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Entries in Voters (8)

Wednesday
Nov072012

What Caused the Long Voter Lines and Frustration on Election Day?

NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- When President Obama said Tuesday night in his acceptance speech, "By the way, we have to fix that," he wasn't referring to a specific economic, social or policy issue. He was referring to the issue of voting lines. Long, long voting lines.

Across the nation Tuesday, and then subsequently across Twitter and Facebook, U.S. citizens shared frustrations, photos and information about voting lines. The images of the long queues were a dime a dozen, especially when you looked at the #stayinline hashtag on Twitter. People in states like Florida and Ohio waited up to seven hours. In other states, there were shorter, though still-frustrating two- to three-hour waits.

 

Some experts place the blame on high turnout, but many will tell you the culprit is technology – failed and faulty e-voting machines.

Gone are the days of pulling the lever. Instead now there are two main voting systems: optical scan paper ballot systems and direct recording electronic systems (DREs). Very few jurisdictions still rely on punch cards and hand-counted paper ballots.

The optical scan paper ballot system is the most widely used. A voter fills out a paper ballot using a pen and then it is put in a scanner. The votes are tallied through a computer, similar to a Scantron, which is used to score the SATs and other standardized tests.

The second method relies completely on electronics – no paper. The direct recording electronic systems (DREs) include machines that record votes directly onto computer memory. A voter fills out a ballot on the computer directly, either using a touchscreen, button, or a dial.

"It is an electronic version of the lever," explained Pamela Smith, president of Verified Voting Foundation, a non-profit organization devoted to elections and voting. According to the organization, close to two-thirds of the population used the scanning option while one-third rely on the DRE machines.

But while the DREs and the scanners were supposed to be an improvement over the lever-based systems and hand-punched cards, breakdowns and malfunctions of the equipment have caused issues.

With the scanners, the major issue has been broken machines or paper jams. "What we saw yesterday in some jurisdictions was poll workers asking people to wait and come back because the scanner wasn't working or they had a jam problem. In some events some were asked to fill out new ballots to see if that would go into the scanner," Smith said. "Unfortunately, that resulted in lines because of the equipment failures."

In those cases, Smith and other experts point out that voters can still fill out the ballot and it can then be scanned when the machines are fixed. Some poll managers might know how to repair the jams, but others won't, according to Dominion Voting, a company that makes and provides support for the scanning systems.

With the DRE machines, there was another host of errors, the most notable being a machine in Pennsylvania that switched a vote for Barack Obama to Mitt Romney due to a touchscreen calibration error. There were other reports of similar errors due to touchscreen issues. Many of the touchscreen-equipped machines are made by ES&S, and use resistive screens, an older form of touch technology that requires a firmer press or a sharp point. That type of screen is used in many ATMs or airport kiosks.

Current smartphones and tablets use capacitive screens, which are more sensitive to taps and touches. Smith mentioned that in some centers voters were given a pencil to help make selections on the screen when they have difficulty getting touches to register. ES&S confirmed to ABC News that the systems were last manufactured in 2006.

The type of touchscreen in the systems represents the age of the machines themselves.

"The very unsexy story of this election is the machinery we are using. It is getting older and older, and some of these things are 10 to 15 years old," Joseph Lorenzo Hall, a senior technologist at the Center for Democracy & Technology, told ABC News.

But not only is the tech old, the machines simply aren't being repaired or cared for.

"Why, after all this time and experience, is this happening still in 2012? What we think is that in some places they were actually starting out with fewer pieces of equipment than in the past," Smith said. Some districts reported to Verified Voting that as much as 25 percent of the equipment wasn't working. Other experts ABC spoke to said the same. Many cited examples like, while there were eight machines in a particular poll place last year, this year there was only five.

In Lee County, Fla., where some of the longest lines were, the Supervisor of Elections said that there was not a large enough backup supply of scanning machines. Districts simply hadn't repaired or replaced machines since past elections.

"You are going to have issues of the wear and tear over time. But everyone knows that counties and local districts have been under budgetary pressures," Chris Riggall, a spokesperson for Dominion Voting, told ABC News. "It is always a pressure to get funding for voting systems, when you have other demands at the local level, which is where all this happens." Dominion Voting provides in-person and help desk support for optical scanner systems.

Naturally, the proponents of online voting say that Internet voting is the right technology solution. In fact, when ABC spoke to Lori Stelle, the CEO of Everyone Counts, a company that makes online voting solutions, she pointed to these electronic voting issues and said they will be the reason people turn to voting through the Internet.

