterans Voting Support Act (S. 3308), which would bolster federal protection of voter registration opportunities for all wounded veterans. With just three weeks left to register voters in most states, advocates say now is the time to support voter registration efforts in VA facilities and, most importantly, it needs to be explicitly protected from now on through federal law.

“Credibility of VA on this issue is very low right now,” said Senator Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. during a hearing on the Veterans Voting Support Act on Monday, according to Rick Maze of the Army Times. VA general counsel Paul Hutter says that the VA is being “proactive” in working with election officials and nonprofit groups to facilitate voter registration, but that “VA still believes that some limits are needed.”

These limits were enforced this week at a San Francisco VA facility when the nonprofit group Veterans for Peace was blocked from helping register voters in time for the 2008 presidential election. According to Rosenfeld, the group filed a legal motion in California federal court Monday, claiming that VA was trying to require Veterans for Peace members to go through the same screening process that VA volunteers must go through – a process that would delay registration efforts. “In contrast, the VA does not require screening for most other visitors,” Rosenfeld says.

Citing testimony from the Senate Rules and Administration hearing on S. 3308, the motion notes that of the 5.5 million patients in VA facilities, volunteers registered only 350 patients and 64 outpatients. “Those statistics show the VA’s internal process of screening volunteers who are then approved to register voters has had the effect of suppressing the vote of injured veterans in 2008,” writes  Rosenfeld.

As VA voter registration is administered solely at the whim of the VA itself, advocates warn that, without a federal mandate to provide voter registration and information to the nation’s wounded veterans, their right to vote could easily be lost. “VA can easily reverse course, again, and issue another policy banning voting assistance,” or could “easily fail to implement their new policy,” says Veterans for Common Sense executive director and S. 3308 supporter, Paul Sullivan.

Hutter claims a broad interpretation of the proposed law would open VA facilities as a voter registration agency to the public, potentially disrupting VA facilities and invading privacy of patients. Feinstein says that the intent of the bill is not to serve the public and that she is willing to make amendments.

“However, she did not see disruption as a major problem,” Maze writes, “because setting up a voter registration drive could be as simple as putting a table in the lobby of a hospital or clinic.”

In a recent New York Times report announcing the new VA policy, writer Ian Urbina quotes Sen. Feinstein: “Given the sacrifices that the men and women who have fought in our armed services have made, providing easy access to voter registration services is the very least we can do.”

The companion bill to S. 3308, H.R. 6625 passed the House by voice vote on Wednesday.

Quick Links:

S 3308: Veterans Voting Support Act

Senate Committee on Rules and Administration

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.

H.R. 6625: Veterans Voting Support Act

Rep. Robert A. Brady, D-Penn.

Veterans for Peace

Veterans for Common Sense

In Other News:

Voter Database Glitches Could Disenfranchise Thousands – Wired

Electronic voting machines have been the focus of much controversy the last few years. But another election technology has received little scrutiny yet could create numerous problems and disenfranchise thousands of voters in November, election experts say.

Ohio Republicans Use Lawsuit To Fight for State’s Crucial Votes – Wall Street Journal

The Ohio Republican Party spearheaded a lawsuit Friday over a directive from the office of Democratic Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner that would allow some early voters to register and vote on the same day.

Democrats accuse state GOP of hypocrisy – Wisconsin State Journal

Democratic Party Chairman Joe Wineke said Monday it was hypocritical for Republicans to defend mistakes in their mailing databases while pursuing a lawsuit over the state’s flawed voter registration system.

ACLU: Mississippi felons denied voting rights – Associated Press

JACKSON – Convicted felons in Mississippi are denied their constitutional right to vote in presidential elections, the American Civil Liberties Union alleges in a federal lawsuit filed Friday.

Erin Ferns is a Research and Policy Analyst with Project Vote’s Strategic Writing and Research Department (SWORD).

Stopping Voter Suppression: The Press Gets It Right in Virginia

Cross-posted at Project Vote’s blog, Voting Matters

Weekly Voting Rights News Update

By Erin Ferns and Nathan Henderson-James

We spend a lot of time in these news updates showing how charges of voter fraud are used to discredit voter participation efforts and prime the pump for voter suppression efforts, such as the passage of voter ID bills, pushing for proof of citizenship, engaging in draconian voter purge efforts, and imposing sever restrictions on voter registration drives. We have also spent a lot of time carefully delineating the politics behind these efforts, starting with our March 2007 report The Politics Of Voter Fraud and continuing on in these diaries to name but two venues.  

