Cartoon of voters queued up to cast ballots
Federal panel tells Ohio to stop trashing provisional ballots

You would think that it would be an easy call. A poll worker informs you that you should cast your provisional ballot in a specific precinct. You do so. It turns out that it was the wrong precinct. But it's not your mistake and your vote is counted anyway.  

But that's not how it was being done in Ohio. Such "miscast" ballots, 14,000 of them in 2008, were being tossed in the circular file. In the second important Ohio-related decision in a week, a three-judge federal court panel ruled Thursday that such wrong-precinct provisional ballots must be counted when it's a poll-worker's fault they were miscast:

Ohio law “effectively requires voters to have a greater knowledge of their precinct, precinct ballot, and polling place than poll workers,” the three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit said. [...]

Ohioans cast 200,000 provisional ballots in the 2008 elections, and 14,000 of those were rejected for being cast in the wrong precinct. Given that the state increasingly uses polling locations that serve voters from more than one precinct and that 13 different classes of voters are required to use provisional ballots, the reality exists that “thousands” of ballots would be tossed out “where the voter’s only mistake was relying on the poll-worker’s precinct guidance,” the judges said.

The issue of counting out-of-precinct provisional ballots began in 2006. Ohio signed a consent decree then to resolve the issue. But the Ohio Supreme Court ruled in 2011 that it was under no obligation to count such ballots.

The wrong precinct issue may not be totally resolved. The court's ruling only affects "right church, wrong pew" ballots. That is, the voter was at the right location, but voted in the wrong precinct at that location. It is not clear whether the court will clarify the matter by election day.

Last week's Sixth Circuit Court's ruling upheld a lower court's decision reinstating Ohio's early voting hours on the three days right before the election. The legislature had removed those days from the early voting calendar. Secretary of State Jon Husted has appealed the ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Sproul still in the voter registration business

When it was discovered last week that more than 100 fraudulent voter-registration forms were traceable to employees of Nathan Sproul's Strategic Allied Consulting firm, the Florida Republican Party, four other state parties and the Republican National Party publicly broke off its lucrative dealings with SAC.

But now, bluenc reports, Sproul has set up another apparently identical operation called Issue Advocacy Partners, operating in 10 states. Strategic Allied Consulting itself was set up to conceal Sproul's presence because of previous voter-registration shenanigans in 2000 and 2004. It's not known if it is being paid by any Republican party organizations, state or national.

BlueNC first made the connection between Strategic Allied Consulting and a company owned by Romney consultant Nathan Sproul of Tempe, AZ, back in August after the company was found to be operating in North Carolina. When fraudulent voter registrations associated with Strategic Allied Consulting popped up in Palm Beach last week the Florida GOP fired the firm and the operation quickly unravelled.
But even as Bradblog, Lee Fang at The Nation and ultimately Michael Isikoff at NBC were spreading the word that led to the Republican sacking of Sproul's operation, he  was already recruiting for the new operation with ads on Craigslist:
Some of the ads specifically mention voter registration but do use terms like "seeking to hire grassroots canvassers to identify conservative voters", "voter recruiter", "conservative voter identification", "voter ID", " identify conservative voters". Many of the postings use an email address with the domain issueadvocacypartners.com. The website located at issueadvocacypartners.com has an appearance that is almost identical to that of the original strategicalliedconsulting.com.
Ads for the organization have appeared in Alabama, Louisiana, Wisconsin, Iowa, Virginia, New York and New Jersey.

(Please continue reading about voter suppression below the fold.)

  • Map of pushback against voter suppression October 2012
  • Brennan Center recaps restrictive voting laws:
    An excellent summary of restrictive voting-law actions complete with maps showing where legislation was introduced, passed, fought against and remains in place has been put together by the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law. The summary is regularly updated.

    Overall, 180 pieces of restrictive voting legislation have been introduced since 2011, 25 bill passed and were signed and two executive orders issued in 19 states.

  • As reported here earlier this week, a three-judge federal panel unanimously "pre-cleared" South Carolina's photo-ID voter law, but barred it from going into effect until 2013.