However, others don't see the likelihood of Internet voting, due to heavy security concerns; they maintain a bigger change has to happen. "In two major jurisdictions election officials have reached out to technologists, to audit experts, to different language experts, to usability advocates in an effort to identify what they want in the next generation of voting systems," Smith said. "Our next voting system isn't just going to go to the current marketplace for the solution."

Then there are those who believe the biggest fix can come from a different technology -- the technology of organizing people. "It is a matter of management, not technology," Charles Stewart, a political science professor at MIT, told ABC News. "Having too few voting centers, having too few staff and not putting the resources in the right places. Really, it is a matter of management."

Others echoed that point, saying that much of the bottleneck of the lines happens as people check-in at the polls, not with the availability of working machines.

Whatever the solution, the experts agreed with the re-elected president of the United States: "We have to fix that."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
Oct222012

93-Year-Old Bedridden War Veteran Casts Vote

Comstock/Thinkstock(HONOLULU) -- Nothing in the world was going to stop 93-year-old Frank Tanabe from voting in this year’s election. With the help of his daughter Barbara, the bedridden World War II vet filled out his absentee ballot.

His grandson, Noah, posted a photo to the website Reddit of Tanabe filling out his ballot in his hospital bed in his daughter’s home in Honolulu.

“My sister just happened to be standing with her smartphone and decided to take a picture because she wanted to send it to family members on the mainland to show that my dad was still able to fully engage in activities that are very important,” Barbara Tanabe told ABC News.

Two months ago, Tanabe was diagnosed with an inoperable cancerous tumor in his liver. Because of his condition, he can’t really speak, Barbara Tanabe said, but he was adamant about getting in his vote.

“I said, ‘This is for president,’ and I read him the four names on the ballot,” Barbara Tanabe said. “Then I went back and said, ‘Okay, Dad, now nod or shake your head for each.’”

Politics has always been important to Tanabe, a father of four and grandfather of five, his daughter said. In 2008, Tanabe and his wife, Setsuko, attended a rally in Honolulu for Hillary Clinton when Chelsea Clinton came.

“He and my mom were very big fans of Hillary Clinton because there was a possibility of having a woman break the barrier,” Barbara Tanabe said.

Tanabe is originally from Seattle, where he attended the University of Washington. He was pulled from college and taken to the Tule Lake internment camp in California after the start of World War II.  There, he volunteered to join the Army.

In 2008, the University of Washington gave Tanabe and several other second-generation Japanese students honorary degrees.

The photo of Tanabe on Reddit got tons of attention, with many people commenting about his patriotism and thanking him for his dedication.

“The fact that so many people viewed it and were inspired was very, very surprising and heartwarming for us,” Barbara Tanabe said.

One of the people most moved by Tanabe’s desire to vote was his grandson, Noah.

“He said from now on for the rest of his life he’s going to think about grandpa every time he votes, and that is a wonderful legacy,” Barbara Tanabe said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Oct022012

Voter Registration Fraud from GOP-Backed Firm Spreads

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- A GOP-backed consulting firm may have submitted "hundreds" of faked voter registration forms in Florida, according to the Florida Secretary of State.

The GOP cut ties with the third party voter registering company Strategic Allied Consultants on Thursday after the Palm Beach County elections supervisor flagged 106 of the firm's registration forms for having similar handwriting, incorrect addresses and incomplete information.

Since then, elections officials in nine Florida counties have unearthed hundreds of possibly fraudulent registration forms.

The firm claims the issue stemmed from one employee, who was fired on Sept. 15, but county election officials claim the fraud was more widespread, stretching across counties that are more than 500 miles apart.

"I don't subscribe to the theory that this was the action of one single individual who was able to get into more than half a dozen counties from one end of Florida to the other," said Paul Lux, the Okaloosa County Election Supervisor.

Lux said that out of 2,200 forms that Strategic Allied workers submitted, he and his staff have found about three dozen that appear to be faked.  Some have signatures that do not match the names, others are only partially completed and a handful of forms have addresses that do not exist, he said.

"The problem is when you pay someone to do something like this, it kind of lends itself to what do you do to get paid?" Lux said.

The Republican Party of Florida paid Strategic Allied Consultants $1.3 million to register voters starting in July.  State party spokesman Brain Burgess said the Republican National Committee asked the state party to hire the consultants and paid for the firm.  Before hiring the consulting group, Burgess said Florida Republicans relied solely on volunteers to register voters.

Burgess said the party first learned about the supposed fraud more than one week after the firm fired one of its Palm Beach area workers for allegedly faking the voter forms.