What is striking about how the process of disenfranchisement and voter suppression works is how much it relies upon the media to repeat and amplify the breathless and hyperbolic accusations of so-called voter fraud against voter registration drives. If journalists were to spend any time at all investigating the sensational claims – often made by people with a direct partisan interest in the outcome of an election –  they would find that the accusations are mostly taken out of context, are limited to a few instances, and have never, ever, been proven to have resulted in any fraudulent vote being cast.

Sadly, the history of this issue shows that it has been bereft of this kind of basic journalism, even through the 2006 mid-term elections. This is important because haphazard reporting of partisan claims of voter fraud without checking the facts is how the media helps these voter suppression efforts. These stories not only deter potential voters from getting on the rolls, but, as noted above, inspire bad election reforms aimed at disenfranchising voters, particularly those that are currently underrepresented in the electorate.

A prime example of this kind of lazy journalism in recent weeks comes from Las Vegas where local reporters simply repeated accusations of fraud made by the Clark County clerk against ACORN without even bothering to contact ACORN to see how their drive was being managed.  

The group’s registration drive has reached one million voters nationwide [Full disclosure – it is run under a Joint Effort Agreement with Project Vote. ed.] and, according to one article, election officials see “rampant fraud” in the 2,000 3,000 cards submitted by the group each week in Las Vegas. This week, the Associated Press reported that the state set up a “voter fraud task force” to look for “election irregularities and instances of questionable voter registration and intimidation,” directly citing issues with voter registration drives.  Neither of these Nevada reports provided the facts of voter fraud, what it is and how it relates to the voter registration process. Most importantly, neither reports cite real examples of the intentional casting of an illegal ballot – the real definition of voter fraud – in the state.

However, it may be that the hard work Project Vote and others – including the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University, DEMOS, and the Advancement Project – have engaged in over the past few years debunking the voter fraud myth is beginning to change the way journalists approach these stories.

This week, several publications broke this trend by debunking recent Virginia GOP allegations of widespread voter fraud as a result of massive voter registration drives that primarily target youth, low income and minority communities – constituencies that have a long history of being underrepresented on the voting rolls and in the voting booth.

Since the beginning of the year, an unprecedented 147,000 people – “almost half under the age of 25” – registered to vote in Virginia, according to Monday’s Washington Post lead editorial. Pointing to a recent incident where three members of the Community Voting Project were arrested for falsifying voter registration cards, Republican Party chairman, Del. Jeffrey Frederick of Prince William County claims widespread voter fraud is a hidden agenda in voter registration drives.

Remarkably, however, this time the press decided to investigate this inflammatory accusation. This charge is “utterly baseless” and is “unsupported by election officials, police or prosecutors,” the Post notes in the editorial. In fact, the Post described the accusation as an exercise in “fear mongering” by Frederick, amplified by his allegations that citizens who register with these drives are also vulnerable to identity theft, a claim that amounts to nothing more than “a classic attempt to suppress votes,” the Post editorialized.

Bob Bauer, at his Web site, www.MoreSoftMoneyHardLaw.com, takes the critique one step further, looking at both the accusations and the Post’s coverage. “And the Post omits mention of another feature of Fredericks’ suppression gambit,” wrote the election law attorney. “He also called for an ‘investigation,’ well understanding that his words would creep into the press on his remarks and filter out into the electorate.”

In a prime example of the kind of journalism that should happen as a matter of course when these kinds of serious allegations are made, a Virginia reporter for the Danville Register & Bee reached out to local registrars to get a real idea of the voter registration process and how unlikely it is to lead to voter fraud.

“‘It’s not easy to falsely register somebody,’ said Pittsylvania County Registrar Jenny Saunders, who explained that in addition to the registrar going over the application for obvious errors (like missed questions), there’s a statewide database all applications are checked against.”

Partisans out for political gain perpetuate fear about the integrity of the election system, something that the media often picks up unfiltered. “In fact,” the Post wrote, “it is groundless accusations and cynical fear-mongering such as Mr. Frederick’s that are injecting the real venom, and the true threat, into the elections.