    The U.S. Department of Justice had blocked the proposal last winter under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. That ground-breaking law forced states to give up "Jim Crow" segregation laws that, among other things, kept most African Americans from voting in several Southern states and American Indians from voting in some counties in the West. In 16 states, therefore, all or some counties must pre-clear any major change in voting procedures. with the DOJ. Section 5 is being contested by attorneys general from several states.

    Unlike the voter-ID law struck down in Texas, South Carolina's is far less restrictive and allows reasonable options for people who show up at the polls without the required form of identity card.

  • Pennsylvania billboards on voter-ID may cause confusion:
    In Pennsylvania, where a court has ruled that citizens don't have to show ID this year in order to vote, some lingering billboards from before the decision was passed could lead to some confusion that hinders turnout. The billboards indicate that voters without a photo ID will be turned away.
  • Ohio billboards warning of voter fraud will stay up: Civil rights activists argued in court that dozens of billboards in Cleveland and Columbus warning that voter fraud is a felony were meant to intimidate citizens in the minority-populated neighborhoods where they were placed. But, Clear Channel, the owners of the billboards will leave them up even though it concedes it was a mistake to put them in the first place. The billboards were paid for by an anonymous contributor.
  • Ohio's Husted: Election boards must not phone or email voters about absentee ballot mistakes.
    According to newly-issued Directive 2012-48, Boards of Election wishing to notify a voter of mistakes on his/her absentee ballot can only do so “in writing by first class mail”. ”Notification may not be made via telephone, email, facsimile” or any other means.

    This is a stark change from the policy under SOS Jennifer Brunner, who issued a directive in 2008 advising boards to “simultaneously use both email and first class mail” and which allowed telephone communication when other means were “impracticable or impossible.”

  • Nearly six million ex-felons have lost their voting rights:
    Florida leads the pack with 1.5 million disfranchised ex-felons, it being one of four states that permanently take away the right to vote from anyone convicted of a felony. The other states are Iowa, Kentucky and Virginia. They all require a decree from the governor or a state clemency board to restore those rights, and that doesn't come easily. The law, by its very nature, disproportionately affects people of color and the poor.
  • The real fight on voter participation is not being engaged, say citizen advocates:
    While much energy has been focused on voter IDs and voter-roll purges and other efforts to curtail the vote, one are that is being ignored in that, along almost all other countries, elections in the United States are run by partisan officials. And it's the administration of the rules ultimately counts. There's another big problem, too:
    Robert A. Pastor, co-director of the Center for Democracy and Election Management at American University, who was executive director of the Carter-Baker commission, said the voter identification fights of recent months pale when compared with some of these other issues, especially voter registration. Only half of eligible voters in the country are registered and few of them lack photo IDs, he said.

    “The proponents of voter ID are adamant that it is essential to stop electoral fraud even though there is hardly any evidence of voter impersonation, and the opponents are sure that it will lead to voter suppression even though they haven’t been able — until Pennsylvania — to point to a single instance where a voter could not vote because of a lack of ID,” he said. “I did a survey of Indiana, Maryland, and Mississippi and found only about 1.2 percent of registered voters did not have photo IDs. The problem remains registration — not IDs — in reducing voting participation. To quote Jorge Luis Borges on the Falklands war, ‘It’s a fight between two bald men over a comb.’ ”

  • Bay Area Obama allies help fund national fight against voter ID:
    The Lisa and Douglas Goldman Fund has announced it'll give a half-million dollars to combat what it calls voter disenfranchisement efforts in several states. The American Civil Liberties Union Foundation, Common Cause Education Fund, Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, and Project Vote will receive $125,000 each.

    "Our response to voter suppression is strategic," Douglas Goldman said in a news release. "By supporting these distinct projects, we want to bring a coordinated approach to ensure that voting rights are protected."

    The Goldmans created their foundation in 1992, and it has awarded nearly $60 million to more than 500 nonprofits in seven areas: democracy and civil liberties, education and literacy, environment, health and recreation, the Jewish community, reproductive health and rights, and San Francisco Bay Area institutions.

  • Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland will investigate True the Vote: The organization has been accused of using intimidation and other potentially illegal tactics to keep people from voting. See: Only vigilance will curtail the dark work of voter suppression by groups such as True the Vote.
  • New Mexico attorney general investigating GOP "voter suppression":
    New Mexico Attorney General Gary King has launched an investigation into a video that allegedly shows Republican officials giving volunteer poll watchers false information about state election law, his office announced Tuesday.

