Date: October 23, 2012
Source: WUFT News (See Photo)
Abstract: This is a template of what many citizens across Florida received this week: a letter “from” their specific Supervisor of Elections which claims “The _____ County Supervisor of Elections has received information from the Florida Division of Elections regarding your citizenship status, bringing into question your eligibility as a registered voter.”
The letter requests the recipient to fill out the attached “Voter Eligibility Form” in order to remain a registered voter and directs any questions or concerns to the county’s Supervisor of Elections. At least 20 counties are affected, according to NPR; the article also stated that many of the fake letters are going to Republicans.
“This is an example of why voters need to be vigilant during the election season and to be aware that there may be people out there committing fraudulent acts,” Chris Cate, a spokesman for the Florida Department of State, told NPR.
Voters this summer received letters similar to the one above after Gov. Rick Scott organized what became known as a “voter purge” to remove alleged non-citizens who are not allowed to vote.
The Department of State created a list of potential non-citizens in order to have as fair of an election as possible, Scott said, but that original list contained a “disproportionately high number of citizens (who) were flagged as potential noncitizens,” according to the Tampa Bay Times.
That drive to remove voters led many to question the validity of the voting system in Florida, whether or not citizens agreed with the program. The voter removal program was largely suspended as election season approached due to inaccuracies in the suspected non-citizen list.
Still, in light of Scott’s plan, letters like this might seem more legitimate.
How authentic does the bogus letter look?
“That is not our typical letterhead here in Marion County,” said Wesley Wilcox, the Assistant Supervisor of Elections in Marion County.
Voters who receive any misleading material can “bring it all to our office,” Wilcox said.At least one person who received the letter was not an absentee voter, so the mailer did not go “through that portion of the data,” said Wilcox. Although the letters are postmarked from Seattle, authorities still do not know where they are specifically coming from (WUFT News, 2012).
International Vote Monitors Warn Texas: Don't Mess With Us
Date: October 24, 2012
Abstract: International election monitors took a dim view on Wednesday of Texas' threat to prosecute them if they observe voting in the state a bit too closely on November 6.
The exchange pitted the Vienna-based human rights watchdog Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe against Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, who warned the OSCE not to interfere with polling in state elections.
"The threat of criminal sanctions against OSCE/ODIHR observers is unacceptable," Janez Lenarcic, director of the OSCE's Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) monitoring arm, said in a statement.
"The United States, like all countries in the OSCE, has an obligation to invite ODIHR observers to observe its elections."
Abbott told Reuters on Wednesday that he is considering legal action against the group if it doesn't concede that it will follow the state's laws.
"They act like they may not be subject to Texas law and our goal all along is to make clear to them that when they're in Texas, they're subject to Texas law, and we're not giving them an exemption," he said.
Abbott is skeptical about why the group wants to look at elections in Texas.
"Our concern is that this isn't some benign observation but something intended to be far more prying and maybe even an attempt to suppress voter integrity," he said.
In a letter on Tuesday to the Warsaw-based ODIHR, Abbott had noted that OSCE representatives were not authorized by Texas law to enter a polling place.
"It may be a criminal offense for OSCE's representatives to maintain a presence within 100 feet of a polling place's entrance. Failure to comply with these requirements could subject the OSCE's representatives to criminal prosecution for violating state law," he added.
He cited reports that OSCE monitors had met with organizations challenging voter identification laws. Texas' voter ID law was blocked earlier this year by a federal court, and Abbott has said he will appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
"The OSCE may be entitled to its opinions about Voter ID laws, but your opinion is legally irrelevant in the United States, where the Supreme Court has already determined that Voter ID laws are constitutional," Abbott wrote.
Texas Secretary of State Hope Andrade also wrote to the United Nations-affiliated OSCE/ODIHR on Tuesday, saying that it's key for Texans to understand that the organization has no jurisdiction over the state.
Republican Texas Governor Rick Perry tweeted on Tuesday: "No UN monitors/inspectors will be part of any TX election process; I commend @TXsecofstate for swift action to clarify issue."