Below are some important facts to consider when writing (or reading) reports on voter registration fraud:

Voter Registration Drives Rev up in Presidential Election Years

The fact that young people and minorities are expanding the voting rolls this year does not indicate that something is awry with voter registration drives. Indeed, most large-scale drives target those populations least represented in the electorate. Further, in high interest election years, especially presidential, more people are motivated to help register voters or get registered themselves. Stories about so-called voter fraud should be evaluated in terms of the number of cards thought to be fraudulent versus the total number of cards the registration drive is gathering. In Virginia, a handful of fake cards were found in a drive that could register more than 30,000 people.

Voter Registration Fraud Does Not Lead to Voter Fraud

“We have the checks and balances…to makes sure the wrong person doesn’t get registered and the right person does,” said Va. election official, Saunders in the Register & Bee.

Further, professionally-run drives expect almost a third of all applications to be duplicates or incomplete, no matter how well-trained the canvasser or volunteers are. This does not mean they are all illegal. However, the registrar is required to ensure all applications contain accurate information “including whether the applicant is a citizen, their Social Security number, date of birth, full name, valid residence, whether they’ve been convicted of a felony, or whether they have been determined mentally incapable…If any of that is left off…the application is denied,” according to the Register & Bee. Note: Not all states require Social Security number information to be filled out on  a voter registration card. For more information on your state’s requirements on registering to vote, visit ProjectVote.org.

Allegations of Voter Fraud are Often Motivated By Partisan Gain

“If you’re not winning at the ballot box, try your chances in the registrar’s office, or in court,” the Virginia Pilot editorialized.  “[That’s] [h]ardly democratic.”

Following the success of voter registration drives that have increased registration among low income, minority and young people, almost all claims of rampant voter fraud have come from Republican leaders, despite lack of substantiation of a real problem. The most vicious and corrupt efforts made were part of what has become the US AttorneyGate scandal that subsequently exposed the widespread politicization of the Department of Justice and led to the resignation of Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez. All of that unraveled because former US Attorney David Iglesias refused to make false accusations of voter fraud against ACORN’s 2004 voter registration drive in New Mexico.

The fact is between 2002 and 2005 – when the Department of Justice carried out the most intensive investigation of voter fraud in US history –  only 24 people were convicted of illegal voting nationwide. However, partisans still made public allegations and the press, in many instances, ran these claims with out real evidence. Armed with these published anecdotes and buoyed by manufactured public outcry about the possibility of their votes being canceled out by illegal voters, legislators fought to pass laws that disenfranchise certain classes of voters. As a result, states like Indiana and Georgia have implemented some of the most draconian voter ID laws despite the lack of any evidence of actual voter fraud.

Reporters practicing ethical and rigorous journalism should recognize that merely using the “rhetorical hand grenade” of voter fraud – without an explanation of how voter registration and elections are administered or an investigation into the evidence of voter fraud – is the real threat to democracy.

Quick Links:

Minnite, Lorraine. “The Politics of Voter Fraud. “Project Vote. March 2007.

Voter Registration Guides and Surveys [By State]. Project Vote

In Other News:

A voting penalty after the penalty – Birmingham Press-RegisterAnnette McWashington Pruitt watched her 18-year-old son graduate from high school this May. She proudly tells people that he is going into the Navy, following in the footsteps of his older brother (who is serving in Iraq) and his grandfather (who was in the Air Force).

Voting Rules Create Land of Disenchantment: Advocacy groups are battling New Mexico’s strict voter registration laws as election looms – Miller-McCune

Jo Ann Gutierrez-Bejar remembers volunteering for the annual voter registration drive in Albuquerque, N.M. She remembers the camaraderie as the group of usually 30 to 40 volunteers headed out in the morning, clipboards in hand, to knock on doors and register new voters.

Denogean: 97-year-old voter can’t prove she’s a citizen: On deathbed, father told her to vote Democratic – The Tucson Press

Shirley Freeda Preiss of Surprise is one ticked-off little old lady. And who can blame her? The 97-year-old retired schoolteacher and onetime traveling showgirl has voted in every presidential election since 1932 when she cast a ballot for Franklin Delano Roosevelt. But thanks to the state’s voter identification requirements, it’s looking unlikely that she’ll be able to vote in the upcoming presidential election.

