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electionlineWeekly--November 10, 2011

Table of Contents

I. In Focus This Week

‘Off-off year election’ still brings plenty of storylines
Polling places see glitches, snafus, relocations, fights, births (but no known deaths)

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While many eyes and minds are focused on 2012, election administrators around the country spent this week finishing up the 2011 election season.

Of course there are still ballots to be counted — and recounted — and canvasses be completed, but for all intents and purposes Tuesday’s election marked the end of the 2011 cycle, which, by and large went smoothly in most jurisdictions.

Same-day registration
Although pre-election polls showed a much closer race, when all was said and done on Tuesday, Mainers voted overwhelmingly to overturn LD 1376 and keep same-day registration part of the voting and registration process in The Pine Tree State.

With absentee and provisional ballots yet to be counted, “yes” to Question 1 was leading 60 percent to 40 percent. The measure won in every county.

“Maine voters sent a clear message: No one will be denied a right to vote,” Shenna Bellows, director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine. Told the Bangor Daily News. “Voters in small towns and big cities voted to protect our constitutional right.”

Proponents of Question 1 included the League of Women Voters, the Maine Municipal Association and the Maine Democratic State Committee. Those in opposition include current Secretary of State Charles Summers, the Maine Republican Party and Speaker of the House Robert Nutting.

Those opposing Question 1 took their loss in stride.

“I thought it would be closer, but having been outspent by a close-knit coalition, they did their job well. They did better than we did,” Maine House Speaker Robert Nutting told the Bangor Daily News.

Voter ID
Although much of the morning after reporting and commentary about Mississippi focused on the failure of Initiative 26, voters in the state voted largely (62 percent to 38 percent) to support Initiative 27 which will require voters to show a photo ID for all future elections.

"I'm very pleased with the outcome of Initiative 27," Sen. Joey Fillingane told the Clarion Ledger.

According to the paper, Fillingane collected more than 13,000 signatures to get the measure on the ballot.

“I'm proud that the citizens of Mississippi have finally spoken once and for all. We can put that issue behind us and move past it to other issues in January," he told the paper.

Voter ID has made several appearances in the state legislature, failing or failing to move forward each time.

Members of the state’s chapters of NAACP and American Civil Liberties union have not ruled out a legal challenge to the new law.

There is a 30-day waiting period before the law takes affect, but there are no more elections in the Magnolia State until the state’s March 13 primary.

Ranked-choice voting
Ranked-choice voting was used in three cities on Tuesday and the reviews are mixed.

Ranked-choice voting made its debut in Minnesota’s second largest city after becoming law in 2009 and according to media reports, by and large things went fairly well.

"That's the good news - that there's very little news," Jeanne Massey, executive director of FairVote Minnesota told the Pioneer Press.

One race remains outstanding though and those ballots will be hand-counted beginning at 8:30 a.m. on Monday.

In Portland, Maine, which was also using ranked-choice voting for the first time its mayoral election, there were few, if any media reports of voter confusion about the new system and the city clerk did not report any issues with the counting process.

With reports of confusion prior to and on Election Day from San Francisco voters about ranked-choice voting, two county supervisors are seeking to eliminate the voting system from Bay-area elections.

"Massive numbers of San Franciscans continue to be confused about our voting process in the city," Supervisor Mark Farrelltold the San Francisco Chronicle.

Farrell told the paper that he and Supervisor Sean Elsbernd hope to put a charter amendment before city voters in June to undo ranked-choice voting.

However, Supervisor John Avalos has asked the city attorney to draft legislation that would compete with the Farrell-Elsbernd proposal and keep ranked-choice voting in San Francisco.

Secretary of State races
In the only competitive secretary of state race in the country (Mississippi’s Delbert Hosemann ran unopposed), Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes defeated Republican Bill Johnson to become Kentucky’s new top elections official.

Glitches, snafus, biting, birthing and voter fraud
Those were the main election administration headlines coming out of Tuesday’s election; these are the other headlines.

As residents continue to adjust, some New York counties continue to have problems with the state’s new optical-scan voting system. In Westchester County all the voting machines were impounded by the state Supreme Court and ballots will not be counted until next week. In Ontario County, officials complained about a software “glitch” the prevented them from releasing the final election results until 9 a.m. Wednesday morning. Of course not all the problems in New York on Tuesday were machine-related. In Albany County voters had to wait 45 minutes for a polling place to open because no one had the keys. In Schenectady County voters had to clear a polling place after a fire and bomb scare.

Five voting machines in Warren County, N.J. malfunctioned Tuesday, but officials there told local media outlets that they are not overly concerned about the problems. “It happens,” Board of Elections Administrator William Duffy told The Express-Times. Despite the seeming lack of concern, Duffy and Clerk Patricia Kolb will meet with the voting system manufacturers to discuss the problems.

While reports of vote fraud in Linn County, Iowa are rare, what’s even rarer is when the accused turns themselves in even before they’ve been accused. That’s what happened on Tuesday when a voter who had previously voted by absentee ballot attempted to vote on Election Day and realizing her mistake, turned herself in to authorities.

In Ohio, a Cuyahoga County poll worker bit a voter’s nose after the two got into a tussle over a campaign sign. The poll worker in question has worked on eight elections for the county with no previous incidents. The poll worker turned himself in to authorities where he may face assault charges.

And finally, although he didn’t win a seat on the Schaghtioke, N.Y. town council, Fire Chief Dominic Pasinella, Jr. probably gained at least one vote on Tuesday—if he chooses to run for office again 18 years from now. After casting his ballot at one fire house, Pasinella heard a call about a “pregnancy problem” at another polling place. Pasinella rushed to the polling place—a firehouse—and with the help of two other firefighters delivered 7-pound, 10-ounc Charis Etman. ElectionlineWeekly wants to know if little Charis got her first “I Voted” sticker.