Two days later, the Republican National Committee cut ties with the firm and asked state party officials in four other states to do the same.  Strategic Allied Consultants was registering voters on behalf of the RNC in five battleground states: Florida, Virginia, North Carolina, Colorado and Nevada.

North Carolina election authorities have flagged five possibly fraudulent forms that the GOP-backed consultant firm submitted.  The state's chief election official Gary Bartlett said he believes it was an isolated incident because all five came from the same county.

None of the forms Strategic submitted in Colorado or Virginia have been flagged and the Nevada Secretary of State's office would not confirm or deny whether it was investigating any allegedly fraudulent forms.

But while Florida investigates these supposedly fraudulent registrations, election officials said they are not concerned that poorly filed forms will result in fraudulent ballots.

"I think the likelihood of that is very, very slim," Lux said.  "At the end of the day we aren't talking about fraudulent people getting on the voter rolls, we are taking about a lot of busy work."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Sep202012

Church Official Pushes Mormon Voter Registration in Key Swing State

Comstock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- In a provocative move within a religious organization that has sought to display strict political neutrality, an official of the Mormon church has disseminated a presentation across the key swing state of Nevada that urges members to vote and speak "with one voice" in the coming presidential election that pits Mormon Mitt Romney against President Barack Obama.

"Any Mormon would understand exactly what's being said there," said Randall Balmer, a Dartmouth religion professor who has studied the church's handling of Romney's presidential bids. "This is very thinly coded language."

Mormon officials have permitted church leaders to encourage voting, but have stressed that it not be done in a partisan fashion. A senior church member emailed the presentation to Nevada "stake presidents" -- similar to Catholic bishops -- last month. The email was first reported last week by Jon Ralston, an independent Nevada journalist.

The roughly 30-minute PowerPoint presentation appears to have two goals -- to motivate Mormons in Nevada to register and vote in November, and to help them prepare for questions they may get as their church garners attention as a result of Romney's bid. Three of the 20 slides that were shared with ABC News pointedly urge members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to remember the "importance of speaking with one voice."

READ the POWERPOINT: Speaking With One Voice (PDF)

One slide includes voter registration data for Clark County, a jurisdiction that includes Las Vegas, where Democrats outnumber Republicans. Other slides appear to convey the stakes in the upcoming campaign, including one that espouses the need to restore a "spiritually dead society" and another that quotes a member of the church's Quorum of the Twelve Apostles saying, "We are at war with the influences of Satan." ABC News has only seen a portion of the presentation.

Mormon officials told ABC News that the entreaty to "speak with one voice" conveys a desire to see church members provide consistent responses to questions from outsiders about church rituals and doctrine, and is not an entreaty to vote as a block.

"The Church has always encouraged people to be a part of the political process and to register to vote," said Dale Jones, a church spokesman. "However, we do not direct them on how to vote. We are politically neutral and do not support candidates or political platforms."

One slide in the presentation titled "Political Neutrality" explicitly notes this, stating that the Church's mission "is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ, not to elect politicians." The slide says the church does not "attempt to direct its members as to which candidate or party they should give their votes to. This policy applies whether or not a candidate for office is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints."

Church spokesman Scott Trotter, however, declined to respond to questions from ABC News about who prepared the presentation, how many church groups saw it, why details about it are being kept secret, and why a "war with Satan" was referenced in the middle of a presentation on the importance of voting.

Darren Littell, the spokesman for the Romney campaign in Nevada, said the Romney campaign has nothing to do with the "One Voice" PowerPoint presentation.

Edwin Firmage, a University of Utah law professor and expert on the separation of church and state, told ABC News the presentation appears to be aimed at helping mobilize support for Romney.

"I would say this isn't even thinly veiled," Firmage said. "Of course it's political."

Firmage, an Obama supporter, said he considered the presentation a departure for church officials whom he believes have shown "a great deal of discipline" in avoiding overtly political activity during the presidential contest. "They've been very adroit," he said.

The presentation includes several slides focused on religious teachings that encourage civic participation. One of them advises viewers that "We have a responsibility to vote," and quotes Mormon scripture as saying: "We believe that governments were instituted of God for the benefit of man; and that he holds men accountable for their acts in relation to them, both in making laws and administering them, for the good and safety of society."

The decision to distribute the presentation in Nevada was probably no accident, Balmer said. Among the handful of states that are considered up for grabs in the 2012 election, Nevada has the most vibrant Mormon community. Mormons represented roughly a quarter of the GOP caucus vote in Nevada in 2012, and nearly all of them supported Romney, according to exit polling.

Both candidates spent time in Nevada in recent weeks.

