California still waiting
on statewide voter database

As the national debate over voter ID approaches fisticuffs, the state of California continues to shy away from the fight, focusing on a more pressing, local problem — the lack of a statewide voter registration database.

The state has a “cobbled county-by-county system” that makes it difficult to maintain accurate roles with such a young, mobile population, said Kim Alexander, president and founder of the non-profit California Voter Foundation.

The online database, VoteCal, has been in the works since 2006, Alexander said, and would collect voter registration into one system. The database is a requirement of the Help America Vote Act of 2002, with which California still does not comply, Alexander said.

California is one of 20 states with a Democratic governor, Jerry Brown, but Alexander said you wouldn’t know it based upon the database’s slow progress. Democrats have been “lazy and complacent,” and have squandered this opportunity, Alexander said.

A 2010 report by the Secretary of State projects the database will not be completed until 2015.

By Annelise Russell, News21

 

Felon recalls 2008 return to the election booth

When Katrina M. Frierson was told she could no longer vote she said her “self-esteem was shot back to the ground.”

Frierson was convicted of 17 felonies relating to drug and weapons charges in the 1980s and 90s. She spent eight years in jail and another seven on probation.

She has since turned her life around and now runs a halfway home for women fighting substance abuse.

In Tennessee, a single felony conviction means losing one’s right to vote. To regain it, felons have to complete the full term of their sentence and fill out a Certificate of Restoration of Voting Rights.

Frierson said she rushed to complete this process before the 2008 presidential election.

“Before my convictions, voting was a really essential part of my life,” she said. “I actually worked on the voting election committee, meaning that I was the one that was sitting out at the polls at 5:30 in the morning.”

Frierson said casting her ballot in 2008 was a highlight for the year.

“When I received my voting rights, it made me a better human being, a better member of society. It felt like a marriage. It felt like a birthday, a graduation,” she said. “But most of all, it was a good challenge for me to be a better member of society.”

By Carl Straumsheim, News21

National database would give states ability to check voter rolls

David Becker is the director of elections at the Pew Center for the States. Photo by Lizzie Chen/News21.

“One in four voters assume their registration is updated automatically when moving,” said David Becker, executive director of election initiatives at the Pew Center on the States.

Becker addressed the issue Sunday with several chief election officials from around the U.S. at the National Secretaries of State Association summer conference in San Juan, Puerto Rico. 

A Pew report published in February highlighted serious problems with the voter registration system in the U.S.  According to that report:

-24 million voter registrations were no longer valid or were significantly inaccurate

-1.8 million deceased persons were listed as registered voters

-2.75 million people were registered in more than one state

In response, Pew, IBM, and election officials have designed the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC). It allows states to cross-reference among states multiple sets of voter registration information. It’s a paperless, cost-efficient and sustainable way to have efficient voter rolls, Becker said.

States pay an initial fee of $25,000 and an annual fee of approximately $50,000 to use the system, Becker said.

Pew expects Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Utah, Virginia and Washington, to use the technology in fall elections.

By Joe Henke, with reporting from Khara Persad, News 21

Washington voter registration?
There’s an app for that

Washington Secretary of State Sam Reed is touting his MyVote Washington voters Facebook application. Photo by Lizzie Chen/News21.

Becoming a registered voter in Washington state is now a social experience.

The state’s MyVote Facebook application fits the lifestyle of many voters, Washington Secretary of State Sam Reed said Saturday, at the National Association of Secretaries of State summer conference in Puerto Rico.

“Our state, like so many, has been financially hurting,” Reed said. He added that this app was a low cost way to improve voter registration.

Washington residents can now log in to their Facebook account, go to the MyVote app, and answer a few questions.

If individuals already are registered, they can update their voter registration information. If not, the system invites them to register.

The app then lets voters review candidates for upcoming elections and displays contact information for elected officials.

The MyVote app adds to Washington’s reputation for changing the voting experience. In 2008 Washington became the first state to hold a top-two primary, rather than using the familiar party nomination system. It also joined Oregon that year as one of only two states to vote by mail only.

Reed wanted to release the new technology this winter, but acknowledged that it wasn’t secure enough. After continuing to work on the app, which the state designed in collaboration with Microsoft and Facebook, it was launched earlier this summer.

Users get access to the app through Facebook, but all information entered is transferred directly to Washington’s database.

“In business they say, ‘location, location, location.’ Well how many people are on Facebook?” Reed asked.

By Joe Henke, News21

Florida officials will not release list of non-citizens on voter rolls

In early May, Florida officials suggested that as many as 180,000 potential non-citizens could be on the state’s voter rolls.

