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II. Election News This Week
- On Monday, a coalition of voting rights groups filed suit in U.S. District Court in Detroit challenging Michigan’s requirement for U.S. citizenship checkboxes on applications to vote. The suit says the checkboxes are unconstitutional and violate federal and state law. The lawsuit follows reports that several county clerks will remove the question from ballot applications in their counties. In response to the uproar, on Tuesday Secretary of State Ruth Johnson said that there may be as many as 4,000 registered voters in Michigan who are not U.S. citizens.
- Denver Clerk and Recorder Debra Johnson has sued Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler challenging his office’s decision to prevent local election officials from mailing ballots to inactive voters in city and school board elections.
- While an investigation into absentee-voting fraud continues, the Miami-Dade County commission voted this week to pay for return postage on most absentee ballots in hopes of preventing future issues. The pre-payment covers only countywide elections and not stand-alone municipal elections.
- Election Day 2012 in Indiana, only now with more guns. This week Secretary of State Connie Lawson clarified that a 2011 barring local governments from enforcing their own gun restrictions also applies to polling places with few exceptions. “That matter has been settled,” Lawson told a local paper.
- Davidson County, Tenn.’s on again, off again relationship with electronic poll books is definitely off at least for the November 6 election. The county recently replaced paper poll books with electronic poll books in 60 of its 160 voting precincts for the August primary and were planning on using them in all 160 precincts in November. However, the poll books received some criticism after voters received the wrong ballots during the recent primary. According to The Tennessean, although the county election commission expressed confidence in the poll books, they ultimately decided not to use them in November.
- Two years after a massive fire destroyed more than 10,000 pieces of voting equipment in Harris County, Texas, the county has a new voting machine warehouse. The new warehouse is in a building that previously housed an automobile collection for a noted Houston attorney. “There were over 400 cars in this warehouse, estimated value over a quarter of a billion dollars,” explained Harris County Clerk Stan Stanart at a recent open house. “So if John O’Quinn would trust a quarter of a billion dollars worth of automobiles in this warehouse, the taxpayers of Harris County are very well served by having their election equipment, and records…in this warehouse.” The new warehouse was paid for by fire insurance and federal HAVA funds.
- Personnel News: Former Kansas Legislator Andrew Howell has been appointed by Secretary of State Kris Kobach to complete the unexpired term of longtime Shawnee County election commissioner Elizabeth Ensley Deiter, who resigned to become a magistrate judge. Embattled Fulton County, Ga. elections chief Samuel Westmoreland faced more trouble this week when he was jailed after his probation for a 2009 DUI was revoked. Hardeeville, S.C. elections chief Joyce Meeks was warned and fined $250 by the S.C. Ethics Commission for voting to prevent a candidate from getting on the ballot to challenge her son-in-law. Meeks will be permitted to keep her job.
- In Memoriam: Former Mason County, Ky. Clerk Frances Cotterill died late last week. She was 60. Cotterill started part-time in the clerk’s office in 1974 becoming full-time four years later. She was first elected to the position of clerk in 1983 and held that role until she retired in January 2011. According to The Ledger Independent, not only did Cotterill lead her office in the transition from paper to electronic votes, she also implemented new handicap accessible guidelines. “It’s a sad occasion for Mason County, they’ve lost a good citizens and the state has lost a good citizen,” Mason County Judge-Executive James L. Gallenstein told the paper. “ Her quality as an employee is rare…she was so proficient at what she did.”