Watch your (official) language – Stateline.org

Missouri, a key presidential swing state and home to one of the most hotly contested gubernatorial races, will test what some see as voters’ attitudes toward immigrants this November with a ballot measure to make English the only language of state government.

Debra Bowen wants to talk with you on Wednesday

Full disclosure: I work for the Courage Campaign

A couple weeks ago, Secretary of State Debra Bowen visited San Diego to participate in a panel discussion on election integrity.  She talked about the double bubble trouble we had with Dean Logan.  She talked about catching Dirty Tricksters red handed.  But mostly she talked about how vital a role the activists of the grassroots are to keeping her informed when they see something that just doesn’t seem right.

Well now she wants to talk to you, and Rick Jacobs has all you need to know:

I want to express my thanks to you and then extend a special invitation to spend some time on Wednesday with someone who personifies the courageous spirit Susan B. Anthony wrote about over 100 years ago.

But first off, thank you for your overwhelming support for our “Yacht Party” TV ad campaign.

Because of you, Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez and our friends at United Healthcare Workers West (SEIU-UHW), we’ve raised $28,743 to re-brand the Republicans for their refusal to close the “yacht tax” loophole despite our state’s catastrophic budget crisis. Your generosity made it possible for the “Yacht Party” TV ad — an idea originally brainstormed by a blogger on Calitics — to air across California, from CNN and MSNBC to the Daily Show and Colbert Report.

One action at a time, grassroots and netroots activists, union members and elected leaders are working with the Courage Campaign to challenge the status quo and change California.

Often the first step in changing the status quo is changing the conversation. That’s why, on Wednesday (April 2), we’re holding the first in our new series of Courage Campaign Conversations — regular conference calls with leaders and activists working to make 2008 a new era for progressive politics in California. Already, we have commitments from Assembly Speaker-Elect Karen Bass and Senate President Pro Tem-Elect Darrell Steinberg (stay tuned for more details).

We’re kicking off our first Courage Campaign Conversation on Wednesday with the honoree receiving next month’s “Profile in Courage” Award — the prestigious award given by the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library to leaders who make “courageous decisions of conscience without regard for personal or professional consequences”:

Secretary of State Debra Bowen.

This Wednesday, April 2, at 6 p.m., please join us for a special Courage Campaign Conversation with Secretary Bowen. Space on this conference call is limited so hurry now to reserve a spot before we run out:


Shortly after her election, Secretary Bowen boldly decided to order a “Top to Bottom Review” of California’s electronic voting machines, garnering headlines across the country. The results, exposing gaping security holes, were so shocking that she moved immediately to decertify thousands of machines as well as sue Election Systems & Software (ES&S) for $15 million in fines and reimbursements, as reported by the San Francisco Chronicle:

“ES&S ignored the law over and over and over again, and it got caught,” Bowen said in a statement after filing suit against the company. “I am not going to stand on the sidelines and watch a voting system vendor come into the state, ignore the laws and make millions of dollars from California’s taxpayers in the process.”

Now, as a result of this courageous action, there is speculation that ES&S will counter-sue. Meanwhile, Secretary Bowen has also come under under attack by some county elections officials who have filed lawsuits attempting to undermine Bowen’s authority.

Fortunately, the same grassroots and netroots community that helped Bowen become Secretary of State in 2006 is now pushing back. Inspired by Bowen’s steadfast commitment to secure, accurate and transparent elections, a grassroots network called “Stand Firm with Debra Bowen” has been working to defend her and protect the rights of voters across California, organizing letter-writing campaigns and online action. As the group recently wrote in its newsletter:

The drumbeat of attacks on Bowen always points to the same source: an unholy alliance of some county registrars and e-voting machine vendors with consistent help from Republican operatives looking to score political points.

Secretary Bowen greatly appreciates your support. And now she wants to talk with you. Please join us on Wednesday, April 2, at 6 p.m. for our first Courage Campaign Conversation of 2008.

Click here to reserve a spot, get the dial-in details, and suggest a question for Secretary Bowen:


I hope you will join us and tell your friends about this unique opportunity to speak with one of California’s most impressive leaders and congratulate her on receiving the John F. Kennedy “Profile in Courage” Award.

Thank you for helping the Courage Campaign protect our democracy by protecting our elections.

