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electionlineWeekly--September 8, 2011

Table of Contents

II. Election News This Week

  • With no official word from the U.S. Department of Justice, 16 Colorado county clerks began printing ballots in English-only for the upcoming elections. Ballots were certified Friday by Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler, and a spokesman for his office said it is too late for Spanish ballots. "That ship has sailed," Gessler spokesman Rich Coolidge told The Denver Post. Ten Colorado counties already are required to provide Spanish-language ballots or interpreters for Ute voters because more than 5 percent of residents of voting age, or more than 10,000 residents, have limited English proficiency. According to the paper, the Justice Department initially had told Gessler's office that the potential dual-language orders would be forthcoming in July, but then recently changed that to late September at the earliest. Clerks in the affected counties had been waiting for orders so they could carry out the process of having all election materials available in Spanish as well as English and have interpreters lined up for polling places. Since that deadline has passed, clerks are still working on contingency plans to provide help for Spanish voters who request it. "We're just being prepared. It's best to err on the side of caution," said Garfield County Clerk Jean Alberico.

  • Controversy has swirled about a new Indiana law that would omit uncontested races from ballots in a cost-saving effort. Candidates and clerks alike have criticized the law saying it will depress voter turnout. Late last week, party officials, candidates and voters in Wayne County filed suit asking that County Clerk Jo Ann Stewart be prohibited from dropping the uncontested races in an upcoming election. The suit also names the Indiana Election Commission and Indiana Secretary of State Charlie White as defendants. According to the Palladium-Item, many county clerks have questions about the new law and numerous emails are flying back and forth to state election officials and clerks. Some clerks have said they are not certain if the new rule applies to all elections or just city and town elections.

  • Several jurisdictions have recently started to look at the prospect of nonpartisan elections as a cost-cutting measure. In West Virginia, the Charleston city council recently voted down a proposal to make city elections nonpartisan. After heated partisan debate the council instead decided to work on a proposal that would move the city council elections to a Saturday in 2015 and then move them to presidential election years which will ultimately save the city $400,000.

  • Voter ID Update: The New Hampshire Senate was expected to vote at press time on legislation that would override Gov. John Lynch’s veto of the state’s voter ID legislation. In other override news, although North Carolina Gov. Bev Perdue vetoed voter ID legislation earlier this summer, legislators are hoping to revive the issue in the coming weeks. Officials in South Carolina have said they will offer free rides to DMV branches to members of the disabled community in order for them to get their free state-issued ID card to vote. Officials in Texas are dismissing concerns that driver’s licensing bureaus will be overwhelmed with people need to get state-issued IDs in order to vote.

  • In Memoriam: Irene Leadbetter, former New Bedford, Mass. deputy registrar of voters died this week. She was 91. Long-time Hanover County, Va. Registrar Bobby Ostergren passed away this week. He was 65. Although an avid computer enthusiast, Ostergren — he had 10 at home — he preferred using paper ballots for elections, no matter how annoying all that paper was. Ostergren served as registrar for 23 years.