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II. Election News This Week
- A report issued by a Fresno County, Calif. grand jury found that the county’s clerk was not to blame for long lines and confusion over where to vote on Election Day but that the county’s administrative officer and board of supervisors were to blame for cutting the registrar’s budget. According to the report, Clerk Victor Salazar had no choice but to eliminate 108 polling sites. County records show that funding for his office is down 40 percent from what it was five years ago. This caused thousands of voters to wait in long lines at the remaining 114 precincts, which were too small to accommodate the crowds. Many voters left without casting ballots. Others didn't get a chance to vote because polling places weren't properly identified and not easily accessible by public transit, the report said. Salazar told The Fresno Bee that he worked within the budget that was given to him by the board. He said the report vindicates complaints against him and his staff. Despite the cuts in Salazar's office, the report said, "it appears the remaining staff is professional and dedicated to the concept of conducting fair, open and accessible elections subject to budgetary constraints."
- A settlement between Cuyahoga County, Ohio and ES&S was reached this week. In July 2008, the board of elections approved a five-year, $13.4 million deal with Omaha, Neb.-based ES&S. The scanners were supposed to handle 17-inch ballots, but had trouble recording votes on part of ballots of that size. The county has used 14-inch ballots instead. The county will receive $200K in the settlement which covers the county's costs of printing extra pages of smaller ballots in 2009 and last year, along with extra staff costs to test the scanners and for repairs to ballot boxes the county bought from ES&S.
- Voter ID Update: On Tuesday, the Alabama House of Representatives voted 64 to 31 to approve voter photo ID legislation. The bill moves next to the Senate. Late last week, a House panel approved voter photo ID in Arkansas. The legislation now moves to the full House. The Kansas Senate passed their own voter ID legislation this week and will now work with the House to resolve issues between the pieces of legislation. A North Carolina House subcommittee was expected to vote at press time to determine whether or not to move the Tar Heel version of photo ID forward. The debate was heated, but the Ohio GOP prevailed with photo ID legislation in the House. The bill moves next to the Senate, where, according to the Columbus Dispatch, Senate President Tom Niehaus, R-New Richmond, doesn't regard it as a priority. A House panel in Pennsylvania heard testimony this week about the state’s latest attempt to require a photo ID to vote. Last time legislators voted from their hospital beds to keep voter ID from passing in Texas and while the debate was no less passionate this time around, on Wednesday the Texas House approved a photo ID bill. The Senate had previously passed its own voter ID legislation.