Rick Jacobs


P.S. Whether it’s helping re-frame the Republicans as the “Yacht Party,” kill the GOP’s electoral college “dirty trick,” count the “double bubble” votes in Los Angeles County, or block Blackwater’s base on the California border, your support is vital to our success.

Unfortunately, putting on large conference calls can be very expensive. Whether or not you can make this Courage Campaign Conversation with Secretary Bowen, please consider contributing what you can today to help us make this special call possible:

Can you come on Friday?

I work for the Courage Campaign

This double bubble thing sure has some legs.  The discussion continues tomorrow in downtown LA with all the major electoral players in the house.  Secretary of State Bowen will be there. Registrar Dean Logan and recently departed Registrar Conny McCormack. The Courage Campaign’s lawyer. And a gaggle of LA electeds for good measure (and to give the forum a purpose).

The Courage Campaign proper will be represented, but this has always been about the voters.  So we hope that any Courage supporters who are in the area can come by the hearing and help us fix the double bubble and all the other problems that were brought to light on election day last month.

Rick Jacobs extends a proper invitation on the flip.

Can you come to the special hearing on the “double bubble” ballot in Los Angeles on Friday? We need as many people to show up as possible.

You signed our petition to demand that Los Angeles County acting Registrar Dean Logan count every “double bubble” ballot possible cast by “Decline-to-State” voters on Super Tuesday. Because of people-powered pressure from 32,802 petition-signers, the grassroots, the netroots, and our legal team, Mr. Logan just officially certified 47,153 votes — 80% of the total “Decline-to-State” votes initially discarded.

Until the “double-bubble” ballot — which has disenfranchised an unknown number of voters since 2002 — is history, we’re going to make sure that Registrar Logan follows through on his commitment to change this flawed ballot design before the June statewide primary election.

On Friday, March 7, you have the opportunity to help make sure this never happens again.

Please come to this rare hearing on Friday being conducted among three legislative committees to address the “double bubble” problem and other issues that emerged during the February 5 presidential primary election.

Elections experts from across the state are expected to attend, including Secretary of State Debra Bowen. So will Dean Logan, the Los Angeles County acting Registrar, and Conny McCormack, his predecessor (and the Registrar who presided over previous Los Angeles County elections using the “double bubble” ballot).

I can’t go (I’ll be on the road in another state), but Steven Reyes, our lawyer and an election law expert, will be there to represent the Courage Campaign.

Can you go? We need as many people to show up as possible. To find the event info for Friday’s event and let us know if you are coming, please click here:


We also want to make it easier for “Decline-to-State” (DTS) voters to vote in upcoming elections. The Courage Campaign contacted 1.1 million DTS voters before Super Tuesday about their right to vote in the Democratic Party presidential primary — now we need California’s state and local officials to prioritize DTS voter outreach as well.

If you care about getting more voters to the polls and making sure the “double-bubble” ballot is never used again, please come on Friday and forward this message to your friends.

Thank you for helping the Courage Campaign make 2008 a new era for progressive politics in California.

Rick Jacobs


47,153 “Double Bubble” votes have been counted in LA

Full Disclosure: I work for the Courage Campaign

Cross posted from the Courage Campaign blog and at DailyKos

The final results are in for Los Angeles County, with nearly 80% of the double bubble ballots ultimately being counted towards the final total.  As the Whittier Daily News reports:

The count, completed Sunday, had no effect on the outcome of the primary.

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton received 51 percent of the 47,153 votes that were counted. Barack Obama gained 42percent of those same ballots.

Just over 12,000 votes could not be interpreted, said Dean Logan, the acting registrar-recorder/county clerk.

Of course, as the article goes on to say, Logan began the process not expecting any of the ballots to be counted:

Logan initially believed none of the “double bubble” votes could be counted in cases where non-partisan voters had failed to fill in a bubble specifying in which party’s presidential race they were casting a “crossover” ballot.

This is a huge victory for functional elections, and a tremendous testimony to what people power can accomplish when focused on the system threatening to fail voters.  This was never about the candidates involved, and the results ultimately mirrored rather closely the overall numbers.  But what we do get is voices being heard.  Rick Jacobs said that “Today, due to people-powered politics, a petition signed by 32,802 people, and the persistent attention of our lawyers and the media, the votes have been counted,” and echoed the focus on election integrity, noting

“This was not about Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama. It was about counting as many votes as possible in this historic high-turnout election and increasing the faith of the public in the system.” said Jacobs. “The Courage Campaign is proud to have played a significant role in ensuring the integrity of this election as well as finally junking these infamous ‘double-bubble’ ballots in future elections.”