The slideshow provides advice about how to answer questions from friends and neighbors generated by news coverage on Mormonism in light of Romney's bid. The presentation points members to resources where they can find answers to questions about the role of women in the church, about the use of special garments, and about the central role of Jesus Christ in the church.

Near the end of the presentation, a slide poses the question, "So… What can I do?" It lists five answers, with step five being: "Register to vote … and VOTE!"

The Mormon church is not the only religious group to encourage parishioners to vote. For example, an Orthodox Jewish group recently organized a voter registration drive in Florida, and a coalition of black churches has made plans to transport elderly congregants to the polls in battleground states this November, according to published reports.

Balmer said the Mormon Church is well aware that Romney is likely to receive overwhelming support from Mormons, and so simply encouraging them to turn out to vote is akin to assisting his bid.

"On the face of it, there's nothing unusual in what they're doing," Balmer said. "But in reality, the message is not hard to miss."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Sep122012

Voter Fraud: Non-Existent Problem or Election-Threatening Epidemic?

Ethan Miller/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Reyna Almanza and her son strolled into the Progreso, Texas, school board election in 2009, just like 1,100 of their neighbors, cast their ballots and left.  But hours later, Almanza took her son back to the polls, where he used his incarcerated brother's name to vote a second time, breaking election laws and landing both mother and son in court.

It is that kind of voter fraud that Texas' voter ID law, which was struck down in federal court last month, and similar laws passed in eight states over the past two years were written to prevent.  But voter impersonation cases like Almanza's, who is serving five years of probation for illegal voting, are the exception, not the norm.

Over the past decade, Texas has convicted 51 people of voter fraud, according the state's Attorney General Greg Abbott.  Only four of those cases were for voter impersonation, the only type of voter fraud that voter ID laws prevent.

Nationwide, that rate of voter impersonation is even lower.

Out of the 197 million votes cast for federal candidates between 2002 and 2005, only 40 voters were indicted for voter fraud, according to a Department of Justice study outlined during a 2006 Congressional hearing.  Only 26 of those cases, or about .00000013 percent of the votes cast, resulted in convictions or guilty pleas.

But the push for voter ID laws is not all about preventing fraud, said Pennsylvania state Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, who sponsored his state's voter ID law.

"The driving factor is common sense," Metcalfe told ABC News.  "It only makes sense that when you show up to vote, to exercise that very important right and responsibility, that you prove you are who you claim."

Metcalfe said the number of voter fraud cases that are prosecuted are only a sliver of the fraud taking place because there is no system in place to detect fraud.  His voter ID law aims to do just that.

But opponents of the law claim that it is trying to solve a nonexistent problem.

"The point here is that people just don't do that," Lorraine Minnite, an associate professor of public policy at Rutgers University-Camden, said of committing voter fraud.  "It just doesn't make sense."

Minnite said there is little to no motivation for voters to attempt to impersonate someone else at the polls or for non-citizens to try and cast a ballot, a right reserved only for citizens.  The price for that one vote is up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000 for citizens and could mean deportation for immigrants.

"What are the costs for non-citizens to cast ballots and what are the benefits?  It doesn't add up," said Minnite, who testified against Pennsylvania's voter ID law.  "The costs are very high and the benefits are practically non-existent."

Tracy Campbell, a history professor at the University of Kentucky who studies voter fraud in past elections, said contemporary voter ID laws are trying to solve a problem that hasn't existed in over a century.

"This would prevent you from going to the polls and claiming that you're Mary Smith so you vote as Mary Smith then you come back later and vote as Mary Joan," Campbell said.  "Repeating was a problem a century ago and these laws would have been good for that, but it's a non-event now."

In trying to solve that problem, critics say, the new voter ID laws could disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of voters who cannot obtain the necessary documents.  In Pennsylvania, where Metcalfe's voter ID law will be in effect for the November election, at least 90,000 eligible voters did not have an ID that met the law's requirements to vote, according to initial estimates by the Pennsylvania Department of State.

But Metcalfe said he does not think the voter ID law will prevent people from going to the polls.

"With every right comes a responsibility," the Pennsylvania lawmaker said.  "There is a responsibility now in Pennsylvania that goes along with being able to vote and that is when you show up on Election Day to have that photo ID."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Jul102012

Justice Department Challenges Texas Voter ID Law

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Attorneys for the Justice Department and the state of Texas had a showdown in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., on Monday over a new Lone Star State law that requires voters to show a photo ID before they cast a ballot.

