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electionlineWeekly--September 22, 2011

Table of Contents

II. Election News This Week

  • The U.S. Department of Justice issued a series of recommendations for changes to federal laws affecting military servicemembers, including the Uniformed and Overseas Civilians Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA), which was amended in 2009 by the MOVE Act. DOJ's recommendations include requiring states to submit pre-election reports on the status of ballot transmission to military and overseas voters, requiring states that miss a deadline to mail ballots by express delivery and giving individuals a right to sue to enforce the law. The changes would also establish a uniform, nationwide UOCAVA standard and eliminate the ability of states to seek waivers of the law - as the State of New York did this week, the first such request for the 2012 election.

  • A federal judge dismissed Shelby County’s lawsuit challenging certain sections of the Voting Rights Act. The county’s challenge concerned sections 4(b) and 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which forbids cities and towns in nine states, including Alabama, from making any changes in voting practices or procedures without approval from the federal government. The Justice Department, along with the American Civil Liberties Union, charged that Sections 4(b) and 5 should remain in place, and the judge agreed. Representatives for the county have vowed to fight the ruling.

  • Colorado Congressman Mike Coffman has backed off a plan to squelch voting ballots in languages other than English. Earlier this month Coffman announced plans to repeal a provision of the Voting Rights Act that requires bilingual ballots in certain jurisdictions. According to the Aurora Sentinel, Coffman backed off his plan this week citing its bleak political future. “I would prefer to repeal that section of the law that pertains to the requirement for local governments to provide dual-language ballots,” he told the paper. “But I know that will not pass the Congress so I’m looking at alternatives that will reduce the impact of what has been a costly unfunded federal mandate on local election officials.” Coffman told the paper he is working with elections officials to find a way to provide dual-language election materials only to those who need them and not to every voter.

  • This week, Maine Secretary of State Charles Summers released the results of a statewide investigation into voter fraud. He announced that his investigation found “vulnerabilities” in the state’s voting system, but only one case of illegal voting. According to the Portland Press Herald, among almost 500 names that Summers scrutinized, one non-U.S. citizen was proved to have registered and voted in Maine, in 2002.

  • Personnel News: Judith Evans will become Palo Pinto County, Texas’ first elections administrator. The county is combining the elections work of the clerk’s office and the tax-assessor collector’s office to create the new elections office. Evans has been part of the elections team in the clerk’s office for the past three years. Former councilmember Maye Johnson has joined the Allen County Board of Voter Registration. David Betras, chairman of the Mahoning County Democratic Party has been nominated by his peers to serve on the county board of elections. Washington, D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray announced the appointment of three new members to the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics this week: Robert Mallett, Devarieste Curry and Stephen I. Danzansky. The nominees must be approved by the Council of the District of Columbia.

  • Get Well: New St. John’s County, Fla. Supervisor of Elections Vicky Oakes had to miss her first election in the top job after she was admitted to an area hospital on Sunday. According to the Historic City News, although in the hospital, Oakes was able to keep up with the election through texts, emails and on her cell phone. Electionline.org wishes her a speedy recovery.

  • Upcoming Events: Nonprofite VOTE will host a webinar “The ABCs of Nonpartisan Voter Registration” on Thursday Sept. 29 at 2pm. For more information, click here.