The 56-member OSCE routinely sends monitors to elections and noted November's elections would be the sixth U.S. vote that ODIHR has observed "without incident" since 2002.
For next month's elections it has a core team of 13 experts from 10 OSCE countries based in Washington and 44 long-term observers deployed across the country, it said.
Lenarcic had shared his "grave concern" about the threat of Texas prosecutions with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the OSCE said."Our observers are required to remain strictly impartial and not to intervene in the voting process in any way," Lenarcic said. "They are in the United States to observe these elections, not to interfere in them" (Reuters, 2012).
Iowa To Poll-Watchers: Back Off
Date: October 31, 2012
Abstract: Iowa has joined Texas in warning international election observers of possible criminal prosecution if they violate state laws and get near polling places on Election Day.
Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz — like Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott last week — on Tuesday threatened Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe election observers with arrest if they came within 300 feet of a polling place’s entrance, in violation of state law. (In Texas, it’s 100 feet.)
“My office met with two delegation representatives last week to discuss Iowa’s election process, and it was explained to them that they are not permitted at the polls,” Schultz said in a statement. “Iowa law is very specific about who is permitted at polling places, and there is no exception for members of this group.”
The OSCE — comprised of 56 countries, including the United States — is chiefly a crisis mediation and conflict resolution group in Europe, Asia and North America. Since 2002, the organization’s poll watchers have observed six U.S. elections, without incident, said Janez Lenari, the OSCE’s director for the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights.
In a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Lenari wrote, “The threat of criminal sanctions against OSCE/ODIHR observers is unacceptable. The United States, like all countries in the OSCE, has an obligation to invite ODIHR observers to observe its elections.”
Victoria Nuland, a State Department spokesman, said last week the group assured Texas authorities and the State Department that observers will respect Texas laws.“To my knowledge, [Texas] is the only state that came forward and said ‘please reassure us that you’re going to follow our state electoral law.’ And they have now been reassured,” Nuland said (Politico, 2012).
Title: Ohio Voting Count 'Nightmare' Looms
Date: November 1, 2012
Abstract: With the presidential election expected to hinge on Ohio, the state’s former secretary of state, GOP stalwart Kenneth Blackwell, is warning that a little-known change in the Buckeye State’s absentee-ballot process could lead to a “nightmare scenario.”
And that scenario could force the entire country to wait 10 days after the election to find out who will be the next president of the United States. It’s a complicated situation, to say the least, but one that could have a far-reaching impact on the Nov. 6 election process.
For the first time in the key swing state’s history, Blackwell says, virtually all Ohio voters this year were mailed an application for an absentee ballot. In previous elections, most Ohio voters had to request an application for an absentee ballot to receive one.
The concern is that thousands of Ohio voters may complete the absentee-ballot application and receive an absentee ballot, but not bother to complete and mail in the ballot.
Anyone who is sent an absentee ballot — including those who do not complete it and mail it in — and later shows up at the polls on Election Day to cast their ballot in person will be instructed to instead complete a provisional ballot.
And under Ohio election law, provisional ballots cannot be opened until 10 days after an election.
“I would just say that this is a potential nightmare-in-waiting,” says Blackwell.
Blackwell believes that could result in an unprecedented number of provisional ballots being filed – some 250,000 or more. Such a large number of ballots being held, presumably under armed guard, for 10 days until they can be opened, would bring to mind the historic 2000 post-election battle in Florida. That recount was marked by ballot disputes — and inevitably, lawsuits.
“You’re talking about craziness for 10 days,” Blackwell tells Newsmax in an exclusive interview. “They won’t even be opened to be counted for 10 days.”
According to a report by Barry M. Horstman of the Cincinnati Enquirer, absentee-ballot applications were mailed to 6.9 million of Ohio’s 7.8 million registered voters.
As of Oct. 26, Ohio election officials had mailed out 1.3 absentee ballots. Of those absentee ballots, 950,000 had been completed and mailed back in.
That leaves some 350,000 absentee ballots that had been requested and sent to voters, but had not yet been received.
Ohio voters who requested an absentee ballot, but did not complete it and mail it back in, will not be allowed to vote normally.