In addition to the final vote count being announced, the double bubble issue and all the other reported election day trouble has prompted discussion about how to improve the LA County help-desk system.  A revamped system would move away from a paper-based operation and guide operators through helping voters resolve concerns.  But as Rick explains, it may not be quite so simple:

There were people who called in to us to complain, and people testing the system for us were quite shocked,” Jacobs said. “Anything they can do to get people the right information and to help them understand how to vote when they show up is vital.

So even as the double bubble issue’s resolution is still fresh, the business of reforming and improving elections in Los Angeles and beyond continues.  We’ve proven our ability to win these fights, and there will be plenty more to come.

Indeed, the double-bubble issue has already spurring action that goes beyond just this single incident.  In a rare joint hearing, three legislative committees that address election policy will meet in Los Angeles on Friday, March 7, to address the double-bubble issue and other problems faced by California voters on Feb. 5.

Secretary of State Debra Bowen, Acting Registrar Dean Logan and his predecessor, Registrar Conny McCormack, will appear. Election law lawyer Steven Reyes, of Kaufman Downing LLP, will be speaking at the hearing on behalf of the Courage Campaign.

Friday’s joint hearing is set for Friday at 1 p.m. in the auditorium of the Ronald Reagan State Building at 300 S. Spring St. in downtown Los Angeles.

You can see the pdf of the full LA County Registrar report here

Double Bubble and Other CA Voter Trouble

( – promoted by David Dayen)

Full disclosure: I work for the Courage Campaign

BradBlog, as is the norm over there, provides an excellent evaluation of where things currently stand with the DTS ‘double bubble’ ballots.  It’s long, in-depth, and awesome. In part:

For the moment then, some 50,000 voters in Los Angeles County have had their votes for Presidential candidate currently miscounted. An intended vote for Hillary Clinton, for example, has not been registered as a vote for her. She has lost that vote for the moment, and the voter has been disenfranchised. Needlessly.

Moreover, current acting Registrar Dean Logan is claiming that, due to the fact that the same sets of bubbles were used for both Dem and AI candidates, it’s “impossible” to determine with absolute certainty the intent of the voter. But he is wrong. In almost every single case.

The current miscount/error rate for those 50,000 ballots is now at 100%. Thus, any ballot counted at this point will only lower the current miscount/error rate.

Since almost every single one of those ballots can be counted accurately, as per the voter intent, beyond a shadow of a doubt, it’s an absolute absurdity and outrage that Logan is claiming that none of them can be, as he argued in an absurd report [PDF] delivered to the County’s Board of Supervisor’s on Monday.

He closes with an elegant summation:

The excuses must stop. Dean Logan must get to work and start counting. NOW.

Any questions?

But w-w-w-wait it gets worse…

The Sacramento Bee has a love note for democracy this Valentine’s Day.  There are still 1 million ballots uncounted from the California primary a week and a half ago.  The state is aiming at a March 4 deadline

Unless you enjoy watching sausage getting made, you may want to look away:

In Sacramento County, 90,000 ballots remain unprocessed, while 277,000 had been counted as of Wednesday afternoon.

Los Angeles County has 200,000 unprocessed ballots – and that’s not counting the 50,000 presidential votes it discarded because a quarter of the decline-to-state voters improperly marked the county’s ballots.

Statewide, Weir said, most of the uncounted votes – about 600,000 – are absentee ballots turned in on election day. Still to be vetted, he reckons, are 400,000 provisional ballots, which typically are valid about 85 percent of the time.

He estimates 10,000 more uncounted ballots are damaged: shredded in the mail, mutilated in vote-counting machines, or gummed up by sloppy voters who dribbled coffee or ketchup on their absentee ballots. Election workers must pry them open, try to figure out the voter’s intention, and then create a fresh ballot to feed into the machine.

Most likely this doesn’t ultimately have a huge impact overall, and the article notes that Mitt Romney dropped out anyway.  But it begs the question.  As an example, if either the full results were known sooner and Romney had done better or the nomination schedule was a bit slower, would people be dropping out so fast?  The whole vote-and-forget thing seems poised to draw a little attention here.

Regardless, the current state of California’s electoral infrastructure is becoming much more clear in the public eye.  I’ve got no objection to it taking a while to count mountains of absentee votes or even the due diligence involved in checking provisional and DTS ballots.  But it isn’t exactly the simple process people try to make it.

Susan Davis Pushes Touch-Screen Ban

Brad Blog was all over it yesterday as Susan Davis (CA-53) sought to add an amendment to Rush Holt’s Election Reform Bill that would ban all DRE (Direct Recording Electronic) voting machines. The bill finished the day still in committee, so feel free to make some calls today urging support of the amendment.  Target members of the Rules Committee to make sure it gets attached, and (to echo the call from BradBlog) let your own representative know they should insist on a DRE ban before voting for the bill.  BradBlog also notes that the amendment has been endorsed by MoveOn, Verified Voting and VoteTrustUSA.

Davis’ office told BradBlog that the amendment was relying on Leadership and the Rules Committee allowing it.  I think you’ve all met Nancy Pelosi already, you know where to find her.  Louise Slaughter chairs the committee, and California members are Democrats Doris Matsui and Dennis Cardoza, and Republican David Dreier who serves as the ranking minority member of the committee.  Leverage galore Californians.

For sure, much respect to Susan Davis for stepping up on this issue.  Debra Bowen has deservedly gotten a lot of attention in California for spearheading an overhaul of the voting system, but now another Californian is kicking things up a notch at the national level.

Davis has been consistently good when it comes to protecting the integrity of elections.  In March she introduced the Mail-In Ballot Tracking Act requiring states to provide, via phone and internet, tracking capabilities for mail-in ballots.  She’s also been pushing the Universal Right to Vote by Mail Act for several years.  The bill would amend the Help America Vote Act by requiring all states to provide the option of vote-by-mail to everyone regardless of circumstance in federal elections.

All over California and the blogosphere we’ve been whipping up opposition to the Dirty Tricks Initiative, but there are many challenges to fair elections.  There’s a chance for real reform to get shoved into the Holt Bill, so let’s hope for movement and see if we can’t help it along.  And when you’re done, don’t forget to give Susan Davis props for standing up for democracy.

How We Still Take the White House if the Rep Power Grab Initiative Passes

I want to add to the analysis of the proposed California Republican power grab initiative.  Should it pass, we could lose about 19 of California’s 55 electoral college votes to the Rep candidate.

If the initiative qualifies for the June 2008 California primary election, we will of course fight it tooth and nail.  But all is not lost if it passes.  We can still win in 2008 in a landslide.  We don’t have to have Rep Presidents forever.  However, we must nominate a candidate that can win in solid Red states – and the best candidate for that task is Bill Richardson.

Generating support from outside the Democratic base is critical to taking the White House.  The Presidential election of 2004 demonstrated the fallacy of the argument that all Democrats need to do is line up behind a candidate, generate a massive turnout and victory will be ours.

John Kerry received more votes than any other Democratic candidate for President in history, yet he still lost.  On the other hand, as we saw in the 2006 Congressional elections, when Democrats attract votes from Republicans and Independents, Democrats win. 

If the Rep power grab initiative passes in California next year, it becomes imperative that we not nominate another Northern liberal like Clinton or Obama.  Forget the meaningless presidential match up polls more than a year before the election.  They are just based on national name recognition at this point.  Northern liberal Democrats don’t carry solidly Red states.  The White House will be lost if the Rep aren’t challenged in the South, Southwest, Rocky Mountain and Western states, and that is guaranteed if the Rep power grab initiative passes in California. 

The candidate I’m supporting is Bill Richardson.  More than John Edwards, because of Richardson’s Latino heritage and Western values as well as economic policies and stance on 2nd Amendment issues, Richardson is the ideal candidates for Dem to take Red states regardless of what happens in California.

New Mexico politics mirrors the partisan split in America today.  In the last two Presidential elections, the outcome of the vote in New Mexico was decided by less than 1% of the ballots cast.

Richardson has been the most successful governor at the ballot box in New Mexico history. In a state evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats, Richardson won his first term in office by a 56 to 39 percent margin.

Four years later, when the campaign issue was his leadership and performance, Richardson was re-elected by an incredible 68 to 32 percent vote – more than twice his margin of victory in 2002.  Forty percent of the Republicans that went to the polls in New Mexico last November voted for Richardson. 

