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electionlineWeekly--February 17, 2011

Table of Contents

II. Election News This Week

  • A handful of county election officials in Maryland are pushing the state to allow the counties to add additional early voting sites. According to officials from Frederick County—one of the counties pushing for expanded early voting—the problem with early voting in Maryland is that state law allows the county to have only one early voting center, which was in the city of Frederick, making it inconvenient for voters who lived in rural parts of the county to cast their ballots early. "Early voting worked," Del. Galen R. Clagett (D-Dist. 3A) of Frederick, who is sponsoring a House version of the bill told The Gazette. "It clearly demonstrated that people knew about it and we want to give voters every opportunity to increase their franchise. It seems to be a no-brainer." Under current law, counties with fewer than 150,000 registered voters may have one early voting center. Those with from 150,000 to 300,000 registrations may have three, and jurisdictions with more than 300,000 may have five sites.
  • A judge has ruled that a Virginia state law restricting the release of information about Virginians' personal voting histories is unconstitutional. According to the Virginian Pilot, Circuit Judge Melvin Hughes' decision is a victory for the Know Campaign, a nonprofit organization that sued the State Board of Elections over its refusal to give the group access to voter history lists. Those lists include voters' names, addresses and records of participation in elections over the past four years. They don't disclose how people voted but do reveal voters' records of participation in elections - including party primaries. Under current state law, the lists have been made available only to elected officials, candidates and party chairmen. That law violates the First and 14th amendments to the U.S. Constitution, which guarantee free speech and equal protection under the law, Hughes ruled. He ordered the state board to provide voter history lists to the Know Campaign upon request and to pay $49,250 in attorneys' fees. A spokesman for Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli's office, which defended the case, said the state does not plan to appeal the decision.
  • In electionlineWeekly’s 2011 In and Out List, we noted that lever voting machines were finally out in New York. Clearly, we were wrong. Earlier this week, the state Assembly approved legislation that would allow villages to continue to use lever voting machines for local elections through 2012. Supporters say it will allow villages to avoid the costs and complications of switching to the new electronic machines. "There's still a very strong feeling there's nothing really wrong with the mechanical voting machines," Briarcliff Manor Village Manager Philip Zegarelli told The Journal News. Not all villages have a choice, however. Some villages that have had the county take over their polling are required by law to use the optical scanners; and Rockland villages don't have the option to use lever machines either because the county no longer has them. Governor Andrew Cumo is expected to sign the legislation.
  • There were more changes to the Rutherford County, Tennessee election commission this week. On Monday, the State Election Commission appointed David Edwards and Ransom Jones to replace Doris Jones and Oscar Gardner on the commission. The State Election Commission appointed both to interim positions to complete the remaining days of the positions through the end of March. According to the Daily News Journal, a spokesman for the state said officials will consider reappointing them to two-year terms starting April 1. On Wednesday, embattled Administrator of Elections Tom Walker submitted his resignation. The letter, which Walker left at the commission office read in part, “Although I believe in my heart that I am the best person to be the Administrator of Elections for Rutherford County, it is clear that the Commission wants to start fresh. To facilitate that direction, I am resigning as Administrator of Elections effective immediately.”