Explains Blackwell: “So they go to the polls and say, ‘I want my ballot.’ And [poll workers] say, ‘Oh, we see you applied for an absentee ballot.’ The voter says, ‘Oh, I changed my mind.’ And they say, ‘That’s well and good, but we have to guarantee that you don’t vote twice. You have to fill out a provisional ballot.’”
Provisional ballots are used whenever someone shows up at the polls whose eligibility to vote cannot be immediately verified. Their name may not show up on the voter rolls, for example.
Rather than turn them away, state election officials typically have those individuals indicate their voting preference with a provisional ballot. Once their eligibility to vote has been established, the vote can be counted.
The use of provisional ballots is intended to prevent any voter from casting one ballot by mail, and then a second ballot at the polling place.
Ohio’s current secretary of state, Republican Jon Husted, pushed for the absentee-ballot applications to go out to all voters, according to Blackwell.
In previous Ohio elections, a few counties would automatically send out absentee-ballot applications to all their residents, while the vast majority of counties would not. Husted sought to make the absentee ballot process uniform across Ohio’s 88 counties.
In a news release, Husted said the new system would “help reduce the chance of long lines at the polls during the presidential election, and voters in smaller counties will have the same conveniences as voters in larger counties.”
No one can say how many absentee ballots will remain outstanding as of Election Day. Ohio voters have until Nov. 3 to request an absentee ballot. Election officials will accept and count absentee ballots as long as they are postmarked by Nov. 5, the day before the election.
Ordinarily, the number of provisional ballots outstanding in Ohio probably would be inconsequential. In 2008, according to the Enquirer, only about 70,000 were actually cast.
But uncertainly over perhaps a quarter-million votes would be a serious concern in Ohio, given the historically close margins of victory there.
Democrat Jimmy Carter carried Ohio by only about 11,000 votes over incumbent Republican President Gerald Ford in 1976. In 2004, GOP President George W. Bush carried the state by 118,775 votes over Democratic Sen. John Kerry, in a controversial finish that occurred during Blackwell’s tenure as secretary of state.
As of Wednesday, the RealClearPolitics average of polls in Ohio showed President Barack Obama leading GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney by 2.4 percent. That site, and many others, rate the contest as a toss-up.
No Republican has ever won the presidency without carrying Ohio. The Obama campaign has rested its re-election hopes on a firewall strategy that hinges on winning Ohio’s 18 Electoral College votes. Doing so would greatly complicate Romney’s path to garnering the 270 Electoral College votes needed to capture the presidency.
If the voter turnout in Ohio matches the 2008 level of 67 percent, some 5,226,000 votes would be cast. Under that scenario, 250,000 provisional ballots would amount to 4.8 percent of the entire vote — well over the current difference between the two candidates, according to RealClearPolitics poll average.
Other than Horstman’s report in the Cincinnati Enquirer, Ohio’s provisional ballot issue has largely flown under the radar of the national political press.
Blackwell tells Newsmax that given the uncertainty over how voters may respond to the widespread, unsolicited invitation to obtain an absentee ballot, the potential for a 10-day delay “is a major concern in terms of the management of a process that is perceived as being free, fair, and as unsuspenseful as possible.”
Hamilton County Board of Elections director Amy Searcy echoes Blackwell’s concern. She told the Enquirer that a 10-day lag while the entire nation waited for Ohio to declare who won its election “would be called my nightmare scenario.”
Matt McClellan, press secretary for the Ohio Secretary of State’s office, tells Newsmax it will be late Tuesday or early Wednesday morning before a final tally is available of how many absentee provisional ballots have been cast.
He confirmed that 2012 marks the first election year in which virtually all registered voters in Ohio were sent absentee ballot applications.
He said the department has not made any projections on how that change might impact absentee and provisional ballot voting trends. However, he emphasized that the vote-counting process in Ohio will be reliable, secure, and in accord with the state’s election laws.
“I disagree with the Enquirer story,” said McClellan. “There is not a nightmare scenario for Ohio.