    A video brought to light by ProgressNow New Mexico shows a Republican poll watcher training session the liberal group said was “replete with misinformation about ID requirements, the use of provisional ballots, assistance for Spanish-speaking citizens, change of address requirements, and the rights of the disabled at the polls."

    King is running for governor in 2014.
  • Right-wingers claim that the Constitution forbids early voting are bogus.
  • Man in Nevada may have revealed fraudulent registration drive: Under Nevada law, the pay people receive for registering others to vote cannot be based on a quota of overall voters they register or of how many they register of particular party. But both those rules are apparently being broken. A Nevada television station obtained cell phone video of a man who claimed he worked for the Republican Party:
    “Could you do me a favor?” the man asked a potential voter. “Mark non-partisan on there. I’ll get credit for it. I don’t get credit for Democrats.” [...]

    “I am a Democrat,” he added. “So I still do Democrats if I have to, but I’m working for the Republican Party. I have to get two an hour and I don’t get credit for Democrats.”

  • Judicial Watch chief: Photo-ID foes want "illegal alien" votes: The folks who have been opposing restrictive voter ID laws? They're ultimately seeking to enable non-citizens to vote, according to supporters of the laws that have been passed in several states. Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton says "When you tie it all together, it's all about the illegal alien vote," And J. Christian Adams, founder of the Election Law Center Virginia, said voter-ID foes are in "the sad and pathetic role of enablers of criminal conduct."
  • CNN documentary will examine restrictive voting laws Sunday:
    CNN senior correspondent Joe Johns will present his investigation of "Voters in America: Who Counts" on Sunday, Oct. 14. The one-hour documentary focuses on Florida and how voting procedure changes there could affect how the 2012 presidential election turns out.

••• ••• ••• •••

  • Former Ambassador Joe C. Wilson: Voter Intimidation and Suppression Come to New Mexico.
  • Editorial Board of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch: GOP voter suppression efforts continue to fail:
    The voter ID crusade is nothing but an organized attempt to steal an election by patting down any voter who doesn't look or feel like a likely Republican vote.
  • Pass on voter ID, but add ranked-choice:
    In a joint op-ed, a leading Minnesota Democrat and leading Republican write that the proper actions on the state's photo-ID referendum is to vote "no" and send the measure back to the legislature for retooling:
    And while they are at it, legislators could take time to address some other shortcomings in our electoral system. Among those would be to assist counties in acquiring and implementing modern and uniform voting machinery, ensuring that across Minnesota we have consistency in our voting process. Redrawing political districts, as is required every 10 years, should be taken out of the hands of partisan politicians and instead handled by a nonpartisan commission. With the increasing role of super PACs and other outside groups, campaign-finance reform also should be a priority.

    And, rather than limiting votes, passing ranked-choice voting would make sure that every vote counts. RCV allows voters to cast their ballots for the candidate they favor most, but creates the option for a second-choice ballot.

  • Former DFL Rep. Jim Oberster urges no vote on the upcoming photo-ID referendum:
    The 18-term congressman from the 8th District of Minnesota urged fellow citizens to reject the Voter Identification Amendment on the November ballot on the grounds that it would discriminate and reduce the state's high voter turnout.
  • Error and fraud a concern as absentee ballots rise:
    Figuring out which absentee ballots to count based on signatures (or lack of them) and other factors has always made for a slow process. Thus, the increase in absentee voting has tripled since 1980 and now accounting for 20 percent of the total votes cast is problematic.
    [V]otes cast by mail are less likely to be counted, more likely to be compromised and more likely to be contested than those cast in a voting booth, statistics show. Election officials reject almost 2 percent of ballots cast by mail, double the rate for in-person voting.

    “The more people you force to vote by mail,” [Florida elections supervisor Ion] Sancho said, “the more invalid ballots you will generate.”

  • Sixteen-year-old high schooler Sanah Imran challenges the "injustice" of voter suppression:
    From mandating the possession of a voter ID to limiting the number of early voting days, there is nothing at which the Republican Party will stop to ensure Mr. Romney's win come November, as well as the wins of other Republicans who are running for House and Senate. (Of course, it says a lot about the party and the nominee if they must turn to voter suppression to secure a win.)
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