The estimate gained publicity for Gov. Rick Scott’s effort to eliminate illegally registered voters, but the list was thereafter slimmed to 2,700 and made public.

The list of 2,700 later turned up many false positives, with frustrated voters wondering why they were targeted. More than 100 on the list were, however, non-citizens, according to Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner.

But with the list’s accuracy questioned, the larger list of 180,000 has not been released, despite repeated public records requests from news organizations.

Courtney Heidelberg, communications director at the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DHSMV), said in an email that the Department of State submitted to them a list of voters, her agency provided the citizenship status for each and sent the matched list of 180,000 back to the Department of State.

But the department will not release it, and the state attorney general’s office does not have a copy, nor does the governor’s office. And the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, the original custodian of records, will not release it.

“Please be advised that DHSMV is not authorized to release information protected by the Driver Privacy Protection Act,” Heidelberg said.

Chris Cate, spokesman for Detzner, said his agency is still reviewing the 180,000 names and will make them available if he and other officials deem it a public record.

By Ethan Magoc, News21

A quick glance at U.S. voting patterns

Members of the News21 team are compiling data from the U.S. Census and academic studies to better distinguish voting patterns.

Here is a sneak peek at what they’ve been working on:

• In the 2010 election, the state with the lowest percentage of voting-age registered people was Hawaii, with 48.3 percent. However, Texas was the worst state for registered voter turnout, with 31.4 percent.

• Maine topped all states two years ago and was first in registered voters and turnout in the 2010 election. Nearly three-quarters of those eligible in Maine are registered, and 58 percent voted.

• A 2006 Pew Center survey on who votes highlighted different categories of people likely to register and vote.

1) Conservatives are more likely to be registered and vote regularly, while liberals are less likely to register.

2) Married people vote more frequently than non-married people.

3) Nearly 25 percent of people who moved to a new neighborhood within a year are not registered to vote, and only three percent of them regularly vote.

4) Persons 50 to 64 years old vote most regularly.

By Alia Conley, News21


Coffee Break Ballot, June 20: Current Trends in Voting Rights

Hey, happy summer solstice, folks!

Today is a much slower day in voting rights news. As the standoff between the U.S. House Oversight Committee, the Department of Justice and the White House sucks all of the energy out of the traditional digital-political commentary, it seems that all the usual fever surrounding some of our regular search terms has faded.

Even yesterday’s incredibly popular story about the voter registration forms mailed to a dead dog in Virginia has slowed, which probably says just as much about the limited attention span of the 24-news cycle as it does about the story’s merit — or lack thereof.

We’ve still got some good reads for you here, and the surprising return of an April poll about voter ID and disenfranchisement.

What We’ve Been Reading

Florida Voters Back Voter Purge, Stand Your Ground, Quinnipiac University Poll Finds; Gov. Scott’s Job Approval Still Very Low,” (Quinnipiac University, 06/20)

Voter ID groups release first fundraising numbers,” (Catharine Richert, 06/20, MPRNews)

The Public Eye: Capital-area voter fraud suspects have criminal histories,” Brad Branan, 05/13, Sacramento Bee)

The Voice of New Rochelle: A League of Their Own,” (Bob Marrone, 06/20, NewRochellePatch)

Young People, Minorities, Unmarried Women and Dead Dogs,” (Ed Kilgore, 06/19, Washington Monthly)

Twitter Trends

The most curious trend today regarding voting rights and voter ID on social media search engine Topsy.com is the inexplicable tweeting and retweeting of a Rasmussen Report poll from April 2012 that shows 73 percent of likely U.S. voters think that voter ID requirements do not discriminate and that 64 percent think voter fraud is a somewhat serious problem.

An interesting poll, to be sure, but it’s from more than two months ago, and it’s being retweeted by a lot of Spanish-language accounts. We’re not certain where this trend is coming from, but it could have something  to do with the announcement Tuesday of a federal voter ID law introduced by Rep. Joe Walsh, R-Ill.

The “Mitt Romney voting rights” tweet continues to surface here and there, and we’re still waiting on a Twitter response from the presumptive GOP presidential nominee.

To see if Romney ever does respond to the demands of the anonymous Twitter hordes  — and for the latest in voting rights news — be sure to follow us @WhoCanVote.

Lawsuit claims Florida voter removal violates federal law

A coalition of voting rights groups has sued Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner, arguing that state efforts to remove voters from rolls violates the National Voter Registration Act.

The suit — filed June 19 by the Advancement Project, Fair Elections Legal Network, LatinoJustice PRLDEF and Project Vote — is one of several that have emerged since Florida Gov. Rick Scott launched an effort to remove non-citizens from voting rolls earlier this year.

