Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Overseas Voting and Uniformed Services Voter Registration System

This just arrived over the email wires. Unfortunately, I can't go. Only located a few thousand miles away!


Launch of First Internet-based Overseas and Uniformed Services Voter Registration System

Date: Friday, February 3, 2006; Time: 9:30 – 10:30 a.m.
Location: National Press Club; Murrow Room; 529 14th Street N.W., 13th Floor; Washington, D.C. 20045
Contact: Susan Dzieduszycka-Suinat, press@overseasvotefoundation.org Tel: +1 202 470 2480; or +49 172 951 0865

Starting Friday, February 3, 2006, up to seven million US citizens and military personnel will be able to generate their federal voter registration applications online, thanks to Overseas Vote Foundation, www.overseasvotefoundation.org.

The technologically advanced project, the first of its kind, provides a complete voter registration solution for overseas and active duty uniformed series voters whose voting program falls under the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA).

The launch event will feature a demonstration of the system and a full briefing.
Agenda as follows:

* Introduction and Welcome: James Brenner, OVF Chair
* Situation: overseas voters and UOCAVA implementation challenges;
* Online Demonstration: OVF Registration and Absentee Voter Application: Susan Dzieduszycka-Suinat, OVF Executive Director
* Military and UOCAVA: impact of OVF, Samuel F. Wright, Military Voting Rights Project, National Defense Committee, and OVF Advisor
* Benefits to Election Officials: Cameron Quinn, OVF Vice Chair, U.S. Elections Advisor for the International Foundation for Election Systems (IFES), and former chief election official for Virginia
* Q&A with Expert Panel

To confirm attendance or receive further information
please contact press@overseasvotefoundation.org,
or call +1 202 470 2480; or +49 172 951 0865

Overseas Vote Foundation (OVF) was founded in 2005 to assist eligible Americans living across the world to vote in federal elections. It is a nonprofit, nonpartisan public charity organization dedicated solely to serving the voter registration needs of UOCAVA voters.

Susan Dzieduszycka-Suinat, Executive Director
Overseas Vote Foundation

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Legislators in LA attempt to get at FEMA list for absentee balloting

The AP is reporting that two Louisiana state representatives, supported by Cleo Fields (ex Congressman and gubernatorial candidate, currently in the State Senate), are suing FEMA for the names and addresses of Louisiana residents who have applied for emergency assistance.

According to the petition, the representatives need the names in order to inform voters of their voting rights, including how to file absentee ballots.

Some of us blogged about the challenges in holding elections in Louisiana soon after Katrina hit. Who constitutes a current resident for voting purposes? Have officials prepared for the likely onslaught of absentee ballots? Is it the obligation of FEMA to assure voting rights?

Much seems to turn on FEMAs need to keep names private. I can think of at least one survey research lab that would love to have access to that list. Right now, attempting to assess the impact of Katrina on displaced residents is nearly impossible.

Credit goes out to Ed Still's Votelaw listserv for this Story

Friday, January 27, 2006

Early Voting plan for Illinois announced

Illinois is releasing their first guidelines for early voting, to occur in the March 21, 2006 primary election. Early voting will begin on February 27th and end March 16th. This is Illinois's trial run for the November 2006 election. The guidelines can be found here: http://www.elections.il.gov/Downloads/ElectionInformation/PDF/EarlyVoting.pdf

Illinois is implementing a mixed system, as is used in Texas, Tennessee, Florida, and many other states. "Early voting" will be available at "convenient" locations throughout the counties. There is no indication whether supercenters will be used, or whether voters must cast their ballot in the same precinct that they are registered.

Illinois is imposing an ID requirement for early voters that, interestingly, is stricter than they use for day of election voting. Early voters have to show a government (state) issued photo ID. Good thing to see that the new policy prohibits voting early and on election day! ;-)

Absentee balloting occurs as before, so Illinois has not implemented a no-excuse absentee system. This will be an in-person early voting system with absentee balloting.

I've been talking with the Illinois state elections board, advising them about the levels of early voting they can expect in March and more importantly in November. To their credit, the board has also commissioned a study to test the effectiveness of voter outreach and educational efforts. I'll report on this when these become available.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Advance voting in Canada

First early voting reports from the recent Canadian election which ended the tenure of the Liberal party--"advance" voting rates are up by a quarter million. I'll try to find the percentage increase since the last general election.

The Globe and Mail: Advance voting up 25 per cent from 2004

Ridgecrest Daily Independent: Our View

I've been following the move to all by-mail voting in both Washington state and California, as has my colleague Mike Alvarez over at electionupdates.

