Friday, March 24, 2006 > News > Military -- Senators ask Rumsfeld to smooth military voting process

Twelve US Senators have written Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to urge changes in the way that members of the US military cast their ballots. The Senators claim that the military voting system is still fundamentally unchanged from the Korean War.

You can read a story on the letter here. I have been unable to track down the text of the letter.

Those in the election reform community are probably aware of the work by Mike Alvarez on this for the 2004 election (see comments by Hall and Alvarez here ). The plug was pulled, probably too soon, on this project due to security concerns.

Who voted early in Illinois's primary

First reports are coming out of Illinois regarding early voting rates in the March 21st gubernatorial primary.

A story out of Park Ridge reports that it ranked second out of 137 county voting sites ( this is sites in Cook County )in terms of early voting, "according to figures released by the Cook County Clerk."

The Clerk's website ( Cook County Clerk ) does not report these results yet and I cannot find any press release.

While searching around for these results, I found this interesting website: . This looks like a private company that reports the official Illinois election results. Can this be true? This may be the case at this point because official results are not being reported until April 21st. The Fidlar Company varies in what it reports by county. Some counties show under and over votes. Others show just vote totals. None that I have seen contain early vs. day of election votes.

Monday, March 20, 2006

New OR voting machines hit delay

New voting machines, intended to increase disabled access to the ballot, have hit a snag in Oregon. This will put Oregon out of compliance with HAVA.

The story reports a last minute dispute between the state and the manufacturer on some of contract provisions.

Full story is here: New voting machines hit delay

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Lousiana early voting period to begin

The much discussed and debated April election in Louisiana is starting, with early voting kicking off on March 27th.

Parish early voting to begin Monday

9% vote early in Belarus

Reports on early voting in Belarus. 9% of ballots came in early. Belarussians were also able to cast early ballots in Moscow and St. Petersburg.


Monday, March 13, 2006

How to conduct an election after a disaster?

The plans for widespread absentee balloting are becoming clearer in Louisiana.

In order to accomodate widespread absentee (really, in-person satellite) voting, the state is making creative use of the new statewide registration database (required by HAVA). By using the database, state officials hope that registrars in outlying counties can verify the eligibility of New Orleans residents who may show up to vote (The Shreveport Times).

Meanwhile, a number of groups are criticizing the Secretary of State for sending out "incomplete and misleading" information to more than 700,000 displaced voters ( Time-Picayune).

Unanticipated costs of early voting in Ohio

Early voting is often sold as a cost-saver.

But as this report from Ohio shows, sometimes early voting can be more expensive.

Particularly when first being adopted, when the numbers of early voters are unknown, counties are having to shoulder extra costs. They have to order some unknown number of absentee ballots (and you HAVE to overorder) as well as man some unknown number of early voting stations.

More on the Illinois Early Voting controversy

  • The Chicago Tribune reports on the Claypool suit.
  • More suburban precincts are opening on weekends, clearly in response to the suit filed by Forest Claypool. (as reported in the Barrington Courier.
    The number of early voters remains very low, though, as few as two or three daily. This won't be a cost-saver if the numbers remain that low.
  • A judge in Cook County agreed that the number of early voting sites in lakefront areas was low enough to be a "glaring" discrepancy, but does not rise to the level of a constitutional voting rights violation.

  • Counting the ballots ... BEFORE voting ... takes time in Norridge Village, and ends up delaying the start of early voting. Perhaps the state can pre-count the ballots before the pack them up?

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Elias oped: "Cal ought to give all-mail voting a whirl"

This recent op ed by Tom Elias, who wrote for the Scripps-Howard chain for 15 years before becoming a syndicated columnist in California, trots out some of the standard arguments in favor of all-mail voting, being debated in the California state legislature.

Elias gets some parts of the argument right, but unfortunately, in most parts he is dead wrong and promote misinformation about how by-mail voting operates.

Elias is right about the number one reason pushing by mail voting in CA, as well as in Washington and some other states--with new paper audits being required by many states, and HAVA requirements for disabled access to the ballot, counties are finding it easier and cheaper to go straight to all-mail voting rather than purchasing new electronic voting machines.

But is this a good enough reason to go to all-mail voting? Elias seems to think it is, but interestingly, argues that by mail ballots 'get counted more slowly.'

Not sure where this comes from--there is no lag in election reporting from states with high numbers of absentee ballots, or from Oregon (which uses all by mail) then from states with high levels of precinct voting.

The reason, at least in Oregon, is that the ballots have to arrive on election day, not be postmarked by election day (as Elias seems to believe).

And Elias misrepresents how accurately signatures are checked in by-mail elections. Would any state be satisfied with a "random sampling" of signatures, or would they expect (as they do in Oregon) a check of each ballot signature?

Elias actually gets these points that are favorable toward vote by mail backwards.

On other points, points that he thinks are evidence in favor of vote by mail, Elias once again drives in the wrong direction.

There is no evidence that vote by mail is cheaper--he mistakenly thinks that vote "by mail" means everyone mails their ballot in. For Oregon, the percentage of ballots that arrive by post office delivery can be as low as 60%. The rest are dropped off at satellite locations.

And while it is true that counties don't have to rent polling places, they do need a large staff to verify every signature and do the ballot counting over a longer period of time.

Paper ballots take longer to count (Elias argues) ... therefore more expensive ... yet Elias also argues they are cheaper ... (which is it?)

Finally, he is wrong to believe that the bulk of by-mail ballots would be cast early. In our state, as many as half of the ballots are brought in by voters on election day. This is pretty common knowledge among anyone who knows absentee and "early" voting systems--lots of voters actually choose not to vote "early" after all!

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Lawsuit threatened over early voting locations in Cook County

This explains recent communications that I have received over the number of early voting locations used in other urban localities in the 2004 election.

A Cook County board candidate, Forrest Claypool, has filed a Federal lawsuit alleging that the number and location of early voting centers in Cook County has been manipulated so as to benefit regular Democratic voters.

This suit is described here and seems to be different from another suit, this time filed by "several Chicago and suburban residents" alleging voting rights violations in the placement of early voting centers.

Part of the problem appears to be that the Illinois regulations give general guidelines as to how many early voting centers are to be opened and what hours they are to operate, but no set rules. The result is that some areas have weekend voting and some do not; some have widely distributed early voting locations and some do not.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Early voting starts slowly in Illinois

As I blogged a while ago, Illinois ia adopting early voting the right way--during a low profile primary where they can works out the kinks and bugs.

The earlyu reports that I've seen indicate that early voting numbers are very low, however, so low that they may not provide much of a test of the system.

Papers are reporting early voting numbers in the 10s and 20s at many precincts. I have not seen reports yet from Cook County. I'll post these when they become available.

No information yet at the Illinois Election Site.

Report from Adams County here