“If the margin is too close, and we’re just not able to tell definitely at that point, that doesn’t mean anything bad has happened in Ohio. It means the process is proceeding as is required under law. So, will we have outstanding absentees and provisional ballots? Yes. We don’t know how many yet; we won’t know until Election Day.”
McClellan emphasized that every legal ballot will be counted.
Blackwell agrees there is no way to know yet how many provisional ballots Ohio will ultimately have to count, or if the nation might have a 10-day cliffhanger before the winner of the presidential election is known.
But he adds, “It is not an unreasonable scenario to plan against, given that this is the first time in the history of the state that every registered voter got mailed – unrequested – an absentee ballot [application]” (Newsmax, 2012).
James Baker: "Not Entirely Unlikely That We Might Have A Recount"
Date: November 1, 2012
Source: Real Clear Politics
Abstract: "There are three or four states today, Bret, that require a recount if the result is within a certain number of percentage points. And so it's not in -- not entirely unlikely that we might have a recount in a -- in two or three of those states. And that could then trigger what happened in 2000," former Secretary of State James Baker said about the possibility of a recount.
Title: Vote-Rigging 'Floodgates' Opened By US Ballot Box Flaws
Date: November 1, 2012
Republican National Committee Alleges Voting Machine Troubles In Nevada, Other
Date: November 1, 2012
Abstract: Secretary of State Ross Miller called claims of voter machine irregularities in Nevada by the Republican National Committee “irresponsible and unfortunate” on Thursday.
Miller, a Democrat, was responding to a letter sent to his office and election officials in five other states on Thursday in which the RNC alleged voting machines cast ballots for President Barack Obama, a Democrat, when the vote was intended for his Republican challenger, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.
The RNC did not provide documented proof of its allegation aside from media anecdotes.
In Washoe County, a man reported a problem with a voting machine in which he tried to vote for Obama but the machine kept registering a vote for Romney. The machine was recalibrated by election officials.
Miller responded in a letter sent to the RNC on Thursday that said unsubstantiated allegations of voting machine problems based on rumor, media reports and hearsay, “undermine the public’s confidence in the electoral process.”
The RNC letter expressed concerns that the voting machine problems were the result of “miscalibration and hyper-sensitivity of the machines.” Letters were sent to officials in Ohio, North Carolina, Colorado, Kansas and Missouri.
The RNC asked officials to recalibrate voting machines on Election Day and instruct poll workers to remind voters to double-check their votes.
Eric Herzik, the chairman of the political science department at the University of Nevada, Reno, said the RNC needs to “put up or shut up.”
“This is not normal; this is reprehensible,” Herzik said. “If you do not have direct proof, you are making a claim that undermines the American electoral process.”
He added, “They ought to have 100 percent proof or they’ve lost credibility as a party. Americans should just be outraged if they have no proof and I’m a Republican.”
Claims of voting machine troubles are nothing new in Nevada, which have included media anecdotes of irregularities this election cycle.
In 2010, former Nevada Assemblywoman Sharron Angle alleged problems with voting machines after losing her bid to unseat U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., something she addressed in her self-published book, “Right Angle.”
In response to Angle’s allegations, Miller’s office conducted an investigation with the FBI and the Nevada Attorney General’s Office that ultimately found the claims to be without merit.
Miller said Nevada has safeguards against voting machine troubles, including voters being asked twice to review their selections before making their vote official. If there are any problems, voters are asked to stop voting immediately and bring any concerns to poll workers.“While it is possible for a voter to inadvertently select a candidate, it is not possible for the machine to automatically select a candidate,” Miller said in his statement (RGJ, 2012).
Machines Raising Questions
Date: November 1, 2012
Source: Marion Star
Abstract: Sophie Rogers, director of the Marion County Board of Elections, said the incident involving an errant vote has been settled.
“We have to assure the members of Marion County that there is nothing wrong with the election,” she said on Wednesday.
When a Marion Star article pointing out the problem a local early voter had getting her vote to register properly hit the internet, it sparked national attention.
With numerous callers and emailers contacting The Star, including readers from Florida, Oregon, Texas and New York, it is not an isolated incident.