What's happening? As with Washington, counties in California are finding that the combination of fiscal pressures relating to HAVA compliance, plus the growing numbers of absentee balloters, as well as political pressure from voting reform groups (and faculty like Mike!) make early/absentee balloting the easy option.

Alvarez believes Alameda County's proposal will go down the defeat. Here's another editorial endorsing the plan:

Ridgecrest Daily Independent: Our View

Early voting procedures in the West Bank

A first look at early voting procedures in the volatile West Bank.

Palestinian Authority security officers have been given permission to vote early, so that they can be on duty during the normal election period. Nearly half of eligible voters turned out on the first day (of three) of early voting.

Hamas has objected to the early voting procedure because the names of voters are not being published at the polling places, as specified in the electoral laws.

Story reported here.

Record requirements in Texas may reduce poll access

According the reports that I have been seeing coming out of Texas, new record requirements in Texas mean that county officials must use separate electronic voting machines for early voting and for day of election voting.

For those counties that are strapped with funds--already stretched thin to meet the new requirements for HAVA--this means that they are considering (or have already reduced) the number of early voting stations.

The problem, as we saw in Florida and Georgia in 2004, is that as early voting gains in popularity, reducing the number of stations can actually make early voting far less convenient than day of election voting. This defeats the purpose of implementing early voting in the first place.

The proposed solution seems to be this: have a smaller number of "super centers" for conducting early voting (currently under Texas law, voters must cast their ballots in the same precinct in which they reside), then far more ballot stations on election day.

A sample story out of Texas is: here

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Maryland election reforum commission report

I am coming across press reports of the first set of findings from Governor Ehrlich's election reform panel (See Baltimore Sun and WBOT Baltimore, but I cannot find the commission's press release anywhere on the web.

Press reports indicate that the commission has endorsed Ehrlich's veto of four election reform bills that came out of the Maryland legislature.

The report also indicates that an independent study of electronic voting machines is being conducted by Donald F. Norris

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Proposal for all-mail voting in San Mateo County, CA

It looks like the move is on in California to move to all-mail elections as a way to save money and meet HAVA certification requirements. Or so I claim in my quotes in this recent story: Inside Bay Area - San Mateo County Times - Local News

Friday, January 06, 2006

Election Updates: Intelligence update --- new book on reforms and voter turnout

Mike Alvarez provides an interesting early review of a forthcoming book by David Hill on election reforms and turnout here.

(By the way, Mike, nice change to the site allowing us to link directly to posts; also, the Perseus link for Hill's book contains no data).

I share some of Mike's skepticism about the conclusions. He does a good job pointing out how interaction effects have to be carefully parsed out in any set of institutional reforms (not just election reforms).

In Oregon, a movement is afoot to move to a top-two primary system. I've been advising a Portland City Club commission studying this initiative, and I've told them again and again: you have to put yourself in the minds of all of the actors in the electoral drama: candidates, parties, independent organizations, election officials, and voters, to try to even start to figure out how a reform may alter behavior. And what makes things even more complicated is that these actors react to one another.

What do I mean? If, for instance, we implement widespread early voting in this country, surely candidates and campaign organizations will react by targeting these voters. Will this mean that campaigns end up becoming more expensive? Will this increase the influence of money in elections? Will voters end up being more alienated as a result?

(For the top-two primary, I've been urging Oregonians to look to the Lousiana example. There is no evidence from LA that the top-two either increases turnout among Independents or produces moderate general election candidates, a claim made by advocates in this state.)

Too bad this book doesn't seem to be available right now--I am teaching an elections course in the Spring and am casting about for good election reform texts.

Michigan OpEd supports early voting

This Op Ed from the Secretary-Trasurer of the Michigan AFL-CIO and vice chair of the Michigan Democratic party argues in favor of early voting, but promotes many of the myths surrounding these systems.

How many times can it be repeated: there is no evidence that early voting increases turnout! If you want to increase turnout in this country, you need to get people excited about politics, interested in the campaigns, and give them real choices among candidates.

Of course, the Republican complaints about no-excuse absentee balloting in Michigan are also fallacious. Most studies indicate that absentee balloting is not more costly (it's mostly a wash, since you save money on election day administration), and security concerns are easily handled.

What politicians are most averse to is uncertainty, and the reason that Republicans don't like early voting is that it makes the future uncertain. Since they are in control of the legislature under the current system, they ask: why change it?