Kathy Culliton-Gonzalez of the Advancement Project traces the voter purge, she said, to the conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch.

Judicial Watch and True the Vote, which trains volunteers to watch polls, sued Indiana elections officials June 11, alleging that the state is not maintaining accurate voter rolls. Judicial Watch maintains a list of up to a dozen states, including Florida, that the organization plans to sue for the same reasons, president Tom Fitton said.

Florida is taking “reasonable steps” to do things right, Fitton said, and emphasized that any eligible voter who gets accidentally removed can vote provisionally. Any suggestion that Judicial Watch or True the Vote is participating in a nationwide effort to suppress minority or Democratic votes is ridiculous, Fitton said.

By AJ Vicens, News21

Coffee Break Ballot, June 19: Current Trends in Voting Rights

We’ve noticed in the News21 newsroom how certain stories in our search fields stay hot. Part of this is probably the naturally viral nature of Internet news, but we’ve enjoyed seeing which stories pop up and keep buzzing.

Today, that story is a minor item from the Roanoke, Va., NBC affilate, WSLS. It’s a story about voter registration and dead dogs. Or, more specifically, one particular dead dog whose owner received forms inviting the pet to register to vote.

The story went viral for a variety of reasons, and it was picked up by such diverse sources as conservative blog RedAlert Politics and political news site, Politico. It also is a story about supposed voter fraud — even though this actually is an example of registration fraud, and not voter fraud — which gets a wide segment of the conservative Twittersphere riled.

It is also a story about a cute dog with a cute name, and nothing goes viral like stories about small animals, especially when those animals are given anthropomorphic qualities and get all mixed up in human activities like voting.

A coalition of civil rights organizations also filed a lawsuit against Florida this afternoon, alleging that the state’s removing voters from rolls violates section 2 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, but wouldn’t you rather read about the cute dog who would have been eligible to vote in Virginia if he was a human and hadn’t died two years ago?

What We’ve Been Reading

Citizenship mandate challenged,” (Lyle Denniston, 06/19, SCOTUSBlog)

Voter Purges,” (Myrna Pérez, 09/30/08, Brennan Center for Justice)

Civil Rights Groups Sue Florida Over Voter Purging Lists,” (Brentin Mock, 06/19, The Nation / Colorlines)

E-Voting: Trust but Verify,” (Steve Schneider and Alan Woodward, 06/19, Scientific American)

St. Paul jumps in to VoterID fray,” (Patrick Thornton, 06/19, MinnLawyerBlog)

JW Sues Obama Justice Department for Records Regarding South Carolina’s Voter ID Law,” (Tom Fitton, 06/19, Breitbart.com / BigGovernment)

Punch-Card Voting in Idaho,” (Pew Center on the States, 06/19)

Joe Walsh, GOP Congressman, Introduces New Federal Voter ID Bill,” (Nick Wing, 06/19, The Huffington Post)

Twitter Trends

As mentioned above, that story about the voting-age eligible dog in Virginia bounced around Twitter this morning, particularly after Politico picked it up. At that point, several journalists released a collective Twitter yell complaining about the item’s lack of news value.

(While we wrote this post, North Carolina’s conservative Civitas Institute wrote a blog post warning about the dangers of pet voting. The story has legs, apparently.)

There are still some latecomers to the Mitt Romney/#VotingRights party, as users continue to ask the GOP presidential candidate what he thinks about the Florida voter roll removal.

The #voterID hashtag also has spiked on social media search engine Topsy.com, as users mention a recently introduced federal voter ID bill by U.S. Rep. Joe Walsh, R-Ill., and the aforementioned voting-eligble dog.

We’ll be sure to tell you if Mitt Romney replies to all these tweets, and if the dog is ever enfranchised. Follow us at @WhoCanVote.

Texas: Voter registration
by the numbers

Within three weeks, the U.S. District Court is scheduled to hear testimony in Washington, D.C., from the Department of Justice and Texas in the state’s appeal for federal approval of its voter ID law.

Texas officials assert that the law, which would require a photo ID at the polls, does not deny persons the right to vote. Opponents of the ID requirement, such as the Mexican American Legal Education and Defense Fund and the NAACP, argue that the law has the potential to disenfranchise thousands of low-income, elderly, student and minority voters.

Texas is the second-most populous state after California, and has almost 7.5 million registered voters in just the 10 counties with the highest number of registered voters.

How many people is that?  That’s more than 13 times the entire population of Wyoming, according to Census data.

Take a look at the 10 Texas counties with the highest number of registered voters:

Source: Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott

 

By Annelise Russell, News21