In what many view as a challenge to the Voting Rights Act, the landmark 1965 legislation that protects minorities, Texas passed a law that requires voters to possess a driver’s license, a passport or another form of photo ID.

The two sides ended up in federal court when the Justice Department moved in March to block implementation of the law, and Texas sued.

The issue has been the subject of partisan debate for decades.  Republican supporters of the law say it prevents fraud, while Democrat opponents say the rule unfairly targets minorities, most of whom vote Democratic.

Democrats say many members of the minority community do not have a driver’s license or passport.  The Democrats also say voter fraud is a rare occurrence and passing a law to prevent such an infrequent event would disenfranchise thousands.

Attorney Adam Mortara, representing the state of Texas, told the three-judge panel that “no one is stopped from voting by these laws.”  He argued that the Justice Department’s position that a photo-ID requirement disproportionately affects minority voters is based on “flawed analysis.”

Mortara told the judges, “There is no actual ID disparity between the races or ethnic groups.”

Justice Department attorney Elizabeth Westfall argued that the Texas law would make things difficult for the state’s 1.4 million voters who don't have a photo ID.

She told the court, “Texas is unable to meet its burden of showing that the law will not have a discriminatory affect.”

Texas is just one of a number of states with Republican-controlled legislatures that have passed or are developing new laws designed to prevent voter fraud.

The hearing is scheduled to last five days, and a ruling is expected by next month.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
May142012

LGBT, Latino Donors Show Obama Love for ‘Marriage Equality’

JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- President Obama for the first time adopted the language of same-sex marriage advocates Monday, explicitly telling a crowd of LGBT and Latino donors in New York City that his support for “marriage equality” is a reason he deserves a second term.

“The announcement I made last week about my views on marriage equality -- on principle, the basic idea that I want everybody treated fairly in this country. We have never gone wrong when we have expanded rights and responsibilities to everybody,” Obama said.  “That doesn’t weaken families, it strengthens families. It was the right thing to do.”

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The crowd of around 200 supporters, who each paid $5,000 or more to attend, burst into loud applause.

Obama last week revealed in an interview with ABC News that he had reversed longstanding personal opposition to same-sex marriages after a period of reflection and conversation with family and colleagues. Later, in speeches at three West Coast fundraisers, he referred to the marriage issue, but only obliquely.

At Monday night’s event, Obama cast his position on gay rights as part of a host of issues on which there is a stark contrast between him and presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney, whom he suggested is more extreme than his opponent of four years ago.

“This choice is going to be as important as any choice we’ve made for a very long time -- in some ways more important than 2008, because we’ve got a very clear contrast this time,” Obama said. “John McCain believed in climate change, and believed in immigration reform. On some issues, there was a sense of independence. What we’ve got this time out is a candidate who said basically he’d rubber stamp a Republican Congress that wants us to go backwards instead of forward on a whole range of issues.”

The president said the debate over the next five months would center on taxes, spending and the trade-offs involved in cuts to both.

“I think the American people are on our side with this,” Obama told the crowd. “The only thing holding us back is that things are still tough out there.”

Of the Republican case against him, Obama said, “Their message is very simple: you’re frustrated, you’re dissatisfied and it’s Obama’s fault.”

“This is going to be a tough race, a tight race, and nobody should be taking this for granted,” he said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Sep082011

State Voter ID Laws Draw National Scrutiny

Digital Vision/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The Department of Justice is reviewing, and has the power to reject, a controversial new law passed in South Carolina that requires a registered voter to present a government-issued photo ID before his or her vote is counted.

Gov. Nikki Haley signed the bill into law in May and she’s not alone.  Four other states have passed similar voter ID laws in 2011, including Wisconsin, Texas, Tennessee and Kansas.  But thanks to the DOJ, South Carolina’s law could still be rejected by federal officials.

And while other states have passed voter photo ID laws in the past, the laws passed in 2011 are by far the strictest with the exception of the law passed in 2005 by the state of Indiana.

Section 5 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act empowers the DOJ to review election laws passed in select southern states, as well as Alaska and some counties throughout the country.  Crafted in a time of great racial strife, the act was meant to codify the power of the 15th Amendment, which forbids racial discrimination at the polling booth.

South Carolina, which is subject to federal review, is the only state to have petitioned the Obama Justice Department for approval while other states such as Texas opted to clear their law through the D.C. District Court, which is also permitted.

Critics of a stricter photo ID law argue that the requirement will make it tougher for poor and minority voters to cast their ballot while proponents call it a common sense provision.

Voters without the means to produce correct documents or the disabled can verify their identity through an affidavit but many still see the ID requirements as too burdensome.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio