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electionlineWeekly — June 5, 2014

Table of Contents

I. In Focus This Week

Not so Super Tuesday
Voters in 8 states head to polls this week, turnout light everywhere

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With voters in eight states—Alabama, California, Iowa, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico and South Dakota —heading to the polls or mailboxes this week, June 3 was the closest thing we’ll have to a Super Tuesday this election cycle.

Mississippi and Alabama both became the latest states to debut their voter photo ID laws and even though there were scattered reports of problems, there was very little fanfare about the launch.

And while otherwise there were bumps, glitches, snafus, delays, and guns at polling places, by-and-large things went well this week. The biggest story, which we will address in a later edition, was turnout, or lack thereof.

But for now, let’s take a look at what happened around the country on “Super” Tuesday.

The Yellowhammer State put its new voter photo ID law to the test this week and the reports were mixed. In Huntsville, a 92-year-old voter was turned away because her license had expired. In some counties very few temporary voter IDs were issued.

There was other news besides voter ID of course. In Madison County, some voters alleged that polling places were closed about 10 minutes prior to the 7p.m. deadline.

In Mobile County, there were reports of ballot problems at the Dotch Community Center polling place because it’s a split precinct. And there were also reports that some polling places ran out of ballots.

Elections officials in Chilton County were pleased with how the election went especially since not only were they implementing voter ID for the first time, but also because they were using new voting machines.

Poll workers in Colbert County distributed incorrect ballot styles in a board of education race and with the race currently tied, officials are trying to figure out what to do.

In the secretary of state’s race on the Republican side of the ticket, State Rep. John Merrill will face off against Reese McKinney in the July 15 runoff. The winner will face Democrat Lula Albert-Kaigler.

Probably the biggest news out of Alabama on Tuesday happened in Shelby County, when elections officials told a voter that he would have to remove his holstered pistols before entering the polling place.

While at press time there are still hundreds of thousands of ballots waiting to be counted, the big news out of The Golden State, like everywhere else, was low voter turnout. In some areas voter turnout was a low as 13 percent in some counties.

Los Angeles County seemed to face the post problems on Tuesday with some of the county’s 5,000 polling places facing shortages of volunteers, missing ink and other materials and a lack of staffing.

Further north, elections officials in Contra Costa County were busy troubleshooting issues at polling places throughout the day. The problems ranged from confused voters due polling place changes and technical glitches with machines.

In Long Beach, were voters were facing a “two vote Tuesday” there were reports that some polling places were running out of ballots near closing time.

For officials in Orange County, it was one of those, whatever could go wrong, did go wrong days. A van carrying electronic votes broke down, a poll worker accidentally locked ballot boxes into the polling place and another poll worker couldn’t find the central tabulation center so they just took the ballots home with them. That being said, by midnight 96 percent of the votes cast had been tabulated.

In the race for secretary of state Republican Pete Peterson will face Democratic State Sen. Alex Padilla. And although he was no longer a candidate and is facing criminal charges, former State Sen. Leland Yee came in third place with approximately one in 10 Californians voting for him.

Mother Nature played the biggest role in Tuesday’s elections in The Hawkeye State. Anticipating problems during the afternoon, state elections officials encouraged voters to come out early in the day to cast their ballots. In Pottawattamie, Montgomery and Ringgold counties, voting was temporarily halted when elections officials and voters had to seek shelter when a strong line of storms moved through.

IAnd t wasn’t the weather that was causing problems in Johnson County, but early morning computer problems at several polling spots slowed down the process.

Like voters in Alabama, Mississippians were required to show a photo ID in order to cast a ballot for the first time and based on reports, all the pre-election work put in by state and local elections officials seems to have paid off with few reported problems.

In Hattiesburg, elections workers told a report that the new law seemed to be well received by voters. And there were few reports of problems in Jackson County.

Ballots coded for one precinct that were used by other precincts in Harrison County and caused an early morning mix-up that was quickly resolved. The mix-up was blamed on human error. Elections results were delayed in Rankin County due to some technical problems

Despite things going well, Mother Nature did try to put a damper on things with downpours causing for light voter turnout in the morning hours.

And a strange situation in Covington County played out on social media when an AP reporter tried to get elections results but was told by a county election commissioner that she was home and in bed and could not provide results.

While not everyone adapts well to change, voters in Billings found the process much easier this time around at the Metra Pavillion. In past years voters were faced with long lines, but a new system allowing voters to check in, regardless of their original precinct essentially sped up the system and eliminated any lines. In Missoula, elections officials were able to take advantage of the low-turnout primary and conduct a “dress rehearsal” on some changes at the voting center.

New Jersey
New Jersey has been proactively moving polling places out of schools for safety reasons, but that has also caused some confusion for voters who were unaware that their long-time polling spot had move. In Warren County, two voting machines had to be replaced after they broke down. Voting was not delayed. A candidate in Bayonne, who will appear on a runoff ballot, is calling for stricter oversight after a video surfaced that may show attempted voter fraud. The race for Princeton council will come down to a handful of provisional ballots with the candidates currently separated by three votes. And in Atlantic County, 93 provisional ballots have been challenged.

New Mexico
The biggest story out of The Land of Enchantment was a war of wards between Secretary of State Dianna Duran (R) and Bernalillo County Clerk Maggie Toulouse Oliver (D). The two will face each other on the November ballot for the secretary of state seat.

According to the Albuquerque Journal, the election night tiff stemmed from a batch of early, unofficial returns posted on the secretary of state’s website shortly after the polls had closed. The early results were incorrect and ultimately replaced with the correct results and the secretary of state’s office blamed Toulouse Oliver for the error saying the county loaded a test document into the system. Toulouse Oliver disagreed.

“I’m left to conclude that either a huge mistake was made on their end and they were trying to cover their mistake by firing first, or that they took advantage of what they thought was my mistake to make me look bad,” Toulouse Oliver told the paper.

In other news, some voters were bothered by the heat, which almost hit triple digits in some areas on Tuesday. And construction at a polling place caused some headaches for voters and elections officials alike. State police responded to reports of voter fraud in McKinley County, but the county clerk said there were no irregularities on election night.

South Dakota
Overall, there were few reports of problems throughout South Dakota. And like in most other states casting ballots, turnout was quite low. Voters in Hughes County used vote centers for the first time this week and voters and elections officials seemed generally pleased with the process. In Davison County, a new up-to-date vote counting machine failed to fire properly and did not read about 700 ballots. Voters in Minnehaha County voters went back to individual polling places as opposed to voter centers and there was some confusion over that. And unlike in 2012, there were no long lines or parking problems in Brandon.