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II. Election News This Week
- A U.S. District Court judge in Pennsylvania ruled this week that reporters and photographers don’t have a First Amendment right to enter polling places during elections. In a 58-page opinion, Judge Nora Barry Fisher dismissed a lawsuit brought by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette against the Allegheny County board of elections and the commonwealth’s secretary of state. The paper and the county had twice come to an agreement to allow reporters and photographers into polling places, but Fisher disapproved of both proposals.
- Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson has said that she will not file an emergency appeal of the recent ruling blocking the required citizenship question on ballot applications that she advocates.
- Misprinted envelopes and questionable language about postage has many Cuyahoga County, Ohio absentee voters concerned that their ballots may not be counted. According to the Plain Dealer, to alleviate past confusion, ballot envelopes are now printed with labels inside the yellow-highlighted fields voters are required to fill out, but on at least 45,000 envelopes the labels are too dark and leave little to no room to put information.
- In other ballot news, about 60,000 Palm Beach County, Fla. voters may not be able to find the Florida Supreme Court race on their ballots because unlike all other parts of the ballot, no heading appears above the candidates. Elections Supervisor Susan Bucher said the Arizona-based printing company made the mistake.
- Add South Carolina to the list of states where recently introduced online voter registration has been wildly popular with residents. In the five days following DOJ pre-clearance, the site registered more than 25,000 users with about 17,000 registering for the first time and more than 8,000 updating their existing registration. In other online news, since Ohio began allowing already registered voters in July to update their existing information online, more than 106,000 people updated their information before the registration deadline this week. And the state of Georgia is set to join the online party after the first of the year.
- And speaking of online voter registration, while it’s proved wildly popular with voters, things haven’t always gone smoothly on the administration side of things. In New York, which launched their system at the beginning of September, county elections officials are running into a problem of faulty signatures. According to the Democrat and Chronicle, digital scans of applicants’ signatures “are not as crisp as we are used to getting, and they could be blurry. They could be distorted,” Louis Babcock, Rockland County Republican election commissioner told the paper. “It could be brought into question by a poll inspector.” Should a ballot be questioned, voters will still be able to submit an affidavit ballot. In Colorado, that state’s online registration system was so overwhelmed with last minute registrations and updates this week that the secretary of state’s office had to double the number of servers running the site in order to deal with the load.
- Bah humbug…that’s what I thought when I saw a holiday commercial on TV the other day (but hey, at least it wasn’t another political ad!), but then I read this. Because of how the elections calendar falls for certain municipal and school board elections in Illinois in 2013, elections staff will have to be on the job until 5pm on December 24 to accept candidates’ paperwork and petitions. According to the Olney Daily Mail, there are no provisions in the law to alter this date.
- Personnel News: Celina City, Ohio Councilman Bill Sell will fill a seat vacated on the Mercer County board of elections. Laura Strimple has joined the Nebraska secretary of state’s office as communications director. Cora Sue Schwamberger was sworn in this week as the new deputy director of elections in Marion County, Ohio. There’s a change at the helm in Brookfield, Conn. Republican Registrar of Voters Jeff Dunkerton is stepping down; he is being replaced by Tom Dunkerton. If the name sounds familiar, it’s because Tom is Jeff’s dad. Pam Bordenkircher is the new Coshocton County board of elections deputy director.
- In Memoriam: Former Wyoming Secretary of State Joseph Meyer died this week. He was 71. Meyer was currently serving his second term at the state treasurer. In addition to serving as the chief elections official and treasurer, Meyer also did stints as the state attorney general and assistant director of the Legislative Service Office. “Joe cared deeply about this state and its people and always put Wyoming first,” Gov. Matt Mead said in a statement. “His legacy of service is unmatched. He will be remembered for his wisdom and his wit.”