On Oct. 23, WGHP FOX8 in Greensboro, N.C., had several reports that President Barrack Obama’s name came up when Gov. Mitt Romney was selected by voters casting their ballot electronically.
One reporter for FOX8 said he received over a dozen calls from four different counties.
KMOV CBS4 in St. Louis reported a similar error on Oct. 25.
Local election officials and the vendor for the machines used in Marion say the machines are accurate and voters can be assured of votes counting correctly.
The machines are provided by Dominion Voting Systems. Spokesman Chris Riggall said incidents such as these are to be expected.
“These are platforms that, in some cases, have been in use for 10 years or longer,” he said. “In the course of millions and millions of ballots cast, you’ll get a report from a voter that the unit they were using was not accurately recording their choice.”
Riggall compared the error to an incorrect input on a touch phone or an airport kiosk.
“Any touch screen device can have instances in which the interface is not accurately aligned with your touch,” he said. “When we talk about calibration, that’s it.”
Sue Schwamberger, deputy director of the local board of elections, tested the machine in question immediately after it was used and said she found no calibration error.
“I purposefully voted both parties and erased them both three times before I voted my ballot,” she added.
Even in the instance reported in Tuesday’s Star, the voter was able to change her ballot once it was initially input incorrectly.
WGHP in Greensboro also reported voters who had issues accurately changed their votes. Riggall said the voter did the right thing by reporting the incorrect choice to an on-sight official.
There are 45 counties in Ohio that share the same voting machines that Marion County uses. Seven additional counties use direct recording electronic machines as opposed to optical scan devices.
Brent Turner, communications director for Open Voting Consortium, argues that these electronic machines have flaws. The coding, according to Turner, is rather large and kept secret from the public.
“If a bad guy put a bug in there, you’d never be able to see it,” Turner said. “The systems we prefer are very minimalist, very clean lines of code that are always available.”
Turner also has concerns of an erasing mechanism within the machine and the overall security of the devices.
“I’ve heard criticisms about every voting format we have,” Riggall said. “It’s scrutinized much more now than five years ago or 10 years ago. And that’s a good thing, because there’s a higher demand for excellence.”
Local officials said they received calls criticizing their operation. But the issue was quickly fixed, and Rogers said there was no error with the machine.
“I think we’re in a supercharged atmosphere,” said Tim Combs, a Democratic representative and president of the Marion County board. “We’re in a state of national attention, and there are people that think there are conspiracies.”
The voting machines provided by Dominion Voting Systems, according to Riggall, undergo at least three different levels of testing in Ohio. Machines are tested at the federal and state levels with a third test prior to elections.
The third test, known
as the “logic and accuracy test” is “a test to make sure the system is
operating properly,” Riggall said. “In a touch screen environment, you’d be
confirming it properly credits the candidates” (Marion
Service Members Upset Over Removal From Voting Rolls
Date: November 2, 2012
Source: WTSP News
Abstract: Local service members who have spent years serving the country are discovering this fall that they aren't allowed to vote in the presidential election.
Valrico resident and Navy Captain Peter Kehrig, who has been abroad for five years tells 10 News he feels cheated by a system that removed him from the rolls.
Florida State Law requires county supervisor of elections offices to perform regular "maintenance" on its voter rolls to eliminate voters who have been convicted of felonies, moved out of the county, or may have died.
Voters who miss two consecutive general elections (2010 and 2008, for instance) are mailed a letter to their residence warning them they will be removed from the rolls. But since the post office only forwards mail for six months, Kehrig never got it.
10 News' #ProtectYourVote campaign is an effort to investigate allegations of - and prevent - voter influence and other improprieties at the polls.
Kehrig is one of about 30 active and reserve service members who have contacted the Hillsborough Supervisor of Elections' office about the discovery, but October 8 was the last day the law allows a voter to register for the general election. Other Tampa Bay-area counties reported small numbers of complaints too.
"It's not just a right that I've earned by being an American," Kehrig said of voting, "but I've (been) trying to protect our country and I really believe it's a right I'm being denied."Kehrig has served in the military for more than 30 years, including time at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa. He suggests legislators change the law so service members aren't disenfranchised (WTSP News, 2012).