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electionlineWeekly--April 21, 2011

Table of Contents

II. Election News This Week

  • In order to comply with the federal MOVE Act, officials in Oklahoma are considering eliminating the state’s runoff election process. Although there is a proposal to move the primary to July and then keep the runoff system, many legislators don’t like that system because it moves the filing deadline to April which is in the middle of the legislative session. As an alternative, Rep. Gary Banz, R-Midwest City, chairman of the House Rules Committee rewrote SB 602 and passed it through his committee last week. It would move the primary to August and eliminate the runoff. "I don't know which is worse," Banz told the Tulsa News. "Both are bad scenarios. I don't know which way it will go.
  • Under a proposal by Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson voters wouldn't need an excuse — just a photo ID — to get an absentee ballot. The plan would open mail-in ballots to all voters, so long as they show the picture to their county clerks when they pick up their ballot. "Right now, there's a complete loophole in our system for absentee voting," Johnson told The Detroit News, noting people don't have to show ID, opening up the possibility for fraud. Showing ID to the county clerk "makes it more secure … and also makes it more convenient for the voters," she said. People over 60 years of age, disabled or legitimately out of town would be exempt from showing ID in person. Chris Thomas, director of elections for the Secretary of State's Office, said about 20 percent of those who vote use absentee ballots, up from about 15 percent to 17 percent 10 years ago.
  • Wisconsin’s top election agency announced this week that it is satisfied that results certified by Waukesha County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus for the April 5 election are consistent with totals reported by municipalities, though "a few anomalies" were found in a four-day investigation. According to The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, those discrepancies involved only a handful of votes. "After completing the review of the election materials from Waukesha County, there were some discrepancies found in the Government Accountability Board's evaluation of the Waukesha County election returns that could not be explained based upon the documentation reviewed," the board staff said in a statement. "I am pleased that the Government Accountability Board has concluded that a correction of the canvass is not warranted due to the fact that they found no major discrepancies in our official canvass report," Nickolaus said in an email response. Although all 72 counties, including Waukesha, certified their results last week, state elections staff reviewed Nickolaus' records and interviewed Nickolaus. The investigation began after Nickolaus announced at a news conference two days after the election that she had erroneously given unofficial election night totals that did not include Brookfield's 14,315 votes. She said she had failed to save the vote totals on her computer, so they weren't tallied in an unofficial summary.

  • A bill in the Vermont House could end the long-honored tradition of counting ballots by hand in many of the states smaller towns. The bill would require towns with more than 1,000 voters to use tabulators for general elections, starting in 2014. “We came up with a bill to help correct and smooth out some of those things that possibly can take place and put in question our most sacred right as a member of this country and that is the vote and make sure that your vote is counted, every vote is counted correctly and that every vote does count in the manner that's supposed to be,” Milton Rep. Ronald Hubert told Vermont Public Radio. Hubert says federal election funds will pay most of the cost of purchasing the optical scan machines. Charlotte Rep. Michael Yantachko tried to amend the bill to allow towns to opt out this requirement. Charlotte has roughly 2,700 registered voters and is the largest community in the state to count ballots by hand. He says the town likes it that way. The amendment failed. The measure is set to come for a final vote in the House this week but it is unclear if there is time for the Senate to consider it this session.