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electionlineWeekly--May 19, 2011

Table of Contents

II. Election News This Week

  • This week, a Mississippi man was sentenced to 10 years in prison for voting in two elections in 2009, although his status as an ex-convict prevented him from doing so. Following the sentencing, Madison County DA Michael Guest said that he hoped this would stand as a warning to anyone else wishing to commit voter fraud. "What we're hoping this does is have a chilling effect on anyone who is contemplating any sort of voter fraud," Guest said. "We want people to know this is a serious offense." Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann also weighed in on the case lauding Guest for his work. "Madison and Rankin County District Attorney Michael Guest sent a strong message to election cheats everywhere that their actions will be severely punished," he said in a press release. "Voter fraud will not be tolerated in Mississippi any longer and I applaud the efforts of D.A. Guest for prosecuting individuals who try to steal your vote."
  • Legislative Update: Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell signed legislation that allows the state to use its own discretion when counting write-in ballots. Late last week the Connecticut House approved legislation that many hope will eliminate ballot shortage problems. Under the legislation registrars must certify with the secretary of state that they have enough ballots on hand for an election and there must also be an emergency contingency plan for elections. Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal signed two election-reform bills into law this week; one will shorten the early voting period from 45 to 21 days and the other bill make Georgia only the second state to allow the secretary of state to set the date for the presidential preference primary. The North Carolina House narrowly approved a measure that will shorten the state’s early voting time from two and a half weeks to one and a half weeks; the bill now moves to the Senate. The Ohio House approved a sweeping elections reform piece of legislation this week along party lines. The legislation, if signed into law, would decrease the length of time for early voting, prevent county elections officials from automatically sending absentee ballots to voters, lessen the need to cast provisional ballots, allow elections boards to save money through bulk purchasing and let voters update registrations online. The Senate is working on a similar bill and a committee vote was expected at press time.

  • Primary Day: Half of the nation’s commonwealths held primary elections this week and the one consistent theme coming from both states was low voter turnout. In Kentucky there were no lines at polling places and only a few minor problems reports, although the attorney general’s office did receive two calls to its voter fraud hotline. In the primary secretary of state contest, Republican Bill Johnson, a former BP executive, narrowly defeated Hilda Legg (Legg has indicated that she will seek a re-canvass of the vote) and Democrat Alison Grimes, an attorney, defeated incumbent Elaine Walker. Walker is the former mayor of Bowling Green and was appointed by the governor after Trey Grayson resigned earlier this year. Although rainy weather was blamed for low voter turnout in Pennsylvania, primary day was not without its troubles. Problems with two precincts delayed the vote count in Crawford County; and Adams County also faced vote-tallying issues. Power outages plagued several polling places including one in Franklin County. And it wouldn’t be an election in Pennsylvania without the police showing up at a polling place for some reason or another. This time was for a ruckus over sign location at one Delaware County polling site.
  • Voter ID Update: Even though a bill that would require New Hampshire voters to show ID has not yet become law, that didn’t stop one town clerk from posting signs at polling places during a special election telling voters they needed to provide photo ID; the attorney general’s office is currently investigating. While still debating the merits of early voting, a North Carolina Senate panel gave initial approval to voter photo ID legislation this week. The Senate’s bill mirrors a bill currently being debated by a House panel. Late last week, the Rhode Island Senate approved a version of voter ID. The legislation now moves to the House where a similar piece of legislation is also being debated. Although South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley signed the Palmetto State’s version of voter ID into law this week, final implementation remains in flux awaiting approval from the U.S. Department of Justice and the money to pay for the legislation. After multiple tries during multiple legislative sessions in Texas, a voter photo ID bill is finally headed to Gov. Rick Perry’s desk for signature. Perry is expected to sign the legislation. After more than 10 hours of debate the Wisconsin Senate gave tentative approval to a voter ID bill. Senate Democrats were able to delay a final vote until press time.
  • Personnel News: In Marshall County, Tenn. Jo Ann Henry was forced to resign from the position of elections administrator. Clatsop County, Ore. clerk Cathie Garber is resigning from her position in Oregon to become the assistant elections supervisor in Clark County, Wash. Jason Corwin has been named the new voter registrar in Mecklenburg County, Va.