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II. Election News This Week
- Wisconsin held its first statewide election with voter ID in place this week and although turnout was light, there were few problems reported with the implementation of the new identification law. Residents in about 520 of the state’s 1,850 cities, villages and towns voted in local races and in Dane County voters cast ballots in a judicial primary. Turnout is expected to be much higher for the state’s April election which includes the presidential primary. "It looks like people got the word, so that's good," Madison City Clerk Maribeth Witzel-Behl told the Wisconsin State Journal. In Sheboygan, residents showed up with IDs in hand. "We're very pleased considering all of the changes," City Clerk Sue Richards told the Sheboygan Press. Richards noted that media coverage and a city effort let people know about the Voter ID law helped educate voters. "I'm thrilled things have gone as well as they have," Richards said. Of course that doesn’t mean things went well everywhere with the new voter ID law. In Mount Pleasant a voter was informed that he could not use his veteran’s card to vote and although he had a driver’s license to offer, he refused to vote since his veteran’s ID card—which has a photo on it—was not acceptable under the new law. Voter ID wasn’t a problem in Appleton, but there were a few issues caused by the new district lines that had voters headed to the wrong polling place. Voters in Milwaukee faced similar issues with redistricting including not being listed on voter rolls at all and showing up in the wrong polling place.
- Voter ID Update: In other voter ID news this week a Senate committee in the New Hampshire legislature gave tentative approval to voter photo ID legislation this week. The bill would give local and state election workers until the 2016 election to prepare. Those who did not have an ID at the polls would still be allowed to vote and would have to fill out an affidavit attesting to their identity under penalty of perjury. The state would provide free voter ID cards to anyone requesting one. A coalition of groups opposing the proposed voter photo ID bill in Nebraska packed the Capitol this week to protest LB239 in advance of the first-round debate on the measure. A committee of the Colorado House heard testimony this week on a new voter photo ID bill. A similar bill was approved by the House last year, but defeated in the Senate. In Kansas a coalition considering a legal challenge to the state’s new voter photo ID is concerned about the need pay for some underlying document in order to obtain the free state-issued ID. Every year since 2005, the Maryland General Assembly has debated voter photo ID and 2012 is no different. This year’s bill, sponsored by Delegate Nic Kipke (R-Anne Arundel) was introduced to the House Ways and Means Committee late last week. This week, opponents of photo ID in Minnesota accused a pro-ID group of using racial images on its website to play to racial fears to win support. The image was removed after pressure from the advocates and residents.
- It was a rough week for two elections’ offices this week. In North Carolina, the state board of elections office was flooded after a water pipe break. The office was right in the middle of candidate filing, but the flooding issue didn’t stop staff from accepting paperwork even in the parking lot. And in Duval County, Fla. the elections office may be living on borrowed time after the Gateway Mall where the office is housed was served a notice of foreclosure. Supervisor of Elections Jerry Holland has been complaining for months about the conditions at the site, saying it hasn't been repaired in more than a year. He said the building is falling apart and the owner has not paid taxes even though the city keeps paying its rent. "My job is to worry about the problems nobody else worries about," Holland told a local television station. "We got the next election in 180 days and my concern is, what happens if we are asked to move out of Gateway before the election?" The city pays more than $55,000 a month in rent for the elections site.
- Voters in two counties were hit by scams this week. In Lane County, Ore. county officials were forced to warn residents about a potential scam after the county received a call from a resident informing them that they had received a call from someone to confirm they received their voter notification card and asking the resident to confirm their address, phone number and bank information. In Guadalupe County, Texas residents began receiving emails saying that their voter registration had expired. Sue Basham, elections administrator, told the Seguin Gazette that an email has been forwarded to many area residents stating that they need to get to the elections office and register. "It is one of those send-to-a-friend emails," she told the paper. "We can't trace it. It doesn't have any original ‘from.'"
- Personnel News: Lincoln County, W.Va. Clerk Donald Whitten will officially resign on February 29. Whitten recently agreed to plead guilty to federal election fraud charges. Frederick County, Md. election judge Hoda Zaki recently served as a short-term observer of parliamentary elections in Kazakhstan. Ron Koehler, Summit County, Ohio board of elections director will resign effective March 5, the day before the state’s presidential primary. H. Jeremy Packard will chair the new Luzerne County, Pa. board of elections and registration.