With Richardson at the head of the Democratic ticket, no longer would the fate of the Democratic candidate rise or fall on the outcome of one state.  We would start with the same states carried by Senator Kerry in 2004. 

Latinos who voted for Bush in 2004 would largely return to the Democratic Party.  Independents would also favor Richardson.  We already are seeing this.  In the latest ARG poll for Iowa , Richardson, among Independents that lean Democratic, is leading the Democratic field:

Biden  3%
Clinton  18%
Dodd  3%
Edwards  8%
Kucinich  5%
Obama  21%
Richardson  25%
Undecided  17%

Add in his Western values, New Mexico, Colorado, Nevada and Arizona would become blue states.  That brings 29 electoral votes to the Dems, more than compensating for the lost electoral votes in California if the Rep power grab initiative passes but not enough to win the White House (assuming we carry all states Kerry won in 2004). 

Florida with 27 electoral votes could make the difference.  With Richardson as the nominee it could easily turn blue.  Adam Smith, one of the top political commentator in Florida, described earlier this year Richardson’s appeal in the state. 

I defy anyone to name a Democrat better equipped to take Florida than New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson.

Think of it: a tax-cutting, NRA-supported progressive Democrat who can make a strong case in the conservative Panhandle; and the first Latino presidential nominee sure to energize the crucial Hispanic vote in South Florida and Central Florida.

For Central Florida’s crucial swing voters disillusioned by what they’ve seen with Iraq and Katrina, the two-term red- state governor, former U.N. ambassador, and U.S. energy secretary can sell competence. Nobody on either side is as experienced and tested on the key issues of the day – foreign policy, energy independence and economic growth.

What Smith wrote would apply in other Southern states, in particular Texas.  With 34 electoral votes, Texas is to Reps what California is to Dems. Kerry lost Texas by 23 points in 2004. The last time the Dems took Texas was Carter in 1976.

Today though, Democrats have been winning in local races in Texas.  Again with Richardson’s Western values and Latino heritage, he will have great appeal in Texas and could take the state.

How electable a Presidential candidate is should be taken into consideration, and all factors need to be considered including the possibility the California Rep power grab initiative could pass.  Moreover, electability should not be viewed solely from the viewpoint of the Presidential race. 

To achieve true health care reform, an aggressive plan attacking global warming and other policy initiatives that require Congressional approval, we must support a Democratic candidate that can assist down ticket Democrats win.

Richardson is the one Democratic candidate for President that has repeatedly shown an ability to attract support from Independents and Republicans. That will propel him to victory in November 2008, as well as lead to landslide victories for Dem candidates for the House and Senate nationwide.

The Cost of Voting Security

States had several years after the Help America Vote Act passed to purchase new technology for voting.  It was at that time good government organizations started raising the warning flag about the security of many of the voting machines that companies like Diebold were marketing to county registrars.  Nobody really knew how secure they were, but the mere fact that they were operating on a Microsoft Operating System raised a lot of red flags.  Registrars were cautioned at the time to slow down and really examine what they were purchasing.  After all, the machines were not cheap.  Quite frankly, I believe it was a major flaw in the bill that it did not require the states to be in charge of the purchasing rather than the local registrars.  The patchwork system is coming back to bite us in the rear.

By and large they did not heed that call.  Now, several years down the road somebody actually did a real security test on the machines and low and behold they are not secure at all.  Secretary of State Debra Bowen did what she pledged to do in the campaign and the results of the top to bottom study left her with little chance but to decertify many of our voting machines, at least temporarily.

That is all a long way of saying that I am not exactly sympathetic to the whining coming out of the registrars about the costs of Bowen’s move.  She moved with all deliberate speed and the complaints that this is a last minute move ring hollow.  The registrars should have known this was coming and planned for this occurrence when Bowen took office. We are still six months out from the election and machines still have the opportunity to be re-certified.

I have absolutely no problems with the state spending more money to ensure votes are counted correctly.  It is the underpinnings of our entire system of government.  A couple million dollars more and a bit of a delay and hearing the returns is well worth ensuring everybody’s vote are recorded accurately and nobody is able to infiltrate the system is more than worth it.

This post was prompted by these two articles. “Voting-machine costs add up” and “E-voting changes to hit county hard“.