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II. Election News This Week
- The Chicago Board of Elections found out this week what happens when you come between a person and their iPhone (iPad, Android, etc.). Signs posted at early voting locations state “No personal electrical items to be used inside the early voting polling place,” which took some people by surprise, especially because several apps were created by different groups to help voters review information about their choices. “We’re concerned that people might photograph their votes and that creates the problem of selling votes,” Board of Elections spokesman Jim Allen told the Chicago Sun Times. “Millions of people have cell phones that have photo capacity. We don’t want people taking calls and having conversations while they’re voting.” However, after the initial story ran in the Sun-Times, the board relented following complaints from voters and the Chicago Bar Association. In a follow-up article, the paper reported that elections officials now say “limited use of electronic gear will be allowed.”
- Voter ID Update: It was another busy week in the world of voter ID with several laws being struck down, some moving further along the legislative process and the AFL-CIO getting involved.
- On Monday the U.S. Dept. of Justice blocked Texas’ new photo ID law saying that it could disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of registered Hispanics. The Justice Department conveyed its objection in a letter to Texas officials that was also filed in the U.S. District Court case in Washington between Texas and the department. Judges say they will rule before Election Day. And on Wednesday, attorneys for the state asked the panel of judges to allow it to challenge the constitutionality of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act.
- Also on Monday a second Dane County, Wis. judge ruled that Wisconsin’s new voter ID law is unconstitutional. Dane County Circuit Judge Richard Niess’ eight-page rulinggoes further than the one issued by another judge last week because it permanently invalidates the law for violating the state constitution. Tuesday's order by Dane County Judge David Flanagan halted the law for the April 3 presidential primary and local elections, but not beyond that.
- The fate of Pennsylvania’s voter photo ID bill was up in the air for a while this week. Although the bill had been approved by the Senate and Gov. Tom Corbett stood at the ready to sign it, the House spent at least three days debating the legislation. Finally on Wednesday afternoon the House approved the photo ID legislation largely along partisan lines. The governor signed the bill Wednesday night.
- A bill asking Minnesotans to amend the state constitution so voters would be required to show a photo ID cleared another House committee Tuesday. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Mary Kiffmeyer, former secretary of state, was passed 18-12 in the Ways and Means committee and now heads to Rules and Legislative Administration. Kiffmeyer told the Pioneer Press she hopes the bill will make it to the House floor soon.
- Although 62 percent of voters in Mississippi approved photo ID to vote in November, the state is still awaiting approval from the Justice Department. While awaiting the ruling, the Mississippi House approved legislation that would permit a broad range of photo IDs to be used from passports to Medicaid cards.
- And finally in Tennessee, which recently held its first election under the state’s voter, photo ID law, a House panel advanced a proposal to repeal it. The House State and Local Government subcommittee voted 5-3 on party lines in favor of a measure.
- In December 2011, electionlineWeekly printed its annual list of what’s in and what’s out for the coming year. One of the items we listed was Out: New York’s lever voting machines (finally!) In: Confusion andthousands miscast ballots on New York’s optical scan ballots. Clearly we were wrong. Recently the New York Senate approved a bill allowing school districts, villages and special districts to continue using the same voting machines they’ve been using since the Eisenhower Administration. But not everyone is happy about this move. The Chautauqua County board of elections recently blasted the Senate for its decision. According to The Observer, election commissioners assert that contrary to statements made by members of the state Senate, the new optical scan system is actually cheaper or at least comparable to the cost of an election using lever machine technology.
- In other voting machine news, St. Charles County, Mo. Executive Steve Ehlmann vetoed spending nearly $1.2 million on new voting machines. Ehlmann said that the county should wait until the state certifies more than just one voting machine manufacturer. Elections Director Rich Chrismer told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch he would urge the council to override the veto. He said it could take two or three years for other companies to obtain certification. He said using the county’s existing six-year-old machines could cause problems this year, with the August primary and November presidential election on tap. He said replacement parts could be expensive. "He wants to put voters in St. Charles County in jeopardy by waiting," Chrismer told the paper.
- After nine weeks of trial and 40 hours of deliberation a Troy, N.Y. jury deadlocked on whether to convict Board of Elections Commissioner Ed McDonough and former Councilman Michael LoPorto of voter fraud. The deadlock forced Judge George Pulver to declare a mistrial. According to The Saratogian, it is now up to the special prosecutor to decide what, if any charges he wants to bring against the two. McDonough was charged with 38 counts of forgery and 36 counts of possession of a forged instrument for his actions during the 2009 Working Families Party primary.
- Personnel News: Joseph Masich has been named director of the Summit County, Ohio board of elections. Samuel P. Westmoreland is the new Fulton County director of registration and elections. When Westmoreland joined the Fulton County Board of Registration and Elections eight years ago, one of his goals was to bring new technologies and procedures to the county’s voting system. He has twice held the position of vice-chair. Karen Defore filed for re-election as the Cowley County, Kan. clerk. If successful, this would be her third term. Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted had to step in and break a tie vote on the Butler County board of elections and named Lynn Edward Kinkaid as the board’s new director.
- In Memoriam: Former Wagoner County, Okla. Election Board Secretary Richard Jason Rouselot died last week, he was 50. “You can ask him any question and he could answer it right there,” Sue Seabolt, administrative assistant for the Wagoner County Election Board told the Muskogee Phoenix. Rousselot was born in Taipei, Taiwan, and was a Marine Corps veteran. He was a platoon commander during Operation Desert Storm.